“Soldier, you aren’t authorized to be in here…” an orderly protested.
“You didn’t die, you’re not in the stockade, and it looks like the lights are on,” Oksana observed, “I guess you don’t need me after all.” Krash shrugged as he sat on the folding chair next to her infirmary cot. “How’d it go?”
“Crashed twice,” Krash replied, for two words, there was a lot being said by her squad mate.
“Who went home?” she asked, the smile disappearing from her face.
“Zhurova,” he said, “Marge.” Oksana let the silence hover for a while. They’d been in-system less than a week and they’d already lost a quarter of the platoon. In the depths of her highs, Oksana sometimes thought death would be the ultimate escape, freedom from the strange, often hellish experiences that strung her life together. She’d tried, more than once.
“How?” she asked. Krash pulled his auspex from his pocket and began fiddling with the settings. Oksana nodded. Crashed twice, she thought. “You brought the rest back, and you probably saved Rusty and Volkov bringing back the generator.”
“Could have fixed it,” he said, referring to the malfunctioning generator they deployed to replace. Oksana let it go. One of the nurses passing them noticed the blood staining Krash’s sleeve.
“You should be in triage,” he pointed to the intake portion of the field hospital. When Krash glanced curiously at his sleeve, the nurse grew more persistent, “Now! You’re getting blood all over my ward.”
Oksana hid the hint of smile. Krash pulled at his belt pouches and found a roll of pipe sealer. He wrapped it around his wound and put the roll back in his pocket.
“Triage,” the nurse pointed.
“Leak fixed,” Krash pointed at his arm. A distant stifled scream of pain from where the nurse was pointing drew his attention. The caster on the ceiling hummed to life.
”Trauma staff to triage, trauma staff to triage, incoming criticals.”
The nurse clenched his jaw hard enough to shake his wig at Krash before moving briskly to where ambulances were grinding to a halt at the intake bay. Krash looked back to Oksana as the fusilier medic disappeared. She tried, and failed to stifle a laugh. Krash smiled, the rest of the platoon had made it back.
Thirty feet away in triage, blood and shredded uniforms were already covering the floor. Demetri almost passed-out as the surgeon palpated his leg and chest, sending white stars skittering across his vision. A servitor draped in white cloth lurched forward, a bouquet of implements hung from an artificial appendage sprouting from the base of its neck. The lenses implanted where its eyes should have been zoomed in and out as it imaged his wounds.A sheaf of parchment rolled out from between a pair of steel bars stretching the servitor’s mouth, like a paper tongue. When it was finished, the surgeon tore it free and read the medicae mumbo-jumbo. Demetri focused on the scorpion tail of sharp steel and hypodermic stingers. On the next table, a nurse or another servitor shoved a mask in place over Gamma’s Foreman Leluhka. The scorpion-tail stung Demetri.
Demetri’s eyes drifted to Leluhka’s face as the mask grabbed hold, extending a breathing tube down her trachea. This forced her eyes to bulge reflexively before the sedatives forced the foreman’s body to relax. Another surgeon pulled a power scalpel from a port on his own med-servitor. Demetri’s last memory before the sedatives clouded reality out was watching the surgeon cut a long line down the foreman’s leg while four appendages hung ready, carbide bone drills spinning over the skaggi. He wasn’t sure if this was any better than what the orks did. It didn’t matter. The light above his table turned into Novas, the sound of tools howling wind, and he was home, but in ZG, and there was a scorpion dancing with him as they floated across the sky.
Krash carefully spun the centurion board around on a tiny hospital side table. After tilting his head once or twice, he moved one of the crudely-carved pieces and spun the board back. Glancing at Rostilav’s body encased in bandages, a grizzly breathing mask affixed to his face, and intravenous pumps enforcing his drug-induced coma, Krash made his own move.
“Krash,” Yanov called from the doorway, “Debrief.” Mikhail reluctantly looked at the gaming board before collecting his uniform blouse from the foot of the bed.
When the two of them reached the command center, they were greeted by the usual sentry’s challenge.
“Name and purpose?” the scintillan asked through the commbox.
