What do you get when you send several Imperial Guard regiments on years of combat. Not the kind where you get a break or something like that, but real combat, years of non-stop fighting with just enough breaks to catch up, get a new uniform and some time to reorganize? Not much, I can tell you that. Numbers dwindle down and down, regiments become companies, companies become platoons become squads and those can turn out into one or two survivors. One man or woman on his or her own can’t do much. Sure, fire a couple of shots, but then your wasted. But what do you get when you toss those survivors together into a single snug squad?
Not something pretty, I can tell you that much. I remember reading the old books about them. I’ve seen pict shows on the big screen about them. But I’d never ever dreamed that I would live long enough to become one myself: a Veteran. Well, I’m still pretty young, thirty-two, thanks for not asking, but already I feel like I’ve seen it all before. Nothing fazes me anymore! Tau? I’ve seen them before, lemme at them. Kroot? Keep them at a shooting distance and I can do it! Orks? I’ve seen those before, glad to keep it at that. Traitors? These idiots are just stupid, can’t even get an offensive right!
Yup, I’m the member of a veteran squad, one of these so-called Kill-teams. We get dangerous missions, the ones in which you will most certainly die. But, we get free hand in how we do it and to be honest, some of my actions are shocking in a brutal "the end justifies the means" fashion. Conclusion: I am not a nice person. Nor are the others that are in the squad. We are all bastards. Okay, and bitches.
There used to be twelve of us, we were dubbed the Ditty Dozen or something like that, but as we got down and dirty in these hellish missions, even the die-hards decided to kick the bucket. Five of us remain and we no longer have a colourful nickname. They decided to stop doing that when squad member four died. So we’re just another suicide squad.
Where am I now? A woodland. Nothing too shabby. Not that I enjoy them, tunnels and gloom were always more something for me. But this isn’t a jungle either, so no lethal insects, hostile salads and extreme heat and humidity. We move in single file, Kurt on point, then the big guy, me and closing of the file the woman. I’ll give them formal introductions when I see fit. Our objective is to destroy a hidden communications hub. Briefings have become so boring as they always involve something “hidden”. Resistance would be medium and our backup was ready for anything, even tanks.
Kurt signals a halt with a raised fist, crouching down. We slowly crouch forward, reaching a half lit clearing. Kurt signals a full halt and beckons us to listen. Foot steps, too careless as they step onto noisy crap such as twigs and dried out leafs. “Sentry.” He signals. “Alone.” The big man besides me signals a query. “Want me to kill him?” Kurt nods and the big guy pounces forward, wrapping his meaty arm around the neck while the other twists, a wet crack resounding. He lets the body hang limp and pulls it into the undergrowth, all in less then five seconds and all without as much as a sound. Okay, the snapped neck doesn’t count. I nod to the large man, he smirks at me.
A murderer at work. A shiver runs down my spine. This guy is a friggin’ bruiser, I am not kidding here. He could easily pass as a bouncer or muscle for a gang back on a civilized world, but he isn’t. He’s a big ass Catachan (144th Comp. 3rd Plt. 4th Sqd.) with more muscle then three Cadians put together. Top that off with a sick and sharp mind that calculates and anticipates, well ladies and gents, you get trooper Burt Pringle. Don’t let the name catch you off-guard, cause this is guy is far from being a foppish fairy. Next to being a cold-hearted killer, he’s a good shot with the lasgun he carries and an even better man when it comes to gutting people with his “knife”. I’m using that term loosely as that thing of his resembles a sword more then a knife.
We cautiously advance, seeing another sentry, mindlessly wandering with his rifle on his back, a smoke in his mouth and his back towards us. I wouldn’t be too surprised if this guy has I.Q. rating lower then my age. We’re just three meters away from him, he can be dealt with, just not by me. The young woman slithers forward, so quiet, so dead sexy. And then to think I liked her. She’s standing behind the guard and pulls out her knife, then swiftly kicks back of his knee, making the sentry snap backwards. That’s when the grace is removed and the truth is shown, as she wraps her left arm around his neck and drops the knife in her right hand down. Not once, not twice, but a lot of times, making it hard for me to keep count. The blood splatters everywhere, some of it landing in my eyes. I blink furiously, seeing the slender young woman cleaning her knife on the uniform of the slain sentry. Yet she fails to notice the blood on her pretty face and uniform. Stupid bitch! I’d stab her if it wasn’t for those… Eyes. Yeah, her eyes. Ah frag, who am I kidding here! She’s shaped like a friggin’ dancer or smiley-girl, the ones that do things that your mother told you about not to do. No man would shoot at her without looking her up or down at least once, except for those chaos dopes, they are too stupid to appreciate the finer arts of the female body. Blue eyes, nicely shaped figure, medium long blond hair kept up under her beret. Damn you Jill Chambers! Damn you for being from Mortant (327th Comp. 1st Plt. 4th Sqd.) and your sassy looks and taunting behaviour! She’s another one of those murderers at work. Not a nut job, just really fond about ripping open people with her knives, splattering herself in blood. Shit, when did I get enlisted with the crazy people. Right, when I started surviving the worst that I was thrust into.
