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Just thought I'd post up chapter one of my current work. I have not had time to post much else up lately (hospital issues prevented me from writing), but here it is. C&C welcome.
(C) Copyright 2011 James Wonnacott.
“Only in death does duty end.”
The proverb, an old one, had been the first words Drill Custodian Kendrick had spoken to the convicts during operational training.
Not convicts. Initiates. That was the word the officer cadre of Punishment Battalion 66079, and Kendrick in particular, preferred to use when referring to the poor unfortunate ‘volunteers’ assigned to them. It helped, they claimed, the men to develop an esprit de corps and a feeling of self-worth.
It was very hard to agree, however, when the same officers turned away in disgust at even the mention of their charges.
And perhaps they were right to.
The men of the battalion were, after all, without exception some of the vilest scum of the earth ever to enter the ranks of the Imperial Guard.
Karl Flücher, Prisoner 4937061, was, like all the initiates, there for his own reasons. Unlike the others, however, Flücher had been a professional, a career soldier valued by his commanders despite his murderous nature.
Then, Captain Norn had taken command of the company.
The young, efficient officer had refused to be intimidated by Flücher, and had taken an instant dislike to him. Flücher had watched, seething with rage, as other, younger NCOs were promoted in his place.
And so he had done what he felt was necessary.
He felt no remorse for the murder of the young captain. He had enjoyed Norn’s death, savouring the moment in which the man had realised that everything he had believed in and hoped for was futile. He had laughed in the dying man’s face.
For Flücher was a killer, and had been all his life. He smiled cruelly at the memory of the deed, the corners of his cracked and hardened lips curling upwards mirthlessly. Anyone foolish enough to look into Flücher’s eyes saw only an empty void of blackness. Indeed, the Court Martial had said as much in their damning verdict. He was a soulless murderer who happened to have been a good soldier.
The world of Cyprian IV had once been a verdant paradise. Thirteen years in the hands of the Archenemy had changed it into a barren mass of unrelenting mud, concrete, mines and razor-wire, broken only by the hideous shrines to their deities. The images they had seen from orbit made the planet look like a death-trap.
And now they were going to assault it.
Battalion 66079, alongside three other penal battalions and sixteen fresh regiments, were to spearhead the assault on the first of its bastions, the old imperial fortress of Ferrosk. The landers screeched through the atmosphere, their squat grey forms scarred from the heavy weapons fire of this and a hundred other campaigns. Flücher stood up as the plasteel/ceramite assault ramp slammed open with a metallic clang, and started running, lasgun held at the hip and blade in its scabbard. Custodians were herding their reluctant charges forward with shock prods and electro-whips.
Flücher gave an incoherent bellow of rage as he hurled himself forward. Heavy weapons fire streaked across the churned ground, hissing las-bolts scything through the muddy drizzle and sending hissing clouds of steam into the air. Flücher saw three men fall instantly as a heavy stubber further up the ridge burst into life, a dense hail of bullets ripping through the penal legionnaires. He navigated a shell crater and a coil of razor-wire, diving to the ground as an artillery shell screamed towards their position, vaporising another six unfortunate legionnaires and a custodian. Flücher grunted in pain as a hot shard of shrapnel lodged in his arm, drawing blood and staining his tattered green jacket. He moved on again, madly charging through the rain-filled craters. Men, both legionnaires and guardsmen, fell all around him, milling helplessly as they were trapped in the mire and gunned down mercilessly. Tripping, Flücher saw a Custodian detonate a squad’s collars as they attempted to flee, before being gunned down by a storm of heavy bolter shells. This wasn’t war, this was madness, and he had no intention of dying on this Throne-forsaken world. He dropped his lasgun and turned to flee, and found himself looking down the barrel of a Custodian’s laspistol. He swung at his opponent, catching the Custodian by surprise, and hammered his large fist into the man’s nose, feeling it crunch beneath his blow. They were the last two imperials in the immediate area by now, sheltered by a lipped crater with shells detonating all around them, the deafening crash of the explosions shaking the very ground. Flücher grinned nastily as he swept out his knife from its sheath and the Custodian backed away slowly. Flücher followed, and the man turned to run, but tripped on the crater lip. In an instant Flücher was on him, knife stabbing up and down in a bloody mess. Flücher pulled himself up, hands and uniform slick with blood, and ran towards the shelter offered by the landers. Bullets whickered around him, but he took no heed of them, looking over his shoulder for the foe.
