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[40K] Marneus Calgar’s Barmy Army: Calgar’s Kidney Stone (part 2)

25/12/2014 in Warhammer 40K

5.00 avg. rating (95% score) - 1 vote

“Where’s that bloody tech marine?”

Dick had had to enlist three other Ultramarines to help him give a chair-lift to Marneus Calgar. The fat, complaining Chapter Master had point-blank refused to strip out of his armour for the journey. He was paranoid about “That new girl seeing my nipples”.

They’d worked up a fine sweat by the time they reached the transport bay. Unfortunately the bay, which was more of a circular, open-air arena which perpetually stank of promethium, was almost empty. The floor of the bay was streaked with black stains. Above them, the winter sky was a brooding presence.

“He’s uninstalling Firefox from all our computer systems, sir, and loading Opera in their place.”

“Why in the name of Bob Hoskins did I ask him to do that?”

“You need to work harder on those memory tests, sir. The Inquisition declared Firefox to be more bloated than Nurgle’s colon and you were sick of having your computer freeze for five minutes every time you started Firefox up. Said the waiting made your bollocks retract into your hips.”

“Tech-Priest Nerdingham is the laziest, most unmotivated slob in the region,” said Calgar without irony. “The first time he ever does anything I ask him to is the day my kidney goes kamikaze. He was supposed to be working on the Rhinos today!”

“You put the fear of Guilliman into him, my Lord, by threatening him thus: ‘I don’t give a flying feth about the tanks, mate, you either install Opera or spend five minutes in the nerve glove, pain level ‘watching the European intro to Gran Turismo 5.'”

“That’s quite a good impression of me,” Calgar said, not sure whether to be impressed or go into one of his tantrums. “You even pronounced our Primarch’s name correctly. Hardly anybody does that.”

(Unfortunately, dear reader, even I don’t know how to pronounce that name, and I’ve been taking it in vein for more than a decade!)

There was a familiar buzzing crack; not of the lord Calgar’s flatulence for a delightful change, but an incoming lasgun shot.

“Look out, sir!” Dick yelled, almost flipping the Chapter Master out of their grasp as he tumbled the group of Ultramarines sideways.

There really wasn’t any chance of dodging a laser beam unless you could think and move faster than the speed of light. Good old Dick though, reliable Dick, who always remained poised and ready for action, never sagging, no matter how spent he might be after a hard and painful ten minutes’ work.

It didn’t hurt that the person firing at them sucked harder as a marksman than Katie Price did as a wife. And I’m not being rude.

“Sorry!” Brin Milo called. The young Tanith stepped out from behind a barricade made of tyres and broken tank tracks carrying a long-las, the sniper variant of an Imperial Guard lasgun. He was followed by the Barmy Army’s latest recruit, Nessa Bourah, the only female to unwittingly join the ranks of the Ultramarines. She was one of the best snipers Calgar had ever seen. Unfortunately for her, Bourah spent more time ironing Calgar’s underpants than she did fighting Orks, since Calgar had better things to do than adopt a progressive attitude towards women.

“I’ll fething kill you, you little gretchin!” Calgar yelled, shaking a fist at Milo while the Ultramarines struggled to get their leader back up.

“I was teaching him to shoot,” signed Bourah. Nessa Bourah was a survivor of a hive war on some industrial world. She, along with many of her so-called “scratch company” – civilian miners, engineers and hab-workers who had taken up arms against the invasion – was deaf, her hearing destroyed by weeks of relentless bombardment. She had unwittingly joined the Ultramarines as their only female member. Nessa was the best shot Calgar had ever seen, easily on par with the keenest Ultramarine scout, and she was older, tougher and more experienced than podgy pipe-player Brin Milo, who had become her best friend in recent months. In fact, Calgar was surprised he wasn’t slipping her the sausage by now. He guessed that Macragge still harbouring Tyranid life forms and the threat of the Black Legion hanging over the galaxy didn’t exactly make the best aphrodisiacs.

“Good job,” Dick snapped. “He shoots like someone from X-Com. You nearly took Porky Pig’s head off!”

“Who’s Porky Pig?” Calgar roared, scowling at his Number Two.

“Er – I was talking about Brother Lukan,” Dick replied, shooting a glance at one of the Ultramarines, who nodded in understanding.

