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Two years ago by the standards of Holy Terra the Imperial council of Tranquila, may she be glorious forever in the light of the Emperor, ordered me to gather enough information of the Great Struggle to make one, definitive book to be referred to for the years to come about the events of that terrible time.
I did my job, perhaps too well. I traveled the world, I interviewed almost everybody I came across about their experiences. Most didn’t even want to talk. But I still did my job. I had everything from the statistics to personal accounts and descriptions of lucky charms some claimed had kept them in the light of the Emperor. As I said before, I did my job too well.
When I arrived back at the newly rebuilt capitol city I was stunned (to say the least) when those who gave me this important task threw half my notes back in my face. “We only need the statistics, unmarred with the human, or emotional factors.”
I was appalled. By using only the statistics of an event and not the true accounts of what happened do we not lose what makes us human? How else can we stay human and not be like the enemy that almost claimed this world if we do not remember what it felt like?
So, at great risk to myself I found the notes they had thrown away, and I have collected them all and put them in chronological order of events for all to read. May it give hope to those who face a similar situation.

Chapter one: Rain of Heathens.

[War veteran of the northern resistance efforts Laken Malins rests in a hospital bed. He has been here for the last ten years of his life, ever since the end of the Great Struggle. The handkerchief in his hand rises to his mouth periodically whenever he coughs, it leaves his mouth wet with blood from internal injuries. At the rate planetwide recovery is going, it is unlikely he will ever breathe properly again.]

I remember it like it was twenty long, painful, and unforgettable years ago. I was walking along the river with a few of the fish my friends and I caught dangling on strings. We had had a good haul. We were trading sex jokes just like any other day when all of a sudden we hear something loud and big flying over our heads. We looked up and saw this massive ship, I think it was some sort of small, interplanetary troop carrier, or something else really small, fall from the sky, wreathed in flame.
We kept on watching in for a few moments and then noticed another, xeno looking, ship follow it. It was blasting its guns at targets we couldn’t see and at the same time these… huge mechanical… monsters fall from it. My friends and I had already dropped the fish by this point and we began to cheer, we had thought the xeno ship was hit and the robot things we crew or… or something falling from it. We were wrong.
We ran home after that and when our village finally entered our sight we

[Laken coughs up blood again.]

I’m alright. Anyway, several building were on fire, those big robot things were walking around, herding people all over. Everyday I thank the Emperor they didn’t see us.
We ran back into the woods, into cover. Then I looked back, and saw what still haunts my nights to this very day.
One of the things raised its heathen flag on the dome of city hall. It passed a flag bearing the holy aquila to another of its comrades behind it. The second robot snapped the flagstaff in two and threw it to the ground below.

[Laken starts to cough more and more; a nurse rushes over and tells me the interview is over.]

[Lana Nuh is a lonely woman. In her small, one-story home she does little but feed and clothe herself as the rooms around her slowly gather dust. Her experiences during the war left her hollow and only a shadow of her former beauty.]

What you need to understand when I tell you my story, or at least the beginning of it, is that my husband and I were never far apart. We were almost always right next to each other. He was my anchor to this realm as much as I was his. We kept each other whole. So when I tell you that when the xenos began firing on our town, on our very street, you will know that when he told me to run away as fast as I could I was lost.
Even though I knew how to run, and who didn’t?, I still had no idea of what to do. Those next few seconds scared the living shit, pardon my language, right out of me. There was fire everywhere by this point. Explosions were ripping the ground apart, tearing into buildings. Some of their flying tank things targeted prayer houses exclusively.

[She shudders at the memory.]

He ran off to the damned guardhouse. I only got a glimpse of him after that. The militia and enforcers were passing weapons out to any that volunteered. I kept on running. It wasn’t until after the xenos had taken the town-

How long did that take?

About five minutes.
Anyway, the last time I saw him was when they were rounding us up and putting us in town square.

That was where you last saw your husband?

Where and when.

I don’t understand, could you elaborate?

The last time I saw my husband he was a corpse on a pyre. That was the day I lost all hope. That was when my anchor to happiness left me forever.
Now please… I don’t want to talk about it any more.

She starts to cry. I leave the house.

Chapter two: The PDF overwhelmed.

[Captain Walsh is best known as one of the flight captains who lead the first fighter and bomber wave on Victory Day. He will be remembered on this planet as a hero we were lucky to have, a man who made noteworthy contributions to victory. He will always think of himself as a man who failed in his duty.]

