Blood Calls to Blood
A Cold Day in Hell
The first thing he felt when he woke from that sleep was the cold
, by the Warp, the cold
. His eyes opened slowly, delicately, fluttering like an insect emerging from some sort of cocoon. He could feel some sort of wall or barricade behind him, scraping against his back. His gasmask's goggles were fogged; he only saw pale blue clouds, slowly getting murkier a drop at a time. Groggily, he realized snow was falling on his goggles. He tried to moved his arm up to clear the snow from the lenses, but it would not move. With his mind still foggy from unconsciousness, he attempted to pull his arm out listlessly a few times. Finally, with a slick smearing sound, his arm became free. Groaning at his success, he began wiping his damp and stained gloves over the armaglass lenses. The grey-blue fog was replaced with each smear by thick red paste.
His eyes snapped open. Tilting his head upwards the tiniest bit, he noticed with horror the source of the red paste and his perceived paralysis. Two corpses lay across him; one lay on his chest, the other on top of the first and stretching onto his legs. Blood trickled slowly down from the bodies, and small trails of steam wafted up from the body's ruptured stomach, the victim's still-warm internal organs heating the air around the body. He wanted to scream but his throat caught; the only sound that came out was a pitiful mixture of a choke and a gurgle. As he mewled silently to himself, he wiped the blood from his mask with his clean hand with another tug. More bodies emerged into view from behind the curtain of crimson fluid.
He was surrounded by bodies, at least nine. Blood stained all of their clothes, and in many cases the victim's torn and distended organs simply lay damp and steaming on, in, or near the corpses. They had been stacked into a crude pile, which at some point had fallen over on top of him. Their faces, when visible through their gas-masks, were deathly pale; their eyes were glazed like faded pearls that had taken some sort of ancient stain. His mewling intensified into a sort of high-pitched keen; his throat was still caught, as if there was a rock lodged in it. His breathing quickened, but as it did, he noticed a sharp pain in his chest, in and out. Each breath was a knife to his chest. Glancing down at his chest, he noted yet another trickle of blood issuing from beneath his flak armour. Several gashes marked the once-clean surface of the armour; he could only assume he had been hit by shrapnel at some point. He shuddered to himself. "Get a gr-gr-grip, man," he mumbled to himself, his voice still shuddery with fear. With a heave he pushed the heavy corpses off of his body; they landed in the bloodied pools around him with a sickening splash.
His breath fogged out of his gasmask into the cold air around him, causing him to look around at the cold world around him. Halcyon IV, a cold, desolate manufactorum hell-hole of a world. Ruined Mechanicus Factories littered the landscape, their destroyed wares spilled across the frozen landscape. Antiquitated citadels of various mysterious purposes dotted the landscape, looming over the icy wastes like watchmen from some long-forgotten era of man. Husks of broken vehicles were scattered around him, dilapidated and in ruin. A Leman Russ here, it's turret rent open exposing a dead crewman. Two Chimeras there, one lying broken on top of the other in what seemed like some sort of gruesome parody of fornication. In all cases, the bodies of the passengers and crew spilled out onto the ground around them. He felt very alone out here.
Out of the corner of his eye came some comfort, however. Ah, there's
what he had been looking for. His closest companion lay on the ground, scuffed but in good condition. Her casing was a bit damaged, yes, but her aim should still be sharp, her bite just as deadly as before. Creeping behind the barricade he once lay against, he reached slowly for her, bringing her closer, caressing her. His ever-present autogun was with him again; gracing her side was his identification plate, the only brass object he was allowed to own. It was still shined to a polish, although the rough ground had dirtied it a bit. It read those words so familiar to him now:
Lactin, Darro C."
Darro felt a bit better now. At least now he had some sort of protection on this frakking world. Of course his squad was dead. That
much, at least, he knew. His optimistic mood, however brief it was, plummeted at that thought. He was truly completely alone out here. "Sweet W-w-warp..." he muttered, as the gravity of his situation began to dawn on him. He was alone. An enemy of the Imperium, stranded on what was once one of their crown jewels. For hundreds of miles around him in every direction, all that surrounded him was ruins of destroyed factories...and the enemy. The ever-present Imperial Guard, of which he was a part...in the distant past, at least. He could barely remember those days. Shipped around in a cramped spaceship to some godforsaken planet, fighting an enemy he barely knew, or cared to know about. In fact, when his command went traitor, little actually changed; he merely had a more human variety of foes to face now.
