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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-19-10, 12:56 PM Thread Starter
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Default The Source (Vandemarr II)

Howdy folks. Here lies the second of my Vandemarr novels, following the events in Auxiliary. It's a standalone, so you don't need to read it in light of any of the other novels. Hope you enjoy!

Synopsis

After a string of gruesome murders aboard the INS Black Manticore, Fleet Admiral Kursk, fearing for the safety of his ship, calls on the reputable Commissar Albrecht Vandemarr to investigate. As the battle for Illythia Prime, an agri world infested with Tyranids rages below, Vandemarr embarks on a perilous journey that will take him into the midst of a conspiracy so foul it threatens the very future of the Imperium.

From the darkened corners of the battlecruiser to the harrowing front lines, can Vandemarr expose the source of the curruption before it's too late?



PROLOGUE


‘Heresy is like a tree; its roots lie in the darkness whilst its leaves wave in the sun, and to those who suspect nought, it has an attractive and pleasing appearance. Truly, you can prune away its branches, or even cut the tree to the ground, but it will grow up again ever the stronger and ever more comely. Yet all awhile the root grows thick and black, gnawing at the bitter soil, drawing its nourishment from the darkness, and growing even greater and more deeply entrenched. Such is the nature of heresy, and this is why it is so hard to destroy, for it must be eradicated leaf, branch, trunk and root. It must be exorcised utterly or it will return all the stronger, time and time again, until it is too great to destroy. Then we are doomed.’


- Inquisitor Lord Galan Noirgrim, Master of the Ordo Malleus, prelude to the Abominatus


INS Black Manticore
Ultima Segmentum
02:35 (Ship time)
60.982.M41

~Murder~

It was dark.

Onboard the Mars-class battlecruiser, not a soul stirred on the barracks decks. The four thousand Imperial Guardsmen, reserve regiments awaiting deployment, knew the importance of sleep. Spread either side of the kilometre-long gangway, two ranks of lockers and cots stretched, each containing a sprawling Guardsman. A cacophony of light snoring filled the air, interspersed with a few mumbles from the deep sleepers. Rigorous drilling and unrelenting exercise had certainly taken its toll on the men; enough to make sure they had at least one good night’s sleep before the looming planetfall. They made the most of it, all too aware that it would be the last decent rest they would have in a long while. Not even the usual whispered conversation or the dull glow of a torch concealed under a blanket disturbed that night’s sleep.

On the levels above and below, it was not so peaceful. The upper decks, consisting of lavishly furnished state rooms and luxurious mess halls, were crammed with officers, commissars and tacticians, going over final preparations and tactics, event scenarios and orders. On the lower decks, the thousands of ship hands and crewmen were readying the cruiser for the move to low anchor and disembarkation – refuelling landers, arming support craft, checking bulkheads, the vast engines, and the many weapon systems. On the bridge, the officers of the night shift sat, each with steaming mugs of caffeine, watching consoles and charts with tired eyes, making minor adjustments to the ship’s anchor, maintaining communications with the other ships of the battlegroup.

Barracks decks aside, the ship was as busy as it was during its day cycle. No thought was spared to the thousands of sleeping Guardsmen, recharging their aching muscles for the coming deployment. In the minds of the crewmen and officers, they had it easy. Sleep was a luxury seldom afforded to the members of the Imperial Navy, and the garrison were often begrudged for their perceived excess of slumber. The fact that many of them would be going without rest for the next month they were planetside wasn’t even thought of, and that most of them wouldn’t even return was considered even less so.

It was fair to say that on that particular night cycle, the Guard were held in particular disregard by the remainder of the Manticore’s occupants.

* * *

It was just after half past two when Trooper Greaves awoke. In the few blissful seconds before he realised where he was, he stretched, content in his lethargy. He felt the reasonably soft white sheets over his vest, weakly gripped the olive-green sleeping canvas around his waist, and pulled it up to his chin, lazily drifting in and out of consciousness.

Then with a horrible pang of adrenaline, his mind registered the two flanking cots, the dulled ceiling lamps clinging to the network of pipes and grilling five metres above his head, and remembered. He remembered that he was now an Imperial Guardsman, no longer a civilian stable hand back on his home world. He remembered that he was a member of the 141st Imperial Hussars regiment, recruited not two years ago to combat the enemies of the Emperor. And he remembered that he was currently on a nine-kilometre, Mars class battlecruiser, holding high anchor above a Tyranid-infested world he had never heard of, preparing for disembarkation on the turn of the next morning cycle.

Annoyed that he was no longer in his bed at home, like his dreams had promised he was, he opened his eyes, unwilling to sleep. His thoughts wandered, from his recruitment to his parents, waving him goodbye whilst he sat on the hard wooden bench in the back of the cargo10, heading for basic. All so distant now, too distant. He had been on this cursed ship for eight months whilst it transported the regiment to Illythia Prime, an agri-world somewhere on the Eastern Fringe, and had hated every moment of it. It was a commonly discussed maxim that Guardsmen never saw their homeworld again, but any world would have been fine for Greaves, as long as he didn’t have to board another ship again.

