A/N: You ever wonder what would happen if Rawbooty and Celestene ever just got it all out of their system and just decided to FUUUCK? Like, what would happen? Also, they both basicly have shards of the emperors soul or whatever inside them so would it be like Incest or some shit?
Hell was an old legend, some said it came from ancient Terra, passed through the ages; a story about the afterlife passed down through the years and told to children to keep them in line. When they grew older, they realized it for what it was- a story, a myth to be forgotten about.
Hell existed in the realm of the living.
Its name was Ghul-Khan.
Palisades made of body parts reaching twenty feet in height simply because it was faster than filling sandbags. Sections of no-mans-land that were crossed off as impassable because of corpse mountains that had to be burned away by the inferno guns of titans or destroyed by artillery bombardments.
New rivers and lakes were formed, made up of the combined refuse of war- blood, oil, promethium, and countless chemical washes all congealing together. These mixtures so toxic, that chemical warfare specialist units siphoned them off as fuel when their own reserves were depleted.
Glassy eyed war-babies-turned-soldiers, staring upwards at a sky they could no longer see, because of the radioactive fallout from countless bombardments of nuclear grade bunker-buster munitions used to try and create a gap in the enemies defenses.
The burning comets that punctured the gloom overhead, the contrails of fire that singled another dying warship being sucked into the planets gravity well, the countless hundreds of thousands of souls aboard condemned to death in an adamantium sarcophagus, the impact of their tombs reshaped planetside battle lines daily.
The slow grinding attrition, hopes death as the days wore on into years and then decades. Bunker-babies growing up alongside their parents in the trenches, replacing their posts on the line, and having their own children that would repeat this cycle over and over for years to come.
Idiot orders coming down the wire from commanders, who were as detrimental as the enemy, if not more so, entire regiments were put to the bolt pistol or turned into legionaries for failing to comply with charging through a known minefield.
Artillery fell like rain, the ground writhed and buckled like a storming ocean, waves of muck, dirty bodies and blood rising up like a wave and crashing back down over trenches, burying the men within under meters of offal.
The air became toxic, gas and poison, smoke and ash-fog, on good days it was only several meters view range, on worse, you were blind, and the seals of your mask started corroding.
The medics stopped carrying their bags, and instead carried only laspistol; it had just a good a chance of healing the wounded, and was a less painful alternative altogether.
There was no such thing as veterans, there was no point in rank, everyone was the same- a warm corpse waiting to cool, not knowing it was already dead.
Bloodlice, gutflies, peppergnats and snakerot, a cornucopia of parasites and microscopic malcontents infested every guardsman, the stink of their bodies attracting any number of these things, the writhing corruption that laced their poorly sealed rations was shown in their stool. Those with it worst, were sent up and over first, so as to end their pains sooner and perhaps gain another inch or two for the ones behind.
The significance of living and dying lost all meaning, madness held the reigns in the interim, what was a bright eyed boy a moment ago, and now a half-slagged corpse from a snipers mercies made no difference, the only thing that mattered was that who could steal the bodies fresh new boots first, and the ration of amasec they hopefully had in their kit.
Trench cities several miles long and wide, growing in size every year, stretching outwards and growing deeper still, families were raised up in bunkers and brought down in bags, vehicles from the first days of the war were dragged back off the field and used as bunk houses and shelters, cannibalized for parts if need be, for those machines still working.
A man strapped to a post, the rotting stumps of his legs just above the knee were crawling with wriggling worms, the Commissar was whipping the man, lashing him for failure of duty. He did not participate in his platoons latest offensive because his legs had fallen off, and he was coughing up blood, still, he was whipped, and even commissar knew how stupid it was to do so.
Desperation of the worst kind, rations of corpsestarch and grease, dragged in through the muck of the backlines or airdropped by low flights of Valkyries, the scrapped remains of these shipments were festering dens of infection, whatever manufactorum that created them not up to standards but used anyways. So the freshly dead were used, strips of long-meat and bones used as stew. The commanders, the commissars, even the priests themselves, they turned a blind eye, or were complicit in it themselves
Men learned to adapt. Men learned to keep their head down. Hate and bitterness kept them alive in the end and whispered prayers became muttered half things before they instead said nothing at all and choked down another rubbery piece of meat that they tried not to think of being the man who was next to them just yesterday.
The final charge the exultation of after eighty years of shit and guts the end finally being in sight, the last bastion of enemy resistance, the last holdout, the last line in the sand before they could get off of the hateful rock that was called Ghul-Khan.
The last bastion of enemy resistance was empty, the city behind it derelict. They had been fighting against servitor manned positions that had only now just run out of ammunition.
The rouge trader that had been the start of it all, had died thirty years previously. The war had been over for twenty. No one had bothered to tell the Fendoran 31st nor any of the other guard regiments that had been left abandoned on Ghul-Khan, a world long since discarded, its value obsolete.
This is the story that Hastis remembers; it is the story that was passed down from his great, great, grandfather, former colonel of the Fendoran 31st.
Hastis does not know why he recalls such a dark dream only now.
Hastis sucks air into his lungs.
He opens his eyes, he unclenches his hands, his body is painfully tense, fear is ripping him apart from the inside. Panic is alight in his veins, he wants to scream, but he has a measure of himself.
He is afraid, but he is of his wits, discipline takes over. He is staring up at a sky, a blue, bright, and cloudless sky. He is lying on his back, sand is underneath him. He flexes his fingers, curling and uncurling them, kneading the sand below him. Warm and coarse, a fine top layer that would make for hellish sandstorms that could rip up a grown mans lungs should they breathe it in. This much he knew from hard fought days on a distant and dead world.
He checked his holster; he found his weapon, he relaxed- he wasn't without a means of defense. He regulates his breathing. He gains his bearings. The pain in his hand helps focus him. It is an anchor to consciousness. He needs to know where he is. He makes to stand; the shifting surface beneath him nearly topples him over before he gains his balance, the familiar gait of sand walking snapping back to the forefront of his mind like a familiar glove. The days of his youth remembered so fondly. Memories to be savored later, for the moment confusion triumphs in the forefront of his mind.
There is just the whisper of the wind, rolling over melancholy golden brown dunes and cracked pale earth, interspersed with wheat brown shrubs and brown skeletal trees, ruined masonry and scattered sandbags, the shapes of bodies and wrecks of battle, buried in the sand, expanding outwards in every direction. It doesn't make sense to him; he looked at his hand, the bleeding wound still there, and the pain from it an anchor to sanity. What had happened was neither a dream nor a nightmare. He is in a desert, surrounded by the ruins and wreckage of battle, but gone was the field the parts played upon.
Hastis fell to his knees, a wave of unbelievable exhaustion forcing him down. Every ache, and every pain across his war-torn body was now manifesting upon his consciousness. His limbs riddled with shrapnel, his legs stitched up by autogun fire, a stab wound through one of his hands, burns across his face, he felt them all now and he was so mind numbingly tired. He wished himself dead at this very moment, he wished for The Emperor to take him now and spare him from living through whatever hell this was. He closed his eyes and bowed his head, almost ready to weep, almost on the verge of crying.
"'ello?" Shouts and cries, the sounds of distress. "There ah' buggerin' soul out there?"
Hastis looked up, pulling himself to his feet once more, he looks around him as the wind begins to churn the air, dust and sand whisking over the dunes like small near invisible waves.
"I'm bleedin' stuck ina' roit crimp, I can't diggy me-self out- ello!?"
Hastis is on the crest of a small dune, just beneath him, at the base of it, a figure is trying to pull themselves from the sand like some undead birth from a shallow grave. He can see the armor plated facemask of a Grenadier, the armored gauntlets grabbing at sand that offers no purchase, only instead threatening to bury the soldier once and for all. Hastis jumps, lands on his haunches and slides down the side of the dune on his back. His boots hit the sand and it nearly threatens to swallow him, Hastis recognized it immediately; soft sand, the deserts cruelest trap, it was useless against him, he leans into it, spreading himself out across the surface, he begins to swim.
"Hang on." He says. "I got you, trooper."
He reaches out, burned and torn up hand grabbing the searching gauntlets of the grenadier, locking tight to him. Hastis rolls over, finding purchase against more solid ground, he pulls and shimmies his way out of the sand trap, pulling the struggling trooper with him as he does so.
"Don't struggle, you'll make it worse for yourself." It takes a minute more and then he is standing, gripping with both hands he leans back and hauls the heavily armored guardsman free of what would be his suffocating end.
"Easy, there it is." The Grenadier pulls himself onto solid ground, his breath rasps through the grill of his respirator. Exhaustion clear enough even with the slabs of carapace armor over his frame.
"Throne alive." The guardsman veteran wheezes, doubled over, in the process of arresting his gasping breath. "Thought that was it." He shakes his head. "Mighty large thanks to ye," Straightening up, the grenadier takes a moment to check his surroundings, the opportunity to survey the sudden emergent desert in any detail lost in his feverish brush with a sandy demise. "The fack are we? The fack's all this?"
Hastis shook his head, he had hoped against reason that this guardsman would somehow have an insight that he didn't. "Not the faintest damn clue." He said, but Hastis is denied the chance to ask a question of his own by the bright spark of a bullet collapsing against the heavy front carapace armor of the grenadier standing across from him. The bullet smacks off and ricochets into the sand. Hastis stares at the newly formed dent in the grenadier's armor- the grenadier himself staring down in bewilderment before they lock gazes and simultaneously drop to the ground.
"Bloody-shite!" The grenadier coughs out, he pulls his lasgun, strapped to his chest- thankfully preventing it from being lost in the swft-sand. He scans quickly- the hazy shapes in the distance melting into focus along with fresh autogun reports and bullets coughing up small geysers of sand around them. "Thirty-eight to me left! Four targets!"
"I see 'em." Hastis grunts, pulling free his revolver, it would do little good at this range but it felt better to have it in his grip. The grenadier wordlessly replies with a burst of unaimed suppressive lasfire as a bullet cracks off of his helmet, bits and pieces of hardened flakweave and heavier plasteel chips away. The Grenadier doesn't even so much as let it phase him. In the distance, staggering through the sand, the ragged sackcloth-wearing damned souls from whatever desperate battlefield that they had all been swept away from stagger doggedly towards Hastis and his erstwhile companion. Three of them, all armed with gristly autoguns spiked with barbs and welded spines. The Grenadier aims and puts a long volley into the chest of one of the cultists, clothing burns away and flesh craters and burns as he stitches a line of heat up their torso. Hastis takes his revolver in a double fisted grip, mildly more concerned about the incoming heretic ballistics, he'd been shot enough today as it was and he didn't know how much more trauma he could take before stimms, faith, and adrenalin no longer carried him.
"Ah- Boss? Gotta bit of an issue-!" The grenadier barked, there was panic in the veterans voice, Hastis didn't let it shake him, he pulled the trigger- and blew the head clean off of the last cultist. Then he saw it, and he swore.
"Sacred Shite, not again-"
The desert was littered with vehicle wrecks and shattered masonry- all scattered as if they had all been dropped from a great height and strewn about the sands. Ahead of Hastis and the Grenadier, there was a chunk of rubble; a section of wall spearing out of the sand like a dropped knife stands in the dirt if sharp enough. Lumbering out from behind it, in dulled and scarred armor, horns crowning its helm like a dark king, was yet another traitor Astartes, corrupt and opulent with its gene-wrought power.
Hastis and the grenadier, were stranded, out in the open of a desert, clearly in sight, and armed with but a lasgun equipped with a single shot grenade launcher, a laspistol, a hot-shot revolver, and several knives. To say that were underequipped and outmatch was not so much an understatement as it was a lie. This was in the same realm of a god crushing an ant underfoot.
The distance between them was around five-hundred yards.
