“Drive, Drive!” Tamarova shouted. Krash was already moving through gears on the Mule-pattern utility truck. It was difficult to tell, and she was paying more attention to the monstrosity bellowing in the rear view mirror anyway.
“You should duck,” Krash said calmly as he spun the wheel to the right, avoiding the dozen or so orks streaming into the refinery yard on their left. Some kind of energy blast slammed into the truck, just before a fusillade of boomer fire.
“Piece of shit beast,” Krash cursed the machine, “The omnissiah forgot you in his blessings, you bastard.” He swung the truck around violently, Tamarova was aiming her lascarbine out the window, but wasn’t pulling the trigger.
“Shoot it! Shoot it!” Krash hadn’t felt this in a long time. Adrenaline, that was common, it was good, it meant he was alive. This was something else, his shifting was not as smooth as it should be. He was looking in too many directions.
“I can’t,” Tamarova whispered.
“Shoot it!” Krash shouted again, finishing the u-turn, getting them back behind the generator and out of the line of fire.
“Where did it go?” Foreman Vladoff demanded over the microbead, “Rusty, where is it?”
In the southwest watchtower, Rostilav could barely hear her voice over the sound of shattering rockcrete. The ork boomers may not have been accurate, but their volume of fire made-up for it. “I can’t see anything!” he barked back, firing another grenade over the ledge and jamming another into the breach. He could hear, over the roar of gun fire, Father Volkov screaming holy righteousness from across the yard.
“Rusty, we’re picking you up,” Tamarova shouted over the bead.
“We’re getting out of here, rally alpha, rally alpha,” Vladoff ordered.
“Krash, I an not getting on that suicide sled,” Rostilav shouted, launching another grenade as the orks seemed to focus their fire on the truck.
“He’s right,” Tamarova fired her lascarbine from the truck window again, “this thing is about to die.” They were rounding the corner of the barracks structure, under the cover of a couple of Rusty’s smoke grenades.
“I like your thinking,” Krash said with a blue twinkle in his eye.
Rostilav peeked over the edge of the watchtower again, only to be greeted by another barrage of huge bullets. His luck ran out, and he watched his blood splatter across the floor. There were also a few orks wielding flamethrowers approaching dangerously close, but the boomer fire was waning. “I’m hit!”
“We’re pinning them down, how bad?” Vladoff’s voice came over his earpiece.
“I’ve had worse,” Rusty grunted. At least everything was still attached this time.“We push the advantage! Fight on! Fight on!” Vladoff yelled.
“Yeees! For the Glorious Emperor of Man!,” Father Volkov bellowed, laying down more heavy bolter fire from the nest near the main gates. He watched the enemies of the emperor scatter in fear from this ancient, holy weapon of perfection, “Yanov! Keep firing! Keep firing, my children!” The truck, riddled with bullet holes and a smoldering rocket blast, came barreling back out of the smoke from behind the barracks.
“Now!” Krash shouted over the bead, ork fire fell like a swarm of mutant bees on the vehicle, which slowed, ignited, then exploded. Then it exploded again, much more violently. The shockwave threw the greenskins to the ground.
“Krasheninnikov! Your sacrifice shall be remembered!” Father Volkov yelled as he continued to fire.
“Volkov, get back to your tower, you’re exposed,” Vladoff ordered over the bead ,“Keep the heavy.” There was a second’s pause before she continued ," and Krash didn’t sacrifice anything but a broken-down truck."
“It died nobly,” Krash said over the bead. The orks recovered quickly from the blast, almost energized by it. One of the largest among them, the flamer nob, bellowed with battle-lust as he charged toward the priest.
“You think fire will frighten me? Ha Ha Haaa!” Volkov laughed as he sprinted toward the tower, lugging the heavy bolter along with him.
Tamarova knocked a cabinet aside as she rolled through the barracks window, followed by Krash. “Where’s Kaminev?” she asked. Krash took off through the room’s door.
“Running the other direction,” He said. Oksana glanced out the window, and saw the medic’s assistant sprinting toward the southwest tower through the smokescreen. “Your bomb went off early,” she touched her hand to the shrapnel wounds in her side, trotting after him.
With the heavy bolter silent, there was little keeping the orks pinned down aside from las fire, and it wasn’t working well. The nob was still charging after Father Volkov, and Vladoff was continuing to fire on the orks in an attempt to salvage this operation. The boomers were close enough to have clear shot at her position, and they opened up their heavies.
