Bright bursts of green splashed across the deeper, verdant hues of the village below him as he fell through the night sky. The wind howled around the sides of his helmet, and his gravchute whined on his back. He focused on the line of figures below him and the T-shaped target.
The hospital roof was sliding to his right, he pulled on the right control arm of his gravchute, and the roof came back on center, passed over, and slid left.
He jerked on the left control arm, and as soon as the landing pad on the roof was on center he cranked down on both arms, too hard. The gravchute immediately flared, and stalled under the too-heavy load of Demetri’s gear.
oh…fu- the air-processing unit flew-up to meet him, and made a first impression on his rib cage. The air rushed out of his lungs along with a dull crack, but no hint of a groan. He bounced off and unto the roof deck with a low, metallic ring in his ear, staring at the too-thick sky and its sick, fat clouds.
“Dimitri?” Yanov hissed over the bead, knowing only that the hunter had made a lot more noise than they needed right now. Bash glanced over the low edge of the roof, scanning the courtyard for signs that the orks had heard. Thankfully, the Ghostwalkers were making plenty of noise to the northwest.
“We’re still clear,” he whispered for the bead. Marge hustled over to her down brother and pushed on his rib cage, Dimitri gave her a threatening stare that spoke volumes in curses.
“Dimitri’s down,” she practically taunted over the microbead. Krash scampered over and opened his medikit. He looked at the air processing unit, not seeing any blood. Flipping to the stimpens, he frowned, tilted his head back and forth, and then selected one of the single-use injectors.
“Shirt,” he said, popping the aliquot out and priming it.
“Ah I hate this medico plan,” Dimitri groaned under his breath. Marge ripped the corner of his shirt up, and Krash jammed the pen into the hunter’s ribs, the quiet click indicating success. Then the operator sealed the kit and scuttled over to the roof hatch.
I thought he was transport? Marge signed as she pulled her brother to his feet.
Must be amateur day he signed back, grabbing the rest of his gear from the drop sled, bending gingerly.
Overwatch Yanov signed to Bash as he and Olga assembled the lascannon. The heavily muscled boomer nodded, tapping a finger on the side of his eye. Yanov grabbed the magnoculars from Dimitri’s pack while the hunter was checking his weapon, tossed them to the boomer, and slapped the “VII” patch on his left shoulder before spinning to meet Krash at the hatch. Volton “Bash” Reed returned the gesture.
The rest of the team gathered in a defensive ring around the hatch, Krash gripped the handle. Yanov touched the microbead stud on his helmet.
“Gamma,” he said.
”Gamma,” the other skaggi foreman replied, his voice scratchy and choppy.
“We’re down and searching the Hospital,” Yanov asked.
“_Starting on Manufactorum, Emperor Protect_,” the other skaggi signed off.
“Emperor Protect,” Yanov tapped the stud again, then nodded at Krash. He carefully opened the hatch and scanned the hallway below with his carbine before dropping silently into the gloom.
With their visors casting the darkened medicenter in clear shades of green, delta squad quickly advanced to the stairwell and down to the basement. They fluidly rounded corners, checking doorways and always moving under the cover of a squad mate.
The medicenter had been trashed. Charts, packaging, linens, and apparatus were scattered across every floor in a chaos too perfect to have been unintentional. The greenskins had taken the effort to eliminate any sense of order, as if it pleased their strange, heretical gods.
Krash entered the generator room first, as he had each new room, carefully sweeping a sensitive auspex in front of him. It didn’t take any device for him to know the generator was completely unusable. He shook his head at Yanov and signed, Only need a few parts to fix one on base, nearly done before we left.
Yanov lifted his visor so Krash could see his look of warning. The meddlesome mechanic had almost missed the bird for this mission trying to fix the malfunctioning base generator with Emperor-knows-what for parts. The tech priests had ordered this mission, which meant there was no fixing it.
How long? he signed. There was an ork camp literally a stone’s throw from the hospital. Krash held-up a single finger then started clambering spider-like around the hulking installation. Yanov directed the rest of the team to cover the door and keep on eye on the windows. By the time they were in position, Krash walked by Yanov without a word.
“Gamma,” he thumbed the comm stud.
“_Gamma_,” the bead replied.
“Hospital’s negative,” Yanov stated.
“_Manufactorum’s in good shape, but it’s big. We don’t have any transport,_” Gamma squad’s foreman said.