The traitor Astartes paused to look at them. And only then did Hastis, in the sheer rush of adrenalin and fear that washed over him notice.
"He hasn't' got a gun."
"And that matters, How?" The Grenadier snapped.
Hastis scrambled to his feet, "On me." He grabbed the Grenadier by the back of the collar, hauling him up- muscles straining against the weight of his armor. Blood began to pool over his right eye, and only then did it occur to him just how stupid this gambit was. Any doubts ceded into frantic silence when he could hear sand being crushed underfoot by metal boots.
"Shite-Shite-Shite," The Calibrian swears a storm, staggering after Hastis, the thundering steps closing the distance- they had only seconds if not even that. Hastis throws himself against the sandy embankment, jumping, digging his hands into the course sand- the Grenadier jumps, lands next to him and with boots pushing against the slope they haul themselves upwards- Hastis can feel the approach of the traitor marine through the ground, pulsating up his arms and legs, thundering in his head like a murderous countdown. He doesn't look back, he pulls himself upwards, scampering up the slope that he had so recently slid down in rescue of the grenadier next to him- then it happened.
A choked, barking scream, the whine of servos long since in need of repair, the crashing of millions of grains of sand against ancient ceramite. Hastis rolls over, digging the heels of his boots into the slope to stop himself from sliding downwards.
Hastis stared for a long moment, and couldn't keep a grin from spreading across his face.
This was a sight.
This was a sight he would carry with him for the rest of his life.
Wallowing up to its waist and sinking quickly beyond that, was the traitor marine. Ensnared by quicksand, thrashing like a mad beast as the desert eats him alive. The grenadier turns around, looking over his shoulder, it takes him a second to realize what he was seeing, and only now realizing what Hastis' plan was.
"You mad tosser." He quips and copies Hastis, rolling onto his back, heels digging in. He brings up his lasgun and sights in on the traitor Astartes helmet. Hastis reaches over and pushes his barrel down.
"No," He shakes his head, still grinning. "Don't ruin this."
"Gutless weaklings- you would think to mock me!?"
Hastis flinches, the heavy voice of the traitor Astartes was a bellowing thing seeped in malice. The dark warrior clawed at the sand that was now reaching up past his chest, obscuring the eight-pointed star that was emblazoned upon it. The marine stares with palpable hate up at Hastis and the grenadier.
"I will have your eyes for this- I'll use your tongues to scrape clean my armor- I'll see you as a smear across my fist-!"
"Big words comin' from a bigger git that can't handle a lil' sand." The Grenadier snorts, laughing. Hastis cuffs him across the shoulder- he shouldn't be one to talk.
"I will bury you in the ashes of your vile world! I will not die like this!"
"Sheesh, how much longer will this take?" The grenadier leisurely asks, turning to look at Hastis.
"Not sure." Hastis shrugs. "Keeps thrashin' around like that, maybe a minute or more?" Hastis grins.
"Do not mock me!"
"Aw, shut it, you scrapmetal git!" The Grenadier hefts his lasgun, a squeeze of the trigger sparks several harmless bursts of heat across the only exposed part of the traitor marine left- his helmet.
Hastis leans forwards slightly, tipping the chaos marine a merry salute. "Welcome to the sands, tin-man. Enjoy your stay."
The horns of the chaos Astartes slip under the sand, the surface churns and warps as the desert claims another victim, and then after a minute has passed, they cannot even feel the vibrations of a power armored body straining against the growing weight of the deserts clutches.
Hastis and the grenadier release a breath they didn't know they had been holding, and they laugh. It wasn't entirely sane, nor was it one of mirth. It was the uneasy cackle of two men who had escaped death by the sheerest margins imaginable.
The Great Reaper that slept in the void had breathed across the back of their necks and ran the blade of its scythe over their exposed arteries and then it had retreated for a time.
"Sweet throne above I thought's that was it." The Grenadier collapses back against the incline. "I think I shite me-self."
"You're not the only one." Hastis groans and turns over, pulling himself up the rest of the way. He reaches down and takes the grenadier by the hand- Hastis notes that the mans gloves are singed and burnt, melted in places and fused with his skin. He wondered what exactly had happened to him.
Hastis often wondered what had happened in general.
They get to their feet, the crest of the dune providing an ample enough view of the surrounding area, the cascading golden-red sand and the endless tombstone-like jagged remains of buildings and the hulls of vehicles- imperial and traitor alike.
"So." The grenadier begins. "What you reckon happened?" He asks.
Hastis shook his head in honest confusion. "I've not the faintest facking clue."
"You not shitten me? Loik, this aint that sorta inquisitional thing of 'If I told ye, I'd have-ta put a bolt in yeh scalp' sorta thing?"
"I only know like a couple of those sorta secrets and this isn't covered by any of them." Hastis says. "What's the last thing you remember?" He asks.
The grenadier thinks for a moment. "I was with the Lt, we were pulling open a gap in the lines, they'd had some trenches dug in and we were clearin' and burnin' them out. The churchy-place was justa' head of us, and then…" The grenadier thought for a moment more, growing silent and shaking his head. "I was next to one of our tanks, one of Challengers lot. Some heretic blokes were of the mind to try an' swarm her while she put the hurt on some more of those damned tin-men, she was peelin' them open roight and good, she was- but she took a hit- a rocket, I think an…" The grenadier holds up his hands, flakweave gloves and flesh seared together, letting his lasgun hang from his torso. "Next thing I know, I'm tryna' push one of her cannon barrel offa me. I thought I was dead- then I wake up half buried in a sand-pit."
"Nothing before you woke up? Anything… Unusual?"
"Hard to say, sir." The grenadier shrugs. "You coulda' gander that I was ah' bit preoccupied with not dyin'."
"Can't blame you there." Hastis sighs. "Lemme take a look at your hands." He says, swinging his belt around so that the medical kit was in front. "Looks like those are pretty bad."
Hastis bit his upper lip as he used his knife to pick the flakweave out of the grenadiers hand. It had looked worse than it actually was, the heavy padding of the grenadiers gloves had fused to just the first few layers of skin, and they ripped off without much bleeding. Hastis doubted the man would ever recover most of his feeling in his fingers but it was a small price to pay considering he would still have his hands.
"See anything?" Hastis asked again. The grenadier was keeping watch, while Hastis worked on one hand he used the other to hold a scope to his eye, his facemask flipped up.
"Nothin' yet, sir." He says. "Might be a few Chimme's that we could see if they still ran."
"You know how to drive one?" Hastis asks.
"Couldn't be that hard."
"You'd be wrong."
"Speakin' form experience, sir?"
The grenadier suddenly lurches, pulling his hand away from Hastis so suddenly that he nearly cuts himself with his own blade.
"Throne, what are doing?"
"Quiet, sir." The grenadier snaps. He flips down the mask of his helmet and locks it into place. Hastis is on edge, he draws his revolver, and scans the area, wondering if the grenadier had seen an enemy.
The Grenadier depresses the vox stud on the side of his helmet, holding it down, searching for a signal of some sort. "Sir, I might think I gots somethin'." He was quiet for a moment, and then he hit the vox stud on the side of his helmet again. "Copy-copy, Desperadis copies," The grenadier begins to pace about the top of the dune, his hand goes to his sidearm, he reloads the laspistol and flicks its activation stud. The weapon primes obediently before he returns it tits holster. "Local unknown, no reference 'vailable, can confirm presence of ona' the 'quisitors retinue with me." Hastis brushes the dully aching remains of his right ear, sheared off by a heretics lasbolt, the wound was cauterized by the heat, and ached only faintly, but gone with it was his combead, he hated not being to listen in on whatever conversation the Grenadier was having. The Grenadier nods suddenly. "A-firm; I'll takes a look about. Desperadis, out." Hastis folds his arms. "Who was that?" He asks. "One of your lieutenants? The Colonel?"
The grenadier shakes his head, "Sorry to disappoint. Just some non-com from second company, locked in their chimmey with their squad, looksies like they had a flip. Poor gits say they're 'bout half buried, sand started to leak in the moment they tried the hatches."
"Any hint on where the bastards are?"
"Not a squint, sir."
"Your helmet has the vox integrated, right?" Hastis asks.
"It should be able to transmit and receive directionally, then."
"Let me see it." Hastis takes the helmet from the grenadier, the faceplate is scarred and worn, the blast resistant goggles are scratched and cracked in places, and the rebreather apparatus needed mending. The Vox unit in the ear panel was working just fine. Hastis wedges his knife through one of the slits, and toggles a switch; a light blinks yellow before he returns it to the grenadier. "Give it a three-sixty and tell me when you hear something."
The grenadier does so, spinning slowly on the spot, hand up to the side of his helmet before he stops and points. "Ah, this way, sir." He says. "Mind un-fiddling me vox now?"
"I'll change it back when we find the sods. Lets just keep it that way so we know which direction to head in."
With the grenadiers Vox receiver guiding them forwards, fading in and out as they dialed in the direction of the transmitting chimera. It felt like a mile they had to walk before they came upon it. Half buried and flipped, wallowing in the sand with its tracks uselessly stuck up in the air was a Chimera. As they walk towards it, the grenadier hits his vox. "OI, Icon, you still with me? Can you get the wheelman to smidge the gas a second or something? I thinks we see you." Moments later, the tracks on the Chimera weakly shift, the engine growling like a wounded dog for a moment before sputtering out. "Yeah, we gocha. Hang toight, ladies, we'll dig your back hatch clear in a jiffy." The grenadier reaches back to his kit, he pulls free an entrenching spade with a collapsible handle. Like most pieces of imperial guard entrenching equipment, part of the head was serrated and honed to a fine edge, making it just as much a weapon as a utility device. He flicks it out and twirls it around his wrist, speaking of consummate familiarity. "Alrighty sir, does the most holy inquisition care to lend a humble, poor old and lowly guardsman a hand with this?" the Grenadier asks. Hastis can't hide his humorous smirk. "Yeah, yeah, just don't lump me in with the rest of those posh bastards. I was a guardsman too, you know." He pats the faded Aquilla tattoo on his neck and his old ident tags from his days in his regiment, a regiment that was betrayed. "Thought yah had the look of a mudrunner, what regiment?" The grenadier digs his spade into the sand at the back of the flipped Chimera. Hastis takes a more rudimentary approach; he kneels down and begins sifting the sand away from the hatch with his hands until the grenadier hands him a smaller back-up spade.
"Fendoran thirty second. Light reconnaissance infantry."
"Huh, never had the honor of meetin' 'em, sir."
Hastis grunted. "You wouldn't, sorry to say. We were out in the segmentum pacificus along the eastern spine."
"That's a damn long ways away," The grenadier whistles. "You ona of those regiments that gets pulled into the service of ah 'quisitor?" Hastis does not say anything for a second, mulling the answer over in his head. It's a touchy topic, one he does not like to linger on, but on the other hand, he did not want to say nothing.
"I guess you could say that we were, a bit more complicated than that, but…" Hastis shrugs.
"Eh, pardon if I'm prying, but I only saw you and the vox-fella with the 'quisitor. What happened to the rest of the regiment? Hard to believe that an inquisitor would go into a battle with just two blokes." He wasn't wrong, he wasn't wrong at all, but that was beginning to broach into a topic that was by far best left a secret.
"Gonna have to stop you there, friend." Hastis cracked a false grin. "Although, if you're so desperate for the answer, I could tell you,"
"You'd have to shoot me?"
"Got it in one."
"Shame, but fair enough."
Hastis was quiet for another moment more, until he broke the silence. He wasn't this talkative, usually.
"I will tell you this, if the Fendoran's ever met with you Calibrians, we'd get along right famously."
"I know so. We're both born in the sand, if what I hear about your home is true."
"I see, well then, maybe one day we'll meet up."
