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Marneus Calgar’s Barmy Army – part 2

20/11/2009 in Warhammer 40K

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(PART TWO)

The Long March where Calgar gets into a sticky situation and Brin Milo complains of carbuncles! (The big joke being that Calgar doesn’t in fact get into a sticky situation. He just gets sneezed on for no reason. And I can’t remember why Milo never complains of carbuncles – I think I just forgot to add it in.)

Originally posted on Imperial Literature 19/12/2001 at 20:42

“There are times when the lights of our glorious civilisation seem destined to go out. To be a man in the forty-first millennium is to endure pain and sacrifice in the hope that one day, in some distant glorious time, our species will be free. Rawlins, I’m not gonna tell you again mate, put that magazine away or it’s the nerve glove. Our beloved Emperor and his favoured son, our Primarch Roboute Guilliman, decreed that the Ultramarines should stand firm in the face of all opposition. We have done so for ten thousand years. I know what you’re doing, son, you’re deliberately angling your watch so the light is reflecting onto my head. I might have white hair but I’m not thick you know.

“We’ve done so for ten thousand years. We shall continue to do so for another ten thousand. We are Ultramarines. We exemplify the spirit of the Astartes. Stop it with that bloody watch! There’s no point denying it mate, there are about fifteen of you doing it — I don’t mind having a laugh now and then but this is like being in a disco. I’ll not tell you again son. We will continue to defy the night until the dawn of a new age, an age where we are free. As Martin Luther King once said, I may not get there with you, but — get there with — oh bugger it. Dinner gong’s about to go, last one in the refectory’s a Gaunt’s Ghost.”

– Unabridged version of Marneus Calgar’s “Lights of Civilisation” speech

Part Two: Calgar’s Brainfart

“I’m starving!” Marneus Calgar groaned, and the rumble of his stomach echoed around the cave system causing people to clutch stalactites and each other as the ground shook and rocks fell from the ceiling.

Milo appeared by Calgar’s side. “I thought you might be, sir. If you had eaten all of your sandwiches rather than leaving the crusts piled up round the edge of the plate, you might not feel so hungry.”

“That’s what happens when you make Pek sandwiches! I haven’t succumbed to the temptations of Slaanesh so you can take it for granted that I will never succumb to tinned ham.”

Milo completely flipped out on hearing the name Slaanesh, which was supposed to be proscribed knowledge yet is mentioned in every novel, short story and bit of colour text ever published by the GW. Even peasants living at the bottom of the Underhive on Necromunda have heard startlingly accurate rumours about “terrible ultimate anti-Gods who live in the Warp”. So much for the Inquisition and their D-notices!

Milo quickly recovered, remembering that Gaunt’s Ghosts kill daemons no problem because, well, I don’t know, but I’m sure most Imperial Guard aren’t so tough.

“I’ve made some vegetable soup, sir, but there’s only enough for four people.”

“How many of us are still alive?” asked Calgar.

“One hundred and thirty-seven, sir.”
Calgar snatched the tray Milo was carrying. “Then I don’t know what you lot are going to do for dinner. I need to keep my carbs up.” He examined the large bowl of steaming, lumpy green soup. “Christ, it reminds me of the time I last had a cold.”

“It’s very nutritious sir. I made it out of alien nettles. They’re exactly the same as Earth nettles, except they’re blue, and make a sort of singing noise.”

The Ultramarine standard bearer came closer, looking hopefully at the bowl of soup. “It’s better than eating alien cockroaches like we’ve been doing all week, sir.”

“Quite right.” Calgar made to throw the bowl’s entire contents into his cavernous maw in one go. Milo sneezed straight into Calgar’s face from point-blank range at the exact same moment. A mist of airborne diamonds sparkled on Calgar’s face and tongue. Calgar was so surprised he threw the soup tray into his own face, covering himself in boiling gruel.

“You feth-wit, Milo!” Calgar roared. “Now we’re all going to starve!”

“Sorry sir,” Milo sniffed. “I didn’t see that one coming!”

* * *

Milo had an incredibly convenient psychic relapse which showed him a secret way out of the caves — although on the bad side, he was forced to take the Ultramarines with him because the Emperor had some fantastic plan for them or whatever. Nobody executed Milo as a witch.

Calgar’s first spoken words on reaching the fresh misty air outside were “Oh Christ, isn’t there anywhere on this planet that’s dry?”

