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Posted: Jul 30 2009, 03:41 AM
Member No.: 256
Joined: 30-July 09
I wrote this over at the SWC for our fiction section there. I hope you enjoy.
Faint sunlight filtered down to the forest floor. Silent figures moved through the dappled light. The sheer bulk of the men belied the stealth of their motions. Blue armor and camouflage cloaks adorned the five scouts probing for the green menace. At their head was veteran scout sergeant Telion. A participant in countless campaigns on hundreds of worlds, he had long ago eschewed the glory of the First Company in the knowledge that his skills were better utilized mentoring the scouts of the Tenth. If he had taken the promotions offered him, he might well be leading the company that he and his scouts were attached to on this particular mission. Raising his hand, Telion called a halt just shy of a ridge line that they had been skirting for several kilometers. There was no need to subvocalize a command. Automatically, each of the scouts under him moved into the foliage to form a defensive perimeter. Telion waved for Varro, his designated sniper, to follow him towards the crest of the ridge. Traveling the final few feet on their stomachs, the two marines peered over into the valley floor below them.
A once verdant jungle had been ripped apart. Bare earth and scorched tree boles were all that remained of trees centuries old. A breeze carried the smell of ash and dirt. More importantly it brought the smell of promethium, blood, and the peculiar musky smell of Orks. Peering through the scope of his rifle, Varro stiffened. “I’ve got the Warboss sighted Sergeant.", he whispered. "Don't be too hasty lad.", Telion cautioned, “While it would win you notice, the mission must come first. Captain Galenus wants to wipe out the whole mob. We mustn’t jeopardize that. Now be a good lad and pass me that rifle. I'd like to have a look myself." Looking through the optics of the scope, Telion had to admit the scout had a good eye. The Warboss was a good 1500 meters from their present position. Of course, being the largest and most belligerent of the assembled greenskins did tend to set him apart.
Grunting to himself, Telion handed back the rifle to Varro and moved back towards the others, knowing that Varro would be on his heels. He reached the others in short order and mustered them around him. "Well lads, we've accomplished the first part of the mission. We've located the swine. Now we must return the information to the rest of the company. I'm sure Captain Galenus will be interested in what we've found on our little jaunt!" Soft chuckles sounded at his last comment. One corner of Telion's mouth turned upward in the slightest hint of a smile, but was hidden by his snowy beard. "Right then, back to the bikes! Wouldn't want Brother Ixion to die from boredom now would we?" The scouts quickly formed a patrol formation and moved off towards their waiting scout bikes, impatient to deliver the information gained.
In the clearing where the Fifth Company had made their forward base, heads turned at the sound of approaching engines. Some younger brothers reached for their bolters only to be assured by squad sergeants that these were the returning scouts. Captain Cato Galenus strode from the prefab shelter that he used as his command post. It was a welcome respite from the constant communiqués sent by the planetary governor requesting updates on the progress of the mission. Lord Governor Jarek Cor'bac had been under pressure to end the greenskin menace for several months now. He had managed to portray to the public that it was his influence that had brought the Angels of Death to Garbask VI, when it had actually been at the behest of Chief Librarian Tigurius. Cor'bac was now convinced that his continued political survival was dependant on the quick elimination of the orks. Galenus strode across the clearing and met the scouts as the pulled up on their bikes. "Well met Brother Sergeant.", Galenus greeted Telion and grasped wrists with the grizzled veteran. "Well met Captain.", Telion returned. "We located the main camp of the swine, sir. It's located in a valley approximately 90 kilometers from here. It appears we've arrived in time, sir. I'd estimate the their vanguard to number no more than a few thousand, supported by some of their ramshackle vehicles." Galenus nodded thoughtfully at the information. If the orks had been too numerous in numbers, he might have had to call down an orbital strike from the Valorus Est, the Fifth's strike cruiser currently at high anchor over the planet.