"Yeah, one day." Hastis nods, he wishes it could be true. But there was no way for that to happen. After all, Fendora was now nothing more than a dead rock.
"Oi, I think we got it." The grenadier shovels away a few more scoops of sand, the back hatch of the chimera now fully exposed. The grenadier raps his spade against the door set into the ramp, and in a few moments it creaks open, bits of sand and grit clogging up the hinges.
"Throne-damned-bastarding-" Slamming against the protesting hatch, a guardsman in proper flakvest and helmet, unlike that of the grenadier next to Hastis, forces the hatch open with another shove that pushes it the rest of the way. Spilling out into the small sandy depression that Hastis and the Grenadier made, a sergeant straightens up and blinks wearily at the light of the desert sun. Behind him the rest of the embarked and jostled squad pushes outwards, eager to be free of their metal confines, the crew of the chimera right behind them in lighter flackweave uniforms and caps.
The confusion is palpable as they take in the desert around them. Only hours, perhaps even minutes before, they were surrounded by a feudal city of brick and stone with cobbled streets and wooden cabin buildings, eclipsed by a singular great cathedral towering over it all. Now there was nothing but dust, sand, dead vegetation, and an all encompassing oppressive blue, cloudless sky and punishing yellow sun.
"What in the facking warp…" The sergeant swore, Hastis stepped forwards, intent on keeping them focused. He did not enjoy his position as an inquisitorial representative and member of a retinue, but it had its select few benefits. One of those, was the appearance of command authority, a thing that all guardsmen relied upon in desperate times.
"Lets not think about that at the moment. We can do that later." He stated. Hastis pulled out the Inquisitorial sigil that hung around his neck alongside the Aquila and his old tags. It was nothing like a true inquisitorial Rosette, but it was an authentic sigil that marked him as a member of the Ordos which usually held enough sway to get him through checkpoints or silence noisy individuals. "If you don't mind I'll be taking control of the current situation. First order of business would be some names and ranks, if you would be willing, sergeant?" It had the desired effect. The Sergeant had heard the mumblings of an inquisitor being present in the company, but hadn't had the chance to see, his company not being part of the first company elites. He snapped to attention, the rest of the squad hurriedly falling in behind him, the tankers just as quickly. The Grenadier followed suit, a bit more relaxed about it however, he saw the game that Hastis was playing. The sergeant named himself as Calio, his squad being part of the third platoon of the second company, the Chimera crew as an attached mechanized unit, lastly there was the Grenadier, giving a cheery salute and informing Hastis that he was 'the bloke that you pulled out of the frying pan back when the bastarding traitor marine showed himself,' and then he snapped off a crisp, military salute. Hastis returned it, "Major Hastis Asadarin of Fendoras Finest, seconded to the Inquisitions holy Ordos Hereticus, Lodge Militarum. Glad to have you all with me. First order is to reconnect and regroup. We've got no idea how many more of us are out there. Emperor willing, we're not alone." The sergeant nodded, turning about and immediately barking out orders, breaking his squad into fire-teams, and setting a search pattern. The grenadier nudged Hastis in the side, Hastis glanced over. "You really a major, sir?" Hastis nodded. "Major General, actually. For about three days, didn't even have a chance to get my stars before the Inquisition came knocking." Hastis sighs. "A damn shame I only got to be one for a few days. Would've been great to have some captains I could push around."
Unsurprisingly, Hastis enjoyed deserts. They reminded him of Fendora and its endless golden sands and its grand underground cavern oceans. There was a majesty and beauty in the sand of a desert, in how the wind would blow patterns in the shifting sands, in how you could stand atop a dune and look for miles around in every direction and see clearly, the horizon a shifting, churning mirage of heat. The desert is cruel, and unforgiving, that is the most beautiful thing of all. He can almost hear the sounds of his home worlds music playing in the back of his mind as he and the grenadier crest another dune, looking out over the sand, eyes peeled and shaded as they search for shapes moving amongst the brown and orange pallet of the world.
This wasn't like any desert he had known. It more closely resembled a faded ruin swallowed by a granular sea, and a scrapyard grave world for fallen vehicles of war. Hastis had been to a world like this, a world swallowed by sand after the nefarious, scheming Eldar had seen to the destruction of the great permacrete barriers that had held by several oceans worth of sand from collapsing in on deeply entrenched canyons cities. It hadn't been a campaign of war; it had been a humanitarian rendering. His old regiment had been tasked with digging out and excavating the tips of hive spires. The further down they went, the more the buried city appeared to be a tomb. Sand pooled in the desiccated remains of the young and old, bodies dried and entombed in the sand, screaming mummified remains that stared pleadingly at the still living. The corpses had been buried under the ground, huddled in hab blocks shelters or in cramped spire lounges. Here, they littered the surface, half buried and curled in on themselves or splayed out in shambles.
"Ever see anything like this?" Hastis asked.
"Can't roightly say I ever have." The grenadier replied.
They were patrolling, Hastis, and his self-proclaimed 'escort'. The rescued squad and chimera crew had set up around their overturned APC.
"Mind if I ask 'bout your gun?" the grenadier asks, Hastis grinned, twirling out his revolver. "Ah, this old beauty?" He smiles. "Fendoran Hesti-HotShot revolver. An old piece, uses capsules instead of charge packs, and you only get six shots before you have to reload, but its guaranteed to punch a hole clean through carapace armor at a hundred meters, and open up power armor at thirty."
"Bleedin' warp," The grenadier whistles. "How you get your mitts on somthin' like that?"
"Remember what I said about being a Major-General?" Hastis quips. "Never got the uniform or the stripes, but they did let me have one of these."
"Mark your status?"
"It was either this or a battered old plasma pistol, and I like my fingers just the way they are, so, no thanks."
"Fair point, that.- Oi, look." Hastis looked closer, squinting his eyes and following the grenadiers pointed finger. "That's…" He began.
"Bastartden Centaur that's what it is." The grenadier nodded. "Fifth platoon if my eyes ain't goin', lets get a better look."
The light support vehicle was parked in the shadows of a sand-dune. It's dust-colored paint with various striations and scratches helping it to blend in to the best of its abilities. Hastis and the grenadier approached carefully. Keeping their eyes and ears peeled, already they had the misfortune of coming across the various other survivors of whatever happenstance event that sent here.
From behind the armored carrier a guardsman appears, dressed in the bulky clothing of an engineer, completed with a large duster under flak armor and interspersed with various odds-and-ends, tools for erecting trenches, mines, and hoops of barbed wire. He held in his hand a lasgun, pointed squarely at Hastis and his grenadier companion.
"No sudden moves, lets see those hands. Yeh?"
"Easy, friend, you's an engineer? I'm from first company, first platoon under Ol' Mad-an-Batty' Suliko, have been since he got his bars, after the shite-show on bleedin' Ochirus."
The Engineer holds his aim for a few seconds more, and then lowers his rifle and steps away from the centaur. "Yeh, that'll do." He sighs, relaxing. "It's clear, they's with us." He shouts. Several other guardsmen engineers pop up from behind the sand dune the centaur was sheltering in the shadow of. Their grimy, soot and grease stained faces were all at once relived, desperate, and anxious. Everything that Hastis himself was feeling but doing his level best to not show. "You aren't the first gits we ran across. Shitheads all around out here as well. A few of them tried to stick us when we came to," He shook his head. "Lost two lads before we put 'em down."
"Phask. We know how you feel, had our own run in awhile back." The grenadier grunts. "Good on you for being suspicious, can't trust anything." He shakes his head. "We got a rally just a march south from here, trying to regroup as much as possible, made contact with a squad from the second, poor bastards were flipped in a chimmey, had to dig 'em out. Mount up and we'll take you there."
"Sounds good. You heard the gents, lads. Pile in and lets get moving."
As it was, they weren't the first ones back to the Chimera, taking up positions around the overturned APC were several more guardsmen then what was first there to begin with. The Centaur rolled down the side of the dune and past the makeshift perimeter, sidling up next to the flipped chimera. The sergeant was there to greet them. "Sir," he saluted. "Found some more of us."
"They first company?" The grenadier asked. Calio shook his head. "Third company."
"The hell they doin here?""
"Corporal said that hey were cut off from their platoon- second platoon- and were trying to reconnect, when everything went to shit. They lost their sergeant from the looks of it, found them digging foxholes in the sand."
"Good job putting them to work, keep them busy. That's what we all need to do." Hastis said. "We managed to find these blokes, by the way," He turned and gestured to the engineers, some of them were already looking at the flipped APC, others were unloading the carrier, breaking out a pair of Heavy Bolters and filling sandbags, setting to work at making the area a good deal more defensible, another simply sat himself on the centaurs heavy stubber.
"Glad to see that the engineers are here with us." Calio sighed. The corporal of the Engineers nodded in return. "Always good to have you blokes around to tell us what end goes up."
"Any luck with the Chimera?" Hastis shouts out, the heavy APC was still upside-down for the most part, the engineers were doing their best to figure out a way to re-right it with their limited equipment but the outlook was dire- their centaur didn't have the pull or power necessary to turn it over, the shifting desert surface was all too coarse and fine to get any significant traction.
"Not a squint, sir." One of the engineers called back and shook their head, the duster wearing mechanic soldiers were either digging furiously around the Chimera, or taking up defensive stations, keeping lookout for any more potential attacks.
"Give it another go, and if that don't work, salvage what you can and prepare to move, we'll see if we can find any more of our boys."
"We got movement, my front!" One guardsmen shouts. Heads turn and the perimeter goes on alert, lasrifles pointing in every direction facing outwards.
"Wait- you're shittin' me." One of the guardsmen says, standing up from his dugout. "Is that one of the roaches?" he asks turning to he guardsman next to him.
Hastis walked up, revolver out and ready. "Something I should know?" He asked. The guardsmen turned and pointed off into the distance. One of them hands Hastis a pair of magnoculers.
Looking through the viewscope he could see it clearly. The loping bobbing stride of a sentinel reconnaissance vehicle. Hastis could tell that much from just observing its outline and its gait, but its profile was off, silhouetted against the backdrop of the horizon he couldn't rightly identify it as any particular pattern of Sentinel. He hands back the magnoculers. "Recognize it?" he asks. The guardsmen nod. "Looks like one of Bloodroaches.' Forward operators. They call in the Basilisks and earthshakers when the 76th is gearing up to put a hole in some bastards."
"Were they operating in the area?" Hastis asks.
"Apparently, looks like the Colonel thought we would need to throw some High-ex down if shit went any further south."
"Could've used those bastards awhile ago."
The driver wasn't alone, loping over the sand on wide spread metal toes, the scout walker had two black-clad Stormtroopers hanging off either side, holding onto the roll-cage of the cockpit as it ferried them over the sands. One of them wore the mark of a corporal, and Hastis remembered seeing that one before, the plasma gun held in one hand he was all too familiar with.
The makeshift perimeter that had been forming opened up to make way for the scout walker. Hastis had always admired Sentinels, he had a fascination with the striding grace that the armored walkers were capable of, the firepower they were able to bring to bare with the their long multi-jointed legs made for a superlative heavy weapons platform that was able to keep pace with infantry in any terrain. Their only drawback was their comparatively light armor and high profile. Back in his regiment, they made extensive use of sentinels, and their pilots had learned to 'hunch-walk' their vehicles, keeping the cockpit low and out of sight as they moved.
The two stormtroopers drop down from their makeshift ride, boots hitting the sand with an unnerving silence. Despite them being a further sign that others of the regiment had survived, the guardsmen still stood back and away from the regimental elites, their presence always a reviled thing. Hastis swallowed his pride, this wasn't the time for grudges. Already it was clear that the stormtroopers had seen combat- and recently. They were sporting wounds across their body, their armor was pitted and worn from continuous punishment. Hastis stepped forwards and fished out his Inquisitorial sigil, Stormtroopers were notorious for obeying a strict chain of command, only ever listening to those of the Ordos Tempestus, the Scholia Progenium, and of their parent regiments commanders. The two stormtroopers fixed their masked gaze on his sigil, their backs straightened and their boots clapped together in attention, weapons held ready. Hastis nodded, and put it back beneath his uniform.