He shook his head to stop daydreaming. The past was not his concern right now; he needed to figure out a way to stay the frak alive. He peered over the barricade that was sheltering him for the moment. All he could see in every direction was those Warp-damned ruins. There could be any number of Guardies in those places...or there could be none. That's why fighting on this frakking world had been so difficult so far; the Guardies used the terrain to their advantage. They sprung out of the ruins at any point, using the underground tunnels like a bunch of frakking rats in a maze. "Of course if command gave me any frakking grenades, maybe I could actually clear the frakking rooms I'm supposed to search," he mused. Finally, he saw a ruin close by that looked accessible enough. Standing tall and pround, the bulding was relatively intact, save for a section of the south wall that was broken on one side.
"Frak this, I'm going in there," he muttered. Taking a deep breath, he pushed over the body of the corpulent medic, finding the precious medkit and clipping it to his belt. Finally, he snatched the dog-tags of his fellow soldiers, wrapping them around his wrist. Grabbing his autogun in one hand, he sprinted quickly into the ruin, vaulting the barricade he hid behind. As he approached, he removed the safety and switched to both hands, slowing his tread. Darro stayed close to the wall, watching the large open hangar cautiously. With a quick motion he sprang into the hangarway, his weapon swinging from side to side, searching for targets. The room, however, was clear. Lowering his weapon, he strode cautiously into the building. It looked to be some sort of munitions depot at one point, but the contents had long since been looted. All that remained were a few servo-units and some conveyor belts. He began to search around. "There's gotta be a vox around here somewhere," he mumbled. Sifting through a pile of debris by the far wall, Darro busied himself by humming one of his songs from the old corps days.
That's when the voice began speaking.
It began softly, teasing him with it's muteness. Darro....
He swung around, hefting his autogun and swiveling around the room. Gulping in his throat, his forehead began to perspirate beneath his mask as he walked slowly towards the conveyor belts. "G-g-give it up...I know you're in h-h-here," he spoke, stuttering slightly with fear. Oh, don't you worry Darro,
the voice breathed. The room echoed loudly as Darro seemed to jump a foot out of his shoes, wildly swinging his autogun back. You're all alone in here, Darro...I'm not in the ruins.
Darro chuckled nervously. "Oh y-y-yeah, then? Well then where the fr-fr-frak are you, huh, you little shit?" He cocked his autogun nervously. The room went silent for a few moments, a sound that chilled him to his very core. I'm right with you, Darro....I'm inside of you
He bit his lip nervously. Sweat was now trickling vigorously down his brow, clouding his eyes. He blinked a few times nervously, staying extremely still as he listened to the silence of the ruin. "M-m-man, frak this sh-sh-shit, I'm getting out of here," he whispered to himself. Grabbing his autogun in both hands, he quickly exited the ruin. From a distance, once could see him hurriedly striding across the ruinous landscape. He vaulted small barricades in his path carefully, noting various hazards he encountered such as leaking reactor cores, monofilament razor wire, and in one occasion, small but crudely hidden fragmentation mines. The snow was beginning to fall much heavier; it was thick enough in some places that it would go up to his ankle with a careless step. As he hurriedly walked across the wastes, he noticed out of the corner of his eye three small carrion birds flying high above him. They looked diseased and especially malnourished; evidently they had not had a meal in several days. They followed him silently.
Finally, after what seemed like an hour of aimless trekking, Darro spotted another ruined building. It loomed above him much taller than the first, leaning to one side like the tower of ancient Terran legend. He held his autogun in both hands shakily, making a small clanking noise as it reverberated off of his studded gloves. With one swift leap he jumped into the door, swinging the weapon from side to side, scanning for targets. Empty, yet again. He kept his autogun leveled as he quickly walked through what he could in the room. The floor was littered with debris and detritus; chunks of rockcrete intermingled with pieces from various arcane machines and small piles of broken bones, long since picked clean of flesh. "Vox, Darro, damnit, looking for a fr-fr-fraking vox, damnit..." he muttered to himself, quickly hustling towards a tarnished command terminal in the corner. He struck the activation runes several times with no success. Finally, in frustration, he slammed the butt of his gun into the monitor. With an audible crrshzzk
, the screen spiderwebbed with cracks and hummed to life.
