A Guard patrol runs afoul of a Tau ambush. Will their faith in the Emperor and unreliable technology see them home?
Platoon commander Devin Myland rubbed his eyes. He always thought he was too young for leading a platoon, but then again, he was the most experienced soldier around... It had been a long time since anyone had slept. Myland putted his fur cap back upon his head and kneeled down. He looked at the remains of his platoon. Most of the squads used to exist of thirthy soldiers, right now they were shrunk to just twenty soldiers. Everyone in his platoon wore the Bataviran great coats, except for the woman, they wore Bataviran battle dresses. It were around sixty healthy guys, maybe five wounded and seven chimera’s. He and his group had been cut off from the main assault four days ago, thus leaving them stranded behind enemy lines. The platoon commander looked at his three squad leaders who sat opposite of him, Detlev Vordon, the young leader of brown squad. He was a fine guy and one of the most reliable men of the entire company. He was previously a soldier in the fifth company. Myland was very glad that he had him around. Next to him stood Mandor Dernov, a handsome guy and a fine soldier to have around. He had a reputation of getting every job done with his yellow squad. He managed to get his rank by being the best soldier of his squad. Gresliv Billdov was a lazy soldier, like every other guy in black squad. “We are here,” Myland said, he pointed at the map on the ground, “somewhere here is our regiment. We have the mountains here. We can cross them here and here. After that, we are in Imperial territory. But before we can cross the mountains we have to cross a bridge here. The entire road is filled with hills and other places for ambushes. If the Emperor wants it, we will come back safe. But there i-”
Suddenly next to one of the chimera’s a EMP grenade exploded. Several plasma shots flew around the guardsmen. Some were hit and fell wounded to the ground, screaming in their pain. The medic, Lyanna Oiseau, ran around tending the wounded. She looked at the wounds, gave them some sort of painkiller and rushed to the next wounded. "Get back to your squads, we will finish this later," Myland yelled and began ordering soldiers around.
Vordon ran back to his squad and began barking orders. The guardsmen fired wildly into the surrounding area, but couldn’t find the enemy. Yet the unseen enemy managed to wound his soldiers. Vordon grabbed his laspistol and fired at where he thought the enemy was. Just as soon as the firing started, it stopped again. One guardsmen came out of cover, trying to look where the invisible attacker had went. “Stay down, wait a little longer,” Vordon told him. They waited a couple of minutes before they carefully left cover again. One guardsman was lay dead against the side of a chimera. His head was burst open and the blood was spread out over the entire flank of the tank, it reminded Vordon of back on Batavira when he used to shoot pieces of overripe fruits. They also bursted open like that…
Myland called out for all the squad leaders, however only two came. Dernov was the first to arrive, he had been hit in his hand, after it Vordon ran over to them. A guardsmen came closer and asked permission to talk with Myland, who walked away with him.
After a minute or two, Myland came back and had a bad expression upon his face. He said to the two squad leaders : “If I’m right, we got around ten wounded, five casualties and a chimera that refuses to start again. Among the dead is sergeant Billdov. I don’t want to stay here any longer, because the enemy will probably strike again. We will drive in a long column, the column will be split in two parts. Three chimera’s will follow me and the other three will be under command of Vordon. We will load the wounded into the last two chimera’s from Vordon’s group. Brown squad will serve as protection for the wounded. As for the broken tank, we will scavenge what we can and demolish the remains. I don't want the enemy to use any of the Emperor's materials against his noble soldiers. I will take command of black squad. Yellow and black squad will go at the front. I want to have some distance between us so that we can help each other if one of the groups gets attacked. Now load up and let’s leave this place.”
Lyanna Oiseau was tending the wounded inside the chimera. Despite her young age, she was one of the best medic’s of the entire regiment. Her battle dress and her black hair were smeared with blood. “This isn’t a place to perform amputations…” she thought. She looked at the guardsmen she was attending too. He had a large wound in his stomach and his eyes had an empty gaze, he had died. She went over to another guardsmen who had been shot in the hand. Oiseau was already tired and she just had fourteen wounded.
