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-   -   Entry B - For Duty Alone (http://forums.tauonline.org/tau-online-grand-summer-story-competition-2008/57772-entry-b-duty-alone.html)

AuinMyrrath 11 Aug 2008 20:08

Entry B - For Duty Alone
For Duty Alone - A Commissar Cain Short

I will be short in prefacing this section of the “Cain Archive,” by this time having at least a preliminary knowledge of Cain’s experiences in the Commissariat through previously released sections of his archive. It is a rare individual who has not heard of Cain’s exploits along with the 597th Valhallan as well as the 12th Valhallan field artillery from word of mouth alone. Much to his chagrin, Cain would be the first to say. However, I have selected the following excerpt for study for a couple of reasons: First, I inspired it, as you will no doubt note. Secondly, and more importantly the alien Necrontyr’s advances into the Imperium are occurring at both an alarming rate and frequency. What little evidence we as Inquisitors have has come almost exclusively from the encounters of the soldiers that fight them. And last, but most certainly, not least, I am freed from having to rely on the meanderings of Jenit Sulla for source material. As always, I leave Cain to tell the story the way only he can.

Amberly Vail, Ordos Xenos

“A perfect machine is both a work of art and a blessing of the Omnissiah, praise be His name. There is no such thing as a perfect human.”
—Tech-Priest Alofhyh

That the request came from the Inquisition made refusal impossible; that it came from Amberly Vail herself, I felt obligated to escort Jurgen on the shuttle to the rendezvous aboard the Relentless Assault in orbit above Degove Prime.

“Sir, are you sure this is necessary?” It may have been the first time Jurgen questioned a request of mine. His normally uncomely appearance was made all the more apparent by the gray tinge of his queasiness, whether from the shuttle trip or being assigned to assist an Inquisitor I couldn’t tell. It was one of very few times Jurgen had been assigned to a duty apart from me. I held up the dataslate and read part of the classified request as an answer.

“Blah, blah, blah, ah here it is. Guardsmen Jurgen is hereby directed to report to Amberly Vail, Ordos Xenos for special assignment.” I will admit the idea of having Jurgen assigned away was disappointing. As an aide he was first rate. Yet the prospect of being without his odour was not without its own appeal.

“I have assurances from the Inquisition that the operation will be short. Hop onto the planet, execute the mission, hop off. You’ll be back before you know it,” I assured him. Actually, I knew it was crucial for him to join Vail and her team. As a blank, Jurgen was a perfect cover to sneak in and assassinate the target, who according to Vail, had been able to psychically sniff out the three previous attempts on his life.

“Of course, sir.” Ah, good old Jurgen.

“Don’t worry, Jurgen, I will survive without you.” But if I had known how difficult it would be without him I would have found away to refuse even the Emperor.

Our shuttle docked with the Relentless Assault and Jurgen and I were led to the operations room, the whole time receiving odd glances from the crew around us. Whether they had heard of my unsubstantiated reputation or were awed by the aroma of my aide, I am unsure.

The operations room was large, but that didn’t stop everyone from huddling over the tactical holo-table where Vail was speaking. She stopped, tried to look disappointed at the interruption, though I knew better.

“Glad you could make it Commissar Cain.” My name brought a gasp from someone in the room.

“I would never deny the request of the Inquisition; you would find me and burn me as heretic.” A few sycophantic chuckles from group told me my undeserved reputation had preceded me. I noted, however, Vail and her two armor-clad bodyguards did not laugh with them. Meanwhile, someone had sidled up next to me.

“Commissar Cain, a pleasure to finally meet you.” He extended a hand. I took the proffered hand, trying to gauge whether we had met before.

“The pleasure is mine, Colonel,” I said, noting the rank. I little needed the rank, though, his pristine blue fatigues, polished boots, gleaming power sword hanging at his hip and augmetic bionic eye all screamed officer.

“May I introduce you to Colonel Rassq, Degovian Third Rifles,” said Vail. I nodded again. We went through the other introductions of the group, including the Relentless’ captain, Fronk Tuel.

“Well, let me then get out of your way, to prepare for your mission Inquisitor,” I said starting to move to the back of the room. I always seem to get claustrophobic when both me and my overly inflated character are in the same room.

“Always humble, Caiphas,” Vail said knowing how the familiar use of my name in the presence of strangers irked me to no end. “The Inquisition mission is complete, I’ll brief Jurgen on our drop planetside.” I felt my aide cringe at the thought. “We are going over the mission to Degove Secundus. I believe Colonel Rassq would value your input.”

“Indeed I would,” he said. I nodded and moved over the table. “What’s the mission?” The colonel leaned over the holo-table, pointing to what looked like a manufacturing city. “When we were evac’ing the city of Hallumbt, we noticed they had already built this,” magnifying the image and pointing to a something that must have been 15 meters tall and looked vaguely like some kind of focusing array. “Its not operational, but it will be as soon as they can get it running. We need to destroy it.”

“Who’s they?” I asked innocently enough.

“Necrons.” I gulped and made the sign of the Aquila without even realizing it. Colonel Rassq nodded at my displeasure. I forced myself to lean back over. Pausing to get a better grasp of the situation, “I assume sending in a squadron of Marauders is just too easy.” The colonel chuckled, “We could, but destroying the focusing array is the second objective to this mission. The primary is rescuing a Tech-Priest that stayed behind and we are going to pull him out at the same time. Tech-Priest Alofhyh will have valuable information about the Necron technology that we will need.” The palms of my hands began to tingle telling me I was missing something about this, but my conscious mind hadn’t grasped it yet.

I leaned back and addressed the group, “Well, doesn’t seem like anything a company of Astartes couldn’t handle.”

He laughed outright. “You were right, Inquisitor Vail, I do like him.” My puzzled look must have begged for an explanation. Colonel Rassq turned to me, “Inquisitor Vail recommended you very highly for this mission. I had already cleared it with your Lord General as you were arriving.”

My throat must have closed, thank the Emperor, or the ceaseless screaming I was trying to let out would have had me locked up in St. Ulien’s Sanitarium for the rest of my life. There was no way of backing out of this after the comment I made when Jurgen and I arrived.

“Tanna, sir?” Jurgen offered next to me.

“Thank you, Jurgen,” I finally squeaked out, accepting the flask he somehow always managed to have on him, “I will miss you.” I fully anticipated never seeing my aide again. The group looked over the table again, making the final preparations for the mission. I looked over to Amberly, you set me up, I mouthed. She nodded and smiled an apparently genuinely warm smile.

Amberly, escorted by her bodyguards and Jurgen left the room followed by Captain Tuel. I was left in the operations room with Colonel Rassq and his aides.

“Ah, I know you are just the person we need to lead this team. During the evacuation of the city, we lost many good troopers and morale is ah, well, you can imagine how the soldiers are less than enthusiastic about the mission to retrieve a Tech-Priest. Especially, when the frakked cog-boy practically refused to leave.” He mused in thought for a moment. “Well then, Commissar, I believe it is time to introduce you to them.”

Still looking for some way out, I agreed and followed him out of the room. We walked down to the hanger bay were I would make the drop to Degove Secundus. My bootheels rang crisply in the corridor, but surely were drowned out by the rapid thumping of my heart still lodged tightly in my throat.

It was a long walk to the hanger bay so I started up some conversation to take my mind off of my imminent demise. “That is an impressive sword, Colonel.”

“Oh you like that?” He withdrew the weapon from its scabbard and handed it to me.

“Its based on the Mark IV, but the balance is better,” I said hefting and swinging the sword.

“You know your blades, Commissar. It is indeed. I had it custom made for my promotion. The pommel has a Degovian Fire Crystal seated in it. Rather rare and precious. The handle is covered in the skin of a Rock Lizard native to the far moon of Degove Prime. The finger guard is embedded with the Rock Lizard ‘pearls’ which are small stones the lizards swallow, for digestion, I am told. The process makes them perfectly smooth.”

“I pray it serves you well,” I said to him, handing back the power sword, reluctantly. I was more than happy with my battered old chainsword, but it is nice to hold nice things.

As we approached the hanger bay, I asked Rassq, “Colonel, you earlier referred to the ‘team.’ Surely you mean to send a couple of platoons for each objective.”

