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Listowski's NightmareBy Andrei Nikolaevich01 IntroitI square up. The wind blows dust into my face but I do not notice. Plasma bolts superheat the air around me and my skin is singed as the rounds pass. On my left lies the burnt out ruins of a Tau hab unit, it's dome styled architecture has been broken by the days fighting. On my right another with it's roof torn off by a missile. Behind me my men inch their way on their bellies through the hail of fire. In front of me a single Fire Warrior gets his bead on me. I raise my rifle to my shoulder. I take a breath and squeeze the trigger. The las bolts impact. They burst through the aliens armor and it falls to the ground. I look over and see Juntz giving me a wicked smile.I am still alive. I rush to the hab at the end of the street and peer out the side. I see a platoon sized group of Kroot."Elias!" I scream as I run for cover behind a civilian alien transport the sob who owned it and his family still inside. Isk runs up the street plasma bolts burning the air around him. He slides into cover next to me VOX transponder already held out and awaiting coordinates. I peek out again and tell him to call in a promethium run on the street adjacent to us. He calls it in as I pop green smoke to mark our position."Everyone keep your heads down! Danger close!" I scream to my men. My men. My Men. They do as they're told as Thunderbolts scream overhead followed seconds later by a wave of fire that incinerates everything in the street. Acrid smoke rises I rush from my cover to the corner of the building that is parallel to the street. I stick my head out the side but the flames are too thick and I cannot see down the street. I order my men to continue forwards, past the burnt out street to try and maneuver at the next junction.There are nine of us including myself. We run in two staggered columns, one on each side of the street. We run past the burnt out wreckages of Tau vehicles, training our weapons on doorways and windows where enemies might be hiding in ambush. To my right Sergeant Trade screams contact and we all scramble for cover. Sporadic fire opens up as I take cover behind a pile of rubble. I look out and see a family of six gunned down by my men. But they're Xenos and my men deserve to go home. I won't feel sorry for them. When were sure there are no others we move up to the back alley the family had run out of. I order Isk and Laos to stack up on me while Trade commands the rest to watch our front and rear. In the distance, in every direction the sound of battle rages, unseen.I get depth on the alley. It's empty but for a small blood trail on the ground. I motion with my hand and we proceed down the alley. We move as fast as we can, the walls are close and there is no room to maneuver if we come under fire. On the other side is a park with a dozen craters gouged into it. Bushes line the perimeter and in the center stands almost defiantly a tree with bright red flowers. It is surreal. Past that there are more dome shaped hab units. All of them have suffered damage of some sort.A group of figures run past the alley exit and I open fire killing one and scoring a hit on another. Sensing that we are vulnerable we sprint to the other side of the alley and emerge amid a group of Tau civilians. Their first instinct is to plead and beg for mercy. Ours is to open fire. We cut ten of them down but another five escape back into a one story hab building that Isk tosses a grenade into. The explosions is deafening and throws dust and rock everywhere. Inside there is screaming and I go in to finish off the survivors. There were children inside. Xeno yes, but still kids. But I have to get them home. I cannot afford to be merciful. Not here, not now.When I exit I find Trade waiting for me. He's already had the men take defensive positions around the hab unit."Sergeant were about a half a click from the LZ, I want your men in a skirmish formation advancing across this square." I tell Trade. He's my only friend, the only man who will help me get them home. He believes like I believe."Aye Staff Sergeant." Is his only reply to me. He turns and barks out orders. Trade is a brute of a man. Standing at 5'11 he is made of steely muscle without an ounce of fat on his body. The men love him, and they listen. Only Lemanski remains. He looks into the building and then back at me. I know he doesn't like it anymore than I do. But I have to get him home.The squad gets in formation and begins moving from cover to cover through the park. I place myself with Isk, Laos, and Meade. The ground that isn't smoldering from the earlier barrage is covered in green patches of grass. As we move something on the ground catches my eye. It is a bluish hand sticking out from the ground. I bend down and touch it to make sure the owner is dead. The motion saves my life. A sniper round passes over my head just as I bend down. The round hits the ground beside me and my squad hits the deck. At first we don't know where the sniper is but when he shoots again Kurtz spots him and fires an AT rocket as the squad laid down suppressing fire. The rocket impacts the building blowing a man sized chunk out of the side of it. We don't stick around to see if the sniper has been killed, I order my men to make a mad dash to safety.When we reach the end of the park I make a quick head count. I count nine. Including myself. I order the men back into staggered columns and we proceed parallel to the park towards our objective. The LZ. One step closer to getting them home. All of them. We make our way through the cities governing district. Bodies of guardsmen, Tau, and Kroot stand testament to the fierce fighting that had erupted earlier during the Xenos counterattack. From where I am I can see a tall building, the ethereal ruling house, that marks the location of the LZ. We proceed cautiously, rifles at the ready until we are sure that the Imperials' hold the area. I look around the corner and see sand bag fortifications and Leman Russ battle tanks. I don't allow myself to breathe a sigh of relief.Standing around the compound are several guardsmen. I call out to the men who tell me to come forward and I do, bringing my men with me.
Ne Cede Malis
02 KyrieWhen I deem the area secure I tell my men to get a few minutes rest and they all collapse wearily to the ground. All except Trade who joins my side as we continue our way to the CP bunker. For a moment I feel compelled to order my men to follow. One look at them however and I brush the notion aside. I scan the area as we walk. The compound isn't impressive. Two tanks and a handful of Chimera sit idle. The perimeter is made up of a mix of sandbags and concertina wire, with heavy bolter emplacements every fifty feet. Beyond the CP I can make out a refueling station for aircraft. Briefly I wonder if some of the men and materials here could have aided us during the last battle, but the bodies scattered about told me that the compound had probably been in as dire straits as we'd been.Having satisfied my curiosity I turn to Trade."How are they holding up Sergeant, they have food, water?" I ask. It's important that the men stay hydrated. My fatigues were drenched in sweat and a steady stream of sweat dropped from my chin. Trade was no better. Food was important, but not as important as the salt it contained."They're low on food but they've got two full canteens each." He replies stoically. No emotion. Just like me.The CP is a sandbag enclosed dungeon that blocks out most of the light. Here and there intelligence personnel scurry from one side of the bunker to the next carrying data slates. I look around for our company commander and I spot him sitting at a desk consulting with another officer. I approach but do not salute. I hate this man. By the look he gives me he knows it."Listowski, you're here good, load your men onto...Stormbird U-291. You'll be transported about fifteen miles north of here to reinforce third platoon. They're setting up an ambush for a Tau convoy that's been spotted coming in from the east about fifty miles from here." For a moment I want to reach out and strangle the man. We'd just been caught in a running battle for three hours that saw most of first platoon annihilated. Why the **** was third platoon fifteen miles to the North? On the inside I rage and scream and gnash my teeth, but my face remains neutral. I turn around motioning for Trade to follow. He throws up a quick salute that isn't returned before catching up with me."Sergeant, go get 'em. Have each one drink a full canteen and eat a meal. And see if you can scrounge up some las packs and grenades. I want each of them to have at least three.""Roger that staff sergeant." He replies as he runs off to enact my orders. When he is out of sight I make my way to the make shift motor pool and spot a lone Stormbird with two pilots sitting idly on the birds lowered ramp. The serial number on the side read U-291. I call to the pilots and they respond by telling me to bring my men up and get ready for transport. They say it will start bumpy. They say it'll end violent. I nod my head and tell them well be ready momentarily.The two pilots proceed to the cockpit and start the engines. I wait by the ramp for my men to return. The wait is short, in a few minutes I see Trade come up with the squad. By their faces, their posture I know they are exhausted. Lemanski is not joking. There is no bickering between Juntz and Laos. I catch Kurtz pocketing the picture of his daughter as he walks. Trade and Elias keep pace with each other exchanging knowing glances. Meade is Meade. Isk is tired from carrying the VOX, he constantly adjusts the straps.They board the Stormbird without complaint. I join them, sitting down on the bench inbetween Juntz and Elias. I look them over. I know they are weary, that they hurt, that they're scared. I am scared. But not for myself, for them. I have to get them home but I can't do it without their help. The men need inspiration, motivation, a figure they can trust. We strap ourselves in as the Stormbird takes off. In a few minutes we will be in combat again. I will have to lead again. To kill again. I take hold of Juntz's hand with my left, Elias' with my right. I bow my head and the others do the same. Outside the smoke of Inone city rises up like the great funeral pyres of old. We are killing this city. We are killing life itself. The fires are a testament to the death we bring. To the horror. The hunger of the monsters in ourselves."In the name of the Emperor do we beseech thee, Oh' Sethal, Patron Saint of Soldiers. Let us not be harmed by rifle or blade. Stay the hand of the Mutant, the witch, the heretic, the Xeno, and the traitor. Guard us from faithlessness and protect us from doubt. Give us the strength to be righteous and the wisdom to be right. Let us be just in our minds, let us be noble