“Tundraman Krasheninnikov and Acolyte Yanov, for mission debriefing,” Yanov answered tiredly. After a moment’s pause, as the guard checked his list of approved guardsmen, the door ground open.
“You’re free to enter, third floor briefing room,” the bewigged sentry directed them with a calloused hand. They knew the way, and didn’t bother stopping to acknowledge the pompous local soldier. Their first indication something was amiss came when they arrived in the briefing room to find only delta squad sitting in the strange, wood-frame chairs of scintillan favor. Krash cast a curious look around the group, particularly at Oksana, who hadn’t been on the last mission at all. Yanov was the one who ended up asking the obvious.
“Where’s everyone else?”
“Looks like a repeat,” Oksana said, “This is about the refinery.” She was right; everyone present had survived the refinery skirmish. Yanov made the next leap.
“The defensive action,” he glanced around the assembled skaggis, “but why?” Oksana, Krash, and particularly Demetri, Bash, and Olga merely shrugged. That’s when a distinguished-looking fusilier officer swept into the room. Colonel’s brass on his collar was polished to a bright sheen, and the skaggis came quickly to attention and saluted. Col. Mann let them hold it for a moment longer than necessary before speaking.
“At ease, Delta squad,” he glanced about for sergeant’s stripes and, finding none, addressed them as a group, “All are present?” Yanov answered, being acting foreman.
“All cleared to leave medico, two are still there unconscious, sir,” he reported. The colonel seemed miffed, but said nothing. A moment later, two MPs entered the room and flanked the door. The skaggi’s eyes darted, exchanging glances. This wasn’t definitely wrong. An officer of some kind practically stomped into the room clad in knee-high jackboots, long blue overcoat, and most impressive, an actual power sword sheathed opposite a glowing plasma pistol.
The entire room stood at fearful attention, saluting. The newcomer was neither scintillan nor skaggi, nor of any other of the resident regiments. Yanov’s best guess from the equipment and dress was Imperial Navy or Adeptus Administratum, and high rank, too, to possess such rare and powerful weapons as personal equipment.
“Delta squad, second platoon, third company, Novaskaggi seventh drop troop regiment?” he asked smartly.
“Two in medico, all others accounted for, sir,” he was guessing on the “sir” part, but it certainly seemed like a good idea.
“You’ll each be debriefed individually. Acolyte Yanov, you’ll be first. Refrain from colluding before your turn,” the high-ranking Newcomer glanced at the MPs standing at the door, weapons ready. Two more emerged from a second door in the briefing room. The Newcomer held a gloved hand out towards the door. Yanov’s jaw tensed; looking at his squad with a mixture of fear and reassurance, he entered the room.
Yanov walked between the MPs. There was a single empty chair in the center of the room. In one corner, behind a small table, an older, bald man stared directly at the chair. He said nothing, nor did he seem to acknowledge the presence of another person in the room. If his eyes had not been so focused, Yanov would have assumed him to be a servitor.
“Take your seat,” the Newcomer ordered. Yanov took his seat, to find the man behind the desk staring directly and unnervingly at his face.
“State your name, rank, and unit,” the Newcomer demanded.
“Yanov, Acolyte, Delta squad, second platoon, third company, Novaskaggi seventh drop troops,” he stated proudly.
“You are the command NCO of this squad?” the Newcomer demanded. His tone strong and abrupt, but not angry.
“Yes, acting foreman,” Yanov stated.
“You were present during a defensive action at a refinery two days ago,” it was more of a statement than a question, but Yanov confirmed it anyway.
“You witnessed the death of Sanctioned Psyker Ty’win?” the Newcomer asked. The bald man continued to stare, expressionless, into Yanov’s eyes. He hadn’t twitched a muscle.
“Yes, sir,” Yanov suddenly knew where this was headed.
“Please relate exactly what you witnessed leading up to, and immediately following, his death.” Yanov swallowed, and began.
“We were being overrun by an ork mob. They’d just breeched the west perimeter wall I was positioned on. Overseer Stenson, Psyker Ty’win, Skagman Tamarova, Lineman Kaminev, and Tundraman Krasheninnikov were all in a utility truck, hull-down behind the generatorum on base,” Yanov explained.
