“The better the devil you know”
Old Terran saying
“The better the devil you know”
Old Terran saying
“It has to be a mistake” said Freundel as he read the dataslate for the second time. The runner, a youngster of maybe seventeen years who lacked any of the customary gang markings, rocked uncomfortably on his heels. He shrugged his shoulders. “It is from the top.”
“You read this Jones?”, Freundel raised an eyebrow. The runner grinned.
“Of course not Lieutenant."
Freundel picked up his lasgun and jumped down from his bunk.
“Get me Sergeant Hassler and gather up the platoon.”
Joldusteinn, Hive World.. infested.
For six months the Guard had been spilling their blood over this nightmare of tall hives and sprawling conurbations. For six months they had been locked in bitter fighting with Ork’s who’s numbers never seemed to diminish.
Freundel despised these animals, but his hatred paled to how Sergeant Hassler thought.
“I hate the fuggin’ mongrels,” growled Sergeant Hassler “turning up here with not even a by your leave, and then kicking our butts. Always on the back foot, always retreating, and now top brass have come up with this wonderful plan that will suddenly turn the tide.”
The grizzled NCO spat contemptuously.
Freundel smiled. He knew he should calm the old veteran down and curb his anger before he dug a hole that was too deep. However, he felt the same and rather the Sergeant get it than him.
“It gets better Sergeant. You and me are going to lead this mission, but we will not be alone. Brass have sent us… specialists.”
“That is our turf Boss, that is white skull territory. We should take it back… on our own.”
Freundel helped him to his feet. Others might frown on such familiarity between an officer and an ordinary rank, but both of them had been through the grinder and stood side by side in the grimmest fighting, so Freundel cared little for what others might think.
“It’s not that simple I am afraid’ he nodded to the silent figure sitting in the corner. ‘Have you anything to add Commissar Bitencourt?.”
Bitencourt stood up, his leather jacket and boots creaking as he did so. He gazed for a second at the Sergeants angry face and watched his expression turn slowly to realisation and then worry. He had got used to their ways, but he would not tolerate it for much longer. If they faltered but an inch in battle, he would have their heads.
“The 27th Vlagow Stormtroopers will assist your entry to the Hive. Once inside, you are on your own,’ he paused and then looked at Freundel. ‘The Lower Hive is your territory and you know it well. That is why you are going in.”
“Cannon Fodder.” Hassler whispered. He turned to Freundel. He knew he should keep quiet, but history dictated that he at least say something. “Boss, I will say it if you don’t.”
“No. The high-Almighty Stormtroopers come from the Upper Hive. They are the clean breathers, the privileged and elite. Us White skulls are just low-life…”
“Scum?” Bitencourt interrupted, his anger rising. “Scum, or hard done-by Gangers. The 216th Vlagow are Imperial Guard first and foremost and ‘Gangers’ last. You know the area and they don’t. They can get you in, but the Lower Hive is an alien environment to them. You put your differences aside’ he paused for effect and then looked deep into Hassler’s soul. ‘That is an order.”
* * *
“Uitae sordes”, hissed a tall Stormtrooper, resplendent in white carapace armour, and a red-plumed helmet. Hassler spat.
“I swear he is mocking me the tw…”
It was pitch black, though in the far distance there was the faint glimmer of a new dawn. Freundel did not know if Ork’s actually slept, but he prayed to the Emperor that if they did, it would be a deep sleep.
He turned to his compatriot, a fair-haired junior officer, who bore a neat dueling scar on his left cheek.
“The way in is through that exhaust vent to the right of that statue of…”
“Our beloved Lord Commander Huemac.” The Stormtrooper interrupted. Freundel winked at Hassler.
“Is that who it is? I thought it was some ancient grazing beast judging by its size.”
There was a hiss of metal against metal and then Commissar Bitencourt was between them, his power sword drawn.
“I am just dying to administer the Emperor’s Peace. Both of you… all of you get on, or on my honour, it will get bloody.”
At a nod, all twenty Stormtroopers activated their jump packs, and with an agitated growl from the jets, lifted their cargo of twenty White skulls into the chilled dawn air.
Five seconds later they had cleared the forward trenches and were over no-man's land, climbing higher and higher as full power finally kicked in.
The Ork front line began to stir as individuals and then squads began to try and locate the noise. Before the first heavy weapons were brought to bear, the unlikely squad of low and high-born Vlagow’s, were already approaching the Hive towers.
“Ten seconds.” Freundel’s earpiece rasped over the scream of the jump packs.
“The Emperor Protects.”
The exhaust vent was only three meters high and the same length wide, but the Stormtroopers managed to land two abreast in perfect synchronicity.
Freundel was almost impressed.
The White skulls unhitched and spread out, securing the landing zone with practised ease.
Freundel voxed their position and called the Stormtrooper officer over.
“You hold here. We will blow the generator and be back before you know it”. He took hold of the Stormtroopers vambrace adding. “When it blows, we will only have a few minutes to get out, before everything turns nasty. It will be tight.”
The tall officer grinned.
“Simul ire ibimus… Lieutenant. We will be here.”
The White Skulls knew their trade and exactly where to strike. It was afterall their territory. The Orks paid them no heed.
The job was done quickly and without incident.
When they returned to the entrance, the Stormtroopers had gone.
“They called us low life filth.” Said Hassler.
“And I knew they would run.” Added Freundel.
The whole hive began to rumble and shake as charge after charge went off below them. Hassler grinned.
“Can’t wait to see their faces.”
“When the central Spire comes crashing down,” said Freundel. He pointed to the tiny glinting specks of the stormtroopers in the distance. “Just about where they are heading if I got my calculations right.
They both laughed.
“It’s a lovely bloody war.”