Private Jakon LaVeer sat in the back of the second hauler, the latest of many insults to his name he had suffered in recent weeks. The fact that he had been forced through a month of basic training again with the raw recruits was worse. He should have been leading this sorry group by now yet not so much as a field promotion to Corporal had shown itself.
His stomach turned. Whether it was due to the bumping and lurching of the old hauler or the prospect of what was to come wasn't clear. Either way, he needed to take his mind off it. Reaching inside his flak vest he removed a soft cloth, now permanently damp with years worth of polish and started applying it to the dull casing of the lascarbine on his lap.
"You think the Orks are gonna be impressed by your shiny gun kid?" a gruff voice asked from ahead of him.
Jakon looked up from his anxious polishing. The man ahead of him was one of the recruits whose name he hadn't bothered to learn. A miner certainly. The man was certainly no older than Jakon, if anything a year or two younger he expected. The soldier had a thick beard and an ugly scar down the left side of his face that made him appear older than the clean shaven Jakon and he knew it. Jakon ignored him. He knew his type. Thugs who joined the PDF for now greater reason than the desire to fight and kill. Idiots who believed they would be the one to kill every one of the Emperor's enemies with nothing more than a lasgun and their bare hands if they had to. They'd have gone out into battle without a days training given the choice and if it got them fighting sooner. Keep the fight from them and soon they'd look for it elsewhere, turning on their own side given the opportunity. One of two things would happen to this guy. He'd be dead within a month, or he'd survive long enough to see Jakon promoted and spend the rest of his days polishing his boots.
Jakon couldn't help letting a wry smile tug at the edge of his lips as he went back to his weapon.
"I say something funny boy?" the thug grunted, leaning forward in his seat to put his ugly face and rancid breath as close to his intended victim as he could.
In truth he had. Orks. The whole idea was crazy. Orks were from the legends of the distant past or the ghost stories from soldiers in the outer reaches. They weren't here on Prolial. This was surely just an elaborate ruse by some particularly cunning pirates. Right?
Satisfied with the newly polished state of his firearm, Jakon continued to ignore the thug in front of him. He tucked the cloth away into his flak vest, bowed his head, made the sign of the Aquila across his chest and quietly began to pray.
Barely had ten words escaped his lips when there was a ferocious boom from up ahead. A second later the haulers collided. Jakon was lucky enough to get his arm up in time to cover his head and stop it bouncing off the solid sides of the hauler. The thug was less lucky and their was a sickly wet crack as his head hit the side, sprayed blood and left him crumpled in an awkward heap.
"Oh Throne." Jakon muttered. He quickly removed his restraints and recovered his helmet from where it had been thrown in the crash before making his way out of the vehicle, clambering over the bodies of the dead to make his escape. His feet hit the ground outside and found himself in a world of chaos. Guardsmen were running left and right. Others stood dumbstruck at the situation unfolding around them. Some fired blindly into the distance. Jakon stood rooted to the spot until another trooper beside him was suddenly thrown from his feet. Only then did Jakon's survival instinct kick in and he threw himself to the ground and crawled back to the edge of the hauler, clinging to it like a frightened child. Where the trooper had been moments before was now little more then a pile of badly butchered meat.
I'm going to die. I'm going todie. I'm goingtodie. Imgoingtodie.
The thought struck him like a thunderbolt and pushed away everything else. With a burst of alertness his noticed the majority of the surviving soldiers were running together for the outpost. Jakon scrambled to his feet and set off after them as fast as his legs would carry him. In those moments he would later be thankful for his diligent conditioning routine as he caught up to the pack and pulled ahead of several others who were already flagging under the strain.
There were screams and the sounds of gunfire behind them. Jakon ignored them. To look back was to break his stride. To break stride was to die. Though his lungs burned and his legs throbbed with lactic acid he pushed on, never turning to face whatever horror pursued them.
The outpost loomed up ahead. Survival, just paces away now. Jakon was one of the first to cross the threshold and immediately stopped, turned and heaved the door with all his might. More troopers shot past through the ever narrowing opening. Some kept going further into the outpost, further from the nightmare. Others stopped to help him. One man turned only for his head to explode and his body to crumple to the floor. It got in the way so Jakon desperately kicked it away as he kept pushing.
Voices from outside screamed for them to wait. Jakon would not. They were already dead. He was alive and he would stay that way.