10 No.4 Country Commissar Chicken

By midday the rain had stopped. As far as the eye could see everything not in a close proximity to the Silal had been acid washed out of existence. The sparce grasses that once populated the plains had been exterminated and every once in a while it was possible to make out the skeleton of some poor animal who'd been caught unawares. I turned from the destruction and looked back at the Glow Woods. Though it was nearing the afternoon the world around me was still shrouded in a constant shadow cast by the sinister clouds overhead. Earlier in the morning there had been an explosion back in the direction of Longs Reach that momentarily lifted the shadow and bathed everything in a light that would most likely blind a man if he stared at the center of it. My mind drifted back to the previous night when I'd witnessed two groups of Tau kill each other. It was extremely unlikely that they were two different groups of Tau, and even if they were it was completely out of character with their species to kill each other. There was only one thing I knew of that could cause an army to turn upon itself in a blood thirsty rage and that was Chaos.

I spit at the thought of the dark gods and said a small prayer of protection to my own. It did of course make sense of the pullout. High Command wouldn't want to fight over some chaos-infested planet, probably content to leave the Tau to discover just how deep a grave their arrogance was going digging them. Maybe they had thought to let the Tau and the dark forces fight it out and then counter invade as soon as one of the foes been crushed. It was a sound strategy to my mind, of course, in almost ten years I'd been non-ranked for corporal six times. Either way it worked in my favor, with the Tau busy killing each other there was no time to track and kill me. A smile born of irony crept onto my face.

A few hours after midday I pulled off the highway to take a break from driving and stretch my legs. Besides I was on the edge of the woods and the rest of the way was farmland with no cover. It seemed a deadly mistake to become complacent but I knew I could always get lost in the woods if I was spotted. My stomach growled at me and I turned to the passenger seat of the Salamander to dig up something to quell my hunger pains.

"Mm, grox with mushrooms, number four, number thirteen, Throne I'd like to get my hands on the bastard who keeps putting that in circulation, ooh number one Grilled Beefsteak, motha fucker! Ugh, cheese omelet, there's another man that has got to die."

After a few minutes of deliberation I'd settled on the Grilled Beefsteak and the Country Commissar Chicken. Using water from my canteens I ignited the ration pack heaters and placed the two packs in. While I waited for my small feast to cook I refueled the Salamander and checked over my map. The outpost was perhaps four hours drive away and though it was most likely abandoned their still might be a means to communicate with any ship left in orbit. If of course there were any ships left in orbit. It would make sense that the fleet would pull out of the system after evacuation, but as far as I knew the Imperial forces had won every space battle to date, though I admitted to my self the situation could have changed drastically during the siege.

I let out a short sigh of resignation and checked on my food. For the next hour I sat crossed legged while leaning against the Salamander alternatively munching on ration packs and observing the darkened horizon. The Glow Woods still let off their heavenly light but I knew that soon I'd have to leave their sanctuary and make my way to the outpost. I loathed to leave the woods, especially with knowledge of what the Tau were going to do them, but I had to find a way. I hadn't come this far. I finished my food and after deciding to rest my eyes for a few minutes, passed out.

I dreamed of Mikalis that night. He was strangling me.