Sorry for the late post. It took me some time to write this one.
Picus. Another hell hole for men to fight and die in. Once a pristine agriworld, covered with trees of ripe fruits and great fields of grazing Grox and native livestock. Now a blasted wasteland in most areas. Its cities in ruin, its vast forests burning, the few pockets of those still brave enough to resist the Chaos occupation having the life choked out of them in ever shrinking territories.
And this damned airfield is about the last place I wanted to die Captain Sorte thought to himself bitterly, as he clutched his Lasgun against his chest.
Las bolts and solid slugs flashed and whizzed about in both directions for a while now, the occasional explosive retort of a tank or savage bark of a Heavy bolter breaking the din, but Captain Sorte knew the real assault was soon to come. And when it finally came upon them they wouldn’t last long.
In the past two months he saw his units numbers become fewer and fewer each day. Of his original 1000 men, barely 400 were still alive. Some of the men now weren’t even trained soldiers, his real solider count still left of his original brigade probably closer to something like a hundred men. The other 300 being mostly militia. Desperate in their fight for their home many civilians picked up weapons from dead soldiers and fought on themselves. Some were smart enough to hook up with units as his. But now his unit would be the only one left as far as Sorte knew.
All he could do now was defend this damned airfield they found two weeks earlier. It was just another speck on the map abandoned long ago by local PDF forces.
There wasn’t much left. All planes were gone, save for a few ancient rust buckets who haven’t been used in decades. They did find some small-arms, two AA-gun carriers, four chimera’s and two rusty Leman-russ tanks. An Exterminator and a Conqueror. As luck would have it most of this stuff was barely able to move so they towed the armor out and dug in. The guns thankfully still worked. There was no place to run anyway and this place was as good as any other for a fight.
At least now they had more of a fighting chance than before, which for all they had wasn’t worth much. Those tanks being just about the only thing keeping his ragged band of troops alive.
They had been surrounded and outnumbered for three days now, huddled close in their foxholes. Sorte had hastily arranged for the defence with his remaining sergeants and Lieutenant Heath, an old war-horse lucky to be alive with what was left of the battalion. The 2 tanks were dug in, hull down, in the gap between the two runways, facing east towards the remains of a local forest and the main defence around the terminal. The two tanks arranged in a ‘V’ shape to protect the ammo dumps and mortar pits behind them. The AA were set to ground fire and Chimeras were turned side on and reinforced with dirt. Their broadside of lasguns facing out over the open ground and foxholes. Most of the infantry however were set up around the terminal building, with some 30 men barricaded inside. The rest, along with Sorte, were huddled in two-man foxholes arranged in a staggered pattern. Ready to attempt to see off an attack.
It was the best they could have done with the time and resources they had but the situation was still grim. Even if the the Aquila station held, they couldn't expect reinforcement… until about an hour ago. There was some contact over the Vox with Imperial space ships, telling him his new call sign was Trojan and to expect reinforcements. They were under way, they had told him, but Sorte still had no idea when they would actually arrive.
He just told his boys they were coming. It was the best news many had heard in months. It was certainly enough to bring some small ray of hope to Store's own bitter and desperate mind.
As Sorte rounded of his inner monologue, the enemy war-horns sounded and the incoming fire intensified, the rumbling of engines coming from the burnt-out forest. Their final attack was coming.
Sorte jumped to his feet, calling out over the fire “Wakey wakey, ladies! The heretics are coming! Get on the guns! Vox the Tanks, I want suppressive fire on the tree line now! For the Emperor!” And may he have mercy on our souls. He thought, as he cradled his Mk XI Mars-Pattern Lasgun and squeezed off a long burst into the rising tide of enemy fire.
The battle was a furious mess. Green-ish chaos las-bolts answered by red imperial ones, paired with the orange tracer of autocannons and the odd stream of yellow rocket trails from Heavy bolter rounds. The few mortars they had left were hard at action, pumping out their shells almost continuously. Soon they would have to slow down or they would cook a round off and blow themselves up. Something they could not afford to happen. Vox was almost useless on top of that, channels filled with static from dead lines or incomprehensible chatter and shouting. Explosions, shouting and screams from those who wished they were dead made it incredibly hard to understand what the other was saying even without them. Sorte giving up very quickly on trying to give any orders during the fight.