The first group advanced at a pretty good rate. The wounded hadn’t slowed the platoon down that much. Myland hoped that that the unknown attacker wouldn’t strike again, however he knew it wouldn’t be true. They would be attacked again, he just didn’t know when it would happen. What annoyed him most was that he didn’t know who or what the attacker was. Probably Tau or heretics, but he didn’t know which one it was.
While Myland thought about it, some pulse carabines opened fire upon the guardsmen. The guardsmen dived off the tanks to look for cover in the surrounding area. One guardsman got hit and fell in front of an advancing tank… Myland began shouting orders while the guardsmen fired in every direction. Plasma bounced off the hull of the chimera’s, but the tanks couldn’t use their flamers because the enemy was too far away. Myland fired his boltpistol in one direction and told his soldiers to fire in another direction. Plasma slammed into the ground around his feet. One of the unknown enemy started screaming, he probably had been wounded. “It’s that blue scum,” Myland said, “It are Tau pathfinders!” Suddenly Sid Fauquet, one of the youngest soldiers of the company, who had managed to loot a plasmagun from somewhere, yelled a war cry and ran off into the hills, like a real Bataviran should. “Fauquet! Get your ass back here!” Myland called after him, but it was too late already since the young Bataviran had gone over the top of the hill. He knew about Fauquet’s reputation as a trouble maker because Fauquet had been in several problems during the training session. If Fauquet didn’t give so much trouble, he would have been a squad leader by now. Just as soon as the firing had started, it stopped again. Then the sound of a plasmagun being fired could be heard. Followed by a Tau begging for his life. Then another war cry and the sound of bones being broken. After that Fauquet stood on top of one of the lower hills. He dragged back the remains of a dead Tau pathfinder. The blue face had been kicked in, blood came through the nose and the mouth and several teeth were missing. The hand was bend in an unnatural way and several pieces of the bone stuck out through the blue skin. The other arm was missing, instead there was a burned hole was where the shoulder should have been. Fauquet’s face had a “look what I found” expression. Myland walked over to him, smacked him in the face and said: “Ignore my orders one more time and I will shoot you on sight. Just because you managed to kill a blueberry doesn’t mean we should ignore my orders.” Despite having a red cheek Fauquet still stood upon his feet and grinned, “Sir, with my plasmagun I cannot hit shit. So the Emperor advised me to do it the Bataviran way. Arrogant, dedicated and ruthless.”
As soon as Vordon heard lasguns, shotguns and pulse weapons being fired, he ordered the chimera’s to drive faster. But he and the others arrived too late. The fighting was already over. Vordon climbed down the chimera and ran towards the officer.
“Alright Vordon, you are the last surviving squad leader. Dernov got shot by one of those blueberries and now faces the Emperor. He wasn’t the only casualty, we got three more deaths. We also have seven more wounded too look after. I will place them inside one of your chimera’s. We will move ahead slower, I don’t want anymore nasty surprises. Get Oiseau over here, we got a new job for her.”
That night everyone slept inside the chimera’s. Private Emor Ignas was on guard duty with his friend Tuck McNitt. “Hey, I’m going to take a piss. Wait here, it won’t be long.”
-“Don’t wander too far off.” McNitt replied and sat down upon a stone. He thought back about how he joined the Guard. He hadn’t finished school and lied about his age. He did it with just one purpose, to serve the Emperor. The sooner he could join the better. But there also was another purpose for joining the guard: To flee from his mother. She tried to control his entire life after his father died when he was seven years old. But here upon another planet she couldn’t order him around all day and he served the Emperor. “To birds with one stone”, he thought with a meager grin.
After ten minutes Ignas still hadn’t come back. A search party was assembled to look for him, but they couldn’t find him. After one hour, when everything was silent a guardsmen started screaming. “That’s Ignas!” one guy whispered. His screams echoed between the hills. After a while he stopped screaming again. A search party went out to try to find him, but they couldn’t find him. Another hour went by before the screaming started again, this time from another direction. He screamed for ten maybe twenty minutes and then stopped again. A new search group went out to look for him, but they couldn’t find him. The third time, no search party went out anymore. He kept screaming for the better part of the night. In the morning everyone was in a bad mood due the lack of proper sleep but they send out a new search party, they failed again and returned back to the camp. Not even his body was found. Ignas was reported as missing and the group went on.
