THE PROW OF A SHIP cut a wound in the very fabric of the void. Lightning crackled and the rift grew in size as a rare Tempest-class Strike Frigate exited the Warp.
As the Strike Frigate exited the tear in space, the opening closed once again, sealing away the Sea of Souls from the physical universe once again.
The vessel’s engines rocketed it forward. The name she was known by was Thunderbeing. She had once been a part of an Imperial Navy Strike Frigate squadron assigned to one of the realms of space located near the Calixis Sector. She was a veteran combatant of numerous engagements against the countless enemies of Mankind. Having been repaired and refitted scores of times, virtually none of her component parts were original equipment. She was subsequently sold off to a comparatively wealthy Rogue Trader. After decades of plying the stars beyond Emperor’s influence, she was found adrift and crewless just inside Imperial Space by an Imperial Navy patrol.
Wanting nothing to do with her, the local commanding admiral offered the vessel to anyone willing to accept her just to be rid of what was believed to be a cursed ship. The perpetually under-equipped Ordo Peirates, the pirate hunters of the Emperor’s Holy Inquisition, who snatched her up and assigned her to Inquisitor Magnus Kane’s command. He, in turn, handed her over to the Astartes of Barbaricus Squad.
THE ENTRY HATCH TO THE armoury opened and a massive member of the Adeptus Astartes entered. Clad in deep, dark red armour the colour of heart’s blood, he carried his horned helm in the crook of his right arm. Six other Astartes were a various tables and counters situated inside the armoury’s interior.
One of the Astartes who was loading the ammunition belt feed mechanism of a heavy bolter was the first to acknowledge the newcomer’s arrival and announced his presence, ‘Captain on deck, Brothers.’
Six deep voices echoed off the walls of the arming chamber, ‘Hi, Crow.’ The Astartes barley looked up from their actions. Each warrior continued to prep his respective weapon.
The newly arrived warrior removed an impressive looking bolter from the fully stocked weapon rack mounted on the bulkhead nearest him. He pushed a button on the side of the bolter and removed the drum magazine, and satisfied that it was fully loaded, pushed it back into place in the magazine well until he heard the distinctive click ensuring the cylindrical device was properly seated in place.
A vox bead attached to the warrior’s left ear activated. He listened to the incoming transmission, then nodded his head, ‘Thank you, Commander. Maintain a safe distance behind the target vessel. Ensure we’re not within their detection range.’
As Crow slung the weapon across his shoulder he turned and addressed his Battle Brothers, ‘Barbaricus Squad, we’re almost to our objective point. Time to board the transport.’
CREWMEN AND SERFS PARTED OUT of the way of seven Astartes as they passed through the corridor headed to the ship’s hangar deck. Each transhuman warrior was clad in identical blood red armour of various Mark patterns. Their pauldrons were ash grey. The right pauldron on each suit of armour bore the symbol of the Inquisition, whereas the left ones were decorated with a stylized equestrian head.
Crow led the procession. His horned helmet in place, he more resembled a member of one of the Traitor Legions than a Space Marine loyal to the Emperor. The others followed in his wake; Jackal, Kraken, Sword, Vortex, Leo and Fist. Each warrior’s armour bore individualistic totems and decorations that, despite their unified livery, gave each Astartes a unique appearance.
The Astartes boarded the waiting gunboat and each seated himself into a crash seat in the vessel’s interior. Once everyone was properly secure, Crow gave the command to the craft’s pilot to launch.
THE GUNBOAT RACED THROUGH THE void like a loosed arrow. The vessel quickly overtook the lumbering ship ahead of it. The target vessel was a hodge podge assembly of various classes of spacecraft, civilian and military alike. Ork ingenuity seemed to know no bounds or limitations.
As the gunboat drew closer to the Ork ship, Crow looked over the contents of the display screen of a data slate. He addressed Barbaricus Squad without taking his eyes off the display, ‘Men, you know your duty. We make our way aboard the Greenskin wreck and neutralize it. In other words, kill the commander and anything else that crosses into our gun-sights. This order comes from Inquisitor Kane, who says it comes from a mysterious source inside the Ordo Xenos’ Deathwatch. This source, someone going by the name of Trident, or something or other, stated the elimination of this Freebooter vessel will go a long way toward his Kill Team being successful in their mission. An Ork Warboss they’ve been tracking is apparently mounting a Waaagh! and Orks from all over are gathering to his location. So, we’re going to do our part to ensure that doesn’t happen.’
