Rock in a Hard Place
“YOU HAVE NEVER seen its like” Sergeant Shaeffer smiled ‘and most of you will be dead by the end of the day”
A Trooper to his left inexplicably fainted as if to emphasise the point.
“We have no choice ladies. If our line breaks, then the Regiment falls. If our Regiment falls, the Division will run. If the Division runs the front will collapse, and that is it. All bug meat by last light”
A collective moan seeped out from the serried ranks and Guardsmen who had never seen combat before, visibly paled.
Sergeant Shaeffer, a legend and father figure to the 116th Pindaris Infantry Regiment. A rock in a sea of despair.
He quickly turned to a gaggle of officers who were huddled around a large map. The colonel was making sweeping gestures with his arms, and pointing at key points and then turning to the distant horizon as if to emphasise a point.
“Fuggin’ officers’ he growled ‘I shi….”
A rolling carpet of flame lit up the horizon, turning the early morning grey into a multitude of colours and sound, causing half the officers to jump into a nearby slit trench. Shaeffer quickly glanced around and noticed that all his men were watching him.
All of them are afraid, not one of them is ready
he thought What a complete clusterfu...
He peered over the lip of the trench and placed his hands on his hips in his most intimidating manner. He put on his best drill face and picked out a particularly skinny, young lieutenant who was straight out of the Academy.
“Mr Rawlingson, Sir. How do you expect to lead your men to glorious victory with your head up your own ars….”
A second sheet of flame rippled across their front followed by the deep rumbling drawl of heavy artillery.
“Sergeant Shaeffer’ squealed the officer ‘I must protest...”
The old campaigner was already on the move, this time towards a Heavy-las gun crew who had taken refuge under a Chimera.
Although the ground was muddy from a night rain and churned up by a thousand feet, his combat boots were, as always, pristine and shiny. The Corporal in charge of the gun, also noticed that the sergeants boots had steel toecaps, as one, and then the other smashed into the side of his face and knocked out two of his teeth.
“Get your malingering ars..’
A battery of heavy mortars opened up nearby, popping rounds high over the heads of the Pindarian’s.
‘...out of the dirt before I shoot you myself. Corporal Huawei?”
The unfortunate NCO, face in his hands struggled to his feet, shaking and barely able to function.
“Consider yourself busted. Get your backside over to the right and join the Sappers. You shall be the first to have the honour of leading our men through that minefield ahead”.
It was always like this of course, before a battle, when good men were lead by bad men. Non-coms like Shaeffer were expected to take the lead, when others faltered. They were expected to stand tall when others scurried in the dirt.
A Vox-operator joined him, sweating profusely as he tried to maintain Shaeffer’s pace.
“Commissar Angove on the blower Sarge, he wants you to shoot a few people”, he handed the speaker horn to him and shrugged his shoulders. Shaeffer smiled.
“That was actually funny McNeill”
He stopped on the lip of the front trench and looked out onto the horizon.
Three hundred artillery pieces were now blanketing the enemies positions and the Fleet, high in orbit, were adding their firepower to an almost apocalyptic vision of death and destruction.
“Shaeffer, its Angove’ came a crackled, distorted voice ‘your line will break, but you must hold as long as you can”
Shaeffer nodded solemnly.
“Today is a good day to die Commissar”
“Then die well and with honour my friend”
The NCO handed the hand piece back and turned his back on the vision from Hell.
“So it ends here today” he muttered to himself.
He smiled at the young Vox-operator and nodded to positions over to the left.
“Get off and join your mates McNeill, I will not be needing you any more”
“Here they come!”, was the shout that Shaeffer was dreading.
“Throne save us”
“Emperor have mercy…”
A vision from your worst nightmares was moving across the horizon, a vision so terrible that men literally died at their posts.
Shaeffer acted quickly before the rot set in.
“We must pile them up boys and pile them high. The Emperor is with us today”
A wave of Rippers, thousands deep hit the minefield in an unstoppable rage. The small anti-personnel mines failed to halt them even for a second. The anti-tank mines faired a little better, but still they came on.
Shaeffer was still standing tall on the lip of the trench.
“Be strong boys”
Heavy weapons opened up on all sides intermingled with vehicle-mounted weapons.
The sky now filled with flying creatures and Shaeffer shivered involuntarily.
“Wait for it”
The Tyranid vanguard were nearly upon them now and their ranks had never faltered. When they reached the first marker Shaeffer smiled.
“Light them up”
The trench was filled with promethium that ignited in a brilliant yellow fireball, instantly vapourising the scuttling things.
Then the Tyranid soldiers came, running over the backs of their brethren and never stopping for an instant.
“Independant fire at will”
Fifteen hundred Lasguns opened up in a wall of noise that momentarily stopped the enemy advance.
The first Hormagaunts were on him but Shaeffer was fast and his chainsword deadly.
Like corn on a summers day
he thought Oh the joy of battle
Like a rock in a sea of death, hard as granite, immovable, undefeatable.
Shaeffer turned to see Corporal Huawei. He was bleeding from numerous wounds and his face was torn open. He was carrying a heavy-flamer in steady hands
“Yeah, thanks for the demotion and my new job, you piece of sh…”
++ Sergeant First-Class Ibrahim Shaeffer. Killed in Action, Dromlaces Incursion ++