Deathwatch: Scything Talons

Descent Into Darkness: Part 2

635814.M41

Magos Klute’s bid to escape succeeded, disabling the armor systems of all present for long enough for him to make good his retreat. When the members of Kill-team Talon regained control of their armor, he was gone.

At once, multiple concerns competed for the Kill-team’s attention, not the least of which was helping Brother Cassius, who was still beset by a Tyranid Lictor. They immediately split up. Brothers Lex, Mason, Draegor, and Sister Mina proceeded to the entranceway to the strategium in an attempt to stem the tide of Tyranid organisms. Brothers Elyas, Erzell, and Andromakles went to assist Brother Cassius, while Brothers Cohollo and Lucius searched the Magos’ personal study for any piece of equipment that might help them on their mission.

Lex’s team arrived at the strategium to find it a scene of carnage. Menials were being overrun and massacred by rampaging hormagaunts, while the last of the techpriests had been murdered. Working quickly, Lex, Mason, Draegor, and Mina drove forward against the horde with bolt, grenade, and flame. They made short work of them, but not without taking their fair share of wounds. Securing the strategium and reclaiming Lex’s combat bike, they made their way to rendezvous with the rest of the team.

Meanwhile, Elyas, Erzell, and Andromakles made haste to Brother Cassius, but their way was blocked by ferocious Tyranid Warriors. With Elyas providing fire support as Andromakles and Erzell closed against the beasts, they slew them with only some delay. Brother Cassius, for his part, managed to escape the strangling grip of the Lictor, using his plasma pistol to further frighten the beast away. Linking up with the rest, the four Astartes hastened to rendezvous with the rest of the squad.

Lucius and Cohollo found the Magos’ personal study. Though it was furnished more like a laboratory than any living space, the Marines found little of interest. As they concluded their fruitless search, they were ambushed by a Lictor and Warrior. Before they could react, Cohollo crashed into the Lictor, wrestling it to the ground. In the meantime, Lucius unleashed a great fury on the Warrior with his thunder hammer, each strike delivering doom, before finally turning his attentions to help Cohollo, caving in the skull of the Lictor that Cohollo had wrestled.

Quite soon, the Kill-team had linked up again, re-prioritizing objectives. At that point, Brother Erzell heard the voice of Astropath Xhenek in his mind, telling him of the Magos’ treachery, and his attempt to escape using the teleportarium. She communicated that she would rather not be party to such treachery, and stole away from the Magos’ entourage, taking with her the canister that contained the gene-coded virus that Klute had earlier asked the Kill-team to administer to the Tyranids. At the same time, Brother Draegor’s keen senses picked up the scent of ash and pyroclastic flow in the air. It was clear that whatever device had been keeping the base stable under the molten rock of Khnum had failed, and they would need to hurry. Lex retrieved a void suit in the armory for Xhenek’s use (as the surface would undoubtedly already have its atmosphere mostly consumed), while the rest met up with the astropath herself. Once they had retrieved her, they made to escape into the surface, a process not achieved without difficulty. It had expended some of their ammunition (notably, Dreagor’s fearsome Fang Storm heavy bolter had depleted its ammo supply), and they had taken some injuries, but they emerged once more into Khnum’s less-than-solid soil.

The surface was almost a completely different sight from last they saw it. The sky itself seemed split asunder, with one half containing Khnum’s rising star, the color of the sky plunged in eternal sunset. The other half had no sky at all, only a night sky filled with the twinkling lights of the star ocean, most all of the heavenly bodies visible due to the lack of ambient lighting and atmosphere. It would have made for a beautiful sight, had it not been born from such nightmarish circumstances. Immediately, the Kill-team, along with their VIP, advanced toward their objective: the digestion pools, where they could deliver the virus directly.

