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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 04-06-11, 09:10 PM Thread Starter
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Default Measure of a Man

This is a short story I wrote about the Praetors of Orpheus. I was rather bored and was throwing around some concepts.

Measure of a Man

My name is Varion. Varion Nicanor.

I am a child of Orpheus.

Or to be more accurate, I am a Praetor of Orpheus, a gene-son of Roboute Guilliman, and a warrior of his Imperial Majesty's Astartes.

And now my Company comes to Yaltoi.

The planet hangs in space as a blue-gray orb. Yaltoi is a backwater world lying at the edge of the Ultima Segmentum. It's a small world whose main product is mining promethium from the coastal underground deposits. It is a planet that is bloodied by the greenskins. It is also under the protection of my Chapter. Our ship, the strike cruiser Arclight, and the Imperial Navy, have been hunting a group of ork raiders for three weeks through the outer reaches of space. We have tracked them here to Yaltoi, a little blue-gray fleck of life in the Lord-Emperor's vast sea of stars.

The orks landed and began to rampage over the cites of Yaltoi. Tens of thousands die before the Arclight and and Navy arrive in the system. Aboard our ship the Third Company prepares for war, swearing vengeance on the xenos filth that defiles a world under the protection of the chapter. Our destination in Yaltoi Port, a city of four hundred thousand. It is the capital of the world, and the one place were the greenskin invaders converge, like flies drawn to a corpse. The greenskins come to annihilate it completely, we will not let them. We will break them or die trying.

I sit now, in my drop pod. I ignore the background noise as we enter the stratosphere. I have done drops many, many times over my century and a half of life. Eventually such operations become second nature to Astartes. We learn to ignore the pressures that would kill or cripple a normal man.

It's what makes us more than human. Astartes do not complain of hardship. We are beyond that.

My brothers sit near me, in a circle around the pod, locked within their restraint-thrones. Our power packs have already been locked into our armor, giving life to the false servo-muscles that lie beneath our ceramite war plate. The hum of our armor is drowned out by the screaming of the pod.

Lukias sits next to me, clad in Mark IV plate, a relic of the Chapter. It's painted white, scrolls depicting his personal heraldry hang from his left shoulder guard. On his right shoulder, like all Praetors, there is the starburst shield of the Chapter. He is my rock, my strong right hand. Ceranus, hard-bitten proud Ceranus, is to me left, he checks his bolter one last time. I cannot count on a finer shot in the squad. Daecus is next to him in his polished Mark VI plate. He is always at the forefront, gun roaring, acting to inspire. He will be a Chaplain one day. Apion checks his flamer. He is the most recent to join the squad. Morovian's bulk strains at the restraints as Severus and Dakias observe the chronometer. Save for Lukias and Daecus, all are clad in Mark VII Imperator plate.

That is the Second Squad of the Third Company. My squad. My brothers.

But there are two missing. Kreatus and Balion. Slain by the witch-Eldar on Morphean three weeks before. I slaughtered their killer but the damage was done. They go with our father now and the Emperor. I conducted the mourning rites aboard the Arclight myself.

But now is not the time for such things. I remove fear and doubt from my mind. Now is the time to kill.

We land.



***

The doors popped open and Sergeant Varion Nicanor of the Praetors of Orpheus exited the drop pod. His ceramite boots hit the landing door as it dropped to the ground. His footsteps rang harshly off the metal as he trained his bolter around, his entire body readied for combat. All around him the rest of Second Squad embarked out, weapons at ready to open fire.

But they did not come out in a combat zone.

Nicanor looks around. There is no enemy. Before him were dozens upon dozens of civilians moving across a large bridge that is suspended over a broad, fast-flowing river that is choked black with pollution. They are civilians from all sorts of life, habbers, factory workers, city workers and preachers.

Arteus in his briefing sermon aboard the strike cruiser had already outlined the Praetors mission. They were to be dropped hot into the vanguard of the ork advance and stop them cold in order to give the PDF and Guard time. It was a simple mission, one Nicanor had performed many times before. But now we saw no greenskins, only a wide plaza of cold gray buildings and residential habs.

''Brother-Sergeant,'' Lukias speaks. ''This is not our destination'.' he speaks the obvious.