Wave upon wave of enemy cultists and traitors kept coming. With his rifle at his shoulder he ushered prayers to the emperor and continued firing. Focusing on aiming, the action of firing his weapon, and the dropping of his chosen targets. Sorte trying his hardest not to notice the the blood and brains of his former comrade beside him, or that the heretics were getting ever-closer to his hole. He was dimly aware of a shadow slowly enveloping the battle, Sorte spared a glance upward to see the underside of two hulking great warships drifting its way over to the airfield he was fighting for.
Sorte dropped to his knees, clasped his hands together, and prayed harder than he ever had in his life. He and his men and fought and died long enough, and he awaited blessed release from this hell.
“Two Destroyers are approaching and you want to send marines on raptors down to the surface! Have you lost your mind!? They’ll be torn apart! If not by the warships then surely by the guns on the ground!” Howard virtually roared at The Blue standing across from him.
“Well Colonel I don't know if you’ve noticed but those surviving ground forces are not exactly having a picnic! We can't afford to delay our arrival by fighting with petty escorts! We can easily crush them and get reinforcements to the ground if you didn't have such a weak stomach for combat!” The Imperial retorted back, a savage snarl in his voice, Howard looked about ready to throttle him to death.
Price looked down at his plotting table, drowning out his bickering executive officers.
The bulk of the enemy fleet had been driven away, as planned, but two Iconoclast destroyers had broken past the fleet and were on their way to intercept them. He knew Howard was right, they could indeed easily destroy them without risking marine lives, but he also knew Goradin’s observation that the ground forces couldn’t hold that long was also true.
Come on Price, think of something! He thought, growing frustrated, when an idea suddenly hit him.
“Pipe down! Both of you!” The two men reluctantly turning to face their commander. “You are both right. We can't waste time fighting the Iconoclasts, or we lose the fight on the ground” Goradin turned to look at Howard with a smug and utterly triumphant grin “BUT!” Price added, supremely irritated by the face, “We can't risk the lives of my men trying to get support down there while those destroyers are close by. And don’t ever do that face again, or I will launch you out of the airlock” Goradin looked slightly stunned for a second before straightening himself up and trying to regain his composure.
“Well John, what do you suggest?” Howard asked
“I suggest an orbital drop. We burn hard towards the planet and punch through the atmosphere. The sonic boom and flaming mass should scare off the two destroyers, if what Goradin tells us is correct, they should be pirate mercenaries and won't have the stomach for facing up to a 3K long hulk of metal flying at them. We can launch Vipers on the way down to give close air support and maybe a few Raptors. When they are clear we jump into low orbit and provide further support from there and see off the destroyers if they come back. Its risky, but it should allow us to complete our mission with minimal casualties.”
Both Goradin and Howard looked at each other, then back at Price, “What?!” they said in unison.
“You heard me! Have a better plan, either of you?” They exchanged another look “No sir.”
Sorte’s prayer was interrupted by a loud boom, and the now thoroughly withered captain looked up at the sky to see a bright light descending from the heavens. Well Sorte. You’ve well and truly lost it. He thought to himself, squinting to try and make sense of what he was looking at. Upon closer inspection, it looked like a great burning mass of metal was hurtling towards Picus at terminal velocity… The captain just continued to stare at the strange mass, unable to believe or comprehend what he was looking at.
The enemy destroyers, their captains in a panic at the new development, rapidly accelerating away with all the speed they could muster towards the horizon. Sorte neither noticed nor particularly cared anymore. His prayer, for the first time in his life, had been answered.
The Invictus, far above, had burned right through Picus’ atmosphere, dropping rapidly. Its hull glowed red by the friction of the thick planetary atmosphere, leaving behind a wall of fire dozens of meters high.
“Altitude hundred five thousand and falling like a rock!” sounded through the CIC.
“Launch! Launch them all!” Howard called down the horn while Price ordered: “Standby FTL!”
8 Raptors that had been waiting and loaded flew out of the main Launch pods at top-speed, Vipers and Strike Vipers ejecting from the launch tubes along the Pods’ broadsides.
Duster’s Strike Viper shook restlessly in the launch tube. With the tube doors open he could see the inferno raging outside.
“Cleared to launch!” sounded in his headset.
“Whelp, this is a new one.” Duster mumbled before being shot out through the wall of fire, into the Picus atmosphere together with 79 other craft.
“All birds are clear!” Shouted Goradin from his station.
“Stand-by……………. JUMP!” Price shouted, and with a great flash, Invictus disappeared. A mere 500 metres from the surface of Picus.
