Secret War: Warhammer 40,000

Chapter 21

I was wrong, Garrakson’s Autocannon hadn’t pinned them, they’d just fallen back. The four-metre wide corridor was ablaze with the blinding blaze and the defining sound of shooting. Dozens of Edracian’s mooks had laid in wait behind sandbag walls for our advancing forces. Not just that but further down were two Heavy stubber emplacements, laying down a constant barrage that should’ve left us completely and utterly pinned. But like lightning I dashed through It all, weaving side to side with a speed and agility I’d no idea I was capable of and fell upon five of Edracian’s mercs as they cowered behind one of the sandbag walls.

Two were dead before they realised I was there, the first I decapitated, the activated edge of my powersword cutting through his neck with ease, the second I impaled, kicked him off the blade and smashing into his comrade behind him. The fourth took a swing at me with the butt of his rifle, but he seemed to move in slow motion, and I effortlessly weaved underneath it, then cut his torso in two with a backhanded blow. The fifth tried to raise his rifle to shoot me, but before I could even blink my body moved and I was abruptly behind him, and he was cleaved in twain. The third, I hauled to his feet, just in time to use as a human shield as his comrades further down the corridor tried to shoot me. His body was torn to pieces in a few seconds by the concentrated fire, but it mattered little as I was safe behind the sandbags well before that.

Arlathan, Torris, Arlathan and Garrakson used this opportunity to advance, joining up with me. Arlathan and Torris fired their shotguns from the hip as they ran.

“What the bloody hell was that?” demanded Torris over the din.

“What?” I asked.

“You, just running forward through that hell without telling us anything!” he roared. “You suicidal or something?”

I shrugged, I wasn’t suicidal; I just knew deep down that I could make it, that my newfound speed and agility would get me through it all.

Torris sighed, shook his head and blasted over the wall, “well good work I guess, just tell us next time, kid. It’d be appreciated, thanks!”

I cut my reply short as I saw more figures emerged from around the corner we’d came from, ten metres down the corridor, their weapons raised. Before any thought I was moving, power sword activated.

“Attelus stand down!” came a yell over my vox link. “We’re on your side!”

I stopped. “Olinthre!” I spat the name then dived for cover as they opened fire.

Twelve more guns joined in with Torris and Arlathan’s as the mercs advanced past me.

I vaulted over the sandbags, twisting to shoot blindly over the lip in an attempt to provide cover fire for the mercs.

The Olinthre-thing joined me, while he fired bursts of his auto gun.

“Good work at blowing the wall!” It yelled.

I didn’t reply, just clenched my jaw and gave it a glare.

It shrugged and smiled, “well I guess we can’t always get what we want, right?”

As if by its own volition, suddenly my hand shot out and clutched it by the throat, slamming it against the sandbags.

“You made the timers five seconds instead of ten,” I growled. “I’m lucky that Garrakson looked at it or I might be dead right now.”

It smiled, grabbed my wrist and tore my hand away, “yeah I did, I did the same for the others as well. I don’t know what happened, exactly but I guessed you betrayed Glaitis, and I bet they did too.”

I glared at It and shook my head, “I don’t get it, why do you care so much? You didn’t seem to care before.”

“Because I’ve thought it over and I think I owe her,” It said. “If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be what I am today.”

I looked it in the violet eyes, “really? And what you are today? Did you want this? You truly wanted to be this? You owe her nothing! Nothing at all!”

I didn’t wait for its reply; its gaping wide-eyed look was enough. I vaulted over the wall and sprinted like mad, weaving through the fury and the fire to join back up with Torris, and the others.

“Emperor damn it!” snarled Garrakson as he jumped in fright at my sudden appearance. “How the frig can you move like that? You’re like one of those damn Eldars!”

I clenched my jaw and said nothing.

“And Emperor damn it!” Garrakson said again. “If you’d let me use my damn Autocannon we wouldn’t be like this!”

My eyes narrowed, “we can’t risk you using any more ammo, Jeurat! We don’t know what we’ll encounter the deeper we go! You’ve only got, what? A hundred rounds or so left?”

“More daemons!” yelled Torris. “It’ll most definitely be more daemons!”

I was up then, firing my shotgun, trying to draw a bead through the chaos on an enemy, any enemy, but just like the ambushers in the alley, they hugged their cover way too well, and I was never the best at ranged combat.

With a smug smile, I pulled out one of my four frag grenades.

Garrakson gave me a tired look, “y’know doing that, kid. Might give ’em ideas.”

I shrugged, thinking there was no point in hiding my new found enhanced strength anymore, pulled the pin and with a grunt, threw it. The grenade flew, it flew a good forty-five metres and landed almost in the lap of the merc manning one of the Heavy Stubbers. The explosion and the man’s scream I could barely hear over the din of battle.

All three of my acquaintances had seen it and gaped at me with wide eyes.

“When the hell did you get that strong?” said Torris.

I shrugged, “don’t know! About the same time, I could move this fast!”

“Wait! What?” Torris was in the midst of shouting as I was up and moving, lunging over another sandbag wall and in my descent, kicking one of the three defenders in the face, throwing him flying back. His features now a bloody, ugly ruin. The second twisted with impressive speed, rifle raised to fire. Only so my sword could slice through it, then impale his face. The last threw himself back just out of range of my next slash and drew a laspistol from its holster. My instincts somehow knew the exact second he’d pull the trigger, and my body weaved, feeling the laser kiss my cheek, and I smelt it as it fried some of my hair, then I slipped in, so fast he couldn’t get another, then my powersword sliced him two.

