A/N: Thanks! So, I've been looking at stubbers and autoguns and it appears to me that the 40k Universe makes absolutely no sense at all, because some references pointed to autoguns being equal to lasguns in raw damage, yet only slightly better than stubguns, though lasguns and autoguns hit with the punch of a 30mm round (Which, considering flechette, airburst and detachable sabot ammunition, isn't that far ahead of today's performances), so I'll carefully avoid such matters until it cannot be avoided :S
People deal with grief differently, some just push it back, others let it all set in and keep it in, others simply open the valves and stop thinking about it. LaCosta was the third type. As soon as he sat behind the wheel of his massive truck, he was met with his daughter’s perfume, a flowery scent imbibed into the seats.
Kevin’s eyes watered and he collapsed on the steering wheel, too weak to get up, his forehead bumping the horn rather pathetically. Sobs shook the large man’s body as he whispered his daughter’s name.
“Anna, oh my darling, I’m so sorry, I’m so fraking sorry baby…” Evan and the girl were left dumbstruck, unable to decide on what they should do next. It seemed like madness now, fighting the Imperium, the government had given in long ago, clearly stating to its citizens, though in more complex terms, that they were Terra’s bitches now, on account of the Imperium having such a massive military.
What could a handful of confused blokes do about it? Fling rocks at Super Heavy tanks?
When the girl voiced it out loud, the thought had the effect of a whip on the retired marine.
His eyes, red and swollen, shot lightning at the Hispanic woman when he spoke a line he most likely had found in some action movie: “To die for your beliefs is damn better than to be shot begging for mercy…” He pointed to the street, barely visible from where they stood.
A sentinel strode across their vision, groaning under its own weight.
“The plan’s not to kill them or kick them out, we just want some leverage, some respect, so they stop slaughtering our kids in the fraking streets!”
Evan frowned at that part, “Wait, we actually have a plan, I mean, beyond getting guns and stuff?” Though a vital part of that plan himself, he had yet to see how all of their loose suggestions and plotting came together to be called a plan.
The girl, who’s name neither men could recall, nodded, though apparently in agreement with Evan’s question.
“Of course!” The man, now looking more composed, started the car, V8 engine roaring into life. “We’ll have to see how many of those twits wimped out first.”
They all climbed in without another word. Evan disagreed with Kevin, preferring ‘run and live’ to ‘run and gun’, but if there was a way to sort this whole mess out, it would be to stick with people actually willing to fight.
First stop on the schedule would be… “What’s your friggin’ name anyway?” LaCosta seemed to have forgot all about his daughter. A convincing façade.
“Michelle.” She had called shotgun before Evan could, ending up in the passenger seat, looking like a child in the oversized vehicle.
In the backseat, Evan peeked out the opposite window, looking for traces of his motorcycle and finding none. This should have bothered him, to have lost such a crucial part of his life, but it seemed of little consequences compared to LaCosta’s loss.
Instead, he wondered where all the crushed cars had gone, the roads being completely empty.
“What’s wrong with this picture?” He asked, looking out his own window, then back to the other. Trenches in the road indicated what direction the tank took, but street-lights, billboards, cars, everything that had been knocked down or wasn’t bolted down was now missing.
Michelle spotted it first, though, admittedly, LaCosta probably just didn’t care enough to answer at that moment, “They cleaned the street overnight.”
Evan nodded, “What kind of army can spare cleanup crews the very night following an invasion?”
Kevin stopped at an intersection and spat a string of insanity at a sport car, speeding away from two chasing sentinels. “They didn’t clean.” he spoke once the walkers had gone. The truck lurched forward cautiously and went back at a decent speed, only then did Kevin finish his explanation “They scavenged… Gotta wonder why an empire that size needs to scrounge for junk.”
They spent about five minutes in complete silence, scrutinizing the deserted streets, alien yet so familiar. At the far end of an alley, Evan caught a fleeting glimpse of six civilians, blindfolded and on their knees, Imperial warriors lining up shots…
“What the…” Michelle had her eyes set dead ahead and he followed it to a couple in their thirties, blindfolded and held at gunpoint by three Imperial Guardsmen. A child, about six years old, was being held by a man in a dark military coat while the soldiers put laser bolts through his parents.