Ceranus looks up at the pod. ''A malfunction in the machine spirit?'' he suggests.

It seems like the most likely thing that has happened. Apion softly groans in frustration.

''Looks like we will have to walk then.'' he comments.

''No, please no.'' Ceranus sighs in frustration. His impatience is obvious.

''Maybe.'' Nicanor activated his vox, trying to reach his Captain, a burst of interference fills his helm, no luck there.

''Communications are down, can anyone else contact the Captain?'' Nicanor asks.

Everyone tries, they get no answer.

''Probably radiation interference'' Lukias notes.

''A bad omen, I don't like this.'' Daecus comments.

''No, no omens, just duty.'' Nicanor replies.

''Brother-Sergeant.'' Lukias interrupts him.

''Yes?'' Nicanor asked.

''The civilians.'' Lukias points.

The Imperial civilians had noticed them.

Dozens upon dozens of people, in swirling crowds come towards the Astartes of Second Squad. Nicanor's visor locks on the lead, figure, a haggered-looking woman before he banished the targeting icon quickly. This entire situation was not what he was expecting at all and it frustrated him.

''Do you smell that?'' Ceranus said over the private vox-channel as the people neared.

''Is that-'' Lukias began.

''-Fear.'' finished Apion.

''Disgusting stench.'' Daecus comments.

Nicanor breaths it in their his armor's olfactory filters, he alters his air intake, tasting the stench of fear. Soured breath, nervous cold sweat. It is an alien stench one that he is unfamiliar with. It is a stench that he hates immediately.

Is this what we protect? He wonders. Fear is something alien, he is aware of it as a concept, but the thought of experiencing it completely foreign to him.

Their cause of distress is obvious, the orks have driven these people back. In the rear of the crowds Nicanor can see the forms of local PDF troopers trying to direct the civilians across the bridge. They are refugees driven out of their homes by war. And now the Emperor's Angels have come. Their fear is forgotten momentarily as they rush the Astartes. Dozens of them crowd around the Praetors as they close ranks, forming a sea of humanity around eight white mountains.

Hands reach out, scraping at war plate. Voices rise up, pleading for salvation, to go forth and slay the orks. Nicanor hears the pleas and begging sobs near him. After a few seconds he realizes they are pleading to take them away from the war-shrouded city.

''What do we do?'' Apion asked.

''I am going to batter my way out, I am not wasting time like this'' Ceranus said.

''No!'' Nicanor says suddenly over his private vox network. ''We do nothing of the sort'.' he commands.

''Then what?'' Ceranus says. He is irritable, annoyed by this delay. Nicanor can hear the tone in his voice thickening in frustration. He can sympathize to an extent. He is a warrior, not an object to be pawed and pleaded at by crying and panicked mortals who cannot even have the guts to defend their own homes. While Nicanor had no doubt he can slaughter his way through the crowd with ease he loathed to resort to such methods. He doubts that Captain Arteus will be very amused to know that his drop started with his proud Astartes warriors slaughterings crying Imperial citizens.

Then something registers on his helm's audio sensors. It is a loud, throaty growl. All of the Praetors are familiar with it. It is the sound of a Chimera engine on full throttle. He has heard that sound a hundred times before on dozens of battlefields, both in the hands of Guard allies and in the hands of traitors.

Three Chimeras come out around a street corner. They stop a dozen meters from the crowd and PDF troopers in the uniforms of the city Guard file out, armed with shock mauls and crowd control shields. They begin to lay into the civilians.

''That brother.'' Lukias says.

***

Kallor sat in the cupola of the Chimera, hands folded over his lap, fingers tapping in nervousness as he started distantly into the side chronometer. Across from him Corporal Ramsen checked his shock maul one last time before the chronometer ticked. He regarded his superior hesitantly. Captain Kallor was nervous as hell. Ramsen was not surprised He was noble born, with a handsome profile and tanned skin, the product of Yaltoi's finest families. Due to his family's position he had purchased a commission in the PDF, a cozy spot in a mechanized unit. The 9th Yaltoi mostly a group of reservists.