When I think of how fast we, the PDF air units, were taken down I grab the nearest bottle of alcohol and chug it as fast as I can.
Oh yeah we got the warnings. My ears are still ringing from those damned sirens twenty years ago. We suited up and got out to our fighters as fast as we could. We took off, again, as fast as we humanly could.
We took off. My flight group and I were in the air for maybe…twenty minutes before we had contact with the enemy.
This big, I don’t know what it was, it looked like some kinda of sea animal or…or something. Anyway, it took out half our flight group before we even saw it.
We went into evasive maneuvers and got out of its path as fast we could. On the inter-fighter vox I hear BOOM! BOOM! Two more lightnings go down. I didn’t see any parachutes.
All of a sudden another of the things comes flying in, I take a few shots at it and dive down before it shoots back. Apparently I wasn’t fast enough. It clipped my tail and sent me into a downward spiral.
Thank the Emperor I lived. I think I spent the rest of the war on the ground, up until the very end that is. I spent a lot of time after that salvaging downed aircraft and rescuing intact ones from airfields before they were hit. By then, the end of the war that is, we had maybe thirty aircraft out of what was about a thousand.
Still, thank the Emperor we had that many. Or things might have turned out quite a bit differently…
People say I was one of the key factors in the air assaults that drove our final, painful victory home. I’m hailed as a hero almost everywhere I go. I still get invites from parliament to attend banquets. But to tell you the truth, I’m no hero.
What kind of hero lets his enemies take his world from him to begin with?

[Jakon Biggs is a heavy-set man. His huge body suggests a career as a wrestler or some other kind of pro-athlete. Perhaps, as the burns all across the left side of his face suggest, he should have chosen that career path, instead of becoming a gifted tank gunner. Still though, he says that he wouldn’t trade his time as top gunner in the PDF’s first and only armor division for anything.]

Well the worst part wasn’t the waiting. Nobody in the division, or any other division on that planet, before that terrible day, had ever seen any real action. Bar fights just don’t compare to hearing the discharge of alien guns go past your head, leaving a burn for the rest of your life.
The waiting, as I just said, didn’t kill us. If anything it hyped us up. We were all maybe nineteen, twenty years old. Just out of the training halls. “Wet behind the ears” some would say. But we were so gung-ho about the whole thing. “Finally! We get to kill something!” was our mantra during the three-week march to the first identified landing ground of the alien forces.
The fact that our tanks were old and needed a new everything every few miles didn’t bother us. The commissars were all telling us the same thing. “These xenos call themselves the Tau. They say their technology rivals that of the holy Imperium, THEY ARE WRONG!” we are more powerful in every way!” that was when the snipers opened up on us. The commissar was the first person I ever saw die.
When we finally came to our senses we fired back. Just small arms and turret mounted bolters. I thought that was enough to scare them off. But I was wrong. They came in force next. Over the hills next to our path and out from the woods to our left they came. On the hills were their gunmen I think. I remember how pathetically small they were until the opened up on us with their guns and blowing holes all my friends not in tanks.
The ones coming out of the woods were taller, I think they were a different species or something. Anyway, they yelled out some tribal curses before they opened up with their rifles and charged into our lines, cutting us down with their barbed guns.
I swung the cannon around and took aim, probably the only good thing I did that day, and fired on the first aliens. I think I must have killed a squad at least. Before I could even yell out a victory cheer their own tanks just… appeared. They came out of nowhere, like the ghosts in the stories your parents tell you when you’re a kid.
The flying tanks opened fire and tore into the tanks infront of mine. The last thing I remember after that is the guns closing in on my tank and blacking out. That was about midday I think. The sun was still up.
The next thing I saw when I came to was two of the smaller aliens looking at me, I could only see their outlines in the moon. Then they picked me up and took me back into camp. I guess that’s all I really have to say about that.

[Jakon Biggs spent the rest of the war as a POW]

[Marken Drawl is a former PDF infantry man. His was one of the first squads to come under private imperial protection after the Horian Woods massacre became known to the world after the war was over.]

