"The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. The Pessimist fears it is true"- J. Robert Oppenheimer.
When Worlds Collide.
Earlier that day.
A sprawling green plain stretched all the way from the edge of the lush green forest to the bottom of a mountain range that separated a peninsula from the mainland, uninhibited by either Orks or humans during the long millennia since they both first arrived. In the sky was something that didn't seem to belong in this world, a machine which seemed to fly with two horizontally placed windmills spinning with such power they lifted the machine. The machine landed at the edge of the forest with a soft 'Thump' and the soldiers inside of its hull unloaded themselves. They scanned the area with practiced precision then relaxed slightly when they knew the area was clear. Some of the members of the squad turn their backs to the forest to look at the plain with the mountains in the distance.
"Man what an amazing sight." said private Jenkins the newest member of the squad. He turned to his squadmates and asked. "You think I'll be allowed to build a house here when all of this is done and we've settled in?" He asked enthusiastically.
"Baby steps Jenkins." Replied fellow private Forsell. "Let's try completing today's mission without any major screw-ups."
"How exactly is there supposed to be any major screw-ups?" Ask Jenkins. "All we're doing is installing some cameras."
Before Forsell could tell Jenkins he probably just jinxed it, the leader of this operation spoke up.
"Alright people listen up," said Sergeant Fenix an as by the book soldier as they come. "Just in case some of you didn't listen during the briefing, I'm going over the mission parameters one more time."
"Yesterday the drones found a middle ages village on the other side of this forest," he explained as he gestured behind him. "And more settlements are being discovered every hour. As you all know we need to colonize this planet if our civilization is going to survive, but it'll be better if we avoid repeating the more unsavory aspects of our past, we also don't know anything about these people and only an idiot makes any big decisions before he knows as much about the situation as possible."
"Fortunately for whatever reason, the natives speak English, so all we have to do is listen to learn." With that Fenix pulled out a small camera from out of his backpack to show everyone.
"So we have been sent here to gather intelligence on the situation and we're going to do that by splitting up into fire teams of 4 troops sneaking in and around the forest installing these little beauties to learn more about these people," he explained as he put the camera back.
"Once each team has finished placing their cameras in the designated places will rendezvous here to return home, we are not going to interact So does anyone have any questions?"
Someone in the group raised their hand and after being given me to speak he asked his question. "Sir, I noticed that we have soldiers by the names of Johnson, Jenkins, Forsell, and Mendoza in one of the fire teams and we also have a sergeant by the name of Marcus Michael Fenix."
"Your point Soldier?"
"I'm just wondering when are the Master Chief and Commander Shepard going to arrive?" The soldier asked with a smirk.
Snickering was heard throughout the squad at the question and in retaliation, Mendoza sent a gesture at the soldier who made the remark.
Sergeant Fenix shook his head and continued. "Alright people we have a job to do and we're not getting paid by the hour, move out." With that order, the Squad split into fireteams of 4 designated Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie and begin their treks into the forest. "Oh, and I almost forgot... our helmet cams are broadcasting everything we're seeing live across the whole Earth so try to keep the swearing mild and to a minimum, it would kind of defeat the purpose of keeping everyone back home informed if every other word per sentence was just a loud and annoying beeping noise, you all hear me?"
"Yes sir, we'll keep the swearing to Halo levels." said the smirking soldier from earlier.
Several hours later.
After placing their hidden cameras around the forest Johnson, Jenkins, Forsell, and Mendoza (designated Bravo Team) began to head back to the rendezvous, idly chatting as they went.
"You think maybe somebody put us all together as a joke?" Mendoza bitterly asked. "I mean seriously, what are the odds of a group of people with the names of a video game characters naturally forming?"
"Boy, I don't know or care what the odds are and neither should you," declared Johnson. "Personally I kinda like the comparison, those men got to fight against some of the most badass enemies in their universe, and it's kind of fun to pretend to be someone else every once in a while."
