Hello folks. This’ll be my last post for a while – I’m away for a few weeks R&R and I don’t intend to be online at any point. I thought I’d leave you with my humble attempt at a short story, relaying my recent battle report as a narrative. I’ll warn you in advance – I haven’t done any ‘creative writing’ since my school days, and I post this with some embarrassment, but it’s just a bit of a laugh really so what the hell. That said, I did enjoy the process and I’d like to do it more, so I’d really appreciate any feedback to help me improve! Oh, by the way, I swear, so please don’t read on if you’re easily offended by such things.
“The enemy force approaches, Colonel” whispered Krase, his command appointed Astropath. “Thank you, honoured seer” he replied. Although generally distrustful of those with the psychic taint, Ballon found it hard to dislike Krase. The Astropath’s noble and cultured bearing was certainly a million miles from the carrion-like battle psykers that the regiment kept chained in the holds of their command Leviathan. He felt the familiar flutter of anticipation as he surveyed the scene – anticipation of trouble to come. His force was small, no more than a scouting group really, a half strength mechanised platoon to his left, and a squad of Plasma Grenadiers with fire support from a pair of Sentinels from the Praetorian Lancers in the centre. He had also been ordered to take a small brotherhood of Wyrdvane battle psykers with him, much to his distaste. He didn’t have a choice in taking the tainted mutants, but his orders were not specific on how to utilise them. He had ensured that their disturbing presence was out on the right flank, as far away from the remainder of the force as possible, ostensibly covering the single Wyvern artillery unit he had at his disposal.
Ballon forced his attention back to the scene before him. He had been tasked with a reconnaissance run on a small mining settlement on the backwater world of Bennett’s End – a lowly duty for a man of his rank, but he guessed that it was all part of the process of proving his credentials to high command. He could understand that – he would have done the same thing if he had posted a new commander to an existing company. Besides, it gave him a good opportunity to see what his new unit could do in a fight. With that thought he swept his gaze over the group. The Praetorian 215th were an honourable unit, but the regiment had suffered a series of setbacks over recent months. The soldiers certainly projected the proud bearing he would expect of the men of Praetoria, but he also sensed trepidation behind the smart uniforms and well drilled precision. Unsurprising really he thought; he would likely feel the same after the beatings that the regiment had taken of late, especially with a new commander in charge. It was no secret that Ballon had been posted to the regiment to rectify the perceived failures of the previous commander, a fact which would make any Guardsman nervous. Ballon smiled to himself – he knew that these men desperately needed to feel the thrill of victory, and he was looking forward to leading them to that end.
“They are close. Colonel, It’s time.” Krase reported, his blindfolded face tracking left and right. Ballon drew a breath, unsettling the cyber-aquila griping his gauntlet. “Listen in! Lancers, Grenadiers, advance to cover and get eyes on the settlement. One platoon, mount up”. His forces snapped to obey, the veteran Grenadiers rolling their Lascannon forward into cover next to a vacant building, the bulk of the squad remaining out of sight behind the structure. The Lancer Sentinels carefully picked their way into some ruins, the hum of their plasma cannons rising in pitch as the fearsome weapons were powered up, while One Platoon smartly mounted up in their Chimers. “Sir”, barked his vox operator, “The Wyvern crew are requesting an update regarding the Wyrdvanes… apparently they aren’t happy where they are…they’re rambling about some premonition”. Ballon glanced at Krase, who merely smiled, before rounding on the vox operator. “What’s your name son” he asked. “Davies, sir” replied the vox operator. “Well, mister Davies. Kindly ask the crew to inform the Wyrdvanes that I don’t give a damn about their premonition, and that I will personally rip out their eye-balls and feed them to my fucking Aquila if they do not stand fast and follow my previous instructions to the letter.” “Yessir”, the vox operator replied, a smile in his eye as he relayed the Colonels instruction verbatim. Ballon glared across the hundred meters or so that separated his main force from the psykers, watching their exchange with the Wyvern crew. As one, the mutants turned and stared at him for a moment with their dead eyes, before silently taking cover in the ruins to which they had been assigned.
