Hi All, long time lurker wanted to get properly stuck in. Wrote this for a BL submission about a year ago and wanted to share.
“Adrianus, you are destined for greatness my son.”
I run screaming. Around me the ruins of my home flicker in the golden orange light of burning thatch. My brothers, my sisters, my friends all lay face down in the mud around me. They are no longer moving. The object of my hate, the focus of my rage holds a village defender by the throat. The green monster is eight foot high with molten rage for eyes. Tusks larger than my arms are splattered in gore and painted in grotesque symbols that twist my stomach.
In my hand I hold my father’s spear, longer than I am tall. I hook its unwieldy bulk under my armpit as I point the decorative point at the heart of beast. The creature turns as it sees me run, roaring to the sky, tossing the guard aside. It crashes down onto all fours and begins to sprint like a wild animal towards me, I tighten my grip on the spears shaft and cry out a prayer to the sky god. Shadows engulf my village, still ablaze in brilliant fire, as the sky is blotted out by streaks of growing darkness.
As I collide with the rampaging predator my spear is swatted aside like a twig and I am punched into the muddy ground. The monster rises above me, those flaming red eyes judging me for my sins. This time I scream in terror for I know this is how I die. The creature lifts a leathery foot onto my chest and presses down. I feel my chest compress as the creature brings itself closer, from its foul jaws I hear a snarled chuckle mocking me. The creature lurches up, howls into the sky and then rockets a closed fist towards my face.
Like the result of a hammer collided with a raw fruit the beast head detonates in a spray of blood and bone. Two more detonations pierce its chest, viscera paints the muddy earth red, as the hulking corpse is blown off me. I turn, my body weak but defiant to my struggle, to see an angel of alabaster plate run towards me. The angel kneels beside me looking into my eyes with a mechanical red eye piece. It lifts me up in its plated arms, turns and carries me away from my village. As I am taken I see more Angels of Death, their armour that of the deepest blue moving between burnt out houses doling out death to the last of the Green Skinned horrors. I am not sad, for I have been saved by the Angels of the sky god, I lean back into my saviours arms and twist into its body. I see a single pauldron of the same deep blue marked with a stylised “U” and a single word, “Ultra”.
The warm mist pooling between hill tops gave the jungle an added air of mystery to the already unusual silence. Looking through the sight of my Sniper Rifle I could still clearly make out the shapes of green skins skulking around their makeshift camp. For the brutish Xeno’s they were, the silence they enforced was unnerving to say the least.
“This is brother Adrianus 2 hour report inbound, please confirm receiving.”
The vox in my ear clicked to life, “Sargent Erikon receiving. Please deliver report brother.”
“Green skins remain in position, no movement outside the camp, they remain quiet and inactive as they have for the last 6 hours. They remain in small unassuming groups, I can see them speaking but cannot make out any information for translation” I take a short breath, “Permission to speak freely in regards to observations Brother-Sergeant”
“Permission granted Adrianus, speak your mind”
“This inactivity is unusual in Greenskins. I concern that something is greatly amiss in this group, in this situation I would expect the Xenos to be pushing to take land and keep fighting our brothers to the north. As it stands they seem, relaxed, if that is even possible.”
The gap between responses was unusual long, after a drawn out moment the vox clicked in my ear once more, “Your concern is noted, for now Brother-Scout Adrianus hold position and report in 2 hours further.”
“Confirmed brother-sergeant, holding position.” With the final click of the vox communicator the silence of the jungle draws in. I quickly take the opportunity to shift forward to take a better vantage over the lip of the hill. Remaining near invisible with my camo cloak I re-sight the Ork camp. The camp contained well over 300 occupants of Orkish infantry and nearly a dozen vehicles, troop transports mostly. The rest of Squad Erikon remains scattered through the local jungle, a second camp similar in size to this one is positioned about 3 kilometres to the east with a third compiled of heavy armour another 5 kilometres south. All received reports state the crushing of the Ork resistance in hive Oplillon to the north was swift but 7th company has not yet been able to leave the hive and assist with the eradication to the south. Until such a time we remain on watch for any changes in the Orks behaviour.
