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Edited By: Commissar Ploss
Volume 1, Issue 1 www.Heresy-Online.net
The Heretic a Heresy-Online Digital Publication Project Staff David “Commissar” Ploss .................... Project Director Shannon “Foxtale” Kelly …................. Copy Editor
Cover: “In The Future” Cover Art by: Bronson Howard Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Deus Imperator Vult”
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· WRITER'S CIRCLE ·
Commissar Ploss brings his writing knowledge to the fore and presents tips and tricks to help your writing stand out. Issue 1 – Writers Block Issue2 – Watch Your Pace Issue 3 – The Big 'BANG' Approach Issue 4 – To Plot or Not Issue 5 – Game On! Issue 6 – Grammar, oh Grammar Issue 7 – Know Your Characters Issue 8 – Pushing Genres Issue 9 – Software on the Cheap Issue 10 – Tips on Openings Issue 11 – Your Writers Toolkit Issue 12 – Learn to Lie Issue 13 – Make Your Readers Stick Around Issue 14 – Through a Character's Eyes Issue 15 – 11 Rules for Writing Short Science Fiction
A HERESY-ONLINE FAN-FICTION EZINE
Edited by Commissar Ploss Volume 1, Issue 1
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IT IS THE 2nd millennium. For more than twenty years Games Workshop, blessings be upon their house, has sat perched atop the Golden Throne of Wargaming. They are the master of nerdkind by the will of copyright law, and masters of a million hobbyists by the might of their inexhaustible miniatures lines. They are a rotting carcass (in the nicest way possible) writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of late 1980's Planning Meetings. They are the “Canon” Lords of the Imperium for whom a thousand fanboys are sacrificed every day, so that they may never truly die. YET EVEN IN their deathless state, Games Workshop continues their eternal vigilance. Mighty Corporate Divisions cross the daemoninfested miasma of the wargaming industry, the only route between distant investors dividends, their way lit by Tom Kirby, the psychic manifestation and chairman of Games Workshop's will. Vast armies give battles in his name on uncounted worlds. Greatest amongst his soldiers are the Black Library Authors, the Wordsmiths, bio-engineered super-writers. Their comrades in arms are legion: The Support Staff and countless BL Towers office workers, the ever-vigilant Editors and the tech-priests of the Marketing Department to name only a few. But for all their multitudes, they are barely enough to hold off the everpresent threat from critics, reviewers, grammar-nazis – and worse. TO BE a fan-fiction author in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those writers. Forget the power of spell-check and punctuation, for so much has been forgotten, most likely due to laziness. Forget the promise of long deadlines and a healthy advance, for in the grim dark of reality, there is only a scalding rejection letter. There is no peace amongst fan-fiction writers, only cold coffee and carpal tunnel, and the laughter of dried out pens. -CP
Stories: Introduction by Commissar Ploss Featured Story: At the End of All Things by Commissar Ploss Frost Fingers by C.Y. Reid A Mission Unfinished by James “Worldkiller” McArthur Tales From the Gun Deck by Andrew Lane The Emperor Protects by Joseph Tredinnick Solace in the Arms of Man by unexpekted22 From Green to Red by Jack Hardy “ultra111” Artwork: “In The Future” by Bronson Howard “Deus Imperator Vult” by Bronson Howard “Rhino APC” by Stewart Anderson “Death Korps of Krieg Tribute” by Bronson Howard “Sister of Battle” by Bronson Howard “Resistance is Futile” by Bronson Howard “Forward” by Bronson Howard “Warboss” by KINO “Living Legend” (part 1) by KINO 1 3 29 68 89 110 111 112 113 9
11 14 30 40 69 85 90
Well, we've finally done it. Albeit a tad later than I would have liked, but we've done it nonetheless. I'd like to humbly present to you Heresy-Online's newest addition to its evergrowing list of features, in partnership with The Founding Fields book review and fiction news website, and edited by yours truly, The Heretic. It's quite strange really. I've had the pleasure of being on staff at Heresy-Online for almost three years now, as its resident Fiction and Fluff Senior Moderator. This position has seen many wonderful experiences for me over the years, and although it doesn't pay anything, has been an absolutly rockin' job! I love interacting with the community and getting the chance to converse with some of our hobby's most imaginative minds. Thanks to all our combined efforts, the fiction and fluff subforums of Heresy-Online have grown substantially over these last few years and we've been lucky enough to have established ourselves as a leading place to read and discuss anything and everything related to Black Library fiction and fluff pertaining to the genre. We've even had the pleasure of having some of Black Library's top authors amongst our community. Some of whom are quite active in conversing with the fans. Being a moderator for Heresy-Online has helped me jump-start my own career as a writer and author. I've got a few projects in the works currently and am happy that personal diligence has started to pay off. I've even been lucky enough to have founded a website of my own. The Founding Fields has been growing immensely over the last year since it's www.Heresy-Online.net
founding, and it's a wonderful feeling. I'd love it if you stopped by sometime to read some of our book reviews, or perhaps to catch up on Black Library news and noteworthy books. I've been lucky enough to acquire a small staff of book reviewers. Four of them to be exact, not including myself. Together we've got the entire range of Black Library products covered. From Fantasy to 40k we're your home for honest and succinct reviews of a large range of titles. (www.thefoundingfields.com) But enough about me, lets talk about The Heretic! This first issue of the Heretic plays host to some wonderful fan-fiction authors. As well as some stunning art by some of our genre's most dedicated fan artists. Each issue of the Heretic will have a Featured Story as it's first story. This issue will feature one of my own personal stories. I figured what better way to lead by example, then to include a story of my own design. Next month will feature a story by another author, I won't hog the limelight twice. Heresy-Online is hosting the actual publication, so you will be able to download it from the website at any time. Each issue is free, and provided as a fun, inside look at what some of us fan-fiction writers are contributing to the community. Each piece of fiction is original, and has been submitted by its author to me for inclusion in this e-zine. The authors aren't receiving any compensation for their work. It's all about the exposure. We're in this together, and The Heretic is a means to showcase what we have to offer. Some of the best fan-fiction writers have submitted work for this issue, and it's only right they get the recognition they deserve. Head on over to Heresy-Online to find out how to submit your work for inclusion in the Heretic. Each piece of fiction has had the honor of being scrutinized by Freelance Copy Editor, Shannon Kelly. I want to extend my sincerest gratitude to him for volunteering his time for us and for hanging on through my onslaught of emails and questions. Without his help, we would be nowhere. He's a gem, and I’m proud to have him on The Heretic's staff. This issue is dedicated to you Shannon, for all your tantalizing skill in interpreting (and fixing) the English language, in all its dialects. Sláinte! David “Commissar” Ploss Antioch, February 2011
At the End of All Things
Commissar Ploss ~ Waking from the daemon-grip of death’s hand is never a welcome instance. Being the only one to do so, even less. ~ Brother Vicarus viewed the world as a grey haze through the cracked lenses of his helmet. A faint rasp emitted from his augmetic voice box as he breathed for the first time in what seemed an eternity. The irony was not lost on him. Laying there, spread eagle. He managed a painful chuckle. He stared up the sky, flat on his back at the bottom of an impact crater. His brain flooded with signals from pain receptors all throughout his body, and though he had shut most of them off it was still difficult to concentrate. The air was acrid with the smell of burning promethium and the stench of boiled flesh, and his auditory sensors picked up the faint crackle of a fire fifty meters off. He didn’t feel the usual instinct to move, just the overwhelming feeling that this was probably not the best place to be. He needed to rejoin the fight. He tried using his arms to sit up: a first step. But as he attempted to hoist himself up www.Heresy-Online.net
into a sitting position, but noticed quite frustratingly that he could not gain any purchase. With hazy vision he looked down at the stump that used to be his right hand. Even though it had already healed to a degree, it still looked like an Ork's anus. Another injury like that would turn this little crater into his final resting place. More irony, more painful chuckles. Only his right hand: the ‘Right Hand of Angarius’, the most feared hand in all his home world and the hand that 'smote one thousand orks' was gone. Gone and never to be seen again. Sure, a bionic replacement would be fitted the moment he returned, but only to serve as an artificial reminder of its former glory. He would never live this down with his battle brothers. That was if any of them were still alive. He glanced at all of his other major limbs. All intact. There was no use reminiscing. Right now he needed to get to the edge of the crater and reestablish contact with his captain so that he could rejoin his battle brothers without his right hand, or his bolter for that matter. A quick glance to either side showed that his holy weapon was nowhere to be seen. He took great pride in his bolter, as so many of his brethren did. To see that it was gone, as well as his hand, infuriated him. He would die for the Emperor at the wave of a hand, but without his bolter his life felt meaningless. Brother Vicarus reminded himself that if he didn’t get out of this tranquil little hole soon, that life would be all that much shorter. That did not sit well at all. He had sworn to see out his days in service to the Emperor and could hardly do that if he was dead. With his working helmet lens, Brother Vicarus checked his micro-bead com-link. The signal strength read zero. That was strange. But maybe it was just because of how deep in the crater he lay. He hoped it was. However, this close to the surface, a growing sense of dread told him it was otherwise the case. He sat back to catch his breath before continuing and could smell something heavy, metallic, wafting from the fluid surrounding his body. He knew right away that the liquid was not just fluid from his powered armor systems but something much more important, his blood. With the threat of an unfulfilling death clear in his mind, he mustered up what strength was left in his remaining three limbs and began his climb to the surface. Many times he slid back down the side, his one arm unable to steady his climb over the dirt, flesh and metal fragments, and his vital signs hovering around the verge of death. It took all of twelve minutes for him to make it to the rim of his crater. It seemed as if hours had passed. He paused before breaking the surface to take a moment and to steady himself against the oncoming rush of sensory perception. The silence just here at the rim told him that whatever was to come would not be a welcome sight. Brother Vicarus braced himself and pulled his broken body over the edge of the crater The Heretic
—and right into hell. He had hardly pulled himself to his feet before he fell to his knees and wept. All around lay the remnants of a world destroyed by war. Mangled corpses, charred metal and the smoldering wrecks of war machines lay broken in all directions. Friend and foe alike lay as if battles were still raging wherever their spirits had ascended. Vicarus tore off his helmet and let out a roar that reached above the howling winds to touch the dark clouds. As if in defiance to his survival, it began to rain. All he could do was laugh. "It seems I have been left behind,” he spoke to the sky, with rain streaming down his cheeks, “My brothers march without me." The Iron Diamond Space Marines would be no more. Their name would be forgotten and their history untold. He was the last. Lives had been paid in full. But oaths had been fulfilled and creeds had been upheld. The work had been done. But for what? It was for the Emperor, he reminded himself. He hoped that was reason enough. Finding strength in his limbs once more, he stood. Then he turned around and bowed to the crater, "You have saved me. By the Emperor, you have saved me. Please refrain from doing so again." He turned away, and with a deep breath began to walk, whistling an Imperial hymn, accompanied only by the wind and the pelting rain. There at the end of all things, he felt miniscule and insignificant. He walked for a lost cause, across a forgotten field, on a nameless world. And none would know, save the Emperor himself, how he longed for peace.
C.Y. Reid He made his way through the forest, his bare fingers lifting frost from the pine-needle trees that were stabbing from all angles in towards him. The sounds of a colossal battle in the valley behind him were muffled somewhat by the surrounding foliage. The snipers of Captain Adamort’s Valhallan 311th had been tasked with making their way around the sides of the oncoming cultist forces. They were to take out as many of the Chaos-warped fraggers as possible before making their way back to the guard towers and providing long-range support for the remainder of the engagement. Halfway up the valley slope he took his vox unit from his belt, unclasping the strap that held it in place with fingers that should have been blue with cold, but remained contentedly pink. He was to make his last vox-transmission to the command bunker before enveloping himself in snow and ice, devoid of all contact with the outside world bar the death-sights of his long-las. He sat down on the slopes, vox in his hands, watching the main bulk of the 311th march forward into the mouth of the Chaos onslaught. “Command, it's Ivan, over.” His eyes panned across his friends and colleagues trudging forwards through the snow, at home in this terrain more than anywhere else. Their skin was immune to the cold, their gait modified to adapt to the slog through the thick ice and sludge covering the battlefield. The Heretic
“We hear you, Frost Fingers. You headed up to splat some squad leaders?” Jhengal's voice was almost cheerful, even in the midst of an offensive push against a foe that may not have been hardy, but came in astonishing numbers. Ivan's hand went to his forehead, fingers snaking their way around the circumference of his skull in exasperation. “If by 'splat some squad leaders' you mean remove integral parts of the chain of command, so we have a vague chance of throwing them back this time, you snow-happy idiot, then yes, I'm going to go ‘splat some leaders’.” The vox-officer's laughter rang tinny through the speaker as Ivan closed the link, a scowl of contempt quickly finding its way across his features. He made to move further into tree-cover, when a whistling sound caught his attention. He spun to face the sky behind him as a mortar shell some fifty feet above his position reached the apex of its climb. It came to a calm stop, before angling down towards him and picking up speed. He had just seconds to move, and though he was as nimble in the snow as any native Valhallan, seconds just hadn't been enough. The explosion cast him into a dark pit of unconsciousness, and as his vision faded, he cursed Jhengal for not simply giving an affirmative and shutting the frag up. As his mind began to return to something approaching equilibrium, he spent a memorably distinct fifteen minutes convinced he was dead. The cold ground had claimed him and his brothers and sisters on Valhalla had returned him to the hard, frozen, dead earth that lay underneath the ever-falling snow of their homeworld. Only the light filtering through in reds and oranges, afforded a warm hue by their passage through the membrane of his eyelids, held any indication of his failure to pass over. Ivan opened his eyes slowly. He sat up, wincing in discomfort at the sound of his bones creaking and grinding in protest as he pushed himself forwards. He blinked once, twice, then fumbled his way up his face to drag his goggles off, cursing as the material tore the skin on his nose. He looked around him, appalled at the devastation the detonation had caused. The wood had been granted a new clearing—one comprised of bent, burning stalks devoid of leaves or snowfall, the ground a ruddy brown and hard under his hands from the endless winter. He drew the back of his hand across his mouth and spat, the coppery tang of blood fresh on his tongue. Standing, he began to make his way through the trees, noticing as he passed the edge of the burnt circle that his voxsponder lay in shards of half-melted plastic at the foot of a dead evergreen. Spitting curses, he forged his way forwards into the chill drift. www.Heresy-Online.net
After almost an hour, he noticed the reduction in tree density. Seeing this as an ideal time to take the chance to figure out where he was in terms of the current situation on the battlefield, he approached the edge of tree-cover. Raising a pair of magnoculars to his eyes, he peered into them intently. What he saw chilled him in a way no ice-world had in decades. The Valhallan 311th were being pushed back with a ferocity he hadn't witnessed since last decade when they spent a year crushing Ork infestations across the Abnoba system. He'd been but a boy then, barely past puberty with nothing but a malfunctioning lasrifle in his hands. The terror had been fresh. They had won, and sobbing with unrestrained relief, he had sunk to the ground as everyone roared in victory around him. This was the first time in all the years since that he had felt a similar degree of fear and apprehension. The Chaos army was destroying the Valhallan front lines and he wasn't sure how much longer they could hold out. He tried searching through his company for signs of the banners and transports that signified the units of his comrades, but either the drift was too thick or they had been destroyed. However, he also realised he was several hundred yards behind enemy lines. Looking in the opposite direction, he saw the command structures of the Chaos forces trundling along behind the main bulk of the army itself. He grinned, seeing a rare opportunity to give the cultists a taste of the weapon they relied on so heavily in battle: fear. Looking down the slope on which he stood, he saw the artillery units stood no more than a few hundred yards away and decided, rifle now in hand, that he was going to make the tainted scum pay with blood for every inch they had taken from the Emperor's forces. Wrapping his cloak around him and hooking it in place, he stowed his rifle again and made his way cautiously down the slope, sliding when appropriate to maintain speed but cautious not to cause too much snowfall. Any falling shards of ice at the bottom of the incline would give his position away, and as a sniper of the Imperial Guard—no holy power armour, cloaking devices or foul gods to call upon—all he had were his wits and the element of surprise. He stared through the blizzard whipping around his face and neck, the cold caress welcome but the biting pain of sharp ice slicing into the skin of his neck less so. He glanced down at the steep gradient of the slope sprawling out before him, gazing intently at what seemed at first to be boulders curiously devoid of snow. The moment one of them moved, he went to ground, his cloak settling over him as he pushed snow out from under his chest. He sunk further into the ground until he was settled The Heretic
in such a manner as to be invisible from further than a few metres distant. Dragging his rifle round to his front, he unclasped it from the cord lashed round his torso, sighting in on the figures moving through the downhill drifts. This was where he felt most at home—in a world defined by what he could see in his crosshairs, the green-tinted glow outlining the moving figures: cultists, judging by the spiked shoulder pads and the shame of hiding their mutated, Chaos-stricken faces. The readout just below the centre of the scope's lens put them at no more than twenty metres distant. Ivan realised they were surprisingly well armed. Hellguns were slung around necks and power mauls dangled from dark leather belts. He raised his rifle and his finger tightened around the trigger in anticipation of the first kill. The las-shot was almost silent, muffled by the rushing, violent flurries of snow and howling winds crashing round the curve of the hillside. It pierced the snow, drifting flakes hissing into gas as it passed through them at hundreds of metres per second. It tore through the cultist's jugular vein, and Ivan longed to hear the sickening pop as the cultist's hand flew to his neck, gargling curses as he fell. The rest of them sprang into action instantaneously – Ivan's spot-count finding a mere four of them left. Easy prey. His next two shots took out the knees of the cultist standing to the right of the fresh corpse, his head lolling slackly on his shoulders as he knelt unwillingly in the snow. A third shot took off the front of his scalp, and he fell forwards without so much as a shot fired in retaliation. The remaining three surged forwards, footfalls fuelled by adrenaline and desperation making light work of the cloying snow around their limbs. Ivan took the life of the third cultist with a shot to the stomach and settled beneath his cloak as return fire began pinching at the flurries of snow around him. Silent and already half-concealed by a fresh layer of snow, he grinned in the heady darkness afforded by the cloak draped over his head. He dragged his auspex from his belt and laid it out in the small dip he'd carved underneath his chin to make room for propped elbows. The return on its display told him they were less than five metres from him now. Four. He slid his combat knife from his belt, his rifle laid below him in the slush forming under the heat of his body. His laspistol eased out of the holster on his left hip and he readied himself. Three. He could hear their voices, guttural and harsh, as the remaining two men shouted at each other, fighting over who would take the blame for the deaths of their squad www.Heresy-Online.net
mates. ‘Able to commune with daemons, but can't use a fragging vox. Typical Chaos scum,’ Ivan thought. Two. They'd never make the return trip. Ivan smiled. This was the best part of a sniper's job; prove you weren't just an arrogant bastard with a scope and little desire to get down and dirty with the enemy, face to face. One. His grip on both weapons tightened, and he used his chin to wedge the auspex into the snow as not to lose it when he arose. Ivan tore out of the snow, feet propelling him upwards and forwards. His blade lashed out in a backhanded sweep, tearing through the rags and throat of the cultist on his left, a yell of surprise emanating from the Chaos-fanatic behind him as the man fumbled for his hellgun. Ivan spun and kicked the weapon to the side as it discharged, firing harmlessly into the snow and melting a vast swathe of the ivory cast of their surroundings. The man threw himself at Ivan as the Valhallan sniper sighted his laspistol, aligning the end of the barrel with the cultist's face. A combat blade Ivan hadn't seen flicked upwards, the monomolecular edge shearing the end of the pistol's length off and into the snow. Ivan cursed, and launched himself at his attacker, pinning the man's weapon arm and driving the blade in his hand up through the man's jaw and into his brain. The cultist shuddered once then died, the faint mist of his last breath escaping the rags wrapped around his face, torn and stretched by combat. Ivan stood, taking the pistol and its broken barrel and stowing them in an equipment pouch on the leg of his combat trousers. Reclaiming his rifle and auspex, he glanced around him at the five men lying dead in the snow, brow furrowed in concentration. He then took the knife to the wooden part of his rifle, and etched three vertical lines followed by one horizontal into the old, wizened stock. Many soldiers chalked up kills no matter the means. Not so for Ivan. He made them with scope and finesse; anything else was simple survival. Grinning, he clamped the weapon back onto its sling, and made his way further down the slope, the endless white already hiding any evidence of the life ebbing away just beneath its surface. No more than a few minutes later, Ivan was on one knee, scoping the artillery encampment. Cultists ran to and fro between the dark metal machines. As he scoped, one of them landed a round in the midst of an advancing squad in the distance. His scowl deepened and as he took in the traitor Basilisks dug into soil kept dry and warm by the heat of constant discharge he decided he would remove this particular obstacle from the path of his brothers The Heretic
and sisters. His attention was drawn to the only man in the encampment who didn't flinch every time the Earthshaker cannons shook the ground around them. Dressed in similar garb to the rest of the Chaos filth, two heavy iron chains were slung around the man's shoulders, each of them holding several human skulls. It didn't take a savant to calculate that these were the heads of other Imperial loyalists, and Ivan's ire towards the man grew with every shake of the bleached-bone ornaments. Slipping a hot-shot round out of his pack and ramming it home into the rifle, he sighted, raising a hand. His bare fingers picked up the direction and strength of the wind around him. He moved his rifle slightly to compensate. The distance was ten times the shots he'd taken earlier and he couldn't afford to miss. A single mistake and the fifty or so gunrunners and soldiers loitering around the thundering long-range emplacement would make their way towards him. No degree of expert marksmanship would match the numbers he would face. His finger trembled until it touched the trigger, then stilled as cold killer instincts took over. He fired. The result was a cacophony of panic and terror in the enemy artillery camp. As the officer's head snapped back from the impact, cauterised skin wafting into the air like a macabre smoke signal. The surrounding cultists immediately cast around themselves for some sign of the assassin. Ivan smiled. This was why he loved fighting Chaos-warped humans. They were as passionate as a Commissar in the throes of battle and that made them just as dangerous. But the difference between the Guard's sadomasochists in uniform and the average cultist was that a Commissar could tell where a shot had come from by looking at a fallen body. The scum beneath Ivan couldn't and as he slammed another hotshot round home, he used their panic to take aim at one of the promethium canisters split across the fuel port of a Basilisk near the back of the encampment. The shot rang out and Ivan leaned back unconsciously from the resulting inferno, wedging himself into the snow as he saw the flames rush towards the fuel port. The cultists closest to the tank watched the event unfold, scrabbling to wipe the burning fuel before it found the gap in the Basilisk's impenetrable armour.
