Chapter 3: The scout.
Scout sergeant Gregory Dereck ran silently through the dense forest. After all these months in vessel, it felt good to be on the ground again. It was a pleasure indeed to run in the open air. The gravity was lower than on his native planet, so his pace was quicker then usual. A refreshing breeze blew around him and he felt like in paradise. He liked to run, but most of all, he liked forests. It was mid Autumn on this planet and as always: nature created beautiful colours. The trees on this unknown planet were different from those on Krug, but their fallen red leaves were just as lovely.
He suddenly stopped running, took out his laspistol and turned. He saw nothing. Yet he had a feeling someone was following him. Not that he heard something. He just... felt it. There was nothing. Nothing but beautiful landscape. He really should focus more. He was getting too distracted and yet he could not help but appreciate all the beauty he was seeing around him. It was an uninhabited planet yet to be spoiled by humans. He knew its fate and it really saddened him. Few were the places, the human being has not yet ravaged. He knew exactly what his fellow humans can do to nature. He has seen it with his own eyes...
Back then he served as a ranger to mr Treg, who had in his possession an enormous forest. It was a big luxury on Krug, a planet with so few soil, to posses woods. He was glad, he made it through the rough selection to work for him, since he liked the forest a lot. By working hard, he became eventually the chief ranger and maintained the forests in more or less good shape in spite of the surrounding pollution During his free time, he wandered over Krug mountains. His dog Quin was always by his side. He had no family. His forest meant everything to him and its trees were like children to him. He knew almost all of them by heart and even gave them names.
Then one fatal day it happened. He received a letter from the planet's administration. "People of Krug rejoice. For a long time we have provided Imperium with vital resources. Now that these are depleted, the Emperor in his wisdom has given us the opportunity to serve otherwise. We are to become his warriors. We are to join the Galaxy's greatest fighting force: the Imperial Guard. You Gregory Dereck are to become a proud soldier. You are summoned to the recruiting station at 7th avenue of Saint Garro - Rareck Town 05 634 297 Orion region at fifth day of Apples at 16:20. The Emperor counts on you.
If you do not come in time, you will be considered as outlaw, hunted down by the righteous Adeptus Arbites and put to death according with the Imperial justice.
The Emperor protects.
Thought for the day: A man who has nothing can still offer his life."
He was mad. He went straight to mr Treg. That bastard promised him, he would not let him to be recruited in the Imperial Guard.
Mr Treg seemed busy, but Dereck did not care "Sir." he called his attention. "I have received a conscription. How is it possible? I thought..."
"I am sorry Greg. " answered mr Treg. "I am going to sell my forests. The techpriests offered me a price I could not refuse. Therefore I have to dismiss you."
"But..." Dereck was unable to find any words.
"I know how these forests are dear to you. I liked them too you know, but in these troubled time we must all do sacrifices." said mr Treck. "As for me I will leave this planet. There is no profit to be made any more."
"Excuse me, but what exactly have you sacrificed? You are getting paid. You'll just get to another planet and live your life like you did before." said Dereck unable to remain calm any more.
"I never imagined you could be so rude." said Treg. "Now leave my house or I will have you kicked out! "
Dereck threw angrily his ranger hat on the ground and left.
He walked in the forest, he loved so much for the last time. He looked up at the sky. The sun was setting down and cast beautiful colours on the white mountains. This may have been his last sunset on his home planet. After that, who knows what suns on other planets look like? Will there be forests and mountains? He spent his last night outside under the stars. It was freezing cold, but at least he could spent a little more time in his beloved place.
In the morning a chainsaw sound woke him up. He saw about twenty civilian sentinels cutting all the trees. Chimeras with dozer blades followed and cleared the terrain. Dereck was horrified to see how quickly his beloved forest was becoming a crude soulless place. At least he was going to be be far away and would not see it. His dog squealed. How could he have forgotten him? Well anyway the Imperial Guard was not a place for him.
"Go away" he said, pointing with his index. But the dog stayed, leaning to his legs.
"I said go away! Bad dog, bad dog!" he shouted. This time the dog understood. He turned and walked away slowly. It was very difficult for Dereck to see him leave, but he had no choice. He just hoped, he would be able to take care of himself. With tears in his eyes, he left for the recruiting station.
They have seen his abilities. His movements were quick, he could easily hide and his shooting was sharp. He impressed his drill sergeant with three precise shots on moving target. Two in the heart, one in the head. When he asked where he learned it, he said he used to be a hunter. His sergeant told him that even most of the soldiers in PDF are not as good at shooting as him. He told about him to his superiors. They made him a scout and gave him a sniper rifle. He quickly raised in rank and became the regiment's scout sergeant. He was a solitary person. While all other soldiers spent most of their free time drinking together, he just sat under the sky and smoked his pipe. Others considered him weird, but he simply did not like company. At least not company of humans. He rather befriended animals. They have seen him several times sharing his rations with mice and thought him mad. Yet there was an exception. One day, when their training was almost finished, he was looking the stars again with pipe in his mouth.
"Good smoke? " asked him a man who approached. "Where did you get it?"
"I cultivated it. " said Dereck. "Want to give it a try?"
"Why not." he answered and rolled the powder in paper as he did not have any pipe. He sat down next to him. They stayed quiet for a long time, then the man asked him
"What is your name?"
"You should call me sergeant Dereck, but as I don't stand on formalities, especially not off duty, just call me Greg."
"Very well, Greg, my name's Ben Dragun." Then he looked up at the sky. "I see you always looking at the stars. Are you interested in them?"
"I was not until now. Night sky is beautiful isn't it?"
"Aye." agreed Ben. "You know that people give names to groupings of stars? Look there." he pointed "It looks like wolf doesn't it? And there a deer."
"Really. I've never really thought about this, but you are right."