Before and those I could continue the conversation the Bravo team heard a noise and took cover behind the trees. There was still no telling what sort of dangers this planet hosted, so it was better to be safe than sorry.
It was then a little girl appeared. She was wearing a yellowish-white blouse tied up with a belt around her skirt which was a nice purple color, but it didn't look like it had been washed recently. She was carrying a picnic basket and heading back to the village with a satisfied smile on her face.
"Switch to radio and keep your voices down," Johnson whispered.
All three of his men complied.
"It looks like one of the children from the village... and it looks like she's heading home," Jenkins whispered.
"Let her pass, our orders are to observe only," Johnson ordered.
His men acknowledged his order and counted their observations, "Any idea why she's so far out here?" Forsell asked. "I don't think she's old enough to be sent out this far."
"Maybe she was she just got lost and now is trying to get back home," Jenkins suggested.
"It doesn't look like she's lost," Mendoza observed. "I mean look at her, you think she would be more scared if she were lost, and it's like you said she's heading home which means she clearly knows where she's going."
"Mendoza, are you suggesting something?" asked Johnson.
Before anyone could ask Mendoza what he was getting at the girl looked over to the trees where they were hiding, and she called out "Hello? Is someone there?"
The four soldiers were shocked into silence, they weren't that far away from the girl but being as quiet as they were, she shouldn't have heard them. After a moment of the soldiers hardly even daring to breathe the girl seemed to have lost interest in the trees they were hiding behind and continued on her way. The four soldiers looked at each other and came to an unspoken agreement, wait for the girl to leave then start talking again.
The girl was just about to leave and Johnson was just about for orders when four tiny creatures wielding crude knives appeared from the same place the girl first came from. They looked like goblins with their green skin, small demeanor, long beak-like noses, and vicious red eyes looking straight at the girl.
‘What the hell?’ Johnson thought to himself. As the four creatures started to speak to each other in a cockney accent.
"Wots dis? A humie Gretchin? Yum yum!"
"Da Boss wud luv to eat it up!"
"I wanna get its lag!"
"Yu's going to eat Squigs, not humie Gretchin! Da humie Gretchin is for the Boss."
"Which boss? Da Big boss or the us boss?
"Da Big Boss, yu idiot! Da Warboss luv eating humies!"
While the four creatures argued among themselves as to who should deliver this tasty morsel to their 'Warboss', the girl used their moment of distraction to slowly walk away, she almost successfully escaped in silence, but then one of the creatures saw her.
"Oi, did we orda dis dinna ta go?"
"Yes yu idiot, it's gonna go to the Big Boss, why yu's asking stupid questions?"
"Kus dere it goes! Not to da Big Boss!"
The girl broke into a run, and the Creatures let out a howl and ran after her. "Bravo squad prepare to fire on the Goblins, be careful not to hit the girl!" Johnson ordered, and his men moved with practiced efficiency.
As they prepared it looked like for a moment the girl was going getaway, but she slipped on a tree root and fell. She cried out in pain as her ankle was sprained, and then her scream became that of terror as the four Creatures were almost upon her.
"Somebody help!" She cried out in desperation.
It was then Bravo team in a silent agreement took the opportunity to open fire.
*Bang* *Bang* *Bang* *Bang*
"Graagh!" "Graagh!" "Graagh!"
The bullets clearly connected to the goblin-like creatures, but only one of them fell to the ground clutching its heart as it did, and much to the shock of bravo team who had seen full-grown men taken down by a single burst from the weapons they were currently using, the other three child-size monsters turned their wounded backs to the girl and faced the trees bravo team was taking cover behind, while the soldiers could see bunning red anger in their eyes and showing hardly any sign that they were hurt.
"Look ova dere!" Said the one closest to the squad, pointing at them as it spoke. "Dere's four humies with shootas tryin ta hide behind da trees!"
