“Cover! Take cover! Now!”
“Keep your heads down!”
This was the fifth enemy barrage on their position within the last two hours, courtesy of the Warp Ghosts traitors and their stolen Basilisks. Explosions erupted before them, sending the rubble, mortar and masonry of the former Imperial city flying in all directions. Once a pristine example of Imperial power and human civilisation, it had been reduced to ashes and ruins, with the blood of slaughtered Imperial civilians replacing the mortar. They had come across piles of dead during the morning; the corpses of civilians scarred and desecrated piled high, with a scattering of heads belonging to their comrades impaled on spikes nearby. The tension and fury were beginning to mount. In spite of their massive training and combat experiences, they could not restrain their emotions. Some wept, others raged, and more became sombre as the full realisation of the barbarity of their enemy became fully revealed to them.
The barrage lifted. Fires raged. The ground, previously with the features of a blasted lunar landscape, now looked even more desolate, if that were even possible.
He rose. His ears rang and his helmet swung loose courtesy of a broken chinstrap. He patted himself down and felt himself for injuries. Finding none, he yelled to his men.
The sergeant, Argos, hauled himself to his feet. Nursing a left hand depleted by a few digits and wrapped in a bloody bandage, he ran from foxhole to foxhole, cover to cover, checking for survivors. He returned after a few minutes. By this time, those who could stand had done so, rising from their places of shelter, checking their weapons and equipment for breakages. The sergeant returned after a few minutes.
“There are five dead, including the your second, First Lieutenant. Strangely, no injured.”
“Very strange to have no injured when under artillery fire. We’ve suffered injured and casualties in the previous barrages. Fate must have smiled a little upon us a moment ago.”
“Perhaps. Your orders, First Lieutenant?”
“Have the men recover and redistribute arms and equipment from the dead. Leave the bodies. Our comrades behind us can deal with that grizzly task. We must press on.”
“Yes, First Lieutenant.”
The sergeant turned and moved away to convey the orders to the men. Looking down what was once a main city street, he saw one. And felt one. A few hundred metres away it stood. An Warp Ghost silhouetted against the setting sun, a power sword in its left hand, a large, unrecognisable gun in the other. The traitor marine reached to the sky, before giving a mock wave to him. Hatred welled up inside of him, rolling and roaring like a red sea. A sea of blood that he desired to spill from this traitor for all the suffering and desecration he and his men had seen earlier in the day.
“I will have you, wretch. For all those felled by your hand and the hands of your men, I shall have you,” he thought.
He was surprised to hear a response within his head. The traitor must have heard his thoughts and responded in kind. He stifled his surprise.
“No you shan’t, lapdog. For all your hate, you are a mere mortal wrapped in slavery to a being as dead as those piled high on my orders. And though you may will it with all your being, my death will never be yours to inflict. For you are weakness, and the weak will always be dominated by the strong.”
“You are not strong, and you shall taste your own bitter words when my screaming sword severs your head from your body. You will pay for what you have inflicted here.”
“We shall see, weakling. Until we meet again. And we shall, soon. Make no mistake.”
The figure moved, turning away before walking out of sight into the ruins further ahead.
He called to his sergeant.
“Yes, First Lieutenant?”
“What is our current strength in weapons and men?”
“From one hundred soldiers, seventy-one remain. All personal sidearms are in working order and each man still has most of his grenades. The four missile launchers are still in working order, with approximately forty missiles between them. One heavy bolter from the original three was damaged in the second barrage and was abandoned, but we still have all three remaining autocannons with full ammunition loadouts for each gun. However, we are down to four remaining working vox units.”
“Thank you sergeant.”
Standing atop a nearby pile of rubble that afforded him a view of the remainder of the platoon, he addressed his men.
“Soldiers. You have seen the work of the enemy and have been witness to him. We have suffered artillery barrages and assaults by traitorous militia, whom you have cut down with the efficiency taught to you in your training on our home world. Despite our losses, others rely on us to clear this path towards the city centre, so that the traitors who have made their home there will be uprooted and cut down without mercy, as they have done to the innocent who reside here. The enemy ahead however, is unlike the rag-tag mass you have encountered so far. Beyond lies the Warp Ghosts, the damned traitors who cast the Emperors light aside. It is they who have shelled you and it is they who have slaughtered the innocent. The time for justice and revenge is at hand, but do not forget your training. Do not forget your composure, lest you sink into madness not unlike that which fuels the very enemy we will soon fight. They know we are here, and they know we come for them. They expect a typical group of Imperial guardsmen, but they do not expect us. Remember your training, and we shall be victorious.”
The men cheered, raising their weapons and helmets aloft. Smiling, he gave the orders.
“Move out in skirmish order. Five metres of spacing between you and the man next to you. Watch those flanks and tall buildings for ambushes, and make sure you have fresh magazines in your weapons. Autocannons and missile launchers will stay back to cover our advance. The heavy bolters will come with us.”
He jumped down from the rubble pile and positioned himself in the middle of his men, his second at his side. They drew swords and pistols together. All around, magazines slammed into weapons and bayonets were fixed.
“Forward to victory.”
The platoon moved forward as one, weapons at their shoulders, eyes scanning all around for signs of the enemy. No face showed fear, his men buoyed by his words. Nothing was left unobserved by his men.
“This does not feel right,” he thought. “It’s too quiet, and we’re too close to the traitors.”
Suddenly, a sound was heard. The front soldiers span around, weapons trained on the ground in front of a soldier behind them. The man stopped dead, then took a few steps back, his weapons sights not leaving the ground trained upon by his comrades. It lay there. They knew what it was, but were too stunned and slow to react.
“Grenade!” he yelled. “To cover!”