Then he collapsed; his head a shattered ruin.
Chaplain Mortis strode over the corpse, bolt pistol smoking.
“In death may you gain absolution,” intoned the skull-masked Astartes. Bullets and las-fire pattered harmlessly off his ceramite breastplate as he advanced inexorably. Drop pods streaked through the sky, wreathed in ruby flame as they burst though the atmosphere and slammed into the ground, hatches swinging open to disgorge squads of disciplined Tactical Marines. The remaining imperial guardsmen renewed their efforts, and the high pitched whine of las-fire was punctuated by the louder, percussive blast of sustained bolter fire.
A dark armoured figure fell in beside Mortis, helmet off and bolter blazing, and an ornate power sword was strapped at his side. Caius Tornadus was captain of Second, and his close cropped grey hair ruffled in the radioactive wind. His cool, aquiline face made him the very image of an Astartes. His golden shoulder pauldrons shone bright, stark against the jet black of his power armour, while his scarlet cloak was detailed with gold filigree. He was followed by the five warriors of his command squad, each clad in suits of mark VI plate.
“For the Emperor,” spoke Tornadus softly, his voice cutting through the din of battle despite its low volume, and he drew his sword and swept it downwards in one swift motion to signal the charge. Scores of black-armoured figures followed the order instantly, and Tornadus’ cloak billowed out behind him as he ran with Mortis and his command squad at his side, his equerry Cadmus first amongst the retinue. Mortis had his crackling crozius arcanum raised aloft, and he bellowed a prayer to the Emperor.
Tornadus snapped off a precise volley from his bolter as he ran, and a pair of cultists fell before the fire, their bodies pulped by the mass-reactive shells. The Space Marines swept through the cultists’ positions, surging over the broken bodies that marked where the previous imperial guard assault had failed.
Occasionally, an Astartes fell, but most righted themselves and continued fighting despite their wounds. The cultists fell back before their onslaught, retreating to the innermost bastion that bristled with heavy weapons emplacements. Tornadus turned as a wave of heat washed over him, and saw Brother Flavius of his command squad incinerating an enemy position with his flamer. Tornadus nodded to Cadmus beside him and the pair leapt into a trench, blades felling the terrified defenders. The heretical inhabitants of this world were so long isolated from imperial culture that they did not know what it was they faced. Most hadn’t even originated from Cyprian, and had instead been soldiers in the vast swarm of anti-imperial forces that had assaulted this world and so many others. Indeed, many had not even heard of the Emperor, let alone of the Astartes. And now, they were learning, thought Tornadus as he delivered a killing blow to yet another cultist. The pair of Space Marines fought back to back as heroes of old, and with total economy of motion, every stroke a kill-stroke, every blow lethal. More brothers were following them now, the threat of the remaining cultists outside of the main complex utterly eliminated. Tornadus cut downwards with his sword to split a foe’s skull open before hammering his fist into a second’s masked face. He heard the sharp crack as the man’s neck broke at the impact, but did not bother turning around as he brought his blade up sharply to sever another man’s spinal cord. At his back, Cadmus fought, coolly thrusting and chopping with his combat blade, the energy field of the short utility sword tinting the weapon blue as it sliced through opponents with ease.
A quad-mounted autocannon, squat and powerful, roared in the background as the foes regrouped from the shock of the initial impact, but it was swiftly silenced as the massive form of Brother Ergolos’ armoured sarcophagus burst from behind it and ripped it apart with a massive power claw. Tornadus backhanded his foe off his sword and watched as Cadmus thrust his weapon up to the hilt into the last cultist’s face.
“You’re losing your touch, brother,” admonished Cadmus mildly. Although nominally subordinate to Tornadus, the equerry had been friends with his captain for so long that the pair shared a bond of brotherhood and equality stronger and truer than steel. Tornadus looked at him quizzically. The equerry simply indicated Tornadus’ shoulder pauldrons, gashed where a cultist had penetrated his guard. Tornadus grunted in acknowledgement.
