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Old 11 Aug 2008, 20:08   #2 (permalink)
AuinMyrrath
Shas'O
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 9,807
Default Re: Entry B - For Duty Alone

“Sergeant, he had his orders, as do we,” I echoed. He nodded; jaw tight, then signaled to the team to move out. They moved into a wedge formation, Torch taking point. I took up position next to the trooper carrying the melta mostly because it gave me the impression of having Jurgen with me. “I don’t suppose you happen to have any tanna on you trooper?” I asked him. “Sorry sir, don’t even know what that is.” We marched on.

The sun had fully risen making me sweat under my greatcoat by the time we arrived at a suitable location to wait for cover of darkness. We were no more than a hundred meters from the ruined gated wall that surrounded the industrial city. There was no movement we could see from our position behind a low sand dune, but we could see little but the wall, and the tops of the manufacturing buildings. Our auspex showed nothing either, but I wasn’t sure it would register the Necrons. Cykus again moved the team into a defensive perimeter with quick precision. I moved to the center of the semi-circle the kill team had formed and signaled for the sergeant to join me. Here, at least, we had some cover from the sand dune. I had unbuckled my chainsword and removed my greatcoat looking around for a place to drape it, then settled on laying it in the sand. How the other tutors at the Schola Progenium would cringe at my lack of respect for the Comissarial Uniform. But like I often tell the pupils there, a red sash alone does not make you a Commissar.

I kept my voice low addressing Cykus. “We will have to assume the Tech-Priest doesn’t know we have arrived to retrieve him.” If he’s even still alive, I thought. “While the remainder of the team holds here, we should send in two troopers to locate him. It will give us a chance to scout out the objective as well as give us a feel for enemy’s defenses.”

The sergeant nodded his agreement and signaled to the sniper to join us as well. “I want to send in Araleng, she’ll be able to get in and out undetected.”

“Very well, who else?”

“I don’t need anyone to join me, sarge. They’ll slow me down or give away my position,” Araleng whispered.

“She has a point, Commissar.”

Aside from giving Cykus the idea that I would go along with just anything he said, I had a reason to insist. “That she does, but two sets of eyes are better than one.” I looked around at the troopers in their defensive positions. “Sergeant, let your team rest, I will go with her.” It was the sort of thing Cain the Hero would have done.

“Afraid, I’ll run off and leave you behind, Commissar?” She could have been flirting, but the look on her face was more of indignation. Funny thing was, I was actually thinking if the Tech-Priest was still alive, he had found a good spot to hide out. With our lander gone, maybe Rassq would call in a larger force to tackle the focusing array and I could hitch a ride back with them. Ultramarines would have been my choice. Not that I doubted the competence of the Cykus and his team, but I would’ve been happy with the company of any Space Marines at that point.

“Your integrity is not being challenged trooper. I want the see the objective with my own eyes.” I turned back to Cykus, “We’ll be back before nightfall. If not, proceed with the mission.” I donned my greatcoat and buckled on my chainsword then motioned to Araleng to move out.

We moved wordlessly into the city using the wall first for cover, then the buildings as we probed deeper. We hugged the buildings, moving slowly, as quietly as we could. The empty manufacturing city was eerily motionless and silent. A normal day would have found us pushing citizens out of the way and shouting to be heard over the racket this city would have put out. Dozens of manufacturing facilities surrounded us. Yet when Araleng whispered her voice thundered next to me.

“I want to find an elevated position.”

I pointed to one of the few buildings that took damage during the evacuation. “In there, less likely to be patrols.” She nodded and led off again. I followed closely. Her cameoline cloak helped her blend into the surroundings while my black uniform stood out against the bright gray buildings.

We crept into the broken building, a hab-unit by the look of it, and made our way to the top level. From a window we could see the center of the city. A cleared section at one point once proudly displayed statues of the dignitaries of the city and planet. Now they were little more than rock debris. Taking their place the focusing array stood, menacingly alien in its construction. It stood taller than the holo-table gave impression of, at least 25 meters tall, shaped like a giant semi-circle. At the center, a large Necron crystal was attached, glowing a sickly bright green, evident even in the harsh sunlight. It made me queasy just looking at it.

