[40k] The Sarador Reclamation: With Eyes To See
For the Captain war was a business, to be pursued as ruthlessly and aggressively as possible and so achieve the final goal, whatever that may be.
It was why he never complained too loudly when his Company, the Fourth, received the tough assignments or the dirty jobs; no one in the Regiment expected an easy life and not even the vaunted glory-hogs of the First escaped getting their hands dirty.
But today was something else entirely, today felt so very much like a death sentence.
“Reclamation Command requires recon forces to operate around the capital. Theta Command has detailed elements of the Seventh Batavian to perform some of these operations. The Second, Fourth and Eleventh have drawn the recon duties during the initial campaign phase.”
He can hear the words playing back in his mind, just as he can feel the note from the Major burning its way through the pocket of his flak-vest.
Tobias, my apologies for this far from ideal duty but Task Force Command has ordered it be so and orders are there to be obeyed. Seventeen klicks north of the capital is a PDF outpost, very minor in terms of manpower and defences – not even enough to call it an early warning station. I need you to proceed to this post and investigate the area; early communications reported sightings of the foe, but nothing has been heard of it since and long range surveyors in the Citadel have detected nothing.
It is the final words on the note that he hears in his head, though they were never spoken by his commanding officer, that instil trepidation in the Captain – for he is still enough a son of Batavia to resist the disease of fear.
“You will be deployed ten klicks from the outpost by way of Valkyrie, your Company will then proceed on foot and with the utmost stealth to the post and investigate. The Valkyries will withdraw after insertion. It may not count for much, but Regimental Contingency Order Red-Seven and Gold-Four are now considered active. Emperor go with you, brother.”
Marksman Vaarn drops to his knee swiftly, raising one arm with his fist up to halt the column before bringing his prized long rifle up to his shoulder. Allowing the scene before him to come into focus he pans his weapon left and right, breathing slowly in and out.
Before him, almost two clicks away, rise the walls of the outpost; barely taller than a good sized Ork, and even less likely to keep them at bay. His keen eyes pick out scorch-marks and pieces of debris that litter the field around the walls. Scraps of armour and fallen weapons are a testament to the battle that was evidently fought here.
“Rifle-Four to Lead,” he whispers softly, listening to the soft click that answers him. “Objective in sight. Debris. Cold. Recommend sweep and clear, heavy.” He speaks in the combat cant of the Batavian Infantry, clipped and precise to perfectly capture what he sees before him.
Almost as one the Batavians resume their advance, Vaarn soon passed by the more heavily armed and armoured men of First Platoon as he merges back in with his Platoon, the Third. With a nod at his squad Sergeant he falls into a steady rhythm as the Company begins to up its mile eating pace.
The inside of the command center is cold and smells faintly of decay, small patches of blood litter the room as if cast about at random. The Captain removes his helm, smoothing down sweat-soaked hair as his eyes cast about in gloom broken only by the beams from rifle-mounted torches.
Startled by a sibilant voice that sounds deathly close to his ear, he reamins controlled enough to keep his body relaxed and not betray his unease.
“The Armoury, Captain, you should come and see,” says Sergeant Viktor Jaxx, one hand resting carefully on the hilt of the monstrous short-blade he keeps at his hip. “Survivors Captain, PDF and civilians apparently.”
The walk is short to what passes for the Armoury, a block building just across the courtyard pocked with small craters and surrounded by men of Second Platoon. Their commander, and the Company’s second officer, Lieutenant Treyaarn strides purposefully from the entrance and salutes the Captain crisply.
“Captain, we have seventeen surivors. Three PDF infantry led by a Corporal, and three families of civilains from the Northern Agri-Dome complex. Medics are treating wounds now and dolling out rations, as well as asking questions quietly.”
The Captain stands his ground, closes his eyes and breathes deeply as the men around him watch this common, but still unusual, routine. “We have spent seven years,” he says softly, with eyes closed tightly. “And three campaigns fighting the Greenskin. In all that time, they have never left survivors where they could kill. Get me the truth Lieutenant, we need to report and make ready for extraction. Get it done.”
Some instinct causes the Captain to pause and open his vox-link to his command, spitting out rapid orders to secure the facility. “First Platoon, secoure the gates any way you can. Second, secure the buildings. Platoons Three, Four and Six man the walls. Five, Seven and Eight stand down.”
