In Lord Mai's Service, Brendan Jericho's Tale.
Brendan was feeling quite anxious. Well, maybe anxious is not the best word to describe the nauseous, yet exuberant, paranoia he was feeling at the moment, but what else could he call it? Tonight, his peers would count him an adult. Tonight, Brendan would have the liberties and freedom he could only dream about last night. But, on the other hand, tomorrow would be the beginning of the end of the rest of his life, or so says his recruiter. Why did he listen? Should he have? Did he really have to leave?
He was actually quite comfortable. Life on ‘The Island’ was not that rough. Everyone’s basic needs were more than adequately met, and each person had a purpose and a goal. Sure, some mainlanders would liken the island of Nagoria to a penal colony, but that could hardly be considered a knowledgeable opinion. As an orphanage and school, the vast majority of the inhabitants of the Island are children, with many no older than two terran years, and quite a few ancients could be found here as well. Some people, Brendan often mused, just lack the discipline such a regimented life requires.
Now, with the packing of his few meager belongings, Brendan was about to leave this life, and enter the service of the Emperor. His last duty to the Island was simply to perform a solemn ritual, which would not only serve as his graduation ceremony from Nagoria Orphanage and Refuge, but would also indenture the remainder of his years in military service to the God-Emperor of Mankind. As an orphan given hospice at the island of Nagoria, there really were not very many options. The strengths and weaknesses of all students are carefully measured and each future planned and prepared long before the children become of age to ‘choose’. For Brendan, the choices left to him included induction into some vague regiment of His Imperial Guard, or assignment to a mineral resource collection and processing facility located in the asteroid belt around the dead planet Mordia. Either way, it looked like a hard grim life. But at least, or so Brendan thought, in the military he can make something more of his life than to be a simple ‘miner’. And at the young age of sixteen, Brendan really did not like the prospect of spending several decades holed up in a rock barren of life. This recruiter, Lieutenant Arreyano, sent by that guard regiment really had it easy getting Brendan’s acceptance.
“But why does he have to be so morbid?” Brendan worried aloud.
“Corporal Jericho reporting for duty, Sir!” Brendan stated firmly and crisply, all the while hoping the quiver is his knees did not show. What he had believed to be a regiment, the Mordian Paramilitary, barely amounted to a company of guardsmen. From what he had observed from the transport, this base could hold no more than three hundred or so, plus vehicles and equipment. What is this place? Brendan’s attention is drawn outward immediately as the officer before him rises from his desk.
“Corporal B. Jericho,” stated the officer, a Colonel P.G. Butts. “At ease, Corporal. It’s not often a fresh recruit arrives for his first duty station having achieved your rank. Meritorious promotion due to your remarked upon devotion to our beloved Emperor, and your high level of proficiency with plasma weaponry. I assume you have already been given quarters. Sign out and report to Sgt Gunter over at Lima’s barracks. I understand he has a position available that may suit your talents. Dismissed.
‘Brendan Jericho’, the name Lt. Arreyano had given him citing some long forgotten and probably illicit passage of text, still felt unreal to Brendan’s ears. And, had he not been whispering the name repeatedly to himself while staring at a handful of technical servitors busy servicing some walking mechanical behemoth, he might have noticed the young man ahead of him before tripping over the man’s staff. Picking himself off of the ground, Brendan apologized for his ineptness only to find the stranger not even looking his way. The stranger was intently observing, or was he conversing with, a floating head?
“Uh, pardon me,” stated Brendan, “but what is that?” pointing to the skull.
“Oh, uh, ‘noon. That is just Brinelles, or, was Brinelles before. Now he’s just a scribe of sorts. Well, he’s supposed to be a familiar of mine, but I really can’t see the use of him. I just that I can no longer ‘see’ him.”
“Oh, Brinelles.” Who the hell was Brinelles, and what the hell is this thing? “I do apologize for bothering you, uh, Sir.”
“HA! Not ‘Sir’. I’m just a lowly peon in Lord Mai’s service. Name’s Jacoby and you look new, lost, and well fed. Where ya headed?
“Uh, Brendan, and I’m looking for Lima barracks, a Sgt Gunter.” Well fed?
“You’re almost there,” Jacoby said as he pointed Brendan to the appropriate building.
“Ah, Cpl Jericho! It’s about time you’ve arrived.”
“Reporting as ordered, Sir!” Brendan replied, surprised at finding Lt. Arreyano waiting for him.
