[40K] Marneus Calgar’s Barmy Army: A Christmas Calgar (2012 Xmas Special)
09/12/2012 in Warhammer 40K
“Confound this fething thing,” grumbled the Master of Ultramar as he struggled to retain his dignity. “I shall have to get that bodge-jobber of a Tech Priest to look it it. For the wages I am paying him, I should prefer him to be looking at my armchair rather than Necron porn. MILO! Come hence and clean up this mess forthwith.”
It was then the reality of Milo’s death hit him.
“Bollocks, now I must employ another wretch to do the cleaning,” Calgar mused. “Servitors! Fetch me a new Tanith!”
A CHRISTMAS CALGAR
An insulting bastardisation of Charles Dickens’ classic (which I incorrectly said was Lewis Carroll’s classic).
A Warhammer 40,000 parody by NoPoet
THE MARNEUS CALGAR’S BARMY ARMY THEME SONG
Special thanks to Dummeh and the folks at OC Remix!
PRAISE FOR MARNEUS CALGAR’S BARMY ARMY
“It’s CRAP! No-one even catches cold!”
- Grandfather Nurgle
“Finally! A 40K story where I don’t get referred to as a living corpse!”
- The Emperor (referring to an earlier version of this story)
“Hmm, it’s quite good actually. Better than anything I could write.”
- Stephen King (not THE Stephen King)
“Well it was totally substandard, wasn’t it.”
- Simon Cowell
“Even though I haven’t employed you, you’re FIRED!”
- Lord Alan Sugar, Arrogant Wanker
- The cast of Final Fantasy 7
“What the F@$K?!”
- Andy Chambers, ex-White Dwarf (speaking from his local hairdressers – note that I had a dream about him after writing this)
“Tie me kangeroo down, sport!”
- Rolf Harris
“One is not amused.”
- The Queen, Buckingham Palace, England
“You’re a strong solider.”
- My mum after I fell over when I was 5 and didn’t cry
“When are we gonna get to the fething story?”
- You (come on, you were thinking it)
It is the 41st Millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the living corpse Mankind calls the Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth, waiting for Apple to announce an iPhone that actually takes the fight to Android. The Emperor is the master of mankind by the will of Andy Chambers, and master of a million worlds by the promise of free “Pixie Lott gets out of a taxi in a short skirt” pictures for all.
The Emperor, or “Emporer” as Calgar spells it, is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from technology derived from something someone once saw in a Star Wars technical manual. He is the Carrion Lord of the Imperium for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day, so that he may never truly die. (Seriously, where do they find all those psykers? Think about the logistics of it: building spaceships, training Malleus crew, actually locating and capturing the psykers, supplying Black Ship crews with hygeinic handwash etc. The whole thing provokes a bilious bout. It’s no wonder the Emperor is always in pain.)
Even now, the Emperor continues his eternal vigilance. Mighty battlefleets cross the daemon-infested miasma of the warp, the only route between distant stars, their way lit by www.astronomican.com, the psychic manifestation of the Emperor’s will. Vast armies give battle in his name on uncounted worlds.
Greatest among his soldiers are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bio-engineered super-warriors, especially the Ultramarines. It’s hard NOT to be the greatest when you’re eight feet tall with the best armour and weaponry in the Imperium and your training includes relentless hypnotic suggestions about how hard you are.
To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruellest and most bloody regime imaginable. Forget the power of workplace health and safety, for this is not America. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for if the Inquisition can’t even get Latin right, what hope is there for the common scrubber living underground on Necromunda?
There is no peace among the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of insane bank investors as they bring planets to financial ruin.
Here’s a piece of music to set the scene for this story:
THE FIRST CHUFFTER: SETTING THINGS UP
Brin Milo was dead.
There is no point writing ten paragraphs about it, for there could be no doubt: Calgar and his veteran squad were lining up to urinate on the son of a bitch’s grave.
HERE LIES MILO, DEAD AS A DILDO.
Yes, they’d buggered up his inscription, which should have read “DEAD AS A DODO”, but they’d been in a hurry; they had to get it submitted before I’m A Celebrity started. Also, they were monumentally drunk. If you the Lord Calgar’s faculties weren’t scattered enough, you haven’t seen him after eight cans of cheap pish.
As for the gravestone’s “mason,” well, a siege dreadnought was hardly the ideal choice, but he was handy with a chainfist and he could draw neat lines… and he’d written F**K THE TAU EMPIRE across a crashed Tau skimmer-tank a few years ago, which had amused the Lord Calgar no end.
As the person indirectly responsible for Wesley Crusher – I mean Brin Milo – Marneus Calgar was feeling no small degree of shame about the Tanith bagpiper’s death as he returned to the living-room of the Castle of Macragge to make himself a bowl of toffee popcorn.
“Activate the holo-telly,” he told a servitor as he sat in his new reclining armchair. “One does believe the footy’s on.”
As the familiar theme tune to Match of the Day kicked off, Calgar leaned back to recline his seat. His feet flew up into the air with the suddenness of the chair’s response and popcorn spilled all over him.
“Confound this fething thing,” grumbled the Master of Ultramar as he struggled to retain his dignity. He was too unfit and, frankly, fat to get up, so he had to roll over one of the arms to free himself from his chairy prison. “That’s the third time I’ve done that this week. One shall have to get that bodge-jobber of a Tech Priest to look it it. For the wages I am paying him, I should prefer him to be looking at my armchair rather than Necron porn. MILO! Come hence and clean up this mess forthwith.”
The expected, black-armoured little creep failed to race into the room. The reality of Milo’s death hit Calgar with surprising strength.
“Bollocks! How dare he die before cleaning the living-room. He can’t get anything right… or couldn’t. Now I must employ another wretch to do the cleaning.” Calgar’s brain, which was powered by Skaven running on a wheel-shaped treadmill, sparked into life. “Servitors!”
Two moronic ex-humans lumbered into the room. One had its hands replaced with a never-ending supply of Mr Sheen and a dirty-looking dust cloth. The other was either a cooking servitor, or Calgar’s personal bum-wiper. They looked so alike with their vacant, staring faces. Points were at a premium this year and new servitors were expensive, so most of them were pulling double duties.
“Servitors,” commanded Lord Calgar, “fetch me a new Tanith! Make sure its points value does not exceed sixteen. You should be able to get a halfway-decent one for that, although I don’t care, as long as they don’t play the fething pipes.”
The Mr Sheen servitor was confused by this request and promptly blew up. Calgar hadn’t heard any “Lost Tanith” stories for a while so he’d forgotten that there were no more Tanith flunkies available. The other servitor thought for a moment, then trundled off and was promptly forgotten by our lord.
“Fethery,” said Calgar, looking from the destroyed servitor to the popcorn-strewn chair. He’d have to clean his own shit up for once.Yet our lord was wise, in his way, and used his oversized gauntlets to sweep the poprcorn across the room where it nestled under a table.
