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Krassus, Greiner, Thede, Caul, Keldor, LaVeer, and Robickai; You sit within one of two cargo haulers driving to a staging post some three hundred miles to the east of port city Laviax. You are part of a thirty strong defence force squad that has just finished its indoctrination for duty. Some of you have more time than your fellows, and few of you really know each other to well, but you have spend the last month training together so you are no stranger to one another.

No one really knows what to make of the word that has been spreading. Of invading aliens that have ransacked the other worlds in the system, the preachers and abbots claim these monsters, these Orks, are dumb brutes that will be repelled with relative ease. However the giant mass hanging in the nights sky makes you think.

If some of you look up into the dark sky, both haulers having no roof, you would see what appears to be shooting stars and blinking lights. What these are, you can only guess; perhaps those offworld soldiers the sergeants have disparagingly mentioned before, or perhaps it was the Orks or something.

Without warning, a high pitched squeal breaks up the sound of the hauler engines moments before the cab of the lead vehicle bursts into flames. With no warning or time to react, the second hauler slams into the first and kills three of the passengers within.

Occupants of both vehicles stumble out the wrecked transports, some to dazed to really do anything while others desperately look for a source of the noise. Over the sound of fire, you hear the growl of an engine, the whooping of occupants, and then the whizzing of bullets. Two more of the squad are torn to shreds by bullet fire, forcing the rest of you to run in a panic. You all, more or less, run in the same direction, the outpost that was already in sight, less than half a mile from where you are now.

[Which of the transports were you in? How do you react to whats going on?]


Tobias and Elias; Another world, another war. Thats how some of the regiment looked at it. But not so much you, for you this was another chance to kill some aliens and be a hero to the locals. Right now you sit in one of the grav couches within your valkyrie, the interior lights bathing your ten man squad in ruddy red light. Sergeant Elyas chews on his half smoked cigar, glaring at the closed door that would lead to the cockpit. He wasn't particularly angry at the pilot, just the fact that he and his squad had drawn the short straw for a recon job into the initial drop sites of the Orks.

The man hauled himself up from his couch, spitting the cigar to the ground and opening his mouth to say something, perhaps restate the squads mission or crack wise at the higher ups. The man never gets a chance to do so however, as the valkyrie banks sharply and throws the man from his feet. Those on the left look out the viewholes in time to see a pair of missiles racing past the transport on dirty trails of fire.

"Fraggin' hell, where did the greenies come from!" Someone yells as the transport does a roll and bullets rattle off the hull. "Who cares, everyone out now!" Elyas growls, stumbling to the back hatch and slamming a gloved fist into the opening rune. The howl of the wind envelopes the transport cabin, and behind the valk an Ork dakkajet opens fire with close to half a dozen hull mounted guns. Bullets tear into the cabin, shredding Elyas and two others from within their seats. Another shot punched straight through the door separating the cockpit and cabin. Without warning the valkyrie sharply tilts down in a dive.

[Get out of your restraints and out of this thing while you can! Your eight thousand feet in the air at this point, but you won't remain there for long.]


Gervas; It has been thirty hours since you made planetfall on Prolial Prime, traveling West to the port city of Laviax. In the hour following your crash landing, you were forced to do some things that ate at your pride and the things you had been taught by the crusades chaplain. Before leaving the burning wreck you searched for the remains of your brothers.

Ultimately your search had not been in vain, you pulled the remains of two from the wrecked lander. There was initiate Veldir, a brother only a few years your senior and initiate Walsh, the squads second-most senior member. It killed you, but with your bolter out of ammo and bolt pistol on its last clip, you were forced to take their spares.

Trying to block out the pain of what you had been forced to do, you grit your teeth and plant on foot in front of another. Your armours systems try to bring up warning runes to indicate damage both to your war plate and you, but like before you blink them down in an attempt to ignore them. In the distance of the night, you see the outline of an outpost on the horizon, and an explosion near to that.

[Even though you've been ignoring your armours warnings and diagnostics, you know your leg was broken and your plate damaged in two locations. Overall your armour has suffered a fourteen percent drop in power, though it appears to be holding steady.

Checking the ammo counter on your bolter, and knowing that you have a mere two reloads after it, its time to make way towards the explosion and find out what the greenskins are likely up to.]
 
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The day had finally come. During their short training, it had seemed so unreal, and unlikely. As if everyone would've gone home after the last week, having made new friends and being in better shape than ever before. This morning though, the final instructions were given and everyone had taken place in one of the two haulers. Zachariah was seated in the rear vehicle, which had made him feel slightly safer. He had sat silent the entire journey, while some had confindently boasted, and others had nervously cracked jokes to break the tension. He had tried to count down the minutes, estimating when they would arive at their destination, as a way of keeping his mind from thinking what would happen when they'd get there.
Then, in a moment of utter chaos, he was jerked around in the cabin, for the first time glad he was wearing his helmet as his head had bumped into things he figured might have cracked his skull otherwise. Confused, he had clambered out of the hauler after some others had gone before him. For only a couple of seconds, it had been as if only they were there, with a vehicle that had suddenly stopped, for no apparent reason. Bullets suddenly pinged off the metal body of the hauler, some punching holes through. Others found their mark, and pierced the flesh of Zach's comrades, blood exploding from where the bullets emerged again. The sight of it was unreal, pathetic even. Men had stood there, now reduced to fleshy sacks of ruptured organs and splintered bones, spilling their fluid contents in the dirt.
"We're under attack." Zach said, to assure himself of what he just witnessed. Most people were already running in a panicked frenzy towards the outpost, but some were still standing in the same dream Zach had just awoken from. And when he finally realised what he just said, he repeated, panicked, at the top of his voice, "WE'RE UNDER ATTACK!"
 

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Dazed and Dangerous

Dominous "Grease" Krassus, a man with little to live for but with too much grit, pride, and self-respect to go quietly into the night. She wouldn't want him too go quiet either, she would kick his ass from beyond the grave. The PDF was the answer for him now, at least she could look on him doing something useful and not moping in auto-shop or driving on patrols for the law enforcement. He didn't bother making any attachments with his fellows, it wouldn't matter if they all died. With that mind set, training was over and done almost as if it had been a day rather than a month, he found it best to drone through the bullshit of all the training just to get it over with, the Imperial Creed meant little to him, and life had proven that to him from day one. Now he was on the road, with a bunch of fresh and old faces, most likely to face death for someone else's causes, but he carried his own with him.

The wind was cold and biting as he stood in the bed of the cargo hauler, the front most one in the caravan, toting his high caliber Heavy stubber on its fold-able tripod mount, he was aiming it forward, his ammo box filled with a mix of standard rounds and tracers as he scanned the road ahead of the hauler. With the wind in his face he tipped his head down and pulled out his locket and opened it, just to see her face again in case death came sooner than he expected, he briefly touched the bit of hair taped to the inside, its velvety silver touch brought back memories and he cracked the tiniest almost unnoticeable smiled on his scarred and hairy face, then he flipped it closed and reality came back. He looked back briefly at the rest of the PDF with him in the Hauler, a mixed lot, none of them having the slightest clue as to the gravity of the situation. Dom may not know anything of the threat either, but one thing was clear for him his whole life, the establishment lied, always. This threat was far more dire than they had been told, but in the end it didn't matter much to him.

He cocked his Stubber, just taking a moment to make sure it was in order, then he heard...no... felt the tell tale whizzing of bullets flying past, years of dealing with gangers in Law Enforcement taught him those signs well. The bullets missed him by millimeters, which was lucky for him because these cheap flak vests were worse than the body armor he had on the force. The engine caught fire and the hauler rolled to a stop as fellow passengers were torn apart by the onslaught of bullets. "Ah Fuu-" He barely had time to curse as the Haulers behind his collided with his and sent him flying with his stubber to the side of the road, rolling down the slight slope and landing in the brush, with the stubber landing on top of him knocking the wind from him.

He heard a racous engine and a mob of weird alien laughter as he got to his knees, keeping low through the continued gun fire. The bastards were being torn apart, they needed to regroup and he need to find a place to give them some cover fire. "Bloody fuckin' hell...,"He groaned as he got to his knees and picked up the Heavy stubber, putting its bracing sling over his shoulder as he made his way away from the road toward cover of some rocks,"Get the fuck over here!" he shouted as he began to fire bursts toward the oncoming enemy vehicle, seeing the men begin to make their way in his direction, they looked confused and panicked, and to be honest he was anxious too.
 

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Tobias had just finished connecting his rebreather to his helmet, giving the tube a quick tug to make sure it was securely fastened in place. He slid a finger over the side of his helmet, scrolling through a list of information dancing over his visor. He adjusted the reticule to his liking, checked the altitude meter, oxygen levels, and glanced over the mission objectives one more time.

