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Silas was lulled asleep by the rhythmic rocking of the Chimera as its tracks beat a familiar and continuous beat across the Cur desert sands. He dreamt of home – of Riel – his family – of Sienna.

The last part was always the hardest and it made his face tighten even though he was asleep; she promised that she would wait for him until he returned. He received the letter about her engagement to some rich merchant’s son a week ago and had rarely come out of his near catatonic depression since; except when they had enemy contacts or someone produced a bottle of something strong – anything to dull the pain.

Something made his dream world spin and shake and a disjointed voice appeared in his head – it didn’t make sense; his dog wasn’t supposed to talk to him and certainly not with a broad Silurian accent.

“C’mon on Silas, wake up, we’re here.�

Through sleep sealed eyes he could make out the stencilled numbers “11� on a drab olive green and dark tan background in front of him. As he rubbed his eyes, it turned into Sergeant Major Oar steadying Silas with one hand and offering him a cup of coffee sweet with two sugar-subs with another. Silas took the coffee gladly and nodded in appreciation to his sergeant major.

“Colonel Parr wants to see you Silas…now� the sergeant said, Oar had known Silas for too long to call him ‘sir’ even though Silas was now a Captain and in command of the whole company.

“Where� it was a statement not a question – borne of frustration and monotony

“Have a guess� turning his head to a large rockcrete bunker that had been ringed with electrified plasteel razor wire, extra plasteel armour plating bolted on the sides and the top and had a full platoon of heavily armed guardsmen around it – subtle thought Silas. Just like the man himself.

Having slept on a crude bed fashioned out of some blankets and ammo crates, Silas struggled to stretch the cracks out of his back as he walked slowly towards the command bunker. He was so used to carrying his power sword and bolter pistol wherever he went, even while sleeping that Silas forgot to disarm before entering the bunker and was forced at gunpoint to do so by the Colonel’s nervous-looking and far too clean bodyguards. Never fired a shot in anger Silas thought.

“Ah…Captain Vero…about time…I sent for your unit three days ago…� Colonel Parr was a caricature of bluster over common sense, complete with red cheeks from too much alcohol, jowls from too much rear echelon food and a handlebar moustache. He judged soldiers on their ability to be punctual, have polished armour and boots and whether they puffed up with pride every time the emperor’s name was spoken – none of which Silas ever did. Silas did win battles though and was adept at killing a lot of the enemy so Parr tolerated him; but he never polished his armour – men with shiny armour got shot first. Parr did not like Silas.

“My apologies sir – we were occupied mopping up the remnants of the cultist counter-attack near the township of Ashen, we lost thirty-seven men in the operation sir and are still under-strength Colonel.�

The mention of casualty figures drew a detached and rather uncomprehending look from the Colonel, who had never seen combat firsthand and had only made it to Colonel because he was the son of the Rielian Planetary Governor.

“Well yes, sacrifices must be made. It is a rather dangerous area – we have been under heavy fire the whole time over the past three days Captain so I can sympathise.�

Silas had seen maybe a couple of light mortar impact holes around the command camp and the medics were asleep in their chimera with no wounded to tend – heavy fire…

“The reason I wanted you here is to deal with this threat� he pointed to a blinking red dot on the holo-screen that appeared in front of them

“Orbital scans show that a sizeable strength chaos unit has recently moved in to the north and east of this position – the scans also show that they have no armour or artillery and number about two companies in strength. I want your unit to move against them and crush them.�

Parr emphasised his last two words by crushing his fist into the palm of his other hand – a manicured fist squashed like a sausage into an un-calloused palm.

“And replacements for my losses in Ashen sir?�

Parr’s face went taught and his lips thinned “Captain Vero, we are all fighting this war together and we all have to make do – you will receive replacements when they are available…now you have your orders and you will be on your way in the morning when you have re-armed and rested the night here. Any further questions Captain?�

There was no point to ask “No sir, none�

“Well then dismissed and good luck Captain�

Silas holstered his bolter pistol and slung his power sword over his shoulder as he walked back to his Chimera - the look in his eyes enough to tell his men that they would not be getting the rest off the line he had promised them.

END OF CHAPTER ONE - What do you think?
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