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“For Every Battle Honor…”

Corporal Darius actively blinked as if totally unsure of his surroundings. For a moment, he was sure he had seen the bright, lush greens of the flora from the mountains of his island home. He was also sure he had smelled that lovely scent that her hair used to get… Throne, what was her name? Why couldn’t he remember? Surely it can’t have been that-

A heavy open hand came slamming against the side of his helmet, snapping him from his reverie. The prematurely aged face of Guardsman Elias was staring him straight in the eyes, a mix of concern and amusement spread across his features. Elias was shouting something, but Darius couldn’t hear him over the ringing in his ears that he had only now become aware of. He gave his head a quick shake and took in his immediate surroundings. He had been sitting against the interior wall of a blast crater, looking back towards what remained of his platoon. They were all huddled up in what cover they could find in the ruins of what might have been… a bakery? Darius let a small smirk creep into one corner of his mouth at the thought.

“You gonna make it, boss?” Elias yelled, his voice just overcoming the ringing sound and the din of the heavy-stubber rapport coming from a team to his left. The whistle and subsequent *thud* of incoming mortar fire underscored his statement. Darius gave Elias a once over. He was a typical member of the 4th Samothrace: dark haired and with an olive skin that had been seasoned by life on the coast. Elias had been with them since they had left for the Sabbat Crusade, though he didn't remember when the boy had gotten so old. He still wore his original issued kit, which was a feat of itself after the years on campaign. Of course, his brown fatigues were now covered in ash and the Thracian Wings on his helmet had faded, but it was still impressive he had it at all.

“I said, ARE Y-“
“I heard you, I heard you,” Darius interrupted, turning to rest on one knee as he took a cautionary look behind him over the lip of the blast crater. The enemy was holed up in several defensible positions across the street, with a few crew-served weapons and, apparently, mortars. They held two buildings on opposite sides of the bisecting street, allowing them to develop a deadly crossfire. The cultists and traitors weren’t well trained, but they did have a nasty tendency to be in places Darius and his men wanted to be.

“Good, I thought that last mortar had got you. Sergeant Hyginos got tagged and I can’t get anyone moving or seem to reach anyone else.” Elias delivered his report with anticipation in his eyes, clearly waiting for direction. With Hyginos dead, Darius would be acting sergeant.

“Get a damn vox up here, we’re not getting anywhere like this.” Darius replied, to which Elias vaulted himself out of the crater and back towards the ruins. The corporal cursed under his breath. The entire assault had stalled a week ago, and the battle line had broken down into small elements fighting for blocks and buildings. His squad had accomplished its initial objective by blowing the sewage pipes beneath the main enemy strongpoint and sinking it. The counter offensive that resulted had been overwhelming, though, and he and the rest of the combat engineers had been engaging a fighting withdrawal ever since. Well, not so much a withdrawal as they had, along with half the 4th Samothrace, been completely surrounded. They were fighting just to get back to their own lines.

Lasfire skipped up around his crater, and he ducked back down behind it, returning the favor with a few shots fired blindly of his own. The rest of the engineers picked up suppression fire as the heavy-stubber displaced to a newly-horizontal stone column. Darius heard the very recognizable *thump, thump* of the cultist mortars firing off and he took appropriate action by making himself as small as possible. They landed nearby, launching gray dirt and gravel into the air, covering him with a fresh coat of grit. He tried to spit to get the filth taste out of his mouth but found his throat too dry. He coughed instead.

Darius could feel that he was getting older. Though he hadn’t yet breached 30, the gray appearing in his hair and the weariness in his bones told him otherwise. Darius had been good-looking once, but years of war, scars, and being covered in Throne-knows-what made him appear a disheveled pauper. He let out a sigh.

The sounds of heavy breathing and running footsteps were soon accompanied by Elias and a Guardsman with a Vox-caster hopping into his crater. He recognized the vox-trooper, but the man’s name fled him at the moment. He was heavier set than most, some would even say pudgy, but Darius could recall more than one occasion he had proven himself a capable guardsman.

“Corporal,” the guardsman huffed, “communications are down”
“What are you getting on the vox?” Darius grunted. The heavy-stubber started firing again, so he had to repeat himself at a higher volume.

The man looked hesitant, then flipped on the vox-transponder and handed the handset over. Darius was taken aback at what he heard. There was a mixture of bizarre and other-ethereal voices coming in and out of tune. Fast paced, high pitched gibberish and low, rumbling howls that were definitively not of this world played in a discordant background. Over it all, there was a gravely sounding voice denouncing the Emperor and spilling out all kinds of tirades against the Imperium and about its immanent destruction.

Darius scowled and handed back the handset. He looked back over the edge of the crater and noted with satisfaction the stubber crew had forced several cultists out into the open where the rest of his men cut them down with disciplined shots from their lasguns.

“They could have a communication or relay center near-by that would interfere with our vox link,” Elias suggested with a shrug.
“Aye, at that signal strength it would have to be nearby. Two, maybe three blocks?” the vox-trooper hazarded to guess while fiddling with the transponder unit. Nestor was his name, Darius remembered with a mental snap of his fingers.

He was about to comment when more incoming mortars landed against what was left of the bakery roof, sending shrapnel down on those inside. Screams of the wounded caused him to swear again.

“First, by the Emperor,” he said through gritted teeth, “we get rid of those.”

The traitors held the north side of the street, with several sandbag and tank trap emplacements. There were strong points in two of the buildings overlooking the intersection, one of which held an antiquated, if effective, heavy autogun. The mortar teams, however, remained out of sight, probably being shielded on one of the rooftops or second stories.

Darius gathered First Squad to him. They were veterans all. Among them were the best Engineers and Demolitions men the regiment could provide. The Thracians called them Pioneers. Darius just called them brothers. They knew the drill, and began to provide covering fire as they bounded in teams of two across the rubble strewn street.

The stubber team and the remains of Third Squad laid down suppression fire into the enemy held buildings across the road. Second Squad, led by Corporal Antonius, moved east along the side of the street, keeping to cover and as out of sight as possible. They were to then make a crossing when the time was right.

Darius and his squad got over halfway across the street before encountering stiff resistance. Taking cover behind a downed railcar, he squeezed off a few shots from his lasgun and they found purchase in the exposed chest of a cultist trying to get a better angle on him. The twisted metal from the car tore into his fatigues and the air seemed heavy with rust particles. The rest of his men found cover behind varying wrecks or downed columns, each determined to hold his own.

There was an eruption of both las and autogun fire as the other side closed in. Guardsman Theseus lobbed a frag grenade over behind one of the emplacements, killing several traitors and driving out the rest, who were then mowed down as they dove for safety. Both guardsman and traitor held adequate cover positions, however, causing First Squad’s movement to stall. Darius swore.
Streams of autogun rounds poured out from the second story of the east building, tearing into the Guardsmen in the street and silencing the Heavy-stubber crew.

There was a blood-curdling cry that was soon joined with a multitude of like-minded voices as cultists charged out from the west building, leaving the safety of cover to close in with Darius’ squad. They wielded knives and stubbers, and all frothed at the mouth with blasphemous phrases and heresies.

Darius sneered and fired shot after shot into the oncoming wave. He heard the sound of Elias’ shotgun bark and the rest of the squad pick up fire after fixing their bayonets. He killed several before they managed to get within melee range of him, where his instinct took over and he lashed out with rifle butt and combat knife, stunning and then gutting the first, rather emaciated looking cultist that he came in contact with. He blocked the blade of the next chaos worshipper with the stock of his lasgun, and kicked out the man’s knee with a bone wrenching crunch. The deranged man grabbed Darius’ arms and they began to scuffle. The traitor’s eyes looked glossy but hate filled, and his teeth were all cracked and yellow. He spoke in tongues as they struggled to get a handle on one another, his foul breath nauseating the corporal.

A female cultist managed to crawl on to the top of the railcar and leapt high in the air at Darius, blade raised above her head with both hands. Darius barely had time to register the assault, and no time to react to it. A shotgun blast hit her in the side mid leap, however, and her now limp body did a half somersault back into the railcar from the force of the shot. He smiled through bared teeth. He’d owe Elias at least one pack of lho-sticks.

Darius changed grip and brought the cultists’ arm down while bringing his knee up. He derived a small pleasure from the audible snap of the elbow joint, and pushed the man to the ground and stabbed into his chest. He turned around to face his next attacker and let out a triumphant howl when the Heavy-stubber began to fire again. The east house began to trace its fire back to the suppression team, but that was quickly halted when white hot promethium flames burst out from the windows.
Second Squad had finally made it across.

