S D (BkI-III) COMPLETE - SDIV Chp 30 Pt 3

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Rayo Azul
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S D (BkI-III) COMPLETE - SDIV Chp 30 Pt 3

Post by Rayo Azul »

SD is a complete novel which I wrote based around the Universe of Urion's Belt. It is a stand alone., which I later adapted and posted as WH40K fan-fic.

It is complete at around 56,000 words and 30 chapters.

THIS IS THE ORIGINAL VERSION. ENJOY :wink:

A GUIDING LIGHT (SDII) is also COMPLETE.

SD3 - A LEAP OF FAITH is now COMPLETE

BOOK IV IS HERE!!!!!!!!!!!

Cheers

Rayo
Last edited by Rayo Azul on Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:59 am, edited 129 times in total.

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Post by Rayo Azul »

He's been left to die on an inhospitable world, surrounded by criminals and enemy forces. Enough is enough, and Walters doesn't care who knows it.

Ex-Corporal Walters has been sent to die. He's been shot at, abandoned by his own side and is right in the middle of a war. His only thought is in finding a way off-planet, but between him and his goal are two hostile armies. Above him looms the forbidding Fortress, deep within which lies an ancient and malevolent evil.

Follow Walters and his strange allies as they fight and claw their way to salvation. Raw courage, sheer bloody-mindedness and just the right amount of luck combine to deliver an outcome that not even Walters would have believed possible.

One thing is for certain, his enemies have picked the wrong guy to mess with and now they are going to pay.

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Chapter One

The wind-driven rain stung wildly onto the upturned faces of the men huddled in the shallow trenches. Prison guards had brought them here, as fodder for the enemy forces, leaving little doubt as to their worthlessness. “The Prelate Protects” tattooed on the men’s foreheads, a sign to remind them of their indoctrination now thrown away by each of their heinous crimes. At least that was what the Inspectorate had screamed at them before they were herded like cattle to the battle front.
Ex-Corporal Walters spat on the ground in disgust at the memory of the cruelty they had received at the hands of the Church’s enforcement squads. He had little time either for the Glory of the Great One or the fanatical forces of Church. Personally, being stripped of his rank and thrown into Penal Battalion 3246 was more than enough to occupy his mind at present. He was still unclear what he had actually done wrong; he had neither raped, murdered or plain spoken badly about anyone. Oh, sure, he had broken two of Inspector Wurtz’s teeth, when he had hit him with the laser rifle's solid wooden butt, to stop him from whipping the civilian any further. Possibly the fact that he had given him two new Adam’s apples didn’t really help, but frak weren’t you supposed to protect your own?

He had been extremely lucky, apparently, to not have been summarily shot on the spot by the Inspector, if he could have raised his head above the horizontal that is. Maybe the fact that his troop commander agreed with him saved his sorry ass.

Whatever the reason he had been blessed with two months of rehabilitation in the 3246 for his troubles and his glorious moment had arrived. He knew that in ancient times this had been called the Forlorn Hope, an opportunity for men to redeem themselves by an act of unspeakably stupid and deadly foolhardiness. Led by an officer looking for rapid promotion and arm in arm with men who would either die here today or would rejoin some useful regiment. They would however always wear the tattoo on their foreheads to remind them of their tawdry past.

Walters spat again and this time his spittle landed on the boot of the hulking brute next to him, a man as wide as he was tall. He, at least, looked as though he had probably landed himself in the battalion for all of the right reasons. The man grunted and leered wickedly at Walters, before spitting back with a stupid grin on his face.

“Not to your liking, huh?” he grunted again through badly misshapen teeth.

“What do you think?” replied Walters.

“Don’t, just get on with it.” muttered the man whose tunic was stencilled with the name Berbatov.

Then the first rocket lanced through the rain and struck nearby their position, Walters heard the crunch and thump of the close impact, followed by the screams of wounded and dying men.

“Ah, crap!” he muttered and dived to the ground, twisting to follow the train of fire of the ensuing fusillade. To his surprise he saw Berbatov, standing where he had left him, calmly squinting into the fiery trail and watching the carnage unfold. Berbatov looked down and grinned at him.

“Lot of folk gonna die tonight, but not me. Stick with me son and you’ll live too.” With that he began a shambling run towards the source of the rocket fire and to his surprise, Walters found himself scrambling to his feet and following, yelling at the top of his lungs.

*

General Hamner looked over the battlefield from his hilltop vantage point, he knew that many of his junior officers disdained his use of “old technology”. His night vision scope gave him a perspective of real death and suffering that he could never have hoped to comprehend through the use of the holo-tank in his command post. Tonight many men would die, if only to satisfy the whim of the strategists. The enemy position looked unassailable, and it surely was. That was why the penal battalions were being thrown into the fray. Unfortunate really that Captain Wiseman had volunteered to lead - a good man, though young and hungry. Not for him were the political connections which allowed rapid advance, rather he had earned his pips, or so he liked to tell all his avid listeners.

Penal or CF battalions, cannon fodder, as they were better known, were a good way for the Inspectorate to cleanse ranks. Now and again there were a few mistakes made, but not often, and what were a few errors in the overall scheme of the Church’s grand design? He was a little worried about the heretically cursed enemy though. They had received reports of new troops, similar to the Tauran forces but somehow different. Men talked of deformed monsters, almost human animals, who stalked in front of the normal soldiers. They had yet to capture one, but if description was anything to go by, they were facing the worst cross between a dire wolf and some form of ravening lizard. The beasts came in all shapes, sizes and colours but were deadly effective. Already one platoon of Church Guard had been lost on night patrol, well not exactly lost, they had found the shredded remains of uniforms soaked in blood, mucus and gore. Already the rumours were circulating through the troops and the General knew they needed a good old massacre in order to remind the faithful of their true purpose.

He was one of life’s cynics, not wasteful of his resources, rather benignly indifferent. This did nothing for the chances of the CF troops fighting below. The General had little intention of amalgamating this rabble back into his real forces and silently wished them a glorious victory and an even more glorious death. Sighing inwardly, he placed the night scope in front of his eyes once more and surveyed the nightmare scene below.

*

“Berbatov, you clown,” screamed Walters, “Where the hell do you think you are going?”

“Over there,” indicated the giant, vaguely waving his meat cleaver of a hand in the direction of the attacking troops.

“Frak!” cursed Walters, “another bloody genius,” and then “Well wait for me, at least you give them enough of a target that they’ll forget I’m here.”

Berbatov grunted, in a sort of muffled laugh and continued his shambling run forward. His rifle was still strung across his back and he had picked up a large chunk of wood from somewhere, which he swung viciously in time with his awkward gait. Walters had his rifle clenched at high port and little thought of doing anything more than running behind the big man. It was then the monsters appeared and the world went pear-shaped.

Walters slammed into the back of Berbatov as he ground to a halt, and then ducked as the club whistled past his head. Looking around he could see that they were well in advance of their fellow unfortunates and were surrounded by what could only be described as a pack of trouble. The monsters varied between six and eight feet tall, covered in mottled fur and with huge canine teeth and even larger claws. They seemed to be attacking a smaller version of themselves, from what he could see, a twisting writhing mass of silver-grey fur and blood. At least three of the larger wolf-like creatures sported wounds and luckily for them they appeared rather occupied. That was until Berbatov roared and charged into the melee, his club whirring around his head. Walters flicked the rifle onto semi-automatic and followed, spraying bursts of fire into the back of the nearest creatures.

He ducked wildly as a huge slashing claw narrowly missed and pumped pretty much the full cartridge into the beast, slamming it off its feet in a bloody mass of destroyed flesh. Walters grabbed the empty cartridge and flipped its identical mate into place, taped conveniently to its twin, and continued firing. The archaic chemical propellant guns were all the CF were given, after all, they weren’t supposed to survive the assault, just die gloriously. However, in this case he was thankful for the oversight. The heavy lead-jacketed bullets tore a swath through the pliant fur-covered bodies, cutting a path for him right through the middle and he kept on, in hot pursuit of his idiotic companion who was laying left and right, crushing limbs and skulls as he moved inexorably forward.

Walters heard the whistle of the razor sharp claws as they barrelled towards his unprotected head and knew that he at least had fulfilled the Church’s wish. There was a blur of grey and he was bundled to one side as snapping teeth rent his attacker. Rolling to his feet he saw that the victim was now the attacker, tearing into the throat of a brownish-blue beast with gusto. Then there was a flash of silver and a second beast joined the fight.

He looked for Berbatov and from a kneeling position began to use his ammo more conservatively, driving the remaining wolf lizards from his comrade’s back. His work was so effective that two of the beasts split off from the five surrounding the idiot giant and charged straight at him. He flicked the magazine to fully automatic and let them have it. The first beast, eight feet tall and fully rabid, disappeared before his eyes, but the second, even bigger and even angrier came straight on. As he felt its foetid breath on his face, he heard the leaden click of an empty chamber and threw his rifle forward, drew his bayonet and prepared to meet his death.

Cursing Berbatov once more, he leapt forward to meet the beast, getting inside its claws was his only chance, and ducked his head to avoid the slashing jaws. Again he was blessed by the intervention of the smaller creatures as they attacked the beast from the rear. As the monster raised its head and roared in pain, Walters drove the bayonet fist deep into its throat and chest time and time again. The hot blood poured over his hands, the beast’s feral roar rang deafeningly in his ear and suddenly, there was silence. He stood panting, with the blood soaked weapon in his hand and stared over the steaming corpse at the two remaining creatures.

They stared unwinkingly back at him and then looked around sharply as a whistling Berbatov returned, blood streaming from numerous gashes, but otherwise the total picture of serenity. He swung the club harmlessly around, blood and skin flicking off in all directions and stopped in front of Walters. The giant dropped his weapon and then picked Walters up in a bear hug and swung him round gleefully, like a child at a fair.

“Good fight,” he laughed as he dropped Walters to the ground. “Who are your new friends?” With that he picked up his club and once more began to walk towards the enemy lines, without a care in the world.

*

The general saw the CF battalion decimated before his eyes as the ravening hordes streamed forwards. Laser rifle fire did little more than infuriate the packs of creatures who charged them. The Tauran infantry behind laid down an incredible barrage of fire and the Church troops wavered, turned and then ran. They were lost. He saw Captain Wiseman intent on trying to rally his troops, fall beneath the jaws of at least three of the wolf-like creatures. His men waited no longer and charged back towards their own lines, flinging their rifles and equipment to one side in order to lighten their burden.

