FAN FIC: Space Wolves

The following action-packed adventure features Space Wolves and Night Lords and other icons of Warhammer 40,000, which I hold no rights to; thus it's "fan fiction".  I did, however, try to create an exciting story with unique characters not likely to be found elsewhere in the 40K universe.  

I took a Space Marine, stripped him of his armor and weapons, and left him for dead on a snowy planet peopled with enemies; not a situation you see too often from the Black Library.  I also tried to give him a little more personality than your typical "me space marine, me am invincible and kill all" mentality.  (Oh, okay, they're generally intelligent, they just don't tend to have much personality.)

The story is 8800 words in total (say, 25 to 30 pages long) and broken into ten chapters, some very short, some rather long.  This will help you track your place for those who don't want to read it all in one stretch.  Enjoy.


(This image, also, does not belong to me.)


HUNTED

1

The cold was fierce, the wind howling, the snow blinding.  It reminded him of home.
Volstag Dragonclaw drew a deep breath and released it slowly, the warmed air visible as steam from his nostrils.  Would he see the icy peaks of Fenris again?  As a Space Wolf he expected to die a thousand light-years from home but in the thick of battle, going to the afterlife with his honor intact and enemy heads in hand, trophies with which to greet his dead wolf brothers in eternity.  That was how a Space Wolf was to die.  Not like this.  He was a hunter, not prey.
Volstag looked down at the snowy forest floor several meters below.  He was seated in the boughs of a great fir tree, straddling a thick branch and leaning against the trunk.  And he was all but naked.  And though the cold gnawed at his skin, it could not penetrate it.  This was a natural environment for him, so much so that he almost felt camouflaged in it with his bare skin as pale as the snow and dark body hair breaking up his human-shaped color.  From a distance no one would notice him in the tree.  But how in the Emperor’s name did he get up there?  There was a foggy void in his memory.  His instincts, however, told him he’d not be alone there for long; they’d be looking for him.
What is my last memory? he asked himself, closing his eyes.  Behind his lids he saw the Night Lords’ laboratory: walls of metal and glass, dangling chains and glass canisters of bubbling, viscous fluids.  The sweltering humidity and dim crimson glow of the room seemed to swell and recede as he lay there, as if the entire Chaos vessel itself were breathing with him inside.  He was bound to a hot metal table, pinned there while heretical attendants in dark blue robes shuffled back and forth, preparing him for today’s round of torture. 
Then the chamber doors scraped open.  Abaenon stood in the threshold, face hidden beneath his hood, barely perceived lightning playing across the deep blue power armor beneath his robes.  The depraved apothecary thought that standing there, prolonging his entrance, would somehow heighten his victim’s fear.  It did not.  Rather, Volstag’s jaw tightened in anger and his teeth ached.  His tongue lolled impatiently against the back of his growing fangs.  He felt an unusual hunger for more than vengeance.  Abaenon finally sauntered in, pulled back his hood, and leaned in close to smile at Volstag—or what limited grin such a distorted and augmented face could manage.  One yellow eye was still flesh, the other flickered red in a skull of black bionics and glistening wet tubing. 
“Good morning,” the Night Lord said in his raspy metallic voice.  “Allow me to tickle you.”  He raised his hand and, on cue, an attendant slid on a heavy mechanical glove.  The scalpel-like blades hummed and vibrated with a bluish hue.  Abaenon’s crooked teeth showed in a one-sided sneer.
Volstag opened his eyes and the damp heat of the torture chamber vanished.  He was outside again.  His lungs filled with fresh, chill air.  His sigh was steam.  
The Claw of Agony, Abaenon had called it.  Volstag traced the crisscrossing lines on his bare chest, thin slices through hair and flesh that still burned with a quiet fire.  Even his superhuman biology could not heal these wounds.  They were scars of shame he’d bare for whatever remained of his life.  The thought angered him, and something beneath the surface of his mind stirred, its rage even greater than his own.
I was in the Night Lord’s torture chamber.  Then what happened? he wondered. 
He mentally assessed himself for pain and injuries.  Aside from the mild burn of his torture wounds, his only real discomfort was... in his teeth.  He licked his lupine fangs.  Was that the taste of blood in his mouth?  Was it his own?  He looked down at his chest again, realizing what his eyes had seen but mind had been too preoccupied to notice: there was red-brown crust under his finger nails and dry gobbets of gore in his chest hair and beard.  He remembered now the rage, the blind fury of Russ that had welled up inside him.  As the poisonous sting of blades had raked through his flesh, the torture chamber’s crimson glow had seemed to burn even brighter.  That red glow had consumed his vision just as the growing rage within him had consumed his heart, a terrible pressure that could no longer be contained.  Something inside had broken free and reached out with elongated claws and hungry fangs… 
Was Volstag Dragonclaw cursed by the mark of the wulfen?
Perhaps not a curse after all, he thought.  If it were true, if he did bear the mark, it was the beast within him that had escaped captivity.  And it might yet be by that beast alone that Volstag would avenge his fallen wolf brothers.
Another gust of wind.  His ears perked and nostrils flared.  Snow was not all that the wind carried. 