It took Kill-team Talon almost 4 hours in their tactical advance to battle. They found a world deadlier than the one they arrived in. Constant evasion of Tyranid creatures was a given, as they had few supplies with which to fight a protracted engagement, as well as walking wounded that would exacerbate any combat action. Mostly thanks to Brother Mason’s talent for concealment, they managed to avoid fighting many Tyranid strains that they would have otherwise have had to deal with, such as biotitans and swarms of smaller hormagaunts. As their tactical advance approached its last legs, they came upon something strange:

From almost a hundred meters away, they spotted a group of twenty primitive human warriors, armed and adorned similarly to the one they found dying earlier in the day, bravely fending off a group of six Tyranid Warriors. Armed with simple wooden spears and shields, it was a miracle that they had managed to stay alive in this dying world. Making a quick decision, Kill-team Talon decided to assist them. What was to be an obviously one-sided battle in favor of the Tyranids quickly turned into a hailstorm of bolt rounds and jump packs roaring to life. Most of Kill-team Talon worked at long range, electing to provide accurate fire support, while some closed in to keep the Tyranid Warriors busy, as well as providing the human primitives a terrifyingly close look of the awesome power of a Space Marine. In only a few minutes their grim work was done, leaving only the natives. To their credit, they cowered only a moment before rallying under their leader and reforming what was left of their ranks into a formation to defend against what they saw as a new threat.

In response, Kill-team Talon’s mission leader, Brother Lex, unsealed his helmet to show the natives that they were human, and were allies. Most of the rest of the Kill-team followed suit. Once their helmets were released, they found the air in the planet already tight, constricted, and dangerously thin. Sister Mina felt the full extent of it, realizing what extraneous effort it must have taken for the primitives to fight as they did. Brother Lex retrieved the token that the dying warrior gave them, and held it aloft for the natives to see. This prompted a response from their leader, as he broke from their formation to meet with Brother Lex. However, the Astartes’ eyes were not on him, but on the youngest of their number, a mere boy, who stood at the front of their formation. To him did Brother Lex approach and give the token. In response, the native youth took the token, and gazed upon the terrifying sight before him, touching the Imperial Aquila upon Lex’s armor in reverence. He then turned back to his companions, and holding his hands up high, he gave a yell, a primal shout that spoke of victory and honor. His companions responded in kind.

Cassius was marginally successful in communicating with the natives, and he got them to lead them to the digestion pools, a region they seemed to call the “Sea of Death” in their vulgar tongue. Allowing the warriors to lead the way, the Kill-team was mobile once again. Their journey was briefly interrupted when gigantic feeder tendrils from a Tyranid grazer ship orbiting in what would have been Khnum’s lower thermosphere. The gigantic feeder tendrils descended at speeds that would cause ground ruptures if not avoided. With very little time to dodge, Kill-team Talon and the group of natives did the best they could. Some managed to avoid the tendrils burrowing into the ground, while others were not so lucky. In particular, it was Brother Lex that was severely wounded from the shock and impact of one of these tendrils. Already severely wounded, he nevertheless stood up and proceeded to lead the squad into the Sea of Death.

Upon their arrival at the Sea of Death, they saw that it lived up to the name. Past the gentle rise of a hill, and twenty meters downward, they beheld it. It was, as far as human conceptions are able to perceive, a vast sea, stretching across the horizon and from sight to sight, disappearing into the distance, and seeming to meld with the sea of stars that had become Khnum’s new sky. It was a mysterious ichor, obviously acidic, viscous in some places, yet almost clumping and solid in others, its liquid gently lapping onto the desolate shores of what only the most gracious would call a beachfront. The entire sea itself smoked and steamed, betraying the vital life activity within. Before the Kill-team made to deploy the virus, they looked back from whence they came. What they saw was a sight even more disturbing than anything they had yet seen.

