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post #6 of (permalink) Old 01-22-13, 09:30 PM
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Last second entry. Again.

Last Stands*

There are things they don’t tell you about Last Stands. Like, how humiliating they can be. It all sounds fine and very well, standing with your back to the wall, weapon in hand, bleeding wounds and dwindling ammunitions supply optional, while a horde of whatever (or maybe just one big thing, like a Chaos Dreadnought) moves in on you in slow motion…

How you fire your last shots, draw your sword and charge in. Maybe, if whatever enemy is responsible for your eminent demise has a sense of sport, or humour, or just enjoys playing with you, like that Wych I met in 972, they might proclaim to give you a chance. “Here, see, I’ll throw away my gun, and just fight you with my sword.” “It doesn’t have to end like that, Commissar. Surrender, and you will live.” “Stand back, this one is mine.”

Of course, that is optional. Your average ork horde will just charge in and not care at all about the gravitas such a moment deserves. Same with Tyranids. So, they charge you. You fight. And then, you die. Maybe, if the enemy leaves enough of you for a burial, somebody will read a sufficiently moving eulogy about your heroism and bravery at your funeral.

This was always a personal favourite of mine: “The martyr never truly dies. Every blow he suffers is the touch of immortality, every prison he is incarcerated within is a heavenly mansion.” Of course that won’t really aid the hypothetical you, because you will be dead.

So, that is how a last stand is supposed to work. I can tell, I’ve been in a couple of them. Of course, in my case, the God-Emperor in his infinite mercy decided that they weren’t to be my end. Yet. Because he probably foresaw a more amusing one for me in the future. Last minute rescues of course brighten up the day of the person facing their end under such dire circumstances – or they can completely ruin it.

As I said, nobody tells you how humiliating it can be… There was this moment, back when I was still at the Scholam, when I faced death and dismemberment at the hands of a couple of lowlife gamblers who had assumed that the blue-eyed little cadet had no idea of your average card shark’s tricks. Unfortunately, I did. And even more unfortunately, they were better than me.

So, in this alley behind the dive they bore down on me like the hordes of the Despoiler, wielding tablelegs and knives, and I desperately tried to hide inside a dumpster. At which point the local Arbites showed up, pulled out their truncheons, waded in and thoroughly ruined the lowlives’ day. Then, they fished me out of my hiding place, with fish guts – the smelly kind – hanging from my shoulders and squashed vegetable sticking to my cheek.

And thrashed me. And once I got back to the Scholam, I actually wished the thugs had killed me because that was nothing against the punishment I earned for being out of bounds, in a shady part of town, after curfew… I’ll spare you the rest.

It was probably my most pathetic ‘Last’ stand, although the one with the irate spouses of half the Pontian all-female PDF garrison was infinitely more humiliating, because back then, I didn’t wear trousers. Fortunately, the person who saved me that time was my trusty aide Jurgen, and he would never hold it against me. Having to wear Jurgen’s secondary pair of pants on the way back to headquarters was an entirely new level of cruel and unusual punishment, though.**

So, as you see, it isn’t all utterly dashing heroics with blood, sweat and last oaths to the Emperor. And let’s not leave out all the metaphorical last stands I have suffered… Like, those fought with words over the next suicidal assignment my superiors decided to drop on an Imperial hero of my calibre. These invariably were devoid of last minute rescues, and led to some of the more dramatic ‘back to the wall’ moments in my illustrious career.

Of course, those are covered in my official biography, the only difference being the amount of washing my trousers needed afterwards.

And then, there is a species of last stand that is in its own category. I am talking of Regicide. I am a more than fair player, and I know quite a lot of tricks. Against most people, I can win. Sometimes, it is political not to, but such losses, usually fought very dramatically with suicidal counter charges and the least important playing piece left for last, are an art to itself.

I have only met one person, where all those desperate last minute movements to get a few more moments of life for one’s King, all the sacrifices of Squires and Sentries, are expressions of utterly genuine desperation. Where, everytime we play, I have to make a Last Stand and nobody rescues me.

Unless you count that one time where Amberley’s crazy psyker stumbled into Jurgen, causing him to spill tanna on the game board, shorting out the cogitator. Yes, indeed. I always lose playing against her, and she takes special delight in exacting the prices for my losses from me. We do not play for money, of course. Most of the time, it is my last attempt to get out of whatever little mission she intends to send us on. You can imagine how well this usually works.

So, give me some charging Tyranids anytime. I’d rather take my chances with them, instead of seeing an immaculate eyebrow being raised after my Empress got demolished by a Cannonade, and hearing the words: “By the way, Ciaphas, there was this little situation on Gallipolis I wanted to talk to you about…”***

There’s nothing heroic in that.

* This eloquent piece of self pity is one of the many random notes and essays that make up a significant part of the Cain Archive. I added it to my annotated collection because it gives a great insight into the mind of this self professed coward and shows how utterly blasé towards danger he has become by the end of his career.
** One might consider this punishment to be entirely fitting of the crime.
*** See File 2357C/975.

Words: 1054.

The quoted sermon is from the Novel "Commissar" by Andy Hoare.

Last edited by Liliedhe; 02-02-13 at 02:32 PM.
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