‘Yes sir,’ said the trooper as the squad turned another corner.
They were the last words he’d ever get to say.
With a thunderous bang a bolt round hit the man in his chest, the carapace armor doing nothing to stop the terrifying killing power of the staple weapon of the Astartes.
The man was blown apart from the inside as the bolt round did what it was made to do: kill quickly and make a mess of it.
‘Back!’ shouted Mortun and the squad was only too ready to comply.
‘What do we do sir?’ asked Markus, his back against the wall and his hellgun held tight across his chest.
A grenade was thrown against the opposite wall by the Astartes and ricochet onto the floor right in front of the squad.
‘This,’ said Mortun and kicked the grenade around the corner.
The grenade exploded and Mortun hear a shout of pain.
‘Now!’ he yelled and rounded the corner, raising his grenade launcher.
Both the Astartes were on their backs, the explosion of the grenade knocking them over. The victory was shortly lived however as they began to rise. Mortun fired one grenade into the chest of the closest marine, killing him. Mortun took aim at the other traitor marine.
He was too fast though.
Unsheathing a long, barbed and wicked knife the Astartes leapt into the air and came down right in front of Mortun and slashed the knife, barely missing Mortun, but managing to cut the grenade launcher in half.
‘Get Fortensen out,’ said Mortun to his squad and drawing his power saber, ‘I’ll hold him off,’ and powered up the blade.
He swung the saber from his hip, aiming for the giant’s leg only to be parried away by the knife. The immortal was smart, he hit Mortun’s blade in the side, not the edge where the power would simply cut it in two.
Mortun gripped the hilt of his blade in both hands and brought the saber down in an arc above his head.
The Astartes deflected this attack easily as well and backhanded him hard enough to drive him to the floor. It was playing with him.
The giant raised his armored foot up, preparing to bring it crashing down on Mortun, and he would have done it, save for a bolt round the smacked into his breastplate.
The force of the shot was enough to drive him back a step, but power armor was built to withstand something like that with ease.
Mortun turned in the direction the shot had come from, and there, before the open doors of the brig, was Colonel Fortensen, panting, bloody, bruised and holding the bolter of the dead marine.
Clarkson watched as the gunships of the Flying Jackals strafed the walls with their miniguns, they seemed to have used every last missile. Here and there the men of Lord Ryken’s Philistis fired off antiair rockets to little effect.
The young trooper is thrown to the floor. A voice in the dark says something about the device, how they could lead them there. Find the device and lead them there only to die. But the imprint will only work on a few. After that they will fell drawn towards-
Just a few minutes before someone in the bastion had turned a heavy bolter on the Glison, killing seven men and wounding a few others who would never fight again, even if they survived the night. One of the Vultures fired on the man with a lascannon.
Clarkson heard the whine of motor engines and looked up.
A hand, fingers spread is inches away from Clarkson’s face. The young man feels pain. Like nothing he’s ever felt before.
‘Why is this happening?’ said Clarkson, holding his head in one hand.
Not of Colchis born or conquered…
Blowing wind in all directions a Valkyrie was landing in the middle of the ad hoc detention center.
Clarkson felt drawn to it. Like he needed to be on it.
Before it even landed a man inside wearing he glossy black carapace armor of the Flying Jackals opened the side panel and motioned for the imprisoned men to get it.
Clarkson couldn’t move. No matter how bad he wanted to the instinct not to break cover without a weapon of some sort overrode his motor functions and he stayed down.
‘Get in!’ shouted the man, both hands cupped around his mouth.
Taking a breath and closing his eyes Clarkson finally managed to stand. As he stood up the guards on the walls resumed firing into the Glison, killing several. But the night was on their side and it was difficult to find targets in the pitch black.
Bullets and lasblasts peppered the ground right behind Clarkson as he closed the last few feet to the Valkyrie. Jumping into the aircraft he fell flat on the floor, safe, but not as safe as he thought.
Bullets and lasblasts followed him and hit the Jackal who had motioned him and others into the Valkyries was shot in the leg and collapsed on it. He was still holding onto the bulkhead with one hand and drew a hellpistol with the other. He fired away in the general direction of the shooters.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Clarkson.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ said the Jackal ‘You didn’t shoot me,’ he fired off another burst from the hellpistol ‘he did’.
Other Glison were still clamoring into the Valkyrie. The pilot turned around in his seat and spoke to the Jackals at the side panels and told them to close up or they would weight too much to take off.