Next thing I knew, I bounded behind the sandbags before the rest could shoot me, their fire tearing into the sandbags a mere millisecond after I was in safety

I frowned and looked at my hands, was this new ability just from my, Wraithbone bones? I’d heard from Glaitis of assassins who could move like this. Highly experienced, trained and skilled far beyond normal human parameters. The elite assassins of the Officio Assassinorum were the first which came to mind.

A sigh suddenly filtered through my thoughts making me jump in fright.

+Again I did that, Mon’keigh. I didn’t just enhance your bone structure but brought you to a physical peek that would normally be almost impossible for your slow, clumsy kind ever to attain. You with your genetic lineage may have been able to reach it, through years more of training but I fast forwarded you through it, saving you the time and effort.+


+Is that not obvious? Even for you with your simple, slow mind? That is because I need you at your best to be in proper service to me, you are lucky I care so much. Now shut up, you have a battle to fight, oh and watch your left.+

I turned just in time to see the soldier sneaking up on me, his knife already in the midst of swinging at my skull.

I leaned back, so it sliced slightly through my nose instead then sidestepped his stab. The range was terrible for my powersword effectively so instead I elbowed him in the face, it connected with a crunch, and he screamed, blood spraying from his nose like a geyser.

“Nose for a nose you son of a bitch!” I snarled, and my front kick caused him to stumble further back, allowing Torris a clear shot, the round blowing through his torso and sent his limp corpse smashing hard against the sandbag wall.

I smiled as Torris, Garrakson and Arlathan joined me.

“Why would he try to take me in close quarters?” I asked.

Torris shrugged, “outta ammo, maybe? He almost had you, though. You were very deep in la-la land there for a second or two. I would’ve warned you, but it all happened way too fast for me. And what did I tell you about running forward all on your lonesome without telling us, again?”

“I did tell you,” I said.

The corner of his mouth twitched, “well, yeah, but not very well.”

“Alright! Enough of the damned talky!” roared Arlathan as he fired. “and more damned fighty!”

And for once I agreed with him.

The explosion sent the large double doors flying off their hinges and falling into the enormous old dining room beyond.

We were ready for the inevitable counter, hugging the cover of the sandbags as the mercs fired through the kicked up smoke.

There were fifty of us, mostly made up of Taryst’s mercs. There were more before, but we’d lost over two dozen men overwhelming the well-entrenched enemy in this corridor alone. I couldn’t help wonder how many more were going to die attacking this place.

For what felt like forever we waited for a lull in the storm, when it finally came that’s when Garrakson opened fire with the remaining working heavy stubber along with the rest of us.

The enemy had set up their defences well; they’d turned over the long, thick dining tables for makeshift protection and reinforced them further with more damned sandbags, which made me wonder how the hell on a hive world like this did they get so much sand? Was it rockcrete sand? Or...?

I smiled and shook away the thought, now was the worst time to get hung up on such details.

Fighting the urge to flinch from every sight and sound, through the utter chaos I did a very quick, very rough headcount. There were two balconies situated along each length of the room, gunfire rained down from them, but they were too elevated for me to make out anything of importance and on the floor were three makeshift walls four metres separating each.

“I count approximately twenty-five on the floor!” I shouted. “Nine behind the first, eight behind the last two!”

“Twenty three now!” roared Garrakson as he cut down two with a withering hail of fire and I treated him to an equally withering look, which he ignored entirely.

“What about on the decks?” asked Arlathan.

I just pursed my lips and shrugged, wondering why he thought I’d know.

“If we give you covering fire, you think you can get onto one of them?” yelled Torris as he fired a flurry of shotgun shells.

I smiled, “you were all upset about me running off by myself but now asking me to suicidally climb up there?”

Torris shrugged, “I only get upset when you do it without telling us about it! We can’t help you if you don’t! Your teamwork skills kinda suck!”

I clenched my jaw, wanting to point out how Castella and had worked together well against the daemons earlier and remind him of how Elandria and I used to team up all the time.

I frowned, and my gaze fell to the floor at the thought of Elandria.

“Kid! I wouldn’t ask you this if I didn’t think you could do it!” he yelled, taking me from my reverie.

With a sigh I looked over the sandbags again, the balconies were a good two and a half metres off the floor, and both ascending staircases situated at the other end of the room. Three, half metre wide, dark wood pillars held them aloft, but I could tell they were only there for decoration. Taking them out wouldn’t collapse them at all, which was my initial hope.

I slipped back into safety and shook my head.

Torris gritted his teeth and growled with incoherent rage.

Just then we heard Garrakson cry out and throw himself to the floor as his heavy stubber was abruptly torn apart by concentrated fire.

“We’ve gotta do something about the enemy on those damn verandahs!” snarled Torris. “Even if we take care of the ones on the floor, we try to advance we’ll be caught in a damn crossfire! From enemies on an elevated position no less!”

Garrakson climbed to his knees, brushing himself off as though he’d just had dust thrown on him, instead of potentially deadly, jagged shards of shrapnel.

“Well why don’t we have Mr little freaky speedy here just run through them, to the other side of the room and climb up the stairs, while we lay down cover fire,” he said.

I sighed and placed my hand on my face, why did all these plans involve me rushing forward through gunfire. I guess it was my own frigging fault for showing off so much before.

“Could actually work,” said Torris.

“Only if we can bloody coordinate properly,” said Arlathan.

“Or if I could use my bloody autocannon,” said Garrakson, as he not to subtly glared at me.

I sighed and glanced back at the other mercs taking cover behind the sandbags further down the corridor; pinned down, just as we were, I wasn’t going to get any cover fire from them, sure as sure.

With a frustrated growl, I turned to Garrakson and mumbled something.

“What?” yelled Garrakson, but I could see him smiling slightly.