Milo and the standard bearer exchanged glances.

Doesn’t he ever shut up moaning? Milo thought.

“I heard that,” Calgar snapped. “Get to the back of the formation!”

They trudged over wet and sludgy fields for half an hour getting rained on and growing carbuncles on their toes. Milo had to walk bow-legged because his Tanith underpants were wet through and they were chafing his knackers.

As the seconds passed Calgar found himself growing increasingly frustrated.

“Christ, I’m bored,” the Ultramarine hero roared, startling everyone and causing two men to draw their bolters. “Has anyone got any chewing gum?”

He launched into a hearty rendition of “My time alone with the Emperor’s Daughter (Lock-in at the Girls’ Toilets)”, scaring crows from the trees which rose on either side of the Ultramarine advance. He was only stopped by the intervention of his standard bearer.

“Sir, you’ll have the Tau coming for us in a minute,” said the man who struggled beneath the weight of a flag that said ‘I’m walking next to the Lord Commander of the Ultramarines – fire mortars in this direction’.

“Shut up, you tart! We left the slapheads well behind.”

“I still think we need to quieten down a bit sir, just until we’re 100 miles out of hearing range,” replied his down-trodden second in command.

Somewhat to the standard bearer’s surprise Calgar fell silent; but it wasn’t long before he was swinging his arms freely and stomping through all the puddles. “I’m really bored! Standard bearer, kindly explain to me which stupid idiot decided to leave all the Razorbacks at home.”

The standard bearer looked highly uncomfortable. “Er – you did sir. Said they weren’t worth the points because they all get blown up before the end of turn two.”
Calgar gasped in outraged horror. “You can’t blame me, I’m the leader! I’ll have your head on a stick with an apple clenched between your teeth! I’ll grind your bones to make my porridge! You know as well as I do that when a great tactical balls-up has been made, it’s customary for everyone – including those responsible – to secretly blame the lily-livered Warmaster whose stupid, egomaniacal idea the whole disaster was in the first place.”

“But sir, you’re the Warmaster!”

Calgar turned to stare at his impertinent underling so furiously he slipped on some dung and nearly went for a six over a rock. He recovered quickly – although the embarrassment was done – but not before he’d noticed a small spherical object lying half-buried in the mud.

“What’s this?” he murmured, bending down to look at the black-and-yellow-striped device. “It says something in alien gibberish, but just like on Star Trek I’m somehow able to read it. ‘Quantum annihilator – three isotonnes’. I wonder what it means!”

“Sir, don’t pick it up!”

Calgar cast an irritated glance at his second-in-command. “Who died and made you Khan? Telling me what to do! How impertinent can you get? I’m the leader here, you just carry the stupid flag, so I can do what I want.” He reached for the device and turned it over in his hand. “Hmm, it says ‘Caution: mine’ on the back of it.” Calgar didn’t notice everyone else running away from him. “They should have put their name on it so we could return it to them.”

The device went up like a ruptured sun, wrecking one of Calgar’s expensive power fists and removing his eyebrows. His standard bearer approached cautiously from behind.

“Sir…are you all right?”

Calgar turned round. His face was a blackened mess, his white hair was sticking straight up like it did first thing in the morning and two of his front teeth were missing, as of course were his formerly bushy forehead-caterpillars.

“Do I look bloody all right?” he bellowed.

The standard bearer gasped in horror. “Sir, you look like Worzel Gummidge! I TOLD you not to pick it up!”

“Er – hello, Space Marine special character speaking. Feel free to argue with me when your points value exceeds one hundred. Now where’s that wally Milo? Why didn’t he warn me?”

The standard-bearer shrugged. “Perhaps he wasn’t sure of succeeding where the black-and-yellow stripes and warning messages failed.”

Milo appeared at Calgar’s elbow.

“What have you got to say for yourself you little son of a Tanith hussy?” demanded the Ultramarine leader.

Milo remained silent.

“Come on, your leader is waiting. You may call Gaunt as if he’s your mother’s dog but I’m not taking your Tanith crap.”

Milo made a mmmmm-ing noise, gesturing at his mouth. Calgar was incensed by such rudery.

“Ho! Ho boy, don’t feed me that rubbish. Exaplin yourself or you’ll get some of this,” he said, waving a giant gauntletted fist under the boy’s nose.