Araleng held up her hand and three fingers. Then pointed at the array. Three Necrons stood on guard around the alien abomination. She slowly raised her sniper rifle, but I held my hand against it.

“I can take all three from here, sir.”

“No doubt, but you will betray our position.” Without warning, a fourth and horribly different Necron appeared with the three guards. It was composed mostly of a metal spine, twice as tall as the guards themselves, hunched over beneath a large armoured carapace. It had no legs, but instead hovered. Its hands ended in wicked looking blades.

“Wraith,” the sniper said. Goosebumps jumped out over my skin at the word. The wraith was hard to look at, blurry, almost as if it wasn’t really there. The hovering Necron patrolled the street surrounding the array.

“It rides between our dimension and another one, making them damn near impossible to destroy. Only when it is attacking is it fully in this world.” I was grateful for her knowledge of the alien, but it didn’t seem as though any of it was good news.

“Lets move, we still need to find the cog-boy. Out the back.” She followed me down to the exit opposite the array. I drew my laspistol before heading outside, I pointed to a building across the street and made a motion to circle around. She nodded and sprinted across the open area. I looked both ways before crossing the street, hiver’s instinct, and followed her to where she huddled up to the building wall.

She stood up to move around the building when a Necron came around the corner. Araleng, bless her brashness, never flinched but brought up the sniper rifle and snapped a single shot into the metal T'auk'cka’s neck. The skull-like head neatly severed from the torso dropped into the gutter, while the rest of metal skeleton body clattered to the ground. The corpse phased out just as two more rounded the corner, guass rifles raised.

“Move!” I yelled at Araleng, pulling her down the street as the Necrons fired, vapourizing a large section of the building behind us. We sprinted along the front of one of the buildings trying to glean what little cover it offered. The two Necrons pursued us as we zigged and zagged deeper into the city. I fired back as we ran, but a laspistol is not what we needed then. Jurgen’s melta would have been more appropriate. We dodged another of their infernal blasts. We’ll get picked off before long at this rate, I thought, glancing around.

“There!” I pointed to a ruined section of the street. “Into the sewers.”

“We’ll be trapped!”

“Emperor damn you! Go!” And she went. I cannot count the number of times I have ended up in sewer systems, and yet here I was again. I turned around just before dropping into the large pipe to see the Necrons closing quickly. I fired, taking my cue from Araleng’s success, aiming at the neck. It didn’t separate like the other one did, but to my satisfaction, the frakked machine froze and dropped to the ground. The remaining Necron kept coming despite their losses.

“Keep going in!” I yelled. The large sewer pipe, thankfully large enough for us to run upright, went on unobstructed for Emperor knows how far. The darkness was suddenly lit up with the sick green glow of the Necron’s rifle as it dropped into the pipe behind us. I turned pulling my chainsword and activating it swiped at the pursuing alien. It used is rifle, which I noted ended in an axe-like blade, to parry my stroke and followed with a swipe at my body. I backed away from the blade, lunging at the opening to the metal rib cage. It smoothly countered, by all that was holy, this thing was fast. I feinted a lunge to its knee joints, then up to its neck. Deftly, it parried the stroke, and raised the rifle to chop down on me.

“Ah, frak this,” Araleng said and turned around. “Drop!” And I did. She fired two shots, in rapid succession, and the green glow went out of its eyes. She walked past me and stood over the prone figure.

“Nicely done, sniper,” I said, pulling myself out of the stream of gunk that ran in the sewer, but I don’t think she heard me. I straightened my coat, but the filth of what I didn’t want to know clung to me. “Time to move, Araleng,” I said to her. She kept staring at the corpse of the metal skeleton. “Araleng,” I called softly. Nothing. “Araleng,” a bit louder. Finally, I pulled her arm. “Lets go.”

Startled, “We can’t go that way,” she said motioning deeper into the sewers.

“We have no choice, there will be more up there.” Growing up the maze-like tunnels of the hive, I felt more at ease in the darkness of those sewers than in the open streets above. “Trust me,” I said and pulled her along with me into the underground unknown.