Ramsen was a reservist, but not like the rest of his comrades. He was one of the few men who had something approaching to actual combat experience, having engaged in firefights with armed smugglers a few years ago when he was with the 45th City Watch group. It was a dammed sight more than his fellows had seen, but Ramsen hesitated to call himself a veteran. After all, fighting poorly-armed criminals was different than facing a horde of bloodthirsty orks. As such he had the dubious honor of being the captain's aide.

The rune at the end of the Chimera flashed green and the ramp dropped.

''Let's go people!'' Ramsen shouted as the PDF squad filed out smartly, shock mauls readied.

As the PDF began to forcibly shove the crowd in front of them to the bridge Ramsen noticed with shock the huge white armored shapes in front of him. He blinked once to confirm what he was seeing was indeed real.

It was.

''A-Astartes'' stuttered Kallor briefly in shock before he straightened up, mustering every bit of nobility he had.

Ramsen was inclined to agree. Astartes, warriors of the Emperor, the Angels of Death were right in front of him. It was an immense honor simply to see one in the flesh. A thought passed through him. Maybe he could even get to talk to one! It excited him. He had dreamed of meeting once ever since he was a boy going to mass, looking at the marble statues of Astartes on the Church walls. And now it seemed the boyhood dream had come true.

Then the Astartes came striding forward, eight figures breaking through the dispersing sea of humanity to stand before Captain Kallor and himself. They were huge figures. Ramsen counted himself as a tall man but even he was dwarfed by these beings. Most of them were head and shoulders taller than he was and twice as board. Their armor was a polished white, with blue trim on the shoulder guards. Across their chests where emblazoned azure double-headed eagles. On each shoulder guard was the icon of a shield. The lead figure wore a red helmet with a blue stripe down the middle. He was obviously an officer of some kind. He had a sheathed sword at his side, a silver-hilted weapon in a jet black scabbard. In his hands was a ornate bolter decorated with the same symbol on his shoulder guard. He glanced down at Kallor, armor servos whirring faintly as he did so.

It was the Captain who spoke first

''Greetings sir-'' he began.

“No.'' the voice of the Marine rumbled, deep and artificial from a vox unit. Kallor was stunned.

''No 'sir', I am Sergeant Nicanor.'' he pointed to his gauntlet. Ramsen peered at it. In High Gothic he could see the inscription for 'Nicanor'.

Kallor recovered quickly. ''My apologies Sergeant Nicanor.'' he recovered smoothly, his aristocratic tact taking over. ''We did not expect you to be so far behind our lines.'' he stopped and glanced at Nicanor briefly.

''Come to think of it Sergeant why are you here?'' the Captain asked quizzically.

One of the Marines made to go forward like he was going to speak but the red-helmed sergeant held up a hand. Nicanor looked back at Kallor.

''A malfunction in our drop pod, nothing more.'' he looked at the Chimeras. His eye lenses were green, Ramsen noted, and curiously frightening.

''We require transportation.'' Nicanor indicated the vehicles.

''Our Chimeras?'' Kallor's face was screwed up in confusion. ''But there are protocols.'' he said.

''I have little care for the protocols, if you have any complaints you may file them to my commander'' Nicanor replied, walking past Kallor. Ramsen could hear a faint series of clicks, like private vox channels begin activated. He suspected the Marines were sharing some private communication.

''Wait.'' Kallor hurried up next to the Astartes, his frame looking ridiculously small next to the Marine Sergeant. ''I-''

He never got to finish his sentence.

Something screamed through the air and a Chimera ruptured and exploded. Flames billowed upwards as shrapnel and bits of metal flew everywhere. The civilians screamed and stampeded across the bridge in complete terror. Ramsen looked around, trying to figure out what had happened.

Slowly he glanced out and saw green shapes coming out of nearby alleyways and vents. Hulking muscular green figures clad in rags and bits of crude armor. Their bodies were slathered in some sort of private camouflage and they wore thick goggles over their faces. They carried hunks of metal that loosely resembled weapons. One held a smoking rocket launcher. Ramsen had never seen them in the flesh before, but he knew what they were.

Orks.

''Ork infiltrators.'' one of the Marines said behind him. Nicanor turned to Kallor.

''Mortal, get your men behind us along with the civilians, do not get in our way.'' he said curtly. Kallor barley had time to mutter a question before the Astartes squad swept off in an assault formation.