“I said, damn it! You get it your way!” I bellowed through clenched teeth. “Use the frigging autocannon!”

Garrakson’s face lit up like a child who’d just been told all his birthdays had been rolled into one.

“Alright!” he said rubbing his hands together eagerly, then began gathering up the oversized bullet hose. “You ready kid?”

I swallowed and only nodded nervously.

“Be aware, kid I’ll only be able to pin the bastards on the floor. The ones up there on the balconies, not so much!”

“Torris and me could throw some grenades,” suggested Arlathan. “We could try to get them onto those balconies!”

I looked at him, eyes wide with surprise, glanced at the room beyond, seeing just how high and how bad the angle was, then back to him.

“But you’ll have to expose yourself to do it,” I said.

Arlathan frowned and furrowed his brow, “why are you so worried? You’ve got to run through that hell!”

I turned to Torris who shrugged and said, “I agree, kid. It’s an idea. I’m willing to give it a go.”

I nodded and glanced at Arlathan still surprised he’d risk himself so. Whatever had happened to him during his unconsciousness must’ve changed him somehow.

My eyes narrowed, as another thought hit me, perhaps I wasn’t the one Brutis should be worried about.

“We ready?” asked Garrakson eagerly.

“Yeah, we are,” I said as I tossed Torris and Arlathan a grenade each. “Jeurat, blaze away.”

“With pleasure!” he beamed, climbed to his feet and began firing over the sandbags, ignoring the countless munitions flying his way.

“Wish me..!” I yelled but stopped as simultaneously both Torris and Arlathan were standing and throwing their grenades.

I didn’t wait to watch where they went as I was up and sprinting into the room, knowing that Garrakson with all his skill would miss me.

Everywhere, I saw the devastation wrought by Garrakson’s autocannon as it tore through everything, punching holes through the sandbags and turned over tables as though they were made of paper. I saw at least five defenders torn apart as they cowered behind the first wall. Inwardly, I cursed that we’d been forced into using it so damn early in the peace, but desperate times, I guess.

It must’ve taken me less than a second or two to sprint to the first wall, but it felt like forever it was even more intense than the siege outside than even in the close confines of the corridors.

Just as I vaulted over the first wall, the grenades Torris and Arlathan had thrown went off. I heard no screams, no nothing; I couldn’t even tell if they’d been thrown right, but I had no time to dwell on that.

I just had to have “faith” in my friends they’d done it right. Well, the definition of “faith” meant belief without evidence. I didn’t have “faith” in Torris he’d proved time and again that he was skilled and highly competent. It was bloody Arlathan I had to put faith in, and I didn’t like that.

The defenders behind the first wall were already dead and the ones behind the second and third were pinned down by Garrakson’s fire.

I could see in my peripheral vision and somewhat feel the gunfire from above, and my heart sank as I realised that it was a frigging crap ton of them and most of them automatic.

Despite this I didn’t break my stride, I just kept sprinting forward hoping my insane speed would outdo them.

As I ran, an idea hit me, and with quick hands, I took out my last grenade, pulled the pin just before lunging over the wall and in mid-air, dropped it amongst the five defenders as they gaped up at me in shock and awe.

I bounded onwards as it exploded, covering my ears so barely heard the screams of the defenders as they died.

The defenders behind the last wall started to peer over it, so in the blink of an eye, I drew my auto pistol, firing with utterly no accuracy in the hope to pin them back in place, unloading the entire clip faster than I thought possible. Much to my relief, it worked and with no time to reload; I vaulted over the wall, pistol-whipping one over the skull in flight.

I landed and drew my sword, simultaneously roundhouse kicking one in the face as he turned to attack me. The other three, still crouched raised their guns to shoot but before they could even think, I’d dashed forward, right into their midst, so their shots only cut through the empty air. One on my left, two on my right

My powersword sliced through the torso of my left side attacker and I slid into a sidekick that connected the first right’s sternum with a crack somehow audible over the chaos, and he was thrown onto his back so fast, and so hard, I could’ve sworn it broke his spine. The last had backed up about a metre and showered a frenzied point-blank, full auto burst that I barely managed to weave out the way of. But in his panic, he’d stood, exposing himself and my with allies no longer pinned, so a tidy shot from Emperor only knew who took off the top of his head. Which was lucky, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to dodge anymore.

Next thing I knew I’d retrieved one of the Auto guns off the floor and was moving, sprinting up the left side staircase, laying down a barrage of automatic fire that caused the merc guarding them to him throw himself out of its path.

Then I was at the top, smashing the butt of the rifle hard into his throat, grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and utilised the poor bastard as yet another human shield, allowing me a second or two to take in my surroundings as he got shot to hell.

I saw four smaller sandbag walls only two metres in length and three apart, four mercs were behind each wall, except the furthest, they were already dead. I dropped my borrowed autogun, took my new shield’s one and over his writhing shoulder, sprayed a wild flurry that was so inaccurate, no one bothered to duck for cover, and soon I found my human shield torn from my grasp.

With a desperate roar, I dashed forward, firing the last of the autogun’s clip from the hip in a spray not much more accurate than the previous but somehow still caused them to duck.

I vaulted over the first wall, my power sword relieving two mercs of their heads before I Ianded and sprinted on, their fire missing me entirely in spite of such short range, my insane bravado and inhuman speed taking them off their game.

I reached the next wall in a split second, only now were the men behind it getting up. So instead of vaulting over, I slid to the side and around their wall, my reloaded pistol drawn and firing. I fired six shots four for the mercs in front me two for the remaining two at the first wall before; then I bound back behind the safety of the second sandbag wall.