“Sod Porky Pig, he’s only worth fourteen points! I was nearly spitting my teeth out of the back of my head!”

“But you’ve got four Wounds, sir,” Milo squeaked.

“You’ve learned to count! Has she taught you other tricks?”

“I mean, sir, that I’d technically have to hit you four times before your head exploded. We’re not real people, sir, we’re plastic toys.”

“Humph! You lot may be, but I was the original Finecast,” replied a haughty Calgar, completely unaware that Finecast was seen as a costly and embarrassing failure, kind of like Calgar’s tenure as Papa Smurf. Coincidence? Not on your nelly!

==||==

Something else had happened that wasn’t coincidence.

The plague ship Hoffman’s Lament was alive with activity; not just of the thousands of humans and aliens manning the control systems and conducting sacrifices to the God of Plague, not even the morass of insects crawling, writhing, flying and buzzing in every corridor, every crawlspace, sliming up every control panel and access point, but the ship itself. The Lament had been forged in a time when the Death Guard bent its knee to the Emperor in person and its machine spirit still remembered the betrayal as its Mechanicum creators attempted to destroy it. It had surrendered to hatred long ago and now its machine spirit was corrupted with a techno-virus, a fusion of programming logic and silicon disease.

That ship now led a Plague Fleet to the heart of Ultramar.

The filthy, mewling forms even now excreting from its birthing-ports, to splodge on the deck in piles of blood and jelly, began to push against the birth sacs surrounding them. Amniotic fluid – vile toxic porridge laced with every known contagion, the better to increase the newborns’ resistance, and to create a new generation of carriers – splashed and flopped.

Three of the five watching forms stepped back to avoid the stuff.

Lord Rott and his commander, Septimus, grinned with pleasure as the mutant things freed themselves and stood before their new master.

“Wonderful,” Rott hissed. A snake-tongue, black and dry, licked cracked, cold sore-suffering lips as the Death Guard company master admired his new warriors.

“Indeed,” Septimus said. The adjutant was actually more imposing than his master, standing half a head taller and wearing a terminator suit wrested from a dead Ultramarine seven millennia ago. He clapped Rott on the shoulder. Insects buzzed as they rose from Rott’s power suit.

The other three figures stared in contempt or distaste.

“A blasted hulk of a ship shitting out more weaklings,” bellowed Khaenath. The blood on his armour could be smelled even above the excremental stench of the birthing ports. Rott turned to smile at the towering warrior. Khaenath’s battle-helm was wrought in the shape of Khorne’s runic skull. Black blood dribbled from his mouth grille. His power claw clenched and unclenched repeatedly, aching to crush Rott’s skull despite the close alliance both men had forged.

“You won’t find anyone more resilient in all this galaxy,” Rott said.

“Hah,” Khaenath spat. “Slow, weak, unable to claim the skulls of even an Eldar. The Imperial whelps will kill your… new recruits… before they even smell Ultramarine blood.”

“How like Khorne’s finest to overlook the subtleties of war,” purred Daneth Slash. The preening young warrior possessed a charm few in the galaxy could claim. Female humans, those pitiful nuns who took up arms for their false faith, had deserted their posts, their weapons, their self-control, to throw themselves at Slash and beg for his sexual indulgence – by Nurgle’s rotten soul, even men had done the same. Slash kept a stable of degraded humans around the throne aboard his vessel, the Blue Impulse, and used them occasionally. He’d even taken them to war, but a cohort of sexual deviants attached to him by chains had proven inconvenient despite his mastery of the sword.

“I presume a follower of the foppish coward-god has much to teach those who have claimed ten thousand skulls.”

“My point, dear Khaenath,” Slash chuckled, his hair glittering silver as he shook his head, “is that half of your men do not reach the enemy themselves. Every charge you’ve led has resulted in a massacre on both sides.”

“That’s the point, fool! Khorne cares not –“

“From whence the blood flows, yes,” said the only female present. “We haven’t heard that twenty times today.”

Serath Linne was a shadow beside the Astartes lords around her, quite literally; she was surrounded by a gliding, form-hugging layer of spectral energy, the souls of those she had slain and bound to her own protection. As humans went, she possessed a bleak beauty brought about by sorcery and not birth, with eyes as cold and dead as neutron stars and short black hair which looked more like a raven’s feathers.

