The klaxon's began their wailing and while the crew deck was flooded in red flashing lights, the hold was filled with troopers running towards their places next to flight ready drop ship. Most of them knew the drill and what would come after the launch. This was the final hour before the attack on Mora, and the Imperial ships hanging in orbit had been punishing the capital city for hours already.
Now it was time for the guards to go in to finish the job. During the briefing, they were told it was a simple sweep-and-clean mission. All of them knew better. There was no such thing as a simple mission. However, that was what the guards were bred and trained for. To go in and smash anyone trying to rebel against the God-Emperor.
In the western section of the launch bay, 13 platoon stood ready to embark the drop ship next to them. 52 men and women were doing last equipment check before doing the same to the person next to them. They were doing this like so many times before and most of them were using the time to chat, sharing of jokes or in some cases praying. Squad leaders were taking the time to give some final orders to their squads.
“Attention! Officer on the deck!” Sergeant Morian called the platoon to attention, when he saw their lieutenant walking towards them. “All men present and accounted for, sir. We’re ready to go any time now.”
The platoon stood smartly at attention waiting for the new lieutenant to give the order to go. Most of them had heard the news of command bringing in a new officer for them after the loss of lieutenant Sian at the battle of the mines of Orcha-23. None of them knew much of him, other the fact that he was supposedly greener than the colour of their combat armour. A fact, which triggered more than a few odd looks at him and some silent curses. This was not a good thing for morale. The enemy was an experienced and very capable foe. The last thing anyone of them wanted was a rookie commander with no combat experience going all gung-ho and trying to win some medals.
All the chatter and bitter looks died away, when another person came walking up to the lander. Everyone knew who it was. Commissar Erian Holst, or when she was not around to hear it. The she bitch from the Eye of Terror. She was dressed in her regular black long coat and her commissar cap sat squarely on her head, almost covering her piercing green eyes. No one made the mistake of making a pass at her, at least not with the hope of getting away with his teeth's intact. Holst gave the rest of the regiment’s commissars a bad reputation of being soft and lazy. She was tough and everybody knew it.
“Today we face an enemy which is rightly feared. They know the land and they know how to fight. These are not some fanatic chaos cultist with no mind or tactics. The Morains are skilled soldiers with a long record of great battle knowledge. Nevertheless, the fear you may have towards the enemy is nothing compared to the fear of failing the almighty God-Emperor. Today on the battlefield, I am HIS voice and his eyes watches over you all. Fail me and you will fail HIM. I have no need to tell you what the price of failure is.”
All of 13 platoon knew exactly what she meant, and not one of them wanted to be the one with her boltgun pressed into the back of their skull. She turned to the new lieutenant and gave him a quick look-over. For a second it looked as she sneered at the young officer’s rawness. The officer shuttered under her gaze.
The klaxon's’ wailing was drowned out from the monotone speaker counting down to launch. All around the launch bay, troopers began to board their drop ships. This was it. Time for war. Soon the enemy would regret their foolish attempt to turn from the Emperor’s grace. The 13 platoon of the Oran 532th regiment would make sure of that.
Inside the crowded drop ship squad leaders was making sure that their troopers were securely strapped in and ready for the inter atmospheric drop. Sergeant Boar was making his final rounds and checking up on his squad. He hated the drop and he knew that the rest of his squad felt the same way. Well almost everybody. Blue was different. However, what could you expect from someone born in space on-board one of the huge capital ships of the Imperial Navy. She was the only trooper not native to Oran beside the officers. But she was with them for a reason and Boar knew that no matter what other would say or think about her, that she could carry her own weight and fight just as good as the rest of them. No, she was all right in his book, no matter the fact that she was a witch. He smiled to himself. He knew that she hated being called witch, but she had learned to put up with it from the others in the platoon. To them, she was a witch. Not the kind that they were supposed to kill on sight. No, a witch like the ones back home. She was their psyker, trained to combat enemy psykers and warp craft. To 13 platoon she was a holy person, who wielded the powers of the Emperor, and Boar knew that not a few of the others owed their miserably hides to her ability to know where the enemy were and her power to heal the most critically wounds on the battlefield. He felt sorry for her though. Even though she had proven her worth a hundred times already, she would always have someone looking over her shoulders to make sure she was not tainted. That was one of the reasons for Commissar Holst was always hovering nearby. To make sure that in the case of taint, she could put a round through Blue’s skull. Suddenly he became aware of a tingling feeling down his back and when he turned; his eyes met the black eyes of Blue. His face turned bright red, when she just stared into his eyes, his soul, and gave him her famously half crooked smiles.
“That’s not fair, Blue. You know I hate it when you do that.” He grinned at her and sat down in his own drop seat, securing the harness. He closed his eyes and began silently to pray the Imperial prayer of deliverance.
The klaxon suddenly went silent as the hatches of the drop ship closed with an angry hiss. The 100-tonnes drop ship began its pre-launch movement and the entire hold started to shake violently. The launch claws lifted the ancient fighter from the deck and swung it out of the launch bay, holding it over the surface of the atmosphere of Mora like a child would hold a toy boat over a pool of water. Even out in the empty void of space, the massive capital ship generated enough gravity to make every launch feel like being thrown into the Eye of Terror blindfolded and stuffed in a fragile bag made of 100-tonnes of metal. The men and women of 13 platoon never quite got used to these drop. The sudden and violent shaking and the strange sensation of weightlessness, only to be replaced with even more shaking and rattling when the drop ship hit the atmosphere of the target.
