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The Valkyrie jolted as it released from the transport, stars whizzing by the window as it rolled away. Atlan gripped his lasgun tightly, his carapace armor unyielding against his body.
This was his first experience in combat. His platoon’s mission was to reinforce the perimeter established by the drop troops in their grav-chutes. From everything the lieutenant had told them, there was already an intense battle raging on the surface below. Although the defenders were surprised by the assault, they reacted with characteristic swiftness.
The drop ship began to shiver as it hit the upper reaches of the atmosphere, jolting everyone inside out of their reveries. Atlan saw his squad mates begin to check their weapons and equipment. Big John nudged him.
“Check the charge on your weapons and make sure your armor and equipment is on tight, you don’t want to lose that dirtside, probably not gonna get resupplied for a while.”
Atlan nodded as he began fumbling with his gear. Big John was a veteran of dozens of battles and had long outlasted the life expectancy of a guardsman. He had befriended Atlan on the transport only weeks ago, looking out for him when the other guys were giving him a hard time and showing him the ropes.
A green light began blinking inside the cabin, showing that the air outside was breathable. The sergeant at the front of the cabin punched a control that opened the side doors. Air rushed inside, drowning out all other noise. The sergeant showed three fingers and yelled something unheard over the noise, signaling three minutes to landing. Atlan peered out over the floor to the ground screaming by below as they passed the perimeter. Red lasblasts flashed among the muzzle flashes of heavy bolters and autocannons, trading fire with the blue pulse rifle rounds fired by the Tau defenders. A massive explosion lit the ground as the generator of a Leman Russ detonated violently from the impact of a missile.
The two Vulture gunships escorting the Valkyries swept by the opening, opening fire on an alien vehicle and strafing the ground with heavy bolters and autocannons.
“Thirty seconds!” the sergeant yelled, more audible now over the slowed Valkyrie. Everyone stood, Atlan stumbling a bit as he found his feet, terrified of what he might find when they landed. Grabbing the handrails above, he, along with the rest of his squad, prepared to disembark. The sounds of the battle grew louder as the craft slowed and approached the landing site. It was a large plaza, once grand buildings now appearing as rubble after the ferocious assault by the Imperial Guard.
The Valkyrie jolted again as it touched down. Suddenly, blue flashes filled the cabin as the hull was riddled with holes. Blood sprayed Atlan’s face as men fell around him. The sergeant began yelling, “OUT, OUT, EVERYONE OUT NOW!” Atlan was shoved from behind by one of the other guardsmen. He tripped on a body, looking up just as five stealth suits rocketed into the air. He picked himself up as quickly as he could, horror registering on his face as he realized that the body he tripped over was that of Big John. He didn’t have time to mourn however as he was hustled on by what was left of his squad. The stealths had killed four of his squad, wounding another in the arm, his first taste of combat tasted foul in his mouth.
They linked up with the rest of their platoon, other squads sporting casualties themselves from other stealth suit teams. They ran to where the drop infantry was crouched behind rubble, occasionally popping up to fire at an exposed target. The arrival of the forty guardsmen boosted morale greatly. As the heavy weapons teams began to set up, the rubble exploded, throwing Atlan to the ground.
As he picked himself up, his ears ringing. Shaking off his dizziness, he saw most of his platoon on the ground, many torn apart by the railgun round, others, like the heavy weapons team, were simply vaporized. Suddenly, as the hammerhead moved out of the way, dozens of fire warrior flooded through the opening, crisis suits jumping easily over the rough barricade. Atlan raised his lasgun to his cheek, sighting down the barrel just as his drill sergeant had taught him. As he was about to pull the trigger, a blast of pain ripped from his stomach to his brain.
Dropping his weapon, he stupidly fingered the wound a pulse round opened in his stomach. He fell back, his mind numb except for the pain. He was grasped firmly on the shoulder as a shadow was cast over his face. He looked into a blue face above him, the large eyes that dominated it were strangely sad as the green armored figure slowly slipped a slim knife from a sheath on it’s thigh. He said something is a fluid tongue, unrecognizable to Atlan as the knife was plunged into his body.
The last thing Atlan thought as his world began to fade, “I never even fired my weapon.”
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