“Silence, witch,” Khaenath snarled, taking a step towards her which Septimus moved to intercept. The Death Guard stared impassively into the World Eater’s hate-filled snarl, naked eyes meeting yellow vision slits.

“Gentlemen,” Rott said, breaking the tension, “we do our patrons no good by killing each other here. The real enemy hides behind his snivelling minions on Macragge. The Long War will not be resolved in the next five minutes. Save your wrath for the Ultramarines.”

Khaenath stared at Septimus for a moment. Then he stepped back. His rage no longer loomed like an invisible wraith.

“Very well,” he boomed. “I will lead the assault against the weakling Calgar and mount his head upon a spike.”

“Calgar is mine,” Rott told him. He looked at each of his fellow lords in turn. “Do as you will with the rest, but I am in command here… and I remind you that the Sickman will seek out any who betray me.”

Even Khaenath paid attention to that.

“Good luck, everyone,” Rott said good-naturedly, turning back to his new children.

The creatures had once been loyalist Space Marines captured by the Death Guard. Now, corrupted, infected, reborn in the wombs of bloated daemon-women who had each been a mass murderer before Lord Rott had enslaved them, they were something more – and something less.

Their armour shifted as the organisms infesting them jostled for comfort. Spines and blades pushed themselves from beneath, drawing growls of pain, then retracting to grow again elsewhere. A formidable sight, once that would be the doom of Marneus Calgar and the end of the realm of Ultramar.

“Your Grandfather loves you,” Rott said, phlegm burbling in his throat as he raised his voice. “Go forth and drown your enemies beneath a wave of filth. Make some new Plaguebearers for Him.”

Forty-nine Mutilators, hulking mutants designed only for slaughter, gurgled and puked their joy.

==||==

Nessa Bourah had already earned her keep.

The only vehicles available were a few junky Trojans which Calgar refused to go near, claiming that an artillery carrier or a recovery vehicle wasn’t exactly fit for the most powerful Chapter Master in the Imperium, but really he’d had a phobia of them since one ran over his foot last year.

Two Land Raiders and twenty Predators were parked in the maintenance area. All the autocannon turrets on the Predators were raised as if in salute, like Dalek eye-stalks in the Peter Cushing Dr Who, but the Land Raiders were partially disassembled and the Predators had no troop-carrying capability. Dick had been dreading the idea of pushing Calgar’s overweight arse inside one and was relieved this wouldn’t happen.

As Calgar sat in his men’s arms, using them like a weird palanquin, yelling at harried-looking maintenance blokes, the sound of a roaring petrochemical engine grew louder until a tank clattered into the maintenance bay. It had been based on a Rhino and wore the cross emblem of the assault company across its entire front, which looked awesome. It also wore mud splashes and speckles of rust – it probably hadn’t been maintained for decades – and most intriguingly of all, there was a rocket launcher mounted to its roof bigger than Calgar claimed his manhood to be.

The name Floor It was inscribed on the tank’s left hatch.

“What the feth?” Calgar said. “A Hunter? That’s a bloody AA piece!”

Bourah slid the driver’s vision slit open and grinned at the Ultramarines. Milo was also peering out from behind her.

“Your chariot awaits,” signed Nessa.

“Eh? You want a cup of tea?”

“You really need to work on your sign language, sir,” Dick said, nodding to his battle-brothers to stagger towards the Hunter.

“Careful, careful!” Calgar cried as they reached the side hatch, but it was too late; his head clanged loudly against the hull with teeth-clattering force.

“Someone unloaded all the ordnance,” Milo explained as the Ultramarines secured their leader on a wall bench which conveniently doubled as a seat. “There’s enough room for two Space Marines and two humans.”

“Aw, for feth’s sake,” Calgar said, rubbing his head, “does that mean we’re stuck with Milo and his fething pipe solos?”

“It’ll take about six hours to reach the apothecarion if Nessa hammers it,” Milo added. “This thing looks like it fought in the Great Heresy. It’s lucky we’re safe on Macragge. If anyone attacks us en route, we’re fethed.”

==||==

The barmy army was about to be fethed.

High above the farce of Calgar trying to get into one of his own vehicles, an orbital listening station detected something unusual. By something unusual, I mean a Chaos warfleet of Black Crusade proportions (let’s not fanny about with false suspense or I won’t get this done for Christmas).

