"Fight, citizens of Desolous! You cry out that you have nothing to fight with, but it is written! A man who has nothing can still offer his life! Fight the heretic, slay the heretic even if you must use your bared and bloody hands to do it! Do not sit idle, lest you become the parasite! The Emperor knows, the Emperor is watching! Have faith in your heart and know the Emperor protects! Do not cry out that you lack weapons, for the keenest blade is righteous hatred!"
The bellow was endless from the massive speakers that constantly screamed from the uppermost reaches of Hive Veridan. The Hive itself was a fortress now, with every trace of it bristling with cannon. The fields around the city, once thick with the city's wastes, now were thick with another kind of waste, the bodies of heretics, and the great vehicles that were both armored machine of death and mobile shrine to the Ruinous Powers, hundreds of them now lying in newly made craters and ditches, warp-fire pouring from the holes rent in their plating by the roar and the clash of the Emperor's holy cannons.
Hive Veridan stood strong and resolute, but Hive Veridan would fall. Even as hundreds of fighters and transports fell from the skies on their mad approach to the city, a few were making their way through, disgorging hundreds and thousands of their deadly payloads, whether it be deadly weapons or Chaotic Warriors, and all the while the charge continued, traitors being cut down by the thousands by the weapons of the Imperial Guard, their bolters and autocannons and lasguns shredding the poorly armed, under-equipped cultists by the thousands. It was a massacre.
From a fortified tower, built to withstand shelling from anything short of an Imperator Titan, Lord-General Hasin Al-Assad watched the raging battle, his face pensive and unreadable. Inside his mind, he couldn't shake one thought.
How many of those men lying dead on the fields around the city were his Guardsmen? How many thousands? Of the millions-strong army he commanded, how many had turned their weapons on their own colonels and commissars? How could so many once-loyal men be so twisted?
"There will be a time to tally our dead later, General."
The Lord-General turned away from the small, heavily reinforced window, and nodded. Even after two centuries of conflict, and fighting at their side many times, he could not shake the feeling of childish awe he had at the sight of them. The speaker was a giant, standing eight feet tall at the shoulder and was at least twice as broad as the Lord-General, who himself was not a small man. With every step he made a thud like a small earthquake. Every movement he made seemed oddly gentle, like he was taking care not to accidentally put his fist through anything he touched.
He was Captain Victarius, of the Excoriators. Space Marine. One of the Emperor's Angels of Death.
"Yes, of course."
Victarius would not have been here without a reason - even with another Marine standing beside him, performing surgery on him, removing most of a Chaos Marine's broken chainsword from his side.
"Brother-Captain, if you would remain still, this is somewhat delicate work." Victarius' face betrayed only the slightest hint of pain as the blade was extracted from him, the occasional twitch of his lip as a huge, razor-sharp barb the size of a small knife was slid free.
"While I am being treated it seems like a good time for us to discuss our...strategy."
"Yes, Captain." One might make the mistake of thinking that a Lord-General of the Imperial Guard outranked a Marine Captain. That was not quite the case. Evidence of that was plainly presented on Captain Victarius' head, the four bolts indicating he had fought for the Imperium for twice as long as Lord-General Al-Assad had even been alive.
"Chaotic troops are pouring into the Hive. My Marines can hold the line, but the Word Bearers are here as well, and in great numbers."
"Excuse me! Excuse me!" A young Lieutenant burst into the command center, blanching as he saw the Lord-General and the Captain in deep conversation. "Your...I beg your pardon, my lords."
There was a short pause, then Captain Victarius spoke. "Speak."
"Astropath Secundus has sensed movement in the Warp. When we turned sensors to check, we found numerous warp portals forming. The Liberation Fleet has arrived, my Lords."
* * * * *
Even as they spoke, the Liberation Fleet was bustling, Guardsmen loading onto thousands of transports while Marines secured themselves in drop pods. The first wave was soon to launch, and those looking up from the Hive would see what would appear at first to be shooting stars, until it suddenly was something else entirely. Armored warriors - Marines of the Black Templars, Blood Ravens, Angels Encarmine, Redemptors, and many more crashed onto the battlefield. Dreadnoughts burst free from drop pods, letting loose wave after wave of assault cannon fire that reduced cultists to a spray of viscera, or unleashed waves of fire from Multi-Meltas that turned tanks into quivering puddles of scrap and men into puffs of steam, or engaged in close range, flamers belching fire that turned heretic into torch, gripping and throwing and tearing into the weak bodies of the malefactor.
Storms of dropships descended from the sky, disgorging millions of guardsmen into Hive Veridan to retake the lower reaches. In the depths of the city, the men and women of the Valhallan Ice Warriors, Tallarn Desert Raiders, Death Korps of Krieg, Cadian Shock Troops, Elysian Drop Troops, and so many others poured into the city, or landed massive battalions of tanks and artillery to restore superiority.
Overhead, swarms of Imperial Navy fighters retook the skies, Chaos fliers falling in droves under their guns, while bombers delivered their payloads, reducing the heretical artillery to little more than slag and sending their soldiers running for the hills, where they were gunned down by guardsman and marine.
Further above still, battleships and cruisers exchanged lance and missile fire, both rocking under the weight of continent-destroying firepower smashing against void shields and meters-thick layers of adamantium plating. The Imperium carried the day here as well, the warships of Chaos, anointed with their foul sigils and devoted to the ruinous powers unable to stand against the furious might of the Emperor's judgment as delivered by torpedo and macrocannon, or the blaze of the Emperor's wrath as brought by lance and nova cannon, the great cathedral-ships of the Chaos Gods breaking apart or crashing to the moon under the relentless force of the Imperium of Man.
* * * * *
The battle raged still, and yet Inquisitor Markarova could already feel the cries of triumph. How could they feel victory already? They had routed a company, a battalion, a fleet. The Liberation Fleet's strike was like a bee stinging at the neck of a great dragon. If the dragon even deigned to notice them it was an imperceptible flinch. Chaos was unstoppable, and while that rent, that tear in the Materium still existed, Desolous was damned.
"Inquisitor Markarova." She turned around as she was addressed and nodded.
"The battle is over, the skies are clear. It is safe for me to descend."
"Yes, Inquisitor." The personnel aboard Excruciatum Hereticus had gotten used to the Inquisitor seeming to know just about everything before she was informed, although there wasn't any question why, she carried her Force Staff openly - the Inquisitor liked to tap it as she walked down the corridors of the upper reaches of the ship, a reminder that she was there - she was watching. She knew their minds, knew their little blasphemies, their minute heresies - and for the moment she may not care, but she was filing them away in her mind.
"Tell my team to join me aboard my personal craft. They know where to find it."