‘Recon, recon, recon…..’ He said out loud. He was sitting across from the Sergeant who was still chewing on the remaining half of his cigar and glaring towards the cockpit.

‘It’s not too bad Sarge,’ he began, ‘Maybe we’ll get the chance to kill an Ork before anyone else in the 173rd. Then we’ll have bragging rights, or more bragging rights, rather.’

The sour Sergeant didn’t seem to hear him.

His older brother sat by his side, getting ready as well.

‘Imagine when we bring him back Greenskin trophies.’

Even without addressing Elias, everyone in the squad knew that Tobias was speaking of the pair’s father. Tobias gently grazed his fingers over the smooth wooden handle of his father’s gift. The sawed-off was in it’s holster, fastened to the thigh of his right pant leg. He didn’t always like carrying the extra slugs around for it, but the extra pride in his step they provided was well worth it, to him. He would often toss them around in his hands when he was bored.

'Stay focussed,' Elias said, 'or else you'll be a trophy.'

‘I already am.’ He said with a grin under his rebreather. ‘I’m an Elysian trophy.’

His ear flared up in pain with a smack from Elias to the side of his pressure helmet.

‘Don’t be jealous…’ mumbled Tobias as Sergeant Elyas spat the rest of his cigar to the decking and stood up to say something. He never got the chance to though, the Valkyrie violently shaking the moment he had opened his mouth. The only syllable he had pronounced was drowned out from cargo shaking and engine straining.

He saw the quick pace of missile trails outside the view ports, the bright fires of their burning propellant zipping in and out of view. As the Sergeant stumbled past him on the deck towards the rear hatch, Tobias was already double checking his chute equipment. He pulled his lasgun off of the rack above him, it’s power pack already loaded into the receiver, and waited for the imminent commands for a drop.

"Fraggin' hell, where did the greenies come from!" Someone shouted.

"Who cares, everyone out now!" said the Sergeant, just before slamming his fist into the opening rune.

Tobias tucked the Accatran lasgun tightly to his chest as the wind filled the hull. His head turned sharply at a large object in the air behind them. Looking past his brother, his eyes went wide with fear and surprise.

That fear and surprise were the last things three of his comrades felt… aside from maybe a split second of unbelievable pain as their bodies were torn to pieces, blood flying through the cabin, speckling Tobias’s uniform. Most of it though, and the rest of their bodies, instantly vanished through the rear hatch out into the air somewhere. His sergeant, standing up and closest to the edge, was among those cut to ribbons. Tobias barely had any time to take in the visuals of the fighter craft pounding the Valkyries hull with gunfire. The Valkyrie banked hard and began to roll.

Suddenly, despite the rush of noise and chaos, all Tobias could hear was his slow, heavy breathing. He had done countless drops before. They had always been the same, just like the last. There would be no formal preparation this time. No gear checks. No line up. No pats on the backs or shoulders. He saw Elias run in front of him, casting a look back at Tobias before doing so. Tobias made to run after him, but found his feet connecting with the wall as the Valkyrie continued to spin out of control. Various small objects fell from what was now the ceiling and flew out of the rear hatch in front of him. He charged forward as best he could, and threw himself out into the air. It was by far the least controlled dive he had ever made. His visor told him he was about 8000 feet up. He struggled to find his squad mates below him as he plummeted. He couldn’t keep his eyes from scanning the air and trying to see the Ork fighters as well. All he could do was let the wind take him.
 

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I kept my eyes just above the wall of the cargo hauler, where the sky appeared. The rocking of the transport and the sight of the sky was soothing. I had been through training and indoctrination a few times at this point. The Imperium was nothing if thorough in ensuring their citizens were willing to charge into danger for the greater body. The trouble was that this had given me an insight. They were liars. Every commander who stood before you telling you how you were the backbone of the Imperium, every abbot who proclaimed them as the might of the Emperor and assured them nothing could stand against them, all of them liars. Some of these men with me had seen to many summers, or too few. Many of them were conscripts, children who had only the other day been taught how to fight. I would have pitied them, but I scarcely knew better than them. I had fought rebellions before, grappled with my fellow man and killed him before he killed me, but xenos? Holy Terra I had no idea what they might be like. Hopefully they died to las-rounds the same as humans, else we were all doomed.

I tilted my neck and heard an audible crack, a release of tension. I needed to put on my sea-face. I noticed it when I was small, everyone had a face they wore at sea and it protected them like armour. If they didn’t all pull together, then the whole trip would be a failure or worse. In a squall, if everyone didn’t do exactly as they needed to, they could all die. My breathing slowed and I could feel my anxious heart beat more steadily. I could feel everything coming into sharp focus around me. My lascarbine felt more weighty and substantive. I could feel where the fibres of my uniform caress the hairs on my chest. I heard the whine of the engine clearer, the mutterings of those around me. I heard something click shut, then a high-pitched whine. My eyes snapped open and the transport around me resolved itself in crystal clarity. For a moment, the world was silent. Then, it burst into flames.

I was in the middle of the transport. Flames exploded from the driver’s compartment and scorched the closest men. Then the hauler just behind us crumpled the rear and three men with it. We piled out of the wrecks as fast as we could. Then the bullets started flying and I dimly heard the screams of dying. The squall had hit and it had hit hard. There was no fighting this, not with just over two dozen recruits. We had to make it to the outpost. With any luck, we’d be able to weather the storm there, with support. A man screamed next to me “WE’RE UNDER ATTACK!”. I clipped the back of his head with my palm to shut him up.
“Yes, now haul ass so they don’t find you and kill you.” Men were running already panicked. “Everybody, make for the outpost!” I called sprinting to the middle of the crowd. “Stay together!”

Most of these people had never heard the steady din of gunfire and it spooked them. I felt fear rise within me, they cold breath of death on the back of my neck. If we ran and stayed together we might stay alive. I pushed the fear into my legs and heart. The fear spurred me on, forced my blood to pump quicker, my legs to burn harder and my brain to work faster. I gripped my las-carbine harder and stayed in the middle of the group. If we ran into an ambush, the outer rim would fall first and give the rest of us a chance to respond. I saw the man with the heavy stubber, Dom I think his name was, fire into the attacking xeno vehicles fruitlessly. “Run you fool, there’s no fighting these things here.” I yelled as I breezed past him. If he wanted to stay and sell his life for us, I didn’t care. This wasn’t a fight we could win, only one we could survive…
 

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I am alone.

-

In the hours since the first drop of orkish blood was shed in this system by Templar wrath, I have borne witness as my squad brothers bled and died around me. Each of their ends is etched into my memories, the righteous fury of their defiance to the last breath a burning pride deep within my chest.

Throne of Terra, Leoric was laughing across the squad vox as he killed the xenos filth that crowded into their makeshift dropship. He killed six of the seven that bore him down with the wickedly hooked boarding pikes punched through his battleplate. I caught a glimpse between thrusts of my chainblade as he gained his feet one last time before his skull disappeared when the remaining ork shot him point blank in the faceplate with the ugly amalgamation of mismatched parts that had no right to be called a weapon. His signifying rune went grey at the corner of my vision even before his headless corpse disappeared under the seething wave of green flesh. Such a noble warrior's death.

The grey runes of the dead had long outnumbered the living by that time.

I do not even attempt to look for his body now, Walsh had sealed and vented the entire rear compartment of shrieking xenos into the cold of the void before the three of us had cut our way to the greenskined pilots in the craft’s forequarters.

-

It is Veldir’s body that I find first.

He was my senior by but a scant handful of years, close enough in the terms of our Order as to have come from the same womb. We have stood against one another with unchecked enmity in the training cages, and back to back on the field of battle with absolute faith in the other’s bolter and blade. If I were to pull the memory from my mind I could see the fiery humour tracing his shaven features, his dark eyes watching me across the practice range. He was always the better shot, which makes what I must do all the more weight upon my pride.

The jagged, twisted metal of the wrecked craft ticks and pings as it cools in the air of this desolate world. I snarl, ignoring the sharp pain of broken bone that makes up my left leg, as I heave against the weight of the debris to finally free my brother’s body.

Or, what is left of his body. His entire right side is a broken ruin of ragged strips of roasted flesh and shattered black armour.

I cannot help but smile behind my dark faceplate as I see what is locked in his remaining left hand. The bloody remains of one of the xenos pilots’ throat peeks between the fingers of his fluid smeared black gauntlet. The other pilot’s blood stains the teeth of my chainsword.

I feel the cold bite of grief drag its talons across my thoughts and clench my jaw. I cannot afford to mourn him now; I have a duty to complete. He would have done the same for me.