A warp rift opened like a screaming maw, vomiting shard after shard of metal into Macragge space. Each shard, which glittered as it rotated onto an attack trajectory, was a starship forged in millennia past for hate’s sake. Right in the middle of the pack was a festering blade known and feared as the Hoffman’s Lament. Human, Eldar, Ork, Tau, Necrontyr, Tyranid, Demiurg, even a Klingon vessel that had somehow ended up in a shitty fan crossover, all races had lost ships and learned to dread Lord Rott’s space chariot.

“Detecting two thousand civilian vessels of escort size or above and one hundred and thirty-eight military ships,” Septimus slurred, looking up from one of those weird eye-scopes Spock and T’Pol always use. “A significant presence of Battlefleet Ultramar.”

“I’d love to take those bastards out of action,” Rott said, smiling at the thought. “Imagine the rewards that pony-tailed moron Abaddon would send our way. The Grandfather himself might gift me with daemonhood. Or, knowing my luck, a fething pony tail.”

“We’re here for Calgar, my lord,” Septimus cautioned. “Taking your eye off the prize will likely end in spawndom, not ascension.”

Rott sighed, watching the returns on his holo-screen, or at least what he could see of it with a thousand flies buzzing around his throne. His fleet was powerful, its captains bringing millennia of combat experience, but he knew the Imperial Navy didn’t feth around either; the Imperium was surrounded by threats, its starships saw battle daily and its ships were built to dominate. One hundred and thirty-eight vessels seemed like a small number to defend an empire, but these ships were there to defend a single world. There was no telling how many ships Battlefleet Ultramar could call on for reinforcements, or how long it would take them to get here, or even how many civilian ships were actually military vessels posing as harmless pilgrims. The Imperium had not endured against the Chaos Gods through weakness, even if Khaenath seemed to find it everywhere.

“You’re right, my friend,” Rott said at last. “Send Khaenath and his bloody idiots against the Navy, let them find the glorious death they crave. Direct the Nurgle, Slaanesh and Tzeentch elements against the planet while Khorne’s morons tie the Navy down. Primitive humans used to call this the Christmas season. Let’s give Macragge a present.”

==||=

Calgar’s Hunter set out alone, leaving the safety of Ultramarine HQ, a vast, brooding fortress with enough guns to single-handedly wipe out the Eldar. While it seems ridiculous that anyone would do this in a galaxy of eternal war, Merlin fans will recall how often Uther and Arthur buggered about in the woods with one servant for protection, just like real kings did!

“Nutcrackers are a girl’s best friend,” Calgar sang as the tank jostled about, occasionally causing his head to bounce off the hull.

Milo struggled from the driver’s compartment and looked to where Dick was attending his lord.

“How much have you given him?”

“Two hundred ccs of tetramorphine,” Dick said, looking grave.

“Two hundred! He’ll be able to fething fly to Mender’s!”

“He’s Astartes, Milo, and a hefty one at that. Any less and it wouldn’t make a difference.”

“How are we going to get him in there, anyway? It took four of you last time and now there’s only you.”

“There’ll be medical servitors, Milo. Although we might actually need munition-carrying Sentinels, considering Lord Calgar is something of a heffalump.”

The Hunter lurched harder than before, throwing Milo to the floor.

“Feth’s sake, Nessa, slow down!”

“Why do people always shout at her? She can’t hear you.”

There was another lurch, along with the unmistakeable sound of an explosion.

“What was that?” Milo said. “Please tell me Flat-Head farted.”

“We’re under attack!” Nessa yelled. “Hold on!”

A bit frigging late for that, Milo thought. Bourah chucked the Hunter through evasive manoeuvres. Milo tumbled around the interior like a bead of sweat between an escaped convict’s bum cheeks. Explosions sounded beyond the hull. Mud and shrapnel rang from the Hunter’s armour.

“Who the feth would attack us here?” Milo said.

Dick had wedged himself between Calgar and the floor.

“It’s a bit hard to tell from here, Milo! It’s probably that idiot Honsou again, itching for a repeat kicking. Get up front and speak to Nessa. And try to get HQ on the vox!”

Milo was so unsteady he barged into Bourah and made her lose concentration.

“Keep it steady,” he signed, “Calgar’s head’s gonna go through the hull!”

