This is a piece that I've been thinking about writing for a while, but have taken a while to get it down in black and white. I thought that this year I would try and write a few more fiction pieces as I enjoyed the last one I wrote a while back. Well here goes nothing!
He could feel his stomach churning. Could feel the nausea in his throat. It wasn't the mission, the prospect of death, no, that had never bothered him. That had been beaten out of him years ago, back at the Schola Progenium. No, what brought the bile to the back of his throat, what disturbed every fibre in his body what the smell. The smell of ozone, the smell of oil and grease, the smell of incense. The smell of the tech priests and their infernal machines or rather machine. For it was only one machine that made him feel this way, that dam teleporter. He had never liked it, not even the first time. He had seen too many of his fellow scions killed by this damed machine, turned inside out or re-materialised in walls and rocks, sometimes they simply disappeared. No, he did not like it, he hated it with a passion.
"Are you listening Tempestor Fin?"
Fin snapped out of his trance at the sound of the commissars voice.
"Sorry Commissar Hert, I was thinking over the mission plan" He knew it was a lie but he also knew the commissar would not push the matter, not now anyway, it wasn't good to upset the troops before battle.
"Are your men ready? As this is your first mission, I will be watching you very closely. Any mistakes will not go unnoticed. Is that understood?"
First mission? thought Fin, first mission? The idea almost made him laugh out loud, but that would not have been sensible with a commissar around, especially not this young upstart. Fin had stopped counting missions years ago, once you got in to triple figures it seemed pretty pointless. He knew what the commissar meant though, first mission in charge. He had been a scion since puberty, some 15 years ago, now he was a harden old vet. By all rights he should have been a prime, a company commander, but his temper had put paid to that on more than one occasion. But maybe, just maybe, if everything went to plan this time, he might finally get there.
"Yes Commissar, my men are ready. Red and blue squads are on the teleportation pads. Yellow squad and your command squad are in the hanger bay loading in to the Valkyries as we speak. They will be ready to launch as soon as you get there, Sir"
"Very good, Tempestor, carry one then" and with that he turned away and slowly walked across the room. It took all of Fins resolve to the walk after him and give him a smack around the back of the head. The arrogant shit he though, fresh out of training, barely a hands full of missions under his belt, and he's waltzing around like a dam........
"All is ready for your presence" a voice interrupted, a strange mechanical voice at that. Fin didn't have to look to know who had spoken. Without Answering he turned and strode past the techpriest, heading to the teleporters platform. As he reached it, he looked to Tal, his comms operator, who looked back, giving a thumbs up. The valkyries were airborne, he didn't need to ask, Tal knew what the question would be and knew how to answer, there was no need for words. He looked around the rest of the squad, a mix of men and women, some as old as Fin, some still did not yet need a shave. He knew them all though and knew they would follow his orders, but it was comforting to have some old vets with him, men who knew what to do even without orders.
What happened next was the worst part, not the teleportation, no that was bad enough, it was the waiting that was worse. Standing there in silence, each scion deep in their own thoughts, knowing what was to come, what was to happen, listening to the techpriests and servitors humming and buzzing. Most were probably thinking of the battle to come, thinking over the mission, the target, their own roles but not Fin, he had only one thing on his mind. Teleportation. It was the most terrifying thing Fin could think of, and for a man who had fought numerous daemons and mutants, that was saying something.
It seemed like an eternity before Tal spoke. "The birds are inbound, 2 minutes to target" Fin looked over to the Techpriests, huddled around the control column and spoke loudly.
It was all he needed to say to start the machine men moving, humming and buzzing as they went. Fin placed his helmet on his head and locked it in to place, and braced himself, both physically and mentally for what was about to happen.
The air around the two squads started to fizz and pop, and you could feel the static in the air, you could feel the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end, even through the suit. The machine men started to shimmer and In an instant, everything changed. One moment they had been looking across the teleportation bay, watching the priests working away, hearing the giant machine humming and buzzing, clinking and clanking and then they were looking it across a river and the green fields beyond. Fields that were crammed with hundreds, if not thousands, of people, many of which were staring back.