Sighing, he swung his legs out of bed, feeling the cold, metal grilling dig into his feet. He walked to the gangway, hearing his knees crack with the new movement, and headed for the nearest chemical toilet. Either side of him, Guardsmen in various levels of attire lay spread-eagled on their mattresses, breathing peacefully.

Greaves envied them to the point of hatred.

He reached the cubicle at the nearest intersection of the gangway. To either side, plunged in darkness, were two doors, currently open. Thinking nothing of it in his lethargy, he pulled open the door to the toilet, and began to relieve himself.

A second later, strong hands grabbed his throat. A rag was stuffed into his mouth. He felt urine soak into his legs as he struggled briefly, before something sharp and metallic was plunged into his kidneys and lower back repeatedly.

It had to be a dream. Even as hot, sharp pain exploded through his body, he felt he could see himself from above, squirming in slow motion, his head swimming in a fanciful, otherworldly state.

He continued to observe, tasting salty tears, feeling warm blood soak into his vest. A million miles away, the knife wormed its way into the base of his spine. He watched, sluggishly intrigued, as it twisted.

The sickening crack snapped him from his obscurity, seconds before his legs went limp.

Stone Temple Library - Archive of my Vandemarr fiction.

‘Do you think they know we’re watching?’ August asked, focusing his eye back through his lasgun’s telescopic sight. From their vantage point on the sixth storey of one of Gortlémund’s trading hubs, they watched as a bulky Tau sweeper unit cleared the worst of the snow from the cratered roads below with heat blasters. Behind it, a few fire warriors warily eyed the thousands of overlooking windows.
Vandemarr didn’t move. ‘Probably.’
(Fallen City)
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This opening is my favourite from all of the Vandemarr works, you captured it perfectly! I love the Source, definatly in my top two of the series though I do think August needs to die in the next one.......

Nyctophobia- Fear of the Dark Angel.

"No one ever spoke about of those two absent brothers. Their separate tragedies had seemed like aberrations. Had they, in fact, been warnings that no one had heeded?"

'Killing a man is like fucking, boy, only instead of giving life you take it. You experience the ecstasy of penetration as your warhead enters the enemy's belly and the shaft follows. You see the whites of his eyes roll inside the sockets of his helmet. You feel his knees give way beneath him and the weight of his faltering flesh draw down the point of your spear. Are you picturing this?'
'Yes, lord.'
'Is your dick hard yet?'
'No, lord.'
''What? You've got your spear in a man's guts and your dog isn't stiff? What are you, a woman?'
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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-20-10, 11:34 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks DA, The Source is actually my personal favourite out of all the Vandmarr novels as well, even though it was by far the least read on BL. And I like August!


THE SOURCE





PART 1

Chapter 1

“In every man there is a sense of duty, whether it be apparent on the surface, or buried deep in the dark corners of his soul.”

~ Extract from ‘Imperial Verses vol. I’


INS Black Manticore
Ultima Segmentum
06:44 (Ship time)
60.982.M41

~The Demands of Duty~

Fleet Admiral Kursk arrived on the bridge of the Manticore in a foul mood. As the doors hissed closed behind him on concealed pistons, he took in the wide amphitheatre consoles and fresh-eyed crewmen, and scowled.

‘Report!’ he snapped, arriving at the command pulpit. He gripped the brass railing beneath his white velvet gloves, turning his hands slightly as if he were wringing a neck.

‘The preparations for planetfall are complete, sir,’ his First Officer, Hyrgen said, snapping smartly to attention. ‘The Guard are in the process of falling out. Disembarkation should go through as planned.’

Kursk scowled. ‘Unlikely,’ he remarked, releasing the railing and turning to what the crewmen referred to as ‘The Throne’. It was a simple command dock, with a large, ornate chair, surrounded by pict displays and whirling holoscreens. Kursk gathered up the folds of his navy blue trench coat and sat down heavily, exhaling as he did so. He was certainly not a young man; pushing eighty, with a shock of white hair and a frail, arthritic form. He had been in the Imperial Navy for seventy years, starting as a lowly cabin boy and working his way to the top in what made for a fantastic story. A story which he was less than inclined to ever tell anyone.

‘I want half-hourly reports on the disembarkation,’ he continued, once satisfied with his seating arrangements. ‘And keep the long range auspex scanning. I want absolutely no surprises this morning. No splinter groups, no stray ships, nothing. Those damned xenos had better get it through their ugly heads pretty quickly that this ship, at least in their eyes, is indestructible. Understand?’

Everyone nodded. There were a few grunts.

'Good.'

He settled back into his chair, flicking through the messages warranting his urgent attention, whilst the crewmen busied themselves with their duties. They knew the mood – it was the same before every move to low anchor. Kursk hated it because it put them much more comfortably within the range of surface-to-orbit ballistics.

The various ship sounds took over the bridge, replacing what had been a dull thrum of conversation before the entrance of the Fleet Admiral; various beepings of the consoles and the distant metallic clamours from the lower decks; staccato bursts of vox chatter and the whine of servitors crammed into the bridge’s sub-deck, drifting up through the metal grilling of the floor. To a stranger, the cacophony would have been extremely prominent and annoying; but to the crew, who had spent the majority of their lives in the amphitheatre, it was akin to silence.

