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Thread: [M] War in the Dirt - Imperials IC

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    Spoiler: Legio Sirenia - Perinetus shipyard hull 
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    “What was his name?” Erin broadcast over the open vox. He spat it as a challenge as the Preceptor advanced on him, lining up a kill shot. The blow from the crane had dropped him to a knee with a crunch of overtaxed servo motors, and his ionshield had decohered. He was a dead man, but he needed to know.

    +Does it matter?+ the voice was feminine, sneering and superior. +We dragged him from his cockpit and exorcised the ghosts of his throne. He was an oppressor, and he died.+

    “He was a man of honour. A Preceptor is only ever piloted by the masters at arms, those who train a future generation in the code chivalric. You didn't just kill a man, you tarnished the honour of his family, house, and Knight.”

    +And I would do it again in an instant. In fact, we may get to do it to you.+

    She fired the las-impulsor, close range kill shot. The scant seconds over the vox had given Erin all the time he needed, however. The shots splashed from his ion shield, leaving bruises of neon light, as he surged from the deck. One pulse got through, burning a livid line in his carapace, but it was already too late. In one smooth, expert motion, he smashed the hastily raised chainblade of his opponent aside, and then, on the backswing, slammed the roaring chainfists blade into the Preceptors torso, shredding armour, structure, and flesh.

    He listened to the wet choking of his opponent over the vox, and smiled grimly.

    “And he would have taught you to multitask like a true scion, harlot.”

    He triggered the heavy bolter, flaying the torso of the preceptor apart. It dangled like a dismembered puppet on his chainfist as its reactor died, and with a swift backstep and reverse of the chains teeth, he disentangled himself from the once noble corpse.

    He switched to lance vox, and was about to request orders, when the screaming started.

    +++++

    Seydias stepped backwards, drawing on all his experience to keep the distance open. This might have been taken for panic, but in truth it was disdain. Apparently they had run out of actual warriors and weapons, and now they were throwing juryrigged scraps at him. Did their heresy truly know no bounds? This would have been a laughable construct for an ork to field. He kept the distance open just long enough to assess his opponent, track its range of movement and the reach of its attacks, then he dropped his shoulder and charged. He wasn't going to waste ammunition on an abomination like this.

    Even though he was driving a juryrigged construction rig with the mass of a malcador tank, with two hydraulic claws and strapped with dumbfire weapons, the pilot had a moment of bowel shaking terror as a true Knight accelerated towards him with all the fluidity and grace of an armoured man. The pilot triggered his weapons, unguided rockets spearing out of hastily welded box launchers, flamers burping on some unreliably void optimised fuel. Seydias ploughed through it all, ion shield crackling, chainblade carving through the hydraulic claws with laughable ease. His lowered shoulder met the rig and bowled it over, overtaxed legs snapping as the footplates clung to the deck, and the extra mass of weapons and armour on its torso defeated the juryrigged bracing. The menial had a moment of bewilderment as he found himself staring up at the mass of Perinetus spinning overhead, then the descending foot of Sinister Intent.

    Seydias turned from his work as another scrap-weapon emerged from a hanger. He had an impression of the pilot, dark skinned, slender, with close shaved hair and a face locked in a rictus of hatred as the construction rig stomped forward, stubbers rattling as they spit shells ineffectually at him.

    Bored of that, Seydias triggered the thermal cannon and put the shot into the glass cockpit. There was a serious explosion as the simple combustion engine detonated, followed by the firecracker explosions of stubber ammo cooking off. He stepped back a little, and turned to track another opponent.

    That was when the screaming started, drowning out the vox bands.

    +++++

    Moerus Sinae was hunting, and Rosen was enjoying herself, hands clamped to the throne, lips drawn back in a feral snarl, legs shaking as she stalked across the station, swept up in war rapture. She fired the vulcan, 2 second burst, and followed it up with a blast from the turbo. One of the knights staggered, crippled, and its fellows locked around it.

    Moerus circled round the knights, and fired again. This time the turbos beams flashed low, laming a Paladin. She needed them crippled, worn down. If they got on top of her, it was all over. She had inloaded dozens of battles between knights and titans as part of her historical research, and knew that three paladins was enough to cripple a titan at close range. Missiles and battlecannon fire flashed from her shields, then with a burst of light, the voids failed.

    +Get them back up!+ she canted, unable to articulate with her flesh voice while fighting with, and against, Moerus Sinae's feral spirit. The titan had a taste of blood, and it was near frenzied.

    Control yourself! She willed, tamping down the reactor. Warhounds could easily overheat and inflict damage to themselves, their reactors boiling over. As the warhounds plasma heart settled and the shields snapped back into place, she re-emerged from cover and strafed the knights again. The lamed one pitched forwards, riddled with vulcan fire, leaking fire and oil and blood into the void. Missiles and cannon spat back, some missing, some kissing the relighted fields in explosions of fire.

    She was about to call to Rosa for support in finishing them with enfilading fire from Rosa's carapace mount, when the vox was swamped with screaming.

    “Oh cog.” she breathed. Hange had lost control.

    +++++

    It wasn't a duel, it was a dissection.

    Solid tactics, poor aggression.

    Piss-all actual skill.

    Levvi watched the spotter Paladin limp away from him, its right leg partially fused by a scalding melta blast from Rosa. He kept turning around the crippled questoris hull, a bulldog baiting a lamed ursid, snapping shots from his lascutter as the wounded pilot inside tried to get his battlecannon into arc. But dragging a leg, all he could do was spit futile fire from his carapace mount. A missile slipped through Levvi's ion shield and glanced from his pauldron, tearing a chunk of armour clear and sending it spinning away into the void. With a grunt, he closed briefly again, and fired the graviton singularity cannon. The shot was well placed, mangling the box launcher and locking it in place.

    Levvi had his deadzone now for Zoerrins capture order. He swept in, feeling the cold fury of his Atrapos through the throne mechanicum. With a few quick close range blasts from the lascutter, he had left the enemy knight crippled on the hull, missing both its arms and its other leg turned to a fused stump. To get the point across, he slammed the lascutters armoured, reinforced butt into the pilots hatch, hard enough to warp and jam it in its frame.

    “You're not getting clear of that without a repair crew.” He muttered. He turned on his heel and reached out to Hange and Hector with the vox, when the channel was overwhelmed with a scream of rage and pain.

    “What in the eye?” he gasped as he killed the feedback laced scream.

    +++++

    "Starboard side showing cascade failures!
    "Motive down! Starboard weapon down!"
    "Cog. . .Cog voids collapsed! Manifold collapse!"
    "Princeps! My Princeps!"

    Jeanne slammed her chin seat back and yanked the cables out of her skull. Amoria was trying to reignite the voids, but it was a hopeless task without the Manifold, and Brenae was wrestling with the control columns that were suddenly like stirring wet ferrocrete, trying to stop the titan falling like a poleaxed drunk. Jeanne staggered from the seat as the dislocation punched her full in the face and gut, shrunk from being a towering avatar of war to a thing of meager scale and meat.

    Hange was passed out, slumped forwards, and smoking from the discharge. Jeanne made it across to the Princeps and checked her pulse and breathing. Thready, but still there.

    "Bio support is dead! Cog, it should have brought her round already!" She gingerly touched a finger to the Princeps plugs and withdrew with a hiss, cursing. They were still hot.

    "A breaker must have failed in the upper lumbar." Amoria spat, slamming a fist into the half dead console she was still hardplugged to. "Do it manually and get her conscious!"