Several cultists fell from their high rise position to the ground below, on fire and for the most part still alive. Their screams were only met by cheers from the guardsmen at this welcome event, and First Squad pushed forward. Darius hesitated for a split second as the smell of burning flesh was somehow replaced by that lovely scent again. What was it? Lilac? She had it in the garden and it would cling to her hair… Throne, what was her na-

A stubber round skipped off the railcar and grazed off his flack vest and the smell instantly left him.

He scanned around. Elias was to his right, letting loose a furious howl while advancing and firing rounds from his shotgun into the backs of the fleeing cultists until he was empty. The rest of First Squad finished its advance, and then linked up with Second Squad to finish a sweep of the local area. What was left of Third Squad completed the unenviable task of gathering the ID tags and ammunition of the fallen. They had taken the street with relatively few casualties, but everyone knew that each loss was not only the loss of a brother, but it meant it was more likely they wouldn't make it back.

Inside the ruins there was nothing but symbols to the Dark Gods splashed over the walls, some scattered armament and quite a few corpses. Broken shelves covering the floor appeared as if they might have contained books once, and bits of parchment fluttered around without purpose. Darius climbed through to the roof to get a better look around.

“You know,” said Theseus, scanning over all the writings in a tone one might have shopping down at the market, “these are all rather tastefully done with human blood.” Theseus was tall and broad, a wrestler back at home. He also tried to play the pseudo intellectual type when it suited his purpose. Well, ever since Lot had got killed, Darius remembered with a cringe.

Most of the veterans chuckled at this. Another poked at one of the bodies with his bayonet.
“Crazy enough, I think they used their own.”
Obviously uncomfortable with the entire scene, Corporal Antonius called up to Darius with a half hearted laugh that downplayed the seriousness of the statement.
“So, we’re all in trouble?”
Darius let out a sigh.
“You have no idea”

Darius spent several minutes conversing with Antonius while the rest of the Pioneers divvied up what ammunition could be scavenged. Antonius was a good man, Darius judged, if a bit on the timid side. Still, if there was another man to better suited to step up and lead the Pioneers, he could think of few betters.

From the rooftop, it was determined that the entire city was in chaos. “Literally and figuratively,” Theseus had remarked. Pockets of fighting were going on all around them, in all directions. Entire sections of the city were aflame, which was (hopefully) the cause of an eerie light that emanated up into the sky. “Parthenope is a lovely planet this time of year.”

There was an antenna array set up just two, short blocks away at the top of an aging watch tower. Night was falling fast, and while the area appeared deserted, Darius felt a growing sense of unease. They would need to get the vox operational- that was certain. With comms, they could possibly link up with other elements and make a push back to the Imperial battle line… wherever that was. The only other certainty was that if they remained as they are, they would be whittled down to a man.

A plan was hatched. Darius would lead a contingent to clear out the watchtower while the remaining elements would pull security on three sides. With the help of the array, Nestor was sure he could get a vox net open for all elements within several kilometers. If the antenna could not be taken, they would bring it down with one of their few remaining demo charges or melta bombs, which ever was deemed more appropriate. They would leave an hour after night set in, and with luck, would be linked up with another unit by daybreak.

The remnants of the 4th Samothrace Pioneers set about preparing for the raid. Weapons were cleaned, rations were eaten, and litanies were prayed. Darius noticed Elias kiss a pict on his personal data slate and closed his eyes for a twenty minute cat nap. It was bound to be a long night.

The entirety of the platoon crouched low and moved as silently as they could for the two agonizing hours it took to cross the city blocks. They communicated with hand signals where possible, but it soon became difficult to see more than a few yards in any direction. Darius could hardly see any of his men on either flank. Good.

The streets and buildings were mostly rubble, with foundation beams and steel skeleton frames jutting out of the ground at varying intervals. Several times, the platoon halted in silence for what seemed like an eternity, unsure if enemy was nearby. It was hard on the nerves and fatiguing to the body, but Darius knew it was far better than the alternative of being spotted prematurely.