I guess you could say were scared. We had all heard the stories. An entire airfield’s worth of fighters and bombers shot out of the sky. The only armor division blown to nothing. How the hell were we supposed to last?
Sorry, I ramble. As I was saying, we were scared.
We had just gotten our orders, our battalion was to march north alongside several others where we would prepare stronger defenses, I guess high command didn’t think our current defenses would be worth anything, and, if necessary, start a guerilla campaign against the invaders.
So we were marching through the Horian. It was almost sunset and everything was getting dark. I remember that every time someone stepped on a twig and snapped it, which was about every few minutes, we would all drop to the ground and scan around us for weapons. That’s how tense everything was.
Okay maybe I exaggerate a little but it was tense, to say the least.
So it went on like this for I don’t remember how long but suddenly I trip and break out of the empty mindedness the march had given me and I saw that everything was dark. The sun had set.
I couldn’t see anything in front of me. All I remember is turning on my gun’s flashlight and pointing it at the back of the guy in front of me and following him.
This went on for at least a few minutes until we heard noises behind us.
At first we could barely hear what was behind us so out lieutenant signaled for us to move faster. We did. I don’t think it worked.
For the next two hours we continued to increase our pace until we were almost running, but still whatever was behind us kept on coming. We could hear voices now but they we too many and too… I don’t know what to understand. We could also hear engines, like the kind on a common car.
So as I was saying we were running. We were only one hundred men, ten squads, five lieutenants and one major. We were all panicky, green behind the ears as most veterans would say and we honestly barely knew what we were doing.
So our major orders us to stop and take up firing positions. We followed our orders, I remember trying to pick out the best cover where I would be comfortable. I was so stupid.
They were almost on us when I finally took a position. Then we started firing at the shapes we couldn’t even see.
We heard them yell, it sounded like humans in pain, humans being killed. It felt good. We didn’t know what these filthy xenos sounded like when they died, it was good to be able to hear their pain and know what it was. I remember Erikson, my squad’s man with one of the ten grenade launchers fire a krak, I think at random into the mob around us he hit something big, it went up in flames and we all let out a cheer.
The rest of the night passed in blurs of just… killing something and then aiming for whatever was closest to you. Eventually what mediocre cover we had was augmented by the piles of dead bodies that had managed to form even with the flamers burning almost everything down.
So eventually the tide became a river, that river became a stream, and that stream, became a trickle of bodies. I guess I should be glad we had all that ammo. We might have been torn apart otherwise. But sometimes I wish we had run out of the damn ammo. At least that way we wouldn’t have seen what we saw when the light finally came back to our face of the world.
Men. Women. Children. Pets. Ground cars. That was what we killed throughout the night. That was why the pain we heard sounded like something we knew, like something we wanted to hear. It wasn’t the Tau we killed, but our friends. Our families. People we grew up with, the same people we supposed to protect from invasion turned out to be people who might have lived if they had stayed.
A few men in the battalion turned their guns on themselves right there I think. Some of us just gave up and walked out into the wilderness. No one stopped them. No one blamed them. Not then. The rest of though… the rest of us redeemed ourselves in the rest of the war.
We didn’t realize it then, but what we had seen in the night, what we had killed in the night, was just the beginning of the Flight to the North. I remember my sergeant turned to me, I was now second in command, and he said “Some say that the men who fought in the Great Betrayal against the archtraitor Horus never saw the end of that war, even if their hearts continued to beat long after Horus was slain by the Emperor, that in their souls, what they saw killed them inside. If that is the case, we’re all dead.”
He killed himself two days later.

End of chapter two.

Epilogue to chapter Three: Flight to the North.

[Adrion Gatin is a poor man. Once, before the war, his family was very wealthy. That was when he was ten years old. Now he is thirty years old, the last living member of his family and he has noting, not even most of his memory, these next few paragraphs are all he remembers.]

My dad woke us all up in the middle of the night. I was a city official so I think a friend gave him an advance warning before the rest of the city knew.
He was all panicky and yelling for us to get up, get dressed, take one toy or something close to us and get in the ground car. He didn’t say why.
So I got up and went to the bathroom, we didn’t know it was because the invasion yet. We’d all been told the propaganda. “The PDF was overwhelming the xeno beachheads, the air and tank divisions had made mincemeat out of their alien counterparts, a hundred riflemen had made a heroic one night stand against a seemingly unending tide of the xeno cannon fodder…” the list of lies went on and on.
So like I said, I was in the bathroom, relieving myself, and then my dad comes in and begins yelling at me. He hit me. That was the first time I ever saw him angry. I think I cried all the way to the ground car when he dragged me there by my hair.
We drove for another two days before we ran out of gas. Then my dad told us to drop everything and just take the food. Then he pulled something out that I’d never seen him even hold before. An auto gun.
The next few hours we the most bone breaking moments of my life I had experienced so far at that time. Just taking one step was a hell I couldn’t endure. But I did. I walked when my little sister crawled.
I think by the end of that first hellish day my dad finally smiled when he looked at me, if only for an instant. Then I went to sleep.
I only woke up once that night. My parents were shouting. Then I fell asleep again.
In the morning my mom and dad got into a fight, they struggled for the gun and accidentally killed my baby sister. Then, I don’t know how, my mom got the grip of the gun and shot my dad in the head.
We were all crying and she yelled at us. She told us to stop, that she would hurt us if we didn’t. But we couldn’t stop. So she killed us. Everyone except me. I was running away when either, she ran out of bullets, or turned the gun on herself. I just don’t know. I just don’t know.
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