A muffled rumble, a slight vibration in the deck plating—these were the first signs of activity that the dimly lit corridors of Outpost DY732-A had experienced in months.
In one corridor, which led to an airlock in the outer hull, a control panel lit up, and the faint grind of hidden gears in the wall could be heard. Then the hatch began to open.
Two giant figures appeared, moving quickly through the still-opening hatch and taking up positions against the corridor walls.
Both were clad in light gray power armor, their shoulder plates decorated with the red and gold Templar cross that identified them as warriors of the Knights of Altair.
In their hands, the Space Marines held bulky, ugly looking boltguns at the ready.
To an observer, it would appear they crouched in silence. But that was not the case. On the other side of the airlock, their commander, Brother-Sergeant Quintas, was listening to a succinct report: “No contacts. Clear for entry.”
The veteran Astarte didn’t hesitate. Standing two-and-a-half meters tall, Quintas strode confidently into the corridor, his eyes scanning the environmental data that his armor’s auto-senses transmitted directly to his neural implants.
Air temperature, humidity, the minimal vibration of the air and the corridor’s deck—all the data offered assurances that no unidentified biological presence was moving in the vicinity.
“Advance by fire team,” Quintas ordered. Two more Marines appeared through the hatch behind him, hurried past, and took up positions 20 meters in front of the first pair of Marines.
Next through the hatch came a smaller, more shadowy figure, draped in a dark blue hooded cloak. Adonai Drusus, approbator to the Lady Serillian and agent of the Ordos Xenos.
Following behind were a dozen black-armored Inquisition storm troopers, a Tech Priest, and, in the rear, the rest of Quintas’ squad.
In total, there were 24 members in this mission to determine the fate of the 1,119 crewmembers of this now-quiet space outpost, which orbited the world known as Dryilian IV.
This one word was all Quintas said. Without offering a reply, Drusus and his storm troopers turned down a side corridor and headed to the outpost’s security station.
If the Inquisition’s agent was lucky, he would find data on the security sensors that would shed light on what had happened here.
The Space Marines, along with the Tech Priest, waited silently as Quintas contemplated his next move. As their ship had approached the outpost, sensors had detected an unusual energy reading in the outpost’s generator chamber. The Tech Priest had urged the brother-sergeant to investigate.
“Now that you’re inside the station, does your auspex tell you anything more about this energy signal you’ve detected, Tech Priest?”
The face of Abnightus, exploratory and technoarchaeologist of the Adeptus Mechanicus, was shrouded in the shadows of his Mars-red hood. But it was obvious the Tech Priest had undergone extensive cybernetic enhancements. Instead of arms, he was equipped with three bionic limbs, as well as snake-line mechandendrites attached to a backpack power unit.
From the shadows of his hood, two glowing bionic eyes focused on the brother-sergeant.
“I can confirm it is of xeno origin,” Abnightus replied in a raspy metallic voice. “The readings of tachyon radiation suggest what we suspected … the technology is associated with the xenos known as Necrons.”
Having seen the degraded pict-recording broadcast by an earlier Imperial Navy rescue mission—one in which the navy vessel disappeared after reporting it was under attack—Quintas was not surprised.
Nor was Abnightus. But he knew something the space marine did not. The origin of the Necrons was likely the world of Stigmata, one that the Tech Priest had foolishly visited a year ago and—most unfortunately—where he had awakened the sleeping xenos within.
But that last bit of information was best left unshared. The Inquisition would dissect Abnightus like an insect if it discovered he had violated the Imperial quarantine placed upon Stigmata.
“Let us move there quickly and learn what we can,” Quintas said and signaled his warriors forward.
The air was still breathable on the outpost, but it was obvious the environmental system had shut down, Drusus thought. There was a stale, metallic taste to the air, and it was so cold that his lungs were beginning to hurt with each breath he took.
A single storm trooper led the way. His black uniform helped him blend into the shadows of the poorly lit corridor, although occasionally the glitter of gold trim on his carapace armor caught the light.
Two more storm troopers followed, all with weapons drawn. Drusus walked behind them, hiding his irritation as the lead trooper regularly stopped to scan the path ahead for signs of movement or body heat. To redirect his growing frustration, the Inquisition agent reviewed his briefing for this mission.
“Drusus, your official orders are to find and recover any survivors of the outpost,” Inquisitor Serillian had told him months earlier, just before embarking on the Knights’ strike cruiser, Fist of Helios, for the journey to the Dryilian System.
“But we do not have the luxury of concerning ourselves with survivors,” the tall, white-haired inquisitor had told him. “I need to know what the xenos are up to. There is no logical reason for them to attack our outpost.”
“If I may suggest, Inquisitor, is it possible the xenos consider the system as under their sphere of influence?” Drusus had commented. “Evidence suggests the Necrons are very territorial.”
“I will put aside the fact that the galaxy belongs to the Emperor, and any claims by a xeno empire—one that has been dormant for eons—have no value at all,” Serillian had replied. “But, from the xeno perspective, you may be correct.”
Her cold, green eyes had bored into those of her apprentice. “But I need to know … and you are tasked with finding out.”
The memory of that encounter with his master was distracting—and Drusus put it out of his mind. He realized his storm troopers were waiting. How long had his thoughts wandered? No matter. He was an agent of the Inquisition. They would wait silently until he was ready.
“Let us continue,” he said, and he and his men made their way forward to the security station.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our adventures in the sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.