Who have I forgotten? Oh right, Kurt. Sarge here is an old son of a bitch, he’s really seen it all and laughs at crap that would make others piss their fatigues and cry for the harlot that spawned them. Sergeant Elias Kurt, a Cadian (8753rd Comp. 8th Plt. 1st Sqd.) what you would call, “Tough as nails” NCO. He’s a beacon of sanity in this small team of veterans, the only one (Besides me of course!) who has the brains to do things a hundred percent right. Letting idiots such as Pringle or Chambers run the show and you are in deep shit. He’s always calm, always taking the situation to himself before even thinking about taking action. I like him, he’s my kind of man to lead me into death, destruction and all that dangerous posh. We advance slowly and see a concrete bunker with a single door. The back entrance.
We break cover and run like mad for the bunker. Ragged fire erupts from all around us, throwing up earth close to us. The other sentries decide to open fire and keep the thought of where their slain comrades are for later. As always too close for comfort! I shoulder my shotgun and bang of three shots at a rebel with a flamer, then turn to two others, rattling the other five rounds into them. I slam into the bunker wall and crouch down, instinctively ejecting the top clip from my shotgun and slapping a new one in place. ‘Open this door!’ Kurt barks, firing his shotgun one-handed, banging of a shot, then dropping the gun to grab the grip and pumping a new round, much like the pict screens I’ve seen when I was a kid. In his other hand he holds a laspistol, snapping of shots with practised ease. Flanking me are Pringle and Chambers, having traded in her knives for a more effective laspistol. ‘Open this door already!’ Pringle shouts, feeling really uneasy at being in the open.
I smile and feel a whole lot better. I look at the door, a five centimetre thick steel door with a keypad for entering codes. Unbreakable for the common man! That’s where I come in. I used to serve with the combat engineers of the Mortant, same place as miss knife bitch. I saw combat sure, engineer does not mean that I dig trenches, place guns and issue basic repairs. No, I was, actually still am, a combat engineer. Just one with extra tricks up my sleeve. I pry the keypad away and clamp a device onto the exposed wires, waiting for the machine spirit to open the door. The door hisses open and I can’t help but smiling like a fool. Once again, my gear prevails. We pile in and the door closes, prompting Chambers to shoot the keypad, practically locking us in. No matter, our exit is on the other side, or so I was told by the JO in charge of intelligence.
‘Good going there LeCroix.’ Kurt says, reloading his shotgun. I nod and stuff the clamp back into the pack on my belt. John LeCroix, that’s my name. My mother told me I was named after my departed father, but then I’d be called bastard amongst other things, as she never called him John. I activate the lamp pack on my shoulder and take point, flipping a targeter over my left eye with a jerking motion of my head. It blinks into life, showing a nice floor plan of the bunker we are in. If intelligence was correct, and for once it is, then no active sentries would be patrolling these tight halls and we will have a clear route to the comm hub, our objective. After several trailing corridors I see an opening, a doorway without a door, from it emanates the murmur and hubbub of people working. I signal a halt and twist a small fibre optic cable from my pack, connecting it to the targeter. Whatever the end of the cable sees, so do I. I’ve tried it a few times and it’s quite a joy, especially around private areas. I bend it around into the door opening and see comm devices, a bumbling cogboy and quick headcount reveals that there are at least two dozen guards standing watch in that small room. Add to that half a dozen techs that operate the machines. I motion along with my solution to the problem to Kurt who nods in agreement and backs away. We could take them all out in a straight fight, but that would take forever, especially with them being in good cover. And I hate honest fights when we are outnumbered. I unsling my backpack and rip a cord with an orange tag off. ‘Demo is armed, fire in the hole.’ I say calmly, flinging the backpack into the comms room. Were I younger and greener, I’d never carry a demolition charge on my back like a juve would do with a scholam bag, the ones powerful enough to rip a hole in a tank, but now? I must’ve lost my common sense long ago when I started surviving these battles. ‘Hey, what the-’ Is all I hear as I open my mouth and cover my ears, the loud explosion on the enclosed space making my lungs bang and my ears ring. That was easy.