    "Right, right, manually." Jeanne half crouched, half crabbed to the rear of the reavers cockpit, tearing open a medicae pack on a wall. It spilled its contents from her still numb fingers and she cursed again, ducking down to get a stim patch. She found what she was looking for, as the whole Titan lurched.

    "Did we fall"? She squeaked. "Are we still attached to the station? Oh Deus did we fall?

    "No! Motives back! I've got manifold! We'd all be dead if we fell like this!" Brenae yelled.

    "I've got manifold!" Amoria confirmed. "Get back in your seat! Princeps, confirm target!"

    Jeanne crabbed back to Hange, and her jaw dropped as she realized that Hange was still unconscious.

    "She's not moving us" The words escaped as a horrified whisper. "She's still out cold!"

    "She can't be. . ." Amoria turned from the moderati's terminal, eyes going wide.

    "Oh no." was all she managed before she started to scream.

    Before Sicut Sanguis Rosa began to scream.

    +++++

    The Dominus detached its harpoon, winding it back in for another shot. The enemy titan was swaying, still standing but clearly crippled. The Dominus pilot slowly walked around the Titans front, lining up a shot on the giants cockpit that would surely fry the crew.

    Then the titan lurched back into life, a mechanical scream of interference and garbage code washing out the vox and distorting the sensor feed from the Dominus own gunbox vids. Before it could fire, the vast crushing fist of Rosa swung down as the Titan stooped, catching the Knight and hauling it from the deck. The screams of its pilot joined Rosa's screams, and then with a calculated savagery, Rosa jammed the flailing Dominus into the stations plasma reactor vent. Paint and metal ran like wax as the pilot inside shrieked out his last moments, before all that was left of the Dominus was a seared, radioactive lump of metal clogging up one of the exhaust stacks.

    Rosa's scream became a roar of triumph. Its sensors quested and pulsed, identifying its trusted packmates, the swarming creatures at its feet, and its loyal Knight attendants. With a chuckle of garbage code, it turned its attention to the station hub, stamping, goring and crashing through the dock structure, blasting at anything in reach and swatting aside anything that got in its way.

    +++++

    Jeanne clung onto the Princeps throne for grim death, as the titan lurched and screamed around her. With one arm braced, she tore open Hanges suit and slapped a stim patch on her chest, over her fluttering heart. For a second Jeanne wondered if she'd have to make the trip to retrieve another from the floor, before Hange's eyes focused and she sucked in a huge breath.

    "Rosa." she gasped. "Rosa. . .Rosa listen to me!" Hange shook her head, before turning to Jeanne. "Amoria and Brenae are fighting it. Plug in and help us. Now." Jeanne glanced to the other crew members, locked in a rictus of pain in their chairs.

    Jeanne nodded and staggered to her seat as the titan lurched again. Plugging back in was a spike of agony, and then. . . .

    F̝̻̠̝̪̘͎̮͠a̪̞̖̱͞l͚͙̟̮̤̯̖l͏̠͉͖̠͘i̴̝͈̲̖̤͠͠ṇ̷g̹̕. ͓͙ ̮̯͔͞.̸̘̬͕̱̲̘͔ ̺̠̮͈̞͢.͇̦̫̹̭ ̡̕͏͇̜̼̹͎̘.̧̪͍
    ̧͕̣͉͈̱̘͕̀͜ͅ
    ̧̰̫̝̬̲̺̰͈̲̕T͙́̀h̶̠̟̭͈͓̺e̤̝̤̖͍͙͠ ̡̧̘s̷͏̥̫̗͚̱̻͕͙m̤̩̹͔̹̲̦͉͜͡e̷͍̜̯̼͓̦͝l̠̰̫̙̹̕l̸̤͇̥̼͓̖͞ ̝̦ ̷͏̴͕̝͖o̸̦͎̖̫̘̯͉̳͔̕f̞͔̭ͅ ̖͔̤̳̲̙̫̺c͜͏͚̬͚̯͚̻̪̭o̟͓̤̤̱̗͡o̠̥̰̘̺͍̳̼͔k̶̦̮̥̬̫̪͙͢ȩ͡ ͚̖̠͉d̢̬͍͜ ̸̡̠͚͉̪͢m͓̫͕̫̤͚͟ę͎̼̝̥͔͔̳̗a̶̳̦͕̕͢t̡̠͈̰͎̪̫.̨̬̪͉̯ ̟̦̻͈ ͉͈̯́.̷͈̤͇̣̥͓͓͟ ̴̢̡̣ͅ.̷̥̹͇͕̮ͅf҉̮̩̝̖̫̦͜ͅl̡̠͉̘̤̝̺̯a͓m̘̲̦̰͈͢͜e҉̢͓͚̬̗̮ ̜̯͉s̛̙͎͔͖̫̼.̸̵̰̗͇͉̫̫̘ͅ ̺͇͜.͖͎͔̩̫͜ ̛̥̳͖͠.̵̡̹̣̫̝͢
    ̯̱̩̞̤̝ͅ
    ̱̥Ą͚̮̝͚̮̬̤ͅͅ ̡̟̜̰͓͉̪̲̫͟h̵̷̡̩̥͍à͖n̷̡̘͔d̪̯̹͉͍̘̥ ̦r̸̥̩͇̪̮̲̯̠ę̞̘̲͕̱͇͎͟͞ḁ̘ć̪̘͖̱̯̭͜ͅh҉̲̖̥͕̮͚̼i҉̻̬͔̕ ͖͕ͅn̡͕̭̯̗͢͞g̶͖̫ ̜̲̗̠̲̼͢o̵̢̞̥̳̖̪̰̺͡ų̞̱̥͞ţ̗̰̣͖̜̹͈͈̗̀͞ ̱̠̠͈͎̭͢o̭̩̙̜̟̳f̫̺ ̴͈̹̪̫ţ̷̬͖̼̩h̳͔̲̤́e̴̡͉̙͚̘̖͡ ̵̷̪̥̲͎̲̩͟d̢̰ḁ̵͉̠̹͙̩̳͝r̡̫͇k̦̼̙͔̲̫͟.̙̪͙̬͚̰͘͞ͅ ̷̙̘͉͇̩͞.̧͚̯͇̦͢͟ ̛̭͇.̸̨̰͕̬̟̺̲̦̦


    Jeanne gasped as she snapped back to baseline reality. She could taste blood in her mouth and felt the urge to vomit. She glanced over at the crew and saw that Brenae had lost her rations, but was holding onto the control columns, ignoring her discomfort to do her job.

    "Sensori, get me back in touch with the battlegroup."

    She glanced at Hange, who looked like death, her face streaked with blood, features drawn tight in pain, her eyes still dazed and unfocused. It was taking all her will to hold them all together. Jeanne nodded, and turned back to the controls.

    "Yes Princeps."

    "Moderati, get me my melta cannon back. Now."

    +++++

    Battlegroup communications were out for less than five minutes, during which time Hector Rho had worked diligently. He had ordered his heaviest assault elements to drop in the wake that Rosa had carved, with infantry elements locking on to each of the embattled Knights and Sinae. He advanced and met the first elements, his rangers securing a forward coordination post in case Rosa was incapacitated. Further back, boxy hulled Onagers and repair crews landed around the damaged Knights and Furvus Maria, with the aim of getting at least some of the Knights back in the fight for the next wave.

    Finally, with a hiss of static, Hange Zoerrin appeared before him in the manifold. He dropped to one knee as the Princeps looked over the work he had done.