Too late. The detonation was colossal, so much so that the tanks on either side of it went up in a soaring duet of mushroom clouds, frantically piled munitions around each Basilisk detonating in the sudden heat, incinerating and crushing all resistance within the perimeter. Ivan rose and threw himself down the slope towards the camp, knowing that he had one chance to lead the reinforcements off his scent, leaving him able to his journey towards the command tends of the Chaos filth he fought so desperately. He watched through his scope as the cultist-soldiers picked their way through the burning ruins of the artillery encampment. They were looking for a sign that the Emperorloving assassin had run out of steam and been caught up in his own explosive crusade. Luckily for them, he'd decided to throw them a bone. One of the soldiers bent down and retrieved Ivan's laspistol. Ivan recognised him as the leader, his arrogance and possessive stance as he held the weapon was evidence enough. The cultist turned to his brethren and shook the pieces at them, laughing victoriously. He could not see the man's face, for it was obscured by the obsidian blast-goggles and sea-blue rags wrapped around his face. Didn't matter much; rags or no rags, Ivan still knew where the fragger's brain was. His first shot whistled out of the howling winter winds and struck the man through the lens of his goggles. The thin plastic of the poor-quality eyepiece atomised the moment the las-shot struck its surface. The rest of the beam surged forwards to sear its way into the back of the man's skull, wreathing his grey matter in incandescent agony. Dropping to his knees, the first cultist died as the pair who moved to assist their leader dropped to the ground from similar shots. Ivan's glee at the efficiency of his marksmanship made its way down to his mouth, thin lips parting in a display of unabashed enjoyment at seeing the soldiers frantically attempting to discern which direction the shots had come from. As they began to look in directions uncomfortably near his location in the snow, he decided to throw them off course. Sliding his aim from the skull of a fourth man to a shard of metal just to the left, his finger closed around the trigger and the shot ricocheted straight into the skull of the fifth. In their panic, they forged towards the apparent source of the las-fire, allowing him to return to and despatch his previous target. Fifteen still stood. Ivan cursed as he reloaded, knowing he needed to be faster. The Heretic
Their backs were half-turned towards him as they forged their way through the snow, deeper outside the heated realm of the destroyed encampment. He decided to make the most of the opportunity. Six more fell, Ivan taking careful consideration to always go for the man at the back as not to draw attention to his slaughter. Devoid of a target, the nine remaining turned, two of them meeting their deaths as shots passed through ear canals and eye sockets to drop them into the swirling drifts. Ivan reflected on the fact that not a single drop of blood had touched the snow. His bare hands flexed around the ancient wood of his rifle's stock and grip, feeling every groove and crack as keenly as he would in his own skin. Suddenly, his arm jerked back as the berm of snow he had built up before him partially collapsed, water running freely down its side and refreezing. Heat meant retaliatory fire, and retaliatory fire meant he'd been spotted. Frag. He immediately clutched his rifle to his chest and rolled shoulder over shoulder for the next few moments until he lay twenty feet to the right of his previous position. He unclipped a grenade, and glanced down at it fleetingly as he set the timer. He hated explosives, so very passionately. The noise, the smoke... it was a brutish, unsophisticated way to take a life and he had little time for methods that were so barbaric. Especially when dispatching the barbarians in front of him with the smooth precision of a scoped las-shot. He skimmed the grenade across the snow, allowing it to come to rest in the small depression of compacted ice where he had lain mere moments before. Drawing aim on the three cultists furthest behind the main head of the mob charging his previous position, he lay in wait. With a triumphant cry, they crested the small rise, bayonets jabbing into the empty snow. Five seconds. One looked up and threw down his rifle in frustration. Three seconds. Another pointed down at a small, dark spot in the snow. A clue, perhaps? One second. The detonation was muffled by the endless wind, but the crump of the explosion was nowhere near as impressive as the six clustered men it took with it, limbs detaching, the foremost cultists simply coming apart at cellular level as the heat and light from the grenade claimed them. Ivan downed two more. The few that were left stumbled backwards into the snow, shocked and disorientated by the unexpected detonation.
The last stood still, holding his weapon loosely, staring at the sheer carnage surrounding him with something approaching fear. Ivan took his rifle, and, slung it across his back, picked himself up and ran for the man, the snow and white uniform more than enough to give no clue to his approach until he leapt, snarling, onto the man's chest. His raised knee collided with the cultist's sternum, and they fell backwards together with a muffled pair of grunts. His hands quickly sought the man's throat, and as the Chaos-worshipper's arm came up to strike him around the head, he used his other leg to trap and break the bastard's femur. Mewling pain emanated from underneath the rags, and Ivan grinned ferally. Using only one hand to choke the weakening form of the cultist, he tore his goggles off, his Valhallan sniper's cowl coming away with it. “Look into my eyes, traitor to the God Emperor. Look into my eyes and know that we were once the same.” The man died with a whelp of fear, soiling himself. Disgusted, Ivan stood, reapplying his headgear and adjusting his rifle. Cloak around him, he stalked off through the ever-falling snow towards the main encampment. They would fall. They would all fall. The weather had increased in its hostility, and he was forced to lean into his stride as he slogged through the ever-deepening snow towards the command tents. There'd been no additional surprise patrols, which left him with ample opportunity to skirt the edges of the battlefield. The sounds and vague shapes of the clashing forces of the Emperor and the Chaos-tainted were faint at best. Ivan hoped his brothers and sisters were winning, or he'd be hard-pressed to get back behind his own front line. As he pushed through the hard-packed ice, bracing his skin against the drifts cutting deep into his clothes and soaking his upper body, he began to feel as though he was being watched. Snipers developed something of a sixth sense when it came to realizing when to drag themselves away from the scope and fend off a counter-assassin. Ivan felt it: a slight tingling of the ears, a shift in the skin on the back of his neck. He kept slogging through the ice, churning it into thick slush beneath the tread of his boots, affecting an aura of blissful ignorance. The second the man behind him threw himself at Ivan's shoulders, he ducked, and threw his knife up as his attacker passed over him, tearing deep into the man's torso, drawing blood. Crumpling into a heap, he didn't move at first, and Ivan closed in to finish the job. The Heretic
A boot flashed out, catching him on the chin and sending him spinning back into the white. The man rose, angry, chest heaving, almost predatory in his low-slung stance. A ragged, chipped cord hung from his neck with an antique rifle attached, the scope scratched and chipped beyond repair. Another sniper. The two men sized each other up across the snow, circling slowly. Ivan slowly wiped the blood from his split lip. “Nice gear,” he spat venomously, “Horus himself throw that one your way? Certainly looks old enough.” The cultist said nothing, choosing instead to rush at him with surprising speed for someone so haggard. Ivan's guard arm blocked furious blows from fists wrapped in rags and wire. His arms shook with the force of the madman's blows, his feet beginning to shift on the cold, wet earth as the Chaos-worshipper drove him onto his back foot. Ivan realized he was running out of time - his arms, however muscled, were tired from the constant journey through the endless tundra of the battlefield, and they began to sink downwards. Seeing the opportunity, the cultist brought his knee up into Ivan's stomach, winding him, a backhanded slap to his face sending him sprawling backwards. The cultist drew a long, dark-bladed knife, the serrated edges blackened and smudged with blood from ages past. It was a brutal hunter's weapon, and Ivan had no wish for it to be introduced into his collection of internal organs. As his attacker flung himself towards the Valhallan's prone form, a sniper rifle flew up between the two of them, stopping at the chest of the cultist, now resting upon it instead of falling upon his prey. Ivan fired once, watching the man stagger back with the point-blank impact to his sternum, feeling the kick of the rifle drive his elbow further into the snow. He growled, low, guttural, sighting down the crosshairs and firing a second time to take the front of the man's face off. He lay there for a few minutes, catching his breath. Then he started to laugh. It was a hacking, tortured sound, his lungs and vocal chords raw from the cold air constantly rushing through his throat, but it was not without mirth. Tears, frozen almost instantly by the endless winter winds, hardened on his cheeks, his skin prickling. His whole body shook with his laughter, before swiftly devolving into sobs that racked his tired frame, the realization of how close he'd come to death pressing down on him like a lead weight.
He was tired, and he hated the Guard. He hated them for what they'd done to him, done to his life. He hated the fact he'd never started a family, just to give him some hope, some happy memory of Valhalla that wasn't endless tales of Ork slaughter in the distant past. Perhaps a daughter. He smiled. He'd always wanted a daughter. Sadly, all he had was a longlas, and he made the best of it. Staggering to his feet, he realised he was bleeding slightly, the warm trickle of blood slowly seeping out from under his hat to slide onto the collar of his winter coat, staining it a deep crimson. He growled at the inconvenience and the tarnishing of his camouflage. Ivan cast around him for some sign of where he was – the snow drifts had closed in around him. His homeworld instincts kicked in, and the footprints and clefts in the snow where he had struggled with the cultist were revealed to him as clearly as a hololithic map of the battlefield itself. Orientating himself, he adjusted his coat slightly, using some scooped snow to wash most of the excess blood away from the fabric, and started forward. Once this was over, he'd invest in some bandages. For now, the snow was all he needed. Nothing cleansed the body, and indeed the soul, better than ice. Devoid of warmth, of emotion, it was a third place, and he welcomed its harsh touch. He was not yet a father, but he was a child of the endless white. He made his way back towards the slope and started following the line of the valley towards its mouth, the direction from which the Chaos forces had come originally. He was down to less than half the ammunition he had begun his expedition with. Typically, snipers maintained covering fire and execution shots at the leadership of enemy units throughout the battle. Rarely were they this separated from resupply. Especially when defending an Imperial settlement, rather than engaging in an invasion action. He'd seen no patrols come within death-distance for almost an hour, though he'd had to remain silent and unmoving several times as reinforcements marched along the valley floor beneath him. He'd watched their ranks slowly file forward, strangely organized for cultist scum like these. It was a foe Valhallans were far more at ease fighting; the ferocity and intensity of an Ork assault was something to fear, something to hold out against. Disorganized, poorly trained cultists that lacked a greenskin horde's bulk and sheer nerve stood little chance. The Imperial forces had also begun to push the Chaos invaders back towards the valley mouth, their front line moving at half speed compared to his own advancement into enemy territory. Since the artillery emplacement had been utterly destroyed, the defence put in place by his fellow Valhallans had become something to marvel at. His pride at seeing his brothers and sisters pushing forward valiantly, denying the tainted filth they fought so desperately, The Heretic
making the bastards pay in blood for every inch they took from the God-Emperor, was so joyous it was almost overwhelming. To know that the Archenemy was losing these inches at a rate of many feet a minute was altogether even better. He looked towards his final destination, now revealed to him through the thick drifts of snow flurries and falling ice from the mountains surrounding the battlefield. A series of large iron buildings, wheeled and tracked in a similar fashion to siege towers, trundled across the snow venting thick black smoke, their ramshackle structure typical of Chaos-induced fervour when constructing anything larger than a funeral pyre for the Emperor's loyal forces. One in particular caught his eye. Oddly, it was outside the normal security cordon provided for command vehicles. A tower was bolted to the top of a Rhino APC, fabricated out of dark iron and tortured steel, stained with the blood of thousands of innocents, torn from the battlements of Imperial fortresses. Spikes rose from the transport's roof, skulls rattling around on the shards of metal as a warning to any who dared challenge the machine's advance. Ivan scowled at such a blatant show of force. It smacked of arrogance, and arrogance usually belied a lack of true force. But a Rhino? Here? His brow furrowed. This was unusual. Cultists had access to many sources of Imperial technology, from the age of the Heresy through to the present, to Imperial Guard units who even now turned to the Dark Powers out of cowardice and lust for power. However, Rhino transports were used by two unique demographics Ivan was aware of. One was the Emperor's Holy Inquisition, and he doubted severely that a servant of such passionate persecution of heretics, Xenos and rogue psykers across the galaxy would turn to Chaos. The other? The Astartes. The fact that the Rhino was Chaos-tainted confirmed his fears. The cultists were being led by Chaos Marines. His hands began to shake slightly as the transport came to a halt. The embarkation ramp thudded down into the snow, creating a brief fountain of snow in a wide radius around the Rhino's rear hatch. A dark, tall, heavily-built figure stepped slowly out of the shadows within, and Ivan raised his scope. What he saw chilled the blood in his veins. Taller than any man, and more than a match in bulk and mass for an Ogryn, the Astartes was clad in ceramite battle-plate, as was befitting of one of the Emperor's most sanctified of creations. The face carved into the helm of the warrior was a skull-like visage, Shards of ivory set around a dark iron vox-grille that belched smoke and fire. As the traitor's www.Heresy-Online.net
arm swung out, it glowed a dark, earthy crimson, the colour of molten rock. It began roaring orders at the cultists who, so foolishly, did not immediately fall to their knees. Did the cultists know, en masse, that the marine had been in the transport? Ivan was no longer sure; they seemed so horrified at his appearance. Gazing at him, the Valhallan realised they had every right to be. The marine's very armour invoked fear. The ceramite was awash with flames picked out in red and black, one colour bleeding into another. The 309th had run into eight of these marines in a nearby system recently, the traitorous Astartes labeled by sector intelligence to be the Company of Misery. Misery was indeed what they had wrought against his brother company. Over three hundred men had been killed by eight of the Chaos-wrought warriors, not a one of the marines falling in battle. Such a beacon of fear should have been rapture to the sycophantic, tainted cultists surrounding the genetically-engineered soldier, surely? Then it hit him. The marine had revealed himself not to surprise, but to direct, because things were rapidly going from bad to worse for the followers of the Ruinous Powers. His rifle shook in his hands, and he could feel sweat pricking his brow as he realised that, armed with a paltry long-las and a combat knife, he was all but useless. He could kill a man from a thousand paces without even sighting in, but to take out an Astartes usually required something far stronger than Ivan. Taking stock of the scene playing out in the dark, circular universe of his scope-sight, he began to form an idea. It was completely unworkable, and utterly insane. Had DeadHands, his tutor in the art of marksmanship, known he was going to try this he'd have him sent to the medicae's quarters for a psychological evaluation. He gripped his rifle tighter now, determination playing across his face like dark lightning. Bringing the scope up to the top of the tower, he realised the tower was not bolted together, but in fact tied with many strings of rotting meat. Disgusted, he pushed the zoom-slider as far forward as it would go. It was unmistakable. The tower was held together by tendons torn from the corpses of the dead, possibly even the bodies of the 311th scout troop that had gone missing days earlier before the assault on the Imperial position in the valley. His eyes felt hot with rage, momentarily disrupting his aim. He breathed deeply once, twice, three times. Shoulders settling, back less tense, he took up aim again. A fresh las-pack sat happily in the body of the weapon, Ivan having replaced his hot-shot rounds in lieu of patrols.
He counted the tendons, and lined up his crosshair with the first. He needed to be quick. If the Marine realised what was happening, he would retaliate instantly. As quickly as he could hide himself from mortals, the Astartes would find him in moments, and his fate would be stretched out over days, if not weeks. Finger tightening around the trigger, Ivan grinned, the smile rapidly erupting into a dark, morbid chuckle, having sealed his fate the moment he had shot the first cultist behind the enemy front line. His voice felt sore in his throat, and he pushed the words out with feeling, for they would probably be his last. “Fragging Jhengal.” The rifle kicked in his hands, and the first tendon snapped, atomised by the highpowered shot from the strengthened, longer barrel of the long-las. He swept his scope across the tower, shots tearing through the rotting meat. Six tendons snapped, and the tower began to groan. It was at this point that the cultist sat in the top of the tower on watch-duty felt the steady rumble of the moving tower turn into a sickening lurch. Screaming a warning, the Marine turned and shouted a string of curses in retaliation that made the eyes and ears of those around him seep with dark, oxygenated blood, the sounds not meant to be heard by mortal men. The Marine turned around to face away from his transport, and Ivan's eyes widened in disbelief. Surely he saw the tower move. The tower's remaining tethers to its foundation snapped, and it fell forwards with a shriek of bending metal. The Marine spun to face the falling construction, and darted to the side. He threw himself into the snow as the mass of metal and broken flesh thundered into the valley floor, sending ripples of surface flakes up into the air to sift downwards as the sound faded. Frag. Ivan's scope fell from his face, and he looked down the hill in panic as hundreds of cultists looked up at him, following the gaze of an extremely angry Chaos Marine. He brought the lens back up to see several disembarking from a transport next to the fallen tower, charges strapped around their chests with det-tape. They were going to detonate the entire area, taking the hidden assassin with them. The threat was unnerving. Lacking in knowledge of the endless white, the cultists were unaware that such tremors would bring about an avalanche crushing both armies beneath several hundred feet of ice. One of the cultist's improvised det-packs started to flash, a red light on the small plastek trigger-unit chest sending the others around him running for cover. He was armed. Ivan shrugged, and fired as the cultist clambered over the wreckage of the tower to www.Heresy-Online.net
make his way towards the loyalist sniper on the hill. The shot tore through the protective sheeting, and the bomb cooked off without a moment's respite between impact and detonation. Shards of metal from the graveyard of broken girders and rotting meat flew in all directions, and cultists fell in groups as the sharpnel tore through their haggard uniforms with abject ease. He sighted down the scope, desperately trying to pinpoint the marine that, by now, was surely coming for the assassin in person, his lackeys clearly not capable of doing the job themselves. Frag. But he couldn't find the marine. A pile of corpses, shredded by shards of metal scything out from the explosion, shifted, and the traitor Astartes was revealed to Ivan's sight. A shard of darkened steel, almost two metres in length, had penetrated a weak spot in his armour, just below the chest-plate. It had erupted from the front, and the marine stared down at it, his helm failing to hide the surprise communicated through his body language. He sunk to his knees, and the cultists flew into panic as the ceramite-armoured warrior died a sudden, ignoble death. If he had fallen to such a random fate, they stood no chance. Ivan lowered his rifle, watching in shock and amazement as news of the marine's death rippled through the ranks of fighting cultists towards the front line. One by one, individual squads scattered in panic. The 311th saw their opportunity and rushed the enemy lines, slaughtering all in their wake as they turned the tide of the battle completely and irreversibly in a matter of moments. The Chaos force was broken, and Ivan leant on his rifle for support as the gravity of his wounds became apparent. He slumped onto his knees, chest-deep in the snow. He leant backwards, legs unfolding from underneath him, concealed almost completely in the snow as his brave brothers and sisters surged forward to complete their defence of the Imperial outpost. Reaching into his jacket he withdrew a flask of recaf, inhaling the scent of the caffeineladen liquid gratefully as he raised it to his dry, parched lips. The skin around the corners of his mouth split painfully as they wrapped themselves around the lip. Hot, almost scalding liquid slid over his tongue, Ivan barely swallowing as it coursed down his throat. He settled it on the ground beside him, wedging it into some snow that began to partially melt from the steam emanating from within. Chuckling to himself, Ivan activated his recon vox-signal and waited for Jhengal to come and find him. The Heretic
“Splat some leaders, indeed, you silly fragger.”
"Rhino APC" Stewart Anderson (Click for Larger Version)
A MISSION UNFINISHED
James “Worldkiller” McArthur “You will kill him,” they said to him near the ending of the night, just a few scant hours before the first rays of red morning light broke through the Craftworld’s horizon.
“You will hunt alongside your soldiers and you will kill the mon-keigh. While he is now but a ripple on the waves of fate, he will soon bring great destruction to our Craftworld. This we have seen and this must not happen. Do you understand, Autarch Undomie?” Undomie stood alone in the center of the dark room, covered by the light of a single dim globe. Beyond the veil of darkness he could just make out the nineteen heads of his Craftworld’s ruling council. Though he could not see their eyes on him, he could feel them like hot rods pushing down on his blue mesh armor. “Yes, my honored seers,” he said, ”I understand. I will seek out this mon-keigh and I will take his life before he becomes the threat you have seen.” “That is good,” the Council said, their nineteen voices chorusing to produce a single echoing eerie deepness. “May I now ask where my target dwells?” Asked the Autarch.
“A great distance from here, in what the mon-keigh race mistakenly calls their territory. We have seen what he is now, one of billions, nothing more than a small cog in a small garrison force on one of their frontier worlds.” “I will take the garrison by force and I will see this mon-keigh killed.” “You must go soon, else you will miss the opportunity. We have seen no other along the paths of fate to kill him.” “Show me the face of the mon-keigh and I will depart with all due haste.” “Kneel before the face of Asuryan,” they said. Undomie cast his eyes down and saw the face of Asuryan painted on the floor. He knelt down before the honored Phoenix King. “Now see the man who will bring destruction upon our homes if you do not complete your task,” said the Council, and from the darkness an arm extended towards the Autarch. “See him,” they said. And he saw. *** The planet had no name, at least not to the Eldar. They had never been to this hot, arid and rocky world and Undomie doubted they would come here again. It had taken time to come here, even by the paths of the webway, that was how distant it was. Worthless too. Even in his brief time since coming here, Undomie had sensed an emptiness: a void where a planet’s soul should be. How could the mon-keigh find value in it? Undomie wondered, only in their insane ways and thirst for expansion could they find a purpose for this place. A soft mechanical hum filled the air behind him and the Autarch turned to see more of his force emerging from the webway, war machines forged from wraithbone walked alongside squads of militia Guardians. It wasn’t much, but it would give Undomie the freedom to utilize his Dire Avengers and Striking Scorpions in manners more befitting their particular styles of combat.