There, despite the tiredness and exhaustion that was starting to wear on me, I threw back my head and laughed. I laughed at the insanity of it all, of how I could do all this. Was I even really human anymore? What other transformations had the Farseer wrought on me? I guess I had to wait and see.

I was tired of it already, scared I’d pushed my luck too much and wished not to move even an inch as the remaining four mercs fired my way.

I looked to the other balcony, seeing that they were more concerned with exchanging fire with my colleagues as they advanced into the dining hall than trying to kill me, thank goodness.

As I clenched my teeth, I tried to glance around the wall but was quickly forced to flinch back from the shots whizzing my way, and I cursed savagely, wishing I hadn’t used all my damn frags.

Then an idea hit me; I still had grenades just of the “krak” variety, didn’t know why I’d just grabbed six frags instead, but oh well.

With quick hands, I opened my flak jacket and pulled one out, not even bothering to pull the pin, stood and threw it as accurately as I could before throwing myself to the floor.

“Grenade!” I heard the yell and needed no more prompting before I was up again with pistol raised. All four had scattered two moving left, two right. In a rush I opened fire, my first two shots went wild, but my third winged one on the right and my fourth blew a bloody hole through the bicep of his mate behind him.

Before I could draw a proper bead on the left two, they’d already realised my ploy, and their withering fire caused me to duck behind cover again.

Perhaps I should’ve pulled the pin it may’ve been a krak, but it still could’ve frigged them up a bit. Once more I glanced at the other balcony and down into the dining room below. I could see we’d lost at least three more men down there while they hadn’t lost any. I would’ve liked to shoot at them, but I had enough attention on me already, didn’t want anymore. At least I’d diminished the casualties a bit by risking my arse to get up here.

I breathed deeply and took out my mirror from its pocket in my flak jacket and raised it on an angle to allow me to see the muzzle flares of my enemies.

One was left, the other right, they were advancing, trying to flank me. It was hard to tell this just from listening alone as there were so many munitions exchanged in here I couldn’t tell high from low.

With another deep breath, I was up again and shooting at the right one. My first shot missed the merc but my second hit him in the stomach, the manstopper round blew through his flak armour and with a pained cry he reeled limply and fell onto his back.

I switched my aim to the second, just as his auto gun pointed at me.

In that split second, I realised he had me and I dived to the floor, throwing myself to the other side of the wall, just before his full auto flurry cut through the air where I’d stood.

Then I shot him through the skull.

I lay there for what felt like an age, eyes wide and gasping for air, not daring to move, not even daring to blink as the battle raged. Emperor that was insane! And close, so frigging close! I barely noticed when the fire finally died and was in the midst of climbing to my feet when Garrakson, Torris and Arlathan appeared at the top of the stairs. Garrakson now carried a Lasgun.

“You alright, kid?” asked Torris as he approached and helped me to my feet.

“Yeah,” I sighed, shaking my head to try to regain my composure, all the shit that I’ve been through over the last day must’ve been really wearing on me, not just physically but mentally as well. “You run out of ammo, Garrakson?”

“Yeah,” he said with a guilty grin as he scratched the back of his shaved head. “Sorry about that.”

“How many lost?” I breathed through clenched teeth.

“Sixteen dead,” said Arlathan. “Three wounded, but I’m sure we would’ve lost more if you hadn’t run the gauntlet, shit you’re insane.”

I gaped at him, unsure what to make of that...compliment? But despite myself, I felt a smile cross my face.

“Please, Arlathan, tell me something I don’t know,” I said.

“What? That you’re a complete screw head?”

“No, both.”

Arlathan shrugged and shook his head.

The Olinthre-thing with a few other soldiers arrived at the top of the stairs, “yeah, yeah stop the dilly dally, no time to waste we have a building to capture. Oh and next time you decide to pull a stunt like that, tell me beforehand. I am y’know, your commanding officer.”

Torris and Garrakson turned to face It, but it was hard to miss the hatred in Garrakson’s eyes.

“I...” started the ex-guardsman.

“Sorry, sir,” Torris quickly interrupted. “We’ve just been working independently for so long it’s easy to forget, right, Jeurat?”

“Right,” Garrakson growled, hesitantly.

The Olinthre-thing smiled and looked at me, “yeah right, whatever. Just don’t do it again. Now move your arses, Let’s go!”

It turned and began to descend the stairs, waving us after It. It was really enjoying this command shtick.

I grinned as we followed it’s wake, “well, enjoy it while it lasts,” I hissed under my breath. “It isn’t going to last much longer.”

For a long time, we moved through the maze of corridors kicking in a door after door, clearing out any enemy within. Thanks to Arlathan’s auspex we were able to tell where they were, but at my insistence, we checked every room even the ones lacking heat signatures, just in case. It was slow going, gritty and tedious work but it needed doing. We cleared out a total of thirty rooms twenty of which had enemies, killing at least thirty enemy mercs who’d attempted to fortify themselves within. We lost about twenty more of our own in the process, twelve of which were injured, three fatally Luckily for us there seemed to be a constant flow of reinforcements to replace the men we’d lose. The rooms without signatures were all empty of course, but I just had to be sure.

Most of the time I listened into the comm chatter of our other forces, keeping the others updated on their progress. Casualties were mounting, well into the hundreds now. Brutis Bones’ force had it the worst, they were made up of the less well-trained Hammers, and it seemed his side had the highest concentration of enemy numbers. Ours was doing the best much to my surprise, we were advancing the fastest and of the four forces, suffered the least. I also kept track of Hayden, Darrance and Castella’s activities; unsurprisingly they were on the front lines each performing admirably, killing countless and preventing numerous casualties single-handedly.