“Not to worry, Commissar, they are all specialists, if a little unregimented.” Easy for him to tell me not to worry, He was staying here while I was facing an unknown horde of metal monsters bent on annihilating me. Well, they may not be bent on my destruction yet, but they would as soon as they knew we were there. And the Necrons had an uncanny way of finding out when someone was around. Not to mention, worrying is what kept my skin firmly attached all these years, and having grown accustomed to having it there, I said my prayers to the Emperor—knowing full well He was too busy to answer them—and went back to worrying about the mission I was about to embark on.

“And they’re volunteers,” he said. Giving me more to worry about. Volunteers meant they had frakked up royally, and this mission was no doubt punishment for their infraction. Whatever it was, it must have been spectacular to get volunteered for this mission.

We entered the hanger bay, where the Aquila lander we would take was surrounded by Guardsmen idling lazily by. I quickly counted nine troopers around some crates and one off by himself bent over a sniper rifle, decked out in a chameoline cloak he was all but invisible. I was unable to get a good feel for them when one of the troopers spotted us and hollered out, “Attention on deck.” Well, it wasn’t the fastest or most precise movements, but they formed up in a line, the sniper taking his time to sling his rifle over his back and form up with the rest of the squad.

The Colonel ushered me in, apparently delighted at sending us off into the approaching maelstrom as quickly as possible. Ah well, better get this over with.

“Commissar may I present you with the kill team you will be leading.” They too wore the same blue fatigues as the Colonel, but theirs were covered in sand, grime, dirt, and in some cases, blood. The flak armour they wore was tan. The incongruity of the uniform colours led me to believe they disdained camouflage. Lucky for me.

I smiled weakly at the line of troopers, then leaned over to the Colonel, “Where’s the rest of them?” I asked. He chuckled as way of answer, and began walking over to the team. Dear Emperor, what was ten men going to possible accomplish on a Necron held world? Okay, eleven counting me, but I was already looking for the largest trooper to duck behind when the shooting started.

The Colonel asked each of the troopers to introduce themselves, starting with the sergeant.

“Sir,” he snapped a crisp salute, “Sergeant Cykus.” I had this poor sap pegged for a grisly death as soon as we hit the planet. Thank the Emperor, I was horribly mistaken. We proceeded down the line coming to a young scrawny kid.

“Torch, Sir,” he said.

“You must be the radio operator, trooper.” I joked. He looked legitimately hurt by my apparent disregard of his nickname. “I carry the flamer, sir.” He practically mewled it. I moved down the line with the remaining troopers, coming finally to the sniper.

“Pull down that hood, Araleng!” snapped out the Colonel. I didn’t think the disrespect was directly at me, but that was beside the point. Even more so to Rassq. The sniper pulled down his hood to reveal he was not a he, but a she.

The 597th is a mixed unit, one of the few. Actually, it wasn’t even a mixed unit until I combined two separate unmixed Guard units in an attempt to quell an all out massacre that would have taken place almost immediately after my assignment to the brigade command. Despite seeming like mixing oil and water, it worked well due in part to a roughly equal dispersal of male and female troopers and the threat of being turned into a penal legion. I wondered how well it would work here. She was the only female and a sniper to boot. I maintained eye contact with her but spoke to Rassq.

“I wasn’t aware the Degovian Third was a mixed unit.”

“I have made an exception in the case of Araleng and a few others. Araleng here is an exceptional sniper, and completely competent trooper,” he responded. I didn’t break eye contact with her. She didn’t either. Neither of us blinked for sometime before she popped a perfunctory salute. I smiled and returned it.

“At ease, troopers,” I said and stepped back to allow the Colonel to brief the team. I already missed Jurgen. He would have been able to take the mission particulars and give them to me so that I could disregard them at my own leisure. Now I had to at least pretend to care how I was going to get slaughtered.

Rassq went over the mission, drop point, objectives and extraction location with amiable thoroughness. It appeared so, at least, I was lost in thought thinking how I was ever going to survive this to make Amberly pay for suckering me into this. My mind drifted onto aged Amasec, buttered grox steaks and the type of dessert I preferred when with Amberly when I noticed Rassq and the team looking at me. Realizing I missed a question directed at me, I said, “Sorry, going over some tactics in my mind.”

