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Traveller of Both
Time and Space: Episode 1
In the split second before making contact, Shamshir Talatra noted that the two renegade Marines had painted red “X’s” over the Imperial Eagles on their breastplates. Intel was right, he thought, drawing his sword and decapitating the former Howling Griffon. Next to him, the woman warrior Veteran Sergeant Rajinder effortlessly disemboweled the other Red Corsair with her double-headed halberd.
Roused by the noise, more Red Corsairs—deserters from scores of Space Marine Chapters—lumbered into view. A few raised their bolters and fired. Some rushed forward, thinking to meet the bikers’ charge. Some fell back toward the center of the camp. Others stood, weapons half-raised, looking around in confusion. As was typical for many Chaos Marines, these had rejected discipline when they had rejected the Emperor, and now they would pay for their laxity.
Several explosions went off simultaneously in and around the camp. Under his helmet, Shamshir Talatra smiled grimly. If all was going to plan—and it seemed to be—then Fighting Tiger Scouts were already kicking down doors and filling the hovels with bolter rounds. Even now, Rhinos should be surrounding the camp and Fighting Tiger Tactical Marines should be dismounting and gunning down any Traitors in sight.
“Fire at will,” Shamshir Talatra snarled into his helmet mic, and the three squadrons accompanying him fired into the misguided Red Corsairs running towards them. The first two squadrons each consisted of a Veteran Sergeant, two bikers with flamers, an Attack Bike with a heavy bolter, and three additional bikers. The third squadron consisted of three Attack Bikes with heavy bolters. A storm of bolter and heavy bolter fire cut down the counterattacking Corsairs, blowing off limbs and heads and blasting gaping holes in torsos and abdomens. None remained alive to feel the edge of Shamshir Talatra’s black sword, the Ebon Blade of Ghuyarashtra, that marked him as commander of half the Chapter.
The few Corsairs that had stood their ground and fired were now falling back to the relative safety of the camp. Shamshir Talatra called to his squadron leaders. “Viveka, Kalpana, form a perimeter around this section of the camp. Rajinder, your squadron comes with me.” Gunning the engine of his bike, he followed the fleeing Traitors.
“When fighting in close confines, avoid the use of bike-mounted troops,” he remembered his mentor, the Chaplain Talwar Chakram, telling him as part of his officer training. Chakram would no doubt tell him that his present course of action was at best, risky, and at worst, suicidal. But Shamshir Talatra had not risen to his position by being cautious, and he was not about to start now.
The Corsairs split up, three going left, five going right, the other four still running straight. Shamshir Talatra ordered Rajinder and her bikers to chase down the ones that had gone left, called for the nearby-Tactical Squad Mahendi to intercept the ones that had gone right, and pursued the other four himself.
“In cityfight conditions, do not split your forces,” he remembered Talwar Chakram telling him, as he pressed the firing button for his bike-mounted bolters. One Corsair fell and the other three, perhaps realizing their numerical advantage, turned and opened fire. A searing white burst from a Traitor’s plasma gun blew Shamshir Talatra’s bike out from under him, and he smashed into a nearby shack, which collapsed on top of him.
“I got him!” crowed the one with the plasma gun. He was a former Son of Medusa who wore no helmet.
“Is he really dead?” growled an ex-Doom Eagle. “He isn’t moving….”
“Let’s make sure,” said the third, an ex-Ultramarine. “Keep watch,” he told the former Medusan. He and the ex-Doom Eagle pumped some bolter rounds into the flimsy metal scraps that remained of the shack and the body of Shamshir Talatra twitched satisfactorily.
“Yes, he’s dead,” the ex-Ultramarine said. Another explosion blossomed nearby and all three dove for cover. “Let’s get out of here. Clavius will be in a mood.” He started off, towards the center of the camp, the Doom Eagle, following him. The ex-Son of Medusa watched them go, then slunk toward the pile of scrap where Shamshir Talatra lay motionless, his blood seeping into the stony soil.
The Red Corsair paused for a moment, weapon ready, as he heard more gunfire nearby. Convinced that he had at least a few moments to spare, he pulled a huge tin panel off Shamshir Talatra, his armor pocked by bolter rounds. Talatra lay on his back, his helmet knocked off, the Ebon Blade bound with a titanium cable to his left wrist.
The ex-Medusan spared one more glance around, then reached for the ancient, rune-carved weapon. As he did, Shamshir Talatra snorted and spat a huge blob of acid from his Betcher’s gland right into the Corsair’s eyes. The Traitor shrieked, dropped his plasma gun, and stumbled backwards, hands covering his sizzling face. Shamshir Talatra sat up and stabbed the Ebon Blade through the middle of the Chaos Marine’s abdomen.
The Traitor fell, writhing in screaming agony. Shamshir Talatra took the man’s plasma gun, retrieved his own helmet, and discarded the two empty polymer bags of hemoglobin that each Fighting Tiger kept in his personal medikit. It hadn’t been the first time that Talatra had used that trick to pretend he was wounded—or dead.
The blinded Red Corsair managed to get on his hands and knees as blood flowed from his belly like water from a spigot. Shamshir Talatra stood, looked around for moment to make sure no enemy were in sight, then pressed his boot heel against the back of the Corsair’s neck and shoved him back down into the dirt. “Who’s your commander?” he growled, in Imperial Gothic. “Where can I find him?”
The Traitor shook his head defiantly. Shamshir Talatra kicked him, shattering his face. The Raja bent low, straddling his enemy. He grabbed a handful of his hair, wrenching his head back.
“The sword with which I stabbed you holds a bound daemon,” Shamshir hissed. “It hungers to consume your soul. Already, I find it difficult to restrain.” The Ebon Blade twitched in his hand as he held it against the Corsair’s neck. “Shall I cut you again, and let the sword feast? There are some fates worse than death, you know….”
The Traitor grew pale from blood loss—and fright. “Clavius. Our master’s name is Clavius.”
“How can I recognize him?”
“You’ll know him when you see him,” the Corsair whimpered. “He was once a Blood Angel. Now he serves Khorne.”
What a surprise that is, thought Shamshir Talatra. He let go of the ex-Medusan and stood up. “By the way, I was lying about the sword,” he said, and loped off, leaving the man to die slowly, painfully, in the dust.
The battle had moved into the heart of the camp where, doubtless, Clavius and his men were making a last stand. How typical, Shamshir Talatra thought. In his experience, it had rarely been a mistake to underestimate the intelligence of Khorne worshippers—or Blood Angels, for that matter.
He rounded a corner and saw that four Fighting Tiger Tactical Squads, two units of Scouts, and a squad of Assault Marines were engaged in a fierce firefight with perhaps a dozen Red Corsairs that had taken cover in the only stone building to be found. Several of Shamshir’s men were wounded, slumped behind the protection of their Rhino transports. What is going on? he wondered, with some annoyance.
Then the remaining Corsairs—Clavius’
Chosen bodyguard—fired again with their Tau pulse rifles, and Raja Shamshir
Talatra was slammed to the ground again. When he sat up, he found his blood
splattered beneath him—and this time, it was no trick.
Posted November 2003
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