It was a rushed, abridged version of what I’d seen and done over the day; everyone stared at me with abstract awe and disbelief, even Castella who I suspected to know a lot of it already looked taken aback.
I told of how I was kidnapped by Edracian and his Venenum temple agent, of my fight with Elandria and her tragic death at the hands of fake Taryst. Then of my horrific beating at the hands of the mimic, It’s defeat and my findings of Olinthre’s and Taryst’s bodies. The pict I took of the dead Interrogator and my meeting with Karmen after she’d regain consciousness. The later meeting with Glaitis, then our talk with Wesley all over less than ten minutes. Never was I interrupted, everyone just stood in silence and let me talk. Every so often Karmen’s voice would filter through my thoughts suggesting that I shouldn’t say this or that but each time, I ignored her.
The only things I neglected to tell was of Faleaseen’s influence over me and how I’d almost turned into a daemon in Brutis Bone’s hideout. Otherwise, I didn’t hold back. Once I’d done it took everyone a few minutes to process it all.
“I had no idea,” stammered Castella, she was the first to speak. “By the God-Emperor, I had no idea.”
I looked at her, suspicious, wondering exactly how much I’d told that she’d ‘no idea’ of, but refrained from asking.
“So your master is responsible for everything?” said Torris, his usually deep voice high-pitched with anger and disbelief. “She and that Thing that’s now masquerading as Olinthre?”
I nodded and clenched my jaw, seeing I had allies that wanted vengeance on Glaitis as much as me.
In all honesty, I wasn’t sure that was a good thing or not.
“Did you know anything about this?” Garrakson demanded, glaring at Castella under a hooded brow.
Castella raised her hands in deference, “no! I swear I knew nothing, besides what Attelus mentioned me in!” she stammered. “I had already said I didn’t.”
“You’d better be telling the truth,” he growled. “If I find out otherwise, I will...”
“You’ll what, Jeurat?” I interrupted. “If you try to do anything to her you’ll have to go through me first.”
Garrakson grimaced an ugly expression, “typical bloody Attelus. You’d do anything for a pretty face.”
I shrugged, “perhaps so,” I admitted. “But my threat still stands.”
He hissed air through gritted teeth then spat on the floor, I expected Vex to protest, but the boy didn’t move or say anything. Seemingly too shocked for words.
“Calm down, Garrakson,” I said. “Don’t make me regret telling you this.”
“I’ll kill that bitch!” he snarled, and I truly hoped he meant Glaitis. “I’ll frigging kill her, I swear!”
“You’re angry, and I understand!” I snapped. “But she was also responsible for the death of the one I loved as well. We’re both in the same boat here! You lectured me earlier on how I can’t control my emotions, don’t make yourself a damned hypocrite!”
Garrakson said nothing, just spat again and began to brood.
“You’ll get your vengeance,” I said with a smile, despite myself. “Now isn’t the time, though.”
I caught Torris’ look then; he regarded me with suspicion. I ignored him.
“So, what do we do now?” stammered Vex, and now more than ever I was reminded just how young he was.
“We do what we were always going to do,” I said. “Stop Edracian and the Exterminatus.”
“Will that be enough, though?” said Torris. “What the traitor Feuilt had said hinted there was someone else out there.”
I shrugged, “don’t know. We will worry about that later, right now I suggest we get ready for the fight ahead.”
“You think it’s another trap?” asked Garrakson, looking like he was calming down now. My words were harsh, I knew, but for a tough ex-guard vet like him, it needed to be.
I smiled, “of course it is.”
“This time we’ll be ready, though,” said Torris. “Jeu, you got any more ammo for your autocannon?”
“I do, I do,” said Garrakson. “Got some more from the armoury a while back, you think we’ll encounter more daemons, kid?”
“Don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “Hopefully not.”
“I will pray there aren’t,” said Garrakson with a heavy sigh.
I frowned, not like it’ll make any difference, I thought but said nothing.
“As will I,” said Castella, looking to me and she frowned grimly.
“So what now?” Garrakson said. “This changes everything, Attelus. Now I have to take orders from a fake Olinthre? Not just that but a Xenos? Also while knowing it is responsible for the deaths of not just Taryst and Olinthre but Colonel Barhurst as well?”
I clenched my teeth and glanced at Torris, seeing his expression was of cold anger. Then to Vex who looked more terrified than anything, they all had one thing in common, everyone was looking at me for guidance, for reassurance.
