Chapter four: load 'em up

Heller coughed violently. He'd caught some bug while lying in the infirmary for the last two standard days. He was, however, glad the coughs were no longer full of blood. The power mace blow to the gut he had suffered was more serious than he had though, but due to the diligence of the medical servitors it had not threatened his life. Accelerated healing techniques had been employed and now, barely two days later, he was preparing to board the shuttle that would take him to the planets surface and a new war zone. The blow he suffered was now no more than a vivid pink scar, matching the smaller one on his chin which had not quiet healed yet, and was still sporting stitches.

Two men from his squad had died at the hands of boarders before corporal Jans had caught up, young private Raquad and his flamer in tow. Ceremonies for the dead had been held that morning (a relative term on the ship); several other units had not been as fortunate as his and suffered moderate losses. He'd had the full report delivered to him by Marshall Niekers when he awoke in the infirmary. "Might of the Emperor" had unexpectedly come out of the warp nearly 16 standard hours ahead of schedule. Another imperial vessel, "Truscas Glory", was in the vicinity, and after being hailed turned and opened fire without warning. While boarders were being repelled by Hellers men and the others, the two ships had exchanged brief but furious fire, ending when "Glory" turned and fled despite the advantage of surprise. It had made it around the dark side of the planet and disappeared before "Might" was able to recover and make chase. She had suffered damage to several weapon batteries and the void shields, but the engines had been unharmed. The conclusion was that the traitor ship had been orbiting the planet, and was equally surprised by the imperials arrival. This theory was vehemently denied by the gun crews, who refused to admit that someone had worked faster than they. "Might" was now in geosynchronous orbit of the planet over a small outpost to the north of the main hive.

Heller clipped his helmet strap together under his chin, his rebreather dangling from its own strap. He checked the charge on his rifle, the green meter read full, with the backpack power source recharging at a constant rate. His lower powered las pistol was slung low at his side with his combat knife, held tight to his armored plating. He rapped gently against each plate of his carapace to check for brittleness, it would not do for it to break if he had to go to ground. Next were his boots, the laces tightened as much as possible. He made certain all the weight was evenly distributed before turning to his squad and checking that they were performing all necessary checks. The drop ships loomed over their charges. They were relatively small, a Brimlock version of the venerable Valkyrie with only room for two squads each, but able to drop from orbit. Hellers squad would ride with another from his platoon while Niekers command squad and the third squad of the group rode in another. They would forego their APCs for the drop; once they had secured a landing site heavier equipment would be brought down to support them. Four 30-40 man platoons from the 201st were handling the insertion.

"Attention men!" The high Marshals voice called out from his position at the back of the bay, "The enemies of the Emperor sit on that planet down there, sneering at us from under their rocks! They defile the rightful property of the God of Mankind with their mere presence, and you have been tasked to destroy them!" cheers emanated from the crowd. "Go forth soldiers of the imperium, and send their scourge back to the hell of oblivion where they belong! Show them your true nature as hammer of the Emperor! Heresy begets!?"

"Retribution!"

"HERESY BEGETS!?"

"RETRIBUTION!!!"

The bay shook with the volume of the battle cry. Heller was excited despite himself, and was almost surprised to find himself cheering as loud as the rest. The various lieutenants ran amongst their squads, the energy in the air was nearly palpable. Niekers voice broke through:

"Load 'em up!"