“I’m trying!” Nessa said. “This thing is harder to use than a Windows tablet.” The control column was weighted for an Astartes or an enhanced servitor. Fortunately, as a Tanith woman, Nessa was a lot stronger than any of those ponces.

The “distance remaining” indicator showed two hundred and seventy-five miles. There were only about three hundred miles of petrochemical fuel remaining, and that was if she took it steady. Bourah had some serious shit to contend with if she wanted to earn her place in the Barmy Army.

==||==

Serath Linne laughed at the pathetic sight of an Ultramarines tank trying to dodge the Silver Towers.

It had been a simple matter for her psyker-magic to locate the cretinous Smurf, travelling across his own continent in a rust bucket that was slower than a sloth on a Sunday and handled like an American “sports car”. Such a fool to think he was safe even here, in the heart of the Imperium.

Linne’s resources were practically unlimited. She carried a staff topped with a jade icon of the Changer which blazed with the essence of a bound Lord of Change and wore a necklace made from the fangs of Flesh Hounds. Her personal servants were renegade Space Marines broken to her will. She’d been a part of the attack on a Space Marine fleet when thirty Chapters had been sent into the Eye of Terror. The Chapter Master of the Grey Knights knew her name; she’d had it carved into the corpses of nine hundred pilgrims during her Sholam Atrocity, as it had become known.

Not without reason did Serath Linne stand beside the Astartes of the Original Legions, and not without passion had she taken Daneth Slash as a lover.

She’d used a portion of her power to send war machines of the Changer through to Macragge, bypassing Ultramar’s defences entirely. Two daemon engines of Tzeentch, colossal floating fortresses of silver walls, blue roofs and fluttering pennants, blasted bolts of force with erratic glee. Everything they struck became something else. Out here there was little more than rock and woodland. Trees became stooping or crouching giants of wood and flame that rose up to stride towards Macragge’s population centres. Daemons giggled and cavorted in their wake, summoned by the onslaught of magic.

Screamers, shark-like Daemons perpetually on the hunt for souls, swirled around the towers and occasionally swooped down over the fleeing Hunter. They flicked aside at the last minute, impelled by Linne’s will to do no harm; she had no desire to lose the ally she had in Rott, nor to face the Sickman, for the momentary pleasure of slaughtering Calgar. It was far more fun to hunt the man, drive him aimlessly, make him frantic, or at least as close to frantic as a Space Marine could become. Let him make a mistake. Laugh as his people saw him run, only to inducted into the Death Guard and sent against them as a broken and filth-encrusted ruin of a man.

==||==

“Who’s she?” Nessa called to Milo. Milo had been staring at the fuel counter with a grim face. He turned to look out of the driver’s viewing port and flinched as dirt flew in. When he looked again, he saw the figure the sniper had spotted.

There was a woman on what looked like a double-hulled jetbike above the Hunter, keeping pace with the fleeing tank. As Milo watched, the woman hurled a bolt of flickering colour at them. It landed a few metres ahead and burrowed into the earth. Even as Bourah threw the tank around it they saw what looked like a blue, thin arm reaching up and grasping the edge of the hole. Something huge was climbing out. They left it behind without seeing what it was. The two Tanith exchanged glances and said nothing. Then Milo turned and clambered into the tank’s main section, where Dick was slapping Calgar’s face.

“He won’t wake up!” the banner-man said. “I gave him a dose that would tranquilise five Ogryn, but Lord Calgar is one big fat biffer, so I was worried it wouldn’t be enough. Maybe he’s not as overweight as we tell people.”

“Dick, there’s a woman out there!” Milo called back.

“There are eight billion women on this planet,” Dick said. “Be specific!”

“Whoever she is, she’s five hundred feet in the air riding a weird jetbike, chucking psyker magic at us.”

“Then blast the bitch!”

“I haven’t got a gun!” said Milo, wondering if Nessa still had her sniper rifle, not that it’s be much good firing it from inside a moving tank.

“We’re driving one, you fool! Get on the missile launcher, now!”

The launcher was operated from a hydraulic, gyroscopic seat dominating the vehicle’s main section. It was sized for a servitor. Milo looked a tard as he climbed in there. He began fiddling with controls, trying to orientate the launcher, checking to see if any missiles had been left in the pipe.

“What are you farting about for? Shoot!”

“I don’t know what I’m fething well doing!”

End of part 2

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