The single blue sun fell beyond the horizon shortly before my next check-in was due. As a moonless night started the silence was punctured by a thunderous roar from the Orks. Immediately I zoomed my sight into the camp as hundreds of greenskins turned to the far side of the camp. Three Orks, faces covered in mud and a dark green paint, howled and whooped as they dragged an oversized crate into the camp. Immediately I open a vox connection to Sergeant Erikon, “Brother-Sergeant, immediate update, three Greenskins have entered the clearing to a gratuitous display of affection. They are carrying a container of sorts with them. Please advise.”
“Brother-Scout Adrianus maintain position, establishing contact with brothers Urath and Tabor, standby.”
As the sergeants voice faded in my ear I saw the painted Orks tear the lid off the container. Dragged out kicking and attempting to fight out was fellow scout Urath, his gun nowhere to be seen and his face bloody. The Orks encircled him, throwing down a crude knife at his feet. “Sergeant, the Greenskins have Urath, they have taken him captive.”
“Understood Adrianus, your orders stand.” Urath took the weapon and took a defensive stance. Like myself Urath still lacked the final genetic enhancements to make him a full battle brother, but being two years my senior, he was far better trained. The Orks began one by one to enter the make shift circle, they would howl and charge at Urath. Combat would ensue instantaneously as Urath hacked, sliced, dodged, kicked and rolled his way around and through the Greenskins. As soon as a Greenskin fell, another would take its place, toying with my brother. Scout versus Ork. Space Marine versus greenskin. Man versus Beast.
I keep relaying this to Sergeant Erikon, but my orders to hold stand. I eye up each combatant for a theoretical shot, I could kill any of them in the blink of a heartbeat. After the fifth Ork a savage cut across Urath’s left side leaves him limping, number seven slices off his right hand. After number 9 goes down and limps away no more Greenskins enter the pit. The unnatural silence returns to the valley, Urath stands and sways in a breeze on he feels. From a Tent a few meters behind him an oversized, mechanical monster reveals itself.
Oil coating skin like a varnish, the behemoth of a Xeno towers above Urath, slides an oversized fleshy hand around his throat. The blast of static from the vox takes me off-guard, “Brother, that is Warboss Gorttath, you are the only scout with a clear shot, take him down!”
I tighten my finger on the trigger. The bridge of Gorttath’s snout is aligned to my crosshairs. I breathe in. Gorttath looks at me, his flaming red eyes are looking directly at me. I can see it snarl a chuckle as I feel a faux pain of compression at my chest. I hesitate. It cannot see me, that’s impossible, and I am over a Kilometre away. And yet it chuckles, eyes boreing into my own.
“Brother, Fire now!”
I pull the trigger, but I am too late, Gorttath howls a bestial roar to the sky as Uraths neck is crushed apart. The shell leaves the barrel of my rifle too late, the impact is almost instant and tears through the monsters throat. It stumbles back and is lost to the ensuing Chaos.
I cannot look the skulled visage in the eye. My head is bowed, I am on my knees.
The skull lets loose a whisper, “You failed the Ultramarines Adrianus.”
The Skull masked Chaplin moves past me, pacing up the length of the Reclusiam. The room is dark, floors of smooth, grey stone box us in with a statue of the emperor of mankind within the chancel. The walls are adorned with insignia’s and tapestries of the Ultramarines great successes. Tales of heroism and bravery, men who stand at the frontier of the imperium to do battle with the darkness of the galaxy.
In contrast I kneel, stripped of my armour in a robe of penance. I do not know the time that has passed since the events on the outskirts of hive Opillion. I know the time must be in the months. The counterattack by seventh company failed after my failure to kill the warboss. The war was as I know drawn out for another three months in what should have taken weeks. Finally the Chaplain completes his circuit and stands beside me once more.
“What was your failure Adrianus?”
The same question that I had been answered every day since my penance began, one which I respond to and am left with silence. “I hesitated Lord. I delayed and failed my objective.” I bow my head and wait for the chaplain to leave.