Their diligence was rewarded, and the Pioneers soon came within visual range of the watchtower without incident. The antenna array sat on the roof of the structure, which stood on great ferrocrete stilts that caused its first and second stories to sit a full ten meters above ground. Floodlights shone light all out towards the west, where there was sounds of a firefight near-by. Two traitors stood sentry at the base of the only stairway leading up to the tower proper, which was exposed to the outside the whole way up. The Emperor was with the guardsmen, however, as it was switched back along the southern side, the direction they had came. There was one roving sentry atop the watchtower roof, but it didn't appear that he made any set pattern of movement or check in.

Darius had Third Squad set up positions along the ruins of the southward building they were in, along with the Heavy-stubber. Rather than risk the exposing themselves in the floodlights, he took the rest of the men east and flanked around to a makeshift barricade of streetcars that had been left from fighting Throne-knows how long ago.

“Not sure what to do about the roof-man,” Corporal Antonius whispered “a shot would just alert whoever else was inside.”
“I know,” said Darius, taking off his helmet and running his hands through his hair and across his face. He hadn’t shaved in days. He let out a sigh. “We’re just going to have to make a break for it and hope he doesn't come around to our side before we make it to the first floor.”
“I don’t like it,” Elias said, “Let’s just blow the damned thing and be done with it.”
“Then you can stay here, swap out your shot shell with Julian and you can blow it yourself if we don’t come back.” Darius was in no mood to argue, and in truth, he didn’t want to be reminded he wanted to do the exact same thing. But if they could get the array up and running, they would end up big damn heroes. Or something like that.

Elias looked as if he was about to protest but complied, taking Guardsman Julian’s lasgun and removed his melta bomb from his pack.

Darius gathered his fire team to him and prepared to make for the sentries. Theseus was there, along with Julian, Nestor, and Nikolas, who had a knack for room clearing. Well, not so much a knack for room clearing as just general ruthlessness. Nikolas was frightfully pale complexioned and had eyes that penetrated in such a manner that Darius usually tried to avoid eye contact. The man hadn’t spoken more than five words since the beginning of the invasion. But whatever his personal feelings about Nikolas, Darius couldn't think of anyone better suited for this kind of work.
They would attempt to sneak up behind the sentries, eliminate them with knives, and then make for the first floor. With luck, they would have surprise on their side and be able to overcome whoever was inside. They carried several frag grenades for the second floor. With surprise gone, they would need the firepower.

Before he left, Antonius offered his arm to Darius, which he took with a firm grip at just below the elbow.
“Alright, when we get done we’ll make a run of it and try to hook up with the rest of the 4th, the Baldackians, or whoever we can. We’re going make it home Antonius, don’t you worry.”
“The Emperor protects, brother” Antonius smiled, and then nodded him on as the rest of his squad took positions in case they were needed.

Darius made sure his demo-charge was firmly strapped in its satchel to his back left hip and took the first step out towards the sentries.

They crossed the short span with a hurried silence that only the threat of rousing every cultist in the neighborhood could bring. Darius winced with every soft shift of gravel beneath his boots, but had no other option than to keep moving forward.

“I am the darkness that surrounds me…” he whispered, intoning the rest of the Prayer of Invisibility to himself. By the time he had finished they were upon the sentries, and still unseen.

He had been smart to take Theseus along. The big man managed to grab hold of one traitor from behind and break his neck without so much as a yelp. Almost simultaneously, Nikolas covered the mouth of the other as he plunged his blade into the man’s kidney. The traitor stiffened as his body went into shock long enough for Nikolas to slash his throat with a barely audible gurgle.

They dumped the bodies underneath the watchtower and made their way up the steps. Darius held his breath the entire way up the stairs, keeping his lasgun trained on the rooftop incase the lookout decided to peer over the side. He only let it out when they reached the entryway. There were windows on either side, so his men crouched low underneath them, flanking the steel door on either side. Darius strained his ears to see if he could pick up anything from the inside: a shuffle, a word spoken. With all his guardsmen’s eyes trained upon him, he gave the slow nod.

Taking a step back, Theseus moved perpendicular to the door, stood to full height, and let loose with a kick that could have likely dented a Chimaira. The door smashed open and was ripped from one of its hinges. The Pioneers entered with a smooth, practiced speed right after another, fanning out to opposite corners of the room. The first thing Darius noticed was the wretched smell, the second was the cultist he dropped with a quick double tap from his lasgun. Lasfire erupted from the Guardsmen, executing most of the traitors before they had a chance to even react. Two managed to level pistols at them. Nikolas put a blast through the head of one without a flinch. Julian’s lasgun failed to fire at the second, and before he could transition to his laspistol, the cultist fired a full auto blast from his automatic. He fell, perforated in half a dozen places. Theseus and Nikolas both fired a salvo at the cultist, all three of them shouting in rage as the Chaos filth took several seconds to die.