As the Captain conferred with the scouts, two figures approached. Each was easily recognizable from the rest of the company for very different reasons. The first, while dwarfed by his companion, could never be considered diminutive. His black armour plate seemed to absorb the light. The only two splashes of color on his armour were the blue of his left shoulder guard denoting him as a member of the Ultramarines and the bone white of his death's head helmet. Brother Helixan had been the Fifth's chaplain for over 300 years, but still moved with the vigour of a new initiate. His companion towered over the rest of the assembled marines. Brother Titus had been interred in his dreadnaught sarcophagus 800 years ago, after being grievously wounded by a Word Bearer's champion. He had sent that traitor back to the warp, but not before being dealt a mortal blow. His deeds had merited interment into a hulking Dreadnaught. The pair joined the group just as Telion was finishing his report. "I trust we will soon join battle, Captain?" Helixan asked as they strode up. "Indeed we will, Helixan." Galenus replied, "Please gather the company and see to the rites of battle." Titus' voice emerged as a low rumble through the speaker grill of his sarcophagus,"About time. Now that I'm awake, I'd like to squash something besides bugs in this infernal jungle!"
Looking over to where the Thunderhawks and speeders were assembled, Galenus nodded, "Not long now brother, not long."
Standing aboard the bridge of the Valorus Est, Brother Sergeant Mannus dwarfed the various chapter serfs and servitors that surrounded him. "You can be sure that Squad Mannus stands ready to do its part Captain.", he spoke into the vox. The Captain's reply sounded tinny as it came from the grill of the vox, " I've never had any doubt of that, old friend. Why did you think I specifically asked Captain Agemman for your squad?" Mannus' normally dour face creased in a grin. "Perhaps because the good Captain took pity and knew you would need the best squad in the First Company. We await your signal sir.", he replied. Turning to one of the bridge crew, he summoned the man over. "Have my squad assembled. Inform them of the Captain's orders, brother.", He ordered. "At once brother.", the Marine replied. Mannus noted the disappointment in the young Marines eyes as he turned once more towards the viewports. It must be hard for him to stand watch aboard the ship knowing his company is about to go to battle without him. Mannus mused. Still, the lad needed to understand how a ship of the chapter functioned and temporary secondment to the Astartes captain of a cruiser or barge was an accepted way of obtaining that knowledge. It wasn't easy for me either, but then Captain Fabian had never bothered to ask my opinion either, Mannus thought, remembering his time as a new initiate in the Third Company. That had been centuries ago, before his promotion to the chapter's veteran company. Shaking his head to clear it of his revelries, Mannus strode out of the bridge and headed to join his squad.
Miles below, Captain Galenus hung his vox caster back on his belt. Sergeant Mannus was a consummate professional, and a close friend. The two of them had been squad mates in the Third Company all those many years ago. Both had been promoted to the rank of sergeant within their first fifty years of service to the chapter. While there was always a good natured rivalry between them over whose squad was best, they had remained fast friends. Mannus had gone on to be elevated to the First Company, while Galenus had been seconded to the Fifth Company to help provide veteran leadership after the company had suffered grievous losses battling a Tyrinid splinter fleet near the fringes of Ultramar. Galenus walked back into the rear of the Thunderhawk as it sped towards the location provided by the scouts. Every brother sat immobile in his cage seat. Weapons were locked above heads that were bowed in last minute prayers to the God Emperor and the Primarch. At the rearmost of the compartment stood brother Titus, patiently waiting to disembark the craft from the rear hatch upon landing. Three other Thunderhawks flew in loose formation as they skimmed along at tree top level. The Landspeeders were trailing behind, crews ready and weapons already primed for war. "Thirty seconds, sir.", the pilot reported. Galenus placed his helmet onto his head and heard the hiss of pressurization as the neck collar locked in place. There was no need for rousing words to his men. No fine words to boost confidence and gird them against the coming battle. They were Astartes. Space Marines. Angels of Death. That was enough. Stepping towards the ramp, Galenus braced himself for landing as he drew his powersword. The weight and heft of it was as familiar as an old friend or lover. Galenus absorbed the jarring impact of landing and slammed his fist on the activation rune beside the hatch. Emerging from the Thunderhawk, he was assailed by a thunderous roar.