Whiny mortal voices complained of the cold and their duty.  He could smell them before he saw them, their collective breaths stinking of smoked fish and their bodies ripe with fear: five traitorous Planetary Defense Troopers, clutching wooly grox skins over their uniforms, fumbling predictably down the well-worn trail and plowing deep ravines through the fresh snow.  Beneath their long-haired cloaks Volstag’s keen eyes could see irregular paintjobs applied to their flak armor, the standard grey colors of Tundra Station hastily sprayed with the dark blues and tarnished golds of their Night Lord masters.  One even had hand-drawn white lightning zig-zagging around his now blue helmet.  They clutched lasrifles fixed with bayonets in their gloved hands.  Two men pulled their wooly hoods so far over their heads that they could barely see the man in front of them.  But even that hindrance wouldn’t matter; the one in the lightning-helmet talked too much for the rest to notice anything about their surroundings anyway. 
“I don’t see why I got stuck with you lot,” he complained.
“You said that already,” another said.  
“I should be on patrol with some real Chaos Marines.”  He slashed at the air with his bayonet, even imagining combat in a sloppy manner.  “Bringing down the rogue wolf for some important folks to see, not in front of the lot of you.”
“Well, Bleakman, maybe if you stop thinking about yourself so damned much we can all get this wolf together, and all get the prize.” 
“The gene-seed of Lord Curze,” one said in awe.
“Yeah, right,” grumbled another furry hood.
The lightning-helmeted trooper, Bleakman, shoved the grumbler from behind.  “‘Yeah, right,’” he mocked.  “See, that’s my point exactly!  That attitude is why you bums will never really join the ranks of the Night Lords.  You’ll still be tending grox for the All Mighty Silent-One, Emperor Don’t-Give-A-Damn, while I’ll be waging war across the stars and pulling men’s hearts out through their puckered arses and such.  After I bring in the stray wolf, Abaenon will make me a full-blooded Night Lord!  And I plan to have that prize one way or another, even if I have to crack every one of you weaklings in face to do it.”  He pretended to hit a fellow trooper with the butt of his lasgun. 
The squad leader, a man who looked only a few years senior to his young charges, finally stopped in his tracks and turned around.  “Bleakman, shut-up!  I’m sick of hearing your mouth.  Mosely, Ryker, pull your damned hoods down, how could you see a herd of grox going by much less a Space Marine on the run like that?  And Meyer...  Meyer, stop encouraging Bleakman’s blathering.  Ain’t a damn one of you worthy of a gene-seed, Chaos or otherwise.  From here out you better keep your traps shut and your eyes open!” 
If only their leader had taken his own advice.  The established trail took the squad right under Volstag’s tree.  His thick bough creaked as the Space Wolf swung one leg around, prompting the traitor sergeant to look up, but it was too late.  Even without armor, Volstag’s stout, heavily-muscled frame easily weighed one-hundred thirty kilos in this gravity.  The trooper sergeant, maybe eighty. 
The wolf landed on the traitor sergeant with a sickening crunch of bones, then sprang back to his feet while the other four were still looking on.  They were all stunned by the sudden appearance of this monster of a man: a creature impervious to the biting cold, his face heavy with a snow-encrusted beard, hairy chest a map of red and white scars, and intense eyes burning with a fury of injustice their simple lives had never known.  One fist struck a trooper in the face like a hammer, knocking teeth down his gullet and blowing the man instantly unconscious.  His other huge hand snatched the lasrifle away from a second man and knocked him to the ground with the back swing.  The trooper Bleakman jerked so suddenly that his painted helmet nearly fell off backwards, but he did manage to raise his weapon and pull the trigger.  Two lasbolts sizzled wildly past the Space Wolf, panic throwing them off the mark.  Volstag twirled his new lasgun around in his fingers and cast it like a spear, burying the rifle’s bayonet into Bleakman’s sternum.  The last trooper gathered enough sense to run but tripped over his heavy groxhide cloak.  The fumble cost him his life.  Volstag leapt on top of him, pulled the man’s own knife from his belt, and eviscerated him.  His gory contents spilled into the snow, turning the cold white carpet to a steaming red. 
A flight of sparrows scattered.  Scavenger birds cawed.  A small deer was running away somewhere in the brush.  There were no other sounds.
Though it gave him no pleasure to kill injured men, Volstag knew that leaving them alive was a liability.  If found, they’d give away anything they knew.  He gave them quick deaths at least, certainly more merciful than just leaving the crushed sergeant alive in the snow or the trooper whose jaw and neck were likely broken.  The last traitor who’d given up his rifle to serve as a spear woke up with crimson speckling his swollen lips and bruises welling under his eyes. 
“Praise the Emperor,” he whispered.  “Praise the Emperor you’re still alive, sir.  I didn’t want to do it.  Please believe me, my lord, I’m not a traitor.”
This angered the lone wolf more than the betrayal itself.  “First you renounce your loyalty and your Emperor,” Volstag snarled, “then you ambush and kill my packmates.  And now, lying bloody in the snow, your cowardice undermines even your own conviction as a traitor.  You can’t even die clutching at your heresy?  Beg for mercy when you’re kneeling before the Emperor in the afterlife, coward, because you’ll get none from me.” 
With a final stroke of bayonet, the wolf delivered a quick and silent death.

