Private David Flint opened the elevator. A hallway stretched out for ten feet, ending at a door with a bored-looking man in a folding chair.
"Private Flint reporting as ordered, sir." said Flint crisply, snapping off a salute.
The man looked up. He was in his late twenties, a pair of dark fatigue pants and a grey tank top with DANIELS-409 stenciled on it adorning his muscled frame. A tattoo that read DROP JET JUMPERS was burned into his right arm.
"Look Fish. I'm not the god-damned Emperor. So shut that salute up. Captain's inside."
Flint's hand dropped, his expression surprised horror.
"Am I in the right place, Sergeant? 409th Drop Jet?"
"Oh, sorry Fish. Thought you were another newbie straight out of Basic. Yep. B Company Zulu squad. Best unit in the Guard."
"Stop calling me Fish. My name's Flint. David Flint."
"Whatever Fish. You survive your third drop, we'll learn your name. Until then, you're "Fish"."
Flint sighed. He walked past the man and opened the door. A soldier in full drop armor knocked into him, spilling a crate of ammo and ration packs onto the floor.
"Damn it all!" the soldier shouted, removing the full-faced helmet. Brown hair spilled out of it, revealing a woman's features twisted in frustration.
"Want to watch who you're stepping on?!" she said, stooping over to pick up the dropped items. Flint stared in confusion.
"You're a..." he began.
"Oh, Emperor. Every green-assed Fish that comes in here thinks it's insane that there are actually women in the 409th. Guess what, Fish? I can bench more then you can get crushed by, so frak off."
"Ah. OK." said Flint, stepping around the woman, who was still cursing lowly. He stepped across the atrium, noticing a half-dozen rooms leading off into the walls. The far wall had one door in it, with another woman in a low-cut tank top sitting next to it, cleaning a long rifle with a brush. Her shirt read JACKSON-409.
"Um. Hi. I'm Private Flint, here to see Captain Sable?" said Flint catiously. The woman looked up, then her face broke into a smile. She stood up, wiping the cleaning oil off onto her fatigues, and shook his hand.
"Specialist Rachel Jackson." said the woman. She indicated the door. "Captain's in there."
The door opened and a man in his middle thirties stared for a second at Flint. He indicated his room, and David stepped inside. The place was spartan, a desk covered in data-slates and maps dominating the room. A cot was set into the wall, and a neat stack of books sat next to it, under a lamp. A menacing suit of carapace Drop Armor hung on the wall, and a matching Hellgun rested against the desk.
"So you're the new Fish." said Sable, sitting behind his desk. He placed his hands together, rubbing his palms.
"Flint, let me be honest with you. The 409th has the highest casualty rate short of the Penal Legions and the Death Korps. It's entirely volunteer. Now I've got a nice posting to the 32nd Cadian. Garrison duty. Running water. Easy street."
Flint looked at the opened data slate, and pushed it back towards the Captain.
"No thanks, sir. With respect I've been trained as a Drop Jet trooper. It's what I've dreamed of being ever since the recruiters came to my homeworld."
Sable smiled slowly, scratching his beard stubble. "Glad to hear it, Private. Welcome to Zulu."
"Thank you sir."
"Report to Arms for your gear, Private. I'll send Rostock with you, he knows the ship."
"Your immediate superior, private. Sergeant Holden Rostock."
"Very good, sir."
David nodded and opened the door.
He turned. "Yes, Captain?"
"You're rooming with Richards. Pack your gear there."
"Very good, Captain."
He closed the door, walking to the door marked RICHARDS. A second name had been recently removed. Flint could still see the marking LOSKINS where the glue had stuck to the metal.
Richards was a very young man, perhaps twenty two at oldest. He was sitting on his bunk with a battered dataslate opened. He shut it off quickly as Flint opened the door.
"What? Oh, Fish. Alright. Thought it might be Lieutenant Gray. She keeps taking the pics off."
"What's the slate for?"
"What's it for, or what do I use it for?"
Flint dropped his kitbag onto the other bed. "Do I want to know?"
