Based on Fantasy Flight’s game Deathwatch, set in Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000
As the battered land raider vibrated from the impact of innumerable fleshborer beetles, Brother Tychondrius surveyed the battlefield using the vehicle’s remaining sensors, directly interfaced to his brain by means of his electro-graft implant. The hail of fleshborers originated from the swarm of termagants which were the current quarry of the land raider and its surviving complement of Iron Legion battle-brothers. The swarm was retreating quickly, even as it fired, but the land raider would soon overtake them. Four assault marines riding inside the land raider with Tychondrius waited impatiently for the tank’s door to open, allowing them to lay waste to the xenos scum and avenge their fallen comrades.
Tychondrius spotted the carnifex that had torn apart Squad Calvinos a few hundred meters to the West. It remained preoccupied with feasting on the remains of his fallen brothers, but Tychnodrius knew it would soon be on the rampage again.
After its encounter with the hive flyrant, all of the vehicle’s weaponry was inoperable or missing, having been sheared off by the creature’s titanic scything talons. Tychondrius’ mind echoed the longing ache felt by the raider’s venerable, battle-hardened machine spirit.
“In the name of the Omnissiah,” the techmarine intoned to the seething spirit, “I swear that your remaining lascannon will soon drink the blood of our foes once again.”
The damaged lascannon was in fact the only answer to the carnifex left in the hands of the Iron Legion detachment. Tychondrius knew his duty without anyone speaking it aloud: repair the lascannon and destroy the carnifex… or give his life in the attempt. No other option was conceivable.
With the termagant horde in range, Tychondrius directed the vehicle directly into their path. With the land raider’s treads still shredding the rocky ground as they reversed direction, Tychondrius lowered the bay door.
“No fear!” Sergeant Paronius called to his squadmates, beginning the Iron Legion battle cry. “No mercy!” answered his squad, completing it.
The assault marines leapt from the moving vehicle, heedless of the swarm outnumbering them four-to-one. As the last battle-brother exited, Tychondrius quickly shut the door and unplugged his electro-graft. Throwing open the raider’s top hatch, he hastily climbed out. Drawing his bolter as soon as he was able to gain his balance, Tychondrius fired twice into the seething mass of xenos before desisting for fear of wounding his brothers as they hacked their way through their foes with chainswords and power fists.
As he made his way to the damaged lascannon, Tychondrius stomped on the severed wing laying on top of the raider, which was all that remained of the hive flyrant that had attacked Sergeant Paronius’ squad and their transport. He dropped to his knees next to the mounted weapon and pulled out his combi-tool. Chanting the ancient Prayer of Restitution taught to him on Mars, Tychondrius began carefully reassembling the sacred tool of destruction.
As he worked, he remained alert to the sounds of the nearby melee, although it became difficult to differentiate the screaming of dying xenos and Astartes. He completed his repairs and began a quick diagnostic to verify the weapon’s status. Before he could finish, he was momentarily distracted by the thunderous roar of the carnifex. Sparing a glance, Tychondrius looked up toward the sound. The towering beast had finished its feast and was turning its attention to the land raider. It began running toward the vehicle, its oversized hooves pulverizing the ground with every step. Thanking the Omnissiah for having been able to complete his repairs in time, Tychondrius turned back to the lascannon. But as he did so, he heard a screech from behind him and suddenly felt an impact that carried him over the side of the raider.
Tychondrius hit the ground rolling, his power armour protecting him from the impact. He looked up to see a hormagaunt bound to its feet and leap at him, its scything talons dripping with blood. The creature struck first at the techmarine’s head and again at his arm. The first blow rebounded with little effect, but Tychondrius felt the tip of the second claw penetrate the wrist joint of his armor and pierce the flesh below. Cursing the weakness of his flesh, Tychondrius drew his combat knife and drove it upwards toward the creature’s neck. The gaunt nimbly stretched its neck, moving its head out of his reach, and directly into the grip of Tychondrius’ servo-arm as he brought it down, clamping it on the creature’s head. With a thought, the servo-arm’s mechanical hand closed, instantly pulping the hormagaunt’s skull and brains. Tossing the corpse aside, Tychondrius hurriedly climbed up the side of the land raider, conscious of the heavy thudding heralding the approaching carnifex.
He reached the top and discovered the carnifex had moved much more quickly than he had anticipated. Tychondrius ran to the lascannon and dropped to his knees, hurriedly jacking into the weapon’s external auxiliary port. With no more time for diagnostics, he swiveled the cannon to bear on the carnifex, realizing that it was already too late.
Lowering its head and bellowing again, the carnifex crashed into the side of the land raider, lifting it off its treads and sending it tumbling through the air. Tychondrius grabbed hold of a nearby hatch with his servo-arm and watched sky and ground blur as he spun through the air with the vehicle.
The raider impacted the ground, jarring every bone in Tychondrius’ body. By the fact that he was still alive, he deduced that the raider had not landed on top of him. As his senses returned, he found himself suspended from the top of the raider by his servo-arm. The vehicle had landed on its side. He could not see the carnifex, but could hear its thunderous steps. He looked up in time to see the beast’s cavernous jaws leaning over the skyward-facing side of the toppled land raider. The creature bowed its head, as it peered over the tank, training its eyes on Tychondrius.
Praying to the Omnissiah that the lascannon had survived the onslaught, that he might not be disemboweled without completing his task, Tychondrius channeled his thoughts through his mind impulse implant. The lascannon came to life, swivelling to lock on to the carnifex’s head. In an instant, a blinding spear of laser fire erupted from the cannon scoring a hit on the xeno monstrosity, right between the eyes. It roared in rage and leapt on top of the land raider, raising two colossal claws over its head, preparing to flatten everything below.