I haul his body free of the wreck haltingly, my armour’s damage routine has locked my left leg ridged. It is an undesirable annoyance, but I continue my search regardless of my limping discomfort.

Another forty minutes pass before I am able to free Walsh’s body from this twisted tomb of metal.

-

The spar of metal that impales him is as thick as my thigh. In the end I am forced to dead lift his armoured body, millimeter by agonizing millimeter, off of the blood-slick bone of the ship. I blink away my own armour’s warning runes with a grunt of pain and ignore the sharp taste of copper that lingers at the back of my throat.

Two and a half centuries of glory and honour.

His eyes have seen a hundred separate battlefields. Untold numbers of mankind’s enemies have died under his righteous fury. Pieces of the void-dark battle plate he wears bore witness to the first Black Crusade’s rout. It pains me beyond measure to be forced to leave it here to possible scavengers.

In a way, the cold death of this honourable and battle scared warrior touches me far more than Veldir’s. I do not feel shame at the wetness upon my cheeks as I beseech our gene-sire Lord Dorn and the divine Emperor to know of his absolute loyalty to duty and wrath to the foes of mankind in his final moments over his stilled form.

-

I salvage what remaining bolter clips that they have. A total of three clips. I would have laughed at such paltry resources at any other time. Now I make sure that I miss nothing, ensuring to even eject the chambered rounds from the weapons still chained to their corpses.

I take one other thing from each of them, torn from the bindings of their armour and rebound to my own while kneeling in the light of the burning wreck. Two oaths, in Veldir’s harsh script and Walsh’s poetic scrollwork. An oath to shed the blood of the vile Xenos’ battleleaders and an oath of protection of the innocent followers of the Emperor. My brothers’ oaths are now mine to bear, chained beside my own flowing script to see that this world shall not fall from the divine right of the Emperor’s servants.

As I turn my back upon my brothers’ cooling bodies a storm is brewing upon the horizon, stirred up by the assault on the world’s atmosphere by the myriad of inbound vessels. I can finally understand the nauseating frustration of Apothecary Crastus. My steps pause, I do not wish to leave my brothers here like this, their legacies unclaimed.

I call up the tactical readout of this location, committing it to eidetic memory. It is the best I can do. I have a duty to complete, and an ork hoard to cast from the face of the galaxy.

I clamp my bolter to the side of my power pack, the black chains binding it to my armour singing softly with each limping step, and start walking.

-

I do not even attempt to hide my passing.

For the first six hours my steps are hindered by the limping stride of my warplate, the joins in my left leg locked to keep the fractured bones in place long enough to set. I endure it only because I know that I will need the full use of that leg before this war is over.

After the break has healed enough to take my weight, the joints unlock and I break into the ground devouring lope of a hunting predator. I can keep up this pace for days if I need, though the vermilion runes at the corner of my vision indicate that my wargear may no longer have the same tenacity as my will. The battle damage from the fight upon the hulk was more devastating to my armour than I care to admit, an axe blow that nearly saw me gutted has fouled the armoured plating across my torso and caused havoc with the intricate cabling that run across my core. It is stable, for now. Once I re-enter battle I cannot say how long such a state will last.

I scroll through the vox channels as I push onward through the whipping storm that I had seen brewing earlier, nothing but static greats me. I cannot bring myself to close the squad link that hovers in the upper corner of my vision though the only rune still lit is my own.

Others have been this way before me, mismatched tracks and erratic skid marks upon the barren soil betray the origins of the vehicle. I hold carefully to the cold rage that the marks conjure in my gut. Hatred is my greatest weapon and I hone its edge with a glance to the blood stained scrolls bound on my left shoulder guard.

-

It has been thirty hours since I first set foot upon the soil of this world.

The horizon is broken by the hand of Man. I have been able to see the dark silhouettes of towers and the sharp edged structures of bunkers for some time now across the desolate landscape, growing ever closer with each thundering stride.

It is a bloom of fire, however, that draws my attention closer as a smell rides the wind, fungal and vile in its alien nature. I hate them for tainting this world, for breathing air that is meant for humankind. I let a growl slip between bared teeth. It emerges from my vox, a rumbling thing more akin to thunder than anything human.

I admit the thought brings a feral smile to my lips as my stride increases, I have not been human for a while now.

My chainblade and pistol are already in my dark gauntlets as I watch the counter in the corner of my vision. It ticks down closer to a kilometer, and then less. I see the panicked humans spilling from the ruined transports. I can wait no longer to shed the vile blood of these beasts.

The false muscle cables of my battle plate whine as I break into a sprint, armoured boots digging into the unforgiving ground with each stride.

I am truly alone, yet my hate is greater than it has ever been.
 

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I kept my eyes just above the wall of the cargo hauler, where the sky I saw the man with the heavy stubber, Dom I think his name was, fire into the attacking xeno vehicles fruitlessly. “Run you fool, there’s no fighting these things here.” I yelled as I breezed past him. If he wanted to stay and sell his life for us, I didn’t care. This wasn’t a fight we could win, only one we could survive…
Dom just kept up the steady bursts of fire, and grumbled to himself, "Retreats need to be covered." He wasn't really sure what he was shooting at, some kind of ramshackle thing that rattled and spewed oily black smoke into the night air, almost creating its own cloud above it, ruining what would have been a pristine night. He ducked back behind the rocks to check his ammo, which was in good condition, but he shouldn't waste any more of it, he had to hope the outpost had more ammo and maybe something with a bit more kick for these xeno contraptions. He looked as more ran past and decided it was probably best he got to moving as well.

Just as the thought came to mind though, xeno gun fire began to hit the rocks he was behind and showered him with dust and newly made gravel. They would never make it if they couldn't hold the bastards up for a bit longer, and so he got low to the ground and crawled to the opposite side of the rocks, away from where the bullets were pinging the rocks, and he put the stubber around the corner and fired a few more rounds in the xeno's general direction. After a few more burst from the gun, as he watched the tracers hit the xeno craft, he stopped and it went dark again and he could only see the flash of the Xeno weapons, he grabbed one of the few grenades he had. He looked at it briefly, "Shouldn't be no different than tossin' a tear gas can..." He grimaced as he pulled the pin, and he tossed it as hard as he could. He picked up his stubber, and began to run to catch up with the rest of those retreating, not wanting to wait and see if that accomplished anything.
 

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He was listening to the whine of engines and trying to ignore the oncoming storm. He was trying to ignore the prospect of imminent, messy, painful death.

Elias was failing. He always failed, before battle - Always his mind dwelt on death. It was good to be aware, he told himself, tugging at the vacuum-seals of his gloves. It had saved him, on multiple occasions - On Castor, his paranoid alertness had kept him on his toes. When a civilian, a member of the Ragged Rags Cult, had charged him with a sickle, Elias had opened her brain-pan with a shot from Theodora. Being alert, he often told Tobias, not being lost in arrogance, had kept Elias alive.

For the past two months, between their last war-zone and this one - Prolial, he reminded himself - Elias had read studiously on their foes, the Swinekin, the Greenskins, the Orks. He knew their reputation, one of unbound savagery and barbarism. He knew of worlds, depopulated and stained with blood, of entire systems enslaved by their foul warbands. He had read the reports of their obscene butchery, and he had shivered. Elias was no coward - On Frater Minor, against the secessionist Brotherhood of Daggers, Elias had faced down a rebel tank with a det-charge, and came out on top. He still wore a piece of the Leman Russ's armour tied around his ankle. No-one had ever accused Elias Lengen of cowardice, but he was afraid.

'Remember,' He whispered to his brother. He was unsure if Tobias was listening. 'Skull or spine. These aren't men we're dealing with - Keep them at bay, ranged. Maximum damage.'

Elias had scoured worlds. He had seen populations slaughtered, watched the hangmen of the Commissariat lead heretics to their deaths. Never, ever, had he seen it done with the efficiency of the Orks. They were, he admitted, a tremendous threat. A terrifying reality.

Beneath his helmet, he screwed his eyes shut. The Valkyrie bucked, someone let out a cheer, someone else a groan. Eyes still closed, Elias drew Theodora from his hip and emptied her shells into his hand. Theodora was a man-stopper, somewhere between a slug-thrower and a bolt-pistol. Elias loved the gun - Loved her bark, loved the tremor in his wrist, loved the destruction she left. Most of all, he loved her name. It was a constant reminder of a life stolen, a life long gone. It hurt, sometimes, but he understood the importance of the name. It kept him on his toes.

Elias was, of all things, a practical man. He slipped the shells back into their housings, slid Theodora into her holster, and opened his eyes.

'Imagine when we bring him back Greenskin trophies,' Tobias said, voice brimming with pride and excitement.

Elias sighed. Not this again.

'Stay focussed,' He grumbled, air slipping between his teeth in a low whistle. 'Or else you'll be a trophy.'

