Prime Helix

It had been a long and bloody dawn. They had struck as the first golden light crept across the savannah, melta charges and mines detonating simultaneously at multiple points along the thick stone of the curtain wall. A brief, dust laden silence had followed before a roar from thousands of mouths had signalled the assault, forlorn hopes assailing the breaches while massed lasfire sought to scour the battlements of defenders.

Neither side gave quarter, though every mind knew this battle was the final act of an insignificant war, snuffed out before it had gained anything resembling momentum. The remaining Orks fought with tenacity, for they had nothing left except desperation. In orbit, their ships were hollowed out husks burning the last remnants of oxygen, while on the surface their leaders were trampled corpses, slain by hands unknown before the Imperium’s forces made planetfall. There was nowhere for them to go except into the darkness of their own demise.

Carnedoch advanced with the others, a wave of Astra Militarium troopers flowing around him and his brothers like a river around boulders. Together they spat death at the defenders, mercilessly grinding their defiance into the dirt.

He stopped at the breach, for it was there that the first of his brothers fell.

“The Apothecarion? Have you grown weary of battle, brother, or is this an admittance of your lack of skill in it?”

It had been said with a smile, as words between them were more often than not, and Carnedoch had replied in kind, as he did more times than he didn’t, even though he knew at the time his answer might one day return to haunt him.

“I’ll give you the Emperor’s Peace now, if you continue.”

Daylight dimmed into a haze of smoke and dust. Second wave fire teams splashed stone with promethium as they reduced Ork bodies to cinders, and Carnedoch searched the ruins for the hurt and fallen as the enemy were pushed further into the depths of their last redoubt.

His chronometer told him it had been less than four hours since the assault, yet already the outer walls had been secured. The status panel on his vambrace glowed yellow, a constant, weighty reminder of the gene-seed he now carried and the responsibility he bore. Meverus, his armour punctured in innumerable places by heavy weapons fire; Seffalion, his head lying next to his body with a half dozen lifeless Orks beside; Persenius, hacked down as he became isolated from the rest of his squad.

Carnedoch knelt beside the latter, his gauntlets as crimson as the helix painted on his shoulder guard while his redactor did its bloody work. The final series of snicks and thumps preceded the acknowledgement from the status panel of another progenoid gland safely retrieved when he felt a presence behind him.

His other hand came up immediately, clutching a bolt pistol tensed to fire.

“Brother,” came a voice, “Its Damonedes…”

“It will take a little getting used to,” he had said.

“Healing as well as killing? Aye, I’d say it will,” his brother replied. “But you are well suited to the role, and I will always be proud to serve beside you.”

They had clasped forearms in the old way of warriors since before mankind had dared to sail the stars, and with a nod, his brother had departed.

Deeper into the fortress he went, through quiet courtyards curiously empty of battle detritus, past gatehouses choked with human and ork dead, searching for the inevitable. On a rocky spur jutting out into the grasslands he found a collapsed tower, fire blackened by flamer and demolition charges. Carnedoch nearly passed by, until the glint of sunlight reflected from indigo ceramite amidst the rubble.

The ruins were still, the air carrying a weight of absence with it. Ork bodies lay stinking in the sun, flushed out from their last refuge and put down like vermin before a flood. In their midst lay Damonedes.

Carnedoch knew he was gone before he reached the body. He found himself detached, propelled by training and experience to catalogue the injury wrought on his brother before anything else. Damonedes armour was rent asunder, stabbed through the stomach with an oversized blade of some sort before being gunned down and stabbed again and again as he died. The ones that killed him had paid the price for their temerity; they lay scattered and broken by the avenging fury of his brothers. The squad had moved on, as they were charged to do. Duty came before grief.

The weight of duty lies upon you. Do not fail your brothers, for you are the link between the past and the future. All of us die, though our spirits must return to serve the Chapter anew. That is your burden.

Carnedoch knelt and reached for his brother’s helm. The seals loosened at his touch and he pulled it free. Damonedes eyes were open, the lens of one obscured with blood. He closed them after a fleeting hesitation and leaned back.

Images spun across his mind’s eye. Early days of training together, pushing each other to greater heights and more outrageous feats, laughing with each; their celebration of their ascension to full battle brothers; the battles and firefights across the years as they fulfilled their purpose; the times they had saved each other’s lives. Gone, now, and ended. Yet it was an inevitability that it would end this way, for their purpose was to continue until they could continue no more, though the knowledge did nothing to fill the strange hollowness inside. Carnedoch brushed dust from his brother’s armour, and deployed his narcethium, Sunlight caught on the hard edges of the bone saw.

“Rest, brother,” he said.

About the Author

Darren Davies is a professional engineer living in Ireland with his family, and far too many animals. A long-time admirer of all things science fiction, he fills his spare time by looking for a quiet place to write about the strange things that come into his head.