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Entry A - In The Head, Under the Feet
 
Old 02 Sep 2008, 03:05   #1 (permalink)
Shas'O
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 9,807
Default Entry A - In The Head, Under the Feet

Commissar Victor Leovild woke suddenly, sweating. The remnants of a dream, like the drifting smoke of a smoldering campfire, passed before his eyes. In the vision, a man held a knife, cackling, laughing hysterically as he slammed it into Victor’s sternum.
He sat up with a start, his chest sore. His heart thumped violently as cold sweat formed on his scalp. Itching his irritated head, he stood up in the pitiful excuse for a stateroom he had been given. His cot was old and rusted, the cloth ripped and frayed. One sheet had covered him, as well as his leather storm coat. He picked it up off the floor where it had been kicked.
Victor was a tall man; thin of the face but with commanding shoulders. He was not of a startling physique, although powerful in the legs and back.
Shedding the sweat soaked undershirt he had worn to bed, he approached the grimy mirror above the wash bin. Producing his combat knife, he began dry shaving the tops of his cheeks with the razor sharp edge at the very bottom. His thick black beard was oily and dirty, so he splashed a little of the brackish water onto his face.
He dressed himself in his commissarial garb. Commissars ordinarily wore black peaked caps, long storm coats and black fatigues. They were the model of discipline and order. However, given the theatre his regiment found themselves in, he opted for his undress-blacks. Black combat fatigues and a forage cap of the same hue were produced from the desk he had stashed them in. The hat, he liked a lot. There were heavy canvas flaps that folded down in cold weather, but could be buttoned in the front of the hat below the insignia.
His pistol belt held his holster, canteen, knife, and a small butt pack where he stored his personal effects for the day. A small prayer book, some painkillers, and a little trinket some old woman had given to him. He liked the trinket; it was a crude effigy of Saint Constantius. It was made of melted down aluminum soup cans, and often rubbed with holy oil.
He grabbed a short leather jacket and pushed the door open.

Assok Secundus was a forest world, heavy evergreen trees covering the entirety of the planet. He was standing in a tiny military outpost, deserted long ago. They were concrete structures, leaking stagnant rainwater, and either dark, or dimly lighted.
Outside the tiny room, he was in the middle of the Rhadik 3rd’s present base of operations. The first company of the regiment was camped directly around him. The command elements were allowed to stay in the few storehouses or guard shacks that had survived the forest’s silent invasion. Everyone else camped in old, musty tents underneath the massive pine trees.
“Commissar, good morning,” the man said as he came to attention and saluted.
Victor struggled hard to remember the man’s name as he returned the gesture. He was not the friendliest trooper, but respectful enough to greet him cheerfully.
“As to you, trooper.”
Victor cursed under his breath. The trooper looked a trifle crestfallen.
As Victor walked away, the name flashed in his mind. Now he needed an excuse to call the man to attention. He called after him.
“I’m sorry, Cedrik, but have you seen the Major?”
The man turned with a hint of a smile. “I saw him talking to Captain Price a while back sir, over by the south edge.”
Victor gave him a brief casual salute. “Thank you, trooper.” Victor pulled on his black leather gloves as he strode about the camp. Troopers were rising just before reveille, slowly going about their morning chores. Some carried water from the streams to the east, others began blowing on embers to relight cooking fires. Sentries began switching out, some collapsing into bedrolls, others walking towards the edges of camp.
Victor stopped near the south end. Before him was a clearing, and on the edge was a massive wooden structure the men had constructed from cut logs and heavy lashings. It was a tower of about thirty feet, and a crude ladder led up to platforms every ten. At the top was an furnished observation deck that poked just above the tallest trees in the area, far beyond the knee high grass laden with small biting insects that covered the clearing.
He approached the ladder.
“Commissar, good morning, sir,” O’Toole said with a smile.
“Sergeant, I hope I find you well. Is the Major up here?” Victor smiled at the friendly man. He was a little fat, with twinkling eyes and a jolly demeanor. The men loved him.
“Bless your soul, o’ course, sir. You’ll not find him anywhere else this hour o’ the day.” The Rhadik’s curious sing-song accent had grown on Victor, and he often found himself softening his ‘t’s and stretching syllables.
Victor nodded with a smile, and began climbing the creaking wooden ladder. Below him, O’Toole kept up his sentry duty, his lasgun on strap and whistling an oft-sung tune.
The climb was arduous before breakfast, but Victor soon found himself in the wide observation platform. The Major was concentrating on a large scope mounted on the half wall of the deck. The roof above leaked a trace of rainwater, but it was as solid as Victor could ask. In the center of the room, a large iron bucket held a smoldering fire, and a relieved sentry was frying warbler’s eggs upon the greased surface of an old pan.
“Major, I see you’re up here again.”
Major O’Pheasey turned with a broad smile to greet Victor. He threw a hasty salute, and quickly launched into conversation.
“Well, you know, sir, just checking the lay o’ the land before we break our fast. Colonel says we’re to expect a little action soon enough, so I figured I’d be the first one to spot it.”
Victor chuckled as he accepted the cup of caffeine someone had offered him. “Well, provided that they decided to attack between 5 and 6 local, then you’ll see them. Any sign of those Munitorum drops?”
The Major turned back to his scope. “Well, none yet, but the vox over there says they’ll try one at about 10 local. We’re to expect rations and tents.”
“Very well Major. Those eggs look delicious, get some food in you.”
“Of course, sir. Would you like some?” the Major glanced back at the Commissar.
Victor was staring out over the infinite forests to the mountains beyond, covered up to high elevations with trees. Logging roads, deserted and overgrown, were visible winding aimlessly through the woodlands.
“No, no thank you. Faustus will have breakfast prepared for me in due time.” He replied absently, still staring out.
“As you say, sir.” O’Pheasey turned to accept a tin of freshly fried eggs, and produced from his pocket a small vial of red liquid. It contained deeper red flakes and black specks of some sort of dried spice.
He tapped the hot sauce onto the eggs, and then began shoveling them in with great alacricity. In a matter of moments, the first egg had all but disappeared.
The Major’s tongue navigated around a bit of egg, and he spat a blue shell out with no great concern. “If you’d like, we’ve got plenty o’ eggs. I know you eat those terrible rations you bring, the pre-cooked stuff. You say the word, sir, we’ll sling some fresh grub your way, eh?”
“Well, I guess I’ll take a few eggs down to Faustus. I’m not one for them, but I’m sure he’ll appreciate it. If you get any more poultry, I’m keen to that. Nothing like a good boiled warbler.”
“O’ course, sir. We’ll be sure to let you know!” O’Pheasey handed him a small leather pouch with a handful of eggs within. Victor slung the bag over his shoulder and began his descent back down.
The Major chewed reflectively, his eyes tiny behind bushy eyebrows and fat cheeks. Beneath him, he heard the Commissar call up.
“How about some goddamn stairs, eh?”
The Major chuckled as he resumed his vigilance over the swathes of forest.