He remembered the picts. Men, women and children - Nailed to the side of tanks, bags of skulls dangling from green sides, necklaces of fingerbones and teeth. He whispered a prayer to the Emperor hurriedly.

'I already am,' Tobias said, cocksure, the grin evident in his voice. 'I'm an Elysian trophy.'

Elias struck him hard.

And then, everything went to hell. A pair of missiles streaked past, dark smudges following in their trails. There was shouting, a sudden realisation that they were, once again, in a war zone. Their Sergeant, so similarly named, was moving towards the rear hatch.

Bullets were hammering into the Valkyrie.

The door groaned open, and Elias, now on his feet, got a glimpse of the enemy. A pugnacious brow, red eyes behind a pair of dirty goggles, a jaw brimming with fangs. Behind an equally pugnacious jet. Elias shivered once again.

It opened fire.

Elyas was shredded, his blood coating Elias, as were two others. Red-drenched, panting excitedly, Elias began to run. The Valkyrie was twisting, toppling, everything was becoming wrong.

He glanced back, saw Tobias moving behind him, and leapt into oblivion.
 

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Gallan sat in the back of the front-most hauler, wishing for a cushion. Over all his years of training with the PDF, he had come to the conclusion that there was a Munitorum conspiracy to break the ass bones of anyone weak enough to need to get somewhere by means other than their own two feet.

When not ruminating on the fate of his coccyx, he looked around, trying to assess the others he had been thrown together with over the last month. On the whole he wasn't that impressed. Many barely seemed to know which end of their carbines was the business end, even after an intense month of training together. The only one that gave him any confidence was the big dour fether Krassus standing with his stubber on the roof of the cab, hands alternating between fingering a cog shaped amulet around his neck, and checking the stubber was ready for action. Gallan didn't think Krassus even realised what his hands were doing, he seemed so distracted most of the time. Seemingly he was an enforcer in his previous life, so hopefully he'd keep his head when the crap finally hit the fan.

Gallan looked up at the sky, wondering at the nature of the fiery streaks criss crossing the night sky. Imperial Guard reinforcements? More xenos invaders? City-killing munitions fired from the star travelling craft used by both sides? Maybe some of the more fervent prayers of his squad mates had been answered, and an Adeptus Astartes strike force had come to their aid. He chuckled at that thought. Those almost mythical warriors were surely needed elsewhere than a relative back water planet like Prolial.

His reverie was broken by the squeal of brakes, and he was thrown forward into a squad mate, jamming a rifle butt into his ribs for his troubles. "What the feth..." he groaned, and as he looked around saw the truck behind them drive straight into their tailgate. He had a momentary feeling of weightlessness as he was thrown forward again, then everything went black.

He wasn't sure how long it was before he came to, his head throbbing, but things seemed to have gone to hell pretty quick while he was out. The truck was burning around him, there were broken bodies scattered in the wreckage, there were the steady outgoing bursts of a heavy stubber, and more sporadic crack of large calibre incoming rounds vying with what sounded like a massive engine badly in need of a tune up.

He struggled through the smoking wreckage towards the sound of the heavy stubber, reasoning that being behind it was a better place to be than in front of it. He climbed over the side rail, and spotted the muzzle flash coming from some rocks just off the road, apparently covering the retreat of his surviving platoon mates, and made a dash for the position. As he dived into cover behind the rocks he saw that it was Krassus, and he was laying down fire in the direction of the enemy, whatever the enemy was. He assumed it was orks, but he hadn't seen any hint of them beyond muzzle flashes. Just as he settled behind the rocks, Krassus threw a grenade in the same direction as he had been shooting. A boom followed, and the incoming fire seemed to slacken briefly. Good idea, thought Gallan. He rooted through his pouches and came out with two frag grenades. He hit the activation studs, glanced over the rocks to get an idea of the heaviest concentration of fire, and lobbed both grenades as hard as he could. When he ducked back behind the rock he saw that Krassus was now high-tailing it after the rest of the squad. Damn, he can move pretty quick for a big guy, thought Gallan. With that, the two grenades went off with another satisfying double boom, and he decided it was best to join him.
 

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Liam sat towards the back of the second hauler, head occassionally banging against one of the metal ribs of the vehicles side while he looked up into the nights sky. He was used to the dark confines of the tunnels; the constricting walls and poor ventilation. Being out here, on the surface with the open sky above his head, was strange to say the least. He just couldn't get over that something didn't feel right, it was to open, to vulnerable.

These last few weeks had seen Liam thrown into a completely different world, after he had been sold from the mines to the PDF he got to see the sun for the first time in years. Its harsh light had hurt at first, but like much in his life he got used to it, same with the rigors of the training and the people he had been forced to rely on. There were the big bastards like that Krassus guy, a former miner from the look of him, probably coming from one of the gangs that had sold Liam into this new life. Then there were the more scrawny stuck ups like LaVeer or Thede, the first acted like he was hot stuff, like he'd be leading them all before to long, while the other was definitely a pencil pusher or something; more suited to the books than any fighting.

Like it or not, these were the new people in Liam's life, all of them being taken to some sort of outpost for assignment, whatever all that meant. Looking up at the nights sky, Liam saw a massive rock like thing in the sky, was that the ship, the 'hulk' as he'd heard some call it, that these Orks had come from? And if so, how did it stay in the sky?

Not that he got much chance to really think about how something like that was possible, an squeal of screeching tires coming out from ahead of the transport and seconds later Caul was thrown from the metal bench. Ears ringing and vision swimming, Liam shakingly got to his knees and stumbled to the back of the hauler and looked out in the dark. Someone roughly shoved him out of the hauler, sending Liam face first into the ground. It was a good thing too since a moment later gunfire tore into the hauler and killed whoever had pushed Liam, blood spraying down on him.

Screams got Liam to get on his feet, more gunfire making him look around in panic. This time it was coming from Krassus, firing wildly into the dark. The shooting from Krassus stopped, replaced by the gunfire from before, muzzle flare lighting up the dark and revealing a truly terrifying sight. The shooting was coming from a vehicle, similar to the hauler, but with a rigged together look. But that was not what made the thing truly scary, nor the gun itself, no it was the things inside the vehicle. Probably a dozen or so, bodies piled on with muscle and clutching all manner of swords, axes, cleavers, clubs, hand cannons, and rifles; these were the Orks and they were coming for Liam and the others.

Hearing the panic in the voices of the others, Liam turned towards the only possible source of protection he could think of and began to run for the outpost they were near. Surely the people there would be able to save them from these monsters. "God-Emperor save us, run!" Someone yelled, Liam realizing that the words had come from him.
 

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Caul, Robickai, Thede, Greiner, Krassus, LaVeer, and Keldor; You break into a desperate run with the others, some running in any direction that is away from whoever is shooting. For those of you that sprint towards the outpost you see the blocky pre-fabricated getting larger. However gunfire and screaming alerts you of danger from behind. If some of you look back, you will see hellish figures giving chase to you. Brutish creatures, hunched over as they run after you, with slabs of muscle cover their arms and upper bodies and firing wildly with all manner of gun.

At their fore is massive creature, easily two heads taller than the rest and wielding a two handed weapon that might as well be a cavern support beam. Without breaking stride it swings its weapon low, catching one of the squad in the back of the legs and throwing him up into the air and over its shoulder. A random gunshot hits another of the men you are running with in the back, making him stumble and fall only to be set upon by the creatures.

"Come on you gits, run 'em down!" A hoarse voice booms, coming from the lead monster.

Hearing these words, you dig deep and find the strength to run even faster, closing the gap with the outpost walls. Shouting for anyone within to come to your aid, you do not question why the gates are open and no one is responding. Crossing the thresh hold, some of you turn to the outpost gates, desperate to get them closed before the monsters get in.

[Run for all your worth! When you get to the outpost are you one of the squad that close the gate? In the process another of your number is killed, head blown off and showering the rest of you in brain and bone. If you are not, looking around you see no one else here, only the fourteen troopers that survived. You hear noise from the main building, are you amongst those who go investigate or do you stay here to catch your breath?]


Tobias and Elias; Jumping into the darkness your senses are assaulted by the wind as you begin to fall. Others are all around you and you see the ship plummet in the corner of your vision, one wing on fire. The peace of freefall is cut short mere moments later as a torrent of gunfire rips into the air, shredding another of the squad. The ugly shape of the Ork aircraft dives past the rest of you, a wing catching another of the group and sending his lifeless body spinning to the ground below.

The vessel banks sharply, guns firing even before coming anywhere near the rest of you. Trooper Vaarn scrambles to aim his lasgun, but high calibre rounds punch through his armour before he gets a chance.