The shots over-penetrated and sizzled three parallel scorch lines in the concrete. The woman’s arm fell to the floor before she did, then the coat-wearing man released her child, who stumbled toward the corpses, his cries heard from two blocks away.
LaCosta seemed unfazed, “You guys still think we should just play along?” he scoffed, pulling over before a red brick apartment building, Michelle’s place.
Both men waited in the car while she fetched her belongings; a toothbrush, a backpack full of spare socks, underwears and t-shirts, a jean jacket that went out of style before Michelle’s birth and, finally, a massive wolf-dog hybrid, the type bred by Korvan military forces , who simply sat next to Evan, an air of grim determination painted across its face as it looked through the windshield.
“I see you brought you horse…” Joked the young man, petting the creature tentatively.
Michelle climbed in her own seat, no trace of humor found in her face, “That’s Boris, my boyfriend’s dog…” Boris let Evan touch him, but showed no reaction to his presence, “He trains attack and guard dogs for the police, Boris is supposed to enter active service next week.”
The dog yawned, baring rows of shiny fangs long and wide to the point they’d give a grizzly bear something to think about. The thick black and white fur only made it more intimidating, despite the relaxed steel blue eyes.
LaCosta smiled at the animal, “Now that’s a freakin’ dog.” And he took off again, this time headed straight for their destination, his friend’s shooting range. Evan had no belongings left, now that his motorcycle was gone, and Kevin did not feel like going back home right now.
“Used to have tons of guns,” He confessed as the truck took an abrupt left turn on the highway, “but then I got a wife and a little girl and all this firepower didn’t feel like so much protection when the kid began touching and playing with anything she could grab…”
Not many ex-military would go and get rid of their armory, even for their children’s safety, something about basic training and the brainwash they got there made them metaphorical gun addicts. LaCosta had been an Orbital Drop Marine, the hardest kind of brainwashed bastards after Korvan Special Forces… This man loved his daughter very much.
A checkpoint, essentially slabs of concrete, barbed wire and garage-door styled gate set at the end of an overpass, forced them to slow down and look for an alternate road, but the Imperials had made it so when you saw the checkpoint, you couldn’t avoid it without jumping off the bridge or turning back, both of which would be slightly suspicious…
They stopped before the gate and Kevin rolled down his window. An officer walked up from the guard booth. “Hello, citizen, ID please…” The man’s polite and professional tone clashed sharply with the brutality his colleagues had displayed so far.
Kevin handed him his driver license and shooting range membership card, his face void of expressions. The man looked at Michelle next, so she fetched a bus pass and library card. He took these too and compared the pictures before finally turning to Evan.
He searched his wallet for anything that had his face on it, but found only credit cards and other junk he should really get rid of one day…
“One second, I had my driver license somewhere in there…” Looking up, he saw only his own worried expression in the mirror shades worn by the officer. The license, along with his passport and any papers that could identify him as Evan Anderson, had been on the motorcycle, stashed under the rear seat so he wouldn’t lose them…
The officer spoke in his radio, “Code six-one-two at checkpoint seven, standby…” and walked around the car to knock on Evan’s own window. He looked up again and saw blood draining from his own face as the glass lowered itself into the door. A single burst for the massive guns mounted on the wall would kill everyone in the car. Death was one mistake away.
The officer’s head snapped up instantly to the massive dog riding alongside Evan.
“Beautiful…” The Imperial muttered, pulling the shades up, “I haven’t seen wolf-dogs since leaving Valhalla…” He then explained, pale eyes wide in awe and nostalgia. He then shook it off and returned to the matters at hand, “If you cannot find any papers, don’t beat yourself over it, a lot of things have changed overnight, we just need your name and a picture of you, so we can keep track of who’s in what section of the city.”