The aspect warriors of his small strike force were gathered on either side of the webway portal, standing guard for the militia troops still emerging. “What is your plan?” A voice behind him spoke. Undomie spun on his heel, putting a hand on his powerblade, prepared to swing in one fluid motion. He stopped himself as he saw who had spoken. Exarch Algosa stood tall in his green and yellow armour, a hand on his beautifully designed but fully functional chainblade. Undomie breathed a sigh of relief, calming himself as his body shook from unused adrenaline. He was too on edge on this mission. Algosa, Exarch of the Striking Scorpions, had always been considered strange, both for his general manner and the way in which he always seemed ready to kill whatever he needed, or perhaps wanted to. Undomie took his hand away from his sword hilt. “The mission is to kill the target, and that is the entirety of my plan, at the moment.” “A pity no rangers exist within convenient reach of our Craftworld then, for one of them would make this so much easier.” “Yes I know. We will have to complete our mission by some other means.” “Which I sincerely hope you have some notion of.” “I will have a better idea of how to fulfill our task when we see the encampment. Until then, keep an eye on your Scorpions.” The Exarch conceded and gave the Autarch a slight bow before turning back to his warriors, leaving Undomie alone on the sandy ridge, overlooking a desert plain. Undomie squinted against the harsh desert light. Somewhere across that plain lay the human garrison, and his prize. ”I will kill the human,” he swore again. * * * Across the plain a man by the name of Cameron Essen was in his bunk sleeping, thirty minutes past when he should have reported in for duty.
Captain Carter hadn’t needed to look far when she noticed his fifth tardiness of the week. “Emperor damn it, Private Essen! You were supposed to report to duty half an hour ago! This is the last time I get you myself, next time it’s Commissar Burgh.” “I thought I was a Corporal,” Essen groaned, rolling onto his back. ”Not anymore. Now out of bed Private, before I make you the kid who carries around the shit bucket.” “What’ll happen to him?” “I’ll have to make him your supervisor. I’ll give him a whip. Maybe then you’ll actually do your duties.” ”Captain, what exactly do I have to do today?” Private Essen asked, ”There’s no war, no enemy out here in the ass end of nowhere.” ”You need to do what I and the other officers tell you to do, which means getting your sore ass out of bed,” Carter said, pulling hard on the triple bunk’s four metal posts and until the stack of sleeping mats fell to the ground. Essen let out a startled shriek before he hit the floor. When he untangled himself from the thin bed sheet he had been lying under, he looked up into the angry face of Captain Carter. ”What was that for?” “For your general incompetence. Sergeant Hammond was kind enough to move the bunks away from yours in case I needed to do that. Now get up.” “Fine,” Essen said, gripping the bedpost to pull himself to his feet. He still had his undergarments on, for which Carter was thankful. She had no desire to see what two women of the camp had referred to as ‘funny’. “Get your uniform on then report to Sergeant Hammond for duty. After you straighten up the bunks of course.” Carter smiled, then left Essen alone, cursing the day he had walked into Imperial Guard recruitment center. “You’re late,” said Sergeant Hammond, as the malcontent and miserable trooper finally reported for duty. www.Heresy-Online.net
“Captain Carter made me well aware of that, sir.” “Well you’re here now, so I might as well put you to some sort of use. I see you haven’t checked out a weapon from the armory yet.” “No sir, I have not.” “Well get your sorry ass over there and check out a lasgun.” ”Yes sir, right away, sir,” said Essen. “And Private,” said Hammond, getting Essen’s attention as he turned to leave. ”What?” “You know the lasgun I’m talking about.” ”Shit,” said the Private. Once the insolent young man was out of sight Sergeant Hammond turned to his squad’s vox operator, Corporal Griffe. “Griffe, what’s the most tedious job for a trooper in the garrison?” “Watch duty, I think. Walking back and forth on the walls for hours on end, doing practically nothing all day,” “Great, give that Private a triple shift doing that.” ”On it, sir. They always keep a slot or two open for troublemakers.” * * * “The punishment gun is it?” said Sergeant Forsen, as Essen entered through the plasteel door to the armoury. Misery dripped from Essen’s every pore as he stood resigned to his fate. “Well I don’t want sack of shit like you hanging around my bombs,” said Forsen, “Come on in, I’ll walk behind you while you get the gun. I don’t want you touching anything The Heretic
else besides that, you hear me?” “Yeah, I heard you.” “Sir is that other word you’re looking for.” He said with a grin. “Sir,” Essen added. When Essen picked up the reviled lasgun he looked at the serial number: F51L-4-U. He couldn’t even use the gun to shoot himself right there. The lasgun wouldn’t even fire, and probably never would. Essen sighed, and left for punishment duty as Forsen chuckled at the Private’s fate behind his back. * * * “How can you be late to punishment detail?” asked Commissar Burgh, “it’s like you’re asking for us to make your life even more miserable,” “Can’t help it, Commissar,” said Essen, “I was held up at the armory by yet another guy who wanted to tell me I suck at life.” “Excuses will get you nowhere, Private. Start your rounds or–“ “Or it’s a bolt to the back of the head. Yeah, I know.” As Private Essen reached the top of the wall he looked out onto the dried up and rocky wasteland that surrounded the base on all sides. Beyond his eyesight he knew there were other bases, all within reach of each other by air travel. Not this base though. By some twist of fate the paperwork had been lost and the battalion at this garrison hadn’t received their designated Vulture and Valkyrie squadron. There was no need though. No enemy had any reason to come here. * * * Baineth, Craftworld Guardian, lay down on the hot ground, keeping her body as flat as possible against the rock.
She signaled for the other Eldar to do likewise. They did their best to move as little as possible, lest unknown and unseen eyes were searching for their brown and red mesh armor. Behind her, Baineth could hear Autarch Undomie, hiding behind a ridge and conversing quietly with the Exarchs of the Striking Scorpions and Dire Avengers. Though Baineth could not see them, she knew the Eldar of the Scorpion Aspect were clustered around their Exarch and Autarch, blending in perfectly with the surrounding terrain. The Dire Avengers however had no such skill and against the tan ground their blue armor would stick out like one of Commoragh on a Craftworld. Baineth wished she could hear what the commanders were saying, but knew that if the words were meant for her she would be standing with them, looking through a pair of farsight glasses and studying the distant Imperial base to plan the assault. “Their walls are low,” said Algosa. ‘Yes I see,” Undomie replied, “the walls are most likely meant to keep out animals. They will not pose much hindrance when you and your shrine set the explosives.” “And make a breach for the rest?” “Yes. We move in together. Scorpions first, hugging the rocks. Get close to the walls while the rest wait. Use your grenades to blow a breach, then we send in the War Walkers, followed by Exarch Galweigh’s Dire Avengers. I will lead the Guardians, then we split up. Algosa, lead your Scorpions in general sabotage: destroy vehicles, fuel and ammunition depots. Cause as much confusion in their ranks as possible. Galweigh, take your Avengers and support the War Walkers, search for the target. If you find him kill him. I will do the same with the Guardians.” “Yes Autarch,” said Galweigh, he turned and signaled his Avengers. As one, they began rubbing dirt into their armor, doing their best to blend in with the surroundings. “Yes lord,” followed Algosa. “Make your men ready to move on my order, and prepare your war mask.” * * * An hour later, Exarch Algosa and his Striking Scorpions crept under the harsh glare of the sun towards the wall circling the Imperial garrison, blending into the rough terrain to avoid the searching eyes of tired mon-keigh. Just one shout of alarm would bring a hail of fire The Heretic
down on their position and doom the entire mission. Algosa would not let that happen. “My Exarch,” one of the Scorpions, Wasleth, whispered, “there are heavy bolters on the wall.” “I saw,” replied Algosa, “we will have destroy them, but first we must blow a breach in the wall in order to let the others in.” “Why was this task not simply given to our shrine?” asked another, “we could have gone in and killed the target with little problem.” “It is not our place to question the Council, they decided the greater half of our small home’s forces would go, and so we have gone. We will prosecute this operation the way our Autarch sees fit.” “Understood, Exarch.” They crept into the shadow of the wall, getting closer to where Undomie instructed them to place their charges. It was a point closest to the rocks beyond, where the War Walkers and Dire Avengers awaited, close to the Guardians and Undomie himself. “We are almost there, ready the explosives for attachment.” “Yes Exarch.” Algosa turned on his battlehelm’s filter, allowing him to see the wight sight markers designating where to place the explosives. Algosa instructed his team to place the explosives in the wall’s weak points to maximize their effectiveness, keeping an eye on the wall above, wary of any heads suddenly poking out above the rim to spot them. “Here, my Exarch,” said Wasleth. Algosa brought his eyes down to see his Scorpion holding out a detonator to him. “Thank you Wasleth, alert the others now, it is time to get out of here. It will be a large explosion.” * * * Private Essen was a quarter of the way into his second round on the walls, and halfway to the opposite end of the wall when it exploded inwards. Rockcrete flew inwards towards www.Heresy-Online.net
the prefabricated Imperial structures, covering some in crushing chunks. “Shit,” he said, a moment before the general alarms sounded. He jumped down from the wall, landing on the hard ground on his side. “Hitting the ground rolling doesn’t work, Private! Now get the hell up! Its war!” Essen looked up to see Captain Carter yelling at him alongside Sergeant Hammond and his ‘elite’ platoon. He scraped his hands along the sand and staggered to his feet, chasing his hands after them as they ran through camp towards the explosion. “Any chance of getting a real weapon?” He asked. “Not from my men,” growled Hammond, “but if we get close to the armory I’ll shoot the lock off for ya and you can go get a pistol or something.” More explosions sounded in the distance, and Essen could sense the attack was still just beginning. * * * “Rally! Rally towards the breach!” Commissar Burgh yelled, raising his chainsword high as a signal to the nearby guardsmen. Enlisted men ran past him, getting into position to defend against whatever had blown a hole in the wall. Guardsmen on the wall opened up with their mounted heavy bolters on the surrounding landscape, the guns chattering away and spitting our high velocity death. Burgh ran along the ramp to the top battlements and stopped at the first heavy weapons team in his path. “What’s out there?” he asked, yelling to be heard over the heavy bolter fire. “Don’t know, we can’t see anything out there,” yelled back a guardsman, feeding ammunition into the gun. “Then cease fire, you won’t hit anything that way!” “Yes sir,” said the man, tapping his companion on the head and waving his hand across his throat, giving the signal to stop firing. “Is there a vox nearby?” Asked Burgh. “I don’t know, we usually keep it a few yards down that way,” said the trooper, pointing in the direction of the still-smoking breach. The Heretic
“Perfect,” the Commissar muttered, “do you know where the Major is?” “No sir, I think you’re the senior officer here at the moment.” Burgh swallowed, it was his responsibility to hold the attackers back until a nonpolitical officer arrived. He had some tactical skill, but his talents were more along the lines of boosting morale and inspiring his men to acts of bravery. He had no experience in battle strategy. Men were taking up positions in the avenues between the pre-fabricated structures in the base, staying behind cover and aiming their weapons at the breach. He swallowed again and hoped beyond hope that the attackers were fewer in number. His attention was brought back to the other side of the wall, where in the distance, but closing rapidly, he saw three moving objects, sprinting across the jagged rocky landscape. Xenos. “Ready missile launchers!” Shouted the Commissar. The War Walkers were hard to see in detail, with their holofields blurring their appearances., but when their pilots opened fire their presence was felt by all. “Shoot!” Yelled Commissar Burgh. Heavy bolters and other guns along the wall opened fire, aiming for the xenos machines. For every hundred shots fired almost as many missed, and those that did bounced harmlessly from the xenos armor. When more shapes emerged from behind and among the rocks Burgh knew he had to take more direct action. “Move over!” He shouted, shoving the gunner aside and taking control of the heavy weapon. Where once the gunners had aimed for where the machines were, the Commissar fired at where they would be in a moment. It was not as effective as he had hoped, but it was better than nothing.
The xenos continued to fire, shooting through the breach, blowing holes in the ranks of men within. Some men tried to back away further from the breach. “Hold your positions! Give no ground to these vile invaders! Missile launchers, get ready, aim your weapons at the breach and fire when I say.” “Hold,” said Burgh as the walkers came closer. “Hold,” he repeated, holding his chainsword up. The machines closed in, still shooting. One of the missile launcher teams’ gunners fell. “Get ready,” he repeated. They were almost there and the men with missile launchers raised them to their shoulders and eyed down the sights. Their loaders inserted the deadly warheads into the back ends of the weapons and tapped their companions’ heads. The xenos machines were almost in range, galloping with long strides one their two legs. Smaller xenos trailed behind, charging in loose formation and firing from the shoulder. They seemed to posses a sort of a supernatural awareness of their surroundings. Some of their gunfire embedded itself in the wall inches from his face. He looked at the trio of projectiles and noticed their flat, spiked disk shapes. Eldar. “Fire!” He shouted, dropping his sword to his side. * * * Baineth raised her shuriken catapult and fired again at the human garrison, hoping to get off a lucky shot. The War Walkers outstripped her, firing through the breach. The stupid mon-keigh fired too early, and their bullets ripped through ground where the machines were a minute ago. It tore into a few unlucky Guardians but missed the walkers. The War Walkers were nearly upon the breach, still firing and showing no signs of halting their momentum. The knife that was the War Walker squadron the Autarch had prepared would cut straight through the Imperial garrison, ripping it apart. Then the knife was shattered. With the enhanced hearing of her Guardian helmet, Baineth heard the swooshing of Imperial missile launchers firing their deadly load. Fire trails lit up the air as the missiles found their targets. The young Guardian felt, more than heard, the missiles tear into the Walker squadron, destroying two of the war constructs and vaporizing their pilots. The Heretic
The loss was unfortunate, but the squadron had done its job, and when Baineth tore into the Imperial garrison alongside the Dire Avengers, the Autarch and her fellow Guardians the Imperials were in disarray, few of their troopers guarded the immediate position and a quick glance to the walls showed the mon-keigh up there being dealt with by Algosa and his Striking Scorpions. * * * Burgh watched with satisfaction as the missiles collided with the Eldar war machines, destroying two. His grin turned into a frown as the third emerged from the smoke and continued firing on the Imperial guardsmen behind the wall. With a curse he drew his bolt pistol and fired several shots at the machine with no effect. More Eldar were pouring in through the breach, firing their alien weaponry at crouching guardsmen, cutting them down without mercy. The Commissar turned his boltpistol at them and took aim. In the moment before he pulled the trigger a roaring chainblade came down severing his hand from his arm. Bright red blood sprayed out of the stump as he fell over sideways. An Eldar, clad in ornate green and yellow armor stood above him, a bloodied chainblade in one hand, the other ending in a power claw. Behind the xenos, more yellow-green Eldar clamored over the wall and dispatched the other guardsmen before dropping down, firing their pistols into the fleeing soldiers. Burgh swallowed back the darkness. As he spoke, it was like speaking through butter. “You’re going to kill me now aren’t you?” He asked. The xenos nodded, and the Commissar closed his eyes for the last time. * * * “Forward!” Shouted Undomie, “You all know your tasks. Divide up, Avengers and War Walker to the right, Striking Scorpions to the left, Guardians with me. Find and kill the target. You all know what he looks like!” A few blasts of laser fire soared past the Autarch’s head, causing him and those Eldar www.Heresy-Online.net
near him to duck behind solid cover. The Autarch returned fire and somewhere past the veil of smoke and War Walker rubble a mon-keigh screamed. * * * Major Gowner directed men forward from a command position atop his Chimera tank, sending platoons to bottleneck points near the breach in the wall, giving them orders to defend as long as they could before they had to fall back. All platoon leaders knew their fallback points and they would make any attack costly and painful. He had already put out a distress call to the closest two Imperial garrisons in the region, requesting air support and reinforcements to deal with the xenos attack. “Captain Carter,” he said, as the officer and her first platoon arrived at his makeshift command post. “Reporting for duty, Major,” said the Captain with false bravado, ”Just tell us where you need us.” “At the front Carter, that’s where I need everybody right now. Get to point eleven thirty one and take over from Lieutenant Kehan, I need a senior officer to hold the center from the damn xenos.” ”Yes sir, right away,” “I don’t think you’ll be getting a functional lasrifle today Private,” said Sergeant Hammond, as the platoon went down an avenue between barracks and mess halls and Private Essen ran with them. “So what the hell do I use to shoot?” “Nothin you’ve got on you, Private,“ said Hammond, “but you’re free to pick up a fallen gun. Until then, use yours as a club,” “A club?” “Repeating what I say won’t get you anywhere, Private,” said Hammond. “Quiet,” said Captain Carter, “we’re almost on point eleven thirty one and we all need to be alert,” The sounds of las fire demonstrated her point, and soon the platoon was rushing to reinforce their brothers. The Heretic
Essen brought up the rear of the group and by the time the platoon reached the firing zone the fighting had ended, microsharp discs embedded in the ground and buildings all around, guardsmen dead with the discs in them, but with a pair of dead alien Eldar. “Good job Kehan,” said Captain Carter, “you succeeded in driving them off,” “Aye that we did, but we didn’t get them all, and I have a feeling they’ll be back soon,” said the Lieutenant, rising from cover and turning to salute the Captain. A trio of razor sharp discs speared through and out of Kehan as he spoke, his chest spurting blood. His lifeless eyes saw nothing but his fall to the ground. The Eldar were back, in greater force this time, around twenty of the xenos armed and armored in a similar way. This time they were led by a more decorated alien armed with a pistol and simmering power blade. “Fall back!” shouted Sergeant Hammond, The platoon fell back, blasting away at the aliens with their lasguns, taking little time to aim though and doing it mainly to keep the xenos’ heads down. Metal discs soared through the platoon, hitting some but leaving the rest unscathed. Essen wasn’t bothering to shoot while they fell back though, he wouldn’t hit anything even if his lasgun worked anyway, and he wanted to get himself out as fast as he could. He took a right down an avenue and ducked behind a supply crate, bringing his knees up and hiding himself from sight. “Over here!” he yelled, and other guardsmen fell back to his position and took up similar posts. “Maintain a defense!” shouted Captain Carter when she got there, “We go no further!” * * * Baineth could go no further, crouched behind a wooden crate she fired her shuriken rifle catapult at the mon-keigh and watched with satisfaction as the humans fell down in a shower of blood. “Does anybody see the target?” asked Undomie, sending a burst of shots from his www.Heresy-Online.net
pistol into the enemy. “No Autarch, we do not see him,” said a Guardian, after the squads spent several valuable moments scanning for him and trading fire. “We must push on,” said Undomie. “We cannot let ourselves get bogged down. We—” Whatever they had to do was drowned out by the whine of twin jet aircraft engines from a mon-keigh attack squadron. “Scatter and evade!” Undomie yelled and the Guardians ran to find better cover. But Undomie quickly saw there would be no cover in the narrow alleyway. The aircraft whine passed over, and Undomie’s fears passed. “Why did they ignore us?” Baineth asked. Undomie heard a series of explosions in the distance. “They have a graver concern,” he said. * * * Exarch Galweigh fired a shot from his shruiken pistol and watched his target crumple to the ground. His Dire Avengers took down their own targets and the rest of the Imperials ran under the hail of shuriken crystals. A louder sound filled the air behind Galweigh as the surviving War Walker gunned down the rest of the mon-keigh squad. Galweigh couldn’t help but admire the magnificent war machine. The defenders couldn’t even touch it with their primitive laser weapons. He heard a whining noise and then the War Walker exploded. A shower of wraithbone showered outwards from the Walker, shrapnel cutting into the ground and killing two of the Eldar. Galweigh shielded his eyes from the blossoming fire. He heard, rather than saw, the trio of Imperial attack craft hovering above their position. “May Lileath give you naught but nightmares until the end of your days,” he cursed, before the fighters’ guns opened up once more and he knew no more. * * *
Baineth advanced through the streets of the Imperial base, running alongside Undomie and shooting any Imperials that dared show their faces. The squad’s emotions were ebbing low. Their strength had been in speed and surprise, and every moment they were bogged down was a moment more the Imperials had to stop them. As Baineth and the Autarch took point, other Guardians armed with fusion guns took out the larger Imperial structures with streams of melta energy, reducing the buildings to molten slag. Their brethren filled the survivors with shuriken fire. Baineth edged ahead of the Autarch, and caught a glimpse of fleeing mon-keigh. “More this way, my lord!” She shouted, before a wash of grief stopped her in her tracks. “What was that?” She asked. “Exarch Galweigh and his Avengers have perished,” Undomie said quietly. “I felt their deaths.” “What of their spirit-stones?” “Destroyed.” Baineth’s face fell. “We have to keep going,” she stammered. ”The mission.” The Autarch broke himself from his trance. “Yes, you are right. We must avenge their deaths and kill the target.” They set off once more into the storm of war. * * * Algosa slipped through an unseeing squad of panicking mon-keigh, their human eyes clouded with fear and confusion. The other Striking Scorpions did likewise and did not make their move until they were in the middle of the herd.