Dirt fountained around Galenus as slugga rounds chewed the ground around him. He was instantly met by two huge greenskins wielding evil looking axes. Blocking the swing of one choppa blade intended to remove his head from his shoulders, he shot the second ork in the face. Blood fountained as the ork was hurled backward by the impact of the bolt round. Pivoting, Galenus swung his sword low, taking the first orks leg off at mid-thigh. The ork was so enraged that he didn't seem to register the missing limb until he tried to step forward. Instantly overbalanced, he landed on his face. A quick shot to the back of the skull silenced him as well and bought Galenus an instant's respite to gauge the developing battle. In the brief time it had taken him to dispatch the two orks, fully eight of his squads had deployed and were engaging the enemy. Galenus could hear the shriek of jets and knew that his two attack squads would soon be joining the fray as well.
A hulking shadow fell over him and before he could turn, he was smashed off of his feet by a thunderous blow. Rolling with the impact, Galenus came lightly up on his feet. Facing him was a huge ork wearing massive armour. What the greenskins called a Nob. Before he could act himself, several well placed bolter rounds reduced the Nob's head to a pulpy mess. Apothecary Polix stepped to his captain's side along with Veteran Sgt Natus and Brother Tercon, proudly bearing the company standard. Galenus didn't question the absence of Brother Tiberius. As the Fifth's company champion, he would be seeking out the orks' most formidable warriors to meet in single combat. With his command squad surrounding him, he began to direct his company in the fight. The two Devastator squads had already found positions on the high ground at the northern edge of the area cleared by the orks. This provided them an elevated position from which to rain down heavy fire in support of their brothers in the tactical squads. Squads Numanor, Commodus, Moran, and Kaspius were engaged with a large mob of greenskins, but were holding their own. Outnumbered ten to one, they stubbornly refused to give ground and the earth ran red with orkish vitae. Slowly the weight of numbers began to tell. Brother Canon was felled by a blow that split his armour from shoulder to groin. Brother Gareth slew his killer before falling himself, his head sheared from his body by a power klaw. The orks bayed as they began to force the marines back. Well placed shots from the Devastators felled orks by the dozen, but for every ork slain, three jumped forward to take his place.
At that moment a single black Thunderhawk streaked overhead, the personal craft of Chaplain Helixan. Eleven figures appeared from the Thunderhawk and rode plumes of flame and smoke to the ground. Helixan had been accompanied by Squad Vensus and they laid into the flank of the mob engaged with the beleaguered tactical squads. His voice amplified by the speakers of his helmet, Helixan roared at the orks, "You shall feel the fury of the Emperor's wrath today, swine! Know that this is your hour of reckoning!" Helixan advanced, his crozius rising and falling, wreaking havoc with every blow. Following behind, Squad Vensus was a whirling storm of death and destruction. Chainblades screamed as limbs and heads were separated from their owners. Bolt pistols barked, unable to miss in the teeming mass of the ork vanguard. Now the landspeeders screamed overhead firing autocannons and unleashing flights of missiles. Killa Kans exploded and immolated those orks unable to get far enough away in time. Gretchin howled as they looked frantically for any cover. There was none to be had and soon they joined their larger masters in whatever orkish afterlife they might believe in. The mob was soon in disarray, unable to escape in any direction save to the West.
It was then that Galenus brought down the hammer to crush the mob against the anvil of his squads. "Now Mannus!", he cried over the vox. Searing light threw stark shadows across the battlefield and heralded the arrival of Veteran Squad Mannus. The terminators opened fire with assault cannons and heavy flamers. Mannus' thunder hammer reaping a terrible toll on the enemy. The other tactical squads moved in support of the terminators and closed the only avenue of escape to the orks. In ten minutes of intense fire, the orks had been slaughtered completely. Marines moved among the bodies, dispatching any ork that had survived with a single bolter round to the head. A small knot of gretchin attempting to escape were reduced to ashes by the flamer of Brother Maxxon. Walking over to Galenus, Sergeant Mannus reached up and removed his helmet. His blue armour streaked red with ork blood. "I was beginning to think you didn't want us to join your party, Captain!", he chuckled as he clasped Galenus' gauntlet. "I'm beginning to wonder if we were even needed. Your men performed flawlessly today, Cato.", he said in a lower voice, glad to see his old friend. Before Galenus could respond, the earth began to tremble as if in the grips of an earthquake. A massive roar sounded from down the valley and both men turned to witness the most massive squiggoth either had ever seen charging toward the assembled marines, the howdah on his back bristling with orks. At their head stood a huge ork brandishing an equally huge power klaw. It could only be the Warboss.