Satisfied, Ballon shouted to the Grenadiers and Lancers for an update. “Sir, renegade astartes spotted, two squads in cover to the front, two Dreadonughts on the left flank” shouted one of the veteran Lascannon team. “Sir, another squad of renegades advancing, right flank” added one of the Lancer pilots from the top hatch of his Sentinel, pointing to an unseen target to the right. “Renegade astartes… Dreadnoughts… a tough prospect” Ballon mused as he took cover behind the scant shelter of the ruins that the Sentinels occupied. He held out the arm on which the Aquila perched, allowing the construct a view of the field. Instantly, the optical bionics and cogitation engines of the two-headed eagle began to relay targeting and strategic data to the ocular augmentations behind Ballon’s eye-patch. Clarity and decision arrived swiftly: “Davies, relay these commands: One platoon to advance and secure points one and two on the left flank. Artillery, open fire on coordinates 15,89,65,A, decreasing range by 10 meters per volley, maximum spread. Remainder, look to the front. Bring those Dreadnoughts down!” The men of the 215th jumped to obey. The three chimeras of One Platoon began to roll forward, and immediately came under fire from the rearmost dreadnought, the unmistakable howl of a multimelta preceding a spectacular explosion in the lead Chimera’s steam propulsion unit. The remaining transports steered around the stricken carrier and accelerated out of sight behind the intervening buildings, while the distant whump-whump-whump of the Wyvern told the Colonel that the artillery were engaging the blue-clad renegades advancing on his right. At the same time, much closer to hand, the bone-jarring shriek of plasma discharge and Lascannon fire almost deafened the Colonel as the Sentinels and Grenadiers opened up. The light was blinding, sending glowing after-images chasing through the vision of his organic eye, while his bionic one received the filtered images of the lead Dreadnought disintegrating in the midst of a superheated maelstrom. The aquila barely moved as it processed the battle scene for him with mechanical purpose.
Return bolter fire from the nearest renegades smashed through the cover protecting the Lascannon team. The gunners fell, one with his head nearly separated from his body by an exploding bolt to the neck, while the other caught one in the left hip, blowing the leg off and spreading his intestines over several meters. “Plasma gunners, stand-to and give those nutless whoresons the good news!” shouted Ballon. The men obeyed instantly, ignoring the remains of their squad-mates, and laid down a curtain of plasma fire that punished the Astartes, downing several, and forcing the remainder further back into cover. Ballon risked a glance to the right. “Seer, any insight regarding the right flank?” but Krase remained silent, his face contorted in concentration as he focused unknown energies, his cane arcing fat sparks into the ground. “Great…” Ballon muttered under his breath, before being distracted by the sound of the Lancers opening up again. He was rewarded by the Aquila-relayed vision of the second Dreadnought exploding under the furious barrage, along with icons that highlighted further casualties among the blue-clad renegades in cover opposite, presumably from opportunistic fire from One Platoon’s Chimeras as they took advantage of the views afforded by their flanking moves.
A second, larger, enemy squad opposite moved with measured precision to replace their fallen brothers, and for a moment, Ballon was struck by their discipline… “They certainly don’t look or act like renegades”, he thought, but that did not stop him ordering another volley of plasma. His troops responded admirably, the Grenadiers laying down witheringly accurate fire, backed up by the sickening scream of plasma cannon from the Lancers. Nothing had any right to survive the barrage, but to Ballon’s shock, the enemy squad appeared unscathed. “Colonel, I can feel a powerful psychic presence with them – they are protected by means that are beyond the mere physical” said Krase, noting Ballon’s surprise. “My sense suggests that our destiny does not align with theirs, but I can feel the threads of fate pulling us toward those advancing to our right… someone important… a leader… he needs to die…”
Ballon was briefly torn – he knew that the flanking squad would cause mayhem if it was allowed to rampage behind his lines, yet he desperately wanted to smash the warded squad to his front. As if to goad him, the enemy squad unleashed a furious bolter storm at an unseen target on the left flank. “That’ll be 1 section, the poor bastards” he muttered. The screams and detonations told him all he needed to know about the fate of those men, gunned down by a foe that had no natural right to be breathing. At that moment, Ballon registered more bolter fire from the right. He turned to see the blue-armoured forms of the flanking squad snapping off shots in his direction as they burst through a small clump of trees, heading towards the Wyrdvanes. The enemy unit were depleted, the result of the punishing fire from the Wyvern’s mortar on their approach, but still Grenadiers still fell to their fire, their proud armour no match for the explosive bolts of the enemy. Ballon barely had time to register this before the Aquila auto-highlighted a towering and ornately armoured individual in their midst. Through gritted teeth, Ballon bellowed “Contact, right! Grenadiers, Lancers, engage! Davies, orders for one platoon – secure point two and fall back to cover point three immediately, and tell the Wyvern to prepare to focus fire on the psykers’ position.”
The vox commands were quickly relayed as the men of the 215th obeyed without hesitation. Ballon could hear the infantry platoon rushing to secure the spot vacated by the Grenadiers, as the veterans grimly turned and advanced on the new threat, Sentinels stalking behind. “Come along gentlemen, time we got our hands dirty” he said to his command squad, nodding with approval as they cranked upped the power settings of their own plasma weaponry. He loosened his ceremonial las-pistol in its holster as they broke cover, advancing behind the veterans. As one, they moved towards the enemy that was charging the brotherhood of psykers. The Wyrds, realising their situation, attempted to bring their powers to bear on the advancing warriors. Rocks, branches and other debris rose into the air, before being hurled at the armoured forms by some invisible power. The impacts would have been horrendous had they fallen on normal humans, but there was no appreciable effect on the giant armoured forms of the genetically enhanced renegades. Barely had the micro-storm stopped before the renegades reached the psykers, butchering the brotherhood with fist and blade, killing them all where they stood.