Everyone within a 5 kilometer radius, not looking away, was temporarily blinded by the bright flash of the Invictus FTL jump. With almost 3 cubic kilometers of metal gone, the void left behind collapsed with a giant sonic boom, throwing about people and debris even remotely close to the event and sucking up dust and pebbles in every direction at the vacuum-based disturbance. Sorte quickly ducked down and lowered his head to shield his face against the dust-storm, sand and pebbles ticking against his helmet and skin. Eyes dazzled and hands shaking in shock.
Moments later his vox began to sound:
“Trojan 2-1, Trojan 2-1 this is Hawk 1. Come in.”
Struck with disbelief Sorte just looked over at the Voxcaster for several long moments. Staring. He could hardly believe what he was promised by the Navy was actually occurring. Certainly an Improvement over Guard high command… Sorte mused in his typically cynical inner dialogue.
“Trojan 2-1, Trojan 2-1 this is Hawk 1, Callsign Duster. Come in.”
Slowly he approached the Vox and picked up the horn.
“This is… This is Trojan 2-1. Aye. Captain Sorte of the 122nd Guard-PDF Infantry Battalion. Are you our Navy reinforcements?” The answer seemed obvious, but Sorte had to ask to settle his confused mind.
“That’s affirmative! You’ve got eight Shuttles with Marines inbound to your location. I suggest you clear an LZ for them to land. ETA three minutes.”
Thank the Emperor. “Roger that Duster, can you provide Close Air Support?” Please say yes. Sorte wasn't even completely sure he’d have the wafer thin defence he did have without some kind of heavy firepower.
“You’ve got nine fighters and seventy strikers at your disposal Captain. We’ll do what we can. Better tell your guys to get real small in their holes and mark your lines. We can’t see friend from foe from up here.”
By the Throne! This keeps getting better! “Understood. Sorte out!” he threw down the mic, and looked around wildly for surviving men. The Chaos attack had noticeably eased in shock, barely any fire being exchanged, it barely registered as he turned right turned and finally spotted a few of his men several fox-holes along from him. Theirs being a slit accommodating 6 men as opposed to the two-man hole Sorte currently found himself in.
He recognised two of them from his original company. Sorte sucked in and projected his voice over to them “Merkin! Doyle! Get behind that depression behind us and prep an LZ for incoming reinforcements! Use det-cord if you have to! Go!” the men didn't need it repeating. While fire was still relatively light, they ran off at meteoric pace back and away from the line.
He turned to his left to see what he could scavenge from his dead Vox officer when he spotted a boy from the malitia in the Fox hole directly next to his. Barely out of his teens, he was showing his metal by hammering the line with his autogun. Either not noticing or recovering quickly from the surprise arrivals.
“You! Boy! What’s your name?” Sorte shouted, lugging up the Caster and scurrying the short distance between the two fox holes, narrowly avoiding a hail of Autogun slugs.
The boy looked around startled, swinging his gun around, before realising his Captain was the one scurrying toward him. The boy lowed the weapon, swallowed, and replied weakly: “Dannings, sir.”
“Ever worked with one of these?” Sorte asked, nodding to the caster dropped at his feet.
He looked down at it. “Can’t say I have sir. Best I had was a short-range toy and a radio I used to tinker with.” Nervousness and anxiety clear in his voice.
“That’s good enough. You just volunteered to be my Vox officer. Congratulations on the Promotion. Now pick this piece of crap up and stick to my ass from now on, understood? You are now our lifeline!”
“Yes sir!” the boy replied, feeling both proud for vote of confidence and now nervous of the immense pressure now lying on his shoulders rather than performance anxiety.
“First order for ya. Drown out all vox noise and send to all our boys: friendly ships incoming, watch fire. Stay in your holes and mark our lines. Use smokes to mark out position. Friendly CAS inbound. You got that?”
Dannings nodded and started working with the caster right away, playing with the switches and knobs.
The kid sure looked more confident with a vox than shooting a rifle Sorte reflected, Let’s hope he is proficient with it too.
The arch-enemy’s forces were in disarray after Invictus made its dynamic entry. Soldiers stunned, blinded, and unsure of how to proceed with what had seemed like an easy victory, paralysing the attack. The front line had stalled, and more infantry and the first vehicles pouring out of the Forest edge had created a target-rich environment. It took a few moments before they realised there were strikers inbound, once they did the Chaos force was in motion again. Scurrying for cover in the forest, rushing forwards into captured foxholes, while the Hydras they had in the area roared out wave after wave of FLAK. It would be far too little too late for many of them. But the Hydra batteries were a nasty hazard for Invictus’ planes.