There was a few dozen orks coming out to encircle the Imperials. Ramsen wondered how the hell they had penetrated so deep behind the Imperial forces. Surely they could not have gotten that far in? He had never fought orks, only heard stories, but from what he heard sneaking about was not their forte. Going by their camouflage ti seemed like they were some sort of scout or infiltrator, but that prospect was ridiculous.

Orks sneaking about? Ha!

Ramsen's thoughts were interrupted by the bark of bolters as the Astartes opened fire. Greenskin bodies exploded as shells found their mark. The Astartes moved out in an assault pattern, their bolters set on a four-round bursts. An Astartes with a flamer sent gouts of fire into the surrounding xenos, smoking them out of their cover. It was a terrifying thing to watch, yet awesome tp sheer martial might of the Astartes. Orks were ruthlessly and efficiently cut down in a hail of bolter fire or gouts of flame. Ork bullets whizzed around the street as the xenos returned fire, a pair of troopers fell, clutching at their wounds. Bullets pinged off the war plate of the Astartes.

A hulking xenos with a two handed cleaver rushed out of the promethium flames, fire licking from it's racks. It bellowed a deep warbling warcry and brought it weapon around in a tight arc at one of the Astartes. The Marine shot it in the head before the blow connected, sending the corpse sprawling back.

In less than thirty seconds it was over.

The Astartes moved among the Orks, kicking corpses as they went and shooting any that moved in the head. A Marine with a flamer set about burning corpses as they went about their grim business of finishing off the notoriously resilient greenskins with grim purpose. Nicanor walked over to Kallor, bolter lowered.

He glanced at Kallor's rank stripes. ''Captain, There seems to be an ork infestation behind our lines, we will be borrowing your Chimeras now.'' he said, in a voice that brooked no argument.

Kallor took in a breath''Sergeant Nicanor I-'' a burst of static interrupted him. Kallor checked his vox-bead at his uniform collar. Hurriedly he spoke into it, his face growing pale as he did so. Ramsen figured it was probably not good news at all. Kallor looked up at Nicanor who was already turning around.

''Sergeant, a group of orks has attacked the station Alpha-Eight two miles north of here.'' Kallor pointed into the distance, pointing out the tall series of buildings. Antenna stretched out from the rooftops as the buildings towered over the other warehouses in the district.

''And what is that?'' Nicanor asked.

''It's the power center for the city defense guns and communications, if the orks take that out the PDF and Guard units are going to be thrown into anarchy, there will be nothing, the central vox channels will be gone along with our automated wall defense guns.'' Kallor said hurriedly.

''My unit and your men are the nearest ones, everyone else to my knowledge is tied up with orks. Please, I need you to take the place back.'' Kallor said, his face drawn with panic and fear.

Nicanor gazed at him for a moment before turning to to Ramsen.

''You will come with my squad and guide us.'' he growled out. He looked back at Kallor.

''We are taking your ride.'' with that the Sergeant turned around, Ramsen hurried after him as the Astartes filed into the Chimera, leaning over heavily to fit in the troopspace, he scurried in, trapped between two white-armored giants as the door closed.

''Let's drive.''

***

Nicanor had seen Kallor's type before, rich brats securing military positions through their parents influence. That would have never happened on Orpheus. The world had prospered under the strict rule of the Praetors in accordance to the ancient ideals of Guilliman. Self-sacrifice, honor and loyalty were expected by all citizens. You reached your rank by hard work and skill, not by nepotism and bribery. Nicanor had smelt Kallor's sweat and feat when the orks attacked and when he had received the news. The Astartes Sergeant shook his head silently.

Is this the PDF of this world? He thought Nicanor had fought alongside real Guardsmen, Cadian Shock and Vostroyans, those were honorable men of steel that the Astartes could proudly call allies. These backwater PDF were sheep by comparison.

Ceranus had argued that they proceed on to the rest of the company. Nicanor had been expecting that from him. He knew his brother too well.

''Brother,'' he had said over a private vox channel as the Praetors boarded the Chimera. ''We don't have to do this, we should not do it.'' he continued firmly.

''I don't want to hear complaints about this, the station in the lynchpin to the Guard defense here'' he had said in response.

