BATTLE REPORTS - The Hand of the King - 49 (Grains of Sand)

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Y22: Well, here we are.

Y23: Seems like.

Commander: Fire tanks, what's your report?

Y22: I report that we're here.

Gunner: What's the matter, commander?

Commander: Yes, copy that, fire tanks. Now that you're there, what do you see?

Y22: I see that we're here, sir.

Commander: Gunner, load rounds.

Gunner: Loading main cannon, commander.

Commander: Let me rephrase that, fire tanks. What is the status of the village?

Y22: Well, the status of these here houses is that they're right in front of us.

Y23: No enemy units spotted, sir. The place seems to be abandoned.

Commander: Thank you.

Y22: No probs, sir.

Commander: Chimera driver, go ahead and advance up the road.

Commander: Driver, take us up behind the transport.

Driver: Taking us up behind the transport, commander.

Commander: Fire tanks, report.

Y22: Doing well, thanks!

Y23: I'm pulling over towards the road. We're getting close to entering the village itself now, sir.

Commander: That's affirmative. I have you on visual now.

Y22: Wait, what's that?

Y23: I can't see anything. Driver, bring us around the houses.

Commander: What's going on up there?

Hull: Is something happening?

Driver: Not that I can see.

Y22: Emperor's knee-high's! There's enemy here. Repeat, get your guns, boys, there's a fixing!

Commander: All crew, prepare for battle!

Driver: Preparing for battle.

Hull: Ready to go.

L. Sponson: What? I mean... uhh...

R. Sponson: Good to go.

L. Sponson: Ready!

Gunner: Main gun still loaded and ready for action, commander.

Y22: Well hell, looks like they've seen us. Here they come!

Y23: What? Enemy... THING coming at us! It's in the village!

Commander: I can see it, all units engage monstrous creature. Repeat, everybody open fire.

Gunner: With gusto, commander.

Y22: DIE! DIE WITH FIRE!!!

Y23: Aim up, melta cannon. Fire over the roof, not THROUGH it!

Gunner: Tough bugger, isn't he just.

Y23: Our weapons don't seem to be having an effect on it!

Commander: What's our status, weapons?

L. Sponson: Still out of range, sir.

Hull: It's coming down, it's just that -

Y23: AAAAAAARGHHHH!!!!!

Y22: Oh damn, sir! He's all up on us!

Commander: See it through.

Hull: There! Stopped it!

Commander: Nice shot, hull. Keep on the pressure.

Gunner: It's going down.

Y22: There! Stay on it! Open the taps! ALL THE FIRE!

R. Sponson: Almost in range, commander.

Hull: I can't see the target, commander. Presumably it's been destroyed behind that giant cloud of flame.

Commander: That's enough fire tank. I think it's done for.

Y22: Just one more blast to make sure. .... And there you go. Perfect. Just one more and we'll be set. Great. Now just tap it one more time and that's the last we'll need. Superb.

Driver: Commander, we're entering the village now.

Commander: Confirmed. Wait, where did the chimera go?

Hull: He got ahead of us, sir.

Commander: Enemy sighted, straight ahead. The transports blundered right into them. Gunner, fire over the chimera at the enemy.

Gunner: Commander?

Commander: Carefully.

Gunner: Aiming carefully.

Hull: What are you two doing up there? You're going to hit it!

L. Sponson: Woah!

Hull: Too late, it seems. Infantry in the open, commander.

Commander: Cease fire.

Driver: We're here, commander.

Commander: No wait, open fire.

Gunner: Traversing. Enemy vehicle is trying to hide behind the building.

Commander: Keep it on them!

Driver: We've got enemy infantry in the open.

Hull: They're going for our boots.

Commander: Negative, they're coming for us!

Commander: Shift target! Fire at the enemy infantry, damn their transport! The infantry!

Y22: Well hell, looks like we've got a stuck manifold, sir. I don't know if we're going to be much more use to you.

Commander: Keep firing, take those infantry down.

Y22: Well that's the problem sir, we have a weapon jam.

Commander: Keep that autocannon firing!

Y22: Uhh... Sir, we're a flamethrower tank.

Commander: Not you, you idiot, MY gunner.

Hull: Melta, Melta, Melta!

Driver: AAAAH!!!

Commander: Keep - ow! - keep firing!

Gunner: We're almost out, I'm going to have to cycle to a new can.

Y22: Whatever, sir. We're turning around now. I'm going to form up behind you. I'll be there in a moment, barring nothing bad happens.

Y22: Woah! WOAH! OH NO!!!

Commander: Status hellhound!

Y22: Aaaah! Help us!

Commander: There is none. Get out of there!

Hull: More melta!

Gunner: I'm out! Cycling drums.

Y22: We're on fire!

Hull: Ah! OW! What the... hell? Hull weapon down!

H41: Eagle command to Imperial units. Be advised... Stand by for reinforcement.

Commander: What?

Gunner: What, commander?

