They scrambled across the dusty avenue, not even considering rising to stand, the risk was too great.
They got under the next building just in time.
‘These avenues are too damn wide!’ hissed Hansen.
‘I agree with you there sarge,’ said Clarkson.
‘Come on, we’ve got to find some way to get our hands on a portable vox caster, or at least a helmet vox,’
‘How do we do that?’
‘Remember your stealth combat training?’
‘And your unarmed combat training?’
‘Well now it’s time to combine the two,’
Crawling toward the other side of the building the pair kept their eyes open for any patrols.
As they found their way to the edge of the building they spotted a platoon coming down the avenue, patrolling the camp most likely.
They waited as the platoon passed them, and saw to their delight two sets of legs stop while the rest kept walking.
A figure clad in a blood red cloak walked up behind the kneeling men in the center of circle intersected by four lines that made an eight pointed star.
The smell of incense filled the room lit only by a few small candles.
‘Is it done?’ he asked.
‘These things take time,’ said the man ‘but I almost have them, they will fall
for the trap soon enough,’
‘Good,’ said the cloaked man with a smile.
‘Now!’ hissed sergeant Hansen and the two troopers rose from their hiding spot and subdued the two troopers who had stopped for a smoke before the even knew what was happening.
They had just dragged the two unconscious bodies under the building before the searchlight came back.
‘Take their helmets and guns,’ said the sergeant.
Clarkson took the helmet off one of the troopers before prying his hands off the lasrifle and removing the pistol from the side holster, the combat knife was the last thing to get before the young soldier really looked at the man he had beaten.
‘Sarge come look at this,’ he whispered.
‘What?’ asked the older man.
‘Look at this guy’s head,’
Clarkson pointed to a scar on the Colchis trooper’s bald scalp, it was an eight pointed star, carved by a knife and now scarred over.
‘I saw the same thing on mine,’ said Hansen.
‘What does it mean?’
‘I don’t know, I think I skipped that part of the Trooper’s Manual,’ said
Hansen, ‘Lets just get this stuff back to the barracks,’
‘They’ve taken the bait Lord,’ said the man in the eight pointed star.
‘Good job men,’ said Captain Hicks ‘let’s just hope everyone else got what they were after,’.
Along with Clarkson and sergeant Hansen, other teams had gone out as well, from all the other regimental barracks for similar purposes. Unfortunately, the weapons depot was guarded by Astartes, impossible to sneak past and impossible kill without some sort of weapon on hand and even if they could have managed it the noise would have been more than enough to bring the whole damn camp down on their heads.
Casting anxious glances out the windows of their barracks every few seconds, the men of the Glison 33rd went to work on the small vox units they had, trying to tap into the regiment’s emergency channel and establish communication with the rest of the regiment.
The few armed men in every company stood crouched behind beds turned on their sides with their stolen lasguns aimed at the doors, ready for anyone that tried to get in.
As the minutes turned to hours and early night, already pitch black on this world, turned into midnight, the men at the windows noticed the searchlights begin to focus more and more on the barracks block of the Regulars.
‘How’s it coming Larser?’ Colonel Fortensen asked his adjutant.
‘I’ve almost got it working sir, if the Jackals were doing it too it’d be a lot easier to get to the signal off their gunships’s vox strength,’
‘You know as well as I do they’re being watched much closer than we are, anything they try is a hundred time more likely to be seen,’
‘Yes sir,’ said Larser, not caring in the slightest because of how much more difficult it made his task.
‘Just get it done Larser,’ said Fortensen.
‘I think I’ve almost got it…’ Larser said as he coiled a small length of exposed wire around a thin brass rod used for hanging clothes.
‘Now!’ he exclaimed, just as a dozen searchlights outside stopped their routines and pointed straightaway at Fortensen’s personal barrack.
‘Shit,’ said Larser.
Twelve small balls were thrown though the windows, shattering them into a thousand pieces. The balls, grenades now, Fortensen saw, hit the floor just before exploding in a large blast of light and noise that sent fifty men falling down blind and deaf.
Fortensen just managed to open his eyes before a shape came running up to him, raised its arms and battered what he knew was a lasguns stock into his head and finished what the flashbangs started.
‘Shit, that was Fortensen’s barracks,’ said Mortun, looking out the window his men’s motorpool. He watched as a hundred men, spearheaded by five of the Astartes break into the building.
‘Stop everything! Stop everything!’ he shouted at his men ‘The sooner they find out the Glison were trying to contact us the sooner they come barging through our doors!’
‘Why don’t they fight back sir?’ asked one of the troopers, Mortun thought his name was Gerer.
‘Because shit for brains the Astartes practically forced them to turn in their weapons, every one of them, for “maintenance”’ said Markus, one of Mortun and Fortensen’s “inner circle”.
