The half-track carrier had ridden the whole night until the fuel reserves had run dry and it was forced to pull over into an abandoned refuel station, subedar and his makeshift squad found little promethium, but enough to get them to the closest allied checkpoint, some three miles away.
Haum had established vox contact, after he was woken to the squawks of incoming signals on Host-Command frequencies, the situation was dire, and the emergency regroup signals were being broadcast on all the tertiary channels.
The next morning after their stop at the refuel station they reached the outer picket of the occupation forces.
A long line of scarred and battle-damaged vehicles waited revving their engines in impatience, troopers in the grey fatigues and scaled vests bearing the black trident over the chaos star sigil of the Vale-Host Footmen, patrolled the length of the vehicle queue in squad or fire team strength, huge wolf hounds with metal collars stalked amongst a few of them sniffing and smelling the vehicles.
Heavy Predator battle-tanks and the sleek and low Marauder mediums, rolled past the line carefully scanning the area, they were accompanied by a shoal of half-tracks with quad barrelled anti-air batteries on their backs. They were all painted in the dull grey of the Vale-Hosts.
The footmen were one of the hosts forged from the amalgamated tribes from the ten core-worlds who had joined the Prophet’s first conquests in the Vale. One of the Vale-Host Footman, with the three silver circles of a Bashur, a squad-leader like Haum, approached the vehicle; he was tailed by a fire-team taking cautious tread as their counterpart team on the other side of the road stopped and began checking an old battered troop-truck in front of them.
The bashur approached the passenger side where Haum was seated and he reached into his pocket to pull out his identity slip; cards with tiny electoos pressed into cured human skin, his skin, it had his gene-print and officer record engrained.
“Greetings, serkar, may the warp-bless you,” the vox-grille on the bashur’s helmet grunted, behind the slits the eyes searched the crew and the vehicle carefully.
“Hail and salutations, serkar,” Haum returned as he passed his identification to the bashur.
The bashur was handed a datapad and he ran the card over the screen, data scrolled and he studied it carefully, after a moment he looked back up at Haum.
“Subedar Haum Serapis of the Red Brigades; your unit was listed as destroyed in Lorterstown,” he peeked into the driver’s cabin and into the back compartment; he saw the other tired and damaged figures talking and smoking amongst themselves, “they don’t match your squad description, serkar.”
The footmen surrounded the half track and the wolf hounds smelled anxiously at the damaged vehicle.
“They are not my squad, bashur...”
“Virah,” the bashur said with a bow of his helmeted head.
“Bashur Virah, my squad is most likely all on the soul-trek in the warp,” Haum said with a measure of regret in his voice, “I came across this lot, all recruits.”
Haum paused, “Am I being suspected, serkar?”
“Your identity checks out, serkar,” bashur Virah explained looking over his datapad and returned the card back to Haum, “But we have to be vigilant, serkar. There have been a lot of imperial infiltrators blowing bridges and ambushing supply and relief convoys from the western forts.”
“They have broken in past the lines?”
Virah sighed, “Orbitals, they have a huge advantage to drop troops all over the place, it is a nightmare.”
“Just how I find myself in this situation,” Haum chuckled emptily, devoid of the intended humour.
Virah nodded an assent and entered something into the datapad and handed it to a nearby trooper, “Well consider yourself lucky then brave subedar, less than a hundred of the Lorterstown garrison survived, that was one of the hardest hit zones of the enemy offensive. Host-command will commend you.”
Haum snorted, “There is no glory in loosing, bashur,” jerking his thumb to the line behind him, “No glory in waiting like pigs at a butchers.”
The bashur grunted in agreement, “I will continue my duties, serkar, you and your squad are re-enlisted as recovered, march with the fates,” he saluted Haum with a fist over his breastplate, the fire team followed suite.
Haum nodded in reply and stared ahead at the long line as they moved forward a few meters.