Everyone dived for cover, save for the man whom the grenade had had the misfortune of landing near. He saw the man throw himself upon it, and his body destroyed by the explosion. Although he had yelled for his men to get to cover, he had been slower to react and had not escaped the radius of the explosion. It blasted him back and upwards, and he fell to the ground. He felt himself hit, and waves of nausea and pain overcame him. Suddenly, he felt himself transported away, back to a time far in the past.
He was standing in a ten by ten square formation of men in combat uniform, and all were looking forward at a man dressed in a black coat and hat, with ornate armour and a face scarred by decades of war.
The man spoke.
“You are now soldiers. Whether you volunteered or whether you were conscripted, it makes no difference. There is no distinguishing between soldiers, for you are all equal. Today begins your training, and it will take several years for you to complete it. This is a basic training course, yet easily superior to many similar basic and advanced training regimens on other planets. Suffice to say that when your training is complete, you will be among the finest soldiers the Imperium has produced. There will be no weapon you have not fired, no vehicle you have not operated and maintained, and no equipment that is unknown to you.
Our world and the composition of its forces are radically different to those on other worlds. The basic composition of an armed force from this world includes sections, platoons, companies, regiments, divisions and legions. A section is ten men, a platoon is a hundred men, a company a thousand, and so on until a legion, which numbers a million men. Before me stands one hundred men, which makes you a platoon. Within a platoon are ten sections, and you shall be assigned to sections after this address. A First Lieutenant and a Second Lieutenant lead a platoon. These officers share joint command of the platoon, but leadership defaults to the First Lieutenant in matters of disagreement. Sections are led by a First Sergeant and a Second Sergeant, who again share command, which again defaults to the First Sergeant in cases of disagreement between the two. You are soldiers, privates to be exact. Through combat experience and the demonstration of proven tactical and strategic talent, you may find yourselves promoted to officers, which starts with the rank of Second Sergeant. Each officer in our world’s fighting forces was once a soldier like yourselves, and has been promoted through performance, skill and talent under fire, rather than buying their ranks as some officers of other worlds do. Therefore professional and proven soldiers will lead you once your training is complete and you are sent to fight. Your aim is to train hard and fight hard to the best of your ability with the skills and weapons provided to you. Do this and you will be promoted in time.
As stated previously, the training regimens of our world are significantly superior to the Imperial standard. Therefore you will be pushed to and beyond your limits as men in order to prepare yourselves for war. Often, you will fight alongside other Imperial forces. Though they may differ to you in many ways, these men are as much your brothers as those who stand next to you now. All Imperial soldiers serve the same purpose. Only the details differ; the raw material stays the same.
Facing you will be foes, nearly all of whom will be inhuman. Eldar, Necrons and traitors in all their forms to name but a few. The enemy does not matter, save for death to be inflicted upon them by your hands. You will not flinch. You will not falter. You will not forget your training. Do these and you shall be victorious.”
He felt himself fade back to the present, the immense pain he felt all over his body replacing the flashback. The ground was trembling from heavy footsteps and weapons fire, and there were bursts of light as he saw his soldiers firing at it. It did not fall, but merely cut a laughing swathe through the ranks of his men, hacking and firing with abandon. His men were falling to it. He tried to rise, hands gripping his chainsword, ready to do battle.
“I’m ready for you,” he thought.
It finished butchering the last man nearby, then turned to look at him. It laughed.
“No, you’re not,” it replied. “You never will be. You cannot defeat me. Your men cannot defeat me. A shame. I expected better.”
It strode towards where he lay, clenching its sword in a two-handed grip above its head, ready to strike. And it struck. The sword came down towards him, so slowly. It felt as though time itself had slowed down. It arced towards his face, and the traitor laughed at him as the blade came closer. A moment longer, and he would be dead. He could not move, but could only watch as the blade neared.
But it was not to be.
The blade impacted the ground next to his head, the energies of the weapon striking the ground it had fallen upon. He looked up towards it, towards its hideous, mocking face, expecting to see a cruel laugh. Instead, there was nothing save for a stump where its neck used to be. It was dead, head blown clean away. The armoured corpse began to fall towards him, trying in death to achieve what it failed to do in life.
He felt a hand upon him as the corpse descended upon him. Then a wrenching force as he was dragged away before it could impact on him. Looking up, he saw the sergeant, face bloodied but smiling. The man hauled him to his feet.
He looked around, surveying his men. Nearly twenty had been killed, cut or gunned down by the traitor. Some were injured. His second spoke to him.
“That was very fortunate, First Lieutenant. I’m glad to see you’re alright.”
“What happened? It made to impale me, but it did not strike true.”
“No. A masterful shot from the number two autocannon destroyed its head. The covering weapons could not fire when it was amongst the men, for fear of friendly fire. Once it focussed on you, the men dived for the ground and gave the weapons a clear shot at it. The traitor’s arrogance was as great a factor in its demise as the autocannon shell. The crew are understandably pleased at having felled such a powerful enemy, as well as saving you at the same time.”
“Give my thanks to the crew. Such expert shooting will not go unrewarded. In the meantime, vox our armour following us and tell them it is clear to advance. We will consolidate here until they arrive. Have the medics take care of the wounded, then have one come to me once the wounded have been taken care of. I think I may have been injured by the blast.”
“Yes, First Lieutenant.”
The Second Lieutenant made towards the nearest vox-operator, who began to relay the order. He then ran back to where the autocannons were set up, and conversed with the crew, who looked even more jovial than they did a moment ago. They looked towards him, and he gave them a salute, which they returned. Smiling, he sat and waited as the armour following his men advanced up the street towards them.
“A good days work,” he thought. “Command will be pleased that it has been killed.”
Hope you like this little short story. I had been writing it for sometime and I am really happy with it. Some comments and tips of how to improve my writing would be nice! And tell me if you want me to continue on this one or write something like this.