It was a sea unto itself. But where the Sea of Death was almost gentle, this was a roiling mass. For it was a sea of Tyranid organisms, all nail and tooth and claw, massing in the faraway horizon, and rushing headlong into Kill-team Talon. It was a hopeless sight: strains far too many to count, and varying from small Rippers to massive Carnifexes. As Kill-team Talon prepared defensive positions in what they expected would be their last stand, Erzell recollected something that he had learned from Arc Knights lore from fighting the Tyranids. It was rumored that in the last stage of consuming a planet, the Tyranid organisms that were used to kill and clean up opposition were directed by the Hive Mind to allow themselves to jump into digestion pools, themselves becoming digested, their biomass returning to the Hive Fleet to be reused again on subsequent invasions. This meant that, if Erzell was correct, the sea of Tyranids heading toward them might not even be seeing them at all, instead going to the Sea of Death to be subsumed once more. Upon telling the Kill-team this, Erzell told them to hold fast their weapons, for a single misstep could spell their doom. Finally, the swarm passes them by, chitin and carapace deftly avoiding the obstacle that Kill-team Talon presented. The spectacle was nothing short of horiffic. The lead creatures threw themselves into the digestive juices, the chitin and flesh sloughing from them as they are reabsorbed by the oozing ichor. In minutes, the entire shore was a vast, boiling vat of thrashing claws, deafening screeches, and fountaining geysers of acid. Soon, it was all over, the entire swarm having pitched itself into the digestion pool, leaving nothing but a stinking yellow-green smog creeping over the blasted landscape. It is then that the light of Khnum’s star begins to fade, eclipsed by an immense hive ship that begins to lower its feeder tendrils from the exosphere to the Sea of Death at the planet’s surface. The feeding would commence. It was time to deliver the virus.

As Andromakles and Erzell approached the pool, and the rest of the Kill-team, the astropath, and the group of primitive warriors stood guard at the height of the small hill, they heard a small rumble that quickly became louder. Standing at the edge of the digestive pool, Erzell heard it first, and then it emerged right after: a Mawloc, a great wyrm-like Tyranid creature. The Hive Fleet had sensed their presence, and reacted. In the distance, the rest of the Kill-team saw a swarm of hormagaunts and termagants heading toward them, led by a Hive Tyrant and flanked by Tyrant Guard. They had to hurry. Erzell and Andromakles fought the Mawlock, the great maw of its mouth hoping to devour one of them whole. Yet the Mawloc was also in pain, half of its form buried in the acidic ichor, and so long as they kept it there, its very life would continue to be expunged. To this end, Lucius jumped to the monstrous creature’s head, pounding on it with the thunder hammer with the hope of stunning it into continued unconsciousness. Meanwhile, the rest of the Kill-team opened fire on the swarm, hoping to thin its numbers before it reached them.

Finally, when Brother Erzell managed to activate the canister and heft it into the pool, the Kill-team began to fall back to the south, toward their extraction point. Already, much of the Kill-team was at grips with the horde of hormagaunts, which made extracting much more complicated. What was already an extremely delicate situation was exacerbated when the Hive Tyrant launched a psychic attack on the Kill-team. Worst of all affected was Brother Lex, the Kill-team leader, already heavily wounded. His mind was filled with the screeching and tearing voices of a hundred million lives, and the great weight of the psychic attack laid him low, making the venerable Space Marine unconscious. Andromakles was the first to notice his vital signs going critical, and when he reached Lex’s position, he observed that he was gravely wounded, but still alive. Reminded of the grim memory of the death of his sergeant in the service of the Iron Snakes chapter, he made the call to not extract his gene-seed, and that he would see Lex safely out of the planet. Elyas collected the astropath, while Lucius, Mason, and Erzell covered the rout.

The journey back to the Valkyrie and Stormraven was arduous, and so was the journey out, as they were harried by flying Tyranid strains. Yet their mission was technically accomplished, although perhaps at too grievous a cost. When Brother Andromakles unsealed Lex’s armor, the blood flowed out. Brother Lex’s every orifice had bled, and though his Larraman’s Organ had staunched the bleeding, he had bled enough to make his armor and the floor of the Valkyrie caked in blood. He had gone into suspended animation, and he would not awake for five more days.

