Valdane's Chronicles

Oblivion's Edge - Part 1

A rapid departure. The St. Malban Bridge.

Four days pass after Kill-Team Fury’s confrontation with the Broodlord and the final bloody night of the Lordsholm uprising. With a heroic effort, the city has been saved, at least for the time being, and the Astartes retire to the late Governor Thorsholt’s manor to oversee the final stages of securing the region. There, they rendezvous with Uzas, another of the Kill-Team thought lost during the destruction of their cruiser, Juno’s Might.

Now, however, Lordsholm lies in ruins. Most of its population are either dead or have fled for the relative safety of the outer provinces, leaving the city largely deserted. Ragtag bands of rebels still plague the remaining PDF forces, but without the Broodlord’s domination and influence, they are no longer a real threat to Imperial control. Lordsholm’s PDF itself remains in tatters, a pale shadow of its former glory, but still, they continue their patrols among the twisting, rubble-strewn streets of the capital.

However, although Fury has secured victory on the ground, it has become painfully clear that a full-scale Tyranid invasion is still rapidly descending on Cel. During their few days of convalescence, the Astartes have received reports from across the planet of dark shapes moving against the stars.

Even in Lordsholm, the sky has now darkened with millions of spores and alien clouds obscuring the sun. Over the last few hours, day has turned to brown-red night and the air has become thick with raining bio-matter.

There can be no doubt as to what is coming next, and those few who have survived the uprising huddle in their hiding places as they await the next and final chapter of this nightmare to unfold.

Cel is in its final hours.

But perhaps all is not lost, however, as on the morning of this fourth day, a spark of hope lights up the darkness – Lordsholm’s Imperial forces receive a vox communication from an Imperial cruiser, the Emperor’s Wrath. Although distorted and crackling from the spore-cloud’s atmospheric interference, the message indicates that the cruiser has just made orbit. It seems that Cel’s final calls for aid somehow got through.

The communication is from Fleet Captain Arast Cobb, commander of the 112th Askellian Expeditionary Battle Group – a small patrol of Imperial warships and the closest force to receive the Kill-Team’s broadcasts. From his vantage point, he can see that the hive fleet’s massive spore cloud will soon touch down in and around the city.

Cobb’s orders are to retrieve the Kill-Team along with any other Inquisitorial assets or high-ranking members of the planetary government. More help may be coming, but there is no telling when Cel will be completely overrun.

The presence of the full hive fleet has cut off all inter-system communication. However, shorter range vox communication is still possible – though only on the planet or with Cobb’s ships in low orbit.

The Fleet Captain will be a few orbit-capable shuttles for the Kill-Team’s evacuation, but the majority of his vessels are occupied with full-scale fleet preparations. As such, space will be limited. To further complicate matters, the shuttles can only land at Avalos Spaceport on one of the surviving launch platforms – as the rest of the city has been too ripped apart to properly stage the evacuation.

The PDF Major in charge informs the Kill-Team that although the spaceport has been mostly destroyed, crews are currently in the process of shoring up one of the remaining landing pads. Additionally, Corvath is currently there, overseeing final repairs to make the acolytes’ Cutter void-capable once more.

The Kill-Team estimate that getting to the spaceport on foot would take hours at least and it is unlikely that they would be able to stay ahead of the approaching swarm. Furthermore, although the PDF would be of little help against the full Tyranid threat, there is still some semblance of a fighting force. Most importantly, three Chimera transports – in mostly working order – have survived the fighting in Lordsholm and are currently stationed in defensive positions on the Thorsholt manor grounds.

At this point, while the Kill-Team and other ranking Imperials make their plans, hundreds of Tyranid vessels now cluster in low orbit, crowded around a massive hive ship. The living vessels spill even more bio-matter into the atmosphere, turning the sky into an even darker and more sickly shade of red.

With haste, the battle brothers round up ranking members of Cel’s Imperial offices – the PDF Major and his surviving commanders, Elsharna and her chief Astropaths, and various high-level members of the Administratum. Along with the Inquisitorial acolytes and a few fortunate PDF troopers, the Kill-Team loads the Lordsholm refugees and Junon’s body into the Chimeras and quickly depart Thorsholt Manor. With the transports’ crew compartments full, the Astartes climb atop the vehicles and mag-lock their boots to the roofs.

Exiting Magistria’s gates and looking out over the city below, the Kill-Team sees the rapid speed with which the Tyranid vanguard is already devouring outer Calistria in a tide of horror.

As they cross over into Portica, survivors from the city below stagger out to meet the convoy. They reach out to the Imperial vehicles, pleading for aid – as the Astartes’ small group represents the last vestige of Imperial authority remaining. Desperate, they beg for help to flee the doomed city. The crowds quickly become unruly, realizing that their fates rely on climbing aboard. Scatterings of PDF troopers join the mob, unwilling to be left behind.