They continued about their duties in relative quiet for a further ten minutes, whilst Kursk finished reviewing his morning cycle picts. Then something shattered the calm – an expression of disbelief rarely heard from the Fleet Admiral.

A gasp.

Kursk, the staunchest, most foul-tempered man this side of Segmentum Solar, was holding a dataslate with a worried expression adorning his face.

‘Helms, when the order comes through, take us to low anchor,’ he said tightly.

‘Low anchor, aye sir,’ came the response.

Kursk nodded. ‘Mr Hyrgen,’ he continued, ‘come with me please,’

* * *

They marched down the arterial walkway, heading away from the bridge and towards the upper deck state rooms. Hyrgen almost struggled to keep up, slightly amazed at the turn of speed the small old man in front of him could produce.

They carried on past the planning chambers and into the first of the mess halls, where plush cerulean carpeting and wood-panelled walls greeted them. Kursk brought them up short at the large oval dining table centring the room, and pressed the dataslate onto its varnished surface, looking at him expectantly. Hyrgen picked it up, scanning the green letters and numerals lining its surface.

By the time he had finished, he too looked worried.

‘Another one?’ he asked simply. Kursk nodded.

‘That makes eleven this week. Eleven killed or missing. I don’t think I need to emphasize the gravity of this situation.’

‘No sir,’ Hyrgen said. He watched as Kursk turned away from the table, walked away for a couple of paces, and turned back around again, gripping the edge of the hardwood.

‘We can always expect a few deaths amongst the garrison, Clemens. Horseplay that gets taken too far, a prize-fight here and there, an accident on the ranges.’

‘Aye sir,’ Hyrgen nodded.

‘But eleven?’ Kursk hissed, incomprehension screwing up his features. ‘The eleventh man reported AWOL in eight months? It’s a big ship Clemens, but it’s not that big. Someone is killing these men, and I think it’s high time we found out who. Nobody has a clue, and as of yet nobody has had the inclination to get a clue.’

There was a pause, before the Fleet Admiral sighed. He pulled out a chair and sat down, signalling Hyrgen to do likewise, and it was in that moment that the First Officer could see just how frail and tired the Admiral really was. Usually, most Captains by now would either be heavily augmented, or integrated into the ship in a marriage of flesh and machine. Since Kursk was neither, the ravages of mortality were taking their toll on his fragile body. It wouldn’t be long before he had to choose whether he accepted an eternity as part of the Black Manticore, or whether he chose to be retired on the nearest Imperial world and replaced. Hyrgen couldn’t even begin to fathom making such a choice.

‘It’s not so much the Guard I’m worried about,’ Kursk carefully explained, ‘it’s the morale. Sitting at high anchor, or low anchor or whatever, for months at a time is dreadfully dull, even I’m prepared to admit that. The arrival of the Guard does have its benefits. But something as foul as…well, as far as we can see indiscriminate murder, can make a man scared to do his duty. Imagine, Clemens, if on the way to your station you had to traverse several dark gangways. Would you be inclined to do that if you knew there was a man – or group of men – on the loose, killing at will?’

Hyrgen shook his head slowly.

‘Of course you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. It needs to be destroyed at its root, before this ship – the lynchpin of this battlegroup, ceases to function. And I’ll be damned if that happens whilst I’m in command.’

Hyrgen nodded again, unsure of what to say. Kursk took the dataslate back off the table.

‘141st Imperial Hussars,’ he remarked after briefly searching the screen. ‘Either someone has a grudge against this regiment, or there’s something else at work here none of us are familiar with. Whichever it is, a non-regimental investigation is required. I think duty demands we do at least that.’

‘Who did you have in mind?’ the First Officer asked, leaning forward slightly. ‘An Inquisitor?’

‘Heavens no, man, an Inquisitor has better things to do. Besides, don’t you think the presence of an Inquisitor would drive our quarry further underground?’

He paused, taking a deep breath.

‘Actually, I had in mind a certain Commissar.’

Stone Temple Library - Archive of my Vandemarr fiction.

‘Do you think they know we’re watching?’ August asked, focusing his eye back through his lasgun’s telescopic sight. From their vantage point on the sixth storey of one of Gortlémund’s trading hubs, they watched as a bulky Tau sweeper unit cleared the worst of the snow from the cratered roads below with heat blasters. Behind it, a few fire warriors warily eyed the thousands of overlooking windows.
Vandemarr didn’t move. ‘Probably.’
(Fallen City)

Last edited by Zwan; 05-06-10 at 06:04 PM.
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My fave was the third Zwan... Hahaha... The characters' sanity were really pushed to the limit...
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Thanks waltz, I agree with you on that one!

Chapter 2

‘Praise the day the Emperor gives you work, for you shall soon lament the day when he does not.’

- Inquisitor Brochs, ‘Reflections’

Farrax-Carthage naval port
Ultima Segmentum
21:14
62.982.M41


~Charter Pending~

It was the same dream again. Not a nightmare, for he no longer had nightmares. For a dream to be classified as such, it would have to reach beyond the nightly plague of ghostly faces; beyond the taunts and whimpers and cries of rage and hatred that had blighted his sleep since his enrolment in the Commissariat.