“I’ll ask the Techmarines to fix it once we’re done.”
The armour was a relic of the chapter, a rare fragment of chapter history preserved beyond the fall of their homeworld of Granica to Hive Fleet Leviathan. Tornadus mentally assigned himself two weeks punishment for his failing.
He gathered the rest of his command squad to him, and they moved swiftly around the formidable bastion. The black onyx of the fortress was totally smooth and diamond hard, and had no visible entrance.
“How in the name of Terra are we supposed to get inside that thing?” wondered Sergeant Veronus after a trio of melta-charges had failed to breach the walls. Tornadus didn’t answer. Throne knew how the fortress would be captured if they couldn’t enter at ground level. The advance was continuing as assault squads soared through the air to land on the topside of the fortress and scour the fortification from above, but the ground based attack had effectively ground to a halt. Tornadus clenched his fists in frustration.
The vox in his helmet suddenly crackled and burst to life. Tornadus stood up sharply, recognising the call-sign of Brother-Sergeant Faeros.
“Respond, respond, this is Tornadus receiving,” Tornadus shouted into the vox bead.
“Faeros, acknowledged. I think we may have found a way in.”
“Where? Send coordinates, brother,” answered Tornadus. Moments later a location pinged on the locator grid on his visor.
“I’m on my way, brother. My thanks to you.”
Tornadus peered down the entrance, a seemingly bottomless black abyssal chasm opened in the tortured earth. Unnatural pink-hued flames burned in torches at uneven intervals, yet they seemed not to illuminate the tunnel. Tornadus had to admit that the effect was unnerving. He suppressed the emotion and motioned for his command squad, Mortis and Tactical Squad Faeros to follow him down. There was a clatter as the power-armoured warriors hit the bottom of the pit. It was far shallower than it had at first appeared, and the tunnels appeared to reknit themselves as the Astartes landed. Tornadus curled his lip in disgust as he scented the thick reek of untamed witchcraft. He collected his bolter from where he had dropped it in the fall.
Ghostly, spectral hands clawed at the warriors, and insidious whispers emanated from the hideous, malformed features of snarling stone gargoyles embedded in the walls, each ancient, malign breath offering honeyed lies to the warriors. The Space Marines ignored them. The tunnels gave way to long galleries of dark crimson marble, the eerily empty halls offering no resistance to the Astartes.
The passage sloped sharply upwards, and Tornadus cautiously led his men through the place, passing vile shines and fanes to forbidden gods, each littered with the desecrated corpses of imperial citizens. Their blood ran in thick runnels beside them, rendered black and sluggish by horrific magicks. Tornadus shuddered involuntarily as he saw the defiled corpse of an elderly priest, his magenta robes stained with his own blood and penetrated by viciously barbed black iron spikes. As the path sloped upwards, the whine of chainswords and the dying screams of cultists became audible, and then deafening. Behind him, Tornadus heard Faeros activate his own chainsword, and Cadmus racked the slide on his bolter. The enemy were close.
Closer, in fact, than the Astartes had thought. The passages seemed to distort sound and distance, confusing even the enhanced olfactory senses of the gene-seed warriors. A cultist, clearly a guard of some sort, appeared at the end of the corridor, back to the passages.
“Kill him,” instructed Faeros over the link, and in one smooth motion the squad raised their bolters and fired, the mass-reactive shells ripping through armour, flesh and bone. The cultist collapsed in a heap on the floor, his guts spilling from his opened stomach, knocking over a torch as he fell. Tornadus watched in horror as the torch flared, sheeting the walls in pink flame that licked lazily along the corridor, and a score of armed cultists spilled out of a side door. With no other option, Tornadus bellowed a warcry and hurled himself forwards through the flames, flicking his bolter onto full auto. This was not a time to conserve ammunition.