Nestor checked behind the overturned crates and tables in the far side of the room, and gave the all clear signal. Theseus kept his lasgun trained on the doorway behind them, while Nikolas retrieved Julian’s ID tags, ammunition, and melta bomb. Darius took a cursory look around the room before moving to position at the door. The smell had come from the center table, where some kind of either bizarre eating ritual, sacrifice, or both had taken place involving several goats. He shuddered involuntarily and stacked up behind Theseus. He then heard the movement of furniture above, and swore.

“Alright brothers, no pep talk here. Let’s get this done.”

The four moved as one up the remaining staircase, lasguns never lowering a fraction of an inch from a shooting stance. Nestor and Theseus crouched below and then shot out several windows. Fire was returned, followed by a high pitched wail of “Grenade!” as Theseus and Nikolas threw two frag grenades in apiece. Darius noted with small satisfaction within the second before the detonation he heard a cultist fumble once in an attempt to pick one up.

The blasts went off simultaneously and not a moment later the Pioneers rushed in, with Nikolas taking point. Darius followed in with practiced ease but then stopped short a half step through the doorway. The walls covered in slick cultist blood didn’t faze him, the blasphemous runes covering every other visible inch of the room hardly made him blink, but what was standing before him-

Corporal Darius had seen a lot of things in his years of fighting in the Guard, but he had never imagined he would ever come into contact with an Astartes… a Space Marine…

A Traitor Marine. It wore an ancient suit of power armor painted in a colour Darius could only describe as sick flesh, faces screaming in horror were etched into it at every available surface. The level of detail was remarkable and horrifying. It stood heads above even Theseus and it radiated a malevolence that drove fear into his heart and stunned him. Its chainsword roared to life in wicked hunger and the marine brought his bolt pistol to bare.

It gave a heavy, grating laugh as the lasfire plinked harmlessly off of its armor. Darius heard the bolter bark, saw bolts puncture into Nikolas’ chest, and then what remained of Nikolas fall heavily to the floor. Theseus, Emperor bless him, lunged at the Marine and managed to alter the path of the shots aimed at Darius. The bolt took him in the right leg and exploded, sending his mind into a dimension of pain he did not know existed. He fell to the ground next to the bleeding half of Nikolas. He struggled to remain conscious, to fire his weapon, but his lasgun had left his grasp and was too far out of reach.

Theseus was a big man and an experienced fighter, but against the Marine he was little more than a pubescent boy taking on the grizzled arena fighters of his homeland. To Theseus’ credit, he did parry a single blow from the chainsword with his lasgun, sparks flew and he heard Theseus roar before the Marine simply swatted at him with the back of its pistol hand. Theseus was sent flying against one of the walls, his back breaking instantly from the impact.

Nestor tried to make a break for it, but tripped over himself before he could make it out the door. The Marine holstered its bolt pistol with the fluid ease of a millennia of practice and grabbed a hold of the poor guardsman by the ankle. Nestor was hauled off the ground and the Marine began to eviscerate him with an upward sweep it’s chainsword, insane laughter issuing from under its helmet. Darius prayed the Emperor would be merciful to his comrades as his vision started to fade, when a last, sudden burst of thought gave him a moment of new energy and purpose.

Without a fraction of a second’s hesitation, he reached down and pulled the detonation cord on the satchel charge still strapped to his waste. The demo charge had an ever so short fuse, and as the sound drowned out around him and the world became black, he wanted to say something for the Traitor Marine to recognize, an oath to the emperor, or a curse on the traitor’s soul.

But then that smell came back to him- Jacinda! Her name was-


Acting Sergeant Antonius of the 4th Samothracian Pioneers would go on to use their vox to hail elements of the 23rd Baldackian Fusiliers, and together they would destroy a key enemy bunker network, allowing the rest of the 4th Samothrace to break through their surrounded state and withdraw back to the main imperial battle line. Further battle reports of the 4th Samothrace and on the 767.M41 invasion of Parthenope can be found in most Imperial Lexicanums.
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