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  1. #1
    Senior Member 40Kgreybeard's Avatar
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    Jun 2004
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    The jungle was hot on Diego Ra.
    Veteran Sergeant Cross. He liked the sound of his new title, but with his promotion had come the special assignment to this miserable planet. Scout armor lacked the environmental controls of the sealed powered-armor suits he was used to. He was sweating like a dog.
    “Sergeant,? whispered Trooper Mills, as if the din of the jungle wildlife weren’t enough to hush a normal tone of voice.
    “What is it, Mills.?
    “I have a feeling there’s more to this than I know.?
    “Need to Know basis, Mills, and you don’t need to know. Just stay quiet and keep your gun trained on that guard in the tower.?
    “Sir, yes sir.?
    Cross smiled at the “sir sandwich? and tied to calm himself down. He had to remember that these scouts were the newest members of the Crimson Fists and had not yet developed the maturity of their senior battle brothers. There were four of them with him, including Mills, Johnson, Craig, and Nash. Mills was the youngest and most inquisitive. With age, he could be a fine marine, if he could get past his tendency to let ignorance be the better part of valor. Johnson and Craig were not particularly interesting; they were both the stereotypical young, eager, but naive Scouts. Still, they could be counted on when the going got tough. Nash, on the other hand, was very different. He’d been recruited from a hive world gang, and was not new to live fire. He’d grown up in a war zone and survived to the age of 16, when he was taken for a conscript. He was a top performer at all his previous levels of training, which was the reason why he was here. But Cross couldn’t be sure of trusting him. There was a vaguely sinister side to the young marine’s character that set Cross on edge. Nash was ice-cold and steady, which was why he’d been given the assault cannon. But the Sergeant wondered if he had been the best choice for this mission.
    “Sir, I’m picking up movement in the west wing of cell block one,? noted Craig as he stared at the bioscanner. “Looks like five bodies, moving toward the interrogation room.?
    “Sounds like its about to go down,? said Cross as he marked the time. “They’re starting early. We move now.? All of them jumped up after Cross as he moved with catlike grace through the underbrush and down to the fence surrounding the compound. Mills had one less round in the clip of his Needle rifle and there was one less guard to avoid.

    Whoever had gotten the intelligence on this place had done the squad a real favor. The plan was running like clockwork. Though the troops with him believed this to be a simple rescue, Sergeant Cross had additional orders which was why a Veteran was leading this foray. Phase one was almost complete. After a few silent kills the hall had been voided of guards and they had a minute and fifteen seconds until the next patrol came around, give or take.
    He could hear the Inquisitor being beaten on the other side of the door. He slid the pass card he’d picked from one of the guards’ bodies and punched in the number he had memorized. The door slid open to reveal 3 surprised guardsmen who had been working up a sweat, and the mangled face of Inquisitor Necht, who despite the ordeal was still managing to look hard as rock.
    The other scouts rushed in and with three quick bursts from their silenced autopistols, the guards were finished.
    “Inquisitor Necht, it’s a privilege. Are you ready to move?? Sergeant Cross looked him over and knew that the wounds would never humble the ego of this man. Johnson was removing the restraints as they spoke.
    “Yes, Sergeant, just give me the artifact.?
    Quizzical looks passed over the face of his men as Cross produced an oddly shaped device, apparently carved out of some slick, black mineral. He handed it to the Inquisitor, then pulled a spare bolt pistol from his harness and handed that to the Inquisitor as well.
    Cross turned to his men. “Nash, you take Mills and proceed with the diversion. Johnson and Craig, release the other prisoners and get them to the rendezvous point. I’ll be escorting Inquisitor Necht.?
    With no more than a nod, each of them was out the door and moving in different directions. Cross and the Inquisitor made their way towards the operations room, guided only by the map in the Sergeant’s head.

    The Ops room was blacked out, and nothing but an alarm light was flashing, evidence that Nash was doing his job.
    Cross peered through his Light Enhancement Display to find the third computer rack from the hologram displayer. He found the activation switch near the middle of the top panel and flipped the switch. The computers came on with a hum, and the control panel monitors shed enough light for the Inquisitor to find his way over from the door.
    The Inquisitor set to work quickly and efficiently, uplinking data files to the space marines’ battle barge orbiting off-planet. Then, with a nod to Cross, he moved to the main control station.
    “Now’s the time, Sergeant. Place your key in the receptacle and follow my directions precisely.? About ten feet away Cross stood at the other control station.
    Cross pulled out a second black stone somewhat similar to the first and placed it into the unmistakable indentation in the control panel. He pushed on it in unison with the Inquisitor until, when it was flush with the panel top, he heard it click. Then he watched as the stone turned hot, first red, then white. There was no removing this key once it was inserted.
    The Inquisitor proceeded with the instructions that would arm the Doomsday device. There was one of these on many of the worlds in this sector, a necessary evil, Cross supposed. He didn’t think he agreed with the idea. They were there just for the purpose of purging a planet that could not be saved from the Genestealer cults which were now becoming so prevalent. Within ten minutes sites around the planet would begin releasing their viral bombs to explode in the atmosphere, and any humans or aliens left on the planet would have time for nothing save a prayer of repentance.
    “Go now, Sergeant, and may the light of the Emperor shine on you.?