in our deeds. May the Emperor protect us. Amen.""Amen." They all say in unison. I know I do not have to brief them, that Trade would have already taken care of explaining the specifics of our mission. I look them over. They are each different, their own man. To lose any would be a travesty, a sin against mankind. Elias is tall and lanky, made of steely muscle and iron will. Meade is short man with few teeth and of a light character. He is what others would call ugly, but they cannot see that he is beautiful in spirit. Kurtz is old, balding, his eyes tell a tale that no one wants to hear. I do not flinch from his gaze. Lemanski is young and idealistic, he will change by the end of this war I know, he will be hallowed out, turned to a shell of a man. Isk has been with me since before Longs Reach, the desperate battle that left my old regiment devastated, he resents Lemanski, he used to be Lemanski. Laos and Juntz are both new but they could not be more different. Juntz is a pretty boy, a noblemans' son. Laos is from a commoner family, he is vicious in heart and mind.Down on the streets below I see the bodies of Tau, warriors and civilian alike, strewn across the city. My mind begins to wonder but I stop it. I have a duty I cannot, cannot, cannot stray. I must tread this path. Even if it leads to insanity and death, I must stay the course, for them. I make the sacrifice gladly.
Ne Cede Malis
03 Dies Irae
We disembarked near a large recreational building a quarter mile from the ambush point and rendezvoused with third platoon. Lieutenant Crife an evil bastard of a man is commanding the ambush. He took into consideration how few we were and decided that we should move up to the street adjacent to his position, in case the Tau tried to flank us. I acknowledge his orders and before we leave he gives us three ATL weapons. They are one shot weapons but I am grateful for the help. I take my men a hundred yards north of the Lieutenant’s position and set up on the end of a street full of dome shaped hab units of varying size. I split the squad into teams of three, Trade leading Elias and Meade, Lemanski with Laos and Isk, myself with Juntz and Kurtz.
Trade takes his team the farthest into the street, concealing themselves in a single story hab unit with a broken wall on the West. I take my men into a small café, forty feet from Trade’s position and set up. With my peripheral vision I see Lemanski’s team disappear into a two story hab with a caved in roof at the end of the street. Each team has been armed with one ATL, a useful anti-tank weapon that can be fired from indoors without worry from back blast. If the Tau rolled on us with armor then they’d be our saving grace, but the shots had to count. Of course we couldn’t know that the Tau would even come down this street, it was a matter of guesswork.
Almost an hour later we hear gunfire from down the street. I peer out of the second floor window at Trade. He is asking for orders, I signal for him to stay put. If the Tau tries to flank we have to stop them here. Fifteen minutes after the shooting starts I see our targets. Moving down the street is a column of Tau vehicles, a Hammerhead followed by two devilfish. I say a swift prayer to the Emperor, the Hammerhead alone could probably take two ATL rounds before going down, maybe three, but that would leave none for the two transports and however many troops are inside. I make eye contact with Trade and with a nod he tells me he knows what to do. I move into the next room and gaze out the west window and signal to Lemanski to wait until the Hammerhead has passed me to open fire. He responds by giving me a thumbs up and disappears from sight.
I sneak one last look outside, they are still coming. My choices, my decisions, my men, I pray are enough. I grip the ATL tight. I am afraid to lose them. Blood is trickling down my hand.
We take our positions at the windows as the column flies past. A moment after the hammerhead passes a deafening explosion erupts from down the street. I pop out of the window and aim down the launcher’s sights. The Hammerhead’s main weapon has been disabled and its starboard engine is damaged. The Devilfish behind it having swerved to avoid a collision crashes into a hab building. For a moment I am not sure where to aim. A second later the Hammerhead turns to bring its weapons to bear on Lamenski and my decision is made. The rocket screams into the gunship’s side tearing a huge gouge in the armor and finally laying the beast to rest. A metallic scream from up the street and a moment later a rocket rams into the crashed Devilfish’s port engine, killing it’s mobility but not its troops.