* * * * *
“All right, ladies. 90 seconds to landing. All of you witless, sorry bunches of whores. Get ready. We are going in fast and hard. The enemy is throwing a lot of firecrackers up our way, so the ride might get a bit bumpy. Lock and load. Tonight we make them pay for rejecting the true Emperor. Remember that while the enemy might try to kill you, I surely will if any of you tries to run away. Fear the enemy, but fear me more. The Emperor protects.”
Holst was already standing up in the crew bay before the drop signal turned green. She did not even seem to notice the whole drop ship was being thrown around in the atmosphere from the anti-aircraft fire filling the sky around them. Great flowers blossomed outside the drop ship in increasingly tighter bursts. They were lucky that not one of those flowers had touched their craft yet. Nevertheless, luck is only a fleeting thing and sooner than later Lady Luck will leave you hanging out to dry. Just 10 seconds from touch-down the entire left side of the drop ship disappeared, when a rocket found its target. The sudden loss of pressure and structure tore through the hold and the soldiers of 13 platoon could only watch helplessly when half of their friends and brother-in-arms were sucked out into oblivion. The pilot fought to keep his craft stable or at least in the air for a few more precious moments. The ground came at them as angry urchin, determined to wipe them out of existence for good.
Their original target had been a processing plant in sector 43-8, but that was no longer an option as the drop ship overshot its target by almost ten miles. The pilot just managed to activate the internal vox and tell his passengers to hold on, when the craft smashed into the side of a fifty story high hab-complex. The front of the craft was instantly ripped apart along with the pilot and his crew. Luckily for the sorry remains of 13 platoon the floor, which the drop ship had hit straight on, was empty stretching along for almost a quarter mile in both directions. The craft came to a final rest on its side, leaving a trail of destruction almost a hundred yards across.
“Everybody out. By the throne. Get up and do your duty to the God-Emperor. Now is not the time to lie around wondering if you died. I tell you now that you haven’t died. Yet; but that surely can change in a heartbeat if you don’t get out of this bleeding bird.”
Holst had by some miracle survived and now she was beating the shocked guardsmen into action with carefully chosen words. Sergeant Boar was trying to stop the ringing in his ears, while he searched the wrecked lander for survivors. Out of the ten men and women in his squad, two were killed by the crash and four more were banged up pretty bad. Wolf and Owl were unconscious, but stable. Worse was it with Darik; he lay staring silently out at nothing, his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of the water. Boar finally noticed the small hole in his armour just above the heart. A piece of the harness lock from across the hold had actually penetrated the armour and continued through the young trooper. Even though the sergeant was no medic, he had seen too many wounds to know that Darik wasn’t going to survive much longer. He pulled out his laspistol and put against the young man’s temple. One tight squeeze on the trigger made an end to his suffering.
By now the rest of 13 platoon were slowly gathering their senses and moved out; taking up covering positions in the hab-unit. They all knew that the enemy would probably send someone along to check for survivors. No point of sticking around to greet them. Lieutenant Halliman began to give deployment orders to squad leaders. He himself carried a free flowing gash across his left brow, but it did not look as if he cared. They might have been behind enemy, but they were still the Imperial Guard and that meant they had a job to do. Sergeant Boar got his squad to move up and secure one of the three surviving stairwells connecting this floor with the rest of the hab-complex. Haller carried his heavy stubber over to the stairwell. Behind him came Udean with the only remaining grenade launcher. The platoon medic had patched up both Wolf and Owl the best he could. They were still badly wounded, but at least they were awake and walking. Just then, he felt the temperature drop sharply and small ice crystals were forming all over the stairwell and floor. He turned around and saw Blue standing with her eyes closed, concentrating. She was working her warp craft and he knew not to disturb her now. Slowly she raised her slender hand and pointed down the stairwell, spreading her fingers, indicating movement ahead. Her hand opened and closed two times. Ten or more unknown hostiles were coming. Boar silently tapped his micro bead once. The rest of the team quickly froze and got ready to address the enemy. Haller pulled the pin of one of his grenades and tossed it down the stairs. The blast tore up through the naked plasteel shaft and there were bits of human remains flying with it. Suddenly the darkness was pierced by dozens of lances of energy from lasfire as the enemy returned fire up toward their position. A great thunder roared as the heavy stubber came to life and spoke words of death to anyone on the receiving end.
“Fire in the hold!”
Udean fired his launcher, sending three heavy grenades into the smoking stairwell. His aim was well known as being lousy, but in such close quarters and with grenades it didn’t matter. Anyone caught in the barrage was in for a nasty burn as he favoured the use of a mix of normal frag and melta grenades.
Somehow the explosion had torn some critical structure apart, because a deeper rumbling followed the sound of the flash fire from the stairwell. Slow at first the whole structure began to crumble and rip itself away from the rest of the building.
- - - - -
This is the beginning of a short story I wrote some time ago. What do you think?