"Engage! Primary target sighted! Scion Ross get that plasma gun firing, take the bastard down!" It was all pointless really, everyone was already firing, having drawn their weapons the moment they materialized and he could hear the whine as the plasma guns of Ross and Teal charged. Fin looked to his right to check on Blue squad, they were further away than he would have liked, further than they should have been, but they were there and in one piece. More importantly they were also engaging the enemy, there hotshot lasguns firing and the volley gunners were manoeuvring into position on the squads flanks.
The crowd around the target was starting to react, a lot quicker than had been anticipated. Weapons were appearing from the crowd and they were starting to return fire, not just the wild firing of civilian soldiers, untrained and undisciplined, but the careful aimed fire of trained disciplined soldiers, most likely PDF soldiers turned traitor. They were only 20 scions and the enemy outnumbered them massively, if the Valkyries didn't show up soon, things could get messy, already he could see some of his men were injured but as yet, none were dead, something that wouldn't last at this rate.
The primary target was on the move, his sedan chair discarded and he was running on foot through the crowd, his attendants hard at his heals. It was just as the pitch of the whining plasma guns changed, a sign that they were charged, ready to unleash death, that the primary target seemed to topple and fall in a cloud of red mist. In amongst all of the noise of battle, Fin was convinced he had heard the distinctive crack of a bolt gun, moments before the target fell, someone else was out there, a sniper maybe? Or, and the thought chilled him, a marine, an angel of death and while their hotshot lasguns could kill a marine, the marines were stronger, faster and more importantly had better range on their weapons. It didn't take him long to decide to avoid contact at all costs.
Second later the point was mute, as the roar of jet engines grew. The Valkyries had arrived, any second there would be the distinctive ripping sound that accompanied the missile pods firing.
His comms link crackled in to life, it was the commissar "Have you eliminated the target?"
Have I eliminated the target? Fin thought for a moment, have I?
"The target has been eliminated" it wasn't a lie, not at all, the target had been eliminated after all, of that fact he was in no doubt. It was simply a statement of fact, if anyone claimed the kill later, the commissar would not be happy with him but he could not do anything about it, after all he had told the truth. There was no reply through the comms, just the ripping sound of the missile pods firing, a distinctive sound that brought comfort to Fin and his men. With no heavy weapons in the crowd of people and no anti-air vehicles, the Valkyries slowed to hover over Fin's troops. Soon other Scions were landing to his left and right, yellow squad to his left, on the outer flank and the commissar and his command squad to his right, taking the centre ground.
By now the enemy was in full retreat. Only a few of the more fanatical followers remained to shoot at the Scions, and none of these, Fin observed from how they held their weapons, look like soldiers. Not that he expected they would be, no soldier would have stuck around when facing a platoon of Scions with Valkyries support, especially with no armour or anti-air for support.
It was at this point that he spotted movement out of the corner of his eye, or at least he thought he did. Who ever was out there was very good, keeping to the shadows and the dead ground, keeping out of sight. Whenever he thought he saw movement, it was fleeting, gone before he could fix on it. They were moving fast, to fast for humans, it had to be marines, had to be, but they were retreating, their mission done and Fin could feel the relief flood through him.
"What do you see Tempestor? Are there enemy escaping?"
"I see Nothing commissioner, no enemy"
"Then stop daydreaming and move your men up! advance across the stream now!"
Fin looked around, advance on what? There was nothing and no-one to advance on, everyone who could run, had run and everything else was just a bloody mess of body parts, the Valkyries had done their jobs, shredding the unarmoured heretics. Without answering the commissar, he ordered his units to advance across the river and to try and locate the body of the heretic preacher, something he suspected would not be possible, seeing as he had just had his head blown open the last time Fin had seen him.
As they crossed the river, Fin looked back to see the Commissar and his command squad still on the far bank, there volley guns held at rest but still ready, they looked like they were in no hurry to cross, no doubt they would be maintaining a 'fire base' as the commissar would call it. More like 'keeping his boots clean base' thought Fin, bloody commissars.