“Kensin! Private Kensin!” the voice sounded distant to him as he blinked his eyes open, and saw Specialist Grenor’s shaggy face over him saying something.
“Private Kensin! Can you hear me?” the somewhat older man said, his voice seeming to focus.
“Yea yea, I hear you.” Kensin said as he grabbed his head groaning, he had a splitting head ache and felt suddenly nauseous as he rolled over, throwing up with a retched gagging sound.
“Stay still private, let me look at that head.” Another voice suddenly said, and looking around Kensin saw Medic Rin, a small scanning instrument in his hand.
The medic put the instrument up to Kensins eye, peering into it and gently felt his head around the crown. Turning Rin put the instrument into his pack and pulled out a bandage, wrapping Kensins head tightly. The pressure helped alleviate the headache a little bit.
“Here, swallow these two pills, they will help with the pain. You don’t seem badly injured, just knocked on the head pretty hard. Lay here for a couple minutes and then get up slowly, I need to see to the rest of the squad.” Rin nodded to Grenor and got up, shouldering his pack.
After a few minutes, Grenor helped Kensin to his feet. He felt some vertigo for a few seconds but quickly recovered. Looking around, he saw the burning wreckage of their Valkyrie transport and about twelve other people. Three of them were covered in their blankets. Kensin groaned a little and shook his head. Grenor recovered his longlas and handed Kensin his lasgun. He took it, throwing the strap over his shoulder.
The squad was on the way to reinforce an outpost as a dedicated scouting unit, flying over the densely forested Dragons Peninsula to the outpost, one of three that protected the port on the far side. The company had been doing missions like this for a few months now. Many units in this campaign needed dedicated scouting forces hunting down a Chaos cultist faction that sprang up and who have taken to the woods, harassing Imperial forces until about a half year ago when they went on the offensive fully. Their tactics were gorilla in nature, but they have been ramping up lately and full scale battles have taken place. The Lord General decided it would be best if they go on the offensive as well, hunting down ammo caches, and vehicle depots in the thick, ancient woods. Thus, the 17th was dispatched by Inquisitor Lord Kregorus to help hunt down the Chaos cultists. Thus, also why they were now here among the burning wreckage of their valkyrie. They took a missile while flying over these forests. The aircraft managed to make it ten or more miles though before crashing, saving them from being captured instantly by the cultists, but only for a short time.
“Fall in on me troopers! Lets move it! We’ve wasted enough time here as it is!” Sergeant Dremmond yelled, waving his rifle in the air so all could see him.
“Listen up, we are currently 20 miles from the outpost. I know for sure we got company coming our way and so we need to get out of here quickly. We can make it to the outpost in two days if we move it.” The sergeant explained.
“What about Elsa, Frand, and Torbin sir?” someone asked.
“Rig them. Let our fallen comrades get the last laugh by taking a few of those vermin with them. We move out in 30, get to it.” Dremmond said and went over to talk with Medic Rin.
No one was happy about using their comrade’s bodies as bait, but this was common practice with the unit. Everyone wished it upon themselves if they were going to die, so they can know that even in death they served a purpose. A couple specialists began rigging the bodies as the rest got stretchers made for the injured and tied them down to them.
“Grenor, bet you we got rear guard. I got two packets of caff.” Kensins said to Grenor.
“Is that so? I got a bottle of Crazy Juice says we are point.” The sniper said with a grin.
“Kensin! Grenor! Grab a stretcher and follow Rin!” Sergeant Dremmond barked.
The two blinked and looked at each other.
“Move it troopers!” he barked again and the two took off after Rin, nodding to each other.
“Draw”, they said.
Grenor and Kensin grabbed the stretcher of Specialist Elrin, the units Melta Gunner. Kensin slung the cumbersome, large weapon up over his shoulder and picked up the grips, looping the security straps over his shoulders to help support the weight. The specialist looked fairly bad. He was missing an eye and a hand off his left side, and his leg didn’t look like it would make it. Amazingly the man just grimaced in pain, and somehow gave Kensin a grin and a wink.
“Looks like I will be getting friendly with Tess when we get back I think?” he said, groaning. Tess made most of the cybernetic replacements for limbs that the soldiers lost. She was very good at it.
“Yea, who knows, maybe you’ll hit it off.” Kensin replied with a wink.
“Yea, that’ll be the day. Don’t feel offend if I decide to shut up now.” Elrin replied, trying not to laugh so as not to hurt himself further.
