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On the world of Orgal VI, a strange skin-plague billows through the population. Three squads of the 835th Psian Pegasi are despatched to rescue the planetary governor, Maas Deitral, from the plague and deliver him to the Adeptus Aministratum for debrief. However, on penetrating the stained armourglass of Deitral's inner sanctum, the Pegasi find that their quarry is beset by cyclopean Daemons, his dwindling bodyguard fighting desperately to keep them at bay.
The Pegasi waste no time in scouring the throne room of infestation, sending blistering volleys into each of the Plaguebearers in turn and then using meltaguns to explosively evaporate the sludge-beasts that begin to rise up from the palace's polluted indoor lakes. With typical efficiency, the Scions clamp a spare respmask over the governor's face and their medic begins to tend to his grievous injuries. After fitting the governor with his own grav-chute and reversing the repulsor fields, the Pegasi rocket skyward, reaching their Valkyrie transport and leaving the planet.
By nightfall, the Pegasi have delivered their prize to a beige-hulled spaceship of the Administratum, and depart for their next mission. However, during Deitral's extraction and interrogation, the Administratum Adepts' ship suffers a critical biohazard breach. The vessel is subject to immediate quarantine and, when the breach infests the entire ship, summary extermination by order of Sector Command.
The fortress planet of Helwynd, its gradual corruption hastened by the renegade Space Marines of the Company of Misery, declares itself the heartworld of the Empire of Despair. Helwynd slowly pollutes the other worlds in system with its bleak message, each broadcast robbing hope and loyalty from all those who hear it. The doom-mongering reaches not only the divinatory arrays of the local Schola Progenium but also the keen ears of the Flesh Tearers on the nearby feral planet of Cretacia.
Both the Flesh Tearers and the Militarum Tempestus hasten to Helwynd with all speed. The Cretacians get there first, though to their mounting fury their Drop Pod assaults are swiftly countered by the Firestorm Nexuses that slide out from hidden bases in the planet's hillsides. Even the Stormravens and Thunderhawks that enter low orbit are forced to disengage by blistering fusillades of lascannon fire. The planet's defence net seems all but impregnable and, for a time, the Flesh Tearers are held at bay.
When the drop ships of the 3rd Alphic Jackals enter orbit, Tempestor Prime Vigilian volunteers his men for an orbital drop that he believes will thwart the defences. Turning his ships so their hulls are parallel to the planet's surface, Vigilian orders his Scions to cram themselves into each of the ship's starboard airlocks before forcefully ejecting them towards the planet.
Though each trooper is protected from atmos-burn by little more than carapace armour and an ionised body-shroud of pressed alloy, the Scions hurtle towards the ground in tight formation. Vigilian's gamble pays off, for the individual soldiers are small enough to evade notice from the automated defences below, and their energy signatures are light enough to register as a shower of space debris.
Discarding their shrouds once they enter the atmosphere proper, the Scions activate their grav-chutes and glide through the night to land undetected in the heart of the enemy complexes. Here the 3rd Alphic Jackals are in their element, disabling one Nexus after another and holding the facilities against the rebel forces with grim resolve.
As the defence network falls, the contrails of Flesh Tearers ships scar the skies once more, and the Space Marines make planetfall in great number. The carnage that follows is spectacular as the wrath of Cretacia's finest rips apart rebel soldier and renegade Space Marine alike. Many of the planet's would-be rulers withdraw in the face of the fearsome assault, but they soon find their routes of retreat have already been cut off by cordons of Militarum Tempestus troopers. Those few vessels that attempt to escape off-world are shot down by their own Firestorm Nexuses, each now taken over by Imperial crews.
The rebel forces are exterminated to a man. When the Space Marines holster their bloodied weapons and gather to make for their ships, the Militarum Tempestus have already left without a word.
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