The ramp of the second Devilfish slams open and a platoon of fire warriors rush out only to be scythed down by Trade and his team. I am dimly aware that those who are not killed are running into my building. From below I hear the door being kicked in and my two comrades exchange worried glances. I look outside for a moment to see more fire warriors egress from the damaged transport. I duck back in as shots whiz past my head. I hear footsteps coming up the stairs. Thinking quickly I take two grenades and slide over to the door, opening it wide enough to toss the grenades down. I see yellow armor, and my heart is steeled. I throw the grenades down as Kurtz and Juntz open fire on the wall killing the Xenos on the other side. I slam the door shut as the grenades explode on the bottom floor amidst screams of pain. I order Juntz to stay and provide cover fire while Kurtz and I clear the ground floor. We arrive, finishing off the few wounded Tau as they scream in agony, blood pouring from their malicious wounds. Not now, I tell myself. Outside the transport tries to maneuver as I see Trade boarding from the rear ramp. From inside the hab I cannot hear him kill the pilots. We run outside into the cover of the transport as Trade rushes back outside. He acknowledges me with a grin and signals for Elias and Meade to put fire on the Tau’s position. Trade tells me that almost a dozen fire warriors are still dug in around the first Devilfish. Above me the second floor of the hab I was just in explodes and I die a little inside. I unhook a grenade, Trade and Kurtz following suit and we hurl them over the transport and into the Tau ranks. The explosions hurl dirt and rock into the air that showers down on us as we turn to make our advance. Elias and Meade run parallel to us laying down covering fire on the few Tau that are able to fight. I watch as the they return fire cutting Meade down as he runs for cover. I want to scream, I want to beat my fists against the ground, to cry, per chance to die. But I can’t.
Lemanski’s team is still suppressing some of the Fire Warriors as Elias acts as a diversion. I order Trade to ready another grenade. We wait until the explosion and then rush in. We charge from two directions Trade taking Kurtz right as I make my way to the left. The first thing I see when I turn the corner is a Fire Warrior attempting to raise himself up. It sees me and holds out its hands. I shoot the Xeno in the face. I look up and see two more warriors gunned down by Kurtz. For a moment it is quiet. I look around me, tears and sweat dripping down my face, but there are no enemies left. We sweep the area before I call it clear. I order Trade to secure the area as I run back to the hab that Juntz was in. I rush up the stairs leaping over the bodies of the fallen and into the fateful room. He is there, lying motionless on the ground, pieces of him scattered about. I bring my hand to my mouth to stifle a cry. I vomit. I turn back into the stairwell and collapse. My decisions, my choices. I begin to cry.
“Staff Sergeant! We’ve got a situation out here!” Cries Trade from outside. I wipe the tears from my eyes and put on as stern a face as I can muster. I force myself up and go outside.
“What is it?” I ask while walking towards the Hammerhead, though as I approach my question is answered.
“Prisoner, interesting kind to Staff Sergeant, seems we got ourselves a traitor.” He replied, the contempt in his voice palpable. I look my enemy over. Her armor is dented and punctured in places, her breathing is hard and she is afraid. She is young. She is also human. I am a little taken aback at this turn of events. As I make my way to her a Guardsmen appears from the outside of the street and asks how we held up. I reply that we sustained light casualties. He nods his head, tells me to bunk down for the night and runs back to the Lieutenant’s ambush point.
I return my attention to the prisoner. She is pleading with us in Gothic.
“I surrender, please don’t kill me.” She says. I remain silent. I notice Laos and Isk have arrived. I ask about Lemanski but they say he’s still up in the building.
“Please, I was just, it was for the good of all mankind, for peace.” She continues her begging.
“Hey Sergeant I have an idea, Laos says indicating the prisoner, I say we rape this bitch until her ****ing pussy looks like the inside of a meat factory and then I don’t know slit her throat and leave her here.”
“I second that idea.” Isk says nonchalantly. The girl flinches at the words and looks to me. She is begging me. But Juntz and Meade are dead, maybe by her hands. And I’ll never forget Longs Reach. No, I say to myself no mercy, not for her. I hate her. I despise her for all that she is and stands for.
“Elias take these two set up a perimeter, Kurtz go grab Lemanski tell him were staying here for the night. Sergeant grab this kid and follow me.”
“Aye, Staff Sergeant.” He replies. I walk to the back of the cafe that Juntz died in. A small consolation that she'd die with him.
“Please by the Emperor I don’t want to die, don’t do this, I’m begging you.” She begs but I don’t listen. I pull my sidearm from my holster, put it against her head and pull the trigger.
Click. She flinches and begins to cry.