Calgar promptly fell asleep in front of the football as if this were any other Sunday, but it was not! It was a couple of days before Christmas – yet the Ultramarine base was decorated with nary a tree, nor even one of those little plastic snowman frames that you stick in the window and has flashing white lights on it!
Most of the Ultramarines had the royal huff about this disgraceful state of affairs. Yet Lord Calgar cared not a toss, for this wasn’t merely the season of Yule; it was also the season of penny-pinching. The Imperial Bank had been playing games on the planetary market. Terraforming companies had gone bust by the arse-load. Hence our Lord Calgar, who had heavily invested in some dodgy dealings amid the Praxis cluster, was down not one, not two – not even three! – but four thousand points from the Chapter budget! Mother of a feth!
“I wouldn’t mind, my Lord,” Dick Bannerman (faithful standard bearer and taker of much bullshit from Marneus Calgar) once complained, “but our new budget restrictions are too stingy. You promised me a brand spanking new banner to replace the one destroyed by those accursed Tau, yet I carry into battle a mere toothpick with a bit of coloured tissue paper stuck to it.”
“Shut thy poo-hole, Number Two,” retaliated our Lord. “I am most distempered at the moment, and your whining puts me in the mind to take my trousers down and dump my dinner here and now.”
“Er… of course, sir,” Bannerman said in a most humble manner. Unable to think of anything else to say, for how else do you respond to a grown man who threatens to defecate in the drawing-room, the good banner bearer removed himself from Calgar’s vicinity… which suited the Ultramarine leader most spiffingly.
And that, along with a few mishaps which included Brin Milo’s permanent death, is how Marneus Calgar ended up in front of the television during the 23rd and 24th of December in 999.M41, snoring while a helpless and flailing England team received their customary drubbing from a decent World Cup side.
Outside, the sun succumbed to winter’s draw, and what light it had mustered gave way to star-speckled night. Drifts of cloud frittered snow upon Ultramar. For the purposes of this story, it helps to imagine that Ultramar resembles a charming European city of the 1700s except with lights and snowmen everywhere – apart from Calgar’s vicinity. Snowmen melted when they heard the flatulent oaf stomping in their direction.
Frost rimed Calgar’s forehead and gradually created a layer which welded his armour to the chair.
Then – what was this? A knocking sounded at the door! Holy pant-fumes! It fair woke Calgar from his slumber. The Halls of Ultramar were beyond freezing at this time of year; Lord Calgar refused to allow the central heating to be set above -22 degrees centigrade for monetary reasons. While this was all right for his fellow Astartes, whose genhanced bodies and power armour could cope with the cold, the servitors were beginning to stick to the floor.
Calgar’s entire body crackled as he rose. Frost was shed from his armour like spunk from the handkerchief of a self-flagellator. The knocking came again.
“All RIGHT!” Calgar bellowed. “It is like falling asleep in one’s drawing-room in Nazi Germany. Can a Chapter Master find no peace in this galaxy of endless war? Er – never mind, that was a reticular question.”
Calgar swung the oak door open to reveal Milo’s replacement, a young brunette shivering in the snow, her black armour mostly obscured by a weird cape that mimicked the colours of the street beyond. She was attractive, as were all women in the Tanith regiment except that ugly one with the scars (is she dead yet?), though something in this woman’s demeanour told Calgar her birthplace was no Chaos-tainted forest world. She was wearing a stupendously oversized lasgun across her back and had a silver knife strapped to her thigh.
The more Calgar looked at her, the more he realised she was a babe. She was a bit skinny and the Tanith combat suit didn’t hug her figure. It was a marvel to find a female sci-fi soldier who didn’t wear clothes which flaunted her body. Then again, Calgar was an Ultramarine and didn’t care about that stuff, even if he was the ultimate sexist.
“And who might you be?” demanded the man who once killed Abaddon in a dream and subsequently woke to find himself covered in his own alcohol-laced vomit.
The young Tanith began to make a series of hand gestures.
“What is this?” Calgar said quizzically. “You look like Daniel-san at the end of Karate Kid 3. Are you trying to summon some sort of special move upon me?” Instantly the Ultrasmurf assumed a posture which in his mind, resembled a made-up ninja move known as the cwuhl-uhl-cwuhl, or Mantis Cock-Kick. It actually looked like he had been frozen in time while jumping out of some bushes to scare an old lady. That was just the sort of mean trick the puckered arsehole known to the world as Marneus Calgar would play, for he was indeed a horrible bastard.
The girl’s face displayed a cross between confusion and wariness. She repeated her hand gestures.
“Oh, I get it,” said Calgar, “you’re a deaf!” He immediately began to sign back to her, intending to say I assume this means you are looking for the workhouse like all the others of dilapidated mind and body?
The girl looked shocked. Calgar might have been the master of a thousand blue-armoured super-dudes, but he was a knave when it came to sign language.
“Why do you want to wear a bucket on your head?” the woman said aloud.
“Hmm,” Calgar pondered. “She can’t understand sign language. She must be mentally challenged as well.” He began to sign again.
The Tanith sniper looked even more shocked.
“You want a fish up your arse? Is that one of those weird Space Marine rituals we hear about?”
“Ahem,” coughed Calgar. He tried one last time, believing he asked her name, rank and – noticing her weapons – her special skills. You know, cooking, cleaning, etc. She might have a big gun but she was female.
I watch Star Trek. Do you watch Star Trek?
“Not when I’m at war,” Nessa said. “Well, maybe Deep Space Nine, but that’s so much better than the others it barely even qualifies as Star Trek. Can I come in yet? It’s freezing and I’ve got the nipple on.”
Of course, Calgar tried to sign. He actually said Trust me, I’m an idiot. Perhaps there was some kind of retarded Freudian stuff in there somewhere.
The girl might have been deaf, but she wasn’t slow. She put her hands on her hips and glared at Calgar as if he was making fun of her. Clearly she hadn’t heard about the real Calgar, the man whose entire existence was being flushed down the Maelstrom of life and was thrilled to death about it.
The soldier did not intimidate our esteemed Lord in the slightest. After all, it’s not Dan Abnett writing this, your author actually knows women in real life and dares to admit that a female soldier would get her arse handed to her in a fight against a Space Marine.
Calgar didn’t really rate sniper weapons. He didn’t use them, and thought anybody who did was a cowardy-custard. If the Lord Calgar had a problem with someone, he ran at them and kicked their fething faces out of the backs of their heads. Still, he knew his stuff when it came to guns.
“Hmm,” said Calgar, “that looks like one of the new hot-shot weapons that replaced needle rifles as the main Guard sniper weapon, contradicting two decades of 40K fluff. Can you handle such a weapon, woman?”
The girl nodded. She might be shite with sign language but she could read lips. Calgar glanced down, not appraising her boobies as she clearly first thought, but reading her name tag.
The Tanith logo – depressingly familiar to Calgar – was displayed above the name.
“Hmm, so there are more of you left after all,” Calgar said. “That second servitor either deserves a pay rise or its head dunking down the toilet. Well come in, Bourah N., and we shall find out if you’re half as crap at everything as Milo used to be.”
