Turn the eyes upward.
That is the only direction for peace.
Even then, it is the cold comfort of stars. They twinkle, uncaring and mindless, through an atmosphere charged with static and heat and horror. Even then, some of those motes are not stars; and some of the twinkling marks deaths – hot, brief deaths of panicked men and women gasping silently for air in the sweat-and-oil sepulchres that are breached and venting voidcraft.
Other stars are mobile drop-craft. Seven good loyal Legions are descending wholesale via dropcraft, atmosphere-pod, teleport-matrix and other means; cloaking the Urgall Depression in a smothering wave of fury. They have been descending non-stop for hours. The weave of the defender's macro-cannon and defence laser mesh is fine – would we expect less from the Sons, or the Children? – but more and more make ground, where the Astartes emerge into battle.
Great creaks and moans mark the tormented earth; and rise up into the sky, where those same drop-craft shriek and howl like furies of lost myth. They fall, and fall, and fall for hour after hour.
I came down late, as these things are measured, though as with all things the Legions do, it was to schedule, and on-target.
Void-travel starts silent. A thin, keening piping creeps in first, which then builds to air-roar as the craft makes atmospheric envelope. Today, another sound overlaid the familiar noise of the Stormbird. At first, I took the additional sound to be a failing engine; or perhaps simply a quirk of the ramjets' interaction with this world's atmosphere. It was insistent, continual; harmonising with the aircraft.
After a moment, I realised that it was the guns. Not those on the Stormbird, though they were firing now. No, it was the constant barrage of oversized ordnance below that was forming a protean cacophony, indecipherable and absolute, that my autosenses were muting into a simple hum, like grey static.
I am not primed to fear. I was not a fearful child. Such potential weakness had quickly been whipped into protective hatred by my father – my real father, that is – and sublimated into a simple drive to find something less cold and cruel. With hindsight, it was perhaps an unsound choice to have sought out the mysterious wandering leviathans of my homeworld.
In any case, more prosaically, our brains are altered during gene-forging. So, I am not primed to fear – but nor I am not stupid. Landing on the plain below was as bluntly dangerous as landing on roiling magma. Perhaps less, as magma, in my experience, rarely tries to actively kill you. I intimated as much to the pilot-primaris, who called me a lackwit and told me to be silent, if you cannot be useful.
I looked about, bringing up a hand to twist a dial; correct a course measurement; compensate for the infernal heat rising from below. The world, from horizon to horizon, was afire. A number of my brethren consider my decision-making questionable; but I am nothing if not obedient. I took a moment to turn in my seat for confirmation, taking in the ranks of black-armoured, grille-masqued warriors that stood, uncharacteristically active, their fury palpable. Three stood apart from the rest, in temperament as well as detail. Two red-armoured cousins – one cold crimson-clad, the other a tongue of hot scarlet – and the Centurion, proud-crested and stoic. A brief hand signal from our officer to the pilot sent us down.
As one, the Stormbirds dipped, falling in sequence as perfect as geometry, into the maze mesh of lasers. Three reached the ground intact; one in pieces. The fifth – ours – was clipped. It tumbled balletically across the sky before a wing tip touched the ground and sent it pin-wheeling across the black, black dirt, scattering debris, armour plating and its unfortunate cargo across the burnt earth before ploughing into the dead surface.
I woke to the insistent hiss of my armour stimming me awake. I am not primed to fear, which made it all the more disconcerting when I considered, muzzily, that I am not meant to suffer the effects of concussion, either.
Well, I thought. That could have gone better.
After a moment, as my head swam, I pressed my hands into the hard, gritty earth, and pushed myself upwards, groaning. Twisting, I sat up, looking about cautiously for the Stormbird, for my boltgun, for my brothers.