"Whot? Dese humies don't use shootas!" Said the one in the middle of the group, which was now looking at the direction the closest one was pointing. "Da ones with da shootas are-"
*Bang* *Bang* *Bang* *Bang*
After getting over their shock of the resilience of the creatures Bravo team opened fire on the creatures again, this time focusing on their heads. The one that was denying the others claim was shot in its left eye and immediately fell over like a bag of potatoes, while another decided to screw it and dashed for the nearest thicket to become completely forgotten about by both the soldiers and it buddies. The last one either didn't notice the other two dying and running away or it didn't care, because it let out a howl and began to charge only to be shot down before it could take two steps toward the trees were Bravo team was shooting from.
After ten seconds of silence, Johnson ordered his team forward to investigate the dead creatures, they were almost on top of the bodies when the girl started to cautiously emerge from behind the tree.
Her eyes mediately widened and she held up one hand in a stop gesture at the soldiers and the other hand was used to put a pair of fingers to her lips, the message was clear: ‘stop and be quiet,’ and the team complied and waited. A moment later she took her hands to her mouth and moved them back and forth regularly, while she took her other hand and pointed to the last goblin look-alike that fell while still using the other to make the back and forth motion in front of her mouth. ‘That one is still breathing.’
Bravo team nodded in understanding and the closest members took a few steps back from the creature playing possum and slowly raised all four of their weapons at it, and-
*Bang* *Bang* *Bang* *Bang*
Whether it was from its especially keen senses or a burst of stupid luck the creature sprang out of the way of the first volley, dashed towards the closest soldier forcing the troops to stop shooting, and proceed to stab Mendoza in the knee. However, the knife couldn't penetrate the kevlar knee cap and Mendoza kicked the creature with enough force to send it flying meters away, but by reflex, the monster held on and clawed away the uniform above his ankle and bit it with a sickeningly fast snap followed by panicked yelling.
"Ahhhhh! Get it off! Get it off!"
"Hold still! Hold still!" Jenkins shouted as he and Forsell worked together to pull off the monster's jaw while Johnson in a rush of quick thinking looked around and found a rock the size of his head and brought it over to the horrific scene. By the time he returned with the rock Jenkins and Forsell succeeded in prying off the beast's mouth off Mendoza's lag and they were holding it in the air as it snarled and growled from its blood-soaked mouth while clawing at its holders.
"Pin it to the ground, now!" He ordered, and they did so immediately and Johnson brought the head-sized rock down on its face, between his bulked-up muscles and the planet's gravity the rock fell with more than enough force to crush the monster's skull and splatter its brains across the forest floor.
Baring the sounds of heavy breathing silents ruled for a total of 6 seconds before Mendoza let loose a sigh of relief and got up on his feet. "God damn it, what were those goblin things?"
"Well, that's the question of the hour isn't it?" Johnson asked rhetorically as he turned around to face Mendoza. "So how are you feeling-oh hell what are you doing on your feet?!
"I'm fine," Mendoza said dismissively, "Honesty it feels like I overreacted when I was bitten by... whatever that thing was."
"It is called a Gretchin, and you need to treat that wound before it's too late." said a worrying voice of a little girl originating from behind the tree. Before Johnson could make any other retorts at Mendoza's laxity at being bitten by some alien creature.
Johnson turned around to see the little girl they had gone against their original orders to save had come out from her hiding place with an expression that looked as considered as her voice did from a moment ago did, he forced himself to relax before asking his questions.
"Hello, are you hurt and what's so dangerous about… Gretchin bites?"
The look of worry remained when she spoke again. "I’ll be fine, your fellow soldier is the one who needs help, Gretchin bites are very dangerous if untreated," she told him with a hint of urgency as she fully came out from behind the tree.
Alright, straight to business then. "What exactly makes a Gretchin bite dangerous? Also, my name is Johnson, this is Jenkins, Forsell, and the one who got bitten is Mendoza."