* * *
While Nessa got to work on the ironing, Calgar received a visit from some particularly unwelcome guests.
Upon hearing a rapping at his door, Calgar peered through the window. Two gentlement wearing heavy coats, horn-rimmed spectacles, bowler hats and big tashes stood upon the threshold. Snow fluttered down around them and lay in comical mounds atop their hats. One of the men, a youth with the look of a Terran about him (whatever that is in the 41st Millennium) clutched what looked like a bag of documents. The other man, the one who’d just been handling Calgar’s knocker, was much older.
“Oh, Christ-Emperor,” said Calgar, “it’s the bloody Eurocrats again. What are they doing in a 40K story? Oh well, the plot’s all been ripped from another source anyway, who cares!”
The gentlemen saw our protagonist and paid no heed to the alarm on his chiselled face. Instead, they waved.
“Ho! Ho there, Mr Calgar! Ho!” called the man carrying the bag.
“Super,” said the Ultramarine. “Now he’s doing Father Christmas impressions.” (Bah-dun-TUSH!) Calgar moved to the door and opened it. Cold air blew straight in, which didn’t seem to make much difference in the room.
“Thank you, sir,” the lead Eurocrat said, pushing past the Lord Calgar without invitation. His young colleague followed more nervously, giving Calgar a brief smile. The Smurf-master shut the door behind them. Every molecule of lost heat would come out of the Chapter’s budget.
“To what do I owe this anal pain?” Calgar said.
“Hmpf,” said the bag-carrier from Brussels. “The sign above your door reads, in crude black comic book-style letters, ‘The Castle of Macragge starring Marneus Calgar and Brin Milo’. Do I have the… er, the pleasure of addressing Mr Calgar or Mr Milo?”
“You speak with Calgar, and it’s Lord Calgar to non-elected members of the European Parliament. Mr Milo has been dead these last couple of hours.”
“Yes, we attended the epic celebration,” the older man said. “Lord Calgar, it is at this time of year we all must put our hands in our pockets and provide for the needy of Ultramar.”
“Am I to assume,” Calgar said testily, “that your own pockets are thoroughly delved?”
“My Lord Calgar, there has been little in my pockets besides lint and a cracked Texaco loyalty card for nigh on three years. Yet, what little I have cobbled together during these times of financial crisis have been shared with the unemployed and the ill.”
“I see,” said Marneus. “Are there no penal legions?”
“Unfortunately, yes, sir,” the second politician spoke up for the first time. He shrank beneath the attention of those who were clearly superior, then seemed to find his courage. “Would that there were no need for them!”
“Yes,” replied Calgar. “With millions of Tyranid ships heading our way, disbanding the militia would not be a clever gesture.”
“My Lord,” the lead Eurocrat added, “with your continuing wealth, you could build a hive to house every dispossessed person on the planet.”
“Never mind the Hive Fleets, there’s obviously room for more penal legions if our surplus of skivers and gobshites now requires I build a new hive! To the Warp with them, gentlemen. They can serve as whiteshields on some battlefront in the path of Kraken for all I care.”
“But my Lord!” protested the younger man. “Surely you -”
“Are you thick or something? Be off with you,” Calgar said to the older man, “and take your girlfriend with you. His verbal flatulence offends me. Would you like me to come into your living room and shit my pants right in your face?”
“My Lord Calgar,” the older man said gravely, “this is the Christmas season.”
“Christmas! Christmas! That is the only word one seems to hear these days, other than the ubiquitous ‘feth’. Christmas, you big-hatted bean-counter from Terra? Bah! Fethery!”
“Fethery?” the men from Brussels said together.
“Correct. I shall be using that word at key moments throughout this narrative. Now, sirs, I bid you good day.”
“I’m telling the Emperor on you!” the young politician shouted, impotent to do or say anything else.
“Shitting,” Calgar replied, pretending to bite his nails. “I’ll just wait for him to rejuvenate himself, climb out of his coffin and travel thousands of light-years, shall I?”
The two men left with indignant tuts.
“Oh, and gentlemen,” Calgar called from the window as they trudged away through the snow. The two men turned, faces contorted between hope and fear.
“You can sit on top of your theoretical hive and slide down it. Good day, gaylords.”
Oh, what an arse you are, Lord Calgar.
Surprisingly enough, considering what a dickhead he was to people, the Lord Calgar received another chance to redeem himself. It’s Christmas, after all.
Cullinus Rex, Master of Sendings – Calgar’s favourite-ever title for one of his underlings – ventured from the Reclusiam, where he spent his days ‘pondering the many psychic messages heading between Macragge and the rest of the Imperium’ (in other words, hiding from Calgar and his stupid demands). The old man shivered as his robes failed to protect him from December’s bite. Residents of Macragge watched with pity as he forded through the snow, but nobody had any spare clothing to offer him… not that anyone would have risked the psyker taint by actually going near him, in any case. Calgar’s tex levies had increased each month as the High Lords of Terra demanded the Ultramarines send ever more points to other, less fortunate Chapters… many of which had now either turned traitor or were building their own Titan Legions.
Rex had weakened considerably by the time he reached Calgar’s fortress (which for the purpose of this story resembled a quaint cottage, except it had battlements and loads of lascannon and autocannon sticking out). The astropath’s knocking was weak. Calgar’s enhanced hearing detected it but he couldn’t be arsed to answer the door as he was getting ready for bed, having just consumed a repast of bacon sarnies (sandwiches) and decaffinated PG Tips.
Nessa could hardly hear anything over the rows of tumble dryers under her command. It was like a Chinese laundry except she was the only person working there. Also, she was deaf. However, being a female Tanith, her senses were so finely-honed that her body detected vibrations coming from the front door as they were transmitted across the floor and through her Tanith combat boots into the soles of her feet. Beat that, mere men!
Cullinus Rex collapsed into Nessa’s arms when she answered the door. Nessa sang out to the Ultramarines. Even though she couldn’t hear, Nessa possessed a fabulous singing voice. She could also play the piano and strangle fully armoured Chaos Marines with her thighs, but let’s not uncover the iceberg of Nessa’s talents: this is Calgar’s story after all, even if Nessa could kick the arse of his entire Chapter on her own.
Dozens of power-armoured warriors appeared, weeping at the beauty of her song, which was “Don’t Get Fresh With Me” by Vanilla. When they saw the astropath they bundled him into the kitchen and sat him down beside the log fire Nessa had been using to cook their food in a traditional manner. She’d been roasting what would normally have been a turkey, but since Calgar wouldn’t pay the points to buy any, she’d had to snipe and spit a stray Termagant instead.
Dick Bannerman, the Ultramarine Standard Bearer, pushed to the front of the concerned crowd, and gave the astropath a mug of Earl Grey laced with brandy.
“I… bear a message… for the Lord Calgar,” the astropath wheezed, head rolling as though he would pass out. It wasn’t from cold or tiredness, although they played their part: Bannerman was thinking like a Space Marine, and he’d put enough brandy in the tea to destroy a mortal’s liver in one sip.
Bannerman pressed the vox button built into his armour. Since Calgar didn’t like to expend excess energy by walking anywhere, he’d actually splashed out on a micro-teleporter so Bannerman could summon him during moments of ultimate emergency. (See, he’s not a total stinge after all…)
There was a flash, a sound like the screaming of the damned as Calgar was sucked from his present location to the kitchen via a warp-tunnel, then Calgar appeared, sitting down, completely naked, in mid-air, holding a cup of tea in one hand and a copy of the latest White Dwarf in the other! The Lord of Ultramar immediately crashed to the ground, dropping his magazine and spilling tea everywhere. A foul smell filled the air.
“Bloody hell, I’ve bit my tongue!” Calgar complained as he got up. “Number Two, one has told you to always vox me before using that bloody thing. One was in the middle of tipping one’s turtle.”
“I’m sorry, my Lord,” Dick said, pulling the front of his armour up to cover his nose, a gesture everyone except the semi-conscious Rex copied immediately. “I… forgot.”
Nessa stared in open-mouthed shock at Calgar’s nads. Apparently, not everything on a Space Marine was affected by genhancement. Oh well, at least he’s got a wonderful personality, she thought sourly.
“My Lord,” said the astropath. “I bring a Christmas message from your friend Gluteus Maximus.”
“Oh feth,” said Calgar. “Just what one needs; an American telling one how his spaceship is bigger than mine.”
Nessa said nothing.
“All right, shrivelled warp-monkey,” Calgar sighed, “put him through.”
“Yo Calgar!” the astropath said in a loud American voice. “Just thought I’d wish you a Merry Christmas. Hope you spent as many points on your guys this year as I have on mine!”
“Bah!” said Calgar. “I have spent no points, my friend, since no bugger ever spends anything on me. Christmas is nothing but a chance for companies to pick my pockets by convincing the Ultramarines they need brand new XBox games and such.”
“Aw, c’mon, Calgar, show a little spirit. Watch the first half of Santa Claus: The Movie, that’ll teach you the magic of Christmas. Just make sure you switch it off before they suddenly transplant the film from the North Pole to a corporate HQ in 1980s America.”
“All this talk of Christmas has given my arse a headache,” said Calgar. He made fists of his hands and rested them against his hips. The gesture might have seemed intimidating if Calgar’s baby-sized peepee wasn’t dangling like a snake falling out of a tree. “It’s the pain glove for you, Maximus, pain level ‘Snogging Judge Judy with oodles of tongue’.”
“What the hell? You can’t order me around like that, Calgar, I’m not even from your Chapter!”
“Bah! Fethery! As for your Christmas greetings, a fethery upon them too!”
“Christmas, a ‘fethery’? Who is this guy?”
“This ‘guy’, unfortunately for you,” said Marneus Calgar, thrice victor of the Drink-a-Yard-of-Beans contest, “is the leader of the Ultramarines. I have the Emperor’s throne behind me; and believe me, old chum, I shall not hesitate to hit you over the head with it.”
“Uh.. sure thing, Calgar,” the American warrior replied. “I hope the doctors manage to pull that candycane out of your ass before the New Year. Maximus out.”
The astropath sagged in relief now his ordeal was over. There was some muted coughing from the Ultramarines as they disguised their laughter. Seeing Calgar taken down a peg was almost worth putting up with his shit for a year. Unfortunately, Calgar was adept at noticing criticism.
“I see that American toss-piece has infected you with his fethery! Get back to work, you lazy chuffs!”
“But sir,” protested Dick, “the Emperor gives us the day off at Christmas. And quite frankly, so should you, you fat whinger,” he added quietly.
“I heard that!” Calgar shouted. “Benefits of Lyman’s Earhole! That’s the nerve glove for all of you, and because ’tis the Christmas season of which you are so fond, I shall set the pain level to ‘Listening to all the songs from The Christmas Toy’ on permanent repeat until you know all the lyrics for every one of them – especially ‘Meteora’!”
Nessa and the Ultramarines dispersed, ashen-faced, to prepare for their ordeal at the hands of Meteora, Rugby, Apple and the ‘Cat-toy’.
“As for you,” Calgar said, grabbing Rex’s arm and leading him to the door, “you need to go back to your weird castle-thing where everyone’s always singing. It’s bedtime, I’m naked and there’s an Asian Beauty contest about to start – I’ll need to have a lie down in bed while I study the contestants.”
Before Rex could contest, Calgar had pushed him back out into the snow and slammed the door in his face.
Christmas Eve began to give way to Christmas Day. As the clock crept ever closer to midnight, Calgar deactivated the holo-telly built into his bedroom wall, climbed into bed and shut his eyes. Any competent leader of men would have thought of Milo’s death with bitter regret; Calgar, of course, did not. He had fully expected Milo to survive the spore mine explosion; Milo possessed that irritating Tanith ability to escape death in the most ludicrous ways. Using him as a human shield to absorb incoming shrapnel had saved Calgar’s life, yet it had unexpectedly cost Milo his.
Instead of ruminating over this, Calgar was already computing his next uber-shooty army. Most Space Marine armies stood behind cover in their own deployment zone and shot the enemy to pieces, then beat the tattered remnants in assault due to a cheesy combination of high stats, a high save and super-equipment. Calgar wondered how many assault cannons and vehicles he could fit into his next, purpose-built, anti-Tyranid army. It was lucky the 40K games developers only cared about Space Marines and Imperial Guard, otherwise the evil species in the galaxy – all of whom were supposed to have humanity on the ropes – might actually have a chance against an equally-sized Imperial force. “Forget the promise of progress and understanding… hang on, here are ten new types of Leman Russ tank and another invincible Land Raider variant. Eat shit, Ork, Eldar and Tyranid players!”
There was a rustling from somewhere near the bedchamber’s door. Calgar ignored it and kept his eyes shut, inwardly laughing at the thought of Tyranid Warriors beating his men in assault but not being able to kill any of them due that 3+ save.
- Woooo! a voice came from the darkness.
“Feth off, Milo!” Calgar snapped, keeping his eyes shut. “Er… hang on.”
- This isnae Milo, the voice said in a Scottish accent. – He’s dead, ya made sure o that.
Calgar opened his eyes – and recoiled in horror.
There was a stranger in his room, a man wearing a tartan hat with a red bobble on it. He looked strong enough to rip a power-armoured Marine in two. His hair, barely visible beneath the hat, was a tangled mess of ginger pubes; they continued down his face in long sideburns and formed a copper-colored beared. The man cradled bagpipes – a distressing reminder of Milo’s favoured instrument – and hairy legs protruded from what appeared to be a short skirt! To cap it all, this spectre was transparent and hovered several inches above the floor!
- I am Brother Finnigan, the ghost of Imp-Lit past, the spectre wailed.
