11 Close Encounters Of The Large Kind

I awoke with a silent plea, tears streaming down my eyes. Feeling more than a little ashamed I wiped the tears away just as a sound from off in the distance caught my attention. Small thumps in the distance reminiscent of artillery thundered off to the South. I looked in the direction, the glow of the Silal temporarily blinding me. I blinked the black spots out of my eyes and strained my ears, listening for the tell-tale of explosives being detonated. Another far off thump. It had started. I packed my things up and dug a small hole to bury the remains of the ration packs in. I started the engine and drove back onto the highway. I left the headlights off so as not to attract any attention and checking to see that the tank was full drove off into the night.

The countryside whizzed passed me as I pushed the Salamander as fast as it would go. The ongoing destruction of the Glow Woods spurring me to put as much distance between me and any enemy force as possible. The clouds above me began to darken even more than before and a light drizzle trickled down from the sky. Not waiting for the rain to turn acidic once more I stopped the Salamander while digging out the gel pack and bandages I'd stuffed in my cargo pockets. Quickly opening the pack I smeared the clear gel along the bandages and wrapped them around every exposed area of my body before speeding off again. The gel chilled me to the bone but I knew from experience it would provide good protection against the acid. During my first campaign on Callax II a similar phenomenon had occurred. For the entire duration of the war Imperial troops had to find ways to shield themselves from the burning rain, faith as it were didn't seem to be insufficient.

Despite the fact that the rain hadn't turned into a cancer causing liquid I still pushed the Salamander to breakneck speeds down the disconcertingly narrowing highway. The light emanating from the Glow Woods was far behind me by the time I began to slow the Salamander to something resembling a safe speed. I glanced around the world a whir as I sped past it. I dimly remembered this region of Chedoul to be farmland, growing specialized crops for shipment off world. Now nothing remained but a foul stench of decay and the rusted remains of farming equipment. All traces of crops, animals, or even buildings and their occupants had been decomposed over the course of the storm. This rain was deadlier than any bomb, in one night it had killed an entire ecosystem, probably to be soon replaced by those Chaos worshiping Tau with some tainted mockery of life.

I'd been so lost in my thoughts as I drove down the road that I hadn't noticed the screaming whine of a transport ship until it almost crashed into me.

"Oh God-Emperor!" I screamed just a little less dignified than I would have wanted as I braked and swerved to my right just as the ship passed over me, the wing almost taking my head off and the engines almost sucking me in. By the grace of the Emperor neither happened and the Salamander swerved to a stop a good twenty feet from where the ship had crashed. I sat immobilized in my seat, staring at the ship that had so nearly snuffed out my life. The whine of the engines had died, replaced by the now constant sound of the rain. Several minutes later when I was sure I wouldn't pass out from hyperventilation or have my heart spontaneously combust I eased my way out of the Salamander. I examined the crash site of the Stormbird, noticing that for an aircraft that had just crash landed it was for the most part completely intact. Grabbing the looted pulse rifle I slowly glided my way towards the ship careful not to become blinded by tunnel vision. True it was an Imperial Stormbird but the aircraft hadn't been shot down and no pilot just crashes, inclement weather be damned. Lightening flashed off in the distance, a bad omen that compelled me to quicken my pace but logic and years of training kept me from rushing. As if on cue by the great flashes in the sky the rain regained it's acidic properties and began to pour down in great torrents. All around me steam was rising off the ground as the acid reacted with the various materials not dissolved in the previous downpour, and though some spots on my body began to burn the gel did it's work. When I reached the Stormbird I looked for the ramp release but just as I was about to press it there was a loud hiss from the hydraulics that nearly made me open fire. Once again I exercised self-control, only barely though.

"Take that as an invitation." I said silently to myself. I retreated to the side of the Stormbird so as to obscure myself from the pilot as they exited. I didn't have to wait long. A ghost of a figure, stepped out, weapon clutched in his left hand scanning left and right looking for me. Unsuccessfully I might add. There were few precious details that I could make out through rain pouring down and the noxious fumes rising from the ground, but I could make out the fatigues of an Imperial Guardsmen. I took my chances.

"Hey! Trooper over here!" I called out. The pilot turned with inhuman speed in my direction, weapon expertly trained on my head.