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It had once been a café.

Café Royale according to the bullet riddled and faded sign he’d seen as he and his platoon had stormed the building moments earlier. He imagined that, ‘Café Royale‘ had once been a nice place. However had you not seen the sign then there were very few other indications that the gutted and smoking building had once been a casual place of dining and drinking in the suburbs of Porchetta IV.

Simon was currently seeking cover behind what must have originally been the café’s counter. A lump of misshaped metal sat atop the mangled wooden counter and occasionally belched out coins, via a jagged gap in the metal, when hit by a particularly violent series of bullets. This was all that remained of the till and the slivers and shards of glass and pottery lining the floor were the remains of the café’s once proud collection of glasses and crockery.

Simon found, while he was seeking cover behind the counter, all this very interesting. He supposed he shouldn’t. He supposed an Imperial Guardsman was supposed to keep his mind on soldiering and other such manly things. However Simon had never been much of a soldier. His dad, a retired Imperial Guard Captain, had decided his career path while he was still happily floating in his mother’s uterus, blissfully unaware of his impending arrival into the cruel universe of the 41st Century. Despite his interests and obvious talents in the arts as a young boy (much to his Father’s displeasure) and despite even being the youngest person to win his home planet’s (Crimea II) global planetary poetry contest at the age of thirteen. After a severe beating from his father for entering and four more years of disappointed and angry looks from him he found himself saying farewell to a tearful mother and packing his bags for basic training and indoctrination.

Months of abuse and pain followed. Simon quickly found out that he didn’t fit in with the more typical soldiering types that populated the Crimean XIV. He still bore the scars and marks of the beating he had received after foolishly showing his platoon mates his twelve-page poem that had won the planetary competition.

However after a while things got better. Simon’s lack of reaction to abuse and eventual retaliation took the fun out of bullying him and they gradually began to leave him alone. Even though they bullied and abused him Simon began to prove himself a competent, if reluctant, Guardsman. What Simon lacked wasn’t intelligence, physical strength (although he was a little on the small side) or belief in the Emperor. It was a love of his job. Simon was a devout a follower to the Imperial Creed as any, however he felt his talents would best serve the Emperor wielding a quill or a paintbrush rather than a lasgun or grenade.

However it was a lasgun he found in his hands in the ruins of, ‘The Emperor’s Eatery’ and in fairness it was probably better he had that in his hands rather than a paintbrush at that exact moment in time.

The heavy fusillade of bullets reigning down upon them was showing no signs of easing anytime soon and even the idiotic gung-ho lieutenant of the platoon knew it would be suicide to attempt to order any sort of advance. So the platoon settled in, as well as they could, occasionally blindly firing their weapons over the counter and chucking the odd grenade to keep the servants of the ruinous powers on their toes while they waited for support to break the stalemate that was beginning to form.


Simon saw, much to the delight of his inner artist, that the walls had once been decorated with elaborate murals. He was in the process of examining one of them, a beautiful depiction of the Imperial twin headed eagle perched on the shoulder of an elegant middle aged woman holding a delicate cup of caffeine with ethereal wisps of smoke rising from it, when a heavy stubber came to life and demolished the Imperial Eagle along with the top half of the lady. A scream came from Simon’s right and he turned to see Damien cradling his face in his hands. Thick strings of blood pushed their way through his fingers contrasting with his pale dust covered hands.

Simon rushed the few metres that separated them and pulled Damien’s hands away from his face. Fresh screams issued from him and Simon could see why. Shards of the very same mural he had been admiring moments earlier had been blasted off the wall by the heavy stubber turning them into lethal shrapnel and grotesquely shredding the majority of Damien’s face.

Damien had never been what you would call a friend to Simon. It was him, if memory served correctly, who had talked the rest of the platoon into giving him what was colloquially known in the Guard as, ‘A Steel Shower’. This involved grabbing Simon from his bed in the middle of the night, taking him outside, stripping him naked, hosing him down with ice-cold water for 10 minutes using a pressure hose and finally ‘scrubbing’ the pansy boy out of him with wire wool. This all happened of course after he showed them his award winning poem. Although, Simon mused, they hadn’t needed much convincing and not one of the others had raised an objection. It had looked for a while that Damien might’ve been up on charges for organising the barbaric act, however upon telling the Regimental Colonel why he had been on the receiving end of the, ‘Steel Shower’ all the charges had been dropped due to insubstantial evidence.