“No problem, I merely asked if you had anything you wished to add.”

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. Frak the cog-boy, and bomb the whole planet from orbit, was what I was thinking. What came out was more likely what they expected. “Only, we had better get moving, the Tech-Priest won’t get off that planet by himself.” I doubted if he would get off with us there, but I didn’t say that either.

“Excellent,” Rassq said, “May the Emperor be with you all.”

The drop point on Degove Secundus was outside the city in what was supposedly lightly occupied territory. The main Nercron force had swept through the city and onto more heavily populated urban centers. The majority of the Degovian Imperial Guard stationed on Degove Secundus was there, holding back the onslaught and evacuating the major cities. It was a dangerous task and I was thankful I was not there, yet at least they knew where their enemy was. Our drop was uneventful, one even Jurgen’s weak stomach could have handled. It was just before dawn when we landed in the desert about 2 kloms outside of the city.

We disembarked the Aquila, and I was happy to see the Sergeant issuing commands to secure the area. The pilot voxed me as he lifted off. “Sir, I am going to fly over our last known location of Tech-Priest Alofhyh. He’ll need to know you are on your way. I can’t vox him from here, sir, the morning solar wind plays havoc with the long range broadcast.”

“Negative, I don’t want to give the Necrons any more of a chance to know we are here,” I replied.

“Don’t worry, sir,” Cykus broke in. “The steelies probably already know. The pilot has his orders, sir. As do we.” I was impressed. I took a bit spine to counter a Commissar’s order. I had to gauge whether he was doing it to undermine my authority or because it was a valid point. I decided to let the Sergeant have his way this time. After all he had fought them on his home planet before.

“Proceed, pilot, but carefully,” I finally voxed back. “See you at the extraction location and don’t be late.” I said that mostly so he wouldn’t have to wait around to figure out we’d been slaughtered shortly after entering the city. It didn’t matter, however, we never did see the pilot alive again.

“Affirmative. Good luck out there, Emperor be with you. Lander 1138 out.” The Aquila took off and headed into the city. If the Emperor was with us on that mission, I think he was dozing at a few critical moments. I went to find the sergeant. The kill team had dispersed in a wide circle. I would have completely missed Araleng if not for seeing her boots under the cameoline cloak, which helped her blend into the dark sand barely illuminated by the rising sun. For I first time I noticed the wind, coming off the desert, was down right cold. Not Valhallan cold, but it made me thankful for my great coat. Cykus rose up to a kneel as I approached him so I squatted next to him.

“How do you want to do this, Sir?” he asked. He was irked I was there, no doubt. I had never seen a squad of Guardsmen happy to have a Commissar along for a mission. But I had a feeling Cykus was peeved because he anticipated I would get in his way. However, I hoped that by deferring to his request to send the lander on he knew I would rely on his previous experience in the field against the metal T'auk'cka'era. I do my best at the Schola Progenium to tell my cadets that it is not unwise to rely on your troopers to make sound decisions when they can. Blatantly going against every order issued for the sake of maintaining control of a unit will guarantee a lasbolt in the back before long.

“Give me your ideas, Sergeant.”

“We march to the outside of the city, should take us no more than a hour. Form a defensive perimeter, then rest while we make contact with the cog-boy. Hopefully he will have some idea about that damned array. I’ve split the melta bombs between three troopers. The rest are armed with frag grenades. We wait for cover of darkness, assault the position the make like hell to the extraction point. Hopefully we’ll be out before the steelies wake up to us being there.”

“I agree,” I told him, and it was a good plan. Didn’t make me like it any more, but it was sound. “One more thing, radio silence from here out, until we assault the secondary objective.”

“Understood.” Sergeant Cykus chirped the vox twice. The squad turned to look at him while he made two hand signals. I was impressed again. Cykus knew what he was doing. He and his team did not come across as “unregimented” as Rassq earlier implied. Furthermore, his somber attitude seemed like he was truly penitent for whatever it was that got him assigned to this mission.