No, it was not a nightmare. Just a dream.

It started in the desert, as it had done for the last twenty nights. There was a man with him, a familiar man. Lieutenant Julian Codey, of the 15th Vargonroth. They were both dying of thirst.

A few moments later, Codey’s head split open, down the middle, from an apparent gunshot wound. When he checked his hand, he found himself holding the pistol responsible.

He dropped the pistol and tried to staunch the bleeding, every time without success. His hands scooped clumps of ruined brain back together, but they simply dissolved through his fingers. Rotten black flesh and grey matter bled from the horrific wound, drooled onto the sand and turned the whole desert ebony, as if transformed by the flick of a switch. Above, the sky turned thick with gunmetal thunder clouds, and chaotic vortices whirled into life, each one screaming and cursing his name.

Seconds later, Codey’s chest opened up, a gaping cavern filled with blackened organs and ringed by stained, broken teeth. Flies poured fourth from the spasming cadaver, surrounding him with their incessant buzzing, filling his mouth, his eyes and ears and crawling up his nose and –

Drenched in sweat, Commissar Albrecht Vandemarr woke with a start.

* * *
After taking stock of his surroundings, he slid out of bed and made his way to the small kitchen unit on the other side of the room. He searched irritably in a few stained cabinets, and eventually pulled a bottle of amber ethanec down and placed it on the counter. He then found a tumbler in the rusty sink, poured himself a generous measure, and knocked it back, grimacing as the strong, spicy liquid worked its way down his gullet.

He shook his head, and slammed the tumbler back down on the side.
He was angry.

Events had certainly not turned out the way he had wanted them to. After filing for a transferral from the 15th Vargonroth twenty days before, he had found himself only a short while later living in a miserable basement hab-cell of an Imperial port – quarters a gun-deck slave would turn his nose up at. The walls were marked with great, pale yellow stains where a colony of mould had been steamed off. Everywhere was rust and grime. The bed linen was old and had been sprinkled with anti-vermin powder, the refrigeration unit worked only intermittently, and the lighting was on a ten minute ration timer. His night vision had never been so good.

He poured himself another glassful of ethanec and took the three steps back into the bedroom. The noise of heavy machinery worked its way through the thick concrete ceiling and into the hot, stuffy room; heavy hydraulics pumping and grinding away above, swinging docking clamps and arms, engaging the massive warships and attaching fuel hoses and rearmament conveyers. It was a miracle he managed to sleep at all.

He drained the second glass and slumped backwards onto the bed, his attention briefly caught by the multitude of scars marking his torso – adornments from a lifetime of battle. Then his frustration returned, and he dropped the tumbler on the bedside table, amongst the leather wallet containing his identification, and a small black commcaster.

To be disregarded by his former CO with such callous abandon infuriated him. The very mention of his transferral request had been enough for his deposition on the nearest port to the battlegroup – a lifetime of service forgotten overnight. It was perhaps inevitable that many had come to view him as something of a loose cannon after the events involving Captain Garrick and his somewhat chequered court martial. In fact, they were probably glad to be shot of him. Transferrals were, after all, notoriously difficult to successfully pursue.

He let out a long, slow breath. It was unbearably hot in the hab-cell, and the air seemed heavy and close. Had his whereabouts not been known to the Commissariat – who were, he suspected, more than content to let him slide off their radar – it was likely that he would be almost impossible to trace. He could die then and there and no-one would know for weeks.

Such morbid thoughts were routine now. He had hit a low point he didn’t think possible. If the Commissariat didn’t find him a nearby unit to link up with soon, it was likely he’d be forced into a penal regiment – a proposition which only made him angrier. He was better then that. He knew it, and his superiors knew it.

He sighed, and grasped the ragged canvas that passed for his blanket, pulling it up to his hips. A second later, the commcaster bleeped into life next to him, the noise sending a painful shot of adrenaline through his guts. He sat up quickly, grabbed the unit from the table and thumbed it on.

‘Commissar Albrecht Vandemarr?’ came a dreary voice, made tinny and nasal from the static.

‘Yes?’ Vandemarr replied, feeling his heart rate increase slightly.

‘Gortlémund Administratum sector 797/2G, re-routed from Office of the Commissariat, Department of Imperial Justice, Kalen Primo. You have a comms pending from the INS Black Manticore, 702nd Ultima Segmentum battlegroup. Will you accept? ’

‘Yes,’ he snapped impatiently. The background wash increased half an octave, and a barely audible pre-recorded message filled the earpiece.

‘Commissar Vandemarr, this is Senior Communications Officer Grippen of the INS Black Manticore, 702nd Ultima Segmentum battlegroup. Fleet Admiral Kursk requests an immediate audience. Mission details deemed unsafe for broadcast. Collection point Farrax-Carthage naval port, 62-64th, 982, dock C9/a. Charter pending. End message.’

The line dropped back to its original tone, and the static reduced.

‘Repeat transmission?’ the infinitely bored Administratum clerk asked.

