Grim Twilight of the Distant Future: Chapter 1

Apr 30th, 2016
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  1. Grim Twilight of the Distant Future
  2. By IceMan
  4. Chapter 1: Trenches
  6. >In the grim darkness of the distant future, there is only war.
  7. >The planet of Equestrius in the Gothic Sector of the Segmentum Obscurus is under siege by the forces of Chaos.
  8. >Its home army, the Canterian Rangers, has been sent to drive back the heretics....
  10. >“Landing zone is hot,” the pilot says. “Fifteen seconds.”
  11. >They were always hot.
  12. >To be a member of the 45th Mechanized Regiment was a death wish.
  13. >Here were sent the green recruits, fresh out of training.
  14. >You were lucky to have survived for this long given the soldiers you had.
  15. >The medic next to you seems to be quaking in her boots, eyes shifting back and forth rapidly, fiddling with what looks like a pendant of a small hare around her neck.
  16. >Another seems to be quite gregarious, jabbering incessantly about how this is going to be “so much fun,” jumping about like a bouncing betty, while another humors her with hopes for kills, glory, and medals.
  17. >A fourth is polishing her armor, for what little good that will do, and muttering about "having to look good in the heat of battle," for some reason.
  18. >The fifth rolls some sort of plant stalk between her teeth and tries to get a nap beneath her wide-brim hat, apparently oblivious to the din of the shuttle engines.
  19. >In the back, a techpriest enginseer sits, no doubt simply being taken forward to repair some piece of ordnance far more valuable than the lasgun-jockeys filling the rest of the aircraft.
  20. >“Five seconds.”
  21. >You check your lasgun charge pack and boltpistol magazine, ensuring that it’s full, and mutter a prayer to the Emperor.
  22. >You’ll need His help today.
  23. “Get ready,” you order to your squad.
  24. >The shuttle lands with a loud thump.
  25. >The dark interior ignites bright red.
  26. “Go! Go! Go! No retreat! For the glory of the Emperor!”
  27. >Six soldiers, including yourself, head into the din of battle, followed by the techpriest.
  28. >Red lasgun shots fly into the dust, haze, and smoke, along with the chatter of heavy stubbers and the bass drum-like banging of a lone autocannon.
  29. >You duck into a trench and set your lasgun against the parapet.
  30. >As you aim to take your first shot, a guardsman’s head next to you is turned to crimson pulp by a bolter round.
  31. >Ignoring the warm blood oozing down your left cheek, you line up and take your shots at the onslaught of coming heretics, mechanically slicing through flesh with bolt after bolt of hot laser energy.
  32. >In your peripheral vision, you watch as the techpriest performs the rites of the Mechanicus, applying sacred unguents to a disabled Leman Russ that, before the landing, had been providing fire support against the horde of demonic mutants, swinging back and forth a censer of smoking incense.
  33. >In the same brief instant, the new agriworld farmer of your squad was gored by a long, spiked tentacle as she attempted to break out of the trench.
  34. >The mutant in turn falls to an autocannon shot, blasting its arm off and sending it flying like a fumbled javelin throw, the rest of its body turned to so much red paste.
  35. >Next to fall is the armor-polisher, taking at least 15 autostubber rounds to her arms and torso as a crazed cultist bursts through on the left flank of the trench, only to have his head popped by a boltpistol shot.
  36. >While the medic tries to patch her recently fallen comrade up, then ease the pain as the efforts become more and more hopeless, another cultist breaks through and cuts her in two with a chainsword.
  37. >You line up a shot and take off his head in revenge.
  38. >The Leman Russ on the edge of the line rumbles to life and spews acrid black smoke from its exhaust, and, with the detonation of its heavy gun, launches a mammoth shell into the ranks of the enemy, evaporating two entire squadrons of foul Chaos servants into red mist.
  39. >Believing that victory is at hand, the two last remaining members of your squadron go over the top and disappear into the dust and smoke.
  40. >You can’t determine which would be worse: if they were captured by cultists or simply killed.
  41. >It doesn’t matter.
  42. >They were simply the latest.
  43. >Dozens have been lost under your command.
  44. >No matter how hard you try, they always meet the same fate.
  45. >Either they die by the enemy, or they by your own hand, as your duty as a member of the Commissariat requires.
  46. >No retreat.
  47. >For the glory of the Emperor.
  48. >And, no matter how many you lose, there is always more to replace them, bred from the trillions of local stock of the hiveworld of Equestrius or brought from the quadrillions of the Imperium.
  49. >Maintaining your precision, you keep your lasgun sights steady, your trigger finger ready, your shots deadly.
  50. >Mutant and cultist alike face the wrath of scarlet energy beams.
  51. >Bit by bit, the tide seems to stem, fewer stumbling misshapen forms running from the dirt brown haze.
  52. >“Is it over?” you hear someone shout.