Five Astartes voices responded that they were aware of the mission objective. A lone voice spoke out a second or two later, ‘Anything to help the boys in black.’
Crow answered, ‘Yes, Fist, because we’re all one big, happy bunch of brothers.’
Fist’s voice came from the back of the passenger cabin, ‘Whatever.’
THE ORK SHIP OPENED UP with its point defense guns, announcing to Barbaricus Squad that the Greenskins had detected their craft and were within range of the aliens’ primitive targeting devices.
The alien ship was small in comparison to many other Ork vessels the Astartes of Barbaricus Squad had encountered, but despite its diminutive size, was believed to be infested with dozens, if not hundreds of Xenos fighters.
The gunboat maneuvered its way through the incoming Ork fire and touched down atop the alien vessel’s command bridge. The gunboat’s boarding hatch sealed itself onto the enemy ship’s outer hull and a hole was quickly cut through the larger craft’s metal skin.
Crow stuck his bolter through the hole in the Ork ship and fanned the weapon from left to right and back again. After a prolonged burst of fire, he dropped down on the alien deck. Strewn across the command deck were the corpses of at least a dozen Orks; their bodies torn and exploded from the damaging effects of the Space Marine’s ammunition. Their improvised armour provided minimal protection at best under most circumstances and had been as effective as cardboard and masking adhesive against mass reactive bolter rounds.
Beyond the dead Orks stood the unmistakable form of the ship’s commander. He was accompanied by no less than six heavily armed Greenskin soldiers.
As Ork weapons barked and roared, the other members of Barbaricus Squad dropped down onto the target vessel’s decking. The Astartes fanned out into positions that provided effective covering fire for one another.
Unsatisfied with a protracted shooting battle, the Ork soldiers closed the distance between themselves and the Space Marines. Melee combat erupted in earnest as alien flesh collided with Astartes power armour.
Jackal picked up the Ork soldier before him and raised him up above his head and brought the alien’s back down across his armoured knee, severing the Greenskin’s spine with an audible crack. He unceremoniously discarded his defeated foe without moment’s hesitation.
Vortex’s heavy bolter cut his opponent in half just as he was a couple of strides away.
Each in turn, the Astartes dispatched their foes. In the far corner of the command deck Crow swung sword against axe as he and the Ork Freebooter captain struggled in fierce hand-to-hand combat.
After numerous weapon strikes, the Ork commander brought the flat of his axe blade across the side of Crow’s helmeted head. The powerful blow knocked the Astartes captain off his feet and onto his back. The alien warlord quickly saw his advantage before him and raised the haft of his weapon over his head, prepared to strike.
A blast from a meltagun gave the massive Ork reason to pause. A hole had melted its way through his flank. The Ork gripped his side and look in the direction the blast had come from. Jackal gave a mock salute to the alien commander.
A burst of large calibre bolt rounds tore through the ship master’s arm, causing him to loosen his grip on his axe. Vortex fired another volley from his heavy bolter and the Ork dropped the weapon onto the deck. He bent over to retrieve the axe when Fist advanced on his position, energy crackling across the exterior of his power fist.
The Ork swung his power claw in the direction of the Space Marine, but Fist swerved out of the large creature’s lurching arm and connected with a left hook of his own into the Ork’s unprotected flank.
Crow regained his feet and swung his sword at the warlord’s head. The edged weapon bit into the green flesh between neck and shoulder. Crow dislodged the sword and swung again, with even more force. The Ork’s head was nearly separated from the torso as he pulled the sword free again. The Astartes officer grabbed hold of the comparatively lose skin on the back of the Ork’s neck, what would have been on a dog called the scruff, and pulled with all his transhuman strength. The snarling alien’s head ripped free of the rest of the body with a audible tearing noise.
With the Ork command dealt with, Barbaricus Squad placed melta charges in strategic locations throughout the bridge and quickly re-boarded their gunboat.
The gunboat was on its way back to the Thunderbeing as the Ork bridge, and then the rest of the ship, was engulfed in molten destruction.
Back aboard the Thunderbeing, Crow removed his helm and took great pride in what he and his Brothers had accomplished.
Named in honour of the horse breed native to Ancient Terra, Barbaricus Squad had once again crushed the head of a serpent beneath their powerful hooves.