However the pain Simon had suffered at the hands of Damien was nothing compared to what Damien was enduring now and Simon was not going to let a grudge hold him back from doing his duty. Simon was the platoon’s Corpsman and since the platoon’s fully trained medic had been evaporated when he got in the way of a lascannon blast three hours ago, Simon was the acting medic for the platoon and therefore directly responsible for the health of his platoon. Which included Damien.

‘Hold still’ Simon urged as Damien writhed around still screaming. Another two members of the platoon, including the lieutenant, hurriedly convened at their location.

‘Shit he didn’t git it in the face did he?’ the Lieutenant enquired as he saw Damien.

Simon shot him a filthy look.


The Lieutenant was a textbook example of why nepotism had no place in the Imperial Guard. Being the nephew of the General of the illustrious, ‘Crimean II’ famously known throughout the sector as, ‘The Chimera’s’ and coincidently his father’s old regiment, did have certain advantages.

On the second day of basic training and indoctrination he had been promoted to sergeant and then lieutenant a mere week later. Their Drill Lieutenant, a grizzled veteran of 28 years in the Crimean X, had assured the rest of them this was because he had showed outstanding tactical promise, bravery and an extreme enthusiasm for the job.

The Drill Sergeant had said this in such a way that it became immediately obvious to them all that it went against every moral fibre in his body to tell them this and it was only his unswerving loyalty to following orders that was sustaining him through such a blatant lie.

How he had shown extreme tactical promise on the second day of training where the most tactically difficult situation that they had encountered was navigating themselves to their bunk beds once the lights had been turned out Simon never knew but the Lieutenants true tactical genius did become evident during their first field exercise. During the course of the day he navigated them over thirteen miles away from the designated route, ordered them to charge through a swamp (even when the enemy was supposed to be in the opposite direction) and finally ordered them to set up camp over a minefield.

While the Lieutenant’s tactical genius wasn’t quite en par with Lord Commander Solar Macharius his bravery it turned out didn’t quite rival that of Rogal Dorn either. This was shown during their second field exercise, a war game, against another platoon when he ordered the platoon to charge without him while he waited behind with a select few (Damien included) to lead, he informed them, a crushing and battle winning second charge to the enemies flank to break the back of the enemy engaged with the rest of the platoon from the front. While perhaps this wasn’t unreasonable Simon and the rest of the platoon had found it suspicious that his battle winning flanking manoeuvre arrived twenty minutes after the enemy had been defeated.

Mercifully the powers that be had seen that to avoid the entire platoon being slaughtered the first time they faced anything more dangerous than a patch of nettles something needed to be done. So in a compromise their fearsome Drill Sergeant had been merged back into the ranks as second in command of the platoon.


‘Sir if you want to be useful hold Damien’s hands away so I can patch his face’ Simon urged but the Lieutenant didn’t respond.

‘Sir!’ Simon shouted.

The Lieutenant emerged out of his reverie due to a combination of Simon’s shout and the nearby explosion of a grenade.


‘His hands Sir! Hold them away from his face!’

‘Oh… yes…’ the Lieutenant along with the other soldier eventually managed, after much protest from Damien, to pry his hands free of his face. While Simon had seen briefly the damage he hadn’t really grasped the horror of Damien’s situation.

‘Oh… Emperor above…’ muttered the Lieutenant

Simon was too shocked to scowl at him again. The entire left side of Damien’s face, that which had been closest to the wall, was ruined. His left eyelid had been ripped clean off and clear thick liquid was oozing from his punctured eye, which had several chunks of plaster from the wall embedded in it. His nose had been torn off leaving a grotesque hole in the centre of his face and most of the skin had been torn off to reveal raw flesh while his ear was hanging on via a few fleshy tendrils.

Simon shook himself back to reality.

‘Damien please hold still, I’m going to apply some dressing but I need you to be brave. It’ll be a lot better for you in the long run if you hold still.’

His reply was to scream louder.

