Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Dolgath Legacy part 4: The Last Ride of Cicero

Cicero, Chaplain of the 7th Company of the Brass Dragons legion was furious. The first marine contingent allowing the Chapel of the Emperor’s Succor to fall into xenos hands was unconscionable. He demanded to lead a second lightning assault against the Tau invaders personally. Dolgath counseled patience, his hand-picked Imperial Guard forces would soon be entrenched in defensible positions in the heart of New Boston, but the indignant Chaplain would have none of it. He spat his distain for the common human soldiers into Dolgath’s face. Dolgath had personally faced bloodthirsty daemons of the warp that were less intimidating than Cicero was at that moment. Dolgath could do naught but concede to the Chaplain’s demands. The Adeptus Astartes were the one Imperial organization over which the Inquisition held no authority. Dealing with the space marines was always a tricky proposition; tasking was perhaps too strong a word, one could request their aid, but the Legion Astartes commanders decided were, when and in what strength they would deploy – if they deployed at all.

Dolgath watched from the observation dome as Cicero and his bike squadron roared up the ramp into the hold of their drop ship. He had a suspicion that this would be the last he would see of the hot-headed Chaplain or his brave bike marines. As the drop ship fell away, Dolgath caught a brief panoramic view of the planet Cheimon spinning below them with the sun cresting red on the verge of the horizon. As the drop hatch sealed once again with an echoing clang, the launch deck of his battle cruiser was surprisingly quite and empty, the bulk of his forces having already been dispatched planet-side. He was expending valuable resources on this operation, Dolgath only hoped it would pay dividends with any future Ordos conclaves he might find himself summoned to…

Dolgath’s brooding thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of Rykien at his side. His adjutant handed him a data slate and proceeded to brief him, with his characteristic over-enthusiasm, before even allowing Dolgath to read it. “Ground intelligence has determined that the xenos gained control of the north-eastern port docking facilities without a struggle. This can only indicate insider complicity. We may now surmise that the Tau invaders have human supporters within New Boston.”

“Sylax,” grumbled Dolgath once again.

“Intelligence also indicates that the xenos will now use the port facilities to shunt fuel to their forces in the southern sectors. Tactical analysis indicates that an orbital strike on the port facilities will deny the fuel resources to the enemy,” Rykien stated.

Dolgath frowned sideways at his adjutant then pointed to the map of New Boston on the data slate. “Or, we could take control of the fuel distribution center here, thereby denying the fuel to the enemy without destroying the asset for our own use.” Dolgath shoved the data slate back into Rykien’s hands. “What we need now is someone with some good sense. Get Techmarine Tullius on the narrow-band encrypted-com and have him set up a firebase at this location.”

The only surviving witness to the last ride of Chaplain Cicero was the dreadnaught, Quintus. Even in the midst of launching his own assault against the port control facility, the remains of the 2000 year old space marine sealed into an adamantine support sarcophagus observed the charge of the bike squadron through his rear optics. With cold detachment he witnessed bike after bike brought down by the hail of xenos guns. Yet through the cloud of smoke and blood emerged Chaplain Cicero, his Crozius cracking with golden energy, single-handedly slaughtering an entire squad of xenos before being brought low by withering fire. The ancient marine recorded the event with no more feeling than registering the sudden loss of his seismic hammer from high-velocity fire as he lumbered toward the control tower. His mission, as always, was to destroy; crushing the enemy in his massive hydraulic grip was the only thing now that conferred a hint of being alive; and even that was fading with each passing century. After the battle, Quintus would ensure that the body of Chaplain Cicero was recovered for internment into his own adamantine sarcophagus.

Xenos bodies littered the ground surrounding the fortified fuel distribution center. Techmarine Tullius ignored them as he carefully sidestepped the arcing plasma discharges of the over-charged portable power generator and focused with keen interest on the smoking remains of the Tau battle suits. Their technology was intriguing, he thought. Excellent targeting systems, admirable mobility, more than adequate defensive capabilities, yet they were fragile. His conclusion was swift and certain, the underlying biological components were insufficient to match the mechanical structures. As a successor chapter to the revered Iron Hands Legion, the Brass Dragons shared some of their progenitor’s attitudes towards the flesh. Even the space marine’s fantastically enhanced physiology was considered by them to be inferior to cybernetics. This observation of the xenos technology merely confirmed it the techmarine’s augmented eyes. He would report his findings to the Iron Father.

In his luxurious stateroom aboard the Subjugator, Inquisitor Dolgath lounged in his command chair in front of the vast arched view-port basked in the ruddy sunlight reflected from the massive sphere of Cheimon below. He set aside the reports of the latest engagement and pressed the summoning key on the arm of his chair. Two curious wizened figures shuffled into the room pausing at a respectable distance awaiting Dolgath to speak. They were his sages, twins or clones he wasn’t sure which, both interconnected at the cranium by a snake’s nest of wires and cables.

“We have a conundrum, my old friends,” Dolgath said at last.

“The Tau are a mildly interesting species, yet hardly a conundrum,” the sages replied simultaneously.

Dolgath shook his head in annoyance. “Not the Tau, you silly ducks, Sylax. The xenos are merely a diversion, a tool to be used and then discarded by Sylax. Our old nemesis is here on this planet, New Boston to be specific.”

The sages looked at each other, their beady eyes brightening with the prospect of applying their combined intellect to a new puzzle. “There is something here that he wants.”

“Something old,” said one.

“Something hidden,” said the other.

“Something forgotten,” said the first.

“Something forbidden…” they both concluded.

Dolgath just smiled as he eased himself back into his chair. There was something good about being back on the hunt…

No comments: