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Captain Paris mind was on one thing only as the Thunderhawk hurtled through the poisoned sky of Litha.How much had the drop cost? Paris had been aboard the Ruthless while Aeneas had waited for word of the Fourth Company’s drop on Forestport.The tension had been palpable, and when Aeneas’ Primus Pilus had returned with word of the company’s decimation under Alien claws, Paris’ hearts nearly broke at the pain he had seen in his brother’s eyes.

Now it was his turn to suffer the agonizing suspense.But unlike his brother Paris was not bound by duty as Master of the fleet to wait for word, helpless. He had joined the second wave once word that the beachhead was secure had come.About him the company’s gunships swept the perimeter of the drop zone before landing, Paris could hear the chatter of the big bird’s heavy bolters and the roar of the battle cannon as they circled gracefully about the drop zone.One by one the Thunderhawks took their turn to swoop in and deposit their share of passangers and equipment before returning to refuel, then dive down once more to provide air cover.

His ship would be last. He would have loved to drop with his brothers, to call their battle cry in the face of terrible foes.But Aeneas had given him the honour of leading a fleet detachment on a recon mission, and Paris had been forced to let his brothers drop without him.Now he regretted the decision as the minutes before it was finally his dropship’s turn over the drop zone slipped past like centuries. Then Paris was jumping down off the Thunderhawk’s forward ramp before it even touched the ground.His eyes swept the hills around the drop zone, and wherever he looked he could see the burning wrecks of Ork trucks and tanks. Scattered about them were the bodies of a multitude of the green-skinned vermin, bodies broken and shattered by the explosive impact of bolter and heavy bolter shells.Servitors from the first wave of transports were already heaping Ork bodies onto a pyre, and weapon teams held a perimeter about the drop zone.

Amid the activity the company banner waved, straining at its pole in the poisoned winds of Litha. Clustered about it was the command section, and Paris headed for the small cluster of his brothers.Priam, the Primus Pilus nodded to his captain as Paris joined them. “Ave Centurio!”Priam said.

“Ave Primus Pilus.” Paris hesitated, almost afraid to ask, then shook himself free of that ill humour, “What is the count?”The white memento mori on the faceplate of Priam’s helmet would never betray any emotion, and Paris teeth clenched as he waited for the response.

“Brothers Jeris and Tals have gone to guard the Emperor.

“Two?”

“Two.”

Paris’ shoulders sagged in relief, even as he mourned the loss of two brothers. It could have been far worse, like the Templar drop force that had been massacred on Penitus.“You have done well Brother, I could not have hoped for such a result.”

“I only did what you would have in my place Centurio. Our drop was true, our aim straight. We could not help but succeed.”

Paris clapped a hand on Priam’s shoulder, “Emperor be praised. Now, show me our prize."

Priam led him into the lab, “This is where Jeris and Tals fell.” In entry hall lay the carcasse of some titanic beast, all claws and teeth.

“What in the name of the Emperor is that?” Paris could not believe the creature, the like of which he had never seen before.

“Apothecary Villa believes it is an Ork-Tyranid Hybrid.”

“The Orks bred this thing?”

“I think not, come see.” They entered the main lab facilities.The room was a shambles, tables and equipment overturned and smashed. The walls were covered in vile grafitti that praised the gods of Chaos, and many arcane symbols as well.Brother Tyne, the company techmarine and his flock of servo skulls were hard at work recording the extent and nature of the scrawls. A servitor stood by with a large pannier of sample bags all carefully sealed, some with Tyne’s mark, others with Villa’s.

“What can you tell me brothers?” Paris asked?

“Little yet, this will all need to be sent to the Librarium at Ignatius for careful study.” Tyne said.

Villa added, “And then I’ll visit the chapel and pray and pray and pray and pray.” The apothecary shook his helmeted head, “This is vile, and I’m afraid there are more of those beasts somewhere out there.There were vats to grow many.”

Paris grimaced, “Hopefully all of this will tell us where, before these beasts slay any more of our brothers.”

Korvus 16:05, 9 February 2008 (UTC) Nicholas Cioran

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