He took a closer look at the damage these two elites had suffered. Autogun wounds and stubber fire, a couple of lasblasts, and the corporal with the plasmagun had half of their chest piece blown away from what must've been an Astartes grade bolter round and somehow had survived it to fire their weapon. He could only imagine that they were swimming in a cocktail of stimms at the moment. Stormtroopers could operate for hours on end even with crippling damage through the use of such stimulants, often times the exertion killing them in the end. These two would likely do just that. He hooked his thumb over his shoulder back to the Chimera that the Engineers were still working away at. "Go see the Corpsman and get yourself patched up, you won't be any good to me like this."
It wasn't in the nature of those trained by the Progenium to ever question an order, they didn't so much as glance back they way that had come over the sands before marching past him. The Pilot of the Sentinel had been sitting idly, awkwardly silent while Hastis had addressed the two Stormtroopers. Hastis turned his attentions to him now. "Mind getting down for a moment?" He called up to the cockpit. Peeking over the edge two orange lenses and a helmet looked down at him. He could hear the engine of the sentinel lurch, and its leg servos hiss as the cockpit of the war machine gently lowered itself to just above the sandy ground. The pilot of the walker opened the cockpit hatch and hopped out, the uniform was altogether several sizes too big for the boy, who couldn't be older than fifteen at the most. "M'lord?" The boy asked, pulling his goggles up onto his helmet. He had the same look of every guardsman who didn't have the luck of catching a bullet while they were still young, that subtle unhinged stare and flexing of the hands, always searching for the grip of a weapon. Hastis had it, as did every single veteran he had ever known. "You have a name, lad?" Hastis asked.
"Privet Ludos, M'lord." He said. "Fourth company Forward Observation specialist, Calibrian 76th, sentinel pilot."
Hastis narrowed his eyes, something wasn't quite right. It took him a moment to pin it down. "Ludos?" He said. The boy nodded. "Not Lud-o or Lud-a?" The boy nodded again.
"Just Ludos, M'lord."
"You can drop the M'lord, sir will do just fine."
"As you wish, sir."
"What's with your name?" Hastis asked. "something special about you? How come you don't have an O at the end?"
Ludos shook his head. "No, sir. Nothing special 'bout me, just a bastard, sir."
"A bastard? We're all bastards here in the guard. You mean an actual Bastard?"
"Yes, sir." Ludos fidgeted, lips tight and eyes like pinpricks of hate, he was running his thumbs over his fingers, curling them back into fists. "Just a bastard, sir."
Hastis decided it was prudent to change the subject he didn't need to go any further into tribal naming, there was a situation at hand. "give me a report, Privet."
The boy was quick to answer, far more eager of changing the subject. "I was with the rest of my Flank. We were following some of the Third's lads, directing the Wyverns and all that, then everything went… weird." His lips pursed, trying not to remember the nightmare that tore open the sky- the great hands of shadow that seemed to twist and reach down from that gazing abyss. "When I came too, me' walker was all topsy turvy, and I had to get her walkin' again. That was a hassle." He nodded. Hastis looked at his sentinel, it wasn't unheard of for skilled pilots to be able to right their walkers when they got knocked over, but for a kid to do it must've meant he was something special. "Then I just kept walkin' in every which way until I heard fightin'." Ludos pointed over to the two stormtroopers who were now under the bickersome care of the medic. "They's were getting' shot up by a bunch of nastiness, so I opened up with the stubbers and kilt' 'em all." Hastis briefly looked at the two lethal heavy stubbers mounted beneath the cockpit of the sentinel, they were belt fed things loaded with the standard heavy .80 caliber rounds that could shred through light armor, and against unarmored infantry …well.
"Toy-boys took some convincen' before they got on. After that I fired up the Auspex and started doing sweeps. Took a few, but then I picked up on a signal, and started walkin'."
"You must've heard us." Hastis guessed. "Do you think you can scan for any others?" The boy shrugged. "It'll take some tuning. This place is weird. Doesn't like me-scanners." Ludos looked over at the Chimera, staring in that absent-minded way that boys did sometimes. "Have something on your mind, lad?" Ludos nodded.
"Mind tellin' me?"
"I could fix that." He said, pointing. "Shouldn't be that hard to flip over."
"Yup. Marcia can do it easy. I've done it before when the engies' bugger up and flip their tractors."
Hastis grunts and waves. "Feel free to have a go at it then," He says.
The boy smirks half-heartedly, clambering back into the cockpit of his machine he fires up the engine and the bent-legged walker stands. Ludos guided Marcia, his Sentinel, over to the turtled chimera. Hastis couldn't see what the boy was doing with the pedals and sticks of his machine but whatever he was doing it was making it move like a living thing. It shifted its weight onto its left leg began to squat down one legged, it hooked its right toe under the APC, and began to stand again. Servos hummed noisily as pistons strained against the weight of the APC. The engineers used the leverage that Ludos was giving them, their clamps growing taught as they gunned the salamanders engine and helped pull the Chimera the rest of the way over, back onto its tracks. The guardsmen erupted into cheering, clapping each other on the shoulder and back, several ran up and slapped the side of Ludos' sentinel.
The Engineers go to work on taking a closer look at the now righted Chimera. They crawl along its hull, inspecting the dusty brown colored armor for damage of significance. The lead engineer stands up on the top hatch and looks to Hastis with a thumbs up. "Just a couple bumps and dents, might have to tune a few finicky bits but we're all green across the board, sir."
"Finally some facking good news." Hastis sighed. "Get the vox up and running, I want it on at all times. See if we can't catch any transmissions."
Pain is no stranger to you, but it has become tolerable. This tolerance is what lets you fight through the knife that is currently hilted in your gut, just below where your armor segments. You can feel the dull, ill-kept blade digging around your intestinal tract, ripping up your guts and tearing through your abdominal muscles. Your nerves chide and bicker of the sensation of it twisting in your guts with every movement, the damage it is inflicting- the damage it has inflicted- is likely severe. You need to pull it out, you can stop the bleeding- your body, twisted and changed, can easily withstand such a wound. You also need a weapon, and the knife in your gut, so helpfully provided by one of the wretched cultists, will suffice for the moment.
There is only just four of them left and you currently have one by the throat with your right hand, your left hand is preoccupied with restraining another. Two stub rounds punch into your chest plate, and your armor holds, but the impact is jarring enough to stagger you back. This has two consequences, you lose your grip on the second, but you pull back with your right hand and feel flesh and muscle give, as a sizeable section of a cultists throat is torn away. a round punches into your back, almost hitting your spine and penetrating the weaker armor there, it rips through your body and ricochets off the inside of your chest plate and is caught by a rib on its return trip, the damage is severe, but it does not hinder your operational capacity all too much, you have to act quickly, though. You are flanked on three sides, and need to eliminate the threats as soon as possible. A stitch of autogun rounds punches into your legs, the tingle of pain is back again, from all over your body, your wounds are mounting. You roll to your feet- time seems to hesitate and freeze as you open your eyes, and let the honed, analytical part of your brain take control- sucking in every single facet of information it can.
Four hostiles left, one out of action, two armed with autoguns, one without weapon- he's responsible for the knife in your gut. First hostile is to your front left- he's unloading his weapon, firing from the hip, magazine suggests thirty-rounds, he's expended ten if you have counted correctly. The one to your rear left, autogun, shortened barrel, drum magazine, fifty, or sixty rounds at most, he's aiming, a wire stock against his shoulder, he's left handed, not wearing a mask- the ejection port will likely hit him in the face if he fires- suggesting that it is not his native or preferred weapon. He will likely not fire on fully automatic, for if he does, the shells will blind him momentarily. The one to your immediate right, taller than you, bulkier, his legs are spread and you are crouched low. A plan is formulated in your mind; you put its probability of success at high.
You duck right, tucking and rolling, through the hostiles legs and springing to your feet at once. The screaming heretic firing from his hip stitches the cultist up with bullets; not caring at all as he empties his entire reserve of ammunition- the skull rune of the blood god on his forehead proves correct. You prop up the body in front of you, it shudders as rounds thunk into it, sounds of miniature hammerblows against fresh meat. You reach down, and pull the knife out of your gut, a six-inch blade, curved tip, three or so pounds with a paddle guard, You spin it once in your right hand and grab it by the blade. This will be a suboptimal throw, but you do not have much in the way of options at the moment. The click of a firing pin striking nothing signals your move. The other renegade opens up as the khornate reloads and tries to flank around you. The gunfire cuts off in a second, you step out form behind your improvised shield, the cultist has his eyes squinted shut, a smattering of smoking shells tumbling away from his face. You twist, and throw- the knife tumbles through the air, tip over hilt over head, it catches the cultist in the lower jaw- blade striking bone, but thrown with enough force that it punches through enough that the six-inch blade reaches the esophagus. An acceptable throw, with an imperfect weapon, it has bought you enough time. The cultist staggers back, drops his gun, and reaches for the embedded blade- spluttering gasps and bloody bubbles escaping from around the iron. You look at the khornate; he's slotting home a new magazine. You do not give him the chance. You duck forward towards him, boots pistoning into the sand, pushing you forwards, he's fast enough to swing his rifle at you, you easily dodge the strike, and you surge upwards, arm outstretched, palm open, you catch him under the jaw, tilting his head back you step one foot inside his forward leg, and you grasp control of his right arm with your left, you kick his leg out from under him, and your armored knee comes up over him and falls onto his chest- crushing his trachea as you twist his wrist beyond breaking point. You end it with a swift jab to the jugular, removing any possibility of him being able to breathe. You roll off of him, you police the magazine he was reaching for out of his waistband, and scoop up his rifle, you eject the spent magazine and slap home the new one, you rack the slide, chamber a round, and you march over to the still struggling heretic that you had downed with the knife that had so recently resided in your guts, a burst of rounds to his face, turning it to a pulpy mess see's him off. Then there is the first one, the one that had been grappling you, still somehow lives, twitching, gore weeping from the gaping hole in his throat that you had torn away with your hand. You finish him as well, and the gunshots echo over the desert plains.
Time to take stock.
The last memory you have is of being overwhelmed by a horde of screaming degenerates and reprobates. They dragged you to the ground, ripping at you with bleeding fingers, stabbing at you and striking you with improvised weapons and cutlery. Your helmet had been smashed to pieces, the red lenses cracking and shattering, blinding you as you were beaten bloody. Then you remember the sensation of falling- muffled screaming, cold light and searing shadow, then the rushing of air around you, followed by a bone jarring impact, the muffled whump's of bodies striking yielding sand. There was silence, stillness, you regulated your breathing, sat up, tore your ruined helmet free from your head, and searched for your weapons.
Then, your attention was refocused, as several figures lunged at you. You dealt with them, naturally.
Bodies are everywhere, laying all about you in the sandy flats, mangled and torn by your ministrations. You count around sixty plus, each one more diverse than the last, each one another lost soul, damned by the corruption of the ruinous powers. You slump to the ground, your breathing is running ragged, your mind is awash with stimulants and other unsavory narcotics, and each one tailored to reduce the side-affects of the other. They will filter out now that the triggering rush of adrenalight from your amplified, oversized adrenal glands is now abating. You shut your eyes, and sigh through grit teeth; you let your head fall back against the sandy ground. You should be up and alert, searching your surroundings and looking for more potential targets, more hostiles to kill, then locating your two primary weapons, and above all, looking for her. You don't do this. You give yourself a moment of respite even though such an action would have seen you flogged relentlessly, two hundred and fifty lashes by an electro-scourge and then an hour in the excrutiator while you recite the abjuration of hedonism. Any misspeak or mispronunciation of the hymns would call for another fifty lashes at the completion of the hour.