“Oh, shit! A ghost! And it’s a man wearing a skirt! Where’s Egon Spengler when you need him?”
- This is no a skirt, ya wee bastard, the ghost said. – This is a kilt, the symbol o’ my Scottish heritage.
“I see,” Calgar said, not entirely convinced. “Prior to your appearance, one believed symbols of Scottish heritage were a crumpled can of lager in one’s hand and sheep shit all over one’s knob.”
- SILENCE, SASSENACH, afore I set the Loch Ness Monster on ye, the ghost boomed. It levitated into the air with its arms out horizontally, skirt flapping in an ethereal breeze.
“I am truly sorry!” Calgar cried. “Please do not do that again, one almost saw your bell-end.”
- Ye shouldna bin lookin, ya dirty wee sod. Ah’m here strictly on business.
“And… what business might that be, Brother Finnegan?”
- Let’s get this sorted from the off, pal. Ya spell ma name with two Is. F-I-N-N-I-G-A-N. Ah’m fed up o useless annoying twats getting ma name wrong. Ah don’t come in here calling you Lord Calger, do ah? Lord fethin’ shitheed, more like!
“I apologise, Brother Finnigan. Can we… begin again?”
- Oh aye, ah don’t hear that very often, ya cheeky wee English empire-building prick! Listen pal, ah’m here with a warning. Just cos yer a colonial English bastard who’s too busy stuffing bacon an eggs every day to notice how he’s pissing people off, it doesn’t mean yer actions don’t have repercussions. Ah’m here as a reminder that yer on the wrong path, and the path leads straight to the filthy daemonic nads of Slaanesh herself.
“Doesn’t sound too bad,” Calgar said.
- Doesna sound too bad? Finnigan roared, rearing up again. – It’s the road to eternal torment, ya thick get! Remember that time you went to have yer kidney stones removed, and ended up getting the doctor’s finger stuck up yer arse?
“I do have some recollection,” said our Lord Calgar, rubbing a suddenly-tingling ringpiece. (See the upcoming Marneus Calgar’s Barmy Army: Calgar’s Kidney Stone.)
- Aye, ya didn’t shit properly fer a week after that, did ya? Constantly having Milo on standby with the baby wipes and a wax stopper fer yer anus? You’ll miss him now he’s gone, ah tell thi!
“Who, my wax stopper? I haven’t had any spillage for months – ”
- Ah’m talking aboot Brin Milo, not the buttplug, ya balding twat! Brin Milo! M-I-L-O! The little clown who scampers round doing everything for ye, when ye cannnae even be arsed to let him put the Christmas tree up! What a tight get ye are, Calgar! Ah ought ta chop yer willy off an’ swap it for the turkey giblets!
Calgar quailed before the angry Scottish ghost. He was used to seeing the Scottish as drunken sheep-shaggers, not as vengeful creatures from beyond.
“I apologise most profusely!” said our intrepid leader, for whom apology was policy. He might be able to best Hive Tyrants in single combat, but he was never above grovelling when it would save his bacon.
- It’s not me ye should be apologising to, Finnigan said. – Ah’m just the ghost of a popular Warhammer and 40K fansite that’s seen better days. There’s nae point me trying to get an illiterate twonk like ye to visit www.imperial-literature.net, ye cannot understand half o what’s in their extensive catalogue o fethin’ excellent stories!
“Don’t come into my bedroom wearing a skirt when I’m lying in bed naked, and start advertising your bloody website!” snapped Calgar. While he was afraid of the ghost, our ‘hero’ hated door-to-door salesmen, especially when they came from another plane of existence. “I shall have you ejaculated from these premises immediately.”
- Yer not hearing what I’m saying to ye, Calgar! Finnigan replied. The ghost had worked himself into a fury. – Ah’m here to put ye back on the right path, not redirect ye to a website ya won’t understand ‘cos it uses words wi more than seven letters in ‘em! Ah’m a ghost from the Warp, sent as a messenger to humankind by the Emperor hissen!
“Daemon!” Calgar cried, leaping out of bed and adopting the cwyhl-whyl stance. “I shall kick your arse back to the Immaterium!”
- Aye, ye can try, laddie, but standing like that only reveals yer ghastly, under-developed widgie.
Calgar dropped the pose to cup his man-nugget with one hand and cover his busters with the other arm.
- The warp is nay an evil place, Calgar, Finnigan went on. – Ye get good daemons and bad daemons; angels and daemons, if ya like. Where do ye think the Sabbat Martyr came back from, or the Legion o the Damned? They don’t just climb out o the Emperor’s arsehole, laddie. Ye can read the currents o the future if ya possess a certain talent. Ah happen to possess a more advanced talent, so ah can read the past as well.
While the ghost was talking, Calgar whipped the top sheet from his bed and twirled it around him like some kind of toga.
“And what is your purpose in telling me this?” Calgar asked the spectre. “Shouldn’t you be talking to the Inquisition, rather than my humble self?”
- There’s nothing humble about ye, Calgar. Well, except one thing, but ya’ve no need to do anything with that other than piss, so we’ll overlook it.
“I wish I understood that,” Calgar mused.
- Point is, the bloody Inkies willnae listen. They’ll set the Grey Knights on me afore ye can say ‘we wish you a merry AAARGH I’ve just bin exorcised’. Christmas has a very special power. It calms the warp and it promotes a feeling o goodwill and peace tae all men – and women, and aliens, and such.
“Peace to aliens?”
- Shut up and listen. If ye don’t give up yer miserly ways and start letting people enjoy Christmas, this galaxy’ll end up goin ter the dogs, and I almost mean that literally. Ye’ll be visited by three ghosts, one after the other, and they’ll teach ye the error of yer ways.
“It’s getting late, Finnigan. Can’t they save time by arriving together?
- Oh aye, ye’ll enjoy that, ye lazy bastard. Ah’m offering hope ter the galaxy, you’re lookin to turn it into a spectral gang-bang.
“There’s really no need,” Calgar said. “One has seen the light. I’ve just become a new man!”
- Ah bet ye have, ya disgustin wee jakey fart-pants. Ah tell ye what, Calgar, every time ye talk, yer troosers billow up like a fethin hot air balloon wi all the warm air comin oot ah yer arse.
“I’m really sorry,” Calgar said, “but I can barely understand a word you’re saying. Can you talk properly and not like some half-witted country bumpkin with a chip on his shoulder the size of a lascannon?”
“Ah’ll gi ye a chip on yir shoulder!” Finnigan roared. “Ye’d probably take it off yer shoulder and stick it up yer own arse when no-one was looking! The point is, Laird Calgar, there’s a reckoning coming yer way, so you’d better get ready fir some championship arse-kissing the night, else ye’ll be in Hell, and the 41st Millennium will be the better for it!”
“Come on then, stop speaking that incomprehensible Scottish crap, we’re seven thousand words in and nothing’s happened yet. The fish will be getting bored.”
- Ye’ll not thank me for this, laddie, the ghost said, – but the galaxy will be thanking ye. Good luck and Merry Christmas, Marneus Calgar.