An hour later when they were finally allowed into the outpost by a platoon of armed interdictors and were asked the same questions and biometrics as the Footmen Bashur had asked him; tired of the questions and processing Haum had shouted at them that he was impatient and that he needed to report to senior command.
An interdictor Akan finally appeared from the guardhouse, a bald man with a strange complexion and three horrific gashes that ran down his pale and hairless head to his shaven brows, a vox grill and rebreather fashioned like a howling mouth was set on the lower part of his face, a familiar click and hissing sounded from the device for assisted breathing. He raised his mailed hand and placated Haum.
Grabbing the datapad from his junior the Akan read through with speed.
He looked up at Haum “Please, serkar; you will anger the Scions,” the Akan growled from his false-mouth as he nodded to a parked behemoth tank, “I have checked and processed your records, serkar, you are requisitioned to nearby fire base. Command is too busy to process you now, as they are coordinating a line.”
Six massive men, or higher men, in mud brown suits of baroque armour and massive blocky weapons sheathed, slung and holstered about them. They were all occupied either discussing something with Vale-Host officers’ or each other.
Except for one giant.
The one who wore no helmet who looked up from his conversation with a footman officer right into the cabin of Haum’s half-track.
Then he realised that it was Haum who the Chaos Marine was looking at. He averted his eyes from the holy warrior and rubbed the medallion on his neck like a charm.
“Serkar?” the Akan waited patiently before him.
The subedar shuddered and shook his head clear, “Fine...fine, where am I commanded to?”
“Motor Pool Camp A in Gaerin, a mile down this roadway, straight down and you will see others of my lot; they will lead you in,” the Akan replied smartly, with finality and marched away.
Haum told Heku to continue down the route, the gate neatly swung open and the half-track moved. Haum looked back at the Chaos Marine, the helmetless giant who had looked at him.
He was now conversing with the Akan reading a datapad, the Akan’s datapad.
The giant looked toward him once more as the half track slithered into the gate and past the guards.
Haum felt himself shudder once more.
The half-track was surprisingly sturdy; an efficient carrier that had lasted well beyond Haum’s expectations, as they approached the fire base, the engine finally began to smoke and splutter, more than once Heku said that the engine died and started without break at random intervals, either the spirits of the machine was refusing to carry on, or the tank was nearing empty was Haum’s best guesses.
The base was situated near the empty and cleansed township of Gaerin, an old farming community that had tended to the agro-domes toward a clutch of hills to the west.
Now that community was no more, according to what Haum had picked up from chatter before going on the southern assault; the entire township was executed near the agro domes and burned because of their continued offence toward the great powers by poisoning the food they supplied to the local garrison and almost shameless display of anti-mutant sentiments which saw three hundred unarmed colonists from Kuhk murdered along with the local Sardar.
The bodies of the perpetrators their families and neighbours, which essentially became the whole population, were forced to mass near the domes. It is said to still smoulder and burn in the death-trenches they were forced to dig before they were all shot.
Haum was at first indifferent toward the plight, but wouldn’t he have fought tooth and nail if the damned Imperium had tried to burn Sedukh?
Someone behind him started chanting a prayer, it echoed over the grinding tracks and the grunting engine of the halftrack.
Haum felt relieved finally as they pulled into the motor pool park, they were guided in by a trooper and shown to an empty spot.
An arsenal-clerk; a short plump man with a gaggle of robed and hooded lexigraph slaves, midget and crooked in stature, approached their vehicle and began cataloguing it and labelling the damages on the half-track, the clerk approached Haum as he exited the smoking vehicle, his squad following suite.
“You are the leader?” asked the plump man in a small tinny voice.
Haum nodded, “Subedar Haum.”
The clerk stared at him for a moment with its whirring, augmetic goggles and chattered something to his slave nearby; the clerk entered something into the datapad and tutted when it beeped, “This vehicle, Mark IV Half-Track Carrier, serial IIC-4A was in the Lorterstown Vehicle Pool, but it was not attached to you or this unrecorded squad you lead.”