You honestly couldn't give less of a damn at the moment; you have two-dozen bullet wounds, half a dozen contusions, fifteen stab wounds, twice that number in lacerations, and half that number in burns. When you report to Viktor- should he still live- you will take the punishment he has. You just had perhaps one of the most brutal encounters in your history of service. Your armor is in tatters, your augments are barley keeping you alive, and your chemical reservoir is nearly depleted. You have more slaught in your veins than you do blood, and five-sixths of that blood is diluted with counteracting depressants that are in the process of keeping you sane enough to formulate a full, coherent sentence. You almost went for broke and attempted to utilize your 'Eucharist' augment, the twitching little box of absolution at the base of your brain stem. You run a gauntlet down your face, part of your scalp comes away, you peel it off and you hold bleeding flesh between your gauntleted fingers, staring at it balefully. You curse something fierce and lie still for a spell. All too soon, you clap your hands together now, and sit up. You've given yourself ten seconds to prepare for what followed. It was not going to be easy.
Your wounds take precedent now, but you cannot do anything extensive, you locate your emergency medical dispenser, a tube of stinking black paste similar to the material of a synth-glove that the agents of the assassinorum utilize. You extract a gobbet of it and smear it into the bleeding gut-wound, on contact with the fresh oozing blood it hardens and seals the wound, airtight and water proof, the bleeding is halted instantly. You cant reach the bullet wound on your back, unfortunately, but your bullet ridden legs are sealed with the remaining handful of paste that you possess, you've used a quarter of the tube, a bit more than what is comfortable, but you've stopped most of the bleeding, the external bleeding that is, the internal bleeding you are likely suffering will take another remedy. You cycle the medical emergency dispenser on your hip to the appropriate remedy, a coiled mechandrite attached to a small sphere no bigger than your eye rolls into the palm of your hand. You whisper the prayer of activation to it, reciting the litanies' of purification and restoration as you have been taught to do with painstaking attention to detail. The Micro Chirugen, another miracle of the adeptus Mechanicus and their machine-god is another piece of archeotech that has been granted to you, your position demanding that such extravagance be afforded to such a 'unique' servant. You hold it to the wound on your gut- sealed by the synthetic polymer, the string-thin mechadendrite uncoils, spooling out from within the sphere, and from its tip, the drill emerges. It burrows into the polymer, and into your guts. You can feel it, sifting around inside you, coiling and uncoiling, wrapping around ruined intestines, pulling your guts back together by force, more and more micro-mechadendrites unspool from the sphere, and burrow into you, you lose count of how many are now inside you, the pain you are experiencing is of an exquisite nature, piercing and needlelike, spearing into the base of your spine and up through your nerves, it is too intense for you to ignore, it pummels at your mind with urgent insistence. Your fingers curl and clench at the sand you now lie down upon, your face is locked into a stern rictus grin, teeth grinding, eyes twitching, threatening to roll back into your head as you let the machine do its work. It is almost too much for you. There are moments of suction inside you, and tugs of small monofilament wires weaving through your guts, there are moments of cold or warm numbness, the small syrets of numbing ampules being released locally finally making their effects known. The machine works blindingly fast, programed and bid to be direct and uncaring in its work- it's only duty to repair as quickly as possible, with no regard for the comfort of the patient, and it is true in this duty. You are being put back together on the inside, piece by piece, your guts are being sewn back together, and blood is being put back into your veins, filtered through and scrubbed clean.
You are fading in and out of consciousness, a few hits of frenzon keep you cognizant, but beyond that you are barley aware as you have your insides untangled. Of course, there is more metal than meat inside you, all the important bits taken up by gleaming steel, with just enough flesh left to give you the outwards appearance of human. The mechanicus has said over and over, that the flesh is weak while the machine is everlasting. Such is true, the omnisaiha having made it so, but of the everlasting metal that is your innards, it exists only to allow you to suffer longer. You lament it at times, but you remember of what is at stake, your little spark of hope. That thought alone gives you enough strength to withstand the last ministrations of the microchirogen. It's hateful spindle-limbs recede, and back into its container it goes. Small-arms fire, bullets and blades, they are not enough to stop you. Fifteen minutes more of this sensation, until you finally feel the micro mechadendrites retract out of your body, uncurling from around your intestines, and slipping back inside the small metallic sphere that so solemnly carries the sigil of the sacred cog. You can finally breathe now. The tingle that is called pain is still there, blindly insistent, a finger just behind your skull, pressing into your throat inch by feverish inch. It has no hold on you, and for that reason you are all the more empty, as for now, you feel more or less whole, its work done, your guts sewn up and your longevity of purpose restored. You stand now.
You roll your shoulders, crack your neck, and sit back up, fitting your armor back into place. Some plates hang loosely, some fit snugly, clamping back on and sealing you in. The servos hum with electrical promise, and you pick up the ruined remains of your helmet. Its faceplate is smashed in, its surface is scarred and pitted, the paint scoured away in places to reveal the dull grey undercoat of the thin ceramite shell. You hook it to your hip, you wont abandon it here. It doesn't take long to find your extraneous wargear. The power-falchion, the plasma pistol, both are not far from you, but they are in danger of being buried by the sand as the wind picks up, and dust begins to sweep over the ground. You drop the heretic rifle, discarding it and wiping your hands clean of its taint. You now close your fists around the grip of your sword and pistol. You meticulously go over their surface, examining them for any damage, and find nothing that you yourself cannot remedy. You sigh in relief as you sheathe and holster your implements of warfare. You have your weapons. Your body is patched back together, well enough for you to function and fight without risk of bleeding out or hemorrhaging.
You now can turn your attentions to the surroundings. You are indeed in a desert, the terrain is mostly flat for a few kilometers in every direction, in the distance you can make out a rising and falling sea of sand dunes, in another, the sand ends, and hard-packed and cracked earth takes over with vestiges of withered and dried desert shrubs. You are caught in between the beginnings of a savanna deadland, and a desert sea. In the great distance beyond, you can almost make out the waving shapes of mountains- a spot of green, even. The sky is blue, denoting the presence of an ocean of some sort, there are no clouds, so rain is not common here, you are breathing cleanly, the air is not toxic, or so you hope, just dry and arid. There is a sun, of course, harsh and yellow, but beyond that immediate information you cannot discern anything more.
The change in scenery from the warped ruins of the steps before a once loyal planets grand cathedral, to now the wastes of a desert is certainly unusual, and a matter of grave concern. Your priorities are not subject to uncovering the how and why of this happening, they instead lie with the procurement of your location, and the location of your charge. You tap your fingers against your thigh, there are pieces of masonry and basalt rock scattered about the area, entire sections of wall, wrecks of still smoldering machines, you even can see the mangled remains of traitor Astartes and the pulped ruined corpses of calibrian guardsmen. Your own Vox communication unit, residing in your helmet, is slagged, the auspex systems and clarion vox-network offline after your furious engagement. You step over to one of the corpses of the guardsmen, kneeling down you turn the body over, pits and pieces of meat spilling out through their torn open guts. You off-handedly mutter a prayer, bidding the Omnisaiha to take the soul of this fallen servant into his grace. You check for a vox-bead, unfortunately you come up with nothing, their com unit either having been lost or not their to begin with- the quartermaster clerks of the munitorum being ever fickle. The next body- a bisected torso of a sergeant proves to be more fortunate. Extracting from their ear a slightly bloodied vox-bead. You turn it over in your hands, carefully looking for any damage, You are lucky this time, it is both undamaged and powered, muttering prayers of thanks to the machine-god for his beneficence, and then you wipe it clean and fit it to your ear. You dial through the frequencies, you don't speak or hail, you instead listen patiently. You hear static, occasionally, you come across the whispers of a vox-ghost, an unfocussed signal, enough to tell you that there are others out there, but nothing clear as of yet.
You nearly give up, the guard-issue com-bead clearly insufficient, until something cuts through the static.
"Sir! Sir I'm getting something!"
Hastis sprinted over to the Chimera, nearly tripping as he did so. The Vox operator was hunched over in the back of the Transport, dialing through frequencies, his headset hooked up to the Chimeras own vox set. He was working at the dials, shifting knobs back and forth with gentle increments, trying to dial into the elusive frequency that the whisper of voices was speaking on.
"You have it?" Hastis asked breathlessly.
"Almost…!" The Coms operator slapped the side of the machine as the crackle of voices came through is earpiece. He plugged a second set into the control panel and handed it to Hastis.
"-py- Sacrosanct Lancier Alpha Primus: Declaring emergency, repeat, Declaring Emergency. This is Sacrosanct Lancier Alpha Primus, declaring emergency, does anyone copy on this frequency?
"Hello? We copy- we read you, please respond!" Hastis shouts into the vox set, the coms operator jerks back at the suddenness.
"This is- Oi, we read you, identify yourself."
"This is adjutant Hastis of Inquisitor Hyorks' retinue, I was with first Lieutenant Suliko."
"Oh, I remember you now, yeah, you're that bald bastard with the lazy eye, yeah."
"Jokes can wait until later, Lieutenant, though I appreciate the levity. Confirm your status, soldier."
"Stormlance squadron has suffered critical damage across the unit, we've regrouped with infantry elements form third company second platoon and …specialist auxillia. We're all pretty banged up. What about your end, sir?"
"Have a grenadier from first platoon with me, some engineers with a salamander from the first companies fifth, some grunts with a chimera from your second company, two facked-up stormtroopers and a Sentinel. No serious injuries aside from the toy-boys. Can you confirm your location? Landmarks, vantage points, anything?"
"We're in a sort of savannah, we've got hard dirt underneath our treads, like the dry bed of an old oasis of some sort, some shrubs and tumblers, other than that we got dunes spreading out in behind us and flatlands to our frontal direction. Nothing to properly navigate by."
"Are you mobile?"
"Afraid not sir, we've got several tanks crippled and we're working on repairs, but a'lotta this damage is going to need the sacred enginseer to fix."
"Understood, we'll come to you. Keep this line open, we're gonna have the Sentinel dial in the direction of your transmission and follow it back to you."
"Roger that sir, Stormlance will continue to broadcast on this frequency."
"We'll check back in on you every few mikes, the Emperor Protects, soldier, out."
"Omnisaiha be praised, over and out."
"Load the toy-soldiers in first, try not to shake them too much, I've got a feeling that we'll need them soon enough and I want them in working condition."
"Not sure there's gonna be enough room for us all, Sir." One of the guardsmen points out, slinging his lasgun over his shoulder. "Any volunteers for sitting up top?" There were only a few takers.
"Brass takes priority, don't want snipers taking out the brainy-lads, I'll backpack on the walker." Hastis orders. "Commander, what's the read on the multilaser?"
"She's locked and loaded, Sir."
"Keep her on a swivel, anything that isn't wearing an Aquila or a cog I want you to vaporize, understood?"
"Lets get a move on then, oi, grenadier, you're with me. We're taking the hot-seats."
The sentinel jolted him with every bounding step, Hastis was worried that either his belt or back would break before long. This wasn't the first time he's 'backpacked' a sentinel, clipping himself to the cockpit through his belt, resting a foot on the step, and hanging on for dear life, but it wasn't a thing he was keen on repeating.
"You holding up over there?" The grenadier shouts, the wind was starting to pick up, sand and grit swept over the desert, further aggravated by the tracks of the Chimera leading the procession ahead of them.
"I'm managing," Hastis shouts back, "How about you, soldier?"
