Chapter 4: The boy
Why was he still alive? He saw death all around him. Officers went down first. Whoever tried to issue an order was silenced quickly. The worst of all was, that they saw nothing. Standing on the wooden palisade, they desperately tried to shoot their enemies, who were playing hide and seek with them. The guardsmen with heavy bolters mounted on the watchtowers were already all dead. The boy just duck and covered himself. Every time he looked, someone died, so why was he still alive? Was it Emperor's benevolence that was protecting him? All shells somehow seemed to avoid him.
Then their foe finally appeared. It was a warp spider. Rius read about them in the uplifting primer, but he never imagined they could be so fast. Before he even aimed at him, three of his comrades were dead. He shot, but hit nothing but air. The eldar was already gone. With horror he realised, he was among the last man standing on the palisade. Next wave would definitely kill them. He sought his protector Kulgur, only to find him badly injured. "It will be all right boy." his wounded friend told him, while slowly chewing morphium. "Just hide somewhere."
He ducked in a pile of corpses and wounded soldiers and pretended to be dead. As they defeated the last men holding the post, the warp spiders opened the gate for the rest of the eldar. Rius saw a guardian squad running close to him, but they did not notice he was still alive. Either he managed to fool them or he was too small nuisance to be bothered with. Anyway, they did not shoot him. Oh Emperor. What was he doing there? He obviously was no soldier. He obviously did not belong here. Had he known better, he would never sign up...
Rius saw several figures approaching. They did not spot him. He was well hidden behind a tree. He nodded toward his comrades and they nodded back. Then they all jumped out of their cover and yelled as loud as they could "Charge!"
The group they charged was taken by surprise, but they reacted quickly. They grouped themselves and ran toward Rius and his group while yelling "Waaaagh!" Soon the two groups clashed. After a few minutes of fight, Rius said "We've won. We've taken five of you by shooting and the rest by bayonets."
A boy from the other group frowned slightly and said "This ain't no fair Arvin. Why can't we kill anyone by shooting and why do you always win?"
"Cause you're the greenskins and we're the Imperials silly. Imperials always win." answered Rius.
"And why can't I play a guardsman?" asked the boy.
"Cause I gave you the guns", Rius pointed to the toy replicas of lasguns, "So I decide who's playing who."
"This is so unfair." complianed the boy, but a muscled bully stepped forward and said "Beat it. Arvin's the boss here"
"You're only saying that, cause he bought you a bike." said the boy.
"Isn't he nice?" grinned the bully.
Suddenly an adult appeared and dragged Rius by hand "Master Arvin." he said "Come quickly. Your father is very upset."
"Please Morgan. Can't you just pretend you did not spot me?" pleaded Rius while trying to get free from his grip.
"Sorry master, but I can't do it any more. Please just stop trying to escape, or you will get both of us in trouble." answered the servant.
The rest of the children silently watched them walk away and then one asked "What do we do now?"
"Let's go swimming." answered the others.
His father, mr Rius was not pleased at all. When the servant brought him in, he frowned and said "I told you a hundred times not to leave the gardens especially not with those peasants and yet you do it again!"
"But dad, it's so boring there." protested Rius.
"How can you be still bored after I bought you all that crap?"
"I wanna play with other boys. Not just the toys. I'm fed up with them." answered Rius.
"I have had enough of this! From now on, you don't go outside the villa, unless accompanied by Morgan and if you ever invite one of your peasant friends here, I swear I wil have them shot. Understood?"
Without any answer, his son ran to his bedroom, where he cried.
Mr Rius just sighed. If only his mother was there to educate him, but then he realised, she would not. She was always too nice with their only son. When Arvin was only five, she was kidnapped among many others by Dark Eldar and not even Rius's wealth could bring her back. Everyday, he prayed for her death, which was the only release from the horrors of Commoragh. In his prayers he also cursed the governor and his pdf, for failing to save her. He did not care, their intervention was swift enough to save Emperor knows how many worthless peasants. All that mattered to him was his wife and she was taken from him.
When Arwin was fourteen, his dad announced him, that he found a fiance for him. She was a baroness with title, but no money. The marriage between Rius and her, would be an excellent opportunity for their family to gain a noble title. She was only thirty years old, so she would still be able to have a child with Arwin, when he grows up.
After hearing this, Rius fled. He wandered in town, confused and annoyed. He swore, he would never go back to that cursed villa, that was a prison to him. His father kept him there for nine years and seldom allowed him to leave. The worst of it was, that he was there alone. The only person who liked him was the old servant Morgan. He wondered whether his father ever loved him. He doubted it. If he did, he would never force him to this stupid marriage.
Soon he realised what he has done and fear took over him. What good was fleeing for, when his father would find him and punish him. He would certainly pay a big reward to anyone who would bring him back and then Emperor knows what kind of punishment awaited him back home. While walking in the streets, he saw several posters with propaganda. They were portraying commissars and all of them mentioned some famous quotation of imperial maxim. "Serve the Emperor today, for tomorrow you may be dead." "It is better to die for the Emperor than to live for yourself." "Join the Guard and see the galaxy."
That was something for him! He always wanted to become a soldier. He'd never see his cursed home again and he would embark for an adventure like no other. He'd simply sign up and vanish among other guardsmen. Not even his father would find him there. With proudly straightened head, he walked to the town's recruiting station.
He stopped in front of an endless queue of young people eager to sign up like him. He was however youngest of them all. "Hey kid. That's not a line for lollipops you know." mocked him a youngster who was about sixteen years old.
"I'm not a kid." answered Rius offended.
"Course you are and you'd better get back to your mom before you get spanked. Guard's for real men."