"From each place, the stars look a bit different. Every world has it's own myths about them. Now look: see that small star over there? It's called the Sun and there lies Terra. The Emperor guides us from there and our ancient ancestors come from here too."
"How do you know all this?" asked Dereck.
"It's my job to know." answered Dragun. "I've been a savant and a philosopher for a noble, who liked to entertain himself with poetry and knowledge. I was under his protection, until the day he was deemed of heresy and burned at stake. To stay out of this, I immediately joined the Guard before being dragged into his trial."
"Oh I am sorry for you. I was also under someone's protection. It was the famous mine owner mr Treg. I used to be his ranger, but then when he found out there was no more profit to be made from his mines, he simply left Krug... and his forests with it. I was then conscripted in Guard, just like anyone else."
"A ranger?" said Dragun. "I guess that's why you're so good at this scouting job. Some man here even fear you. They say you're like a ghost."
"Good. At least they leave me alone." answered Dereck with contempt.
Dragun, along with thousands more guardsmen was killed in the first assignment. With no combat experience they were supposed to hold against World Eaters. Had they not been saved by the Ultramarines, they would all perish under their axes in their first mission.
That was now more then a month ago, but the memory of the screaming victims was still in Dereck's head. Yet this planet, he was now on helped him forget all this. It's beauty was stunning. He even forgot about his home planet for a while. "Sergeant report." he heard on his vox. It was colonel Ruffius.
"Sir things are absolutely quiet here. My scouts have nothing to report at all. Orbital scanning shows nothing but dense forests and sentinels that are moving through spotted nothing."
"Keep looking." answered Ruffius. "According to the archives the Space Marines of the Red Lions chapter were spotted here for the last time. If mighty Astartes disappeared on this planet, it's not as peaceful as it seems."
"Yes sir." acknowledged Dereck.
He couldn't but believe these reports erroneous. If Astartes were killed here, mighty battles would have been fought and the planet would not look as preserved as that. It would have been scorched by orbital bombardments and some signs of battle would have been seen. Oh but let the colonel believe what he wants, at least they will stay here longer. Then he saw a flower, that got his attention. Its unique colours were astonishing. Violet background with red stripes. He never seen any flower like this on Krug. He knelt to pick it and... gunfire! He did not hear the gun, but he heard the shot hit a tree nearby.
He immediately duck behind a cover. "I'm under attack." he voxed, but he heard only static. What happened to his fellow scouts? He had no time to wonder. This enemy was still out there. He took a mirror from his pocket and tried to take a look behind his back, only to find it exploded by a beam. It did not seem like a bullet thought. He has never seen a weapon firing like this.
"Lucky Mon Keigh" Selean thought, but he remained calm. Certainly no human could beat him in fight. He killed their finest warriors, who called themselves Space Marines. He simply changed position he was firing from and patiently observed the place where the mon keigh was hiding, waiting him to do his last mistake and he did it. He dropped a smoke grenade hoping that he would not be seen in the smoke coming out of it. He shot aiming the place where he anticipated his head to be. So slow, so cumbersome and so noisy. He simply had no chance. Selean approached the place where the mon keigh died checking there were no other reinforcements.
Then he looked at the guardsman's corpse. That was it. He was dead. He was apparently the leader of their scouts. If this was supposed to be their best, their race was very pathetic. With despise, he prepared to dispose of the corpse, when he suddenly realized, that something was wrong. He heard heartbeats. He quickly aimed at the mon keigh, but he got kicked in his rifle and the shot missed. With furious battlecry the monkeigh took out his combat knife and tried to stab him.
Damn this eldar was quick! No matter how he tried, he simply could not stab him. He had to do this the hard way. He took out his laspistol and shot him.
"No!" Selean cried out in pain. To be killed by such a primitive creature was the most humiliating death he could ever imagine. Perhaps the farseer was right. They were crude, but not to be underestimated nevertheless.
That was it. The eldar was dead. It was quite surprising he could fool him so easily, but his master's were right the eldar were arrogant fools. The shot did hit his helmet, but not his head. Instead of this, it hit a sack full of red ink he put on it With the smoke all around, it was enough to fool the eldar's keen senses. He took a great risk, but he knew he had no chance against their kind in fair fight. Derek took his vox and contacted the HQ "Sir, put immediately the base on alert."
"What's happening?" asked colonel Ruffius.
"The eldar, sir! They killed all my scouts."
That's all Ruffius needed to hear. He immediately hit the alarm button.
"The Mon Keigh already discovered our presence." said the farseer Ashiel. "I can feel that one of our rangers has been killed. He failed at his task. We should abandon now."
The warp spider exarch Falan'thas frowned. "Farseer we should strike now, while we can. They just sounded the alarm. They are yet unprepared."
"If you wish then do so. My knowledge in the art of warfare is limited and if you believe this to be the opportunity to strike, I won't restrain you. However I warn you that I have not predicted what would happen if Selean died. I trusted his abilities."
"Never mind farseer. They will never know what hit them." answered Falan'thas.
Before his all his officers got into the HQ, a warp spider appeared there out of nowhere. He searched for the best target and found the colonel. He fired his death spinner at him. In a fraction of second a crude and brutal mon keigh got into the shot's way and roared bestially Humans called these primitive beasts ogryns. He was resilient, he had to give him that, but he had no chance against his death spinner, which nearly tore him apart. Now that the mon keigh were fully aware of his presence they threw a table to block him and tried to escort their colonel to safety as more warp spiders began to appear. A commissar took out his bolt pistol and shot two of them however the third one disarmed him with his blade. He did not kill him however. He had a much more important target. He teleported where he estimated the officer would be and got shot by a salve of lasguns. Soon the guardsmen were ready to fight the eldar back.
The Emperor protects.