“We’ll find something and come to you,” Yanov said.
“_We’re dug in, gamma out,_” Gamma confirmed. Yanov closed the channel, the rest of the team heard the exchange.
“How’s the route to the mill, Bash?” Yanov asked.
“_Better the road than the yard_,” Bash scanned the roving ork patrols in the area behind the hospital. There were none on the main road out front.
“Copy, get down here,” Yanov ordered, looking at the rest of the team. He settled on Krash.
Mill has trucks? he signed. Krash shrugged.
Probably the short skaggi responded, Quarry has bigger ones. They’d all seen the artillery position smack in the village center during the insertion, they’d have to pass a lot of orks on foot to reach the quarry.
Mill is closer, safer. Go, he signed, and they went, taking up positions either side of the main hospital doors. There were a few buildings across the street, and a small wooded area just behind those. It was a lot more cover than the open street had to offer. Once Bash had joined them, Krash volunteered to go fist by striding up to the doors.
Yanov nodded, everyone covered the two ends of the street.
“Wait!” Bash said with quiet urgency. Krash backed into the shadows. A mob of ork infantry charged passed the hospital on their way to the battle raging in the woods to the west, a feint action by the Jingkai Ghostwalkers to cover the skaggi operation. The orks disappeared around a corner, and after a moment, Yanov nodded. Krash bounded across the thoroughfare like a buck moshar. The team followed one by one, the others covering their crossings. As Dimitri huffed across, his gait unsteady due to his aching chest, a gang of the squat gretchin-class orks tumbled around the corner at the eastern end of the street.
No no no they spotted the skaggi three-quarters of the way across and screech-whooped.
“Fucking come-on!” he muttered over the bead, this wasn’t his day. The grots started sprinting pell-mell down the street towards the lone human soldier. Krash and Yanov were already across, and they moved behind the nearest building to ambush the grots as they charged. Dimitri finished his crossing with a stream of curses. He and Olga got into position and he checked his grenade launcher had a firestorm grenade chambered.
As the first cluster approached, they started shooting in their excitement. Then another herd of them appeared around the corner, this time escorted by a pair of huge orks with massive poles, hollering and bellowing at the child-sized, rabid hellions before them.
“Big ones,” Bash said quietly, adjusting the track of the seven-foot lascannon barrel still carefully hidden in the hospital entrance. They entire gang charged forward. With a hollow thump, Dimitri launched a grenade at the first cluster of grots. It hit the mark, lighting a hanfull aflame, but only appeared to spur the others on. As the herd advanced, the team fired into them from all sides. Bashs’s lascannon burned into the ork herders, who somehow managed to survive the first shots.
The grots charged their new targets, forcing Yanov and Krash to retreat. They swarmed the acting foreman, stabbing with crude shanks and blades, and they nipped at Krash’s heels as he led them on a chase across the rear lawns and around to the main street back towards the team’s line of fire.
They thinned the grot ranks to a mere fraction in less than a minute, but just as they were about finish them off, a band of larger orks charged around the corner, bellowing mightily.
“We can’t fight the whole village,” Krash said, sprinting from the remaining grots toward the woods.
“He’s right, get to the woods!” Yanov cried, following the tech with Olga and Bash, the few remaining grots close behind them. Dimitri scrambled behind a different building and into the woods with his sister.
Sonuvabitch, Dimitri and Marge pushed through the branches into the stand of trees just as they heard a grenade explosion and grots howling. A few meters further into the trees, and they saw a ball of fire erupt in the woods to their right. The orks were obnoxiously loud.
They’ll wake the neighbor’s baby if the keep that up Dimitri signed as Marge tripped over a branch. She misinterpreted his joke, decided he was making fun of her, and kicked his shin.
What the fuck? he signed, Marge just motioned forward with her carbine. They pushed through the undergrowth as quiet as they could manage.
“_Krash, location,_” Yanov’s voice came over the bead.
“_Waiting to cross the road_,” he responded lazily.
“Some,” Krash said.
“_Zhurovs?_” Yanov asked.
“West end of the woods, coming your way,” Dimitri responded.
“_No! They’re between us!_” Yanov warned, just as Dimitri stepped-out from behind a tree in front of eight greenskins.
“Oh,” he said in disbelief. “Sis, you should go,” he raised the grenade launcher as the lead ork shook his head in a battle cry. Marge took-off at a dead sprint through the shrubbery, heading back towards the hospital away from the orks. Dimitri pulled the trigger.
