Assault on Echo Ridge
I thought I would have a go at some 40k fiction, hope you like it.
“How are you feeling this morning Private?”
I struggled to sit up and the world slowly swam in to focus around me. The nursing sister who had asked the oft repeated question had a look of practised compassion about her. She eased me back to a horizontal position as it all came flooding back to me with a lance of excruciating pain that shot up my left side. This morning ritual had been going on for two long weeks now; the black, emptiness of sleep would overtake me each night and wash away my trauma as I sank in to cold oblivion. Each morning I would be rudely reminded of my pathetic state, the blissful ignorance beaten out of me by the remonstrations of my battered and broken body.
The sister leant over me and straightened my pillows as I eased myself in to full consciousness. Her soft perfume made a welcome change to the smell of blood, disinfectant and death. I cast my one good eye over the ward and was unsurprised to see an empty bed next to me. The men who came in to this ward seldom left in anything but a body bag. A pity then that every one of them had a story to tell…
Two long weeks ago I had been with my platoon back on Delphus Prime, we were to move up towards the ridgeline twenty clicks north in an attempt to find and engage the enemy. We found them alright.
Delphus Prime had been a hell hole ever since we made planetfall three months past. The central orbital belt had been strewn with masses of asteroids and space debris in erratic and dangerous orbits that had forced the Imperial Navy to drop us further towards the planetary poles than was ideal. The whole planet was wracked by constant savage storms that imposed an almost uniform no fly-zone. The Imperial Navies experts blamed the massed debris in orbit for altering the weather patterns, and so not for the first time we had to cross a vast expanse of hostile planet even before we could engage the objective.
Much of the planet surface was covered with jungle canopy that was constantly wreathed in a heavy mist. Much as we tried to advance with armour support, the slow progress in such dense foliage meant more often than not the majority of our armour support was at least a day’s hard journey behind the bulk of the infantry platoons. There was talk of Astartes joining the fray, though unsurprisingly very little confirmation of them actually making planetfall. For three months we advanced from the polar north towards our objective near the planetary equator, after less than a week we first saw action. Almost every other day the advance was slowed by guerrilla attacks from an unidentified enemy. The morale of the infantry companies fell rapidly as the casualties mounted. For eight whole weeks not a single confirmed kill was made. Then the guerrillas made a foolish misjudgement and attacked en masse in open ground, which resulted in our first indisputable victory of the campaign. They were Eldar!
Following tactical information from the interrogation of prisoners, the war machine that is the Imperial Army was stepped up a few gears and it felt like the impetus of the war was turning at last. My company was tasked with taking Echo Ridge, believed to be a communication relay; my platoon was given the honour of taking point on this mission. The advance towards the ridge was curiously uneventful, in fact ever since the rout and capture of the Eldar guerrilla force we hadn’t seen any sign of the enemy. The tactical planners believed this to be an indication of the relative weakness of the enemies resolve and manpower, though there were a few dissenting voices to be heard.
The jungle had a strange calmness about it on the day of the big push, the calm before a storm perhaps. A few troops of indigenous primates rattled past and managed to evade the shots let off by an over-excited gunner, against company orders. As the platoon reached a small clearing the mist parted briefly and the sight was enough to make even the most battle hardened amongst us shiver involuntarily. Arrayed to our front was an enormous force of troops and elegant war machines, and dwarfing even the largest of the hover tanks were a number of graceful giants, striding forwards with impossible elegance and speed, titans! The platoon sergeant was the first to realise the urgency of the situation. He started barking orders and yelled at me to contact HQ. As the platoon radioman I had the thankless task of lugging the oversized platoon radio around with me. I dropped to one knee and dumped it in to the mud in front of me, and began contacting HQ as the sergeant bellowed instructions, sharing his profanities and orders out between me and some of the more tardy gunners. As I waited for HQ to acknowledge my contact I looked up at the platoon sergeant who was standing above me. He had a habit of standing over his troops like a commissar, surveying their deployment and harassing the more inept platoon members. He was mid cursing fit when a silence enveloped us; I watched his lips move with fascination wondering why no sound was coming out. My fascination changed to uncomprehending horror as the sergeant was vaporised where he stood. Then it hit us. A pressure wave and explosion of noise rolled over the platoon’s position, sending debris and mangled pieces of guardsman flying outwards in a macabre blossom of violence.