At noon, the group stopped near the bridge. The bridge was small, perhaps big enough for just one tank and made out of wood. It looked very fragile. The river was maybe thirty foot wide. It would be atleast a twenty foot free fall before you fell into the water. Next to the bridge hung the tortured body of what once had been a guardsman. He wore the brown Bataviran greatcoat. His fur cap was missing, as well as his eyes, tongue, fingers and ears… They had found Ignas again… McNitt climbed of the chimera and wanted to approach the dead body. “Wait,” Vordon said to him, “I know those blueberries. It probably is a trap. Watch this…” He picked up a stone and threw it at Ignas his body. For a while nothing happened when suddenly his body exploded. Bones and blood rained down but no guardsmen got hurt. Myland gathered four guardsmen, whom he ordered to cross the bridge at a slow pace, trying to look for any booby traps. “When you reach the other side, you scout ahead until you find a rendez-vous point.” He send the soldiers away and looked for Vordon, who was sitting next to his chimera. “Vordon! Here’s the plan. I will cross the bridge first with my two squads. Then we will move ahead and set up a camp there. We will wait there until you and your squads arrive. Also... you get Fauquet, I don’t want him to do anything stupid again like last time…”
Thirty minutes had passed since Myland and the two squads had set up their camp. It wasn’t very big but they could defend it quite well. Vordon and his group would arrive soon. The tank crews were out of their vehicles to stretch their legs and walk around for a while. The guardsman next to Myland fell down to the ground from a plasma bolt to the eye. Several other guardsmen fell down, shot by the Pulse Carabines. Most of the tank crews were already dead. The entire group was in chaos due the lack of orders. A lot of them looked at the officer for the orders he was going to give. Some Batavirans fired their weapons at the hidden Tau pathfinders. Myland quickly looked around to see where the firing came from, some pulse carabines were fired from the large hill nearby. His soldiers were dying in droves, while he yelled out for the remainder of his platoon, “They are over there! Over that hill! Follow me!” He started running towards the hill. Around fifteen guardsmen followed him, screaming about Batavira and the Emperor. The plasma was aimed at Myland, but the Tau failed to hit him. Instead the plasma wounded his soldiers or hit the dirt. The soldier who ran next to the officer got hit in the throat. A fountain of blood gushed out of him when he fell down to the ground. Myland also got hit by the Tau pathfinders, he got hit in his left shoulder and dropped his boltpistol. However he just held his chainsword tighter. The surviving soldiers could already see the three Tau trying to run for it. But the Imperial soldiers were faster and caught up with them. By now Myland’s group of guardsmen had shrunk to just six soldiers. They used their weapons as clubs to beat up the Tau to pulp. One girl used the stock of her shotgun to slam a kneeling Tau pathfinder in the face. Teeth, blood and even an eye flew through the air. Myland used his chainsword upon another one. The Tau tried to run away, but Myland managed to cut of one of his legs. The pathfinder tried to crawl away. The officer just leaned forward with his chainsword. The Tau screamed something and pointed in one direction. The last Tau didn’t put up a fight, instead he just begged for mercy. The fight was over pretty quickly. The group relaxed for a moment before they had noticed that around them a circle of more Tau pathfinders had gathered. They were with nine maybe ten. Most of them aimed their pulse carabines at him. One had around his neck a pair of human ears. The Tau with ears around his neck said in Low Gothic: “We saw how you killed our soldiers. They fought for the greater good, but I didn’t send in my soldiers to help them. Because then you wouldn’t leave pretty corpses. Now throw away your weapons human and your life will be spared… Wait, we will kill you anyway... I want to hear you screaming, begging me to kill you and I want to have your ears. But don’t worry, we just want peace...”
