Sweat and Blood: A guardsman's tale

Chapter One: Training day

"COVERING FIRE!"

Sgt Mickael Heller Bounded over the low sandbag barrier as the loud and distinctive snap-crack of hellgun fire filled the air on either side of him. His squad's fire team laid down a barrage of fire directed at a makeshift emplacement thirty meters down the permacrete road. Heller didn't have to look to know that his assault team was right behind him, they had practiced this maneuver dozens of times. A few scattered rounds from the enemies auto rifles impacted the ground near his feet, but he kept moving, firing now would give away the surprise assault...

*BOOM*

An explosion resulting from a launcher fired grenade filled the air between the assault team and the emplacement with dust and smoke. Without missing a beat, Heller charged through the cloud and leaped the wall, rolling to his feet on the other side. His Brimlock pattern Hellgun came immediately to his shoulder as he pivoted right and snapped off three shots into the chest of a red coated enemy then shifted his aim to blast the man standing behind the first with a burst to the head. He heard his men landing to the left of him, and the bright red flashes followed by the thud of bodies hitting the ground told him three more hostiles were down. Turning, he spotted the rest of his team, one man had landed badly and was struggling to his feet. All targets down, and only one (probably minor) injury, not a bad result. Lights snapped on overhead as a voice came over the loud speaker as the dust cleared.

"Excellent work Sergeant, assemble your men at the head of the course for inspection and review by High Marshall Hebrecht."

The Sgt touched the short range com on the collar of his flack coat "Yes sir Marshall" He turned to his men, who were now checking their accuracy by the holes in the training servitors they had each shot. They were now joined by corporal Jans and the fire team. "Nice work, move to the head of the course for review" Heller told them. The squad was now trading their traditional after action congratulatories; back pats, handshakes, high fives and boasting of personal skill, as they moved towards the front of the course. Trooper Hollands (who had not quite cleared the barricade when he jumped) was trying hard to ignore his sprained ankle as they went.

Marshall Niekers was waiting for them at attention with a less often seen face standing behind him. "At attention soldiers!" he bellowed, immediately bringing the entire squad into a practiced strait line with their backs stiff as steel rods, their weapons slung across their chest and hands clasped behind them. Niekers turned to face the man standing behind him and nodded, "High Marshall".

High Marshall Hebrecht, officer in chief of the second company of the Brimlock 201st heavy infantry regiment, walked into the light. The man had an impressive array of medals and campaign strips on his green/grey officers flack coat, most prominently (and noticeably) was the medallion crimson the he had earned in an engagement on a far off world in a battle long ago when he had been a young soldier like the men that now stood before him. Heller now noticed that the other two grenadier squads comprising Niekers platoon were also present, standing at attention on either side of his own squad. The High Marshall spoke in a loud, clear voice that many officers had, the one that demanded to be obeyed.

"Men, you are the best this regiment has to offer. You bring a good name to the people of Brimlock, and I am proud to call you my troops. You have proved your skill, courage and tenacity time and time again..." Heller knew that couldn't be true, his own squad had only seen active combat on one occasion, but he was willing to take the praise from a senior officer."In 48 hours we will arrive in the Valois sector with the goal to rid it of the infestation wrought by Xenos and traitor scum." The Sgt shivered, orks were one thing, but traitors, worshipers of the gods of chaos, were truly scary and not something he looked forward to encountering. "I will leave your situation briefing to Marshall Niekers, but when you make planetfall, know that you do so with the full might of the 201st behind you, and the blessing of the God Emperor protecting you." He raised a salute, right fist to left breast, which was returned by all present, then turned and left. Heller saw him stop a few hundred yards down the massive training dome, and from the looks of it give a much similar speech to another assembled platoon.

"You are dismissed men, briefing will be in our ready room at 0600 ship time. Get some rest", this was Niekers talking now. The grenadiers began to disperse, heading to the showers and equipment lockers on the far side of the massive training dome. "Trooper Hollands, go to the medical bay and have that ankle fixed up, then run additional maneuverability exercises until we hit night cycle." This was conveyed along with a stern look towards the young trooper. "Yes sir" Hollands replied, saluted, and headed for the medical bay.

Sergeant Heller ran a gloved hand through his short, pale hair as he accompanied his squad towards the end of the room. They passed countless men and vehicles practicing field maneuvers. The Brimlock 201st was only one of three imperial guard regiments stationed on the cruiser "Might of the Emperor". With planetfall fast approaching, Heller wondered quietly to himself how many men he saw now would die retaking the world....