    +You have done well, Hector. The enemy is near broken. We push for the hub. Lay your plans accordingly.+

    +By your command.+ He canted back as the image of the sainted Princeps dissipated into scraps of code. rising to his feet again, he directed the first wave of Skitarii to land to start the process of taking the station, dozens of entry points being forced as entry hatches were mined and blasted open, Skitarii fire teams sweeping airless halls and shooting anything they saw.
    Last edited by dakkagor; 05-13-2020 at 06:53 PM.
    I have seen the future. The future is dead.
    We killed it


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    “Frak.” Enrique Quintana breathed, and lowered his carbine and leaned against the atrium’s administration desk.

    His soldiers pressed ahead into the Patriot-occupied manufactorum and policed the few dead and wounded Divinatory Guard who had defended this section of the stronghold. Despite the foothold which had been gouged out, he was under no illusions that this was presently Divinatory Guard territory from the crackle of las-fire and thumps of heavier support from the gallery above - or the peculiar acoustics and semi-disconcerting shaking impacts of his own company’s limited heavy weapons and las rifles as they hammered the building. Quintana decided to reassure himself that it was of the Mechanicus, so it should be able to take the hits.

    Should.

    Quintana frowned slightly as he reloaded his weapon, belatedly remembering his newly acquired carbine had two packs to replace. He keenly regarded the immediate surroundings. It struck him as odd, and ominous, how the Divintory Guard had withdrawn to a man and woman back into the machinist floor. The last few stragglers who were being roughly searched and secured, triaged as best the Legion could amongst their own wounded, or sprawled dead on the floor had been those who would’ve been able to escape - had they but taken the obviously marked stairways to the second floor galleries, still in friendly hands.

    They’re trapped. Quintana concluded with a subvocalized curse. As if stairs need to be any more of a death trap for us.

    He remembered Tresnjak’s warning about how it was in the Divinatory Guard’s tactical doctrine to lure an enemy force into a building, and collapse it with demolition charges on structural supports. It seemed doubtful that was the case, as the Divinatory Guard held the second floor in what had to be respectable numbers...but Quintana couldn’t, or wouldn’t discount what that prick Crenshaw had cautioned about the Baraspini’s potential to offer a fanatical degree of resistance. They believed the Emperor had offered His blessing on the Patriot’s revolution due to that traitor astropath, and more directly they were fighting for their homes.

    Who wouldn’t fight their actual or figurative balls off in defense of their homeworld, for their families? Quintana shook his head, knowing damn well what he would do were he in the Baraspini’s combat boots, and turned towards the soldiers of his assault team.

    “Check the -” Quintana started, and paused, as he saw that his order was unnecessary. There were a couple of faith masked legionaries carefully and diligently checking each of the stairway door frames for traps, with the hard-won experience that hadn’t been lost in the decades since their time in the Baraspini resistance. These were the men and women who had written in the Divinatory Guard’s tactical manual on insurgency warfare and taught it for the past twenty years. Glad they’re on our side.

    Quintana was pleased to see Dimitrova, formerly of the resistance and the Div’s combat engineers afterwards, in earnest conversation with her opposite Fournier - late of the Tephaine sapper corps. The two sergeants and professional deconstruction specialists were engaged in a technical discussion about the finer points of Baraspini improvised traps, with no hint of rancour between them - as there had been, to some extent, between the legionaries from the rival worlds. He took that as a positive.

    “Captain!” Lieutenant De Witte called out, and Quintana turned to see her hustle back through the sundered, cog-wheel etched door which led to the machinist's workshop and the staccato firefight between his advance squads and the withdrawn Divinatory Guard. She double timed over to him, and barked a curse as she skidded on the silica dust coated floor and almost lost her footing.

    “Woah, no running in the halls.” Quintana quipped as he offered her a steadying hand. He promptly reached up to awkwardly scratch his bristly cheek when she shot him the look, which from his misbegotten experience as an Imperial Guardsman seemed universal to the female half of the species. He nodded towards the shootout. “What’s the word in there, Carlijn?”

    “Impasse is the word, Kiki.” De Witte answered, as she leaned against the atrium desk as well.

    Quintana reflexively grinned at the Siculite’s appropriation of Buford’s preferred contraction for his name. Tyrus Cassius Buford VII, you’re a bad influence on the Addi...er, frak. Adranteans. He shook his head and coughed. “Impasse. I don’t like that word.”

    “Div’s are holding the far side of the shop, content to play las-tag for the time being.” The Lieutenant clarified, with a weary ’it is what it is’ shrug of her broad shoulders as she flicked her gaze upwards. “The real party’s thumping and bumping upstairs, and the Patsies down here seem very determined to keep us from crashing it - and we’re short on the bodies to make a try, as of yet.” De Witte’s weathered, oval face scrunched into a frown. “Three of my squads must’ve been locked up by the Divs out there.”

    “I’ll have Adrian move in with his squads and sort out the stragglers.” Quintana assured. He waived for Schmitt, his vox-operator, as well as his company’s combat engineers to come on over. He jerked a thumb nodded towards the stairs. “I’ll bet they’re wired.”

    “Eh, you keep that wager. I had already figured as much.” De Witte grunted as she nodded in turn at the dead Divs, who had risked the run rather than fleeing upstairs. “Rule to the wise, should you ever find yourself on a sinking ship, always follow the rats.”

    “I’ll, uh, take your word on that.” The Captain responded, hesitantly. He was a born and bred hiver, and had still never quite been able to reconcile himself to worlds with large bodies of water like Siculi. Quintana saw her skeptical reaction, and elaborated. “I’d rather blow my brains out or ignite myself with promethium than fall into the underhive sea.”

    “Damn it, man, it’s only water. It’s natural.” The Lieutenant countered, with the flippant ease of someone who had never had to live off water which had been recycled through innumerable fellow humans - and never had cause to imagine that would be necessary.

    “It wasn’t water, but it was natural.” Quintana contended, with a meaningful expression.

    “You also tend to run from the rats, when they’re large enough to throw a saddle on.” Schmitt distractedly chipped in, as she gingerly propped the vox on the desk and began to fiddle with some dials and thoughtfully prod at the machine. “At least in my district they glowed in the dark, so they were easy enough to see.”

    De Witte shuddered with disgust as she processed those images. “I frakking hate hives.”

    Quintana chuckled as he produced his tactical data-slate and reactivated it with a scrupulously traced cogwheel. “Well, let’s win this war and have our fingers crossed for Reth. We’ll have you back on the water in no time, though all the same I’ll stay on the beach.”

    “Your loss.” De Witte commented with another shrug.

    “Oh, hardly.” Quintana countered, and smiled as he remembered Rana’s banter about her wish to be deployed to Axinite. “Someone recently made a fantastic suggestion about requisitioning some fruity cocktails, so I’d have to investigate that.”

    “I’m with Kiki on that.” Schmitt added through gritted teeth as she worked. “Although, I’m absolutely liberating some cute cabana boy of his precious virginity.” Quintana quirked a grin, wondering what it was about female vox-operators and their seeming fixation on pleasure world cabana boys. His amusement faded as she cursed, as something evidently wasn’t working. “Frak it, or more correctly, frak them - make it boys. Hail to the Emperor, and to the frustrated and pissed off victrix goes the sweaty, torrid spoils.”

    “Woman, you are out of control.” De Witte decreed, although by her own grin wasn’t against Schmitt's occupation strategy. She sighed wistfully, and shook her head to dismiss the fantasizing. “Either way, so long as we’re not off to another damned hive.”

    “Frak!” Schmitt hissed, and withdrew a finger as the vox crackled and sparked.

    “Problem?” Quintana queried, as evenly as he could manage with the amount of concern he had that his vox had been blown out. He dreaded the prospect of trying to lead and organize his company through this fight without stable communication.