The squad took off into the thick forest, moving as quickly as possible between the trees and underbrush. They traveled for about an hour before they suddenly heard three distinct explosions form behind them deep in the trees. The cultists had obviously fallen for the trap. Kensin grinned and said an old prayer under his breath for the fallen. They kept up a good pace for another couple hours before stopping for a quick rest. Medic Rin walked among the injured, checking them over. Luckily no one else was so badly gone enough to die from their injuries. Elrin was the worst off but was perfectly stable. Rin gave him some more pain pills and a tissue reconstructor. A pill that facilitated an extremely quick reaction to healing. It easily cut 75% of the time required for an injury to heal. It was used to help seal wounds quickly and stabilize people who could bleed out. Difficult to manufacture now, they were hard to come by.
After 5 minutes the squad continued on. Grenor and Kensin put the straps of the stretcher back over their shoulders and moved out in the middle of the squad. They moved quickly between the trees for another 3 hours, well into the dark. They stopped for a couple minutes then and Kensin fished out his Darkvision Visors. The whole squad was given some and everyone decided it was a good time to use them. Darkvision Visors used to be more common place back on Adventus. Almost all special operations teams used them. They allowed the wearer to see perfectly through the darkness of night time, and incorporated a range finder and thermal imager.
“Alright, set up a defensive perimeter, we camp here for the night. Myself, Grenor, Rin, Jer, and Qase will take first watch. Everyone else be ready and sleep with one eye open.” Sergeant Dremmond said.
Kensin placed the Melta gun down next to Elrins stretcher, along with his pack and went over to the tree Grenor was using as cover and sat on the other side, covering his friends blind spot. They sat there silently, a few sounds of the injured moaning now and then was the only thing that cut the silence. After two hours they thought they heard a crunching and then yelling.
“I don’t like the sound of that….you see anything Grenor?” Kensin whispered as he set up his rifle, looking down the sights.
Grenor bent down, looking through the sites of his longlas. And shook his head, “No, nothing.”
Out of the darkness he saw several figures moving among the trees. It was obvious they were out in a long line, searching. It didn’t appear they knew where the guardsmen were. Dremmond keyed his voxbead and whispered, “Contacts, stay low, maybe they will pass by us. Reserves, get into positions slowly.”
The ones not on watch slowly crawled across the ground into position, lasguns readied. The cultists slowly made their way towards their position. It was becoming more and more evident that a conflict was inevitable. Suddenly, one stopped and seemed to…sniff the air.
“Do you see that Grenor?” Kensin asked.
“Yea, is he sniffing the-uhoh!” Grenor exclaimed.
As he said that Kensin saw the head of the Cultist snap towards the Guardsmen’s position and let out a high pitched scream. This scream was quickly picked up down both ends of the searchers lines, and they began shooting towards the entrenched troopers.
“Why do we never have it easy?!” Private Jer yelled, opening up with his lasgun.
The night burst into chaos. Tracers and red laser lines leapt through the forest, between the trees. Small shrubs began to burn as the energy crisscrossed over them and through them. Kensins lasgun cracked as he fired it in bursts into the cultists. The high pitched, deeper whine of Grenor’s longlas joined Kensins Lasgun. He saw cultists fall to the ground, hit in the chest or head. Lines of return fire from enemy lasguns danced over their heads and several rounds burned into the tree trunk they were using for cover, causing smoking, smoldering holes. The men and a couple women yelled all around him as they fired into the night. Smoke began obscuring their vision, and making them cough as the woods started to smolder and burn more.
“Damned fiends keep popping up! There’s no end to them!”, Kensin yelled as he changed his battery pack. From the smoke, Kensin heard a horrible screeching and scrapping of metal, and a great metallic roar.
A massive metal beast suddenly tore itself through the smoke,huge, taloned claws tearing trees and plants from its path, and great spider like legs propelling it forward. Kensin and Grenor dove back from the tree as it exploded from the impact of one of these claws. The two rolled to the side suddenly to avoid the second claw, slamming down into the dirt and soil, the impact throwing up a cloud of dirt onto them. The beast reared back to slam both claws down with a loud shriek when a blazingly bright beam of energy, so brilliant it made Kensin and Grenor tear their Darkvision visors off, struck it in the chest. The energy beam cut through the beast like butter and out of its back. The machine staggered to the side and toppled over with a sound of screeching, complaining metal.