‘Tuck your legs in son,’ said the Jackal who’d been shot and Clarkson did so. The Jackal grabbed the handle on the sliding panel and slammed it shut.
‘Okay we’re good,’ he shouted to the pilot.
Taking off, the pilot used enough power to send everyone not sitting down falling to the floor.
‘Hold on!’ the pilot shouted, and speed out of the detention center.
‘Remember what Mortun said,’ said the Jackal on Clarkson’s side of the troop hold, ‘don’t fly above the command bastion’s roof, at least not till we’re out of range,’.
Clarkson looked up from the floor. ‘Where are we going?’ he asked.
‘Our commander picked out a spot in the mountains to hide out from the traitors, most recent scans of the place showed it was adequate for VTOL aircraft so we can land there,’.
‘Are we going there now?’.
‘No, there’s a chocolate river in a gumdrop forest our commander wants us to check out first,’.
Mortun and the marine traded blows, the Astartes had speed, strength, and experience on his side. Mortun had a slightly bigger and better weapon, along with his own considerable experience.
‘Shoot the damn marine,’ said Fortensen.
‘We don’t want to hit Mortun,’ said a trooper Fortensen recognized as the one who carried the contraband smokes around.
Fortensen watched as Mortun blocked a thrust from the marine’s knife. He truly was a skilled swordsman.
But he didn’t have a chance, not against an Astartes, not if he fought alone.
He parried the swinging knife with the side of his blade, he was about to disarm the hulking red beast when the power armor clad giant kicked him to the floor for a second time and reversed the grip on its knife.
‘Give me that,’ he said, grabbing one of the Jackals hellguns. If they wanted their commander to die with pride then fine, but Fortensen needed him.
‘Die you son of a bitch,’ he said and pulled the trigger, shooting three rounds into the marine’s knee.
The traitor stumbled, mid stab. The surprise caused him to miss Mortun and sink his blade into the floor.
Mortun wasted no time and rolled off to one side, away from the eight foot tall Astartes. Fortensen shot another three rounds into the marine’s backpack, damaging the armor’s mobility. Mortun stood up and reversed his two handed grip on the power saber.
‘We’re wasting time,’ said Mortun to Fortensen, and stabbed down.
‘Glad you’re alive,’.
‘Glad you could help with that. I assume you have an escape plan?’.
The squad set off down the hall.
‘What’s the situation?’.
‘My Valkyries are getting your men out of the detention center, they’re being evacuated to a location in the desert I found. We should be able to hold out within a cave system close to the evac site,’.
‘Most recent scans showed it was relatively safe. Like I said we could hold out there for quite some time,’.
‘We’re not going to hold out,’.
‘I found out why Kor’Farrah is here and not joining his master in the Isstvan system,’.
‘Lorgar needs him to find something,’.
‘A weapon, or some device of some sort that will help them in the war,’.
‘So there’s something out there, in the deep desert I’m guessing or we would have found it by now, that we need to destroy to weaken the rebellion,’.
‘Not necessarily, it could be something Lorgar needs destroyed lest it prove a hindrance to his rape of the Imperium,’.
‘When did you get melodramatic?’
‘Not the time Mortun,’ Fortensen sighed.
‘So we need to find this thing and what? Protect it? Prevent anyone else from getting it?’
‘That’s what it looks like to me,’.
‘That is terrific,’.
Before long they found themselves back at the breach point Mortun and his men had made. The Valkyrie was still hovering there, but one of the Vultures had been shot down.
‘You flew around a few time to make yourselves harder targets right?’ said Mortun into his helmet vox.
‘You must have forgotten to tell me sir,’ said a static riddled voice on the other end.
Once they were back on the Valkyrie Fortensen finally had a moment to breath, but found himself unable.
‘Are my men safe?’ he asked.
‘Let me get a status update,’ said Mortun, raising a hand to his helmet vox. After a few moments he lowered it and looked Fortensen in the eye.
‘Two hundred and fifty o your men have made it to the evac site, we’re among the last out,’.
‘Two hundred and fifty?’ gasped Fortensen ‘out of four hundred?’
‘A lot of my Valkyries got shot down,’.
‘Where where your Chimeras? Why didn’t’ you plan better? You just got over a hundred of my men killed!’ Fortensen shouted.
‘The Chimeras were destroyed! The traitors snuck explosives onto them and then detonated them, that’s why the Valkyries had to go in, thats why so few of your men got out. Now shutup, if it hadn’t been for me and my Jackals you’d be dead, and they’d all be dead. Stop acting like you’re the only one who’s ever lost men under your command,’.