Then the Inspectorate-led Church troops opened fire, cutting down the remnants of the CF forces, whose only escape had always been in death. The Inspectors and their men lasted little longer as the enemy hordes over ran them. General Hamner spoke briefly into his communicator and the firestorm began. He saw the full effects of the aerial bombardment, followed by that of the ground artillery. The enemy forces were swept away in their thousands, but still they came on. Calmly the general turned toward his command post, signalling his orderly to call for his transport as he spoke once more into his communication device. There was a muffled roar and the ground opened up in front of the advancing troops, bathing them in white hot fire. He had saved the plasma charges until last. They may well have wiped out his own troops, but the area had been sanitised.

He looked up as his ride arrived and waved to his command staff as he moved towards the aircraft. Hamner took one last look through his night scope, surprised to see movement on the plain below and even more surprised to see fresh troops pouring out from the hillside fortification. He shrugged and strode into the aircraft, this would now be a cleansing operation and the next call would not be his.

*

Walters groaned as the world once more turned the right way up, he did not know what had hit him, but it hurt. He spat mud and stones from his mouth and groggily looked around. To his left, Berbatov sat on a rock, staring out across the plain and picking his teeth. A muffled whining to his right drew his attention and he found one of the creatures pawing at a clump of shattered earth. Crawling closer he could see one bloodied paw sticking out of the ground. The grey furred beast looked at him and whined again, and shrugging, Walters unclipped his bayonet and began scraping at the loose earth. Personally he felt it was a waste of time, but he had nothing better to do right know.

As he worked away, he gradually uncovered a foreleg and then a body, but he knew he was too late. The animal’s head was bent backwards at an unnatural angle and was bathed in blood. Its twin whined again and Walters continued, until the creature was fully exposed. Where the earth had been shorn was also where the creature’s torso ended and Walters backed away as the grey wolf moved forward. The animal began to howl and in that moment became no longer a tainted beast to Walters but one more soul in torment and he shuffled forward again to sit next to it, mumbling nonsense soothingly. The heavens opened and there they sat, incongruously as one in the midst of a man made chaos.

Berbatov looked over and was struck by the scene, he was a simple man given over rather too easily to the baser pleasures in life, but he was unswervingly loyal. He had seen something in Walters and saw it again here. A man who was unafraid to risk himself for a companion of whatever sort. He had been right, Walters would do. With that, he turned round and watched the remnants of Tauran and human forces struggling to survive amidst the inferno caused by the plasma charges. They were safe for now, but soon they would come again, he thought and then grinned; more to kill and maim, just as he liked it.

*

K´san was alone, more alone than he had ever been in his short but violent life. His pack-brother lay dead at his feet and he knew he would soon join him. The human at his side was strange, he had fought well, saving them once and then fighting with them as a pack against K´rasa. The larger of the two humans had also fought and had celebrated with this one their victory. They too must be pack, but he was different, he had vengeance to fulfil. Soon, no doubt their paths would part, the humans joining their own to fight against the Lord’s Army. He knew he could not join them, not with their filthy false God’s Priests. His life would not be worth seconds if he followed them, as he should to repay his blood-debt. Soon he would add that shame to his others and turn back towards the fortress and the death that awaited him there.

*

Looking at the planet below and studying the incoming reports from the battlefield, General Hamner once again shook his head. He could not understand why anyone would want to fight over this insignificant ball of earth. Prelate save us, the planet didn’t even have an official name, only a number. His fleet had been directed to a real battlezone, but urgent information had reached them and they had dropped out of warp directly into this conflict.

No-one could convince him of the reason behind the enemy forces' determination to garrison this world, nor why they were stubbornly defending the remains of the fortress below. He had requested orders from the main fleet, but the only reply had been to stay here and fight. He had wanted to obliterate the planet directly, but he had been denied the right of doing so. Within his forces, he apparently had sufficient resources to cleanse this world, according to command and therefore that was his job.

The bald truth of the matter, was that General Hamner was neither well thought of nor particularly necessary to the war effort. His main regiments were mixtures of various worlds and specialties. He had used what little political influence he had to take this command and had convinced himself that the Prelate had chosen him personally to smite all Tauran-led forces with a righteous wrath. The penal battalion had been added, or rather transhipped during the short rest stop the fleet had taken and again he took this as a demonstration of how well thought of he was.

In total he could count on two infantry battalions, including the penal battalion, an artillery regiment and a light tank regiment. Nothing of any note, but at least something.

With the loss of the majority of the penal battalion, he had already proven that the fleet staff officers were correct in their assumption of his incapacity to command and had helped remove a thorn in the side of High Command.

He decided to once again request instructions, as he could not see the necessity of wasting any more of his crack troops. His decision taken, he left the bridge and made his way to the communications room. He would wait a while longer, the ground bombardment had appeared to have stalled the enemy troop movements and the criminals below, would either die for the Prelate or he could clean up the remains of this mess once he had received further orders.

*

Walters felt much better this morning, he and Berbatov had managed to re-equip themselves splendidly from the corpse-strewn terrain. He had appropriated a long officer’s greatcoat and cap, nice leather boots and had found a serviceable pistol, a sword and plenty of ammunition. His companion had recovered a new laser rifle and from somewhere had found a huge halberd. Probably from one of the Tauran forces, but he had an inane grin on his face and now and again swung the weapon, delighting in the sound it made as it cut through the air.

Berbatov seemed to have accepted that Walters would make the decisions and trailed along behind him whistling tunelessly. The alien ranged in front of them both, almost like a hunting hound. Suddenly it appeared and growled quietly, both Walters and Berbatov stopped and looked at one another questioningly.

“I think your puppy’s upset!” chuckled Berbatov.

“Yeah, but about what?” asked Walters.

“Don’t ask me, I’m just the hired help,” and pointing with a grubby finger at Walter’s greatcoat, “you’re the officer.”

“Ha, bloody, ha,” responded Walters. “Let’s follow him and see what he’s found.”

“Yes, sir!” replied the huge man and swinging his halberd round his head once more, shambled up the hill.

Walters was the last of the group to reach the crest and joined the other two behind the sparse cover afforded by some tumbled rocks. In a small clearing amongst the devastation below he could see four or five soldiers, hunched around a makeshift fire. Their equipment was strewn haphazardly about and they looked as though they were waiting for their end.

“Huh,” grunted Berbatov as he stood and ambled down the incline, his halberd resting against his shoulder. Walters watched him go, and then with a disgruntled sigh followed.

“Oy,” shouted Berbatov as he neared the group, who were apparently unaware of his approach. “On your frakking feet, there’s an officer present.”

Walters started in surprise as the soldiers hastily scrambled away from the fire and rushed to their weapons, before coming to a stop as they noticed the cap and greatcoat. Now, he had to follow this charade through, and cursing a leering Berbatov, he drew his pistol and strode towards the group.
Last edited by Rayo Azul on Tue Aug 04, 2009 5:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by MechRat »

I'm intrigued and would like to read more.

Rayo, you do realize that your stories are addictive, yes?
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Post by Rayo Azul »

For me anyway :twisted: :twisted:

Maybe I should stop :wink:

Cheers

Rayo

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Post by MechRat »

Rayo Azul wrote: Maybe I should stop :wink:
If you do I will hunt you down and beg you to keep on writing. :lol:
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Post by Rayo Azul »

MechRat wrote:
Rayo Azul wrote: Maybe I should stop :wink:
If you do I will hunt you down and beg you to keep on writing. :lol:
Oh very well, 'cos you asked so nicely, I'll keep writing :lol:

Cheers

Rayo

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Post by Viktor »

Ah hahaha, Posting about Walters here?

General warning to everyone. You are going to be hooked.

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Chapter Two

Colonel Ibrahim Wolfe watched the details flow down and across his data slate, tutting in dismay at the information contained there. Although a Colonel in name, he was in fact an officer without troops, and without portfolio. He had been sent by his commanding officer to check on the potential of forming a further regiment on his homeworld of Luther, however he had found the planet riven by disease.

The planetary authorities had declared the world in quarantine and had turned his ship around, for all he knew, there was now no world left. Church priests had been chanting about taint and the cleansing light of Him. He didn’t really want to consider what that might mean, although it did mean that there were no more replacement troops on the way.

His anxiety was caused by the fact that his regiment had been sent as a combined force to liberate some ball of dust and in his absence had been decimated, almost entirely. There were less than three hundred active Lutheran soldiers on the lists and these had been amalgamated into the command of an apparently incompetent General Hamner, who had managed to get embroiled in a skirmish on an unnamed planet, of little significance. He knew that the 5th Lutheran Light Infantry was no more, but they were his men and he wanted them.

He had hitched a ride on a military transport and had rejoined the fleet, but no-one was willing to give him passage to his troops. Of course, he was told that they were no longer his troops, but it hurt deep down that the pride and joy of Luther had lasted for only six weeks in active combat and were no more. Also he carried a burden of guilt that he had not been there, he had left them in the capable hands of his Executive Officer, who had also been lost.

Wolfe decided to run a check on outgoing transports once again, maybe persistence might pay off, where influence failed.

*

“Attenshun!” shouted the soldier at the front of the group, his tattered Corporal’s stripes flapping in the breeze as he snapped a salute in Walters’ direction.

Walters knew he had two options, he could lie, or he could shoot Berbatov. He glanced sideways at the hulking brute, whose mis-shapen teeth were on prominent display as he grinned at Walters. Then he had a brainwave.

“At ease men, Sargeant Berbatov can be a little overzealous at times.” As he spoke he watched, the grin slowly disappearing to be replaced by a puzzled frown. It looked for one moment that Berbatov was about to say something, but then the grin reappeared.

“You heard the sodding, begging your pardon sir, Leftenant. Put your backsides at ease!” screamed Berbatov, spittle flecking the corners of his mouth.

As the Corporal relaxed, he seemed to notice the tattoo on Walters’ forehead and his hand twitched towards his laser rifle. Walters noticed the movement and casually replaced his pistol in its holster. He nonchalantly removed his cap and spoke.

