Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers
Black Ops: Chapter 6
by James Arnold
Inquisitor Hector Belnades hadn’t said much of anything since he had reappeared. In his usual manner, he looked quietly on as Heironimus, the Captain of the Ultramarines, showed him what he had found.
Janhavi and the Tigers had been waiting on the outskirts of the now devastated camp. They spoke quietly, but intensely, as they tried to come to grips with what they had seen. Hector watched them as he pondered the situation himself. Their reaction was no surprise to him.
After all, it wasn’t every day that a Space Marine discovered that he had killed his own comrades.
The dark blue of the Alpha Legion armor had been torn away where bolter and chainsword had struck, but instead of sheer ceramite underneath, there was a familiar pattern – tiger stripes. However, whereas Janhavi and her squad wore a green and black pattern, these were a brilliant orange. The standard issue armor for the Fighting Tigers of Veda.
The sound of thunder, closer than it had been the past day, echoed overhead as Hector stood up, bolter in hand. Using a rock, he scraped away the eight sided star that adorned the shoulder pad of one of the fallen “Tigers.” Working a little bit further out, he revealed the golden imperial eagle underneath. Heironimus and his men made the sign of the Aquila, uttering holy litanies and turning their heads down in shame.
“What are we to do, my Lord?”
Belnades looked up at Heironimus, his face betraying his concern.
“Nothing Captain. The hour is late and we cannot afford this distraction.”
Heironimus staggered back, as if he had been physically struck. The Inquisitor tried to reassure the Captain.
“If we are to save this planet we must continue on immediately.”
“This planet is crawling with corruption! How can you even suggest saving them? Why not just let the Ordos melta torpedo it to slag?”
“The same reason we continued to fight when your precious Macragge was invaded by the seething Tyranid hordes, Captain. Every planet is worth saving, as is every human.”
Heironimus turned as if to walk away, his mind filled with anger. He tried to think, to work his way through to a logical conclusion, but all he had was anger. He spun around, pointing to the Janhavi’s unit.
“I’m not fighting alongside those animals.”
The Inquisitor breathed slowly. He could feel the Captain’s rage. It had been a calculated risk to bring the Ultramarines without the aid of a Librarian, but it was a risk he had been forced to take. Now he was dealing with one of the drawbacks associated with that risk.
“Captain, you must be reasonable. The best place for them is at our side, it is…”
“No! It’s not right!” Heironimus shouted back, “This whole mission has been wrong since I was assigned to you. I’ve been on Malleus assignments before and they were nothing like this. Holy Throne, why does my head hurt so much?”
Heironimus stumbled to his knees, head in hands, his breathing ragged. He felt the trickle of blood coming through his teeth even as he grit them in pain. Belnades knelt down beside him, gesturing to the small pool on the ground, now turned black as it mixed with the dirt.
“Blood for the Blood God.”
Heironimus’ eyes widened as the realization sunk in. He remembered his initial encounter with the Tigers, the savage ferocity that they displayed, the animalistic fury that drove them. Such animosity instilled in disciplined warriors, and from miles upon miles away. His hearts stopped pounding and he looked up at the Inquisitor.
“What the hell are we fighting here?”
Hector looked at the horizon, his
gaze long and dark. “Do not ask me that Captain, for I will give you three
answers, each one true and terrifying to know.”
Janhavi walked slowly back to her team. Her mind was awash with conflicting emotions. The possibility of betrayal had been there all along, but the evidence left from the recent fight seemed too much to ignore. She didn’t know what to say to the others, these men and women she had had known most of her adult life.
Storm clouds began creeping in overhead. Lightning arced silently in the distance, drawing electric halos over the Tigers in the distance. They stood silently, their eyes locked on her as she approached. She hadn’t been gone ten minutes, but ten minutes was enough for the possibilities to build to a boiling point.
Cold fingertaps on her forehead told Janhavi what she already knew from the smell of the air. She didn’t care.
Steam began rising off her armor, leaving a thin ghost trail behind her as she walked. Ahead, the Tigers blended perfectly into the jungle behind them, wrapped in translucent clouds of gray. Janhavi reached up, placing her helmet on. The others did likewise, shielding themselves from the elements.