“Now,” hissed the Exarch, and the Scorpions of his shrine activated their chainswords. Within seconds the humans were lying dead on the hard dirt ground. “Where to now, Exarch?” asked Wasleith. “The ammunition depot is just over there,” said Algosa, pointing to a domed building. “Why are there no guards around it?” “I do not know, we will proceed with caution.” They advanced, pistols out and eyes wary for any sign of the mon-keigh, but the fighting in other areas had drawn them all away. Algosa crouched down in the door to the armory, searching for enemies. There was no one here besides his squad, but his instincts told him this should have been a heavily defended area of the base. He stepped back in surprise as las fire stitched a path along the ground towards him, followed by scores more. “Inside now!” He shouted to the others. Out of the fire and into the inferno, Algosa thought as a dozen mon-keigh emerged from hiding places inside the armory and opened fire on the Scorpions. The laser fire reflected easily from the Scorpion carapace armor though, as the Eldar returned fire and felled the ambushers. Algosa had a second to catch his breath before more concentrated lasfire began melting through the armory walls. The mon-keigh had set a trap. “Set the explosives,” shouted Algosa, realizing that two of his squad had fallen. “Stay low.” Las fire continued to cut into the armory and by the time the Scorpions had set their remaining explosives two more Eldar had been killed, leaving only Wasleith and Algosa. The Scorpion made his way to the Exarch, crouching low to avoid the las fire. “It is done, Exarch,” he said. “Give me the detonator.”
“Here,” he said, handing Algosa the little black device. “It is ready to blow, Exarch,” he added. Algosa took a deep breath and readied himself. “I am sad,” he said. “Why?” “You could have returned from the path, returned to a path of peace, to your mother.” “She misses you.” “I have missed her.” “It was an honor to serve with you, father.” “And for I to serve with you, my son,” said Algosa, smiling, seconds before he pushed the detonator. * * * Undomie stumbled; the psychic death throes of his comrades weakened him. Luckily for him, the Guardian Baineth was there to steady him. “We cannot stop,” she said, “the Imperials have held us back and we have taken too many losses, but for the Craftworld, we cannot stop!” “No, we cannot.” The Autarch put a hand on her shoulder and regained his balance. His face twisted in fury as he raised his pistol, shooting two mon-keigh in as many seconds. The whine of attack craft filled the air and Baineth looked to the sky as the fighters returned. “My lord, take cover!” She yelled. Undomie wouldn’t listen. * * * Essen found himself once more hiding behind solid cover, not daring to expose himself. Not without a proper weapon at any rate. www.Heresy-Online.net
“They’re charging again,” someone shouted. Essen needed to know if he should run again or stay put. He peered over his cover and saw the blue-armored xenos leader charging the Imperial lines. The crest-helmed xenos effortlessly shot down two guardsmen, pistol whipping another, a whirlwind of destruction in the narrow street. Essen watched in horror as the alien calmly and coldly put a trio of thin metal discs into the head of a guardsman just a few feet away. He stayed frozen as the xenos’ head turned to scan for a new target. It found Essen and time seemed to freeze. Though the trooper couldn’t see the alien’s eyes, he could feel them on him. The alien’s sword arm raised, pointing its slender, electrified blade at his heart. The leader took a step forwards. Acting purely on reflexes. Essen raised his failed lasgun and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. If his brain had been running on more than adrenaline he would have lunged for a lasgun laying discarded only a few feet to his left and tried that, but it wasn’t, so he pulled the trigger again. Nothing happened. Explosions lit up the ground behind the alien leader as the Vulture gunships cut down more xenos ground troops. The alien leader stepped closer. Essen pulled the trigger again. Nothing happened. The xenos was just a few feet from Essen, and it raised its blade high, aiming high for the neck. Private Essen squeezed his eyes shut as he squeezed the trigger, and something in the lasgun finally clicked, unleashing all the power in its ammunition clip in a single blast. The massive power shot out and broke through the Eldar’s armor, burning through its flesh and ending its life in a fiery explosion, the force of which knocked Essen back and stunned him. He blinked dust from his eyes and laughed at his extraordinary luck.
* * * Baineth watched from her shelter as Undomie fell. The mon-keigh gunships continued firing on the area pinning down her squad. As if in a dream, she stepped forward, out from underneath her cover and started running. As she ran, she reloaded her shuriken catapult. The target was lying on the ground, weak from the explosion, and the others of his squad were still recovering from the fiery blast. There would be no other opportunity, no withdrawing to come up with a new plan of attack. It had to be now. The mon-keigh had to die now. Baineth closed the gap to the target, gunfire hitting the hard ground just behind her. She bent forwards and ran faster, sprinting past the recovering mon-keigh. She raised her shuriken catapult, aimed at the target’s heart and fired, sending a metal crystalline disc straight into his chest. There. The mission was complete. The bullets caught up with her, piercing her armor and shredding her organs. She dropped to her knees, darkness closing in, but was filled with a sense of achievement. Her Craftworld was safe. * * * In the cold depths of space, far from Imperial eyes, the alien civilization floated on the ethereal winds of the void. In the confines of the Craftworld, nineteen Eldar convened in darkness. Using their divinatory powers they tracked the progress of the strike force sent to eliminate the human who would have brought destruction down on their home. Thanks to one Guardian, they were safe. “We still cannot see the tides of the future past this point,” said one. “This thread has ended, the mon-keigh is dead, he cannot threaten us now,” said another. “It is done,” the nineteen voices chorused.
* * * In the midst of an Imperial medical bay, scores of injured suffered. Those who could move made way as a pair of medics carried another body into the room. The body stank of blood and was clearly wounded by the xenos projectiles. “Put him on the slab,” one of the medics shouted, and the body was placed unceremoniously down on the doctor’s table. The base’s doctor had just finished sterilizing his hands above a blood-tinted sink. He took one look at the body on the table and shook his head. “There’s no way I can fix that,” he said, “I don’t care if he’s a hero, no man can live through wounds like that.” “Actually doctor, he will,” said one of the medics. “I just told you I can’t!” The medic reached into the webbing around his neck and pulled out a badge attached to a thin chain necklace. Shining in the dim light of the medical bay, the stylized silver ‘I’ shone brightly. The inquisitor stared the doctor down. “You will save this man’s life today, even if it costs every other man here theirs.”
TALES FROM THE GUN DECK
I had been in trouble a few times, ever since I was a child. This time it was no different. I was stowing away on an old rust bucket freighter. I got caught stealing some food from the crew. The captain, a decent fellow, decided to throw me into the ship’s brig rather than sending me off into deep space out of an air lock. His mistake. I have been in more brigs, cells and detention rooms than most hardened criminals. Escaping is my speciality. The voyage turned out to be better than expected—the cell was comfortable and I got fed. Soon the old rust bucket touched down and I made my move. I won't tell you how. Some things are trade secrets. The sly old dog of a captain being the decent law abiding citizen that he was, had managed to get a pictogram of me and sent it to the Arbites enforcers. So there I was on a world I had never seen before, alone and on the run. The sun was high in the sky and burned hot. A really nice day; just the haze of plasma gas residue and dust in the air. Nothing changes. The strange thing is no matter where you go, everywhere is the same. Landing pads and dockyards, warehouses, machines and men. I found myself walking fast through the dock area trying to look inconspicuous when some keen eyed Arbite spotted me and I had to run. Lucky for me most dock areas are like www.Heresy-Online.net
the slums of most hive worlds and running was nothing new to me. It was then that I saw the sign tucked in between two torn posters stuck to a wall. "Bar" and an arrow pointing down a narrow passage. How could I resist. The passage was dark an easily missed alcove perfect for disappearing into. I nearly missed the bar as I went straight past it and had to double back. Outside, painted on the blackened window was the picture of a starship and the words Nebula Queen. I checked out my appearance in the reflective black. I looked scruffy enough, bearded and smelt a bit. Just right. The Nebula Queen looked closed. I tried the door and it opened, releasing a cloud of spicy smoke. I crept in keeping my eyes sharp and my body ready just in case. The place was dimly lit with a scattering of circular tables. A wooded bar half moon shaped filled one back corner. Opposite it were three high backed booths, each with its own small table. A few faces looked over but most carried on talking and supping the local brew. It was only a matter of time before the Arbites would check the place out so I had to try and blend in with the locals. I needed a friend and fast and I saw just the man I needed. Sitting at the bar was an old grey haired man. The bartender was telling him to shut up and the old drunk was starting to raise his voice, so I walked over. “What can I get ya?” I said in my best Low Gothic. “I 'll ‘ave another rum.” “Make that two.” I said to the barman. I had only a few bits of cash on me, various coins and credit slips, lucky for me the place was cheap. “Another rum lover.” The old man spun around nearly falling off his stool. “Oh yes sir. Nothing like it,” I replied. I hated the stuff but the ruse worked a treat. I had the old man’s attention “Navy man are ya?” He asked. “No, freighter. Worker...crew...man.” I had no idea what the heck a freighter crewman called himself. I never really had the drive to find out. Luckily the old man was too drunk to notice. He lurched forward and grabbed my arm as a support.
“I used to serve in the navy. Man and boy, sailed with the imperial cruiser, Death Nell. Have ya ever heard of her?” The man’s breath washed over me, thick and sweet with enough flammable gas to start a small aircraft.” “No, I haven't.” I replied honestly. The bartender came over. “Look Brem we have heard enough of your stories around here to last a lifetime now stop bothering my customers and shut up.” The old man gave the bartender a viscous scowl and shut up. “I don't mind a few stories,” I said, “How about we sit over there in that booth and you tell me a couple to pass the time.” I patted him on the shoulder and the old man nodded and staggered off towards the booth. “Cheers friend,” the barman said. I ordered two more shots of rum before I left. I was starving and asked him for some food. “We have some stew and Clausa bread.” I had never heard of Clausa bread but when you have travel a lot like me you find lots of different names for the same things. “Yes thanks that would do nice,” I said pulling out some imperial credits. “Is this enough?” “You’re a bit short, but seeing as you’re keeping our friend occupied I’ll let it slide. Go and sit. I’ll bring it over.” I was beginning to like this world: such nice people. I wandered over to the booth, checking the entrance on the way and watching a few of the other customers. All were keeping to themselves. I sat down in the booth. The padding had long since been crushed and the seat was harder than it looked. Now you might think it strange that I would spend my time listening to a drunken old navy man spill out his life story, but it served me a good purpose. Any passing Arbite looking in would just see a load of men drinking with their pals chatting away. They would be looking for a nervous loner not a drinking companion. And secondly, I have a soft spot for stories.
When I was young I lived in a hive world slum. I owed nothing to no-one. I survived by scavenging or stealing, depending on if you saw me or not. I had a place of my own: a box of a space in an old ruin. It was a dead space between two walls and it was my home. Every night drifters would enter the ruins for refuge. They never knew I was there. A family with children would be regulars and come in at night for safety. The parents would tell their children stories of strange worlds and monsters and heroes. I would listen and learn. Then one night they never returned. Since then, I’ve never been able to resist a good story. The bartender brought over a large bowl of stew and a plate of Clausa bread. The stew was good and spicy, the bread was just like any other bread. The old man ordered more rum. “What’s your name?” I asked, not really caring. “Gunnery master Brem Slouth,” he replied and even gave a mock salute. Touching, I thought. “I was the Gunnery Master for forty seven years, man and boy, till I got pensioned off.” The one thing I did know about the Imperial navy was that no one got ‘pensioned off’. You either jump ship or die on board. Once you’re in, you’re in for life. I just ate my stew and listened while Brem Slouth carried on with his lie. “It was on account of me losing both me legs.” I had to glance under the table. He pulled up his clothing to reveal two dark wooden shins. “Oh I am sorry,” was all I could say. I thought he was playing some drunken joke but he was for real. “I was pressed ganged as a boy. I could have been someone. I ‘ad schooling. Took me away from me home and family. Everybody.” The old man was getting teary eyed. The last thing I needed was some sobbing drunk to get me noticed, so I changed tack and started asking him questions. “Tell me Gunnery Master Slouth, what was the name of your ship?” “I served on the Imperial cruiser, Death Nell. A finer ship did never sail with the Imperial Fleet. It was a hard life, harsh discipline, beatings and poor food. We never had Clausa bread, oh no. We ate it when it was nearly all green, it was the only time we had vitamins. The Heretic
He started laughing out loud, like a full auto boltgun. The bar tender and everyone in the Nebula Queen looked over. Not the sort of attention I wanted. I offered Brem some bread. “Here have some of this if you want it.” I offered him some bread and the last of my stew. “No, no never eat that muck.” The bar tender glared over. “Please go on, you were telling me about the Death Nell. I would love to hear a story about your adventures.” “Adventures? Adventures! Life was hard and if you lived another day and another you were grateful. I was assigned to the port forward battery. Master Rugla was in charge. He commanded over three hundred men and four decks of guns.” “The noise, deafening and that’s even when the guns weren’t being fired. Ha ha. Old Rugla spotted me potential. I had some brains see. A good man he was to all. Harsh but fair. When he saw I could read and count he took me under his wing so to speak and raised me like a son, taught me all I know. No man could have it better than that.” Brem swayed and closed his eyes for a minute. I thought back to my own childhood and wished I had someone like Master Rugla. Life is life as they say. The universe is vast and the numbers can count for or against you. Brem had gone quiet. “Brem, Brem.” I shook his arm till his eyes opened. “So I suppose you must have some real good stories to tell.” “Yes I have. They were a fine crew. Forty seven years I served more than your age I reckon.“ He gave out a chuckle and mumbled to himself. There was some noise in the alley outside and raised voices. I didn't dare look around. “Brem, Brem.” The old man looked half asleep maybe he was not the best choice as a drinking cover after all. “Brem.” He opened his eyes and stared. “Yes sir,” he barked out. Then realised where he was. “Tell me, Brem, how you lost your legs.” “My legs? I saved us that day. They weren't the worst. No the Orks were the worst.” www.Heresy-Online.net
He was rambling now. I caught the bartenders eye and gestured. He wandered over and I asked if he had anything to sober Brem up with. He just put his finger to the side of his nose and winked. Then walked away. The entrance door rattled open and I ducked my head deeper into my collar. I took a sneak peak and saw just another dock worker at the bar. The bar tend came over with a steaming mug of foul smelling brew. “What in the Emperor’s name is that?” I asked, cupping my nose in my hand trying to minimise the stench. “Local brew,” was all he said and went back behind the bar. Brem leant over the mug, took one long sniff inhaling the fumes than sat back, eyes closed. I thought for a moment the stuff had killed him as he sat as stiff as a Space Marine on guard duty. “The Orks were the worst.” He said. “We had gone to investigate a distress call. Our Captain loved all that kind of thing: rescues, exploring. She was a wonderful woman and a fine Captain. Harsh but fair. Anyways, we headed for this rogue moon. That's where the signal came from. Standard distress call. Could have been travelling space for years or days. “We see this rogue moon floating around in space all on its own. We called it a moon as it looked too large and regular to be an asteroid. To slow to be a comet. We approached the moon but as we got closer the surface which looked rocky was not at all. Instead it were covered with the remains of ships. Brem stopped and took another sniff at the brew and sat back and went silent. “Well?” I asked. “Orks, it were. Orks, a whole moon full of ‘em. The moon was one giant ship. As soon as we realised Captain had us turning around. The Orks see us coming and launched a dozen ships. They were fast, red things with teeth painted on the prow. We called them space sharks. One of them brutes slammed straight through the hull on the portside two decks down from where I was standing. Knocked us off our feet. “The Captain was furious. There we were, the Death Nell wounded by the Ork ship. With two more of the space sharks getting closer and closer.”
This was the kind of story I wanted to hear. “What did you do?” I asked. “We fought. Tooth and nail.” His tone turned vicious and mean as if he could take on the whole of the Nebula Queen. “We got the order to open fire. It was down to us now. Death Nell was pulling away from the space sharks. The stern guns managed to take out one of the ships with a full battery blast. The crate disintegrated, pieces of it taking out another one of the sharks. This I did not see for me self but the news was carried on through the ship. I heard that a third Shark rattled itself to bits trying to catch us. Lucky for us the Orks ain't the best at technologies. “The Captain turned the ship side on to the last of the Sharks. Master Rugla barked out orders to the gun crew. We gave them Orks a full broadside. The sound was deafening, the smell of oil and cordite, the heat, oh the heat. Loads of steam. Warms ya through and through. That sound is the best sound in the whole of creation. That’s the power of the Navy. “Needless to say the Orks were blown apart. All the lads cheered, Master Rugla did a little dance.” Brem chuckled and tried to copy the dance where he sat. I leaned back, and relaxed. It was a good story. Brem had not finished. “Then they came.” He said, his face darkening. “The Orks from the crashed ship, the one that pierced the hull. Hundreds of them. The klaxon sounded everyone started shouting, ‘Repel boarders, Repel boarders.’ I picked up a large hammer and a lever bar of steel.” “What about soldiers?” I asked. “You must have had some troops on board for this sort of thing.” Brem laughed. “You think them wet nursed fat bellies are any match for a good gun crew. Ha. The only heavy lifting they ever do is in a tarot game. Lazy dim wits. No lad, you just grabbed what you could and fought with spit and muck. When the Orks came bursting into the gun deck we were ready. They were as mad as hell as the blast door had been holding them back so they had been bashing each other. One of them tech Orks, Mechs they call ‘em, unbolted the bulkhead and in they poured. We weren't scared, we were mad. Damn aliens soiled our beloved ship and we were gonna make ‘em pay.
“They were big brutes, all teeth and muscles. Some had armour plates lashed around their bodies. All carried massive axes and swords of rough steel. Some carried guns as big as small cannons. All we had were our fists and what came to hand. I was a bit more lucky than most. I wore a thick leather oversuit for protection against the steam released from the gun coolers. “This one brute flew over towards me, leaping through the air. He landed as close to me as you are now. I could smell him. Big broken tooth sticking out of his jaw. Green as a lush clover field in spring he was. He swung a slab of iron at me which hit me left arm. Lucky for me only the flat of his blade made contact. Still me arm went numb, the leather saving it from being broken. The blow threw me to the deck. The monster raised his weapon high above his head ready to swing down. I just stared at the size of the beast.” Brem stopped talking, lost in his thoughts. His eyes looking into the distance. “What did you do?” “Fight!” He said. “I hit the only parts I could reach, the brute’s feet. Smashed up his toes and ankles with me hammer. Bash, bash, bash. The brute crashed to the deck like a felled tree. I darted out the way, before I could hit him again I was fighting another Ork. It were a hard fight. The big fellas fought hard as hell. “Spit and muck got us through that day. In the end there were more of us than there were of them. We had the numbers game and the Orks lost.” Brem finished. The stew was all gone the last crumbs of Clausa bread I moulded into one lump and swallowed it whole. “Tell me, Brem, you said Orks were the worst. Have you seen any other exotic aliens?” Brem gave me a steely glare. “You’re not one of them xenos lovers are ya?” I was a bit shocked. “No, no, of course not.” There are no exotic alien races. Only xenos scum. Vicious and sneaky.” I had obviously struck a raw nerve, one that I hoped would produce another tale. “I'll tell ya about exotic. Some years after the Orks and a lot of patrol duties and routine The Heretic
stuff we were assigned escort duty to a convoy of troop ships. We were cutting through the Warp, a nasty place at the best of times, when a shudder ran through the ship. Death Nell screeched and scraped but the old girl held together. “Anyways we dropped out into real space but there weren't no convoy. We were all scared at first. The Warp being a strange place, it could have sent us anywhere and any time. The Captain studied her maps and the astropaths and navigators searched for the Emperor’s light. “We all breathed a sigh of relief when it was found and our location charted. That’s when we were attacked.” I picked up my empty glass and peered inside then placed it back down on the table. Brem saw this and gestured to the bartender. “Two more rums over here.” He bellowed. “You’ve had enough.” Came the reply. “I'm fine. Now are you gonna serve me or not?” The bartender brought over two glasses of rum. Brem touched the bartenders arm and looked him in the eye, with a mad grin on his face. “Put them on the credit slate,” he said. “Sure, Brem.” The bartender wandered off. We both took a swig. The strong rum burned my throat on the way down. Brem continued his tale. “Out of nowhere we were hit by lance fire. Two shots on the starboard side of us. Our void shield held. Then we had another hit. Old Nell was taking it well, but we kept getting hit. Master Rugla had passed away by this time. Old age and a bout of bilge flu put him over the edge and we sent his body on its own path in space. He had taught me well bless him. Not just tech stuff but the old knowledge. ‘Use your eyes, boy, use your eyes.’ He used to say. “Our enemy was so fast we just could not get any sort of target. They would dart in, fire and dart out. The gunnery calculations were too complex to autofire and the enemy too fast for the targeting servitors to get a visual fix. The Captain was pulling her hair out and old www.Heresy-Online.net
Nell was taking a pounding. “I decided to dig out old Rugla's eye scope. A telescope it is called dating back to a time when ships in space used the stars to guide them. Anyways, I went up through the ship high above the hull up into one of the old unused viewing bells. I stood there in the cold until I spotted lance fire. At full adjustment I spotted the enemy ship. “It was long and thin, with a sail like structure a spikey looking ship a look of evil about it, dark blue in the flash of lance fire then black, lost in space like a shadow. It was moving fast and coming around in a circle. Firing then moving away. Each shot aimed at our engines. I informed the bridge.” “You mean to say that with all the Imperium had at its disposal you could not find the alien ship?” I said. “Aye lad. Don't look so shocked I told ya they are sneaky and evil and you can never ever underestimate them.” Brem leaned across the table and whispered. “Some of them xenos have knowledge far older and more advanced than mankind. Do you think the universe started when our beloved Emperor created the Imperium. There are far older and deadlier races than us.” “What happened next?” I asked trying to get Brem back on the tale. “Well before I knew it the Captain sent up a bridge officer to have a look for himself. Sure enough he spotted the enemy ship. Eldar pirates, he said. There had been reports of Eldar tricking ships out of the warp and ambushing them. Taking out their engines and leaving the crew to starve before plundering the ship and taking the crew as slaves. “Now we could have run back into the warp. So far the shields had held and I expect the Eldar thought we might have been one of the troop ships. Bitten off more than they could chew no doubt. The Captain had other ideas. As I said she loved this sort of stuff; adventuring and the like. The problem was getting to grips with the alien devil. The longer we did nothing the more likely they would get a lucky shot and do us damage. So we put our heads together and came up with a plan. “Old Death Nell, bless her, was an slow old girl. There were no way we could match the Eldar for speed. So we devised a way to trick them into their own destruction. Energy, thats how we did it or should I say lack of it.”
“Energy? What do you mean?” I asked. “Well you see. In space, energy is everything . With no sound and little light, energy is the only way you can see, or hear. The energy can be detected, measured, calculated used for all kinds of stuff. It's what space craft navigate by and the only way to tell what other ships are doing. “Now the Eldar could tell a lot about us from the energy coming from our ship. They could tell how much power we had they could tell how strong our shields were and they could tell when we armed torpedoes and the energy power up of our cannons and what we were targeting. In a mass space battle such emissions make little difference as all the energy signals from all the combatants are lost and mixed up in the melee , but in a one to one everything is laid bare to your enemy. “The plan was risky but we had a pretty good chance of pulling it off. The Eldar raider shot past and fired another burst of lance at our engines. Our shields held firm. Then they went off. The sub engine on the port side went dead and gas and plasma leaked off into space. All over the ship there was a power down. Lights went off and pumps ground to a halt. A cold chill ran through the gun deck. “The Eldar pirates backed off at first, sneaky alien scum waiting to see what had happened. Reading our energy emissions. They could tell we were hurt. Death Nell sat listing as all the engines died. The old ship was drifting. The priates moved in closer and came past fast, a test. “With no response they moved in closer to take a kill shot, no doubt once they had us at their mercy we would be lost, killed or captured. Small puffs of air vented out along old Death Nell’s hull. To the Pirates the ship was theirs for the taking. “As the Eldar lined up for the kill shot explosions rippled all over their ship. Their hull cracked carrying many of their crew into space. The dark ship cracked and broke up. Death Nell powered back up and we moved forwards all guns firing till nothing was left of the pirates. Ha.” Brem let out a loud chuckle. “How? How did you do it?” Brem smiled. “Use your eyes boy. I would have loved to take the credit but it was old Rugla. If it weren't for his teaching we would have had no plan. With the ship disabled, the Eldar would have detected any signs of weapon activation and backed off, but they were to reliant you see on energy. Watching whatever alien devices they had. What they did not count www.Heresy-Online.net
on was good old fashion human ingenuity. While they waited for a spark of energy burst. Me and the lads modified a brace of torpedoes with impact fuses. “As the Alien ship waited for a response. We loaded the ordinance into airlocks facing the enemy. Using small puffs of docking jets, we slowly positioned Death Nell at the right angle guided by me from the observation dome. A proud honour indeed. “When the angle was right the airlocks outer doors were blown and the torpedoes shot out towards our foe. Smooth as Crillain silk they went flying out towards the pirates not one micron of energy output. The first the Eldar knew of the attack was when the torpedoes slammed into their hull and exploded. “How's that? Ha.” I was impressed. It has to be said the old man knew his stuff, and what a story. Outwitting the Eldar Pirates. Brem could certainly tell a good tale. “Monkiegh!” Brem blurted out. “What?” “Monkiegh. Thats what the Eldar call us. Damn aliens we gave them a lesson. That day. As much as I had enjoyed the old man’s tales, time was getting on. It must be getting dark outside and I could move more freely at night. The Arbites had probably given up looking for me by now. Just another stowaway lost in the docks. I still would have liked to have learnt how old Brem lost his legs and I had enjoyed his company, but I had to go. I got up to leave. Brem grabbed my arm. “What about you?” He croaked, as he pulled me back down to sit. “I know nothing about you, Mister. What's your name?” It had been along time since anyone had asked me. Only when I had been caught stealing or scamming and then I would always lie and things would get unpleasant. I had to think for a second but the old man deserved to know. “Aoran. Pleased to meet you.” I said and held out a hand to Brem. Brem took my hand and gave it a firm shake. The Heretic
“Where you from, Aoran?” I looked around the bar. It felt strange to hear someone using my name. “A long way from here,” was all I could say. Brem just smiled. “Have you had any dealing with alien scum?” He asked. This really made me think back over the years. Then I remembered. “Yes, once, a friend of mine was running a transport ship in the Damacles gulf system.” I used the term friend very loosely and at each stage of my story I had to check myself in case I said anything incriminating. I continued. “We had dropped off a cargo of machine parts and picked up some passengers. On our return trip three vessels intercepted our course.” I hesitated and had another look around the bar. It felt strange talking so much and I did not relish an audience. “Go on,” prompted Brem. “The ships were Tau.” “No.” “Yes.Tau ships clean as if they were fresh out of a factory. Smooth and plain looking. We put up no fight. They boarded us. They just looked around and then went on their way.” “They just let you go? What did they look like?” “They were shorter than us, well kitted out. Blue skin and had a strange smell. I think they were just curious, or wanted to make a point. Besides there was no way we could have done anything.” “Strange, strange,” was all Brem said. Now I really had to go. I had to find somewhere to spend the night. “I have got to go now. You have been good company.” Brem gave me a long stare. “Where you going to go this late? There be no place open to take drifters at this hour and I doubt you can risk one of the more expensive places around here.” www.Heresy-Online.net
“I am sure I will find somewhere,” I said. “Well you can stay at mine for tonight if you please.” This was a rare offer. The people on this world were most trusting indeed. I gladly accepted. Brem got up and stumbled off his seat. “You may need to give me a bit of a hand to get home.” He said reaching for my arm. Together we staggered out of the Nebula Queen and through the back alleys until we reached a building with a low wall and a gate. Brem went through the gate and waved me in. A small path led up to a solid looking door which Brem unlocked on the third attempt at getting the key in the lock. A flight of steps led up to a cosy set of dimly lit rooms. Brem led me into the lounge. I sat on the couch and relaxed. Brem disappeared and came in with a bottle of rum. “Here have another drop before bed,” he said, taking a long swig and passing me the bottle. I took a quick sip and passed the bottle back. “You can sleep on the couch, it’s warm in here and quiet. Apart from the occasional craft landing at the port. I am off to me bed now.” Brem went to leave, but I had to ask him one more question. “Brem, tell me how did you lose your legs?” For a moment he hesitated then sat down on a stool he pulled out from under a small table. He sat slumped forwards head down then let out a long puff of breath. ”It were a year or two ago. The Captain was ordered to investigate a floating piece of space debris moving through a small Imperial system. Called... I can't remember. Anyways, this debris was acting very suspiciously. Two of the systems planets had been put on high alert and orbital defence systems had been tracking the object for some time. It appeared that this space junk be heading for the outer planet of the two. “Death Nell arrived and we made for the debris. It turned out to be a space hulk. The remnants of a lost Imperial cruiser. Pock marked and scarred with impacts and rust. Such ships are to be avoided at all costs. Ghastly haunted things, hulks. Many the ghosts of the lost souls wandering on board no doubt. Who knows what alien spawn could be on board. We The Heretic
made one orbit of the hulk. Checking for any signs of a name or familiar structure that may give us a clue to which ship it may have been. We found nothing. “As the Death Nell passed by, the surface of the wreck started to break apart. Pieces of hull plate and other bits of the hulk flaked away from the main body and moved towards us. Such things occur when a lost ship has been corroded away for years. The slightest movement or passing energy wave or even the light of a distance star can cause such wrecks to fall apart.” Brem stopped talking. His face tightened as if the memory was too painful for him to repeat. “We left the hulk behind. There was no way that the Captain was going to risk a boarding party on that dead scrapper. Only what we did not realise at the time was it weren't dead. First we knew about it was when certain crew went missing for duty. Then human remains were discovered hidden on the lower decks. Some of the remains had been devoured. Next the ships systems started playing about. Power flucuations, weird control functions. “A ship wide search was ordered. Captain realised we had intruders on board.” “I take it they came from the hulk?” “That they did. Floated over on the bits of metal that crumbled of the wreck. Must have grabbed on to our hull and got inside. Cut clean through the hull as if it were paper. Sneaky alien scum. Creatures spawn in the warp no doubt. “The search parties went from deck to deck. More dead crew were discovered. Everyone was in a panic. So far no one had seen the intruders. A fire fight broke out in the confusion as two search parties opened fire on each other. Then the beasts were sighted. A repair gang sighted three creatures cutting through cables. Soon a security team arrived. They found the whole gang dead. Five crew mates slaughtered, but the foul aliens had made a big mistake. “The section they were in had very restricted access in and out. This had the makings of a trap. By pushing the creatures along they had only one route to take. Towards the port side gun decks. The plan was to drive them onto the gun deck set up an ambush and blast them to bits. As the Gunnery Master, I got the men ready. We gave out lasguns and some old solid shot weapons. Others grabbed what they had to hand. I had my trusty hammer. All set we waited. www.Heresy-Online.net
“There was only one way they could enter. All the blast doors were closed except one. This was in case we had to escape or get reinforcements. We were sure we could deal with three alien scum, but it's always best to have an escaped route. Soon we could hear the sound of distant lasfire. Everybody tensed up. I was gripping my hammer so hard I thought the handle was going to crack. Then blam! One of the creature leapt over us. It were so fast you could hardly see it move. As I turned to see it. Gun fire erupted. A second beast emerged only this time it got blasted by a wall of hard rounds and burning las shots. “I was worried the first alien was going to escape. I called to my men. ‘Stop it! Stop it now!’ The damn thing moved so fast. Luckily it didn't go for the open blast door. Suddenly there were screams and a third creature emerged and went straight for the waiting ambush. Men were cut down one by one. Blood and flesh flying everywhere. Claws and teeth flashing and moving in a blur. Anyone left alive ran and as they headed for the open blast door the first beast attacked cutting them down, rending them apart limb for limb. “I looked at the open door. Then at my men getting slaughtered. Then I knew that I could not let these aliens escape alive from this deck. An idea came to me as quick as a las bolt. I ran towards the maintenance control panel. The creatures were too busy killing my men to notice me at first. I reached the controls and activated the steam purge sequence. Steam is the life blood of the guns. Steam is used to move the guns open the gun ports and cleanse the barrels. If an Imperial warship has one thing, it’s lots of high pressure steam. “The sequence I had started would release high temperature, high pressure steam all over the gun deck. Everything in it's path would be boiled in an instant. Including me. With seconds to spare I sprinted for the blast door. I made it through the opening. I glanced back to see one of the creatures leaping towards the door. A clawed arm grabbed my leg and pulled me back onto the gun deck. I kicked at the thing as it tore at my legs with its other limbs. “I had no choice, I smacked the closure switch with my fist. The door slammed shut taking my legs with it. The gun deck was purged of all living things, human and alien. I saved the ship that day but lost my legs.” Brem stopped talking. His eyes were watery, his face wet with tears. “They were good men that died that day.” Brem stood. “Well good night. Don't go having any nightmares.” Brem left the room and went off to bed, switching off the glow lamp as he went. I could not say anything. I was a bit shocked. Still it was a good story. So far all in all it The Heretic
had been a really good day. I had found a friend, a place to stay. I had some drink and food and some really good entertainment. As I laid there on the couch my eyes slowly adjusting to the dark. I noticed a plaque on the wall. I got up and had a closer look. It was a star shaped medal with gold ribbon. The medal was fashioned from pieces of machinery joined together. Underneath was the caption, ‘From the Captain and crew of the Death Nell. Forever in your debt.’ So old Brem had been telling the truth. Maybe they did let him go home after all. I was really liking this world. I lay back down on the couch and relaxed. Time for sleep. With the sound of Brem's snoring coming from the other room I deactivated the holo-device on my belt. I flexed my scales and took one last look around the room. It was great to feel free. There are far older and deadlier races than us. Sneaky alien scum. With Brem's words fresh in my four ears I drifted slowly off to sleep.
"Death Korps of Krieg Tribute" Bronson Howard The Heretic
THE EMPEROR PROTECTS
"Hey Ladykiller, ya want some cak?" Private First Class Apoch Jerrid looked over at the voice, to his right stood Lance Corporal Degstirn. In his left hand he held a round tin that he had thrust inches from Jerrid's face. The sweet aroma filled his nostrils. Jerrid silently reached up and pulled out a small pinch of it's contents. He took the shredded bits of black leaves and placed them between his bottom teeth and lip. Within seconds he could feel the tingling sensation in his mouth. He'd never had cak before coming to Helgad, now it was a daily part of his routine, when he could get it. As far as he knew everyone in the company was an addict. Everyone had his own drug. The platoon sergeant, a weathered man who looked far older than his twenty seven years named Wyn, stayed away from cak, but he smoked as many lho sticks as he could fit in a day. Of course alcohol was a universal favorite when it was available. Plus the officers had been handing out "greenies" since the first day of the invasion. Greenies were the name given to the green pills that kept you up for days, they made you feel great, like you could fight the entire galaxy single-handed, but take to many and things began to lose focus. You'd "lose time" as they called it. Cak was nice though it's main drawback of having to spit constantly was negated by the fact that he was always outside.
It was all for the nerves you see. Like the rest of his company, Jerrid was in the last safe zone before no man's land, they were standing or kneeling behind the husk of a building that had caught fire a few days ago. Beyond laid the shattered remain's of the city of Alcott. Several days before the city had been shelled then stormed by elements from Taskforce Gelleck. Balo Company, that is the company that Jerrid belonged to, had moved into position the night before and now as the daylight broke he knew that soon, very soon would come his Lieutenants whistle and the lot of them would move out into the ruins to begin an attack that was to drive out the defenders. It was Corporal Rould who had enlightened them to this fact. Yesterday before moving up they had been presented by Captain Avil, their company commander with tins of cak, some chocolate and liquid recaff. They had been delighted, since it had been a week since they'd had anything like these particular items available. Corporal Rould had then said how this was standard fare before a big push, an assault en masse. He had been exactly right. Captain Avil had called the company together and explained how an attack would be carried out the next morning. That resistance was "expected to be fierce, but a determined attack by motivated guardsmen could overcome such obstacles". It was explained that the city was an important position because it lay on the other side of the river Feln. The small position that had already been created on the other side was a bridgehead. It was necessary to expand that bridgehead so that the campaign could continue. He then explained how Verkassia and the Emperor were expecting every man to do his duty. With that the company had gotten underway and humped the next five miles across the river to where they were now. It would be their first real taste of combat since coming to Helgad. It would actually be PFC Jerrid's first taste of combat since joining the Imperial Guard. Like everyone else in the regiment Jerrid had come from Verkassia the northern continent of Almothin. He had been born seventeen years ago, the fifth son, eigth child of a munitions worker. His mother died in childbirth. He believed that his father had always resented him for that. Like his older brothers, Jerrid was apprenticed at an early age to work in the same factory his family had for several hundred years. Then last year it was announced that the local administrator would be reforming the 451st Verkassian Infantry Regiment. The previous incarnation had been decimated, then the few survivors disbanded three centuries before, the name had gone through the traditional mourning period and no new regiment had been allowed to bear it's designation. Jerrid had heard of the Imperial Guard his entire short life. Everywhere on the streets of Verkassia a stern faced guardsmen would stare out at the the city from some giant mural The Heretic
on the side of a building. Captions often accompanied them such as "His life is in your hands" or some other saying urging the citizens of Verkassia to work harder. Parades would be held whenever a regiment was formed and the community would fete them until eventually the shuttles would carry them all off never to be heard from again. Two of Jerrid's uncles and his older brother had been killed fighting the Ork Wars that had been going on in the far corners of the sector for as long as Jerrid could remember. The call had gone out and the munition workers guild had been required to send some one hundred conscripts to join. The most unskilled, hence least needed and usually the youngest, were sent to sign up. The forming had been a grand affair. Several thousand men, mostly teenagers as the other guilds had used the same reasoning as his own, filled the town square that served as the initial parade ground. There before an Ecclesiarchical priest they said the oath that bound them to service in the Emperor’s army. Afterward a small thin man who had been standing before them on a raised podium stepped forward and stated he was their new commanding officer, Colonel Erbek Shole. He also informed them that they were now under his control as he had been given pater potestas over each and every one of them. This was explained later by their Recruit Sergeant, a scarred and fierce looking man by the name of Tirrius, that the power of life or death that had previously been the right of their guild lord or father was now granted to the Colonel. He could execute any of them for any reason and it was best they remember that. As Jerrid would find out violence, although not always lethal, was everpresent in a guardsman’s life. This was affirmed at his recruit training where the regimen administered by their instructors was especially brutal. The slightest infraction in dress, cleanliness or disposition would be met with swift and harsh action. Jerrid learned that the short stick that all recruit sergeants carried was applied liberally to remedy any defects that the new recruits displayed as well as a few that were only imagined. Often times though beatings were done to them at the hands of a fellow recruit. One time after his bunk-mate had been caught secreting a cookie into the squad bay, Jerrid was ordered to beat the boy who slept above him with the butt of his rifle. Hesitating for a second, Recruit Sergeant Tirrius ordered another recruit to now administer the same punishment to him. This recruit did not lose a beat and sent the back of his rifle to Jerrid's left temple. The blow had felled him immediately where the recruit continued to pummel him mercilessly. Another punishment required the platoon to be divided into ten man groups where lots were drawn. He who drew the shortest was then beaten to death by the rest. This was particularly rare consequence and could only by handed down from the Regimental Colonel, but it hung over the head of each platoon as the ultimate form of incentive. As with most of the others Jerrid had been used to this level of violence since he was child. His father and eldest brother could be particularly belligerent at times, www.Heresy-Online.net
especially if they were high on a local stimulant called tiff. Many of the factory workers considered tiff an essential ingredient of the 80 hour work weeks that were a regular part of life. Both of the men had become increasingly violent after an epidemic of Tyrchic Influenza had claimed the life of his middle sister and his eldest brothers wife and son. He had taken the daily slaps and punches with the same sangfroid that he had displayed in his pre-guard life. Most of his time in recruit training was spent learning the customs and courtesies of the Imperial Guard. Rank structure was especially emphasized as well as an obedience to authority especially to officers. This also fit in easily with his upbringing, as his sister who had been responsible for raising him till he was seven had taught him to respect and fear his father. This deference was then extended to his guild master as well as any aristocrats, priests, or anyone else deemed his social superior that he may have encountered. Most of the time was spent learning close order drill. Arranged four abreast they would march for hours, executing turns and elaborate routines to the cadence of their recruit sergeant. Turrius took special pride in his skill at drilling and any misstep would send him in a rage where often times he charged into the middle of the platoon swinging his fists and that short stick. The only real break that the platoon was given aside from the ten minute meals they would eat three times a day was church. Jerrid had always had deep passion for church attendance. The bleak and dirty life Jerrid had called normal in the city of Verkassia Tertia were interrupted twice a week for one hour when his father would take the entire family to the local cathedral. There in the halls that reached up and seemed to scrape the heavens, thousands of worshipers would hear the priests of the Ecclesiarchy holding mass. Mass was a complex and elegant ritual where a collection of priests, attended by boys and cherubservitors would kneel and pray before an altar in the shape of the Golden Throne of Holy Terra and attempt to invoke His spirit. Jerrid would come away uplifted and fulfilled. This continued into recruit training often times the priest would then give a sermon where he called on the attending recruits to stay strong in the Emperor’s service. After a month the recruits began to train in the use of their lasguns, previously they had only been using them in drills. Hours were spent on the grass learning how to use the sights correctly, as usual any misuse was subject to a smash across the head from the constantly present Turrius. A monthly occurrence that Jerrid couldn't understand was when each recruit would be taken to the side room that usually served as the Senior Recruit Sergeant's office. There a man The Heretic
identified as the regimental Commissar and another untitled person whose head was clean shaven and face always seemed strained, like a man carrying too much weight for too long, would interrogate him for several minutes. The Commissar would ask him questions and the tired looking man would sit in the corner and never say a word. Jerrid couldn't explain it but whenever these interrogations were going on he felt as if someone or something else was in his mind, but he kept these thoughts to himself. These interrogations reminded him of the ones that he were mandatory for all workers at the munitions factory. There members of the Public Safety Committee would ask him for rumors on any of his fellow workers. A few days before his eleventh birthday, Jerrid's brother Wehlan was arrested by the committee for crimes against the state. His family was used to hearing of the daily arrests by the Security and Safety Police, but this was the first time that they had ever been visited in the night by them. Jerrid always wondered if it was something he had said that had led to his brother's arrest and eventual execution. After three and a half months came graduation, which saw the only time Recruit Sergeant Turrius address the lot of them as human beings. "You all may hate me because of how cruel I was," he said, "But my cruelty is nothing compared to that which lurks in the enemies of man. I taught you to be strong, I was brutal because you must be brutal. There is no peace amongst the stars, in the blackest reaches of space dwell alien hosts that will devour you whole. When you fight remember the anger I gave you and use it to drive out the fear." Jerrid never saw Recruit Sergeant Turrius again. Jerrid's platoon was divided in two, half were assigned to various occupational specialties ranging from cooks, and office personnel to tank drivers and artillery gunners. The rest, like Jerrid were declared infantrymen. The infantry platoon then marched to the parade ground of the recruiting base. There in the vast concrete grounds amongst thousands of other recruits marching and drilling in their own platoons stood six men. The one to the furthest right was easily identifiable as an officer. He introduced himself as Lieutenant Neer and said that they were now part of First Platoon, Balo Company, Second Battalion, 451st Verkassian Infantry Regiment. Seeing his lieutenant, Jerrid was struck by how young he looked, he would later learn that he was only 20 years of age. Like most officers Lt. Neer came from the aristocracy and had bought his commission from the planetary governor. After congratulating each newly minted guardsmen Lt. Neer promptly left the parade ground. Then it came time for Platoon Sergeant Wyn to make introductions of the four men standing to his left. These were identified as the squad leaders, two sergeants and two corporals. All five of them had belonged to the Planetary Defence Force that guarded www.Heresy-Online.net
Almothin. By Imperial edict each, as well as a host of others, had been drafted into service of the Imperial Guard to form the NCO cadre of the 451st Verkassian. Jerrid was assigned to First Squad, with Corporal Rould as his squad leader. Rould was tall, with dark brown hair and always seemed to have a tired look in his eyes. The graduation ceremony was a studious affair where a throng of priests blessed the men and in his second appearance in nearly four months Colonel Shole appeared and declared his pride that they "had persevered and were now forged into a fine force of the Emperor's Imperial Guard". The entire regiment along with the three others that had been simultaneously formed marched down the city center in a grand parade in which it seemed to Jerrid that the entire city came out to be a part. Afterward the entire regiment was loaded onto the shuttles that would take them to an Imperial transport ship. So began his first trip through space. Life aboard ship as a guardsmen was similar to life on Almothin as a recruit. Except thankfully Platoon Sergeant Wyn was nowhere near as sadistic as Turrius. He still carried around the same short stick but he used it less frequently. Although if his patience was tested by repeat offenders he could administer a beating to rival anything Turrius gave out. Every day the platoon was up by 4:00 am where it would assemble as a company and each platoon sergeant would take the roll for his platoon. Once a week the company commander, a good looking man in his early thirties named Captain Avil, would assemble beside the company standard standing before the two hundred some odd men of Balo company each platoon and section formed up alongside the other while the dozen officers of the company gathered behind the rest. An Ecclesiarchical priest would bless the gathering and the company commander would give a speech outlining the plan for the week. While close order drill still continued it did not comprise the entirety of the day as it did in training. It was also the beginning of combat training for Jerrid and the rest of the platoon. Platoon Sergeant Wyn gathered them together and explained how the combat tactics of an Imperial Guard infantry platoon revolved around the heavy bolter. Two heavy bolter teams were assigned to each platoon. These four man teams consisted of two men who carried the quite heavy weapon, one who carried the tripod it was mounted on, and a fourth who carried spare barrels as the rapid fire machine gun would overheat and melt a barrel if it stayed on to long. Each man was also expected to carry over a thousand rounds of ammunition, all this in addition to the kit that each guardsmen was expected to carry. Jerrid, at 145lbs had a hard enough time heaving the normal 85lbs of weight during the frequent full gear hikes. Wyn would take them on around the ship, had no envy for the machine gunners. The Heretic
Each team, Platoon Sergeant Wyn explained, would set up it's position to lay down suppressive fire for the lasgun squads. The squads then would attempt to use cover and concealment supported by heavy bolter fire to close with the enemy. There the squad special weapon gunner, usually a flamer or plasma gunner would deliver devastating fire to the enemy at close quarters. The transport ship, a massive vessel over three miles in length, held dozens of large "battlefield rooms", each a giant empty unused storage space, filled with garbage and debris that broke up the room. There they would practice simulated assaults, forming skirmish lines and moving through cover. After waiting for weeks the small fleet finally began it's trip to Sector Command Primaris, the main Imperial Guard staging area for the sector. The monthly interviews by a commissar continued after graduation. A new commissar though, now Regimental Commissar Klaque permanently assigned to the 451st Verkassian, and another bald assistant with the same pained expression, and the same weird feeling in his mind. After entering warp space however these interviews were conducted more often, even after leaving warp space they continued for three times a month for the next three months. It was during this time that Jerrid first began to know Corporal Rould. A young man of only twenty-two he insisted on calling the squad of teenagers "boys" or "lads". He had seen action before on the southern continent of Tyrchic, when the eastern quarter of that continent had turned traitor to Imperial rule, he didn't talk about it much. He actually didn't talk about much of anything, the only thing Jerrid could say with certainty was that Rould was intensely religious and had instructed the squad in the ‘Prayer to Saint Binea’ a prayer he believed carried special meaning. As if talking was much of option even for the most talkative. Life in the Imperial Guard was one of constant rush. You had to be somewhere now and every minute of everyday was micromanaged by your superiors. This was something else that mirrored life outside the Imperial Guard. The constant need to hurry and the laundry lists of tasks that needed to be done. Looking back on his life Private Jerrid realized he'd never really known a moments peace since the age of six. His father had been worked to the bone his entire life and at fifty had a haggard wrinkled face with hair that was mainly gray. It seemed that way for everyone he knew, like those in power were always keeping them moving. Except for the few feast days that littered the year, every day was devoted to work or worship. Even his father's and elder brother’s personal lives had been planned. Each had been the husband in an arranged marriage, usually with someone of a similar guild or quarter station. Jerrid had gone to work at the factory at the age of seven and for the next nine years had labored alongside his family. www.Heresy-Online.net
At the age of 15 he had been apprenticed to a family friend, like most Verkassians he had no formal education and was barely literate. The only book he had ever read was The Imperial Missal, the basic prayer book of the Ecclesiarchy, even that he normally skimmed as most words were too big for him to understand. His sister was probably the smartest person he knew but her intelligence was squandered when his father married her off to one of his friends almost three times her age. When he was 9 the girl left his household when she was not yet 16, she who had acted as his mother was gone forever from his life. In less than two years her husband stabbed her to death along with her unborn baby in a drug fueled rage. Under the principle of what he would later know is called pater potestas, the husband was never charged. As trying to examine life in the Imperium always led him to think of his sister he usually stopped before he began. "Incoming." Jerrid snapped out his recollections by the words of Lance Corporal Tendi. His first thought was to hunker down, until he understood that the bombardment would be from their own guns. Captain Avil had told them last night that before the assault, Force Command had arranged for a "lightning" artillery barrage. A quick, yet shattering bombardment from Basilisk guns located far to the rear of them. PFC Jerrid looked out as the shells struck the already battered landscape. Blowing apart the broken habs and factory buildings that made up the inner city. For the first time he thought how much he hated this place, this planet. He had first stepped foot onto this planet a little over two weeks ago. They had arrived in the system after two months of warp travel from Sector Command Primaris. The transport ship, another massive hulk, had formed part of an armada of thousands of similar vessels. Colonel Shole in one of his brief appearances stated that they would be part of a liberation force of over thirteen million Guardsmen supported by a similar number of servicemen in the Imperial Navy. The Colonel was a fairly small man. Standing around five foot five inches and weighing no more than 120lbs he had the bespectacled face of a mouse. He belonged to a noble family that had deep roots in Verkassia. He knew the Colonel had at one time commanded a PDF infantry company and had won the Distinguished Service Cross for Gallantry and Intrepidity when he had personally led an assault on a heavily defended redoubt during the Succession Crisis of the late 80s. Now in his early forties the Colonel still seemed to maintain a youthful energy about him. Although when addressing the men he maintained a coolness and formality, this even seemed to apply to the officers as well. The only person Jerrid ever saw him appear at ease with was the Reverend Monsignor Aprious, Senior Ecclesiarchical Representative to the The Heretic
regiment. It was humorous to see them together as the Father was a large man standing over six feet in height. The right side of his face was mangled and a bionic eye adorned his skull. It was rumored that he been wounded in the Ork Wars while standing on the front lines screaming litanies of faith at the onrushing hordes of monsters. His leg must also have been injured as he seemed to lean heavily when he walked on the staff that bore the Imperial seal of his authority. It was Reverend Aprious who would lead the biweekly church services. Attended by the other priests and acolytes who made up the regiments permanent chaplaincy he would prostrate himself before the altar. His sermon's usually followed, in fact it was he who had enlightened Jerrid the most on what their destination was in a particularly arousing sermon. "Unity through faith. Strength through unity." He bellowed in his loud voice. "These are the principles upon which our beloved Empire stands. Our devotion to the Emperor and the belief in his beneficence and will gives meaning to our lives. It is through this faith that we stand together. Across a million worlds, across an endless sea of stars the Imperium of Man is united in it's faith of the Golden Throne. On worlds unheard of we share a bond of our desire to serve and embrace Him." As he spoke cherubs flew through the air, the priests and servants behind him whispering chants of benediction. The images on the ceiling changed and showed the galaxy spinning, the Imperial Aquila flying, and a host of images designed to coordinate with Father Aprious' sermon. Jerrid looked to the front pews, there sat the officers of the 451st with Colonel Shole in the position of honor at the aisle end of the left pew. "It is from this unifying faith that we draw our strength." The priest clenched his fist and raised it into the air. "We draw our legions from across untold of worlds, our weapons, our star ships, our battle tanks are constructed and forged on His planets. Trillions serve and yet more are available. We need these men, my sons, just as we needed you. For as enormous as His Empire is so are its enemies just as boundless. Foul xenos threaten daily to destroy all we have built. But most foul of all are those who have rejected the light of the Imperium of Man. These accursed apostates have turned their back on the responsibilities of the Imperium. Because of their lack of faith they deny us our strength." As he spoke, behind him the altar displayed an image of a world, Father Aprious pointed his finger in its direction. "So we come to Helgad. A contemptuous world of heresy and apostasy. These creatures call themselves human but would see you butchered by alien hordes and not lift a finger to help. Many are in league with xenos and it is believed that www.Heresy-Online.net
the recent loss of Kellith was due to complicity of those on Helgad." Jerrid had only heard rumors of the fall of Kellith a world in the center of the sector he knew to be quite some distance from Helgad. "Now is the time my children to return this planet and it's citizenry to the true path of Holy Terra. Show no respite to those who resist, no compassion be they man, woman, or child they are traitors one and all. Only with holy fire shall we cleanse the planet of all its sins. And soon that day will come my children. When that day occurs, our assault, our wonderful crusade to liberate Helgad will begin. Remember what I have said here today and go, go and slay the enemies of our beloved Emperor." PFC Jerrid and many of his compatriots would later take the Reverend's words to heart. He had only been on Sector Command Primaris for two months before the regiment had once more shipped off to take part in the Helgad campaign. The armada had gathered and once more he was subjected to interplanetary travel. This kind of travel unnerved him and seemed to have a similar impact on his comrades. At times he would experience cases of deja vu, or see things in the shadows. One night he awoke in his bunk from a cold sweat believing he had heard disembodied whispers emanating from the dark. A gruesome incident occurred half way through there two week period in warp space. A corporal in 2nd Battalion had been found guilty of murdering two of the men in his squad. The murders it was said were particulary malicious, rumor had it that the bodies had been flayed and partially eaten. This event came about the same time as Jerrid's seventeenth birthday, and despite the incident the platoon still celebrated the day. Sergeant Wyn had Jerrid walk down the center of the squad bay naked while the rest of the platoon lay into his legs and arms with punches, he made seventeen trips down the aisle in honor of his birthday. For several days afterward he could barely move. The planetary assault did not begin for two weeks after they left warp space and arrived in the Helgad system. The regiment found they would not be part of the initial attack but were relegated to the third wave that would begin two weeks after the first troops made planet fall. Captain Avil would explain to the company that the 451st would land on the central continent of Decebalus. It was the most populated area and it's capture would break the back of enemy resistance. The descent onto Helgad proved relatively uneventful, it was later learned that Gemma Company's entire 2nd platoon had been killed when their ferry had crashed after atmospheric entry. The war on Decebalus was two weeks old when Jerrid first stepped foot on the continent. The regiment had landed in a makeshift spaceport, given the unimaginative moniker of Guardopolis, that had been constructed by Imperial engineers during the initial The Heretic
assault. Despite having captured the permanent ports in the city of Eomsia, so much traffic was going on that the temporary landing was still in use. Already ahead of them the Imperial Guard had landed several million troops scattered across the continent. Millions more were engaged on the various continents and islands that made up the rest of Helgad. The 451st Verkassian Infantry Regiment was assigned to Taskforce Sura, an army of a dozen other guard regiments commanded by General Olezander Sura. The Taskforce had been operating in the south several hundred miles from Guardopolis. The regiment had been told that transport would be provided for them so it was decided to wait for the various trucks and carriers to arrive. On the second day the regiment was told that they could wait no longer and that they were going to have to hump it and walk to their destination. So the five thousand men of the regiment loaded up their gear onto their backs and proceeded to march at a hectic pace. Luckily, enough trucks and jeeps had been compiled that most of the regiments heavy weapons as well as basic supplies could be carried on them. Jerrid got his first look at the people of Helgad. They marched through the broken city of Eomsia that had been taken within the first several days of the invasion. Along the road which was choked with personnel, APCs, trucks and bikes were the citizens of this once great city. Dirty and thin children ran alongside him and others asking for food. Behind them standing in small groups were woman drawing water from the puddles that had been created by broken pipes, they stared at the passing guardsmen with a look of fear and apprehension. For traitors they looked surprisingly similar to the populace that he was used to on Almothin. Placards and billboards were scattered at intervals across the city. Most had been removed or painted over by Imperial Guardsmen but Jerrid saw some of them "There is such thing as I" was one, another read "We are slaves no more". What odd things to declare, he had thought. There first casualty occurred later that night when a member of 3rd Battalion who was on watch had been hit by a passing transport. The impact had flung his body over a dozen yards away and killed him instantly. Covering over ten miles they continued to march for several days before switching over to rail transport when they reached the small city of Hirmon. The trucks carrying the heavy weapons and supplies though traveled overland and arranged to meet them in the south. Riding in packed cattle cars within days they had covered the distance to Taskforce Sura's zone of operation. After humping with a full kit the train ride was a much needed break. He had sweated profusely and gone to sleep every night exhausted. Luckily it had www.Heresy-Online.net
been the early spring on Decebalus so the air was accommodatingly cool. Jerrid noted that in his own platoon only two didn't appear affected, first was Lt. Neer. The Lieutenant had always shown a resolve to push through physical challenges that Jerrid found inspiring. The other was Corporal Rould, who claimed it was simply a generous amount of cak that kept him energized. It was around this time that Jerrid become introduced to the stimulant cak but was also given the little green pill aptly nick-named "greenies". They met the trucks and transports that had gone a different route. Several, it was discovered had been hit by rocket attacks in an area to the north that had previously been thought cleared. It was an extra burden to find that the most of the trucks destroyed contained rations, especially when it was discovered that cak would now be in short supply. After that the regiment was assigned to provide rear area security. So they unloaded from the trains and proceeded to march for three days back toward Hirmon. While on a patrol through the rural communities outside Hirmon 3rd platoon had come under sniper fire. After killing one man, the sniper had melted away and couldn't be found. Captain Avil then escorted Jerrid's platoon to the nearest hamlet and demanded from the elders the sniper. They claimed not to know who the sniper was, so Captain Avil ordered the platoon to burn the place to the ground. Several of the villagers then attempted to resist and were shot. Maybe it was the greenies or the cak but Jerrid felt charged from the encounter. All of his life he had been the whipped now for the first time he felt like the whip was in his hand. Jerrid was standing in front of a woman who knelt by her dead father, loudly begging for the life of her children in her stupid barely intelligible accent, pleading to the guardsman who had shot her father. Her cries elicited a rage in him, they had betrayed the Emperor's light and collaborated with those who killed one of his comrades, and yet now they begged for mercy. "Shut that bitch up" shouted Captain Avil, he looked at Jerrid when he said it, a snarl across his face. "Use the butt of your rifle, private," said Lt. Neer in a coldly calm voice "We don't want anymore casualties here than are needed." With that Jerrid smashed the back of his lasgun against the woman's face, instantly her screaming stopped and a large streak of blood poured down her face as she fell into her dead father's lap. Several other women rushed to her side and in a far more quieter tone begged forgiveness. Jerrid stood there staring at them for several moments, after a few minutes it took all the strength he had to keep from vomiting. For his actions at the village Jerrid would later be given the nickname Ladykiller by the rest of the platoon. Similar acts occurred across the village as the platoon let out years of aggression against the defenseless populace. Platoon The Heretic
Sergeant Wyn however did react harshly though when he found that Lance Corporal Tendi and several others had raped some of the women. They were assigned extra shifts of watch for the next couple of nights. Rould was the only one who seemed truly angry and he broke Tendi's nose later that night. The platoon moved out at dusk as the flames of the burning hamlet reached up into the coming night, PFC Jerrid didn't even know it's name but now it was gone. Whatever happened to the people of the village he never found out and didn't really care. After a few more days of patrolling the countryside, elements of 3rd Battalion found a small group of soldiers who had been operating behind enemy lines. The enemy was quickly destroyed and the area was once again considered secure. Captain Avil told the company that night that evidence had been found that identified the razed village as collaborators. The regiment was ordered to march south and assemble, there they boarded onto a fleet of trucks and moved east in an offensive that was centered on driving the enemy out of the city of Greghosia. The company drove for two days, Jerrid’s squad and that of Sergeant Yehld along with the heavy bolter team that supported both squads. Packed in, Jerrid spent much of his time sleeping or gazing out at the vast expanse of Decebalus. Every now and then they would pass villages, the traffic jams that were a constant feature along the road became incredibly bad at any village or intersection. Every time they slowed small mobs of woman and children would run up along side the trucks and beg for food. They always looked dirty and their clothes seemed filthy. One time he witnessed a gaggle of woman fighting over the dead carcass of a horse. They were hacking pieces off of it with cooking knives and running away with them. Jerrid felt disgusted to see these people, no decent people of the Imperium would allow themselves to appear so base. With all this land the fact that they needed to beg for food showed their laziness he wondered if such people could be returned to the Emperor's path. The battle for Greghosia was not what Jerrid expected. There trucks had lumbered along before coming to stop in the endless traffic jams that always seemed to appear without cause. After waiting for ten minutes, he saw the diminutive figure of Colonel Shole come racing up the road, his staff barely able to keep up with his relentless pace. He raced on by and a few minutes later he heard shouting from what he thought was the high pitched voice of the Colonel. Soon after Colonel Shole then strode back down from where they had first come, passing he tried to overhear the conversation between the Colonel and his staff. The only thing he seemed to make out were the words "bombard it from orbit". He wasn't sure why it had been decided to launch an orbital bombardment against the city of Greghosia. He knew that several regiments had been mauled in desperate street www.Heresy-Online.net
fighting. All Jerrid knew was that his chance to get in and kill the enemy had been denied him. He hated to admit it but a part of him was relieved and the tension that had filled him was released at least for a little while. The destruction of the city was regarded by the 451st as a form of entertainment. Captain Avil had secured a good position on a small hillock that stood miles from the outskirts of the city. Food and drink was also readily available, as Rould had stumbled upon a cache of dried jerky meat and distilled spirits in one of the villages that they had stopped in along the way. The meat was apparently a local kind and was very spicy. But having been on half rations since their supply trucks had been attacked, the men readily devoured them. The spirits were a cheap grain alcohol and quickly got the men drunk. The spectacle of the orbital bombardment was both beautiful and disgusting. Early in the morning hordes of people began to trail out of the city toward their lines. Word had somehow gotten out among the populace as to the cities fate. Although his company was not present at the roadblocks, Jerrid had heard that all comers were to be denied passage and forced to return to the city, any resisters were shot. For the next couple of hours the sound of heavy bolter fire and lasgun blasts filled the air. Everything changed at about nine in the morning when a terrible light appeared in the skies, seeming to drive a massive hole in the clouds. It then descended upon the city with a massive impact that Jerrid thought even shook the ground where he stood. A terrible wave followed the impact that blew through the city and tossed debris the size of cars into the air. The vast spires and skyscrapers that had been sturdy enough to withstand the days of shelling inflicted by the Guard shook, almost as if they feared what was coming. The cloud of dirt that was kicked into the air soon grew to block the city outline from view. Then it seemed to return to normal. A few minutes went by the dust began to settle, and the blur of buildings began to appear. Just as suddenly as it stopped it returned this time magnified in potency. The sky came alive as an incredible blinding light formed like a blob in the sky. It grew and rushed towards the earth almost with a murderous sense of purpose. Despite barely being able to look in its direction, Jerrid thought he saw the light burn through the clouds, evaporating them in the process. Of all the terrible sights he had seen and would see since coming to this world, the death of a vast sea of clouds struck into his soul with the most impact. As the light neared the ground he made out the score of beams that created it and saw as they smashed into the city making a mockery of its once sturdy frame. Buildings withered and died, falling to their deaths in mounds of rubble that dominoed to the next building adding to the overall destructive effect. For the next twelve hours the cascading beams The Heretic
unleashed their fury upon the great city. The orbiting fleet had arranged themselves so that each wave of attacks could then be supported by another so that the bombardment would be continuous throughout the day. Reverend Aprious had come to the company earlier that day so that services could be held in the morning. He had stayed for much of the day and during the bombardment had stated something that Jerrid's alcohol-addled mind heard clearly, almost to himself he said "Witness the power and fury of the Imperium of Man, the will and might of its Emperor and the futility of resistance." Balo company took their second casualty in the campaign that night. Lance Corporal Henla, a plasma gunner from 3rd Platoon shot himself through the head with a laspistol. He had gotten extremely drunk and was at one point seen weeping after observing the bombardment of Greghosia. Captain Avil declared him a coward and his death a waste of a tool of the Emperor's will. He ordered Henla stripped naked and his body left to rot out in the wilderness, the Reverend Aprious declared that his soul would never commune with the Emperor, as He detests cowards. The regiment then moved out past the destroyed city. They would have to go around the place as the roads near the city had been atomized by the seismic convulsions emanating from the bombardment. At several points they passed through the cloud of debris and dirt that had been thrown up by the blasts. It was so thick at times that Jerrid and his entire truck hacked and coughed as they drove threw them. The platoon had been issued filtration masks in case of a gas attack but the filters that attached to the mask had been found defective so they were effectively useless. In some places though he could see past the clouds and make out the remains of the city. It was nearly all flat, only a handful of buildings remained in a city that had teemed with millions, and even they were pitiful ruins. He saw that the entire infrastructure of the city had been destroyed. The bombardment had cracked and melted the ground completely, all roads and sewage systems, the electrical grids everything that lay under a city that formed its very foundation was ruined beyond repair. Greghosia which had stood for over a millennium was gone forever. Jerrid recalled the words of the Reverend Aprious. "It's stopped." The words came from his left where Corporal Rould, his squad leader stood. Rould then let out a violent cough, like many in the company he had developed a bad cough after spending several hours traveling through clouds of dust and debris that surrounded what was left of Greghosia. On top of that he knew Rould was in intense pain from intestinal www.Heresy-Online.net
cramps that he like many of the men had gotten when they had eaten some of the dried jerky meat they had lifted and eaten during the bombardment. Listening, Jerrid could not hear the impact of shells or the fall of new ones he knew it meant the attack would start shortly. Rould looked to either side at his assembled squad. "Alright, boys", he said looking left then right, "Keep your intervals, don't be stupid, and stay near me. Do that and nobody get's dead. If you get scared just repeat the Prayer to Saint Binea. It'll help settle your nerves." He then closed his eyes and said quietly, "The Emperor protects." All along the line the whistles blew.