He does not. Instead he sighs. “You are young Adrianus, you fail to see the depth of your failure, what you did was not a simple hesitation. You committed a blasphemous offence against the Chapter.”
“My lord, I do not understand.” My voice is a mere croak.
“You showed fear! We are Space Marines, we are the fearless. You showed your greatest weakness at the sight of the enemy. How can you be trusted to succeed when you fail yourself?”
I am stunned, I bite back tears of shame. Within my chest my hearts plummet and my breathing grows rapid. I pull myself to my feet. The reality dawns upon me. “I know lord. I have failed more than I thought possible. I am a disgrace to the chapter.”
My skull faced judge looks to the statue of the Emperor. “Have you ever visited the library of Macragge young Adrianus?” My reply never comes, “I have, once. During that time I was gifted enough to read an ancient text, long lost to the imperium as a whole. A single phrase stuck with me, ‘to err is human, but to forgive is divine.’ Now think young Adrianus, what does that mean for you”
Tears still roll down my cheek from my last outburst. I wrap my mind around what the Chaplain is saying. I look to the statue of the Emperor for inspiration, and it comes to me. “To err is human, but we are not human, therefore we must not err. To forgive is divine, but we are not divine so we must…”
“Never forgive. Good, maybe there is hope for you yet, young Adrianus.”
Over one hundred years later and I still run screaming. I am clad in the full plate of a battle brother of the Ultramarines. My bolter in my hands fires shells of devastation into the hearts of the Xenos menace. The sky above the hive world is ignited with tracer fire, drop pods and aircraft. Hab blocks burn so bright the moonless night glows like midday. I face the Orks once more.
My pod was shot off course by Xeno gunfire, plunging into an abandoned factory block overrun with Orks. Since the crash things had only gone from bad to terrible. My squad was immediately scattered, the pod torn in two. Only 4 battle brothers including myself, remain together at street level. We fan out across the road, taking ruined cars and the rubble from the collapsed towers as cover, no hostiles in sight. Our movements where in silence, we knew the stakes and did not need to concern ourselves with unnecessary banter. Our progress through the decrepit street was swift, long range communications where out from a suspected jamming device. We were on our own.
Upon reaching a crossroad we encountered the enemy. Tens of warriors holding junk heap weapons of blade and firearm whipped into a frenzy at the sight of us and charged. The deafing howl of the Orks was matched only by the bark of our bolters. Mass reactive shells exiting century old chambers lodging themselves in the hearts of Xenos in explosions of shrapnel.
In the chaos of the firefight an Ork behemoth emerges, over 3 meters tall the Ork giant runs directly at our sergeant. All four of us fire bursts into the monster’s body, but the shots glide off leaving the beast unharmed. To the sergeants left I spy a weakened surface, an entrance hatch to a basement of sorts. My bolter’s final clip runs dry and without hesitation I draw my combat knife and charge towards the Green Skin trying to bare down on my squad. The sound of solid Ceramite plate crashing into thick hide is all surrounding. My tackle is accurate and I fall, beast in my grapple, through the wooden hatch.
I land atop the beast. I raise my fist, my knife lost in the fall, and begin to swing down onto the Xeno. Eventually with an atomic bellow it regains itself and throws me to the side. It bounds towards me on all fours, I reach out and grab a human length splinter of wood, a makeshift spear. It lunges, my weapon pierces its chest. Immediately it grasps my left arm with one hand and my chest with the other. The sickly sound of tearing flesh is drowned out by the shearing of ceramite, within seconds my arm is pulled clear by its unnatural strength. It stares’ at me with molten red eyes.
This is when I realise I will die. But I do not scream in terror.
A fist the size of an anvil thumps into my chest, the creature try’s to crack the solid ceramite of my chest, pushing itself free from the spear in its heart. With my free right hand I reach to my waist and grasp a lone Krak grenade.
I chuckle, it amuses me that this is how it ends.
I thrust my fist up, a savage uppercut throws the creature off balance. A second punch pushes my fist into the Orks mouth. I don’t pause, no hesitation, no second thoughts and without fear in my heart I thumb the activation stud of the grenade and scream, “For the Emperor!”