I just hoped they’d get through it. But what really bugged me was; why were we doing the best? Was it because we were facing the least numbers? That was the only reason I could comprehend, which was interesting, very interesting indeed. Yes.

The Olinthre thing didn’t seem to mind this fact, though. It just choked it up to us being the best, but I doubted that.

Finally, we arrived at the end of the corridors to a pair of large, ornate doors, that according to the schemata led into a large ballroom beyond.

“Arlathan?” said the Mimic as we lined up at the wall, there were sixty of us total now. “What we got?”

Arlathan cursed as he fiddled with the auspex, “nothing! Can’t pick up anything! It’s like the dining room back there!”

I nodded, for the more essential areas the enemy had a way to block out our scanners that or there was no one in there, but I doubted that. Quickly, I echoed this find to the other forces through my vox link.

‘Olinthre’ sighed and turned to me, “what about your psyker girlfriend? She able to help us?”

I shrugged, “I haven’t heard from Karmen since I was scouting outside. I don’t know even if she’s alright or not. She’s probably still locked in an invisible war with whoever that psyker was she’d mentioned before.”

It cursed colourfully, “we got flashbangs?”

Three of the nearest mercs nodded and pulled out one each from pouches on their belts.

“Good! Now we’ve got a plan!” It exclaimed and then it turned to me. “Attelus Kaltos, would you kindly cut a hole...”

“What? Through the doors?” I interrupted.

It gave off no outward sign of emotion, but it’s next sentence blatantly sounded like it was through clenched teeth, “no, through the wall, there!”

It pointed to a part of the wall about two metres left of the doors, “you said earlier that your powersword could cut through the wall, right?”

“Uhh, yeah,” I said dumbly, quickly seeing the genius behind the Mimic’s plan.

“Well then cut a hole that’ll allow them to throw their grenades through!” It snapped impatiently. “Hurry!”

I nodded and approached the part of the wall indicated, activating my power sword in a blaze of blues as the three mercs followed.

“Garrakson! Torris!” snapped the Mimic, “get ready to take out the doors on my signal!”

With surprising obedience, both of them nodded and set themselves on each side of the door.

I exchanged glances with the three mercs, then clenched my teeth and with four quickfire slashes cut a hole just large enough for one person to fit through.

The enemy fire was almost immediate, but that didn’t stop them from blindingly throwing their grenades through.

The Olinthre-thing then lifted its hand with three fingers raised and one by one It lowered them then pointed to the door.

Torris nodded grimly and with one shotgun shell, blew out the lock allowing Garrakson to kick them open and with Las gun raised he, Torris and five other mercs advanced inside, firing.

The Mimic turned to me, pointed to the mercs and waved us through my makeshift entrance.

I nodded and immediately two of them fired their auto guns on full auto through it, pinning fire. Then with shotgun raised, I slipped inside, weaving quickly leftward, toward the nearest pillar. There were seven thick, pillars which held up the big balcony overhead, the two closest were about six metres from the door, and two dead men lay in pools of blood just behind them. I could see the enemy had turned over tables and reinforced them with more sandbags, all set in between the farthest four pillars, which were another good seven metres away. I could just make out the twelve mercs cowering behind the middle two barriers, six behind each. All of them still reeling from the flashbangs and Garrakson, Torris and the others were advancing, as they exchanged fire with enemies further into the huge room.

I pressed my back against the pillar, trying to get a better assessment of the situation. The room was huge, easily one of the largest of this infernal mansion-fortress, the balcony above must’ve been at least three stories off the floor and who knew how high the ceiling itself went.

Amazingly ornate, golden chandeliers hung every few metres (much to my annoyance none were situated anywhere near the enemy fortifications) And the walls and floors were polished white and silver marble, lined with silver and gold.

It was all in surprisingly good condition, emphasis on ‘was’ as now it was pockmarked, torn through by the countless munitions being exchanged.

Two small staircases were set after the enemy fortifications about leading two metres upward, there were handrails, but they were already being shot to shit by Garrakson and his men.

I watched as they converged on the just recovering mercs and couldn’t help wince as they brutally executed them with point-blank fire.

The rest of our force was now advancing into the room taking up cover behind the barriers and pillars. I had to admit, the Mimic’s plan had worked extraordinarily well. Perhaps It was worth leaving alive after all.

With the three from before, I moved up as well, pushing my back against the furthest left pillar, gaining a better view into the place. I could see the huge staircase leading to the balcony above now and the further three fortifications at its base. Nine enemies took cover behind them, three behind each. Six more were on the balcony, raining fire down on us with their excellent angle and elevated position. The sound was deafening as it echoed through the huge, cavernous room and even the barriers were little protection as six of us were quickly cut down, and the rest were forced onto their bellies, pinned. Only those of us behind the pillars were immune, still pinned but we were safer.

I clenched my jaw and sighed, glancing around the left side of my pillar as I struggled to think of a plan. I saw that the two-metre tall wall extended to each width of the room that another pillar sat atop it. I could climb the wall easily but beyond that may be a wall of fire that not even I could sprint through. I also suspected there were more mercs on the balcony above, waiting for us to advance to catch us in a crossfire. I glanced up seeing the balcony finished just near the staircases but extended about five metres more beyond on my side.

“What do you think we should do?” asked one the mercs, his expression hidden behind his helm, but his voice sounded dishearteningly young.

I shrugged, “I really can’t see how we can get through this without losing many more of us! This place has been designed to be defended, and our enemy know how to defend it, damn it!”

“You could try to run through it like you did before!” said another.

I growled and glanced around again, “I think I’ve tried my luck enough for today!” I exclaimed. “Hell! I’d say I’d tried my luck enough for a frigging lifetime! Besides! I’m pretty sure they’ve got more men on the balcony above us, and the only reason why I’ve done so well is because they’ve only shot from the front or the sides! Not from all around!”

