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Hello, here is the first part of a little story I've been working on. It stars a imperial guard unit as they make their way through the jungle after a disastrous attack on an Tyranid position. Its currently incomplete but I figured I'd post what I have so far up for people to enjoy and critique.
Isaac stepped forwards, taking care not to step on any of the many twigs and obstacles that littered the jungle floor. The tropical heat was almost unbearable, he paused briefly to wipe the sweat from his forehead. Something rustled in the bushes. Isaac spun round, training his lasgun on the disturbance.
Out of the corner of his eye he could see Ben move up in support. The bushes moved again, then a blur darted out and ran away from the approaching soldiers. It was just a bore-rat, one of the many creatures indigenous to this planet. Ben gave me a nod and moved on. Isaac blew a sigh of relief and relaxed his itchy trigger finger.
"Seeing ghosts Isaac?" remarked Reed in his usual derogatory tone.
"Shut up Reed! You trying to get us killed?" snapped Sargent Cormac, who was leading from the front, machete in hand. Him and Douglas were trying their best to clear a path through the thick vegetation that made progress slow and tiring. Reed had always been a rotten son of a grox, even in this situation he never missed an opportunity to take a stab at someone.
Isaac was on edge. This whole mission had gone drastically wrong from the get go. His platoon, the 23rd Haneul rangers had been tasked with making a diversionary attack against the Tyranids to help buy time for the rest of the army group to retreat through the jungle to the neighboring defenses that outlined the fortress city of Mariaburg. However it was they, not the enemy, who had fallen victim to an ambush as they had blundered into a fierce living wall of teeth and claws which had proceeded to slaughter many of his comrades and split the force up as they fled for their very lives. They'd already lost a few members in the route, whether they had been killed or lost in the confusion wasn't known. Well its not like they were in a position to do anything about it in any case. The sergeant had decided to make a break for the platoons Chimera transports which were hopefully still at the assigned area. If they had caught wind of the disaster and had high tailed it out of here...
A brightly colored bird was rosed from its perch high in the trees as the soldiers picked their way carefully through the foliage. It flew away, squawking. Everyone froze and took up a combat stance as the sound echoed throughout the jungle. Quietly, when they realized there was no danger, they went back to the business at hand. The jungle was eerily silent, as if every living thing had suddenly vanished. It had been buzzing with life, alive with sound just a few hours before as they had made their way to the staging area.
Abel Marwood moved closer to me. He gave a nervous smile.
"Bad situation we got ourselves into, huh?" he whispered, not wanting to draw the attention of Sergeant Cormac. Well that was the understatement of the century.
"You can say that again, this whole mission was a death trap from the get go," Isaac said, making sure to keep his voice equally low.
That was nothing new he thought, bitterly. There had been a string of badly planned offensives in the recent months that had lead the army group nearly to the brink of destruction. He could almost believe that his platoon had been sent in merely to act as cannon fodder, that high command had known what would happen but didn't care as long as the Tyranid advance was slowed even for a few hours with the blood of himself and his comrades.
"So Isaac, what are you going to do when we make it back to camp? I'm going to visit madam Lisa, after I hit the card tables to earn some green."
"Well at least you have your priorities straight."
"You need to keep thinking of the things you have to look forward too, otherwise you'd go insane with all the stuff we have to deal with."
Issac wondered at the mans ability to keep a straight face while saying that, but he guessed that every person dealt with the horrors of war in a different way. Himself? He just made sure to thank the emperor everytime he made it back to the mess-tent in one piece.
Sergeant Cormac sent Ben on ahead, to make sure that they didn't wonder into any waiting monstrosities. Ben Marshall was the squads scout. A serious man of few words who had a businesslike attitude to his duty. Well at least he could feel a little safer with him keeping watch out front. Ben readjusted his glasses, checked his webbing and then proceeded to disappear into the jungle.
Cormac's unit traveled for another 30 minutes without incident. Occasionally they would hear some scattered gunfire in the distance or the wailing of some unseen animal but for the most part, the only sounds they heard were their own footsteps and heavy breathing.