The ghost waved his hand.
“Christmas? Bah, feth – shit, what’s happening?”
The whole room seemed to waver and Calgar was plunged into freezing darkness, with Finnigan’s laughter echoing through his empty head.
THE SECOND CHUFFTER: GHOST FROM THE PAST
“What is this?” demanded Calgar. “Where am I? Someone switch the lights on.”
“Ontario,” a femal voice said. “Lights.”
Calgar’s sight returned immediately. He was no longer in his bedroom; in fact, he appeared to be on the rather cramped bridge of a spaceship, overlooking a number of computer stations with advanced holographic displays. They appeared to be star charts, but the star systems were unfamiliar. Humans wearing a grey uniform Calgar didn’t recognise bustled about. He didn’t see any servitors, nor were any of the crew slaved into any of their workstations. In fact, most of them seemed happy about something. Calgar looked directly across at the wall-mounted viewscreen. They were in space – had he been kidnapped?
“I demand to know where I am!” Calgar snapped, turning around.
“Watch the -”
Calgar clasped his forehead. “There’ll be a bruise! I shall take this out of someone’s hide!”
He was facing a woman, evidently the ship’s captain. She was sitting in a comfortable-looking chair which seemed a million light-years from the austere command thrones of the Imperial Navy. The woman wore the same uniform as her crew, though Calgar’s genhanced eyesight picked out details which must have been emblems of rank. She was attractive and slender, with red hair which fell to her shoulders.
“One guesses you are not from the Imperium,” he said testily.
“No,” said the woman. She smiled. There was nothing threatening about her; in fact, she seemed quite lovely.
“What sort of kidnapping is this? Do you expect to ransom a Space Marine to the Imperium? My Chapter will overrun this ship and kill you all before you’ve finished making demands.”
“It’s not a kidnapping,” the woman laughed. “And we are very far from your Chapter. You have travelled across time and space, Lord Calgar. I am Captain Ellen Thorpe of the XMS Ontario. Welcome to the Twenty-First Millennium.”
“Wait a minute,” Calgar said, gripping his head to prevent a migraine from exploding his brain. “Finnigan has decided to show me the error of my ways be sending me back to the time before Old Night? What’s the point of that? I thought he was going to show me my childhood or something.”
“What would be the point of that? Does any resident of Macragge, let alone a Space Marine, enjoy any kind of childhood?”
Calgar stared at Thorpe with suspicion. “You seem to know a lot about my time, Captain.”
She shugged. “I’ve been dead for millennia, Lord Calgar, but time means nothing once your soul is in the hyper-realm.”
“That’s what we usually call the Warp. When our bodies die, our souls survive. They’re made of energy, Lord Calgar, and energy does not suddenly cease to exist. The hyper-realm is the home of our souls. Gods, daemons, humans, alnerans, we all go to the same place, a place of passion and emotion, a place where we go on forever in a perfect state of being. There isn’t really any such thing as death. We’re all immortal.”
“No wonder you all look so happy,” Calgar grumbled.
“We didn’t know it at the time,” Thorpe laughed. “We only find out when we pass into the hyper-realm and find everyone waiting for us.”
“Right, so life after death is real and we all join one big happy family,” said Calgar. “That’s certainly improved my day. Can I go home now? One needs at least forty winks to maintain one’s machismo.” Unconsciously he struck a pose.
“Any man who can stand posing in a toga on the bridge of my ship deserves some degree of respect. Unfortunately, there’s a problem.”
“What? One cannot go home?”
“One can go home, once he’s got the message,” Thorpe replied, “but you haven’t had the full message yet.”
“Which is, things get a lot worse in the future. The hyper-realm becomes more turbulent. This is reflected in realspace by wars and killing. By the time we roll around to the Forty-Second Millennium, it isn’t just the galaxy that’s in trouble; it’s our souls. Everyone in the galaxy will be affected by what’s coming, not just humans. The hyper-realm becomes a battleground and it spills over into realspace. You’re basically all going to hell, Lord Calgar, and only you can stop it.”
Calgar and Thorpe walked along the corridors of the Ontario. Crew worked at access panels or strolled along the walkways. There was no rushing, nor any of the stringent discipline present on any Imperial vessel. Somehow the crew still seemed to get their jobs done. How did they not mutiny without Commissars or Space Marines to provide a show of authority? It was no wonder their society degenerated into Old Night. They were bloody lucky the Chaos Gods hadn’t spilled through and slaughtered them all.
Strangely, although some of the crew nodded to Calgar and their Captain as the pair walked past, none of them seemed taken aback by Calgar’s appearance. The brawny (some might say podgy) Space Marine seemed to fill the corridor. His head had left a dent in nearly every ceiling brace they’d encountered.
“Are they all familiar with the 41st Millennium?” Calgar asked.
“No,” Thorpe smiled. “They’re not really here, and you’re not really on board a starship. You’re in the hyper-realm. This is kind of like my dream, a happy memory from my days as captain of the Starship Ontario.”
Calgar stopped walking. “Are you telling me I am physically in the hyper-whatsit without a Gellar field?”
“Calm down,” Thorpe grinned. “It doesn’t work like that in my time. You’re in the Well of Souls, a place protected from outside intervention. Not even the Chaos Gods can get you in here. In fact, we only brought you here through galaxy-spanning effort, and we’ll send you back unharmed.”
“I’m not dead, then?”
“No. There’s plenty of time left for you.”
“Thank the Emperor for that! There are still seventy-five items left on my list of ‘Seventy-Five Important Things To Do Before You Push Pansies’.”
“All that’s left to say, Lord Calgar, is to heed this warning: You must change your anti-Christmas ways, for humanity needs hope. They need something to look forward to, a time when they can remember what it was like to still be a child, when the galaxy still held a magic that work and duty will later eclipse.”
“Christmas? Christmas?” Calgar said. “I wipe my bum on Christmas.”
“Then humanity is doomed,” said Thorpe. “The hyper-realm will not be stilled by hope; it will become a torrent that will spill into the Milky Way and drown it in horror.”
“Oh, come on,” Calgar said. “You sound like you are quoting some crappy goth-vampire fanfic.”
Ellen’s smile had gone. She looked at Calgar with a determination he hadn’t seen before.
“Then,” she said, “I hope the other spirits have more success than I do… otherwise we’re all up shit creek.”
She touched Calgar’s forehead and reality exploded like shattered, coloured glass.
THE THIRD CHUFFTER: GHOST FROM THE PRESENT
Calgar snapped back to his senses. He stood atop a mountain which he immediately recognised as Mount Hera, given that there was a massive Ultramarine base behind him. The sky was a rich shade of midnight: Macragge was not ruined by pollution of any kind, not even from city lights, nor had the Mechanicus poured rockrete over everything. Lord Calgar looked down upon an ocean of cloud, if you’ll pardon the cliche. The moons burned overhead like silver Christmas tree ornaments.