    “Silica dust must’ve got somewhere it ought not to be, sir. One sympathizes.” Schmitt growled, drawing a snorted chuckle from Quintana while De Witte hmm’d mildly in agreement. “I’ll need a minute, or few, so keep on talking amongst yourselves.”

    The vox-operator made a perfunctory cogwheel over the vox and went directly to percussive maintenance. She cursed the tech-priest who sanctified its parts, damned the menial who assembled it, and speculated in coarse detail as to the linear nature of their family lineage in between quoting Mechanicus scripture and imparting ritual blows to the overworked vox-caster.

    Quintana sighed, and suppressing the burning urge to make some pointed and profane comments about the Munitorum, turned towards the combat engineers. He waved his hands towards the stairs. “So, how badly trapped are they?”

    “Oh, certifiable deathtraps. It’s a fascinating set-up, really.” Fournier answered, almost cheerfully. The brawny Tephainian smiled broadly, hands tucked within his leather equipment apron, as he nodded respectfully to his Baraspini counterpart to elaborate.

    Dimitrova caught the gesture from the corner of her eyes, as she watched Schmitt’s interpretation of her faith’s dogma with mute horror - enough that she touched the prayer strand of blessed hex-nuts around her neck for reassurance, and continued to work them as she spoke. “High probability the stairways have been laced with concealed shrapnel and incendiaries - most likely hidden in wall, ceiling and maintenance panels, all wired to a single pressure plate on the top landing. The logic being the opposition is allowed to fill the chamber to maximize the number of casualties inflicted, damage to morale, and wastage of medical supplies.”

    “Frak me…” De Witte groaned, and after a quick look at the interplanetary quartet of hive trash, switched to her native tongue to undoubtedly mutter more disparaging comments about hive worlds. Quintana merely whistled, impressed by the sheer brutality.

    “Great, isn’t it?” Fournier responded, seemingly eager with the prospect of untangling such a hellish construction - which made Quintana have to wonder if the sapper was somewhat certifiable himself. But, then again, you probably had to be as a sapper.

    “Not quite how I’d describe it, no - but either way, those stairs are out of the question.” Quintana affirmed, which took the cheerful smile right off Fournier’s face. He sighed, and shook his head. “It’d take too long to diffuse, even if the Divs sportingly gave us the time to try, and no doubt there’s already a defensive position ready to give us one shitty, fatal reception once we breach.”

    “You would be correct, Captain.” Dimitrova confirmed with a nod, causing the light from the lumen-strips above to reflect off her expressionless steel faith mask - machined in reverential detail with what Quintana had been told was the Omnissiah’s aspect as the Unmaker God. Quintana flicked his eyes upwards, and inhaled slowly as he stared towards the ceiling. Well, hot shit…

    “How about we drop the floor right out from underneath the bastards.” The Captain suggested, as he quickly turned his attention back towards the combat engineers, and his on-hand platoon leader. “Move to clear the machinist floor, and as below so above. We start knocking holes in the ceiling along the length of the galleries, most likely our meltas, right where they’ve made firing positions. I figure while we’re at it, throw the fear of the Emperor into ‘em with some flamer action to make this a full-on turn out?”

    “I like this idea, sir.” Fournier commented, his almost unseemly cheerful smile back at the prospective destruction. Dimitrova was less enthused, by her rigid posture and her fixed stare on the blown apart hatchway with the engraved Mechanicus sigil. The Tephainian noticed, and curbed his eagerness. “The Deus wouldn’t approve of the Patsies using a manufactorum as a fortress to damage and destroy all those Casterian treads, would He? Besides, the Mechanicus builds their temples of industry robustly.”

    “The Deus would not and his blessed Magi do.” The Baraspini agreed with a slow nod. “We shall find a way to make it so.”

    “We’ll need the rest of our assault force in here to make that type of push, Captain.” De Witte added, as she reloaded her carbine.

    “Mathys is my first call once the vox is online, Lieutenant.” Quintana assured, with a side glance to check on Schmitt’s progress as he cycled through the maps on his slate until he had the manufactorum grid. She gave him a relieved thumbs up of approval, and handed him the worn hard-plastek handset. Quintana took a breath as he brought the speaker to his mouth and activated it.

    + + + + + +

    “Good shot!” Buford rumbled into his hand-vox, a wide grin plastered beneath his handlebar moustache. He watched the blown out remnant of the security block shear away with a tortured screech of metal, and collapse into the roadway and crumple a cargo-8 like an empty beer can. The mental image made him chuckle, despite everything. “That’s another round on the Legion, Katze One!”

    Burford briefly looked back over his shoulder towards the blocky, high profile silhouette of the Conqueror and raised an appreciative thumb that Gortz probably couldn’t even see. The Legion’s armoured guardian angel was obliged to divert and assist Tresnjak, who had the remainder of his squads in the block over - so he could hardly bitch and moan about the loss of the armoured support.

    In the humble opinion of Tyrus Cassius Buford VII, there was no finer machine for an Imperial Guardsman to fight alongside than a Leman Russ. In his salt of the earth opinion, it suited the infantryman perfectly. While the Guard’s superheavy armor, and allied Knights and Titans were inspiring, only a fuggin’ idiot would want to see one of ‘em in their engagement zone. Like as not in an apocalyptic battle, as the poor fuggin’ grunt in that scenario, you’d be reporting directly to the Emperor before the day was done.

    Day ain’t done here, Top. You’d best un-fug yourself an’ get workin’. Buford brusquely reminded himself, and proceeded to un-fug himself and get back to work. He made a series of curt hand gestures to the sergeants of the squads he’d been pinned down with, and once the word was translated and relayed, Buford counted down and punched a fist in the air as he stood and advanced.

    The company’s senior sergeant tucked his trusty Prosperum-made rifle into his shoulder as he practiced what he had ordered, darting from cover to cover under the protection of the Legion’s soldiers as he offered them overwatch in turn. Burford recognized that he’d stumbled onto at one of De Witte’s squads, notable by the higher percentage of ballistic-quality Baraspini faith masks, in addition to the squad from Tresnjak’s platoon which he had tagged along with for the assault. Regardless of origin, the moved like the proper Guardsmen they were, in spite of all the shit that had been tossed the Legion’s way. We’ve eaten our fair share…

    Buford and his unexpected companions advanced without resistance or even sight of the Divs until they reached the semi-flattened semi-truck and a gently smoking figure staggered out into the street ahead of him from one of the formerly conjoined buildings. Iit was one of the Divinatory, unmasked and unhelmed Baraspini - revealing a long barreled rifle as they slewed almost drunkenly around as they must have sensed a presence, reflexively making him clench his rifle tighter as he drew a bead on the traitor.

    “Emperor, fug an’ damn.” Buford cursed as he saw what else had been revealed. I fuggin’ hate fightin’ humans...

    “Contact left!” Hoyt shouted, eagerly to his ears - not surprisingly, as aside from Llewellyn the rest of his fire-team had been thoroughly killed by an errant Earthshaker round in their assault thus far. He heard the boy growl. “First Sergeant, you’re in my shot!”

    “Hold!” Buford shouted back, quickly raising his hand to his backup as he fractionally lowered his lasgun. “Hold fire!”