    Cross had to run like mad to make the rendezvous. He rushed through the courtyard, noting how Nash had made short work of the motor pool. There would be no pursuit. As he rounded the corner to head for the gap they had sliced in the fence, his conversion field lit up with a crack, then several more. Cross dropped and rolled instinctively, then came to his knee to sight his bolt pistol on the guard with the autogun. He yanked the trigger several times and watched as each of the short bursts of rocket shells shrieked across the paved lot. Most of the shells exploded against the wall on the other side of the yard, but two of them caught the guard squarely in the chest, lifting him off his feet and throwing him backwards to the ground. There was a red fog where the guard had stood. Cross leapt up again and raced through the fence and up the hillside towards the clearing at the top. The jungle was even hotter than it had been eight minutes ago.
    Upon reaching the summit he found the others. Only Nash was left standing, and with him was Mills, barely clinging to life. Around them lay ten or fifteen purestrain genestealers and hybrids along with the bodies of most of the captives whose freedom was now eternal.
    Nash dropped his bolt pistol which had been leveled at Cross’ head. “Sir, this LZ is hot. We need to make for the Bravo point before they regroup. The cannon’s out of commission.? The gatling weapon’s ceramic barrels were still glowing, but the ammo hopper was empty on the ground.
    “No time, Nash, we leave from here.? Cross grabbed a pistol looking device from behind his back. He pulled the tube off the front, and with the flip of a lever, the miniature transceiver unfurled with a pop. He aimed it toward the largest of the planet’s three moons, clicked the trigger twice, and waited for the squawk. Then he yelled through the com-link.
    “Raider, Raider, this is Moses. Mission is green. HOT Z, HOT Z!?
    It took half a minute before he could hear the familiar roar of the dropship. He also heard the roars of the foul monstrosities rushing up the side of the hill. The ship dropped its hatch as Nash threw Mills over his shoulder and jogged towards it. Cross waited until Nash was out of view inside before he turned to make his escape. He had bought them just enough time with his bolt pistol to make it. He wasn’t sure for himself. He dove onto the ramp just as the ship was lifting off. As he clambered to get away from the edge, he looked back and saw two claws clamped through the end of the ramp. As the evil head slowly rose between them, he caught the gaze of the Genestealer.
    The eyes were piercing. He knelt transfixed. He felt himself starting to crawl forward, despite the sheer horror which was beginning to come over him. What was going on? This creature possessed him! He loathed it, but he just wanted it? NO! He clamped his eyes shut as hard as he possibly could to break the hypnosis.
    When he opened them, the genestealer was gone, though its two severed claws remained clamped in a death-grip to the ramp. Nash stood over him holding a power sword dripping with blueish blood. “You can’t let them have your eye, sir.? Cross looked up, and he realized that the irony of the moment. The Scout was repremanding the Veteran.

    As Sergeant Cross looked out through the portal he watched the green planet grow smaller. By now the deadly virus was doing its sordid work. The Inquisitor was already dead. What kind of fanatical zeal would cause one of the Inquisition’s finest to sacrifice himself? Before, he had no appreciation of the logic behind purging any planet. It would be a century before recolonization could occur. He had always believed that though death in battle may be a sacrifice, suicide was a waste. Then he shuddered at the memory of the genestealer’s gaze. There was no fighting this foe. The Inquisitor had known that. A warrior’s death and suicide were the same.