"I think I'm gonna right vomit me guts out!" He laughed.
Hastis grinned. "Make sure you do it off the walker, the boy'll have your balls if you get your sick on his lady."
The grenadier cackled in reply.
"Oi!" It was Ludos, he took Hastis by the shoulder and shook him. "Message for you, sir. It's Stormlance, sir." The boy handed Hastis his set of headphones, they were far to small for Hastis to put on, he instead held one up to his ear and pulled the mic down to his mouth.
"You reading me?"
"Well enough, lad. Something the matter?"
"We've got some good news, we're getting a lot of vox-traffic now, sir, nothing solid enough to patch through, but there's plenty of activity out there. Managed to make contact with Reaper Squadron and Challenger." Marcello's voice crackled through his vox bead, growing clearer by the minute.
"How are they holding?"
"Confirmin' with them now, just wanted to let you know, we'll try and get them regrouped with us. Another thing, sir, we keep running into some serious interference but the vox is picking up sub-transmissions."
"Vox-Ghosts, false receptions or general transmissions, an open broadcast essentially, but our equipment is geared towards receiving it, so we only get the background shadow of it."
"Can you tell if it's ours or another regiments?"
"No idea sir, can't make out any transmit codes, ident cyphers, nothing solid, If they were another regiment they should have heard us over the command frequencies. It's possible that they aren't hearing us, damn vox waves are scattering all over the place, like they're bleeding into other frequencies."
"That doesn't sound normal."
"Throne, no, this shit doesn't happen planetside, only ever heard of vox-bleeding happening in void engagements around neutron stars, the radiation scrambles augur and auspex readouts, if it gets bad enough it can rip up vox transmissions. The sort of radiation shouldn't be able to pass through a planets gravity well."
"Radiation?" Hastis repeated. "Should we be worried?"
"If it was that kind of radiation then we'd already be dead. I don't think we have to worry... I think."
"Just keep scanning and see if you can get through, we should be close by now."
"I'll keep an eye out, Sir."
Five minutes more of spine shaking riding later and Ludos told Hastis that they were almost on top of stormlances position. Hastis voxed the tank squadron, telling them that they were approaching and the makeshift convoy slowed to a crawl, engines winding down as they made there way over a rampart of sand and beheld stormlances crippled formation. They made their way into the ring of tanks. Hastis had the chance now to get a better look at the status of the armored squadron. Lieutenant Marcello had understated just how badly mauled his tanks were. There were gaping wounds in almost every one of them, lascannon scars, autocannon craters and great gouges from battlecannons and AT rockets. Several of the tanks had their sponsons ripped off of them, others had armor stripped off their side, revealing the suspension systems of their wheel wells, some even had the barrels of their main guns sheared off or twisted and blown out. This wasn't so much an armored squadron as it was a scrap collection with tracks.
Hastis unclipped himself from the scout sentinel and his boots met the ground. He picked out the lead tank, and walked over, seconds later, Marcello opened the top hatch of his tank and climbed out. Hastis grunted, the tank commander wasn't in good shape, he was unsteady as he climbed down. Hastis was quick to catch him before he fell.
"Throne alive, the hell happened to you?" Hastis muttered, Marcello regained his balance, his uniform was torn in places from fragments of shrapnel that had bounced around the inside of his tanks hull, and there was a bloody bandage around his head from a likely cracked skull. His eyes were hyper dilated, Hastis knew that it was a dose of slaught that were the only thing keeping him up and fighting.
"The job happened, Sir," The tank commander said. "Just another run through the thresher."
"You're concussed," Hastis stated. "Who's your second, we need to get you checked out."
Marcello shook his head, "I'm fine, I've had worse."
"To the warp with that talk," Hastis snapped. "Cut that sorta tough-shit act, you're dead on your feet."
"I'm fine, just let me-"
Marcello tried to pull away from Hastis, but the ex-guardsman's grip was firm. "Gonna need the doc over here." He called out, further restraining the tank commander. "Bastards all stimmed up."
The Chimera they had rode in on was already unloading its compliment of guardsmen, the engineers in their centaur were doing so as well, hauling out sandbags and blinds, the medic of the guardsman squad that had been so recently trapped inside their own Chimera poked their head out from the top hatch, a few seconds later they were trundling over, several guardsman with them- pressganged into assistance with a two-man stretcher.
"Bleedin' terra," the medic snapped. "the hell did he get up to? He try to soldier like a guardsman? A tank too borin' for him?" The Medic had the guardsmen set the stretcher down, the medic thumbed a tranquilizer for a moment as he stepped over to the tank commander. "Shite- he's outa it." He sighed, reaching up and pulling open Marcello's eye, checking his pupils before falling into routine of battlefield meatball surgery and triage. Hastis stepped back, arms folded, he knew well enough when his presence wasn't needed.
"How bad?" Hastis asked. The medic was pulling Marcello down onto the stretcher, only now having stopped his struggling.
"He's not in a good way at all, sir." The medic admitted. "Nothin' I can't fix, has a stuck lung, I think, some internal bleedin' and one hell of a concussion but I think I can rig somethin' up to help him pull through."
"Glad to hear it, you get him situated, I'm gonna have a check in with his second."
"As you order, sir."
Hastis turned around, looking back to the commander's tank- Stalwart, as it was called. The top hatch swung open again, pulling herself out to sit on the rim of the hatch, a woman in a sweat drenched tank top looked down at him. Shaggy hair and dusky brown skin, she was well toned and muscular. "Oi," She called down to him. "Hear'd 'bout you." She said.
"You the second?"
"I'm the gunna'." She had a thick accent; her words almost slurred together, the Calibriain timbre made anyone who spoke it sound like they were in the midst of a mild concussion or seizure. "Close enough to a second, I suppose."
"You've got a name?" Hastis queried.
"Shikia, sir," She sighed. "Marcello doin' alright?" She asked. "Kept tryin' to get him to patch himself up, kept on tellin' me off."
"He'll live." Hastis said, lapsing into quiet before speaking up again. "How about you give me a sit-rep?"
The gunner, Shikia, laid out a damning report, giving him all the information of the armored squadron, and it was clear that the tanks of Stormlance were in a bad way, the only one that was in combat condition being, 'Stalwart' and even then it was at dubious capacity at best. The engineers said that the track guards were prime to come apart before long and with Marcello injured and suffering from an extended concussion whilst bordering on the edge of an overdose command fell back to the gunner of Stalwart who handed it off to the commander of Carmine.
It wasn't as grim as it sounded, all the tanks had most of their vital systems at a functional level, and further inspection saw that the majority of the Exterminator's could be up and moving with limited track repair, the only one looking to need serious attention being Stormlance-04, Providence, it's left track well had been cracked but not broken. The tank could still move but it had to be slow. The engineers were not willing to try and make any attempt at seeing if they could weld the break. They were concerned that doing so without knowing the proper litanies and prayers would anger Providence's machine spirit. Hastis nearly had a fit when he heard this, he couldn't even begin to describe just how much he hated the Cult Mechanicus and its clockwork dogma. There was no such thing as a machine spirit, there was no machine god or any such nonsense. There was only The Emperor, machines were the tools of men to be used and not revered as something worthy of worship. He'd never once prayed to his weapon, and never once had the weapons of his craft behaved any differently. He was about ready to chastise the engineers and the tank crew that were abiding by the machine cult when he stopped himself. It wasn't worth it, and it would only serve to cause unneeded stress. He'd already gotten the hint that the Calibrians were inducted into the Machine cult to a certain degree more than most guardsmen were, the level of efficiency they operated and maintenance their weapons and machines, the spotless cog-mechanicum sigils next to the Holy Aquilla inside transports, stamped on lasguns and knives, he wouldn't be ingratiating himself at all if he forced the subject.
It took some cajoling and the presentation of his credentials as an adjutant to an inquisitor, but he managed to get the tanks and their crews to coax their machines slowly into a defensive position. The engineers were not at all happy about it, but Hastis took their mind off their concern for the tanks by getting them to reinforce the scant perimeter. Sandbag positions and shallow pits in the hard packed ground began to be erected in a wide semicircle that was completed by the tanks. The guardsmen were pulling themselves together admirably under his command. Any worry or concern they had for their unexplainable location was put aside, breaking into fire teams the calibrian guardsmen were quick to take up positions facing outwards across the savannah plateau while the exterminators covered the sandy ridges behind them.
Hastis made sure that they had their little firebase locked down before he began to take stock of anything else, the main concern was the tanks, but there were scattered units of calibiran guardsmen present as well, members of the third company and several from the second, but it wasn't only guardsmen that were present.
Hastis was pacing, checking the fortifications, the engineers were damned good at their job. "Everything tip-top?" The grenadier, seemingly able to materialize at Hastis' side, clapped him on the back.
Hastis snorted a laugh. "As good as they can be." He said.
"Could be a helluva lot worse, roight?" The grenadier said. "could be up to our necks in more ov those spikey marine gits."
"Fair enough." Hastis grins. "But, we both know a surefire way to get rid of them, now, don't we?"
"Yeh, just gather up as much slip-sand and lay it in fronta' them and watch the bastards drown!"
"Damn straight, throne, might even get a medal."
The Grenadier said nothing, despite being so gregarious. Hastis quirked a brow and looked back at him. The grenadier had pulled off his helmet and was looking away uncomfortably.
"Something wrong?" Hastis asked, suddenly on edge.
"Nah," The grenadier shuffled. "Ow bout we go this way." He motioned back towards the tanks, the chimera crew was rolling out several heavy weapons, and the sentinel was crouched low, its pilot, ludos, tinkering at the chin-mounted stubbers.
Hastis glanced back, opposite the way the Grenadier was now walking. He saw it then.
He didn't know how he overlooked them, clad in a searing white coat with blue trim, an Aquila topped staff longer than they were tall held in diminutive hands. The deep hood of their cloak hid their face. As Hastis stared, the grenadier took Hastis by the shoulder- quickly, desperately pulling him around and away. It was too late. The figure turned and looked, Hastis opened his mouth to say something-
The words died on his lips as they turned to face him. For a moment he thought he saw their face underneath the hood, their eyes nothing more than pits in their skull, lidless voids that sucked him in. It was unnatural, it was unholy, and Hastis backed off at once. The grenadier wasn't far behind him and he was nursing a familiar cut on his forehead, Hastis turned swiftly and coughed, looking at the grenadier. "You should get that looked at." Hastis quickly advised.
"Later, it's not serious." The grenadier said. They stood silently, Hastis had a question that he was afraid to voice, and the Grenadier knew it, but didn't want to answer. There was a mutual feeling of dread, the idea that speaking of it would gain its attention.
"I never got your name," Hastis said suddenly.
"Corporal Marko, Sir." He replied, the grenadier was stroking the barrel of his lasweapon, a type 67.
"I have to admit, it's a damn fine weapon." Hastis said, looking long and hard at the lasgun. There was a niggling sensation at the back of his head; he did his best to ignore it.
"It's the first companies workhorse," The grenadier turned his lasgun over, there was plenty of scrapes and signs of wear all across its frame, some parts were newer, having to be replaced frequently, such as the barrel, even so, it was lovingly tended, and the dual symbols of the Cog and the Aquila were polished. "She's been with me for four years, this one has. Got me out of more scraps than I can count."
"How's the emitter hold up in a desert anyway?" Hastis pulled out his revolver, the grip tingling in his palm. "This one has a tendency to overheat if I work the trigger too much."
"They manage pretty reliably, they only operate in the sixteen megathule range, that's pretty low power, even considering its rate of fire. You'd have to be really holding the trigger down to get it to overheat. If you burn through three hundred rounds without letting up, then the focusing lenses will start to warp, five hundred for the barrel itself to suffer damage, but by that point your lenses is well and truly gakked anyways."