    The Baraspini was a she, and the left side of her face and body was bloodied, charred and tattered - the right side an obscene mirror of pristine kit and fresh faced youth. While far, far too young for his age or interest, had she been of the Legion - and not hidden behind a faith mask - Buford would’ve referred to her as a lovely young lady and been amused by the boys and girls self-professed as studs making spectacles of themselves in pursuit, until he came down on them like the Earthshaker shells the Divs were pissing on them, on account of the usual juvie-like fraternization grab-ass. She stared at him with wide, uncomprehending blue eyes as blood continued to lazily pour from her remaining ear, as he held out a cautionary hand and came slowly closer to her.

    Steady, now. Buford counseled himself as he mouthed the Baraspini word for surrender to the young traitor, who merely continued to stare at him as he reached out and gingerly plucked the weapon - which for all the Thrones in the pension he’d likely never see, looked like a bolt rifle - from the Divinatory without a spark of resistance. Once disarmed, any soldier that had been in the girl was gone, her ruined features contorted and she began to noiselessly weep. Buford kept her covered regardless, as he rested her erstwhile weapon against the side of the building, and then gently sat her down on the low stoop of the building she had stumbled from. It was when she covered her mangled face with her hand and a half, that the former Div began to outright bawl.

    “Check ‘em out!” The company senior non-commissioned ordered, with sharp gestures towards the formerly conjoined buildings, as he kept a watchful eye on the wounded POW. The squads promptly broke down into fire-teams, with what looked like the first sections barging their way in while the second sections hunkered into cover and kept a watchful eye down their sights on the roadway ahead. He was quietly relieved when one of De Witte’s straggling squad came to attend the woefully crying Div.

    “Fug.” Buford muttered, desperately wishing he could have a smoke as he turned away from the miserable spectacle of one individual tragedy amongst Emperor alone knew how many today. He was under no illusions how badly that could’ve gone, if the Div who’d survived Gortz’ intervention had been less mangled and resisted - or worse, shot or thrown out a grenade as they tried to take a few invaders with them. Baraspine was occupied in livin’ lifetime - no shit they’re takin’ this serious. I’d do likewise.

    “I appreciate your restraint, First Sergeant.”

    Buford glanced askance at the legionary who was rendering aid to the Divinatory, and belatedly recognized it as the sergeant from the displaced squad from 1st platoon. He only felt slightly like an idiot for missing her stripes. Majewski. The name struck him after a moment, as he pieced the fringe of steel gray curls from beneath her helmet. He had always been one for faces, which made the Baraspini the most damn difficult of the Adrantean influx to become familiar with - which was a damn shame, as many of them were the former partisans, and with a minimum of twenty years in the PDF since they had waged a hard-bitten insurrection against the heretics. He reckoned they could be amongst the most experienced soldiers within the entire reclamation crusade.

    “Naw, it was nothin’.” Buford countered, with a wave of one meaty paw as he tried not to think about the alternatives.

    “Respectfully, I’ll have to disagree. It was everything.” The Baraspini NCO countered in turn, as she glanced over her shoulder as she wound an almost scarce bandage around the numbly compliant POW’s lacerated face. He must’ve missed the sergeant’s successful effort to soothe the younger, traumatized woman. “It would’ve been easier and safer, if you’d shot her and moved on.”

    “Yeah...that’s been crossin’ my mind.” The senior non-commissioned admitted, barely resisting the urge to inhale a mouthful of gritty and smoke fouled air. “Anyhow, it really ain’t nothin’. Colonel’s standin’ ROE for the regiment is to take POWs, firmly but fairly, an’ don’t cause the civs more grief than they’re already goin’ to be feelin’ by bein’ caught out in the middle’a all’a this shit.”

    “How many of the Legion would’ve obeyed those rules of engagement in your position, or reported a summary execution for making a split second decision to shoot or not?” She queried, obviously rhetorically by the tilt of her unmarked faith mask - a not uncommon styling for the Dominion veterans. “At any rate, I appreciate the effort - and that effort that the Colonel and most of your people are making. It’s more than most have done, fools that they are. It’s moments like this, of humanity, which’ll save or damn Adrantis.”

    Buford hmm’d low in his throat as he smoothed his bushy facial hair to try and mask his discomfort. He had never been one for deep, philosophical thoughts outside of when he was deep in his cups on a bar stool - and even then, only when everyone else was passed out on said bar. In spite of the shitty environmentals, he took that breath and obligingly coughed. “Look...I ain’t one for navel gazin’, but as far as I’m concerned we’re all fuggin’ humans in the Emperor’s image, an’ there’s enough xenomorph bullshit lookin’ to do the job we’re doin’. No point blowin’ away a shell shocked kid who’s already havin’ the worst day of her life for nothin’.”

    Majewski chuckled lowly as she returned her attention back to her wounded charge. “And you said you weren’t a philosophical soul.”

    “Must’ve been too much time in the desert on Solomon, as I ain’t so lucky to be drunk.” Buford speculated, trying not to grin.

    That became easy enough with another roar of Gortz’ Conqueror, and another bone rattling explosion. There was a shrill of pea whistles, shouts and the crack of lasfire as the bulk of Tresnjak’s platoon surged forward through the side streets ahead and engaging with Divinatory Guard units across an arterial intersection. The Baraspini were dug-in within a row of workshops turned into a strongpoint, revealed as the loyalists cleared their previous line of defense. He watched, teeth gritted, as not all the gray-clad soldiers who went to ground crawled to what cover they could find or return fire against the entrenched Divinatory Guard.

    The senior non-commissioned clenched his fist with reflexively as the throaty, staccato bark of autocannons began to weigh in as Nyberg’s gunners settled in and began to jackhammer the Div’s fortifications. Not to be outdone, Tresnjak’s own weapons specialists added to the cacophony with the rapid-fire clatter of stubbers and the scream of a missile that terminated against a barricaded window in a bloom of fire. His enthusiasm was cut short as an Earthshaker round obliterated the upper floors of a tenement hab. Debris cascaded onto one of the squads. There was a truncated scream, and the gray, dusty air of Alda briefly flashed bloody red.

    “Fug this, and fug those Bassies!” Buford declared as sharply as he turned to check on the search teams, ready to bawl at them to move their asses. He was spared that effort, as Majewski’s team hadn’t found any other survivors and the searchers from Tresnjak’s platoon - Wexler’s mob - herded out two more dazed and lightly wounded Divinatory Guards. “Llewellyn! Hoyt!”

    “First Sergeant!” The two responded in unison, although the senior non-commissioned heard the elder Llewellyn muffle a curse as he hobbled on his rolled ankle - which, paradoxically, had spared the two legionaries from sharing their team’s messy end.

    Buford forked his fingers at the two freshly caught Divs, and pointed to where their first capture sat in silence. He fixed them with a hard look, more for Hoyt’s benefit, and spoke firmly. “You’re keepin’ an’ eye on the POWs, everyone else, we’re movin’ on.”

    “Aye, First.” Llewellyn responded, with a quick nod and quicker side glance at his young companion. Hoyt sighed frustratedly before he verbally acknowledged the order.

    Buford brusquely nodded, and out of the corner of his eye caught another of the Baraspini taking furtive looks in his direction, away from the street ahead. The senior non-commissioned was about to make an issue of that, until he recognized Kiki’s las rifle in the man’s hands. Gorecki, marksman, had been facin’ fifty lashes from the damn grox-reamin’ Moustache. He hmm’d when he figured the former partisan was staring past him, towards the erstwhile Div’s sniper rifle. No point lettin’ it go to waste…

    “If you ain’t gonna take it, I’ll take it.” Buford prompted the Baraspini, with a casual jerk of his thumb - and a more serious, encouraging nod when the Adrantean loyalist hesitated Fuggin’ ‘stache has ‘em flinchin’ an’ skittish like beaten dogs…

    “Thank you, First Sergeant.” Gorecki answered as he hustled forward and scooped up the captured weapon, and immediately began to inspect the peculiar model of rifle with practiced familiarity. He must have noticed the curious look. “Perinetus-pattern bolter, which we called the ‘Solo’, on account of its shootin’ semi-auto. It’s...a bit nonstandard, which probably was a hint.”