Milo used his psychic powers to transmit knowledge into the standard bearer’s brain — Calgar’s skull was too thick for it to work reliably. “Sir,” the flag-carrying bullet magnet with two Attacks said, “He thought you’d discover he had some chewing gum, so he forced five pounds of it into his mouth at once to prevent you getting it.”

Calgar stepped backwards. “I wish I understood that. Well, with Milo silenced, we’ve lost our early-warning system, but at least we won’t have to put up with him whining about ‘Lost Tanith’, or playing those rotten bagpipes”

“He hasn’t done that for about six books now sir.”

“Hasn’t he? Oh. Well. I kind of lost interest when the Saint reappeared only to vanish without mention. That reminds me, did I ever tell you when I went waterskiing and jumped a shark?”

* * *

Later on, the Ultramarines realised that they had walked around in a gigantic circle and were back outside the cave system they’d been hiding in six hours before. The massed Tau encampment sprawled out before them. The Tau force comprised three battlesuits, three broadsides, four squads of fire warriors, a pathfinder squad in a fishy thing, a few drones and the obligatory mob of Kroot looking extremely out of place. What other kind of Tau army is there?

“We’ve got to have to have a battle,” Calgar moaned. “It’s not fair, I’ve got water in my boot and I’ve sprung a hernia.”

“I told you to go to the toilet before we left the cave system, sir,” the standard bearer replied. “No man can go twenty-four hours without using the bog. I said your body would suffer irreparable damage.”

Calgar lowered his voice to a whisper. “You know I can’t risk letting any of the others find out if those obscene rumours of a personal nature are true. My street cred would go straight down the bowl, along with those piddly black turds I always seem to do.”

“Suppose so sir. What’s our battle-plan?”

“Er…we charge forwards firing our guns and engage them in hand-to-hand combat. They’re scared of us because we’re really hard, and hitting someone over the head with your gun is more decisive in battle than massed firepower – just like real life! We should beat them easily as long as we don’t roll any ones. Milo, you stand on that hilltop to distract their firepower. You’re only worth six points since we chose not to take your psychic powers.”

“Sounds like a classic plan sir,” his banner bearer replied, secretly thinking it was bleep.

“Okay lads,” roared Calgar, “let’s give them a right seeing-to!”

As the marines charged, bolters roaring, Milo stood on a hill-top overlooking the Tau camp and blew a wolf-whistle at the xenos. When the aliens started aiming their rifles at him, Milo turned around and dropped his trousers. All the Tau within visual range suffered immediate morale checks, most squads failing and being forced to fall back.

Calgar and several Marines turned to see what Milo was doing and felt their superhuman stomachs lurch with nausea as if they’d all just woken up after a night out with the lads, mega-strong curries and vodka chasers included.

“Jesus Christ, Milo, I said distract them, not subject them to the circle of despair!”

The remaining Tau opened fire, one railgun round vaporising Milo but leaving him miraculously unharmed – the Tanith were born survivors, especially when suffering mortal wounds. He must have been wearing a metal flower from House Chass, Calgar thought.

Battle-brothers fell all around. They weren’t main characters so no-one cared. A quantum grenade reduced the Ultramarines battle banner to a charred stump and gave the standard bearer the same hair cut as the holographic doctor from Star Trek: Voyager.

“We’re getting our arses kicked sir!” the standard bearer said as his Attacks bounced off a fire warrior’s armour. The alien’s return blow was also rebutted by the standard bearer’s power suit. In fact, nobody was dying in close combat because of their high armour saves.

Calgar’s storm bolter rounds bounced off the incoming Battlesuits. He was engaged in assault and went into Omnislash mode. Calgar launched a cwhuwhyl, followed by a cwyl-dar and then a magnificent cwul-nul-doodle-on-the-day. For anyone who’s finding this battle scene impossible to understand, I made those fighting techniques up to make Calgar sound cool. Why Welsh words? Dunno really. I’m not a Welshman (just like Dan Abnett!), though there are a lot of sheep where I live. Anyway, back to what little plot I can scrape together.

Drones were circling round behind the humans. A firestorm of epic proportions smacked into Calgar and he lost several Wounds. Not for Calgar the embarrassment of being stuffed back into the carry case!

“BLOODY HELL! RETREAT!” yelled Calgar, and the marines ran back up the hill, shouting insults over their shoulders at the Tau.

End of Part 2

— Tune into part 3 where the Ultramarines make fools of themselves yet again – with a little help from Milo!

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