“So what was it that got you volunteered to rescue the cog-boy?” I asked.

“Guess I killed too many steelies, sir.” He looked away, signaled to the two troopers on either side of him to get ready to move out when a burst of static interspersed with the pilot’s voice came over the vox, “ander 113…taking…priest notif…down…do y…”

We all looked towards the city. “repeat…do…copy?” The explosion was visible to us even at that distance. A trooper cursed behind me. With our lander gone, our extraction was impossible. Evidently this thought had crossed the sergeant’s mind as well. By the look on his face, he apparently took the pilot’s death personally. Or maybe he thought I would execute him on the spot for countering my order, and issuing the pilot a death warrant.

AuinMyrrath 11 Aug 2008 20:08

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.


“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.”


“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.”


“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.

AuinMyrrath 11 Aug 2008 20:09

Re: Entry B - For Duty Alone
“Commissar, we need to get back,” huffed Araleng.

I queued my vox, “Cain to Cykus,” I said as I led the way back to the square, ducking behind buildings and rubble every chance I got.

“Sorry, Commissar, a little busy now,” replied Cykus. I heard a scream over the vox from a distant trooper, then the concussion of large explosion. We were quickly approaching the square and witnessed a geyser of flame shoot up.

“I think we lost Torch,” Araleng said. I nodded and continued to run. I had no doubt the remaining kill team would be brutally outnumbered.

“We are on our way, Sergeant. What is your situation?” I voxed.

“Araleng with you, Sir?”

I understood being concerned with the lives of the troopers you served with. I practiced it every chance I had. It helps build a cohesive team, builds trust, and fosters an idea in the troopers to protect my own skin first. But I needed to know what we were running in on.

“She is. Now, what the frak is going on?” I screamed just as we cleared the buildings and saw the square.

The Necron were coming out of at least two buildings on opposite sides of the square. Across from where we squatted for cover, I could see a few members of the kill team pinned down and attempting to return fire on the Necron. It wouldn’t take long for them to be overrun. A pool of burning promethium lay next to another mangled trooper, who looked like he’d been fed to a Catachan Devil.

“We’re hurting, Sir. We’ve been pinned down, lost Torch, lost Jansen, lost Fin. I sent in Fin and Jansen with meltas and Torch to cover them. They never made it.”

Araleng began firing into the Necrons attempting to clear a path for her beleaguered comrades. My mind began racing.

“Araleng, open a path for them on this side of the square.” She promptly switched aim and began knocking down Necrons. However, some of them stood back up.

“Sergeant,” I voxed, “move your men up the east side of the square. Pick up those melta bombs on the way up. We will rendezvous at halfway point. Make it quick!”

I turned to Araleng, “you got that, Sniper?” I think she said yes sir in between cursing steelies and stepping out behind her cover to move into position. I sprinted out to meet up with Cykus and get those melta bombs on the orbital defence weapon. The trooper with the melta-gun led out blazing as fast as his melta would charge, turning Necrons into silver goo. Cykus and the remainder of the team followed, tossing grenades that had little effect on the Necrons. Two of the team stopped to pick up the melta bombs on Jansen and Fin. Thankfully, the gauss rounds or whatever it was that killed them had not detonated them.

The first trooper picked up a melta almost without stopping and was sprinting back towards us when the second trooper was hit by a gauss bolt. That trooper’s scream still rings in my head and haunts my nightmares. His body was stripped away at the cellular level. The first trooper turned back and then ran to his fallen comrade.

“Moush, you frakking grox headed fool, leave him, he’s dead!” Cykus hollered. Moush got back to the still disintegrating trooper, without looking at him, and plucked the last melta bomb off the other dead trooper before racing back to where we hid.

“That’s a good way to earn medals, Moush,” Araleng said when he got back. He smirked and handed me one of the melta bombs.
“Let’s put that thing down now,” I said pointing at the array and handing the melta bomb to another trooper. I wanted to get back to the lander before the little bit of cover we had was completely vapourized.

