It was time to deliver the killing blow.
Brian hadn’t delivered a killing blow before. There wasn’t much call for it, back on the forgeworld. He supposed there wasn’t much difference between delivering a coup de grace and killing normally, except that you said something witty while you did it.
There wasn’t much call for saying something witty back on the forgeworld, either. Brian thought for a minute.
“Sorry about this” he said, and drove the axe through the tech-priest’s shattered mask. He’d need to come up with something better. Ologostion or Na-Kamera would have known what to say, he was certain. Something cutting, something wry; something that sent your opponent into the afterlife not only headless, bullet-riddled or disintegrated but annoyed, too.
Brian wasn’t one for witty comebacks and wordplay even at the best of times, but he’d been rattled by this first bloody encounter. The rotten, marshy forest around him was sown with limp and broken Skitarii, some in the pure white of Metalica but many more in the deep red of Mars.
The first task he’d been given by his overlords on Metalica was to hunt down a fellow tech-priest, a Dominus like himself. His counterpart had been scarcely able to believe that Brian meant to harm him, even as the skittering ranks of Brian’s forces closed in. As their retinues fought with rifle and carbine the two priests had duelled axe-to-axe in the mud, both evenly matched, until the thunderous detonation of the Martian support crawler seemed to snatch the life out of his opponent. He collapsed into the mire, lying limp and still beneath Brian’s unbloodied blade.
Challenging the forces of another forgeworld was nothing new; Brian knew the squabbling, vicious nature of the Adeptus Mechanicus too well to believe otherwise. However, the Martian priesthood was something else; Mars was the spiritual guide of tech-adepts across the galaxy. From the lowliest enginseer to the highest Lord, it was, in a very real sense, home.
His Lords had told him this Dominus was intent on seizing precious artifacts, that he meant to twist and defile sacred technology, bending it to his own ends. His Lords had commanded him to bring down all the fire and fury he could bear, and he had done so without question. After all, on Metalica, anyone who asked difficult questions quickly found themselves relieved of their frontal cortex and wired into a battle-servitor.
Now, as he stood over his adversary’s broken body, it occurred to him that his Lords may have had an ulterior motive in provoking this slaughter. Their tracks were well and truly covered now; it was beyond belief that the noble forgeworld of Metalica would deliberately assault and destroy a peaceful Martian expeditionary force, especially one without anything of value to steal.
A Metalican tech-priest gone rogue; that was the only explanation. A failed student of the Omnissiah, driven mad with jealousy, wantonly destroying what he could never attain, even going so far as to slay a priest of Holy Mars itself. Nothing to do with Metalica, no, no, no; this “Brian”, this wretched, failed, hateful creature, must be acting alone; he was a danger to the Imperium, to his brothers in the Omnissiah’s service, and he must be hunted down.
It dawned on Brian that he was alone. After this massacre he would find no friends in the Imperium; there would be no refuge, no respite, and no forgiveness. He was on his own in a galaxy at war, and there would be no time for hesitation or pity. He would have to be hard, strong and ruthless to avoid the wrath of those he once called his friends, let alone the sharp fangs and steel of aliens, heretics and monsters.
He recalled what was left of the Skitarii and turned back to his ship. A long, hard road lay ahead of him.