Marksman Vaan is the first to die.
It is an easy death, as such things go, so that he doesn’t have time to think before he is borne from his watchtower and crushed beneath the weight of a single Ork that begins something approximating a grin as it seems to scamper off into the night.
Seven others die, with no respect to rank or function; Sergeants, the Lieutenant, Medics and even the Company Vox-carrier. Seven more Orks make their way from the compound and start away north, some instinct quelling their blood-lust and instilling anunheard of discipline within their ranks.
Sergeant Jaxx slips from the shadows of tiny Infirmary, slipping the short-blade he calls Headhunter free from its sheath and stalking forward slow and low on the balls of his feet. Jaxx watches the Ork before him finish killing some unlucky Private standing watch at the main gate, and grins savagely as something makes the Ork turn on the spot to face him and narrow its piggy little eyes.
“Pick on someone your own size, kyton,” he hisses as the Ork lumbers towards him, a wicked looking cleaver coming up from its side to swing almost lazily in diagonal cut from left to right.
Jaxx is instantly inside the blow, the armour plate on his left forearm cracking slightly as it takes the weight of blocking the swing. His free arm plunges his own blade forward three times with remarkable speend and accuracy, each blow following the others into the throat of the beast so that its roars of pain can barely be heard by even the Sergeant.
As he steps back he allows the Ork to complete its swing, watching as the now raging beast spins almost in place and planting a shallow cut across its back with the edge of the Headhunter. With sure steps Jaxx backs away, his blade helf lossely in one first and a silent count echoing inside his own head.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five…
As six sounds the Ork collpases to its knees, the deadly venom of the Batavian Hunting Sranj that coats the blade finally overcoming the greenskin.
“The batch must be aging,” the Sergeant says thoughtfully, wiping his blade across the rough jerkin of the beast. “The last one didn’t get to four.”
As the sun rises the first warnings of the incoming Orks sound over the vox-net, Sergeants snarling for silence as the Marksmen posted as observers call in their reports to their superiors.
The Captain never wanted to be trapped in this place over night, much less remain here under the rising sun and the eventuality of the less than tender caresses of the Ork race. Such a thing coming to pass was now less an eventuality and more of a fact with extraction being denied – not enough transport, Command requires the outpost to be held and other sundry excuses given.
That the night before Sergeant Jaxx had woken half the small compound by dragging the corpse of an Ork across it was bad enough, worse was the knowing and smug look the Captain thought he could detect in his eye as he reported his findings. The annoyance of that report was still working its way from his system as he barked out his orders, “First Platoon stand to at the gate, less swagger and more action! Are you Batavians or riff raff PDF? Second and Third Platoon will stand in reserve, all other Platoons will man the barricades.”
During the night work had begun to reinforce the shoddy walls, though in the end a lot of effort gave little result; any determined agressor would go through that pathetic attempt at a defensive emplacement with a power sword through a grox.
The green tide moves closer with every moment, each man checking and rechecking his rifle and the rest of his gear as the first snap-crack shots of the Company’s long-rifles echo arund the low walls. Each man hears the slight static in his ear as the Company vox-net is opened by their commander.
“Here, in this place, consecrated by our blood, we stand upon the soil of Batavia, of home, once more. Here, in this place, the Ork seeks to invade our home as they did millenia ago. And now, just as our ancestors achieved then, we will drive them back and make them pay for every son and daughter they have cost our home. For every blade of grass trodden into the ground by unclean feet, for every brick and stone broken, we will draw the price in blood. For the Emperor, for Batavia.. Kill them all!”
The last words of the speech are meet with a wall of noise; the roar of Orks as they close on the outpost, the almost feral growling of the Batavians and the steady snap-buzz of nearly a thousand lasguns opening fire.
The Orks die in droves; though for each one that dies three more seem to take its place in the fight.
Despite the proficiency of the Batavian Marksmen and the powerful Hellguns of their brothers of First Platoon, soon the Seventh is engaged in a vicious short-range firefight with the distance closing steadily as the Orks absorb more punishment than even a Space Marine should be able to withstand.