‘Why do we still have ours then?’
‘We don’t have all of them,’ answered Mortun this time ‘we had to turn in our hellguns to, whoever’s behind all this wanted us unarmed to but we were able to hide some in the gun and dropships because they know we’ll never surrender them to anyone and they likely don’t quite know which side we’ll fall on so they probably wanted the Glison to feel like everyone was turning over their weapons while keeping us almost happy and more pliable to their aims,’
‘Sir that was quite a mouthful,’ said Markus.
‘I know,’ said Mortun, ‘I was kinda realizing some of it as I spoke, thinking out loud as it were,’
‘Well it explains quite a bit,’
‘Do they know the Glison were trying to contact us?’
‘Not if we managed to power down all our equipment,’ said Mortun, looking over at his senior technician and raising an eyebrow. The technician nodded back.
‘Right now we just have to sit, wait,’ said Mortun, looking at his gathered men, ‘and find out if someone’s gunning for us,’
‘So we’re just gonna abandon them?’ someone asked.
‘No, we’re going to save them, I just don’t want to get us all killed when we’re doing that,’ said Mortun.
Two men dragged Colonel Fortensen’s limp body upright by the arms with his legs trailing after him. A black sack covered his head, at first he had thought it just a normal sack but once the men had put it on him he couldn’t hear a single should, couldn’t see the light through the threads, couldn’t smell, couldn’t even feel the heat of this world through it. He was devoid of all his senses, with only his mind for company.
The next thing Fortensen felt was the floor as his kidnappers threw him to it.
A strong arm gripped the back of his head, lifted it up just enough, and slammed it back onto the floor.
Fortensen was groaning in pain as the sack was ripped off his head.
‘I will ask you a very simple series of questions and you will answer them truthfully and to the best of your ability or the lives of your men are forfeit.
Do you understand?’ a voice asked.
Fortensen looked around the room he found himself in. It was dark, removing the hood seemed almost a wasted movement, save for a few candles melted almost completely down. He looked at the floor and found himself within an eight pointed star.
‘Why does that shit keep coming up?’ he muttered.
‘Are you Colonel Fortensen of the Glison 33rd Regulars?’ the voice asked.
‘Did you fight the greenskin hordes yesterday on the desert fields of this world Larso II?’
‘Yes, I…’ he said as he was cut off by another voice, one he recognized.
‘Get to the real questions sorcerer, we already know all this,’ said Kor’Farrah.
‘Yes my lord,’ said the voice in the dark.
A knee shoved into Fortensen’s stomach and blew the wind out of him. He fell on the floor in pain.
‘What the hell was that for?’ he asked though clenched teeth.
‘I’m growing impatient,’ said Kor’Farrah.
‘You haven’t asked me any real questions,’ said Fortensen.
‘Well I don’t really like you,’ came his reply.
‘Why were you sending your men to obtain vox units and weapons?’ the voice in the dark came again.
‘You know damn well why,’ said Fortensen.
‘I wanted it to be easier when I got you and your men out of the way,’
‘Why us? What made my men so special?’
‘Your regiment comes from a world that was brought into the Imperial fold
long before the others here, including the Flying Jackals, there’s no way you would join us in our holy quest against the False God,’
‘So you are rebellious zealots,’ said Fortensen ‘I’m assuming this includes the other regiments here?’
‘It does, minus the Jackals, but they will be with us soon,’
‘Why the hell did your master leave all the man power here behind to take care of one regiment?’
‘There is something he needs here, something he thought he would have time to claim before the war began in earnest, but the prophecy moves fast, faster than he anticipated and so he left his favored mortal son behind to claim it and when I do, worlds will bow before me,’.
Lieutenant Colonel Mortun sat on the fold out chair in the officer’s dining hall in the command bastion, waiting for the man that had issued his summons.
Taking a long drag of one of Markus’s contraband smokes he leaned back in his chair and stretched out is legs. He would at least wait comfortably.
‘Is a drink too much to ask for?’ he shouted to the guards at the other end of the hall.
They didn’t answer. They didn’t move. They didn’t seem to breath.
Mortun waited a few minutes more until the guards each raised a hand to their helmets and nodded once. They slung their lasrifles over their shoulders and pulled the massive doors to the hall open.
In strode Lord Ryken, commander of the Philisti Legion of Feros, a world brought into compliance by the Word Bearers.
At his hip was an inferno pistol, resting in an elaborate holster and on his back was a power saber.
Mortun looked closer and saw that it was his power saber.
‘What the fuck are you doing with that!’ he shouted.
Lord Ryken did not answer, instead he continued walking towards Mortun and did not say a word until he was standing directly in front of the younger man,
‘Making you an offer,’ he said.