The plan was for all of us to converge on this room, most of the paths on the ground floor like a labyrinth led to this ballroom, which was effectively in the epicentre of the huge building. On the balcony, just over my head was the entrance to a large circular staircase which climbed up through the remaining seven stories, zig-zagging to the main chambers on the top floor and where we thought Edracian might be.

There were a few elevators scattered throughout the building, but we’d found them shut down by the defenders before we got here.

That thought sent a shiver up my spine, what if the enemy reactivate them, then use them to flank us? As I thought this I remembered that there were more of us advancing and securing the building in our wake. I clenched my jaw; I saw there was nothing we could do, not now anyway.

I sighed and turned to the three mercs, “I don’t see any other way to get around this than wait for the rest of the force then rush them; there’s nothing we can do.”

“Yeah, thought as much,” said the third merc

I cursed savagely and activated my comm link to the ‘general’ channel, “this is Attelus Kaltos of the western advance force! We’ve made it to the ballroom but meeting heavy resistance! I repeat heavy resistance! We’re pinned down!”

As though to emphasise my point, a merc only about a metre way took a bullet in the neck, exploding the poor bastard’s throat in a shower of blood and he fell, clutching at his neck, despite the cacophony, I could still hear him gurgle as he spasmed and struggled for breath

“We need reinforcements, now!” I snarled.

“Acknowledged, Attelus,” said Wesley over the vox. “We are on our way, meeting heavy resistance ourselves! Will be there in approximately five to ten minutes!”

I clenched my teeth, wanting to swear back profusely, but held my tongue and said instead. “Yeah got you, over and out!”

“Nothing?” asked the first merc.

“Yeah nothing,” then an idea hit me, and I turned to Garrakson.

“Jeurat! I need the schemata data slate, now!” I bellowed.

Garrakson didn’t need any more prompting as he lay on the floor, behind the sandbags and he slid it over to me.

I snatched it up and began looking over it, my plan was risky and more than a little bit insane but it might work, and any plan was better than where we were now. Quickly, I found what I was looking for, the perfect place and switched my vox link’s channel.

“Major!” I snapped over the vox, seeing Olinthre behind the furthest pillar glance my way.

“Yeah? What?” it said.

“I’ve gotta plan! I’m gonna need at least ten men and a shit ton of frag grenades and a distraction! Can you acquiesce?”

“What are you scheming this time, apprentice?”

“What I’m scheming?” I said with a smile despite myself. “No this was all your idea; I’m just refining it a bit.”

“Okay, sure tell me what it is you’ve got.”

I told ‘Olinthre’ my plan, needless to say; it made it quite happy. The bastard.

I finished the last enemy by embedding my throwing knife through his visor and firing flurries wildly; he fell to the floor. Just my frigging luck that the room I’d decided on using just had to have frigging enemies holed up in it.

“Nice throw,” said one of the mercs, “I’d say you are better at throwing them than shooting a gun, but that’s not saying much.”

Many of the nine others sniggered heartily at that.

I shrugged, “well, none of us is perfect,” I said and approached the left side wall, placing my ear against it. I could hear nothing of the firefight on the other side, which didn’t bode well.

I clenched my jaw.

“So how are we going to play this one out?” said the same merc. “You use that fancy power sword to cut us an opening, and we’ll rush in just to get mercilessly cut down?”

“Yeah pretty much,” I muttered. “but without the ‘mercilessly cut down’ part, hopefully. That’s what we got all those grenades for.”

“Has anyone ever told you, you’re insane?” said another.

I smiled, “yes, many times, actually. Even once very recently.”

The merc sighed.

“Alright!” I yelled, pulling out the bandoleer of grenades, “take one each!”

“There’s, thirteen here,” said one.

“Yeah three for me,” I said, then pointed to the wall. “I’m gonna cut through there! I need five of you on each side.”

They shared glances that looked confused even with their expressions hidden.

“Uhh okay,” said one hesitantly.

I sighed, really wishing Garrakson or Torris had come as well, “look! The more time we waste, the more chance more of our comrades are going to die! Once I cut open the entrance, I need each of you, one by one, to throw your grenades at the enemies behind the sandbag walls on the floor, they’ll be right in front of us. After that, just provide cover fire for me., I’ll need you to pin down the hostiles on both left and right side balconies so I can advance.”

“What are you going to do with that cover fire?” asked another.

I swallowed, realising how dumb it was going to sound, “I’m going to try throw a grenade onto each balcony, hopefully killing a few, allowing us to advance a little easier.”

They exchanged glances.

“You’re right, Huarit, he is insane,” said one.

“Yes, completely,” agreed another.

I bristled, “just trust me!”

“Those balconies must be at least three stories up,” said another. “you really think you can throw that far? And that accurately? All while moving and not to mention you’re gonna have a crap angle.”

“Yes,” I lied, stone-faced. “After that, then wait for my signal and advance Now are we gonna do this or not?”

The nearest merc shrugged, “yeah. Sure, kid,” he said. “You’re the one risking your arse in this.”

I sighed, typical merc mentality.

“Alright! Get in position!” I yelled and activated my sword with a flourish. “And wish me a shit ton of luck!”

“Luck? Why not ask for the Emperor’s blessing?” asked one as he jogged up and leaned against the wall.

Because I don’t believe in that bull shit, I thought and with a snarl, thrust my sword into the wall.

It took me a good half a minute to create a two-metre wide entrance, which was longer than I liked. I struggled a bit as the wall was much thicker than the last and despite the powerfield, there was a lot of resistance. I just hoped the enemy was too distracted by the firefight to notice.