Evan Anderson, how hard would it be to just say that and be done with it? He remembered, however, hearing about what happened to those who openly opposed the Imperium in conquered countries and Evan Anderson was now a famous artist who’d made a fortune by painting a landscape the Imperials saw as heretical…
“Ivan Sergeyev.” The officer actually entered the name in some sort of PDA, along with a picture of Evan’s horrified face. If he looked up the name and picture… Had the Korvan soldiers been serious about making him an honorary member? Surely, they had told him that so he’d feel welcomed, they had better things to do than create new soldiers from the ground up only to…
“Retired member of the 92th Korvan Bears, undisclosed functions, age and whereabouts unknown… You collected new scars since that picture, didn’t you, private?” The tone in the man’s voice was not contempt, nor suspicion, it was respect and that freaked Evan out even more than realizing he had actually been made a member of Korvan armed forces.
The officer tucked the PDA back in his chest pouch and leaned on the door, “A marine, a ranger and a tour guide traveling with an attack dog in an adapted military vehicle… I would be nervous about you three starting trouble, but then, if you were planning something, I believe you would have been slightly more discreet about it…”
He pushed himself away, “Move along, and be careful, some rebel movement have already begun to surface, they’re not professional like us, they’ll just shoot anything they don’t like.”
And they rode out. Michelle began crying without apparent reason while Evan did his best to stop shaking.
DaCosta, however, was cursing himself for being so stupid, “He could have just shot us all, we were far too obvious!” He spat, punching the ceiling of his truck, “Damn it! I’m a marine, not some hard case spec ops spook, I don’t do insurgency shit, I shoot, I stab and I blow up!”
He looked up at Evan, in the rear view mirror, “How about you? You were Red Army?”
The young man shook his head, conscious that his scars, clothing, background and even his stance all said otherwise, “I just traveled a lot, they let me squat in one of their bases and I guess they made me their mascot, I don’t know…”
Kevin nodded, “Uh-huh…”. He did not believe him.
Michelle had no opinion, or, at least, she did not voice it. They spent the rest of the trip in silence, watching the streets, taking in the horrors that would soon become banal in Solstice.
The shooting range had its own underground parking, which had been filled to the brim with cars and refugees. There had been fifty-some people in the café, there were at least twice as many in the parking.
The thing, directly below the main building, stretched six levels down, the cars and people spread across the bottom three. A minibus offered an armored flank to whoever came down the ramp to the third basement and tents, ranging from military surplus to camping gear, had been erected all over the place.
“This is a mess…” Commented Kevin, a sneer on his face, “Red guy,” he turned to Evan, “get these idiots sorted out, I need to talk to my pal.”
Michelle apparently already had her own objective and left with her dog to patrol the upper levels.
Evan got out of the car, they had parked at the bottom, and went to see a group of teens, obviously a street gang, smoking illegal stuff around an heavily modified pickup truck, complete with black lights and paper-thin wheels.
“I need some help,” he spoke, “you guys up for some work? You got weapons, maybe?”
They laughed and basically told him to go violate himself with a blowtorch.
Evan spotted the obvious leader, a tall white boy obviously from a rich background. Whenever he laughed, the others swiftly followed. He ran a finger across the scars dotting his face before turning to the kid, “I’m sorry, did I upset your tight schedule? Or maybe you don’t want to make a mess of your fancy clothes?” He eyed said clothes critically, “Did your mama buy them for you, or were they your bigger brother’s?” The jeans had been torn and were obviously two sizes too big, but that probably was the point.
“The frak you think you are?” the kid got angry easily, a bad thing for a leader. He tried to intimidate Evan, being a good head taller, but a grenade to the face tends to make one quite blasé…
“I’m somebody and I don’t have time to waste with nobodies. Think we’ll get you food and stuff for telling us to piss off? Dream on, tough guy, you want to be in this happy little family? You pull your own weight.”
And he left to find another group of kids on the opposite side of the parking, frat students. Two of them studied history, arts and mathematics, he told them to leave and find five other kids ready to work, then turned to the remaining four.
One studied to become a nurse, he got her to stick with him, two more were in architectural stuff and he told them to look around for water pipes, as they would need fresh water, latrines too. The last one, a bright orange haired mute with a ring in her lip and pin in her nose, studied metallurgy, industrial engineering and other things the nurse couldn’t recall.