She nodded in understanding and said. "My name is Alena, and what makes Gretchin bites very dangerous is that Gretchin, like all other Orkoid creatures like Squigs, Snotlings, and Orks, are constantly breathing out fungal spores which usually they just land on the ground and start to grow into new patches of fungus which eventually spawns and feeds the entire Orkoid Ecosystem, but when a Gretchin or any of the other animal-like Orkoid bites a creatures that aren't Orkoids themselves, those spores they breath out enter the body, making the host numb to the pain and make then feel complacent in general as the spores begin to grow inside the body. If the bite is not treated by someone who knows exactly what they're doing and has exactly the right instruments available to them, then the victim is doomed to either losing a limb by amputation or becoming a spore infested corpse in a few days which will provide plenty of nutrients for a fast-growing fungus patch."
After a moment of Bravo team only giving her blank and or frightened stares, Alena started again. "How is it you don't know any of this? Are you from off-world or something?"
"...Yes." Johnson replied after he processed the fact this little girl had used the term 'Off-world.'
Alena returned the look of blank confusion for a moment before she recovered and continued. "Huh, at any rate, Mendoza needs to be treated before... sunset at the absolute longest by an experienced healer, fortunately, there is one in my village which we can get to in time of we hurry, if you escort me back home my father will vouch for you as a Covenant Storyteller, although he would like to hear your story afterward."
Johnson's eyes widened at her answer and he felt the two of the three other men shift uncomfortably. "The... Covenant?"
Alena scratched her head sheepishly, "Right, I guess you wouldn't have heard of the Covenant if you had only recently arrived," She regained her composure "But all of that can be explained later, we need to leave right now if we're going to save your friend."
Johnson looked back to his men to see Jenkins and Forsell were looking unsure of the situation while Mendoza looked...
"Mendoza! how are you feeling?!"
After a few exceptionally long seconds he responded in what Johnson perceived as a very disturbingly impassive tone. "I feel... alright, even though the stuff about becoming a fungus infested corpse should be... terrifying, I feel... fine and-"
"Alright stop right there!" After a moment of contemplating the situation, Johnson returned his attention to Alean. "Ok... Well, If you're sure we'll be welcome there..."
Alean looked at the whole of Bravo team with sincerity and replied. "You'll be fine," she reassured them. "Are you ready to go?"
Johnson was just about to say yes when he remembered he was supposed to get permission to deviate from the original plan. "I just need a moment," Johnson said just before he contacted his superiors, looking slightly up while he spoke. "Well, you all definitely heard the situation, permission to accept Alean's offer?"
After a moment the response came through. "It doesn't look like you have much choice... Permission granted, we'll send a squad to secure the bodies for study."
"Understood, over and out," Just before Johnson made the announcement he noticed Jenkins and Forsell having some exceptionally grim looks on their faces as they talked to each other while looking at the bodies of the so-called Gretchins, and his intuition told him it wasn't the attack itself that they were worried about, but he decided that was something that would have to wait.
"Good news everyone, they said yes," He said." Forsell support Mendoza for the trip, Jenkins take all the gear you can carry from them," He turned to Alean and said. "Lead the way."
Alean made a military salute and turned to lead them to the village only for a gasp of pain escaped her mouth face when she took the first step with her leg that had the sprained ankle.
"You need help?" he asked only for her to immediately pick up a stick, test it with her weight, and used it as a third leg before replying, "I'm fine," and when the rest of the team was ready the journey began in earnest.
After several hours, the group of five reached the edge of the forest and the village came into view. The sun was beginning to set and all five could see a crowd of dozens of people carrying recently lit lanterns. In front of the crowd was a man with his back to the forest, addressing the crowd with his voice on the edge of extreme worry.
"... So she cannot have gone far." He said after what sounded like a speech describing the situation.
"Don't worry Elric we will find her." Said a man in the front of the crowd.