The first cultist staggered back, his innards pulped by the detonation of a three-quarter inch bolter shell. A second collapsed, headless, as the Space Marine Captain’s sword flicked outwards to decapitate him, before Tornadus barrelled into a third, smashing him to the floor with the force of the charge. A blade rang off his auto-responsive shoulder plate and he spun in time to see Sergeant Faeros flense a man with his whirring chainblade. Tornadus nodded his thanks before pressing on. Gunfire rang off his breastplate as the surviving cultists fell back firing before the force of the onset, but the hardened ceramite plating of his armour protected him from the volley, and he punched his sword into an opponent’s face. His foe went limp instantly, and he wrenched the blade out in a welter of blood and gore. The foes, though clearly some kind of battlefield elite from their size, were no match for the Astartes, and more fell as Chaplain Mortis slammed into the last knot of resistance, smashing more to the ground with his crozius. Tornadus watched impassively as the last foe fell and drew his bolt pistol before striding towards the large and ornate gilt door of what had once been the imperial strategium.
Lord Kharon Asrak drew himself up in an attempt at defiance and drew his autopistol as the door to his throne-room swung open to reveal a huge figure clad in black plate armour. The sheer scale of his opponent stole his breath, and he dropped the pistol in terror as his hands went slack. The figure strode purposefully towards him with its pistol drawn, and Asrak whimpered involuntarily. Its movements had a statue-like quality to them, controlled, majestic and powerful; and Asrak fell to his knees as the pistol was raised slowly to his head. His voice quavering and barely above a whisper, he spoke what he knew with sickening certainty would be his last words.
“What are you?”
Caius Tornadus pulled the trigger before answering.
“We are the Soul Flensers, and we have come to claim this place.”
Even after the better part of twenty five years spent on the planet, Governor-Elect Aldarin Karsh was unsure of where the land ended and the sky began. The two merged seamlessly into one, grey, ashen expanse that stretched as far as the eye could see. It was a universally accepted truth on the plains of Corrun that the only landmarks on the world were those that had been raised by the sweat and toil of mankind.
Except that today, the world was bleeding.
The sky, stained with crimson flame by the detonation of orbital ordnance, was scattered with the dark, swarming forms of landing craft like thick, black clouds of insects swarming over the dying world.
Occasionally, brief, half-second flares of dazzling multi-coloured light threaded from the battery positions mounted in hive spires and on the hive curtain walls, as well as the more immediate missile salvos launched from the Fortress Rabenschwartz itself. Karsh was glad of the small mercy that he was in the old Adeptus Astartes fortress and not in the main hives, where the populace were caught like rats in a trap. Through his borrowed magnoculars, the governor saw the dreary, grey columns of refugees as they trudged in through the hive gates towards relative safety. Despite the distance from the cities, Karsh could hear the voices of Hive Militia Commissars screaming into megaphones for the frightened mob to move on; and the ominous shrieks of warning klaxons as they blared out propaganda and curfew information. Even inside the Fortress, there was an unusually subdued mood, and a palpable sense of terror followed the refugee columns.
For, despite the claims of Imperial tacticians and strategists that such a thing was impossible, the forces of the Archenemy had come to Corrun.
Karsh pulled himself away from the observation window with an almost physical effort, face drawn and pale from the stress of the past twenty-four hours. He turned and saw Brother-Sergeant Comemnus of the Soul Flensers chapter, commander of the garrison of the fort.
“My lord,” the sergeant said stiffly, bowing his head to Karsh. Karsh nodded curtly in response at the massive warrior and strode past before standing behind his good friend Colonel Loret of the PDF at a strategium tac-display.
“What’s the current situation like?” he asked Loret.
“Not good,” the colonel admitted. “They’re all over the orbital defences, and the army can’t hold the capital against a force of this size for any length of time. A strike force maybe, but this… this is a full invading army.”
His voice trailed off. Karsh could understand what he meant. This was no strike force, and Throne knew how they were going to deal with such a force on the ground. The navy had stood the best chance of all of them, but they had failed, and now it was down to the army to hold the world until support arrived or they all lay dead, whichever came first.
Last edited by Captain Corrigan; July 6th, 2011 at 16:19.
Praise be to the Emperor!!
Wow, I'm not used to this kind of praise at all, I just write for my own amusement and try to make it to full length, so thanks a lot. I guess I'd best write some more then.