“Uh…” Evan tried to figure some use for her, but found himself simply wondering what industrial engineering entailed.
“She’s the one who armored the bus.” The nurse then added, earning a grateful smile from the mute.
He frowned, “You have welding equipment?”
The mute shook her head and pointed to a very rusty car, falling apart in the far corner of the parking. She mouthed two words, ‘Rush’ and ‘Thermos’, apparently.
“Whatever, can you get more?” She nodded. “Good, then do it!”
The two he had sent away earlier came back with ten more volunteers. He sent half of them to get five more workers each and got the other half to tell people they had to clear the bottom level, people willing to fight should move to the third basement, where the minibus blocked the way, those willing to work should head to the fourth basement and those unwilling to do either should get out of there because this wasn’t a bloody summer camp.
As he, himself, explained it to people, the matter of secrecy began tugging at the back of his brain. They would throw out a lot of dead weight, that would be unavoidable if they wanted the resistance to function correctly, but these people would certainly hold a grudge for some, maybe even warn the Imperium of the HQ’s whereabouts…
This parking lot, though ideal as a bunker, would only be a temporary solution.
The architects came back with tons of plans on how to build showers and latrines, most made use of the sprinklers dotting the ceiling, but Evan instead told them to look for sewers, tunnels, something they could evacuate through quickly and discreetly.
The six volunteers he’d sent earlier reported in with twenty more workers, which Evan got to help move abandoned cars in between pillars, to form corridors and cover, bottlenecks to channel eventual invaders… A few people carried weapons, hunting rifles and pistols, he got them to take shifts in the bus in groups of four replaced every six hours by another group.
When Kevin came back two hours later, accompanied by an elderly man in a wheelchair, he found the bottom level crawling with students, engineers and volunteers seeking directions from Evan or looking for the tunnels he had asked them to find. “Not bad for a guy who just travels a lot.”
Evan shrugged. His directions had been quite vague thus far and the only thing that made people listen to him was that there were other people already doing so. For the most part, they all did their own stuff and gave him all the credit for any idea someone in his team had.
“Well, this is Kurt, he was my instructor in the marines…”
Kurt missed both legs and sported scars so ugly they made Evan’s look like makeup. His kind brown eyes clashed oddly with the preconception of a drill instructor, his soft tone even more so.
“Fine work, son, war brings out the best out of people, doesn’t it?”
He had heard that proverb before, though it felt wrong, somehow, altered… “Isn’t it rather ‘War brings out the worst in people?’”
“That too, it really just makes us who we really are… So, who are you really, Ivan?”
Why he was having this conversation confused the boy to no end, but he still answered truthfully, “I’ll tell you when I find out.” This was a simple re-formulation of his earlier musing, about what he would do with the money… That dilemma had taken care of itself, though…
“Good enough,” The man smiled, as though he knew something nobody else did, “the Imperials came in last night and confiscated any military-grade hardware I had. One squad and a Personnel Carrier, headed for the smelters outside the city…” LaCosta left to round up a few young men and women, “A friend of mine told me they were… Sidetracked four streets up…”
Evan looked back to the old man, “Sidetracked?”
“Katherine’s Kittens,” the legless marine spoke, as though it would answer all of the universe’s questions, “A brothel. You’ll just need to walk in there, blow the bastard’s heads off while they’re getting blown in a totally different sense and bring back their transport, along with any weapons you can find. Only eight of the bastards, easy as pie.”
The boy almost asked why he had been picked for that, but the answer was quite obvious. “Do you have any weapons left?”
The old man shook his head, “LaCosta has my other pistol, so unless you know how to shoot a compound bow…”
The bow Kurt gave him could be folded so as to be barely bigger than a laptop computer and it actually fit in the laptop case they burrowed on their way out. The arrows, however, were a bit harder to hide and Evan simply taped a few to his leg, under his jeans, and pretended to be limping while he, LaCosta and twelve others left the parking on foot, going their separate ways immediately upon leaving the garage.
Kevin carried a supressed pistol, hidden in his inner pocket, but everyone else had simple knifes, switchblades, utility knifes, a few diving ones, nothing exactly glorious.