07 From Three To One And Groovin', On A Sunday Afternoon
In retrospect, injecting myself with some unknown concoction created by the hands of humans wasn't the smartest thing I'd done in my life. Of course I hadn't made particularly wise choices my entire life. Evidence of that being me, marooned on a world that will very soon suck the soul from my body, and torment me for all eternity. All in all though their weren't any long lasting affects other than bashing my head against a bench and squishing my already sore tit into the metal decking. Laying on the ground I uttered a silent oath to go back to Comorragh and kill the whore who'd sent me here. I dreamt pleasant dreams of killing that bitch.
I was dimly aware however that there were more pressing matters to be dealt with than imagining creative ways to kill my protege and that I'd never be able to kill her if I didn't get too them. As I withdrew from the teetering edge of consciousness and unconsciousness I looked around the bay for any signs of danger. I was wary of using my minds eye, what with a daemon running around it wasn't the wisest course of action. But throwing reason to the wind I set out and upon feeling nothing, not even the daemon's malevolent gaze, I allowed myself to relax, if only a little bit.
Everything leading up to how I'd gotten here was hazy but as I began to focus my will the memories cleared and I remember just what I had to do. I had to learn how to fly. I walked out the rear end of the ship stepping lightly over the pilot whom I had so recently sent to it's grave.
The Storm bird was by far one of the ugliest objects I'd ever seen in my centuries spanning life. The abomination these humans called a ship painted a dark gray with a human skull on the underside of each wing the ship was pot marked by small arms fire and a few scorches that turned the coating a dark black. The ship was completely un-aerodynamic. I knew from experience these things were slow as hell. I also knew, from experience again, that a standard Storm bird could lay down a fearsome blanket of slug rounds if in the hands of a veteran pilot. Fortunately the Imperium doesn't have too many of those. Blessed night knows where I'd be if they did. I looked my ship over one last time and sighed. "I guess if you put a big enough engine on anything it'll fly." I said and walked back to the cockpit in what I felt would be a futile attempt to get the machine in the air. "I kn---------------------------------------------------------------------------
"I'm your captain, I'm your captain, though I'm feeling mighty sick. I've been lost now days uncounted and it's months since I've seen home. If you return me to my home boys, I will kiss you mother Earth. Take me back now, take me back now to the pooorrrrt of my birth. I'm getting closer to my home. I'm getting closer to my home. I'mm, I can feel the hand of a stranger and it's tightening round my throat! Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Take this stranger from my boat!"
I had driven for almost a full day since I met the captain. Captain Odel, Emperor rest his soul, had put my mind at ease. I couldn't put my finger on it but the whole time I was around him I felt safe. Early into the night of the previous day the sky became clouded and one of Chedoul's famous rain storms' had begun to pour down on me and hadn't let up since. In an attempt to lift my spirits I began singing an old sailing song my father had taught me before he'd been lost at sea a year before I'd been conscripted. It also reminded me of Captain Odel. I hoped the Emperor had set aside a small place in elysium for him. I laughed as I imagined him flying around in heaven in The Pretty Ugly. Such an idea was not farfetched I think, after all I was sure that the Emperor and Omnissah both knew that a heaven without the other probably wasn't a heaven. I played with the idea of Captain Odel singing the praises of the Emperor as he flew insane patterns across the skies as I drove down the road in a torrent of rain. For the first time in a month I felt a genuine smile play across my lips.
This was not to last however as it occurred to me that I hadn't seen any signs of Imperial presence for almost a seven hours. I knew of course that casualties had been tremendous but certainly what I had passed couldn't have been everyone. Almost nine regiments had fallen back through Longs Reach and there wasn't a sign of them. I slowed the salamander down as I looked at the road. No tracks. A single Leman Russ would leave tread marks on ferrocrete. That a regiment of them wouldn't leave them on a dirt road disturbed me. I brought the salamander to a halt got out and looked around. How the hell do nine regiments just disappear? Ignoring the rain that pattered down incessantly I went off the road a hundred yards to the north and then to the south. No tracks. Nothing I could see. No one had come this way. I scrambled back to the Salamander and checked my supplies. I had enough food for a week and I'd syphoned enough fuel to take me back to Longs Reach from other vehicles along the road. Water was never going to be a problem.
My mind raced with ideas none of them very appealing. If I went back to Longs Reach I'm more than likely to run into a Tau patrol and be shot to hell. Or I could keep going the way I was and hope for the best. I consulted a map I'd pulled off of a tank commander earlier in the day and with a little mathematics divined my approximate location. Almost two hundred miles to the North West through a forest of peculiarly glowing trees and a 150 mile stretch of farmland was an outpost I'd passed while the 74th had been transported to Longs Reach. The outpost was home to a relay station that could transmit and receive VOX messages to and from orbit. It also housed a battery of Basilisk artillery tanks. Making it their would at least let me know how it was all falling together, if High Command had decided to pull out or stand and fight. If the former was true than it was doubly important I get there. Being left behind wasn't the most appealing of options.
The disappearance of an entire army was alarming no doubt, unfortunately the only explanation I had for it was just as disconcerting. That High Command had, during the siege of Longs Reach evacuated the remnants of the army. It would explain "Everything." I said softly to myself. Throwing the map into the passenger seat I rushed myself into the drivers seat painfully banging my right hand against the armored side, and drove off as fast as I could.