The red-painted grenade spiraled through leaves and branches, arming a few meters out of the barrel. It glanced off one of the ork’s jagged axes, tumbling into the loam between two of the bellowing monstrosities. They followed the little flash of movement, and howled in rage as it exploded, washing four of them and the bushes in chymical flame.
“Damn, I forgot the glaze!” Dimitri shouted as he turned to follow his sister. She was halfway to the nearest building, and the orks all charged after Dimitri.
“_Dammit, fall-back to the hospital,” Yanov ordered, “_Krash, location.” The smallest skaggi among them didn’t answer.
Dimitri saw Marge scramble through a window into the building ahead of him. He ran full speed, tossed his grenade launcher through the closest plate-glass, and leapt.
“Fuck!” his ribs screamed through him as he slammed against the wall, arms gripping the windowsill. Marge helped pull him inside. The surviving orks barreled, some of them on fire, out of the trees. The rest of the team, sans Krash, poured fire into them.
“_Prep for pick-up_,” Krash said coolly over the microbead, but Dimitri was too busy firing to figure out what in the Emperor’s name he was talking about.
As the last of the orks fell writhing to the ground, the team heard the unfamiliar screech of ground car tires and the bellowing of orks from the end of the street. They ran to the front of the building, and stood staring in confusion as a civilian transport tore down the road. One of the headlights was skipping along the pavement, and the front bumper bounced asynchronously with the rest of the vehicle. A pair of orks stood howling from the corner behind it, following on foot.
The car eased to a gentle stop next to the skaggis, and Krash looked at them through the window. “We should leave, now,” he said.
After loading into the car (Bash had to squeeze into the boot, lascannon covering their rear), Krash pulled them around the corner and eased them to a stop in a residential driveway.
Yanov pulled out their sketched copy of the aerial map as an ork mob, led by one of the huge nobs, charged north along the road they were next to. Thankfully, it didn’t notice the squad of commandos crammed into the parked sedan.
“The mills are that way,” Yanov pointed east.
“Lots of orks,” Krash said.
“Oh, sorry, you missed the briefing, this village is overrun with orks,” Dimitri said, with more than a hint of sarcasm, “lots of orks,” he swept his finger in a circle around the entire map from the passenger seat.
“Knock it off,” Yanov said, “fine. We don’t know the layout there, and that wasn’t exactly quiet just now.”
“The quarry, then?” Marge offered.
“There’s a lot of artillery between here and there,” Olga restated.
“Artillery is slow,” Krash stated, tapping the steering wheel.
“Fine, the quarry’s closer to gamma squad, and any thing big enough to carry a generator will be slow, too,” Yanov decided, he hit the stud, “Gamma.”
“_Gamma_,” came the response.
“We’re headed your way,” Yanov said.
“_We’ve secured the main warehouse, the generator’s inside a pair of double-doors. There’s no way we’re lifting this thing, what have you got?_"
“A practical family car,” Yanov said ,”we’re headed to the quarry to find a truck.”
A brief pause followed, then“_….Copy, gamma out._"
As Krash pulled out of the driveway, turning north, Bash called loudly from the boot, “Boomer!”
Dimitri looked in the rearview mirror and saw a cannon being wheeled around the corner by a pile of grots and an ork, “Really, a cannon?”
“Shoot it!” Yanov ordered, Krash stomped on the accelerator. The nearly subsonic buzz, following the resonating clap of the lascannon, reverberated through the car as the squad broke out rear windows and began firing. A shell from the ork cannon whistled past them and dug a crater into the pavement. Krash swerved to avoid the newborn pothole.
Dimitri’s grenade went wide, “Learn how to drive,” he snapped, rotating the chamber to his next krak grenade. The lascannon thunder-buzzed again, vaporizing the grot directing the cannon team. Dimitri hung out of his window, carefully lining-up his shot. The cannon fired, cloud of powder smoke billowing from the barrel as the shell ripped the air and exploded the roadway just behind the car. Dimitri fired back, the grenade spiraled, stabilizer fins correcting any wobble. It flew through the smoke, ricocheting down the cannon-barrel (to the sponge-grot’s surprise), and impacting with the shell cart.
The resulting explosion broke the glass out of every window for several blocks. Dimitri sat back in the passenger seat with whoop, “That’s the way! You saw that? You saw that?” he confirmed with his squad mates.