''Then let the Guard and PDF stand for themselves.''

''The Guard are stretched thin helping the rest of the city and I don't expected the Yaltoi PDF to do much of anything.'' Nicanor explained.

''But this is clearly a waste-''

''I thought I said I wanted no more talk about this,'' Nicanor said again, his voice quiet but sharp and full of authority. ''Ceranus I want three days of fasting and penitence when we return to the strike cruiser in penance for insubordination'.'

His brother bowed his helmeted head slightly, servos whirling. ''My apologies Brother-Sergeant.''

The City Watch trooper that had followed after them was seated between him and Apion. It occurred faintly to Nicanor that he did not know the man's name at all. But that was not something he particularly cared to know about, he himself did not even know the PDF officer's name either.

''Poor luck Apion.'' Daecus voxed over the channel.

''Are you jealous?'' Apion retorted. There was a short guffaw at the end of the line.

''Um.....'' the mortal looked about.

''I am Ramsen,'' he offered. ''Corporal Ramsen, Sergeant Nicanor, I'm afraid I didn't quite catch the names of everyone else. I-uh, don't know much about Astartes protocol.'' he commented.

Nicanor studied the man. He was clearly trying to stay casual as possible for some reason.

''Astartes protocol is quite simple mortal'' Ceranus said, emphasizing the last bit as he leaned in close, green visor staring into the man's brown eyes.

''Very simple, don't get in our way'' he told the mortal. Lukias caught Ceranus in the shoulder guard lightly and turned to Ramsen.

''Just cooperate and you will hopefully live to see the day'' Lukias continued.

''I see'' the mortal nodded hesitantly. ''I'm afraid I don't know your names still-''

''-Apion'' the young Astartes said. ''My name is Apion of the Praetors of Orpheus'' he said. Even though the distortion of his helmet vox he sounded amused.

''Lukias'' Lukias nodded briefly in Ramsen's direction.

One by one all of the Praetors, including Ceranus, gave their names, although Ceranus was the last of them all to give his name, and only with a certain resignation.

''I see,'' Ramsen was clearly not though. He looked at Nicanor who stared back. ''You clearly are not used to a Chimera I can see.''

It was true, the Praetors were forced to almost bend over as far as they could in their power armor to accommodate the cramped conditions of the Chimera transport bay. Ramsen himself was practically squashed between Nicanor and Apion, almost having to turn sideways to fit between the power-armored bulk of the Astartes.

Nicanor shifted his position a bit.

''You could say that.'' he said.

''A Rhino is still better.'' muttered Morovian.

**

After a few minutes of travel through the chaotic streets of Yaltoi Port, the Chimera finally came to a stop. The hatch fell down and Nicanor had not been more relived to exit the Chimera. The vehicle was serviceable enough but he far preferred a Rhino for his use. He was third out, right after Apion and Ramsen.

The main building rose up several buildings, the gates in front broken by some sort of explosive. A pair of PDF guards lay dead on the ground, throats slit by some sort of knife. Ramsen wondered how the orks somehow managed to be so subtle considering what he had heard in stories before. Oh well, he shrugged, you can't always believe everything.

Nicanor studied the corpses for a moment before turning to his squad. Their was a faint click and Ramsen assumed he opened a private channel of some sort to the rest of the Praetors, apparently issuing assault orders for his team.

Then he turned to Ramsen.

''Corporal Ramsen,'' the war-giant's voice was cold and indifferent. ''I suggest you stay here and keep the engines running.''

''No.'' Ramsen replied, surprised at what he said.

''Oh?'' Nicanor's voice sounded almost...........amused at this.

''This is my city...... my world.'' Ramsen stated out slowly, feeling trepidation built up in his gut. He had never imagined he would be disagreed with a space marine.

''I want to fight for it, just as much as you do.'' he finished, watching the marine. He studied the blank helmet, wondering if Nicanor would get angry, or simply just ignore him.

After a few seconds the sergeant replied.

''Fine,'' he looked away from Ramsen. ''We are going in a Codex Astartes urban assault pattern, all you need to know is stay behind us and do not get in our way, is that clear?'' he asked.

''Crystal.'' Ramsen saluted as he followed the Praetors in.