H41: Eagle command repeat. We're here on your right, approaching your position now.

Commander: Sweet, merciful Emperor! Help is on the way! Keep firing!



Melchoir's transport blasted forward at top speed. The several tons of steel smashed into a hedge, spraying leaves and sticks everywhere. Melchoir landed hard in his seat.

The treads flew around the wheel well, spraying dirt everywhere. The transport hit a wrinkle in the ground. With a bone-crunching thud, the chimera was bucked into the air, catching a half a moment of air time before the whole mass of flying metal slammed into the bottom of a ditch.

The officer and his retinue were launched from their seats, and crashed hard into each other as they slammed into the front of the dark cabin. Hardly noticing, the vehicle broke up the other side and flipped itself up and out of the shallow gully, continuing on in its reckless haste.

Melchoir wished his transport had seatbelts. He wished it had something more comfortable than bare metal seats. Both of these, though, were dwarfed by his desire to make it there on time, before it was too late.

Most of the enemy that the officer had faced over the months had fought to the death, expending their last efforts with weapons in hand. Those who had been able to leave, though, had apparently largely escaped the planet before the final showdown, at least, so Amns had claimed. Not all of them had managed to make it though. One of them was an enemy rogue inquisitor. Capturing him would be an invaluable prize not only for Melchoir himself, but for the campaign as a whole. Amns' espionage had managed to track this choice target down, but had only just discovered the quarry's current location.

There was already a small raiding party doing a sweep of the area that was happenstantially about to blunder into the enemy inquisitor. He had also sent in reserve forces directly into the area, but they were largely made up of painfully slow heavy tanks. Melchoir, on the other hand, was a hundred miles away from where he needed to be. When he learned the news, he had commandeered a chimera and a few meltagunners, and had ordered to be taken to the small village at the fastest speed the driver could possibly bring him.

That was a few hours ago, though. He had no idea if the rogue inquisitor was still at his last known location, or if the local forces were able to apprehend, or at least tie him down somewhere where he could be intercepted by the officer and captured. Worse, his quarry could have already been killed in the fighting. There was just no way to know for sure.

Melchoir's chimera smashed into a downed tree, the treads crashing right through the massive log, spraying splinters and branches up through the air as the mechanical beast smashed through. The officer's head hit hard onto a side armor panel. Thankfully, he had at least remembered to bring his helmet. Thankful as well that meltaguns had safety catches on them.

"Officer, sir," a voice popped through the micro-bead as the chimera's suspension slammed violently up into the transport.

"This - this is Melchoir!" the officer shouted over the roar of the engines and the scraping and violent snapping of underbrush beneath.

"You said a village at 234 by 1139?"

"Yes!"

"We're coming up on it now sir, it's just over - Enemy sighted! We're driving right into a battle, sir!"

"Bring us in!", the officer shouted. "We're here!" he barked to his impromptu command staff. The meltagunners, a few desperately motion sick, attempted to ready themselves as the chimera began to slow down to cruising speed. As the engines began to die down, and as they crested the top of a hill, the sudden, unmistakable sounds of gunfire washed over them.

"Man the hatches!" Melchoir ordered as he struggled to open the top hatch of his transport. With a grunt, he managed to force open the doors. He peeked his head out and turned around to see the display of fighting.

He had ridden almost directly into the crossfire. To his left was a unit of tanks hammering autocannon fire into what appeared to be inquisitorial forces on the other side of a small group of houses.

This was it, his forces had gotten there in time to engage the enemy, but it was still an open question of if the inquisitor was around somewhere. There would be only one way to find out.

Melchoir switched on his vox. "This is Marshal Melchoir Theleos to all Foleran vehicles. I'm coming in from your right, so watch for friendly fire. Also, be on the lookout for... umm... the enemy warlord. If possible, I want him alive!"

Suddenly, autocannon fire raked the ground in front of his transport, swerving away just as the chimera came near a grove of trees. The entirety of the firepower of the heavy armor began to traverse to the left, leaving the officer with the disorganized enemy in front of him. Some were seemingly stuck in the wreckage of their transport, while some were charging at full speed across a bare patch of ground, making for his tanks.

"All's clear!" Melchoir shouted, "Let them have it!"

The chimera slowed to combat speed just as the enemy came into range of the transport's heavy flame thrower. The bright, hot jet of flame sputtered to a start and then began to slowly sweep over the enemy as the multilaser on the turret wildly fired, it's dull hammering cracking in the air. Melchoir looked down and saw an enemy soldier with a meltagun charge towards his vehicle. The officer frowned as he withdrew his sunpistol and aimed it at the advancing enemy.

Melchoir fired angrily down on him, except that he didn't. The trigger stuck in his grip. Melchoir looked down at the plasma weapon, cocking it to one side to see what was the matter. With a grunt of mild annoyance, he lifted his finger from the trigger to flip off the safety. A moment later, the pistol was carefully leveled at his foe. The enemy brought his meltagun up to fire as Melchoir pointed down at him. The officer pulled the trigger. The pistol leapt in his hand as it delivered a bolt of explosive plasma directly into the enemy, the shot blowing apart armor and flesh in the bale green blast.