“I always seem to have that effect on people, Corporal ……?”

Military discipline kicked in and the Corporal replied, “ …James, sir of the 5th Lutheran Light Infantry. My section here got separated from our platoon in the firefight and we were about to try and find our way back, sir. Begging your pardon, sir, but can you identify yourself? It’s just the tattoo, sir?”

Walters could see the man fighting with the urge to call him a liar, which he undoubtedly was, and the soldiers need for leadership. He wanted to believe Walters and for this Leftenant to take over responsibility. He had also just told an obvious lie and wanted it overlooked.

Beginning to enjoy himself, Walters spoke.

“Okay, Corporal James. I don’t normally indulge in reminiscence and couldn’t give a flying fox’s fat ass if anyone takes offence at my beautiful body art. However, in the extenuating circumstances, I will make an exception.”

He paused motioning for the troopers to resume their places around the fire, rummaged in his pack for the brandy bottle he had recently thieved and sat down on a nearby rock. He took a pull from the bottle and passed it first to Berbatov, who after half emptying it, passed it around the watching men.

“As you can see, Sargeant Berbatov and I are but recent graduates of the Penal Battalion. I personally was given the choice of commanding a platoon of my fellow criminals or being shot. No, no don’t interrupt ….” he growled threateningly as James made as if to speak and his fingers caressed the holster of his pistol.

James almost choked on the fiery liquor and protestingly motioned for Walters to continue.

“I will not bother you with the details of my crime, however I was sentenced to a three month tour of duty with a CF regiment, and Sargeant Berbatov kindly offered to join me. We appear to have lost most of our platoon to a particularly unpleasant friendly fire incident and I have decided that I need to speak personally with General Hamner about this matter.

“We,” and here he indicated his Sargeant, “have decided to find a way off this planet in order to keep our rendezvous with our beloved General. If this means that we have to fight our way through the fortress up above, or we have to shoot a couple of Inspectors in the process, that is one and the same to us. If you wish to join us you are welcome, as we could use a pair of hands or two, but, if you would rather go your own way …..”

Here, Berbatov belched and then stretched his hand out to the nearby halberd.

“Sir, we’re with you, sir”, agreed Corporal James rapidly, “we don’t have much of a regiment nor army left, sir”

Grinning, Berbatov took the bottle of alcohol out of the Corporal’s rigid hand and raising it on high, made a toast.

“To Walters’ Army,” he roared and the soldiers gladly joined in.

*
K’san remained hidden behind the rock outcropping at the top of the hill, staring curiously at the group of humans below. The pack was now bigger, the new members behaving correctly and deferring to the lead male, as was expected. At first he had wondered if it was wise to continue with this new pack, as they were alien to him and all of his teachings preached the foulness of the human scum. However, he had been accepted by the pack leader, they had fought together and paid respect to his fallen brother.

He lifted his head to the breeze as he recognised a familiar scent, which was closely followed by the howling call of a hunting pack. He saw the leader swiftly rise to his feet, calling something in his strange tongue to the others and without conscious thought rose and moved to take his place by his side.

*

The recently christened Leftenant Walters scrambled to his feet, as the now familiar howling of the K’ran reached his ears. He saw the rest of his makeshift army scrabble for their weapons and take up a hastily formed defensive circle. Corporal James stiffened and almost subconsciously Walters knew that the “puppy” had returned.

“Hold,” he barked, as the silver furred beast glided to his side. He could see the awe of the faces of the troopers, as the K’ran calmly moved to his side and faced outwards.

“But sir …..” protested James.

“Shut the frak up and take cover,” spat Berbatov, moving to Walters side and turning to face the same direction as the beast.

Walters raised his hand demanding silence and looked at the K’ran, he could almost feel the lack of nervousness in the beast, see the quiet confidence in its posture.

“They’re close, but are not hunting us. We do however need to move. Sargeant?”

“Yes, sir”, responded a smirking Berbatov.

“Let’s get our gear together and move out. Away from the fortress in the first instance. We need a couple of troopers flanking us, our friend here,” indicating the K’ran, “will take point.”

The beast glanced at him and then began to move away from the slowly receding sound. As though it had understood every word and again the men looked at Walters almost reverently.

Berbatov motioned for the Corporal to take over and hung back next to Walters.

“Got a plan, sir?” he asked in a barely concealed stage whisper.

Walters waited until the men began to move about before he spoke, “Yup. My plan is to make this up as I go along. You got me into this and now we’ve got to play it out fully. “

He glanced around the makeshift camp, adjusted his pistol in its holster and thought hard before he opened his mouth again.

“Listen, Berbatov. My little impromptu speech yesterday wasn’t far off the mark. We have got to get out of this warzone and if at all possible off planet. Our lovely leader could not give a damn about us. In fact he did his best to kill us. Probably, his Inspectors and personal troops have direct orders to shoot us on sight and we have an army of crazed beasts and half human soldiers who also want us dead.

I personally don’t want to hang around and find out who gets the first chance at us. Our situation has improved and we have convinced the Corporal and his men that their best chance of survival lies with us. But, you know that this charade can only last until a real officer or Him forbid, an Inspector checks up on us.”

“Don’t agree.” mumbled Berbatov.

“With which part?” questioned Walters half sarcastically.

“About the checking up on us,” replied the huge man, nervously switching his halberd from one shoulder to the other. His face twisted into an unrecognisable grimace and Walters suddenly realised he was thinking. Then he began to talk in a surprisingly reasoned voice.

“It’s like this, sir.” he began, “Most officers know **** about being an officer. They tell people what to do and the Sargeants and Corporals do what they were going to do in the first place, as you well know. Any trooper will follow the cap and greatcoat, without asking too many questions.

You’re right that some jumped up tart of an officer could question you. However, they probably won’t if you act the part. The Church loving Inspector who asks too many questions, can be easily convinced,” and here he affectionately patted the weapon on his shoulder, “ not to.”

Walters looked enquiringly at Berbatov, “When did you become such a frakking scholar?”

Berbatov furrowed his brow, spat on the floor and resumed his usual expression. “Don’t need to be, that’s why we made you the officer.”

Watching the big man move away, Walters wondered again where Berbatov had come from and what real chance they had of pulling this off. The truth was that they were committed and could not back out now. He realised that he needed to be convinced that he was an officer and not just playing a part. Reflecting on the good and bad of his situation, he decided that he really had nothing to lose. Shaking his head, he followed Berbatov, at first slowly and then with more confidence as he finally accepted the paper he had chosen to play.

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Post by Rayo Azul »

Just a quick info note, before anyone corrects me for my spelling in one specific case (in others, feel free). Sargeant and Leftenant are deliberately spely that way :wink:

Cheers

Rayo

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Post by Grunt213 »

Very not bad Rayo! :D

I was kinda unsure of the 40Kish setting, but so far so good.
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Post by MechRat »

Viktor wrote:Ah hahaha, Posting about Walters here?

General warning to everyone. You are going to be hooked.
Welcome, Viktor!

Going to be hooked? Too late, I was addicted to Rayo's writing a long time ago. :wink:
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Post by Viktor »

Heh, hey MechRat! :P

I may have even been hooked as long as you have! I was subjected to the brilliance of Rayo a while back.

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Post by Rayo Azul »

Hey Viktor (Viker)

Welcome, as Mechrat says, and thanks to both of you for the compliments :oops:

More to come, real soon

Cheers

Rayo

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Post by Rayo Azul »

Chapter Three

The crack of the laser rifle was followed by an explosion of rock fragments which peppered Walters’ face. He ducked behind his temporary shelter and shouted across to Berbatov.

“Can you see them?”, and he flinched involuntarily as another round whistled past him.

Berbatov’s answer was to grab James by the scruff of the neck and drag him forwards, as an inhuman scream broke the charged air. The big man then pushed himself to his feet and disappeared into a dip in the ground.

“Here we go again,” thought Walters as he rose to his full height and sent round after pistol round in the general direction of the ambushing forces.

It had begun quietly enough as they had approached the remains of the forward trenches, with Walters striding purposefully forward and hailing the dug-in Church troops’ position. Initial responses had been favourable, but a tall thin Inspector had screamed something along the lines of “kill the heretic scum” and all hell had broken loose.

To their credit, the ex-Lutheran light infantrymen had responded instinctively, laying down a barrage of covering fire, allowing him to retreat graciously to their current position. He had maintained a small hope of being able to talk his way out of the situation, but this had been shattered when they had received incoming fire from their rear, they had been set up. Now, he knew that they would need a miracle to get them out of this. Then had come the inhuman scream and he was sure that the K’ran was behind this.

He watched as a decapitated head sailed skywards, followed by a maniacal laugh.

“Berbatov,” he muttered under his breath and with a sigh ran from behind his cover, passing a slumped headless corpse to his right. Glancing sideways he saw his troopers moving forward in a textbook manner; one trooper laying down covering fire as the other advanced, the favour quickly returned. There was however, no sign of Berbatov and his only indication of the man’s presence was a blood smeared trail, peppered here and there with body parts.

Running out from behind a boulder, he crashed directly into the back of a crouched Inspector, who had his sword held high above the head of a prone Corporal James. Their combined momentum unbalanced the man and sparks flew as the blade bit into the floor. Walters did not have time to explain the error of the man’s ways, before he dove backwards to avoid the expected pistol round fired at point blank range. The round did not have the chance to leave the pistol’s chamber, as James surged upwards from the floor, his combat knife grasped firmly in his right hand. The Corporal hammered the blade into the Inspector’s thigh and was rewarded by a high pitched scream. This was abruptly cut off, as James withdrew the blade, pulled the man backwards by his hair and buried the blade up to its hilt in the man’s neck.

With a feral grin, the Corporal pulled the blade out as he dropped the lifeless body to the floor.

“I always wondered what it would feel like to give one of them a taste of their own medicine,” he pondered, as he wiped the blade on the black shirt below him. And, looking upwards at Walters, he laughed, “It felt damn good!”

With a rapid, “ scuse me, sir”, he picked up his rifle and raced off in pursuit of Berbatov.

Walters knew that many an Inspector, officially killed in action, actually lost his life to his own men. He felt little sympathy for the man, he was an idiot, blindly following orders, with an unswerving righteousness. Well, it seemed that this self belief was little armour against determined men, and especially men who had nothing to lose.