**

Nicanor nominated Apion to take point while he and Morovian came right behind. With the rest of the Squad behind them. Apion kicked down the broken remnants of a door and headed in, flamer readied as he swept around inside a wide broken entrance lobby. As Nicanor entered he noted the butchered bodies of PDF guards and strewn furniture, judging from the sorchmarks and the smell of blood the firefight here could not have occurred too long ago. Nicanor listed and picked up the grunting sounds of orks in the distance as they spread out rampaging, all thoughts of stealth now gone. He signaled Second Squad to continue.

Contact was made a few moments later.

Several orks came rounding around a hallway, brawny arms full of pilfered Imperial weapons bloodied trophies. Apion's flamer responded, setting the first ork kommando's alight in a bright configuration of promethium. The xenos roared as the flames consumed them;

Other orks took positions in alcoves and behind upturned tables, firing their weapons at the advancing Astartes. Runes flashed across Nicanor's visor as his armor register the impacts and locked in to the malformed faces of the orks behind their cover. His bolter spoke three times.

Then something roared and dropped through the ceiling. Nicanor only caught it's movements at the last minute as huge cleaver came down upon his shoulder guard, driving through the ceramite plate halfway. Pain briefly hit his nerves before his armor began to pump combat stimms. He reached up, one armored gauntlet searching for the ork's throat. The xenos was smaller than many of it's kind, but still bigger than any man. It's ugly face hawked saliva at his visor even as Nicanor punched it in the chest, sending it flying back.

As it attempted to rise the Sergeant shot it in the head, blowing it's bloodied corpse back.

''For Guilliman! Purge the xeno-freaks!'' he roared, turning his vox-caster on maximum.

''For Guilliman!'' his squad answered.

***

Combat with the orks was not what he expected. This was not the glorious tales of the Angels of Death that the preachers set out. It was harsh, loud and ugly. There was the smell of ork blood mixed in with the hate-filled battlecries of the Praetors and the ever-present roar of the bolters. Ramsen added shots wherever he could, but he was careful not to get out form behind the armored bulk of the Astartes. Orks attempted to ambush them in the corridors, firing at the Astartes with crude bolters or charging with cleavers. The Praetors cut them down with relentless waves of bolter fire or with combat blades. The entire floor was littered with corpses torn apart by ork blades and gunfire. They were all in the uniform of the Yaltoi PDF.

During a brief lull in the fighting Ramsen stopped at the bloodied body of an officer and noted an ornate sword at his side. It was a gold-chased saber with intricate circuitry covering the hilt and pommel. Ramsen studied it for a moment before realizing what it was.

A power weapon. He had heard of them but had not seen one. Hesitantly he took it out from the officer's sash, feeling rather guilty about doing so, but the sword was going to be better at close quarters than he combat knife. Briefly he thought if the Astartes might have wanted it but he dismissed the notion, the sword did not look like it would fit effectively in their bulky gauntlets.

''Sorry.'' he said to the officer's corpse, his sense of personal safety overriding his same at looting.

Up ahead he heard footsteps and saw the Astartes moving again. Swearing briefly under his breath he ran after them.

***

After three straight minutes of combat Second Squad came to the rear stations.

It was a huge room, thirty meters long and twenty wide. Rows of plasma conductors and hydro-energy regulators stood in massive stacks row by row along with enginerium consoles. This is were the orbital and communications system was powered. Any stray shot hitting these walls would set off an explosion and cut off the power.

In other words no guns.

''Blades only from here on.'' Nicanor ordered.

Apion grumbled as he stowed away his flamer. Then as one, the entire Second Squad drew their blades. Each was a silver-hilted monomolecular gladius. The blades glinted in the artificial lighting of the room.

Nicanor did not draw a gladius. Instead he drew a long-bladed sword from his mag-link at his belt. It was a broadsword with the hilt fashioned into a silver cross. With a single press of the power stud, the blade's silver length was sheathed in crackling blue energy. Nicanor looked upon the sword with relish.

Time to die trash.

Green forms charged at them around engines, the greenskins using the cover to hide their approach until they pounced out. It was a good tactic, distinctly usual of them. However it did them no good. The Praetors auto-senses easily picked up their breathing and smells. The first ork that came at Nicanor, cleaver raised for a swing. It's technique was crude, but based more off brute strength than any real aim. Nicanor's power sword cut through the blade at the hilt and traveled onward to meet the ork's neck, beheading the surprised alien.