Once Simon had managed to patch up Damien as best as he could he gave him enough painkillers to sedate a space marine and then arranged a detail to take him away from the front line. Simon looked around in an attempt to get a grasp of the situation. While he had been patching up Damien four others had suffered damage from shrapnel and two had been killed out right.

While wrapping some dressing round a bleeding arm Simon heard shouting. He looked around in panic and instinctively dived for his lasgun. However as he saw the source of the shouting was coming from the Lieutenant and the Drill Sergeant

‘We’re getting torn to pieces Sir! Our spotters have seen enemy movement round both sides Sir, they’re flanking us and we’re just sitting here letting them!’

‘Nonsense! We’re in a superior tactical position under cover ‘

‘Our superior position and cover will be useless if they score a lucky hit with some grenades or bring up one of those lascannons!’

‘Nonsense! That lascannon was a one off Sergeant, they’re an ill equipped rabble and since we destroyed that last one we haven’t seen another and I doubt we ever will’

‘But Sir! We can’t take that risk we need to do someth-‘

‘All right! All right!’ shouted the Lieutenant irately cutting the Sergeant off. He paused and cast his eyes around falling on Simon who quickly became once again engrossed in bandaging the man’s arm.

‘That’s it…’ he said to himself.

‘What was that Sir?’ enquired the Drill Sergeant

‘A charge… yes a frontal assault. They’ll never expect that.’ the Lieutenant was no longer muttering and seemed more confident, ‘Sergeant take first squad and lead a frontal assault on the enemy position. Second squad will remain here under my command and hold this position.

The Sergeant stared at him.

‘Well Sergeant do you have a problem? Perhaps the dust has clogged up your ears and you didn’t hear my order?’

The Sergeant continued to stare at him. Disbelief evident in his eyes. He knew they needed to do something but suicide had not been what he had in mind. Surely even the Lieutenant couldn’t seriously suggest they run the fifty metres to the enemy position in the open under constant and heavy fire.

‘Or… perhaps you heard what I said perfectly clear and are refusing to obey a direct order from a superior officer? A court marshal offense as I’m sure you are aware’ a victorious smirk suddenly appeared across the Lieutenant’s face.

That’s when Simon, who had been listening the whole time, understood. The Lieutenant had changed. While before he may’ve seriously suggested something like this due to his extreme stupidity he was perfectly aware that he was condemning the Sergeant and the first squad to their deaths. This sadistic streak was something that had not been something seen before in the Lieutenant. The smile that had appeared on his face as he had condemned those men to their deaths… Simon shuddered.

A look of anger and defiance replaced disbelief, ‘Of course not Sir. First squad to charge. Yes Sir.’

‘Also take the poet with you. Some real combat might man him up’

Simon froze.

‘Sir! He’s the squad’s only remaining medically trained personal!’

‘Your point?’

‘Sir! You can’t seriou-‘ the sergeant paused. There was no point attempting to convince any sense in the Lieutenant like this, ‘What I mean Sir is if perhaps you should become injured while holding this position who will be there to provide medical care?’

‘Yes…’ the Lieutenant looked pensive, ‘You’re right Sergeant. It would be ridiculous to risk the life of someone as high in the command chain as mine via a mere injury.’

‘Yes Sir, ridiculous’

The Lieutenant looked over to where Simon was applying another dressing to the leg of another casualty.

‘Looks like today is your lucky day’

Simon didn’t feel very lucky but compared to the poor souls of the first squad he couldn’t complain. To their credit, like the Sergeant, the men of First Squad, Fifth Platoon, Crimean XIV didn’t falter in their duty when the order came through.

They charged over the counter and round the sides of the café out into the street in a mad dash to reach the other side enemy fire raining down on them. The Sergeant was bellowing the Imperial Creed at the top of his voice urging the men on. That was until a las-bolt vapourised the top half of his head. At the sudden death of the Sergeant members of the squad started faltering. Simon could only look on in horror as the charge’s momentum died along with the men themselves.

Simon looked round to see the Lieutenant’s expression but he remained passive as he stared out at the remains of First Squad. But just as Simon was about to look away he swear he saw the tiniest of smiles start to appear in the corner of the Lieutenant’s mouth.