-----***DIRE: ENTER SUBSYST3M COMMAND5***-----
-----***DIRE: ACCES5 STANDARD DATABAS3 SYST3MS***-----
-----!!!WARN: PLEA5E ENTER MACHIN3 SPIRIT ACTIV4TI----
He typed quickly, slinging his medikit and other supplies onto the terminal. Enough with the Warp-damned formailities, he thought. Tatatatap, tatap tap tap tap tap. Ch-thunk.
-----***ACCESS CODES ACC3PTED. PRAIS3 BE THE MACHINNNEEEE3EEE33EEE3E33efa&^9***-----
Tatatap, tap tap tap tap. Tap tap tatatatatap tatap tatap. Ch-thunk.
-----***QUER: ACCE5S WHICH ZYSTEM5?***-----
-----***ACCESSING VOX SYST3MS***-----
-----***TH3 EMPER0R IS PATI3NT***-----
-----***SO SH0ULD YOu B3***---
"Frak," he muttered. Just what I needed, he thought. More damn waiting. "I's been waiting enough on this frakking planet," he grumbled. Leaning his autogun on the wall, he stuck his hands in his pocket and leaned against a shattered pillar. "I need to get the frak out of---" There's no use contacting vox-command, Darro.
He gritted his teeth slightly. You're all alone, Darro. Nobody is going to come for you. Nobody. You have nothing Command wants, Darro. Give up, Darro. Give it up, Darro.
"Sh-sh-shut up," he hissed. "Shutupshutupshutupshutupshutup." He glared at the terminal.
He began to perspire again. His shaved hair began to collect a thin layer of sweat beneath his mask. Of course he couldn't risk taking it off without breathing the polluted atmosphere of the planet. Even the snow was more slag than water, giving it an unclean, tarnished appearance. He shook his head briefly. You know what you must do, Darro. Let it all go, Darro.
Outside the ruin, the wind began to pick up speed. He felt the urge to bite his nails; he often felt like this when nervous, which was most of the time. You have a choice, Darro. They can, or you can.
"Damnit, leave me the frak alone!" he yelled, echoing inside the ruin. The brief silence that followed was soon disturbed by afaint sound off in the distance. Darro tiled his head to listen. It almost sounded like...voices? Then another sound appeared: a loud cla-clack. I suppose you want them to, then.
The ruin shookwith the barrage of fire that rocked the flimsy structure. Small ff-ffzzz
noises of dozens of lasguns were interrupted by the massive thup-thup-thup-thup
of the entrenched autocannon out in the wastes. Debris flew from the ceiling and chunks of rockcrete separated violently from the walls. Instinctively Darro ducked behind the massive terminal, snatching his autogun more out of comfort than any sense of self-defense. The floor rattled and shook with the noises of the gun's impact, and he could barely hear a gruff voice yelling out firing commands, presumably the squad's commissar. The terminal sparked and hummed as stray shots impacted into the wall behind it. And yet over the din of the hail of weapon fire Darro could hear a low ping
emit from the terminal.
-----***VOX COMPILE COMPLETE.***-----
-----***PL3ASE ENTER V0X CODE5***-----
Darro began to type furiously, staying low behind the terminal. The constant noise of the autocannon was deafening. Thup-thup-thup-thup-thup-thup...
Finally, the vox channels opened up. The drone of static calmed quickly. "...ommand Post 528-66. You are using Blood of Ruin ope....ating codes. Please identify." Darro had to scream to be heard over the autocannon fire. "ID CODE 002-52-91998, NAME: PRIVATE FIRST CLASS LACTIN, DARRO C!! I AM UNDER HEAVY ENEMY FIRE GUARDING VALUABLE MECHANICUS TERMINAL! MY WHOLE SQUAD IS DEAD, DAMNIT, SEND SOME FRAKKING HELP!!!" The reply was barely heard. "...derstood. Locust fighters are en route to nearby area. I will vox them for a re....irection of their flight pattern. Reinfo....ents are coming." Darro leaned back slightly, chuckling to himself amidst the din. "YOU HEAR THAT, YOU PIECE OF SHIT? WHO'S ALL ALONE NOW?"
