Last Son of Caliban: Iron Within, Lions Without
Champion Joab stood, unmoving, at the very forefront of the boarding torpedo. Already he pressed against the harness locking him in place, the front of his helmet nearly kissing the blast panel that separated him from the potent melta-charge ready to bore a hole through the hull of their target. His right hand held a massive blade from ancient Caliban. His left a shield, blessed and carefully worked, incorporating a heavy bolt pistol enabling him to vent his fury even outside the press and cut of melee.
Joab epitomised the Astartes of the Fifth in a way even Bors couldn’t. Bors outpaced them, faster, tougher, smarter, he eclipsed them clearly, almost as much as their new Primaris brothers. Their soul rested with Ancient Uriah, his banner as much a part of him as his heart or his black carapace. Joab was their avatar. The incarnation of their combative spirit.
Outside the Deathwing, the Dark Angels bore a reputation as a stolid, conservative fighting force, a moving wall of firepower, reducing their enemies to ash as they implacably advanced, or a perfect bastion of defence, sweeping away any who dared take the offensive against them. While there was truth to this, it was not the whole truth. The Dark Angels could eagerly take the offensive, unleashing devastating firepower and crushing close quarters attacks with more than the Deathwing. They lack the primal lust for carnage of the Blood Angels or the Space Wolves, or the preternatural stealth of the Raven Guard, but their tactical precision and tightly controlled fury, properly channeled, gave them their own unique flair for close combat.
Joab didn’t move. Didn’t fidget as many warriors, even Astartes might do before battle. His blade pointed straight down by his leg. His shield held at an angle, covering his body, ready to snap into aim should a target present himself. The only sign of incipient combat came from the aura around him. The air around him seemed hot and close, even in the chill atmosphere the Dark Angels preferred for their ships. The first warriors behind him seemed almost to undulate, first leaning into their idol, then away from his towering contempt and rage.
Cain stood behind the honor guard selected by Sergeant Shamgar. The Primaris didn’t know what to make of Joab. The torpedo rocked to the rhythm of the incoming fire. The rest of Shamagar’s men stood behind Cain. Sergeant Shamgar had been ordered to the “slack” position at the rear, charged with ensuring no opening was left unguarded, no opportunity missed in the first flurry of combat.
The odd, warbling, hollow peal of the warning bell sounded, cutting through the noise of the torpedo. Cain and Shamgar both intoned “10 seconds to launch.”
Joab didn’t move. The rest of the boarding squad braced, even Cain, veteran as old as the metal of Caliban in Joab’s hand unconsciously braced himself against the unimaginable force.
Some fraction of eternity later a hammer of force smashed the torpedo free of its launch tube. Joab didn’t move. Sensors and relays embedded in the hull of the torpedo gave them information. Peleg had pressed close, every torpedo carried an unbelievably precious cargo and Peleg had sacrificed greatly among her ship and crew to ensure they struck home. Scarce 10 seconds from launch, within seconds of the torpedo’s engine guttering out the bell pealed again.
“FIVE SECONDS” called Cain, even his normally controlled voice pitched louder as combat neared. The party leaned into their harnesses, preparing for the immense crash as the torpedo struck.
Joab didn’t move.
The light cut out and suddenly Joab’s sword was point up, so fast a soft crack cut through the cacophony of battle. A moment later the small torpedo struck the Iron Warriors cruiser, burrowing deep before the melta charge burned through As the panel disintegrated, cut to shrapnel by precise charges, Joab, unleashed, raced into the confusion.
The two Iron Warriors in the room never stood a chance, even the stolid sons of Perturabo took a moment to recover from the catastrophic blast of a boarding torpedo. Ignoring the few surviving mortals Joab ran his blade under the arm of one, the point emerging from the other as he finally triggered the generator of the relic power sword, the initial energy discharge detonating the chest cavity and armor of the millenia old warrior he had just reduced to gore and scrap. The bolt pistol in his shield barked twice, reducing the unhelmed head of the other Iron Warrior to a gory wreck before the first Primaris lifted a foot to join him.
Within moments the squad flooded the chamber, combat blades and boots silencing forever the mortals still struggling to comprehend the calamity that had befallen their fortress in the void. Beacons bloomed as the rest of the boarding parties reported and Joab turned to follow the icon Cain had selected as the rally point for the party. A large gallery that each team should be able to reach quickly. Shield raised to just under his eyes, blade up and back, ready strike Joab ran the corridors as if he’d lived a lifetime in this ship.
Joab flowed down the corridors his legs a blur, his upper body rolling in the graceful rhythm of a swordsmen, always in perfect balance over his hips. They erupted into the first blocking position the Iron Warriors tried to put in their way, almost a score of veterans of the long war, hastily but precisely building their defense. They were not set when Joab erupted into their midst. His blade flickered and danced, he moved with precisely controlled violence, denying the Iron Warriors a chance to fire at the Primaris emerging behind him while opening precise lanes for the Primaris to lay down the withering fire of their Bolt Rifles. Any Iron Warrior hefting his bolter found himself using it to fend off a blade, anyone reading a blade found himself exposed to the fire erupting down the passage.
Suddenly an eruption of violence throws the Primaris back. A champion of the Iron Warriors and his escort bursts in from a corridor, throwing back the two Primaris covering that corridor. One crumpled, a giant power axe cleaving deep into his chest and erupting from his back. A shower of gore exploded through the room as the top of his torso flopped loosely, held by a shard of armor and a flap of flesh and gristle. The other warrior went down grappling with his assailant, combat blade and chainsword cutting at adamantium armor. The other Iron Warrior came at Cain, his Plasma pistol scorching deep into Cain’s shoulder pad, he felt the burn on his flesh underneath, smelled the charred flesh. He caught the Power Axe as it swung down on him, enfolding its haft with his power fist and snapping it. Cain jammed his own pistol under the chin of the Cultist Astartes and pulled the trigger.
Joab turned from his last victim and brought his blade up in swift salute to the traitor champion. Snapping the blade down he hefted his shield, angling it precisely. The Iron Warrior brandished his own blade. “IRON WITHIN, IRON WITHOUT!” he bellowed and swung his blade down.
Joab leaned to one side, catching the hook of the axe with the top of his shield and hooking the champion forward. His own blade cut down sharply, cutting deep into the thigh of the warrior under the armor. Strangely orange blood showered the deck.
“Blood within, scorn without!” called Joab, spinning around, hauling the axe down with his shield and decapitating the champion with a single, swift blow.
“Master Cain, Strike Force Bors requesting a landing beacon. Our escort is heavily engaged and we cannot remain in the defense envelope of the cruiser much longer.”
Cain focused on the overlay a moment. His force stood less than 30 meters from the rally point, the other boarding squads already occupied it. “Bors, they will counterattack momentarily. Breach the hull here,” he caused a beacon to blossom on a higher deck. “And bring your firepower to bear on them in the galleries inward and below your entry point.”
Joab stood still as a statue by the corridor forward, Shamgar and two of his squad stood at the rear. “Onward brothers, it will not be long before the Iron Warriors attack our lodgement. We will form the shield for them to strike, Bors will be the hammer to shatter their forces.” Without cheer or exaltation, Joab swung into motion, leading them into their fortress.