Fortensen didn’t look at Mortun.
‘Here I got you these, I know they’re not your own but I doubt you’ll be getting those back,’ said Mortun, taking a belt with a holster and sheath attached off a rack.
‘An empty sheath and holster, to remind me of something else taken from me?’
‘These go with it,’ said Mortun, tossing a power blade and plasma pistol to Fortensen, ‘They were the closest match to yours in my armory,’.
‘Thank you Mortun,’.
The Valkyrie took off into the night, followed by just a few others of Mortun’s aircraft.
‘I’m glad you were the only commander brought here who’s regiment had aircraft,’ said Fortensen.
Mortun shrugged. ‘The Astartes probably have a Stormhawk hidden away somewhere, and the navy’ll have its own fighter and bomber wings,’.
As the sun rose on the horizon the men of the Glison 33rd Regulars and the Flying Jackals kept their eyes open for any sign of the enemy. None came.
On a flat stretch of ground the surviving squadrons of Mortun’s gun and troopships waited in loose formation, no one wanting to bother packing them in tighter. No one had the energy.
The commanders of the two regiments sat on two empty water barrels, with a third serving as a table with a map on it. The traitor’s camp was marked in red, their current position in green. Fortensen didn’t like how close they were.
‘So is there a plan?’ Mortun asked Fortensen.
‘Find what Lorgar wants, make sure he doesn’t get it,’.
‘That’s terrific Fortensen, now do you know where this thing is?’
‘No but I-‘
‘I think I might,’ said a trooper from the Glison.
Mortun and Fortensen looked up from the map they had been staring at and looked at the trooper. Their bodyguards did as well.
‘What’s your name son?’ asked Fortensen.
‘Alright Clarkson, tell us what you know, or what you think you know,’ said Fortensen.
‘Sir,’ began Clarkson ‘after the raid, when we were all imprisoned they had us in that detention center, it was almost like how you rescued us except they were in there with us and they wouldn’t even let us move. We waited like that for about an hour and then this… black robed… thing came in, Kor’Farrah was with it, along with the leftover Astartes’.
‘Did the general refer to it as “sorcerer”?’ asked Fortensen.
‘He might’ve sir, it certainly looked the part,’ Clarkson continued ‘the thing walked through the detention center, it stopped sometimes, in front of someone and just stood there, looking at him from inside it’s robe thing we couldn’t see into. Sometimes, after stopping in front of someone it would point at him and one of the Astartes would take him away,’.
‘I’m guessing that’s what happened to you?’ asked Mortun.
‘Yes sir, it is,’.
‘What happened after that?’
‘I don’t remember sir. I remember a hand, and a flare of pain like nothing else I can imagine and since then, since they dropped me back into the detention center I’ve just been… drawn in some direction,’.
‘Where are the other men that were taken in?’
‘I don’t know sir, I looked for em’ after they were done with me, I couldn’t find any. They either died then or during the evac last night,’.
Fortensen looked at Mortun, briefly.
‘So are you still being drawn towards something?’ Fortensen asked.
‘Yes, I think so at least,’.
Clarkson pointed into the mouth of the nearest cave, which was hastily being barricaded by the Glison Regulars and Jackals with pieces of aircraft that had only barely made it there before breaking down beyond all repair.
‘There sir,’. he said.
‘Well isn’t that convenient,’ said Mortun.
‘Gear up men,’ said Fortensen, ‘we’re going spelunking,’.
‘Why did you allow them to escape!’ roared Sor’Talla, the leader of the Astartes left behind by the blessed Primarch Lorgar to enforce Kor’Farrah and make sure he fulfilled his set task.
‘Its all part of the plan,’ said Kor’Farrah ‘they will lead us to the device, the marker spell worked and one of the Glison is leading us there right now, everything he sees we see and when he sees the device we will swoop in and kill them all,’.
‘If you had followed your orders we would be combing the desert at this very moment, not playing games with a couple rouge commanders you dislike,’.
‘Just get over the fact that I have a plan and its working,’ snarled Kor’Farrah.
Sor’Talla raised his bolter to Kor’Farrah’s head.
‘Don’t forget who’s orders I follow,’ he said.
‘I haven’t,’ said Kor’Farrah, ‘and if I fail, which I will not, you can do things your way but until then,’ he raised a hand to the bolter and tried to push it away from his head, it didn’t work, ‘I am in charge and we will do things my way. Ready your men,’.
