“Back to your filthy holes, alien scum, shatter against my might!” roared Captain Karkus, his power sword whipping through the lines of Orks as he smote his enemies left, right, and centre. The vanguard of main strike-force had hit the enemy headquarters, hoping to take out their command structure early on and end the Waaagh! before it could begin. Unfortunately, the enemy headquarters was a sheer cliff-face swarming with Orks, and the command structure was a massive Ork Warlord. It would not be easy.
The Captain smote another enemy with his crackling power blade, before firing his bolt pistol point-blank range into the swarm. The mass-reactive bolt shells detonated, ripping apart Ork flesh and pulping bone. Karkus turned and laughed as the perfectly-organised lines of the Emperor’s Children advanced, over-lapping fields of fire scything down the Orks in seconds, each squad working in total cohesion with each other, leaving no room for mistakes. The mighty Fifth Company advanced to their Captain’s position, taking cover behind fallen rocks that their Stormbird bombing runs had dislodged from the mountain. Karkus approached the nearest squad, a familiar warrior leading them into a textbook position whilst the force regrouped.
“Thorn!” cried Karkus, slapping the sergeant’s shoulder-guard with his hand, having sheathed his blade, “Nice to see you finally caught up, I was beginning to think the Orks had killed you,” chuckled the captain.
“Captain Karkus, if you didn’t keep running ahead alone and ignoring our battle-plan then we would never fall behind,” answered Thorn. His armour shone a brilliant purple, the gold trim reflecting the sunlight like a mirror, his helmet firmly locked to his gorget. Karkus, however, was totally different; he had long since abandoned his helmet, and his armour was caked with Ork blood and dust, his bald and scarred head covered with mud.
“True as that may be, Sergeant,” Karkus reproached, “I am your senior officer, for now at least,” chuckled the captain, “So show some respect, eh?”
Thorn bowed his head, acknowledging his superior’s rank, before making the sign of the Aquila on his chest-plate.
“Come on,” said Karkus, looking up the hill, “The enemy lies just up this final hill. Once we kill this damned Warlord, the whole campaign will become a simple matter of extermination. Are your squads ready?” asked Karkus. Thorn was about to reply when the captain began jogging up the hill, roaring an ancient battlecry. Thorn shook his head, and ordered the main advance. Three tactical squads of Emperor’s Children Space Marines began the approach of the well-defended hilltop, supported by a squadron of Stormbirds. Thorn hoped it would be enough to save the captain from his mad bravery.
The Stormbird bombing wing flew overhead, dropping their deadly payload on the rickety fortress cresting the mountain. Much of the structure was utterly flattened, hastily-constructed timber and iron falling down the mountainside, revealing the heart of the fortress; an abandoned Imperial bunker.
“Damn!” swore Thorn, knowing that if the Orks had the bunker, they may have found a way to turn on the turret defence systems. Quickly ordering his squad into cover, mere paces from the broken rubble surrounding the bunker, Thorn’s fears proved right. Heavy bolters all along the bunker opened fire, ripping through the ground around the fallen boulders which offered momentary cover to the marines. Thorn didn’t know where Karkus was, but he was sure the grizzled veteran could handle himself fine. The bunker was surrounded by the high mountain peak on all sides except one, and the marines had been forced to fight their way all the way up the mountain to reach the fort. He would be damned if they faltered now.
“Eagle squad! Launch all remaining missiles at those heavy bolter emplacements! They need to be taken out now!” roared Thorn down the vox. His order was swiftly carried out as a vast firestorm swept the bunker, blasting the turrets into rubble. Thorn took his chance, ordering the assault.
The marines swept out from their cover, advancing towards the silenced defence turrets. Something wasn’t right. Thorn scanned the area, trying to put his finger on it. It was obvious, staring him right in the face... there were no Orks. Suddenly, the doors to the bunker smashed apart, and a deafening green tide swept outwards, all voicing the same, grating roar:
The marines opened fire, and the first two waves of Ork attackers were utterly cut down. Thorn could see more Orks approaching from the base of the mountain, and knew they didn;t have much time. Pressing the advance, he ordered the squads to cross their fire lanes, creating a brutal crossfire which obliterated everything in its path. The marines fired on full-auto, unloading their magazines into the seething mass. It seemed to falter for a second. Panic shone in the eyes of the Orks, who as yet had been unable to even reach the marines. Thorn smiled grimly under his helmet. The battle would be short and decisive.