But Vandemarr was already out the door.

Stone Temple Library - Archive of my Vandemarr fiction.

‘Do you think they know we’re watching?’ August asked, focusing his eye back through his lasgun’s telescopic sight. From their vantage point on the sixth storey of one of Gortlémund’s trading hubs, they watched as a bulky Tau sweeper unit cleared the worst of the snow from the cratered roads below with heat blasters. Behind it, a few fire warriors warily eyed the thousands of overlooking windows.
Vandemarr didn’t move. ‘Probably.’
(Fallen City)
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Chapter 3


‘There is a terrible darkness descending upon the galaxy, and we shall not see it ended in our lifetimes.’

- Inquisitor Czevak on Tyranids, at the Conclave of Har


Illythia
Ultima Segmentum
17:32 (local)
62.982.M41
~Illythia~

As the sun dipped slowly to the west, they came.

Preceded by blood red streaks of atmospheric dust and fingers of striated cloud, the advance horde moved forward with a single purpose; to overwhelm and destroy the beleaguered Imperial defenders.

In the sky, leathery-winged gargoyles clawed through the air, screeching and hawking and bringing to bear their terrible fleshborers. On the ground, hundreds of gaunts and genestealers tore across the once fertile plans of the agri-world, churning the fields and irrigation canals into a tangled mudscape.

Lieutenant Karl August was in the planning and operations tent when the alarms sounded. Old brass horns wailed into life like the death moans of some wounded beast – a sound every Guardsman posted on the continent had learnt to fear from their first day. With a quick glance to the other men surrounding the table, he picked up his lasrifle and jogged though the doorway.

Outside, hundreds of Guardsmen were running through the camp to the frontline trench, worried expressions marking many of their faces. Helmets were hastily thrust on heads, fresh magazines were slammed into rifles. The alarms were louder outside, piercing what would have been a peaceful summer’s evening on Illythia’s second largest continent. Shouts and orders rose above the rhythmic clamour, directing men and armour. In font of him, a jungle-pattern Leman Russ rumbled past on its giant tracks, its driver scanning the lines with a pair of magnoculars.

August exhaled sharply and fell into step next to a squad of 18th Bavarian Rangers, running down the arterial access passage to the camp’s primary trench. Behind him, the thick, rolling booms of artillery opened up, huge barrels of self-propelled guns and Basilisks recoiling sharply and raining down high explosive death amongst the fast approaching horde.

As he approached the line, he could hear them above the panicked cacophony of the stronghold – the shrieks and screeching and chittering of a thousand soulless aliens, full of irrational, indiscriminate hatred. Above, the first of the fleshborers rained down, hitting the ground with sickening wet thumps and scuttling rabidly into the mud. A Bavarian next to August was hit in the chest, and he writhed and screamed in pain as the beetle scurried into the folds of his chest cavity, pulping his heart. He sank to the ground in a flurry of blood, his dead eyes bulging from their sockets in frozen terror.

‘Keep moving!’ August shouted as some of the younger men faltered, already horrified by the attack. It was the second test of their defences that day, and many of the greener troops had already had their fill of the horrors of Tyranid warfare.

He reached the trench whilst the first of the horde’s runners were still half a kilometre out, but above the sky was thick with gargoyles and their intolerable keening. The phosphorescent blue of high energy las fire filled the air around him, crackling and hissing as hundreds of Guardsmen fired wildly into the sky. The chopping of a heavy stubber boomed on to his left, its thick, loud shot perforating the dense, electrically-charged air and bringing down several of the proximate aliens. Their ruined, ichor-drooling forms flapped and spasmed frantically as they plunged into the ground, before they were shot to pieces by the Guard lining the trench.

August looked to his left and right, but there was no sign of his regiment, the 141st Imperial Hussars. Bavarian Rangers, instead, surrounded him, their accents and mannerisms almost as alien to him as the Tyranids themselves.

He planted his feet on the duck boarding lining the base of the trench, and rested his lasrifle on the firing shelf, more concerned with the now very close gaunts than the gargoyles above, which seemed to have shifted further west. Now, it was the Termagaunt’s fleshborer rounds that hissed past and slapped into the rear trench wall, sending clouds of dirt into the air and signalling the start of the ground exchange.

August muttered the Litany of Benediction as he pulled back the trigger of his lasrifle, and sent a string of loosely-aimed shots towards the xenos. To the uninitiated, it would have been a terrifying sight to behold. The gaunts, slavering, wretched beasts with great scythed talons, needle-sharp teeth and mouths pulled back into constant and frightening leers; and the genestealers, bipedal, four-armed humanoids, with rigid, bony spines and powerful muscular legs. They clawed and pushed over each other like squabbling siblings, drooling manically and scrabbling across the ruined earth, soaking up the thousands of hard rounds and las shots being poured at them and advancing on their defiant quarry.

Next to August, a Ranger took three fleshborers in the chest and cartwheeled backwards, his thoracic cavity draped over the rear trench wall like some bloody marionette. Further down the line, a belt feeder for one of the heavy stubber nests’ neck exploded, and warm carotid blood ejected from the torn flesh in regular gouts.

