This ended up pretty long, I was thinking about sending it in for "the heretic", but I thought I'd better get some criticism from some peeps first, so read it (it'll take a while
) and tell me what you think.
The old man smiled, red flashes illuminating his face. Orbital bombardment had caused great clouds to swamp the gothic skyscrapers of hive Minitus. The warfare below contrasted with the warm comfort of his home, high up in the city. He’d been watching the explosive progress of chaos for around a week, as the lost and the damned fought their way into the last imperial bastion on the planet. The city was the only place left on Huranth which hadn’t been tainted by the darkness of chaos.
He’d become too weak to assist in the hopeless fight against the ruinous powers. The old man no longer worried of such things- he’d need to live with the possibility of imminent death regardless. Lying at his side was an old laspistol, with one round loaded, but it wasn’t for any enemy. He planned to save imperial forces from the trouble of one more twisted, tentacle waving mutant. The soldiers could fight the spread of darkness in their own way, but the old man could barely assist them.
Instead, he just basked in the somehow beautiful sight of a city under siege; the fiery explosions casting great shadows across the twilight landscape, the great tanks bursting into flames and the evacuated buildings collapsing under the impacts of rockets and shells. But the sad sight of brave guardsmen dying did send waves of sorrow through his heart, he remembered the early days, when he himself was at war with the planet’s heretics . . .
“Private Karras! Dig! Now, soldier!”
The lieutenant’s orders roused Karras from his thoughts. He quickly began hacking at the mud with the other troops, they’d need to get the defence up quickly, the rebels would be here soon. Karras’ squad were defending a wide front, the area was muddy and heavily misted, cold rain landed lightly on their heads.
“Lieutenant, what regiment are these rebels from?” asked a blue eyed, young guardsman.
“Emperor, be damned. What does it matter, Fabian?”
“I think it’d help, you know. . . Knowledge is power . . .”
“They’re from the 14th. There. Happy? Enjoyed that extra briefing? Just hold the damn line. Those are our orders.”
“14th? When did the Huranth 14th turn rebel, sir?”
This question came from the grenade launcher specialist -Torus- who seemed older than Fabian. He spoke with cold conviction and was the squad member who seemed most annoyed about the job of trench digging.
“I don’t know! Who knows who’s fighting for who anymore? What else do you want me to tell you? What made the bastards decide to change sides? What the hell’s causing slips in reality around this emperor forsaken system? Get back to your digging soldier.”
The lesson was learnt. Karras went back to his work. The whole situation on Huranth was strange, large populations had suddenly felt the need to break off with the Emperium, for almost no reason at all. The next thing he knew there was news of mining ships disappearing, and conflict in rural regions. Soon the situation escalated to war and guardsmen were conscripted from the hives of the planet. No one outside of the rebel forces knew anything about what their motives had been, and now here he was, readying the defences of outlying Merydia, digging trenches with the other guardsmen.
There was a distant roar. Everyone looked up. The sound was unnatural, like it consisted of a hundred screams, but was somehow dead too. The noise was . . . soulless. The echoes of the howl landed far in the distance, paranoia swept the squad.
“Relax, men. It’s just a rogue Skarrenbeast. A couple of las-rounds should do the trick if it comes near us.”
“Are you sure, sir? It sounded wei-”
“Yes! Now get back to work.”
They returned to their digging. There was an insistent feeling that something was terribly wrong. A sense of foreboding was edging its way into the soldiers’ minds. A wind kicked up, it wasn’t blowing the mist away though, it curved the fog into strange, twisted shapes, spinning it around the squad. Karras had to shake himself as he continually saw faces in the mist, and the long tendrils appeared like talons of evil birds. Lasgun shots began echoing in the distance.
“You three, set up the heavy bolter. Now! Fabian, prepare a line of barbed wire in front of us, far away enough that we can fire at them as they slow. Move, Fabian! Everyone else, get behind cover.”
Reluctantly the younger guardsman jumped out of the section of trench they’d dug and moved to set up the wire. Karras lowered himself down, clicked the safety off on his lasgun, and readied his aim. The wind continued to rise. The distant lasgun shots grew louder.
“What are they shooting at? These are ex-guardsmen, shouldn’t they be trained enough not to waste ammo?”
The words came from Torus, he went on to explain how unlikely it was for a Skarrenbeast to come this far North. He was interrupted by another howl, then the guardsmen saw a shape in the mist.
Las rounds tore into the unknown beast, its vaguely-humanoid body dropping to the ground, the heavy bolter fired a few rounds to make sure it wouldn’t get back up.
“What was that Lieutenant?”
Even the lieutenant seemed shocked.
“I . . . I don’t know.”
“What happened to Fabian?”
The men looked at each other.
Their realisation was met with a burst of las-fire from the mists, then Fabian’s screams and a horrendous tearing sound. Karras gulped.
“All right men, we’ve got our orders, hold the line. These don’t seem much like your standard rebels, in fact I don’t know what the hell’s happening here, but we’ve got to do our duty, now lock and load, you want to live forever?”
