Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Intense white-glare of floodlights. Flurry of activity. Showers of sparks amongst brilliant  backlit strobes of plasma welders as framework is broken down and stowed. Metal crates on  pallets pushed via suspensor into bulk lifters to be strapped in place for the out-atmo  journey. Row upon row of crate and box and barrel awaiting transfer. Muddied flakboard  stacked haphazardly. Everywhere there is motion.

The Nephilim are leaving.

The only quiet spot in the manufactured forest clearing. Tall, lithe figures form out of the darkened scrub; not so much coming into view as simply materializing at the clearing’s edge. Raised voices in alarm. Electric whirr of .75 caseless rounds cycling into firing  chambers. Chains on a sword spin at idle. A massive hulk of ebon ceramite pushes through  the perfect double tier pincer which has subconsciously formed. The giant’s lip quivers a  nanosecond faint smile of approval before moving towards the shadowed intruders; eternally  loyal Staff Sergeant Otan steadfastly at his side.

Commander Akkon Sek strolls to within a few meters of the encroachers, apparently unfazed  by the multitude of gracefully aggressive weaponry pointed unwaveringly at his head.

‘You and your kin have become complacent and careless, Witch. How long ago... my life  would be forfeit, and you long gone, before my men knew you were ever here?’

A voice soft and melodic. ‘Not long at all, overconfident Astartes.’

Sek’s eyes widen slightly at the audible click and increasing pitch of shuriken weaponry en masse, activating behind his perfectly formed pincer line. An evilly triumphant smile crosses  the pale, angelic features of the female Eldar. A beat of three, and Sek’s expression morphs as a smile creases his own chiseled face.

‘Bold indeed. And yet, I am not flummoxed. Why is that do you suppose?’

Deeper, more guttural and distinctive hum as a cadre of Spectres step from shadow; a series of compact meltas held at ready and glowing to life. The Witch’s smile fades to a smirk.

‘An impasse, it would seem.’ Surprising humor in her voice.

Sek steps forward a pace, nods respectfully and extends his hand, palm up. ‘You honor us  with your presence, Farseer.’

The Eldar Farseer closes the remaining distance and grasps Sek’s wrist in greeting. ‘The  honor is ours, Sek of Nephilim. Your spark shines true and strong.’

Instantly weapons are lowered and the manufactured tension vanishes. Wrists are grasped, earnest greetings exchanged, and voices are raised in laughter and good-natured ribbing. A moment passes as the two commanders soak in the comradery. Increasingly rare, moments  such as these. As the din abates, the leaders turn towards one another and the Seer’s face  darkens.

‘The Imperial settlement is besieged. My rangers estimate they will hold for no longer than  forty-eight of your Imperial standard hours.’

Anger briefly flashes across Sek’s face. ‘Not my hours, Seer.’

‘Just so. I misspoke. Regardless, the Ruinous Powers have amassed a substantial force. The  settlement is composed of miners, shopkeepers. They are citizens… not soldiers Sek. They  will not survive.’

‘Explain to me in detail how their lack of planning for adequate defense, is an issue of mine Seer? And frankly, why you care even remotely about their fate? I’ll not waste the lives of  my men rescuing sheep who will as soon spit upon us as praise us when our... independence becomes known to them!’

Several tense moments pass. Otan and the Seer’s adjutant stare at the ground.

‘You are leaving.’ A statement. No hint of recrimination.

Sek’s shoulders noticeably sink. For the briefest of moments, his great age is laid bare. ‘A history repeated, Seer. Variations on a tired theme. Cheer as we liberate, and scorn when it becomes apparent we hold their lauded corpse-god in contempt. It is not sustainable for my men. I owe them more than this’

The Farseer nods and speaks with genuine sympathy in her hushed tone. ‘Though it would be a singular honor to fight these dark forces alongside you once again, I understand… my Lost One. I truly do. Your chosen path is a difficult one. You must follow destiny’s call for you and  yours.

Taken aback by the Farseer’s overtly familiar interaction with his commander, Otan glances away uncomfortably. Well aware of the mutual respect the two hold for each other, he  marvels silently. Surely nothing more?

Noting Otan’s discomfort, the Farseer resumes her regal demeanor. ‘My exarch thirst for the blood of this ruinous throng. I must appease their spirits.’ Several rapid hand gestures and her escorts melt back into the shadowed foliage. She herself turns to depart. Prior to being swallowed by the shadows, she pauses. Her graceful profile illuminated by the camp’s  floodlights.

‘Commander? The path you choose should be your own, and would that I not dare attempt to manipulate that crossing. You do not seek to justify yourself in the eyes of those  who turn their back on you, this I know. But the Way inquires… if you yourself do not show  them the truth, how will they ever know?’

And with this, she is gone.

Sek inclines his head slightly and exhales. Otan silently watches his commander. An eternity of seconds passes. Centuries, Otan has known his commander. The intent is clear. Without a word from his senior, Otan spins on his heels to face the warriors who have resumed takedown of the encampment.

‘Desist and attend! Spectres! I require eyes-on topographical auspex and tactical analysis of  the settlement by 0300. Transport! Give me ingress route by same, complete prep of our rides no later than 0345 for mount-up at 0430. Tac! Full weapon inspect and readiness drill  by 0400… I expect a status report prior to mount-up! Move your collective asses, you sons  of whores! Edge and in-line! And Raptors?! You hot-charge those turbines again, and it is my  oath to you that I will pulp your skull with that same jump pack! Now, move!

Immediately, activity in the encampment becomes frenetic. Weapons are oiled and cycled. Crates of ammunition and medical supplies are hefted into Rhinos, whose grumbling engines sympathetically throb with anticipation. Armorers dote on miniscule adjustments to power  feeds and neural interfaces. Helmet comms are activated and tested. Movement is constant  and determined. The Spectres set out on foot to reconnoiter the settlement. Fluid and silent,  they vanish into the night.

With a slight nod of approval to his second, Sek turns and walks with purpose along the flakboard walkways towards his quarters. A singular motion, he draws his sidearm, checks  the load and reholsters. Before he passes from sight, Otan sees him make a gesture of an outstretched and closed fist to one of the younger Tac initiates in a show of encouragement.  The Marine returns the gesture and moves off with notably increased vigor in his step.

Otan nods, and smiles grimly. A good day to die.



Dryw said...

The above is actually a re-post of a background-esque fluff piece I composed last year. Upon rereading, I determined some minor edits were required. The edit process had the unexpected consequence of rekindling my interest in the storyline. While it won’t happen overnight, I intend to expand on this background with additional short stories, with the possibility of compilation at some later date.

For those of you who missed the story the first time around, hope you enjoy.


Max said...

I did miss it the first time, and did enjoy it. Interested to see where this goes.

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