[Follow Vaarns example, this thing is not letting you lot escape if its pilot can help it! As you attempt to hit the pilot, trooper Dillon manages to aim the underslung grenade launcher of his own lasgun and hit the cockpit directly. Sadly the Ork fighter smashes into him, and peppers the rest of you in metal fragments and glass.

As the ground gets closer, the last of you activate your chutes, making a rough landing within the walls of a seemingly deserted outpost. Trooper Jaques hits the ground in a heap, a fragment piercing his gut. The two of you need to get him to the main building and find medical supplies to help him!]



Theodoricus; Sprinting after the Orks and humans, your anger only further compounds as you close the gap with the wrecked vehicles but their occupants have fled to a nearby outpost with the greenskins hot on their heels. That is, all but a pair of Orks trying to get their trukk moving; it would appear someone had damaged the engine with a lucky grenade or gunshot.

"Come on, fix 'dis piece a scrap!" One of the two growled, kicking the engine as he did.

[Dispatch these two as you see fit.]

As you continue in the direction of the outpost your autosenses warn you of danger from above. Rolling to the side, you barely dodge a flaming metal wreck crashing into the ground. Looking over the sight, its clear this was an Ork jet, the pilot somehow alive, though pinned within its cockpit.

[Kill this one or ignore it, the 'choice' is yours; whatever you do though, the jet will explode a minute after you leave it behind.]
 

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Private Jakon LaVeer sat in the back of the second hauler, the latest of many insults to his name he had suffered in recent weeks. The fact that he had been forced through a month of basic training again with the raw recruits was worse. He should have been leading this sorry group by now yet not so much as a field promotion to Corporal had shown itself.

His stomach turned. Whether it was due to the bumping and lurching of the old hauler or the prospect of what was to come wasn't clear. Either way, he needed to take his mind off it. Reaching inside his flak vest he removed a soft cloth, now permanently damp with years worth of polish and started applying it to the dull casing of the lascarbine on his lap.

"You think the Orks are gonna be impressed by your shiny gun kid?" a gruff voice asked from ahead of him.

Jakon looked up from his anxious polishing. The man ahead of him was one of the recruits whose name he hadn't bothered to learn. A miner certainly. The man was certainly no older than Jakon, if anything a year or two younger he expected. The soldier had a thick beard and an ugly scar down the left side of his face that made him appear older than the clean shaven Jakon and he knew it. Jakon ignored him. He knew his type. Thugs who joined the PDF for now greater reason than the desire to fight and kill. Idiots who believed they would be the one to kill every one of the Emperor's enemies with nothing more than a lasgun and their bare hands if they had to. They'd have gone out into battle without a days training given the choice and if it got them fighting sooner. Keep the fight from them and soon they'd look for it elsewhere, turning on their own side given the opportunity. One of two things would happen to this guy. He'd be dead within a month, or he'd survive long enough to see Jakon promoted and spend the rest of his days polishing his boots.

Jakon couldn't help letting a wry smile tug at the edge of his lips as he went back to his weapon.

"I say something funny boy?" the thug grunted, leaning forward in his seat to put his ugly face and rancid breath as close to his intended victim as he could.

In truth he had. Orks. The whole idea was crazy. Orks were from the legends of the distant past or the ghost stories from soldiers in the outer reaches. They weren't here on Prolial. This was surely just an elaborate ruse by some particularly cunning pirates. Right?

Satisfied with the newly polished state of his firearm, Jakon continued to ignore the thug in front of him. He tucked the cloth away into his flak vest, bowed his head, made the sign of the Aquila across his chest and quietly began to pray.

Barely had ten words escaped his lips when there was a ferocious boom from up ahead. A second later the haulers collided. Jakon was lucky enough to get his arm up in time to cover his head and stop it bouncing off the solid sides of the hauler. The thug was less lucky and their was a sickly wet crack as his head hit the side, sprayed blood and left him crumpled in an awkward heap.

"Oh Throne." Jakon muttered. He quickly removed his restraints and recovered his helmet from where it had been thrown in the crash before making his way out of the vehicle, clambering over the bodies of the dead to make his escape. His feet hit the ground outside and found himself in a world of chaos. Guardsmen were running left and right. Others stood dumbstruck at the situation unfolding around them. Some fired blindly into the distance. Jakon stood rooted to the spot until another trooper beside him was suddenly thrown from his feet. Only then did Jakon's survival instinct kick in and he threw himself to the ground and crawled back to the edge of the hauler, clinging to it like a frightened child. Where the trooper had been moments before was now little more then a pile of badly butchered meat.

I'm going to die. I'm going todie. I'm goingtodie. Imgoingtodie.

RUN.

The thought struck him like a thunderbolt and pushed away everything else. With a burst of alertness his noticed the majority of the surviving soldiers were running together for the outpost. Jakon scrambled to his feet and set off after them as fast as his legs would carry him. In those moments he would later be thankful for his diligent conditioning routine as he caught up to the pack and pulled ahead of several others who were already flagging under the strain.

There were screams and the sounds of gunfire behind them. Jakon ignored them. To look back was to break his stride. To break stride was to die. Though his lungs burned and his legs throbbed with lactic acid he pushed on, never turning to face whatever horror pursued them.

The outpost loomed up ahead. Survival, just paces away now. Jakon was one of the first to cross the threshold and immediately stopped, turned and heaved the door with all his might. More troopers shot past through the ever narrowing opening. Some kept going further into the outpost, further from the nightmare. Others stopped to help him. One man turned only for his head to explode and his body to crumple to the floor. It got in the way so Jakon desperately kicked it away as he kept pushing.

Voices from outside screamed for them to wait. Jakon would not. They were already dead. He was alive and he would stay that way.
 

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As Tobias was scanning the sky, a large flame burst into existence. Even in the darkness, he could see the outline of the aircraft begin to dive like a bird shot in the chest mid-flight. It was the Valkyrie he had just been on, seconds ago.

With his eyes having a few moments to adjust, he could see his squad members beneath him now. There was a moment of serenity with free falling through the air. After all, the violence was up there. It might be up there in the planes, and down beneath them on the ground, but right here, in between it all, everything was okay. Sometimes there was flakk coming up at the from the ground, but there wasn’t any of that, this time.

Any sense of tranquility amongst the chaos was defiled by one of his brothers-in-arms exploding into a red mist again. Another Ork plane drove through them, firing its gun all the while, slicing a man in half with its left wing and sending his two halves spiralling toward the ground below.

The first thought Tobias had at seeing this, was wondering if the man was still alive as his legs spun in the air beside him.

A hammer may as well have struck his heart, as he asked himself, ‘Where is Elias?

‘Shit!’ This was real, he thought, he needed to react to something. He couldn’t just remain at the mercy of the universe like this.

Credit to him, Vaarn acted first as the aircraft again opened fire into the air around them, by firing off his lasgun into the chassis. He had no effect, and was subsequently struck by large calibre rounds in turn, but, he had been the first one to do something. Tobias had always been better than Vaarn, but Vaarn had acted first.

More las fire lit up the air as the rest followed the example. Tobias too, gripped his weapon, whipping it around to point in front of him and let loose the best he could at the fast moving target. Dillon, praise Dillon, was the smartest one of them in that moment. He was the greatest of them in that moment, firing his grenade launcher. It was perfect shot, lobbed straight into the Ork pilot, crashing into the glass with a spout of flame erupting outward. It was a shot to be recognized but one that never would, as Dillon died immediately after, and the chances of the any of them returning home looked more miserable than they ever had in Tobias’s life.

Had he always been better than Dillon, too? He wondered. Dillon had been there from the very beginning, so, who’s to say? He thought.

The moment of crisis passed. He peeked downward to see the ground coming up fast, and slammed his chute release. They were never meant to float in on their chutes for more than a couple seconds or so. He hit the ground in a roll, the same roll he had performed a thousand times and perfected. It was automatic for him to hit the ground this way. He saw Elias come out of the same roll in his peripheral. His boots were now on the ground. A sensation after free fall that could never be ignored, even in these circumstances.

Jacques, the only other one of them left, definitely did not hit the ground in a roll. It looked as if he attempted to, despite his wounds, almost laughably so. It was still commendable, at any rate. Jaques' knee hit the ground and his body tucked, but he fell hard onto Prolial Prime, sliding quite a bit in the process.

Tobias didn’t stand, but raised up into a controlled crouch, shouldering his lasgun proper. He would be the eyes while Elias ran to Jaques. This was assumed between the both of them. Sure enough, Elias did just that. It was only then that Tobias realized his boots had hit Ferrocrete instead of rocky soil, and there were actually walls around them.

‘Heh...wow.’ he muttered, in disbelief.

‘All clear, from what I can tell, Elias.’