For leadership and in all honesty I didn’t mind. I felt clear-headed and confident. It felt right; perhaps I was a leader
I sighed and shook my head, “yeah,” I said softly. “Yeah, you will, Garrakson. It’s hard, I know. But now, my friend isn’t the time. We need to stop Edracian, and we need ‘Olinthre’ to do that. We must put aside our personal vendettas for now. We will get the opportunity after all this. Okay?”
Torris smiled, “Attelus Kaltos, ever pragmatic, aren’t we?”
“Always,” I said with a grin.
Before anyone else could make a response, Garrakson’s commlink suddenly shrilled.
“Garrakson here,” he said, and his disgusted grimace immediately after made it obvious the Olinthre-thing was on the other end.
“Yeah, yeah got you. We’ll be right there,” he said before cutting the link, and he turned to us. “Me and Torris have to go meet ‘Olinthre’ in the vehicle depot. Looks like we’ll be moving soon.”
I nodded and placed my hands behind my back, “well, let’s go then, shall we?” I said.
We left Vex at his office with his guards and followed Garrakson through the building, moving among the constant hustle and bustle of activity throughout, many were Merc squads like ours, running to and fro with full combat gear. Some were carrying bits of flak board and other siege equipment. Smart, we never know what might happen, we could be attacked here easily. I wondered whose idea it was, most likely Brutis Bones’ or Wesley’s. I doubted it was the Olinthre-thing or Arlathan.
Along the way, we stopped briefly at the armoury so Garrakson could retrieve his Autocannon. Torris and I grabbed a combat shotgun each, knowing it’ll be useful in what was sure to be yet another fight in a closed, confined space. I also took three frag grenades, three Krak grenades as well as five clips of manstopper rounds for my auto pistol and three dumm dumm clips, just in case.
Garrakson and Torris never stopped and talked this time with the many other mercs walking the corridors, just exchanged respectful nods or salutes. Thank the Emperor; it reminded me of the old days. When we’d have to walk through that alleyway and Garrakson with the rest would stop to talk with seemingly everyone along the way.
Much to mine and Elandria’s choler.
I frowned at the thought of Elandria, and I wondered for the hundredth time why Edracian wanted her body off world.
I shook away the thought.
It took us a good ten minutes to reach our destination.
The vehicle depot was huge, at least thirty metres in length and fifteen in width. Taking up three stories of the northern side of the tower. Housing what must’ve been dozens of vehicles. Everything from limousines to light military trucks.
It was like the rest of the building a complete hive of activity as dozens, and dozens of mercs filed into their transports.
Waiting for us at a balcony overlooking the brightly lit depot was Brutis, Wesley, Olinthre and Arlathan. They turned to face us as we approached.
“Well, well,” said the Shapeshifter with a smug smile that didn’t suit Olinthre’s face. “I didn’t expect you’d come with so much company! Castella, Torris, Attelus.”
It said ‘Castella’ and ‘Torris’ with a welcoming tone when It came to me its eyes narrowed, and it growled my name through gritted teeth.
I just smiled and nodded.
Garrakson eyed Olinthre with barely concealed contempt and I only just fought back the urge to cringe. He was a soldier, one with a good head on him. But he lacked the extensive training in acting and subterfuge that Castella and I went through, that it’d went through.
It eyed Garrakson up and down, then gave me a knowing grin.
Perhaps on hindsight, it was a bad idea for all of us to come here. I just wanted to keep an eye on Garrakson, see if he gave anything away. Which he did, of course, but at least I knew that It knew. I guessed that was something.
Arlathan approached and handed Garrakson a data slate.
“That contains the schematics of Edracian’s mansion,” he said. “Got it from the arbites.”
I frowned, doubting they’d still be applicable, but you never know.
We watched as Garrakson scrolled through them, it was a huge, ten story, sixty by thirty building. It was full of wide corridors that twisted and turned to an almost labyrinthine extent. It looked like it’d been built for the specific intent of being extraordinarily defensible.
“Hmm,” I said. “Any idea why the place was abandoned?”
Arlathan smiled, “fifty years ago it was occupied by a very wealthy, well-known family. The Dalinetates, it’d been in their name since the place was first built. Over two hundred years ago-”
“And let me guess,” I interrupted. “Someone, either the patron at the time or one of his closest kin dabbled in forbidden knowledge and thus got the Inquisition on their arses. The family were declared as heretics and executed to a man. Am I right?”