Cormac held up a hand for them to stop. Everyone spread out, searching for good positions in order to cover all possible angels of attack. Issac found a nice fallen tree to hide behind. The small of rotting wood filled his nostrils but he'd gotten used to a lot of unpleasant things in his time here. A rather large flying insect landed on a branch up in one of the trees. Ugly thing Issac thought, with its bright orange wings and misshapen design. It started to clean its limbs when one of the nearby plants growing on the trunk shot out a fleshy harpoon which skewered the bug and pulled it towards it. Issac cringed. I'll be glad when this whole sorry mess is over, the jungle is no place for a hive regiment. Blood sucking bugs, poisonous plants and the constant background noise had driven many soldiers to curse this deployment.
He glanced over his shoulder. Cormac was talking to the squads communications trooper, Jenkins. Cormac looked agitated, whatever he was being told, he sure didn't like it. A few moments passed, before Cormac snatched the mic off Jenkins, barked something down to whoever was on the other end of the line and then stalked off.
"Alright ladies, seems that our ride is about to take off without us. That means we need to double time it before those transport jockies get cold feet."
Everyone shuffled back towards where the Sergeant was standing, some lingering to take one last look at the shadows between the trees just to be sure.
"That means now!," he bellowed, "Get moving, and keep your eyes peeled. I'll not have any of you mess things up even further!"
They started off at a brisk pace, which isn't as easy as it sounds in terrain such as this. Issac tore his shirt on one of the many protruding branches, one of the other guys even fell over flat on his face though one dark look from Cormac stopped anybody from laughing and they quickly resumed their journey. He swore under his breath.
At least he didn't break the skin. He'd seen a few people catch an infection from just a careless scrape which could prove fatal without the right treatment.
Issac hoped Cormac knew where he was going, this stretch of jungle looked almost identical to the countless other areas they had passed. Just the same endless vines, plants and trees that stretched as high as the eye can see. It almost seemed as if the jungle had swallowed them up and wouldn't let them escape, that the green canopy above acted as some kind of prison.
"Halt!" Cormac yelled as he held up his hand to those behind.
The squad came to an abrupt stop. Abel was just to Issac's side, trying to catch his breath.
"What is it this time?" he mumbled under his breath.
"I can hear weapon discharges up ahead Sargeant," said Holden, who was one of men out in front.
"I'm well aware of that trooper," he spat. Cormac turned around and searched for Jenkins. He ran a hand over his gray hair.
"Jenkins, get over here and raise the transports. The rest of you, split up and establish a perimeter, now!"
Jenkins hurried over while the rest of the men fanned out. Issac could hear it more clearly now that the background noise from their march was absent. The distinctive wine of las blasts could just be heard over the horizon mixed with other sounds that he couldn't identify. Something roared. It was distant just like the gunfire, but there was no mistaking it.
Several of the guardsman exchanged nervous glances. Douglas was closest to him, Issac could see the man was pretty jumpy. He was still bleeding from a slash on one of his forearms which had been hastily bandaged up, blood ran down his arm onto the ground below. Hopefully the smell of blood wouldn't attract any unwanted attention. As if he could sense his thoughts, Douglas looked in his direction.
Issac gave him a nod which after a few seconds was returned.
"Hows your wound buddy?" asked Issac.
"Feels like crap, what do you think?" Douglas grinned.
"Nah, its not that bad, See?" Douglas tried to raise his arm but winced in pain.
Issac reached into his pouch and pulled out a pain stim, which he handed to Douglas. Its not as if he needed at the moment, better to give it to whoever needed it. Who knows, he may even save my butt today, so it might turn out to be a smart investment.
Issac returned to his watch. Nothing moved apart from the gentle swaying of the leaves in front of him. Some movement drew his eyes to the grown where some insects were scurrying about. At least they weren't totally alone out here.
Something else caught his attention. There was something else moving out there, something far larger than an lowly incest. Issac raised his lasgun to his shoulder, aligned his eye with the rifles sights and slowed his breathing. Issac always felt that in this state, the weapon was an extension of himself, that it was his instrument bringing his own personal vengeance to the enemies of the imperium and his continued existence.
The dark shape was becoming more visible now, mostly because he could now tell that it was heading straight towards him. Had he been spotted? Possibly, though he had made sure to blend in with the dense vegetation as best as he could. His finger gripped the trigger tightly, ready to press down with just a little more force at a moments notice that would send white hot beams of death towards his enemies.
He whispered to Douglas and then, when he had his attention, nodded in the direction of the shadowy figure. Douglas nodded back and started to crawl over to a nearby patch of bushes, in order to get a better angle at whatever was approaching.