The Lieutenant’s words were rousing, but after what had just happened to Fabian, living forever didn’t sound like the greatest course of action. Soon strangely shaped silhouettes appeared along the fog ahead.
“Open fire! Hold the line! For the Emperor!”
Karras began taking shots at the silhouettes, aiming carefully down the sight of his gun, he managed to knock down a few before the silhouettes took shape. The rebels moved quickly, it became clear that even with the heavy bolter firing, the enemies would eventually reach the trench and overwhelm the guardsmen. They wore red, and their skin was pale. Large bags hung below their dark eyes. Many had physical defects, spikes growing out of their skull, or warped tentacles. Strangely, their shots were hardly aimed, just fired in the vague directions of the loyalists. Some chanted in strange, twisted languages.
“What the hell’s wrong with them?!” yelled one of the crew of the heavy bolter.
A soldier to Karras’ left was hit by a stray tracer bullet in the face, his body blasted back. Torus soon launched a grenade into the centre of the enemy force, tearing many apart. A guardsman with a plasma gun succeeded in frying the innards of a rebel warrior. Karras noticed that the tentacle creatures were getting back up and charging again, despite heavy fire being placed on them. A mutant found its way into the trench and began tearing at the plasma gunner, tentacles ripping flesh and intestines apart in a bloody flourish. As men began firing on the mutant in the trench, rebels leapt in and knifed guardsmen down. Rebels continued to appear from the mists.
Karras noticed the 8 sided star, cut into the head of a rebel. The ruinous powers. Things were becoming clearer.
“DIE, HERETIC!” screamed the lieutenant, tearing into a red-clothed cultist, sending las-rounds from his pistol into the crazed enemy’s head.
Karras lodged his bayonet into a mutant’s face and began firing and cutting it into a bloody pulp, before a heretic behind him managed to slash his right shoulder. He screamed in pain, drawing a combat knife with his left hand and stabbing the heretic in the stomach with it. There were fewer and fewer guardsmen left alive, the heavy bolter had stopped firing. Torus’ head was ripped off and a group of mutants were feasting on what was left of him. Karras saw another sawed apart with a chainsword.
The lieutenant screamed to Karras- “Call for evac! Quick!”
Karras dropped his lasgun, leaving the bayonet wedged into the wreck of a mutant and began running towards where the heavy bolter was placed, doing his best to dodge stray knives and gunshots on his way. A few metres from the vox communicator a heretic blocked his way, engaging Karras in a vicious knife fight, the guardsman having to use his left hand. Karras heard the lieutenant behind him scream in pain, there were only about five loyalist troops left. The heretic continued to swing at Karras, knocking him onto his back, Karras was only just blocking the onslaught of attacks, the situation was hopeless. They’d failed in their duty. They’d lost.
The heretic’s head was blasted apart. Rockets slammed into the bulk of the chaos force. The force sent him flying. Noise punched into Karras’ ears. Heretics and mutants screamed.
A gold plated boot landed in front of his head. Karras pulled himself up from the mud. Infront of him was a huge tanned man in golden armour.
“I am inquisitor Leothe. And yes, the ruinous powers have a presence on Huranth. We’ve tried to keep it a secret as of yet, but I believe we no longer have any choice but to reveal the situation to the Huranth public. In the end, the power of the Emperor will prevail over all. You and the survivors will return to hive Merydia for debriefing in my chimera. Be wary, I trust no one who has viewed the onslaught of chaos with untrained eyes. You will be interrogated. Emperor be with you.”
The winds now shook the tower. The old man looked down at the scar on his right shoulder. He sighed and returned to watch the legions of the lost and the damned crush loyalist forces. They’d arrived at the foot of Karras’ tower, it wouldn’t be long before they entered. He checked that the pistol was loaded for the thousandth time that evening. One of the dark war machines fired a huge bolt of darkness into a nearby skyscraper, which proceeded to disintegrate.
For so many years he, and hundreds of thousands of guardsmen had struggled against darkness, and it had all led to this- the destruction of the last great hive on Huranth. “The power of the emperor will prevail over all”, that’s what the inquisitor had told him. And perhaps he was right, planets had been taken back from the forces of chaos before, perhaps the great Adeptus Astartes would rush in and destroy all evil on Huranth. It was of no consequence to Karras. He was nothing but an old man. Karras only wondered whether it was all worth it, whether it truly was better to fight and die against chaos than join it and lose your soul. A great golden explosion saw the Mechanicus manufactorium collapse into a pile of rubble. It was a beautiful universe, maybe soulless immortality wouldn’t be so terrible after all.
“Destroy the servants of the false Emperor!!!”
A cultist burst in, two blood-soaked axes in his hands. Behind him came more heretics, their faces warped and horned. They screamed in pleasure at seeing the old man and began rushing towards him. Another soul for the feast of the chaos gods. The medals against his chest spurred them on all the more. An enemy general would be found most pleasing.
On second thoughts, Karras had lived his time, and he’d occupied it well. He raised the gun to his head, smiling.