Myland grinned, he would face the Emperor within mere moments, he couldn’t bring shame his family nor his planet in this moment. Every guardsmen thought the same as him. Myland and the others yelled just one thing: “Batavira!” They ran towards the Tau Pathfinders. All died before they could do any harm except Myland, he got shot in his leg while he hacked around with his chainsword. One of the Tau tried to use his pulse carabine as a shield. But the chainsword was stronger and cutted through the gun and the Tau his hand. The gun and the fingers fell upon the ground and Myland crushed them beneath his boots. He still swung around with his chainsword despite being wounded. He would die within mere moments but he still managed to hit another Tau in the head. The pathfinder screamed about peace and how much the dirty humans didn’t fight fair… He didn’t scream for long because Myland used his chainsword upon the same Tau his chest. Then Myland fell to the ground. Within his last moment he thought: “I made the Emperor proud…” His last sight was of the Tau with the human ears around his neck aiming his pulse pistol at his face…
Vordon, all of his soldiers and two of the chimera’s with the wounded had already crossed the bridge. They just had to wait for the last chimera. They were already too late, they had supposed to meet up with Myland earlier, but one of the chimera's got stuck upon the bridge. The last chimera was halfway when the wood started creaking. The sound could barely be heard above the sound of the engines. Vordon realized the danger, “Go! Faster! Get to the other side!” The tank commander didn’t seem to hear him and still drove at a slow pace. Vordon signaled for him but it wouldn’t help anymore, the bridge and the chimera fell down into the river. The commander managed to get out of the tank and tried to swam towards the shore, but suddenly a huge water animal appeared out of the water and dragged the commander under. He screamed in agony. The water turned red and an arm came floating upwards. Vordon and all the others watched in shock. He gathered the others and they continued down the road. Myland was just ahead of them. Vordon wondered how he could explain this to the officer.
“Fauquet, I heard you killed one of those blueberries. Why did you run off like that?” McNitt said to Fauquet as they walked down the road. Fauquet smiled and said: “I ain’t allowed to come back alive unless I managed to kill at least one Xenos. My father would kill me if I survived without killing one Xenos. So I figured that if I killed at least one I can die in peace because now I settled the score. My parents are happy that I killed one Xenos and I’m glad they are proud of me.”
McNitt stared at the ground after he heard these words. His mother would never be proud of him. He tried to change the subject. “Hey, shouldn’t we have encountered the other group by now?”
- “I think we are almost there, unless Vordon got lost. What annoys me is that I have to be with this group. I should be with the others, I should be with my squad.” Fauquet stopped walking and stood still and then ran forward.
Vordon saw this and cursed at Fauquet, he would be in serious trouble for this. Then he too saw what Fauquet had seen, they had encountered the camp… Fauquet was sitting next to a guardsmen, running at another one, knelt down, pressed him like a big baby against his chest and then going back to the first. He kept saying to himself: “I should have been here, I should have helped them.” McNitt and the others also ran forward. Oiseau ran around looking for survivors. The horrors they saw, it couldn’t be described. It was horrible what the Tau had done to the Imperial soldiers. The bodies of the guardsmen lay in twisted figures upon the ground, missing limbs, eyes and ears. Upon one of the chimera’s was painted with blood, it showed an obscene image of a Tau killing a guardsman. Underneath it stood a message in Low Gothic: “You are next!”
Vordon gathered his squad around him. All of their faces showed the same expression, revenge, revenge against the Tau. Especially Fauquet, who blamed himself for not being there to help his comrades. They couldn’t bury the dead soldiers. They didn’t have the time. Vordon and the other just wanted to get out of this place. They all said a prayer, closed the eyes of the dead soldiers, lay them all next to each other and then climbed upon the chimera’s. That blue scum had left the other tanks useless. Right now they all wanted this place.
The next day nothing happened, Vordon was sure the Tau would be waiting near the mountains. If they were waiting in the mountains, he had a small idea of how to fight against them. This time they wouldn’t be ambushed, he would use the flamers upon the chimera’s to kill that blue scum.
All the wounded and Oiseau still were inside the Chimera’s. The remaining men were moving up very carefully. Vordon ordered the wounded that could walk and still hold a rifle to walk with them outside of the chimera’s. Oiseau had of course protested against this, but this time he needed every soldier he could get. They had made it almost back, he couldn’t afford it to lose more guys.
Just one more mountain, that was all they had to cross. The group wasn’t attacked by the Tau Pathfinders since the massacre at the bridge. So the Tau was certainly waiting near those mountains.
Fauqeut was walking cautiously next Vordon. Fauquet still had the plasmagun he looted from somewhere. In front of them were Pavill and McNitt.