“What the fu- Throne.” I say as I check the charge and pull the trigger again. Another click.
“Emperor damn it.” I say as I remove the power pack, replacing it with a fresh one. She is sobbing now, the tears coming down in great torrents. “Here Staff Sergeant take mine.” Trade says as he proffers his pistol to me. I take it gratefully holstering my own and put the pistol against her head. But the weapon malfunctions.
“Is the safety off? I mean I cleaned it this morning. ”
“It’s off. It’s the ****ing sand all this sand jams the ****ing weapons.” I try again, and again, and again. By this time she is sobbing loudly, calling out to the Emperor to save her. I hand the pistol back to Trade, pull out my knife and slit her throat. It takes a moment for her eyes to go dead.I look down on her corpse. This was not righteous, this was not right. I will not remember this as a noble deed, I will not recount this for my children as an act of justice.
“Well there’s reason number 22 I never made the Commisarriat. Can’t pull off a simple ****ing execution, goddamn.” Trade says letting out a hoarse laugh. I look at him and am forced to smile. I’ve committed a grave sin somewhere along the line but I don’t care right now.
“You know Trade, state were in, were not gonna make it to heaven.”
“Yeah, no shit, Staff Sergeant.”
Ne Cede Malis
04 Tuba Mirum"Staff Sergeant we've got another situation." Says Elias as Trade and I walk back from around the building. I want to collapse and go to sleep. I want to shed a tear for Meade, I want to go home."Make your report Corporal." I look at him wondering what news it could be."Lemanski has a Tau kid up there, real young, can't be older than five I'd say. Found it hiding in a closet during the firefight." I stare at him a look of comical puzzlement written across my face. "You're shitt- "Sergeant get a grave detail, bury Meade and Juntz, I'm gonna go see what this is about." I motion for Elias to follow me and I make my way to the hab. There are bodies of Tau warriors scattered around, I wonder how many of them are human behind the masks. None, I say to myself. As I walk I hear Laos ask Trade if we'd killed the traitor, he replies in the affirmative.The hab is shattered, the walls perforated, inside are several Tau who tried to assault them, cut down as they entered the building. I am making my way upstairs when Lemanski calls out."Sergeant?" He calls, his voice sounds urgent. "No." I call back as I continue up the stairs and enter the room he is in. I see him tending to a young Tau whose left arm has a piece of wood sticking out of it. It cries as he pulls the large splinter out of it's arm, immediately blood begins to flow from the wound. He covers it with a bandage. "Any particular reason?" I ask waving at the Xeno. I consider Lamenski my friend whether he knows it or not and I'm pained by his actions. The child has to die, whether this very minute or two decades from now, it will have to die. I know why he can't see that, he is young, still a good man. His wife would be proud of him. I am proud of him."Fights over, Staff Sergeant she's not a threat. She's just a scared kid, during a firefight I can understand we have a duty to take no chances, but this is not one of those times. Battles over we won...we can be merciful.""And if we find another one? What then are we gonna start an orphanage, raising little Xeno orphans to be upstanding Imperial Citizens? Not sure if you've noticed but Imperial Creed says we kill those things. Right or wrong doesn't come into it, its our job, we do it, we go home." Elias is no killer I know, but he speaks with a reason and understanding born from over a decade of service. But I am not completely convinced.I look at him with pity filled eyes, "What're you gonna do with that thing? Raise it? Be the parents we just killed? Better it just die now, painlessly than live like us, with us." He cradles the child as it weeps, wrapping his burly arms around the tiny creature. For a moment my heart is moved. He looks up at me from his spot on the floor and his eyes tell me he'll not abandon the child. I don't want to kill the Xeno and he knows it. I waver. Elias says nothing, content in my decision. I order Lamenski to follow me and he obeys taking the small child with him.I return outside and call my men over. They huddle around me and I look at each of them in turn. Seven instead of nine. I have failed. I almost choke up but they are here and I can't let them see. That I love each of them more than my own beating heart. We sit on the burnt out carcass of the Hammerhead as I explain to them my orders. Once they are finished paying their respects to Juntz and Meade they are to occupy the hab that the first devilfish crashed into. I tell them to drink water and eat a meal. Most of all I tell them to rest. They respond with various grunts and go on they're way. The child gets a few awkward glances but no one says anything. They're too tired to care.When they are all gone I wonder back into the hab where Juntz died and cry. I promised them, I promised, I promised, I promised. Oh Throne not again, I can't do this again. I grit my teeth and punch the blackened wall with my fists. It isn't fair, they shouldn't have died it was my fault. My decisions, my choices, me. I killed them with my orders just as surely as I'd killed that whore with my knife. I curse the Guard, the madmen who order us into these insane wars, the Xenos I fight. I pound my head with my fists. Why, oh God-Emperor does this have to happen again? Haven't they given enough. Haven't I given enough. I'm tired of being merciless, of being evil, of being a monster. I want to be good again. But I still have them. They are still counting on me to get them home.I have failed Meade and Juntz I know. But I can't break down, not yet. I have to persevere for them, for the rest of my men. The ones who are still alive and still counting on me to pull them through this nightmare. I swear to myself I will. That I won't fail again. That they'll see their homes one last time. Even if it kills me.I stand up, my strength not renewed but my determination doubled. I take a deep breath, wiping the tears from my face and step out into the fading sunlight.
