A sequel to my HOES 11-10 entry, at https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...8&postcount=24
. (Hopefully reading it isn't necessary to understand this one.)
Heresy Online Expeditious Stories 12-10: Failure
Governor Ricdar Kramm of the world Hexeril gazed at the blue-armored Space Marine warily.
“I am not your slave,” he said.
It was a bold thing to tell an Alpha Legionnaire. Like most Chaos Space Marines, they were not exactly the kindest of overlords.
But they were not needlessly cruel, either. Only reasonably so.
“You are not,” Uner accepted, his voice mechanically amplified by his helmet. “But you are
our minion. Tell me, Kramm; can you truly turn this world without our help?”
Uner froze in thought for a second, then seemed to relax. “Very well. I will convince Traet to leave. You… you will make Hexeril loyally Chaotic within a year.” The Alpha Legionnaire held out an oversized, gauntleted hand.
Kramm shook it.
* * *
Kramm hadn’t expected it to be easy. He had foreseen, in one way or another, all that had preceded, from making clear his conversion to bolster the fanaticism of the Imperial rebels a few hours after the Alpha Legion’s arrival to the emotional tricks to drive those madmen into a self-destructive spiral.
It was somewhat childish, but Kramm liked explosions a lot.
But though the ragtag fanatics might be dead, or else herded into slavery, the greater challenge still lay ahead. Kramm had been fully aware that the Imperium would attempt to retake Hexeril. It was a fairly significant Civilized World, after all.
But… Space Marines? How?
The governor sat in his aquamarine throne, reading the official demand for surrender from a hanging dataslate. It was fairly standard; redemption was death, and resistance was painful death.
“Even their messages are boring,” Kramm said, then hammered the throne’s arm when he realized there was no one around to answer. Narpekl was gone, dead, shot; he had no allies left. Only minions.
The governor picked up a microphone, twirling it in his hands; this was it. His best-laid plans, against a best-prepared enemy. With a few practiced keystrokes, he reached the hidden defenses in orbit.
“Kill them,” he ordered. “I don’t care how many slaves die today; the Imperium will win if they reach the ground. But in space, they are vulnerable.”
A chorus of acceptance greeted his orders, and Kramm lounged back in his seat, swiping his hand across a screen to open the tactical display. As he watched, titanic spheres uncloaked, and what was once transparent space glistened with deadly metal. It had taken sacrificing everything he had, including his popularity, to get those constructed on time; but
The Imperial fleet- now greatly outnumbered, though not outgunned- paused in thought, like a superorganism in nervous shock.
The battle-spheres opened fire.
Missiles streaked through space and explosions bloomed; though Kramm could only see red lines and schematic rings, his limited imagination was sufficient to picture the melee. He was no general; there was a separate room of those several doors down, prodigies plucked from forgettable nothingness and thrust into the palatial corridors. They weren’t the best admirals on Hexeril; but they were good, and more importantly, loyal.
Kramm saw the Imperial ships fire back, gathering into a panicked ball that immediately became a target for suicide fighters. They still had the resources to win this battle, but as soon as the governor saw the first frigate break formation and head towards the jump point, he knew it was over.
They would return- perhaps soon. But it would be the Alpha Legion’s problem. Kramm had worked Hexeril to the brink of death to keep it in Chaos’ hands, and it had worked. He saw more and more Imperial vessels disengage, fleeing in a rather organized manner, but fleeing nevertheless.
The battle was over.
* * *
Through a smoky sky, the Alpha Legion descended onto Hexeril.
Kramm watched the shuttles fall from a balcony, in a gold-colored mask. It was mildly ostentatious, but triumph tended to be.
Blue and green shuttles, inscribed with the serpent insignia, danced above shaking buildings. As had been ordered, the Legionnaires were greeted with a sacrificial salute; as the first shuttle reached an altitude of one kilometer, a hundred cannons fired severed heads into the air, and a hundred cut tongues screamed the names of the gods.
The buildings shook again with the sound, and daemonic wurms crawled out, dripping with the slime of their incarnation. Those were silent, only raising their heads in salute.
That first shuttle did not, of course, stop at a kilometer. It dropped further down, as if it was wingless, before braking; the wind caught it, tossing it to the palace’s tallest spire. Then it was descending once more, slowing as it approached Kramm before stopping to hover before the balcony.
A ramp fell out. Uner- or at least a Legionnaire impersonating Uner- stepped onto it, striding towards Kramm in full battle plate.
“So, “Kramm”,” he said. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I succeeded, lord. Hexeril belongs to Chaos.”
Uner ripped off his helm, revealing himself to indeed be the lieutenant, and spat in Kramm’s face; the governor flung his mask away, even as it began to dissolve. “You call this a turned world?” Uner near-screamed. “You call this a world that belongs to Chaos?”
“Why would it not be, lord?”
“How many people on Hexeril pray to the True Gods daily?”
“I have not mandated them to-”
“Exactly! Mandated!” The last attendant turned and rushed into the palace, leaving only Kramm and the Space Marine on the balcony. “This is not a world turned to Chaos, “Kramm”; this is a world where the populace fears Chaos. The gods must be loved, not hated; the same is true of their figurehead. Hexeril is obedient, but it is not turned. You failed. Slave
* * *
Ricdar Kramm- the real Ricdar Kramm, not the Alpha Legion aide who had been conditioned to refer to himself thus- pondered the stability map.
Uner had freed him, on the condition that he would make Hexeril worship Chaos. It was a deep challenge, made more difficult by the fact that the population hated him. He tiredly wondered if he could simply return to the Imperium, renounce the dark worship the Twentieth Legion had been forcing on him for three years… but no, the populace was too far gone for that, and so was he.
But then again, he was governor once more, and he wasn’t about to squander this chance.
“For the Emperor,” Kramm said, and not even he knew whether it was sincere.