‘Five of my men are dead,’ said Sor’Talla, ‘I want the rest of my marines to go in, alone, when you find the device,’.
‘And you will, but right now, we must be patient,’.
The beam of a flashlight lit up the dark tunnel. Mounted on the barrel of one of the Jackal’s hellguns the flashlight began to flicker.
‘Jensen go to the rear,’ said Mortun, in the middle of the formation as the trooper, who had taken point, saw that his flashlight was dying, ‘Markus take point,’ he added.
The troopers moved smoothly, exchanging positions as the company moved on.
‘I ordered you all to check the batteries before we left,’ said Mortun to Jensen.
‘I did sir and it was fully charged, I don’t know what’s wrong with it,’ he replied.
Fortensen came to his aid.
‘Its probably got something to do with the device,’ he said.
‘I think we’re getting closer,’ said Clarkson ‘the feeling’s getting stronger,’.
The group kept advancing down the long, dark, and wet tunnel. Every step echoed, no matter how carefully they walked, and every drop of water from the ceiling was like the ticking of a bomb waiting to go off. The dark was an impenetrable shroud around everything good and right, hiding it not from sight, but from existence. The flashlights had trouble piercing it, and when they did it was only ever for a few feet.
By the time the group had spent about an hour walking through the tunnel it was Clarkson who had taken point.
Five flashlights lit up his back, making him visible for those behind him. The twenty five others tried to pierce the darkness around them.
In the back Fortensen was keeping pack, drumming a mark into then handle of his plasma pistol with his fingers.
Mortun was a few paces ahead of him, before motioning Markus to take his place from back where Fortensen was.
The trooper quickened his pace to take his leader’s place while Mortun stood still and waited for Fortensen to be right next to him and take Markus’s spot.
‘We can’t keep going on like this,’ he said.
‘We need to find that device,’ came his reply.
‘We need to know when they come for us,’.
‘You’re right, but we still need to locate this thing,’.
‘Group halt,’ said Fortensen, the thirty men stopped.
‘We need to go back topside, make sure we’re secure against attack,’.
‘But sir we’re close, I can feel it,’ said Clarkson, desperately.
‘Mark this spot with electro sig, we’ll find our way back, once we know the men topside are safe,’.
Clarkson reluctantly gave in to his commander’s order. ‘Yes sir,’ he said.
The group turned around and started down the path they came, all but two glad to be moving on. As for the two disappointed, it was for as many different reasons.
As the group followed the trail of infra red markers they left in their wake the sound of running feet came from up ahead.
Thirty rifles came up and Colonel Fortensen shouted ‘Star!’ the challenge word.
‘Heartbreak Ridge,’ came the countersign and a Glison trooper came up to the group.
‘Colonel Fortensen, Lieutenant Mortun,’ he said ‘we need both of you topside now, there’s an emergency,’ he started running back the way he came.
Fortensen, Mortun and the rest of the men ran after him back to the surface.
Clarkson kept pace for a few meters, before slowing down and quietly falling back to the end of the group.
When the rest of the soldiers had passed him he stopped completely and turned around, in the direction of the force drawing him.
When Colonel Fortensen reached the entrance to the main cave was swallowed by a storm of panic.
‘What’s going on?’ he asked.
‘They’re here sir,’ a Lieutenant answered.
From the mouth of the cave men came in, carrying everything they could and barricading the entrance.
Fortensen strode through the ocean of soldiers and looked out the cave mouth. More men were lugging equipment up the slope of the rocky mountain the caves were in.
The Colonel started down the slope to help the soldiers still out in the open. He looked up and blood red Astartes Thunderhawk was flying in circles above the mountain.
Mortun joined him on the rocky slope and saw what he saw.
‘Come on we have to get it all inside!’ he shouted.
Mortun started down the hill towards the gun and troopships. Fortensen kept his eyes on the Thunderhawk while all around him men rushed back and forth between the mouth of the cave and ad hoc camp with all their equipment and supplies.
The Thunderhawk flew behind the mountain and Fortensen lost sight of it. When he looked for Mortun he saw the younger man running for one of the Vulture gunships.
Fortensen heard the scream of incredibly powerful engines and saw the Thunderhawk coming in low over the landing zone.
‘Mortun no!’ he shouted before the Thunderhawk let the nose mounted heavy bolters, all four of them, open up and began to rip apart the grounded aircraft along with the scores of men who were still out there, trying in vain to get supplies in to withstand a siege.
Explosions hid the landing field from Fortensen’s sight and the old man lost sight of Mortun’s Vulture in the fire.