SOLACE IN THE ARMS OF MAN
Michael’s knees trembled every time his feet struck the concrete. The eight year old’s shoes tapped lightly on the brown dirt and the noise echoed through the abandoned street. His lungs were filled with dust, his muscles were numb. His trail was littered by tiny dust storms disturbed by his passage. Dark gray socks rippled around his ankles beneath blue shorts and a thin white shirt. His staccato inhales matched with the echoing taps reverberating from the shattered building walls became harmonic with the vocalized breaths from his building panic attack. His chest heaved; his hips resented; his eyes swelled, both from the tears and from the images his darkened pupils had seen. His eyes, still bloodshot, were wide and dilated despite the harsh afternoon light. He kicked up a cloud of ash as he turned the next corner so sharply he hit the ground. Michael rolled and his chipped fingernails pulled him up the rocky building edge. He didn’t know where he was going, but he knew what he was running from. Those things. As he ran he kept conjuring images of the God Emperor he had learned about in church. But his mind kept seeing those open jaws ringed with teeth bigger than his arm. Those crooked, wrinkled lips and gums covered in mold. The yells, the roars, the sheer brutality and gore. Pentatonic machinegun fire, clouds of flame and smoke. www.Heresy-Online.net
The monsters laughed. They roared and they laughed, their voices a demonic blend of human and animal. Michael didn’t have a name for them. He had never seen them or heard of them. He lived in small city on an established world loyal to the Imperium. Here they were not abused or over-used. On Hirato, there was no resource needed in mass quantity, no need to establish a military site; not here. The streets were empty, aside from debris from the bombed out buildings and the ash littering the streets. Where had everyone gone? * * * There was dessert caked over the layer of dirt under Michael’s fingernails. They sat outside on the walkway by the restaurant, his excited friends, his mother whose hand held his shoulder with an affection he was still too young to understand. He raised another chunk of cake to his mouth when an explosion rocked the square. A tidal wave of debris shot through the walkway with a split-second boom turned to an ear-ringing hell. He landed on his back in some decorative plants. The screams came in a mass to his eardrums in all directions. And something else: a gargling yell of bloodlust. The roof of the restaurant was on fire. Michael searched with his arms and found his mother against the wall, just standing back up. * * * From the smoke the shadows came, taller than any man he had ever met. The morning sun struck their skin and glistened green. Their muscles were taut, their leather garments simple and covered in metal spines, and in their hands they held long-barreled guns that roared as they spat flames. The muzzle flares blinded him more than the smoke did, but he could still see his mother’s bright blood splash against the concrete. His heart tore, and he started moving only by instinct. An alleyway behind him, he took it. More of them with their horned helmets and huge teeth were in the streets, hacking limbs, stomping heads. He darted between fluttering papers. A man bumped into him screaming. He tripped but caught himself and kept running. Michael turned around another corner and met them, those red marble eyes glowing beneath the shadow of its large horned helm.
It looked into his delicate human eyes, red from burning tears, and saw a challenge. Nothing here was hard to kill, but a little chase might do it. The brute’s metal shoulders lowered as it rushed forward, axe held high. At the last moment Michael’s thoughts came back to his frozen state and he darted away on toothpick legs before the enormous blade wrecked the spot of ground he had just been standing on. The beast had its chase. * * * Some abandoned grav-cars remained, but most had been used to escape the area. Those that remained were all locked and he didn’t have the time to waste. It was still there, still after him. Michael had no idea how long he had been running, but it was longer than he had ever run before…much longer. * * * He had squeezed through small spaces, scrambled over fences, and dipped under gaps. This was his town and he knew his way for the most part. Still, the beast followed seconds behind him. He came to a sunlit intersection, the white stone walls of which once made it a sanctuary, but with the homicidal grins on the beasts before him it was just an area devoid of cover. A black armor-plated security car burned, its engines on fire. The form of a militiaman was leant against the grav-car with gaping bloody holes in his chest. Michael watched another militiaman be torn in two by the monsters. They dropped the meat halves. One of the monsters, a lit cigar clutched in its teeth, pointed a large dirty finger towards Michael. Several little green heads appeared from the shadows inside the burning security vehicle, all with beady black eyes and large boxy noses. They clambered out of the windows and holes of the vehicle as Michael turned to run again on his aching paper shins. The creatures made ravenous sounds and they bounced after him. He felt a tear on his calf and almost fell, then tripped backwards as he nearly ran into the huge monster that had been hunting him all along. One of the little ones pounced onto Michael’s right shoulder. He yelped and tore at the creature, pushing off with his legs to throw himself into the side of www.Heresy-Online.net
another vehicle. A gigantic axe blade sheared through the metal of the car inches above his head, slicing through the little monster that had been gripping his shoulder and arm with its teeth. He saw the bite marks start to run with blood. Michael’s legs pushed forward, launching him under the huge green-skinned monster, through the filthy red pants it wore. He heard it behind him, smashing the little creatures in frustration. * * * He ran with roars chasing him like a cloud of nightmares, until he turned a corner and slammed into a green body. His face smashed into the tough fabric and he rebounded back on his ass. He looked up, breathless, thinking this was it. A human hand shot towards him and pulled him back to his feet and into the inner crutch of an elbow. Michael heard the man throw his lasgun over his shoulder. The boy’s eyes buried deep into the man’s sweaty armpit. He heard the guardsmen shouting but it was just another echo as he began to pass out, exhausted beyond belief. “We’ve got one. I’ve got a kid here! Make room! Make room!” * * * Lasgun fire silenced his chaser, and over time evolved into clear voices that placed him into the uniform he now wore. The blaze of his lasgun was all too familiar, each kill reminding him of his mother’s blood. Michael fought for the Imperial Guard. He fought for his home, he fought for his people and he fought in the name of the God Emperor.
“Sister of Battle” Bronson Howard
FROM GREEN TO RED
Jack Hardy (ultra111) He had never felt pain like this before. Never in his short career with the Imperial Guard did he think he would die this way. The battle he was involved in only moments ago now sounded distant, a never-ending ringing in his ears vibrating through his entire cranium. He couldn’t breathe. For a few seconds he thought he had been submerged under water somehow, but realised his even graver reality as he regained the more and more feelings throughout his body. Sense returned to him, his nerves regaining their function. Several seconds later he wished he couldn’t feel again. Pain licked at his body, engulfing him in a sea of agony. His gaping wounds were now host to tiny insects and dirt, he knew these would become infected in due course. Claustrophobia settled in to his battle-scarred mind, panic gripping at his shattered heart. With the last remnants of his ever-fading strength, Jarrod clawed his way through the rubble and dirt from the now-ruined basilica, struggling for the air which evaded him. It was with utter relief that his hand burst through the last of the rubble, the sweet kiss of air caressing his skin. With a mighty gasp and sudden determination, Jarrod pushed himself through the rockcrete that seeked to engulf and bury him. It took his eyes several seconds to adjust to the two bright suns that now burned into his retinas, but the sight that greeted him was one he had never wished to see. The Heretic
He could see the men and women on the frontline struggling to contain them, their strengths no match for that of the enemy’s, An Ork Waaagh! of massive proportions, spreading across the entire horizon charging in a never-ending sea of green. The men and women of the Imperial Guard were being gutted like animals in their hundreds. Never before had Jarrod seen a Waaagh! this big. Their crude battle-tanks, now a mockery to the eternal glory of the God-Emperor, fired large missiles into their ranks, sending guardsmen flying. Even the mighty Ogryn’s (creatures Jarrod had never been able to look at for more than a second without feeling sick to his stomach) were no match for the orks’ brutality in closecombat, there was no shield in their armament that could slow the beasts down. The sounds of battle were no longer muffled, his ears were now open to the true battle, the battle that would tear his home planet apart. The screams of pain and suffering of dying men was the only thing that could be heard above the guttural roar of the Greenskin menace, the sounds of their crude weapons fire and artillery shells adding to the growing crescendo of violence. The city he had grown up in was now burned to the ground. The mighty palace, along with the honourable statues of the mighty heroes who had defended the realms of man against the never-ending tide of chaos and death now lay in fire and ash, forever lost to them. Homes had been ruined, lifeless bodies littering the ground. Some were still alive, groaning in utter agony wishing for their end to come soon. Others were fleeing from their homes, engulfed in flame, the skin melting away from their bones before Jarrod’s eyes. Never had he felt so hopeless, never had he felt sorrow of this level. He could hear the Commissar’s voice bellowing at the demoralised men under his banner. To be a commissar was to be a hero amongst men, to be a fountain of never-ending fearlessness for lower men to drink from. But even he was struggling to inspire Jarrod’s fellow guardsmen as the foot-slogging Orks descended ever closer to combat the last line of defence, wielding their axes and blades above their heads, bellowing in their incomprehensibly foul language. Crawling on his hands and knees, the scrapes and bruises screaming at him in the process, he searched for his lasgun. If he were to retain any hope in surviving, he would need th it. It had served him well in the two years he had fought with the Pannonia 5 regiment in the name of the Emperor, and saved his life on more than one occasion. Searching through the rubble he was buried in mere moments ago, he frantically searched for his lost weapon, the sound of the charging Orks growing by the second, their www.Heresy-Online.net
footsteps causing the ground to shake beneath Jarrod’s feet. Finally, he found his trusty weapon, instinctively checking its ammo supply. The Orks were almost upon them now. Jarrod could see there was no hope in this battle, the day was lost to them, and most certainly so was this planet. Soon, all of this planet would lie dead, the guardsmen slain in their thousands, their tanks pillaged and remade into new tanks for the Orks, the innocent civilians would not be spared, families would be killed in front of each other’s eyes, Jarrod could only hope they would not be made to be their play things. Whilst his thoughts rested on family, he thought of his own, His beautiful wife, Leila, his daughter Cara and his son, Ilius, all waiting for his return back in the city. How he longed to hold them once more in his arms, even if they were not to escape this cursed planet, to die in their arms would be a much more fulfilling end. It was then with sudden clarification that Jarrod knew what he must do. A fierce look drilled onto his features, he slowly stood on to his blistered, soar feet. He watched as the foul Greenskins finally reached the last defences of the Guardsmen. They would not hold out long. No matter how many Orks they took down with their lasguns, another two seemed to take its place. It was a never-ending stormy sea of green, with the only intention to drown them all. He turned, facing back towards the city he had grown up in. Memories flooded back to the front of his mind, both good and bad, but all of them making it even sadder to realise this place would be lost. Just as he was about to place a foot in that direction towards the city, he heard a stern, strict voice directly behind him, followed by a resounding click of a weapon being armed. “Don’t even think about it, whelp. Take one step in that direction and I will end you,” the commissar must have seen the doubt in Jarrod’s eyes, and had responded instinctively. Without saying a word, Jarrod made an unexpected and potentially foolish decision. With a slight glance towards his lasgun, he turned on the spot towards the commissar, dropping prone on the floor in the process, raising his lasgun as he fell. He pulled the trigger. The salvo of las fire rounds all hit the commissar with uncanny precision. He was too stunned to respond, not that he would have been able to after taking six shots to his thorax. Blood protruded from his mouth, descending down his cheek, dripping onto the stone-cold floor. His once gloriously decorated chest plate was now a burning ember, nothing resembling its former glory. With no more than the sound of a last desperate attempt to The Heretic
breathe, the commissar fell to his knees, and then fell over fully onto his side, his laspistol landing by Jarrod’s feet. Jarrod laid stock still for a couple of seconds, shock settling in as to what he had done. He felt a few glaring eyes staring towards him, as if they had suddenly forgotten about the Orks descending towards them. Then he realised why. He was now a traitor to the Emperor, and there was no worse a crime. He knew he would now surely die, for any faithful man would shoot a heretic on sight, regardless of the immediate danger. He watched with a mixture of anger, sorrow and pity as he saw several Guardsmen raise their weapons towards him. He closed his eyes, awaiting his death. But never did it come. Just as they were about to pull the trigger, the Orks finally reached them. Like a mighty thunder hammer, they crashed into the wall of Guardsmen, breaking both the line and their moral. Without hesitation, Jarrod picked up the dead commissar’s Laspistol, before turning tail and running as fast as his broken body could manage, hoping none of the Orks saw him and thought of him as some sort of game. Sprinting towards and through the once-great basilica, Jarrod tripped and stumbled his way over the fallen rubble, almost being crushed by descending debris on more than one occasion. He fell, re-opening a wide cut on his quad, but he did not notice, too much adrenaline was flowing through his body now, fuelling him on towards his family. He stopped at a clearing, checking the way was clear. Peering round the corner, he witnessed the Orks massacring his once-fellow comrades. He had forever sealed his fate away from the Emperors light the second he pulled that trigger, and he knew he would never be welcomed back. The way was clear, not even the fallen debris lay in this clearing. It was eerily quiet for a battlefield, the screams of the dying was now far behind him. Shoving all of his fears and misgivings to the back of his mind, he leapt from his hiding place in the ruins into the clearing, with only one hundred metres to run through before he reached the destroyed city gates. He counted the metres in his head. 75 metres to go… 50 metres… 25 metres… He was so close now, he could feel his heart pounding, it felt like it was trying to split his chest open with the sheer force it was exerting. He would see his family again soon, and www.Heresy-Online.net
they may yet escape this place! Suddenly, Jarrod was thrown from his feet. He landed by the city’s fallen gates, unable to breathe at the amount of force he had just been hit with. He was surprised he could still move. Turning on to his back, he saw a sight a lone Ork boy, standing above him, raising his crude war-axe high above his head, howling in merciless glee. “Li’l humiez all alone! No fun me thinks!” Jarrod could tell the Ork truly didn’t care about how many, the beast just loved to kill. He went to point his lasgun at the Ork, but realised with utter horror it had been thrown from his hands from the impact, which he realised must have been the Ork barging into him. “Time to die, li’l hummie!” The Ork erupted into a fit of murderous laughter, which served Jarrod well. He fumbled into his pockets, withdrawing the item he had picked up earlier. Raising his left hand, he shot the Ork point blank in the face with the commissar’s pistol. Blood splattered on to Jarrod’s face and uniform, not that he noticed. His body was so tired now, he could only notice the greatest of effects upon his fractured form. The Ork slowly fell to his knees, his death so slow that Jarrod wasn’t entirely sure if he had actually killed the beast or not. After what seemed like an eternity, the Ork finally fell on to its shattered face, Jarrod releasing a sigh of relief. Retrieving his lost Lasgun, he ran into the city, which now resembled a city of tribal savages, thriving off darkness and despair. +++ This place was like hell itself. No more was there the magnificent spires that rose everso-high into the crystal-blue sky, the homes of the innocent now burned to cinder, the majority of the once joyous populace now lying face-down in the mud, their hearts no longer beating. The glorious monuments erected for the almighty God-Emperor and his most loyal of sons, the Space Marines, were now nothing more than fallen debris under Jarrod’s boots. He did not recognise this place, this place which held so many happy memories for him. It had been the place he thought of during moments of solitude, during moments he needed to reassure himself in battle. With its destruction, Jarrod lost a part of himself, one which he doubted he would ever find again.
He began searching. It was incredibly hard to know for definite where he was going, the city had simply turned into a graveyard of rockcrete. He saw what he thought to be the old school house, sending a lump into his throat as he thought about all the children that may have been burned alive when the wretched ‘burna boyz’, as the orks called them, torched the place. He passed many old friends houses, but the bodies that lay outside where too brutalised for him to identify any of them, all he could hope was they had somehow escaped the bloodshed. Where was the Emperor now? Had he abandoned them to this fate? Jarrod could not answer his questions rationally. Whilst he was a loyal servant of the Emperor, despite what his fellow guardsmen may now say, he could not hold in good faith the destruction the Emperor had allowed this day. He thought that the Emperor protected his loyal servants, well where was he in their day of need? He turned the corner, stumbling over broken roof tiles, and then he saw it. His house, one which was relatively secluded from the rest, was no more than several yards away from him, but it was eerily silent. He prayed with all his remaining faith that they would be unharmed. It was evident the place had been ransacked. Nothing was in its place, if indeed it was still there at all. The front door had been blown from its hinges, the once decorated interior now resembling nothing more than a charred and desecrated hell-hole. He entered slowly, wishing that this was all just a horrible nightmare. With each heavy foot he placed in front of himself, he wished dearer and dearer that he would wake up at any second. He rounded the corner, entering the main living area. Jarrod could see nothing recognisable as his own, this place was utterly ruined. He could not see any of his family here. Sudden hope burst into his heart, maybe they had escaped? He turned on the spot to check the other rooms. “…Daddy?” Jarrod stopped in his tracks, his heart leaping to his throat. Any hope he had of his family escaping was crushed in an instant. He turned on the spot, coming face to face with his daughters large brown eyes. “Daddy?” Cara repeated herself. It was as if it were all she could manage to speak. She collapsed, her knees no longer capable of holding her broken body up, Jarrod quickly www.Heresy-Online.net
dropped to his knees, reaching out to catch her as she fell. Jarrod peered into his loving daughter’s eyes, scanning her body at the injuries the hated Orks had caused her. She did not resemble his daughter at all. He would not have recognised her had she not called him daddy. Her clothes were ripped and shredded, she was covered in her own blood, some of her cuts where still bleeding badly. “What…What’s happening, daddy? Where am I?” She could barely speak, her lips were cracked, and her voice sounded raspy and dry. “Shush, quiet down, baby. Daddy’s here now,” Jarrod had to fight back his tears. “What happened here? Where’s mummy and Ilium?” Jarrod forced a smile, encouraging her to remember. “I…Ilium…Mummy…gone!” Cara’s dazed state began to pick up at the mention of their names, her lips beginning to quiver, her eyes widening slightly. She began to panic and hyperventilate, it was the best Jarrod could do just to calm her down. “Where have they gone, sweety? Where’s mummy?” “Mummy’s…She and Ilium…” She was so chocked up she couldn’t finish her sentence, not that she needed to. Jarrod now knew the horrifying truth of his family’s demise, and knew that his youngest child had been forced to bear witness to these atrocities. All Jarrod wanted to do was break down in tears, his life had been taken from him. His family, his house, even his home planet. No, he told himself, I have to stay strong for the only thing I have left. He stared down into his daughter’s eyes, growing dimmer by the second. She could no longer cry, the poor girl must have been so dehydrated. “It’s ok, baby, Daddy’s here. Remember that story Mummy and Ilium used to read you to sleep with?” Jarrod said in a hushed tone. She could only nod in response. “You do? That’s great. Tell me, how did it start sweetheart?” “One…Once there was a…god amongst…amongst men…” “There was, Cara. That god amongst men had a vision that would save all of the people in the universe. He was a golden hero, a mighty Emperor who would save us all. Nothing could stand before him, no alien or no heretic.” A small smile began to grow on Cara’s features. “He had nine mighty sons, all who gave their lives for us. They defended us against all the evil in the world, the Emperor and his sons. To aid them, the mighty Adeptus The Heretic
Astartes, who still walk amongst us, were created. They are our saviours and continue to hold back the alien menace to this day. Remember, my love, the Emperor protects his faithful servants, like you. So long as you remain a good child, you will be under his caring light.” Jarrod started to move on to the next section of the story, but as he started he felt Cara go limp. Her body became heavier, no longer could he feel her gentle breath against his neck. He broke down. Everything had been taken from him. His last beacon of hope within Cara had been extinguished, he had no purpose, no desire left in his soul. Worse yet, he had no family. He gathered the bodies of his family with the uttermost care. He laid the corpses silently on the ground in ceremonial burial fashion, their arms laid across their chest in as close to the sign of the Aquila as Jarrod could manage. He picked up the shovel Ilium used to use when he tended to the crops that his family had grown for generations. He began to dig his family’s graves, a constant feeling of pain now residing within his heart. +++ He finished his depressing work, placing his wife’s body in first, and then placed his daughter and son alongside her. He could not cry anymore, his throat hurt just to breathe, his eyes had dried up from the excessive weeping he could not control. Shovelling the dirt back on top of the bodies, Jarrod could do nothing else but stare into the closed eyes of his family. To know he would never talk to them again, that he would never hear his daughter’s joyful laugh, never see his son become the great man he would surely have become, never lovingly hold his wife in his arms again, it was pain on such a scale he did not recognise it as pain, it was soul-destroying. No longer was he a man. He became a soulless vessel, a future drifter with no aims or goals except to finally meet his end. He finished his pitiful attempt at a ceremonial burial, placing an old heath on top of the mound, not that he expected it to last long. Jarrod walked back in to the remains of the house. The sounds of battle had almost ceased entirely, the Orks were most likely finishing off the remaining stragglers who were foolish enough to remain there and die. Not knowing what else to do, he slumped on to the hard, cold floor of his house, leafing through the charred papers that had been strewn across the floor in the struggle that surely happened before their deaths. It was then he noticed something that caught his eyes, a note that was not of his or his www.Heresy-Online.net
family’s handwriting. Picking it up, he looked down upon the scrawled hand writing. What he read shocked him to his very core. It was not the Greenskins who had killed his family, but a roaming band of criminals who had found a means to escape this planet before it was torn asunder, plundering his family’s food and supplies before they left. With vengeance gripping at his heart, he read the location of the criminal’s spacecraft. He checked his lasgun and the Commissar’s pistol ammo supply, and checked his combat knife was securely strapped in its harness. Before he left, he picked up a slightly blunt machete from the burnt kitchen table, he would make these filthy vermin suffer. He rushed out of the house, a few of the towns populace still moaned on the ground below him. He probably knew them, but his bloodlust was so pure right now all he could see was red, he did not care for their pain, his only goal to bring his family’s killers to their knees. He turned round a corner separating an old church and a statue of a mighty hero of the Imperium. The church was no longer standing in its former glory, its holy light no longer shone as a beacon of hope for humanity, its glory desecrated by traitorous scum. The hero’s statue had lost all of its detail, but it still stood strong. It served Jarrod well, the image reassuring his will. He would not fail his family. The screams of the dying no longer pierced his ears. The battle was over, Jarrod knew this for sure. He had lost many things today: his brothers in his regiment, his family, and his trust with humanity no longer presided. Jarrod had been sprinting for three minutes now, and even though he knew he should feel tired, indeed his body was ruined, he did not notice, his anger was still paramount within him, taking control over every action. He tripped over a fallen sign, twisting his ankle in the process. He landed hard on the ground, his face buried deep in the mud and the collective ash that had been blown by the win from his town. As he looked up, he saw exactly what he had been running towards: The Imperial spaceport. He hobbled towards the landing platform the criminals ship was supposedly stationed at. The security was lax at this critical state of time, all the security was stationed aboard the planet governor’s ship to protect him. The governor had always been a selfish man whom Jarrod would never have voted for, were this planet a democracy. It was easy for Jarrod to gain entry into the ship, even with his crippled body. He assumed the crew were preparing for take-off. Crawling up the loading bay, he lowered The Heretic
himself slowly through the loading bay, which was incredibly small for his six foot figure. He crawled through, strapping himself into the automated cargo hold, he would not survive the initial forces of the take-off without being strapped down. His energy spent, he fell into a deep slumber, which was not even broken by the engines as they roared though the atmosphere of this lost planet into the emptiness of space. +++ Jarrod awoke from a terrible dream with a start. He was sweating profusely, awoken by both the dream that was already beginning to fade from his memory and the ships thrusters transporting them to their destination, wherever that may be. As his body resumed normal functions, he observed his surroundings. He had obviously not been discovered yet, as he would have been taken captive, or worse. Fumbling for his lasgun, he checked his ammo, finding he only had a few rounds left, before slinging it onto his back, drawing his laspistol. Securing the blunt machete to his belt, he slowly raised himself onto his knees, peering cautiously over the objects shielding him from site. His eyes took a few seconds to adjust, and when they did he could see he was in some kind of storage space, perhaps items the criminals had pillaged from other families? He stood on to his feet, his strength returning slightly after his well-needed rest. Bending at the knees, he moved towards the exit, as silent as he could manage. He reached the compartment door, cautiously sliding it to his left, poking his head through the gap to check for any signs of life. The corridors were even darker here, something that Jarrod realised would aid him in his vengeance. Hugging the shadows, Jarrod stalked through the narrow corridor: listening, he could hear the faint drops of liquid splashing repetitively against the metal flooring some distance away, the echo adding extra tension to the knot in Jarrod’s stomach. As he rounded the corner, he heard the faint sound of voices. Fury burned at his muscles, a strange bloodlust he had never experienced before gripping his heart, nearly overshadowing his vision. He stopped a minute to control himself, before he quietly walked towards the sounds of the voices. Stopping short of a doorway, which looked like it led into some sort of barracks, he placed his back against the cold metal wall, listening intently. www.Heresy-Online.net
“Listen, you, the sooner we get off this ship, the better.” The man’s voice was harsh “You’re an idiot, Torias! No matter where we dock, no matter where we settle our enemies will find us. There is no escape from them.” To Jarrod’s surprise, the second voice was that of a woman. “What did you call me, you little whelp?” A high pitched noise resonated throughout the chamber, Jarrod could only assume he had hit her. “I’ll show you some respect, whore,” the man named Torias shouted. Jarrod knew too well what was about to happen. Reacting on instinct, Jarrod burst in to the barracks before he knew what he was doing. He found the man on top of the woman, forcing himself onto her. Without thinking, he leapt on the back of the man, pulling him off with all his strength. Pushing the man into the wall, Jarrod followed up with a punch aimed directly at his jaw. The man was quicker than he looked, quickly ducking the blow, making Jarrod hit his hand forcefully in the steel wall. This pain was doubled as he was kneed in the stomach, almost forcing him to the ground. He grabbed the assailant’s leg as the second kick came forcefully towards his face, kicking his other leg out from under him, dropping him quickly on to his back. Leaping onto the man, Jarrod punched him multiple times in the face. He felt the criminal’s nose break, blood pouring from the wound and other multiple bruises Jarrod was causing. With a hateful shout, the man pushed Jarrod off him, landing on his side. The man kicked him in the face, Jarrod felt his own nose break. Recoiling from the pain, the man managed to get on top of Jarrod. Jarrod could hardly see, the water filling his eyes blinding him slightly. In a blind panic, he fumbled for his combat blade, which was still securely where he had put it. The man drew his fist back, preparing to deliver the final blow, when Jarrod thrust his arm upwards in a sideways motion. The man stared down into Jarrod’s eyes for a split second, before falling sideways, blood spurting many feet in to the air from the gaping wound Jarrod had caused the man. Breathing heavily, he rolled himself to all fours, the fight a lot more exhausting than Jarrod had anticipated. Coughing up blood on to the floor, he sheathed his combat blade, still dripping with the man’s vital fluids. He felt a hand placed on to his shoulder, then another reaching round his stomach, attempting to lift him up. Jarrod realised this must have been the woman whom he had just The Heretic
rescued. “Thank you, he almost…” The woman’s voice was weak with fear, her ordeal too much for her to bear. Jarrod slowly turned on the spot, looking down his nose at her, his bloodcovered face glaring towards the fragile woman. “Who…You’re not on the crew, who are you?” “Your worst nightmare.” Jarrod forcefully grabbed the woman by her long brown hair, pushing her down to her knees as he stepped behind her. He withdrew the blunt machete from his belt, beginning to hack away at the woman’s neck, her screams of pain pleasure to his ears. Blood spurted from her arteries, covering Jarrod and the walls of the barracks with the woman’s gore. He finally hacked through the bone, silencing the woman’s screams forever. Still holding on to the woman’s head, the body finally fell to the floor, pooling in its own blood. He stared at the decapitated head, holding it for a few more seconds, before dropping it on top of her body, a solid thump accompanying the fall. He left the scene of carnage, continuing his hunt for the murderers. Wiping his hand on his ripped Imperial Guard flak vest to clear it of blood, then wiping the gore from his face, Jarrod crouched down outside of the murder room, debating which way to turn. He had no idea of the layout of the ship, nor did he know how many foes were present. This did not matter to him. he would kill anyone he came across. Turning right, he stalked down the corridor, hugging the shadows like a second skin. His breathing was controlled, his steps light, he hunted for more prey. He reached a second room identical to the previous one, he could hear the faint sound of gentle snoring. Walking in, he saw two men sleeping on their respective bunks, they must have been heavy sleepers to not have woken up to the sounds of that woman’s screaming. He saw they must have been some sort of warrior, as both slept by a shotgun, It looked more powerful than what the Imperial Guard had access to, Jarrod wondered where they had acquired it. He stood over one of the men, drawing his combat blade. With a calm grace, he struck the blade across the man’s neck, his bed instantly turning a blood red. He could do nothing more than gurgle as he died a quick death. He walked towards the second man, even as the first was still in his death throes. He www.Heresy-Online.net
was about to strike, when he noticed something that tore his heart from his chest. It was a faded picture, but it was what the image contained that broke him. A picture of his family, his wife and children hugging in a loving embrace. Fury took over Jarrod’s mind, bloodlust clouding his vision. This bastard insulted his family’s memory by being allowed to hold a photo of them. He raised his combat blade, striking down into the man’s gut. He awoke immediately, confused as to what was happening to him. Before he could respond, Jarrod withdrew the blade and struck him in the gut again. The man’s faint screams were overshadowed by the voices of vengeance resonating within Jarrod’s head, promises of redemption and blood that he wanted so badly. The knife continued to plunge into the man even as he died, a total of 27 stabs covering his body from his stomach up to his neck. His bloodlust temporarily subdued, he picked up the blood-stained photo of his family, placing it into his uniform pocket just above his heart. Before he left, he picked up the idle shotgun off the floor, slinging the holster around his neck. Gripping the handle tightly, Jarrod retreated from the room, a smile plastered across his face. The rest of the ship was eerily quiet. The screams of the dying still reverberated within his mind, but this was simply too quiet for Jarrod’s liking. Where were all of the crew? He knew this wasn’t a big ship, but he expected to find at least one of the bastards walking the hallways. They would regret the day they lapsed on security. He had left the sleeping chambers now, turning in to some sort of engine room. The loud grinding of struggling engines filled his ears, he could hear nothing else, not even his footsteps resonating off the metal floor, or his fairly heavy breathing. It was so hot in this room, Jarrod’s sweat pouring off his brow, droplets stinging his eyes as he advanced cautiously. He checked the ammo on his shotgun, releasing the safety catch. He thanked how loud this room was, he was sure he could use this incredibly powerful weapon without alerting anyone nearby to his presence. Stopping before a sharp bend, he peered round the corner. He could see three men slaving over the engines. It looked like they were struggling to keep the engines working, if they were to die would this ship be able to fly? As Jarrod turned on the spot to let these people live, a thought unbidden arose in his mind. These men killed your family, Jarrod. The Heretic
The thought filled Jarrod with hatred. Cocking the weapon, he charged round the corner, screaming at the three men. His first shot went straight into the midriff of a skinny man, ripping him in two with ease. Confused as to what was happening, another of the men was not fast enough to delay his death. Jarrod pumped the shotgun, sending another two rounds into the man. The first knocked him off his feet, the second was lucky enough to catch his square in the face, sending his brains all over the last man. Finally reacting, the engineer drew out his pistol, shooting at Jarrod as fast as he could. One bullet scraped his cheek, the second lodging itself into his right thigh. His fury was so high however he did not notice, sending another shot into the man, taking one of his legs off. He released his grip in the pistol as he fell, clasping at the massive wound in his thigh. Standing over him, Jarrod drew his machete. He stared down at him, his eyes burning with hatred. “Die.” The engineer didn’t even have enough time to scream. With all of his weight and strength, he threw the machete downwards into the man’s skull, caving under the weight instantly. Dislodging the machete with a satisfying crunch, Jarrod observed the data they had been looking over. It wasn’t much that Jarrod could fathom, most of it just technical data only engineers would understand, but he did notice that the engines were running at only 64% efficiency. He could not understand any of it. Placing the data slate back down, he looked over to the exit. It was pitch black, so he advanced cautiously, watching his back as he crouched towards the door. He heard voices on the other side. Checking his ammo count, he cocked his shotgun, holding it against his shoulder. He burst through the door, and saw something he was not expecting. In front of him spanned a large chamber, there were multiple raised columns around the circumference of the chamber, with a hip height wall surrounding the chamber, in line with the columns. It was highly decorated, resembling the ancient chambers of the now destroyed palace back on his home planet. Realising this must be the command room, Jarrod dived behind the low wall just in time as a las round burned the wall. “Last stop, murderer.” A strong voice spat throughout the hollow command room. “Why not come out and meet your death head-on, instead of hiding in the shadows like you have already proven to be adept at. Like a rat!” This threat was met with a warning shot in Jarrod’s direction, backed up by the cruel laughter of his fellows. Jarrod, breathing heavily, fumbled for his lasgun. He did not know the enemies’ www.Heresy-Online.net
locations, so he knew that every second he was not behind cover he could be assailed by a barrage of gunfire. The man was still talking. Jarrod wondered about the man’s sanity. His ravings were incomprehensible to Jarrod, but he knew he talked of nothing but his death. Holding the lasgun across his chest, Jarrod edged his way on his side across the floor to the left of his location, edging around quietly to try and get a small advantage with his subtle location change. He continued crawling quietly, but he knew that he would soon run out of time before he would be forced to fight. Edging across, he came to a tiny gap in the wall, which enabled him to peer through. He could see a total of six men, possibly more though as his vision was limited. He could see the speaker, a burly looking man with broad shoulders and a full beard, he must have been something of a leader amongst these criminals. He knew it was now or never. Taking a deep breathe, he raised himself above the wall, lasgun at his shoulder. He fired like a madman, his fear overcoming his control. The lasgun clicked dry, forcing him to duck down and reload his ammo cell. Every second he was doing this increased the chances that he would die, and he knew it. Palms soaking in sweat, he struggled to fit the ammo cell in to the weapon. His panicked state wasn’t helping him. Do not fear, Jarrod. Take these men to their graves! Their blood must run…another thought came unbidden, whispering at the back of his mind. Diving to the left landing in a roll, he raised the lasgun above his head, suppressing his enemies as he quickly twisted and stood behind the wall, aiming down the weapon’s iron sight. He dropped one man with two shots to the chest, and then another man armed with a wrench charging his position, a single las round protruding from the back of his skull, splattering his brain matter all over the chamber floor. Another man, reacting too slowly, turned just in time to see Jarrod’s sights aimed directly at him. Three quick shots to the abdomen sent him sprawling on to the floor, his viscera and entrails spilling out as he fell. The man’s death revealed the leader of these scum who was directly behind him. Taking his chance, Jarrod quickly aimed his sights at the man and instinctively pulled the trigger. “Shit…” Jarrod heard with a gut-wrenching feeling his lasgun click empty, and he knew he had no ammo left for the weapon. He ducked just in time as a hail of return fire shattered the surrounding walls. He drew his Laspistol, checking his ammo supply. “You gotta be kidding me!” He only had eight shots left and he would have to make them count. After that he would have to rely on the shotgun, which wasn’t a particularly useful weapon The Heretic
for his current situation. Steeling himself, he stood up, placing his back against a raised column. He was met by a barrage of gunfire, he could only manage to just peer round the corner, seeking targets. He saw one man running for cover closer to his position, timing his action, he quickly stepped out of cover, firing two shots at the man, dropping him. He used his momentum to aid him to continue to fall back in to cover, but he couldn’t avoid every shot. Two rounds punched him in his shoulder making his body twist in pain. He laid there for several seconds, holding on to his shoulder in pain. So this is it…he thought to himself, preparing to finally meet his end. Get up, you moronic weakling! He thought. You have fight in you yet, get up and kill! Make their skulls your throne! Jarrod didn’t have much time to think about it, as a man leapt over the wall he was hiding behind, brandishing a sharp looking combat sword. His eyes wide in fear, he kicked out at the man’s knee, thankfully making enough contact to hear a satisfying snap. The man didn’t go down, managing to hold on to the wall. Raising his sword, it was his turn to be stricken with fear as he saw Jarrod holding the trigger to his pump-action shotgun. With a quick smirk at the man, Jarrod pulled the trigger, totally obliterating the man, sending his blood and body parts flying, his viscera covering the wall, painting them a deep red. His body was flooded with an unknown energy and he leapt over the wall, storming at the men at full pelt. His eyes had descended into a red mist, everything was fuelling him on to greater bloodshed, all he wanted was to kill them. He could no longer remember why he wanted to kill them. He was just doing it now for fun. It felt to Jarrod like everything played out in slow-motion. His muscles no longer ached with the pains he had endured, his mind lost all logic, replaced by a cold, endless fury. A torrent of pump-action fire roared from his fingertips, sending two men down in the initial seconds of the charge. Another man lost his legs and three rounds tore through the muscles and ligaments in his thighs, sending him screaming to the floor. Two shots hit him in the leg, but he hardly noticed. He stumbled slightly, but his blood craze was too high. Pain and fear were non-existent to him now. A woman received a shot to her chest, spinning her into the arms of the leader, who looked like he was the last man standing. This did not distract him greatly, he threw the corpse off him, sending a hail of shots at www.Heresy-Online.net
Jarrod. One impacted to his shoulder, another to his quad and two impacting in to his already wounded shoulder. Jarrod finally reached his nemesis, smashing into him at full pelt, the butt of his shotgun impacting with the broad chin of the man. Jarrod fell on top of him, throwing his spent shotgun away, his fists impacting with every passing second into the man. In a daze, the man pushed Jarrod off, then he lay there, spent. Jarrod drew his combat knife and machete, leaping at the man who he held responsible for his family’s slaughter. The combat knife dug deep into the man’s abdomen, causing his mouth to open wide in pain. The machete cut into his left arm, chopping the skin all the way down to the bone. Jarrod twisted the combat knife, his forehead pressing against that of the man’s, revelling in his suffering. “Suffer, heretic, suffer like you never though you could!” Jarrod sneered at him, simultaneously ripping the blade in an upwards motion, tearing his abdomen open and shredding internal organs. The machete came down once again on to the bone, breaking it, and then down again fully decapitating the limb from his body. The air had left the man’s lungs and he no longer screamed with any sound, but the expression on his face spoke volumes. Jarrod continued to twist the combat blade, stabbing multiple times and twisting with each successive stab, whilst raising the machete and pressing it against the larynx of the man’s neck. He slowly applied pressure, enjoying the increasing pain the man suffered, this was the moment he had fought for. The machete broke the skin, then cut through the main artery, covering Jarrod in multiple spurts of pressurised blood. The man’s eyes began to fade, much to Jarrod’s distaste. “No! You have not suffered enough you bastard! You cannot die yet! You must suffer the untold pain which you caused me,” he screamed at the man, even as he finally died, taking his machete to every part of the man’s physiology as he could, venting his anger. He finally controlled himself, pulling himself together. The man who had arranged this whole ordeal was dead. His family was avenged. It was then that he heard stifled crying coming from a room up ahead. He rose to his feet, turned on the spot and walked towards the sound of the noise, his laspistol held at the ready. He slowly pried open the door, entering pistol first. He had reached the pilot’s cabin, containing one whelp of a man. He was clearly not a fighter, his sinewy muscles and gaunt The Heretic
features telling Jarrod that he would not put up any resistance. The man’s pale face turned to Jarrod, his expression widening with fear. “No! What do you want? I haven’t done anything! I don’t even know these people, I didn’t do anything to you! I’m sorry!” The man cried into his hands, one hand raising in front of him in a pitiful attempt at protection. “Quit your sniveling, worm. You are a member of this crew. Your crew kill my family. Therefore you deserve to die.” Jarrod spoke with a smouldering hatred. “I swear to you, I didn’t have any involvement in your family’s death. They only hired me to pilot the ship. I have nothing to do with it, I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Don’t hurt me!” The man wept in a pitiful attempt to sway Jarrod. “Oh, I won’t hurt you, friend.” “Thank you, sir! I promi…” A single shot from Jarrod’s las pistol killed the pilot instantly. A thunder of whispers shot through Jarrod’s mind, his hands reached up to his skull, attempting to squeeze the thoughts out of his head. It was when the intensity reached its peak that only a singular voice remained. Good, Jarrod! You have pleased your lord well. My Lord? Jarrod could not contemplate what the voice was talking about. I do not serve anyone other than the Immortal Emperor. Bah! That withering corpse god? Why worship such a corpse when the true power of the galaxy takes such an interest in you, my friend? “But…The Emperor protects us all…Without him daemons would ravage our lands without rest, he protects us…” You will not need protection with me guiding your path. You have shown what I desire within a potential champion. A healthy kill tally, a burning hatred in your heart and a lack of mercy for your fellow creatures. An image of fire, blood, rape and gore filled Jarrod’s mind and he knew who he spoke to.
“The blood god shows interest in me? No…No it can’t be, I am a man of the Imperial truth, my family believed firmly in Him, we were guided by the Emperors holy light! Get out of my mind, foul daemon! You shall not taint the memory of my family!” He could feel the full presence of Khorne within him. It was then he suddenly realised what he had become, the realisation almost too much for him to bear. He would not die a pawn of chaos. Khorne could not have him, he would not allow him to possess his soul! With the image of his wife and children in his mind, he knew what he must do. He would be with his family shortly. He sat in the blood soaked cockpit, thinking of the happy times he and his family shared, as the ship plummeted out of control towards the surface. He pulled the picture he had discovered earlier from his pocket, tears beginning to fall heavily down his face, splattering against the floor and the old photograph. The ship finally fell through the planets upper atmosphere, rocking the ship crazily. Heat engulfed the ship, the outer protection crumbling under the pressure. The engines finally failed. Jarrod could feel the cockpit beginning to fall apart. With one final thought, he closed his eyes and embraced his fate. “I love you.”
credits: Bronson Howard: email@example.com KINO: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Resistance is Futile” Bronson Howard
“Forward” Bronson Howard
“Living Legend” [part 1] KINO
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