    “Eh, don’t go beatin’ yourself up when even the fuggin’ Inquisition got caught with their pants down.” Buford grunted, in an attempt to pinch that thought process off real quick. He waved a dismissive hand. “An’ don’t go thankin’ me, as a piece like that’s wasted on me anyhow - but if you’re feelin’ obliged, shoot some fugger who’s deservin’ of a bolt between the eyes an’ well call it square.”

    “Moustache’s deservin’ enough.” Gorecki answered - and immediately tensed as he registered what he’d said out loud.

    Buford held his breath as Gorecki and Majewski silently stared at him, expressionless behind their faith masks as they awaited his response to a death threat against the company Commissar - not that he wasn’t sympathetic. He stared at the Baraspini marksman, and spoke with a deliberate, warning monotone. “You say somethin’, Private? My ears are ringin’ from all’a these explosions.”

    “No, First Sergeant.” Gorecki responded with a parade ground snap, and then nodded deeply with relieved appreciation. The gesture was mirrored by Majewski behind him, as the marksman quietly spoke. “Thank you, First Sergeant.”

    “Choose your targets wisely, yeah?” Burford stressed, as Gorecki nodded again. He nodded as well, and set the matter aside as he turned towards the remainder of the ad-hoc advance, and was pleased to see that they had all maintained focus. “Alright, ladies an’ gentlemen - we’re movin’ on. Y’all got thirty seconds, so praise the Emperor an’ pass the ammunition as you’d like an’ need.”

    Damnatus est!

    The senior non-commissioned reflexively tensed, and relaxed as he saw a fresh wave of arrivals wore the green armband of the Legion. Buford recognized Lieutenant Nyberg and her command team coming in from the right, alongside some of her heavy weapons and infantry extra ammo bearers and escorts, as well as another of Tresnjak’s sections. He managed a smile when he noticed that the company’s mortar squad had a couple more tubes than they had started the day with. Outstandin’.

    “Happy lootin’, Big Willie?” Buford asked, throwing some cheerful color into his voice, as he came over to greet the Lieutenant.

    In the fine tradition of Guard nicknames, it was ironic and crass, as Wilhelmina Nyberg was slightly built and barely within the height parameters for infantry. That said, she was a four square soldier with a wicked knack for the effective deployment of heavy weapons and the patience to educate others in that skill. He respected her enough to forget most of the time that she was an officer.

    “Reappropriating, please, T.C.” Nyberg admonished, with a wan smile, as she adjusted the strap for a missile carrying case yoked over her shoulder. “Looting is such an ugly word to describe our righteous work.”

    “As you say, ma’am.” Buford responded, respectfully touching the brim of his helmet with the hint of a grin - which was wiped out, as it so often was since the formation of the 100th Adrantean infantry, by the sight of the fuggin’ insane Commissar Kulkarni in action.

    The mustachioed hangman prowled through the contested intersection ahead of them, seemingly more concerned by the incoming Baraspini storm rather than the torrent of Divinatory Guard gunfire as he stood out in the open to shout abuse at the legionaries. Against all odds, or any benevolent intervention by the Emperor to strike him down, Kulkarni remained unscathed as he urged the lads and lasses to redouble their fire - and even coopted a couple of assault sections to trail after him in an assault on the Patriots.

    “Speakin’ of the righteous…” Buford muttered, shaking his head slowly as Kulkarni blasted an impromptu entrance with his plasma pistol. He barely waited for the legionary with a flamethrower to finish before he surged in with his glowing power maul reared back, bellowing damnations and imprecations as he laid into the Divinatory Guard with the Legion at his back.

    “That, he most certainly is.” Nyberg agreed, as slowed her pace and jerked her head back. Buford obligingly leaned closer to listen as they allowed the other legionaries to continue their advance. “Moustache has more or less taken control - browbeating, overruling and undercutting Zoran at every turn. Tactically, he’s capable but…direct, which isn’t helping. We’re attacking harder, not smarter.” She fixed him with a hard look. “My heavy bolters are also being deployed with a better angle on our folks than the Divs.”

    Buford clenched teeth as he thoughtfully ran a hand over his gritty, sweat-matted moustache. Bastard’s givin’ us mustachioed men a bad name.... He nodded to Nyberg. “I’ll have a quiet word with Tresnjak, see if I can’t buck him up a bit. No doubt he ain’t too familiar with how the hangmen are supposed to work, havin’ been PDF an’ the bad Addies plannin’ on turnin’ traitor an’ all”.

    “That would’ve been an impediment, yes.” Nyberg responded dryly, while she brushed a fringe of gray flecked brown hair back beneath her helmet. They and the legionaries ahead of them all froze as another Earthshaker shell whistled over, and flinched when it detonated a block behind them. As always, it lived up to its billing. “Although not as much as that damn Patsy artillery is to us...”

    “Fuggin’ amen, Emperor halle-hello...” Buford agreed, tapering off as his eyes fixed onto 6th platoon’s missile launcher squad - and then bounced over to Majewski and her squad, and it’s high concentration of Baraspini partisans. He pivoted towards Nyberg, and raised a bushy eyebrow speculatively. “Mind if I borrow your AT crews, Willie? I’m thinkin’ of goin’ huntin’...”

    + + + + + +

    Vanquisher. The word was passing down the line like a virus, and Janie hoped to frell that the people in charge were making a plan to deal with it. She recognised captain Antheia’s command tank pausing to take stock at the further edge of the debris field, accompanied by another Russ and the newly-arrived commissariat tank. The Officio Prefectus skull with its downswept wings on the latter’s turret mantlet put Janie in mind less of the soaring Imperial eagle and more of a shrike hooding its wings over some stricken prey.

    Janie’s own commissar was making his way back from the monorail station, after satisfying himself that the Legion had secured the position and begun fortifying. “Don’t mind me, Guardsmen.” he waved off the other Legionaries who were eyeing him nervously.

    Schenke had told Janie about Kulkarni. Throne damn that frelling bastard.

    Schenke himself looked wearier now, the short but intense firefight adding to the fatigue he had no doubt been hiding since the railhead. Janie on the other hand had yet to come down from her combat high. Her ears were ringing from the jackhammer rattle of the heavy stubber, her heart was still thudding in her temples, and she wasn’t sure if she needed to laugh or to throw up.

    “I think I saved your ass there, Schenke!” she yelled at him in Weldar, trying to vent some of her excess energy.

    “Of course you did!” Schenke clearly had enough energy left to volley back. “What do you think happens to you if I die?”

    “Exactly! Why do you keep dragging me into these grox-shit warzones?”

    “The smoke’s clearing fast.” the commissar observed as he fell in beside the tank, “We’ll have the Divs at the airport firing lascannons up our arses before long.”

    “Yeah.” Janie agreed, releasing one of her gun’s firing yokes to point ahead. Her adrenaline was ebbing now, though the danger-tingle of her warp sense still nagged at her. “But the only way out is through that ambusher’s paradise we’ve just made.”

    “Then I would assume the plan is to deal with this inconvenient Vanquisher and then turn on the starport.”

    Janie huffed. “Well at least then they’ll be shooting us in the face.”