"Well, Fish, since you asked so nicely, this is a MAJCOM slate used for op planning and high storage capacity. I use it to organize a large amount of rather salacious holopics."
Flint held up a hand to stop him.
"Whatever. I don't want to know anymore."
A knock sounded on the door. Lieutenant Gray and a man with ROSTOCK on his fatigues opened the door.
"You." said Gray, pointing to Richards. "Give me that."
He reluctantly handed her the slate. A few pics popped up as she turned it on. A mem-stick appeared in her hand and she tapped a few keys, then handed the device back to Richards. She placed the mem-stick in the breast pocket of her shirt, buttoning it.
"And you. With him." she said, pointing first to Flint, then to Rostock. The Sergeant nodded.
"Come on, Fish."
Flint followed Rostock down the hallway, past Daniels, who was now asleep with a holoslate across his chest. Rostock caught the leg of his chair with a booted foot and Daniels collapsed to the floor, staring murder into the Sergeant's back.
The elevator deposited them onto the Arms floor of the 409th's level on the Imperical, a large Troopship en route to Quientan XI. A major behind the armory counter looked at Rostock with weary resignation.
"Zulu, right?" he asked, checking off a list. "Here you go, Fish."
He pushed a heavy duffel bag across the counter. Rostock unzipped it, and ran a practiced eye over the contents.
"Where's the rest?" he asked, zipping the bag back up.
The arms master sighed.
"Come on, Guns, if Fish survives, we get to learn his name."
The man looked at Rostock. "What an experience. Another New Fish."
He pushed a box containing a half-dozen grenades, a melta bomb, and a Hellpistol across the counter.
"Thank you." said Rostock, tossing the box on top of the duffel bag, then handing the whole assortment over to Flint.
"Come again, by all means." said the Arms Master, throwing an arm to indicate the near-empty armory.
"And that part goes there."
Richards tightened something. A small click sounded inside the hot, uncomfortable armor. A white light blinded him, then resolved into a blue-tinged heads-up-display. The armor's interior suddenly loosened, allowing him to move, and a breath of air moved across his face.
"There you go." said Richards, similarly clad in full armor. Flint's was the standard dark grey camoflague of the 409th, but Richards had customized his with a second combat knife, and daubs of blue paint supplementing the camo.
"Grab your kit, we're leaving." said Gray, standing against the door. Her armor was more complex, a dozen pouches adorning her bulkier chest plate. A light was attached to her shoulderpad, and an auspex hung from her belt.
The trio met the rest of the team in the elevator. Captain Sable's armor was customized with red slashes across his face, chest, and shoulders. He gave a polite nod to the three as they walked in.
"Nice day." he said. Gray nodded.
"It is. Shame we've got to spoil it."
Sable took a small holoslate from his fatigue pocket. The elevator deposited them into a narrow hallway. Sable took the first right, into an octagonal room with restraints along the walls.
"Alright team." he said, deploying the slate. A city flashed into existance.
"This is Donovan. Largest city on the planet. Civies started rioting a few months ago, turned into a full-scale rebellion. Not Chaotic, supposedly, but we'll see about that. Our objective is to drop onto the main water and power stations to Donovan, and knock them out. Daniels, you got the demo charges from Procurement?"
"Very good. Plan is to enter at any level, work our way to the sluices. Jackson, you're on cover, with Rostock. Gray and Richards, you're on point. Lorien and Daniels are tail. I'm with Fish in the center."
Gray nodded, and the team dispersed, strapping themselves into the curious restraints against the wall.
"What is this?" asked Flint, as Lorien tightened her harness next to him.
"It's an.... elevator. Yeah." she replied.
"Are we going to the hanger deck?"
"A little lower, Fish." she said, clamping her Hellgun to the webbing across her chest.
"The hangar deck's the lowest part of the ship... Oh, shi-"
The drop-pod blasted from the Imperical's belly at over two thousand klicks per hour.
You'll forgive me, but you must be mistaken. I've met your makers, and they don't even know your name...
GIVING CHASE- ORDO HERETICUS FIC (Updated Mar. 19)
Hat in the Ring