“Thank feth for that!” said Calgar, as the wind whipped his toga against bare skin. “Back to reality… hold on, it’s a four-hour walk home! Bah, fethery!”
“It is not fit to swear when the Emperor is watching you,” came a female voice from behind. Calgar whirled, half-expecting to see Captain Thorpe despite the lower, more serious tone of this woman’s voice. When Calgar saw who was standing there, he gaped with very real fear.
The woman wore the most ornate and beautiful suit of power armour he’d ever seen. A gold aquila reared across her breastplate. The armour was Dark Angel green chased with gold. Purity seals and pieces of parchment fluttered; golden flames and Imperial iconography decorated most of the power suit.
Tthe woman had short, dark hair, and her eyes were blue. They were the most intense eyes he’d seen, fixing him in place like a gretchin cowering before the muzzles of a Predator’s lascannon. Calgar’s ego was more bloated than his belly, but even he knew this was not someone to feth around with.
“I bring you the Emperor’s tidings,” said the woman. “You know me as Sabbat Martyr. I have come to save your soul; to save all our souls.”
Once Calgar had overcome his shock, he adjusted his bedsheet-toga to cover the hard-on which sprang up like Captain Lysander rearing from beneath a pile of dead Orks.
“My… my lady,” said Calgar, showing deference for the first time in ages. “I thought Dan Abnett had written you out.”
“You can’t keep a good Martyr down,” Sabbat replied.
“Good answer! Might I enquire whether you are also going to sell me the benefits of Christmas?”
“You may, and I am.”
“But… don’t you consider it blasphemy?”
“Perhaps, but let us not get into that. Just because Christianity seems to be the only religion people are allowed to insult, does not mean I am here to join in. Rather, I am here to reinforce one of its traditions – perhaps the one which reaches the most humans, the one which gives people reason to celebrate and be thankful, if only they could see the hope!”
“Hope?” said Calgar. “Hope, in the 41st Millennium? Bah! Fethery! Fair enough, the good guys always seem to win in White Dwarf battle reports and most of the fan-fiction, but the Games Workshop is always pushing the fact that we are screwed. Even the Emperor’s Throne has been found to be engineered in Taiwan, I thank you!”
Sabbat drew her power sword and had its point resting against Calgar’s throat before he could react.
“Do you feel screwed, Space Marine?”
“One… one does at the moment, yes,” Calgar stammered.
Sabbat left the sword against his Adam’s Apple for a full three seconds, then stepped back and sheathed it once more.
“Then remember how it feels,” Sabbat said. Calgar practically started crying with relief. He might have extra Wounds on his profile, but Sabbat’s sword was massive, and without Milo to get in the way, Calgar would need to show caution if he was to keep them.
“All right, I shall play. One would like to hear your message, then one would like to be left alone. I fair have the need for a dump after all this.”
“Indeed,” said Sabbat, who was evidently less squeamish than most girls. “Marneus Cagar, a great battle is brewing. Humanity has lost sight of hope and reason. There is no goodwill; there is only war. If we are to change that, and prevent the Rhana Dhandra from happening in Earth’s back garden, we must cherish the spirit of Christmas.”
“Good luck promoting goodwill and Christmas cheer in this galaxy,” Calgar replied. “With terrors from the past re-awakening quicker than the Wraith from Stargate Atlantis and rebellions happening everywhere, as well as an extra-galactic threat… as if our galaxy didn’t have enough trouble, we are importing it as well!”
“Yes, that is what uncontrolled immigration does for you. We can change things, though. Or rather, you can. Hope exists whether we choose to see it or not. It exists independently of us; it is an idea, and as our relentless purges have proven, you cannot kill an idea. Hope does not die, as we do not truly die. We must make the galaxy see this, and reviving Christmas is how we will do it!”
Calgar massaged his throat. He could still feel the tip of Sabbat’s sword pressing against it.
“I am not entirely convinced,” said he, “that I am sane and everyone else has gone looney-tunes. You expect me to believe that I can bring about hope in this galaxy? There is less innovation here than in an iPhone. Like the iPhone, the Imperium has become a faded copy, but one is paid to keep it that way, for who knows what will happen should we change?”
“Fear.” Sabbat looked up at the moons. “Nothing but fear. I should be hearing jingle bells coming from up there, yet all I hear are your excuses. You are the Imperium’s greatest hero, Calgar. If you cannot do this, nobody can.”
“Nobody?” snorted Calgar. “I have been beyond the borders of life and death to the 21st Millennium, and here I stand conversing with a reincarnated Saint who can kill a Baneblade just by jabbing it with a sword. What have I got compared to that, apart from this rather breezy bedsheet?”
“We believe, Calgar. You do not. It is disbelief that you have. If you can change that, if you can find room in your heart for the Christmas spirit, then anyone can do it. The galaxy would not fall to Chaos. You have one final spirit to meet, and then you must make your decision; but for now, there is something I must show you.”
Sabbat drew her sword again. Calgar flinched back with an unheroic yelp, but his throat was not the Martyr’s target. She pointed instead at the clouds below and said something in an unknown language. Her eyes glowed yellow for a moment like in Merlin, then the clouds began to roll apart.
Calgar gasped as he beheld the extent of Macragge. Almost every house was illuminated in some way, either within or without: Christmas trees, strings of lights, plus those annoying wall-mounted Santas in hot air balloons. There was only one real dark patch below.
“I can see my house!” said Calgar. He fell silent, looking at the darkness around his home. His was one of the few places not decorated and his place happened to be the tallest. It was a grim sight.
Sabbat said nothing, allowing Calgar this moment of reality.
“I… I still believe there is fethery involved,” said Calgar. “Nobody buys me presents or wishes me good cheer. Why should I embrace something which I am left out of?”
“I haven’t shown you yet,” Sabbat said. “Come, let us visit your friends.”
Wind rushed in Calgar’s ears for a second. Suddenly he was in the Ultramarine HQ with Dick, Nessa and several of the Sternguard veterans. They were in the kitchen, enjoying mulled wine and roasted Tyranid. They were singing a song which was unfamiliar at first, then with a pang of guilt, Calgar realised it was from The Christmas Toy. Nessa was hanging Christmas stockings from the fireplace. They even hung one with Milo’s name on it… yet there was none for Calgar.
“You ungrateful shite-hawks!” Calgar raged, shaking his fist at them. “I ought to feed you to the Termagants.”
Nobody reacted to him. They carried on with their celebration.
“They can’t hear you, Calgar,” Sabbat said quietly. “This is merely a vision.”
“I told you they don’t include me,” Calgar told her, gesturing at the others. “I’ve gone missing so they break out the booze.”
“Do you blame them?”
“I… what? How dare you address me thus, Saint or not!”
“You belittle them. You try to break their spirit. You virtually ban Christmas, and you don’t buy any presents. What do you expect the galaxy to think of you, Marneus Calgar?”
Calgar stammered, but couldn’t find the words. Sabbat’s sharp eyes offered no mercy.
“There is a word for people like you,” she said. “Scrooge.”