Victor arrived back to his building a few minutes later. Outside, Cadet Faustus was busy preparing a roast mammal for him. It looked like one of the black-furred tree-leapers that jumped about above the camp. Occasionally, troopers would shoot up into the trees in the hopes of felling one. Only the best marksmen could bring one down, and in past weeks, the fur became a sort of symbol of prowess amongst the braggarts of the regiment.
Faustus was a capable cook, especially adept at improvising using often found materials to create sumptuous dishes. He was sprinkling a mixture of cinnamon and salt onto the skinned, gutted carcass. Beneath, the juices dropped into a pan, ready for gravy. Beside on some embers, animal fat sizzled into grease, and a mound of freshly washed tubers waited sliced and ready to cook.
Faustus rose. “Good morning, sir. Breakfast should be prepared in a matter of moments, sir.”
Victor gave him a dismissive wave of the hand. “Take your time, Cadet. Let’s enjoy the morning.”
Above them the drifting tendrils of mist hiding amongst the trees were just being burnt away by the rising sun. Fog above the trees had dissipated just as the sun had risen, however, some was sheltered in the forests.
Faustus’s black uniform seemed more formal than the attire Victor was sporting. He was garbed in a short field jacket, over a black dress shirt and tie. His insignia was two double barred silver collar tabs, with the blue piping of a Cadet-Commissar in between. His garrison cap, a triangular hat much like a mountain ridge, had a simple silver Aquila patch over the front, its two wings spreading to either side of the hat. His coat sported a similar eagle above the left pocket, and his shirt on the left sleeve.
Victor, however, sported one collar tab with silver piping and a silver Aquila, whereas the other was silver-piped with a silver oak leaf set within. It denoted him as a field commissar, as opposed to Schola professor, a Penal Legion Commissar, or a high-ranking Commissar-General.
Whereas Victor had eschewed his various decorations on his leather jacket, Faustus proudly displayed his three awards on his shirt, now hidden by the jacket. He was awarded Sharpshooter in CQC-P (Cadet Qualification Course- Pistol), and Expert in CQC- Rifle. His other decoration was the Order of the Blue Bar, awarded to Cadets who were wounded during wartime in their training.
His black, shin high combat boots were shined to a mirror finish. He appeared much more the commanding officer than his direct superior, Victor.
Victor watched the boy of about sixteen roast the animal slowly, whilst tending to the tubers he had now begun to cook. Beside the fire stood ready the Commissar’s personal mess kit, as well as a small measure of bitter wine.
Victor rested his hand upon the butt of his bolt pistol, wondering what weapon the boy would choose when the time was right. As of now, he carried only a standard issue laspistol, issued to heavy weapon troopers and some officers. The boy, however, was a capable gunsmith, and had made small alterations to the gun, as well as keeping it in pristine condition. The firearm was quite a tool of death and destruction; credit to the boy, Victor thought.
The mammal was finally ready, and Victor accepted the plate of moist meat atop a bed of firm, whitish-green tubers all covered in a thick brown gravy. He dug in with a rusty fork, relishing each bite.
“You know, Faustus, many of the men think we eat off of pre-cooked rations,” Victor laughed around a large chunk of meat.
The boy chuckled as well. He always ate the rations Victor spoke of, but every time he was offered a portion of Victor’s meal. He often refused, but more often than not, Victor convinced him to take enough for a meal.
“Listen here, boy. I’ve a treat for you. I’m sick of you eating that filth while you prepare such good food. I realize though, that your natural obedience and devotion to the hierarchy of things won’t allow you to eat from my plate, no matter what I say.”
Faustus listened intently, wordlessly, just as he did every time the Commissar spoke at length.
“However, the Major was kind enough to give me something which I want you to have. It’s not for me, I don’t like them, so you can tuck in guilt free.”
Victor produced the satchel of eggs, and gave them to Faustus.
“Fry these up, the major says they’re great with hot sauce.”
“Sir, thank you. Would you care for some?” Faustus asked respectfully.
“Of course not, Faustus. What’ve I just told you? Eat all of them, that’s a direct order. You know the price of disobedience.” Victor chuckled as he jokingly patted his bolt pistol.
Faustus thanked him again, and went around the camp, watching as men went about their daily rituals. 6 o’clock standard was approaching, when the official reveille occurred. All personnel not on duty would rise then, and begin the regiment’s work for the day. Most often, platoons would launch scouting parties into the woodlands, searching for the seldom-encountered guerilla foe. Other times, teams of men would construct more barricades, cut down wood, or go on foraging parties. The network of trenches surrounding the camp had grown exponentially, and each trench was lined with cut wood. Large bunkers and dugouts rose at odd intervals, and a network of foxholes housed some of the regiment’s tents.
Victor watched as Corporal Serphy strode out from his tent holding an impeccably polished trumpet. Whipping the mouthpiece up to his lips, he began the song. The ululating notes of the rousing tune echoed across the thin trees occupying the encampment. Serphy’s red cheeks puffed out like balloons, the thick, shaggy beard ruffling as he played on. As suddenly as the song had begun, he stopped. Tucking the trumpet beneath one arm in classic parade ground fashion, he about faced and strode back into his tent.
Victor walked on, satisfied after a delicious breakfast. He watched as men groaned as they roused themselves. A few noticed him about and quickly leapt up and pulled on clothing, snapping crisp salutes despite their sloppy appearance.
Victor spotted Elijah Merchson across the camp, rising from his bedroll within a rank canvas tent. The man was short and wiry, a powerful specimen with an affinity for wrestling and knife work. However, he was constantly causing trouble to Victor, by far measure the least disciplined man of the regiment. The two men knew each other well. Elijah was flogged almost weekly for some offense or other.
The glare that shot out at Victor was icy and cold, but Victor basked in it. He was an Imperial Commissar, he was trained to administer the sternest of looks. He kept pace with Elijah, staring him down until the man looked away. Victor strode on, greeting the more obedient troopers as they rose from sleep. Elijah’s behavior didn’t faze him. In life, there were obedient men, and there were disobedient men. He was simply fortunate to have a large number of the former.
He reached the largest of the concrete structures to find a trooper standing sentry beside the door. It was the regimental headquarters of the short-term camp. Within were the unit’s radio officers, the Quartermaster and his men, and of course, the upper echelons of the Rhadik chain of command.
The sentry saluted Victor and held the door for him, and he strode into the dark structure. Hastily installed lights buzzed and flickered overhead, while the ceaseless drip of water echoed inside the main room. However, the men bent over a large table were too busy to notice, or had rather learned to ignore the background noise.
Victor strode over to the table. On it was clamped a massive topographical map of their surrounding area, the map showing at least four hundred squad miles. Several areas had detailed printouts taped over the original map, where terrain had changed after the chart was made.
Wooden blocks, either red or black, each with white-stenciled numbers and letters, lay on the table. They were all different shapes and sizes, and each number was unique. They represented each platoon of the vast Rhadik regiment. Currently, almost all of the wooden blocks were on or around the denoted campsite. However, a few were far away over the hills and streams surrounding the camp. One of the three Scout and Reconnaissance platoons had reached the foot of Mount Vaylus, the imposing summit that claimed the highest peak on the continent. Its summit was awash with white snow, lower down was the dark gray basalt that made up every mountain on the planet.
The Colonel stood in his dress uniform, silver insignia glimmering in the daylight shining through the wire mesh windows.
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Old 02 Sep 2008, 03:06   #2 (permalink)
Shas'O
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 9,807
Default Re: Entry A - In The Head, Under the Feet

