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The Core (Short Story)

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The Core
The-Core.jpg
Author Aaron Dembski-Bowden
Publisher Black Library
Collected in Fear the Alien

Cover Description

Talos and First Claw are back in action after the cataclysmic events of Blood Reaver, boarding a dangerous space hulk in search of an ancient secret. Harried by genestealers and Space Marines of the Salamanders Chapter, they must protect the traitor tech-priest Deltrian as he completes his mission. But something is hunting them through the shadows, a predator that is more than their match...

Synopsis

Talos of the Night Lords and First Claw escort Deltrian and Septimus aboard a massive Space Hulk in order to reach a Mechanicus Explorator vessel containing the secrets of a Titan Legion. The story starts with the navigator Octavia breaking the Echo of Damnation from the warp fifteen minutes travel from their target, an impressive feat for a navigator not directed by the light of the astronomican. The target is a space hulk, now discovered to be the size of a small moon due to the amount of vessels conglomerated into it. Upon entering the Hulk, First Claw and their charges discover dead crew suffering Genestealer wounds, frozen in the vacuum of the outer vessels. First Claw is forced to cut their way through numerous bulkheads on their way to the core of the hulk where their objective, the Mechanicus vessel, is located. Their journey reaches into the region of a dozen hours, with vox contact being lost at the 3 hour mark. Along the way Deltrian bleeds several data banks of various vessels of their information, lengthening the time taken.

Meanwhile, Lucoryphus of the Bleeding Eyes Raptor Squad, now designated Ninth Claw, leads his 19 soldiers ahead of First Claw in scouting actions, looking for enemies and further potential salvage. They are able to move faster as they are able to burn through bulkheads with melta weapons, (instead of cutting through which First Claw must make do with Deltrian's servitors) as well as crawl through vents. Ninth Claw finds themselves on board a strike cruiser of the Astartes. Reaching the power core they discover that it is of the XVIII Legion, the Salamanders, named the Protean. Vorasha, Lucoryphus' second-in-command shuts down the power to redundant areas when they hear bolter fire, coming not from First Claw but presumably from Salamanders else where on the ship. Lucoryphus takes half the team to hunt the Salamanders whilst Vorasha stays behind to control the power flow and the ships systems.

Deltrian and Septimus have reached the centre of the Mechanicus ship where the techpriest is hacking through the protection of the main cogitator archive. First Claw is divided up into 3 teams of Xarl and Uzas, Cyrion and Mercutian and Talos and Variel and all have come under attack from waves of genestealers, recently woken by their Patriarch, who are weak and sluggish due to their long phase of hibernation. Of note is that the patriarch makes a move on Cyrion and Mercutian who are guarding one of the flanks. Mercutian's heavy bolter wounds and drives off the patriarch who comes back later to a vent leading to the chamber where Deltrian and Septimus are. Deltrian senses its presence and sends an unconcerned message to Talos without telling and worrying Septimus.

Lucoryphus and his squad are tracking a Salamander in Terminator armour who appears to be acting strangely, firing at shadows whilst chasing Shar Gan down the corridor. Lucoryphus voxes Vorasha and tells him to seal two bulkheads either side of the Salamander whilst Lucoryphus' squad hangs above and drops, ten chainswords churning into the Terminator.

Talos and Variel return to the techpriest and artificier to stand guard and protect them from the patriarch should it attack. Septimus, who has been wondering about his role in this mission, questions Talos on his purpose, whether it is to be bait for the attraction of the genestealers. Talos explains that there is a possibilty that they could be present on the hulk for days and that their armour may need repairing and tending to. Talos is then interrupted by Lucoryphus on the vox. His squad has been killed in a failed ambush of a Salamander. Lucoryphus barely managed to escape himself, having been forced to use a melta to blast a whole through the roof and soar through enemy fire to escape, becoming wounded in the process. Talos orders him to stand down, to regroup with Vorasha and return to the Echo of Damnation staying clear of the Salamanders. Lucoryphus confirms this to be his intentions before cutting the link and ordering Vorasha to take his squad and awaken more genestealers and lead them into the Salamanders, attaining vengeance for the Bleeding Eyes against both enemies.

The Genestealer patriarch having sat in the darkness, silently calling its kin to assault First Claw, starts to approach the Mechanicus chamber once more, with its wounds clotted and its strength returned. Talos spots it and along with Variel he waits for optimum bolter range before engaging. Talos finds that the rest of First Claw is engaged by lesser genestealers, meaning he has no access to reinforcements except that of Septimus las-pistols. Deltrian is irritated by the firefight that has erupted 50 metres from him, finding it a slight distraction whilst he tries to by the Mechanicus firewalls and cyphers. He manages to break these and extract 16 hand sized data tablets from the machine, each containing a century of data dating back to the ships forging. He turns, impatiently waiting for the patriarch to be defeated. The patriarch severs one of Variel's legs off at the knee with a bladed limb before Talos wades in with Aurum, ramming it into the beasts spine and severing the head. With this done, Deltrain impatiently asks whether they can leave now.

Back on the Echo of Damnation Talos asks of the Salamander's vessel that brought those that the Bleeding Eyes faced to the system. A bridge officer informs him that they left 2 hours beforehand without even trying to hunt down the Night Lords vessel. Talos orders that they shall follow them and rend them from the warp with all their Claws and salvage all value from their vessel.

Inside the Hall of Reflection is Deltrian's quarters on the ship, his workshop and the residence of those Night Lords inside sarcophagi awaiting emplacement inside Dreadnoughts. He waits for a detachment of Astartes who spent a further six hours on board the space hulk fending off genestealers to acquire more salvage. Twelve Night Lords enter, each carrying the body of a Salamander clad in Terminator armour. Deltrian is pleased at this haul, knowing that the damage done to these suits is grievous but not irreparable, meaning that their spirits shall be turned bitter and serve the Night Lords of the Echo of Damnation well.

Setting

The Echo of Damnation and a space hulk containing a Mechanicus titan vessel and the Protean, a Salamander strike cruiser.

Characters

Night Lords First Claw

  • Talos - Leader of First Claw and commander of the Echo of Damnation
  • Cyrion
  • Xarl
  • Uzas
  • Mercution
  • Variel - A recruit to the Night Lords from their participation in the Fall of Vilamus

Night Lords Raptors/The Bleeding Eyes

  • Lucoryphus - Leader of the Bleeding Eyes Raptor squad.
  • Vorasha - Lucoryphus effective second-in- command.
  • Shar Gan - Deceased, killed in the failed ambush against the Salamanders
  • Zon La - Part of the Bleeding Eyes. Fate unknown

Night Lords Personnel

  • Deltrian - Techpriest of the Echo of Damnation
  • Septimus - Male Artificier, retainer and seventh slave of Talos.
  • Octavia - Female Navigator of the Echo of Damnation and the eight slave of of Talos. Only featured early in the novel after breaking from the warp and in a brief conversation to Septimus through the vox.

Sources