  53. >As if on cue, an artillery shell explodes overhead, knocking you into the mud.
  54. >You get up and stabilize yourself, readying for the next attack, your ears ringing beneath your helmet, only to be forced flat by another shell.
  55. >You crawl over to a dug-in hole in the trench, trying to get any cover you can from the barrage.
  56. >Earth and cordite showers you as shell after shell falls on your position, each one nearer to you than the next, until, finally, one lands so close it collapses your cover and throws you into the muck.
  57. >So, this is how it ends, you think in your lingering consciousness.
  58. >An indistinguishable robed figure looms above you.
  59. >With the artillery booming overhead, the world fades to black.
  60. >This is the end.
  62. >You awaken in a medical tent, a figure in red robes, except for a purple stripe around the cuffs, standing above you, observing some ticking devices and muttering a few prayers.
  63. >A dozen tubes and wires extend from the priest’s head from various ports beneath the hood.
  64. >His or her hands (the gender of the priest indeterminate from mere outward observation alone), currently handling a vial of red liquid, presumably blood, are almost entirely mechanical, covered in circuit lines and circular implants, the fingers replaced with robotic replacements.
  65. >A long, metal tentacle extending from the techpriest’s shoulder is currently plugged into your right arm, a stream of clear fluid being injected from a spiked tube.
  66. >“Oh, good. You have awakened,” she says, her voice distinctly female beneath the tinniness of her respirator vox unit. “I was beginning to believe that you may not recover from your injuries. Severe internal bleeding. Ruptured eardrums. Concussion. The auto-sanguine should serve to that....”
  67. >You attempt to lean up from your medical cot, only to find a searing pain run through your abdomen and forearms.
  68. “Where am I? Who are you?” you ask, wincing.
  69. >“A medical tent. You were one of the few who I managed to salvage from the front lines. As for me, my designation is Nu-Sigma-Tau-Thirteen-Forty-Two-Prime-Dash-Mu-Nine-Zero-One-Eta-Alpha. Though, you may refer to me as Sublustris Scintillula. And you?”
  70. “Solis Caelitum. Junior Commissar. Canterian Rangers, 45th Regiment. What is a techpriest doing taking care of soldiers? Where’s the medic?”
  71. >“All of the medicae personnel were killed in the attack. As I have been blessed by the Omnissiah with the gift of the auto-sanguine, I believed it would be efficient for me to assist as many as I can.”
  72. “Yeah, well maybe you should stick to your lasguns and Chimaeras, cogpriest.”
  73. >Scintillula does not give you a response, simply cocking her head to one side, then turning to some medical instruments, chittering in indecipherable techna-lingua.
  74. >The machines beep and tick, as if chorusing in response.
  75. >The tent flap opens, revealing an imposing, broad-shouldered figured in a heavy, epauletted greatcoat, a dark blue cap with a signature golden winged skull and a red brim placed firmly on his head.
  76. >Beneath the hat is a heavily scarred face, the right eye replaced with a mechanical counterpart.
  77. >Similarly, the glove over his left hand reveals some visible wires and tubing near the wrist, though how much of the apendage has been replaced remains a invisible beneath the coverings.
  78. >“Solis Caelitum,” he addresses you.
  79. “Lord Commissar Lustrus Armis,” you reply. “What brings your glory to this humble servant of the Emperor?”
  80. >Lustrus Armis turns to some of the mysterious machinery.
  81. >“How many battles have you fought in, Junior Commissar?”
  82. “I have... lost count, my lord.”
  83. >“You have fought in exactly 17 battles against the forces of Chaos, including this one, and you have survived all of them,” the commissar says. “Your record of insubordination is minimal, and those who have defied your orders have swiftly met their deaths at your hand. Do you know what this means, Junior Commissar?”
  84. “No, my lord.”
  85. >“It means that you are an exceptionally gifted servant of the Emperor, and, as such, you are being promoted.”
  86. >Armis hands you a scroll, bearing the mark of the Schola Progenium at the top and his signature at the bottom, both in red ink.
  87. >“Once you are able to stand, you shall receive your chainsword and a proper boltpistol, as opposed to this shoddy piece of workmanship here.”
  88. >Armis disdainfully picks up your boltpistol and hands it to the techpriest, as if he were giving her a piece of refuse to dispose of.
  89. “My lord, I am greatly honored and much appreciate this gesture, but -”
  90. >“But what?”
  91. “What of my casuality count?”
  92. >“What of it?”
  93. “The fact that no soldiers have survived under my command.”
  94. >He thinks for a moment.
  95. >“Losses do not matter as much as victory, Commissar Caelitum. The soldiers are under your command are Munitorum property, and nothing more. What matters is their loyalty and willingness to follow your commands, not their lives. There are plenty more where they have come from. Soldiers are... expendable. What matters not is the casualities, but the effectiveness.”
  96. “Understood, my lord.”