"How's it hold up when you want to break some skulls?" Hastis felt eyes on him, from seemingly every direction. He spun the chamber of his revolver to calm himself, Marko was fiddling with the strap of his lasgun, putting it over one shoulder and then the other. They were in a desert, yet it felt cold.
"C'mon, you feel how heavy it is?" Marko was bearing a false grin. "Sure, there's no stock but that don't matter much when you got the bayonet lug on."
"Might have to grab myself one if I can,"
"What?" Hastis asked. The corporal looked at him, confused. "What'd you just say?" Hastis asked again.
"Didn't say nothin,' sir." He replied.
"There, you hear that?" Hastis insists. "Did you just-"
"Phask!" Hastis snaps, head snapping back as if hit with a physical blow- he staggers, nearly falls, reaching up and grabbing his temples as a physical force now rolls around him. Marko shouts something, a stammered swear- and then it relents ias quickly as the force had come.
"Throne!" he swears. Hastis breathes, whipping about, searching for whatever was just responsible.
Something grabs him by the pantleg. Before he can look, Marko shouts again. "Sir, I suggest caution, sir-"
It came up to just above his waist, and no further. A deep, all concealing hood falls well past their face, to the point where he doubts that they could see out fro underneath it, but, then again, these creatures had no need of the normal methods of human sight.
"Skin of the Emperor-" Hastis snaps back and away, the hood follows him- the pressure comes again, softer, lighter this time, not so oppressive as before.
"If you ignore it sir, it'll stop." Marko speaks up, several yards away, hastily beating his retreat, he spoke from what Hastis assumed to be experience. "Just don't…" He quiets down, voice becoming a background mutter as all sound seems to vacate the area, and Hastis is left looking at the movements of the grenadiers mouth but hearing no words.
"Okay," Hastis breathes out, he swallows. "Okay, Just, just stop with the voices." Something like an emotion he didn't know he was feeling, swirled up around him like dust in the wind- an emotion, fear, happiness, everything of the sort, trickles into his mind from outside in. "So- What do you normally… do?" He asks, "You have a job, right, are you a line psyker, a telepath, a telekine-" It was a mistake to ask.
Thousands of voices talked at him, a hundred thousand more soon followed behind them, battering at his mental walls, he covered his ears like they would somehow help. Hastis shuts his eyes, grits his teeth and walls off his mind as best he can, calling back to those old Ordos Induction training regimes meant to test his mind and faith utterly.
"Stop that!" He shouts. "Stop doing that!" The assault ends, lances of words formed out of thought pull back sharply, almost frightened.
"That!" He Hastis shouts again. "This damned mind-shite of yours, nock it off- It bleedin' hurts!"
He half expected that wordless voice from every direction to pummel him again, angry, indignant, instead the creature- the psyker –before him looked away, gripping its staff tight in its gloved hands before looking back and up at him- almost enough for him to see under the hood a bit more. "You mind telling me where your handlers are?" Hastis asked the psyker. It shook its head and shrugged.
Hastis twitched involuntarily, the voice in his head- he wouldn't get use to that, you never really get use to working in close concert with a psyker, even an experienced one like Hyork. "Just- Just keep an eye out, if you see anything happen just… tell me, but do it quietly, none of that mind-shouting." The voice doesn't come again, it simply nods.
It was a relief to get away from the unsettling presence of the Psyker, he tried not to let it show all that much but he could tell that Marko saw right through his façade. The Grenadier fell into step next to him.
Hastis shuts his eyes and rubs his temples, when he opens them again, the creature had backed off somewhat, but as he moved it moved to follow him, tail him like some sort of pet- that is, if a pet had a vortex bomb implanted in its brain. Hastis turns to Marko. "Never told me you had a regimental psyker, Marko." Hastis called back over his shoulder. The Grenadier didn't meet his gaze.
"We try not mention it, sir." Marko shrugged. "Bad luck otherwise." Back at waist level, the Psyker in question shifted uncomfortably.
"What grade is it?" He asked Marko, the grenadier shrugged again.
"You'd have to ask second company brass. It's their problem to deal with."
"She's a part of second company?" Hastis asks covertly.
"Aye," The grenadier nods. "Been part of the 2nd ever since the bloody red-cap took office over there."
"2nd was just a standard line-company before the 76th came about, buncha new personnel joined up right after, a new platoon of fancy-pants stormtroopers from outside along with a Lord Commissar and psyker detachment." Hastis stopped and caught the grenadier by the arm, turning him back around to face him.
"A Lord Commissar?" Hastis said. The Grenadier nodded. "You got to be fecking with my head. What in the warp is a Lord Commissar doing hanging around; with your second company no less? No offense but brass like that either is part of the general staff overseeing a campaign."
"No offense taken at all sir," Marko Nods. "I'ven't a faintest facking clue. Like I said, they just sorta rolled right into the mix of things and set up shop at the start of this whole crusade business." Marko glances around, eyes passing over the Psyker that stood off a little ways- staring at them. Marko fingered the grip of his lasgun, an Aquilla had been charged into the enamel there. "What's worse is that you can't even talk to the boys in the 2nd anymore. Damn red-cap has them on lock, a lashing to any of the blokes that step outa line. Lost a few good lads to a bolt round after some of us got fed up and wanted answers about the hush-hush."
"No-shit?" Hastis deadpanned. His temper was rising, again.
"No shit, sir." Marko sighs. Hastis scoffs miserably.
"Tell you what, If the big-hatted-bastard is still around and when cross paths I'll beat him over the head with this," He pulls out the adjutant's rosette afforded to him by Hyork. "and we'll have the whole story."
"You'd do that sir?"
Hastis nods. "I was a mudslinger like you, still am, just got some shiny shit to throw around now."
Marko grinned- wide and giddy. "You're a real mad bastard, you are, sir."
"Glad to be it."
Behind Hastis, the guardsman turned acolyte still reveling in some form of familiar companionship from days long thought past, the Psyker turns her head. Sightless sight stares off into the familiar middle distance. She tilts her head, her minds eye seeing past the dunes and sands and beholding a dark, tenebrous thing that amassed together like a doomsday plague ready to spill out over the horizon. Focusing her mind upon this destitute darkness it coalesces into a shadowy picture that is framed like a snapshot in her vision. She shudders a listless breath. An ocean of shadowbeasts, countless in number, pelting over the sand, on the hunt- hunting for them. Her boots, several sizes too large for her feet, cause her to wobble and shuffle in much of a manner similar to a toddler first learning to walk. Her motion does not go unnoticed, the bald-headed acolyte glances back and over at her, the grenadier scowls in distaste at her approach, she ignores the looks, there is a matter more pressing at hand. She grabs the acolyte by the hand- her mind pressing in around them both.
Emotion and impression rolled together into thought, just like she was trained to do, made to do. The absolute clear conveyance of information through a telepathic means. What she had seen they now see and with it all the implications that follow it. She can feel their minds- trained, jaded, utilitarian things, they shift and lock, going from the temperate paranoia that all guardsmen live in, into the mechanical pragmatist mindset of a consummate soldier.
"What direction?" The Grenadier snaps, any discontent he had at her presence fades away as he flicks the activator stud on his lasgun into life.
Like an overhead view, like looking down onto a hololith projection in a generals control room, the area above them zoomed out and depicted, the blockish shapes of the leman russes, the walls of sandbags, the palisade constructs held up with boards and tie-wires. Their focus is drawn outwards, into the planes, behind the dunes- an amorphous mass of shadow and red-light shifting around, rolling towards their meager firebase.
"What is That?" Hastis snaps accusatorily, clutching his head, the unfamiliar feeling of anther presence inside his own mind. The Psyker gave him but one response that seemed to summarize everything.
He didn't have a chance to ask again before the howls began, and at that point, the answer didn't even matter. "All guardsmen! Prepare to repel incoming! Protect the armor!" Hastis swung out his revolver, spinning the cylinder and feeling it warm in his grip. The presence of the Psyker wasn't fading, if anything it was growing in strength. Marko rushed away from him, slamming his helmet back on and flipping the faceplate down he assumed a position that would place him directly in front of the encroaching howls.
It felt like his mind was being shifted- transported, rolled back to an earlier age, an age before his induction into the inquisition, like something was coming over him. Two engineers were hauling a tripod and heavy weapon out from the centaur, the sand made carrying something like it difficult. Hastis ran past them. "Ready that stubber and get ready to crank out the lead you bastards! Move!" He was whipping out orders left and right, directing the guardsmen into defensive positions behind the sandbags with raised heavy weapons forming up the center of the ring. He didn't have much time, Running over to the light carrier, Hastis vaulted up into the armored machine, his hands closing over the familiar grip of a heavy stubber. "Stormlance on my command; preform suppressing action upon crest at two-ten on my mark!"
The tingling sensation about the back of his brain, he could recall having this feeling before. More screeches and howls, closer now, moments away. He shut out all thought and racked the slide of the stubber.
"Prepare to fire!" he yelled. "For the Emperor!"
"For the Emperor!"
"Louder you dogs! Like you mean it!"
"For the Emperor!"
"Blessed on the sands!"
Carmine was the first to open up, her turret aimed and sighted in exactly where Hastis had wanted it. The twin autocannons of the exterminator pattern leman russ flashed alight and echoed their eruption across the sands as high-explosive fragmentation shells ripped into the crest of the dunes just forwards of where Marko was situated at the base of. Sand was blown in every direction, the entire crest of the dune evaporating into million particulates of dust, furthermore, the sudden disturbance also meant that any footing was lost underneath heavy ceramite boots. Hastis blinked, eyes nearly hazing over, as he sighted in on whatever was now rolling down the embankment. Trying to right themselves were some sort of creatures, quadruped in form but lupine in nature, black and brown tufts of fur with a bleach white boney carapace, legs ending in oversized claws that seemed to erupt from forepaws. The Guardsmen didn't hesitate, volleys of weapons discharge ripping into black flesh and bursting apart at nearly point blank range, five of the creatures all together were reduced into a steaming mass of ruined flesh and muscle. There would be more to come. Howls in the distance rang out- countless voices conjoining together. "Second wave! Fire discretion lifted!" Hastis called out. The next wave fell to the boy and his mechanical walker. The Guardsmen braced for the next contact- ears keen on the sounds of paws pattering over sand- just behind the dune they sat at the base of. From the top the first lupine shape crested- almost pausing for a moment to look down at the fleshling things beneath it. Just as another crested the ridge next to it, its face cape apart as a string of high-velocity rounds tore through it- a steady line of fire dragging over the ride as Ludos ventilated the dunes with his scout walkers twin heavy stubbers, massive lead bullets that flew over the top of the dune and into cresting creatures with punitive consequence. Hastis blinked, he felt eyes on him, down, by the centaur he was mounted in, the diminutive psyker was looking up at him.
Another vision crashing over his eyes, eclipsing his sight for a moment- but he reacted. "Contact two-oh-five!" Hastis swung the heavy stubber around without questioning. Shrieking howls, they erupted from behind the dunes and into the flats, charging madly, Hastis depressed the studs, and lit into them. Following the blinking line of tracers erupting out of the heavy stubber, the multilaser of the Chimera swiveled around, and spears of heat zapped into a mass of creatures that seemed to boil out from the sand of the desert itself. Spears of light and heavy lead played across them as they tried to fan out and disperse, the top hatch Lavender was open, the gunner gripping the handles of the mounted heavy stubber, not willing to waste precious autocannon ammunition on these beasts. There was no break in the wave this time- Over the ridge and out from the dips in the flatlands, they were emerging. Lasfire shifted around, focusing in on these hotspots , the fortified position of Hastis and his guardsmen in a full defensive action.
