The Jericho Reach is a damned stretch of stars drowned in a bloody tide of war. This once-Imperial domain is beset on all sides by the terrors of the xenos and the evil of darkhearted men. Cast amid its war-torn and threatened worlds is the industrial moon of Tantalus in the embattled Castobel system in that part of the Reach known as the Orpheus Salient. For more than five Solar months now, the Castobel system has come under the assault of the all-devouring Tyranid menace, and Tantalus is no exception. While the fate of the hive world of Castobel that gives this star system its name hangs in the balance still, Tantalus has not been so fortunate, and the outlying colony is now in its final death throes.
With the battle for Tantalus lost, and the jaws of the Tyranids closing inexorably around this moon, the few survivors that remain are desperately caught between a doomed struggle to survive and desperate hopes for escape. However, the lives of all that remain can now be measured in no more than hours. The fall of Tantalus and the horrific deaths of its inhabitants may not have been entirely in vain—a small Adeptus Mechanicus Biologis contingent was present studying local life on Tantalus at the time of the first attack. Stranded on Tantalus, they took the opportunity to turn their unflinching gaze upon the monstrous life forms that came to devour the world. Their priceless data on the bio-forms and attack-patterns of Hive Fleet Dagon, bought at the sacrifice of most of the Magos’ own lives, may yet prove invaluable to the war in the Orpheus Salient and must be claimed by the Deathwatch, whatever the cost.
For Tantalus, the end has come very abruptly. The battle was tipped in the Tyranids’ favour by the appearance of one of their bio-ships bringing heavy reinforcements in orbit around the industrial moon. As fighting against the vanguard organisms was already desperate below, the bio-ship was able to encroach almost unopposed, and unleashed wave after wave of spore pods heavy with monstrous predator-forms and lethal parasites which have already slaughtered the last serious Imperial resistance and begun to poison and consume Tantalus’s biosphere. Unable to break through the Tyranid assault and escape off-world, the shuttle carrying the last member of the Mechanicus team, Magos Vyakai, fled for Tantalus’s southern polar regions that had not been overran thus far. Unfortunately, it was brought down by the Tyranids a few dozen kilometres short of the relative safety of the polar ice fields, crashing near a promethium extraction complex designated Pyroclast-Gamma-9. Since the shuttle’s crash landing, fragmented transmissions from the Magos indicate both his personal survival and that of the vital datacore he is carrying. The Deathwatch frigate Thunder’s Word that had been due to rendezvous with the escape shuttle is now scrambling a last minute extraction mission; a Kill-team is to be deployed immediately to Pyroclast Gamma-9. The last transmission was three hours ago before contact was lost in the static storm. This communication indicated that vanguard Tyranid predators had been sighted and the great devouring swarm could not be far behind. The sands of time are running out, and it remains to be seen whether the Deathwatch team can locate Magos Vyakai and escape with the datacore, or whether the horror of the Tyranids will lay claim to all.