Ne Cede Malis
05 Rex TremendaeWe stand guard outside our garrisoned hab amidst the broken bodies of our enemies. I lean against the smoldering husk of the rear devilfish, Kurtz but a foot from me.
Tracer fire stitches across the starry night sky. From where I stand the horrible death they represent is replaced by an illuminescent beauty that is awe inspiring to behold. I glance over at Kurtz, the lights reflected in his eyes reveal that he too is entranced by the display. I look at my chronometer: 02:17. I put my hand on his shoulder gently shake him out of his trance. Our eyes meet and I do not look away. In the distance a furious explosion lights the city for a moment before fading into the gloom.
I turn, eyes to the ground walking towards the hab where my men dwell. I walk through the entrance my image cast to the ground as another detonation lights up the sky. I climb the stairs to the second floor turning into a hall with a window at the end. I walk to the only room opening the door as silently as possible. I am the thief in the night. I scan the room, the only one awake is Trade, his eyes following my every movement. I motion for him to keep quiet. I tread lightly to my target, Lamenski and his Xeno child. They are both asleep, the smaller of the two curled up by his side. I creep closer, I dwell in the shadows. When I reach them I place my hand gently on the Xeno's shoulder and wake it up. It is not startled but certainly it is frightened. Uncertain of whether to call out the creature looks to it's sleeping savior. He sleeps soundly unaware of my deception. I put on as gentle a smile as I can and taking the Xeno by the hand lead it away from Lemanski.
I leave my men to their slumber making my way down the stairs Xeno in tow. It's a small unassuming figure dressed in a bluish bloodstained robe. It's skin is of a lighter hue than it's robes with a texture as smooth as the fabric it wears. For a moment I hesitate, but I cannot be lenient. Not now. We exit the hab the Xeno casting a longing glance back before continuing. Again a bright glow in the distance, this time accompanied by a faint rumble. The child frightened by the sound rushes to my side. By the throne I don't know if I can do this.
Kurtz is waiting for me by the devilfish. He gazes upon the child at my side, a cold foreshadowing in his eyes. The xeno is petrified of him and clings to my pant legs. I kneel down next to the child grabbing it's attention and point up to the flurry of lights dancing across the sky. I soothe it with my lies and for a moment it's fears are forgotten as it witnesses the majestic beauty that is my war. When I feel that the child is enraptured by the spectacle I move behind it, unsling my rifle and shoot it in the back of the head. The sound is muffled by another rumble many miles away.
The child drops instantly, painlessly, without ever knowing the horror of what we are. I am a monster. I am worse than evil, complacent in it. Kurtz needs no order. He goes to the childs' lifeless body and scoops it up. He is going to hide it away so that no one will ever know. Tomorrow when Lamenski finds his child missing we will guess that it ran away in the night. How it got past any of us will be a mystery never solved.
I find solace in the knowledge that I had no choice. The child would have got in the way, would pose an unnecessary risk for my men, Limanski especially. And even if we got through this war with the child in tow, what then? We could not sneak it aboard a troop barge and if the Inquisition ever found out there would be hell to pay. No, better to kill the child quickly and painlessly now then let it be dissected alive on some Mechanicus operating table. Better to end it's suffering and steal away any chance that it might undergo the horrors we would most certainly visit upon her. It is a small mercy, but a mercy nonetheless. I could not let her endanger my men. I lead them. I must make the choices that send them to their deaths or save their lives. Never again, never again will I take a chance.
Kurtz returns and for the first time I flinch at his gaze.