The Praetors dove into the coming orks, gladius's flashing. Nicanor's power sword led the charge, blade severing heads and limbs with equal ease as orkish cleavers and chainblades carved furrows into his brothers' armor. But in the end it was a forgone conclusion. As his power sword hacked down the last ork Nicanor grimaced briefly before shifting his arm again, feeling a small spike of pain from were an ork blade has partially collapsed the joint, drawing in a deep wound. He transferred his blade to his other arm as he brothers finished off the wounded orks.

Then he realized there was something wrong.

He heard a pig-like snorting, somewhere in the deeper engine rows. He quietly cursed. They had missed one and it had gotten deeper into the plasma reactors. He strode rapidly down one corridor in time to hear a sudden sharp scream.

It was the mortal.

***

When the orks came out, bellowing their warbling bestial warcries, Ramsen was content to stay back and let the Astartes handle it. He watched as they drew shining combat blades and their Sergeant whip out a blazing power sword. Except his sword was larger, a broadsword compared to the saber that Ramsen had pilfered.

Watching them cleave into the orks was just as impressive a sight as them mowing down the aliens. The Praetors fought with cold, calculated skill, a counterpoint to the brute charge of the greenskins. It was a forgone conclusion.

And the, in the distance Ramsen saw a shape

It was hard to see, Ramsen missed it on first look. But looking deeper in he saw that it was some sort of ork moving rapidly away from the battle for some reason. Ramsen cursed. That can't possible be good, looking about he saw the Astartes sill engaged with the screaming jade aliens.

He leapt through a small gap in the engines and moved as stealthy as he could, drawing on all his childhood experiences of playing in the local junkyards and backally houses. Ahead be saw brief flashes of green flesh and garish camouflage. Behind him the sounds of battle started to grow quieter. The Astartes war-cries began to grow dimmer and dimmer along with the alien screams of war. He briefly tripped and bit back a curse, hoping the ork had not heard it.

Ahead he stepped around a corner, watching the back of an ork peer over a large set of hydro-exchangers connected to a plasma engine. It wore some sort of large-lensed goggle set over it's head and it wore a variety of strange devices and xenotech bits. Looking closer he saw the ork tinkering with some sort of blinking device. After several tense seconds Ramsen realized it was some sort of xenos bomb.

It's going to blow this place and kill us all, Ramsen thought with horror. It was chortling as it worked, laughing in some alien tongue.

This could not happen, he thought, he would not allow it to happen.

His hands reached towards his power saber and he held it awkwardly, he did not want to risk a las-shot so close to the bomb and hydro exchangers. It would have to be with a blade, he thought, cursing the face he had little experience with swords. Still how hard could it be? Turn on the power stud and swing.

He pressed the stud and ran, lighting appearing on the power sword as he swing the blade with two hands towards the greenskin. The ork saboteur heard him come and began to whirl around, one arm lashing out. The saber flashed down, severing the arm at the elbow. Black blood trickled from the burning stump.. The ork saboteur stumbled back, caught off guard.

That's it you xenos freak, this is my city, my world, Ramsen thought triumphantly. He raised the blade again for another strike.

That's when the ork stabbed him through the chest.

He had made a mistake. He gotten too confident, fighting the ork with a weapon he was unfamiliar with. Ramsen's blade fell from his nerveless hands with a sudden shock and he screamed as the ork laughed.

***

Nicanor appeared around the corner, moving as fast as he could, power sword flaring. In front of him was a one-armed ork saboteur clad in various grenades and mechanical devices. Impaled on it's cleaver was the bloodied form of Ramsen. The trooper's mouth was open, blood streaming out in a thin trickle from his mouth, brown eyes bulging out, his arms hung limply by his sides. Nicanor did not hesitate as he dove forward, blade flashing as the ork looked around.

The greenskins' head rolled to the floor, the ork's red eyes still wide with surprise under it's goggles.

The ork's body collapsed to the floor and Nicanor wondered exactly why the trooper had slipped away from the protection of the Praetors, then he saw the unactivated bomb and the sword lying on the ground and then he suddenly understood exactly what happened.

