CHAPTER 1: The Left Hand of Darkness
Planet: ‘Veridian VII’
Sector: Segmentum Obscurus
Gruss stared pensively up at the sparse white clouds scudding across the azure blue sky, carried on the swift sub-tropical winds from the planet’s equator far from where he now stood.
The first alert had sounded early yesterday. Of course, he couldn’t see them from the planet’s surface, couldn’t possibly glimpse them hanging silently in the void above, nor discern their intentions for that matter, but he knew they were there, and so he looked upward nonetheless.
Sighing, he returned his gaze to the grassy plain where his men had set up camp; the sensors didn’t lie, they had company, lots of it…
Turning to Transmech Inarius, Gruss asked:
[Gruss]: “So what do we have up there?”
[Inarius]: “Sir, we have detected multiple unidentified power signatures in orbit around Veridian VII”
[Gruss]: “Any friendlies?”
[Inarius]: “Hard to say sir, there are at least two that fit Imperium power bands, but one is cloaked, barely detectable; but for our superior sensors we wouldn’t know it was there at all.”
[Gruss]: “Hmm, reflex shields then, Gruss mussed, only our Raven Guard brothers use such technology, perhaps there is still hope…. and the other?”
[Inarius]: “It’s Imperium, certainly; not cloaked, but it’s odd, there’s no transponder signal, it’s running dark and won’t respond to our hails.”
Gruss frowned at that, caution was understandable, turning off a transponder relatively common in such circumstances, but why would an Imperial ship not respond to their encrypted hails?
[Gruss]: “What about the others?”
[Inarius]: “Sir, in the last 24 hours we have detected at least 5 other unidentified power signatures enter the Sector. They are all now in the planets Exosphere in stable orbit, Sir.
[Gruss]: “Any clues to their origin?”
[Inarius]: “They’re all Xenos Sir, at least one we believe to be Aeldari, that entered by a previously unknown warp gate on the far side of the dwarf moon, another is definitely Tau, not surprising, they have been pushing into this sector for some time. Neither are masking their signatures at least, but the others are, are as yet unknown sir…”
Gruss was silent for some time, still staring apprehensively into the blue sky, Veridian VII’s two sun’s shining brightly. All was peaceful, a former Imperium pioneer colony world, long abandoned in its remoteness and fear of chaos, its few settlements lay in crumbling ruins, but for the most part it’s land masses and oceans and the myriad wildlife they supported lay untouched, almost pristine.
Gruss wondered if its former residents had realised what lay beneath their feet if they would have fled all the sooner.
That peace would not last long now. The ships in orbit, friendly or hostile, had thus far not engaged each other and likely wouldn’t until they knew more. For now, content to occupy themselves scanning the surface, Gruss knew they would soon conclude that their strategy wouldn’t work and start deploying ground forces. Once that happened…
[Gruss]: “We’ve done all we can here Tilvius. After the initial surge, power levels have stabilised in the facility, indeed it appears to have activated its own dampening field, covering the entire complex as far as we can see, clearly an ancient defence mechanism. So, we can at least rest assured that if anyone seeks for it, they must needs find it as we did, the hard way, through searching; their sensors will be useless. That buys us some time.”
[Tilvius}: “What now Sir?”
What now indeed, thought Gruss, the situation was rapidly escalating.
[Gruss]: “We need to get back to the lander. For better or worse we have no way off this planet, and while the facility is concealed, the lander will be easily detectable and it holds all the data we have collected so far, we must secure it before others do.”
[Tilvius]: “But Sir, it’s two days march from here!”
[Gruss]: “I am well aware of that Tilvius, and I suspect we are already in a race to get there, so we must go, now! Inarius, keep hailing the friendlies on the secure channel, we’re going to need all the help we can get soon enough.”
Looking back at the entrance to the facility, cloaked in blackness, Secutor Varnak was finishing up his work:
[Gruss]: “Are all the sensors and charges in place Varnak?”
[Varnak]: “Yes Sir, if anyone does find this place, we’ll know about it and they will have a warm reception!”
[Gruss]: “Good work Varnak, let’s move out.”
As his small team mustered their equipment and readied to move out, as if in response to his dire warnings, a contrail was visible, entering the Stratosphere, streaking down to the planet’s surface. Whether it was friend or foe it wasn’t clear. Thankfully it was plotting a course for one of the planets other sub-continents, but others would follow, and soon; the race was on, and when the future of the galaxy was at stake, conflict was inevitable…
Written by Matt Brazier. Prepare for the new Warhammer 40k Crusade Campaign coming soon to Dice & Bolter. More stories to follow, the full collection can be found under the #tag 40k Crusade Campaign.