“Wow, someone really isn’t happy to see us.” seeing the thick black blanket of lead rising up to greet them from the Hydras on the ground.
“Damn right Wizzo” Duster replied while jinking away from the wall of fire. “Shall we return the favour?”
“Already on it. Got one mobile AA at one O'clock at five KM.”
“Rifle!” Duster called in his radio while pulling the trigger, calling his shot.
The optical seeker found the heat-signature of the enemy Hydra battery and sped towards it at Supersonic speeds. Just over a dozen seconds later the missile impacted the lightly armored weapons carrier and detonated inside, tearing the vehicle apart in a brilliant orange fireball. Secondary explosions cutting down surrounding Infantry in the Forest.
“Whelp, that shut them up.” the Wizzo commented, looking over at the rising column of thick black smoke.
“Yup, but he isn’t the only one down there” Duster replied before switching to his radio. “Duster to all Planetary units. Mobile triple-A units in the area, priority one targets. Stay at altitude and scan your sectors. We need confirmation of whose friendly down there. All Hawk Units, form a ring up high, pick your targets before your run in. By the numbers people. We can’t lose any ships here. No time to Frack about!”
He was answered by multiple acknowledgements over the net.
All craft rose to altitude and formed a giant rotating wheel of strike craft orbiting the combat zone, waiting for the lines to be marked. White smoke markers began to rise from the airfields outer edges. Trojan had marked their holdings.
“We’re in business!” someone exclaimed over the comm. And the craft set in for their first pass. Diving like great predatory birds after their prey.
The smoke-markers were barely active before Sorte could see a dozen or so small Strike Craft screaming down towards the enemy troops mere dozens of meters in front of him. Large streams of tracers and FLAK arched up into the sky, trying to hit the small craft. They were met with missile-fire aimed right at the source, explosions accompanied by shouts and screams marking the termination of the missile's trajectory. Stopping whatever had been shooting at them in very short order.
Each craft came down low and dropped two canisters which quickly exploded in massive fireballs almost a hundred meters long, enveloping dozens of enemy troops with them with every blast. Their deaths marked by screams and the foul stench of corrupted and burning flesh. Within minutes the airfield was practically surrounded by fire. Sorte winced and felt the immense heat burning, but cracked a savage grin. A truly fitting end for the heretic.
The fire temporarily isolated the airfield, leaving only small lanes open where the fires failed to overlap. In spite of the blocked path, enemy troopers and APC’s attempted to resume the assault, flowing out of the surrounding woods. To Duster the mass of troops looked like a heap of ants crawling towards their target. Seeing the opportunity he swooped his Strike-Viper down and started his attack run, shortly followed by two wingmen.
Sorte ripple-dropped cluster-bombs above the highest concentration of enemy troops he could find. Before the traitors could react, the area was saturated with hundreds of small bomblets which exploded on impact, severing limbs and ripping apart bodies. His wingmen executed expert rocket-strikes on the lightly armored APC’s. Some managed to get a few shots off with their side-mounted lasguns, before getting gutted by armour-piercing rockets exploding inside and eviscerated anything in their way.
All that was left behind being scored and gored earth, punctuated only by the screams of the dying and the burning wrecks of torn up APCs.
The three strikers pulled up hard to rejoin the formation above, paired with las-shots and hard-rounds from below. A stray shot managed to graze the wing of Dusters plane, but did not do any damage worth thinking about.
Duster’s flight barely reached formation altitude before their place was filled by two other strikers bearing down on the enemy infantry, drowning them in fireballs of their own. The first managed to break away clean without any issues. The second wasn’t that lucky. He came in too fast, restricting his ability to move with tremendous G-forces. He steered clear of the ground, but was focussed down by an enemy Hydra battery and pintle-mounted autocannons. The intense fire shredded his right wing, set his engines ablaze and killed the pilot in the peppered cockpit. His Wizzo somehow managed to survive, but being trapped in a dying plane with a dead pilot his life ended quickly as the plane fell down towards the planet. The remaining weapons detonating on impact with a massive explosion.
Regardless of the loss of their fellow pilot the craft kept their attack runs up around the entire perimeter, halting the enemy advance and preventing them overrunning the airfield.
