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Disclaimer: i wrote many fantasy\40k stories in italian language. This is my first attempt at translating one with google translator. I tried to polish it off as best as i could.
IV Vegas is a desert planet, legends speak of treasures and ruins dating back to the dark age of technology, but almost every imperial planet has such stories. Something may be true, as Vegas has a breathable atmosphere, but in the distant past some catastrophe sealed the waters of the planet in the depths of the subsoil. It is now occupied by a single imperial city inhabited by colonists sifting vanadium from the sands and using silicon to produce precision electronic instruments. Outside the city life can be found only in the oases, circular patches of vegetation within thirty feet, gathered around a Drillshaft, the only plant able to push their roots down to the deep groundwaters.
Yet the imperial settlers are not the only intelligent inhabitants of Vegas.
That cold night in the desert, at the margin of Oasis XXXVIII, a dozen men in uniform was covering with camouflage nets two Imperial Guard's Sentinel walkers. Once the work was done drivers stood by their vehicles, while the other approached the parasitic plants, their faces hidden by scarves and polarized viewers that protected them from the sand.
While one of his veterans consulted the Auspex, Sergeant Akkadis already guessed the outcome, it was three years that they fought in that sea of dust and now they knew it all.
"No enemy presence .. usual predators among the branches of the tree that never fall to the ground .. but a lot of wire-mines .. it takes all night to clean up."
"Go on then!"
Each man had a flashlight, the light rays moving through the foliage until it caught the reflection of a metal cable stretched, which was cut with caution. In addition to trying mines they were testing the ground on which they were to pass, just in the first half hour two holes were found with sharp poles, made of flint that Auspex was not able to detect. It took all night before they could really settle along the southern edge of the oasis and place the infrared pointer.
Three years of that life, since the colonel was put on the wrong side in politics and therefore were sent to defend the lost colony threatened by alien presence. It must have been a mission of no return, the 117th regiment Kanako came from a feral world devoid of industries, vehicles and heavy weapons were not adapted to the desert war. Each company of 97 men had six rocket launchers, the support were cavalry and Sentinel, nothing more.
Yet Kanaki, already used to living under impossible conditions, had adapted to the environment of Vegas and had kept at bay the xenos through guerrilla, ambushes at night and long-distance hit and runs.
"Twelve minutes at dawn, sir!"
"So we can not sleep, sorry guys, we do it all in one go. Scan!"
"Beetles! Under the Sand, eighty meters left."
Akkadis activated the communicator directional microwave signal was detectable only in the direction of the antenna towards the location of the Sentinel camouflaged among the dunes.
Vespa, insects eighty meters to our left! "
"Received. We welcome them as they exit."
"Target acquisition and launch in fifteen minutes."
Colony Vegas was not able to build tanks, but at least had plenty of high-tech entertainment. All officers and veteran or horse teams had an Auspex, the Sentinel were modified to carry hunter missiles that were launched far from enemy sensors range. Akkadis veterans did'nt have any laser weapons, whose batteries would make them identifiable at a distance, but daggers and war axes in advanced ceramic, invisible to metal detectors. The only firearm was his carbon fiber blot pistol. He had then a power fist, off and hung behind his back, very light thanks to a small anti-gravity device that also hid the sensors the actual mass of the weapon. Even with all these precautions the xenos had definitely noticed their presence, but not detecting firearms not considered hazardous, their way of thinking was known.
They waited dawn in silence, with the first red light behind them would have had a couple of minutes of time before they could distinguish the pointer's ray.
All clung to water bottles and emptied the last drop, very serious. Water with salt supplements would support them for a while, when it was time to race under the sun.
The sergeant put his eye to the pointer, in the first light he saw the target suffused with pink, one of those miniature pyramids. The machines made them all the time, closer to the colony, and Kanaki destroyed them. They thought they were the equivalent of enemy logistic depots, power generators that kept alive their soldiers. Skeletons.
Near the pyramid were three machines waiting, largest of ordinary soldiers, instead of legs had hulls similar to A-grav sleds, right-arms energy projectors were four barreled, they were known to be fast enough to chase the Sentinel at a distance. Akkadis smiled, Kanakani were precisely aiming at forcing the enemy to pull out the big boys, as long as they were able to destroy more than could be repaired, the settlers would remain safe.
Vespa! Hunters in sight, three seconds from launch. Ready .. "
After so much fighting against the machines they too had begun to think in mathematical ways, every friend and enemy unit was assigned a point value expressing the effort needed to replace it. For example, their two hunter missiles were twenty points, wasted against a common skeleton soldier, but against a fifty points motosled was a deal.
The missile left a cloud of sand, sleds performed their usual evasive action, two missiles from converging directions were needed to hit one.
"Taken... and not getting up... watch out Vespa, two incoming!"
The two Sentinel moved to hide behind the oasis, Akkadis took to the right side. Rightly foreseeing that the enemies would have circumvented the oasis on that side to push the walkers towards the lurking beetles.
They came fast, so that firearms would have been useless, even if they had, but coming around the oasis the sleds should slow down to take aim at their targets, right next to that group of apparently harmless humans.
He put the fist without powering it up, felt the sizzling buzz of multilasers intercepting the beetles that just emerged from the sand. Once he could see, they reflected the light like diamonds when rising, then became a swarm of fireflies glowing red when the spread beam of multilaser invested them, and finally fell to earth as a shower of molten metal. Some swore that they also have seen rainbows on similar occasions.
But now he had no time to turn around to look, sleds had slowed down and were about to pass front.
Turning on the fist he grabbed the closest to the pin that connected the skeletal body to the hull.
The detached body fell to the ground while the sled continued its course out of control, struck a rock sending it into pieces and began to spin repeatedly bouncing like a stone thrown at water, until it disappeared in the sand.
More veterans pounced at the other, that tried to hit Bregan sweeping the barrel of his weapon, but Bregan rapidly passed under in a somersault. Then Hendil's axe broke the barrel green glass and the machine was buried under the bodies of eight furious Kanakani, who hacked it until his death. Always disappeared when they were seriously damaged, was boring to never take a trophy.
"Are there wounded? No? Then run!"
The company was waiting 800 meters behind, the skeletons are slow, but running 800 meters under the sun, feet sinking in the sand, is not easy, if someone was left behind none would stop waiting.
The sun beat like a hammer, the release was the hardest part of each mission.
Yet the sergeant smiled.
Why did it again, nobody would have bet on them.
Three years, and the skeletons were not one step closer to the colony.
Reinforcements would arrive sooner or later, the Emperor could not abandon them forever.
Would come one day, and they would be found alive.
Last edited by Hermann Morr; August 12th, 2010 at 11:18.