Amazed Grenor and Kensin looked back and saw Elrin, his meltagun propped on top of their packs, his grin from ear to ear. They nodded and gave him a thumbs up and rolled to their feet, crouching under the fire. Cultists jumped from behind the smashed tree they were just using and leapt at Grenor who stepped back and fired from the hip, the heavy energy beam catching a cultist in the chest, stopping him cold and knocking him back. Kensin saw two running at him through the brush and he sprayed his clip out into them. They caught the energy bolts in the chest and shoulders, jerking and falling to the ground. Instead of reloading, Kensin let his rifle fall to his side on the shoulder strap and pulled his revolver, sending two rounds into a cultist charging toward his side, and another two at a cultist prepareing to shoot at him, the second round hitting him in the head, knocking it back on his shoulders before he collapsed.
Looking to his left, he saw Grenor fighting off a chaos crazed enemy with his longlas, holding it like a stave and deflecting a wickedly curved blade. Kensin was about to draw his blade and jump to his friends aid when Grenor suddenly deflected a blow, and sent the heavy stock of his rifle into his opponents face, knocking the man to the ground, He stepped up to the chaos soldier, and kicked him down with his boot before shoving the muzzle of the longlas into his chest and pulling the trigger.
Around them the fighting seemed to be dieing. Rin had a cut up one arm, Dremmond lost two of his fingers, two other troopers were dead, and another had a long gash down his side. Rin was attending to this last injury quickly, trying to stop the bleeding and applying a foam instant bandage to the wound. Dremmond winced in pain as he wrapped his hand in a clean bandage and barked orders.
“Get your fraking gear and lets move! MOVE MOVE! Lets go!” he barked.
Grenor and Kensin got their packs, Kensin slinging the melta gun over his back as they hefted Elrin up. The Specialist had lost consciousness again so Kensin gently prodded him awake and handed him his newly reloaded revolver to the man.
“Erin, try and keep an eye out around us, if you see anything, just shoot in that direction, we will get the hint.” He said.
The squad moved quickly, almost running between the trees, heading in the direction of the outpost. They knew the chaos forces were right on their heals. As they crossed a ravine, Elrin yelled something and fired towards their right. Suddenly red las bolts erupted into the squad, a bolt round streaking through Private Jers’ head, the man dropping like a puppet with its strings cut.
Grenor and Kensin dropped to the ground, easing Elrin down as easily as possible but he still groaned in pain. Kensin pulled out the melta as he saw a large figure charging at them. Twice the size of a man, and as burly as an ork, he roared like an animal with a massive axe. The brilliant beam of energy jumped out of the gun and burned straight through the chest of the mutant, incinerating a couple cultists using him as cover, dropping him instantly. Grenor fired twice, dropping two more with rounds to the chest.
Grenor was bending down to look through his scope when a las round suddenly broke through the optic and burning past his eye and cheek. Grenor screamed in pain, dropping his long las. This saved him as another bolt flew over him as he fell back, hitting specialist Qase in the back, throwing him onto his face in the mud, the energy round having burrowed into him, killing him almost instantly.
“Medic! Rin! Medic!” Kensin screamed, keeping himself down and pulling Grenor behind a tree. Grenor held his hands to the burned remains of the right side of his face as he groaned in pain, grimacing.
Kensin turned and aimed from behind the tree, firing in short bursts at the cultists in cover around them. Grenor rolled over and crawled towards the melta gun, hefting it up with several groans of pain. Turning he set it on the side of a downed tree and twisted the focusing knob down.
“Time to feel the Emperors immortal light you sons of –“ Grenor was cut short by the high energy whine of the meltagun without a focuser. A wave of energy rolled out into the woods in front of them about 30’ across and going for almost 100’. Everything in the path was burned, the dirt glassing. This lasted for only a few seconds as the battery depleted.
Kensin had covered his eyes so as not to be blinded. When he looked up the cultists were retreating again. The battery on the meltagun opened, and ejected the core with a hiss and steam onto the ground. Grenor slammed a new one in and slung the gun onto his back. Groaning and gingerly holding the right side of his face. Looking around Kensin saw they had lost Qase, Jer, Corporal Telrin, and even Sergeant Dremmond, the grizzled man riddled with las bolts.
“Get your stuff and lets move!” Kensin yelled. With both the Sergeant and Corporal Telrin dead, the squad was without leadership so he stepped up. They only had Rin, Grenor, Yosen, Wit, and himself left, plus the wounded Elrin, Janks, and Gas. Correction, only Elrin and Janks, it appeared a stray round hit Gas squarely in the head.
Again the squad got their things together and took off at a run into the forest. They knew they probably couldn’t survive another encounter with the cultists out in the woods. They were growing tired, and low on ammo, while they all had wounds of varying degrees. Grenor was using the last battery for the only functioning special weapon. Kensin had picked up Grenors long las, and could use that but the barrel was over heating and it was down to its last clip.