Ne Cede Malis
Another warning from me (there's a lot of these going around aren't there?), this chapter has a very explicit conversation which due to it's nature will probably get me in some kind of trouble, and I suppose I owe an explanation before hand. I wrote the conversation in question as a way to kind of show the relationship between two of the characters. I believe that the very explicitness of the conversation coupled with its lightheartedness is a perfect example of the kinds of bonds people develop when working together over extended periods of time, some of which could be considered a non-sexual intimacy. Moreover this isn't exclusive only to war, but applies to all professions, even if these bonds are stronger in wartime as opposed to peace time. If a moderator has a problem with this piece once again I will take it down no questions asked.06 Recordae
I wake up Elias and Isk so that they may stand guard for the rest of the morning. Kurtz goes off into a corner and takes out the picture of his daughter. He holds it delicately, as if he is afraid he might damage it somehow. I go off into a corner of my own and begin to pray.
First for David Listowski. Then for Ellen Listowski.
Then for Devlin MCcormick, John Cage, Midas, Corporal Sage, Linow, Private Jints, Mikhail, Sergeant Macis, Michael Dunn, Jacob, Private Ceol, Igy Tantz, Holloway, Private Wesley, Sergeant Gorn, Lev, David Powell, Evan Braks, Sarah Likes, Staff Sergeant Tenet, Hawking, Mikalis Novelle, Cais Fotz, Sean O' Brien, Lance Corporal Braddis, Addicus, Poole, Jimmy Kibe, Kinell, Corporal Ralin, Private Whilkey, Sergeant Olov, Sidel, Bill Juntz, Mike Meade. Traitor Woman. Little Tau Child...
I awake several hours later, a single ray of sunlight seeming to have found my eye through the smallest crack in the hab. I'm slightly amused by this. I gaze upon the world once more. Laos, Kurtz, Elias, and Isk are all asleep scattered throughout the room. I pull my aching body from the floor and walk to the window. Carefully I peer outside, noticing Lemanski and Trade in cover behind the Devilfish. Every few moments Trade sticks his head above the wreckage to make sure nothing is sneaking up on them. Lemenski is sulking. He looks for all the world as if he's just heard that his mother died from plague or the likes. I feel guilt, but only for a moment. Whats done is done, and it was for the best, never mind if it was wrong.
I make my way to the guarding duo, shielding my eyes against the sun when I step out. The morning heat is almost unbearable. At least it's not raining, I think to myself.
"Sergeant, Lemanski, morning."
"Morning Staff Sergeant, fine day ain't it?"
"Indeed. Lemanski where's your Xeno, it wasn't in the room. Gotta keep that thing close if you're gonna keep it. What's more I don't want that thing getting picked up by her friends down the street and revealing our position." Trade gives me a slightly amused puzzled look during my speech that Lemanski thankfully doesn't see.
"I don't know where she went Staff Sergeant, I think she ran off during the night. Last I saw her she was asleep, right next to me. Must have ran off." He says dismally, eyes refusing to meet mine.
"Shit, ****, alright this is bad. Lemanski go wake everyone up. Get Elias and head down to Crife's position ask em if they've spotted any little xenos running around. Last thing we need is someone divulging information about us."
"Aye Staff Sergeant." He hurries off but stops, "Staff Sergeant what if third platoons' got her?"
"I'll get her back for you Lemanski, promise now just go. And get some water and ration packs while you're down there!" I wait until he disappears into the hab then turn to Trade.
"Trade, was that really necessary?"
"You are a devious little bastard!" Trade says laughing. "We gonna go on a S&R mission around here Staff Sergeant." Just then Lemanski and Elias appear out of the building, wave, and make their way down to Crife's position. I wave back and watch as the two disappear.
"Maybe, if you keep acting like a dumb ass. By the Emperor, I've gotta get a new job." I say with a smile. There's a reason I keep this man around.
"Mmm. You could I don't know try whoring yourself out to navy pilots, some of them are even women! Can't beat that. Shit, haven't had anything more than my hand for the last, what two months now?"
"You're asking me this, why? I keep track of who rides your dick?"
"What you haven't, damnit you said you would-"
"I did? Throne I'm sorry-"
"Sorry doesn't cut it Staff Sergeant how the hell am I supposed to figure this shit out, I mean do you even know who I slept with last?"
"Wasn't it your sister?"
"She's six years old."