    * * * * *

    A pinnacled fortress astride an island rock overlooked the vast blackness of the ocean on Rynn’s World. The waves were smooth and reflected the brightness of the stars, mapping out the galaxy for the eyes of Ander Cross. He wore a look of grave concern, one that not even the peacefulness of this still night at home could ease.
    It reminded him of his youth, when he would look up at the sky from his ancestral home on the moors of Albrieghton, where his folk had a small farm near a shepherds community. He remembered his father, looking so proud, head tilted up and eyes roving the heavens.
    “Son, there’s much more out there, many worlds, and few like ours. We are safe here because there are mighty men, clad as warriors, who defend us from the foes of the Emperor. Those men live among the legends, and weave themselves into the tapestry of heroes, the ones that you’ve heard your grandfather speak of by the fireside. Your uncles, my brothers, all donned the Regal Blue and Crimson of that army, and someday, son, so will you. Though you are the youngest of my sons, you will one day be the greatest among them.?
    That day had long since come and gone, and he had left his father’s farm, having no inheritance, to join the Adeptus Astartes, the Crimson Fists Chapter. Over one hundred years had passed since the day he received his confirmation as a Marine. He had studied long and hard, reading from the edicts of the Emperor, memorizing the many litanies, sanctifying his mind and consecrating himself for service to humanity. His indoctrination was the only purpose he now possessed, for the many decades had eradicated every other temporal thing that he once held dear. His planet had been nearly destroyed by the Ork invasion from Charadon, and his whole family had been killed, the estate razed to the ground. Many times he had loved and lost. And now, he was lonely.
    He turned his gaze from the ocean to the sky, gaining a clearer view of the vast space above him. He was worried what the centuries might do to a man, who, having the physical capacity for a lifetime many times longer than was natural, might not have a mental capacity capable of holding more than a single lifetime’s experience. Did the others face this same agony, having a form of godliness, but without the divinity? He could not hold onto the things that he wanted, they disappeared with time. He had learned to hold things lightly, for Time had proven that it was the master, and that was a truth which must be confessed. His battle brothers did not talk of such things, and many were older than he. Cross decided to put the matter from his mind, for it may well be the path to insanity. He could not allow himself to be tempted into such a sin.

    Captain Cross of the 3rd Company, Crimson Fists Chapter, stood at the front of his command, who were formed up in the great hall of the Fortress Monastery. The ceiling rose above the reach of light, the huge vaulted arches disappearing into the dusk above. On the walls hung the tapestries depicting a thousand wars which his chapter had fought and won. On the floor at his feet was the engraved image of one of the Ancient Ones, whose tomb lay below him. There were many others, and all of them had their stories written on the Great Tapestry which hung over the Throne at the front of the hall. That was the tapestry of heroes which his grandfather had told stories about. It was the foundation of the tradition for the ceremony which was now taking place.
    On the Throne was the Master of the Chapter, Pedro Cantor himself, and next to him was the Chief Librarian, who was reciting the list of valors which would justify the promotion of a company commander to the rank of First Captain. The First Captain was commander of the Praetorians, the Veteran company of the chapter to which Cross belonged. Though he had accepted promotion to commander of a lesser company, he still bore the Crux Terminatus, the sign of a Veteran.
    The man receiving the honor was his friend, and rival, a man who he had known since the mission on Diego Ra, when the young man had saved his life at the hands of a Genestealer. That young man was young no longer, Cross reflected. They had been brethren for over a century, and had fought side by side at many battles in many places since then. Nash had risen quickly through the ranks, displaying an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, and his feats had always proved to be the point of victory. The list which was being read was only a shadow of the epic tale which this man Nash had written, and though Cross was well respected by all the Chapter, he would never be the icon that Nash had become. Nash was destined for the Great Tapestry.
    Cross was not bitter, but his thoughts wandered down a descending path. Something was not right with Nash, and this had caused him many sleepless nights, staring down at the ocean from his balcony on one of the spires of this fortress. Cross could not read the stars, though Nash had often used them to foretell things. Only Cross knew of the divinations which Nash had made, and also knew that he had never once been wrong. Cross only wished that just this once, he could ask the stars about his friend and receive an answer.
    Cross was slipping into a deeper mood. His friend was now addressing the gathering, as the Artificers were bestowing his new heraldry. Cross listened in passing, noting how the speech was insightful, moving, and sacrosanct; even the Lord High Inquisitor would have difficulty preaching a more inspiring message on defending the Emperor and the virtues of pure Humanity. Though such words rolled off his tongue so easily, Cross knew that the ideals came much harder for Nash. He fought because he was a warrior, and had been born into a hopeless world where he first persevered, and then conquered. He relished the spoils of war, the glory and the rewards which were handed the victor. Nash was satiated by each new position only for awhile before he would seek a greater level of honor. He wanted praise. That unnerved Cross greatly.
    Nash had once been ice-cold, a sharp edge to his personality which Cross had labeled as sinister. Yet, as the years went by and the success came, too easily, Nash had become fiery, then debonair, then flamboyant, and now...agitated. When Cross really thought about it, the pattern was striking. Something had awoken in his friend, and it wasn’t something Cross was ready to trust.