Arlathan grinned and nodded, looking genuinely impressed, “yeah pretty much. The place has been said to be accursed and abandoned ever since. Many local legends surround the place like a bad smell.”
Torris furrowed his brow in bemusement, “why wasn’t it destroyed, then?”
Arlathan pursed his lips and shrugged, “your guess is as good as mine, my friend. Who knows, only the Inquisitor who ordered the purge I’d say. Who that was wasn’t recorded in the database, of course.”
“The place looks seriously built to be defended,” said Garrakson. “What’s the plan to crack this nut?”
Brutis Bones grinned, and stepped forward, “the good old-fashioned way, surround the bastard, break it open then storm it.”
I looked at the schemata again and the ten-metre tall adamantium walls that stood a good six metres out from the building itself.
“What about the wall?” I asked.
Brutis, looked at Castella and me, “that’s where you creepy stealthy types come into play. We’ll provide a distraction with the bulk of the force, while you slip in and plant the explosives on the wall. One of you for each side.”
I furrowed my brow, instantly seeing a problem with the ploy. “It’s already been established he has a psyker on his side, surely it’d detect our approach?”
That is where I will come in, came Karmen’s voice through my mind. I will distract the psyker as our soldiers will distract theirs.
“Karmen,” I said. “Do you think the psyker knew you followed them?”
I am under the impression it didn’t, and I am pretty sure.
“Anyway,” said Brutis as he opened one of the pouches on his belt and pulled out a small device, no larger than the palm of my hand. “If you’re so worried about psychic detection, you can borrow one of these babies, psy-jammers. Throne agent issue. I’ve got five of them, one on me the other four for you, kid, Castella and the other two. Where are they now anyway?”
Castella and I shared a glance.
“Taking care of business,” she said, which made the Mimic give her an intrigued look. “But they’ll be here soon.”
“We’re here now,” said Darrance as he and Hayden approached us.
Brutis frowned and handed us a psy-jammer each.
I suspected I wouldn’t need one, but took it nonetheless. Not wanting to look even more suspicious.
“I’m placing a fething lot of trust on you,” Brutis said. “Once we’re through with this siege. I expect them back and in one fething piece. They’re damn expensive pieces of equipment. If you even scratch it, I’ll hunt you down and feed you to my pet wolf. Especially you, Attelus.”
I frowned and furrowed my brow, why me, especially?
In response Castella grinned then nodded understanding, Hayden made no expression at all and Darrance just smiled smugly.
“I’ve already sent some men to scout out the area,” said the Mimic. “We should be hearing back from them soon.”
I sucked air through clenched teeth, “that’s if they’re not dead already.”
Castella rolled her eyes, “Attelus, ever the optimist.”
“You two, do you know the plan?” said Brutis to Hayden and Darrance.
Darrance nodded and tapped the microbead in his ear, “yeah we heard. Castella had us connected over her vox. So we could hear the entire thing.”
I stiffened, despite myself and glared at Castella, did she do that while I told them of what’s happened?
She met my look and shook her head slightly.
Clenching my jaw and I looked back at the Mimic, seeing it watching us still. It’s expression now unreadable.
Brutis frowned, looking like he didn’t approve, but nodded nonetheless.
“Alright,” he said. “We’ve got one, and only one shot at this. So we can’t mess this up! And time isn’t on our side! We’ll begin the attack in two hours. I need you four there first so you’d better be moving soon. You’ve got ten minutes to get ready, so hurry it up.”
“We are ready,” said Darrance. “We will leave now.”
Brutis’ brow furrowed, and he pursed his lips, “fair enough. The vehicle numbered two-two eight has been set aside for your transport.”
Without ceremony, Castella, Darrance and Hayden nodded then started toward the stairway leading into the depot. I could hear Darrance mutter something about ‘who died and put him in charge.’
I went to walk after them but stopped as Brutis said my name.
With a smile, Brutis dismissed everyone else then he and Wesley approached me. The Inquisitor’s heavy footfalls clanged across the metal deck.
“You’re good,” he said, bluntly. “I saw you and that Castella woman fight the daemons back at my base. You’re good; I am indeed impressed. I’ve met many an acclaimed swordmaster who is twice your age but hold not even half your skill.”
I stood, bemused by this sudden praise, “uhh, thank you,” I said hesitantly.
“Yeah, I would get you to join my band, but there’s one small, tiny problem,” he said, and his eyes narrowed. “I don’t like you.”
I frowned and realised I should’ve seen this coming.
