More 40k related fiction. This one is quite fresh, as I’ve simply decided one day that I want to write something set in the Horus Heresy. I also tried to make it gritty, without being an actual action-piece. Aaand then I kept it in the editing stage for about a month
– Smoke Valley –
He stood surveying the smoke filled valley from a command post, resting his hands on a sandbag wall. His gaze wandered through gaps in the drifting grey shroud, from crater to crater, as if trying to find two that were identical. His mind would focus occasionally on one of the few dead bodies he could still recognize. Most often they’d be enemies that were caught in the open in the first moments of the bombardment, but he could also find a few of his own men. He wondered at how each man died. Astartes were known for being difficult to fell, and they’d prepared their assault well, with a massive bombardment preceding it. They had used ordnance of such caliber that even the famous battle plate was insufficient if caught out in the open.
The wind was creating all sorts of interesting patterns in the smoke. The local air currents had been blown completely off course after the bombardment churned the atmosphere worse than a tornado. Here and there spirals intertwined to create strange corridors of visibility, while in other areas it all looked like a massive grey curtain that had been shot through in a semi-random pattern. An analytical mind would likely start joining the holes to create shapes and figures. A superstitious mind would interpret the positions and shapes to divine the will of some obscure gods. The mind watching it all simply chose to admire the image created as an aftermath to armed struggle.
As his eyes bounced from gap to gap, Captain Nero Fulgerion spotted a warrior with a huge hole in his purple plated chest. He imagined him being struck by an anti-tank krak missile just as he was coming out of the Rhino APC that had carried him to battle. How unfortunate to be struck by a weapon that missed its mark right when the marine was disembarking it. The vehicle wasn’t much luckier, its wreck still smouldering close by like charcoal over a spent fire, thick black smoke rising from one side. It had been immobilized when another missile struck one of the track units and then exploded when a lascannon beam struck through the armour to hit the fuel tank. Fortunately all the other marines of squad Thelonius had made it out by then. Rhinos were far easier to replace than fully-trained Astartes.
Fulgerion’s eyes continued wandering across the valley. He found another of his marines lying dead at the edge of a small trench, his armour pockmarked with little craters. Even the imperial eagle on his chest had the tell-tale sign of bolter shell impacts. The captain found the irony pleasing, and thought he should somehow immortalize the image, especially with the two drab green marines lying dead in the background. Oil on canvas should be perfect for what he had in mind, with vivid colours and thin strokes. His skill and talent should lead to a painting worthy of display in the legion gallery, a perfect memento of this most momentous turning point in the legion’s triumph filled history. He thought about taking a pict-capture for future reference but the wind kicked up and in mere moments he could hardly see the dead trio through the billowing smoke. Fortunately, Astartes possessed an almost eidetic memory and whatever he would not remember later on he could create with his mind. It was artistic license put to the most brutal of uses.
The image closely matched the casualty report too, and as soon as he realized this Fulgerion snorted at the analytical thought. His mind was obviously still trapped in the rigors of battle command. The serfs would have to work extra hard to help him relax when he’d be back on the battle barge Callidora. Just thinking of his quarters made Fulgerion forget about the grime and sweat and blood covering him. He knew it was the nature of war, an inherent effect of his condition as a super being created with the sole purpose of waging war, but he still loathed himself after every battle. Few things gave him as much satisfaction as the bath he would take after each fight, whether simulated or not. And since his promotion to the rank of company captain the added bonus of having serfs care for every centimeter of his skin made it into a most exquisite experience.
As his thoughts drifted towards the awaited return to the battle barge, Fulgerion’s helmet chimed, the tell tale sign of an incoming transmission. The booming voice of the Lord Commander finished pulling the captain out of his reverie. ‘Prepare your men for combat, captain. We are to assist the World Eaters and the Death Guard in eliminating a remnant force of Raven Guard. The loyalist dogs have ambushed and wiped out an Iron Warriors scouting column in sector 32-5. You head out in 3 hours.’
Captain Fulgerion of the Emperor’s Children gave a curt affirmative reply and then heard the characteristic short beep of a transmission being ended. As his mind left the dreams of relaxation behind, he voxed his sergeants to gather the men and form them up for redeployment. He already had the casualty and ammunition reports. The legion stormbirds would bring fresh ammo and replacement vehicles from orbit in about 2 hours. In the meanwhile he would reorganize the squads that suffered too many casualties. He also had to find two new sergeants and consult with Chaplain Maecrosion on the morale of the troops. Though they should be in high spirits after the recent victory, the captain knew there was nothing more volatile in civil war than morale. He also knew Maecrosion was good at stoking the ambers of hatred in his brother marines, and the following days would require all of them to do nothing but hate and fight.