    His adversary roared with laughter, a maniacal, hideous, shrill cacophony. His powered armor bore the marks of his allegiance to some darker power, though his armor was blazing white and trimmed with a myriad of colors, the brightness disguising the decadence of the symbols the colors formed. The hair was blonde, nearly white, and formed a mane about the face which trilled out the final note of laughter, slowly, until it faded as a purr. The man looked down at him.
    His eyes were a piercing grey, one disfigured by a long scar which ran from the forehead, down the cheek, and under the chin to the throat. The skin was not pale, but flushed with a ruddy red that made the entire face seem like a devil. The nose was hawkish, the cheeks angular, and the jaw square. It was an alluringly handsome face despite the contorted expressions which flickered across it, as if it was fighting to remain set on one alone.
    “For all your years, have you not yet learned they joy of living? You are much more than a man. Feel your two hearts beating. You have twice the capacity for life, you have the strength to stand against time and fate. You are a god, for you have endured the changes of time, the curses of fate, and still you stand. You are a conqueror, born for glory, destined to command the admiration of mortals. You and I are the same, Cross, though we face each other as enemies. We are the ones who write the history that all mankind marvels at. We are the ones who children dream of becoming, who women lust for, who lesser men envy, and older men fear. Do you not see that our destinies are intertwined, that we are the makers of purpose, that we define the universe by our victories? You can stamp your impression on time, you can master your fate. This is the joy of living, and you will come to understand as I have, that to embrace your free will is to assume the mantle of godhood. You are a creator.?
    Cross stared up from the floor where he lay heavily, his armor shattered by the blow from the lightning-claw, and his life spilling slowly on the floor. His hearts beat in tandem, though they were fainter now. His breath was shallow, his voice strained.
    “You and I are nothing alike. Though we have both withstood Time, it has wrought different countenances upon us. The greater virtues have all escaped you. For we are godlike, but we fail as gods, because our minds are deceptive, and incapable of assimilating the experience our years bring us. Just as we think we have gained understanding, the doubt comes--and is proven. We can no longer be sound judges of right and truth when we have seen so many disparities, so many contradictions, and so many lies. The more we know, the less we understand, because each new fragment of knowledge brings more mystery. We have the minds of mere men--finite, limited, and unequal to the task of ordering this vast universe. You may go on and write your name in the books of history, and create legends, but after you are gone, others will come and erase the marks you’ve made, writing their own over them.
    “The greater virtues of service and sacrifice are what make us great, and the reward which mankind receives from our labor is our true glory. It is not the writing of history, but the guarding of it, that gives us our purpose. For if we betray the lives of our fellow Men, who appreciate history, and carry on tradition, then we have spent our own lives in vain. And so you, you are a betrayer of Humanity.?
    A sneer formed on the red face, and the voice was cynical, the words sarcastic. “Am I? Or am I its savior? Oh, your words betray your pathetic allegiance to that Emperor of yours, whose Will is so, so altruant! No, you can’t see that his Will enslaves you because you have been blinded by his indoctrination. Is the Emperor here? How far does his Will reach? There is no Will except for what each man makes his own, and if petty men want to surrender their freedom so, let them do ME! If men will follow me, I will use them. If they will not, then they are my peers, who play the game with me. But few will be my equal. You, Cross, have the potential, if you will continue to play. Let us chase each other around this universe, let the billions watch us, and may we so become immortals. You will live to play my game, Cross. I have foreseen it.?
    Cross lay there, despising his pain, accepting the challenge. His purpose had been cast at odds with this betrayer, and by the strength of the Emperor, his purpose would prevail. He managed enough breath to spit on the armored foot of the one who stood over him. The adversary, this one known as the Reaver, threw his head back and laughed at the pathetic gesture of contempt. As the huge, white-haired figure turned, his cape fluttered, blown by the strange wind that came from the psychic gate that opened up before him. Cross winced as the frozen air flowed past.
    “Another time, Cross, another place...? The voice of the figure disappeared with it as the figure went through the gate. The warp portal closed as suddenly as it had opened. Nash was gone.

    Purge all the heretics,
    Kill the alien scum,
    Suffer not the unclean to live,
    And have a beer when you're done.

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  3. #2
    Cousin It Carnage's Avatar
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    those are excellent...the first having a nice blend of detail with action, while the second is brilliantly psychological

    nice work :lol:
    Never judge someone until you've walked a mile in their that time they'll be a mile away, and have no shoes

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