Once finally frigging done, I didn’t bother to hold back my relieved sigh, and with a roar I spun into a sidekick, knocking the bit of wall over with a large crack and crash!

Immediately I darted into cover as the first two mercs leaned out and threw their grenades. I couldn’t see the result nor even hear it over the shooting inside I could only hope to hell it’d work. The first pair slipped back and away from the wall allowing the next to throw theirs, in quick, professional succession they did this while I watched with bated breath, expecting in any second enemy fire to cut one down in mid pin pull or throw, but it never happened much to my relief.

The last one finished his throw, watched it results and turned to me, “the floors cleared, kid. Now there’s six on the left balcony and four on the right; all spread out in pairs though! With a good three metre gap between, don’t know how good your grenades are gonna be! Can’t see how many are over us!”

I nodded, really sweating now, and the tiredness replaced my massive amounts of adrenaline, and I started jumping on the spot, “alright! Get ready to lay me down some cover fire! Anyone wanna swap an auto gun for a shotgun?”

One shrugged, handed me his and two clips of ammo, “yeah sure! Don’t know how good it’ll do ya!”

“Thanks!” I shouted, “I’ll make sure to give it back later! What’s your name?”

I asked this even though I’d forget it later.

“Jevven Farnoth!” said the soldier, “and don’t worry about giving it back, the shotgun will do fine!”

I nodded again, relieved I didn’t need to remember his name, “alright! Open fire in three, two, one!”

Immediately the four at the edges of the makeshift door leaned out and fired their auto guns on fully automatic.

I took out a grenade, pulled the pin and sprinted into the huge, brightly lit ballroom.

It took me all of a second to gain my bearings, but the first throw made me pivot, and with a grunt, I threw it at the balcony overhead, the eastern one so to speak. I didn’t have time to see where it went as I turned again, pulled the pin of the second and threw that at the closest pair on the left. Then I sprinted to the right, running on a thirty-degree angle to make myself harder to hit and threw the third at the pair positioned near the top of the stairs than before I knew it I was under the northern balcony, and behind a pillar.

My vox link beeped, “Apprentice!” came Olinthre’s voice. “We’re advancing! Provide cover fire against the south balcony.

“That was the plan!” I exclaimed, and before It could reply, I cut the link and signalled the soldiers at the breach to move in.

They did and without hesitation, moving along the edge of the room, from pillar to pillar under the comparative safety of the balcony, they advanced, exchanging fire all the while.

I smiled, maybe I’d earned a modicum of respect after all. Then leaned out, spraying sporadic bursts that had no hope in hell to hit anything and surveyed my damage. I could only see four were actively fighting now; perhaps my grenade was on target!

I slipped back and spun to shoot a brief salvo at the enemies on the east balcony.

“I can’t believe that actually worked!” said a merc as he and another pressed their backs against the pillar beside me.

Me too, I thought but only shrugged and smiled and fired.

I could see now Garrakson, and the others were advancing, pinning the enemy mercs on the balcony overhead with a constant withering hail.

Despite this I couldn’t help but frown, it was working, working a bit too well for my taste.

As if summoned by this thought, I saw them; it happened almost too fast to follow as two zip lines suddenly descended from the balcony behind Garrakson and the others and a pair of lythe figures dropped to the floor. I didn’t even have time to activate my microbead before seeing the familiar blue light of power weapons and heard the sound of screams.

“Shit! Frig! Cover me” I roared through clenched teeth and without a further word I was moving, sprinting from cover.

Garrakson and the others reeled as the two figures swathed a whirlwind of a blur of blood and body parts. At least ten were more mercs were mercilessly cut down, but I couldn’t tell who. I could only hope that Torris and Garrakson weren’t amongst them.

Finally, I got a good view of the attackers, both were female with supple amazing bodies and wore tight, ornate crimson and black bodygloves, and wielded duel power blades. They fought back to back as one. It was beyond beautiful to behold despite them slaughtering my allies. It made me not want to kill them, how could I put an end to such perfection? Such art, such poetry in motion. They also reminded me of Elandria; they fought with a similar style of acrobatic fancy. Brilliant! And they would be my end, of that I had no doubt.

I smiled despite this and only activated my sword’s power field in the last second, lunging into a horizontal slash that’d have cut them both through.

As one they cartwheeled back and just out the way, I slid to a stop on the other side, cutting vertically down at the left one. She leapt to the side, spinning through the air with breathtaking grace as the right one thrust her blade at me. I sidestepped it, just and was forced to duck as the left one’s horizontal slash blurred for my skull.

I laughed, my blood sang in my veins as I parried the vertical slash of left and weaved under a decapitating cut from right. I sent a swift kick at right as she riposted, which she dodged with a cartwheel and smashed aside another thrust from right. From that, I brought my blade into an overhead strike which she parried with her spare sword. I back peddled right’s counter, and tilted my head to the side, out the path of left’s stab.

Right suddenly lunged at me, a blur as she slashed horizontally at my torso, simultaneously left cut horizontally at my head, both from opposite directions. I cursed seeing what they were doing but had no choice but to leap back, exactly as they wanted and right attempted to catch me from behind with a backhanded blow.

But I’d leapt back faster and farther than she’d expected so by the time she’d attacked I was already out of its path. The assassin faltered slightly in surprise, but that was all I got as the other one was on me, spinning into a butterfly kick that I ducked. Her forward momentum, allowed her to slip behind me as the other sliced vertically at my skull. I blocked the blow, twisting to bring my blade on top of her’s and pushed it into the floor, allowing me to face them both again.