“Corporal, Sgt Gunter usually handles fresh meat, but he is unavailable at the moment, so you get the luxury of my company once more. Actually, I’ve been waiting for you, you see. I have a small problem with my personal command staff. Simply put, I don’t have enough staff, and you’re gonna remedy this.
You might say I have a taste for the technical, and you’re aptitude with plasma rifles intrigues me. You are assigned to my staff for the moment and report directly to Sgt Gunter, when he arrives. He’ll take care of the necessaries and introduce you to the rest of our unit. Welcome to Lima! Now, vacate my office, I’ve got some much-needed downtime ahead of me. And, in case you were wondering, the mess hall is three blocks over.”
What the hell?
“Stay in cover!” yelled the Lieutenant as Lima platoon’s command squad became overly anxious. “Target that big flippin’ brute! We gotta keep him from reaching the Colonel’s Kids!” The Colonel’s Kids were the two Leman Russ Main Battle Tanks that were never left behind and the Colonel never went without. The ‘big flippin’ brute’ was a monstrous xenos the Lieutenant called a ‘Big Flippin’ Fex’. Lieutenant Arreyano sure did have a way with words, or at least, he said he did.
Brendan and another Corporal, McGreasley, fired off a few rounds of super-heated plasma at the Fex and succeeded in pissing it off. Again they fired and this time saw the Fex fall back a bit screaming in pain, a truly painful sound Brendan would never have expected to issue from the beast. And again shots were fired, and Brendan was terribly relieved to see the Fex fall, limbs missing and xenos carapace smoking, only a few paces from an immobile ‘kid’. The stench of the beast was atrocious, even from here, Brendan thought, until he looked to his right and saw the remains of Cpl McGreasley lying behind him, with his head and left torso covered in the molten slag of his plasma rifle. “Lieutenant! Man down!”
Suddenly the area was surrounded in blindingly vivid flashes of light, causing Brendan to hide his eyes.
“Pay attention, Brendan!” Jacoby stuttered as he fell into the foxhole, exhausted. “Those little blighters nearly had you. Oh.” The psyker said nothing more as viewed the corpse on the ground.
Brendan looked around to see nearly a dozen ‘gant carcasses littered to his left, just a pace or two outside of he foxhole. The Lieutenant, Sgt Gunter, Pvt Keso, and Lima Platoon’s spiritual leader Brother Simpleton were moving about the corpses dispatching any that may be capable of further trouble. “Thanks, Jake,” mumbled Brendan. “It does take a lot out of you, doesn’t it.”
“Enough of the small talk, boys,” orders the Sgt. “Corporal, be careful with that blasted rifle of yours. We need it to take out another big bug. We’re moving to the next foxhole, right beside the ‘Russ.”
The Russ was thunderously loud at such a close distance, making communication with the rest of his unit sporadic at best and nearly impossible when the tank’s sponson heavy bolters were firing. Brendan had to keep his head down, as he couldn’t stand without hitting the Russ’s sponsons, not that he really wanted to. The Lieutenant was one foxhole ahead, barking something at 1st Squad’s acting-sergeant.
Something was approaching his position, well, floating toward his position. Brendan kept glancing back at the xenos object. It seemed to drift a little closer every time the Russ fired off another round from its main cannon. “Sergeant, what is that closing in at 10 o’clock?”
“Dammit boy, didn’t you read the BGB? That’s a spore mine and should have been targeted and destroyed before it got so close to our lines! Everybody duck!” Sgt Gunter lowered his lasgun and fired off a quick burst, which easily found its target, only to detonate the ‘mine’. The sergeant fell back into the foxhole wheezing in pain as several bits of xenos carapace were lodged in his face and neck. Seeing the wound, Brother Simpleton immediately dropped to the sergeant’s side and assessed the problem. “We need the med kit! Who has the med kit?”
“That was McGreasley. But he’s down, er, dead!” yelled Pvt Keso.