He heard the clink of metal against rock and spinning rapidly raised his pistol. There was no time to fire and using the momentum of his spin, he cracked the barrel of the weapon against the side of the face of the man in front of him. With a satisfying crunch of metal against bone, he saw the Church soldier crash to the floor in a crumpled heap. He thought for one moment, about emptying the gun into the man’s head, but decided against it as he heard Berbatov’s roar, now behind him.

*

Sat in the foremost trench and drinking from a bottle which he held in his hand, Berbatov looked scornfully on the men below him. Each was on his knees, with his hands behind his head and watching the K’ran. The beast was sat, to one side of Walters, cleaning its blood soaked paws with slow, licking actions. Now and again, it would stop, growl menacingly and then continue with its personal hygiene.

Walters was engrossed in the data slate in his hand, one of many they had found in the nearby command post. It appeared that this was a forward outpost, which had been charged with summarily executing all survivors of the original battle. General Hamner had made the decision that anyone who had survived both the Tauran-led attack and the holy cleansing must be tainted and lost forever.

Corporal James had found a poorly dug grave at the back of the trench, and a pile of stacked bodies awaiting burial. He had wanted to personally shoot all of the prisoners, when he had found remains of his former comrades tossed on top of the pile, but Walters had stopped him.

Surprisingly enough, all it took was a quiet word from the “Leftenant”, and James had backed down.

“Okay,” said Walters as he stood up, the K’ran watched him for a moment and then continued with its ablutions.

“Sargeant”

“Sir?”

“Bring me the first of the prisoners and tell Corporal James to join us.”

Berbatov laughed inwardly at the growing assurance of the ex-Corporal Walters and his instant response to Walters’ growing authority. However, he moved to obey him, finding himself liking the feeling of being a Sargeant and the kudos associated with the position. He liked how the others both respected and feared him, as well as how easily “Walters’ Army” had bonded together.

*
K’san watched attentively as the pack leader drew closer to the prisoners, he could almost taste their fear. This was also confusing. This could be almost a pack within the Lord’s army; they killed with relish, the leader inspired fervour in his pack members and particularly the large one, delighted in sending trophies to the Dark Lord. Or so it seemed.

As each moment passed, K’san felt as one with the pack. He had been ostracised amongst his own as being too small, too clever, too questioning. Here his leader trusted him with the most dangerous of assignments, scouting and ranging in front of the pack. He was allowed to be close to the leader’s person, fight alongside him and kill. This was nothing like he had expected. He licked his lips as others moved to join the pack leader, augmenting the palpable stench of terror. Avidly he waited, he knew what would happen.

*

“Jimmy’s on his way, sir”, grunted Berbatov as he returned.

“Jimmy?” queried Walters.

“Jimmy, Jimmy James, sir”, laughed Berbatov.

“Should have bloody known” mumbled Walters. “I suppose it’s your job to name them all, huh”.

“Yup,” agreed Berbatov sagely, “Everyone needs one, a name that is. The Leftenant, Puppy, Jimmy …..”

“And you?” questioned Walters, raising one eyebrow.

“Sargeant Berbatov, sir!” shouted the brute, springing to attention.

“Right …” agreed Walters, as “Jimmy” James approached.

“Corporal James”.

“Sir!”

“Pick one of these men and bring him to me.”

“As you wish, sir”, responded James gleefully, grabbing randomly from the group and, placing a large boot in the subject’s backside, kicked him to the floor in front of Walters.

Walters ignored the man and spoke to the others, numbering eight in total.

“I have had to change my opinion a little of you men. We walked in here, arms open and received a poor welcome. In fact, it was downright discourteous. We simply want to get back to barracks, a barracks that is far from here. We don’t want much …. But, as I said, no-one wanted to listen.”

“It seems,” and here he encompassed them all with a wave of his arm, “someone convinced you that we were the enemy. You all decided to shoot us and,” here indicating the pile of bodies behind the trench, “we are not the first, you have welcomed this way.”

“I have already had to restrain my Corporal once, who as you can see is busy polishing his very large, and very sharp knife, in the hope that one or all of you answer incorrectly to a couple of my questions. Yes …?”

He could see that Berbatov was bursting to say something, so he ushered him forward.

“Sorry to interrupt, sir. But I don’t feel that they’re paying attention”.

“What would you suggest Sargeant?” inquired, Walters, knowing he would not really be prepared for, nor like the answer.

“This ….” replied Berbatov, cleaving the halberd into the lone prisoner’s neck, blood fountaining upwards and splattering onto Walters’ greatcoat.

“Sorry, Sir,” apologised Berbatov as he moved away. Walters watched him go in momentary stupefaction then turned to the now quivering block of frightened troopers.

“Well, it seems as though the questions have become a little pointless. Let me explain the situation to you clearly. You turned your back on fellow soldiers and I am going to allow you to mend your ways. You can, if you wish, join our little adventure, or …” and he indicated the crumpled body below him, “the Sargeant can try to sharpen up on his overhead cutting technique.

“The Corporal here, will approach you individually and have a little chat on a more personal level. I trust his people skills and am sure you can convince him of your usefulness, or not as the case may be.”

With that Walters sauntered away, trying to hold in the revulsion at the clinical way in which Berbatov had dispatched the man. Walters knew that his men would see it as another demonstration of the Leftenant’s ruthlessness and that soon he would have some new recruits. Self-preservation was a real leveller and these men were used to the rigid brutality of the priesthood. Swapping allegiance was not a difficult choice, as he had never asked them to fight against the Church. Well not really, anyway.

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Post by MechRat »

If this story has already been written, why do you torture us so by posting one chapter at a time? You are evil, Rayo... :twisted: :wink:

BTU is the first place I check on my morning web crawl, desperately hoping there is more Rayo goodness posted. :D Please keep it going.
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Post by Rayo Azul »

There'd be no fun if I gave you it all at once, would there? :twisted:

I suppose I could, but what would you do then on your web crawl?

I will post a chapter a day on this novel, just for you. Oh, and anyone else who's interested :wink:

Cheers

Rayo

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Post by Rayo Azul »

Chapter Four

General Wolfe relaxed back into the form-hugging chair and contemplated once again his situation. He had finally managed to convince his peers of the need for a senior officer to review current operations under Hamner. The reluctance of the Fleet Command was more political than operational and although the reticence was there, the constant requests for advice from the aforementioned officer had finally made people admit that there was something wrong.

Wolfe had trawled through the fleet hospital and managed to put together a Company of Lutheran Light Infantry. Normally commanded by a Major, Wolfe had requisitioned them and with a pair of borrowed junior Leftenants had boarded a Navy Transport bound for General Hamner’s command.

The trip would take them three more days and he was not quite sure what his reception would be. His orders were to carry out a non-invasive audit and advise Hamner on the outcome. His objective was much clearer; he wanted to recover as many of his men as possible, show how incompetent Hamner was and if necessary relieve him of his command. As of yet he was not entirely sure of how to do this, although the Regulations gave him a number of options. He would just have to wait and see.

*

Leftenant Walters scanned the horizon, looking for any sign of encroaching Tauran Forces or returning Church Guard. He had decided to make the forward outpost their base of operations whilst he figured out what to do next. He felt fairly secure in his choice, as the data slates had indicated that there was little regular contact between the outlying units. It appeared that General Hamner’s lack of ability extended beyond command decisions and his cobbled together army had absolutely no idea of their orders. The comm-unit they had recovered and were monitoring had little traffic, some requests for re-supply, occasional reports of the sighting and execution of tainted soldiers, but nothing of contact with the enemy, nor plans for the taking of the fortress.

The last two days had been spent in reshaping his recently formed platoon. He had split the men into two sections, something whose structure he understood, with Sargeant Berbatov taking their new recruits under his wing. The Sargeant’s eye-catching call to attention, had convinced all of the men that their future, and not only the immediate one, depended on them joining “Walters’” Army. They were a rag-tag mixture of men, pulled together by the extinct Inspector. Originally they were cooks, scribes and medical assistants, who had been given basic training and a rifle. Their assignment of shooting unsuspecting Guardsmen had been about to their level, although when they had faced the combined assault of Berbatov, the K’ran and the rest of the men, they had easily folded.


Berbatov had used them to clean up the trenches, removing various body parts, discarding useless weapons and for digging a grave for their victims a respectable distance from the outpost. Walters could hear Berbatov’s dulcet tones now, berating some unfortunate for their inability to know which hole they were supposed to talk out of, never mind the right end of his rifle.

Corporal James had led his section out on a number of patrols, in the process he had restocked their supply of weapons, ammunition and dry rations. He had also found two Lutheran Light Infantrymen hiding in the surrounding hillside and incorporated them into his section.

Now Walters was worried about the K’ran, or Puppy as he was affectionately known. The beast has been gone since daybreak, on one of its solitary scouting missions. It seemed to have attached itself to him, leaving his side only for sporadic forays into the surrounding countryside. What was taking it so long?

*

K’san had been following a familiar scent for a while now. It was a mixture of K’ran and the semi-human troops in the Lord’s Army. They had not seen or heard anything of other K’ran, since the howling of the hunting pack two days before. This in itself was unusual due to the wide ranging patrols which would normally have preceded the Tauran Troops. However, K’san did not know why the offence had been halted, surely the bombardment could not have changed the Lord’s plans so drastically.

He stopped. There was something …. Then he rolled to one side, narrowly avoiding the slash of sharpened claws.

“K’san ...” hissed a voice behind him. As he turned he saw the mottled fur of K’tar, one of the lead scouts for his father’s pack.

“You are dead”, growled the scout, “or that is what we were told”.

K’san heard the snick of claws on rock to his right and saw another two K’ran slide into view, their eyes gleaming and spittle beginning to drip from their fangs.

“Hold!” barked K’san and the warriors pulled up short at the command in his voice, they were young males, not yet blooded and very unpredictable. Their pack imprint was strong, but they had yet to either bond or be accepted fully. Freshly hatched, thought K’ran to himself, I may just have a chance.

“Who are you to command us, whelp?” gruffed K’tar, himself unsure as to why the lone K’san was so confident.

“I am K’san, lead scout. I follow W’ratr.” He tried his best to repeat the sound he had heard the human pack call their leader, “ a great warrior.”