He knelt down next to Ramsen, gently trying to extract the cleaver from the ork's grip as best he could. It was a death wound. Nicanor had seen too many men die on different battlefields to know that Ramsen was going to perish within minutes. Behind him Lukias and Ceranus came up, leading the rest of Squad Nicanor. Morovian and Severus spread out to reconnoiter the place for more orks and Ceranus ripped out the blinking xenos bomb from were it was and deactivated it.

''That's finished.'' Ceranus said with relish. He turned to look at Ramsen, helmet dipping. ''So fragile.''

''Silence Ceranus, the mortal speaks.'' Lukias held up a hand.

Ramsen stared at him blankly, eyes slowly blinking.

''Nicanor?'' he said hesitantly.

''I'm sorry, you are going to see the Emperor soon.'' Nicanor said, unsure of how to comfort a dying mortal. He had no experience. With the Praetors, death was to be expected, comforting his brothers over the deaths of their comrades was not an issue.

But this......in this Nicanor felt out of his element. It was not a good feeling.

'It's fine....stupid thing, wanted to be a hero.....'' Ramsen smiled.

''You will be celebrated. I swear by Guilliman.'' Nicanor assured him, his voice cosign out flat due to his vox-caster.

''Your face...........never seen your face.....'' he mumbled off.

Nicanor considered it for a second. He had little reason to remove his helm for a mortal not of his chapter. He had little reason to remove his helm for a mortal he had known for less than an hour. There was no logical reason why he should humor him.

But yet.............

***

Ramsen felt little pain now.

Were their was once white hot pain from the ork blade, he felt little now. He had heard stories about dying feeling peaceful, or something like that. But he had never but any stock into it. He coughed up some extra blood. In front of him the crimson-painted helm disengaged from the neck seals with a hiss. The helm was lifted, revealing pale, broad features with an aquiline nose and a noble jaw structure. The face had gray-blue eyes and short dark hair cropped close to the skull. Two gleaming silver studs were set into the left brow.

The helm was set to the side gentle and the eyes blinked. They looked at him with a sort of alien curiosity, as if fear and pain held little meaning for him. They were much like a child's, Ramsen realized. It was like looking into the face of an angel with a child's eyes.

''So that's what you look like..........''

Ramsen smiled as the angel's face faded away.

***

Outside the central Yaltoi power station the towering form of Nicanor strode out, helm secured on once more. Behind him Lukias, Apion and Ceranus filed out. The rest of his squad was finishing up their patrol of the surrounding area. In front of the building were a pair of freshly parked Chimeras. Groups of PDF men rushed out, lasguns at ready. From one of the Chimeras stepped out the form of Captain Kallor who walked over to the Sergeant.

''Sergeant Nicanor,'' he said. ''I'm afraid I arrived too late with reinforcements, the civilians too longer than anticipated.'' he explained.

Nicanor cared little for the Captain's explanations. He looked down.

''What is your name?'' he asked.

Kallor blinked. ''Pardon me?''

''I never caught your name.'' Nicanor informed him.

''I am Argitus Kallor of the most noble house of Kallor, heir to the lands of Fara-'' he began.

''I don't care,'' Nicanor interrupted him rudely. ''Captain Kallor, Corporal Ramsen is dead.'' he said flatly.

''A pity then, he was a fairly good man, but replaceable all the same.'' Kallor shrugged.

''He saved my squad and this entire city by extension. He is a hero. The Chapter owes him a debt. I will be mentioning him with the highest of praises in my report to Captain Arteus'' Nicanor spoke, his helm dipping down in a whine of servos.

''I suggest you do the same with your superiors.'' without waiting for a reply Nicanor walked off into the distance.

''Lukias, bring the rest of the squad up.'' he looked out.

''We have a war to win.''
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 04-18-11, 05:31 AM
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Other than a few punctuation and spelling issues the story was very well written. I had fun and looked forward to finnishing it. Good post, and rep.

A good reputation take a long time to build, but only a moment to destroy. Wow, that's deep! Check out the H.O.E.S. short story competition.
Other stories from Adrian.
Look up Adrian in the "Compendium" to find them. Thanks
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