The figure pushed past some giant sized leaves and ran into a small clearing. He could see now that the figure was human, wore guard issue fatigues and carried a lasgun. He strained his eyes to make out the mans face, by the emperor, it was Ben Marshall!
He signaled to Douglas to hold his fire, and then formed his hands around his mouth. He mimicked the warning call of the Kuula bird which would only be recognized by someone who grew up on Haneul. He called again, this also alerted the rest of the squad to the potential danger. He saw Ben adjust his course to followed the sound. Issac lifted his hand just above his green shelter and waved him over.
Ben got a foot on the crest of the ridge, and jumped down so that he was standing besides Issac. He was breathing heavily and struggle for a few moments to speak. The man looked spooked. It was very strange to see the normally businesslike and serious Ben reduced to such a state, but then again, everyone had their breaking point.
Finally after readjusting his glasses he looked up at his fellow soldier and managed to sputter out a single word which turned Issac's heart to ice.
"Tyranids?" Issac asked. "Where?"
No sooner had the words left his mouth, he started to see shapes darting amongst the plants and shrubs. Ben saw the shapes as well, and it drove him into hysterics.
"They were waiting for us. Near the rendezvous point, they jumped me. I managed to outrun them, came spiriting here but they followed me. They're all around us, everywhere!"
The shadows in the jungle continued to move forward. You couldn't actually see them very well in the thick jungle cover, just formless ghosts, but from the way that the vegetation stirred, as something brushed past them you could tell something was out there.
Ben pointed at them.
"You see! They followed me, the monsters followed me all the way here. They're not going to get me!"
Ben raised his lasgun and began to fire on full auto into the endless expanse of the jungle, in the direction of the approaching silhouettes. Looming pink and green plants were blasted apart, great leaves rich with moisture were cut to ribbons. Things which had taken years to grow were destroyed within the space of a few seconds.
Sargeant Cormac and a few others rushed up in support. Guns held ready, scanning for any hostile sign. Ben emptied the power cell in his lasgun and went about the automatic reflex drilled into every guardsmen of changing it out and storing the spent clip in his belt pouch, for later use.
Silence fell. Nothing stirred apart from the fragments of plant life that were falling back to the earth after the onslaught.
Cormac slung his rifle over his shoulder, he looked directly at Ben with an annoyed looked. "What the hell are you firing at soldier?" Cormac boomed. "You'd better have a real good explanation for not reporting in at the assigned time and advertising our position to every damn bug within this entire jungle."
Ben was still scanning the dark spots in between the trees, as if he expected something to jump out.
"Hey, I'm talking to you soldier! You'd better start answering my questions or the phantoms out there will be the least of your troubles."
This time, Ben looked up after another brief look around. He looked more like his usual self now that he was with the rest of the unit.
"The bugs sir, they're ahead of us. They jumped me but I managed to escape, ran all the way here. They followed me, I'm sure of it. They're out there all right."
"Ahead of us? What about the convoy?"
Whatever answer he was about to give was cut short when a almighty scream rang out from behind them. It was Holden.
It took Issac just a second to piece together the grizzly picture in front of him but it felt far longer. A sharp javelin shaped limb was sticking out of Holden's chest where it had been rammed through with inhuman strength. It belonged to one of the common Tyranid beasts that were used as cannon fodder by the hive fleets. The beast streaked as it cast its gaze at the remaining imperial guardsmen, pulled its scythe from Holden and ran back into the forest before anybody could pull a trigger. Holden gave a gargled moan as blood formed in his mouth and his lasgun fell to the floor along with its owner a moment later.
"Damn hell spawn!" roared Jasper, who fired in the direction the monster had traveled.
Hesitantly, Jenkins went over to check on Holden, his weapon held at the shoulder.
"Spread out, cover all approaches!" yelled Cormac.
Ben, Douglas and Issac stood watch in the direction of the convoy. Issac's palms itched, he swallowed hard.
No matter how many times he saw them, they still surprised him with how alien, how wrong they looked. They stood on two feet, were green in color (though he had been told they came in a variety of colors and forms) and had two intimidating long blade like arms as well as a head full of teeth to tear and rend anybody or anything they came across. Some of them had ranged weapons that spat acidly death at soldiers or even maggots that ate people alive. That's not a way for a soldier to die thought Issac.