“Who is this W’ratr? He is not of us, I do not know him”.

“Why would you?” replied K’san, “you are not worthy to be in his pack. None of you are.”

K’san saw the impact on the young males, their hackles rising as the challenge stung their pride.

“What?” roared K’tar, leaping forward. His intention was clear, but K’san had been waiting for the charge.

As K’tar launched himself in what he thought was an unexpected attack, K’san stood his ground. At the last moment he sprung to one side, twisting in the air, his front claws slashing across the unprotected stomach before him. The moment his back feet struck the ground, he used his momentum to flip himself around in order to face his adversary. He opened his mouth in a lop-sided grin, baring the jagged row of teeth within and stalked forwards.

K’tar lay on his side, a long glistening string of intestines stretched out behind him. “You have no right ….” he gasped, as K’ran’s jaws closed on his throat, crunching through flesh and sinew to end his life.

K’san stood slowly and faced the two young K’ran, his muzzle was streaked in the blood of his fallen adversary. “Down!” he growled and the two warriors dropped to the floor, their necks stretched forward in submission. K’ran closed his jaws gently across their necks one after the other, biting deep enough to mark them, but not to injure.

“Come,” he barked softly, “ you belong to W’ratr. He has called you and you must answer.”

With that he turned his back on them and moved away. He did not look back, he knew that they followed him, he could smell their excitement, they were now pack and soon they would be blooded and named.

*
The troopers scrambled to their feet, rushing to take up their assigned defensive positions, as the K’ran slowly descended the hill. Walters climbed up to stand on the earthworks to get a closer look. He heard the rapid breathing of one of the troopers next to him, one of Berbatov’s section called Williamson. He was a pimply faced youth, the youngest of the new recruits and sweat poured down his face.

“Steady, son”, said Walters in a soft and reassuring tone. “Do nothing unless the Sargeant or I say so.”

“Y-y-y es, sir”, he stuttered nervously.

The closer the beasts approached the defended position, the more tangible was the state of expectation. Walters moved forward to meet the K’ran on his own, a state of recklessness overwhelming him.

“Sir!” shouted James leaping to the top of the trench.

Walters waved him back and moved to meet the group. Behind the silver furred animal, walked two other K’ran. Their gaze flicking from side to side, as the lead beast halted, the growling began. The other two K’ran were larger than Puppy, one a blue grey colour, the other green with brown flecks on its shoulder fur. Almost nonchalantly Walters strolled forward, causing the K’ran to halt.

*
“Behold W’ratr”, growled K’san, “and fear”.

“He is human,” whined the blue grey animal.

“He is my master, and yours”, snapped K’ran, bowing his head to Walters.

The two young males, hesitated for a moment and then prostrated themselves, their necks pushed forward. K’ran wondered what W’ratr would do, how would he know the correct response. He looked quickly back at the other two and felt W’ratr’s hand on his head. What was this? Then he realised that although the hand was clawless, the gesture was one of approbation and he mewed softly.

W’ratr moved away from him and pausing slightly he placed his booted foot on the neck of the first K’ran. He pushed his weight down sufficiently that the beat whined in pain, but remained still. W’ratr repeated the gesture on the green furred beast and then both K’ran leapt to their feet, howling with joy, they were pack.

*
“I don’t believe it”, gasped Walters, “you do realise that we’re well and truly fucked?”

“More than usual?” queried Berbatov.

“Well, we re-educated an Inspector, so to speak, we executed a couple of Church Guardsmen, we have aliens as allies and we are pretending to be people who we are not. Did I miss anything?” asked Walters.

“Nup, that about sums it up. And your problem is?” replied Berbatov innocently.

“What?” screamed Walters.

“Now, now, Leftenant sir. You’ll scare the children”, the Sargeant admonished his officer.

Throwing up his arms in exasperation, Walters stormed off, and Berbatov watched him go, with a smile on his face. The boy was shaping up, he was beginning to realise the futility of their situation. There were really no sides to choose in this game, whether the Inspectorate brainwashed the common man or the Tauran Forces induced religious fervour in their followers, all that mattered was the man at your side. He chuckled to himself as he saw one of the K’ran climb back into the trench. Did he say man?

*
General Hamner was confused, no more than usual but confused anyway. Reports from the front were patchy, no-one seemed to be able to take the initiative in this conflict. He had given strict instructions that all returning soldiers were to be treated as the enemy and things seemed to stall there.

He had already heard of two rebellions, particularly amongst the ex-Lutheran soldiers and he had information that three of his most forward outposts had failed to check in with their commanders. He had decided that this wasn’t good enough and had despatched a Company of men, under the command of his personal Inspector to re-establish order. That was well over three hours ago and they should have reported back by now. What was going on?

*
Inspector French ordered the Troop Carrier to a halt and waited for the soldiers to deploy in a protective cordon, before he left the vehicle. They had already dealt a summary justice to two positions and were chasing the remnants of the remaining troops to ground. He had decided to personally supervise the clean up of the final group himself.

He had been glad to leave the headquarters and looked forward to a little more action. So far the hunt had been unsatisfactory, dumb protestation followed by the feel of his sword biting into flesh, was hardly satisfactory. He motioned the section leader forward, and the men moved forward, scanning the surrounding terrain. He was still contemplating the praise he would receive when the first explosive round struck.

Leftenant Walters had been warned of the approaching transport by the K’ran, their short yipping barks usually meant they wanted to show him something. He had seen the vehicle and knew that there could only be one response. Corporal James had taken up position on the high ground to the left of the trench and he had kept Berbatov and his men as a backup. They had watched the Lutheran infantry pass through, staying hidden as their bait circumvented the obviously defended outpost and waited for the Church forces to arrive.

The K’ran hugged the ground close to Walters position and he knew his men were waiting for his signal. When he saw the command given for the assault to begin, he fired first, the satisfying spray of blood signalling a direct hit.

A rapid fusillade of laser rifle fire decimated the packed ranks of Guardsmen around the Troop Carrier and with a wild yell he charged forward, the K’ran surging past him.

French saw the K’ran first and screaming “For Him!” he raced to meet them. The last thing that passed through his mind, just before the explosive round, was that this was why he had joined in the first place.

Walters saw the Inspector’s body fly backwards as the round punched clean through his forehead, exploding in a spray of blood and gore from the back of his skull. He raced to keep up with the K’ran, who sped past the first troops and launched themselves inside the static vehicle. The tell-tale screams spoke volumes and he suddenly found himself alone and faced by a screaming mob of Guardsmen.

It was just about time to pray for forgiveness, when the comforting laughter of Berbatov could be heard, as the giant Sargeant, pushed him to one side and jumped straight into the defending Guardsmen. Walters had time to fire off one more round, and then he lowered his pistol, the danger of hitting his maniac Sargeant becoming too great.

Berbatov was not alone, whatever he had said to convince his men was effective. They obviously feared him more than the incoming laser rifle fire and rushed to join him. Their coordination of fire was poor, but they made up for it in enthusiasm and once at close quarters the infectiousness madness of the big man took hold. Rifles became clubs, knives were drawn and the carnage began.

Walters saw the K’ran leave the Carrier, and watch the fighting below. He felt the gaze of the lead beast on him and he smiled reassuringly. It seemed as though the K’ran were content to let Berbatov and his men have their fun.

It was soon over, there were no survivors. Walters strode past the crumpled bodies and entered the transport. The stench of faeces and blood was overpowering, the mangled remains of the driver and comm-operator gave him pause, but he pushed the comm-man out of his position as an incoming transmission could be heard.

“French, French, report”.

“I’m sorry but he is unavailable”, he replied into the instrument.

“Who is this? This is General Hamner, I need to speak with him urgently”.

“Oh, so you’re General Hamner. I have a message from the Inspector. Sorry, can’t talk right now. I’m a little dead. Please accept my apologies. But don’t worry, I am sure that you will soon be receiving the same treatment from my friends here.” and with that, Walters flicked the switch to the off position.

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Post by MechRat »

I'm thoroughly enjoying this story! :D Now I have to wait another 24 hours for the next chapter. :cry: I will survive... :wink:
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Post by Rayo Azul »

MechRat wrote:I'm thoroughly enjoying this story! :D Now I have to wait another 24 hours for the next chapter. :cry: I will survive... :wink:
Don't worry, I'll keep to my promised pace :wink:

You could always leave it a couple of days and then read more at once :twisted:

Cheers

Rayo

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Post by MechRat »

Rayo Azul wrote: You could always leave it a couple of days and then read more at once :twisted:
I'm not sure I could wait that long...


You mentioned that this story is based in your Urion's Belt universe with elements of WH40K. I am somewhat familiar with WH40K but don't remember anything like the K'ran or the K'rasa there. Are they are of WH40K or your own creation?
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They're of my creation as are a number of other elements within the story.

I adapted it for 40K but left my creations in.

I like to mess with people :twisted:

Cheers

Rayo

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Post by Rayo Azul »

Chapter Five

Walters knew there was something unusual going on, it was not normal practice for the majority of the men to be huddled around Berbatov, in fact they normally did their best to avoid him. Yet, since yesterday’s battle, there was a change and now this. He sauntered over to the rear of the confiscated Carrier and Corporal James jumped up with a guilty, “Sir!”. Instead of the normal rapid dispersal following his appearance, the men stood together, their heads hung in embarrassment.

“Berbatov?” he queried, causing the man to back out of the rear of the vehicle.

“Yes sir?” he replied, sheepishly.

“What’s going on?”

“Well sir, it’s like this,” began Berbatov. “The boys and I”, and here indicated the troopers, “we were thinking it wasn’t right, sir?”

“What, wasn’t right, Sargeant”, queried Walters exasperatedly.

“That we don’t have one sir”.

“One what, Sargeant?” Walters could see that this was going to be painful.

“A picture, sir, “ and seeing Walters’ incomprehension, “ for the boys sir. Oh, and especially for you, Leftenant.”

With that he pulled what looked like a bundle of cloth, from behind his back, and continued his explanation. “The Lutheran’s had one, even the Penal guys had one, sir. So we decided “Walters Army”, had to have one. Especially with Williamson being so good at it, sir.”