“No mercy!” screamed Tychondrius as he fired the lascannon again and again, piercing the creature’s armored plates and vaporizing its entrails. As the beast collapsed, Tychondrius flung himself away from the raider using his servo-arm, and landed tumbling across the rocky ground. The land raider and carnifex rolled together coming to rest as a pile of shrapnel and molten flesh.
Tychondrius rose to his feet, surveying the battlefield. His task was complete, the carnifex finished. He did not need his decades of training with the tech-priests to see that the land raider could not be salvaged in the field. From amid a pile of termagant corpses, Tychondrius observed Sergeant Paronius emerge, supporting one of his squadmates. Both were wounded and were all that remained of their brethren, but they had also succeeded in their mission. Tychondrius walked over to them as he listened to reports coming in from other squads. No Tyranid lifeforms drew breath any longer. This tiny world, insignificant by any measure except for the presence of their foes, had been cleansed.
Passing a termagant corpse, Tychondrius deliberately stomped its head into paste under the boot of his power armor. He despised xeno lifeforms. Born and raised on Catachan, the merciless jungle world whose entire ecology constantly waged war on its human inhabitants, Tychondrius had learned early to hate and kill alien life in all of its forms. His survival had depended on his hatred of life as much as his understanding of technology. Tychondrius understood that technology was the source of survival on Catachan, much like everywhere else in the hostile galaxy.
“Well fought, Brother Tychondrius,” said Sergeant Paronius as he approached.
Tychondrius nodded solemnly in response, but said nothing. Tychondrius had known the sergeant for most of his life. Paronius had already been an Adeptus Astartes of the Iron Legion when Tychondrius was recruited. The Legion’s home fleet had stopped by Catachan, seeking recruits to replace battle-brothers that had been lost during their endless patrol of the galaxy. Desperate for an escape from the hated, life-filled world of his birth, Tychondrius worked hard to get noticed by Paronius and the other Astartes that had come to his home.
After being recruited and having survived his transformation from common man to Astartes, Tychondrius continued to distinguish himself, first as a member of the scout regiment, then briefly as a devastator and finally as an assault marine under the direct command of the newly-promoted Sergeant Paronius. He had forged what he believed to be an unbreakable bond of loyalty and camaraderie with Paronius and the rest of his brothers, despite continually feeling that he was not fulfilling his true potential.
Tychondrius watched a drop pod descend on a trail of fire, landing a kilometre away from his position. Sergeant Paronius gestured and the three Astartes headed towards it at a quick march. Apothecaries emerged from the pod, heading to the dead and wounded brothers across the battlefield. A towing vehicle also emerged, heading to recover the wreckage of the Land Raider.
Tychondrius followed Paronius aboard the pod, ready to return to the fleet. Paronius immediately joined the battle’s other survivors, listening to their exploits and recounting his own. Tychondrius remained alone, sinking into private memories.
He recalled that it was the death of Brother Cassianus, a venerable Iron Legion techmarine, at the battle of Kassop IV, that had prompted Chapter Master Severinus to select Tychondrius for initiation as a techmarine. Tychondrius knew that he had developed a reputation for being a skilled technology enthusiast, and the Legion’s martyred Forge Master Nykanor had become his personal hero. So, he was honoured by being selected, though he did not understand exactly what it implied.
It was only when he arrived on Mars that Tychondrius began to realize the potential he had known was in him all along. He excelled at his training, forging new bonds with the tech-priests and the other initiates of the Machine Cult. When he finally departed this world of enlightenment at the conclusion of his training, it was with deep regret.
Returned to the Iron Legion fleet, he carried out his new duties as techmarine with devotion and excellence, but he felt ill at ease. The camaraderie he had forged with his battle-brothers was now overshadowed by his longing for Mars and the mistrust he saw in their eyes. Regardless of how often he repeated his vows to the Iron Legion and the protection of their secret shame, he knew that the commitments he had made to the Machine Cult and the tech-priests sowed seeds of distrust in his brothers. He watched with diminishing interest as they grew increasingly distant. He learned to content himself with the fulfillment of his duties.
Tychondrius looked up from his introspection and realised the drop pod was already docking with the Emperor’s Valor. He returned to his sparse quarters, still lost in thought. He had barely walked through the door when he received a call.
“Brother Tychondrius,” came the booming voice, “report immediately to Chapter Master Severinus on the command deck.” Tychondrius quickly obeyed the summons and found his commander waiting for him as he arrived on deck. Severinus regarded Tychondrius with his usual severity, but even his gaze belied a level of distrust.
“You have brought honour to the Iron Legion today,” Severinus began in the metallic vibrato that was almost universal among the Astartes of his chapter. “In recompense, I have a special assignment for you. Our next jump will bring us into the Jericho Reach, where the battle-brothers of the Deathwatch labour against the xeno threat.”
Tychondrius had never heard of the Deathwatch and remained silent.
“A small contingent of our brothers will be seconded to the Deathwatch to aid in their holy work. You, Brother Tychondrius, will be among them.”
Tychondrius was stunned for a moment. As he began to process this news, he quickly understood that this reward was both recognition for his achievements and an honorable means of banishing him from the fleet.
“Thank you, sir,” Tychondrius replied carefully.
Severinus waited a moment, ostensibly inviting questions although his demeanour suggested they would not be welcome. When Tychondrius remained silent, Severinus dismissed him with a nod.
Tychondrius turned and left the command deck. He would miss the fleet, which had been his home for many years. He would also miss his brothers, for despite the coldness that had developed, they remained the closest thing he had to family. And yet, perhaps this new challenge would provide a welcome distraction from his private struggle between his divided loyalties. Perhaps his service to the Deathwatch would even help him find the elusive balance he sought.