He struggled to control his breathing as the unbearable chittering increased, like the squealing, un-oiled cogs of some gigantic grain thresher. Sweat drenched his fatigues as he fired more frantically. Another Ranger dropped, his face bursting out the back of his skull like a blood-filled water balloon. One of the few Hussars in the vicinity fell clutching a messy stomach wound, slippery intestines drooling from the fresh cavity and collecting in a pile on the floor.

Something was wrong. Usually these advance hordes were stopped in their tracks by a simple ballistics exchange; but more fleshborers were hissing into soil and flesh, and the aliens were getting closer – much closer.

Vox chatter filled his ear, indecipherable overlapping signals cramming the net with orders and requests. August quickly fixed his bayonet, and awaited the inevitable wide-band broadcast;

‘All lines prepare for close assault.’

Stone Temple Library - Archive of my Vandemarr fiction.

‘Do you think they know we’re watching?’ August asked, focusing his eye back through his lasgun’s telescopic sight. From their vantage point on the sixth storey of one of Gortlémund’s trading hubs, they watched as a bulky Tau sweeper unit cleared the worst of the snow from the cratered roads below with heat blasters. Behind it, a few fire warriors warily eyed the thousands of overlooking windows.
Vandemarr didn’t move. ‘Probably.’
(Fallen City)
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Chapter 4

‘It is a sad thing, time; too much and one becomes frivolous; too little and one becomes overburdened. It is for that reason I no longer wear a watch.’

- Inquisitor Brochs, ‘Reflections’

INS Varagar
Ultima Segmentum
09:32 (ship time)
63.982.M41

~Human Again~

Through the metre-thick porthole thrust into the side of the hull, Vandemarr watched the approaching cruiser, and below it, the fertile green orb that was Illythia. Both were magnificent; one, a whole world ripe with life, thousands of kilometres of rich farmland forming one of the many breadbaskets for the Western Mordant Zone; and the other, a thousand year-old battleship, furnished with ranks of mighty crenelations and spires over a proud golden hull.

He made the sign of the Aquilla, and sat back into the uncomfortable harness-rigged bucket seat. The charter had turned out to be a Navy frigate, rearming at Farrax-Carthage before heading back to support the Black Manticore. Now, however, he was spending the remainder of his journey on a small and entirely uncomfortable short-range shuttle, counting down the hours whilst it waited for the cruiser to manoeuvre back to high anchor. As far as he had been made aware, there had been a drop two mornings previously, on the 60th, and then another on the 61st.
There were a few men in the seats opposite him. One, a friendly Naval Commodore by the name of Aleks Hechter, who had engaged him with a rather lively debate for about an hour and then contented himself with a book for the ensuing four; and a civilian man and his young son, who, as far as he could tell, either hadn’t worked up the courage to talk to him, or simply weren’t interested. Vandemarr had occupied himself by re-reading his order slip; but since that was only about fifty words long, and almost verbatim what he had already heard on his commcaster the night before, he had simply stared out the window, bored and unwilling to talk.

As he began making a second mental attempt to label everything on the side of the Manticore – fore, aft, the AV cannons, the big bombardment cradles, the disembarkation decks and so on – the brass horn above his head crackled into life, and the various sounds of the bridge fuzzed through into the small personnel hold.

‘We’ve just received word from the SVO that the Manticore has completed its manoeuvres, and so we should be looking at docking within the next hour or so,’ came the tired voice of the pilot. Vandemarr rolled his eyes in silent thanks, and as if the expression had suddenly humanised him, he found himself suddenly accosted by the civilian man.

‘Excuse me sir, I ‘ope you don’t mind my askin’,’ he fumbled in an unfamiliar accent, ‘but what is it that you’ve come ‘ere for? To the ship, I mean.’
Vandemarr looked over at him and the young boy by his side, momentarily thrown off guard by the question. He could see Hechter shift his attention from his book as well, bemused by this new exchange.

‘I am here to…investigate a certain matter,’ he replied, choosing his words carefully – partly due to secrecy protocols, mainly because he hadn’t a clue. He didn’t even know if what he’d said was vaguely accurate. For all he knew, his ‘audience with the Fleet Admiral’ could simply be his transferral order being confirmed in person, before he was stuck on the next drop pod to the grinder.
‘Ah I see,’ the man continued. He was old, but not by age. Rather, toil and hard labour had reduced the man’s figure to a lean, slightly muscular form, and whichever sun he worked under had left him wrinkled around the face, and his skin leathery and calloused. A typical agri-worker, consigned to the fields for the rest of his life. Vandemarr didn’t envy him.

‘Just bringin’ the lad ‘ere to the ship. The Fleet Admiral says ‘e can take him on as a ship’s boy, runnin’ errands an’ the like, leasts until ‘es old enough to be a ratin’ or summat. The best I can do for ‘im. He don’t want to end up a labourer like ‘is ole’ da.’

Vandemarr watched the man with a slight melancholy. It had probably cost him a lot of money to have his son even considered by a Fleet Admiral, and even more to pay for a naval charter. Decades of a labourer’s wages. In fact, he had probably received the money from some underhive loan shark.

