08 That Rain Ain't Cleansing Shit
The Salamander sped down the highway alone in a torrent of rain the likes of which I had never seen before, lightening flashing hundreds of times in the span of a few minutes.What had begun as a calm shower had transformed into impossibly, a burning torrent. The water that fell was almost scalding hot, not to mention acidic, and I was forced to pull off the highway by a hundred yards over to the forest with hope that they could provide some form of shelter from the rain. When I'd first laid eyes on the forest or the Glow Woods as the natives called them, it had taken my breath away. The trees themselves were known as Silal in the dominant language of the world but an Imperial translation escaped me. Tall, white, almost crystalline and leafless trees illuminated from within by a chemical reaction to water. The trees had no bark covering the stem nor was it made of wood. Instead the trees were hundreds of trillions of living molecules that resembled crystals rather than cells. The roots were no exception and the glow that illuminated the ground looked holier than a shrine world. It also seemed that they offered more protection as well, for no sooner did I enter the woods did the burning stop. The rain still pattered down but whatever acidic properties it contained was purified by something I could only describe as sorcery of some sort.
I dug through the backseat of the Salamander and grabbed a small medicae pack. I dug through the pack searching for a wad of bandages and WaterJel. I stuffed them both in the cargo pockets of my fatigues and set off into the woods. Despite the almost liquefied mud that sucked at and filled my boots there was still a crystal glom that seemed to want to explode from the ground. If this was a good thing or not was beyond me but I trudged on regardless. The deeper I explored the more certain I was that they were some holy effigy of the Emperor. How they were related to Him I couldn't be sure but the Glow Woods were most definitely at the very least an outlet for the Emperor's holy power. This did present a problem however. The trees themselves were spaced far enough away that I could maneuver the Salamander through, but that's hardly the respect you show a holy living relic. If I left the woods and went back to the highway the rain would certainly have detrimental affects after prolonged exposure.
I wondered the woods pondering the new set of problems presented before me when I heard the unmistakable sound of a plasma shot off to my right. I instantly dropped into the mud, only to find that I had to hold myself up on my elbows lest I drown in in the murky fluid. Despite the incandescent glow of the trees visibility was still limited due to the downpour. Perhaps a dozen or more shots followed as I crawled towards the source of the sounds. Coming around a tree blackened and splintered by a plasma bolt I spotted the interlopers. Two fire warriors and a Kroot stood over the fallen corpses of their comrades. The two Tau were bareheaded but still wore their armored suits. The paint on their armor had been eroded by the acidic rain and was now a rusted red as opposed to the eggshell complexion and dark red that their suits usually sported. The Kroot was clothed only in a small brown loincloth and had burns across it's skin. It carried a halberd styled rifle. I recognized one of the Tau as a leader by the pulse rifle he carried as opposed to their usual plasma rifles. He was also wounded, a slug round had pierced his armor though he was still able to stand. And probably shoot me, I thought. I silently cursed myself for not taking a las rifle with me but I kicked the thought aside. Spotting a half submerged Kroot a dozen yards to my left I crawled to it and upon searching found a large war knife that I silently unsheathed.
I waited. Behind the Kroot corpse I waited. Completely submerged from my nose down. I waited in barely breathing for one of them to move out of sight of the others. The Tau NCO was the first. I watched from my hiding place as he said a few words to his alien counterparts turned around and walked off in the opposite direction. The other two made no attempt to follow but continued to speak in hushed tones to each other. I stalked the Tau for a full minute through the Silal before making my move. I rose up behind him like some kind of warp monster, murky water and mud streaming from my body my eyes full of murderous intent. The alien turned and when his eyes laid upon me he let out a startled scream before I thrust the looted knife as hard as I could piercing his armored chest. The blow hadn't killed the Tau but it wasn't going to put up a fight anymore. Putting my boot to his chest I pulled the knife out and kicked the Tau over leaving it to suffocate in the mud. Though I'd killed the Xeno no more than thirty feet from the other two the rain and trees still completely blocked visibility. I let out a great war cry and made off to circle around the two remaining Xenos. I sprinted as silently as I could from cover to cover, adrenaline lending me strength. I snuck up behind them, using the pattering rain to mask my sound and movements. The Kroot was a few feet behind the Tau and knowing it would react first I decided to try and take out the Kroot before the Tau could bring his rifle to bear. I rushed out of my hiding place the Kroot registering the noise behind it before the Tau even knew something was amiss. As it turned I threw my knife as hard as I could, the knife impacted so hard it buried itself up to the handle in the animals chest and caused it to spin 45 degrees to it's right. I kept up my rush even as the Tau began turning around. It was close. I closed the distance and in one graceful movement I pulled the knife out of the Kroot before it fell to it's knees, blocked the rifle with my right forearm just as the rifle discharged right next to my ear, the rain flash boiling as the bolt passed through the air beside my head, slightly singeing my hair, and plunged the knife through the xeno's left eye.
Rain poured down and off in the distance lightening lightening streaked across the sky with an alarming frequency. That there was lightening at all was alarming, throughout all the time I'd been on Chedoul it had never been seen or even heard of. Earlier when I'd searched the site of the shoot-out I'd found dozens of explosives placed around the perimeter. The Xenos had planned to destroy the Silal. My mind drifted to all the events that had just seemed wrong during my stay here. The acidic rain that mysteriously stopped burning in the presence of the trees. The odd behavior of the Tau, the disappearance of the Imperial army, and more importantly the voice I'd heard in the trenches of Longs Reach. Something was wrong with this planet. Something was going to happen.
I made my way back to the Salamander newly armed with a war knife and pulse rifle. Hopping in I started the engine and drove off towards the edge of the forest following the highway.