Or at least it would’ve been: suddenly, a deep, rumbling growl echoed from inside the fortress. The Orks turned around, suddenly silent; the marines had stopped firing as well, re-loading and preparing for this new threat. With a mighty, grating warcry, the Ork Warlord barrelled his way through the bunker’s entrance, smashing aside any Orks in his way. The leader was huge, with massive horns and teeth, his body crudely augmented by pieces of scrap armour and poorly-grafted bionics. The beast was armed with two, massive power klaws, basic energy fields flaring as he scraped them against each other in a barbaric show of strength. The Orks around him were steeled, and turned back to the marines, ready to wreak havoc. Thorn’s blood ran hot as he recognised the insignia of the PDF forces amongst the scavenged armour. He was about to signal a charge, when something unexpected happened.
Captain Karkus surged from amongst the bodies of the dead, roaring a battlecry, and running straight towards the Ork leader.
“Dammit, Karkus!” swore Thorn, realising that the marines could not fire at the onrushing horde with Karkus in the way. “Marines! Switch to bolt pistols and long-knives! Charge!” cried Thorn, drawing his chainsword as all around him the Emperor’s Children shouldered their bolters, and prepared themselves for close-quarters. They followed Karkus into the thick of the fighting. Once again, their Captain had ruined the plan, Thorn thought bitterly, swinging his chainsword through the ranks of the Orks. They were pressing steadily towards the Warlord, but more Orks were pouring out of the bunker. Turning back, Thorn bit back a curse as he saw yet more Orks ascending the hill they had just cleansed. They would have to kill this damned leader now, or never.
“Forward, brothers! For Fulgrim!” roared Thorn, the Primarch’s name spurring on the perfect warriors. They brutally cut a path straight for the massive Ork; Karkus was but a few feet away, duelling an Ork armed with two curved axes. Thorn watched as the brute also cut a path straight for Karkus; Thorn tried to cry out a warning to his commander, but it was too late. The beast grabbed the captain, instantly pulping him between his powered talons, and casting the brutalised body aside. Thorn was gripped by anger, roaring with hate for his enemy. But something inside him, deep inside him, was silently pleased.
Leading his squad through the seething masses of Orks, Thorn neared the Ork Walord. It laughed at him, approaching him as though he were a child. This opinion swiftly changed when Thorn put three bolts from his pistol through the Ork’s power pack, disrupting the power klaws and rendering them useless. The stupid Ork tried to restart the generator, but succeeded only in tearing a great gash through his armour, causing further anger. Thorn ducked under a clumsy swing from the Ork’s talons, pushing inwards with his chainsword, stabbing at the hard skin exposed by the Ork’s clumsiness. The blade tore through the Ork’s arm, severing it completely. It roared in pain, swinging with his remaining arm, only for Thorn to duck and cut that one off as well.
The Ork fell, floundering on the mud-caked ground, screaming with anger. Thorn’s eyes, concealed behind his helmet, were cold as he crushed the Ork’s face under his armoured boot. He smiled with grim satisfaction, before returning to the battle at hand.
The marines were suffering casualties as Orks poured into the valley, ignorant of their commander’s death. Thorn knew they would have to get out fast to escape alive; the discovery of the Warlord’s mutilated body would do the rest. Calling the Stormbirds, Thorn lead the two remaining squads towards the cliff’s edge. It would be very close.
Hacking at random, every swing scored a hit, every marine fighting for survival as they neared the cliff-face. Thorn risked a look back, and saw the Stormbirds flying up the cliff-face towards them. Turning back to the swarm of green, Thorn made up his mind. Sheathing all his weapons, he turned, and jumped.
After a few seconds of free-fall, Thorn was caught by the Stormbird, landing with a thud inside the open passenger-bay.
“Quickly!” shouted Thorn to the pilot, “Get up there and ready the side-mounted heavy bolters!” Thorn turned as the trio of ships reached the cliff-face, hearing the pilot swear as he saw the impossible numbers that the space marines had faced. The heavy bolter opened up as the Emperor’s Children embarked, cutting the Orks down like cattle.
“Go! Go!” ordered Thorn as the last marine was safely aboard a transport. The engines of Eagle squad whined as the doors closed, the Stormbirds swiftly moving into formation and gunning the afterburners. They were out of range within seconds, flying higher and higher toward the orbiting fleet.
Thorn sat back, exhausted, as his fellow marines followed suit. They were all covered head to foot in Ork blood, their purple armour barely visible under the gore. Ripping off his helmet, Thorn took a long, deep breath. He was blessed with the looks of his Primarch, his white hair cropped short, his features sculpted and slightly angular. He counted his entire squad had survived, but they were lucky; the second tactical squad had lost half its members, and the third was wiped out completely. Thorn cursed under his breath, cursing Karkus’ impotency and failure to command. Thorn didn’t know what would happen to the 5th Company now.
Give a man a match, and he's warm for a day.
Set a man on fire, and he's warm for the rest of his life!