Walters had a strong urge to pull out his pistol and shoot Berbatov there and then, but he just managed to restrain himself and smiled encouragingly. With a quite theatrical gesture Berbatov unfurled the cloth, revealing a remarkable likeness of a snarling K’ran in silver, stitched onto the green background.

“What do you think sir? “He asked, a huge grin on his face.

“I like it,” gruffed Walters, turning away to hide the emotion he felt and it was then he noticed Williamson with his needle and thread, stitching a smaller version to one of the men’s tunics. He now looked more closely and saw that the majority of them had already passed by Williamson’s clothing outlet, the emblem had been hidden as they had huddled around the Sargeant.

He almost fell over the K’ran as he turned away and called back to the Sargeant.

“What about them, Sargeant”. And here he indicated the animals.

“Sorry, sir. They are the emblem”, replied the Sargeant.

“Well, following your logic, they need names and I’m sick of calling this one Puppy. What do you suggest?” Walters was sure he had caught the grinning brute out.

The Sargeant thought for a moment and then with a laugh said, “Easy Sir. Kran One and K’ran Two.”

Walters turned back to the beasts and feeling slightly awkward, he pointed at them in turn, indicating the silver one initially. “Okay, this one is K’ran, to the blue grey beast, K’ran One and to the green K’ran Two.”

The animals howled as one and began leaping and cavorting around him.

“Looks like they like the names, quipped Berbatov, and turned away laughing.

*

“We have been named,” they howled together, “we are pack.”

*

As the shuttle docked into the larger vessel, General Wolfe unbuckled his seat restraint. It had been a tedious journey, the officers accompanying him had been poor company. His impatience had gotten the better of him on a number of occasions and he was sure that the two young men thought that he was close to madness. At last however, they were here.

A navy rating was waiting for the General in the docking bay, to show him the way to his quarters. He had been assigned an office on B deck and had asked that all of his belongings were placed there as soon as possible. In the meantime, he wanted to study all of the available information on the current campaign, in particular anything to do with the 5th Lutheran Light Infantry.

He was a little lost in thought, but as he glanced upwards he saw the markings for A deck.

“Where are we going, son?, he asked the rating.

“Sorry, sir. My orders were to take you directly to the bridge, where the Captain is waiting for you.” replied the man.

Wolfe started to speak and then thought better of it. There was little chance that the lowly rating would know his Captain’s mind and so, he waited.

On entering the bridge he received a number of perfunctory salutes, which he returned impatiently. It was only when he reached the raised dais containing the Captain’s chair that he relaxed slightly. The man there, in middle age, rose to meet him with an outstretched hand and a welcoming smile on his face.

“General Wolfe, Captain Arnesson. Pleased to meet you, sir”, he began. “I thought that it best I greeted you personally, especially in the current circumstances.”

“Excuse me, Captain. What exactly are the current circumstances?” Wolfe questioned a little anxiously.

“No one informed you General?”, and seeing the expression on his face, “Obviously not. Let me fill you in.”

“Please do, Captain,” replied Wolfe, taking the proffered seat at the Captain’s side.

“Well sir, and getting straight to the point. It appears that your ex-command has rebelled directly against General Hamner’s forces, that is to say Church Forces. The overall details are still sketchy, but after the original assault on the fortress objective, and the subsequent retreat from the Tauran incursion by the CF battalion, the General ordered a clean up of the area. Both aerial and ground bombardment was ordered, which meant some regular troops did not have time to get out of the target zone.

Once carried out, the General issued a proclamation that anyone who had survived this cleansing operation must be tainted by heresy and sent a clear instruction that these men must be eliminated.

It appears that those Lutheran troops on our side of the line, refused to fire on their returning comrades. Inspector French led a team in to re-educate them and it appears he met with some trouble, terminal trouble that is.

The General received a communication from an unknown source, which we assume was a member of the rebellious and hence heretical ex-Lutheran troops. This basically promised him a similar treatment to that received by the Inspector.”

“How do we know that this unknown source was one of my men?” queried Wolfe.

“We do not have clear confirmation, but General Hamner appears convinced”, responded the Captain, obviously a little uneasy at the tenuousness of his argument.

“And where is General Hamner right now? I would like to speak with him straight away, Captain”.

“He’s planetside, General”, said the Captain, “directing our operations”.

“Right, never mind getting me settled in here, I want a shuttle organised to take my men and I directly to General Hamner. It seems my auditing skills are urgently required.”

*

‘Jimmy’ James counted slowly to ten and peered over the rock ledge, for once he felt like he was part of something. Spread out beside and slightly behind him were the men of the two sections with which he had been entrusted. Every day more men were joining them and poor old Williamson was busy at his tailoring duties more and more. The Leftenant had decided to give James a field promotion to Sargeant and had bumped up Chivas, one of James’ original squad to Lance Corporal. Chivas now ran the second section under James and was inordinately proud of the responsibility.

James was trying to instil some sort of military discipline in his men, unlike the maniacal Sargeant Berbatov, who basically taught his men to fear him first and the Leftenant second. Any fear of Him, the Tauran Forces or just about anything else was laughed at and it seemed to be working. Just yesterday Berbatov had led his men in another of his suicidal charges, they followed without pause and spent the whole time hooting with laughter. Totally unnatural it was.

A muted whistle was the signal he had been waiting for and he crouched down, checking that he had a fresh power pack in his laser rifle. He looked across at Chivas and nodded, after a short delay he heard the crump of detonating explosive and stood up, opening fire on the Tauran Troops below.

*
Walters was situated on the other side of the valley, waiting for the fighting to begin. He had thought long and hard about their next move and realised that they could depend on no one but themselves. They were hemmed in to the rear by the Church Forces under General Hamner and above them the unknown Taurans. Unknown as to motive, he knew that there were K’ran amongst them, but little else. He needed more information and he needed breathing space.

It was a dangerous gamble. Annoying both sets of forces could very quickly get them killed, but he needed to build on the unity of his men, and K’ran. Berbatov had given them an identity, he needed to give them a purpose. The only real purpose he could see right now, was to avoid getting shredded to pieces. So, he had decided to start small. First they had made the outpost their’s, then a small radius around it and now they were pushing out little by little. The Carrier had been turned into a gun emplacement, it’s auto cannon their first line of defence. Here and now he needed to make his enemies respect their zone of influence, “Their ****” as Berbatov had so succinctly named it.

He felt the K’ran move beside him and placed a hand on the silver shoulders, it looked up at him and whined questioningly. One and Two were quiet, waiting in anticipation.

“Okay,” whispered Walters and drew his pistol, “let’s go”.

*
This time K’san did not race recklessly ahead, he paced along by W’ratr’s side, his packmates ranging to the right and left. He was sure of himself, of their victory. There would be death ahead, killing for everyone. He could be K’ran alongside W’ratr and he howled gleefully.

*
Leftenant Walters surveyed the aftermath of the battle, there had been in fact not much of a fight. James’ men had caught the enemy totally by surprise and had laid down a devastating wall of fire. Those that had not died or had not been mutilated by the carefully laid explosives, were caught in the hailstorm of las bolts.

Walters looked down of the remains of one of the semi-human soldiers, its uniform a mimicry of a Church one. During his original training he had been told of the strange sigils which would be written plainly in view on such an enemy, either in cloth or directly into tissue. It was hard to say about the latter, as there was little recognisable of the body left. Their weapons were obviously stolen Inspectorate issue and poorly maintained. With a shrug, he turned away, he had wanted to give a message to the Enemy Commander and he hoped there was enough rationality left in the remains of his mind to understand it.

He spun as he heard a snarl behind him, but he was too late, crashing to the floor under the oppressing weight of the charging K’ran. He rolled to one side, managing to avoid the backward slash of claws which snagged on his greatcoat pocket. Walters didn’t try to clear his pistol from its holster, he simply discharged the weapon against the side of the raging beast above him. It was risky, but so too was doing nothing.

There was a smell of burning fur and charred meat, and he was free. He shrugged his way out of his greatcoat, throwing it to one side and drawing his sword, the weapon whistling reassuringly as it cut the air.

“Come on then,” he growled through gritted teeth as the massive beast charged.

Walters planted one foot forward, meaning to swing the weapon at the beast, but a stone rolled under his foot and he fell to one side. Determinedly he held onto the sword and the edge of the weapon bit into the back leg of the K’ran, half shearing it at the knee cap. Not waiting for his luck to change he scrambled to his feet and plunged the point into the back of the beast’s skull. His action was rewarded by a fine spray of blood and bone and then the weapon stopped moving, it’s tip caught in the rocky earth below. He felt a hot breath on the back of his neck and reached slowly down to his boot, removing his combat knife. Things were about to get really ugly.

*

K’rin watched unbelievingly as his champion was downed by the puny human, one strike of his weapon and he was no more. Now though, the weapon was disabled and it was his turn. Bunching his muscles he readied himself for the killing leap. It was then he was struck simultaneously from the side and the rear, claws ripping into his flesh and severing tendons. He pulled himself up by his front paws, his rear set were useless as he had no muscle control due to the damaged ligature.

It was then he saw something unexplainable, the human was surrounded on three sides by K’ran, but instead of dismembering him, they waited for him to recover his weapons and only then, they followed him towards K’rin. He heard his kin approach too, forming a circle around him, there were five of them left and they waited, growling softly.

K’san barked threateningly and pushed his way through them.

“Brother,” he hissed, “how low you have fallen”.

“How can this be,” mewled K’rin, the pain causing his breath to catch in his throat. “K’shir outlawed you, spoke the death words.”

“Our father’s words mean nothing to me. You and the others, decided that you would do the Lord’s bidding, murder your own brothers and why? Because we chose to question the need to forget who we are?”

Foam flecked K’san’s lips as he leaned closer, the words spat from his maw.

“We are K’ran. The Lord has fooled you. There are other ways to please the Dark One.”

“Blasphemy!” screamed K’rin, as K’san’s claws slashed through his throat.

“The truth.”

The words were quietly spoken by K’ranwon, but echoed by K’rantu. As he looked at the others, he heard first a murmur and then a roar.

“The truth!”

*
Walters heard the scrunch of gravel as James approached.

“What the **** is that all about sir?” he asked pointing to the K’ran.

“I really don’t know, Jimmy, I really don’t know. But whatever it is, we should be thankful they’re on our side.”