“All Platoons fix bayonets and stand ready for close contact!” roars the Captain in to his Vox-link, firing a finely engraved Bolt Pistol with one hand into the face of a charging Ork. The mass-reactive shells rip a terrible series of craters across its body, but do not stop the death throes that drive its oversized dagger into the shoulder of the Captain.
Sergeant Jaxx sees the blow out of the corner of his eye as he guts his own opponent, his Laspistol spitting cold blue energy into the beast as it falls. With sure steps he moves across the body of the falling Captain, pistol spitting furiously at the pair of Orks as they come to meet him.
With a cold calm Jaxx holsters his pistol, gripping his long blade carefully by the blade and with a flick of his wrist lancing it into the eye of one of the Greenskins. With his free hands he draws the sabre from the sheath that the Captain wears at his hip, igniting the powerfield so that the blade flares into flickering life.
With a savage grin he watches as an Ork falls to the lethal venom that coats the blade in its eye, charging his remaining foe with a deep ululating cry spilling from his lips.
The Captain slowly drags himself upright as he hears the clash of blades, dragging the dagger from his shoulder and spraying synthskin from the small canister he keeps at his waist to seal the wound.
Calmly reloading his Bolt Pistol he speaks softly into his Vox-link, addressing the Company Vox Officer. “Repeat rolling transmission, Command frequency Two and Regimental frequency Alpha. Message is: Red-Seven Affirmative, Gold-Four Affirmative. Message ends.”
No one hears them come over the sounds of gunfire, the clashing of blades or the roars of the Orks and the growling of the men they face.
The explosions that rock the orks outside of the walls as the flight of Vulture Gunships dive upon their static prey are the first sign; rockets gouging craters in the wave of Greenskins and the booming of heavy bolter mounts and the snap of Lascannons ripping a bloody swathe through them.
The Valkyrie carriers set down outside the shattered gate, releasing their loads to march purposefully and wrathfully across the threshold with Hellguns raised and ready.
Last to come are the three stripped out Leman Russ Exterminators, free of all excess weight and bearing the regimental insignia of the Batavian Third Armoured; crossed axe-blades wreathed in lightning.
The Exterminators soon live out to their name, flanking wide around the right of the compound and pushing hard into the Orks there as the Valkryrie flight joins its Vulture brethren.
The Major is the last across the threshold, Hellgun in the ready position as he barks out orders to the men of First Company who advance to contact to save their brothers of the Seventh.
“Push them back, drive them into the guns of the Exterminators and the gunships. I want a sea of green corpses from here to the argi-domes.”
Mag-locking his Hellgun to the bulky powerpack of his armour, the Major disengages his helm and pulls it from his head as his men set to work. Long, jet black, hair tumbles free as cold blue eyes survey the scene before him.
“Master Sergeant!” he barks. “Get the courtyard secure and bring in the relief column; Medics and rations on the double. And find me Tobias!”
Out of the eight hundred and fifty four men of Fourth Company who made their stand at the PDF outpost only ninety-four survived, though many of these would wish they had not as they would live their lives missing limbs and eyes.
With the outpost cleared, the Medicae Corps came in to set about their grisly task of tending to the living and the dead as the men of First Company removed the bodies of their foe from the battleground to be burned.
Like a true leader, the Captain was the first in and the last to leave; his strength held long enough to pass the information on to his commander before the blood loss from his missing left arm brought his life to an end.
“General, I thought it best to bring this report to you personally rather than trust it to data encryption.” The Major stands before the head of Task Force Theta, still armed, armoured and caked in blood and dirt.
“You have four minutes, Major, until my briefing with Reclamation Command. Make this short and quick.”
“The PDF outpost my Fourth Company was sent to recon was deserted by PDF unit tasked with holding it. From the troopers who stayed at the outpost, they ran in the face of the enemy and at the behest of an unknown Colonel. Sir, from what I understand and have been able to gather, someone is persuading PDF units to desert.” The Major stands straight and tall, not looking his commanding officer in the eye, but he notices the way his face suddenly goes stony and cold.
“This is an interesting tale these troopers have had to tell and I would not believe a word of it Major, if you follow my meaning. My own household troopers have these men in custody and we will deal with this matter at a command level that exceeds your own. I would suggest that you return to your unit and prepare for further combat operations.”
With a salute bordering on disrespectful the Major turns on his heel and strides from the room, cursing not for the first time the men who play games with the lives of his men.