Brothers in Arms
Brother Bristol watched the street, crouched behind a low parapet on the top of a derelict market place. He thumbed the safety off on his weapon, the Stalker Pattern Bolter hummed. Brother Armist was prone beside him, surveying the intersection two blocks down the street. Both of the Exorcists’ were covered in filth and dust, dulling their deep red armour. Soon the trap would have to be sprung or abandoned. Armist shook his head.
Silent and grey, motionless save for scraps of paper skittering in a dry breeze. They had laid in wait for three hours and now the sun was sinking below the tall bombed out buildings behind them. The harsh blue light would hide them from the ambushed. The rest of the combat squad occupied the lower floor just under the roof, essentially in reserve, holding the sniper’s escape route. Across the laneway, Brothers Mann and Perss waited with their heavy bolters trained on the same intersection.
The deep-throated cackle of bolter fire echoed down the streets, the sound bouncing and becoming louder. Bristol shouldered his weapon, wresting the body of the bolter on the ledge. Through the scope, he sighted in the intersection and snorted. A long shot, he thought, but achievable with patience. The sounds of the fire fight in the city continued, approaching the ambush location. At once, a small Exorcists force retreated along the side street of the intersection. Two combat squads and a newly entombed Honoured Brother Krume initiated a textbook fighting extraction. Bristol could hear the loud hiss as one of his brothers was engulfed in a plasma blast. The corona of the explosion flared in his scope’s optics. When his weapon’s sight was restored, he watched Brother Belle twitching and writhing in the debris filled street, his legs ending at the knees. Still he managed to fire his weapon while his brothers dragged him along.
“Soon,” Armist spoke lowly. “Be ready, Brother.”
Rockets streamed from Krume’s launchers and exploded on the corner of the intersection. From the smoke ran the targets, the Executioners. Two tactical squads and half of an assault squad bolstered by Captain Erskine and his command squad rounded the corner. The assault marines attempted to jump over their allies to engage the retreating Exorcist but were punched from the sky as Mann and Perss’ heavy bolters coughed to life. A harrowing torrent of bolter shells ripped their flight paths into erratic strips. One Executioner careened into a building and fell into a heap. A stray heavy bolter round exploded the head of the Executioner Apothecary and his body toppled.
Bristol caught sight of his target. The Executioner command squad strode forth, easily picked out among the chaos in the street due to the black hoods each wore. Flamers forced Bristol’s brothers into defensive positions. The Executioner’s standard bearer waved the 3rd company’s sacred banner and called for the charge. The banner was a thing of exquisite beauty. Hand crafted a millennia ago, it showed a single sided axe cleaving an ork skull on a field of decapitated heads.
Knives were unsheathed. Brother grappled with brother. Sargent Grum calmly barked orders at his men, telling the Exorcists to stay strong. Captain Erskine side stepped a dying Executioner and with his obsidian axe, lopped the head clean off of Sargent Grum before burying the blade in Brother Delt’s chest. Blood spattered against the captain’s sable helmet. He called for heads, screaming at his Executioners. The battle was becoming desperate. The time was now.
Bristol breathed out and fired his first shot. One of the command squad’s flamers exploded, causing the squad to be bathed in flaming liquid, pure scaled promethium. Captain Erskine was thrown onto the pavement. All the remaining marines ducked to avoid the explosion except the standard beard. Bristol watched him bark oaths at his brother and thrust the banner into the sky. Bristol flicked the weapon into three shot burst, sighted his shot, and fired in one breath. One round flew wide, the other pinged off the bearer’s breast plate near, but the third found home in the soft armour of the marine’s shoulder joint. The bolt buried itself deep in the marine’s flesh and exploded.
His arm shorn violently from the body, the standard fell into the detritus, covering a fallen Exorcsist. The bearer, in shock attempted to grab it from such indignity. Ignoring the din of battle, Bristol fired again, tearing the marine’s hand from the wrist. The bearer bellowed curses. The Executioner’s force slackened, wavered, and with the weight of fire from the hidden heavy bolters and Bristol’s precise and irreverent bolter shots, began to retreat. From the ruins on either side, the two hidden combat squads burst. Armed with plasma guns, the Executioners were cut down ruthlessly as they attempted to flee.
Captain Erskine bent to rescue the standard and Bristol placed a bolt directly on top of his head. Blood poured out of the eyes of the marine’s helmet and he swayed and then fell onto all fours. The captain's body collapsed and pinned the disgraced banner against the dead Exorcist.
“No, Brothers,” Bristol sneered, “that now belongs to us.”
"You left the objective? I see you have the tactical genuis of a soap dish."