Haum shrugged, “I think not, serkar, we found this abandoned in the west highway and we choose it as a vehicle to hasten our withdrawal.”
“Acceptable, at least you have returned a war machine to our Prophet’s Arsenal, the technophytes won’t be happy with the damage though.”
Haum grunted in amusement, “Things happen in war, serkar, the enemy tend to shoot at us a lot. Now I need to get my soldiers some rest, they have been through enough.”
“They are new recruits?” the clerk asked as he began going through his datapad once more, “Subedar Haum, combat duties, garrison in Lorterstown, assigned to the Second Sect, First Coterie, with the Sixteenth clan company; that is a decorated sect, not new bloods. ”
“I know that, I lost my sect in the invasion, I found these recruits barely holding their own, I dug them out of their mess and they are under my command for now; due to priority sixteen of our protocols, to take command of a leaderless unit in the field of battle...”
“In the absence of higher authority, yes, yes I am well versed in the protocols,” the short man said uncomfortable with the time being wasted, “You choosing to replace your sect with raw recruits is your choice then subedar and alone your burden, may victory greet you next Sedukhar, your billet is barrack seven in the east quarter,” the clerk explained as he handed Haum a slip of paper and then entered something on the Datapad, “Find the local Sardar Commander and confirm your status tomorrow when they will come for the muster.”
The clerk and his gaggle of servants moved onto the next set of vehicles without another word.
Haum and his squad stood in the dimly lit motor-pool amidst hundreds of damaged and scorched war-machines as they were left alone by the clerk.
The squad found their billets right outside the motor pool, a lonely Interdictor sentry sat outside in his brass chainmail and leather hood armed with a shotgun and stun pike, a brown greatcoat wrapped around him to ward from the cold day. The interdictor gave a stiff bow and beckoned the troops into the barrack.
“Brave warriors you are all, serkar, welcome to the barrack, food and sleep await you inside.”
Haum thanked him and ordered his squad inside to rest and recuperate, he he turned to the interdictor, “We are short of ammunition and weapons.”
The interdictor nodded, “Armoury is open for resupply, serkar.”
Haum smiled, “Good, go get me these things then.”
The interdictor was handed a slip and waved away as Haum entered the barrack and slammed the door behind him.
The new squad was already making themselves at home, dumping their kits and removing their dirty and damaged combat armour with their sweat-covered, stinking fatigues.
Haum walked down the row of beds and lockers and noticed that his was the alone in the barrack.
All the other beds were empty.
He relaxed himself and headed to the far end of the long barrack and found a neat and tidy bed, a change of fatigues and a pair of boots neatly stacked on the foot of the bed. At the other end of the bed, a lone book with the livery of the Prophet upon it, the pantheon star and the eternal flame; the sacred Book of Khas.
Haum went to pick it up, but then saw the state of his ripped, bloodied gloves. He paused and checked himself looking over his armour and his torn fatigues; blood was leaking from the gashes of his plating, pain flared all over his body, the effects of the past days began to assail him.
He began to peel the gloves and armour off in painful gasps, the pressures and damages of being in combat for a whole day began to take its toll on him, even the sleep in the half-track was plagued with discomfort and cramps. He stripped himself to his breeches and looked down at his hard muscled torso, criss-crossed with scars and bumps, dozens of flesh wounds bleeding and a terrible gash across his rib close to his left lung, he touched it.
Haum crashed to his knees as the pain returned and he howled in agony. Once more the blackness sought to claim him, but he fought it, he prayed to the gods for strength, and he soon felt them granting a measure of his wish.
The subedar regained his footing and stood to see that he was surrounded by terrified young faces taking in the scarred body of a war veteran.
“Bring me a fysik, Heku,” Haum grunted through the pain, he turned to see the form of the killer, Soca with a strangely stupid concern on his usually bitter face, “Soca you are in charge, while I recover, you are hereby declared to be my second, vice subedar.”