The open plains separating the field from the surrounding forest wasn’t much wider than about five hundred meters, but was soon filled with the dead and dying among storming enemy forces. Dead and burning wrecks of weaponized trucks, APC’s and a few odd tanks marked their demise with thick black smoke billowing from within.
Sorte looked out over the display of Carnage and Destruction and was only far too aware that without the quick support of the strange small strikers, he and his men would have faced a terrible demise in a not so distant future. The scenes before him most likely occurring among his own forces.
Not long after he heard a high-pitched screech of whining engines coming down. Sorte turned to see several small, fat, craft descending towards the depression Merkin and Doyle had cleared. The promised reinforcements finally started to arrive at the LZ. He tapped Dannings on the shoulder to follow and ran towards the landing spacecraft at the low of the field. They attracted virtually no fire despite breaking cover, all Heretical eyes fixed on the sky in terror.
Before the shuttles could touch down, dark-uniformed soldiers had already started to jump down and ran towards his general direction. As soon as the craft were empty they pulled up again and were gone as soon as they arrived.
“Captain MacTavish, Colonial Marines. You the one in charge here?” the stranger officer asked, shouting over the noise of Raptor engines, screams of hundreds of dying soldiers and heavy gunfire.
Sorte hesitated. The men were not wearing uniforms he recognized from the Uplifting Primer or his own experiences, they did not appear at all like Imperial soldiers judging by their uniform and weaponry, but Sorte reasoned that they must be on their side judging by the air support.
“Captain Sorte, Guard-PDF, or what is left of it.” Sorte replied. “I can see you aren’t imperial, but I can’t afford to be picky right now. What do you have for me?”
“Sixty of my best men. We’ve got a few marksmen and LMG’s with us. Second wave is under way, fifteen minutes!”
“Alright, it’ll have to do, spread your troops out along the line. We could use some cover fire from the terminal. Heath’s Autocannons and Heavy Bolters could use a break. If you have snipers, put them there and up the hill to the south. Also, reinforce Beta company at the creek bed to the southeast if you got men to spare. They got hit hard before you could arrive and are probably locked in hand-to hand fighting as we speak.” if they are still alive Sorte thought cynically to himself. Beta company being undermanned from fighting before they got stuck at the airfield, but he needed something to cover the southern flank.
Tavish nodded to Sorte and immediately turned to his men “Mcdonnell, Doyle. Pick two snipers and get your MG’s in that terminal, go!”
Four men immediately scurried away and headed for their post.
“Gaz, get your men to the creek-bed. Take third squad with you, spread out along the line. The rest of you on me!”
About half the group kept low and hurried to the south and disappeared from view.
The remaining troops stayed with MacTavish who followed the PDF Captain to his command-post close to the LZ, leading his men from there to the dug-in Leman Russ tanks. “What’s the situation here Cap?” MacTavish asked after diving into a fox-hole close to the tanks, a hail of lasbolts and Autogun slugs flying overhead at the movement around the airfield.
Sorte sighed as he thought how screwed his men truly were before reinforcements arrived, but delayed barely a moment in his reply “We’ve been flat to the board for weeks and we are obviously outnumbered.” He said, gesturing around at the forest, still regurgitating fresh Chaos troops. “Ammo and rations are low. We have kept ourselves going on abandoned equipment and local floria, thank the Emperor for Agri-Worlds. One thing we are desperate for are medical supplies. I can barely do anything for my wounded” Sorte continued. His last words almost drowned out by a loud boom of the Conquers main gun firing. A captured trench suddenly erupting from the ground as the heavy High Explosive ended a group of traitor Infantry getting too close to the command post. The boom followed shortly by a long stream of orange shells and rapid fire explosions, closely followed by an exploding enemy tank, the Exterminator adding yet another of its own contributions to the carnage.
Sorte gestured upwards, not wanting to contest with the noise of the warmachines. “What is the story up above?” he shouted, after the outburst had concluded itself.
“In short, two space-carriers and two escorts are tearing the red bastards a new one. These strike craft should give them some pause. If we can hold out till tomorrow, maybe half a day later, we’re good. Liberation fleet should be here by then. Till then we’re it! ‘Scuse me” he remarked as he bumped the Imperial away, shooting down two charging Chaos Fanatics that had gotten through the tanks’ formidable fire envelope.
The long bursts of Colonial rifles and machine-guns soon joined the barking of Autoguns and Cracking Las-rifles all around.