Even over the dampening effects of her helmet, Janhavi could hear the pelting drops. The rain in Veda was fierce. Janhavi clicked on her vox link, opening a channel to her squad. Red eyes peered expectantly at her through the thick sheets of rain.
Janhavi looked over her shoulder, where the Ultramarines were already moving out. The silhouette of Inquisitor Belnades stood in the rain, seemingly unaffected by the torrent that hammered down on him. Turning back, Janhavi spoke quickly as she moved.
“We have a new mission.”
Dahana looked up. “What about our orders from HQ?”
“You heard the Inquisitor. If we don’t pull this off, we will have no HQ. Nor do we have much ground for protest when all our enemies are wearing Fighting Tiger armor.”
“Those weren’t our men in those suits.”
“You think I don’t know that? Of course they weren’t ours, but the question is where did they get our gear? We need to find the traitor and kill him.”
“But our planet is in danger.”
Janhavi sighed. “I know, but unless
I miss my guess when we get to the root of the Chaos incursion it won’t
take us long to find our traitor. And when we do, they are going to regret
the day they turned to the Ruinous Powers.”
The mountain was getting closer now. The towering rock stretched far into the sky, well past the clouds, where it disappeared into mystery. The mountain was called Vamani, the peaceful titan of summer. Janhavi looked up at it every now and again, marveling at its silent majesty.
The Tigers picked their way carefully through the underbrush of the jungle. Soon the trees would begin to drop away. Soon their cover would be gone, but they would be no less ghostlike. The rain that hammered down made it all but impossible to see more than thirty feet ahead. Only the silhouette of the mountain remained a constant reminder of their destination and their mission.
Janhavi stopped, looking around to double check that her location was correct.
Pulling away a false face to a nearby
rock outcropping, Janhavi began pulling out supplies. The Tigers had been
right to keep hidden stores of arms at regular intervals around the planet.
Janhavi pulled out everything they would need. The others accepted their
wargear in silence, the hunt having begun to take hold of their minds as
well. Leaving the rock just as they had found it, the Tigers disappeared
once more into the rain.
From inside the cave, the guards could barely see out through the rain. Occasionally, they would patrol outside the cave to see if anything was there, but came back with nothing. The harsh howl of the wind mixed with the crash of rain deadened all other sounds, providing a constant backdrop of white noise. The men carried bolters which shone with the Imperial insignia, and their bodies were armored in orange and black, Tigers by all accounts.
Just as one of the sentries was about to foray once again into the weather, a knife blade came flying out of the rain and slammed into his helmet. The man never screamed, not even a breath of surprise. He simply plummeted straight down, crashing to the rock floor.
Shouting in surprise, the others gathered at the cave mouth and opened up into the torrent of rain with their bolters, shooting in every direction possible. Their bolters roared with explosive fury, but the only targets they could find were cold rain drops. The leader of the squad raised his hand to halt their fire. Silently, he indicated for two of the unit two go out into the rain and see if there were any bodies. The Marines in the cave looked out in anxious anticipation – only the white noise of the ever present rain broke the silence. A minute passed and dragged into two, then five. The leader looked at his men, perplexed at what to do next.
Janhavi had already had time to wind up when she emerged from the cloak of the rain. Her massive power fist spared the squad leader from having to make any further decisions, crushing his torso in her relentless grip. The man doubled over backwards and tried to scream, but blood quickly filled his lungs and closed off all sound. Ajay was next, leaping over the pair and landing with a satisfying crunch as his lightning claws shattered and splintered the ceramite armor of his foe.
The rest poured in, the suddenness of the close combat attack taking the Marines in orange and black armor by surprise. Monomolecular blades wielded with precision struck down one after another of the imposters until only one remained. Janhavi ripped the tiger-striped helmet from his head, knowing exactly what she would find.
A Chaos Marine.
She laughed as the shocked man looked back at her. Without missing a beat she leveled her bolt pistol at his skull.
“For the Tigers.”
The Ultramarines tread carefully as they worked their way up the slick surface of rock. They had to be a thousand feet up by now, having climbed all through the rain storm.