The squad ran straight through the rest of the night. As dawn broke they came to a stream and took a break. Yosen and Wit plunged their heads into the clear cold water while Kensin drank the last of his water in the canteen.
“Ammo check!” Kensin yelled hoarsely.
“Last clip!” Rin said.
“Last battery.” Grenor mumbled, holding his eye.
“I got one extra clip.” Yosen and Wit both said.
“I got one clip for the longlas, and I am on my last for my rifle, my revolver is out.” Kensin said, checking himself.
The squad ate a small breakfast quickly and gathered their things. They were about to continue on when Kensin suddenly had an idea. The creek basin they were in was deep, and almost 50 feet across. The creek currently was only about a foot deep.
“Grenor, I have an idea, follow me. The rest of you get up on top of the other bank.” Kensin said.
Grenor and Kensin followed the creek for about 100 yards till it came to the side of a cliff face it had carved in an adjacent hill. Kensin studied it for a few moments before turning to Grenor, “Give me the charged battery, I am going to blow the side of that cliff face and dam up this creek, it should stall them for a couple hours.”
Grenor nodded and handed him the melta gun. Fishing out the battery pack, Kensin went over to the cliff face and shoved it into a crack, and ran back across to the other bank Grenor was waiting on. Taking out his lasgun, he turned up the power and took aim at the battery pack. The gun cracked, and the side of the cliff exploded outwards, rock and dirt streaming down the cliff face into the stream. Kensin and Grenor weren’t watching though, they had already begun running back to the rest of the squad. A few minutes later they were all running for the outpost as the stream backed up with water, turning a gentle stream into a 30’ deep, 50’ wide river.
After an hour or so Kensin stopped and took out a map, looking it over. The map was horribly detailed, and Kensin could only guess at their whereabouts. He figured they were now only 5 miles from the outpost and still heading in the right direction. Turning around he looked over the depleted squad. They were haggard, with circles beginning to appear around their eyes. All of them were breathing hard, but they looked determined. None of them wanted to be killed by their most hated enemy, because they knew if they died now, their bodies would be mutilated and used by the cultists.
“We only have five more miles. We can make it.” Kensin said, nodding and putting the map away.
The sun began to break through the trees as morning drew on. The massive trees began to become more plentiful, the squad having to skirt around many of them. They made good time but were obviously slowing down. After a couple miles Kensin knew they had to stop and eat something. He called a break and they tore into the last of their rations packs, devouring them like hungry beasts. Rin checked on the squads troopers, making sure none of them had anymore serious injuries before walking over to Kensin and Grenor as they sat against a tree trunk, Grenor holding his ruined right half of his face.
“If we don’t make it to the outpost by the afternoon I fear for our health. We are out of water and food, and if we run into the cultists again we will not survive. Janks is dead. His wound tore open and he bled out without my noticing” He said somberly, shaking his head and sitting down with a groan.
“Damn it. Elrin seems fine luckily. We are only a few miles out now. We should make it in another couple hours. We don’t have a choice. We have too.” Kensin said, nodding and putting the wrappers of his meal into his pack.
“Alright, pack up, let’s get moving, only a couple more hours to go.” He said to the squad, grabbing his lasgun and shouldering the longlas.
Kensin let Yosen shoulder Elrin with Grenor as the squad got moving again, a bit more quickly now they had had something to eat. It energized them a bit and will hopefully allow them to make it the last few miles. They moved quickly, death following on their heels. Tired to the point of delerium, they still ran. The Adventus were survivors. Living through countless wars, and the death of their own world, there was little that could truly defeat them, and their spirit was indomitable. The squads bodies may be giving in slowly, but their spirits were difficult to shake. If the enemy did catch up to them, they would pay a great sum to take them all out, and they would have to as the Adventus fight to the last.
Two hours of jogging and marching, and three miles behind them they broke through the tree line to stand atop a rocky outcrop. Yosen droped to his knees, disbelief on his face, while Rin just sat down against a tree, looking out over the orange glow of fires below them. The city and its defenses burned. The Outposts were thick columns of smoke rising into the air. Grenor spat on the ground, a look of sheer hatred on his face while that hatred began to boil in the belly of Kensin. The forces of chaos had overrun the outposts and were ransacking the city. They could see firefights in the streets from their vantage point. The Imperial defenses were crushed, obliterated.
“Kensin. I knew when I woke up yesterday, that this day? This day was going to be a bad day.” Grenor said, adjusting the bandage and grabbing his long las before sitting on the edge of the outcrop, working the destroyed optics of the top.
It was difficult to break the spirit of the Adventus, but it was not impossible.
To be continued...