“I know your kind, manipulative, scheming, arrogant. Smart arse little bastards like you I have no time for,” he said on. “You may have everyone else fooled, but not me.”
He clenched his jaw, “I know what you did up in Taryst’s grotto. You led the conversation, made me have to confront you about your miraculous healing then because you knew your allies would stand up for you.”
“I-I don’t,” I stammered.
Brutis shook his head, “do not even attempt to deny it, I see potential in you young man. But with those with potential, if they live long enough to live up to it. Can only be bad or good for the innocent people of this great Imperium. There is no in between, isn’t that right, Wesley?”
Wesley nodded, “usually I’d be averse to such black and white thinking, but in this instance, I make an exception.”
Brutis smiled and turned back to me, “I really should kill you, but I am not sure I can and even if I did succeed. I’d then invite the ire of all the ‘friends’ you’ve manipulated onto your side.”
His face turned grim, “all that I say, Attelus is this; don’t make me regret letting you live. Because if you do live up to that potential and it is any way harmful to this Imperium, to my Imperium of mankind. I will hunt you down, and I will make sure you die the most painful death you can imagine. Do I make myself clear?”
All I could manage was a wide-eyed nod.
“Good!” he said, back to being friendly in the blink of an eye. “That is all, you better not keep your allies waiting any longer.”
Again I nodded and drunkenly turned to walk away, not exactly sure what to make of that.
+He really sees straight through you, doesn’t he?+ said Karmen.
“Shut up, Karmen,” I growled as I began to descend the stairs.
It was early morning, five thirty local time according to my wrist chron to be exact and during this time of year, it should’ve been sunrise. Not that you can tell for shit with the constant smog covering the sky above in black.
Have I said I hated hive worlds already? Well, I do, whether they’re Malfi or Scintilla or Solomon, I frigging hate them. I guess growing up on a more liberal, progressive agri world like Elbyra would make one that way.
I stopped, and swiftly, smoothly sidled into the shadows. One of my knives now drawn and clutched tightly to my chest.
Two figures emerged from around the next corner, mere shadows walking through the constant smoke.
I clenched my teeth and waited as they walked toward me, and it didn’t take long for them to come into view. They were a pair of ragged, beaten locals sporting thick grey, wiry beards and wearing torn old trench coats. Dregs, scum, the lowest of the low, this was one of the few parts of the over hive their kind could inhabit. But something about them seemed off, they moved with a little too much confidence for my liking and looked too much to be the ‘atypical’ homeless person.
I wondered just how many of the locals living around here were Edracian’s goons in disguise I also pondered if any had seen the scouts sent by the ‘Olinthre’ and reported it back to Edracian already. Not that it’d matter any, he already knew we were coming; he had to know.
One thing also gave them away, they weren’t talking, only walked silently, surveying their surroundings with a subtle zealousness I couldn’t help admire.
They didn’t see me, though as they passed by barely a metre as I crouched in the shadows.
Once they were out of earshot I whispered; “Karmen? Can you read their minds?”
+No, I cannot,+ came her reply. +If I expended more power, maybe so. But I will be at risk at being detected then. Usually, it wouldn’t take me so much even when I’m at this far range it would be a safe bet to say their minds are blocked.+
I smiled and shook my head, “of course they are, oh how I love being right. By the way, I have a bone to pick with you.”
“If you can use your powers so far and so effectively from your body, why did you need to go to the Twilight bar at all? If you’d stayed behind you wouldn’t have fallen into Glaitis’ trap.”
She sighed, +that mission may have required my full strength, we didn’t know exactly what we were going into and also...also.+
Also, I was ordered to eliminate you and your three acquaintances once we’d secured Brutis Bones. That would’ve required my full strength, I am sure. I would be with you now if I could be.
“Hmm, makes sense,” I whispered, feeling unsurprised in all honesty, I had rejected Taryst’s offer to join his organisation, that would’ve been my punishment if all had gone according to his plan. Good thing it hadn’t.
“Tell me, Karmen would you’ve killed me?”
She sighed again, no I would’ve tried my best to take you alive, I swear.
I clenched my jaw, unsure whether to believe her or not. But without a further word, I was moving again, quietly but quickly and keeping low so my shade wouldn’t show in the smoke. I had a print out of the map of the area in my pocket, but I didn’t need it. My sense of direction as innate as always led me through the maze of hazy alleyways. Having to stop six times more to sulk in the shadows as more “locals” passed by before I finally found my designated destination. Allotted by Hayden who’d marked it with an “X” on my map.