And so it went on until they finally got inside the barracks, where a junior officer greeted them. When he saw Rius, he looked suspiciously at him and asked him how old is he. "Eighteen" answered Rius. He looked at him weirdly, then shrugged and gave him the pen for signature. If the boy wanted to get killed at all cost, it was his own problem, he though.
When mr Rius learned that his son fled, he immediately sent people to search for hi. After a week, he has learned that his son joined the Imperial Guard. He went straight to the governor and asked him to relieve his son and bring him back.
Retius searched through some files and then said "I am sorry, but the regiment your son has been assigned to has already left Krug and was deployed. Your son might already be dead and even if he is not, it is unlikely, that the munitorum will waste time and resources to send him back. You may have lot of power here on Krug, but on the scale of the Imperium even the sub sector, you're a nobody."
"But how could they have recruited him? He's only fourteen damn it!" asked Rius.
"As you can see, your precious Imperium does make mistakes." answered the governor Retius, stressing the word 'precious'. Then he added "Or perhaps it does not. If having as many meat shields as they can get in their armies is their goal, then recruiting your son was the most logical choice."
"It's my son you're talking about!" answered mr Rius and took out a laspistol.
"Go ahead and shoot me if you dare. I don't care how you got through the security with that gun and as a matter of fact I don't even care for my life anymore. But if you do care for yours you had better put that gun back to your coat. I can't help you, even if I wanted to, so threatening me won't help. Right now your son is probably dead anyway."
Without any further remark, mr Rius holstered back his gun and left.
The Governor was ashamed of it, but he was enjoying to see him so desperate. At least he finally understood what wolves, he threw Krug to.
The fight seemed to be finally over. At least no further eldar were reported. Colonel Ruffius sent immediately his personal surgeon dr Alexander Garwick to attend to his wounded bodyguard Grog. When this orgyn was first assigned to his regiment as his personal bodyguard, Ruffius was not very happy about it. He hated pretty much everything on ogryns. Their smell, their stupidity, their grotesque size, their clumsiness and so on. But seeing the courage with which the ogryn threw himself between Ruffius and the warp spider that tried to assasinate him, he changed his opinion about him. He put his faith into the Emperor and dr Garwick's expertise praying that Grog would be saved.
"Will he live?" he asked the surgeon.
"I am not sure." answered Garwick. "I do not know much about ogryn physiology. If he were but a normal human, he would be already dead. He is very resilient I have to give him that."
"I trust that you will do your best doctor." answered Ruffius "I take my leave, for I have to attend to my officiers. The Emperor protects."
When the fight was finally over, Petronia sat to her desk and did the same routine as always in the aftermath of a battle. She reviewed reports from the battlefield, analysed tactical decisions and passed judgements on the soldiers. Her punishments were harsh, but she seldom sent people to death. To her, most of the times a confused and frightened soldier was but a mistake of his superiors. If they messed things by willful neglect that was however quite different. She did not hesitate to punish harshly even the best of the veterans in that case. Among the list of the people, she found Rius. Apparently the boy was found hiding among his dead and wounded squad mates. Where others saw it as cowardice, she simply saw it as common sense. What else could an untrained boy like him do anyway? She dismissed the paper. She would judge him only when and if he grows up a little. If someone was to be blamed for this, it was the man who enrolled him in the first place.
The farseer Ashiel meditated in silence, when exarch Falan'thas of the warp spiders came to him. "Don't bother telling me. I already know we lost." said the farseer without turning to him.
"But how can this be? My timing was so...."
"Perfect?" said Ashiel "Selean, may Isha protect his soul, thought certainly so as well. Our hubris was once our undoing, we must not make such mistakes again."
"So what do we do farseer, do we unleash our last resort?" asked the exarch.
"I certainly hoped to avoid it. I had faith in your military skills Falan'thas. " answered the farseer.
"You already used it once." reminded him the exarch.
"Yes and I took a great risk, but I had no choice. These Space Marines were about to discover what we were planning and we had no strength to stop them."
"Sooner or latter these mon' keigh will discover our secrets as well. It won't be possible for us to fight back. There is too many of them and we cannot hope for any reinforcements from the craft world, since we are rogues. Perhaps some rangers will come, but it still is not enough."
"Very well. If you think you won't be able to deal with the mon' keigh, they will."
"So what are the reports?" Ruffius asked his adjudants. "Causalities are not so high sir. Our regiment has already seen worse."
"Don't remind me that." said Ruffius remembering their fire baptem when they had to fight the World Eaters legion. Back then, they lost almost all their men no more then month after their founding.
"However we lost many officers. All our scouts died except their sergeant, who warned us. The eldar were well prepared. In just one brief moment they eliminated many of our key elements and had we not been warned, they would slaughter us all in this confusion."
"Well at least we're still alive." said Ruffius "If he survives, remind me to praise this scout sergeant one day. But that's still not all isn't it?"
"No sir. The bad news is that the navy reports, that the eldar have infiltrated our ship. Many naval officers were killed and we are without navigators and astropaths."
Ruffius frowned "So that means we are trapped here. What's the worst news?"
"The scout sergeant reported strange metal beings moving slowly towards our base. He took a pic of them." said the adjudant and handed it to his colonel. "Do you know these beings?" he asked.
After taking a brief glance at the pic, Ruffius turned bleak "Terra." he whispered.
"What is it sir?" asked the adjutant.
The colonel stood up and said to all his officers "I have heard about these xenos,... but I never imagined I would see one of these in real. Gentlemen it has been an honour serving with you, but know that we are nearing our last stand, for our foe is no one else, but Necrons."
The Emperor protects.