this is the Prologue
to the novel that has resulted from the short story, At The End Of All Things
Brother Vicarus as a Ghost of Iron
if you would like to read this from the beginning, please read At The End Of All Things
first, as this is a continuation.
At The End Of All Things
The Ghost of Iron - Prologue
It has been Twenty Years since that fateful day when Brother Captain Vicarus, of the Iron Diamond Space Marines woke to the destruction of his chapter. Yet there are others interested in the planet of his chapter's destruction. It is no longer just himself and the Orks. The Imperial Guard has detached a salvage regiment to the sector to peruse for scrap. The story begins here. Will Brother Captain Vicarus ever meet these strangers? Only time will tell.
“Shotgun, this is X-Ray. Four Niner, you are clear for pitch pull, over.”
“Roger X-Ray. Pitch Pull in thirty, over.”
The lifter jets of the drop ship began to whine and screech as if just preparing to take off was too painful an operation.
“Command to X-Ray. Spread to cover position Alpha in support, over.”
At the wave of a hand, Captain Bulous moved his troops into cover positions amongst the rocks around the LZ. Command had spent weeks pouring over orbital scans of the planet's surface for any signs of remaining life. The scans had confirmed their initial hopes. The old rusted wrecks of a campaign gone awry littered the planets surface for hundreds of kilometers. For those savvy enough to retrieve the scrap, it could mean trillions in Imperial credits. Their only concern were clusters of small Ork camps at the old battlefield's southern borders. Captain Bulous had been informed that there were no signs that the Orks inhabited anywhere other than the southern hemisphere. There were no doubts amongst the senior staff that these Orks, Emperor damn them, were well established residents that had, more than likely, been one of the parties responsible for the waste that engulfed the planet. Which, Captain Bulous had been quick to remind everyone, meant the excess amount of unsalvaged wreckage was quite unusual. At least according to the standards upheld by most Ork clans. Orks, especially those whom Bulous had encountered, relied heavily on the technologies of other races for their battle equipment. After major engagements, for example those utilizing vast numbers of armored units, Orks were know to salvage those wrecks which could be fixed and twist them to their fancy. In the amount of time since this battle had been concluded, company tacticians had estimated close to two decades, there should not have been this much scrap still salvageable.
Command had chosen to start in the north. The orbital scans revealed what looked to be a massive ship that had crash landed on the surface. Chart comparisons confirmed it to be a space marine Battle Barge. Captain Bulous could only speculate, but it seemed very possible that the Orks on the planet had originally come from a space hulk colony. He had a feeling that the Orks from the space hulk had caught the space marine command, situated on the Battle Barge, off its guard and fully committed on the ground. There must have been no time to call troops back to the ship to repel a boarding attempt. With its command severed, the rest of their force was left to die. Of course it was highly possible that the two were completely separate. The space hulk Orks and the surface Orks could have been two completely separate clans. Captain Bulous couldn't imagine being caught in between like these marines must have been. With a laugh he shook himself out of his day dream. He assured himself that it wasn't that complex. Men fought and they died. It was as simple as that. No frills, and no heroics. Kill or be killed. If you were not constantly vigilant, you died. If you day dreamed...with a sneer, Captain Bulous decided to return to the task at hand.
Command had assured him that there would be hostile contact this far north of the camps. Still, Captain Bulous did not quite trust the workings of High Command. He never had. He had always suspected them of greed and carelessness. Far too many times had he been told a planet was uninhabited, only to come screaming into a hot LZ, unaware and under equipped. He had lost many good men to the “small errors” of High Command, and wasn't about to lose any more of them.
Captain Bulous kept his men on high alert and gave them permission to engage at the slightest evidence of hostile contact. All the while gazing warily up at the rim of the huge crater that they had been flown into. In the early evening glow of the planet's two setting suns, it was made clear to him that the Battle Barge they were sent to cannibalize, had not originally crashed in this crater. It seemed to have actually crashed somewhere outside the crater, and with the speed and momentum only found in ships of this size, slammed into the ground and cut out a kilometer long swath of earth before stopping. The ship had ended its morbid clash with friction in this huge crater. Sliding down its eastern wall and settling in the bottom.
“X-Ray, this is Shotgun Leader. Pitch pull complete. Moving to coordinate group Theta for rendezvous with the Sister Clara
. Give my regards to the dead, Malleus, over.”
“Shotgun, this is X-Ray. Very funny Marco. Get your ass out of here will ya. I'll see you in a month, over.”
“Sure, but when you get back, drinks are on you old buddy.”
Before he could reply, the drop ship tore off into the southern sky.
Captain Malleus Bulous simply laughed. Turning with a grin, he addressed his troops. “Alright boys! This scrap's not gonna salvage itself! Lets strap it, haul it, and kick its ass! Lets show 'em what a real Imperial salvage team can do! First and Second squads! I want those habs set up and operational by sundown tonight! That is, unless you want to sleep with the Orks tonight! Fourth squad! I want two heavy weapon emplacements on the northwestern and southeastern faces of this Emperor-forsaken crater! If you don't want this place to turn into a mass grave, i suggest you do it soon. Oh, and the Emperor protects.”
His men replied with a deafening cheer. Captain Malleus Bulous smiled. He knew his men were the best. They were trained on Mars itself by the techmarines of the Adeptus Mechanicus in salvage and recovery. He had no doubts this was going to be a short trip. With enough habs for him and his men, and provisions enough to spend a month planet-side, he had no reservations for getting this mission underway. It would take his men two full days to complete their preparations anyways.
“Command, this is X-Ray. Do you read, over.”
“Go ahead X-Ray, make your declaration, over.”
“Let it be known, that in service to the God Emperor of mankind, on the 56th day 782.M41, salvage and recovery operations in the northern sector are go. The Emperor protects, over.”
“The Emperor protects.”
Journal Entry for 782.M41 Day 56
Long range auspex crashed at about 3&30 this morning. Suspect humidity.
I tried to service the piece but there is nothing else to be done. All the major contacts have rustecd through.
I will be setting out for the north come sundown. I'll see if i cant salvage another one from The Might of Angarius
. Emperor knows she's proven very useful so far.
The Orks dont seem to come near anymore. Which means my methods have proven effective. With auspex down it will prove harder to keep them off this sacred ground. The orks are especially cautious around The Might of Angarius
. Not two months ago, as previously recorded in this journal, i dispatched a platoon sized band of orks as they set foot inside the Battle Barge. I have secretly protected our sacred vessel from those damn xeno-scum for close to two decades now.
At times the Orks seem desperate to clam the wreckage for themselves, and it tears my heart when i have to use explosives to deter them from this sacred ground. had we killed them all, i would have gladly left my battle brothers to lay silently. these foul Orks, though few and weak, have forced me to defend my brother's final resting places vigilantly for the past two decades.
Booby traps and tripwire charges should deter their movements until my return.
Sundown is upon me. It is a two day journey to our ship in the north. I must replace the auspex or my cause is doomed.
Glory be the Emperor,