Kill-team Talon’s retreat had left marks on all of them, if not physically then surely mentally. This was their first true encounter with the Tyranids as a complete team, and they had almost failed. A Battle-Brother had almost died. They had retreated, not as heroes, but cowering in the face of the swarm. They vowed to atone. But their minds had already been affected by the cold, inhuman fury of the swarm. They would not soon forget it.

There was no sign of Magos Klute, or any ship he may have used to escape. Long-range auspex picked up nothing. Inquisitor Victoria surmised that he had successfully escaped, but this would not be the last time they would see him. Given the Magos’ secrecy and the details of his projects, Victoria has suspicions about Klute’s true loyalty and motives, and he earmarks the renegade Magos for an Inquisitorial task force. As of now, he was wanted throughout the Reach.

As for the Tyranids, the Darkest Before Dawn continued to track the fleet as both the Imperial ship and the fleet progressed out of the system in opposite paths. To the surprise of everyone present, another more massive hive fleet jumped into the system. At first it seemed like they were here to augment the other, but in only a few hours, the larger fleet began to annihilate the smaller one. Through the delay of long-range auspex, they watched as the smaller fleet winked out of existence, its biomass not even being harvested. It seems the Hive Fleet was smarter than they had given it credit for. It had seen the infected hive fleet, and erased it out of existence, a necessary amputation to stem the effects of a poison that could kill them. It was bittersweet. On one hand, they knew the virus worked, with enough efficacy that the Hive Mind would consider it a threat enough to destroy its own organisms. On the other hand, the Hive Mind was not an unthinking mechanism, and it was, like the Imperium itself, ready to sacrifice the few to save the many; ready to conduct genocide on its own race in order to save it. It was troubling news. But perhaps the virus could be remade again, and different uses found for it. Either way, Inquisitor Victoria considered this a net victory (despite Brother Lex almost dying), and they proceeded to move on, twoard the Fortress world of Hethgard.

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Descent Into Darkness: Part 1

632814.M41

En route to the Fortress world of Hethgard, Kill-team Talon is retasked to answer an urgent astropathic distress call emanating from a lonely, unremarkable planet named Khnum. Lacking an Imperial colonial presence, any strategic value to the Imperium, or even presence of human life, it is virtually non-existent in official Imperial records. The only records of it exist in Deathwatch census records, from which the planet’s name was found. Records indicate that Khnum was once a lush and verdant world. The recent invasion and ongoing consumption of the planet by a Tyranid hive fleet has likely changed such prospects, however.

Inquisitor Victoria accepted this mission under strong curiosity of some undeniable facts. The presence of the distress call itself is a mystery, as the planet was, on record, lifeless. Therefore, it stands to reason that there is some reason as to why infrastructure enough for an astropathic choir exists there in the first place. Another curiosity is the sheer power of the astropath that is sending the message. With the Tyranid presence on the planet all but prodigious, the fact that an astropath strong enough to pierce the interference of the Tyranid’s infamous Shadow in the Warp is reason enough to recover such a valuable asset. Finally, the astropath and whatever survivors still linger in the surface of Khnum have borne witness to a phenomenon few in the Imperium are privy to: the gradual consumption of a planet by the Tyranid race. Such data is highly sought after in its rarity, and without doubt of value not only to the Inquisition and the Deathwatch, but to Imperial strategists as well.

Thus, Kill-team Talon was tasked to conduct insertion into Khnum, locate the source of the signal, investigate the circumstances of any survivors, and evacuate them if at all possible. Inserting through both Valkyrie and Stormraven gunship, the Kill-team launched from deep space and cruised on silent running until they entered Khnum’s atmosphere. Once there, they were given chase by a few Tyranid flyer strains, but the piloting skills of Brothers Cassius and Andromokles was enough to give them the slip with little incident. This forced them to divert from their original drop zone to find a suitable place to land where they would not draw attention. What they found was a clear patch of land almost 8 kilometers from their objective. Proceeding on the surface, the Kill-team members largely went foot mobile, with only Brother Lex and Sister Mina going by combat bike to conduct forward reconnaissance.