-Beta Company, Southern Flank, The Creek Bed-
“Manny, where the hell are you?” the young soldier grunted under his breath. His long-time friend and comrade-in-arms had sped off to the munitions dump for spare charge-packs and ammo-mags. Throne knows where he was now, almost everyone in his squad was running low. Whatever they had left wouldn’t last long. The sarge had ordered everyone on single-shot. Full auto would only waste precious ammo. Manny should have been back by now. The soldier hoped he would be back soon or he would run dry, the heretics where showing none of the restraint or hesitation they had around the Terminal and command centre. He had three magazines left, and the enemy was barely dozens of metres away from him. He’d already been forced to watch the trench line in front of him fall, the men within physically torn apart by the frenzied barely-human horde of renegades.
Masses of enemy soldiers came charging towards his position. The Soldier knew what would happen if they reached him, he knew his duty to the emperor, and he would not fail in his sight. He fired in single-shot, as he had been ordered, each heavy round ripping through a heretic and sending it tumbling to the ground. Three, Four, Five, dropping in rapid succession before the click sounded; the weapon demanding it be fed ammunition.
In a bid to keep the horde at bay he slung his rifle to the side and reached for the side arm. He had only one mag, but it should have kept them at bay a little while longer... Too little, far too late. The enemy troops were already within arms reach.
The soldier emptied his autopistol into the charging chaos troops, killing three, but rapidly expending his finite resource of ammunition. With no time to reload his rifle he swung the weapon up like a club and sunk the long savage-looking bayonet on it into the heretics throat. The assailant, not immediately killed, recoiled back making choking noises as foul and corrupted blood spurted across the soldier's face and coated his weapon. He immediately brought his rifle up high and stabbed him again with his fixed bayonet directly through his rotting gut, sending the enemy soldier into agonizing death screams before it finally surrendered its cursed life.
Not stopping for a second, he swung round to face two other assailants that had jumped into his Fox-Hole. One attempted to batter the Imperial with what looked like a spiked club, the soldier ducked right and slashed upwards from down low, castrating and disemboweling the traitor in one clean motion as it dropped to the side clutching it’s stinking guts. The second rushed its way past its former comrade clutching a Lasrifle fixed with a rusted bayonet. The Imperial swatted the jab aside but received a faceful of rifle-butt as the traitor smoothly followed up the attack with a harsh bash. Dazed, and off balance, the Imperial made a wild slash at the blurred shape of his assailant in desperation. He got lucky. The blade connecting with the throat of the trooper. The enemy dropping to his knees and keeling over silently, windpipe severed. The Soldier was young and in his prime, but blinking away the dazed haze of the strike he had just received and now thoroughly exhausted from weeks of fatigue and heavy fighting, he was easily at his most vulnerable by that point.
Barely recovered, he heard the sound of more running from the heretics. He turned and raised, readying for another bayonet fight. Then he heard a sharp snap and whistle of a bullet passing by his head, shortly followed by the crack of a skull being ripped apart by an explosive. He turned to face the disturbance, seeing a huge black-uniformed soldier running up to him, blasting away with his exotic-looking bullpup rifle.
The bulky man dropped down into his foxhole and pressed his back against the dirt wall for cover. “You Ok?” The black uniformed soldier asked. “What’s your name son?”
The Imperial soldier looked puzzled for a second, but the adrenaline cut through his confusion and he nodded to him, finally reloading his autogun. “Name’s Lem. Thanks for that! Not sure I could take another one” making a lazy wave to the butchered and rotting corpses around him, panting heavily.
“Don’t mention it. Call me Camo” he said before popping up and letting a burst loose at the enemy, the next wave initiating its assault hot on the heels of the last. Looking through his sights the colonial saw the disgusting shapes of the enemy troops, while they were alive, up close for the first time. These were not the soldiers he was used to fighting. He had fought men like himself for his entire career. But never this. These men resembled drowned and rotten swamp-monsters more than men. Squealing and screaming, the men in torn and faded uniforms kept charging the line.
In the ongoing onslaught the two men covered each other's backs, though they barely knew the other's name, and both had different drives to fight, they were united as soldiers by their shared need to eliminate the enemy they faced. Camo, clearly being an experienced soldier, saved Lem on more than one occasion, throwing him to the side to cut down flanking enemies. Lem returned the favour on one or two occasions, neatly cutting down any who got too close to his only immediate support and providing cover in the form of their mutilated bodies to absorb incoming fire.
