Ok, it won't let me add to the first post, so here it is instead!
Chapter One – Planning
“Status report: negative contacts, squad remains fully operational, commencing further reconnaissance,” Sergeant Hydras voxed to his fellow sergeant-in-arms, Invictus.
“Understood, Hydras. Continue your scouting, we will both start to work our way to the relay point,” Invictus replied with a stern voice. It was common lore with the Knights of Adrastos that the senior sergeant had the overall control of the men on the ground, even if another Astartes held equal rank. Invictus had trained Hydras himself, and so held much more experience than Hydras did. “Any word from Gratus?”
“Negative, brother, I have not heard from our brothers in Gratus’ squad since touchdown.” It was clear that Hydras was worried about his friend and brother, however his voice did not betray his emotions.
“Understood. Rendezvous at the relay point in T-minus 30 minutes.” With that Invictus shut off the vox and returned to his scouts.
Invictus turned to his squad. “I want combat squads, flanking pattern Z1. If you encounter any resistance, vox me immediately.” When Invictus gave an order, his men knew better than to do otherwise; he expected complete obedience from the men under his command.
The squad split in to their separate combat squads, a well rehearsed drill that Invictus had mercilessly drilled into them when they had first became scouts. They stalked the jungle towards the relay point, constantly on the look-out for anything out of the ordinary. Draped in their camo cloaks, they ducked and climbed their way over fallen trees, pushed and cut their way through dense foliage, hunting for prey throughout the forest as if it were second nature to them.
All of a sudden, Invictus halted the squad. “Drop!” he ordered quickly and quietly. He needn’t look behind him to see if they had heard, he trusted his scouts well enough by now to have complied. With two quick hand signals, he showed the scouts his reason for halting their advance.
Ahead, each scout could clearly see a familiar xeno race, conversing with each other in a foul and unfamiliar language. The Eldar, an old and selfish race, stood 20m ahead of their position. Signalling for his scouts to remain hidden, Invictus moved closer for a better look.
He slowly raised himself to his knees, remaining hidden under his camo cloak and behind fallen trees and the underbrush. His breathe was controlled, this was the method of war Invictus lived and breathed. As he peered round an old, decrepit log, he saw with slight unease some sort of Eldar vehicle. He placed a free hand on his melta-bombs strapped to his belt for reassurance, knowing that if he was spotted, that vehicle would be his first kill. Observing the vehicle, he noted that it looked like some sort of fast, scouting vehicle. The design was slim, its weight held effortlessly of the ground by some sort of anti-grav device. He saw two Eldar occupying the cockpit, with two weapons attached to the hull. “They will shred us to pieces” he mumbled to himself,
He voxed to his squad. “I can count a total of 15 Eldar, accompanied by some sort of scouting vehicle. High threat levels, including long range weapons, stay alert.” Invictus waited for all his scouts to bleep their understanding, before heading back to the scouts.
Invictus carefully moved back to his squad, staying on the ground crawling across his stomach. As he reached them, he knelt next to the squad’s senior sniper. “Keep that vehicles engine tanks in your sights, Tevitz.” Tevitz nodded his understanding, before looking down his rifles scope, flicking through the different lens modes for a clearer shot.
Invictus moved to the front of the squad, remaining hidden under his camo cloak. He knew he needed to warn Hydras of this imminent threat, but at the moment his main concern was the safety of his squad. He knew it would be suicidal to take on the foe, even if every fibre of his being screamed out for glorious battle in the Emperor’s name.
He looked over to his snipers, an idea suddenly springing to mind. “Tevitz, you and the other snipers on me. Stay down, don’t move unless I move.” He looked over to his Boltgun scouts, who were a few metres away from him. Not wanting to risk making too much noise, he voxed them: “you five, I want you to hold position, and on my word, I want you to advance to your right, away from the snipers and me. Find a suitable location, and spread out with twelve metre spread between each of you.”
Invictus turned to Tevitz, a stern and determined expression burned onto his face. Taking a step forward, remaining low and crouched, he quietly moved to the bottom of a high mound of dirt, a perfect place for sniper fire. Invictus looked over to the remaining scouts, one who had not taken his eyes of him since Invictus had moved forward. He gave a nod of understanding, taking command of the remaining scouts. They too took up knew positions behind fallen trees, behind mounds of dirt and within thick bushes.
“We’re in position.” The scouts informed to their sergeant.
With one word, Invictus sent shivers of pure excitement down all of the scout’s spines.
It was with utter disappointment that Hydras reached the relay point without firing a single bullet. Long had he yearned for the day his superiors would let him ascend to full Astartes, yet, with slight resentment, he knew this day would likely never come. He was too good at what he did. He was too good at teaching and paving the way for the next generation of super-soldiers to defend the realms of mankind. He longed to charge head-first into battle with his brothers, clad in power armour, armed with the mighty Boltgun. He was tired of the sneaking, and tired of teaching.