An ominous crack sounded in the ceiling. Darro looked up just in time to see a chunk of rockcrete dislodge and plummet straight down. Time seemed to slow as the huge piece of rubble traveled at it's downward course. With a sickening crunch the slab landed on his right leg. The scream he made was muffled by the din of the gunfire and the gasmask he wore. You could have listened to me, Darro.
"Fr-fr-frak off, just leave m-m-me alone!" he howled through his gasmask. Dark blood pooled under his leg. Suddenly...silence. The fusillade of fire outside had stopped abruptly. Darro could faintly hear voices outside, shrill and hoarse with panic. A second later, a massive sonic boom shook the building to it's foundation. The ground shook with strafing fire from the overhead Locust attack craft. But the engine sounds quickly began to fade. Darro's heart filled with panic. "No, wait!" he shouted. "I'm in here! I'M IN HERE!" The blood beneath his leg began to coagulate. Tears of frustration began to cloud his vision. Grimacing, he attempted to push the rockcrete chunk off of his leg. It refused to budge. He tried again a few moments later. Again, it stayed completely still. In rage, he steadied his back against the wall he leaned upon and heaved with all his might. Finally, with a disgusting crunching noise, the chunk of heavy building material slid onto the bare ground. He howled in pain once again.
As Darro gazed at what remained of his right leg below the knee, tears continued to pour from his eyes. He touched the stickly limb slowly, wincing at the intense pain he felt. His vision strobed with flashes of light and color. "Losing b-b-blood," he muttered. "Me-me-medi..." He couldn't even finished the word. He looked about the room for where his medikit had fallen. There it is, he thought; it had skidded off of the terminal during the fight. Blindly, he groped for the tiny first aid pack. Eventually, his flailing hands located the pack. With practiced discipline, even in a state such as his, he reached inside the pack and located the bandage roll he kept hand. He gritted his teeth as tight as interlocking gears as he fought the pain he felt wrapping the wound. Then, reaching back into the pack, he grabbed the thin needle and vial of medifixx. Filling the needle to the brim, Darro's hands shook as he injected it directly into his leg. He screamed in agony for a third time. The pain was rewarded with clearer vision; the flashes were gone. He slumped against the wall again, exhausted from his ordeal.
Now look what's happened to you, Darro.
The voice seemed to come from every direction, taunting him, whispering in his ear and shouting in his face. He began to cry again. "Why...." he moaned. "Why do this to m-m-me? Who am I for you to b-b-bother?" He could imagine the voice smiling a terrible grin, fangs glistening. Why, Darro, your patron loves all of His followers as equals. The Brass Lord is called many things, but uncaring is not one of them.
Darro rocked with sobs. You could have listened to me, Darro. You could have offered youself to Him, but instead you had to call upon others to do your work for Him. He doesn't like that. Your patron hates cowards, now dosen't He?
"Just...just g-g-go away...please..." he mumbled. The dog-tags on his wrist shook with fear and exhaustion.
Slowly, Darro looked around the now ruined room he resided in. The floor was even more obstructed and littered than it was before. Wooden beams mixed with freshly dislocated rockcrete to make a horrible maze of destruction. Then, Darro saw it. A thin beam of wood, relatively undamaged. Good height; he could maybe use it as a makeshift crutch. But it was across the room. He stared at his bloodied leg before he began to move. Grimacing, he braced his hands and back against the wall and slowly lifted himself up along with his good leg. Soon, he managed to become standing. Already breathing heavily from such a simple task, he stared at his leg again before continuing. Gingerly placing his bad leg on the floor, he was greeted with a sharp pain. His face contorting with pain, he managed to hold back a scream. Taking one last deep breath, he grabbed the last of his supplies, affixed them to his belt, and grabbed his autogun. There was a pause for a few seconds, filling the room with deadly silence. Then, swiftly, he limped across the room for the beam. Each step was like a thousand bullets up and down his leg. The agony was utterly unbearable, unlike anything he had ever experienced. By the time he finally reached the board he could bear it no longer. He collapsed to the floor, landing hard on his good leg. He couldn't resist screaming.
Panting there was tiring enough as it is, just lying on the ground. His pantleg seeped red, and was damp to the touch. "Is this even worth it?" he muttered. "I'm d-d-dying, for Warp's s-s-sake. Nobody's gonna f-f-find me." Yes, Darro. That's exactly what I mean to say. You could end it all now. You know how much your patron wants that.