‘A commendable gift,’ the Commissar said, smiling. ‘some of the best Admirals around are ones that started as cabin boys. I cannot think of a better start in life.’

Hechter emphatically nodded his head in agreement, smiling as well. But as he turned back to his book, he caught Vandemarr’s eye, and a grim expression briefly marred his features. Their combined reassurances and words had seemed to cheer the old labourer, but neither man believed in them. A Fleet Admiral would have a lot to do, for hundreds of solid hours at a time, and the boy would have to be very quick, very intelligent and very strong if he was to even survive as a hand. Otherwise he would be condemned to the disease-ridden gun decks in less than a week, working as a slave without adequate food until he died.

As he slowly appreciated what the lad was in for, Vandemarr found himself full of sadness. The father, thinking he was doing the right thing, would probably be murdered in less than a year if he couldn’t clear his debts; and the son, a scrawny young lad, not even in his teens, would know nothing of the tough Naval life ahead – which only became anywhere near tolerable above the rank of Commander. To see such a young life, just one amongst billions virtually condemned to death in front of his eyes, was unbearable to a very old and remote part of Vandemarr – a side of him which he had all but buried long ago. It seemed almost alien to him – expressing emotions, even inside his head, concealed from all but the Emperor’s most holy. Even in its weakest form, his sense of moral duty told him exactly what he needed to do.

He cleared his throat.

‘I’ll keep an eye on him,’ he said, nodding slowly.

‘So will I,’ Hechter concurred, almost immediately after Vandemarr had finished – having evidently thought exactly the same thing. The Commissar smiled.

‘Why, thank most kindly sirs,’ the old labourer said, relief clear on his face. ‘That’s very good of you – both of you.’

Vandemarr nodded, noting the tears in the man’s eyes.

Somewhere deep in his soul, he felt human again.

Stone Temple Library - Archive of my Vandemarr fiction.

‘Do you think they know we’re watching?’ August asked, focusing his eye back through his lasgun’s telescopic sight. From their vantage point on the sixth storey of one of Gortlémund’s trading hubs, they watched as a bulky Tau sweeper unit cleared the worst of the snow from the cratered roads below with heat blasters. Behind it, a few fire warriors warily eyed the thousands of overlooking windows.
Vandemarr didn’t move. ‘Probably.’
(Fallen City)
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Love it Zwan! Keep posting

Nyctophobia- Fear of the Dark Angel.

"No one ever spoke about of those two absent brothers. Their separate tragedies had seemed like aberrations. Had they, in fact, been warnings that no one had heeded?"

'Killing a man is like fucking, boy, only instead of giving life you take it. You experience the ecstasy of penetration as your warhead enters the enemy's belly and the shaft follows. You see the whites of his eyes roll inside the sockets of his helmet. You feel his knees give way beneath him and the weight of his faltering flesh draw down the point of your spear. Are you picturing this?'
'Yes, lord.'
'Is your dick hard yet?'
'No, lord.'
''What? You've got your spear in a man's guts and your dog isn't stiff? What are you, a woman?'
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that is really awesome

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Thanks guys!

Chapter 5


‘They have only one purpose, and there is nothing they will not do to accomplish it, no matter how vile or loathsome it might be. These abominations mean to destroy everything proud and noble, everything we hold dear and have fought so long to achieve.’

- Inquisitor Angmar, on tyranids

Illythia
Ultima Segmentum
17:37 (local)
62.982.M41

~Brief Encounter~

It happened in slow motion.

In front of him, the keening, slavering hormagaunt, its scythe-like talons outstretched, pounced clear of the ground a full ten metres from the front of the trench and shrieked through the air towards him. Without thinking, August brought his lasrifle up and let out a long stream of panicked shots, no longer conserving his ammunition. The fundamental urge to survive the next ten seconds was far greater than any rational foresight of the coming battle.
August watched as the searing hot laser bolts lanced through the thing’s chitin armour plating, cauterising the ichor inside and exploding through its spine in clouds of purple; and with the ensuing, ear-splitting wail, suddenly, everything snapped back into focus.

In a flurry of screeching talons and claws and flesh, the dying, writing alien slammed bodily into him and knocked him off his feet. He landed hard against the duck boarding, the full weight of the gaunt landing on his chest-plate and knocking the wind from his lungs.

‘Throne!’ He gasped, rabidly battering his fists against its head whilst it thrashed above him. Its bony jaws snapped at his face, encompassing rows of needle-sharp teeth stained purple from its haemorrhaging blood vessels, and talons and claws whickered and snatched at his vulnerable body. One of the scythes dug into the wood next to his head, drawing blood from his cheek; he felt his knee pad become entangled in one of its claws and shove down the length of his leg, ending up over his ankle; a second talon slammed into his shoulder pad, raking through the thick armour and touching the duck board below.

August squirmed like a man possessed, adrenaline firing through his body and his heart punching against his sternum. Every second was drawn out into a lifetime, as he lashed out with his fists and feet, punching and kicking with all his strength, knowing that it if he could just hold on, it was only a matter of time before the alien died of its wounds.