Sergeant Mannus clamped his helmet back into place and hefted his thunder hammer, but not before grinning at Galenus. "It seems we only missed the first dance after all."
Small rocks began to tumble down the sides of the valley as the seismic shockwaves from the gargantuan beast heralded it's approach. The Devastators were the first to swing into action. Missiles leapt out of tubes and beams of coherent light lanced from lascannons. The impressive display of firepower seemed to have little effect. It seemed that fully half of the squiggoth's bulk was made up of the crude armour its ork masters had strapped to its massive frame. An equally crude howdah sat upon its back, resembling a small fortress. It bristled with weapons. The orks began to fire their own weapons. At first the marines thought that the orks had foolishly began to return fire though they were still far out of range with their crude shootas. Then it became apparent that they weren't aiming at the Ultramarines. They were merely giving vent to their love of battle and expressing it the only way they knew. Galenus's keen eyes easily picked out the previously missing warboss as he stood astride the squiggoth's massive shoulders, brandishing his power klaw and hefting a mammoth shoota. An equally impressive axe was strapped to his back. Galenus did not doubt that his company could bring down the xenos behemoth, but he also knew that in the end it must come down to a test of arms between himself and the ork's chieftain.
“Come on lads, it seems that the job’s not finished yet!”, Mannus voxed to his squad. Five terminators strode forward in a line abreast. Blue ceramite and adamantium gleamed in the sun. Massive weapons hung from their arms. Each was a hero of the chapter. Brother Naxus, who had served the chapter for three and a half centuries. Brother Capris with his assault cannon slung underneath his right arm. Brother Tharox lit the pilot of his heavy flamer in anticipation of the coming fight. As the five warriors stopped at the crest of a small hillock, Brother Kathion stepped forward. Bracing himself in anticipation, his cyclone missiles leapt off his back. Tendrils of smoke marked the passage of the missiles as they streaked across the valley towards the squiggoth. Chunks of armour and gobbets of alien meat flew in all directions as the warheads detonated. The squiggoth roared its hurt to the world and lowered its head as it rapidly closed the distance between itself and its tormentors. Shrugging off impacts that would have felled a marine in power armour, the terminators split into two groups in order to better flank the beast. Brother Kathion released the catches holding his spent missile launcher in place and activated his power fist. His storm bolter began to rake the howdah perched on the beast’s back. Orks began to tumble from the back of the monster as his shots found greenskin flesh. Capris added his own weight of fire to the opposite side. Capris took a heavy toll on the ork riders, but was unable to move in time as the squiggoth suddenly wheeled to its left. Mannus didn’t have time to give voice to his warning to Capris and the words died in his throat as the beast’s massive forelegs came crashing down on Capris. The rest of the squad had no time to mourn the loss of Capris as the beast continued its onslaught. Brother
Caligines moved to the monster’s side and thrust his lightning claws deep into vile xenos flesh. Using his twin claws to pull himself up, he began to attack the huge chains and straps that held the howdah in place. Mannus fired repeatedly at the squiggoth’s head, causing it to turn it’s attention towards him. Before it could reach him, a blaze of shells wreathed its head and shoulders. Mannus looked up as a shadow engulfed him. “You can’t hog all the fun for yourself little brother,” Titus’s voice said through the grill of his sarcophagus, “I still have a few shells left in my hoppers and there’s no point in taking them back aboard the Est!” Grinning inside his helmet, Mannus began to fire once more at the ork riders. Brother Naxus had maneuvered to the rear of the beast and ignited his power sword. Forged in the Fortress of Hera five thousand years ago, its blade still crackled with lethal power. Moving quickly despite the bulk of his armour, Naxus slashed the back of first one leg, and then the other. The squiggoth roared in pain as its hamstrung legs gave out from under it. Caligines was thrown clear from the monster by the impact but his work, already started was completed by the massive impact. Straps and chains snapped under the enormous pressures forced on them. With a groan, the howdah crashed to the earth. Landspeeders streaked in turning the wreckage into a pyre for those orks not thrown clear. The survivors were cut down by bolter fire before ever having a chance to organize an attack. A lone ork still stood, glaring down from atop the carcass of the squiggoth. Dwarfing even the terminators in stature, the Warboss was indeed an imposing figure. Sunlight glinted off the bare metal of his power klaw and armour. Crude clan glyphs and grisly trophies decorated his bulk.