The officer searched for the nearest target in the chaos around him. In front of him, the enemy continued to dash forward out in the open from behind the trees in front of the officer. They were continuing to rush towards the tanks. That only meant one thing to the officer - they must have meltabombs, or worse. He needed to provide them with a more... distracting target.

"Come on, men!" the officer shouted down into his transport as he jumped back down into the cabin, "We're going to handle this personally."

Melchoir activated his power fist's disruption field and opened the rear door of his transport, emerging out into the battle.

He raced out and found cover behind a large boulder. To his left, a Leman Russ Exterminator was hammering away on the enemy out in the open, the air exploding and crackling as the rounds bounced off some sort of energy field surrounding them. It took a moment to realise the source - storm shields.

"Attack them!" Melchoir ordered as he pointed his pistol at the enemy. His personal guardsmen began to move forward and level their anti-tank weapons against the enemy in the open, adding even more cascading of angry energy coming from their shields. One by one, the enemy began to fall, until he noticed it.

At the rear of the advancing squad, plain as day, was a tall warrior wearing terminator armor, festooned with inquisitorial iconography. There he was, his prized enemy, and just within grasp.

"Hold your fire!" Melchoir ordered his meltagunners.

"Inquisitor!" the officer shouted over the blasting of autocannons. "Inquisitor!" he shouted again. The enemy didn't see him, continuing to advance. This was pointless.

The officer pointed his pistol forward and aimed as carefully as he could to fire at a less-required body part, hoping to inflict a crippling, but non-lethal shot. He breathed in and squeezed the trigger. The sunpistol jerked as it barked a plasma round a few dozen feet downrange in front of him. The shot slammed into the inquisitor at the knee, the plasma blast exploding in a brilliant flash of light onto the enemy's refractor field.

That got the inquisitor's attention. Shouting commands, the enemy began to turn around, away from the tanks, and to bear down on Melchoir.

"That's it. You're mine, traitorous filth!" Melchoir taunted at his enemy. "No, seriously," he said, turning to his command staff, "That one is mine. I need him... well, not unharmed so much as - "

Then Melchoir's world exploded.

Everything went bright as the slamming thud of a multilaser tracked over the boulder he was hiding behind, and crashed into the officer himself. The staggering strength of the heavy weapon bashed his refractor field like a sledgehammer. The officer reeled backwards as blow after blow bludgeoned him with heavy lasers. His refractor field shot sparks into his eyes as it hopelessly attempted to ward off the brutal firepower.

Then one shot made it through, slamming into his armor. His chest exploded in pain, and the air was instantly knocked from his lungs. A second shot hit him in the helmet, knocking him senseless to the ground.

Melchoir desperately fought for breath as the world spun and heaved violently around him. He fought the powerful urge to vomit as he lay splayed out on his back on the rocks. The sounds and sights of everything overwhelmed him as he struggled to hold onto consciousness. He writhed on the ground, trying to decide which way was up. Which way was safe.

Around him, his command staff shifted and flew through the air, one after another falling to the ground in his disoriented sense of vision. He could hear the distant echo of autocannons sweeping over to attack the source of the laser fire, while the weight of the shockwaves punched into his side and chest.

The officer managed to roll over onto his side, painfully collapsing back onto the gravel below. He could just begin to make out the disembodied shapes of his enemies turning around and attacking back upfield.

He watched as they stormed into his armor, the tanks backing up in an attempt to shoot at their assailants, while the enemy pressed in to try and undercut the firing arcs of the tanks.

Melchoir let his head roll back as a loud buzzing began to vibrate with intense violence through his brain.

He just had to focus on breathing. Make sure he still did that.

Just keep breathing.



Melchoir watched the light dance between the latticed shadows above him. His head was still swimming.

He just realised that he couldn't remember anything that had recently happened. How long had he been out of it?

He rolled his head around, and could clearly see the inside of a chimera. There were a few wounded guardsmen bathed in the checkered light of the cab.

"What?" Melchoir managed to stammer. His head was starting to clear slowly and painfully, like a cold-food headache. He instinctively tried to swallow to fend it off.

"He speaks," came a voice from behind him.

Melchoir propped himself up slowly, with the help of the person next to him on the bench. He turned to see the dark uniform of a vehicle crewman, his right arm wound up in a sling.

"Did we get him?" Melchoir asked, blinking away the pain.

"Get who?" the tanker asked.

"The inquisitor. He was tall, dressed in armor. Wielded a hammer."

"Oh, yes, sir. We got him all right. I Blew him in half with my plasma cannon myself, I did."

"What? He's dead?" Melchoir asked.

"I've never seen a man get blown to tiny pieces who wasn't."

Melchoir groaned, and let his head flop back down onto the bench.