‘Okay, let’s get out of here.’ Kurt grunts, pointing at a steel door barring us from the outside world. I unsling a compact plasma torch and dart towards the door on the other side. With the comm hub taken out, it will be pretty hard to get a machine spirit to open it. I close my right eye and start torching the edges of the door, the plasma beam having no problem with five centimetre thick steel. ‘Pringle, if you would be so kind as to open this door.’ I’ve tried kicking one myself once, let’s just say that my foot sometimes still acts up from that crap. Pringle pushes me aside with a snarl and rams his shoulder into the door, banging it out. We are welcomed as always. As usual, the enemy opens fire at the open door, having not a virtue such as patience. We pile out, guns blazing and dive behind ample cover in form of defensive sandbag walls. The door opening behind us is pulped by heavy calibre fire as several heavy weapons boom over the pathetic cracks and snaps of the rebel weapons.
I take a quick glance to spot the source of the massive fire power. Tank. Big one. Leman Russ. Exterminator variant. Lucius pattern. Two autocannons, three heavy bolters, a cupola-mounted stubber and a grinning commander. Always a tanker with the grinning! And it’s front that’s facing our way. Screw it, we’re pinned down and our only way is past that thing. I drop down and eject my spent clip, reaching for a new one. ‘Sure is big.’ Pringle comments, his mind most likely already thinking of a way into that thing. Well, all we can do is wait. What? Do you expect me to fire my shotgun at it! Then the tank exploded. It exploded and I didn’t do it. I peer over the edge of my cover and look, dropping down with relief. ‘Sarge, our support has arrived!’ I call out, slapping a new clip on top of my shotgun. All we need to do now is clear an LZ and wait. I look up and see a black shape hovering. I chuckle as I see the familiar shape of our retrieval Valkyrie close in.
If there’s one thing you learn that is the key to surviving this long, it’s not to take on impossible odds unless there is not other way. I’m not one to charge a tank, even if I still had my demo charge, I’d have to get past three heavy bolters, climb onto the flank and somehow pry that hatch open. Oh, never mind the fact that tanks have supporting infantry. Kurt rises from cover and thunders forward, his shotgun booming with each step. He wants a safe LZ ready for our retrieval. He’s followed by Pringle and Chambers, also firing their weapons. I’m not one for the classic ‘no-guts, no-glory’ charges, I’ve seen plenty and barely survived those. So I shoulder my shotgun and provide covering fire, snapping of semi-auto shots as the others cross the distance. Once those three hit the line, hell’s breaking loose. As I said before, murderers at work, scary shit.
And hit hard they did, the remaining rebels didn’t stand a chance against a beefy Catachan with a big-ass knife, a foxy bitch with two knives and a pumped sergeant with an attitude that makes senior officers cry. The rebels, more then two dozen, were cut down and to pieces as they tried to hold their ground. I decided not to watch, I don’t like to see people being either bashed to death or being cut in places where it takes minutes before you are drained. As the last rebel was cut up with an agonizing scream of pain, I decided to call in our retrieval. I pull micro bead from my collar and adjust it, setting it to ‘send’ as a beacon for the bird to lock in to.
The Valkyrie circles around before landing, slowly, clearly a sitting duck in these open skies. I stopped worrying about that bucket being shot down long ago. Twice more did the heavy gun fire, followed by two explosions, most likely some bunker or tank that’s far off. Then it touched down, it’s massive gun cranked back inside again and we embarked, greeted by our fifth member. William ‘Bill’ Manning, wearing a black body glove with padded and flak armour from Armageddon, Elysian or something, I never really could remember. He’s our sniper and operates the rifle (Technically speaking, it’s more like a stripped down battle cannon with smaller munitions, but it’s still classified as a sniper rifle.) that’s installed in the hull of this Valkyrie. I sit down heavily, dropping my shotgun with a clank onto the deck and accept a cigarette from Manning, allowing him to light it. I slowly exhale, feeling empty. I feel like shit, feeling old for some stupid reason. I look down the ramp and see a wounded trooper clawing himself a way towards us. ‘A survivor, sloppy guys.’ I reply as I get up and pull a heavy auto pistol from my belt, pulling the receiver backwards in a fluid motion. ‘P-p-p-p-please…’ He stammered, reaching out with a blooded hand. ‘A-a-a medic.’ I spit the smoke away and kick him hard, turning him over onto his back. ‘Very funny.’ I reply, seeing him cry. ‘No! I beg of you!’ I aim and shoot him, a nice vent hole in his forehead and his brains out through the exit wound onto the concrete slab. I spin the gun in my hand around for a bit before dropping it back into the holster, stepping back into the Valkyrie. Not even looking back. I drop back into my seat and the Valkyrie takes off, flying us back to base.
Yup, real friggin’ bastards, each and every one of us.