*
Within the Fortress, the being known as the Lord stirred, something had changed. He had felt a thread part, a reduction in his vital energy. This world had been given to him to do with as he willed. It was his, as were all upon it. Raising his arms, he screamed his rage to the sky. There had been a birth, an unplanned event, a wrongness not created by him. It would be found, crushed, ground and brought pleading before him to beg for mercy and ultimately be destroyed.

Rayo Azul
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Post by Rayo Azul »

Chapter 6

The musty smell of stale sweat and the remains of a half-eaten meal permeated General Hamner’s private quarters. He had spent the previous evening locked within his room, accepting no callers and feigning a headache. Each day his officers asked for more information as the situation worsened and he found it easier to avoid answering their, to him, ridiculous questions.

Today he would make an effort to instil some level of discipline within them, who were they to question his judgement? He swung his legs off the bed and tugged at the front of his crumpled jacket. His nose wrinkled in disgust, as his own scent wafted to his nostrils. It was time to get cleaned up and face the day.

It was then he heard raised voices outside, followed by the sound of a falling object, and a pounding began on the door, almost matching that in his head.

“General Hamner, open this door,” roared someone from outside the portal.

Hamner cracked open the door, ready to demand an explanation for the impertinent attitude, but was roughly bowled backward, catching his knee against his desk and sprawling unceremoniously to the floor.

“What the...” he began.

“Say nothing, you miserable excuse for a human being.” A man stood in the doorway pointing an accusing finger at the cowering General.

“I am General Wolfe of the 5th Lutheran Light Infantry. It appears I have arrived none too soon.”

“Guards!” shouted Hamner, backing away from the furious officer.

“They can’t hear you. My men have taken them into custody and you, sir, are under arrest for gross incompetence.” hissed Wolfe

“How dare you,” spluttered the General.

“How dare I? You have managed to decimate your command. You have lost all control over your men. The troops are in open rebellion and we have an unknown quantity of Tauran Forces, up to He knows what, on our doorstep. You are lucky I don’t summarily execute you right now!”

“That is a clear misrepresentation of the facts!” screamed General Hamner, beginning to recover his normally bellicose nature. “Men from your own command are the rebels, they have turned away from Him and joined those same Tauran Forces. Do not preach to me about competence …”

Hamner’s tirade was abruptly terminated, as Wolfe’s fist crashed into his jaw, cartwheeling him across the room. Before he could react, he was struck again and again, sliding blissfully into unconsciousness.

“Sargeant!” shouted Wolfe, breathing heavily as the non-com entered the room and saluted. “Get this thing out of my sight!”

“Yes sir!” replied the Sargeant, indicating to another soldier to help him lift the limp body upright.

General Wolfe followed the men from the room, stooping in front of one of Hamner´s staff.

“You,” he said through gritted teeth,” Take me to the Communications Centre. I need to get this mess cleared up right now!”

The man nodded obsequiously and, not waiting to see if the General followed, rushed off down the corridor.

*

Their outpost was now a hive of activity, men coming and going, organising supplies and re-supplies. James had recently returned from a foray into Imperial territory. His mission had been to scout the area and locate supply dumps and positions. He had struck lucky, when he had followed a group of transports to a nearby depot. It appeared that word had spread and upon seeing the emblem displayed on their tunics, the supply group had not only turned around, but had stopped to pick up further ammunition at the depot. Those self same transports were now being frantically unloaded.

He heard welcoming yips and saw Berbatov and his men returning. Gambolling like puppies alongside him was a group of K’ran. It seemed that the beasts had an affinity for the big man, who was striding through them kicking and cursing. Walters had decided to concentrate Berbatov’s attentions on the Tauran Troops, his wholehearted murderous frenzy was much bettered suited to this field of operation. The truth be told, Walters was a little uneasy still, with the idea of unleashing the K’ran and Berbatov against Church soldiers. It did not seem strictly right. He could stomach it, if it had to be done, but under preference tried to avoid.

“Sargeant,” acknowledged Walters as he came closer.

“Leftenant, sir,” grinned Berbatov, “now that was fun.”

“Fun, Sargeant?” queried Walters.

“Oh yes, sir, lots of fun,” he replied.

“What exactly was so much fun, Sargeant?” asked Walters, knowing that he would regret the question shortly.


“Well, sir. You remember asking me to have a look see at what our mangled friends were doing?” and not waiting for his Leftenant to respond, he continued, “Everything was going along peaceful-like, when we happened upon one of their routine patrols. The puppies decided that they couldn’t wait for me and dived right in. Now, I couldn’t let them have all the fun, could I sir?”

Walters snorted in disbelief, but waved the Sargeant on.

“The boys and I got stuck in. They seem to have caught onto the idea of hitting hard and taking no prisoners. So we did, and they didn’t. As I said, sir, fun .” ended the Sargeant, waiting like one of his ‘puppies’ for some praise.

“Did you retrieve any information? Any idea as to what they were up to? …..” his voice trailed off, noticing the blank expression on Berbatov’s face. “Yes, Sargeant, glad you had some fun. Carry on.”

Berbatov saluted sloppily and ambled off to join his men. Next time, thought Walters, I’m doing the scouting and taking James with me.

*

Rank upon rank stood before him in abject terror, incapable of meeting his eyes as he stalked back and forth. Now and then he stopped, drew the serrated blade from its sheath and plunged it deep into the chest of the nearest of his followers. Each time, he twisted the blade savagely, tearing it free, revelling in the torrent of blood. Almost absent-mindedly he raised the blade to his lips, licking the rapidly congealing mess and then starting his pacing once more.

“Where are my Generals?” he roared, and the front ranks parted to allow them access.

“We are here, my Lord,” they chimed in unison.

“You!” he snarled, “Come here.”

The K’ran General flowed across the ground without fear and rose to his full height, muscles rippling beneath his silver fur.

“You were created to serve me, yet, I hear tales of desertion, stories of your youths leaving to find the truth about the K’ran. To test themselves against others of your kind. And now, I hear that amongst the followers of this W’ratr, in fact at his side is one of your offspring. Speak K’shir.”

“Lord. I too have heard these rumours and myself have chastised those who speak of this. The one they talk of is dead to me. I personally will tear the living heart from his body and feed it to you. Let me lead my warriors into battle and expunge this stain upon our honour. The Dark One will feed deeply, I swear it,” and with this he bowed fully down before his Lord.

“Do not fail me, K’shir,” he menaced, placing the edge of the serrated blade against the K’ran’s throat. “You will not live long enough to regret it.”

*
“What is going on out there?” asked General Wolfe, to no-one in particular.

Reports were patchy, but it appeared that there was at last movement from the Enemy. Unusually the impending attack seemed to be concentrated on one of the former positions held by Church Forces, and from which had emanated the damning message cited by Hamner. In the last few days information had been arriving of continued skirmishing with apparently heretical personnel, however the local troops seemed to be playing down the severity of this threat. It just did not make sense.

Why would Tauran Forces be concentrating on this outpost, if indeed it was a hotbed of anti-Church sentiment. Who was organising these men and what were their plans. Whatever the situation he needed to know the truth and as such he motioned to the comm-operator.

“I need you to transmit a message for me, soldier. Put it on a tight band, and repeat it word for word. Keep transmitting the message until you get an answer of some sort. When you do receive a reply, call me at once.”

The soldier merely nodded in acceptance and began his transmission. His job was not to question the General’s sanity, merely to obey.

*

“Sir, Sir!” the comm-man, hurriedly interrupted Walters’ thoughts. “We have an incoming transmission from Command, direct from a General Wolfe.”

“General who? Never mind, what does it say?” inquired Walters, putting aside his data slate.

“It’s better that you come and hear for yourself, Leftenant, sir,” replied the soldier, worriedly.

“Okay, let’s go,” replied Walters climbing to his feet and following the man.

There were a crowd of men waiting anxiously for his arrival, including Berbatov and James. They said nothing, but moved aside to give him access and the operator flicked a switch, allowing all to hear the message clearly.

“This is General Wolfe, calling Lutheran 5th Light Infantry forces currently operating outside recognised authority. Report in immediately. I repeat, report in immediately. This is an emergency.”

“And?” queried Walters, “What exactly has this to do with me?”

“Sir,” stammered the operator, “this is on a fixed beam transmission. It’s directly meant for us, sir.”

Walters looked at the expectant faces around him and spoke, “Oh, alright. I’ll speak to him, whoever he is. Yes, James?”

“I know the name sir. He’s on the General Staff of the Lutheran Command. He’s the bastard who left us here with Hamner!”

“Well, well.” mused Walters, “ then this should be interesting. Patch me in.”

Once he was given the go-ahead he made as if to speak into the comm apparatus, but Berbatov interrupted him.

“Sir. I think it’s only right that I speak first. A kinda introduction, Leftenant, sir”

Walters arched his eyebrow in surprise, but passed the instrument over to Berbatov.

“Hello. How can we help you?” he asked, smirking at Walters.

The Leftenant snorted in disgust and waited for the reply. It was not long in coming.

“This is General Wolfe. With exactly whom am I speaking? Please follow formal communication protocol. Over.”

“Me.” responded Berbatov, “Oops, sorry….Over.”

“Is this a joke? I would like to speak with your Commanding Officer. Over.”

“Sorry, he’s indisposed at the moment. I’ll have to do. Over.”

Walters could feel the anger emanating from the equipment in palpable waves and snatched the receiver out of Berbatov’s hand.

“This is Walters. Never mind the protocol, General. What can we do for you?”

“I want your name, rank and serial number, soldier,” answered the General coldly.

“Okay, General. Let’s do this by the numbers, well in a fashion anyway. You are speaking with Leftenant Walters and I’ll agree to remain civil, as long as you do.”

“This is gross insubordination …” began the General, but was cut off as Walters snapped his reply into the vox.

“Enough, General. Let’s stop playing games. You called me, something about an emergency. Oh, and whatever happened to General Hamner?”

“General Hamner has been reassigned. For now I will overlook your insubordination, but we will have a reckoning. Leftenant, I do not remember a Leftenant Walters in the Lutheran 5th?”

“Good news, saves me a job anyway and no you wouldn’t, remember me that is, General. What is the emergency you called to discuss with me?” insisted Walters.