“Sorry Sergeant,” was all Jacoby heard from Brendan as he sprinted out of the foxhole heading back towards McGreasley’s corpse, and the med kit. Though it seemed like it took a half standard hour to reach the foxhole, it was only a couple of dozen paces away. Brendan dove into the foxhole, immediately feeling as though he had been punched, and was forced through the air, landing hard against the side of the foxhole. Completely disoriented, eyes watering from the pain, he felt for wounds on his chest where he felt the blow, crying out loud as something bit deeply into his hand. Looking down he saw dozens of tiny grub-like creatures that seemed to be all teeth and venom. Keeping down an almost overwhelming sense of revulsion, Brendan realized that the parasites were attempting and nearly succeeding in borrowing through his flak armor. Brendan thanked the Emperor for his grace, thinking of how fortunate he had been that none of the parasites had hit him in more exposed areas. He tossed the armor out of the foxhole and turned to look for the med kit only to find company in the form of the xenos creature that had apparently shot him. The creature leaped into the air straight toward Brendan with claws and fangs slashing wildly. Only the reflexes honed during specialist weapons training saved Brendan’s life that day as his fingers deftly double-tapped his plasma rifle sending two shots directly into the head and chest of the creature, dismembering it completely.
Brendan cried out again as the remains of the creatures torso fell upon him, impaling the single claw still attached into his side. Maybe removing his armor was not the best idea he had yet had, but he still couldn’t see any other choice as he labored to remove the xenos corpse without doing further injury to his side. Standing caused him to become dizzy and lose vision for just a few seconds, but he managed to find the med kit, still intact and undamaged, and also saw the uniformed corpse in the foxhole infested with xenos parasites. He unleashed a bit of plasma into McGreasley’s body, refusing to let such creatures desecrate the remains of an imperial servant, and made his way out of the foxhole.
“Corporal!” shouted Pvt Keso, as Brendan fell into the foxhole next to Sgt Gunter, causing the Sgt to grunt in pain. Brother Simpleton took the med kit and looked despairingly at Brendan’s torn abdomen. Where was his armor?
“Where the hell you been, Corporal? And what took you so long?” asked the Lieutenant, his mouth in a grin, but his eyes betraying his concern.
Corporal Brendan Jericho remembered no more of this battle.
Brendan was startled when his eyes finally adjusted to the ambient light emanating from the arcane gas lamps. The familiar ‘Formerly Known as Brinelles’ was hovering just inches from his face. Obviously, this meant that Jake was nearby. Brendan would have let out a scream, just to startle the Psyker a bit, but the tight bandages and the pain within would not let him draw sufficient breath.
“Good evening, Corporal. How do you feel?” asked a medic as he entered the room.
“He feels well enough to be in good humor.” Psyker Jacoby, while not as gifted a psyker as many others in similar service, did have a remarkable gift. It was very difficult to get anything past Jake while he could hear your voice and see your face. He could read and understand these as surely as a veteran officer could recite the Imperial Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer. “Really, how do you feel?”
Despite the pains in his abdomen and the short breaths he was forced to take, he managed to squeak out “Just flippin’ peachy. When can I go?”
“You should be cleared to return to your unit momentarily. Your injuries were fairly minor, despite the loss of blood, and you should heal quickly. Your duty will be restricted for the next few weeks, so keep it light. I’ll send an orderly around in a minute with your discharge papers and a chit for a minor narco-stimulant to help keep you up and about.” The medic left them then, alone in the room.
“So, Jake, how did it go? Did we all make it back?” his memory still a bit fuzzy.
“Not everyone. McGreasley’s body was never recovered. The lieutenant is still the Lieutenant, and Sgt Gunter is three rooms down, to the left, in stable condition. He is scheduled to undergo a procedure to repair part of his neck, but the scars will be horrendous. The rest of the unit is fine, though we took nearly 30% casualties in our infantry squads, and one sentinel may be beyond salvage. We don’t even know what hit that one. Everyone now thinks that maybe Pvt Keso is a lucky charm, or maybe an unlucky hex. It’s still undecided. He was found half unconscious and delirious, under the corpse of what may be the only bug he actually killed during the entire mission. We’re all just surprised that he’s alive.”
An attendant enters the room and hands a sheaf of documents to Brendan and turns to Jacoby. “Mr. Jacoby, the time has come for the next in your series. Follow me please.”
“If you need to find me, I’ll be next door. It seems that I didn’t make it through the battle in one piece, though physically I’m fine. They just want to see if my ‘thinker’ still thinks ‘correctly’. Always suspicious of outside influences, the Imperium is. See ya.”
“Great!” thought Brendan aloud as he headed out to report back in to his unit. “Out of action for weeks, with the sergeant and Jake in medical lockup. That’s just gotta get the Lieutenant in a ‘flippin’ bad mood.”