"And you have a two foot cock, how does that work?"
"It's a messy thing, lotta blood, lotta screamin, but it works out in the end."
"What does your mother say to all of this?"
"Oh, well she just referees. You know. Kind of a-"
"No, no, I understand it's you know completely understandable me and my sister oh yeah all the time. She has this thing about giant black dildos though, gets a little sore, but you know."
"She use those vibrating ones?"
"Ooh those are the worst."
"Not as bad as those giant ass plugs, those are bad. Throne just strike us down now, save us the trouble!
We continue until we're rolling on the ground laughing. I laugh so hard tears come to my eyes and my side begins to hurt. It hurts so much. After a few minutes we get back into character and leave to get the men.
I assemble the squad outside and do a quick headcount. I feel better despite yesterday and I manage a sincere smile for the men. They are all saddened by our loss, none more than I, but I can't think of them anymore, I have to care for the living still. Years from now, I'll have to wait.
I am in the middle of giving out the specifics of our search and rescue mission when Elias and Lemanski come running like two bats out of hell down the street.
"Staff Sergeant!" Elias calls out. "They ****ing left us!"
Ne Cede Malis
"They what?" Isk yells in disbelief.
"Calm down, did you check the streets adjoining streets?" Trade asks impertinently.
"Empty, Lamenski even called out, no one answered, theres' no one over there."
"Well what the ****...throne."
"Did someone tip them off?"
"Lemanski where's that ****ing kid of yours?" Isk asks accusingly.
"I don't know-
The men are beginning to panic. I exchange a worried glance with Trade. If we've been left behind...
"Elias get on the VOX and raise somebody." He responds with a speed born from years of practice. "Pale Horse. Pale Horse. This is Omega. Please respond. Over."
"Trade get em ready to travel!" I say as confidently as I can. "You heard him, Kurtz, Elias go back down there check everything again. You three grab your kits and get your asses back here." Trade barks out my orders in the efficient manner that I've grown to expect from him. Maybe Crife was...
"No ones picking up Staff Sergeant." Elias calls out. "**** it. Elias grab your kit were heading back South towards the LZ. Any luck they're still there." Luck. Luck. **** You. I Hate You.
Fifteen Miles. I can do it. I can get them to safety. No doubt. No hesitation.
"First squad form up! Staggered column!" I yell and they rush to get in formation. I do a mental check of the things we need: Weapons, ammunition, water, food. Trade had taken Isk and Laos early in the evening yesterday to gather supplies, so water wasn't a problem yet. Every man was armed and we'd taken the las packs from Juntz and Meade, may the Emperor rest their immortal souls. Food was scarce. We'd just have to suck it up.
"Kurtz! Take us South!" I order and like that, were off.
We hug the walls as we run. Careful of any enemy that may have slipped into our midst during the night. We race past Crife's ambush point and I note the large number of bodies there, Imperial and Tau. I ignore them, they are not my men. The moment we are past the ambush site it is forgotten, I must focus. We have fifteen miles to go. My mind cannot wander. I can hear Elias behind me, his light footsteps. I can see Kurtz in front of me, his every movement carefully measured, graceful.
We run down deserted streets marked with the touch of war. We pass bodies in varying forms of decay, left to rot in the sun. They won't suffer that fate, that ignominy. I promise. Destroyed buildings, burning wreckages. All the panoply of war that we rush past. We've ran for almost twenty three minutes. Twelve miles. We are getting closer. I cannot waver.
The sky is clear, the cruel sun burning down on my neck, my throat is becoming parched. I ignore the pain, it cannot help me now. In the sky the sun moves high into the sky concealing our shadows and perhaps those of our enemies. A noise to my right and I point my rifle at the sound, Isk has tripped but he is up again. I tear the weapon away and resume my search.
Nine miles. We have been running for almost an hour. Laos is beginning to lag, I will him to keep up.
Seven miles. I order a halt, a five minute sabbatical. I order them to sip water. Elias tries the VOX again without any luck. We resume our death march.
Six miles. I do not remember this. The devastation here is total. Bodies lie everywhere. We pass the husk of a Leman Russ tank and my heart almost skips a beat. Do not falter, do not let the stacked odds dissuade you from your duty to them. I shall not give in to the dark! I shall not let my body rest until my task is complete! I shall shun no labor, I will bear any shame, I shall not fail. This I swear unto Him.
Five Miles. They are My chosen, my few, my finest!
Ne Cede Malis