“Commissar, I hope I find you refreshed.” The Colonel raised an eyebrow at Victor, clearly deep in thought. Victor took the hint and made his response brief.
“Yes, of course, Daniel.” Victor strode past the tactical advisors, all in their dress uniforms, pushing blocks around and conversing quietly.
Colonel Daniel MacDreff continued staring into the table, as if expecting it to suddenly begin telling him all of the answers to his silent questions.
He was a tall, almost sickly thin man. His once powerful frame was reduced to wrinkled skin and a slightly balding scalp. His hair, dusted gray, was darker than his white beard. However, his eyes still shone knowingly, and his mind was as keen as ever, despite his aging body.
He continued staring at the table as the Commissar moved to the rear of the room to find a mug of caffeine. Victor was, at one point, practically addicted to the bitter drink, but he had tried to cut his intake by at least half. As such, he had doubled his smoking habit.
He arrived back at the table in short order, with a grimy ceramic mug filled with gently steaming liquid. He sipped it cautiously, the hot drink burning his chapped lips.
“All right then,” he said after satisfying himself with one good gulp, “where are we going today?”
Colonel MacDreff continued staring at the chart. “Well… we’ve heard from Goodlin’s platoon.”
“Oh really? What’d they have to say for themselves? Bet it’s getting cold up there.” Victor said over another sip.
“Well, not quite yet. They’re nearing the tree line, but the summit is far off.”
Victor took another sip. “I can assume, then, still no contact.”
MacDreff sighed. He looked at Victor. “Of course not. We’re chasing damn ghosts here. Not a sign of anyone. Outside of that abandoned campfire last week, there hasn’t been one sign of human presence, much less enemy presence. It seems they simply vanish at the drop of a hat.”
Victor patted him on the shoulder, a smart move he thought. Victor was responsible for morale in the unit. A few rousing words to the tactical staff wouldn’t go amiss.
“No matter. We’ll keep vigilant. They’re all too cowardly, they fear the wrath of the Emperor’s finest, eh boys?”
A few staff officers agreed heartily, voicing their approval. Some just smiled as they continued their work.
Victor made to leave, and looked back to MacDreff.
“I’m going to check on the pickets. Emperor Bless you, boys.”
He placed his cap back on his head and strode out the door.
The sunlight was a welcome change from the gloomy tac-room. He sipped his caffeine and enjoyed the moment, before heading off towards the trench line.

Victor stepped down the stairs made from retaining logs and packed dirt into the elaborate trench system. He walked into the first dugout, and greeted the sentry, who came to attention.
“At ease, there, McHugh, at ease. Seein’ anything yet?” Victor smiled.
“Nothin’ yet, sir, but you rest assured my eyes are peeled for anything.”
“I know, McHugh, that’s why I came to see you first. Always good to start an inspection with an alert trooper, eh? You keep watch, and sing out at anything.”
McHugh turned back to scanning the woodlands. “You got it, sir, I’m ready and waiting!”
Victor again patted him on the back, and moved on to the next sentry post.