His brother was already applying pressure to a wound on Jaques.

‘Find us a way out,' He hissed, half-a-cry and half-a-whisper. 'Keep your eyes open, Tobias.'

He looked straight up into the sky, just to make sure there was no flaming wreckage or anything else he might be able to see falling down on them. There appeared to be nothing, but as he looked up he saw them again. His comrades, their names, and their deaths, and they sunk into him.

Elyas had been their Sergeant for ages. Even the newest members had been with them for about a year now. He had been on so many missions with them, so many worlds….they were all Elysian, they were all part of his home. They had been glorious.

And they all died, so helpless. So, pathetic.

He felt a fury rise in him. Incalescence flooded his head. A fever of pain and anger coming to the fore.

‘That was despicable.’ he said aloud.

‘What was despicable?’ asked Elias.

Elias’s posture wasn’t right. It wasn’t off too much but a trained eye could tell. It was not nearly as professional as it usually would be.

‘Their deaths. Except Dillon, Dillon’s was okay.’

Throne of Terra,' Elias spat back. 'This isn't the time to get sentimental.'

‘Screw sentiments.’ He said, angry. ‘Are you kidding me Elias?! Are you fugging kidding me? What was all that?’

Elias was lifting Jaques up now, but holding him in his arms rather than hauling him over the shoulder, since the main wound was apparently in his gut.

‘In a decade of military service, we’ve never lost more than one of our squad at a time, and that’s been far and few between. What the fug just happened?’

‘Men died, friends died,' Elias shot back. 'What can we do? Stand around, dejected and wet-eyed, and wait for the Greenskins? No, we live. We live, and we fight, and we mourn them later - As soldiers and as brothers.'

There was a heavy pause, and in it, a stench struck his nostrils. The air was rich with smoke. There were gunshots not far off, not far off at all. More fires, on the ground, this time. Shouting.

‘Any one of them could have been you.’ he said, lasgun down and held in one hand, like a child holding a toy.

Another pause. Some of Elias's gear clanked together as he took a few steps forward with Jaques.

‘And any one of them could have been you,' Elias's voice was softer, now. 'But we made it. We are Lengens, Tobias, we always make it.'

Tobias Looked at the side of his lasgun, held out in front of him, reading the text painted on it: T. Lengen

‘Damn right we are.’ He said. His professional demeanor returned to him, but he looked over his shoulder before scouting ahead.

‘Don’t you ever die like they did.’ he said.

'I'm going to die, old and withered, with a pair of women in my arms,' Elias grinned. 'Who'd tie your bootlaces were I gone?'

‘That sounds like a good plan, so long as one of those women isn’t that pistol of yours.’ He teased. It would likely earn him a punch later, but it was always worth it.

With that, he called out to the bleeding, unfortunate slump of a soldier.

‘Come on, Jaques! Time to prove that you’re almost as good as a Lengen.’

And with that, they made their move to the main building ahead.
 

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Liam's lungs felt like they were on fire and his legs threatened to give out on him at any moment. The only thing that prevented him from hitting the dirt face first or slowing down were the screams of his squad mates dying and their pursuers laughter. The outpost loomed ever closer, the walls a good ten or fifteen feet high and looking like they had been drawn up from deep below the ground.

He knew he shouldn't look back, that it would be a mistake that could cost him his life, but Liam glanced back anyway and immediately regretted doing so. They were huge, maybe six and a half feet tall and just as wide, all muscle, and wielding all sorts of things that could be used to kill. Their leader was even larger than the rest, eight feet tall and the source of the laughing as it slammed a giant slab of wood into a trooper and tossed the man over its shoulder like the act was nothing. God-Emperor save them all, these were the Orks and there was no way they could stand a chance!

"Come on you gits, run 'em down!" The giant Ork boomed, its voice harsh and hoarse but easily carrying over the noise of the 'smaller' aliens.

Already some of the group had gotten into the outpost, quickly turning to get the gate doors closed. That was it, they'd all be able to keep these Orks out if the doors were at least partway closed when they got through. But the doors didn't slow or stop closing despite everyone not being behind them, and that was when Liam realized they would not be stopping; they were going to lock him and the few others outside!

"Wait damn you, we're still out here!" Liam yelled, digging deep and running faster while the doors kept closing. He wasn't going to make it! He was going to be left to die!

Finally Liams legs gave out and he screwed his eyes shut, waiting for the Orks to kill him. After a second Liam heard the banging of fists on plascrete, opening his eyes he realized that he was in the outpost.

"You fugging bastards!" He snarled, jumping up and scrabbling to get the lascarbine slung to his back in his hands. As he did so though, he heard noise coming from the main building; anger warred with fear for a moment, quashing thoughts of being scared with the thought of exacting some sort of revenge on whatever the source of the noise might be.

"Somethings in the building there, come on!" Liam called out, running over to the building.
 

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He was hurtling towards the ground at maximum velocity. It was not a bad jump, all in all, he would admit later - It was controlled, legs together, hands pressed into his hips. Blood was running from his visor, leaving greasy trails on the glass. Three of his friends were dead, pulped by mass-reactive rounds, and that weighed heavily on his heart. How many friends had Elias lost, over the years? Too many - Some good men, some bad. All had been his companions, and all had died frightfully. On Castor, Vaskaar had been pinned down by a crowd of madmen, and stripped of his flesh with pieces of glass. Elias had found him, a thing of tendons and bared muscle, still rasping breath. Elias had given him the Emperor's Mercy - A burden he still carried with him.

There was a counter ticking down in his peripheral. He was hurtling towards the ground at maximum velocity, and around him were his squad - Falling like stars. He uttered a prayer to the God-Emperor - 'Oh Throne, let Tobias live,' - But the words were snatched by the wind, and to his horror, gunfire. One of the squad came apart in wet, red rags.

A cruel shape hurtled past. Malignant, hooked and barbed and daubed in crude symbols. It reminded Elias of a falcon - An apex predator, swift and deadly. The irony didn't go unnoticed - The fighter was the falcon, and Elias was the pigeon. Another of the Elysians was struck by a serrated wing, cut in two, but continued to fall - Halves pirouetting around one another.

Oh fug.

Las-fire began to stitch the air. Everything became a dizzying whirl - Of death and destruction. Elias was firing, pitifully, still falling - Though now he began to spin, to topple, the world and the sky twisting together into a colourless, smothering blur. The enemy jet became the least of his worries, and Elias did the unthinkable. He stopped firing, let his las-gun hang loose in the straps, and righted himself.

There was an explosion. Wreckage hammered into Elias, glass and metal. He cursed, clenched his teeth together, and yanked his chute open. His fall became arrested, he bobbed in the air, before - Twenty seconds later - His boots crunched into stone. He rolled, las-rifle held in one hand, the other undoing his straps and came up into a crouch - Cheek pressed into the stock of his rifle, eyes darting into the shadows. It was excellently done - Elias prided himself with his landings. It wasn't his first combat drop, it wouldn't be his last, but it was one of the bloodiest. His squad, the men he had fought and lived besides, were gone. Relief flooded him, however, when he saw Tobias moving ahead of him.

To his right, Jaques hit the ground with a wet smack. Elias was bounding towards him almost instinctively, concern twisting his features.

A shard of metal had affixed Jaques stomach. Onto his knees Elias went, hands clamping the wound. Spools of intestines slipped beneath his palms.

'All clear from what I can tell, Elias,' Called his brother.

'Find us a way out,' He shouted back, urgently. 'Keep your eyes open, Tobias.'

Elias was spraying gauze onto Jaques stomach. The Elysian screeched, though it was cut off - A bloody glove sealing his lips.

'Quiet,' Elias whispered into his ear. 'Fugging Hell, shut up.'

'That was despicable,' He heard Tobias mutter.

'What was despicable?'

'Their deaths,' Came the tart response. 'Except Dillon, Dillon's was okay.'

Cold rage seethed inside Elias's chest. Beneath his hands, Jaques was trembling.

'Throne of Terra,' He bit his lip. Despite all the love Elias held for his brother, he also knew the annoyance of his company. 'This isn't the time to get sentimental.'

Elias slipped his arms beneath Jaques and lifted him. He was cradling the wounded soldier like a child.

‘Screw sentiments.’ Tobias spat back, anger mangling his words. ‘Are you kidding me Elias?! Are you fugging kidding me? What was all that? In a decade of military service, we’ve never lost more than one of our squad at a time, and that’s been far and few between. What the fug just happened?’

‘Men died, friends died,' Elias replied. 'What can we do? Stand around, dejected and wet-eyed, and wait for the Greenskins? No, we live. We live, and we fight, and we mourn them later - As soldiers and as brothers.'