Alena stopped and gestured at Bravo Squad to stay behind and let her revealed herself first.
"Wait, what's that?" Someone in the crowd asked.
The search team turned to see Alena running out of the forest alive and unharmed (and not carrying the walking stick she used for most of the journey) before anyone could react Alena rush over to the man called Eric and called out, "Father!"
He kneeled down to catch her and they hugged tightly with Elric whispering in a relieved tone. "Where have you been? When I found out that you were missing, I was so terrified."
Alena smiled wide and kissed her father on the cheek, there were some things that couldn't be rushed but after that Alena quickly told her story.
"I was going to surprise you with a picnic father," she held up the aforementioned picnic basket to emphasize then continued her story, "but I got lost so I began to head home. Then I was ambushed by a few Gretchins and rescued and escorted home by four soldiers." At first, everyone was relieved to see her safe, but then they began to worry about the Gretchins and soldiers she mentioned, but before anyone could ask her any questions she lost her smile and continued to the important part.
"However one of my saviors was bitten by a Gretchin that was faking death," she looked behind her to see Bravo team walking a fair bit slower in order to stay with and support a limping Mendoza who now had a nearly completely apathetic look of his face due to what must have been hours of the untreated effects of a Gretchin bite.
After a moment of hesitation, Johnson stepped in front of both teams and began to introduce himself and his men. "I am Sergeant-"
"-How long has it been since the bite?" Alean's uncle Hargen asked with utmost urgency after he stepped forward and cut off Johnson's introduction.
Quickly recovering from the interruption Johnson replied. "About..." Stopped when he remembered that these people probably didn't keep time with the same units the people of Earth did, "Around noontime."
Hargen moved to pull up the uniform covering the bite and saw that there were small patches of green growing inside the wound. "Dark forsaken..." he whispered under his breath, "Bring him to my house, we need to act swiftly to save him at this point."
"Sure, sure, let's do that," Mendoza mumbled as he was practically dragged by Jenkins and Forsell to where Hargen led them, leaving Johnson to speak with Elric.
Once Johnson got a good look at Elric he found himself feeling... vulnerable. It wasn't that Elric was an overly imposing figure, in fact, he appeared to be only slightly more sturdy built than the other villagers, what was really making Johnson uncomfortable were his eyes.
The thoughts that came to Johnson's mind when looking at Elric's eyes were that they were powerful, wise, and sad, they gave off the impression that he had seen far too much during his lifetime, but he had taken that pain and horror and transformed himself into a leader capable of bearing the burden of multiple worlds, and in the first second he saw you he managed to make an educated guess the worst thing you would be willing to do to his world, what your chances are of accomplishing that will, how he could best stop you, and how to make you regret the moment you ever thought to attack his people. There was no doubt in Johnson's mind that Elric was the local leader here, heck, if he only saw Elric face in a picture and was told to guess what position this man held in medieval society, he would have guessed he was the king. It took all of his training not to shudder or ramble.
"Sorry for Hargen's lack of introduction, but Orkoid spores do not wait for pleasantries." He paused for a moment while looking at his hand with a puzzled expression, then he held it out to Johnson "My name is Elric, and I'm thankful you for saving my daughter from the Gretchins."
He gripped the offered hand and shook it. "Think nothing of it," Johnson said dismissively while reflecting on how convenient it was they apparently used handshakes just like people back on Earth did. "My name is Johnson, and I'm a soldier of the United States Marine Corps."
Elric stood silent for a good solid 5 seconds before he replied. "I'm afraid we are not familiar with anything called the United States Marine Corps."
Johnson smiled and chuckled. "I would have been well above surprised if you were because we're new around here."
"...Well then, If I may be so bold, perhaps you would like to join us for our banquet where we can answer each other's questions? I certainly have some and my intuition says you do as well."
After remembering that banquet was another way of saying dinner Johnson hesitated for a moment before replying. "I'd prefer if we'd at least have the first conversation be private."