“Sergeant, if you don’t mind, let’s get the frak out of here.” The team began following me to where Araleng and I first entered the square, firing at the Necrons, trying to provide cover for the demolition team to lob their payloads at the array. The demolition team sprinted towards the weapon, weaving as they ran, doing whatever they could to avoid getting hit by either our lasguns or the Necrons gauss guns. They moved in, threw in their melta bombs, and sprinted out towards us before the bombs had even landed.

We watched, holding our breaths, as the melta bombs went off in quick succession. The flash burned my retinas but I couldn’t turn away, I had to see if it was destroyed. The fires died and the smoke drifted out and as my vision returned I saw the sickly green glow lighting up the dirt and debris left behind. One of the demolition team troopers stopped in dismay at the sight, and was flayed by a gauss shot. I shot the trooper with my pistol to end his misery, not to mention my own.

Our melta bombs did nothing against the weapon. Well I wasn’t going to hang around waiting for the Necron to use my skin for a coat. I started hollering for everyone to follow me out of the square.

“I am out of ideas Commissar, do you have one?” Cykus asked. I realized I had not told him about the Tech-Priest or the lander.

“Yes I do. We get off this Emperor forsaken planet,” and Araleng jumped in following behind me. “We found the cog-boy, and the crashed lander. He’s repairing it now.”

“Who, the Tech-Priest?” I stopped to turn back, I had not lived over two hundred years by standing around arguing when things were trying to shoot at me, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. I wanted to keep moving to the Mechanicus building, and our ticket off this metal infested dirtball. But Cykus had his team to think about, and to give them the best chance off the planet, and me with them, he had to know what was going on.

“Yes, the Tech-Priest is repairing the crashed lander.”

“Commissar, behind you!” both Araleng and Cykus yelled eerily in sync. I spun pulling my chainsword out of habit. I brought it up just as the wraith appeared swinging both arms down on my, and swiping its tail across my torso. The chainsword blocked its arms, but the tail connected solidly with my ribs. I flew back a dozen feet and rolled over as many times.

Cykus pulled me to my feet when I stopped rolling and I yelled out, “Jurgen, cook that T'auk'cka!” forgetting that he was on another planet at the moment. But the melta gunner knew I meant him and lit up the wraith with a blast of super heated energy. Only it was about as effective as the melta bombs on orbital defence weapon. The wraith phased out and the blast simply passed through him.

The wraith seemed to want me first. I turned, but had nowhere to run. Instead, I grabbed the power sword that hung on the Sergeant’s hip.

“Sergeant, may I borrow this for a moment?” I turned to Araleng, “Sniper, like you did before,” I said before charging back into the wraith. Rushing a giant metal ghost that specifically wanted to kill me seemed a bit foolish. However, in the event we ran for it, I have no doubt I would have found myself impaled on that thing’s tail. “For the Emperor!” I think I screamed. It was the sort of thing Cain the Hero was supposed to say. Actually, I was hoping the wraith would swat me away again, and let someone else charge the bloody thing.

Like a smoky black smear around green eyes it met my charge with movements that blurred in the night. It stabbed its tail at me, I parried with my chainsword, vibrating as the teeth caught metal on metal. I slashed with the sergeant’s power sword, but the wraith was phased out. I followed through again and found a satisfying clang as the sword connected with the shoulder carapace. Then it was behind me, and I heard the crack of Araleng’s rifle. The lasbolt was accurate, catching the wraith squarely in the forehead, or what passes for their forehead, but passed right through it. Evidently having phased out again.

“Damn,” I heard her say. “Don’t stop, keep shooting it!” I yelled, deflecting blows from its tail and slashes from it arms with hands ending in carving knives for fingernails. We moved side to side, and around like some back alley hive knife fighters looking for a weakness in the other defences. Araleng periodically fired at the wraith, then at the other Necrons, with the rest of the team holding off the Necrons like some schola yard fistfight. I was only hoping their luck with the other Necrons was better than her luck with the wraith.

I began wondering if the wraith was only keeping us from leaving, tiring me down for a final blow when it came all at once. Actually, it was everything happening at the same time. I had been spinning inside the wraith’s defences swatting away its arms with the swords, and generally getting dizzy, when I stabbed the power sword into the wraith’s ribcage, completely to the hilt, Araleng fired, and the wraith punched out with its tail catching me in the chest.