Major O’Pheasey had just turned back to scanning above the tree line after taking a short break to rest his eyes. He swept his scope over the tops of the trees surrounding the camp. Three campfire smoke spirals wound up from the woodlands where friendly platoons on sweep missions had spent the night. They would return by midday to be relieved.
He swept his eyes over to the west, towards Mount Vaylus. He stopped.
Cold sweat formed on the nape of his neck.
He adjusted the scope’s settings slightly. No change.
“Derlin, hand me the vox.” The man was dozing against a pile of sandbags in the corner.
“What’s that, sir?”
“Give me the vox, now.” O’Pheasey whispered. Derlin handed him the small speaker horn.
“Primus, this is Secundus Actual in the tower. Confirm location of Sweep Group 2, over.”
“This is Primus. Sweep Group 2 is assigned to northwest river basin, 4 miles north-northwest o’ our location, over.”
“I hear you, Primus. Gimme the Actual, over.”
“Secundus, go for Crusader.” The Colonel, using his call sign ‘Crusader’, came on the line.
“We’ve got unreported smoke tendrils on a direct line with Vaylus. Requesting your presence up the mast, over.”
“Copy that, Secundus, on our way, over.”
The vox went dead, and O’Pheasey could hear the door of the Headquarters building slam as the Colonel raced over to the tower.

Victor had finished his first half of picket inspection. He was resting in the shade of a dugout with a member of his Military Justice platoon, thirty odd men whose off-duty responsibility included assisting the Commissar in overseeing the behavior of the regiment. In effect, they were his personal bodyguard and police unit, extensions of his power throughout the unit.
The man was First Sergeant Waylin Abbot. He was a tall, powerful man in his later mid-life. His jet-black hair had a light dusting of grey on his sideburns, and he had shaved his beard up to his earlobes because of the whitening of his facial hair.
They were chatting amicably when Victor’s radio crackled. He had eschewed the comm bead the other week, simply because it hadn’t been used. Instead, he relied solely on the rather large hand-held radio stuffed in its pouch on his belt.
He pulled it out and held it to his ear. The message had just ended. He held the thumb-button and talked into the face of the black plastic radio.
“This is Vigilante, repeat your last message, Crusader.”
The Colonel’s voice crackled in his ear.
“Requesting Vigilante’s immediate presence on the mast, over.”
“Roger that, on my way.”
He stuffed the radio back in its pouch, and looked to Waylin.
“Sounds promising.” He called as he mounted the stairs.

Victor arrived at the top of the tower right behind Faustus. The boy was leaning against the guardrail behind the small group of officers peering out over the trees.
They were all looking at a small trail of dirty smoke that was rising above the tops of the trees about two miles towards Mount Vaylus. Victor whipped his field glasses up to his eyes.
The distance was about twenty minutes hard march through the woodlands.
“Commissar, I’m assembling a strike team. Would you like to join them?” MacDreff called while still peering through his scope.
“Certainly Colonel, I’ll go choose a squad or two now.”
“We’ll be watching here. I’ll have Captain Price follow with a full Company.”
Victor voiced his approval, and then quickly raced down the ladders. Faustus followed.

In five minutes, the two men had garbed themselves for extended field operations. Victor had his dull combat boots, black fatigues, and black forage cap on. His webbing now had load bearing suspenders, as well as several ammunition pouches, grenades, and climbing cord. Faustus had similar equipment, with the exception of the firearm and insignia. Victor had taken a Catachan pattern lasgun he had attained a few years earlier, in addition to his bolt pistol and a few smoke grenades. Faustus had grabbed a composite-stocked long rifle, with a few hotshot clips. He was a capable marksmen, and Victor always encouraged he take advantage of the skill.


Two squads from Fourth Platoon, Charlie Company stood awaiting orders in the staging area near the center of camp.
Lieutenant O’Leary stood at the front, armed with a pump-action shotgun and a bandolier of shells. He greeted Commissar Leovild and Cadet Faustus with a salute, which was duly returned. Victor, sensing time was of the essence, paused only for a short motivational speech.
“Gentlemen in Service to the Emperor of Man, pray that His Glory will guide your feet to fall silently, your officers to lead you, and your shots to strike true. Let us be off!”
O’Leary had already briefed the men on expected mission agendas, so they made all haste exiting the camp over the western trenches, and entered the dark woods beyond.