Then before Simon even knew what had happened the world went white. It turned out that unlike their Imperial counterparts the forces of chaos had not been content to sit in a stalemate. The wall that had once been decorated with the mural of the lady had disappeared. The lady had been replaced with the militia of the archenemy.

‘Oh Shit’ is all he managed before the café descended into chaos.


Porchetta IV had been a quiet world once. Its economy was based on agriculture with its main export being large stocks of mass produced crops to feed the teeming millions of the nearby hive worlds. There were only three hives on the entire planet of any considerable size. Two of them, Paktora and Paktora II, were the economic centres of the planet with behemoth space sports for the hundreds of ships ferrying the planet’s considerable produce to the awaiting mass transport ships in orbit and enormous markets where traders and farmers argued long into the night over 1.5% increases in crop prices.

The third hive city was Porta. While huge swathes of land on the planet were used for farming there were still parts of the planet that retained the original planet’s original beauty. Huge forests and open fields dominated the scenery around Porta and thus it had become exceedingly popular with the elite of Imperial Aristocracy as a place to escape to when the hustle and bustle lifestyle of the other hives (or indeed other planets) got too much.

However like many planets before it, Porchetta IV had fallen into the fatal grasp of chaos. While surveying new land for fertility, in a bid to extend his considerable farming estate, ruins had been discovered by the second wealthiest and powerful man on the planet. When, out of interest, he went personally to see these ancient ruins the planet’s fate was sealed. After reading the foul inscriptions on the walls the mind of the wealthy and greedy merchant was easily enticed by the insidious whispers of warp.

After spreading his foul heresy to the other merchants and nobles of Paktora I and II it was during dinner with the planetary governor in Porta that the planet’s final thread of allegiance to the Throne was severed. After millions died in the nearby hive worlds from poisoned shipments an Inquisitorial investigation was sent to the planet at its fall from grace discovered.

Had the physical land of the planet not been so valuable and necessary for the survival of the nearby planets it would’ve simply been virus bombed from orbit. However since this was not the case, thirteen full regiments of Crimea were mobilised to retake the planet in the name of the God Emperor. The Crimean XIV found themselves assigned to Porta and thus they found extravagant locations such as expensive cafés and cake shops their battleground.


There wasn’t time for orders or battle lines to be formed. The archenemy simply crashed into fifth platoon like an unholy tidal wave of hate and heresy. Simon flicked the setting on his lasgun to automatic and emptied his clip in the direction of the enemy. Five of the archenemy fell to the ground under the fusillade of energy shots, however far sooner than he would’ve liked his cell was empty.

Thankfully sometime before, Simon couldn’t recall when, he’d had the foresight to attach his combat knife to the lug under the barrel of this weapon. This saved his life, as seeing him to be out of ammunition and with no time to reload the closest of the enemy charged with a chilling howl.

He could tell from his uniform and the information he remembered from the briefings that he had once been a member of the PDF, of which 80% had converted to chaos. His uniform was covered in dust and dried blood but he could still see the basic colour of dark blue with black trim. He also noticed the sheaf of wheat crossed with a lasgun imposed upon an Imperial eagle, the PDF logo, had been daubed over with crude runes in dried blood that made Simon feel sick when he glanced at them. In fact, much to his horror, Simon realised these runes were daubed all over his uniform. His face, under his steel helmet, was a mass of ritual scaring with hooks hanging through his cheeks. So mad with blood lust it took the heretic soldier a moment to work out he had impaled himself on the end of Simon’s bayonet.

Simon kicked the dead PDF soldier off the end of his rifle and turned around only to be beset upon again. This time rather than another renegade PDF soldier Simon found himself faced by a corrupt farm labourer. Simon also remembered, that as was normal for an agricultural world, the PDF was relatively small so Chaos had turned to recruiting the down trodden teeming multitudes that worked the innumerable acres of farm land on the planet.

The labourer was dressed in what could only be described as rags covered in the same unholy runes as the soldier Simon had just killed. He was thin and malnourished but moved with incredible speed towards Simon with nothing more than a rusty knife clenched in his hand. He was still wearing his large and bulky rebreather, which many of the labourers were issued with to protect them (at least a little) from the numerous and dangerous pesticides and chemical fertilisers used on the planets farms to maintain its huge crop output. The rebreather was large and spherically shaped with large dreadlock like tubes leading from the back down to a large awkward metal box strapped to his back with heavy leather belts. Large green-tinged eye protectors gave him a bug like appearance and he heard a metallic scream issue via the cheap inbuilt voxcaster.