I lay on the ground half covered by my shattered radio set and other debris gasping for air. My lungs felt as though I had a Leman Russ driving over my chest. The world around me swirled in a fierce garble of flashes and sound. I noticed a strange ringing noise and looked about wildly before realising that it was the after effects of the explosion. I tried to move and was rewarded with a wave of excruciating pain that nearly caused me to blackout. As I came to my senses I looked to my right to see a guardsman’s broken body struggling to hold on to life. He had lost both legs from the waist down and one arm below the elbow and was losing bright red arterial blood in fountains from his limbs. He turned his face towards me and I recognised the man as Corporal Thomas. He seemed to be mouthing something to me, but as I strained to make out his muddled words his head snapped upwards and a series of spasms shook his body, each a little less forceful than the last. The fountains of blood from his limbs sputtered and his body sank back to the ground, his life force spent.
A staccato rattle from behind me caught my attention, as I strained my neck to see what had caused the noise a giant in blue armour strode in to view. He let off short controlled bursts with a large boltgun as he walked forwards apparently oblivious of the death and carnage around him. He was followed by more blue armoured giants, the Astartes! The first of them strode past ignoring me and my dead platoon, firing calmly as he advanced. I watched as they came level with me and the dead corporal and looked up to see one of them staring down at me impassively. Before I had time to realise what he was doing he raised his boltgun and took aim at my chest, I started to remonstrate, too slowly I realised, and was surprised to see his helmeted head whip forwards forgetting about me momentarily.
The giant swung his weapon to bear on whatever had caught his attention but before he could fire there was an incredible wave of screams that seemed to claw at my senses like cold steel against my nerves. I watched in awe as the giant froze, standing impassively as the noised washed over him and his companions. Almost too fast to see a blur of bone and deep red ferocity exploded towards the Astartes stood before me. He seemed to realise his impending doom and tried to bring his weapon to bear on the howling menace. He was too slow. With a flashing arc of violence the attacker cut the Astartes almost in two, shooting at a second blue armoured giant as it withdrew it’s crackling blade from the Astartes’s fallen body. I looked around to see the same combat repeated wherever the Space Marines stood. Screaming assassins rampaged through the squad leaving no Astartes standing in but a moment of brutal combat.
I gasped, without being able to stop myself. I could not believe the ferocity and power of these aliens who could so easily dispatch the superhuman Astartes. The Eldar nearest me snapped it’s head towards me and regarded me for a moment. Now that the Eldar had stopped I could see that it was very slightly built, clad in bone coloured armour with a shock of dark red hair exploding from the back of a ferocious mask. I could also see that it was a she, and carried a slender power sword and alien pistol. She seemed to be deciding what to do with me, not with the impassive glare of the helmeted Astartes, more the look a spider might give to a fly. An explosion rang out behind me and she was gone, moving too fast for me to really register properly. I could feel my consciousness slipping away from me, perhaps the Eldar had decided I was dying anyway, I will never know. I must have slipped in to cold and welcome unconsciousness, as I lay there amongst the shattered corpses of my platoon and the Astartes squad. When I next came to it was dark and there was the noise of guardsman all around me. I could feel hands lifting the radio off my broken chest and faint voices talking to me as if I was at the bottom of a deep pit hearing only the echoes of the voices.
The next thing I remember I was waking up in this forsaken ward, and I have been here ever since. I surfaced from my stupor to see yet another bed empty, the nursing sisters chatting quietly as they made a fresh bed for the next wave of casualties. I can’t help feeling that each and every death in this ward is waste. A waste of the man that dies and a waste of the stories he might have told…
Last edited by squeek; 10-01-08 at 04:51 PM.