Everything became quiet. The distant sound of weapons-fire filled the courtyard. It was accompanied with shouting, with screaming.

‘Any one of them could have been you,' Tobias said, his voice hushed. Elias felt a pang of guilt, moving closer.

‘And any one of them could have been you,' Elias softened his tone. 'But we made it. We are Lengens, Tobias, we always make it.'

'Damn right we are,' His brother said. He stalked off, hunched and feral - A wolf, a killer. 'Don't you ever die like they did.'

Oh, fug that, Elias thought. 'I'm going to die, old and withered, with a pair of women in my arms,' A grin crept across his lips. 'Who'd tie your bootlaces were I gone?'

‘That sounds like a good plan, so long as one of those women isn’t that pistol of yours.’ Tobias was heading the right way for a beating, now.

He was suddenly aware of the weight in his arms. His gloves, his stomach and legs were slick with blood. I must look like a butcher.

‘Come on, Jaques! Time to prove that you’re almost as good as a Lengen,' Tobias jeered.

Jaques stirred and groaned.

Don't die now, brother.
 

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The humans ran.

They ran like mindless prey animals bolting from the scent of a predator in wild panic. The greenskin swine, true to the base nature of the xenos breed, gave chase in exultation. The mere concept is anathema to me even as I watch it play out before my own eyes. I fight down the acidic sourness of bile that wells up from my gullet in response to what I witness.

I can smell their fear on the wind and feel a twinge of cold shame that they disgust me so. They are only human.

Two of the hunched xenos linger behind the pack, distracted and arguing over their damaged vehicle. Between one stride and the next I holster my pistol, this filth is not worth the precious holy rounds within the chamber.

The beasts are unaware that their lives are now measured in the span of my twin heartbeats.

I feel a roar break from my lips as I shed first blood upon the parched ground.

-

The ork kicked the trukk with a piggish grunt, drool quivering from the edge of his scarred lips as he snarled before shooting a glare up at his counterpart within the mismatched vehicle’s cab.

It was the last thing the xenos beast saw before nearly half a ton of enraged Templar smashed him into the bolted metal frame of the trukk with the sickly wet sound of snapping bone. The steel sheeting of the vehicle crumpled under the blow, caving inwards as green alien blood spattered over the crudely painted crimson sides.

‘You dare defile the pure tongue of Humanity?’

Theo’s words were a thick vox snarl as he wretched the ork from the impact crater, feeling the shattered bone of the xenos grate against each other as he spun the beast around to face him. The ork’s animal eyes rolled limply in its head, the foul green blood that flowed through its veins poured freely from its broken jaw and over split lips. A black clad gauntlet locking around its throat brought the beast’s attention back to the immediate present with a strangled gasp and Theo pulled the creature closer to his faceplate. The xenos pawed weakly at his grip for a moment before Theo flexed, his gauntlet snapping closed with the sharp crack of a spinal column shattering.

The young Templar dropped the body as it went into spasm, eye lenses the colour of pure blood tilted upwards to where the second xenos sat, mouth agape, behind the ramshackle steering wheel of the trukk. For a heartbeat the beast did not move, its porcine eyes wide, pinned in place by the violent end of its fellow.

With deliberate care, it reached out to the door at its side and Theo heard the low click of a locking mechanism engaging.

Behind the emotionless visage of his faceplate, Theo gave a snarl and crossed the short distance to the driver’s door. The ork inside squealed and backed away, fumbling around in the interior for what Theo assumed to be what amounted to a weapon for the bestial xenos.

It never got the chance to bring anything to bear as Theo simply punched his growling chainsword through the thin metal of the door and into its chest. The interior of the trukk was suddenly, and violently, painted green with the blood spraying from the churning teeth of the black chainblade. With a jerk and a screech of metal, Theo pulled the now wet blade from the mangled door. Loops of alien intestines slid from the rent like serpents to flop wetly upon the ground.

Theo was already turning away from the kill, his thoughts sour and anger a burning pain in his chest. He flicked his idling blade to the side, sending a spray of green flesh and blood across the ground. These beasts were wretched; their blood stank with fungal decay. Their very presence tainted this world in a way that would not be cleansed for decades to come. He stalked passed the crippled xenos’ vehicle, his lips curling back at the bitter scent of human fear and the sight of the broken human bodies that littered the ground.

They were so frail, so weak in body and will. No wonder the Emperor, in all his divine wisdom, conceived the primarchs and their gene-sons to lead humanity in conquering the galaxy.

His gaze continued onwards, towards the dark edifice in the distance, and the fleeing forms that were tailed by the lumbering silhouettes of the xenos pursuers. One stood out over the rest, a brute of a ork that roared to its lesser kin. Disgust was replaced by a cold fury, a smoldering furnace of rage at the xenos filth, and a blade’s frosty edge of duty. Theo’s left hand clenched into a fist as he broke into a lope, chainsword slowly purring in his right gauntlet as its teeth dripped greenskin blood with each stride.

The small outpost would endure the xenos’ attention for a short time, but there was nothing in the way of armaments upon the walls for the human soldiers to turn on the alien swine and the gates wouldn’t hold under the combined strength of the orks for long.

Suddenly, with a howl of dying engines, Theo’s attention was snatched away from the distant walls. Proximity warning runes lit up at the corners of his vision even as he threw himself into a diving roll. Threat icons blazed like embers as the ground shook under the impact of the craft that had fallen from the heavens above him.

Theo came up in a fighting crouch, his rage scalding that he had not detected the object sooner. His vision scrolled through filters to cut the plume of smoke and dust cast up by the wreck, and target locks blazed as the occupant of the mangled ork craft was finally revealed.

The ork pilot trashed against the twisted metal of his craft, the fact that the creature still lived was testament to the durability of the alien filth. Theo could see that it was hopelessly pinned in place, jagged metal plates torn from where they had been bolted and now embedded into the flesh of the ork. Theo glanced back towards the outpost and gave a low snarl, if the humans were to survive the next minutes they would need the orks’ attention elsewhere than the doors.

Theo gave a feral smile behind his emotionless helm as he turned to the burning wreck and the ork trapped inside, his chainsword coming to snarling life in his grip.

I will give these beasts something they understand.

-

It only took a moment to retrieve what he sought from the downed ork fighter as the flames licked at the spilled fuel, and Theo turned back to the humans he was sworn to protect with his lifeblood. His ground devouring lope slowed after a handful of paces, turning into a predatory stalk as he blinked his external vox to full volume and filled all three of his lungs.

Greenskin Filth!

His voice was a deep, snarling thunder across the desolate ground,

Run! Run you Coward. I expect a weakling like you would chase such puny trophies!’

With a massive heave, Theo flung the item he had taken from the downed ork plane with all his might towards the back of the largest of the orks.

Behind him, the flames finally overtook the xenos craft and it detonated in a brilliant ball of flame. Theo continued to stalk forwards, drawing his pistol from its tooled leather holster. His dark shadow was cast out before him, lit by the plume of flame at his back and as dark as a herald of death from the ancient texts of Old Terra.

With a growl of hatred, Theo broke into a run.

I am death incarnate.
 

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Robickai ran like... well, like there was a xenos horde hot on his heels. As he passed several of his platoon mates he sent a quick prayer of thanks to the Emperor for the willpower that had seen him keep up his cardio training. As the compound gates emerged through the smoke, Robickai saw that they were closing fast, with many of the platoon still on the wrong side of the gates when they closed all the way. He put on a final burst of speed, and shot through the gap just as the gates boomed closed.

He skidded to a stop, and paused for a moment to catch his breathe and look around. That snot-nosed LaVeer kid was leaning with his back to the gate, his chest heaving and his eyes large with fear. Where's all his parade ground cockiness now, wondered Robickai. He heard a barely coherent shout, something to do with the buildings, and turned to see the Caul kid charging off towards the command buildings, a few others trailing in his wake. It made sense to clear the buildings, but the priority should have been securing the walls and gates. Having got his breath back he turned back to the gates, intending to see if they could get any of their stranded comrades in through them before the Orks hit it. If LaVeer tried to stop him, well, too bad for him.

He only got two steps when a burning flyer came screaming out of the sky and impacted not far from the gates. The impact knocked most of the men off their feet. Robickai struggled back to his feet, the dull throbbing that had been present since the truck crash now a head-splitting blaze of pain. He raised a hand to his ear, and was not surprised to see it come away bloody. He shook his head, trying to shake away the pain, and returned his attention to the gates. Just as he reached them a human voice boomed out beyond the gates, augmented with some sort of speaker system.

"Greenskin Filth!"

Robickai ran for the stairs beside the gatehouse, making the rampart just as the voice boomed again.

"Run! Run you Coward. I expect a weakling like you would chase such puny trophies!"