‘What kind of an offer?’ asked Mortun.
‘The kind you would be unwise to refuse,’ said Ryken, taking the power saber out of the sheath and gripping it by the blade with the hilt towards Mortun.
‘Your regiment’s weapons and freedom back, for absolute loyalty to the great primarch Lorgar,’
‘When did you take away our freedom? You weren’t prepping a raid on our barracks last night.’ asked Mortun, looking at his blade.
‘You still have it, but the Glison don’t, and if you say things I don’t like, you’ll join them under the watchful eyes of the Astartes without so much as a knife at hand,’.
Mortun gripped the hilt of his blade.
‘I think I understand,’ he said.
‘Good, then as a token of your loyalty, you shall execute Fortensen,’ said Ryken, and released his grip on the blade.
‘The soon to be left to rot in the desert Colonel is being questioned right now, you will be permitted to return to your barracks until the great Kor’Farrah is done with him, then the execution will take place,’
‘What happens to the Glison?’ Mortun asked, holding his blade in his hands, examining it for any blemish or any other kind of damage.
‘They die to, they are loyal to their master and their master is a blind servant of the Emperor first and the Imperium second, we cannot use them in the war,’.
‘Well that answers that,’ said Mortun.
‘Yes, it does,’ said Ryken.
‘Am I dismissed?’
With that Lord Ryken turned and left. Mortun went with him, the hall had only one exit.
When they left the hall Ryken turned left, deeper into the bastion. Mortun went right, his guard detail falling in step behind him.
‘We’re getting our weapons back,’ said Mortun.
‘What exactly happened in there sir?’ asked Markus.
‘Kor’Farrach made the biggest mistake of his life that’s what, get on your vox and tell the techies to prep the Chimeras for a breach’n’grab,’.
They left the bastion, exiting on one of the landing pads, stopping to look at the temporary prison that had been made for the Glison.
Facing the defense guns of the bastion on one side and surrounded by hastily constructed plas-steel walls on the other three the Glison were like a herd of animals.
Twenty Astartes kept watch on them, bolters at the ready. Mortun could see they had already taken a few potshots into the regiment, only a few hundred men left after all the fighting and the raids.
‘Let’s go sir,’ said Markus, the dry desert wind blowing his hair.
Though Mortun knew they couldn’t see him, he spoke to them in his regiment’s battlesign, having to say it even though he knew they didn’t even know it.
We’ll come get you. We’ll come get you, he said.
He turned his back and walked into the waiting Valkyrie, the blade of his power saber catching the light.
Down below, on one of the plas-steel walls the light glinted off the eye lens of an upturned Astartes helmet. As the Valkyrie took off from the landing pad the immortal raised two fingers to the side of his helmet.
Night fell on Larso II once more. Aside from the events and revelations since the night before, it was much the same as the preceding weeks. A few minor ork attacks, nothing much to trouble proceedings within the traitor camp.
Colonel Fortensen waited, hands tied behind his back in a dark cell with the black sack once more over his head. On his knees he waited for his execution.
Outside his prison cell two Astartes stood guard, bolters held tightly across their chests.
‘Are we ready?’ asked Mortun.
‘Yessir,’ said Markus ‘The Chimera patrols are about to complete their last sweep and will be coming back to the motorpool, or so the traitors think and the Valkyries have extra fuel tanks and are waiting just beyond radar, they’ll move when we do,’.
‘And the Vultures?’
Mortun climbed into his Valkyrie, Markus and ten other troopers waiting for him and ready.
‘Are you sure about this sir?’
‘Absolutely not, but there are no other options. Lorgar needs something on this world for his rebellion, he needs Kor’Farrah to get it and we need Fortensen and his men to help us keep that from happening,’.
‘Yes sir,’ said Markus, leaning back in his seat.
‘Takeoff,’ said Mortun.
‘Now give the signal,’.
The Valkrie lifted off into the air, joined moments later by an escort of two Vultures.
The three aircraft flew slowly, lest the engines make too much noise, but in the dark night everything sounded louder than it really was.
‘Don’t worry,’ said Mortun to his men as well as himself, ‘we’ve got dozens of ships in the air, no one’s gonna notice one more,’.
The troopers looked doubtful to say the least.
Like ghosts the three aircraft brought themselves up above the command bastion. Mortun looked out the pilot’s window and saw squadrons of his Vultures and Valkyries flying in standard maneuver patterns, nothing fancy, nothing that would take up too much fuel.
‘Captain Tanner, are you and your men ready?’ he asked his subordinate officer in charge of the Chimera division on an encrypted vox channel.
‘Yessir, awaiting your signal,’.