2

Volstag surveyed what gear the traitorous PDF troopers had carried.  About useless, he thought.  Even if he could fit into the flak armor uniforms, even if his pride would allow him to degrade himself by doing so, it offered far less protection than his usual Astartes scout armor.  No, he’d rather go bare-chested than stoop to that.  Praise Russ, if he only had his old suit of power armor and a boltgun, he’d walk right down the fairway of Tundra Station, meting out the blessing of the bolter as he went.  He’d have no fear of injury in the grey ceramite hide of a Space Wolf.  But that was not an option either.  For now, all he had was the leathery cloaks of wooly grox hide.  It offered little protection beyond that from the wind.  But just as it occluded the vision of his victims, it would hinder his own eyes, and the trailing cape of it could snag on branches or make him more visible.  His own pale flesh was better camouflage than a dark wooly cloak moving through the snow.  No, his tattered duracloth trousers were all he’d wear.
Lasguns and bayonets were poor weapons but they were better than nothing.  Against the corrupted power armor of Chaos Space Marines they might only be effective at point-blank range.  He’d use them only in desperation.  The crack of a lasrifle was quiet compared to the bark of a bolter, but it might still give him away to nearby enemies.  Volstag slung one rifle fixed with a blade over his shoulder and tucked the other two bayonets into a stolen belt.  He ate what rations the bodies had on them, though his stomach felt strangely satisfied, as if he’d eaten during the fugue of his escape.  I hope I didn’t swallow any mutant flesh in rage, he thought.  That kind of tainted meat would give even a champion of the mead hall a stomach ache.
Now better equipped for combat, he found his twin hearts torn in different directions.  The lupine hunger in him, the thirst for revenge and justice and honor, demanded that he avenge his fallen wolf brothers and die gloriously if need be to achieve it.  Alone on this backward cattle farm of an outpost, what mattered more than a valiant death in which he took as many traitors with him as possible?  But as a veteran Space Wolf with nearly a century of experience in warfare, he knew that if he, too, died in this frozen wilderness, the Night Lords and the heretical troopers in their thrall would ultimately out live him.  Though the fury of Russ surged through his veins, he was but one warrior, the last of his pack, and though he might take a dozen heretics down to Hell with him and even avenge himself against their depraved apothecary, he couldn’t kill them all.  Not alone.  Strategically, he knew that a total victory would require help.  His life would be better sacrificed getting a signal back to the Jaws of Morkai so that his great company would know the fate that had befallen their scout expedition.  But he also knew that a long-range vox wave would take days to reach the distant cruiser.  My honor won’t wait quite that long, he told himself.  Once the signal was out, however, Volstag Dragonclaw need not wait for a reply.  After that, the Space Wolves could come sanitize Tundra Station whether he was still alive to see it or not. 
He would have his vengeance and a glorious death, he decided, but not until he’d ensured an even mightier retaliation would follow.  No matter how many heretics remained after the lone wolf had died in battle, no Night Lord or traitorous mortal would survive the wrath days later that came in the form of fire from the sky.  Volstag imagined the scene of drop pods raining down, bursting on the ground to release savage packs of Blood Claws and disciplined waves of Grey Hunters.  Perhaps they’d even find enough of “Old Man Dragonclaw” left over to entomb in the heart of a mighty dreadnought so that he could fight along side them on the next bloody battlefield.
This comforted him.
Among the other scavenged belongings of the dead troopers—which included lho sticks, a chapbook of heretical rants, a comb and hair oil, and a flask of amasec liquor—there was only one item that interested him: a voice-corder.  It had belonged to the one called Bleakman, the talkative cultist with the lightning-painted helmet.  Recorded were general complaints about Tundra Station, self-appeasing boasts, and profanity-colored critiques of his PDF superiors.  But Volstag imagined a better use for it.  When he found a long-ranged vox transmitter, it’d be quicker to plug in the voice-corder and let it tell his story, rather than lose precious time talking into the machine with his back to the door. 
He dragged off and hid the bodies of his victims and buried their remaining gear in the snow, then hunkered down among the brush to record his whispered message:
“This is Space Wolf Volstag Dragonclaw.
“Days ago, I know not how many, the Space Wolf cruiser Jaws of Morkai intercepted a distress call from the Planetary Defense Forces of Tundra Station.  The Station is a small Imperial outpost on Theta-Crom IV, an icy agri-world used for raising herds of long-haired grox.  It has little other value.  Perhaps that’s why the bored PDF troops turned from the Emperor’s light to the temptations of Chaos. 
“The distress call stated that a rogue space vessel was refusing to answer hails and preparing to land on-planet.  Tundra Station was concerned about who might be aboard.
“An hour later, an abrupt follow-up message declared that the call was a false alarm and anyone listening should disregard.
“Wolf Lord Scarred-Eye, master of the Jaws of Morkai, as wise as his teeth are long, dispatched a pack of nine Wolf Scouts aboard the recon shuttle Void Stalker.  My pack landed in secret and discovered the renegade space vessel was indeed on-planet and home to a roving band of Night Lord Space Marines.  We were confident that by taking command of the local PDF garrison we could handle the situation ourselves.  What we didn’t know was that chaos worshippers within the ranks of the PDF had already usurped control.  When we made our plans with them, we’d unknowingly exposed ourselves to traitors and were later ambushed by their Night Lord masters.  Eight Space Wolves have died.  Shamefully, not all went in battle, nor on their feet. 
I am now the last of my pack.
“Lord Scarred-Eye, I pray to Russ this reaches your pointy ears and that you bring the full wrath of the Space Wolves to the traitors of Tundra Station.  I shall do what damage I can, then see you in the mead halls of the afterlife.”

3

Twilight soon came.  It was mid-spring in this region of Theta-Crom IV and night never truly fell this time of year.  Instead the twilight would last for hours before becoming dawn again.
The scout craft Void Stalker was exactly where they’d left it days before, landed in the clearing of a wooded valley ten kilometers from Tundra Station.  Approaching from the rough terrain at this distance allowed the wolf scouts to come in quietly and unseen.  The valley was also an easily defensible position, if it ever came to that.  And now that Volstag was returning as a potential attacker on that position, the shuttle’s hiding spot set him at a disadvantage.
But his stealth was unmatched by man or beast on this icy world, and he came close enough to the small scout vessel to assess the situation undetected.  There were two PDF troopers standing outside the ship, trudging a path through the fresh snow as they paced in circles.  Only two? Volstag thought.  The patrol he’d killed and another he’d silently passed by were both made up of five troopers, and he had yet to see a Night Lord Space Marine out looking for him.  Five troopers against a single, naked, unarmed Space Marine was almost reasonable.  But only two?  Either Abaenon was betting on his not coming as far as the Stalker, and thus not needed many men to guard it, or this was a door being deliberately left open for him.  
Volstag’s grey eyes scanned the scene.  The ship’s hull was frosted by a thin layer of snow, interrupted at the rear boarding hatch.  The snow there had been knocked free, which meant the hatch had been opened recently.  It was doubtful that the PDFs had the technical ability to force their way in, though the Night Lords might.  Aside from the path worn by the two men patrolling, there were several other disturbances in the snow that had been footprints not long ago.  It was difficult to tell from his hiding spot, but it seemed to the wolf scout that some of those footprints could have been made by large armored feet, as opposed to the thin boots of poorly-equipped mortal troops.  Coming back to the ship was the most logical course of action for the lone Space Wolf.  Most likely the pair of troopers outside was meant to be an obstacle easily overcome.  They expected Volstag to kill theses two and go straight inside his ship, where there was no doubt a waiting cadre of Night Lords bearing the arms and armor of real warriors.  This whole scene stunk of a trap.
Literally.  The wind scattering snow through the trees carried a new scent to his nostrils. Volstag’s keen eyes quickly scanned the forest up-wind.  A tiny red light winked at him, flared, and then swung around in an arc.  Some idiot trooper was smoking a lho stick.
“Who the hell is that?” a harsh voice whispered.
Volstag crouched low.  The speaker was close by.
“I’ll take care of this,” said another.
“Do it quietly,” the first commanded. 
Something heavy crunched through the forest ten meters from Volstag’s position.  He saw the faint gleam of twilight on ceramite armor.  A Night Lords Chaos Marine was moving away from him toward the smoker.  More armored figures rustled in their positions.  Volstag’s eyes adjusted and focused on two more Night Lords in hiding.  One wore a winged helmet and had a boltgun in hand, the other was bulkier with a chainsword propped on his shoulder.  The faint smell of promethium told Volstag that the bulk was a jump pack that hadn’t fired in a while. 
Two Chaos Marines only ten meters away.  How had he missed them?  You’re allowing yourself to get distracted, old man, he told himself.  Although, the Night Lords were hit and run experts.  It seemed he had underestimated their own stealth and patience. 
As an experienced scout, Volstag could wait in silence indefinitely.  Then again, while the mortal PDFs would eventually tire, the Chaos Marines would not and when the sun rose he’d be trapped in the valley with Emperor knew how many enemies.  The time to act was now.
Seconds, he told himself.  This must be done in seconds.
Volstag crept closer.  His targets were watching the third Night Lord on his way up the hill to deal with the smoker. 
There were mumbled words where the lho stick ember burned, the red glow flashing around as the trooper tried to explain himself with panicky gestures, then the crack of an armored gauntlet against flesh and bone.  The pair here chuckled. 
That was his cue.  Volstag leapt from hiding and drove a bayonet down hard through the back of one Chaos Marine’s neck, the blade penetrating the thin, flexible armor joint there and severing the spinal cord at the first two vertebra.  The second Night Lord, the raptor, reacted quicker than Volstag had expected and his chainsword buzzed to life and swung down in no time.  Volstag dodged under the whirring teeth and rolled on the ground, coming into a crouch with his stolen lasrifle in hand.  The raptor cursed loudly and brought his growling weapon around again. 
All stealth was lost now.  No reason to hold back. 
Red lasbolts lit the scene for an instant at a time, leaving three scars on the Night Lord’s chest plate but failing to penetrate.  The Chaos Marine laughed at him.  “Is that all you have, Wolf?” he cackled, the eyes of his helmet burning an amused green. 
Outside of the immediate fight, Volstag’s sharp ears picked up cries of excitement all around the valley and bodies smashing through undergrowth toward their position. 
The chainsword swung down again.  Volstag caught it by blocking with the lasgun in both hands but after a second and a half of sparks, the sword chewed clean through the PDF rifle.  He fell back, allowing the sword to pass by, then grabbed the Chaos Marine’s belt, pulled himself up onto his feet, then spun and fired.  A bolt pistol round exploded in the back of the raptor’s head.  The green light in his eyes faded out. 
“Yes,” Volstag growled, “that’s all I had.”  When he’d swung himself up by the renegade’s belt, he’d also taken the pistol from the raptor’s own holster. 
More bolter fire.  Debris filled the scene like a grenade blast, shards of rock and tree splinters thrown in every direction by exploding bolt rounds.  The third Night Lord was charging back down the hill and firing blindly, apparently without concern for his comrades that might still be down here. 
Volstag fired a volley from the bolt pistol, but not at the on-coming enemies—he fired up a different hill away from the scene.  He then stooped down, pulled the dead raptor to his feet, aimed him as best he could, and triggered the jump pack.  The armored corpse rocketed up the other hill in a blazing arc, leaping through and above the canopy of fir trees, and then crashed back down to earth some distance away.  The wolf scout then dropped silently to the ground and waited.  
More weapons fire, this time in the other direction. 
It worked.  Whether the enemy believed the Chaos raptor was in pursuit of his prey or that the wolf himself had stolen the jump pack, the forces that had been converging toward his position were now all headed up the other hill in the direction of the human flare.  Volstag snatched up the dead renegades’ chainsword, boltgun, and grenades.  He glanced back at the Void Stalker one last time, then abandoned all hope of ever getting back aboard his ship.  
There was no doubt now: he would die on this world.  But he would not die alone.

4

Decision time, Dragonclaw, Volstag told himself. 
In the confusion of the hunt, he’d been able to escape the valley undetected.  He now stood at the precipice of a wooded peak overlooking two scenes under the dim purple sky.  To the north was the heart of Tundra Station.  From here it looked like a quiet town with simple buildings and snowy streets.  There were no structures higher than three stories and several columns of furnace smoke dissipated into the sky.  The remote outpost was not important enough to have its own astropath for telepathic communication, but he knew there was a long-ranged vox transmitter somewhere down there, probably at the very headquarters building he’d visited when the wolf scouts first approached the PDF with their plan.  After to the scout ship, Tundra Station’s radio was the next obvious choice. 
Therefore, the enemy was likely to be expecting him there, too, and ready to receive him. 
To the west, separated from the town by a couple kilometers of snow-covered grox fields and skeletal corral fencing, was the Night Lord’s ship.  It was a dark vessel of smoking vents and twisted metal spires, several times the size of the stealthy Void Stalker scout ship.  This was a mobile platform of war, home to a renegade war band, and at least as big as all the structures of Tundra Station put together.  It was also a tomb where four of his pack mates had been deprived of an honorable death and where the sinister apothecary had tortured Volstag with the intention that he die as painfully as his brothers.  The ship was the den of the enemy, a nest of poisonous vipers, and the last place they’d expect him to go.  And being a space vessel, it would have the communications equipment he needed...  
His decision was made. 

5

Among the herds of huge grox sleeping on their feet, there stalked something even bigger.  The Chaos dreadnought was a hulk of steel and ceramite nearly five meters tall.  It was armed with a three-taloned powerclaw on one side and a twin-linked reaper autocannon on the other.  A daemonic iron mask with thick, curling horns hung over the front of the sarcophagus that housed the ancient Chaos Marine inside.  The earth shook as the metal beast stepped forward, shouldering around the giant sleeping grox, who stumbled to one side or the other against their herd brothers, trying to avoid the monster while still half-asleep on their hooves.  It moved forward again and spun forty-five degrees on its axel, shoving the flanks of another wooly beast.  The grox gave a low moan and shuffled sideways, bumping the animal next to it, who then stumbled into two more.  The whole herd groaned and side-stepped, much to the dreadnought’s amusement.  A deep, mechanical chuckle vibrated just above the animal noises. 
The creature’s mad, Volstag thought.  Centuries, maybe millennia entombed in that metal monstrosity had obviously reduced the mind of the Chaos Marine inside to that of a cruel child.  But a very dangerous, cruel child. 
Crouching out of sight, Volstag remembered the ambush that had killed his brothers...

6

Two of the wolf scouts were leading a platoon of Tundra Station PDF troops through a rocky crevasse toward the enemy ship, executing the wolves’ surprise assault on the Night Lords.  The party had rounded a bend within the crevasse and squatted down to take pause.  Behind the pair of Space Wolves were twenty mortal soldiers of the Planetary Defense Force, some toting heavy weapons.  The plan was to have platoons attack the Chaos ship from two directions with heavy fire while a third team of wolf scouts planted melta charges in the confusion.  The enemy was not supposed to know they were coming.  Femyr, the pack leader, took a knee and checked his com-bead.  The second party was in position but the third, the scouts with the bombs, were not responding. 
“Could be the weather,” the PDF platoon sergeant said, a strange sneer on his lips.  The wind was blowing above their heads but nothing severe.  “That happens here from time to time,” he said.  “Interferes with our instruments.”
Femyr and Volstag shared a look but decided to go ahead, that their scout brethren would know what to do when the time came without a verbal order.  Femyr got to his feet and moved around the rocky turn.  As soon as his head came around the boulder they had been crouching behind, reaper autocannon fire erupted into their midst.  The crevasse became a deathtrap, heavy shells and rock fragments exploding in the confined space.  Blood spatter painted the stone walls as the leading PDF troops were hit.  Femyr fell back away from the fire lane but even his superhuman reflexes had been too slow; his left hand was gone, blasted to splinters in the first autocannon burst, and his left leg had been torn up by shrapnel.  He fell back into Volstag’s arms, gripping his bolt pistol tightly in his right hand.  Above the din was the metallic laughter of the Chaos dreadnought as it filled the stone corridor with heavy weapons fire.  Volstag turned to the platoon sergeant and ordered one PDF squad to fall back the way they’d come, but the trooper just grinned in his face.  In the next moment the treacherous soldiers were on top of the two wolves.  The traitors came on confidently, mistakenly thinking that they had the advantage.  They soon found out that a wounded wolf is ever more dangerous than a healthy one.  Femyr kicked two into the dreadnought’s firing line and killed several more.  Volstag’s combat blade worked in and out quickly and fiery bolts from his plasma pistol burned clean through its conspirator targets.  The two wolves were bloodied but victorious, having killed or routed nearly all of the fragile PDF troopers. 
Then the Night Lords entered into the fight.  Six of them leapt into the trench on jump packs, just meters from the now winded wolf scouts.  Two raptors died before the fight’s end, as did pack leader Femyr.  Bleeding and wounded, Volstag could not out-muscle the remaining Chaos Marines, who grabbed and bound him.  He became their prisoner and was soon introduced to their apothecary and torture-master, the bionic renegade Abaenon.

7

Twin barrel blasts echoed over the twilight corrals, bringing Volstag back to the present.  The midsection of a sleeping grox exploded in a gory star of blood and bone.  The dreadnought’s sick laughter rang out over the night.  Panicky grox moaned and scattered, but those still half-asleep moved too slowly.  The dreadnought’s spotlight switched on, finding a sluggish animal on the outskirts of the herd.  The grox broke into a run and gave a fearful cry, as if it knew what terrible fate the spotlight beam foretold.  The metal monster giggled to itself, tracking its prey with smoking barrels but holding fire for the perfect moment.
As it turned on its axel, the dreadnought exposed its back to Volstag’s hiding spot.  This was his chance.
The wolf broke into a sprint from the brush, bare feet pounding the snowy ground, chainsword in hand, boltgun jostling from its shoulder strap.  He met the high fence and bounded over it, then leapt again onto the dreadnought’s back.  His long fingers found purchase between metal plates and his chainsword buzzed to life.  With two tight swings of the whirring blade he severed several tubes and wires and tore open a rear repair hatch.  The metal monster roared furiously and fired its twin cannons, hitting nothing but earth.  Grox scattered and moaned even faster now, adding to the cacophony.  Volstag dropped off the hulk, slapped a krak grenade under the crotch of legs and axel, then dashed away again.  Two seconds later the explosives detonated, hurling hydraulic rods and pinions in every direction.  Shards of debris bit into Volstag’s exposed back but he ignored the pain.  When he turned around again the dreadnought was still facing the opposite direction, unable to walk or turn.  His chainsword had rendered its clawed arm useless and opened up access to the firing mechanism of the reaper autocannon.  The monster cried out like a wounded bear, unable to move or avenge itself. 
Volstag strode confidently back to his victim.  “Not so damned funny now, is it?” he said.  He lifted off a rail from the corral fence and used it to lever the upper body of the dreadnought eighty degrees to the left.  The broad side of the Night Lord’s ship sat only a couple hundred meters away. 
The dreadnought moaned like the grox he’d been torturing. 
“And thanks to your cruel games, anyone who hears you moaning will just think you’re still having fun.  Until the ship’s damage alarms go off.”
The Space Wolf hauled himself back up to the open compartment on the dreadnought’s rear.  After twelve seconds of trial and error, he had complete control of the twin autocannons.  The creature entombed within complained with bestial noises but could do nothing to stop him.  This should give me just the diversion I need to get aboard, Volstag thought, and triggered the firing mechanism.  The heavy shells detonated against the hull just to the left of the primary engine cones. 
“But a space ship’s hull is built to take more punishment than that,” Volstag said aloud.  “Let’s try this instead.”  He adjusted his aim and fired again.  This time twin trails of fire shot right into the engine cones, followed by explosions deep inside.  He fired another volley.  Green-blue plasma belched out from deep within his target, indicating an engine breach. 
“And while we’re at it...”  The dreadnought’s weapon ground and clicked in an arc, then roared off several more rounds.  The earth around one landing leg exploded, then the leg itself.  Volstag directed the fire to a second leg and destroyed it, too.  The whole ship listed backward, tilting it into further confusion. 
“I know you’re wracked with guilt over this,” Volstag told the dreadnought, “but don’t worry, you won’t have long to live with it.”  He set another krak grenade inside the beast’s hull, set it with a long fuse, then dropped back to the ground. 
“In Femyr Longspear’s name.”
The wolf rushed back into the darkness.  Thirty seconds later there was an explosion within the dreadnought’s body, followed by several more as his remaining munitions went up and finished him from the inside out.

8

Alarm klaxons were sounding aboard the enemy vessel.  Volstag pulled himself up the open access ramp, having to jump up to reach its edge as the grounded ship was cocked backward on its damaged landing gear.  He paused there in the doorway in a low crouch, chainsword across his back, guns on his belt.  He could hear very little below the howling of the fire alarm, but he did smell someone nearby; the tang of mutation was in the air. 
A thin figure appeared from around the corridor, robed in dark blue with shining orange eyes.  The wolf pounced and dispatched him in an instant, easily snapping the mortal’s neck.  Limp in his arms, he could see this was a serf worker, like those that crewed loyal Space Marine ships, though here they were more likely slaves.  This one appeared to also be a plaything of the depraved apothecary, having several scars and surgical augmentations. 
A memory flashed in Volstag’s mind: breaking free of his bindings and slaying two such slaves with a few brutal swipes of his clawed hands.  He felt the sweaty humidity again, smelled the oil and burning flesh, heard the painful cries of those dying.
Volstag looked at his hands now.  Had those really been his taloned paws?  No time to consider that now.  He tossed the slave’s body out the hatch, pulled his sword and bolt pistol, and proceeded into the shadowy labyrinth of the ship. 
The hot, narrow corridors were strangely familiar to him.  With his general knowledge of Imperial ship designs and flashes of his unconscious memory, it wouldn’t take him long to locate the radio tower.  Along the way he saw only a couple more serf-slaves, who had gone about their regular maintenance duties without noticing the wolf scout creeping among the shadows.  Most of the Night Lord warriors were no doubt scattered across several kilometers of tundra by now, searching for their lost prey.  The rest of the ship’s company and crew would be fighting the fire in the rear engine compartments, though by now that situation was likely under control.  But still the alarms were sounding, providing him some cover and reassurance. 
Volstag finally located the radio tower on the third deck of the ship.  Just as he was prepared to enter, the doors opened.  A robed figure slouched through the threshold dragging a twisted appendage that may have once been a leg.  The slave’s pale face flashed surprise as the chainsword swung in and tore out his throat.  Volstag leaped inside. 
This was a cylindrical chamber no more than a dozen meters in diameter with the ceiling lost in the antenna arrays several meters above, all lit an eerie green by blinking lights and waveform screens.  Two mortal servants and a Chaos Marine stood inside.  One slave yelped with surprise.  The Night Lord turned from receiving the latest report on the hunt and smiled.  One thick finger clicked a switch on the panel.  “Nevermind, Squad Five.  I have him here.”  He clicked off the channel. 
“Say again, control,” the speaker demanded.  “Did you say he’s there?”
“You’ve led us on quiet a chase, little pup,” the Night Lord said.  His face was an irregular grid of scars and the chest piece of his power armor almost matched it.  He pulled a jagged combat blade from his belt.  “But the game is over now.”
One mutant slave raised an arm and his robe sleeve fell back.  The bionic arm beneath unfolded with a mechanical whir, extending into three thin metal limbs, two with claws of various size, one with a long drill that whined as it spun up.  The other slave stood still, waiting to see what would happen next. 
“Shall we?” the Chaos Marine said.
Volstag hesitated, listening to the alarm klaxon continuing overhead.  He realized it could stop any second but would cover any noise until then.  “I’d love to,” the wolf snarled, “but I don’t have much time, and you’re wasting it.”  He dropped the chainsword to the deck with a loud clang.  The renegade’s mouth twitched into an even broader smile, but only briefly.  Volstag’s now free hand seized the boltgun that hung at his side, tugged it free from his shoulder, and opened fire.  The weapon’s report echoed around the walls of the small chamber as its vicious bolts spattered tainted blood on the walls and instruments.  After two seconds of bolter fire his ears were ringing, the room was choked with smoke, and three enemy bodies lay on the floor. 
That was stupid, he told himself, moving forward to inspect the radio controls.  One misplaced shot could have destroyed the very equipment he’d come to use.  It was the wolf inside that made him so anxious to spill blood, so careless with his weaponry.  The wolf.  His teeth clenched tight, eager to bite, to feed.  There was little doubt now; Volstag knew he was tainted by the wulfen.  A sharp-toothed grin touched his lips as he fished the voice-corder from its belt compartment.  He realized that he had no regrets about the darker side of Russ and would give himself willingly to the creature’s full fury, once his business was done.  But not yet. 
He quickly assessed the radio panel, tuned up the standard Imperial distress frequency, and plugged in the device.  The fire alarms ceased at that moment, leaving only his own voice in the room: “...I shall do what damage I can, then see you in the mead halls of the afterlife.”  Volstag set the device in a repeating loop and gathered up his weapons. 
One more task, he told the beast within, leashing it with his will.  The signal’s out, we’ve little else to live for now.  But I have to be sure.  Something the traitor PDFs had said under his tree resonated in his head, something about being rewarded with the gene-seed of Kurze, thus being remade as a Night Lords Space Marine.  What if Abaenon had stolen the gene-seed of Russ from his tortured captives, that which made them all sons of their beloved Primarch?  He had to find and destroy the apothecary’s lab.  Then he’d unleash the beast.  Then he could die in blind, furious combat with honor in his heart. 

9

The wolf’s unconscious memory guided him easily to the place of its birth.  He therefore knew where the laboratory could be found.  But now that the fire had been squelched, the ship’s passageways were busier with robed slaves and servitors returning to their usual duties.  
And that suited Volstag fine.
He heard mumbled conversation around a corner and sped his pace to meet it, his bare feet pounding hard on the steel grid of flooring.  The Night Lord Space Marines and their servitor were not expecting a half-naked beastman to come bounding around the bend, chainsword growling in both hands.  With two swings and a howl of bloodlust, Volstag beheaded one Marine and cut down the other two.  Their bulky bodies would choke the passageway, slowing down any pursuers. 
He climbed a ladder to the fourth deck and shot two slaves waiting there with his bolt pistol.  Subtlety was falling away.  Something in him was no longer being cautious. 
Two more robed figures saw him coming down a long corridor; there was no way to hide himself now.  One was a half-machine servitor.  It leveled its inhuman limb at him and fire poured forth, filling the hallway with bright yellow flames.  Volstag leapt through the wall of fire, bare skin singed, the hair on his face and chest burned off or smoking.  His chain blade hacked off the offending limb and his massive body smashed the other man against the bulkhead.  The servitor stared in shock as his severed arm’s promethium fuel squirted on the walls and deck plates.
“Another fire,” the Space Wolf said, himself alight with several tiny flames.  “Just what we need.” 
He lowered his pistol and shot the mutant he’d knocked to the floor.  The exploding bolt scattered the slave’s brains and sparked the lost fuel.  A new barrier of flame roared to life.  Volstag’s chainsword gave the servitor its death. 

10

A savage eagerness within him told Volstag that he’d reached his destination.  The laboratory doors slid open.  It was a large chamber with two metal medical slabs at center.  Still strapped to one was the cold corpse of the wolf scout Holm Blackfoot, left to decay in disgrace.  Each of the three walls were dedicated to profane equipment: one a bank of instrument cabinets; one displaying tanks of chemicals and vials of drugs; and the third alive with mechanical medic arms and warp-infested growths pulsing with white eyeballs and gibbering mouths.  Standing at that wall, feeding a monstrous mouth with a lump of flesh cut from Volstag’s lost pack mate, was the depraved apothecary Abaenon.  He was cloaked in black.  His face and exposed hand were more dark metal bionics and black tubing than pale flesh.  Two augmented slaves were also present in the room.  All three stared to see what had opened the door.
  The smoldering, wounded wolf stood in the threshold, highlighted from the right by the flickering wall of fire outside.  His body smoked, his chest heaved, his eyes shined, and he showed his teeth.
“Quickly,” Abaenon snapped, directing the nearest slave to grab the Claw of Agony from a pedestal in the corner. 
Volstag paid no attention.  His glare was locked on the bank of glass tanks and bubbling vials, a wall of multi-colored potions lit from behind.  Somewhere in one of those alchemical elixirs could be a captured Space Wolf gene-seed. 
The second attendant stood before of that chaotic aquarium, frozen in the wolf scout’s sights.
Volstag raised his boltgun and held down the trigger, spraying explosive bolt rounds in wide arcs until every bolt was spent and every tank was shattered.  The mutant slave that had stood between him and the tanks was now a warm heap lying atop broken glass.  There was the sound of heavy rain as a mix of alchemical soups and blood rushed through the steel grid floor to the decking below. 
The gun’s barrel smoked and its chamber clicked several times, empty.  Volstag dropped it.
The first slave retrieved Abaenon’s weapon and held it up in front of his master.  The Night Lord shoved his spindly metal hand into the bionic glove.  Its thin scalpel blades hummed to life and took on an azure glow. 
BOOM.  A single bolt pistol round exploded inside the slave’s forehead.  His remains slumped to the floor. 
Volstag dropped the pistol. 
Abaenon showed his own teeth now, some dark iron, others rotten bone.  His bladed fingers twitched playfully.
The Space Wolf paused to lock the laboratory door behind him.  He revved his chainsword a couple times, making slow sweeps with it through the air, then dropped it too. 
It’s time, he told himself.  The wolf within stirred and stretched, as if it’d been lying in its den after a nap, patiently waiting for its turn at the hunt.  Volstag flexed his fingers and felt a pleasant ache as they grew a full centimeter longer, the nails thickening and curling into claws.  His senses sharpen even further: he heard alarmed voices in the hallway outside; smelled the stinging chemical fumes dripping through the floor; saw more clearly the scars and bionics of Abaenon’s altered face, the single yellow eye flinching anxiously, a bead of nervous sweat rolling down his cheek. 
“You’ve met this side of me before, haven’t you?” Volstag growled.  “You remember better than I do, and you fear it.  Good, traitor.  Fear redemption.  By the time your servants cut through that blast door, I will have torn out your throat and spit it out.”
Abaenon side-stepped over his dead servant, never taking his eyes from the transforming Space Wolf.  His glowing, bladed fingers scratched at the air between them.  “You think you’ve destroyed my reserves, my samples,” the Night Lord said, “but I still have you.  And what a wonderful specimen you are.  The gene-seed I take from you will be far more valuable than everything I took from your brothers—”  
This was too much for Volstag to bear.  The beast within snapped its mental leash and the Space Wolf lunged forward.  He moved fast but had to dart around a steel table.  That obstacle allowed Abaenon the chance to react.  The Claw of Agony met Volstag as he pounced around the table, four humming blue blades slicing easily through the knotted muscles of his left shoulder.  Volstag threw himself to the right, smashing against a cabinet of medical instruments and torture toys but successfully avoiding the Claw’s follow-through, which certainly would have severed his entire arm.  Four deep cuts sizzled and smoldered, the smell of burnt flesh overwhelming all else.  Abaenon’s mechanical smile shined from beneath his hood.
  The apothecary then danced backward to a small arms locker in the corner.  He tore off the cabinet door with his Claw and seized a bolt pistol from within. 
But when the Night Lord turned to fire the Space Wolf was already there, centimeters from impact.  Both bodies slammed against the sundered locker and the bulkhead behind.  Savage instinct took hold and Volstag tore at the throat before him with elongated fangs.  Instead of flesh he found a mouthful of fragile tubes which now leaked their black fluids down his bearded chin.  The wulfen claws of his right hand dug deep into the flexible ribs of the Night Lord’s power armor and found a spring of red blood there.  But Volstag’s full-on charge had made him vulnerable as well; the four scalpel-like fingers of the Claw of Agony were now buried deep into his bare flank.  The searing heat of the blades pierced his vital organs. 
The Space Wolf pushed himself away, dragging some of Abaenon’s innards out as they parted.  Four streams of blood broke from the wounds left by the Claw of Agony, wounds that would not clot, despite his superior Astartes anatomy.  Just like the torture scars on his chest, the Claw’s power defied all healing.  And Volstag’s left arm now hung limp and nearly useless, vital muscles and tendons having been cut in the first attack.  But at least he was standing.
Abaenon’s dark form slumped to the floor.  The mechanical side of his face seems frozen now, as did the entire left side of his body; the hoses Volstag had bitten through must have provided his artificial parts with whatever they needed to function.  The black fluid mingled with red blood across his exposed intestines.  The pale, human side of his face seemed even whiter now.  With great effort, Abaenon raised his bolt pistol in an unsteady hand.  Volstag stepped forward again, paused.  The Night Lord’s hand shook, the pistol’s muzzle flashing wildly at and away from its target.  Volstag slapped the weapon away with his good arm and returned with claws to finish the job, ripping under the collar and hood and all but severing the dark apothecary’s head. 
Now three more bodies leaked blood and organs, the room stunk of death and chemical fumes, and broken glass littered the floor.  And despite the gory scene, Volstag felt a calmness come over him.  It was done.
There was pounding at the door and angry voices outside.  A few seconds later came a hissing sound, followed swiftly by green sparks spitting through the edge of the door.  A plasma cutter, Volstag realized. 
He looked around at the wrecked lab and ruined bodies, and drew a deep breath. 
“It doesn’t matter,” he told himself.  He had done all he could. That which he had denied himself hours before he could now succumb to: it was time to give himself fully over to the Wulfen.  Perhaps I’ll wake again in another tree, he thought.  The beast managed to escape before.  Though Volstag really didn’t care if he ever awoke from the rage again.  It wouldn’t matter now.  The traitors of Tundra Station would be found and dealt with by his coming Wolf brothers.  He’d destroyed any stolen gene-seed of Leman Russ and he’d had his vengeance.  All that remained was an honorable death.
He rolled his head about, feeling the muscles of his neck tighten and swell as his jaws bit down in anticipation.  The green sparks continued and the stink of burning metal added to the chemical bouquet of the room.  Pain flowed from each digit along the bones and into his wrists as the beast readied its claws.  His head started swimming.  Was it the fumes or was he simply losing domain over his own body?
The Space Wolf that was Volstag Dragonclaw faded back into the darkness of his mind, trusting the beast within to finish his legacy for him.


END

2 comments:

  1. I just put your Saga "Hunted" on my kindle I look forward to reading it the next few days!

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    Replies
    1. Awesome! Thank you! I didn't even know you could do that.

      And you know, if you enjoy that, I've got some other work you can get on Amazon and other sites...

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