Camo was absorbed in the action and his dedication to duty when he heard a sound which would chill any soldier to the bone. It was the clicking sound of a gun running out of ammunition. He turned and saw Lem franticly looking for a spare mag to slam into his gun. Desperate to fulfil his equipments demands.
It was no use. All his rounds were spent. Lem just swallowed and prepared for more hand to hand combat. If he died he did so fighting, in the Emperor’s name, to the bitter end.
Looking at the pale and ruined face of the withered Imperial, Camo un-holstered his sidearm and tossed it over.
“I take em at range. You keep doing what you do best! Keep em off my back. You got twenty rounds a mag. Six mags left. Make em count!”
Lem stared at Camo like he’d grown a second head, but quickly recovered, nodding and starting to blast away at any target he was sure he could hit. The pistol looked bulky, had a big secondary barrel and trigger, but was lighter than anything he had held before. Certainly no Bolt Pistol. The recoil was significant, but lighter than he was accustomed to, the stopping power was still more than enough to drop a storming foe.
Soon the sharp burp of Camo’s automatic rifle joined the loud bang of Lem’s side arm fire. The two warriors continuing their stalwart stand, as hell unleashed upon them all around.
-Forest Edge, Renegade forward command-
The day had gone from bad to worse for the traitor colonel. He had been given the honour of crushing the last bastion of loyalist defence for being the first defector, only to be foiled by an uninvited guest. He felt like weeping. Years of preparation and shady dealings slipping from his grasp, even as his former PDF regiments were blessed by Father Nurgle's first touch. Is this my trial, oh great plague farther? If so I will endure it!
He was interrupted by a pained wailing and his name being called.
He turned to see General Pallion and two of his fanatics entering his command centre, cutting down his unfortunate bodyguard. All dressed in the crimson red and bronze armour of all those who worshiped the god of violence and bloodshed.
“Colonel Davis!” He screamed in a high, demented voice, “What is the meaning of this incompetence!?”
Davis wheezed out a sigh, a single racking cough shaking his body as flies escaped his bloated lungs, “Maybe if you stopped killing my body guards I would be more secure in my position! Besides, we could not have anticipated these… interlopers…” Davis trailed off, gesturing up to the speck in the sky, where Invictus watched and waited.
“Do not trifle with me!” Pallion screamed “The death of a few unworthy ‘soldiers’ and the appearance of some petty weaklings do not justify your failure!” His voice suddenly dropped and became unnervingly calm, rumbling and deadly quality just below the surface of the calm words “perhaps a change of command is in order, Davis.” a Predatory grin splitting his sharp and cruel face.
“No!” Davis croaked out through his mucus filled throat, “I will crush this resistance of father nurgle's blessing and bring this world under the sway of the true powers! Just give me time. I didn't expect visitors.”
Pallion’s grin didn't dissipate, and he continued in his dangerously smooth, oily voice “Well the warmaster doesn't seem to agree. You’ve disappointed me, and those that gave you this mission.” Davis opened his mouth to retort but Pallion cut him off with a sharp chopping motion and a feral growl, before continuing “But… we feel merciful today. Perhaps your gross misconduct was just one stumble in the glorious trail of bloodshed. You have until morning to either destroy this resistance, or get out of the way, the crimson fist is descending upon this airfield and they will not shy away from destroying your pathetic excuse for soldiers alongside the corpse worshipers”.
“Do I make myself… perfectly clear?” Pallion asked, voice laced with venomous malice.
Davis swallowed down a heavy clump of mucus and nodded. “y-yes, general, I understand. I’ll make preparations immediately”.
Pallion’s grin widened “Good.” He turned to leave, decapitating the one surviving bodyguard as he groaned on the floor. “I expect to have heard of your success by Morning, or gods help you, your head will decorate my command tank.”
-Beta Company, Southern Flank, The Creek Bed, the following night-
As loud and intense as the fight was during the day, the silence and quiet was deafening over the Creek Bed. Or the entire airfield as a matter of fact. When dusk came the enemy finally gave up their relentless attacks, their surviving elements retreating towards the treeline.
That was two hours ago.
Camo and Lem were huddled low in opposite ends of their foxhole, talking quietly to each other. Lem was absently fumbling with the Pistol Camo gave him earlier that day. He didn’t need it anymore as one of the ammo runners had already stocked him up with a mags and a few grenades, but the small strange piece intrigued him nevertheless, playing with the secondary barrel and the slide.