They found the surface of the planet already a sickly sight. Brother Erzell, one of the few in the Kill-team to have faced Tyranids before, knew that you could find carnage and slaughter easy enough in the wake of a Tyranid invasion, but that was only immediately after the struggle to defend a planet. What he and the rest of the Kill-team bore witness to now was sterile, clean, clinical, with not a broken bone or a pound of wasted human flesh in sight… for they had all been consumed—indeed, the entire planet was being consumed, all the process of a Hive Fleet’s sustenance. The ground was inhabited by strange tendrils that pulsed like veins, their surfaces covered with bacterial micro-organisms, and the air itself was infested with spores and pheromone. The sun that set in the horizon (or was it rising?) cast looming shadows from the once-mighty mountain peaks of Khnum, darkening the empty plains for leagues around. Such plains must have surely been filled with trees and other foliage long ago, as was described in the briefing, but now trees gave way to Tyranid capillary towers, growing and reaching out to the void of space, as well as stabs that led downward into hives of smaller Tyranid strains. The very planet itself was the enemy, and Kill-team Talon knew that they would have to tread carefully.

Fortunately, their task was made much easier, thanks to a brilliant idea by Brother Mason. He suggested that they equip themselves with Infiltriol Enamel, a pheromone based deception, to make their way through Khnum undetected. This smart choice paid off, as the Kill-team found little incident as they traveled across Khnum’s barren surface. The Kill-team avoided an encounter with a venomthrope, and managed to circle around a concealed Tyranid feeder that had burrowed itself into the hollow ground itself. Later, the Kill-team made their way through a “forest” of little capillary stabs, finding a curious sight within. In a pool of clear water that had not yet been consumed by the Tyranids, they found a tribal warrior, badly wounded and clearly dying, his primitive spear lain beside him as he reached out toward the pool of water. The presence of primitive human life on the planet was never covered in the briefings, but the surprise was not the first thing on their minds. Sister Mina immediately attempted to tend to the man’s wounds, but it was clear he would not survive. Though they understood not his words, he nevertheless seemed relieved at the presence of the Battle Brothers and Sister, handing a trinket to the Kill-team leader, Brother Lex. It was a bone charm, no doubt a charm part of their warrior tradition. The man expired soon after that, as the Sister said his last rites. As he was human, he was already a citizen of the Imperium, in spirit if not in fact. Sister Mina regretted that their mission would not even allow them to give the man a shallow grave, but she knew that they must press on.

With Brother Cassius’ auspex speaking of life signs coming from a nearby cave, they reasoned that there might be more survivors hidden within, and judged it worth the risk. With Brother Andromakles and Lex standing guard outside, and Sister Mina leading the way, they ventured further. It could be said that what they found was only to be expected, given the circumstances. In a high-vaulted cavern within the cave network, they found more hollow ground. Most of the Kill-team were quick on their feet and managed to jump clear of the collapsing earth, and those who carried jump packs were hardly bothered, but it was the librarian Brother Scours that fell into the pit. Though surrounded by Tyranid gaunt organisms almost immediately, and his psychic gifts failing him in the face of the Shadow in the Warp, he was almost overwhelmed. The Kill-team acted swiftly, however, and made short work in scything down the horde of hormagaunts and pulling Brother Scours out of the pit. Once they were out of the cave, they redoubled their pace to head towards their primary objective.

The objective point was a curious sight. Settled into a gentle valley between slightly sloping hills, this must have surely been a beautiful place in Khnum’s better days. The first thing the Kill-team took notice of at that point was that there were no Imperial structures present. The second is that it quickly became evident that the Tyranids had, for some reason, not even begun to consume this area. Sensing that something was afoot, the Kill-team quickly set about to finding their objective, mindful that in the far horizon, large Tyranid biotitans were wandering, silhouetted against the sliver of light. Who knows when Kill-team Talon’s ruse would finally prove futile? In the end, it was Brother Draego’s keenly honed senses that allowed them to find a way: an entrance hatch that was hidden from view and perception. In fact, if Brother Cassius’ auspex was to be believed, there was the surface of what looked like a bunker in the concave of the valley, all somehow hidden. Judging that whatever mystery would solve itself as they entered the bunker, they proceeded onward, Brother Cassius unleashing his plasma cutter against the uncooperative hatch door and cutting it open.