Very nice work mate. I like the bridge from the point of view from the penal legionnaire to the Astartes; I might have been tempted to draw out the 'reveal' of the Chaplain a bit more, but I think the 'short sharp shock' works pretty well regardless
It looks like a good variety of different forces from the Chapter, maybe linking up later? Nothing like having a few plot-irons in the fire.
Again I would say break up your blocks of text a bit, but I'm sure you've already heard me say that by now.
Corrections wise, I wasn'tt particularly combing it, but I did notice a couple of errors:
"He heard the sharp cack as the man’s neck broke at the impact" - probably supposed to be crack, but I could be wrong, haha.
The other one is a hyperlink on the word audible which I would imagine is unintentional.
Get some more written!
Ok, thanks for the feedback.
You've got the hyperlink too, I think that it is just an automatic thing, maybe someone should tell an administrator because it is happening all over the place.
You are quite right on the "cack," the number of times I've noticed that but forgotten to change it on my working laptop...
On the break it up issue, would you have any advice other than the obvious of using the enter bar whenever necessary? Because I copy the work out of MS Word, and so the space present in MS word are not present in the text itself, making it more difficult to read. The same goes for line openers, I tend to use tab which does not appear in the thread posting repertoire of tools.
And here is a small amount more...
The sky was now dead at last, the resistance from the hive crushed by the onrushing wave of Chaos violence. Dawn broke as the sun cast its first rays of tentative crimson that washed the plains in radiant light.
But the rising sun revealed new horrors still. The corpses of PDF troopers were pinned, spread-eagled, onto the hulls of vehicles, their ribcages protruding harsh and white from bloodied torsos. The forms of cultists swarming over the captured hive city, and beside them marched the terrible forms of traitor Astartes. Karsh watched open mouthed as the victorious forces raised a tattered scarlet banner with the sigil of a fist clasping an eight-pointed star. He heard Sergeant Comennus inhale sharply and turned.
“Is something wrong, Sergeant?” Karsh enquired mildly.
“Aye, lord. He. Is. Here.” Each word was spoken with the force of a hammer blow, and Karsh did not need to ask to know of whom the Sergeant spoke.
Phocas. Every chapter had renegades, traitors who needed purging, but Phocas’ treachery was something else entirely. Formerly the Chapter Master, the man had broken his oaths of loyalty and led fully a third of the chapter to damnation under the name of the Sons of Spite. The treasonous actions had cost the chapter dearly, almost leading to them being declared Excommunicatus, and the Soul Flensers hunted down their fallen leader and his disciples with a zeal that bordered on fanaticism.
And now, he was here. Karsh shuddered involuntarily at the implications. If Phocas was here, then the Astartes would be present in force, and the small garrison would be unable to hold for long. And if Rabenschwartz fell, then the world and its entire populace would be at the cruel mercy of the Chaos invaders.
The nervous energy that had kept Karsh going over the past two days was finally and cruelly drained by the thoughts, and he collapsed on the floor.
Last edited by Captain Corrigan; July 6th, 2011 at 17:33.
As for the spacing, I tend to just put in a couple of line breaks every 5 or 6 lines at most, that way it keeps it nicely spaced without having loads of empty space. I do my initial work in word too, so 5 or 6 lines in there tends to be 4 or 5 in LO. I don't monitor it too obsessively to be honest, I just let it flow.
Betrayed by the Chapter Master eh? A poor fate. I wonder if they have a new Chapter Master, or if the position was left vacant? If so, who leads instead?
The plot thickens!
Glad you like it, just writing more at the moment.
I guess you won't want to see the chapter fluff then, I posted it up in the 40k army fluff section ages ago and it detailed the betrayal in depth. At some point, I hope to write a prequel describing the fall of Granica and possibly the heresy of Phocas.
+The Emperor Protects+
Right, now for a little more. Tell me what you think, its long sections of dialogue I find hardest, so feedback is very welcome.