Marneus Calgar, who had popped more blood vessels in his eyes while forcing a fart than any human in history, who could talk about himself until the stars went cold, found he had nothing to say.
“And yet…” Sabbat said, flicking her eyes to something over Calgar’s shoulder. Calgar was trembling with outrage, yet he turned to see.
Nessa was hanging a stocking with Calgar’s name on it. Dick was wrapping a present, and Calgar realised it was for him. The look of excitement on Dick’s face transformed the stern banner-bearer into a delighted child.
“…hope remains, beyond anyone’s ability to destroy,” finished Sabbat.
“Holy feth!” Calgar cried. “They have got me the new Viz annual! One cannot believe it, one has been wanting that all year!”
“There is one more ghost of Christmas to see you,” Sabbat said. Calgar looked her in the eyes, able to hold her gaze at last. “Are you ready?”
“I am,” said Calgar. “Will she be a babe too?”
Sabbat reached out to touch his forehead.
“No,” she said.
THE FOURTH CHUFFTER: GHOST FROM THE FUTURE
Calgar rose, unembarrassed by his tears.
“Yes,” he said. “One realises… I realise now that I was wrong. I treat people like dog crap. I always spoil everyone’s Christmas. Yet am I regarded as a hero of the Imperium. That is not fair; it is not just.”
- Aye, ye get it now, Laird Calgar.
Calgar was surprised to hear his name being spoken with respect.
- Dinnae look at me like that, mate, ye’ve been through summat that would turn most men’s baws into little useless pebbles, and ya came out of it a better man.
“Is the galaxy saved, then?”
- That depends on ye, Laird Calgar. Are ye just grateful to be back at home, and ye’ll revert to being an arsehole soon enough, or did it change ye permanently?
“We’ll find out,” Calgar said. “Can you do me a favour? Can you…”
- Bring Milo back? It’s Christmas, Laird, there’s all kinds o miracles going off. Can I ask ye a question?
“Certainly,” said Calgar, surprised.
- Will ye put some bloody trousers on? It’s putting me off ma brew just lookin at ya wee nads.
“I will,” said Calgar. “Now be at peace, spirit, for I’ve got some phone calls to make.”
It was Christmas morning. The Ultramarines had gathered in the mess hall, staring at an enormous Christmas tree, wondering where it had come from. It was a real tree. Fake snow had been sprayed all over it. There were coloured lights and magnificent baubles. The angel sitting on top of the tree was properly old-school, its age lending it a mystical beauty.
All the flat surfaces in the room had been edged with white tinsel which resembled snow. Large baubles hung from the ceiling in each corner. Gold trimmings also decorated the ceiling. One section of the room had been screened off by a corrugated metal enclosure with crude images of Father Christmas being pulled across the sky by his reindeer (he was in his fething sledge, don’t start!) spray-painted on them. Weirdly, the enclosure was rotating. Each side had a different image painted on it. One side, the best-painted, had three kings riding camels through the desert, heaving towards a distant star.
“What the feth is this?” said Dick Bannerman. “Milo, come and look!”
Brin Milo stepped out from the mass of Ultramarines and gaped at the display.
Suddenly, the metal screen walls stopped rotating. As everyone stared, they fell open like the petals of a flower, causing everyone to flinch back.
A vast pile of presents rested before the Ultramarines. Some were small, some were huge, but there were enough for everyone to have about twenty each. The Ultras practically leapt onto the pile… but not before allowing Nessa and Milo first dibs. There was still much merriment about there now being two Tanith – particularly for Milo, who had been alone among brothers for some time now – but the excitement for the prezzie pile was ferocious.
Milo picked up a box wrapped in cheerfully-coloured paper, and looked at the name tag.
“Who’s Mr Duncan?” he asked Dick, who shrugged.
“Let’s dig in!” Dick roared, and there was no stopping the Ultramarines. Soon they were up to their pits in woolly jumpers, XBox 360 games, new Forge World models, quad-core Android phones and Jeremy Clarkson DVDs: surely nobody could want for a better pile of presents, apart from the woolly jumpers of course.
Milo came to his senses while he was halfway through opening his presents; he glanced across at his fellow Tanith, noticing her strange behaviour. She was heading back to the kitchen. Milo put his latest unopened gift down, excused himself – not that Dick was really paying attention, so overawed was he with the Fighter Craft of the 41st Millennium calendar – and followed Nessa.
She was looking at the Christmas stockings hanging above the fireplace. The fire had died down and the Termagant had been eaten during last night’s drunken revelry, which probably meant sickbay would be overflowing with xeno-botulism cases within the next hour if previous years were anything to go by. There were stockings for all the main Barmy Army characters, but now there was a new one.
“What’s this?” Nessa said aloud, pointing at the hand-sewn lettering on the new stocking:
In loving memory of absent friends
From Marneus Calgar’s Barmy Army
Calgar wanted to stand behind a sliding door, and have it slowly roll up to reveal him, inch-by-inch, while “Merry Christmas Everybody” by Slade played, but since he wasn’t making an American TV show he couldn’t face such embarrassing melodrama. Instead he walked into the mess hall carrying more presents under his arms. A massive cheer went up from the Ultramarines as they hailed their leader… who was dressed like Father Christmas.
“It’s time I started acting like a true leader,” Calgar said, and his men bellowed. “There is a galaxy to save, but first, please enjoy these presents provided by the finest toy chest in the world!”
Later, as the entire Chapter sat at the feast table waiting for the servitors (and Milo and Nessa) to serve their Christmas turkeys, they busied themselves fighting over roast potatoes (to see who could get the most) and sprouts (to make sure none went near their plates). Calgar did his party-trick by finding the biggest sprout and swallowing it whole. Unfortunately he was distracted during the act when the servitors came in and the sprout got lodged in his throat.
“Sir, you do this every year!” Dick laughed. “You always pretend to choke on it.”
“Grzzzht! Ghaaaaa!” Calgar gasped.
“Look at him, he’s turning purple! You’re really selling it this year, sir!”
Calgar was saved from certain death when Nessa took enormous satisfaction in whacking him round the back of the skull with a silver serving tray. The sprout blasted out of Calgar’s mouth like a demolisher round and took a servitor’s head off. Nessa gave her Lord a semi-apologetic grin as he glared at her, rubbing his head.
“What the feth’s that?” Dick exclaimed as the rest of the Ultramarines cried out in alarm.
There would be no mere turkey for the servants of the Emperor this Christmas. Carried between six cargo-servitors came a massive silver dish with the curled-up and perfectly cooked carcass of a Tyranid the likes of which nobody had seen before.
Nobody except Calgar.
“Lady and gentlemen, our dream dinner has been served,” Calgar said, smiling at the in-joke. “Everyone, raise your port & lemon: a toast to Marneus Calgar’s Barmy Army, to Guilliman, to the Emperor and his the Imperium… and to the reader, who’s wasted probably an hour of their life reading this fethery! Merry Christmas everyone!”