Fifteen minutes had passed. Victor had noticed in the first two that Elijah Merchson was a member of Second Squad with some displeasure. He hoped nothing particularly unfavorable awaited him on this mission, as Merchson had proved to be quite a handful in the past. Faustus had very admirably been watching Merchson throughout the march, carefully observing his manner. Victor was grateful for the boy, he was quite an asset.
They neared a stream, the murmuring of the falling water would have soothed their aching minds had their hearts not been fired with adrenaline. They were, in effect, chasing down a foe that had eluded them for weeks on end.
The forded the stream with no problems, the quick crossing a testament to battlefield drill of the Rhadik troopers. One squad covered the opposite bank whilst the other crossed. When their feet reached dry soil, they took up cover positions, and watched ahead while everyone else crossed.
In another five minutes, they reached a small clearing in the woodlands. There were large rocky outcrops, one stone partially buried in the center that rose over twenty feet in height. Other formations rose around it. On one flat expanse stood the glowing embers of a campfire.
The Rhadik troopers fanned out, sweeping through the clearing with practiced precision. They cleared the area, and announced it relatively safe.
Victor approached the fire, and held a hand over the ashes. “Still hot. I’d say fuel was put on maybe four, five minutes ago.”
“Probably heaping up wood before they cut and run,” reasoned O’Leary.
“I’d say so.” Victor stood up from his crouched position. He scanned the woods around him, and the troops now taking cover behind rocky outcrops, watching the woods.
“O’Leary, take you men into that thick patch of pines over that way. Have them lie prone and watch us. Leave me two men.” Victor ordered.
O’Leary gave the order, and the men began weaving their way back into the woods. Victor, Faustus, MacBrun, and Merchson were left on the rocks. Victor bade them lay low.
Victor keyed the headset he was wearing, and called in O’Leary. He had remembered it on the way out the door of his meager room.
“Lieutenant, I want you to lay low and watch the southwest end of the clearing… Yes, you’re in the northwest corner. Watch south. All right.”
Faustus looked to Victor for direction.
“Boy, inspect those shrubs in the southwest. Those ones there.” Victor’s gloved hand pointed to a dark shape, some sort of unidentifiable flora.
The boy’s long lasgun with its composite handgrips made a small metallic ring as he brought it to his eyes. He peered down the heavy scope, and adjusted the zoom.
“Camo netting, four men, all with long rifles. Looks like las, sir.”
Victor hissed a curse under his breath. “All right, do you have a shot?”
“One good kill, maybe another if they’re slow moving.” The boy responded, still looking down the scope.
“All right, O’Leary can take the rest with his stubbers.” Victor dearly wished someone with him had the heavy machine gun on person, but the only two stubbers were with the Lieutenant. “Take the shot.”
The boy closed his eyes, and drew in a breath. His eye slowly opened, the breath still within.
His finger squeezed the trigger gently.
There was no loud concussion, rather just a small ‘Pop!’. The rifle kicked like a wild horse into the boys shoulder, but he managed to absorb all the recoil the piston-laden stock dished out. He exhaled.
The three remaining enemy snipers instantly bolted for better cover. Victor laughed silently. It was a stupid move. The boy had counted four, but there was now, including the slain, six snipers. The others had been invisible, but they foolishly blew their cover.
The boy quickly changed clips, just as Victor voxed O’Leary the signal. The chatter of two machine guns ripped through the woodlands, splintering tree bark and flaying small trees. Three of the snipers instantly hit the dirt, and did not rise. The other two managed to make it behind a stone outcrop, the latter unknowingly dodging Faustus’ second shot.
Lasfire began whipping through the trees from all directions. Leovild cursed silently. It was a cunning trap, but one that he could easily reverse.
“O’Leary! Have your men consolidate to the rocks on me. Price should be behind us by a minute or two. We’ll hold until then!”
“Copy that, sir. On our way.”
The platoon, still pinned in the woods, was responding to concentrated fire coming from a marshy area to the north. They tactically withdrew to the rocks, and swarmed over the stony outcrop to find suitable cover.
Leovild was just reaching for the long-range vox when O’Leary tapped his shoulder. Over the roar of gunfire and the shattering of rocks around him, the lieutenant shouted. “Sir, take a looky here!”
He pointed to a small hole at the base of the rock, cunningly disguised but obviously hollowed out by human hands. It reached far beyond eyesight into the subterranean world.
“What in the name of the Emperor?” he voiced under his breath, as small arms fire impacted above his head. He motioned for Faustus to follow.
They dropped into the crude hole to find themselves sliding down a steep dirt slope. Victor caught himself of the length of rope someone had cunningly staked into the wall to assist climbing. The tunnel emerged into a small chamber, contained just a crude oil stove and a mound of bedding. Imperial Issue Ration cans and wrappers littered the floor.
“Well, we know where our provisions drops are going.” Victor sighed tiredly. The boy had drawn his sidearm, a standard issue laspistol. He held it in two hands as he covered the various crannies and dark corners of the chamber. A small tunnel, low enough to require adopting an uncomfortable crouch, ran off to the west, away from their camp.
“All right, let’s get back up and inform O’Leary. You first.”
The boy holstered his pistol and began a lithe climb up the rope up into daylight. Victor followed suit.
He emerged to a hellish scene. Rebel fighters were swarming the clearing, being held back by frantic fire from the Rhadik troopers. Price had still not arrived, and their ammunition was running low.
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Old 02 Sep 2008, 03:06   #3 (permalink)
Shas'O
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 9,807
Default Re: Entry A - In The Head, Under the Feet

“O’Leary, listen, we’ve got a tunnel system running underneath us!” Victor yelled over the ensuing skirmish. O’Leary held his helmet down on his head as shards of rock pattered around them.
“Well? D’ya want to go down, do ya? I’m right behind!”
Victor simply nodded his consent. They began sending troopers down, still waiting for Price and his men to arrive to drive off their assailants. Men were being hit left and right. Cadalane was shot in the shoulder, the hard round ripping his flesh apart in a shower of blood. He hit the ground screaming in pain, blood and spinal fluid gushing out to coat Victor’s boots.
“Medic! Medic over here!” Victor called as he leveled his lasrifle, blasting shots at the wood’s edge. “I said I need a Throne damned medic over here now!”
He looked around. Both medical troopers were busy treating wounds, with a score more to be looked at. Victor winced as a sliver of hot basalt made its way into the tip of his nose. “Damnit! O’Leary, continue moving them down! Where the hell is Price gotten to?”
O’Leary simply shrugged and turned his head. “Sergeant Wynne! If you please, get your squad into the tunnel! Quick-like now!”
Wynne and his team began descending into the tunnel. As the second squadron down the hole, they had thoughtfully snapped their torches to the barrels of their weapons. Victor sourly realized his lamp would not fit the muzzle of his lasgun. He slung his weapon and drew his boltpistol.
Just as the rebels began to pull away from the clearing, Price arrived at the head of a full Company. They made short work of the remaining enemy combatants, and quickly swarmed over the rocky outcrop.
“Commissar!” Price was running low through the grass with his bolt pistol. “Commissar!”
“Yes, Captain!” Victor shouted over the few potshots taken at fleeing rebels.
“Sir, something you should know about the bodies. We found this on one of ‘em.” Price held up a steel medallion, a strange symbol not unlike that of the Adeptus Mechanicus emblazoned upon it. “Any idea what it means?”
“No, Price, none. Listen, radio the Colonel, tell him about his tunnel system. This could very well be the missing link in our puzzle. They could operate invisibly down there, all the while being able to navigate effortlessly.”
Victor turned to watch the last of O’Leary’s platoon vanish into the hole. “It’s not very big, but if we can get a whole company down there, mayhaps we could find a few insurgent leaders or supply depots. Let’s be off!”
The two men joined the next squad going down, and emerge in the room with O’Leary and his second squad. Victor pointed to the tunnel leading away into the darkness. The bobbing lights of Wynne’s squad were visible ahead.
“Let’s follow Wynne and see what we can stir up.”