Darro sat silently for a moment, his chest gasping for air in and out. Finally, he clenched his fist. "You know what?" he growled, grinding his teeth together. "No. I have valuable information. I have coordinates that can help the c-c-cause. I have a purpose
, damnit! And I'm not gonna stoop to the level of a sh-sh-shithead like you who probably isn't even real and waste the only life I got! You hear me, you son of a bitch?! I am a human being, damnit, and I am gonna live!"
Grabbing the beam of wood decicively, Darro steadied himself against the wall yet again. Lifting himself up, he grabbed his autogun in the other hand, safety off and finger resting beside the trigger. Slowly, he began to limp outside into the frozen wastes. The wind had died down but the snow still fell in droves, blackened with soot and pollution. The frozen ice beneath the snow crunched with every step he took, and shards of metal skidded away under his tread. The wooden beam he supported himself on quickly grew hard to handle, biting into his lower arm, but Darro gritted his teeth and continued on. You're making a mistake, Darro. You're making Him angry, and you don't want him to be angry, do you?
He grinned. "Frak you, you spectral c-c-cunt." Looking up in the sky, Darro noticed something among the clouds. Smoke trails from the Locust attack craft! "Haha! I can follow those back to base! Who's w-w-worthless now, you son of a bitch?" He laughed to himself as he picked up speed, limping along at a lopsided pace and following the fading black smoke. His mood improved very quickly; he lowered his autogun to his side and he even started singing one of his old corps songs.
A capital ship for a Warp-run trip
Was the "Walloping Window-Blind."
No tarot that drew dismayed her crew,
Or troubled the captain's mind.
The man at the wheel was made to feel
Contempt for the wildest flow-ho-ho,
Though it oft' appeared when the veil had cleared
That he'd been in his bunk below.
So, blow ye winds, heigh-ho,
A-roving I will go;
I'll stay no more on homeworld's shore,
So let the music play-hey-hey;
I'm off for the morning train,
I'll cross the raging vein,
I'm off to my love with a boxing glove
Ten thousand miles away.
The bo'sn's mate was very sedate,
Yet fond of amusement, too.
He played hopscotch on the starboard watch,
While the captain tickled the crew.
And the gunner we had was apparently mad,
For he sat on the after rail-hail-hail
And fired salutes with the captain's boots
In the teeth of the booming veil.
So, blow ye winds, heigh-ho,
A-roving I will go;
I'll stay no more on homeworld's shore,
So let the music play-hey-hey;
I'm off for the morning train,
I'll cross the raging vein,
I'm off for my love with a boxing glove
Ten thousand miles awa---
The song was interrupted by a massive crack
from a distance. Blood flew from Darro's arm as the bolt round sliced clean through his shoulder blade. He dropped to the ground like a sack of hammers, clutching his arm in horrible pain. As if signaled to do so, dozens of lasguns opened fire from the ruin they had been camouflaged on where the sniper shot had originated. The familiar ff-ffzzz
noise of the lasguns interrupted by the cra-crack
of a bolt pistol scorched the ground around Darro, lancing off of nearby rocks and sections of broken wall. Struggling to stand, Darro limped through the field of fire, heading for a nearby section of destroyed barricade. As he clutched his broken shoulder in one hand and his autogun in the other, he marveled at the sheer volume of firepower streaking towards him. Good thing those loyalist frakkers are such terrible shots, his mind noted hurriedly as he ducked behind the barricade. Clutching his autogun to his chest, he listened as the noises of the lasguns sounded from the barricade. Breathing heavily, Darro searched around for options in his limited environment. Give it up, Darro. End it now.
He ignored the voice as he sheltered behind the section of barricade. Behind him a ruined statue of a techpriest stood, cracked and worn with age. The rockcrete surface fizzled occasionally as a terribly aimed lasgun shot would occasionally glance off of the ruinous figure. Its mechanical eyes seemed to stare straight at him; the camera systems were long sense deactivated, but their cold metal gleam burned into his soul even as one of them fried from a lousy Guardie shot. He shook his head. "Get your head in the g-g-game, Darro. You got this."