Elric wore a bemused expression when he answered. "The most important part of any secret is the knowledge that the secret exists. Seeing as how you have already betrayed the fact that there is at least one secret about you in front of everyone else here..." he said as he gestured to the group that had assembled to find Alean along with Alean herself, "Well, I do find any effort to keep any secrets to be in vain."
"Of course, but I'd feel more comfortable if you, someone who seems to be the trusted authority figure around here, heard the story first then told everyone else how you saw fit. The story is also a pretty long one, so do you have someplace we can talk for a while?"
"...Yes, and if it's so important to you then we can speak in private." Elric said as he beckoned Johnson to follow him to his house. Then he added, "You're still welcome to dine with us if you or your men wish to."
"That sounds good, thank you for your hospitality."
After they dropped off Mendoza outside the healer's house to be treated, Jenkins and Forsell went for a walk for a bit of privacy after Forsell could tell that Jenkins was extremely troubled for some reason, "I know back when we first started the journey here we saw a lot of weird things in the space of about 10 minutes so I get it if you didn't think it was worth noting, but did you see how Alean made a salute near the end?"
"I did," Forsell whispered back. "You have any theories besides it being another weird coincidence like how they're speaking English?"
"Yeeessss, considering the nature of the universe we're in, I think its a safe bet to-
"-What do you mean 'the universe we're in?'"
"You don't know about 40k? Ummm, well... based on what we've seen so far it looks like the Tartarus Gate leads to a universe that is identical- or extremely similar to- a fictional universe called Warhammer 40k. Although I'm wondering if there really is such a thing as fiction with the multiverse making everything equally real somewhere sometime, anyway... to make a long and complicated story short and simple..." Jenkins went into the lore behind psykers and their place, powers, and dangers, within the 41st millennium. After hearing the story Forsell had a look of repulsion and disbelief on his face.
Jenkins nodded in understanding. "Horrifying I know, but there's a reason why the tag is and I quote. "In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war."
"Looks like I'm going to read up on this 40k as soon as I get the spare time, then again I will probably just have to read up on the news with any and all websites with any lore about this '40k' being completely bogged down with searches."
"I wouldn't worry about that, there are plenty of youtube videos that can tell you plenty of stuff about 40k. Also, why do you think any website would be completely bogged down with-... oh God no!" Jenkins whispered remembering the fact their helmet cameras were broadcasting the operation to the whole world.
Jenkins stood in complete silents despairing over the fact that back on Earth there would be a resurgence of mass hysteria, looting, random crimes, and the emergence of wannabe Rambos causing a great deal of devastation that would likely kill more people at first then the actual dangers of the 41st millennium, just like the Great Panic in World War Z, and it would probably come to be known as the Second Panic.
Author's note: First of all to anyone who served in the military and knows for a fact that in a situation where the army needed to gain information on a new civilization on an alien world the military would not send ground soldiers to install hidden cameras around the nearest village I'm just going to say… I'm just a fanfiction writer/reader and an RTS player, not a real-life military expert.
You know I recently reread my first draft of this story and I got to say, I'm amazed people decided to keep reading it even when I made so many mistakes even if it was fanfiction, to which I say thanks all who read the original.
Again thanks to my unofficial beta reader ChronoEntente who gave the name Marcus Michael Fenix to my undecided Sargent.
Edit: While I never found anything about Orkoid bites causing infestation like what is described in this chapter, I decided to add it to; make the enemy more terrifying, throw the Earth humans (And by extension you readers.) into doubt as to how much they can depend on their meta-knowledge, and add another reason for Bravo team to go to the village. It also seems like a pretty logical extension on their capabilities to me, and if everyone reads it and goes 'THIS IS NOT FUCKING CANON!' well, I can just say it's a unique phenomenon to the Orkoids of Genesis.
The Emperor protects, the System Prospers.