The interior of the Teeth of Ralarq was as bare and spartan as one might expect from an Astartes strike cruiser, and the command bridge was no exception. From orbit, large patches of Cyprian were pock marked with black, like gigantic bruises on the surface of the planet. Admiral Hektor Boltane was tall, even by the indomitable standards of the Imperial Astartes, and the skin of his face was creased with age. He wore a stripped down version of the standard mark VII armour, and he languidly raised a hand and turned in the command chair as a young lieutenant approached, the sensors of his augmetic eyes dilating slightly as he adjusted to the light emerging from the open door, and he gently rubbed his bald scalp with his free hand, feeling the defined ridges and scars that marked him as a veteran warrior.
The officer at the door inclined his head at his commander and spoke. His words had a soft edge to them, as if he were speaking to a small child, and the affectation irritated Boltane.
“My lord Admiral, the Master of Astropathy Vibian Cairl requests an audience.”
So that’s where the pup had come from. So like that pompous ass Cairl to approach him through the most formal of channels. He was sure the Master of Astropathy only did it to annoy him.
“Tell him he may find me here if he wants to speak to me.”
“That will not be necessary,” came a voice from the rear of the chamber, and Boltane cursed as he recognised Cairl’s superior tone. The man was a complete fool, and Throne knew what he was doing on a ship like the Teeth. The man wasn't even a telepath himself. Nepotism carried men so far now, Boltane sighed inwardly.
Cairl strode arrogantly across the chamber, left hand on his hip and his face drawn into a haughty expression. His blue eyes blazed with cold intensity.
“You may speak, Cairl,” Boltane prompted him.
“Indeed, my lord. An astrotelepathic signal has been received from a neighbouring system. It is quite weak, but it appears to be a plea for help.”
Boltane bit back a sharp retort.
“Master, do you have any idea how many hopeless requests for aid we receive over the duration of a campaign? If I answered every one of those calls then we’d be dead many times over, and we would have achieved nothing by our sacrifice.”
“If my lord will let me continue, I was going to say that the world in question is a chapter hold.”
“Repeat that,” he instructed.
“I said that the world in question is one of ours, sir. Corrun is its name, I believe, sir.”
Corrun. Boltane thought for a moment as he recalled the nature of the planet.
“Corrun,” he mused, “we’ve got a garrison there haven’t we?” he asked ASQI, the shipborne system AI. Although supposedly banned by ancient laws, AIs were still in use on a number of ships predating the Imperium, the Teeth among them.
“That is correct, sir. The chapter maintains a fortress by the name of Rabenschwartz on the world,” the computer answered solemnly.
“The stuff you know, eh, ASQI? Still, can’t hurt to have a look. What’s the nature of the threat recorded?” he asked, turning once more to the intolerable Master of Astropathy. The man greedily accepted the scrap thrown to him.
“This is, I believe, the part you may find interesting, sir. I have reason to believe that the Sons of Spite are on Corrun.”
Boltane growled angrily at the mention of the traitors, the sole blemish on the otherwise exemplary record of the chapter. Suppressing the storm of emotions and hormones released by his displeasure, he addressed ASQI once more.
“What does protocol state?” he asked impatiently. ‘Protocol’ was the name applied to the series of regulations laid down after the heretical actions of their last chapter master. In order that one man should not hold complete authority over the chapter, the masters of the chapter met regularly in order to make important decisions and alterations to chapter organisation.
“The masters of the chapter voted on the issue two centuries ago. If a chapter world is threatened, all available chapter forces in the vicinity are ordered to reroute immediately to provide aid,” replied the AI sourly,anticipating the reaction to its words.
Boltane swore violently. Brother-Captain Tornadus would not be pleased at having to end his campaign early, but the protocol was an unbreakable code of conduct and as such it would be unthinkable to ignore the request.
“I shall inform the commander. In the meantime, prepare to fire the warp drives.”
Last edited by Captain Corrigan; July 7th, 2011 at 20:14.
That's great to hear, thanks mate. I'm afraid I couldn't resist saying "prepare to fire the warp drives"- I'd just spent the last hour before writing watching Star Wars a New Hope with a seven year old, so the idea of "prepare for the jump to light-speed" was too fresh in my mind to ignore...
More coming in a moment when my computer gets its act together and lets me open MS Word.