A half hour later, the men were still following the tunnel. About twenty minutes earlier, it had merged with a main causeway, complete with railcar tracks upon the floor. The men followed the tracks now, in a steady downward slope.
Not a soul was around. There was evidence of life, here and there hastily built bunkrooms held bedrolls and lanterns, as well as ammunition boxes.
However, they continued onwards without coming into contact with the enemy. By this point, all of Price’s company was in the tunnel system, and enough information had been compiled to give Regiment a rough map of their progress.
Victor and the small contingent halted at what they figured was a mile away from their start. The track ended in what looked like a depot, with mountains of crates and containers filling the low cavern. A heavy wrought iron door lay in one wall. The soft glow of the lamps flickered as the men approached the door. The whole company followed behind, searching off-shooting hallways and rooms from the main artery.
O’Leary led the way with his shotgun held ready. He unlatched the door, and kicked it loudly open. As he swung the weapon in to cover the room, he instantly fired off a round.
“What the hell? What’s there?” Price yelled as O’Leary leapt over a steel table. The smoking and sparking carcass of a cogitation servitor lay in a heap across the floor. Troops surged behind them, clearing the room. It was a command center, high ceilings as far as the tunnels were concerned, with a large metal table dominating the room. There was a HUD station embedded in the center, but it was inactive. An elaborate map, scribbled in some undecipherable language, lay on the table. Spidery black lines traced across it.
“Look here, commissar. Appears to be a map of their complex.”
Victor looked where Price pointed. Indeed, the map denoted each arm of the tunnel system as well as any two dimensional diagram could. It showed the true extent of
the rebel’s operations.
“Holy Emperor, if they have this kind of facility. Look, here’s our installation. We’re right on top of what looks like the rail line. Our own supplies are being stolen from drop zones, and ferried away right under our noses. Inform the Colonel right away, and ask him why our orbital scans didn’t pick these up.”
“Right away, sir.” Price hurried to his radio officer, who was busy trying to get a signal up through the ground. “Any luck?”
“None, sir, though F Company is on the way down, I made contact with them. And they’re dragging a wire as they go.”
“All right, relay this message through F Company right to Regiment.”
Victor looked about as men began to move through the large room. Radio equipment, all of it deliberately destroyed, covered the area. Wires led up beside heavy air systems, still blowing cool, stale air into the room.
There was another iron door on the other end of the room, with an electronic lock. Two troopers were waiting beside it for orders.
“Go ahead, see if you can get through.”
One of the men raised his lasgun, and, telling the other to stand back, blasted the hinges once each with lasbolts. They melted red hot, and while they were pliable, he and his companion slammed their body weight into the door.
The resounding din drew many looks from men waiting outside the command center. The two men fell through, one of them burning his wrist on the red hot metal.
“Let’s move, trooper! Go!” Victor called at him as he leapt over the men into the next chamber. It was a stair well, leading ever further down into the depths of Assok Secundus. He kept the bolt pistol pointed down the stairwell as he called back over his shoulder.
“I need cover, Price, get your men in here!” Faustus was close behind, keeping his laspistol leveled down the stairs. Men stormed down the stairs, weapons always pointing down. Victor could hear their hissed commands and ragged breathing echo as they rounded each corner in the steel maze. The concrete walls were old and rank.
Price looked in the door. “Commissar, it’s the Colonel.”
Victor took the phone. “Go for Vigilante.”
“This is Crusader, I’ve got some intel on your inquiries. Seems this is an old Imperial Orbital Missile silo. The soil above was laced with lead after construction, our scans couldn’t penetrate. But we’re getting some good intel from Orbital, they say the site was abandoned after an accidental detonation in the southern complex, a few hundred miles to south’ard.”
“All right, we’re on our way down what I assume is a stairwell for one of the silos. The rail only led to here though, are there multiple silos?”
“Correct, E Company is investigating the western half of this complex. They report no contact so far.”
“We’ve seen nothing, could they be up above?”
“We’ve heard nothing from the camp, and up here on the rocks, its all clear.”
“All right, we’ll report anything, Vigilante over and out.”
Victor hung up the horn, and kicked a small radio trolley hard. It landed with a loud bang, turning heads.
“Sir?” Price looked at him worriedly.
“I’m frustrated, Price, very Emperor-damned frustrated. Where the hell are they?”
As if on cue, fierce shooting erupted from the stairwell. Shouts of contact rippled through the short-range voxnet. Victor and Faustus leapt back into the well, and began flying down the steep stairs. Men thundered after them, weapons primed and ready.
At the bottom was a heavy blast door. But the shooting was coming from a drilled hole through the concrete floor. Victor dropped down onto the temporary steel ladder propped in the hole.
He emerged into a scene which he hadn’t imagined in the worst of his fevered nightmares.