They stood alert and waited, ready to blast anything that dared to show its face out in the open. The forest was still and silent as a cemetery with only the rustling of the leaves and the faint calls of the few remaining insect to break the quiet. That's what the Tyranid bugs do here, they lie in wait, ambush you when you least expect it and then hide back in the shadows of the vast all encompassing jungle.
Commissar Kleg had briefed the regiment just before the start of the jungle campaign, back at headquarters, saying that the Tyranid scum was devious and without honor. "They had thrown away their usual tactics of rushing into the cleansing fire of our glorious weapons and had instead adopted a habit of sneaking around combined with cowardly surprise attacks against the emperors brave soldiers. Be on your guard men!"
A far cry from the earlier battles in the built up areas around the capital where you couldn't see the ground in amongst the vast hordes of the enemy.
"I got movement here, Eleven o'clock!" called Wilhelm.
"I see them too." confirmed Abel.
"Everyone stay at your positions!" yelled Cormac. "These bastards could pop out anywhere, keep all avenues of fire covered or it won't be the Tyranids that kill you!"
Not long after that the attack began. Abel and Wilhelm started firing at the gaunts as they emerged from the treeline. Two of them were hit by accurate fire as soon as they left the safety of the green plant cover. Their screams echoed around the tall trees as they madly thrashed around on the floor, their foul ichor seeping from their wounds into the soil. Still more followed behind, showing no concern at the fate of their siblings.
It took all of Issac's training and experience not to tear his eyes away from the empty scene in front of him and rush to aid the battle going on just a scant distance away. If he left his post there would be a blind spot in the squads defenses which could be exploited.
Douglas placed a hand on his shoulder which snapped him out of his thoughts. He nodded towards one of the broad trees. Issac couldn't see anything special for a few seconds before he noticed a number of leaves twisting in the wind as they fell to the ground. He cast his gaze upwards and gasped. Sneaky buggers. He could just about make out the forms of Tyranid creatures climbing in amongst the canopy overhead. They were moving slowly, clearly taking their time in order to not be seen. Well it hadn't worked.
"Good eyes you have there, Douglas," Issac whispered.
"Single to Ben, then we will light these monstrosities up."
Douglas grinned and singled to Ben. After he got his attention he casually pointed upwards. Ben's look of concentration left his face the instant he laid eyes upon the guants and twisted into an expression of horror and revulsion. He immediately sighted his lasgun and opened fire without even a look back at Douglas for confirmation.
He struck one as it was reaching across for a branch, it lost its grip and fell to the jungle floor below. Another was killed outright by a lucky head shot.
Issac and Douglas followed suit and added their fire to the onslaught, killing many Tyranid organisms before they realized what was happening. Still, it was hard to pinpoint enemies in the treetops. Their green skin acted as the perfect camouflage combined with the many large tropical leaves and greenery blocking line of sight.
Issac spotted a creature climbing down a tree truck, he sent three successive shots of energy hurtling through the air which all hit home, causing it to plummet downwards, crashing through the endless layers of branches and vines as it did so.
Issac fired at any movement, any shifting in the thicket, confident that it betrayed the presence of a gaunt.
Something moved in the corner of his eye, the tall green stems of plants were being pushed aside as something moved between them. He shifted his gaze downwards and was horrified to see a gaunt only a few paces away from him. It was wounded, he could clearly see burn marks scarred across its body and strange colored blood which stained nearby plants as it passed them but even in this state the single minded instinct to kill drove it onwards. Curse him for taking his eyes off the ground. It hissed at him, drool dripping from its open mouth as if it could sense the impending slaughter.
It pounced on him before he could get a shot off. It barreled into him, knocking him off his feet. He fell on his back with the gaunt on top of him, its weight pressing him down into the muck of the jungle floor. Issac brought up his lasgun and managed to brace it against his chest, pushing it against the gaunt's arms in an effort to keep those sharp dagger arms away from him. It screamed in fury which was deafening when they were practically face to face, and thrust down, driven on by bloodlust now that its prey was so close.
One of its sword arms scraped across the barrel of his weapon, cutting the back of Issac's arm in the process.
Spittle from the Tyranid's open maw trickled down on Issac's face. Its head lunged at him, its jaws snapping shut just inches away from him. He cried out in desperation, kicking out with all his strength, putting everything he had in holding the beast at bay, for if he didn't it would be the end for him.