‘No!’ he shouted again at the loss of his friend.
‘Sir we have to get inside!’ shouted a trooper, Fortensen didn’t know from which regiment.
The Thunderhawk finished its attack run and soared up into the sky in preparation for another attack.
The trooper tried to pull Fortensen with him but the horrified Colonel wouldn’t budge, losing so many men in the escape just a few hours-or was it days?- ago had been like losing his sons, this was like losing a brother.
In the end Fortensen had to be dragged back to the mouth of the cave where he stood upright, forsaking the cover of the barricades as men of the two regiments kneeled behind the crates and kept their weapons pointed in the direction the enemy would come in as the Astartes Thunderhawk continued to loop around the mountain, occasionally blasting at it with its main cannon.
After two hours Fortensen looked away from where Mortun had been slain and looked at the men around him.
‘Where is Clarkson?’ he asked.
The young trooper stumbled through the tunnel like a blind man, unable to see anything it was so dark. He used his hands to find the walls and fell on his face once or twice when he stepped into a shallow hole.
He continued on this way for a while, about two hours after he disobeyed the Colonel’s orders and went deeper into the mountain. He knew he was getting close.
He forged his way onwards, letting the force calling him show the way. He let the force show him the way until it stopped.
The force just left him as though it were never there. In its place Clarkson saw a faint, ghostly green light at the end of the tunnel, where it curved off to the right. He followed it.
‘Dammit!’ shouted the sorcerer.
‘What is it?’ asked Kor’Farrah.
‘I can no longer see what the marked sees,’.
‘Did his flashlight go out or something?’
‘No, I would still be able to see even if he could not, it is as though the mark on his soul is gone,’.
‘Then Sor’Talla will get his wish, tell them they can land,’.
‘Sir we need you up here,’ said a Captain of the Glison to Colonel Fortensen.
‘We need to find Clarkson, he knows the location of what we’re after here,’.
‘But we don’t know when the Astartes will attack the cave sir,’.
They were distracted when the men at the mouth of the cave started firing their lasguns. Fortensen and the captain rushed to the mouth and saw the Thunderhawk landing, facing the cave entrance.
The ramp on the aircraft lowered as the main cannon elevated towards the entrance.
‘Get down!’ shouted Fortensen just as the massive gun bellowed in anger. The shot hit the inside of cave entrance and killed a dozen men. Fortensen rose with a long gash down the side of him arm. The captain he’d been talking to was dead and there was a loud ringing in his ears.
‘Fall back!’ he shouted.
Glison Regulars and Jackals rose to their feet around him, firing their weapons into the cloud of dust that was covering the exit. Fortensen raised his plasma pistol and added his own firepower to the panicked barrage.
‘Fall back!’ he shouted again and the men around him began falling back farther into the cave.
As Fortensen ran with the men further back he chanced a glance back at the cave entrance and saw two squads of Astartes walking, just walking, in.
‘Take cover!’ he shouted and threw himself flat on the ground.
Men took cover behind crates and fired on the Astartes with everything they had. A heavy weapons crew with the last remaining heavy bolter opened up and stitched a path of bolt explosions up the ground towards the cave mouth. Two of the heavy bolts smacked into the breastplate of a warrior in the front of the loose formation.
The giant was knocked back a step and the armor was significantly deadly. This didn’t stop the traitor from raising its bolter and firing two shots, killing the two weapon operators in a second before firing off a third into the heavy weapon’s ammunition box.
The bolt rounds exploded and sent shrapnel out in all directions, pelting the Astartes power armor with no effect and killing many of the loyal Imperial Army men.
‘Fall back!’ shouted Fortensen again. Snapping off two shots with his plasma pistol. The first plasma bolt hit an Astartes in his shoulder, turning him to the right a bit with the force of the shot. The second hit him in the face and the traitor howled in pain moments before the plasma ate through his helmet and killed him.
‘Fall back!’ Fortensen shouted again.
The men tried to fall back, but the bolter of the Astartes made deadly and accurate enemies, but they had nowhere else to go.
Running doubled over Fortensen and the men around him tried to get to the end of the cave mouth, where it broke off into several tunnels going in many directions.
Two men to Fortensen’s right died as the Astartes fired into the retreating defenders.
Fortensen made it to the tunnel and rounded the corner, just barely avoiding a bolt round that almost took his arm off.
Fortensen went into the tunnel that went right, the one he, Clarkson and Mortun had taken earlier with a group of soldiers to find what needed protecting or destroying. Other soldier went off in different directions.