    Lieutenants Linus, Ennis and Granger were clearly aware of their precarious position, as they were directing their forces to find cover where they could. Maximum Precision clunked to a halt as Ennius and his crew backed it into a hull-down position behind a low rise. Mailbox rumbled into position nearby, making use of a rubble barrier that had once been a wall. The Russ had received a few return letters of its own, and its armour was scored and shrapnel-dented along its right flank. Somehow the man clinging to its turret stubber had escaped injury, despite the apparent difficulty he was having in folding his spidery frame behind the gun-shield.

    Janie offered him a wave. The lanky gunner unfolded slightly, peering at her from under the brim of his infantry helmet.

    “Lucky you,” he commented in a voice softened by a rural Siculite burr. “Winnin’ the genetic lottery.”

    Heat needled across Janie’s skin and her tail squeezed slightly tighter around her body under her coat, but there didn’t seem to be any sarcasm in the Legionary’s tone. He doesn’t know. she told herself, and steadfastly avoided Schenke’s wry gaze as she appraised the other gunner in turn. He had wrapped a scarf around his mouth in place of a rebreather, but above it one of his eyes was circled in a purple bruise.

    “I come from a long line of short-asses.” she returned, and gestured towards his bruised eye. “What happened to you, did you piss off the Moustache?”

    She asked it casually, but watched him closely, and at the foot of the tank she noticed Schenke pause, stiffening slightly. From what she had heard, it would be entirely in character for Kulkarni to beat up one of his charges and then put him in the place where he was most likely to get killed.

    “What, this?” the Legionary asked, pointing to his eye. “Nah, that’s Griff’s doin’. Combatives trainin’.”

    Janie folded her arms over the still-hot stubber barrel. “So why’s a big guy like you on a turret?”

    “Trained gunner, ma’am, but there ain’t enough fat stubs to go ‘round - let alone the heavy duty shit.”

    Same story. Janie thought, and wondered how long it would take captain Marino to mobilise the promised supply truck. “So why doesn’t someone not overly tall climb the tank?”

    “Well, you see,” the Legionary explained, “That’s cos -” He looked down at the infantry section hunkering down behind Mailbox, and in particular at a Guardswoman who was hauling a bipod-mount stubber. “Someone has my frakkin’ fat stub!

    The second Legionary shrugged, and aimed a nasty grin up at the lanky gunner. “Kat likes me more than you.”

    The gunner pulled down his scarf, the better to gape at her. “The frak...I call her Kat, an’ I get this.” He jabbed a finger towards his fading shiner. “You call her Kat, and get the damn stubber?”

    The smiling Guardswoman set down her weapon and began attaching a scope to the topside. “I made her purr, bro.”

    Her squadmates whistled, but the gunner maintained his baffled frown.

    “Think about it.” Janie deadpanned, offering him a prompt.

    “Oh.” said the gunner, and Janie could actually see the gears clicking into place behind his forehead. “Oh!” he added, as his eyebrows shot up. He thought for another moment. “Oh…

    “Stop thinking about it.” Janie advised, as lieutenant Granger appeared and gave a smaller Legionary a leg-up onto the side of Ennis’ tank. The Legionary who clambered up besides her wore a Baraspini mask, a simply-shaped steel plate with straps running under their helmet. When they raised a laud-hailer and began shouting across the rubble wasteland their voice turned out to be female, though it did not lack for volume or threat.

    As the stream of hard-edged Baraspini gothic fell quiet, Janie spared her a sideyed look: “What’d you say to them?”

    “I impressed upon them the immediacy of their demise, ma’am.” the Legionary answered cheerfully, switching back to Crusade-standard Calixian. “In some less than ladylike language.”

    “Excuse me while I clutch my pearls.” Janie retorted dryly, and tugged in mock fretfulness at her collar.

    The other woman laughed, as unbeknownst to her the adjutor touched her fingers to the fine necklace of black and green pearls concealed beneath her jacket. It was priceless beyond wealth to her - a momento from Greed’s Reward, and her fatefully bumping into Joseph Schenke.

    It was only a few seconds before the first Patriot appeared, rising like a dead man from the rubble. He looked like a ghost, white from head to heel with brick dust, and he moved with an awkward, shambling posture as he raised his hands and limped towards the Imperial gun line. Others began to follow, some with their long flak-coats unbuttoned to show that they weren’t trying to conceal explosives. Many were limping, or carrying comrades who were coughing blood and dust through their faceplates. One stood up but didn’t move, waving with their raised arms.

    “Now what’s he doing?” the gunner on Mailbox wondered aloud.

    “Probably someone with him who’s too hurt to move.” Schenke guessed. “Doesn’t want us shooting anyone we find lying out there after the stunt that meltagunner pulled.” The commissar peered further ahead, to where the pounding of Kriegan autocannons was growing louder. “He’ll have to wait, unless there’s any volunteers to go out there with a stretcher.”

    Janie glanced down at the Adrantean legionaries, unhooked her hands from the stubber’s firing yokes and jumped down from the tank. “I’ll go. If we don’t show the locals some mercy we’ll never hold on to this planet.” And the frelling Legion might not thank us much either.

    Schenke seemed to take both her spoken and unspoken points, and nodded. A third man - another Baraspini, Janie didn’t fail to note - rose as well and began to unpack a collapsible stretcher from his backpack. Schenke took the lead, a darker apparition in his dust-stained coat than the straggle of brick-dust ghosts trickling in the other direction. Soon enough they were past the shredded perimeter fence and into the ruins beyond; heaped with pulverised rock and horrid with corpses that had been scythed down and blown to pieces by the Cadian tanks. Janie saw blood trickling down a pile of rubble and pooling in the exposed earth at its base. A shroud of dust swirled above everything, like a ghoulish fog.

    Janie estimated that rather less than half of the Divinatory Guard platoon that had tried to fall back through the monorail station were now limping through the ruins with their hands up. The rest were either butchered or still hiding in amongst the craters and fallen walls. There’s certainly enough holes they could burrow down into, and it only takes one more wannabe hero…

    Janie’s combat adrenaline was returning, this time as a woozy, seasick feeling. She exhaled raggedly. “I’m seriously doing this.” she muttered to herself, in Weldar gothic.

    “Good for you.” Schenke returned. “I’m doing this in extreme trepidation.” He glanced at her, and she could tell that he was offering her one of his insufferable smirks from behind his rebreather mask. At least it allayed her tension a bit.

    A surrendering Divinatory with corporal’s insignia hanging from her ripped flak coat gave them a long look as she limped by, and Janie knew that she was glaring at them - particularly at their faith-masked companion. It made the thin spines at the back of her neck prickle and raise beneath her helmet.

    “It’ll be you surrendering to us before this is done, oppressor.” the Patriot soldier growled at them, in a voice dried to a rasp by the respirator she was wearing. “Adrantis will prevail.”

    Their Adrantean companion growled something back at her in his native Baraspini, and Janie wondered what he was saying. Not to you, perhaps. You’ll be shipped offworld, and that’s if you’re lucky. She watched as the Baraspini corporal reached Mailbox and was hauled down out of sight.

    A scuffle and a slithering of rocks to their right made all three of them snap up their weapons.

    “Hey!” Schenke barked as he turned on his heel, shotgun hard against his shoulder.

    “Shoot no!” a voice called back in broken Calixian. “Shoot no!”

    They edged up to the lip of a crater left by a high-explosive Russ shell, and found three Divinatory Guardsmen half buried inside it. The one who had shouted was getting to his feet, hands up, webbing and holster discarded on the ground beside him. Behind another man was trying to wrestle the lasgun from a violently shivering comrade.

