Here we find ourselves in the Blood Angel’s Thunderhawk gunship, ferrying from the DROP OF BLOOD to the SWORDMAIDEN after narrowly escaping the bombardment by the Immortal’s guns:
Azrael studied the Eldar’s face. A smear of blood graced her upper lip and she looked inhumanly tired after the warpmagics she had used to aid their escape from the IMMORTAL’s guns. Whatever she had done to protect them from being blown to atoms, it had cost her dearly, and he was glad she had remained conscious since coming to in the DROP OF BLOOD’s hangar. She seemed to be deeply lost in thoughts, though, her gaze staring right through the bulkhead in front of her.
Suddenly her head came up, cocked as if listening intently to something unheard by everyone else. A split second later the vox channel went live, and disturbing news came in.
“Lady.” he addressed her, knowing she had no access to the vox, “Chaos ships have appeared in the immediate vicinity. The pilot will make an emergency approach to the SWORDMAIDEN. Please brace yourself.” His voice was calm, even though he knew that this was going to be rough: The SWORDMAIDEN was in a hurry to get her shields up again, and would not wait long for them, so the pilot was going to manoeuvre at a reckless speed.
“Thank you.” she answered, nodding towards him, and tried to make herself as secure as possible inside the braces that were much too large for her. Around her, the marines were checking the strappings and closures again, their armour fitting neatly into the berthed seats of the gunship’s interior.
G-forces tugged at them as the pilot banked the little craft into a steep curve, and proximity klaxons began to sound their blaring warnings when he rushed the gunship towards the hangar doors at a speed that would probably have entailed court martial for Endangering Imperial Property in any other situation than this.
“Fayak, put your head between your knees. Now!” Azrael said with a tone of command, and without hesitation, the Eldar obeyed instantly.
In a deafening cacophony of noises the gunship more crashed than landed inside the SWORDMAIDEN’s hangar, screeching over the grated floor, crashing into three parked transporters, and finally stopping mere meters from the bulkhead. The great hangar doors behind them were already half closed again.
As soon as the Thunderhawk had come to a halt, Brother-Captain Cato and his Blood Angels were unstrapping themselves, and preparing to evacuate the gunship and the hangar with routine movements. Azrael got up and with practised ease unlocked the closures for Fitheak, helping her out of the strappings. He looked at her inquiringly, and she gave him a tiny nod of her head, reassuring him that everything was all right. Her wobbly legs seemed to belie that, though, when she got up and turned to follow Ezekiel, Calidus and Damian into the hangar. Azrael and Bethor, who went last, exchanged a quick glance, then walked after her at a brisk pace.
The instant they had all cleared the hangar, the marines moved into a defensive position, and both Cato and Azrael tried to contact the bridge. However, this being an inquisitorial vessel currently under attack, the channels were locked to outside traffic, which they technically were.
Seconds later the far bulkhead opened to admit a young woman wearing a flashy hat sprouting feathers and a coat with generous tails fluttering behind her as she crossed the hall in great strides, her boots ringing off the metal grates. This caused some raising of bolters, which were lowered just as speedily when she waved her inquisitorial rosette before her and continued to advance confidently towards the knot of Blood Angels.
Two meters in front of them she stopped and quickly cast her glance over the group, taking in especially the five marines that were standing in a very protective formation around the Eldar woman.
She addressed herself in their direction, not sure whether the alien would understand her or not: “My name is Pius. Please follow me.”
She was about to turn and walk out when Cato interrupted her, asking her if there was anything his marines could contribute to the defence of the ship. In return, she nodded at him and quickly shot him the security codes of the command frequency, adding “Captain, I thank you. They will know.” Then she glanced at Azrael again and set off at a brisk pace, sure that they would follow her.
After a hundred meters or so force-marching through the ship’s corridors after Ms Pius it became clear to Azrael that the Eldar was not going to keep up much longer, and at a brief word from him Bethor picked her up in mid-stride. She did not even start to protest, which told Azrael a lot. After a few more turns and stairs they seemed to have reached their erstwhile destination, a set of plain but elegantly made double doors that Pius was opening with her sigil pressed to a device to the left side of the hinge.
She pushed the doors open, and with a sweep of her hand invited them to enter the apartments beyond. “In the name of High Inquisitor Lucius I bid you welcome to the SWORDMAIDEN. These are our guest quarters. There are rooms for everyone, please make yourself at home. Sanitary installations are here-“, she opened one door, “…and a catering unit you will find in here. There is also small training facility over here.” She opened two more doors.
To Rexenia Pius’ utter surprise, the Eldar woman, now standing on her own feet again, replied in flawless Gothic: “I thank you. I believe the quarters will be entirely sufficient for our needs. However, if you would be kind enough to send for a medicae, I would be very grateful, for three of these marines have just been freed from captivity, and need medical attention.”
But Rexenia was not for nothing in the service of an eminent Inquisitor, and recovered quickly. “To be sure. There is a high-grade medical servitor in the room through this door, which will see to your needs. Now, if you would care to raise your voice one by one, I can attune the door to your voice patterns.”
One after the other the marines followed her invitation, stepped up to the device, and uttered a confident “Sanguinius!” loud and clear, followed at last by the Eldar, who added, just as clear though at a higher pitch, her own “Sanguinius!”. Again, the young woman had to master her surprise, and this time her eyebrow, wandering upwards at an angle, escaped her control before she could revert to a look of neutral politeness.
Somewhere further away and the ship’s great guns must have opened fire, for a deep, dull “THUMMP” had begun to reverberate through the floor at regular intervals. Rexenia politely excused herself: “Please forgive me, I have to leave you now. Make yourself as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.” With that she turned and left, closing the door behind her. The steps of her boots could be heard receding hurriedly down the corridor. Then everthing was quiet except for the distant guns.