“Here we are!” Belnades shouted to Heironimous, and pointed down at a shaft about ten feet across that dug into the mountain side for several hundred feet. The Ultramarine’s helmet revealed no expression, but it was clear he was skeptical about their next course of action. The Inquisitor swung his legs up to the mouth of the shaft and flung himself down the old lava tube, sliding on the glassy surface and landing silently at the bottom. One by one, the Ultramarines came after, but did not land quite so gracefully.
“Please try to be quiet, Captain. We are almost to the main chamber,” Belnades chided.
The group moved slowly, if not silently. It was a miracle of planning, but the Inquisitor’s alternate route had gotten the Marines a mere 500 feet from the chamber that was the focus of their attention.
As they rounded the last corner, the Marines gasped at the size of the chamber they were about to step into. It was circular, with a diameter of hundreds of feet. The ceiling could not even be seen, simply stretching forever into the blackness above. Cultists of every sort moved through the space, some on true errands, others simply insane and wandering in random directions. Chaos Marines walked silently amidst their lesser brethren, weapons drawn, waiting for an excuse to fire.
At the very center of it all was the one thing that everyone, Loyalist or otherwise, couldn’t stop looking at.
Standing almost three hundred feet tall was the largest image of a demon any of the Ultramarines had ever seen. Its seven heads looked down on the cultists with contempt and hatred. Its many arms held devices of torture and war. Its massive body was covered in armor, and a great pair of wings sprouted from its back.
Heironimus’ breath was shallow, his hearts quickening. He had read the reports, but he couldn’t have imagined how horrid the thing was. If the reports were true, then they had to strike immediately, before any rituals could begin.
Before they could bring it to life.
Turning down the corridor that the
Ultramarines occupied, a Chaos Marine suddenly stopped, dumbfounded. The
two groups stared at each other for a moment in disbelief. Heironimous
was the first to react, and instinct took over. He unsheathed his bolt
pistol and loosed the safety in one smooth motion, bringing the weapon
to bear on the Chaos Marine.
Janhavi heard the shot just as the Tigers reached the main entrance to the chamber. They didn’t have time to gawk at the demon statue. All hell was breaking loose, not only across the room but everywhere in between. Janhavi flipped the activation rune of the power fist and shouted a battle cry over her vox caster to gain the attention of the nearby guards.
Stepping into the main floor of the cabalist ritual, Janhavi spun quickly to her right, raking the claws of her power fist across the chest of a charging Marine. Taking the momentum with her, she completed the 360 degree turn, smashing into the first dark priest. He whimpered pitifully as his remains hit the floor.
Ajay was already nearing the middle of the circle. His lightning claws flashed with energy, his eyes gleamed with murderous intent. He slammed into the bulk of the Chaos force. Whirling and dancing among the fallen, he was like a dervish.
From the other side came the Ultramarines, their bolters splitting the air, echoing into the depths of the chambers. Heironimous grabbed a priest by the top of the head, snapping his neck with a sharp jerk backwards. The other men remained further back, fanning out from Inquisitor Belnades as he walked forward.
Ajay cut straight through a throng of priests, to find himself face to face with Arthur on the other side. For a moment the two looked in silence at one another. Arthur leveled his golden bolter at the Tiger. For all his distrust of the Ultramarine, Ajay was shocked to see him attacking. Arthur fired true to his mark, dropping a Chaos Marine behind the stunned Tiger. Turning to see the Honor Guard’s handy work, Ajay smiled fiercely. Though they had no shared spoken language, volumes had just been spoken. Ajay nodded to the Ultramarine and turned. They stood back to back, power weapons slashing in every direction. Ajay howled as Arthur bellowed litanies of purity.
Dahana wove in and out of combat,
firing bursts of bolter fire as she went, helping where help was needed.
Finally, she had reached the middle of the room. Pulling her meltagun around
from the strap across her back, she opened up on the mighty stone monolith.
The gun disintegrated the stone where it hit, but the statue was so massive
that it would take her time to cut any discernable damage into it. Gritting
her teeth, she squeezed the trigger again…
Stepping between the pockets of fighting, Hector left the Ultramarines. Many of the Honor Guard had taken grievous wounds and were hurting badly; the last thing they needed was to waste their lives protecting him. Turning a corner into a small hidden corridor, he began working his way towards his true objective.