Inside, they found a tunnel that was clearly of Imperial make, covered as it was in cables, pipes, and glowglobes, and the occasional Mechanicus glyph. Wide enough to only permit a single-file entry, the Kill-team’s descent was slow and purposeful. Soon enough they found themselves in a large, tall-walled room, quickly spotting the heavy bolters set against the pillars of the room, and a spy globe whose machine spirit no doubt made short work of any intruder. It was Brother Scours that found a way through, concentrating his disciplined mind through the Shadow in the Warp to communicate with the astropath that was sending out the distress call. In a burst of telepathy, he clarified their situation and requested entry, which was granted in a few minutes. Safe from the compound’s secret traps, they proceeded onward, passing flamers set within the narrow corridors to arrive at a great bulkhead that bore a the familiar cogwheel of Mars. Once Brother Lex clarified further, they were granted entry. What they found inside, they could not have expected.

The room within was a large, high-vaulted strategium, of the sort found in Imperial cruisers and larger ships. In the center lay a holo projection of what was clearly the planet of Khnum. All around the strategium, menials stood attending to their numerous techpriest masters. Monotask servitors went to and fro, finding things to do. It quickly became evident to the Kill-team that they would not be able to spirit everyone away from Khnum’s surface, and some triaging had to be performed later. But the figure that greeted them at the door was none other than a Magos of the Mechanicus, and from his robes he seemed to be a Magos Biologos. He introduced himself as Magos Klute, and he thanked the Kill-team for their beneficence in arranging a rescue (though he could not hide some disappointment in not having an entire Imperial Guard regiment come to his rescue). Though the Kill-team informed him to make preparations for his team to evacuate immediately, he proposed a daring plan to Kill-team Talon.

He explained that he and his team had been on Khnum for almost a hundred years, hidden there, studying xenos behavior. The arrival of the Tyranids presented an unexpected opportunity. They could study a phenomenon barely spoken of in Imperial texts: the consumption of a world. In their secure and hidden bunker, they studied how the Tyranids began to eat the planet itself alive. In their studies, Magos Klute was confident that he had finally found an answer to defeating Hive Fleet Dagon definitively. He explained that he and his team had crafted an evolving virus, one that was built with the knowledge of the failures of previous attempts, and defeat even the Tyranids’ penchant for rapid evolution and immunization. The Kill-team need only make their way to Tyranid digestion pool, and deploy the payload delivery device. Magos Klute understood that this would complicate the rescue operation, but explained that under the circumstances, the benefits outweighed the risk. He gave the Kill-team a few minutes to rearm their weapons, and by then they must have a decision.

Brother Andromakles took this opportunity to study the records of this artificial virus. He found only that it had a chance, a very likely chance, of doing what it was supposed to do, but it was a lot to bet on such a chance. He deferred to his Kill-team leader. For his part, Brother Lex found the astropath that was transmitting the message, inside a lonely astropathic choir that had obviously seen the entire choir die from the strain of communicating through the Shadow. The astropath herself, named Xhenek, was a young, frail, yet confident-seeming woman, blind as all in her station was, weakened from effort, yet exuding a calmness beside that. Xhenek was thankful for the arrival of the Inquisition, and prayed for swift delivery from the storm. Brother Lex, together with Brother Mason, also found the source of the curious cloaking that the bunker exhibited. In a chamber deep in the bunker, a single techpriest named Bhrawk powered an ancient archeotech device called the Subjectivity Engine that even he knew little of. He knew only that it projected a field around the valley in which the bunker lay, making it look like what it seemed most convenient to look like at any onlookers, forcing them to ignore it. He was impressed that the Kill-team even found their way inside at all. Regardless, the machine required only a brain to power it, and his was available. The techpriest Bhrawk seemed more machine now than human, and interacted in the curious, logically circuitous way of such men. Brother Cassius was able to talk to Bhrawk, and pry from him information that spelled something disturbing: the Magos Klute was not being completely forthcoming. It appeared that he had a teleportarium, whose coordinates pointed to nearby space orbiting Khnum. What purpose it served, the Kill-team couldn’t say, but they confronted Magos Klute immediately.