Crawling behind the barricade, he stared through a tiny hole in the rockcrete structure. He could see three of the guardsmen, all newbies by the look of it. Their young, soft faces lacked any scars or signs of age, and even from here he could see their arms shaking with nervousness as they struggled to find their single target. Behind them stood a stern commissar, bolt pistol in hand, searching for the one he had hit before. Grabbing his autogun in both hands, he breathed heavily, waiting for a lull in the gunfire. The blood must always flow, Darro.
Ff-ffzzz, ffzzz ffzzz ffzzz ff-ffzzz.
Ff-ffzzz cra-crack ffzzz.
Silence followed for a precious second, and Darro struck. Darting his head above the barricade, he swept his autogun wide and fast, snapping off three bursts of slugfire. The heavy rounds left the barrel with a bass thuthuthuthuthuthuthup
, the recoil driving the gun back into his injured shoulder. He grimaced in pain and ducked back down. Peering through the peephole again, he was rewarded with what he saw. The three guardsmen he could see slumped over the ruin. One was shot clean in the head, the slugs destroying most of his cranium and snapping his neck. The other two were being desperately juggled by an inexperienced-looking medic, screaming out orders for supplies that nobody apparently had. The commissar, in the meanwhile, simply stared out into the wastes. They can release you, Darro, if you let them.
Darro watched as the stern figure, without even turning, calmly reached his hand down and shot the inexperienced medic in the head. What was once a face was now a bloodied stump of gristle and neckbone.
Darro's face went pale when he heard the commissar speak. He could barely hear it, and yet could make it out completely.
...et up the mortar, by the Em....eror. Shell that snive...ing traitor this instant.
As quick as he could, Darro leapt up, forgoing his cover to get the frak out of there. The cra-crack
of the commissar's bolt pistol sounded again and again, tracing Darro's erratic limping escape path. Several times, massive bolt rounds came very close to nicking his legs. Finally came the sound he was dreading. A massive thump
sounded out from the distance. What seemed like a minute passed before the inevitable follow-up. The massive explosion from the mortar knocked Darro off of his feet, launching him over a large boulder. He slammed into the rock with a crack
and rolled to the ground behind it, clutching his ribs in agony. The commissar ceased firing and holstered his pistol. He began to wait.
Darro held his arms limply to his chest. Blood leaked through his fingers like a river, and every breath was a thousand searing brands to his heart. He knew he had broken several ribs, perhaps punctured a lung. He began to cry.
Darro...we all knew this was how it would end. You, lying in some ditch on a world you've never known, attacked by an enemy who will never stop, fighting a battle you will never win. But it can end soon. You know what you must do for the Master. You know Khorne cares not from whence the blood flows...
He lay in the snow for a minute, bleeding profusely. The dirty white ground became stained with dark, sticky red. His uniform was tattered, shredded in some places, the Chaos Star insignia barely visible now, faded with age. The dog-tags of his comrades lay clenched in his hand, jingling softly as he rocked with sobs. Finally, he began to breathe heavily again. "You kn-kn-know what? You w-w-win. I'll do it. But know that this isn't for you, d-d-damnit. This is for m-m-me." With slow, painful movements, Darro removed his gasmask. The skull-faced visage gave way to Darro's young, boyish face. His short dark hair was slick with sweat, and his clear blue eyes had heavy bags beneath them. Painfully slowly, he grabbed his autogun, clutching the dog-tags all the while. "Divine Emperor," he whispered, "Your long-lost son calls upon You now. Hear my words, though I once spoke against You. Listen to my song, though I once sung to defy You. Feel my sorrow, though I once felt none for You. With Your grace and wisdom do with me what You will, whether it be eternal salvation in Your final battle or endless Damnnation in Your accursed hell. Know that I, Your long-lost son, accept and love Your decision. In Your Name." He finished with a peaceful aquilia across the chest. His breathing was ragged as he took in the toxic air of Halcyon IV. After another moment of waiting, he slowly slid the slick barrel of his autogun in his mouth. The cold steel seared the roof of his mouth, the wide barrel almost too long for him to place inside. He closed his eyes and, finally, pulled the trigger.
, hissed the voice. Looks like the Master has a bit more time to decide what to do with you, Darro.
The voice laughed manically as the last thing Darro saw before he spiralled into insanity was two piercing eyes and a cold rictus grin, fangs wide enough to swallow the stars.