A three-story, old and long abandoned restaurant, set in a “T” junction as it met the main road. By and far not the tallest building that towered about and that was precisely why it was chosen.
I walked up, checking my sides while trying not to look too suspicious and checked the door. Found it unlocked and quickly I slipped into the darkened interior, silenced pistol drawn and raised in my right, a throwing knife in my lowered left hand.
The place was an utter mess, old torn ruffled paper browned with age laid scattered all around. Immediately a state of melancholy fell over me; the building would’ve been nice fifty years ago. Tables and chairs scattered everywhere, rusted broken, beaten, turned over or against the walls. The air was thick with moisture and the strong stench of rot making it hard to breathe.
Trying not to gag, I moved silently through the mess, careful to keep an eye out for anyone hidden in the shadows.
I ascended the wide, worn stairway, up to the first floor, finding it much the same as the ground and as was the second. The third was much the same but had a large porch facing eastwards for what I’d cynically call the “view.” I made sure to check every inch of every floor, the kitchen, behind the bar everywhere, just in case. The odds of anyone being here were high; if Edracian could see the future, he could know I was going to be here.
But there was nothing, no sign that anyone had been near the place in months. I wasn’t sure whether to like that or not. As quickly as I could, I set the invisible laser trip alarms, one at the front door, another at the top of the third story staircase and switched their signal to my comm link’s channel. They were given to me from Hayden on the drive over, courtesy of Glaitis very’ personal and very illegal arsenal. Of course.
Eventually, I ascended the staircase leading to the roof. Like every other roof in this hive, it was flat with a thick rockcrete buttress around the edge. But there were even more tables and chairs scattered about. The seven to eight-story buildings all around towering overhead like very tall, disapproving parents scolding a four-year-old.
I smiled at the terrible simile and crouched down near the west-facing wall allotting me a good view of Edracian’s, building, about a kilometre through the rockcrete forest. It was an excellent choice on Hayden’s part, as it gave me a good view but not too good so that I could be seen. The Edracian’s base was, as per the schemata a big, grey, unappealing rectangle, but one I could admire, I was never a fan of anything overly ostentatious and fancy. I looked at it through my scope, activating the low light vision and could make out quite a few guards patrolling the wall and court-yard, I counted twelve on this side at least. Every one of them making no effort to disguise they were carrying an assortment of solid projectile and las rifles and wearing armour.
“In position,” I hissed over the vox.
“Good work, Attelus,” Hayden’s voice crackled. “Although I’m sorry to tell you, you’re the last to get there.”
I frowned, unsurprised but suspecting that none of the others had been so thorough in checking their areas. In this galaxy, paranoia seemed more a positive attribute than negative. In some ways, anyway.
“What have you found?” he asked.
“About a dozen guards on my side,” I reported as I panned my scope, checking if anyone was in the other buildings, I’d positioned myself where even those with the higher ground would find it hard to see me, but it was good just to check, you know, just in case. “Eight on the wall, four in what I can make out in the courtyard. It seems Edracian has thrown out all discrepancy. All the windows have been boarded, and I can’t see any signs of life in the buildings about.”
“Encounter any “locals” on your way there?”
“Yeah, eight total, patrolling in pairs. Blatantly scouts. I’m surprised Edracian would allow such sloppiness from his peons.”
“Or we’re just that good,” said Hayden, sounding uncharacteristically smug. “Did you take them out?”
“No,” I said. “Killing them might’ve triggered some sort of psychic alarm or some such. Karmen also told me they’d been mind blocked, so it’s pretty much confirmed. They’re Edracian’s goons.”
“Good thinking,” said Hayden, “great minds think alike and that crap. Alright, we’ve got three-quarters of an hour before the rest of the force arrives. We’ve still got to scout forward and check for traps and more patrols. Report back once you’ve done. Good work and watch your six.”
I smiled about to make a retort but said instead, “thank you.”
“You’re welcome, kid, just remember you owe us. You owe us big.”
Then he cut the link.
“Fair enough,” I sighed.
The attack came, surprisingly enough, straight on schedule. Two thousand total of Brutis’ Hammers, Arlathan’s Magistratum Enforcers and “Olinthre’s” mercs advanced on Edracian’s mansion-fortress from the north, south, east and west.