As he ventured deeper into the core of the mountain, the sounds of battle began to slowly fade away. The Inquisitor drew his force sword as he walked, letting the cutting edge precede him. Up ahead, the tunnel began to glow with blasphemous runes. They pulsed at random intervals, growing more agitated as he walked past. Though he could block out the Warp intrusions, the effort required was significant and his breathing was strained as he walked forward.
Clearing the runes, Hector entered the final chamber, much smaller than the previous one. In the middle of the room, a creature stood at least seven feet tall. Its daemon skin shone in the light with an almost metallic sheen, cresting in sets of vicious looking hooks and razors. It glared at Hector with fury in its eyes.
“What do you hope to accomplish here, interloper?”
“I know what you are planning. You will not succeed.”
The Daemon Prince hissed at the Inquisitor.
“Do you have an idea how long it took to engineer this? How many battlefields had to be scoured, how carefully the weapons had to be restored? This was going to be a glorious revolution. I was to take the Tigers for my own, to have them turn on themselves and in doing so fall prey to my bloody God. I was to ascend with an entirely new legion of Marines at my beck and call. But now, it would seem I will be content for the blessings of the dark ones. The statue is my vessel, and I will not be denied. I will ascend, and your black ships will turn this planet to ash. I will yet live, and I will make this planet, and your fleets, an offering to the Gods!”
Swinging his blade with all his might, the Daemon Prince shattered the floor where Hector had once stood. The Inquisitor moved with incredible speed and agility and maneuvered behind the surprised minion of Chaos. Thrusting his blade into the daemon, Hector shoved it further in with both hands.
The Daemon Prince screamed in pain. Hector removed the sword, flipping backwards with inhuman grace as the daemon tried to exact his revenge. Hector stood, coughing blood.
“That blade - I’ve felt such a weapon before. What manner of creature are you?”
Hector’s eyes lit up with arcane energy.
“Come, I will show you.”
As the last of cultists dropped, Janhavi took stock of the situation. Both of the brothers were down with serious wounds. Maya and Dahana were feverishly working to destroy the statue. Ajay and Arthur were busy tending to those that had been wounded but not slain. Heironimus stood quietly, looking over the mess. His men were frantically looking for Inquisitor Belnades, with no success.
Maya cursed at the statue.
“This thing’s never going to come down.”
Just as Janhavi was about to respond, a new group of Marines entered the room. Their armor was orange and black, the color of the Tigers, just as the others had been. But their appearance set them apart. Where the other Chaos Marines had kept their false armor in perfect shape, these Marines had defaced their armor with red eight sided stars, curses, and unholy runes.
Janhavi gasped. Suddenly it all made sense. The knowledge for this blasphemous imitation had to come from somewhere, and here was the source. A small group of Tigers, who knew from how many years ago, had been supplying them with all they needed to know. Janhavi grit her teeth, and opened fire with her pistol, driving the squad back into the tunnel they came from.
Janhavi and the remaining three Tigers charged after them, when Heironimus stepped in the way. Janhavi cursed and tried to push her way past, but Heironimus had all his men with him. He grabbed Janhavi by her shoulders, bringing their helmets face to face. He spoke in Lowest Gothic, a slang he had used as a child.
“Listen to me! We have to destroy the statue first, then we can go after them.”
“I will not have them escape my hunt!”
“It will avail you naught if you no longer have a planet left to hunt on.”
Janhavi looked down the tunnel where she could hear the Traitors retreating, then back at Heironimus. Without another word, she returned to the statue, clawing into the stone with her power fist. Breathing a sigh of relief, Heironimus was about to join her, when he heard a voice in his head.
“Captain, I need your help. Come quickly – leave the other to their work.”
Sensing the direction he was supposed
to go, Heironimus took off running down a side corridor.
The Daemon Prince and the Inquisitor circled each other slowly. Both were bleeding freely now from multiple lacerations inflicted by the other. Where Hector was precise and calculating, the Daemon Prince was a whirlwind of power and rage. Only his supreme speed and his blessed armor kept Hector from being eviscerated, though he wasn’t sure for how much longer.