Skold fires warning shots from his bolter, forcing the hostile crowd back. Cursing at the mob, he calls for them to do their duties – to stand strong and die for the Emperor. Not willing to face the wrath of a Space Wolf, the crowd drops back a little, and soon, they are left behind.

The convoy continues into Portica, making mostly good time toward Avalos Spaceport. Still, the spore cloud hangs ominously overhead – growing larger and larger by the minute.

Then, out of the swirling madness above, a dark shape suddenly appears, growing at an alarming rate as it plummets to earth. Just ahead, the massive spore-pod crashes to the ground and bursts in a mist of bio-matter, spilling Tyranid creatures in all directions. Dozens of organisms pour from the vessel and into the streets, blocking the convoy’s path ahead.

Immediately, Uzas fires his afterburners and ascends into the sky. The rest of the battle brothers begin firing their weapons as the Tyranid hordes pour forth. Skold voxes to the lead driver – telling him to punch through.

The PDF drivers hammer their throttles and the Chimeras’ engines roar. The lead vehicle plows into the snarling faces of two dozen hormagaunts, pulverizing them under the transport’s steel and ceramite plating.

Overhead, Uzas drops a series of frag grenades, hoping to clear a path. They detonate deep in the hordes, propelling plumes of ichor and flesh up to greet him.

Surprisingly, the first Chimera makes it through – with Tyr unleashing point-blank hell from its roof. Skold also lends his bolter fire while shielding the Imperial Fist from waves of fleshborer beatles.

The second Chimera attempts to follow, but its tracks start to slip on the ichor and gore, spinning uselessly as they grind over the slick cobblestone streets. Then, as the vehicle plunges deeper into the horde, the vehicle’s runners become completely bogged down by flesh and bone and a multitude of slashing claws and gnashing teeth. With little room to maneuver around the stalled vehicle, the third Chimera in the convoy also quickly becomes trapped.

Skold gets the lead vehicle to slow, lest the others get left too far behind. He descends to the ground and charges back to stay in bolter range. Tyr, over him, continues firing volley after volley.

Gerhardt and Dariel leap from their vehicles and into the mobs, quickly dispatching scores of xenos foes. Uzas also lends his fury, dropping in from high above. Together, they quickly clear out some of the Tyranid creatures, allowing the Chimeras to continue on. Panicking, the drivers gun it, forcing the Astartes to leap out of the way.

Grabbing the last vehicle before it passes him by, Dariel swings back up to his rooftop perch and out of the hissing, gnashing mass of bio-organisms below.

Gerhardt and Uzas burn back skyward, keeping watch over the convoy.

Finally, the Kill-Team reaches the last real obstacle before their evacuation at Avalos – the St. Malban Bridge. The bridge stretches over Lordsholm’s largest canal and is one of the only remaining routes onto the spaceport’s peninsula. Damaged in the previous days’ fighting, the bridge appears to have been hastily repaired. Nonetheless, it remains weakened and fragile.

The convoy slows, unsure of whether or not they’ll be able to make it over.

From the rear access ramp of one of the vehicles, the Inquisitorial acolytes exit. From among them, Arkady walks forward, already running scans with his auspex and performing calculations on his dataslates and parchment spools.

He quickly posits that although the bridge is badly damaged, it should still support the group’s weight. However, the total combined weight of all of the Chimeras and Astartes would likely cause a catastrophic collapse.

As such, Skold and the Kill-Team discuss the matter and decide to leave the Chimeras behind to watch the rear. Meanwhile, the passengers will proceed on foot. Then, once the others are secure at the far end, the Chimeras will carefully cross one-by-one.

Slowly and steadily, the party begins to cross. The bridge groans and creaks underneath, shedding bits into the canal below.

Meanwhile, using their jump packs, Uzas and Gerhardt fly overhead to scout the far side. Back and forth, they scan Portica’s shattered storage yards and vehicle sheds. Then, they spot it – a forward element of the skittering hordes skulking through the ruins ahead.

Before they can report in, a chime echoes over the vox. Glancing at their helms’ displays, Uzas and Gerhardt see that the sound is originating from Dariel, Tyr, and Skold walking across with the bridge with the refugees below.

The Astartes turns towards the source of the noise – a small servo skull accompanying the Inquisitorial acolytes. The humans are frozen, gazing upon their blinking comrade with unknowing horror. Although unseen, the Tyranids are somehow already upon them.

Then, heavy bolters sound from the rear.

The refugees on the bridge turn to look back, seeing their transports firing upon a wave of teeth and terror.

The Kill-Team is surrounded.

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