He waited for around 5 minutes before growing weary of Invictus’ absence. He had never beaten Invictus to anything before, and that there was no sign of him made him uneasy to the sergeant’s safety.
“Where is Invictus sir? I long to leave this rock…” one of his scouts questioned him.
“This rock, scout, is a world under the watchful eye of the Emperor, it is Imperial soil, and as such you will show some respect for this world, am I understood?” Hydras was surprised at his outburst, maybe Invictus’ manner had rubbed off on him more than he had realised. He did note, however, why these scouts needed him. The scout cowed below him, suitably chastised, but a true Astartes did not cower below a scout sergeant. He needed to drill them until they felt no fear, until they were true warriors of the Emperor.
“Yes sir, understood sir!” The young scout replied with a slight stutter.
“As for Invictus, I do not know. Prepare to move out, we will wait another 5 minutes before we…” Hydras was cut off mid sentence, heavy gun fire erupting nearby. “Scouts, on me! Hydras shouted, as he changed the mag in his boltgun, turning on the spot to run towards the sound of battle.
Invictus’ command was obeyed without question. Within seconds of the order, his scouts unleashed a storm of controlled bursts of bolter fire into the midst of their enemies. Four of the aliens fell before they knew what had hit them, but quickly took cover. A further two received a sniper round in the back of their heads as they ran looking for cover, their brains splattering over their comrades, before another one was taken off its feet with 3 sniper shots impacting into its chest, a pain-filled cry filling the scouts ears.
Then Invictus got what he was waiting for. Unaware of the snipers behind them, the vehicle moved over towards them, trying to flank where the fire was coming from. He broke off from his snipers, who were still undetected and firing, darting towards the vehicle. He anticipated its path of movement, diving to the ground where he hoped it would pass. As soon as his back thudded against the ground, he threw his camo cloak over his head, and waited. He was breathing heavily, uncertain if this would work. If it didn’t, he may as well start praying for his scout’s lives now.
He waited, and with utter dismay saw the tank veering off into another direction. He had failed his scouts, and their blood would be on his hands. Then, almost miraculously, he saw the vehicle starting to head back towards him. His heart began thumping hard. Had he been spotted? Why else would they change course so quickly?
Then he saw why. Bursting through the jungle undergrowth, he saw Hydras and his scouts sprinting towards their position, like true Astartes of the Emperor. Then, with sudden clarification, Invictus realised with horror that the lightly-armoured warriors knew nothing of the Eldar skimmer!
“Hydras, get your arse into cover, they have armour!” Whilst Invictus shouted these words to the sergeant, he pushed himself to his feet, and ran full-pelt towards the enemy vehicle, trusting his men and Hydras to cover him.
He was almost there. The details of the skimmer became clearer. He could now clearly see the Saim-Hann emblem, its image building pure hatred inside Invictus’ heart. The pilot’s helmets, a pure white, too clean it seemed for supposed warriors.
He holstered his weapons, his hands reaching down to his belt for his melta bombs. With quick efficiency, he withdrew the bombs and prepared to release the pin.
It was at that second, the skimmer’s attention as drawn in his direction. Instinctively he dropped to the floor, praying to the Emperor he had not been spotted. Bolter and sniper fire soared over his head, and he hoped it was that what had drawn the xeno’s attention.
He landed in a small, dense patch of grass, grasping the melta bombs to his chest, preparing himself. It was then that Invictus noticed with utter fear, the melta bombs he had been preparing, were already armed. If he did not get rid of these soon, his life, and his geneseed, would be over, obliterated into microscopic particles. Panicking, he held onto the bombs, awaiting the skimmer.
The timer started to tick. The skimmer was still metres away. 4 seconds to go, the skimmer finally started to advance to his position. For the first time in his life he was grateful for fast vehicles, for it may save his life. 3 seconds, the skimmer was almost there…Sweat poured down his face, his eyes constantly glancing down and back from the bomb to the skimmer. 2 seconds, the skimmer was about to pass over him. When there was but one second to go, with a furious roar Invictus thrusted his arms high above his head at the exact moment the skimmer past over him. He managed to throw the
Withdrawing his limbs, he could do nothing but await the explosion. Rolling 180 degrees on the jungle floor, he laid face first in the cold, muddy earth, arms covering his cranium for false protection.
In an eye-shattering explosion, which blinded all of the scouts and the Eldar for seconds, the melta bombs exploded, setting off a chain reaction with the skimmer fuel combustors, resulting in a cataclysmic explosion.
Fire licked at Invictus, searing the majority of his skin away from his face, arms, and anywhere else that was not protected by armour. He felt the searing heat melting his carapace armour, slowly integrating itself into his own skin. He had never felt pain like this before, this was utter agony. He tried to get up, but just as he pushed himself onto his bony limbs, shrapnel hit his back from the skimmer, drawing blood from his back; frothing blood and bile at his mouth. With one last breathe, Invictus fell into emptiness.