While the Magos did not seem to see the merit in being questioned for having an alternative escape plan, he seemed stressed nevertheless. He reiterated the mission that he offered, saying that whatever sin the Kill-team might think he had committed, them taking the virus now and introducing it into the Tyranid consumption process would still strike a blow far better than any internecine grudge.

Meanwhile, left alone with Adept Bhrawk in the Subjectivity Engine room, Brother Cassius inspects the walls and finds a curious burn mark, as if it had been melted away by acid. Just as soon as he spotted it, the alarms of the facility blared, heavy bolter fire faintly audible from the halls above. Cassius barely had any time to react before a prehensile tentacle emerged from the breach in the wall, snaring him. When the creature used its two long, spiny mandibles to tear the hole wider, he saw it for what it was. Tyranids, likely breached inside through the very hole the Kill-team used to gain entry. In a second, Cassius was pulled into the wall, left helpless for the few precious seconds the Tyranids needed. Hormagaunts swarmed over Cassius, though they didn’t harm him, instead focusing their efforts into overloading the power shielding Adept Bhrawk. In the end, they sacrificed a veritable wall of life, but they did it, and Adept Bhrawk was torn to pieces in moments. Brother Cassius would have to break free of the creature to even begin to do anything. The mission was in jeopardy now. Tyranids were loose. Many could die.

At that same moment, Magos Klute pulled the last trick from his sleeve, unleashing a focused haywire charge that left the Battle-Brothers helpless for a minute or so as their power armor discharged. When they regained their movement, Magos Klute was gone. Now Kill-team Talon must confront the Tyranids that they had been avoiding, and they have some weighty decisions yet to be made.

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The story thus far...

625814.M41

During a mission to disrupt Tau forces in the Canis Salient, Kill-team Talon chanced upon an encounter that promised to forever change the fate of the entire Salient, and perhaps the whole of the Achilus Crusade: the Tyranids had come to the Canis Salient. While the Tyranids had already begun to besiege the Orpheus Salient rimward, and had managed to reverse the fortunes of that once beneficent battlefront, it was not thought that they would be striking other fronts of the Achilus Crusade. Now that the Tyranids have come calling farther coreward, Crusade High Command has begun to assume the worst. Like the jaws of a titanic creature snapping shut, the Great Devourer now threatens to engulf both sides of the Jericho Reach, and could very well plunge the Crusade into jeopardy.

What was once thought to be only a limited splinter group from the Hive Fleet Behemoth that plagued the nearby sector of Ultramar, Crusade High Command has now deemed threatening enough to mark with its own designation. In 814.M41, it was decided that this Tyranid hive fleet would be dubbed Hive Fleet Dagon.

When Kill-team Talon withdrew from the Tyranid threat in the Canis Salient, they were assisted by the ever-enigmatic Eldar. Through psychic means, they were informed only that the only thing that could save them lay in the Orpheus Salient, where Hive Fleet Dagon first struck. Though the remark could not have been more cryptic, Inquisitor Victoria judged that the Eldar were trustworthy in this, and resolved to find what it is that lay in the Orpheus Salient that was key to escaping the maw of the Great Devourer. She also suspected that it would not be the last they would see of the Eldar. They almost certainly had far-reaching plans.

Now Kill-team Talon proceeds with all haste to the Orpheus Salient aboard the Darkest Before Dawn. Yet even before they can make preparations to head to Hethgard, they receive a distress call coming from an already-doomed planet. With vital objectives established, they rush towards this potentially dangerous detour.

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