It didn’t pierce body armour that well as a standard Bolt Pistol would, but still it would do the job well enough. It had kept him alive till now anyway. Opposite of him in the small hole, Camo took a look at his Tempest pattern autogun. He seemed satisfied, nodded approvingly at Lem before handing the rifle back.
“Not a bad piece. I can imagine why you like it.”
“Has enough stopping power. If you’ve got the ammo.” Lem replied without looking up at his fellow occupant. Camo couldn’t hide his chuckle that moment. Lem gave him an annoyed look. Obviously not liking the humour.
Lem shrugged. “Why the hell are you on this Throne Forsaken planet anyway?” he asked with a somewhat suspicious look on his face.
Camo chuckled again before replying: “It’s a long story.”
Lem took a quick look over the edge of his hole, watching over the plains. Nothing.
“I’ve got the time” He replied before sitting back down.
“You are not the only one to lose his home, son. The difference is we had a different enemy exterminating our family and friends.” Camo replied with sad eyes and a heavy voice.
“My unit and the boys flying up there” he gestured towards the sky to put an accent on his point, ”We’re all that is left of my people.”
Lem just nodded in acknowledgement, not giving away whatever he was thinking.
“And now you’re fighting on this ball of dirt which is not yours. I get how you feel.” he replied.
“My world isn’t lost. Not yet anyway. I’m from a Feth-hole of a Hive-world somewhere in the guts of this sector. Some Feth-head thought it was a good idea to try and assassinate heads of government. Now my once great home is locked in a murderous civil war. Not that it matters out here anyway.”
“Two soldiers of distant worlds, sharing a hole and fighting for a world that isn’t theirs. What are the odds….” Camo remarked to no-one in particular.
“You got that right….” Lem replied with an absent look on his face.
“You know… Not many shipbourne units would come down to help a rag-tag group of desperate grunts like you guys do. You sure are in the wrong side of the universe.”
“Oh? How’s that?”
“You guys aren’t Imperial. That makes you outsiders. Whether you are friendly or not, You’ll be under the strongest scrutiny for as long as you live. Or until you leave Imperial territory, which I highly doubt you’ll ever manage.”
“We’ll see. First we have to survive the night before I can worry about that.” Camo replied while taking his turn looking over the top.
Camo took his time looking over the top, scanning with his eye through the magnified scope of his rifle.
“You see anything?” Lem asked as he joined Camo looking over.
“Not a thing. It’s pitch black out here. I can barely see the other hole to our flanks, and they are mere meters away. I’ve got a feeling though.”
“They’re creeping up on us.”
“It’s the wind and the dark playing with your head. Smoke of the fires today have blocked the moon.”
“Nah, it’s not that. They’re coming. I’m telling ya.”
Lem wanted to reply, but before he could say anything the creeping-up feeling Camo had began to grasp him as well.
“Do some of your stove-pipe boys have some illumination rounds left?”
“Who?” Lem asked with a confused face.
“Stove-pipe boys. Mortars.”
Lem nodded and rolled over the top towards the closest foxhole to his left. He returned after a few seconds, laying his rifle on the line in anticipation.
Moments later they heard the signature thump and whoosh of a mortar round being fired some distance behind them. With a loud hissing sound, the flare chased away the pitch-black dark of night, illuminating the plains in front of them. Momentarily blinded by the sudden brightness both men squinted their eyes. When the reopened their eyes the both men cursed in horror as the adrenaline kicked in.
The plain before them was a writhing sea of rotting soldiers, crawling and crouching, trying to sneak up upon the Imperial/colonial line.
A long moment passed, the two sides staring at each other in shock, before the call ‘Open Fire!’ went up along the front. Suddenly the entire line erupted in small-arms fire, soon joined by mortars and grenades, together with the odd air-dropped bomb exploding in the plains. Soon the night becoming day as flares, explosions, and storm of bullets roared out into the darkness.
The enemy was barely a second slower to react. Soon the carpet of bodies had risen and surged forward in a great tide at the line of fire. Shells boomed out in retort from the treeline, engines rumbling to life, and the feral screams and cries of battle suddenly filled the air like a thick haze.
The soldiers at the line did whatever they could, fighting valiantly to try and keep the enemy outside the perimeter, but the sheer amount of bodies being thrown at them was just too much for their guns to handle. Before long the fight deteriorated into a vicious close-quarter brawl. A struggle of strength and wit to survive the night.