I was knocked back again, but I came up swinging my chainsword wildly, thinking the wraith was laying on my chest. I could not get a breath in, and I admit, beginning to panic. I realized, however, that it was not on me, but had dented my carapace armour with its tail punch. Instead of launching a tirade of attacks at us, the wraith was crumpled on the ground, the sergeant’s power sword sticking out of its chest and a gaping hole in its head. The wraith began phasing out, taking the power sword embedded in it with it.

“That’s the way to win medals,” Moush said. Even the rest of the team had stopped firing long enough to look at what just happened.

“Shut up and clear us a way out of here!” Cykus yelled, “Paasqin, out in front.” The melta gunner took point firing at a group of Necrons intent on stopping us.

“Sergeant, I believe I owe you a new sword.” I said to Cykus as we ran to the northeast corner of the square firing behind us all the while.

“I’ll take it up with you once we get out of here,” he said rounding the corner. He caught up with Araleng and the team and I ran flat out back to the lander. By the time we had returned to the lander, we had put a small distance between the Necron and us, giving us time to breathe and set up ramshackle defensive position. We had lost another trooper, and were down to five, we could not last for long, I only hoped it was long enough to get the lander off the ground and back onboard the Relentless Assault. I pulled Cykus along with me, and ducked into the crashed Aquila.

“Tech-Priest, tell me good news,” I said finding him under a cogitor console, apparently repairing the atmospheric control yoke. I began pulling off my dented armour.

“The good news, Commissar, is that you have not destroyed the Orbital Defence Array. It would have taken far more than a few melta bombs to take it down.”

“That thing is a weapon?”

“Yes, sergeant, but that is secondary now.” I turned back to the Tech-Priest, “will this thing fly again?”

“Blessed be the Omnissiah, it will.” Cykus turned to get his team onboard but stopped as the Tech-Priest continued, “however, it cannot go far, nor into the vacuum. There are too many hull breaches.”

“Then we have one option left. Commissar, do your best please. Get her out of here.” With that he shoved the cog-boy and me out of the lander and fired up the engines. It took a moment to put it together, and then it clicked. I grabbed the cog-boy and pulled him back to the remainder of the team.

“Lets go, fall back, into the desert!” Two at a time, the team covered each other, falling back around the Mechanicus building. The Necrons had caught up with us again, but I was confident that we could make it out of the city before they caught up with us. What we were going to do then, I had not yet figured out. “Where’s Cykus?” Araleng asked when I had caught up with the team. “What’s he doing?” I heard tears in her voice. I shook my head and pushed her and the Tech-Priest along in front of me. I turned back to watch the Aquila lander rise up over the tops of the building. The hull vibrated and shook, the starboard engine straining as though it would fail at any minute. Cykus powered the lander around the south side of the city and angled back into the square. The engine finally did fail, but the shuttle was already pointed at the weapon. I lost sight of it just before the concussion of the crash knocked us to our knees.

“Oh, Cykus.”

I made the sign of the aquila, then made for the desert pushing Araleng in front of me. The team followed behind me with the Tech-Priest. We cleared the city entrance and sprinted into the darkness. I knew we could not out run the Necron, and we could not win a firefight even if we found a good defendable position, but that’s what I told everyone to do.

“Fire as soon as they clear the gateway.” I checked the power level on my pistol. I had maybe a dozen shots left. Better make them count, I thought as the Necrons emerged from the gateway.

“Paasqin, light them up!” We opened up on them as soon as we saw steel. Some of us were screaming as we fired, or so I thought. I saw holes appearing in the city wall, as big as my fist. A familiar odour assaulted my nose.

“Come along, Sir.” I turned to see Jurgen along with Amberly’s bodyguards. He fired his melta and began pulling me back into the desert. Overhead a pair Valkyries had strafed the Necrons with its lascannons and heavy bolters and more holes appeared in the wall and the Necrons. It settled down a few dozen metres away from us.

“Move it, lets go!” I heard Amberly hollering from the hold of an Aquila lander, presumably where Jurgen and the bodyguards had come from. We did as she asked; she is an Inquisitor, after all. We collapsed into the crash webbing as the pilot took off, making one more pass to fire on the Necrons below us. As we began our return trip to the Relentless Assault I secured Araleng and went by the rest of the team to check for wounds. Amberly shot me a look. I just shook my head.