  97. >“This is the first of many lessons you will learn as you reach higher command. It is, perhaps, the most important lesson. But, to get to the more significant point, you will be taking control of the 45th Regiment, and Magos Sublustris Scintillula will be the appointed techpriest in your service. She is also in contact with the 39th Nova Stygia Tyrannos Ironstrider Cavaliers, where she has previously served as chirurgeon.”
  98. >The techpriest seems to make no note of this, continuing to tend to her machines, a chattering servo-skull now assisting.
  99. >“I trust that you two have made the acquaintance?,” the Lord Commissar asks. “The Magos was most careful in retrieving you from the wreckage of battle, almost uncharacteristically for her kind. Perhaps she recognized the value you carry in this campaign as one of our most effective officers.”
  100. >At those words, the techpriest looked over to you, if briefly.
  101. >“Well, once again, Commissar, my congratulations on your promotion. I hope that you shall be in full fighting form soon.”
  102. >Lord Armis exits through the tent flap.
  103. >“The Commissar’s analysis of my actions is completely incorrect,” the techpriest says, suddenly, not turning from her machines. “You were merely the last one alive, other than myself. I simply tried to save as many as I could. It was a logical choice of action, I believe. I knew nothing of your importance to this campaign.”
  104. >You say nothing in reply, and the techpriest continues no further.
  106. >A large holomap of the lines of trenches is projected in front of you, markings of regiments of troops painted in their colors.
  107. >You and your fellow commissars stand around it, waiting for your briefing to begin.
  108. >Hovering about you, sometimes literally, are the various auxiliaries of the regiment: priests of all ranks, both Munitorum and Mechanicus; a handful of Inquisitorial staff, investigating the Chaos incursion on the planet; and a lone psyker, lurking in the shadows away from the crowd of people, her nose firmly stuck in a book.
  109. >Around you swarmed dozens of servo-skulls and messenger servitors, bearing scrolls and dataslates.
  110. >As if on cue, Lord Armis enters with his retinue of other higher-ranked commissars.
  111. >“Is everyone here?” he asks. “Excellent. There is much to discuss. First, Commissar Solis Caelitus, I would like to hear your report on the recent battle with the 45th Regiment in sector 6. What happened?”
  112. >You get up from your seat, saluting the Lord Commissar.
  113. “Our forces had routed the Chaos cultists as they attacked the first line of trenches, with the addition of support from one of our Leman Russ tanks. However, the heretics then launched a massive artillery barrage that eliminated much of the regiment’s forces deployed to that sector. I estimate our losses at approximately 560 guardsmen, plus the tank. Fortunately, due to efforts from the 107th and 59th Regiments on the flanks, the breach in the line was filled before the Chaos forces could break through to our secondary lines.”
  114. >You had learned of that last part from the commanders of the 107th and 59th, who had lost a total of 300 men between them as they re-took your lost position from the cultists.
  115. >“Thank you, Commissar,” Armis says. “We are at an impasse with the forces of Chaos. They continue to send their forces into our lines, and we continue to repel them. Due to their air defense network and artillery forces, we cannot break through their lines. Due to the strength of will of our men, they cannot break through ours. Retreat is, of course, not an option, but, if we do not make a breakthrough soon, the Chaos forces will bleed us faster than we can draw up replacements.”
  116. >“If I could make a suggestion, Lord Commissar Armis,” a tinny voice speaks up.
  117. “Magos Scintillula. What... suggestion... would you make?”
  118. >“A detachment of the 39-Nu-Sigma-Tau Ironstrider Cavaliers recently performed reconnaissance operations of the Chaos artillery positions, with great strategic success. If we could perform a similar operation, with greater numbers, we could possibly outflank the Chaos forces from the northwest, and eliminate the threat of their artillery,” she says.
  119. “Yes, but do we have the forces to make that risk?”
  120. >“What remains of the 45th are at your disposal,” you state.
  121. >“As is the 91st Cavalry,” says their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Musculus Femoris.
  122. >A few other commissars and other officers volunteer their men for the assault.
  123. >“The 39-Nu-Sigma-Tau Ironstrider Cavaliers will also assist. We will merge our command structure with the 45th Regiment, so as to reinforce that weak point.”
  124. “Very good,” Lord Armis says. “With the combination of the rapid strike force of our cavalry and ironstriders, plus the raw strength of the mechanized and armored regiments, I think we may be able to make a breakthrough. We shall attack at dawn, tomorrow.
  125. >The Lord Commissar unsheathes his powersword and lifts it over the map.
  126. >“For the glory of the Emperor!” he shouts.
  127. >The other commanders soon follow suit, revealing their blades and clashing them against the Lord Commissar’s and repeating a peal of “For the glory of the Emperor!”
  128. >Lifting your chainsword, you clang it agains the others.
  129. “For the glory of the Emperor!”
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