I'd driven for almost an hour down a treacherous road filled with the burning husks of Leman Russ tanks, Chimeras, Salamanders, and even a Shadowsword. I drove until the sounds of war were just small thumps of background ambience, and then till I couldn't hear them at all. At first there were just the scattered ruins of vehicles. Then they became more frequent. Soon as far as the eye could see there was nothing but wreckage. A 100 mile highway of death.
The human body has never ceased to amaze me. I remember several years ago fighting Orks I had been injured. A cleaver at some point during the battle had lacerated me from the bottom of my right rib all the way down to my thigh. The battle at Magellans' Hive raged for two weeks and to this day I can't recall ever receiving the wound. Now driving down this treacherous road I realized that my right hand was missing the pinky, ring and a good portion of my middle finger. I thought back but couldn't remember at any point in time that I'd lost them. The trio of stumps had long since stopped bleeding and my hand was caked in a flaky layer of blood. Looking down I realized all of me was caked in a flaky layer of blood.
A series of bumps jolted me out of my rapture and I immediately looked to see what had the Salamander had crushed. Turns out I'd driven over a body. A couple of them. I stopped the vehicle and exited. I stared blankly at the guardsmen I had so recently mutilated. I began walking towards them stopped ran to the side of the road and dry heaved until I felt like my stomach was going to come out. I continued my way over and picking up one of the bodies, an older woman whose insignia showed the 763rd Kiinel Rifles, one of the many regiments who had fled to Longs Reach earlier in the month. I'd personally told a Sergeant from that regiment that they'd made it in just the nick of time, that it wasn't a few Tau cadre that made planet fall but a whole fucking coalition. He'd thanked me and led his troops out the passage that I'd so recently tread. I wonder if he was out here.
Two and a half hours later I stopped and surveyed my work. I'd gathered every body in the immediate area and dragged them into a drill formation two feet spaced between each one. Every muscle and bone and inch of my skin hurt. No dull ache, no throbbing pain coming in waves I hurt. Everywhere even in my mind. Looking up from my work I noticed the burnt out wreck of a thunderbolt in the distance. It wasn't too far I reasoned and if everyone here deserved a burial than so did that pilot. Weary but driven by a need to redeem myself I walked the hundred yards to the wreckage and looked inside.
The Thunderbolt still had power, and though it would obviously never fly again I couldn't write it off as a complete wreck. True the left wing had been shorn off by what appeared to be a Sky Ray missile and the hull had been blackened by the heat and the cockpit glass was no longer existent... I still don't think it was a total loss. For all the nomenclature the Thunderbolt was missing it had two things of import: the first was a working VOX. I keyed it and got nothing but static. Though for a moment I almost thought I heard a voice. I keyed it again and listened. I got a connection. A small click on the other end. A mans' voice saying the same thing over and over again: +Escape will make me God+
Commit To Imperial Record
EST 25/01181 Inquisitorial 324/6100
Cross-file - Distress Call, Xenos, 74th Rifles
Tau Invasion, Eldar (Dark?) Incursion, Demonic Entity
Input Clearance: Inquisitor Medias
Author- Presumed to be one Trooper Flynn Addicus of the 74th Soulles Rifles
Transmitted: The Burning Shield +Ultima Segmentum, in orbit above +Undisclosed+
Transmitter- Astropath Primus Aud'iel
Thought For The Day: Mercy Is A Sign Of Weakness
+++++Begin VOX record+++++
+Hello? Is anyone receiving this? If anyone can hear this my name is Trooper First Class Flynn Addicus of the 74th Soulles Rifles. I've just escaped from Longs Reach, there are no other known survivors. I don't know my location but if anyone can trace the source of this transmission please, I'm injured and....
The VOX went dead. I keyed it again, this time practically screaming into the transponder. Only static. The next time I keyed it the only thing I received was static. Which didn't make any sense. Fucking Mechanicus and their fucking machines.
"Throne Damn it!" I screamed to the sky as I bashed the transponder into the dashboard. Though my actions were more for venting my frustration it did lead me to the second item of import with the thunderbolt: the pilot. Who was still alive. Amazed and a little ashamed that I'd forgotten about my original reason to come over here I quickly aided the man as best I could.
He couldn't walk, both his legs were broken and when I stripped off his re-breather and flak armor I found that most of his face and body were too. The pilot revealed himself to be Captain Odel a naval pilot who'd been flying overwatch for the troops retreating out of Longs Reach before being shot down. He didn't say what happened to his squadron. The Captain was a middle aged man with a bald head blackened by the heat. His face was long and gaunt with eyes that calmed. He wore an olive drab blood soaked flight suit a size too big for him. His left thigh had a small piece of bone jutting out and his ribs were without exception broken. As it were he seemed to have accepted the fact that he was going to die. I didn't have any illusions that he would make it but I wanted to make him as comfortable as possible.