“Mannus, old friend!”, hailed Captain Galenus over the vox, “It was given to me to destroy the orks on this planet and I feel I must end this myself. I hope you don’t feel I’m stealing your coup de grace.”
“Not at all Captain.”, replied Mannus to his old friend. “He’s all yours, my friend.” Galenus strode forward as the huge ork slid down from his former mount. Sliding his blade from its scabbard, Galenus prepared for battle, knowing that only one combatant would walk away from this fight.
Galenus and the hulking greenskin brute circled one another warily, for once the instinct for an ork to attack with blind aggression did not seem to be overpowering. Despite having ridden the howdah to the ground, the Boss did not seem any the worse for wear. It roared a challenge at the captain in it’s guttural xenos tongue and brandished its klaw menacingly. Galenus stepped forward, bringing his blade around in a horizontal sweep. There was a sharp crack as the opponents’ weapons met. The Boss threw a punch intended for Galenus’s head, intent on crushing his skull, but the captain ducked under the swing and kicked at the creatures exposed left knee. The blow impacted squarely, but other than a grunt from the brute, it seemed as if no damage had been done.
The combatants separated, looking for an opening to begin the next round of attack. Galenus noted that the Boss did indeed favour his left leg a bit. Perhaps the kick had not been so ineffectual after all. The ork seemed to realize that it was at a disadvantage and lunged forward in an effort to end the fight quickly. It lowered it’s shoulder to barge the marine to the ground. Galenus sidestepped to the right, realizing as he did so that the charge had in reality been a feint. The ork’s red eyes burned with malice as his power klaw closed on Galenus’s left thigh. Ceramite cracked loudly and Galenus was seized with agony as his leg was crushed by the power of the brute’s klaw. A kick to the chest sent the captain onto his back, dirt and mud splashing out from his impact. So this is how it ends thought Galenus. 150 years of service to the Emperor would end at the hands of this foul beast. As soon as the thought entered his mind, Galenus rejected it. Defeat was an alien concept to an Astartes and he would not accept his end. Not this day and not to this foe. As the Warboss stepped forward to deliver the killing stroke, Galenus used his remaining strength to drive his sword upwards. The tip of the blade entered the ork’s abdomen, slicing through armour as if it were parchment. Alien organs vaporized on contact with the energy field surrounding the blade as it drove upward, finally punching out of the War Boss’s back between his shoulder blades. The Boss tried to finish his foe, but with his spinal cord severed, his massive arms would not obey him. Roaring his frustration with his dying breath, the Boss slumped to the ground.
Galenus heard running footfalls approach and as he looked up, apothecary Polix was at his side, his narthecium already hissing as pain killers were driven into the captain’s veins. “Looks like the wound is survivable Captain, but you may have to spend some time with the Techmarines to get back on your feet.”, Polix muttered as he applied skin patches to the worst of Galenus’s wounds. His enhanced physiology was already coping with the various insults done to his body, but Galenus decided that a bionic leg would not be that bad of a thing. He would trade a leg for the victory earned today. Further battles awaited the 5th Company and with the blessings of the Emperor and Primarch, Galenus would lead them to further glory in the name of the Imperium and the Ultramarines.
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