We moved slowly, again in silence praying not to see that putrid luminescence. I held her hand, guiding her along by feeling more than sight. I turned knowing another branch of the sewer was there by feel of the air and change in the echoes of our feet softly splashing in the sludge. Our eyes had adjusted to the darkness, but in the lack of light, she was just a darker smudge against the darkness that enclosed us.

“I guess now would be a bad time to find out I am claustrophobic.”

“Yes. Don’t”

“Okay. Do you know where we are?”

“Precisely. I thought I saw a Mechanicus building when we were in the hab-unit. We’re not far from it now.” The problem wasn’t where we were so much as how we were going to get out, but I didn’t see the sense in telling her that just then. We pushed on further trying to keep as quiet as possible, falling into a rhythm of soft splashes, stopping, holding our breaths, listening, looking, breathing, moving along again, turning, stopping, then repeating.

My hiver’s instinct told me we had reached the place where I thought the Mechanicus building was. All I had to do now was buy some time.

“Time to rest,” I said keeping my voice to a whisper. The echoes in the sewer would help keep us from getting pinpointed, I hoped, but no sense in giving the metal T'auk'cka'era the notion to come look for us. Yet I couldn’t let Araleng slip back into shock.

“How did you end up on this mission?” I asked. It was a delicate question. Who wants to admit fraking up, especially to a Commissar?

“Cykus volunteered. I followed.” I heard her shrug in the darkness.

“Commendable.”

“He would have done it for me,” she said.

“So what was it that he did that got you following him?” I suppose I could have worded more delicately but she was not slipping into shock, which was most important. To get out of this stinking pipe, I needed her functional.

“I don’t follow, sir.”

“His infraction that got him volunteered to this mission.”

“He didn’t get volunteered, sir,” she huffed. “Cykus volunteered to pull out the cog-boy. We all did. Nobody got volunteered. Rassq tell you that? Humph, figures he would.”

“Why?”

“I can’t tell you, sir”

“Afraid I’ll shoot you for insubordination?”

“Not at the moment.” I could tell that she had smiled when she said that. Good. Not only did she look good when she smiled, she had forgiven me for my poor opinion of her beloved sergeant. “I don’t think you could fathom how different the Degovian Guard is, much less our little team.”

My palms were tingling again, I was missing something so I remained silent hoping she would keep going, which after a moment she did. “You said earlier that we weren’t a mixed unit. We’re more a mixed unit than you could possibly believe. Our founding came when the Degove system was assaulted by Tzeentchian cultists. Until then no one had any idea how important the system was. Well Imperial Command did, eventually, so they pulled every available Guard unit within the surrounding sectors to retake the planet. It was a long war. And bloody. But we won. Sort of. We still find some small cults popping up in here and there. But the war had taken such a toll on the soldiers there was hardly a full regiment when all the soldiers were combined. But that’s exactly was High Command thought would be brilliant maneouver. Actually I kind of agree with them. We had Hallambar armour, Tallarn mounted infantry, Mordian shock troops, Cadian artillery, Lluvian Sentinels. We were the most disjointed Guard regiment in the galaxy. But we were good. Damn good. So good that when the Imperial High Command gave Lord General Blouf the task to maintain control of the system, the Lord General insisted that he keep the existing force as a model of the new Degovian Army. To this day you will still see evidence of that joint founding.”

“Any Valhallan’s?”

“Not that I am aware of. That’s just it though, with all of the different type of guardsmen within the Degovian Imperial Guard, there are some who are repulsed at the mixture, even though they weren’t around to be a part of it. I mean none of us were in the Guard then. And Rassq hates it. He’s a spit and polish Mordian type, a firstborn. He’s a brilliant tactician, but…”

“Say no more, I understand. He feels like the mixture compromises the integrity of the unit.”

“You could say it like that. The rest of us use what we can when we can to get the job done.”

I nodded forgetting for the moment she couldn’t see me. “The 597th is a mixed unit, not to the degree the Degovian Guard is, but I understand.” I started telling her about how the 597th was formed. We continued to burn through the time, which was exactly what I was hoping for. In the event we were safe in the sewer until we made our way topside again, which my instinct was telling me was getting close.