He could see those black, almost lifeless eyes staring down at him as he wrestled for his life. Issac jammed up the lasguns barrel and pulled the trigger repeatedly. Even though he couldn't get the right angle to actually shoot the gaunt, the close proximity would still cause heat burns. The Tyranid's assault slackened for a crucial moment as the beams of lights singed its flesh, giving Issac the chance to grab the hunting knife from his leg sheath and plunge it into the side of the beasts head.
It reared up in pain, madly flailing in all directions, chopping apart everything around it. As soon as he was able to, Issac threw himself away, trying to get some distance from his attacker. He held one hand out to steady himself as he landed, then losing no time, he scrambled for his weapon which was now caked in mud.
As he turned to fire the Tyranid was struck repeatedly by las-blasts, the blinding flashes lighting it up as its body jerked as the force of the impacts hit it. It collapsed, dead at last.
It was Douglas who had killed it. The whole ordeal had only lasted a few seconds but it felt like an eternity to him. Douglas held his hand out and pulled Issac up. No words were exchanged, thanks could wait for later, they still had a job to do.
Issac resumed firing, picking off a few more that had gone to ground. The stench of the dead was almost overpowering when combined with the tropical heat but he blocked it from his mind and instead focused on the methodical routine of aim and fire, aim and fire.
They cut down those few on the ground that remained before they could close any further while keeping their eyes peeled for hidden enemies approaching above.
"Ah, I'm hit, I'm hit!" someone called.
"They got shooters out there!"
"Keep your heads down men!"
That last voice was from Cormac.
"Pinpoint where those hell spawn are firing on us!"
It was Macallister who was hit. Issac could see a cruel looking barb which was sticking out of his thigh. More barbs were scattered about, dug into the ground around the squads perimeter. Several more spines zipped overhead and pieced a tree trunk behind them. A strange whining sound marked the passage of the rounds through the air.
Macallister winced as he pulled the barb free from his leg and threw it in anger in the same direction it came from.
Have it back, scum, he thought.
"I got em, north of my position!" yelled Reed. His guff tone instantly recognizable.
Sergeant Cormac reached down and plucked a grenade from his webbing, he indicated that Reed should do the same with a outstretched thumb.
"Listen up! As soon as the blind grenades go off I want everyone to race towards that great hardwood tree over there by that rockface, got it?"
There was a chorus of "Yes sir!" which briefly drowned out the hammering sound of gunfire.
Issac shielded his eyes at the last possible second, just as the munitions left the hands of those that threw them. Wanting to keep the suppressing fire going for every crucial moment he could to avoid any more sneak attacks.
A trio of grenades exploded, the sound deafening, the bright blast bathing the jungle in a few seconds of intense light.
And everyone was up, rushing towards the rockface, hugging whatever cover they could find as they went. Cormac was leading the way, snapping off shots on the move.
Someone was shouting, but it was impossible to see who with vision blocked by the countless Auburn trees plus the many vines which hung down between them.
Issac, Ben and Douglas were the last ones to join the fray as they were positioned the furthest from the break out point so they had settled back into a rearguard action, making sure nothing was following them.
"Right, Issac, Ben, lets get moving."
Issac picked off a Tyranid that was trying to crawl under a overturned tree trunk, Ben was still firing wildly. Once he was satisfied that nothing could be seen moving he nodded to the others.
"Lets get out of here, now!"
Wow, a solid A story in my humble opinion.
i preffered the storytelling perspective and the human feel of the overall storyline. In fact any story that embraces true human feelings and emotions in a very inhuman and twisted universe seems to me at least to be the most compelling kind.
Bravo my good sir
Good read. I agree with Mushin that a story that has human feelings in it makes it better to understand and connect with. Reppy for you.
Thanks guys. One thing, I'm having problems coming up with new names for trees and bushes.
"He ran past the tree."
"The trees rose high into the heavens."
When you're in a jungle it makes it difficult
Wow, I felt like I was there. You've given just enough hope to make me think maybe, just maybe they'll get out of this one. Plus Isaac is my youngest brothers name so Im hoping he kicks some ass.
Green iz da' BEST!
Orkz is made fer' two fings! Fightin', and winnin'!
Describe it like the leaves are close, the foliage/plant-life is dense and tangled etc. Jungles are also dark because of the tree canopy and they are also very hot and humid.
You could try to do an area such as the Guardsmen enter a swamp which will give you new things to describe like water, wet leaves, mud, quicksand etc. I did enjoy reading your story, however I do hope the bugs eat a few more Guardsmen if you continue it.