“Tanna, Sir?” I smiled at Jurgen accepting the proffered flask, somewhat grimier than I remembered, but I drank it greedily.

Amberly pulled me aside after we had docked back with the Relentless Assault, to lead me to a debriefing. All I wanted was a hot shower, amasec and sleep and I really didn’t care what order they came in. But I followed along back to the original operations room with the same holo-table up. This time only Rassq, Amberly and her retinue, Jurgen and myself occupied the room. A pot of recaf awaited me.

When I finished Rassq looked up at me, “Are you sure the weapon array has been destroyed?”

“No, Colonel. I saw only the explosion.”

“And you took on this wraith, single handedly?”

“Again, no. I had Sergeant Cykus’s power sword with me. Also, it was Araleng’s shot that killed it, I am sure.”

“You saved their lives, Commissar. I know there is no way to thank you for your assistance on this.”

“Just doing my duty, Colonel.” I lowered my eyes in false humility and my gaze crossed over his own power sword. “Actually, Colonel, there is something you can do.”

The following day, or after a solid block of sleep in which Jurgen effectively fielded a number of interruptions, I walked down the halls of the Relentless Assault again. I found the quarters of the remaining men on Cykus’s team, and walked in.

“Attention on deck!” snapped Moush.

“At ease, gentlemen.” I strolled in. “I am getting ready to head back to the 597th, but I wanted to come by and congratulate you on a job well done.” I had no idea if I would ever see these troopers again, but if I did, I wanted them still looking out for me. Plus whoever else from the Commissariat came along might not have to shoot any of them. I stopped in front of Moush. “Ordinarily, your own senior officers would do this, but I asked Colonel Rassq for a few favors. First,” I cleared my throat and took on a formal tone and pulled a data slate from my coat pocket, “in recognition of bravery, fortitude and” I looked up at the three troopers, “blah, blah, blah, a commendation is hereby awarded to each of you. Nicely done.” I pinned the awards to their tunics. “Furthermore, Abel Moush is hereby promoted to the rank of Sergeant in the 4th Platoon, Degovian 3rd Rifles.” I leaned forward to pin the insignia on the new sergeant’s lapels.

“I don’t deserve this, Sir”

“Maybe not,” I said, “But they think you do.” His comrades were nodding. “And,” I continued, “if you will take my advice, don’t go volunteering for damn fool missions, or you’re likely to get promoted again.” I stepped back from the group. Moush came to attention and saluted me. I smirked and returned his salute before turning to leave.

I walked down another hall and found the little room Araleng was in. Although I could have just walked in like before, I knocked and waited for her to open up the door.

“Sir!” she said, no doubt surprised to see me again. She opened the door to let me in.

“I am getting ready to leave, but I have two things to address before I head back,” I said as I entered the room. It was like the other, only empty but for her few things. It felt like solitary confinement.

“First, I want to extend an offer for you to join the 597th Valhallan. We are a mixed unit, as I said before, and we most definitely can use a good sniper like you. I have already cleared it with Colonel Rassq.”

“Thank you Commissar, but I have a home. My team is here. I belong with them.”

I nodded.

“You knew I’d say this. Why else did you come?”

“I promised Cykus a replacement for his sword. I would like to give it to you.” I unclasped Rassq’s power sword and handed it to Araleng. Ordinarily, I would neither have given away such a beautiful weapon, nor given a frak about replacing it, but she did save my life. Twice. Then again, there was my reputation to uphold.

“How did you know?” she asked wiping away a tear.

“Before he shoved me off the lander, he asked me to take care of you.” We waited in silence a moment, thinking of the last time we saw Sergeant Cykus.

“Thank you, Commissar.”

“Just doing my duty, sniper.” I smiled. “Now go find the rest of your team. I am sure they will want to celebrate with you before killing a few more steelies.”

Caiphas continues his narrative with a more in depth de-briefing by the Inquisition, but that doesn’t concern us. Let us just say, his awards didn’t have to be pinned on him.

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