The daemon lunged in for a renewed attack. As he did so, Hector concentrated on the weapon the evil creature held, a vicious-looking black blade adorned with howling red runes. As he concentrated on the blade, the room began to slow down. The Daemon Prince was suspended in mid-air, his face still peeled back in hatred. Hector watched as a ghost of himself began to block the incoming attack, only to be cut down. Again the ghost reappeared, deflecting at a slightly different angle, resulting in no discernable gain or loss. Tilting his head to the side, Hector watched for a third time, this time with a smile of satisfaction.
Ducking and rolling, Hector kicked up quickly, driving his blade into the shoulder of the shocked Daemon Prince. Shrieking in pain, the Daemon Prince unexpectedly counterattacked, driving Hector to the floor and ripping the sword from his hands, and dislocating the Inquisitor’s arm. He smashed Hector with a mighty fist, crunching bone under what little armor covered his chest. The man in blue fell hard, blood trickling from his mouth.
Standing over his fallen opponent, the Daemon Prince laughed.
“As I predicted, you will not stop me.”
Hector looked up, dazed. His eyesight was red and fading fast. He gasped and tried to speak, but no words left his lips. He knew that he had failed, that he would not be the one to prevent the things he had seen from coming to pass. As darkness overtook him, he saw a figure in blue armor approach.
Heironimus’ power fist ripped into the daemon, punching a large hole into its side with the power of his attack. The Daemon Prince fell into a heap on the ground, where he lay in silence. Heironimus stood with a sigh of relief, and turned to Hector only to gasp in shock.
As he lay in critical condition, the Inquisitor had been unable to keep his concentration, and his illusion had faded. Hector Belnades, Inquisitor of the Ordo Malleus, was not who lay bleeding on the floor. Instead, there was an Eldar Farseer in blue and purple robes.
Heironimus shook his head.
“You… you lied to me, to us.”
The alien nodded quietly.
Heironimus drew his pistol slowly, leveling it at the Farseer.
“After all that has happened, Captain, you would still have me dead? What have I bought you but the greatest of glory? What have I bought this planet of the Imperium but salvation? What evils have I committed that I am to be punished so?”
Heironimus shook his, a small tear forming at the corner of his eye. He spoke in a whisper, but the Farseer could hear him perfectly.
“Suffer not the alien to live.”
As the Marines emerged from the mountain, bloody but unbowed, the rain greeted them. Behind them, the statue was wired with charges, and in five minutes, after they had put a safe distance between themselves and the mountain, the ground shook with the fury of plasma charges detonating.
They walked for nearly an hour before pure exhaustion took over. They sat next to one another in silence, Ultramarines and Tigers alike. Janhavi spoke with Heironimus.
“So the Inquisitor did not make it?”
Heironimus shook his head.
“No, he was slain in battle with the daemon creature.”
“Did he have anything to recover?”
Heironimus could feel the blue necklace in his hip pocket. It felt cool and smooth to the touch.
“No, he was a man of few possessions.”
“Will the black ships begin bombing us then?”
Heironimus was silent for a moment.
“I don’t think we’ll have to worry about the Ordo Malleus anymore.”
The Marines stayed for an hour before beginning the long trek back. Janhavi knew there would be questions upon questions to answer, but she was thankful that the mission had been a success. She wasn’t sure how the Ultramarines would be received, or whether she could even attest to their courage and valor, but there were days to walk to the next pick-up point, and much could change in a few days.
As she walked, her thoughts drifted
to the Corsairs, the former Fighting Tigers with red marks of Chaos emblazoned
on their armor, and whether they had been swallowed up in the mountain,
or whether they had escaped. She wondered if she would ever know.
Standing on the porch of her farmhouse, an old woman watched the sun set slowly in the north. Behind her, she could hear the pot about to boil over, and she quickly turned and ran back inside. She removed the lid, dodging the column of steam that rose from the exposed stew. She smelled the vegetables and the spices, smiling with satisfaction. Calling her husband to the table, they sat down, bowing their heads in thanks.
Above the dinner, positioned foremost on the top shelf for all to see, was a tiger carved of solid jet, adorned with golden stripes. Below it was an inscription:
“To the parents and the home that are always worth fighting for. Love always. Janhavi.”
Table of Contents <> Previous chapter
Fighting Tiger Black Ops: Introduction
Fighting Tiger Black Ops: Fiction and Articles
Posted June 2008. Used
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers