The series of clicks that echoed on the bridge of the Valiant sounded like nothing they had ever heard before. That is was language was clear, there was structure in the sounds, however what was making the noise was not. A few furtive looks were passed around the bridge. The source of the noise appeared to be a small planet in the little known Andemi system, just a short way off their course.
Skepphon Alvar, Chapter Master of the Black Hands, turned to his First Captain and frowned, “What do you think?” he asked.
Leonaci Conucifer knew that Alvar would have his thoughts on the matter already; he would want to know what his were and whether they differed. “Could be anything sir,” he replied.
“Worth investigating do you think?”
“What do we know about where it’s coming from?” He was handed a data-slate which had the sparse details on and a small frown puckered his craggy brow. Looking back to the Chapter Master he nodded, “A colony was established there once but no contact has been had since the Great Crusade, might as well take a look,” he said.
“It might be nothing,” Alvar said.
“But it might be something and we would be remiss in our duty if we ignored it,” Conucifer countered. The Chapter Master clapped him on the shoulder plate and nodded.
“My thoughts exactly,” he said.
Twenty hours later, the Valiant was anchored in orbit around Omman, the fourth planet in the Andemic system. The vibrant green ball below them hung suspended in the depths of space almost like a promise. Conucifer stood with his team, five reliable Astartes from the second company, knowing that they were walking into a complete mystery. Inside the Razorback that was to be their back up, they waited in silence.
It did not take long for the Thunderhawk to deposit them on the surface of the planet, leaving them there to perform their duty; discover what was happening on the surface of Omman and where the noises had come from. The moment they were out the Thunderhawk, they scanned the location for any signs of life. The location was near where the long range sensors of the Battle Barge had picked something up. It seemed the most likely place for sentient beings to exist. There was no evidence of life other than the plants around them.
Most of the planet surface was swamp, which gave off a foul smelling gas, it gave the planet the green appearance they had seen from space. This particular part of the planet however was mostly free from water and most vegetation, instead the dull grey rock showed through providing a stable surface for the Razorback to drive over.
“That ridge there,” indicated Conucifer, “If anything is going to be living here it would be on that patch of ground.”
Scitek Thelis, the chaplain of the squad, gave a nod. “It would make the most sense,” he agreed. The ground turned rockier after that and it soon became clear that the tank would not be able to follow them up the craggy part of the ridge; they would have to do that on foot.
The squad left the tank behind and climbed up the ridge, the lingering stink of swamp filtering through the breathers as they went. Everything here was tainted with the smell of rotten eggs. The only sound that could be heard was the crunch of stone under boots as they travelled up the steep slope.
“Sir!” Torfis, one of the squad, said. He gestured to a piece of rock jutting from the ground that appeared to have deep claw marks imbedded into it. Conucifer walked over for a closer look and nodded, the chaplain followed close behind.
“I don’t know about this,” Conucifer said with a shake of his head. “Looks like scratches.”
“From an animal perhaps?” Torfis asked.
“No, they’re too precise,” Thelis said “If you look, they’re marked just so. The distance between them is indicative of intelligence,” he said, pointing out the marks. It was subtle but it was there.
“Alright, keep moving, we’re bound to find something sooner or later,” Conucifer said, “And it’s likely to have claws!” he added. There was a half-hearted chuckle from the others and they began to move forward once again.
Cresting the ridge, the wind picked up, tugging at the five of them as they slowly made their way over the rugged terrain. At one end of the ridge was what appeared to be a cave mouth; the shadows were thick, the wind blowing towards the looming maw. Conucifer indicated that was the way they were going; there was nothing else on the ridge of note, except more rocks.
The approach to the mouth of the cave was silent, the wind dying the closer they got. The gloom deepened. A disturbing smell emanated from the cave, permeating the air. Conucifer’s grip tightened on his bolter. His finger rested on the small bar that would send shots into the darkness. Taking a deep breath, he forced the anticipation down; he needed to think rationally. The rest of the team would be thinking the same; it was always so just before stepping into the unknown.
Just to be sure, Conucifer made sure his chain sword was ready too. The weapon was a favourite of his, ever trusty; there were things a chain sword could do that a bolter couldn’t. The squad moved forward, approaching the dark mouth of the cave. A drip of water, amplified by the silence like a metronome, ticked away. Rocks crumbled. His head snapped around. Nothing.
Then it happened…