The surprised Soca looked around at his squad mates.
“I do not think, that is for the best,” Soca grumbled as he scratched his head.
Haum beckoned him closer, Soca approached the subedar and bent close, a thick palm slapped into his neck and the fingers tightened around it.
The Subedar was far stronger and faster than Soca had ever expected, Haum dragged him face to face and gave him a humourless smile, “I am in a lot of pain, so I will make this short and straight. Never disobey me again or I will twist your neck till your soul bled, then as old rites dictate; I will eat your heart and own your afterlife.”
He felt the neck beneath his palm tighten and the body shudder in panic, Haum grinned a bloody smile as he let go of Soca and blinked at the rest of the squad, they all stood there in a loose semi-circle looking at him, shocked and unsure.
“By the gods who damn you, attend to your duties wretches! See to your bloody filthy gear and yourselves! Next one of you to stare at me without a reason will find himself in the gallows hanging by his own innards!”
The order from the subedar was like a waking bell for the youths, they immediately broke from the gathering and set about to clean and prepare their gear and themselves; only Soca remained behind, still rubbing his neck.
“What are you waiting for, killer?”
Soca’s brows creased and he stared at Haum, “Why me?”
“You are the best damned fighter and hunters in this worthless squad, not sect warriors yet, still a new squad. You have conviction and you can use it to kill and lead. You are my vice-subedar, and i want a proper bloody sect, deal with it.”
Soca scowled at Haum’s assessment, “I am no-good at leading, I am better off transferred, subedar.”
“That is what you think; Soca, but you have potential. I know this from the moment I saw you in the first firefight,” the subedar explained as he moved the Book of Khas from the bed to the nearby table and placed it there reverently.
“You are angry and raging at something that is beyond me; you can channel this anger and not walk the red-path like Euran. You have ability, behind this facade of a killer.”
Soca held his glare, but for a moment, just for the tiniest moment, Haum noticed a flash of acceptance to his words in his eyes, “What will you have me do, serkar?”
Haum hissed in pain as he lay himself down on to the cot and exhaled deeply, “First order of business is to keep the ‘squad’ busy, keep them doing tasks and drills. Pull your chapbook and go through the protocols, recite them to me when I am recovered. Now before all that, take my gear, replace them and find me a new gun.”
Soca bristled at his duties, but he reluctantly set about to do them.
As Soca left, Heku arrived with a fysik, a tall wiry man with a beeping wand that he ran over Haum’s body, he tutted and began scribbling something on parchment and referring to notes on a datapad he produced from his musette bag.
Haum nodded to Heku and dismissed him.
“Subedar, you have been in heavy fire fights?”
Haum chuckled, “Yes, yes I have, fysik, was it all the scars?”
The fysik simply nodded not understanding the humour, “The only major damage was the las shot to your rib, seem your armour must have absorbed a large part of the shot or at least partially deflected it. The kinetic force has caused a lot of bruising within. Rest of your body is riddled with minor and superficial wounds that will be healed soon enough.”
“How long till I am ready for battle?” Haum asked concern in his bloodshot eyes.
The fysik checked his pad once more and then counted on his fingers, “A minimum of a day’s heavy rest and medication for a full recovery. The pain will return though.”
Haum nodded, “I can live with the pain. Do what you have to, to do this as quickly as possible, we are at war.”
Fysik nodded and set about to patch Haum up.
Outside it began to rain, the cold winter rain of the worlds late year turn, the mud became slick and wet once more and the flood of retreating forces from the east began to cease, the thunder of ranging artillery and clatter of tanks mixed in with the wash of the falling rains.
Seventy two miles eastward near the purged skeleton of Lorterstown; seven Imperial Guard Mechanized regiments and a division of droop troops prepared to advance.
There is no intelligence. Only degrees of Idiocy.
Last edited by Exitus_10; 09-27-13 at 03:25 AM.