Using the intelligence gathered by my allies and me, they killed Edracian’s scouts. I watched as they exchanged fire from the buildings around and listened to the comm chatter. In total, the scouts lasted a good ten minutes before they were finally overwhelmed and killed. We lost seventy-eight men, most of whom were Brutis Bones’ goons, they only lost twenty-five. I shouldn’t have been surprised; they were Throne agents. Although I was sure that me, Darrance, Hayden and Castella could’ve taken them out without losing even one of us. But the strategy depended on our information and the enemy not knowing of our presence.
Brutis had made this decision, perhaps knowing he’d lose more men or perhaps he’d underestimated the capabilities of Edracian’s forces. I doubted it was the latter. That seemed a little callous to me.
The Magistratum were the first to arrive, in their armoured vans and formed a cordon on the streets around the place. The Enforcers stormed out the back doors, exchanging fire with the forces on the wall as they moved to secure the nearby buildings for cover. Both the mercs and Brutis’ men were soon after. The roar of battle was deafening, the flashes of fire blinding even from this distance. I didn’t need to listen to the comm to know the forces on the wall were wreaking utter havoc on them. The casualties were mounting and mounting for the first few minutes of combat. Quickly, I counted the enemies on the wall. There were fifty, now. Ten of which crewed on five mounted heavy stubbers, that had been quick, professionally deploying mere seconds after the main force’s arrival.
I clenched my teeth, trying to fight the cold fear creeping up my spine. Never had I ever been so near such a large-scale conflict before. Even from so far, it was terrifying, but this couldn’t qualify even as small on the overall scale. I’d heard of forces of hundreds of thousands, or sometimes, even millions fought one another, on battlefields from one edge of the galaxy to the next, every day.
It made me feel small, insignificant, even more than usual and not just that I was expected to plant an explosive on that wall somehow and make it out the way before it exploded. It was suicide, sure as hell suicide. Brutis Bones wasn’t asking much, wasn’t he? He was putting a hell of a lot of faith in us, too much in my opinion. All it’d take was one wild stray round, coming from either side, bullets didn’t tend to discriminate, to end it and there was a shit ton shot down there.
No wonder so many needed to believe their Emperor protects them if they had to fight through so many conflicts such as this and now I understood in all honesty. Even now I still didn’t and even when I got down there, I still wouldn’t. I knew no good god would want to spend even a second to help me. I wouldn’t deserve their help, and I didn’t want it nor did I need it.
Suddenly, I saw a soldier who was shooting one of the heavy stubbers head explode in a shower of brains and blood which coated his allies around in crimson. That was Hayden, no doubt working his magic. I wished I had a Long Las so I could do something to help, not just crouch, watch and wait, not that I’d be all that good at it.
The fight was intensifying, now the besiegers had secured all the surrounding buildings, and a few of the armoured vans had advanced further to provide better cover for the many on the ground.
The enemy casualties were increasing as the attackers gained better angle on the defenders, but they were still holding, with calmness and discipline that I couldn’t help but admire.
I sighed my teeth on edge and wishing that despite the danger, I’d get the order to move soon.
That was when my microbead chimed, making me flinch in fright again. The tune indicating someone tripped the lower laser. I stiffened, unslung my shotgun and quickly slipped aside the doorway.
Another followed the first chime in quick succession, only two, I could handle that, maybe. If there weren’t more and the others had just managed to dodge the laser.
I started hearing footsteps, somehow heavy enough to hear over the din of battle.
“Kid,” came Garrakson’s voice over the vox. “We’re approaching your six; it would be appreciated if you didn’t shoot us.”
“Garrakson?” I whispered, wide-eyed with surprise.
“Yeah, it’s me, kid,” he said. “Me and Torris and before you ask, neither of us are shapeshifting, Xenos arseholes, we’re here to help.”
The second trip laser went off.
“Kid we know what mission you’re on, we wanted to help you out, make sure you get through it.”
I stopped my sentence as Torris and Garrakson stepped on the roof. Garrakson still with his Autocannon and Torris with his shotgun.
“But, but Brutis’ ordered me to go alone,” I stammered.
Torris shook his head, “don’t really care, we’re with you. You’ve done enough alone already.”
Garrakson grinned, “besides I’m the explosives expert it just wouldn’t be right if I weren’t there.”
I nodded and laughed nervously, “if I may be cliche. Like the old times, eh?”
Torris tilted his head, “like the old times, eh,” he echoed in good humour. “Kid you may have a very, very long list of issues and character flaws, but despite that we like ya. For some reason, I can’t think of yet, but maybe we’ll live long enough to figure that out one day.”
“Doubt it,” said Garrakson, grinning.