    “Drop it!” Schenke roared, one of the few Baraspini phrases he had memorised prior to landing. “Hands up now!

    The shock of his words seemingly distracted the quaking Patriot enough to let the other soldier twist the gun out of their grip and hurl it out of the crater, where it scrunched into the broken rockrete. He shouted a machine-gun burst of native gothic at his disarmed comrade, who replied in a babbled mess that was half a scream.

    Then they clawed for their pistol.

    Schenke switched his grip on the shotgun butt faster than the eye could follow and smashed the stock into the nearest Divinatory’s faceplate. Before the man had even finished falling and cleared his line of fire, his hand was back round the trigger and aiming at the two on the ground. It was only when the first man reeled aside that they saw that the gun in the Patriot’s hand wasn’t aimed at the three Imperials, but at their own neck.

    The other Divinatory lunged again, viper quick, and managed to wrestle the pistol down and away. The armed one shrieked as their finger caught in the trigger grip, and then lost the weapon as the other Patriot twisted it out of their bent hand. As the second gun spun away all the fight went out of the Patriot, and they collapsed into a fetal ball, sobbing.

    The man Schenke had struck climbed back to his feet, groaning. The Baraspini legionary spoke to the three prisoners, quiet but firm. Between the two of them, the two larger Divinatories managed to get their smaller companion to their feet, flanking them protectively as they trudged off towards the Imperial lines.

    “What were they saying?” Janie asked. Her heart was still thudding in her throat.

    The Baraspini legionary looked grim. “She was screaming that she knows what we’ll do to her in the POW camps.”

    Janie heard Schenke sigh through his respirator. “I can’t promise that she’s wrong.”

    None of them seemed to know what to say after that.

    By the time they reached the waving Patriot, shifted his battered, bloody comrade onto the collapsible stretcher and shepherded them both back to the gun line, the explosions and the squeal of tank tracks were only a street or two away. Lieutenant Granger was ordering his legionaries to stand to, while the Leman Russ Exterminators were readying belts of armour-piercing shells.

    “Commissar!” Granger hailed as he saw them, just as the Baraspini legionary and a field medicus were stretchering away the wounded POW.

    “Lieutenant.” Schenke acknowledged. In the background heavy guns banged, shooting geysers of broken rubble above the ruined warehouses.

    Granger made a point of getting close and leaning in before speaking, telling Janie that he didn’t want his men overhearing.

    “Sir.” the legionary said in a low voice. Behind his visor, Janie saw him lick his lips nervously. “If I may make a request. Firstly, that these prisoners are processed professionally.”

    “As far as my jurisdiction allows.” Schenke nodded levelly.

    “And second…” Granger hesitated again. “That my boys and girls not be used for summary executions if the fight turns against us.”

    Schenke glanced at Janie, and she heard him say something that sounded very much like that fucking Moustache.

    “If the fight turns against us,” Schenke ground out, too angry for any of his usual blithe quips, “I’d be a fool to think I didn’t need every last one of your Guardsmen alive and fighting.”

    + + + + + +

    “Active Chimeras, switch from hunt-kill parameters to herding. Auspex will update with target location. Do everything to make the Vanquisher move there.”

    A series of affirmative replies answered Alpha as he kept keyed into the vox caster. Valkyr had taken over frontal command of their assault so he could coordinate with other allied officers about the “tank problem” and nip it in the bud before it became any more disruptive than it was. Such a task was certainly not an easy one but then when did the Death Korp ever want an easy task?

    Just as the Chimeras of the 112th shifted gears, one exploded into a ball of fire and twisted steel as it tumbled over and over itself. The Vanquisher had taken a clean shot through a building but also exposed its position. The Storm Chimeras gave chase, the thunderous rapport of autocannons filling the air and forcing the Vanquisher to move or risk being crippled fatally. The volleys were wide almost by design so the beast would move rather than just take the shots on the chin. But the shots that hit were more than enough to keep the crew motivated to drive as even the glancing shots did a number on the armor in places while more well-placed shots took off the smoke launchers so it could not hide.

    Everything seemed to be going almost too well to plan given the overall state of the battle. The Kriegans started to close the net on the Vanquisher when a thunderous shot resounded and the unmistakable whoosh of a Basilisk shell cleanly cored one of the Chimeras.

    “Chimera Phi to Imperial units. Be advised the Divinatory Guard is maneuvering a Basilisk trying to give the Vanquisher room to breathe. Transmitting last approximate location.”

    There was no longer the time for anything clean. The Chimeras had to keep the Vanquisher from moving on his own volition. The Kriegans closed in a bit more and discovered another annoyance to their plan: traitor infantry doing their best to follow the Vanquisher. The small arms fire from the enemy troops was little an irritancy to the Chimeras but so far nothing that could actually punch the vehicle armor.

    “Phi, please advise on engagement of traitor infantry,” came a clipped tone over the squadron vox.

    “Trade off keeping fire on the Vanq and sweeping the infantry. Do not under any circumstances assume the infantry is not a threat.”

    Winks of acknowledgement came from the rest of the squadron. Two autocannon turrets shifted from focusing on the Vanquisher and where they needed to move the beast to the desperate infantry following and trying to take cover with the tank. The booming rapport of the cannons reduced a portion of the Divs unlucky enough to be trailing the rear of the Vanquisher to little more than gory smears upon the cracked pavement.

    “Commanders be advised,” Alpha broadcast over the Imperial vox channels, “LR-V is being enclosed by the net. Squadron needs target destination for the enemy armor.”

    + + + + + +

    “Captain Reider, Casterian 85th. I assume there’s been a change of plan?”

    “Somethin’ fokkin’ like.” Gerald O’Rourke grunted by way of response, somewhat distracted as he descended with deliberate care. He remembered a time when he would’ve bounded and clambered down such ruins - several decades and courses of rejuvenation treatment ago, neither of which he would ever experience again. Rana was uninhibited, as usual, as she slithered down the rubble ahead of him - thankfully at least protecting her vox-caster, if not her knees. I hope she’ll live long enough tae regret that…

    The former drill-abbot grunted again at his own melancholia, as well as the twinge of his own aching knees and everythin’ else, and channeled his inner educator as he ungainly progressed. “No change of plans fer us, captain - when ye’ve got fellow Guard in contact, ye advance tae the guns. Div’s though? Well, what’s about tae happen tae ‘em courtesy of the Guard shan’t be pretty.”

    WIP

  6. #66
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    Spoiler: 100th Adrantean infantry, 112th Kriegan mechanised, 2451st Cadian armoured - Vanquisher ambush 


    Spoiler: 100th Adrantean infantry, 112th Kriegan mechanised, 2451st Cadian armoured - Starport assault 
    Spoiler: My RP links 

    PM me for novelised versions of any of my RPs, or ones that I have participated in. Set by the awesome Karma.


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    Jens and the others took only a brief moment to sort out their plan, actions would need to be quick.
    "Klein take your two teams and scour the west half of the terminals, I'll move my team east. Keep things quiet until you can get those charges dealt with. Harper take a fireteam and clear the roof and keep tags on hostile movements. Setup sniper positions and target their officers on my call. Keep at in contact with the assault force. I think I have an idea for these charges. It'll require the emperor's own blessing to come through but we might be able to give these rebels a nasty shock."

    Jens nodded and the team split into three. Quietly he prayed to the emperor that this crazy plan could work. But at the least they'd give them hell.

    "Keep things tight and quiet, we don't want to show up on Illi's casualty list, she'll probably drag us back from hell for it."




    "Life before death,
    Strength before weakness,
    Journey before destination."
    -The First Ideal

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