Back along the ridgeline, from behind, from above where stormlance was hull-down, only exposing their turrets out and over the ridge. He blinked away the false image and swung the stubber around to face the new threat. He racked the slide and slotted in a fresh belt. He noticed something, the creatures, they had red eyes. Red lenses, snarling grill faces locked in a grimace of rage-
"From behind! Stormlance redirect fire to new vector! Guardsmen, to your front! Ludos, check their advance from nine-six, fire at will! We will hold this city!" Out of the sands, a shifting outline of white and brown that was flecked with lines of red and ruby lenses. Hastis squeezed the grip of the stubber, pulling the studs back and letting rip with a long continuous stream of suppressive fire. He chewed them up and spit them back out, shell casings clattered around his feet, the barrel grew hot and the corpses turned from bodies into meat. A new belt, he threw open the breach, they were almost upon him, descending from the sky in their big metal crates, pounding into the ground right on top of them, falling from orbit like punitive gods-
He feels his body become not his own as his head jerks around and the turret swings about to face a new direction. The beasts are coming from all around them, every guardsmen firing into a mass of fangs and fur. Hastis lets the stubber rock in its cradle as chunks of beast are thrown about, knocked away from the ridgeline they were set to swarm over by the lead stream he intercepted them with, Something in his brain pops, like a nerve that had been severed, something leaks from the corner of ne eye-
He draws his revolver without meaning too, he aims upwards-
A black shadow falling across him, a silent reaper filled with cold fury, great feathered wings and claws as thick as his wrist and as long as his forearm, tapering into a fanatical point, stretched out to run him through, guided in by two ruby eyes-
-Its cruel lenses were a darker hue than that of the red innocence that splattered across its armor from its wanton slaughter, but it was not by any degree more vivid than the brilliant flashes of red lasfire that rippled over its ceramite form. Its chainsword howls violence as it rips its length through a score of bodies, not so much cutting through as it was cleaving, the sheer force behind each blow pulped the mortal human it was used against. Hastis was frozen stiff, his hands shook as he aimed down the length of the barrel, trying to track the superhuman monster that was in the process of reducing his men, his comrades, his brothers- into nothing more than unsightly smears. Even as broke Cherui in half with a casual backhanded strike, it was staring at him- challenging him- its crimson lenses focused solely on Hastis the entire time- as if daring him to shoot, daring him to try and stop it. Draski's mangled remains landed before him, he flinched, yanking the trigger, not pulling, the laser beam cut across the pauldron of the superhuman warrior, scouring away a seal, burning a trench across the stark white emblem of a winged sw-
His revolver blows several holes the size of a mans head in the wings of the creature, the flying monstrosity continues its dive, bent on ripping him apart with its hell-talons. Hastis tries to focus on its head, tries to aim, his hands shake, lost in the grip of the past as-
-lightning rips up from below; a pillar of raw electric power tasting of sulfur and iron rises up to meet the descent of the beast from the sky. Hastis cant bring himself to look away. Its flesh is not simply charred away, but atomized in a single great flash as the roiling electricity envelopes the body of the beast, and from the core like electrowhips, great tendrils of roiling, contained lightning scour through the air with malignant intent. Arcing over the ground and over the heads of guardsmen they punch into the writhing mass of black and red creatures that were intent on reaching the beating hearts of the humans that thought to deny them. Much in how a sewing needle is guided through felt, the lightning worms its way through the massed creatures one after the other, flesh is seared and made into charcoal- the bodies collapse or break apart as warp power rolls through them, in mere seconds an entire wave of horrible monstrosities is reduced to ash. At the center of it, the cause of it, the youngling psyker waves her staff above her head like a divining rod, slow circular motions that seemed to shift the current of power glutted on the ash-corpse remnants of the great winged beast. Almost as swift as it had started it ends just as fast, the bolts of electrical death peter out from the source, and clumps of soot fall upon Hastis as the thing held above him in electrical levitation is left to scatter over the winds, whatever beast horde this had been ripped apart from a scourge of electric wrath. He blinks away the shadows hazing his eyes and now looks to the Psyker- the creature that held such phenomenal power. It's hood is pulled tight over its head, some sort of shuddering overtaking its form as Hastis regards it. He didn't know what it had done exactly, but he had heard its mind voice- the clarity of thought it had given to him, the flow of the fight, all imprinted into his head without delay, and the last finishing bolt of lightning had seen this swarm off.
There was also, of course, those memories that it had dredged to the surface…
Hastis shook his head- dizzy, unsteady, a side effect? He cleared his thoughts. "Hey, Bolt-magnet." He said. The hood turned in his direction, jerking in alarm almost. Hastis nods to the sea of burnt ash around the firebase. "That was some good work you did just then." There is a tension in the shoulders of the Psyker that seems to abate almost at once, something like levity almost pointing the corners of its lips- the only things visible under that hood. Hastis cracks a grin as well- why is his head so light all of a sudden?
He opens his mouth to speak, but no words can escape his throat- some sort of pressure, some sort of guiding hand that had manipulated his thoughts only now relenting, supposedly gone but then- A splitting javelin of pain rolling up his spine and curling over into the front of his skull, right behind his eyes. He seizes up, curling forwards, covering his face with his hands and feeling something wet as he slips backwards against the turret ring. He looks at the wetness now leaking over his fingers.
Red like a Ruby.
You are still young, you have much to learn but you know you have power. You can count on one hand the number of times you had the chance to use them without fear of remit, but the scars over your body count how many times you've been bidden to use them, your power harnessed to the will of others. The red raw skin around your neck, the chaff scars of the chains, the bite of the whip- these are things familiar to you. Pride is not, pride is something different and meant for the accomplishment of others. Never before had a compliment, a 'pat on the back' been directed towards you, at most you were given silence, a confirmation of your duties preformed to the letter and nothing more- anything more always being the bite of the whip or the scourge of pain lashing up your neck.
Right now, you are staring up at the man who had made it known that such things as kindness or commendation were possible for a creature like you. The feeling of accomplishment lasts for but a single second, as the man is now slumped over in the turret ring of the Centaur. Alarm radiates through you, his life-force, the spark of his soul still burns but it flickers. You look around, desperately, you don't know what to do, all the while a brush of seconds pass without further attacks and hesitantly, the guardsmen start calling out by squads and fire teams.
"That's it sir, seems clear for the moment." The one same grenadier jogs up to the side of the centaur. "Sir, sir?" He climbs up onto the Chimera, grabbing Hastis by the shoulder and shaking him. "Sir-" The grenadier stops at the river of red leaking from the acolytes nose and eyes, he hooks his hands under Hastis' arms and bodily hauls him out of the turret ring, "I need a fethin' Medicae! Soldier down!" He fervently shouts, and at once two guardsmen break off from the ring of sandbags and come sprinting back, one rips open the caduceus marked bag at his hip as he runs. You stumble back, before they can shove you out of the way, urgency overriding their natural aversion of you.
The grenadier lays Hastis flat, he uses his thigh to prop his head up in such a way that the blood doesn't pool and is allowed to flow out. The Medics take a moment to preform triage, one work sin silence they other mutters benedictions and prayer, tools, glinting silver things and drawn out, canisters of chemicals and rolls of gauze. You have to look away when a thin blade is drawn over the skin just above the Acolytes left eye and peeled back with a pair of tongs. You shut your eyes and hold in your bile. While not a stranger to death and violence- your mind being more attuned to it then most- it was none the less unpleasant.
"…bleeding from increased intracranial pressure, likely caused by a stroke. I need to preform a craniotomy- bonedrill, now." Your heart lurches with your stomach at the sound of a small electric keening that seems to only increase in pitch as the sound of surgical metal is matched against bone. You steels yourself and glances back behind you, and wish you hadn't. The grenadier, the one with the bit of ceramite lodged in his forehead is staring up at you, suspicious but afraid to speak out. You almost says something but instead hurriedly makes your exit, hands wringing against the metal of your staff.
You had done what you had to do in order to protect them. You tell yourself that again and again. You simply did what you always had been made to do. You search for the enemy and you tell the master where they are. You predict their movements and tell all, and when that doesn't work, you take the power you hold inside and you let it manifest and destroy. You didn't know that he couldn't handle it, couldn't handle the information you were giving him. You didn't mean to hurt him. You are a good girl. You had to be, otherwise…
The bits of metal, the old scars and remnants of the dark holds of the ship, the things that were done to you, the things you were made to do. Your hand passes lightly over raised bumpy scar tissue.
More commotion behind You bids you to turn around, a stretcher was brought out, they were loading the Acolyte up into the Chiemra- where the two Stormtroopers were recovering. But it wasn't this that was a cause for commotion, grinding over the sand with tracks chewing up the bodies of the creatures that felt like hate itself, was all too familiar a sight.
A set of blackened Chimeras, each one outfitted and upgraded far beyond it's humble origins, the powerful plasma cannon that took the place of an ordinary multilaser or autocannon turret was but one of the most obvious modifications. Your heart sinks, the tremors ratchet up a degree, and that familiar fear rampaged in the back of your mind with the thought of the countless consequences that will likely befall you for unregulated use of your powers outside of his jurisdiction. Guardsmen took quick notice and either backed away to make room or rushed over to pull down the sandbag palisades that were blocking their entrance.
You don't know if they had come because of you or because they had traced the vox-units of the two Stormtroopers already present, either way, the effect is much the same. The lead vehical pulls into the center of the firebase and grinds to a halt just away from you, almost uncaring of the guardsmen that have to sprint out of the way of the Chimera. The ramp drops, and as always, he is the first off. The peaked crimson cap with gold and black embroidery, the winged silver skull medallion, the crimson sash and greatcoat. Tall black boots march down the ramp and seem to actively punish the sand it steps onto. The man adjusts the glove that covered a false metal hand and let it rest just over the hilt of a strangely utilitarian power sword unbefitting one of his office. The Guardsmen present, the same few that had seemd almost jovial, almost happy in the presence of the Guardsman Acolyte, now took on a silent tone, heads low, shuffling to set positions behind the sandbags, changing the barrels of various mounted weapons or re adjusting the various embattlements of sandbags. Whatever it took to duck the Lord Commissars iron gaze. You cannot escape it, because it falls squarly onto you. Two squads worth of stormtroopers file out of the Chimera's, hotshot lasguns already primed they scan the surrounding desert in search of targets that have the good sense not to materialize. Two approach you directly under the supervision of the lord commissar, his demeanor telling you everything that you needed to know of just what exactly he thought of the situation, what he thought of you in particular.
The metal bites into your neck, reopening those old scars that never heal, the psi dampener nearly suck the strength from your limbs and you lean heavily on your staff to support yourself. You'll need more than it alone now, the price of dereliction of duty, that duty is always being within ten meters of the Lord Commissar at any given time. The mere fact that a warpstorm had separated you is no excuse and the lord commissar was the harshest of disciplinarions. The punishment for breaking the code? Lashes. Lots of them.
The Whip is brought out, Your cloak is removed, the paltry overskirt and leggings removed, and the hateful scars across your back now exposed once more for yet another beating. The sound of leather being tightened as the whip master- one of the stormtroopers- begins the familiar routine.
Humiliation, pain, misery. These are your oldest of friends.
The crack of the whip, it heats the air. The pain covers your back. It repeats, just like so many times before.
A/N: No, really, hear me out on this. I wanna know if RObby G bangin' Celestine counts as incest, and also, Celestine is proportioned like a normal human woman, right? so If RObby G has a Primarch Sized Magma Cannon would that even fit? Or is that just with Vulkan, you know, because he has a Big Black Carapace. Oh, yeah, what would the kid even look like? I mean a baby of a primarch and living saint, that shit would be dope, yo, I mean, none of this is likely to happne, because Girlyman is already getting married to his hot xenos girlfriend, but the what if still stands.
Robby G is a Xenos Fucker that cucked his entire legion.