It took me the better part of an hour to patch him up and knowing that I hadn't staved off the inevitable for too long I wanted to make him feel as though there was someone here to see him off in at least a dignified way. I asked if there was anything that he wanted and when he asked for something to drink I mentally chastised myself. Emperor damn me for a fool if I'd forgotten about proper hydration. I'd be just as likely to fall over from dehydration then be killed by the Tau rifles. I scurried off and returned 20 minutes later with an armful of ration packs and canteens looted from the wreckage of a Chimera.
When I'd returned I found the Captain propped up against the Salamander smoking an iho stick looking at a small pictograph. When he saw me he quickly put it away. I dumped most of the supplies in the back of the Salamander and turning to him asked how he was feeling.
"Like a pig in mud. And you son, hows that hand of yours?" He inquired as I handed a canteen and ration pack that he accepted great fully.
"Can't complain, don't know how I lost them though." I said before practically draining the canteen. Through my whole ordeal I hadn't realized how thirsty I'd been, any longer and I may have died of dehydration. T
"Those things happen in war son."
"Don't bother with that sir shit son, I work for a living."
"Sorry about that sir." At that he looked at me and gave me an almost fatherly knowing smile and let the subject drop.
We sat there eating and drinking, neither of us really saying much. Looking at him you knew he wasn't going to make it and I didn't want to make him feel as if he was a burden by sharing my plans of escape. I had to ask. Despite being late afternoon I noticed a slight drop in the air temperature, it was almost cold.
"Have you ever done anything you regret Sir?"
He looked at me curiously, I wondered if he could guess my troubles.
"How'd you get that scar on your cheek."
"Dark Eldar sword Sir."
"And the one on your throat?"
"The scar on your arm?"
"Chain sword from some rebel scum back on Callax II sir."
"You have some kind of fetish for swords son?" The captain joked a smile playing across his lips.
"No Sir." I said letting out a short laugh.
The smile from Captain Odel's face disappeared with a dead serious look in the eye.
"I wasn't always a Navy pilot. In my earliest days I was a PDF trooper back on Inale, my home world. There was a war. A civil war, between two hive cities Gavin and Sodale. I'm from Gavin by the way. Anyways son, there was a young corporal by the name of Sage under my command. One day we were riding along in a convoy through a small town and we got ambushed. Two of our vehicles were hit one of them the one Corporal Sage was riding in. He rushed out dragging his friend behind, I forget the other boys name, and he assaulted a building that we were taking fire from. He cleared that building and the adjacent one without any help, got 19 confirmed kills. Nine months later and in another convoy we were ambushed again, but this time Sage froze up, and because of that two of his friends burned alive in a wreck. The same man who rescues his friend one day could be the man who runs the next. Only the Emperor knows what makes men bold or cowardly. Contrary to what the commisarrs tell us were only human. And a man can only take so much. But we do have to try, don't we?"
"Yes Sir." Was all I managed to say at this revelation. It felt almost like he knew me. Unsure of what to say next I offered him another ration pack which he politely declined.
"Did I ever tell you about my ship, The Pretty Ugly?" The captain said while staring at the wreckage of his Thunderbolt in the distance.
"No Sir, you didn't."
"Damn that bitch is beautiful." I let out a laugh louder than I'd meant and point out that his ship was downright hideous.
"If that's what you call beautiful sir. Sir?"
He was still staring at his ship when I got up. When I shook him he fell over. Captain Odel was dead.
Throughout that night I held him tears streaming down my face. The next morning I carried him back to the Pretty Ugly and put him back inside the cockpit.
So some background info on the characters and a summary of the plot so far, and a few of the inspirations/homages of EOTM.
First off- Trooper Flynn Addicus. His home world is Soulle and is located in Segmentum Ultima and was born in 953.12.15.M41. His father was a ship master.
On Soulle at the age of 17 every citizen (with the exception of mutants who are forced to work in the Mechanicus factories) is required to perform ten years of military service. Whether it is performed in either the Imperial Guard or the PDF depends on the time of the year. In the Summer seasons Guardsmen are trained on Delphi, a continent which has been given over solely for military exercises and training. There are only two continents on Soulle.
The "Escape will Make Me God" transmission is a direct homage to Marathon and has nothing to do with the main plot. Yes, there will be more. I swear I won't make an Infinity related story. Though anything would fit.
Captain Odel was inspired by an old friend I knew back in high school. She seems to have switched genders.
The three people killed by Lelith was an Inquisitor and his retinue.
Last but not least there is an extended homage to Aliens which I'm sure many of you picked up if not, well try again.
Starting now every seven chapters will be broken up by an intermission.
Two chapters were written in a drunken haze. Can you guess which ones?