‘Addressing all units,’ said Mortun to all his men, ‘you have been briefed by me on our mission here tonight, you all know what you have to do, there are four hundred men down there about to be executed for being loyal to the Emperor. The mastermind behind this is a madman who wishes to murder innocents and destroy all we have fought so hard to create. No quarter will be given to you in the event of capture, so give none in return. If you find yourself with a tactical advantage, take it, for traitors deserve no mercy, no fair fight and shall receive none. For the Imperium men, now we make our move,’.
Screaming like banshees a hundred aircraft dived out of the midnight sky.
Vulture gunships locked onto their predesignated targets and fired their deadly missiles into antiaircraft guns which exploded in fire and noise. An alarm went up, though it was hardly necessary.
‘Get ready men!’ shouted Mortun as he opened up the side hatch on the Valkyrie.
‘Sir, I just noticed, where’s your hellpistol?’ said Markus.
‘I decided on something a little more useful,’ said Mortun, hefting his new, more useful, weapon.
The wind blew in Mortun’s face as the Valkyrie spiraled downward, circling around the command bastion. The Vulture escorts casually fired their missiles or strafed the ground below.
‘Tanner how’s it going?’ asked Mortun over the vox, he had to shout to be heard.
‘Its alright sir, they can’t form solid lines to stop us and surprise is still working in our favor,’.
‘Let me know if the situation changes,’ said Mortun, he could just make out the line of Chimeras as they powered down the camp’s avenues. The multi-lasers mounted on front blazed away, starting fires left and right and cutting down the occasional patrol squad.
‘Alright boys, lets show’em what we got!’ shouted captain Tanner to his men. He smiled as the Chimeras blasted through the streets, nothing would stop them.
‘Corporal take the wheel, I’m gonna pop a hatch!’ he shouted. A young corporal took over driving and Tanner climbed back to the topside hatch to take over the pintle mounted bolter.
‘Yeah fuckers yeah!’ he shouted.
He was ripped from his joyous reverie when a missile streamed from above and his the Chimera before him.
He looked up and saw a blood red armored Astartes with a shoulder mounted missile launcher.
‘Now that I have you attention,’ said the giant before dropping the missile launcher on the roof of the barracks he was using as a firing platform.
Tanner watched in horror as the giant raised a small object, a device in the shape of a cylinder with a button on top.
Tanner knew what is was just moments before he died.
It was a detonator.
The traitors had known what was going to happen; they had known and were prepared.
All along the line of Chimera APC’s explosions ripped through the metal, killing Tanner’s men and ending any chance of rescue from the ground for the Glison.
‘No!’ shouted Mortun at the top of his lungs as the Valkyrie rounded the command bastion and he saw the explosions.
Tears came down his cheeks as secondary explosions tore ruined vehicles apart.
‘No!’ he shouted again.
‘Sir,’ said Markus, putting a hand on his shoulder ‘we’re about there,’.
‘Lets kill these fucking traitors!’ shouted Mortun.
The Valkyrie pilot found the spot Mortun specified and hovered.
‘Now!’ the officer shouted.
The Vulture gunships blasted a hole in the wall with their armaments.
‘Let’s go!’ shouted Mortun.
Once they were inside Mortun signaled his squad to move ahead and secure their immediate position while he relayed orders to his squadrons fighting in the air.
‘The Chimeras are gone, I repeat: the Chimeras are gone, Valkyrie pilots must evac the prisoners immediately, Vultures will support them, take out any antiaircraft guns that may appear, stay below the bastion’s roof, the guns up there can’t fire on anything below them. Understood?’
He got acknowledgments from his squadron leaders before continuing with his squad’s mission.
‘Where are we sir?’ asked Markus as the squad ran down a long hallway.
‘Lever 12B, prison level, its where they’ll be keeping Fortensen.
‘How do you know it’ll be here? That he’s not being kept somewhere secret?’
They turned a corner and twenty lasguns came up to stare at them.
‘Because nothing gets this kinda guard detail,’ said Mortun as he raised his grenade launcher.
‘Fire away boys!’ he yelled, and pulled the trigger.
A frag grenade shot from the short barrel, its recoil bringing another grenade into the firing chamber just as the grenade found the center of the room and exploded, killing Lord Ryken’s men like so many scarecrows.
The Jackals shot anyone still alive with their hellguns.
‘Come on lets go,’ said Mortun, running though the pile of bodies and puddles of blood.
The squad blasted away more opposition, using speed and superior fire power they blazed a path through the halls.
‘Couldn’t we come in closer sir?’ a trooper asked, Mortun didn’t know who.
‘No, I was looking for the easiest stretch of wall to blast open, we’re lucky we were as close as we were when we came in,’.
Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).