Simon wasn’t as lucky this time and the labourer crashed into him before he had time to raise his bayonet. They both tumbled over into the dust, debris and blood covering the floor.

Before Simon could move he saw the labourer raise the rusty knife above his head and bring it down. Simon threw his head to the side in an effort to avoid the knife and it clanged into the ground. Before he could raise the knife and try again Simon kicked out and his boot connected with the throat of the labourer knocking him back choking and spluttering. Simon looked around for his weapon but to his dismay saw it had been knocked several metres away. He jumped up and was about to step off towards it when a firm hand grabbed his ankle. The labourer had recovered from the kick and was on the floor grabbing Simon’s ankle with one hand and raising the knife with the other.

Simon spun and twisted round on the spot and with his other foot stamped down on the wrist of the hand gripping his ankle. The labourer’s bones, after years of malnourishment and especially a lack of calcium, were brittle and weak and were audibly crunched by Simon’s standard issue Imperial Guard size nine boots. With another howl from his voxcaster he let go and Simon sprinted the last few metres to his weapon and picked it up.

By the time he had done this and turned back around he saw that the labourer, on his feet once again, was charging towards him. Simon swung the butt of the rifle upwards in a vicious arc into the labourers face, ripping the cheap rebreather clean off and knocking him to the floor. Strands of scraggy hair flew loose and the labourer’s face was finally revealed. Simon saw, much to his horror, that the labourer was in fact a woman. Or had been at one point.

Her face had been horrifically distorted by years of exposure to the chemicals the mask had supposed to protect her from. What was left of her skin was a mottled grey colour but large patches of it seemed to have simply fallen off leaving the shiny red of her cheek muscles exposed and small horn like protrusions seemed to be sprouting from her forehead. She looked up at him and began snarling to reveal a few sharp yellow teeth.

Screaming incomprehensively Simon raised the bayonet and stabbed down.

Again and again and again…


Once Simon finally stopped he looked around to take stock of the situation. He immediately realised they were all dead. Most of the platoon lay slaughtered on the floor and even as he looked more of the archenemy poured in through the gapping hole in the wall. Most of the platoon were out of ammunition or engaged in fierce hand-to-hand combat with no chance of reloading.

However suddenly the situation changed. A huge gout of flame roared from outside the large gap in the wall and while Simon at first thought it was a weapon of the enemy he saw that either he was wrong or the person wielding the weapon had awful aim. The enemy screamed as they were incinerated. Then out of the smoke appeared volleys of controlled and well-placed las-fire finishing off the few left alive by the inferno.

Through the smoke shadows moved into the remains of the café and by their movement alone Simon could tell they were highly trained. It was no surprise that when the first of them appeared out the smoke he saw that they were elite storm troopers their dark blood red uniforms and sleek black hellguns creating an intimidating sight. Then he saw the insignia on their uniforms, ‘Crimean II’ and the picture of a Chimera sitting atop the Imperial Eagle.

One of the storm trooper officer’s saw him and while the rest of the storm troopers moved into effective defensive positions around the café he moved towards Simon.

‘You there where is your commanding officer?’

Simon stammered, ‘I’m not… I mean…’

‘Come on soldier is he here or not?’

Simon looked around for the Lieutenant. He didn’t have to look far. 10 metres away covered in blood and guts lay the eviscerated remains of the Lieutenant a look of horror and pain now permanently etched into his face. Simon pointed him out.

‘Ah… I see. Well then, the remains of your squad will fall in behind us. We’re moving North to meet up with other components of your regiment. Until that time you’ll be under my direct command.’

Simon nodded not quite sure while he was speaking to him as if he was in charge.

‘We move out in three minutes. Get the men ready we’ll be passing through an old art gallery where reported enemy activity is high’

Despite everything, despite the promise of more bloodshed and death, perhaps even his own, Simon couldn’t help but wonder if any of the art work would be left intact. He knew there was some beautiful post modernistic works in Porta somewhere…

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