The whole area was basked in an eerie green glow. Buzzing alien machinery loomed at every perspective. He ran to where he saw his troops fighting, lasbolts whipping back and forth across the chamber. As he ran, the ceiling suddenly shot up, as he emerged into the main room. The chamber itself was about eighty meters by several hundred. The ceilings were invisible in the greenish dark, as was the end of the chamber.
A large band of armed rebels wearing white robes were firing inaccurately at his troops. Behind them was a sea of white-clothed men and women, all groveling towards whatever lined the walls of the chamber.
What alarmed Victor much more than the rebels was that which they were worshipping. Lining each wall was a veritable infinite number of metallic warriors. They resembled skeletons, each clutching an alien weapon. They remained inanimate, but Victor was no fool. He had heard of the Necrontyr before, and he was instantly paralyzed with fear.

Victor Leovild was no coward. He had served the Emperor well at every opportunity, distinguishing himself as a capable political officer at various posts across His Domain. He had fought the Great Behemoth; he had faced the most vile and evil denizens of the warp, and purged the disgusting presence of the xenos threat with confidence and certainty.
However, as he stood gazing at what amounted to over a hundred thousand Necron Warriors, he could not move. He lost all motor ability, and stood staring speechless at what lay before him.
Faustus, seemingly unabashed, merely nudged his shoulder. “Sir, perhaps you should see this. Sir?”
Victor wiped cold sweat off his face, dripping from his nose, as lasbolts whipped by him. “Wha-what? What do you want?” Victor said, but needed no response. He saw the white robed figure rise above the crowd, the gleam of mechanidrites rising above the man like tentacles.
“Oh, frak, that’s him. That’s Magos Mozena Follet, declared Excommunicate Traitoris two decades ago. He was trying to raid Necron tombs…”
Registering just what was taking place, Victor snapped into action. “Faustus, for the Emperor himself, kill that man! He’s going to wake every damned ‘cron here!”
Victor began sprinting towards the crowd, firing his bolt pistol ahead like a madman. Men beside him were fleeing in horror, some clutching their chests and screaming. Others curled into fetal heaps and soiled themselves, whimpering softly.
To Victor, it was surreal, almost dreamlike. Nothing around him was real, he was floating about, the burning impacts of lasbolts on his shins like the bite of a tiny insect.

Faustus lined up the shot, just as the massive crowd sank to their knees. The traitor tech-priest stood alone and unprotected, not even a hundred meters away. Just as the boy’s finger tightened on the trigger, Follet activated the large device beside him. The high-energy lasbolt tore through Follet’s face, shattering steel plating and skull alike, but his augmetic fingers still clutched the runes to his device.

The electromagnetic pulse rippled its way through the cavern, changing frequencies every microsecond. After just under three seconds, the activation code for the entire Necron tomb was attained.

A hundred thousand Necron warriors awoke with a start, grasping their now glowing weapons and stepping off their pedestals. A wailing arose from the crowd, as they ran to greet the object of their worship. They were cut down with barely a glance from the faceless warriors.

Victor knew the game was up. His mission was now to get off world and alert the Inquisition. However, it was much easier thought than done. His head pounded with the EMP pulse, and fear had his stomach in its icy claw. His men were fleeing en masse up the stairs, screaming.
He quickly followed, tailed by Faustus. The boy’s facial expression was unchanged; he took the harrowing situation in stoic silence.
Victor sprinted up the steel stairs to meet Price at the top.
“Whats going on, what the hell is going on?”
“No time, damn it, get out! Now! Everyone out of the silo!”
Victor grabbed the vox horn, now connected to the wire F Company had brought down with them.
“This is Vigilante, all Imperial forces evacuate the tunnels now! I repeat, evacuate the tunnels immediately!” He threw the horn away in haste and began herding the men through the narrow door. He would have used his pistol, but he realized those he was firing towards were also armed.
“Come on, move! Let’s go, get the frak out! Now! Move!” he yelled hoarsely over the hubbub. When he emerged onto the rail tracks, he could see men sprinting up the tunnels, yelling at those on their way down. Behind him, the first screams of the dying assailed his ears. He began pounding his way down the tracks until he neared the tunnel from whence they had entered.
“Lets go! Move it! Come on, come on!” he shouted. A green beam shot past his left shoulder, the soldier beside him disintegrating into gaseous atoms.
“Holy frak!” Victor leapt aside in shock and landed awkwardly on his ankle. Men shot past him, running over him with their heavy combat boots.
Gasping in pain, he arose. He was in between his men and the Necrons, with nowhere to go. Men in front of him were shooting spasmodically behind their shoulders, and the warriors behind were just beginning to emerge from the stairwell.
“Frak frak frak frak!” He began sprinting towards his men, hoping to the Emperor their random fire would miss him. Suddenly he crumpled, his ankle giving way underneath him. There was the ominous crack of bone, and he collapsed in a heap. He gasped and tried to scream, but no noise emanated. He had lost Faustus, and he was stranded, awaiting a certain death.
He managed to rise to his feet as more gauss fire screamed down the passageway. He felt the warm sensation of his uncontrolled bladder against his thigh, and the sticky hot blood oozing from his ankle within his boot.
Stumbling onwards, he realized his men had reached their tunnel without him. He was alone in the passageway, with the Necrons only a few score yards away. Thankfully, they were slow and lumbering, but he found little solace.
Just a few more yards to the tunnel, and he could get out of the line of fire. He tried hopping on one leg, biting his lip till blood was drawn every time his other leg dragged behind.
Crying in pain-tainted joy, he began clawing his way through the tunnel using the dirt wall for support. He had left the concrete passageway, and with any luck, the Necrons would not think to enter this seemingly inconspicuous offshoot.
He could see the light of the hole ahead, about forty yards.