I grinned back, “thank you. Despite everything I’ve done, thank you.”
Just then my microbead beeped.
“All infiltrators, advance,” said Brutis.
“Time to go, kid?” said Garrakson. “You ready?”
I stood with wide eyes and looked at the battle down the road, realising I was far from ready.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I sighed.
“Stick with us kid,” said Garrakson. “You’ll be fine.”
“Okay, thanks guys, I...I really appreciate, this. I do.”
Then we were moving.
We jogged the kilometre, well Garrakson and Torris jogged, I walked quickly to allow them to keep up. It took us a good six minutes to reach the battle zone. The sights and sounds were somehow becoming brighter and louder than before. The blood thundered in my ears and heart lodged in my throat, making it hard to breathe.
We were all fit, but Garrakson still struggled, his Autocannon must’ve been a good forty, fifty kilograms. I knew I could barely lift that big bastard, let alone run a kilometre with it.
Actually, on second thought, perhaps I could.
Finally, we arrived at the cordon of, finding two Magistratum armoured vans blocking the way and twelve enforcers standing guard. One of them being Arlathan Karkin who looked at us with watery eyes and seeming even paler and tired than before.
“Hey,” he said. “You’re here. Good, I’ll send out the word, and we’ll get started.”
I didn’t reply, feeling the corner of my mouth twitch, honestly surprised he didn’t make a snarky comment on us being late or something along those lines.
“He’s here,” said Arlathan. “Are the others in position?”
Arlathan nodded to the reply I couldn’t hear.
“Yeah, okay,” said Arlathan, who cut the link and looked at Torris and Garrakson. “And what are you two doing?
“We’re going with him,” said Torris with finality.
Arlathan nodded and said, “then I’m going too.”
I couldn’t hide my surprise.
Arlathan sighed, “I need to do this, I messed up, bad and...”
“Yeah yeah, blah blah blah,” interrupted Garrakson as he walked on. “You want to make up for your earlier cowardice and incompetence. I’ve heard it all before.”
Garrakson walked past, “you and the kid seem to have a lot in common.”
He grinned and looked over his shoulder at us, “now, you coming or what?”
The four of us stuck to the shadows as we advanced and I had to fight the urge to cover my ears from the constant roar of battle. We stopped at the side of the closest building, pushing our backs against the wall.
“As much as I appreciate you guys coming,” I said. “I think you’ll just slow me down.”
“We’ll be right behind you,” said Torris.
I sniggered, “I doubt that.”
“I won’t,” said Garrakson, hefting his autocannon with a grin pointedly.
Arlathan shook his head, “you have the bomb ready?”
I nodded and pulled it from its pouch on my belt, “push this button here, right? Tear off the adhesive and plant it against the wall. I’ve got ten seconds to make it clear before it blows.”
“Can I have a look?” said Garrakson and I handed it to him.
He studied it intently for a few seconds and fiddled with it a bit before giving it back.
“Now you have ten seconds,” he said.
My blood turned to ice, “what?”
Garrakson shrugged, “your timer was actually set to five, who gave you this?”
It was the Olinthre-thing, he’d given us the explosives just before we’d left and with a shaking hand, I activated my vox.
“Castella! Hayden! Darrance! Check the timers on your bombs!”
Their confused replies chorused through the vox.
“Do it! They may’ve been timed to five instead of ten seconds! Do it now!”
I cut the link before they could reply and snarled a curse; I should’ve checked I should’ve suspected something! Why didn’t we check the timers? I could only thank goodness Garrakson had looked.
Arlathan looked at us confused, “what the hell?”
Suddenly a thought chilled my bones, and I looked at Garrakson then activated my comm link to “Olinthre’s” channel.
“What do you want?” came Olinthre’s voice almost immediately. “I’m in the middle of a frigging firefight. I-!”
I clenched my jaw and cut the link.
“You ready?” asked Arlathan.
I nodded, hesitantly while fighting the fear roiling in my guts.
Arlathan activated his link, “he’s ready, are all the others ready?”
He nodded and raised his hand, “all forces providing cover fire in five, four, the, two, one! Go! Go!”
We were then around the corner and sprinting, sprinting into a hell I had never known before and would never forget.
I covered my ears and clenched my teeth as I ran through the gunfire, even then the roar of the combined cover fire was horrific. The blaze of light would’ve been blinding if I hadn’t closed my eyes and it left afterglows on my retinas.