He was still cheering as they rounded the corner and rammed through a pack of orks charging the Ghostwalker lines, passing over a bridge spanning a steep ravine. His celebration turned to a yell as something heavy landed on the roof and a massive green fist smashed through his window.
“Ahhhh!” he yelled, along with at least one other person in the car. Krash began jolting the wheel back and forth. The nob wasn’t able to hold-on through the car’s thrashing, and he rolled off into a trio of his subordinates.
Their car skidded around another tight turn onto a gravel road leading to the quarry. The suspension creaked under their combined weight and the rough road. Surprised orks dove out of the way as Krash slammed through tents and firing positions at high speed. He thumped the car over a low rise and Dimitri noticed, somehow, that they were approaching the edge of huge pit.
“Kraaaash?” Dimitri asked.
“Get ready to bail,” Krash said, opening his door slightly, just in time to catch an ork’s oversized skull. There was a slight ridge just before the edge of the pit that would give them more altitude on the jump to deploy their gravchutes.
“Dear Emperor, activate grachutes!” Yanov ordered, realizing what Krash was doing.
“What?” Bash yelled from the boot. There was no time to answer. Instead of riding up the ridge as planned, the overloaded suspension buckled with the weight and dug the car into the dirt. Everyone was thrown roughly out the vehicle as it flipped forward over the lip of the pit. Yanov and Dimitri passed through the windscreen, severely twisting Dimitri’s leg. Bash was catapulted from the trunk. Unable to anticipate the collision, he smashed his helmet against the boot lid and lost his grip on the lascannon, which spiraled through the air behind him.
They all activated their gravchutes, but Dimitri’s flared too late given his lower trajectory out of the car. He hit the pit floor going far too fast and smashed his injured leg against a boulder. The rest of the team landed more or less together, save Krash. The tundraman maneuvered his gravchute towards one of the massive ore-haulers across the pit.
A pitched battle between the orks and ghostwalkers was underway, with volumes of fire crossing the pit above the team, but they weren’t being directly targeted yet. Dimitri lay staring up at the light show, unable to move for a moment with the combined white-hot pain of his ribs and leg. He finally remembered to take a breath, and immediately regretted it.
“Are you alive?” Marge asked as she skidded to her knees in the dust.
“Not if the Emperor loves me,” he groaned.
“Whiner,” Marge said, grabbing his arm and pulling him to his feet.
“Oh!” he grunted as he tried to put weight on his bag leg, Marge slung his arm over one shoulder and Yanov took the other, and they started to running for the hauler, well behind Krash.
Bash retrieved his battered lascannon, “Oh no,” he knelt to inspected the dented barrel and bent power coupling.
“Will it still fire?” asked Olga, running up with a pair of the heavy power packs.
“We’ll find out, come on,” He nodded to the hauler backing up toward them now.
Krash eased the massive vehicle to stop a few meters ahead of the squad and shifted to first while they climbed into the thick-walled bucket. They slumped against the walls, all nursing injuries from the crash.
“_Let’s go_,” Yanov ordered when they’d all secured into the back. Krash eased into motion, and began up-shifting as they ascended the wide ramp out of the pit. The orks immediately started firing at the rumbling mountain of steel and lights as they emerged. Artillery fire slammed into the side of the truck, which accepted the punishment without complaint.
They crested the edge of the pit, and Krash turned the wide wheel around to bring the truck careening through an ork encampment. The greenskins scattered before it or were ground beneath the house-sized wheels as delta squad bounced through the middle of the battlefield, suffering little more than chipped paint and a couple of blasted-out lights. They crossed the small stream without effort and powered up the far bank back into the village.
Krash pulled to a halt in front of the manufactorum, spotting the double-doors quickly. He backed the massive ore-hauler up to them, but there was no possible way the vehicle would fit inside. Gamma squad slowly emerged from their hiding places with a look of incredulity on their faces.
“What," their foreman asked slowly, "is that?”
“Our ride, what do you need?” Yanov asked as they opened the doors.
“It’s bolted to the floor, we don’t have any tools or cutters, and we don’t have any way to lift it, let alone get it way up there,” he gestured to the high floor of the dump bucket.
“We’ll take a look around, watch our backs. Krash, start cutting those bolts; delta, fan out and look for anything we can use to lift that bastard,” Yanov directed. They went to work.