The rounds chopped chunks of her cover away, walking along the wall until they found her arm. Still rattled by he beast which had torn apart Ty’win and Stenson, she choked upon seeing the blood on her uniform. “Yuri get it off!” she shouted, but her voxman was likewise paralyzed by fear.
“Keep firing! Keep firing! I’m hit!” she screamed, almost hysterical on the bead. Vladoff tore at her sleeve, trying to get the blood stain away from her, as if it would close the source, “Yuri!” She shouted at her stunned squadmate, “Yuri get out of here…Jump!” He didn’t move, staring wide-eyed and frozen at her arm.
Krash rolled carefully into kneel out of the barracks roof hatch, sweeping his carbine in a circle. There weren’t any orks on the roof with them. Kaminev was in the watchtower fiddling with a medikit while Rostilav lobbed another grenade out of view. Yanov was two towers north, laying on the trigger of the autocannon he could barely control.He passed his sights over the smoke trails of his handiwork around to the gate. He couldn’t see the foreman, but he could plainly see the automatic fire tearing apart her cover. Finally, he saw the priest swinging his flamer nozzle around. A massive greenskin was about to reach the top of the ladder. He waved to Oksana and took careful aim. Their carbine’s snapped in unison, the blasts striking the back of the monster’s head to little apparent effect.
“Fight like Skaggis! Fire! Fi-,” Vladoff’s shout twisted into a squeal and was drowned-out by another explosion. Krash’s head jerked reflexively as he looked to the foreman’s tower. Twin rocket trails hung in the air leading up to it, smoke and fire pouring from what remained. A chill rolled up his spine as time seemed to catch in his throat.
Yanov’s voice broke the silence, “Foooremaaan!”
“You bastards!” Rusty cursed quietly. A grenade blast followed shortly thereafter, then a louder transmission, “You Bastaaaaards!”
Debris was raining down on the barracks roof a dozen meters away, and then the ork on Volkov’s watchtower ignited. Time started to speed-up. Volkov’s voice came clearly through the air, “Faalll Baack!” The flaming ork leapt through the tower window after Volkov, out of the refinery, leaving it empty. Krash looked at Oksana, sweat and blood glistening on her steely face. He held up his demo-pack, and they both looked to south wall. She nodded, and they sprinted straight off the roof.
“Dammit,” Rusty twisted the grenade in the chamber, then slammed it in. He reached the weapon around the corner of the tower wall and pulled the trigger.
“We’ve got to go!” Kaminev yelled, just as a second sun rose to the east, a fiery, burning sunlight. It took a few seconds of watching flames engulf Kaminev before Rostilav realized his own legs were on fire.
“NO!” he yelled defiantly, “NO! You don’t get to kill me!” he bellowed through the smoke. Brushing at the flames, trying to get the promethium off his clothes. He wasn’t afraid, he wasn’t panicking. He was enraged. “NOOOOOOOO!!!” he shouted long and loud. He felt something shake the floor, but he didn’t care. He rolled, somehow struggled to his feet, and leapt out of the inferno that had been his shelter a few moments before. He screamed in rage as he fell, rolling when he hit the ground. The flames were dampened by the wet grass, but as he tore across the open field, they grew again.
“Nnggnngggg!” he tried to scream, but his lungs were burning as he ran toward the trees. His equipment began falling off piece by piece as the straps burned away. He had third degree burns across fifty percent of his body, but still raw adrenaline and stubbornness drove his limbs. He couldn’t see, his eyes scorched shut fifty meters from the tree line, but he knew which way to go, “NNNGGGGGGHHH!”
Then he was beyond pain. He crashed into branches. He was distantly aware that he’d stopped moving, but all that consumed his mind was anger. That this is how he died? That Krash had managed to get out, but he was burning to death? No. No, he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. He wouldn’t give the orks the satisfaction, or the powder-heads or the countless other idiots that would still be alive after this fight. No! He didn’t live through the whole Cytheran campaign to die in some cozy forest. He was vaguely aware of another presence, but his nerves had all been burnt away now. He floated weightlessly in darkness, unfeeling, and somehow cold. Perhaps that is death. No trumpets, no light, no homecoming; just the void of space.
Do you smell that? Tamarova signed to Krash. It smelled like burnt meat. They kept walking quietly through the trees. They heard movement and stopped.
“Yanov?” she whispered.
“Tamarova?” the trees replied. Krash and Tamarova pushed through a bush and saw the charred body laying in the undergrowth.