Robickai saw the small horde of greenskins, backlit by the burning wreckage of the flyer, turn at the roar, and something large flew out of the smoke and flames, striking one of them between the shoulders, knocking him to the ground. Robickai recognised what it for what it was, and ducked behind the rampart, shouting "Bomb!" to those that had come up behind him. When there was no immediate detonation, he raised his head to view the scene again, just as the flyer wreckage detonated. In the flash of the explosion, another horror emerged from the smoke, silhouetted against the flaming wreck. Humanoid in shape, of proportions distinctly unnatural and unsettling to the human eye, but moving with a speed and grace that something that bulky had no right to, it hit the confused orks with an audible crash, and the butchery that ensued was truly astounding.

As this was happening, it finally sunk into Robickai's brain why this new monster was so familiar to him. It was of a shape that every Imperial citizen instinctively recognised, as statues of creatures just like this one looked down on them from temples and civil buildings all across the planet. Robickai had always thought that the statues were exaggerations of the real thing, as all depictions of Imperial saints and heroes tended to be. But no, the evidence was only yards from him, killing with a ferocity and brutality up until now he would have found unimaginable. "Astartes," he mumbled to himself. "Dorn's balls, that thing is on our side?"

The shouting from the men around him, who only took a second more than him to realise what they were seeing, became a din. "Space Marines! We're safe, the Space Marines are here!"

Robickai looked at the battle again, still mesmerised by the methodical butchery, but he noticed that no other Astartes emerged from the smoke in support of their brother, and despite his speed and skill, this lone warrior could very well be swamped by sheer weight of numbers. "Help him!", he roared over the din of battle as he raised his rifle and started firing into the green rabble, fairly sure the Astartes battle plate would prove effective against any stray shots he took. The men around him followed his lead, and volleys of las fire started having an effect on the greenskins, if only by splitting their attention between the compound and the lone Astartes.
 

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“I am not going to die!” I hissed to myself as my feet tore the dirt under my feet. Fear and rage mingled in my mind, the heady cocktail of hormones and adrenaline making the world tick over in slow motion. I saw a member of the squad stumble and fall but I dared not look back. To look back would be to falter and die. I ran in the centre of the pack, putting as many ablative bodies between me and wherever these creatures might appear from next. Oh Throne of Terra I would swear I could feel their breath on my neck.

A hoarse voice boomed behind me, spurring it’s fellows to run us down, but it didn’t matter. All I saw, all I focused on was the rapidly growing shape in the distance. The outpost was not far and even if my legs gave out on the other side at least it would be in relative safety. My heart pumped furiously and my muscles burned from lactic acid building up in them, but the pain would be nothing compared to death and only spurred me on. I would not die out here. Not to these monsters and not on land. I always believed the sea would claim me.

I was one of the first few through the threshold and I immediately spun on my heels and began to close the gate. No gunfire strafed out from the fort to thin the hoard chasing us and I couldn’t hear the voices of reinforcements, just the panicked grunts of our unit. Those of us that survived were almost all through, but I and a few others were closing the doors as fast as we could. The xenos monsters were too close to wait. The last of our group was almost through the door when he exploded, his viscera and brain-matter spraying through doorway just as we closed it. I heard his corpse slump against the door. I could taste blood in my mouth and I wasn’t sure if it was mine or the dead man’s.

I stood in the courtyard for a moment and tried to catch my breath. I was panting heavily, slowly checking over my las-carbine to make sure it still worked. There were only just over a dozen of us left by my count but we were alive. Holy Emperor, only 14 of us made it? What if they came back in more numbers and tried to storm the outpost? And where the hell was everyone else? This outpost was supposed to be garrisoned, but they were the only ones here. “Fucking hell…” I muttered, lacking anything else to say.

There was a noise from the main building. Perhaps the rest of the garrison hold up in there. Or perhaps a trap. I’m sure there should be more damage than this if the garrison was already dead. These brutes didn’t strike me as particularly gifted in guile. A man, Liam I think he was called, shouted about investigating the building whilst another. I stood in the middle of the courtyard, but trained my lascarbine on the entrance. If there was going to be an ambush I wanted enough distance between me and whatever came out of there to at least get some shots off. I would not die with a full clip.

My breaths were still ragged at the men approached the building entrance. Suddenly an inhuman voice called out. It sounded like the wrath of the ocean at the height of a storm. It called out the xenos, called them coward. It's words were undoubtedly a challenge and the end of my lascarbine trembled to hear such ferocity. A sickly orange light bathed the outward facing surfaces and there was the smell of scorched metal in the air. The men were still advancing on the main building. Holy Terra, this might be the end of all things. I locked my arms to steady my lascarbine and steeled myself for whatever might emerge from that door...
 

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Ah....Fuck....

Dom ran as fast as he could, he heard the resounding bangs of frags, he only remembered tossing one so one of the other men from the detachment must have tossed some more. The ground was solid under his feet, he was thankful that it was not tunnel lurker breeding season, the last thing he needed was to get mauled by those recently hatched little ankle biters. He kept his pace and slung the Heavy Stubber onto his back to get some balance while he ran. The outpost walls getting closer as his boots thudded the ground, other frantic men running with him.

It wasn't very long from leaving his position that he heard the deep roar of one of those....ork things shouting at its comrades.

"Come on you gits, run 'em down!" The big one said, he assumed it was big, it sounded different and he didn't want to waste energy looking back. It confused him greatly that he understood what it said though.

"What the fuggin' hell!? They speak Gothic?" It was low gothic to be exact and very broken, like a misused tool. The men near him didn't seem to care about his astute observation, survival being the primary goal at the moment.

His legs burned as he pushed himself further, it had been a while since he had a run this rigorous, the only reason he was as fit as he was despite his beer-gut was mandatory exercise in the force and his friend's incessant nagging. He had to push through it, and maybe get that runner's high they always talk about, either that or drop and be trampled...or worse. He saw the gates and noticed they were starting to close, but he would undoubtedly make it at this rate. As he was about to run through, he saw one of the nameless bastards near him trip, but instead of letting him fall like some heartless bastard, he grabbed him by the back of his flimsy flakk vest and heaved him forward just enough to get through the gate. The man scrabbled to his feet, and ran somewhere else.

Krassus stopped once he was through, and heard the clank of the gates shutting and the curses of that scrawny one, he looked like one of the unfortunate residents of the deep mines, he wondered how they dealt with the Tunnel Lurkers down there. After entertaining that tangent of thought he got to the task at hand and grabbed his Stubber and cocked it ready to let loose if the gate should fall. Just as he did so he heard some booming voice, it sounded barely human but distinct from the rabble of the Xenos. He wondered if it could possibly be something worse than these giant green things.

"Fug it all....What now?" He said to himself as he hefted the gun, he had no faith in any of the propaganda that he had heard all his life, let alone the crap the said in training that he mumbled along with to stroke the drill sergeants little ego. Whatever came next, the only thing he had faith in right now was the heavy gun in his arms, and the memories hung on his neck.
 

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For but a moment, Zachariah stood where he was, doubting his next step. His shout had alarmed the few who had still been stumbling around dazed. Some of the others had started shooting at the oncoming enemy, unleashing the deafening clamour of heavier weaponry than Zach was carrying. Though had the lascarbine not been strapped securely to his body, he'd probably already lost it during the crash. Then someone hit him, and immedeately Zach decided that running would be the best course of action.An adrenaline-fuelled sprint ensued. Zach was glad he had already started exercising before training began. Back then, he had felt a sense of pride during his morning run. People looking admirably at him as he ran by. He himself greeting even strangers, as if he already had been a war-hero. At this moment however, he wasn't sure if the faces of those people had expressed admiration, or pity. It wasn't long before fatigue set in, and Zach was sucking in air through his face as if he wanted to have breathed the entire Prolial atmosphere before his death. However, each step brought him closer to the outpost, and closer to relative safety. This is what kept him going, fear of death being a powerful motivator.
Others ran past him, some with superhuman speed, he thought. Still, Zach made it into the outpost before the gate had closed. He was pale, and as soon as he noticed he had stopped running, his legs gave out beneath him. He toppled forward, and set there a while on his hands and knees. He didn't notice much of what was going on around him, as his vision was blurred, and sometimes the horrifying images of the things he had witnessed shot through his mind. He did not speak, for he felt that any attempt to do so would cause him to barf. To his amazement, he didn't, and was back on his feet relatively soon. Someone shouted that there was something in the main building. Had the outpost then already been overrun? He didn't notice any bodies lying around, or other signs of recent struggle (or I missed something). As others were already atop the walls, keeping the xenos from coming in, it would probably be safest to join the team going inside. Perhaps there were survivors, or perhaps he could already do a quick inventory of the place.
 
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