“Fauquet, throw away that gun… It’s dangerous and you can’t hit shit with it.”
-“Hell no! I’m keeping her. As long as I got her, the Emperor protects me!”
“Don’t complain when she blows up and I have to save your skinny ass,” Vordon said, he spat upon the ground and continued, “that blue scum is probably waiting for us. Everyone be careful.” The Tau wouldn’t survive in firefight. That blue scum lacked the antitank fire, Vordon had noticed. Because they didn’t damage the Chimera’s at all. Suddenly Fauquet stood still and aimed his plasmagun in the air. He fired just one shot and a lone pathfinder fell from behind a rock. Then Pavill fell forward into the mud, a shining light erupting from his stomach. For a second everything stood still, then it all began… Guardsmen looked for cover, the Tau opening fire, the Imperials reacting, guardsmen getting hit. This time the Tau didn’t shoot to wound, they shot to kill. The soldiers were prepared for this attack and knew how to strike back. Everyone fired at the direction of the mountains. The soldiers probably wouldn’t hit the Tau, but at least the blueberries would keep their heads low. It was a part of Vordon’s little plan. Not that he had thought much about it… It just had to work now or they all would die within mere moments. “Forward! Get the chimera’s moving! Burn them!” Vordon yelled. While the tanks drove past him, he ordered the soldiers to follow close behind the tanks. The chimera’s managed to kill the Tau quite easily, with their Heavy Flamers, the screaming of the dying Tau echoed between the mountain. The Tau couldn’t outrun the flaming tongue of the Emperor. And the Emperor would show no mercy. All that was left of the Tau were some ashes. But three Tau had managed to survive the chimera’s firestorm. They opened fire with their Pulse carabines upon the guardsmen who advanced behind the tanks. Some guardsmen fell from their fire, but the soldiers were with too many. They were all driven by a vengeance. Vordon just said gave one order: “Kill them.” This was where the soldiers had waited for, they ran towards the Tau, even Oiseau, each of the soldiers had his bayonet upon his gun or in his hand. A Tau pathfinder, with ears around his neck, told something to the other two about the greater good, pointed at the charging soldiers, gave on of them a knife and then fled. The Batavirans yelled after the fleeing one while they charged into the remaining two. The two remaining Tau were no match for the Imperial veterans, they finally could get their revenge for their fallen brothers. The Tau with the knife held it out with one hand and covered his face with another hand. The other Tau just held up his pulse carabine. He was too afraid to fire. McNitt started laughing out loud. He used his shotgun as a club and slammed against the hand of the Tau that held out a knife. Before he could hit him again, Oiseau, the medic fired two quick shot at the Tau from point blank… The other Tau didn’t have much luck either, he ended up on the wrong side of too many bayonets…
Vordon raced after the lone Pathfinder. He caught up with him when the Tau fell down. The squad leader was about to kill the blueberry with his chainsword when the Tau poked a pulse pistol in Vordon’s chest. For a moment both wondered what to do. Then the Tau started screaming, his pistol and two fingers fell to the ground. Further away stood Fauquet, his plasmagun aimed at the Tau, while he screamed: “Who can’t hit shit now?!”
The squad leader looked at the Tau, whining and trying to save his own life in Low Gothic: “We mean peace… We wanted peace… Please don’t hurt me…” Then Vordon saw what the Tau carried around his neck, it was a necklace with ears among it, the ears from Vordon’s fallen brothers… There would be no peace this time, this time Vordon wanted revenge. He kicked the Tau to the ground. The Tau lifted his hand and Vordon cut it off with his chainsword. The hand fell next to the two fingers. “Mercy! Have mercy! You don’t fight war fair! You are not fair!” The Tau tried to crawl away while Vordon slowly followed him. Vordon just followed him, he hated that blue scum. They wanted war, they invaded this planet, but they wouldn’t accept the consequences. War never is fair… Vordon, tired of the cowardice blue scum, drove his chainsword into the Tau, while the Tau kept screaming about peace…
Vordon walked down the mountain, the survivors had gathered around the chimera’s.
Everyone climbed upon the chimera’s. Ahead of them lay the Imperial lines. With luck they would meet their regiment within twenty minutes…