Behind him, he heard a chuckle. He turned fearfully to face this new threat.
Elijah Merchson stood easily, testing the edge of his knife with a finger. He was smiling, looking down at the knife.
“Commissar.”
He smiled as he looked at Victor. He brought the knife up over his head.
Victor brought his bolt pistol up to shoot, but it was knocked from his hands.
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Old 02 Sep 2008, 03:07   #4 (permalink)
Shas'O
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 9,807
Default Re: Entry A - In The Head, Under the Feet

Victor had been stabbed before, it was an occupational hazard, one might say. There were accidents, or getting in the middle of a drunken brawl.
However, he had never felt the unique sensation of a knife in the sternum. It didn’t slice so much as crack and splinter the center of his ribcage, sending sharp bone fragments into his lungs and heart. He would have screamed if his lungs had had any air left in them, but it had all escaped through the gaping hole in the center of his chest. For some reason though, as the blackened, tempered steel pierced his left ventricle, he felt a strange sense of recognition, of affirmation. It all felt so familiar.
Merchson’s face was close to Victors as he put his full weight on his knife. His dry breath washed over Victor’s face as he laughed. Victor could only sputter out blood and bits of his own ribcage, unable to respond. He tried to grab Merchson, but his muscles were dead. Around him seemed to drop a black fog, the Stygian gloom of everlasting rest enveloping his every sense.
Merchson continued to twist the knife into Victor’s chest until it was scraping the spine. He spit on Victor’s lifeless face, and rose.

Bringing his eyes up, he stared down the muzzle of Cadet Commissar Faustus’ laspistol. Faustus tightened his finger, sending a searing hot bolt of light energy into Merchson’s face. What flesh hadn’t instantly boiled into steam was ripped from Elijah’s skull; his eyeballs popped and sizzled as his brain was instantly turned to a liquid state.
His body recoiled backwards, the burnt remains of his head slamming against the dirt walls. His lifeless body crumpled to a heap of gently steaming flesh.
Faustus grabbed Victor’s broken body, and dragged it to the rope. Lashing it to Victor’s belt, he climbed up, and then dragged his mentor up through the tunnel, leaving Merchson to rot under the feet of the Necron warriors.

Lord Admiral Verdonne watched with hooded eyes through the bridge observation deck as the forest world burned. Reflected in his eyes, Assok Secundus fractured and split, as whole tectonic plates were swallowed by the rising tides of magma. The high-energy laser had burned through the crust, sending the equivalent of twenty five hydrogen fusion warheads into the very center of the planet. The resulting catastrophe had burned away the oxygen in the planet in an instant, turning the lush evergreen forests into cinder and ash in moments.
Colonel MacDreff stood behind him, hands behind his back. His hair was disheveled and his fatigues dirty.
“Well, Colonel? Do you have any casualty reports? How’d you make out?”
“The majority of my regiment was lifted successfully off planet, including all Regimental Staff, Company Command sections, and roughly 90 percent of our fighting strength. We attribute these losses to MIA in escaping the tunnel, and not of that evacuating the planet, with the exception of our reconnaissance specialist, Lt. Goodlin. Apparently, his drop vessel failed to locate his unit, sir”
“A shame, of course, they were good men.”
MacDreff fought the temptation to scream out in anger. Here was this pompous D'yime, whose men wouldn’t risk their own skin by looking around for a whole platoon of their comrades, who were unknowingly remaining on a planet about to be incinerated. Like he knew what good men were, thought the Colonel bitterly.
“That’s all, Colonel? Dismissed.”
MacDreff saluted, and stormed off the bridge in a barely concealed tirade.
In his regimental Headquarters aboard the Resilience of the Faithful, MacDreff watched as his staff began moving the sparse equipment they had been able to grab as they leapt aboard the drop ships to ferry them off the planet.
Walking out of the center, he arrived at the row of regimental officer’s staterooms. He walked to the third door down, and brought his fist up to knock on the steel door.
He paused momentarily, deep in thought.
Recovering, he knocked on the door.
“Come in!”
He opened the heavy door. Cadet Commissar Faustus was sitting in a leather chair beside a small bed.
“Faustus.”
He rose, and saluted. “Sir.”
“I’m sure you realize that, what with our situation, Commissar Leovild’s position is now on your shoulders, until his recovery.” MacDreff felt bad lying through his teeth like that, but he felt it was necessary to keep some semblance of hope alive. Imperial medicine could do a lot, who knows? Perhaps they could repair his broken body enough that-
“Colonel, there will be no recovery. And as senior political officer in your regiment, I advise you halt this hopeful rumor spreading immediately. Commissar Leovild was dead before we got off planet, sir, and I’d expect you to act professionally about the matter.”
“Of course, Faustus, of course.” He sighed heavily. “In any case, I’ll need you to begin preparing to address the unit as a whole, reevaluate our situation. Smooth over any rough attitudes concerning the days events.”
“Naturally, sir.”
MacDreff closed the door and began walking towards his own room. The damn kid was heartless. Fortunately, in his profession, that was a valuable asset.

Commissar Victor Leovild woke suddenly, sweating. The remnants of a dream, like the drifting smoke of a smoldering campfire, passed before his eyes. In the vision, a man held a knife, cackling, laughing hysterically as he slammed it into Victor’s sternum.
He arose, and splashed cold, brackish water on his face. He stumbled outside hysterically, still clutched with fear.
Corporal Cedrik was on his way to his watch post when Commissar Leovild burst out of his bunker. The man was a sight to behold, hair messed, clad only in fatigue pants and undershirt. His eyes betrayed the look of a crazy man.
“Sir, are you all right?”
Victor fell to his knees wheezing. “Yeah, yeah sure. Just a bad dream, trooper. A terrible dream.”
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