But it was still taking too long, and his biceps were tiring. Much longer and its teeth would find his face.

In one last ditch attempt before he resigned himself to death, he closed his hands around its throat –

And recoiled sharply as his fingers pierced the skin of its neck and sank four inches into the flesh below, inadvertently yanking a clump of stringy blood vessels out with them. His hand was smothered and dripping in a green, presumably venomous fluid, and it stank worse than anything he’d smelt. Above him, the gaunt’s shrieking turned to a gurgling, and more purple ichor drooled from its mouth, mixed with the green poison.

Seconds later, it was dead.

Sweating and panting, August let his head hit the duckboards, allowing himself a brief moment of relief, before he set to work on pushing the very heavy gaunt corpse off. All around him, las fire spat and whistled through the air, and the larger chopping of heavy stubbers and autocanons boomed further down the line from sandbagged emplacements; but the chorus of screeching was dwindling, and the trench was, as far as he could see, free of gaunts – and Guardsmen.

With all the strength he could muster from his painfully fatigued arms, he shoved the corpse to the side, rolled over to grab his lasrifle, and stood up, instinctively bringing the weapon to bear.

Directly in front of him, a second screeching hormagaunt was midway through its killing-leap, all six limbs arranged to converge on his upper chest, neck and head.

‘Oh sh-’ he began, but was cut off by a hastily directed burst of stubber fire. Limbs, chitin and ichor splattered into the Lieutenant, followed by the still heavy remains of its thorax, and he hit the back of the trench once more.

‘Throne damn it!’ he shouted, wiping blood from his eyes and firing several rounds into the alien’s thoroughly dead remains. Once he had taken stock of the situation, he calmed his breathing and stood up again, weapon prone.
In front of him, Bavarians and fellow Hussars stood on the ground above and beyond the trench, having evidently counter-attacked the small advance horde. They stood in mixed, ramshackle groups where the shift-defenders had been joined by the sudden influx of troops responding to the alarms, kicking alien corpses and tending to the wounded Imperials. There were some human bodies littered about, and other lumps of flesh and gristle that he couldn’t for the life of him identify as human or xeno; but the vast majority of the dead, to his relief, were tyranids.

That wasn’t to say, he noted grimly, that there were many alien corpses. The large harvester constructs had recycled the bodies of the dead and moved back to the main horde, retaining the DNA and jellying them in vast underground pools so the genetic material could be used again. August shuddered at the thought, before he recognised his Vox Officer amongst a squad of Hussars twenty metres away.

‘Udray!’ He shouted, hoisting himself out the trench and jogging over. He reached the gaggle of men and wearily returned their salutes.

‘Let’s get some stretchers, up front.’ He nodded across to the wounded. ‘And some fresh water.’

‘Aye sir,’ the young man replied – small, grimy, wearing a pair of oversized tank commander’s sun goggles. He pulled the mouthpiece from the side of the bulky voxcaster and began making the Lieutenant’s requests.

‘You three,’ August continued, referring to the Hussars in the group, their regimental green jackets smothered in filth and blood. ‘Where’s your CO?’

They looked uneasy, before one shrugged. ‘Not sure sir,’ he said simply.

August cursed under his breath.

‘Who’s your CO?’

‘Uh, Lieutenant Cusken, sir.’

There was a brief pause while he checked the time. ‘You’re not on this watch,’

‘No, sir.’

August nodded.

‘Find Cusken. Find out your orders. Get some water down you. Understood?’

‘Yes sir,’ all three muttered.

‘Go on. Shift.’

He watched as they walked off, left with Udray and a pair of Bavarian Rangers. Both sported thick handlebar moustaches and large, bearskin shakos, and spoke in a regional variation of Gothic that had much the same vowel sound as the Hussars’, but a softer edge to the consonants. August listened for a few seconds, before turning back to Udray.

‘Anything?’ he asked.

‘They want you back in the ops tent,’ Udray said, watching as the medics amongst the regiment appeared on the scene with stretcher bearers. August nodded.

‘Where’s the rest of the regiment?’

‘They’re all in this sector. It’s the Rangers who’ve got it wrong. They’re meant to be waaay further down, on the centre-north line.’

There was a brief pause as the Lieutenant nodded, looking out across the churned fields in front of them. Teams of Guardsmen were piling the tyranid corpses and burning them, sending plumes of stinking black smoke into the evening sky. Two weeks ago and it would have been a very different scene indeed.

‘I’ll have a word with the Captain, see if we can get our distribution sorted.’ He said after a while. In front of them, a chimera with attached dozer blades cleared the burning alien remains into one of the many craters scarring the field.

‘Come on,’ August said, turning back to the encampment.

Stone Temple Library - Archive of my Vandemarr fiction.

‘Do you think they know we’re watching?’ August asked, focusing his eye back through his lasgun’s telescopic sight. From their vantage point on the sixth storey of one of Gortlémund’s trading hubs, they watched as a bulky Tau sweeper unit cleared the worst of the snow from the cratered roads below with heat blasters. Behind it, a few fire warriors warily eyed the thousands of overlooking windows.
Vandemarr didn’t move. ‘Probably.’
(Fallen City)
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