For the briefest moment, the enemy were exposed. “OPEN FIRE!” shouted Ballon, and command squad, Grenadiers and Sentinels obeyed as one, a torrent of plasma and laser fire engulfing the enemy warriors. The resulting firestorm lit up the gloom like a miniature sun, too bright to look at directly without ocular enhancement or more mundane eye protection, yet as the flame subsided Ballon saw that a single armoured form was still standing. The cybernetic Aquila transmitted a stream of runes and icons to his bionic eye, describing various damage statistics and operational parameters. The enemy squad was no more, that was certain, but the unknown commander had survived according to the cogitation engines housed in the avian relic on his arm. As the plasma afterglow faded, Ballon locked his one organic eye with the impassive red eye-lenses of the enemy. He could see sparks falling from a personal power field in a shower, the cracked and blasted ceramite of the warrior’s armour, and the once proud heraldry scorched and blackened by the fire that his men had unleashed. The renegade saluted once with his power sword, lightning flickered up and down the blade as he began to advance. “Now” said Ballon to his vox operator, without taking his eye off the approaching agent of death. The vox clicked, and the advancing renegade vanished in a series of explosions and a storm of shrapnel as the Wyvern delivered a deadly payload of mortar shells in a tight group, directly on top of the enemy. “Try shrugging that off, bastard” thought Ballon.
A sudden silence fell over the field. “Colonel, I sense that the remaining Astartes are leaving” said Krase, calm as ever. “Thank you Astropath. Davies, get on the vox, I want someone from One Platoon to get his arse over here and get me an update on the platoon’s condition and disposition.” The veteran vox operator quietly set about transmitting the order, while Ballon took in the scene around him. The Sentinels and Wyvern were unscathed, as was his command squad. The Grenadiers were down to half strength, which was unfortunate, and the psyker battle squad was no more. “No great loss there” thought Ballon. “It was shrewd to use the psychic brotherhood as bait for the renegade commander” whispered Krase, disturbing Ballon with his ability to seemingly pick the thoughts out of his head. “They died well, in the service of the Emperor” replied Ballon, suspecting that the Astropath would sense his unspoken contempt for the dead psykers. “Indeed” said Krase, with a slight smile.
The conversation was interrupted by an arrival from One Platoon. The corporal saluted. “Sir, Lieutenant Bridger reports 2 Section at full strength, 1 Section is down by seven men, and the Lieutenant lost two from the command squad when his Chimera got slagged. The platoon is holding points 2 and 3 as instructed, and the Lieutenant confirms the renegades have pulled back”. The symbols floating in the view afforded by Ballon’s ocular implant changed as the Aquila cogitated this new information. Fourteen Praetorian lives lost, one Chimera destroyed, and five mutant psykers butchered… not a bad exchange for two Dreadnoughts and seventeen renegade Astartes, including a leader of some importance. “Thank you Corporal. Seer, kindly relay our situation to command.” Krase cocked his blindfolded head. “I have already done so Colonel. High command expresses contentment, and instructs that we consolidate our hold here and await the relief force that will arrive within the hour”. Ballon grunted acknowledgement. “Listen in gents!” he shouted, “well-fought, we certainly gave those cockless wonders a bloody nose, but we’re not out of the shit yet. Get yourselves stood-to – I want an all-round defence, chop fucking chop… we’re to hold here until we’re relieved and I don’t want any of those renegade bastards to catch us with our pants down.” The Corporal from One Platoon made ready to leave, when Ballon quietly interrupted him. “Corporal, ask Mr. Bridger to detail three men and a Chimera to round up the casualties.” The Corporal snapped a grim-faced salute, “Sir.”
Ballon sat with his back against the wall of a shelled building that he had claimed as his temporary command post, listening as NCOs issuing commands as they oversaw the defensive arrangements. The Aquila hopped off his arm, cybernetics clicking and whirring as it settled on some shattered brickwork. “Davies? Vox the Wyvern and tell them to bring their gun up to the CP. I’ll bet those drop-shorts have got a brew on the go already, and I’ve got a mouth like a Tallarn’s sandal”. Davies relayed the command, and moments later Ballon heard the clank and rattle as the Wyvern began moving. “Good start” he thought to himself… “I think that this posting is going to work out nicely.”
Thanks for the game and the inspiration Mr. B – I hope you don’t mind me painting your goodies at baddies mate! Fog of war and all that :-)
Col. Ballon – mouth like a Tallarn’s sandal.