Death from Below
# INPUT: Sanguinem Devorantem
, Blood worm; Blood devourer (Literally): Local (Ushilles Primus); “Anounza rufu usiku
”, The bringer of death in the dark #
The General remembered watching a Holo-flick once. It was about an Xenos race invading Holy Terra. They had lain underground and undiscovered for a Millennia and when the time was right they swamped Terra’s defences. They were ultimately defeated, not by the heroic forces of The Astra Militarum, or even the venerated Space Marines or the legendary Custodes. The Xenos were defeated by tiny bacteria in the air that humans were immune to. The invaders were destroyed, every last one of them.
It was a good flick, with a good ending.
This time however, the Imperium were the invaders, and this was Ushilles Primus, and not Terra.
Captain-General Wulfheah Stonier placed his head in his hands and sighed. It had been a very long day and night was coming.
The night. He had travelled the Cosmos but had never experienced anything like the nights on this Emperor-forsaken planet. The warmth coming up from the lush, moist soil, the scents of the plants and flowers, the subtle noises from the creatures that ventured out to live and hunt, and of course, the absolute certainty that by morning many of his men would be dead.
Pistons were hammering against his temples and acid heartburn seared his throat. He subconsciously checked his feet and was reassured to see that he was on the solid metal deck of his command Leviathan.
Of course he was, unlike his men outside in the trenches.
It had all been going so well. His grand plan so meticulously formulated, was now falling to pieces.
It began well with precision attacks from aerial and orbital forces followed by selected razing of strategic areas of importance; transport hubs, supply depots and the like. Then Space Marine strike teams from the Death Spectre Chapter went in and neutralised the enemy command elements. Finally, the Guard landed and the main ground assault had begun.
He grinned to himself when he remembered the Squeaky, spindly Eldar garrison being overwhelmed within a few hours and then being driven back to their fortress which lay deep within the jungle. Their ships were shattered and their lines of retreat negated. It had been a great slaughter, a great rout.
He raised his empty glass.
Ushilles Primus; Deathworld. The clues were always there, but he had chosen to ignore the blatantly obvious.
“Wine,” he barked. “I need more wine, and not that Munitorum bilge you have been slipping me, I want the Xenos stuff we captured.”
His batman stepped forward with a green onyx bottle and poured him a healthy portion of the sweet Eldar wine.
A staff officer, resplendent in his blue dress uniform, gave a tactful cough. Stonier turned around. He had completely forgotten about the man.
“Ah Cumafon. I thought you had gone.” He grinned and then took a long sip of the intoxicating liquor.
“Sir, Sergeant Fulrad is here.” Stonier raised an eyebrow. Not exactly protocol, but what can one do when dealing with Space Marines? They were a force unto themselves, necessary, but regal pain-in-the-backsides.
“Show him in,” he paused. “Cumafon, we are to be alone and must not be disturbed.”
The Generals quarters were built deep inside the Leviathan. Stonier’s were modest and clean and free from ostentation. It was his private retreat and only the most important guests were allowed to enter.
Feared and revered in equal measure, a Death Spectre marine was always an intimidating sight. Clad in black power armour that bore the marks, dents and rents of a thousand conflicts and bearing the white skull and black scythes emblem of his Chapter, the sergeant needed no introduction.
Even the General faltered when he entered, but only for a few seconds.
The Sergeant reached up and with a slight hiss of escaping gas, removed his Corvus helmet. Stonier faltered momentarily.
Where the marines face should have been was now a mass of scar tissue, stitches and wires. Augmentics replaced his eyes and a Vox piece covered his upper and lower jaw. Any humanity had long been erased by some form of melta weapon.
He dipped his head slightly.
“It is dire General.” The Sergeants voice was a metallic rasp. Stonier stood up and walked over to his writing desk. He placed his glass down and turned to face his visitor.
“Are they withholding the truth from me Sergeant?”
“They are. It is not the Xenos, it is the...”
“Worms, Sergeant. Yes, I know, the worms.” He turned to a map that was laid out before him. It showed his dispositions and the large hexagonal structure in the centre which signified the enemy stronghold.
“I can do nothing for you.” The Sergeant continued. “I can overcome any enemy that I face toe-to-toe, but this. I have no answer.”
“Sixteen thousand men on the first night.” Stonier turned abruptly. “Nearly an entire Division taken from me in one night and since then…”
“We are leaving.” The Sergeant interjected. “We shall regroup on our battle-barge and await re-deployment. I have lost three squads already and I will not lose any more.”
“It was to be my crowning glory,” the general continued, appearing to ignore the Space Marine. “The high-point of a shining career. Fifty years in the military, fifty years. “He shrugged his shoulders and picked up the wine glass. “All of it destroyed, wasted, undermined by the tiniest of things. They sense body heat; they sense our blood. A worm can suck a man dry in a matter of minutes. The unfortunate individual is already dead before he realises what is happening. They bore through the strongest materials, they can move through air and water, Emperor-damned, they can apparently fly as well!”
“I shall leave you to your commiserations General.” The Space Marine nodded. “You know where we are.” The Sergeant turned to leave.
“What would you do?”
The Death Spectre shrugged his shoulders and then replaced his helmet.
“The right thing General.”
The holo-flick showed an avian pecking at the Xenos remains as it crumbled into dust. Stonier wondered What his fate would be?
The Laspistol felt heavy in his hand and the barrel was cold against his temple.
“To the victors the spoils?” He mused.
Ushilles Primus: D+25; Casualties: KIA - 154,818, WIA – 0, MIA - 0