“Do you have a light?” She produced a small glowing stick.

“What are we looking for, sir?”

“The maintenance crews that come down here have to have a way in.” I held up the stick and walked along. My hunch was right. “See,” I pointed to a door along the wall of the sewer pipe. “There’s our exit.”

“It’s locked, I’ll bet.” I tried it, “I need Jurgen’s melta.” Araleng moved to the door made a few motions with something I couldn’t see and opened it slowly. “I wasn’t always in the Guard,” she said.

“Nicely done, sniper.” I said then held my finger to my lips, drew my las-pistol, pushed the door open and motioned for her to follow me in. She unslung her sniper rifle and covered me as I entered the Mechanicus building.

The room we entered was barely lit, but it hurt my eyes after spending the last few hours in complete darkness. We squinted letting our eyes adjust as we took in the new surroundings. A few scattered monitors, machines and surveyors’ equipment greeted us, but thank the Emperor, no Necrons. We found a stairwell.

“Well, lets go find him.” I checked the stairwell and started up, Araleng close behind me. We made our way to the top level of the Mechanicus building. It was a completely open level with hundreds of banks of cogitors, and other data machines. A large window stretched across the length of the room letting in an orange early evening light. We looked around but couldn’t find the Tech-Priest.

“Commissar, take a look at this.” I weaved my way through the banks of cogitors. She held up a dataslate. “It looks like steelie data, schematics, averages. I’d bet my entire scrip the cog-boy did this.”

A distinctly metallic voice sounded behind us, “What are you doing here?” Tech-Priest Alofhyh found a las-pistol and sniper rifle trained on him. His red robe was in ribbons about him, but other than that he was in fine condition. His servo arm appeared to be functional and he carried a power axe in both hands.

“Looking for you.” I said. “I am Commissar Cain leading this mission to retrieve you and bring you back to for debriefing. Are these your notes on the Necrons?”

“Yes, but I am not ready to go. There is so much to learn about their technology.” He said as Araleng dragged him towards the flight of stairs.

“You don’t have a choice. Gather your notes and let’s go. We need to rendezvous with the remainder of our team at the focusing array to destroy it and find a way out of this city.” We were in a mad rush across the room. After waiting hours in the sewer it felt good to be moving with a sense of speed.

“Of what array do you speak?” the Tech-Priest asked as we descended the stairs.

“The one in the square,” Araleng said. “Our team will be assaulting it at nightfall.”

“No! It can’t be destroyed yet. I have not had a chance to understand the weapon. I need more time.”

I froze on the stairwell. “Weapon?”

“Yes, Commissar, the machine is a beautiful example of an orbital defence weapon. It is capable of pulsing a large blast into space. I anticipate the machines will be placing other of these weapons over the planet to prevent a fleet of ships arriving to retake the planet.” The Tech-Priest spoke with clear admiration in his metallic voice.

“Thank the Emperor it is not functional yet.” Araleng said continuing down the stairs.

“You are mistaken. It is most definitely functional.”

“Commissar…?”

“Out the front, we will go across the streets. Shoot any Necrons on contact.” We blazed through the front doors of the Mechanicus building to an empty and silent street torn apart by the Aquila lander that brought us here. It was burnt and mangled in places but intact overall.

“The machine-spirit is not yet at peace here. Give me a moment to bless the machine.”

“Very little is going to at peace if we don’t move,” Araleng said.

“Tech-Priest,” I said pulling him to face me. “Can it be repaired?”

“If the Omnissiah wills it” he began.

“Lets assume he does,” I cut him off.

“It will take some time to effect these repairs. I shall do what can be done,” evidently happy to be doing his work.

“Good, get to work and we will be back, then maybe we can get off this Emperor forsaken planet. Sniper, if you would, that way.” I pointed towards where the weapon was planted. We sprinted down the street together as the Degovian sun finally started setting, moving with a sense of purpose.

I need to stop jumping ahead of myself, for no sooner do I mention safety than I get tossed back into the fray. We had made it only halfway to the array before we heard the unmistakable report of lasfire mixed with the far more sinister noise of gauss weapons being discharged.
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