It was a good fifty-metre space to the wall, it mustn’t have taken me more than a few seconds to sprint the distance, it was a disorienting, sickening hell of light and sound. I could barely see even a metre in front of me. It took me the entire time I screamed; I didn’t figure this out until I finally reached the wall. I saw the big blank grey wall approaching only in the very last second; I only managed to slow down slightly twisting so I hit shoulder first instead of the face first before I hit it, hard. I cried out as I bounced back and reeled to the ground, agony burning up my shoulder and along my arm.
Dazed, shaking and hurting like hell, my breaths shuddering in my throat, I began to clamber to my feet. I didn’t deem to dwell on the stupidity of what I’d just done, under the same circumstance many may’ve done the same.
I was barely kneeling when a hand suddenly grabbed me from under the arm and abruptly hauled me to my feet. It was Torris who was smiling at me and at his side was Arlathan, who was still somehow giving that guilty look, despite the situation.
“By the Emperor, kid you’re fast!” Torris gasped.
I grinned nervously back and with a shaking hand, pulled out the bomb.
“Hurry up before they notice us!” Torris yelled.
I nodded and approached the wall, Arlathan and Torris pressing their backs against it at my flanks. I had to fight hard not to flinch at every roar and scream around.
I almost dropped the bomb at least twice as I struggled to tear off the adhesive strip with sweaty, shaking hands and when I flinched in fright as another gasping figure crashed heavily against the wall alongside me. It was Garrakson, still somehow hauling his autocannon and who managed me an encouraging nod, despite sweating up a storm.
“We’re with ya, kid!” he yelled. “We’re your friends, and we’re with you!”
With tears in my eyes, I nodded in return and finally managed to do pull off the slip. As quickly as I could, I planted the bomb and was about to set it when the other explosives went off, one after another in quick secession, their bone-shaking, mind-shattering roars eclipsing every other sight and sound completely and utterly. Followed by blood-curdling screams and clatter and crunch of falling debris.
There were three of them, of course, I’d come last, yet again. I could only hope that the others had made it out the way in time.
With a grimace and new-found determination, I flipped the switch, causing the red light to blink on and off.
“Everyone clear!” I yelled at the top of my lungs, and we were on the move, sprinting sideways, Arlathan and me; right. Torris and Garrakson; left.
I covered my ears and threw myself to the ground as the world turned into a blaze of light.
We were the first through the smoking roughly two-metre wide breach, using the large chunks of burnt, black debris as cover from the withering gunfire raining from the building above.
“Making the breach was just the frigging start, wasn’t it?” I snarled over the cacophony, trying to shake away the ringing in my ears.
Garrakson laughed heartily, as he crouched behind the blackened remains of a heavy stubber seeming utterly unfazed, “this your first siege, kid?”
I nodded nervously.
Garrakson laughed, “well then you’re doing remarkably well! This would be my what? Twentieth? Maybe, not sure! I remember my first well, though! Shamed to say I pissed my pants! But that one was a frig ton larger than this one! That’s for sure!”
I clenched my jaw and looked at Torris. Garrakson sounded a little too enthusiastic for my liking. It was disconcerting to see the usually more stoic ex-guardsman so...happy.
Torris just pursed his think lips and shrugged.
Suddenly Garrakson was on his feet, Autocannon chattering deafeningly, spraying the fire wildly across the mansion. The Adamantium walls held easily against the barrage, but the flak boards against the windows, not so much.
Arlathan was the first to join, firing his shotgun over the edge of his bit of debris
I was watching the walls with Torris, hoping like all hell that the cover fire from the buildings around was enough to pin down the enemy survivors still up there.
I’d hoped for too much, as then I saw a darkened figure appear overhead, gun raised.
I didn’t hesitate, my shotgun kicked so violently I almost fell on my arse, and the figure’s chest exploded in a shower of gore and with a cry, abruptly dropped out of sight.
It was then that finally the rest of the force moved through the breach, pushing past me, as they advanced, shooting their differentiating assortment of weapons sporadically at the building.
They met very little resistance as they stormed into the courtyard, Garrakson’s autocannon pinning the defenders indefinitely.
“How are we going to get inside?” yelled Torris.
“The building’s wall isn’t as thick as the surrounding one!” I yelled. “I could try to cut a hole through with my powersword!”
“Or we could try that!” bellowed Garrakson with a laugh as he pointed out the others were just climbing through the windows.
“Or that!” I said with a shrug and wondered why a supposed fortress had windows situated so close to the ground.
This was too easy, way to easy.