Only in the very last microsecond did I catch right’s thrust and I leaned sideward desperately. Cursing in pain as the powerfield skimmed my torso, cutting a horrific gash that made me reel and stumble back.

They gave me no respite, both lunged at the same time, each thrusting with one blade and cutting horizontally with the other.

I leapt to the left and well out the way, but too far too allow me a counter and immediately they darted my way. I snarled in frustration; now they’d found their damn cohesion! I wasn’t going to last much longer if I didn’t ruin it! Moving faster than I thought possible, I slipped left as they fell on me again, parrying left’s thrust and countered by cutting down diagonally at the back of her head as her momentum carried her onward. With gravity-defying grace she somehow leaned out the way and twisted into a kick that smashed into my arm, sending pain coursing through it and me stumbling to keep my feet.

Right was already there, cutting vertically up with her left blade and diagonally with her right. I could see it now, both blows were not quite at the same time and despite the huge risk, lightning fast I parried them, the superior strength and stability of my two-handed grip allowing me to smash them way off course, opening her up for my front kick to connect with her solar plexus in an audible, crunch! Despite the cacophony of gunfire through the hall. She cried out in pain, the first sound I’d heard from them yet and fell to the floor.

I doubted that’d stop her, they were both amped on combat drugs I was sure, but it’d slow her, and their cohesion was now gone.

I’d have thanked the Emperor if I wasn’t the one responsible for it.

Left leapt at me, her roundhouse kick aimed at taking my legs out, but I back stepped and flicked my left wrist, ejecting a throwing knife into my hand and threw it point blank at her face.

She tilted her head out the way with an almost contemptuous calm, defying my hope that she’d smash it out of mid-air with her sword so getting a face full of shrapnel for her trouble.

I slipped forward, slicing down at her but her backward cartwheel made me miss.

Right was finally back on her feet and with what seemed to be in a rage, snarled as she thrust at my side.

I back stepped it, cutting at her horizontally but she parried with her spare blade. I ducked left’s spinning hook kick, and sidestepped right’s downward slash then leapt back from her next cut.

I furrowed my brow, dearly wanting to check on my friends fights going on around but didn’t dare. The Assassins paused in their offence and looked at me, tilting their heads curiously. It was then I realised I was grinning, almost from ear to ear and a sharp pain suddenly coursed through my face with this realisation. I was enjoying this, perhaps a bit too much for my liking.

This was one of the few things I was truly good at, sure as sure.

Abruptly I lunged, slashing at left who leapt away, spinning through the air. I parried Right’s pair of quick-fire thrusts, then sent a sidekick she dodged with a pirouette. Left dashed forward, slicing high at my head which I weaved under, then she spun into a low cut at my legs that I barely managed to dance away from. She was lucky; I had my boot knife extended.

I cut out at right as she lunged at me, which she barely managed to duck. Despite being distracted by this, she was still able to dart back from my following roundhouse kick. Left’s spinning side kick forced me to sidestep, and I blocked her horizontal blow as it blurred at my flank then slid aside of her next thrust. I countered with a diagonal cut which she stopped short with both blades, trying to entrap mine in between, but I kicked out, forcing her to abandon the trap and spin away.

With a growl of frustration, I barely managed to back step Left’s spinning hook kick; I could start to feel the adrenaline was waning, the exhaustion, returning. I couldn’t keep this up for much longer. Hell, I was surprised I’d lasted even half this long.

However long that was exactly, I could only hazard a guess.

Both lunged at me, left pirouetting into horizontal slashes with both blades. I bounded backwards their powerfields missing my nose by the barest of margins. Right was on me a microsecond later, stabbing with each edge, one after another. I barely managed to parry them and countered with a desperate thrust of my own. Forcing her back, then I pivoted into a slash at Left, she blocked, twisted, forced my blade over her head and down to her right, then cut with her offhand blade, at my skull.

My eyes wide, teeth clenched, I threw myself away, stumbling to keep my feet as the blade missed slightly. The cut on my side was really beginning to hurt now, and I had to fight the urge to clutch at it.

Right reposted, cutting her swords simultaneously, horizontally. I ducked that and wound to the side, turning to face left as she bared down at me. Weakly I parried her thrust, then clumsily backpedalled her diagonal slash. But her roundhouse kick caught me off guard, connecting hard into my wound which sent razor-sharp agony coursing through my entire being and with a cry I fell onto my side, so hard it knocked the wind out of me, and my sword flew from my grasp, clattering away somewhere.

I groaned and began climbing to my feet when a weight abruptly fell on my back pinning me down, and a rough hand grabbed a clump of my hair and painfully pulled my head back, allowing a blade to be placed at my throat. I saw a pair of stilettos walk into my vision and the assassin towered over me.

She looked down at me, a slight smile playing on her full lips, then she nodded, nodded in what almost seemed in admiration and respect. Which made me smile and despite the state I was in, I nodded back. I’d fought well; I’d tried my best, I didn’t mind dying now. I just wished I’d taken one down with me.

She nodded again, gave me a gorgeous full-fledged grin, it was a shame most of her face was hidden as I was sure she was beautiful. The one on my back let go of my hair, and the other activated her power sword, raised it over her head and cut down in a decapitating arc. Another powered blade abruptly blocked it in mid-swing and suddenly with a cry of pain the weight thrown off me. Darrance with his power scimitar appeared in view, causing the assassin to lung back from his vertical cut.

“Nice work apprentice!” he yelled. “Now let us take it from here!”

Gaping in dumb surprise, I rolled over to see Castella was now locked in combat with the other Assassin.

Despite myself, I sighed as slowly, laboriously I climbed to my feet and searched for my sword, yet a-bloody-gain I was getting my arse saved, seems to be a theme around here.

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