“Rusty,” Krash immediately recognized the unrecognizable body.
“He’s still alive, I think,” Yanov jumped down from the branches above them.
“Too dumb to die,” Krash stated, immediately laying his poncho out next to Rostilav. They carefully rolled the medic onto the make-shift litter, wiping the ooze from their gloves on their pants without complaint.
“What do we do now?” Yanov asked, looking at Tamarova, who looked at Krash, who stared back at both of them for moment before shrugging.
“Back-up is coming on the road.”
They were waiting in the trees a few dozen yards off the dirt road when their microbeads buzzed to life.
“Delta squad, do you copy? Gamma to Delta squad do you copy?” a male voice crackled. The trio stared at one another for a moment.
“Delta squad, respond.” Oksana reached to key her mic.
“Delta here, gamma,” she stated.
“Zrena, it’s good to hear you Tamarova,” the microbead range was near maximum, and transmission quality reflected it, “where are you?”
“By the road, few miles from the base, where are you?” Yanov asked.
“The bog, same place you dropped. What happened? Why isn’t Vladoff talking?”
“The foreman’s dead. So is most of the squad. We lost the target,” Yanov answered. There was a long pause.
“Tamarova, Krash, Rusty, and me. Rusty’s bad, you have medevac?”
“Negative, base lost contact, sent us in to investigate. Mounted is coming on the road, shouldn’t be long.” There was another long pause, “We’re going to recon the target, I’m sending a few guns your way.”
“Copy, be careful, there’s still about a dozen left with a lot of firepower and two technicals,” Yanov cautioned.
“Is Krash secure?” the vox stated.
“Yes, the traitor’s not going anywhere,” Yanov said, turning to stare at Krash.
Krash’s eyes widened, pulse quickening as he realized his hands and feet were manacled. He looked to his jump-mate.
“Oksana?” he pleaded, confused. She just stared at him, disappointed. Krash looked back to Yanov, who shook his head and looked at Rusty’s body.
Rusty’s eyes opened, stark white agains his blackened skin, staring straight at Krash, accusing and silent. Krash jerked back and touched something cold. He spun his head around and saw Foreman Vladoff leaning against a tree, missing both arms and one leg, half her face a gaping whole. Krash screamed.
He tried to rise but tripped on his hobbles and fell. He was laying next to Ty’Win’s mutilated corpse, the psyker’s emotionless eyes staring through him. His mouth moved without making any noise, traitor.
Krash rolled away and rose to kneeling position. Volkov was standing over him, bullet holes and cuts oozing blood. The priest was holding a tome and pointing an accusatory finger in his face, “I pronounce the Traitor cursed! May the warp torture his immortal soul!”
Kaminev stood behind Volkov, signing curses with his charred, skeletal hands. Stenson’s voice twisted Krash around again. The overseer’s severed head was perched on a log, speaking into his autolog, “let the record show that Tundraman Tamarova, having failed to fulfill her duty to keep Tundraman Krasheninnikov from committing heresy against the Emperor, shall be punished to the maximum extent of Imperial Code.”
“You brought this upon us, Krash,” Oksana said, she was tied to post before a firing squad now, the marks of dozens of lashings on her bare skin, “I trusted you, Krash. We were supposed to have each others backs. Don’t you remember?”
“I didn’t mean to…” Krash begged.
“Didn’t mean to?” Commissar Aldonis, towering fifteen feet tall above him, bellowed, “It doesn’t matter what you meant to do! You’ve had your chances, Krasheninnikov…” Krash’s gaze drifted to a line of almost thirty skaggis, all aiming lascarbines at him. Each face that of a dead man or woman.
“FIRE!” Aldonis bellowed.
“AHHHHH!” Krash’s scream pierced the darkness of the Heimroc’s barracks in the supply depot, “NOOOOOOOOO!” He opened his eyes, slapping at the pair of hands shaking his shoulders. Finally a hard slap brought him out of the nightmare.
“Krash! It’s safe, you’re safe! You’re safe!” Tamarova was repeating in calm, quiet voice, “You’re safe, Krash. You’re safe.” Krash was shaking, too much to cry, so he just coughed instead, rocking in his rack, “Sshhhhhh,” Oksana soothed. She knelt there, next Krash’s cot, holding him as he shivered and rocked. Saying nothing, for there was nothing to say, but it was enough. After an hour or so, he drifted back to sleep, clinging to her like a terrified child.