The sound of bolter fire thundered down the corridor, punctuated here and there by the shriek of Torcmunda’s plasma pistol and the howling of Urdak’s jump pack. Bodies littered the deck. The Red Corsairs were making good time, but resistance had been minimal up to this point. While the stormtroopers of the Imperial Inquisition were tougher than their run of the mill counterparts, they were still naught but mortal men.
Arbusk Witch-Eye stepped over a corpse. The insignia on the man’s uniform marked him as an officer. His death had been the catalyst that saw the most recent line of defenders shatter and break. The fleeing stormtroopers had only died tired. Arbusk’s strike team slaughtered them like cattle. The Ninth Captain had never been one for such butchery, but he understood its place in warfare. A disciplined foe needed to be broken mentally. Only then could you break them physically. So he allowed Urdak and the more feral of his warband to range ahead and sow terror.
‘We must be getting close.’ Torcmunda stepped up beside Arbusk, his plasma pistol hissing as it vented heat. Torcmunda was one of the more level-headed members of Arbusk’s warband. Arbusk wasn’t sure of his origin. Torcmunda had not been an Astral Claw. His skin was dark, but not dark enough to mark him as a Salamander. His penchant for plasma weaponry made Arbusk think of the Dark Angels. But he did not know for certain, and Torcmunda was satisfied to let his past remain a mystery.
‘We are,’ Arbusk replied.
The challenge filled the cell block as the Red Corsairs entered, the speaker’s voice booming up and reverberating off the vaulted ceiling. A heartbeat later, bolter fire filled the narrow passage between cell rows. Arbusk shouted a warning, but too late. Urdak fell, and with him six other Corsairs.
‘Are those Howling Griffons I see?’ Torcmunda asked. He stood across the hall from Arbusk, having kicked in a cell door and stepped inside to avoid the torrent of boltgun fire now pouring down the corridor towards them. Ceramite and rockcrete popped and shattered as stray rounds and ricochets nearly found their mark. Despite it all, Torcmunda wore his typical good-natured grin.
‘It would seem so,’ Arbusk replied. He did not know of any other Chapter that wore the quartered red and yellow livery of the Griffons. He appreciated the irony. Given their role in the Badab War a century ago, it was fitting that they were the ones appointed as Blackheart’s jailers.
‘They’ve got good command of the passage,’ Torcmunda said. ‘They could spend all day down there, picking us off. What do we do?’
Arbusk mulled the question over. If there ever was a place to get mired down, the cell block would be it. Purpose-built to suppress riots, the narrow corridors negated the weight of numbers prisoners would have against prison guards and the raised catwalks provided numerous firing positions. But the Red Corsairs were not prisoners. They were better equipped, both in terms of arms and armor. They had options rioting prisoners did not.
‘Can you make it to Urdak’s corpse?’
‘In one piece?’
‘In piece enough to clamp your melta bomb to him.’
Torcumunda grinned. ‘Aye, I can manage.’
‘Good. I’ll get their heads down.’
Arbusk stepped out from his cover and sprayed the corridor with a fuselade of bolt shells. He did not expect any of them to kill, but if he could get the Howling Griffons to duck back into cover long enough for Torcmunda to reach Urdak, that would be enough.
Torcmunda sprinted from cover the moment Arbusk opened fire, keeping low to avoid blocking the captain’s line of fire. Several Howling Griffons ducked back, but not all. A bolt round struck Torcmunda in the shoulder, knocking him back a step.
Torcmunda heard Arbusk shout the warning before augmented eyes picked up the grenade sailing down the hallway. It bounced once, then landed amongst the Griffons. It detonated with a crump, filling their firing position with shrapnel and smoke. Torcmunda knew it wouldn’t harm any of them. Astartes power armor was stern stuff. But it would keep them occupied long enough to complete his task.
He slid to a halt, disengaging the melta bomb from his hip and mag-locking it to Urdak’s chestplate. Torcmunda set the timer, then pushed Urdak’s corpse so it pointed downrange. He grinned, and thumbed the jump pack’s activation stud. Urdak rocketed away to land amongst the Howling Griffons. Confused, the loyalists didn’t notice the ticking bomb until it was too late. The explosion consumed them before sweeping up the corridor and bathing the Red Corsairs in heat wash.
Torcmunda laughed and found his feet. ‘Can we do that again?’
The isolation ward was just beyond the main cell block. It was a circular room that stretched up to such a distance that even Arbusk could not see the ceiling. The walls were filled with stasis pods, slotted and stacked together like a giant vending machine. Mechanical arms were used to remove individual pods and bring them to ground level. It made sense to Arbusk. Stasis was the only way they could successfully hold Huron.
‘Fago,’ Arbusk barked. The nearby tech-specialist of his warband looked up, triple optics whirring. ‘Find him.’
It took Fago ninety-seven seconds to locate Huron’s pod and bring it down. It took him a further two minutes to unlock it and properly thaw their master out. For all his efforts, when Blackheart’s eyes finally opened, Fago received a hand around his throat and was thrown back against the walls.
Huron Blackheart stood, stasis vapors rolling from him as he looked about the room. He was nude save for a ragged tabard, deprived of armor and augments. Even the Tyrant’s claw was gone. His gaze finally settled on his Ninth Captain.
‘Arbusk. So good to see you,’ he hissed. ‘Now find me my gear so I can burn this place to the ground.’
About the Author
Greg Williams is a historian by profession. He has been writing for over a decade and has been involved in the Warhammer hobby for even longer. Greg writes primarily as a hobby, but does have professional aspirations. He has been published previously by the Jack London Foundation and Cold Open Stories.