“Very well, Leftenant. Your position is about to be overrun by a large force from the Fortress above you. I will be sending someone to relieve you immediately and take over your command. You will report back here to me, for debriefing.”

“Hmmm, debriefing a lovely word,” mused Walters. “However General, we need to clarify a couple of points. One, it would be unwise on your part to assume that you can send someone to relieve me, the last person to try that ended up being reassigned. And two, I don’t think the make-up of my current command exactly fits within the textbook definition of a normal Church Guard unit.”

“The 5th Lutheran Light Infantry fits perfectly within the definition …” the voice trailed off.

“Ah. You seem to be getting the point, General. This is not the Lutheran 5th, let’s call it an independent command, with an attached mobile unit,” and looking at the K’ran, “extremely mobile and rather experimental. We have so far managed to secure this area, repelling all attempts to displace us. I can assure you that we will continue to do so.”

Walters looked at the men around him, “Oh, and General, thanks for the warning. Please do feel free to call and chat at any time. Walters, out.”

*

The General turned and kicked out savagely at a nearby container, sending it skittering across the room. He glared at the comm-operator, daring him to say something. When no reply was forthcoming, he turned abruptly and left the room, leaving the soldier gazing pensively after him.

Making sure the General and his staff had left, the comm-operator reached once more for his equipment. He paused, thinking for a moment and then began to transmit a new message.

*

Rayo Azul
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Post by Rayo Azul »

Chapter 7


“Me and my big mouth,” cursed Walters, as he looked out over the ranks of Church Guard positioned below him. There looked to be at least three companies of Guards, spread out over the rough terrain and he had received reports of another company approaching from the west. At least there were no armoured units with them, if that could be called a blessing. And to make matters worse, James had reported in on the comm-circuit, that advanced units of Tauran forces had been spotted, early this morning.

“It seems, Sargeant,” he said, turning to Berbatov, “ that we are between a rock and a hard place.”

“Not to worry, sir,” responded the Sargeant confidently, “you’ll think of something.”

“Oh, I’m thinking of something, Sargeant …” he muttered, but stopped to watch Private Williamson sprinting up the hill.

“Sir, sir!” gasped the soldier, skidding to a stop, “you’ve got to see this.”

“Unless you are here to tell me that everyone is surrendering, due to our overwhelmingly unassailable position, I don’t really need to actually see anything else,” commented Walters sarcastically.

Williamson stood open mouthed before him, “H-h-h-ow did you know, sir?”

“What? Speak up soldier,” urged Walters, restraining himself from grabbing the private by the front of his tunic and shaking him.

“We’ve just had a call over short range communications, sir. They want to suurender to you, personally. You are to watch the front ranks, Leftenant, sir.”

Walters turned and saw three men move out in front of the Church Forces, an officer at their head.

“Berbatov, we have some visitors, let’s go,” he said as, adjusted the sword by his side.

“Could be a trap,” gruffed Berbatov, then laughing he picked up the now infamous halberd, “could also be a whole lot of fun!”

Walters scowled at him, and settled his cap more firmly on his head. He felt the comforting nudge of the K’ran by his side and placed his hand on its head.

“Okay, let’s do this,” he said firmly, leading his two companions down the hill.

*

“So it is true!” breathed the young officer, as they watched the two men and the K’ran come towards them, apparently at ease in each others company.

“Stand still,” he ordered as a ripple of unease travelled through the ranks.

Berbatov grounded his halberd as he came to a halt and stared threateningly at the Guards before him. The silver furred K’ran growled menacingly, standing ready by Walters’ side. Walters himself said nothing, waiting instead for the Guard Officer to speak.

“Sir!” barked the officer, snapping to attention with a parade ground salute.

“To what do we owe this pleasure…..?” queried Walters.

“Second Leftenant Wilson, sir. I am here to relinquish command of 2nd , 4th and 5th companies to yourself, sir.”

“A Leftenant in charge of three companies? Rather unusual wouldn’t you say?” asked Walters.

“Major Burne is injured, sir. So I have assumed command in his absence, sir.” replied Wilson quickly.

“And the good Major, is in agreement with your decision?” questioned Walters, watching closely for the other man’s reaction.

“I am sure he would be, sir, if he was not so indisposed,” responded Wilson.

“Hmm. Rather interesting. And the fourth company approaching from the west? What do you know of that, Leftenant?” The man looked surprised, his reaction genuine. “Nothing, sir, I can assure you.”

“Very well, Leftenant. Let’s say that I believe you. What would you have me do with your men?”

“We are here to fight the Tauran scum, sir. With you, sir?” replied Wilson, tremulously.

“This scum!” snapped Walters pointing at the K’ran by his side, who bristled at the tone in his voice.

“N-no, sir. We heard that there were a large force coming to attack you here. That you would need assistance. That men from the 5th Lutheran and others were fighting by your side. That you did not prejudge those who were unfortunate enough to have been on the wrong side of the bombardment, sir” he replied rapidly, stiffening further into his position of attention.

“All that is true. But there is one important question, Leftenant. The answer to which you need to consider well.”

“Y-y-y-es, sir?”

“Who are you fighting for?”

Leftenant Wilson made as if to speak, but the man behind coughed and then moved forward. He was carrying a pole on which was tied a roll of cloth. Without speaking he unfurled the cloth and as if in answer, a breeze began to blow, which caught the cloth and lifted it fluttering before them. The breeze strengthened and there snapping in the wind before them, crudely fashioned, was the snarling K’ran’s head.

Cheers rang out, and Berbatov leaned in towards him, “Looks like you just got a promotion, sir.”

*

“What are you telling me, major?” Wolfe snarled at the cowering officer before him.

“It appears that we have lost contact with a number of our units, sir,” replied the man, quaking before the General’s anger.

“And what do we know of their movements?” asked Wolfe dangerously.

“Captain Arnesson has reported from orbit that they appear to be concentrating on Leftenant Walters’ position, General, sir.” responded the Major, looking as though he expected to be slapped.

“Are they attacking ….?” the sweet tone of the General’s voice, appeared to make it even more menacing.

The Major took a deep breath and replied, “No, Sir. Captain Arnesson indicates that they are deploying in a standard defensive formation, sir.”

Wolfe turned slowly away from the Major and seemed to be struggling internally with his anger. After a few moments he turned back round and spoke, “Very well, get me Walters on the comm. We need to talk.”

*

“Yes, General Wolfe. How can I help you?” asked Walters, speaking calmly into the transmitter.

“It seems as though we got off on the wrong foot, Walters. I am willing to try again, if you are.” The General appeared to be in a conciliatory mood.

“Very amenable of you General.” Walters, managed to keep the mirth out of his voice, but only just.

“We seem to have the same goal in mind, that of ridding this planet of the Tauran Forces. I am a loyal servant of the Church, but am not blind to the role you can play in this. Will you work with me?” the General’s words came across as sickeningly sweet.

Walters waited a moment, collecting his thoughts, “General, General. Right now our objective is aligned I would say, rather than being the same. I seem to have a major disagreement with the Tauran Forces. Not really sure what I’ve done, apart from stealing some of their men and killing a few more of them. Sound familiar?” and not waiting for a reply, “Anyway, once I have dealt with that problem, what assurance do I have that you won’t just come running in to ‘reassign’ us?”

Walters could feel the grinding of the General’s teeth through the comm, but then he spoke, “I am willing to offer you a field commission to Captain, for the duration of this conflict. As long as you co-ordinate your actions with mine.”

“Make it Major and I’ll consider it.” replied Walters, grinning to himself, “Oh, and remember General, co-ordination does not mean interference.”

There was silence for an extended period of time and then the answer came, “Very well, Major.”

*

Walters flicked off the switch and stared into the distance. Things had just gotten a lot more complicated. There was absolutely no way that his command nor commission would be accepted once hostilities ceased.

Neither General Wolfe nor his Inspectors would think twice about ‘reassigning’ him, killing the K’ran and liquidating the men who had joined him.

If he was to get out of this, he would have to think of something original, something unique. That, was for later though, right now, as Berbatov would say, it was time for some fun.

*

The newly crowned Major looked on in amazement at the scene before him. Sargeant Berbatov was buried beneath a mass of snarling and snapping bodies. With an enormous heave, he exploded from the middle of the melee and with a shout of pure glee, dived back in again.

To one side stood Williamson, in his arms what looked like a pile of green cloth, which he dropped to the floor as Berbatov barrelled into him, cursing happily.

“Sargeant!” shouted Walters, “When you have a moment?”

Berbatov batted one of the K’ran playfully on the side of the head and, after dusting off his trousers, swaggered across to Walters.

"Major, Sir!” he saluted in an awful rendition of standard drill.

“Could you possibly explain to me what is going on?” asked Walters, wincing as he saw the crafty expression cross the Sargeant’s face.

“Measuring, sir,” responded the Sargeant, staring past Walters’ shoulder.

He resisted the urge to turn and look at what Berbatov was fixated on and tried again. “Measuring, Sargeant?”

“Yes, sir. Exactly, sir,” replied Berbatov.

Walters waited patiently for more information, but it soon became obvious that Berbatov had nothing more to add. He tried again.

“And Williamson?”

“Helping me, sir!” shouted Berbatov, getting into the swing of things.

“Helping you ……?” queried Walters, wishing he had never started this.

“Yes, sir!” said Berbatov, giving the expected response, “Will that be all, sir?

“Yes, Sargeant. That will definitely be all for now,” said Walters, as he watched Berbatov’s about turn in dismay.

Berbatov stopped to help Williamson gather up the cloth and then, with one arm around the nervous soldier’s shoulders, led him cheerfully away.

*

K’san looked on at the interplay between the two men, their bond was obviously strong. It would need to be. Tomorrow they would face the might of his father’s forces and they would need true strength and belief. He knew that there could be no quarter in this battle. The Lord had pronounced the death of W’ratr and his own father had sworn to personally fulfil his command, with specific emphasis on the death of his former son.

The K’ran knew this as more of his brothers had joined him, but alone they would not be enough. They needed W’ratr to lead them. He had proven that he was worthy of their brotherhood and they would fight, not just with him, but for him.

It would not be a battle only of guns and swords, but claws and fangs. There were many who needed to win their names, on both sides. He growled softly and K’ranwon and K’rantu moved to join him. As one they padded forward to join their pack.