He didn’t stop running until he’d turned five more bends, putting much ground between him and Astartes and meeting up with a small group of soldier who had taken what little cover there was.
‘Here sir,’ said a Jackal, handing Fortensen a detonator. Not asking what it was for, the Colonel hit the detonator.
Three tons of rock fell with the sound of thunder, covering the exit at the back of the cave entrance and preventing access to the tunnel system.
Fortensen exhaled, for what felt like the first time in hours.
‘We need to find Clarkson,’ he said.
Sor’Talla beat his fist against the pile of rocks. Roaring his anger the marine raised his bolter and fired half a clip into the pile. It did little.
‘Get the melta,’ he said.
‘Sir,’ said one his squad ‘the Army shits are coming,’.
‘Then get the melta quicly,’.
‘He’s not here sir,’ said the trooper called Markus.
‘Shit, I thought he came back with us,’ said Fortensen.
‘Maybe he went off looking for the thing,’
‘Most likely, come on, we’re going back where we left off,’.
Fortensen took off down the long tunnel he and the survivors of the attack were situated in. All the men went with him, not wanting to stay behind and wait to be gunned down by Astartes.
‘Set up traps for the Astartes, it might not hurt them, but it will slow them down a little,’ said Fortensen as he checked the charge on his plasma pistol.
Sor’Talla leveled the melta gun at the rock pile and pulled the trigger and the rock melted under the hellish heat.
Soldiers of the command of Kor’Farrah came in through the mouth of the cave. When Sor’Tall finished cutting a hole through the rock large enough for him and his men he turned around and faced the small group of ten soldiers sent out ahead of the main host.
‘Unworthy mortals do not deserve the glory our gods will give us,’ he said, raising the melta gun ‘go back, and tell Kor’Farrah he wasted too much of his master’s time and that we will take the glory from this world. He had his chance,’.
The fierce deathmask painted on the Astartes’ helm gave his words a fearsome edge. The soldiers turned and left, they couldn’t get out fast enough.
‘How many does it take to deliver a message?’ asked Sor’Talla.
‘Only one,’ chorused his remaining men and nine bolters came up.
‘Come on we have to go faster,’ said Fortensen as they heard the echoes of bolter fire.
Markus had an auspex out and was looking at it.
‘If we run we can get to our last marked position inside thirty minutes, but visibility is something that never thought to come here so running could be a potentially harmful option,’.
‘It may be our only option,’ said Fortensen.
The group continued down the path left my electro-markers earlier.
‘Sir, do you know what happened to everyone else?’ asked Markus.
‘I don’t know, they fled into different tunnels, the detonation that covered up the entrance probably helped them get away, and if they have supplies they may last for a while but I’m afraid they’ll be on their own unless we succeed,’.
‘And what will happen then sir?’ asked Markus.
‘What do you mean soldier?’
‘If we succeed in destroying, or protecting whatever Kor’Farrah is after, how do we get off this planet? The chances are slim we kill the Astartes, and even if we do we still have several thousand traitors back at the camp to deal with if we want to get off this planet, so even if somehow we survive this day, how exactly do we go on?’
‘We don’t trooper, everything has been taken from us, our brothers, our only viable way of getting off this planet, everything, save our duty and that is what we shall carry out unto our dying breath,’.
Markus said nothing.
When at last the group reached the point where the original party turned back, they found Clarkson keeled over on the floor, sobbing.
‘I tried to go down there…,’ he whimpered.
‘Down where?’ asked Fortensen.
‘Down below, but it wouldn’t let me, led me in circles…’
‘What are you talking about?’ asked Fortensen.
Clarkson began to cry again.
‘Speak damn you!’ shouted Fortensen and the tunnels carried and echo of his voice far.
Clarkson gathered his strength. ‘We were close… the last time we were here. After you left I tried to go on and find what was… drawing my forward, but the force… just led me in circles after I saw a green light, I noticed that when I dropped my helmet… and found it a few minutes later as I stumbled in the dark, then I heard a voice and it said “not alone…not alone…not alone”… so I came back here, to wait for you sir,’.
‘Well get up, we’re going now,’.
‘Yessir,’ said Clarkson, his spirits visibly rising.
‘Can you lead us back?’
‘Then do so,’.
The bark of a bolter ended the conversation as well as the life of a Glison trooper who screamed in pain moments before he died.
‘Run!’ shouted Fortensen.
The group began running again, a few troopers blindly down the tunnel to no effect.
Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).