“Who was where in the vehicle?” the Newcomer asked. Yanov had to think about it for a moment.
“Krasheninnikov was driver, Tamarova was in the cab with him. Stenson, Kaminev, and Ty’win were both in the walled cargo area. They’d been manning the autocannon emplacement there and-”
“An autocannon emplacement on a utility truck?” the Newcomer raised an eyebrow.
“We’d modified it during our defensive preparations, but the gun had been disabled in the first moments of the battle, anyway,” Yanov paused. The Newcomer glanced briefly at the bald man behind the table. He nodded ever so slightly, it was the first time Yanov had seen him move at all, but it did absolutely nothing to suggest he was human.
“Continue,” the Newcomer ordered.
“Their position was being rushed by ork heavy weapon teams and flamer infantry, as well as some kind of ork officer, but the truck had good cover from the generatorum. That’s when the big one appeared,” Yanov said.
“The,” the Newcomer paused, as if retrieving a passage from memory, “’large, horned, red ork, wielding a flaming sword’,” he recited. Yanov knew it was a direct quote from their official report.
“Yes, sir. Bigger than any ork I’ve seen in-system. It’d been lying in wait in the waste pool on the east side of the base. We never had a clue it was there, and I’m still not sure why it waited for the ork counter attack to show itself-” Yanov was interrupted again.
“What was Psyker Ty’win doing at the moment this ‘big, red ork’ appeared?” the Newcomer asked.
“I,” Yanov genuinely couldn’t recall, “I’m not entirely certain, sir.”
“Was he channeling the warp?” the Newcomer asked. Yanov didn’t answer, “Perhaps this will refresh your memory.” The Newcomer withdrew a data slate from a breast pocket, tapped the screen twice, playing an audio log. Yanov recognized it immediately; he listened to himself break down in sobs, heard the doctor fighting with him, and finally heard himself being sedated. The acolyte winced, not visibly he hoped.
“Yes, he was channeling,” Yanov stated, “the red ork then charged the truck. Krasheninnikov immediately accelerated away, but the truck was slow. The ork caught the rear end in time to flay Overseer Stenson and Psyker Ty’win apart. I witnessed their utter destruction from my position in the gun tower,” Yanov took a breath. His heart was beating rapidly as the sweat dampened his brow and neck. The Newcomer glanced at the bald man, who again gave his mechanical nod.
“What happened next?” the Newcomer asked, his tone still unbearably neutral.
“The big one disappeared. I assume Psyker Ty’win had some final burst of power that destroyed hit altogether. The battle raged for a couple more minutes. Foreman Vladoff and our voxman, Gregori, were killed by a rocket that struck their tower. Kaminev and Rostilav were washed by a flamer, I remember Rostilav sprinting across the open field on fire. Kaminev didn’t make it out of the tower. I didn’t see how Krasheninnikov and Tamarova made it out, but they met us in the woods several minutes after. Neither did I witness how Father Volkov escaped the massacre,” Yanov finished. The Newcomer nodded.
“And you never saw this ‘red ork’ again?” he asked.
“No, sir. Like I said, somehow Psyker Ty’win had killed it as it…as he died,” Yanov confirmed. The old man nodded.
“Wait in the next room. Do not speak,” the Newcomer gestured to yet another door, beyond which Yanov found yet another pair of MPs standing guard in a study. Yanov took a seat, breathing in relief that he hadn’t been executed on the spot for something, and waited. The interview had been the most frightening experience with command he’d ever experienced, including ministorum training.
One by one the others joined him. He noticed Demetri, Bash, and Olga were ushered quickly through the doors. None of them spoke, and everyone looked shaken; except perhaps Krash, but Yanov had yet to see the scrawny mountain man respond appropriately to any situation. He assumed the driver was just as shaken as the rest of them by the mere fact he wasn’t fidgeting with something.
After another moment, the Newcomer entered the room, dismissing the MPs. Once they were gone, he turned to the squad.
“Guardsmen, I’ve wasted enough time. I am Inquisitor Thrane of the Ordo Hereticus, sworn to the Emperor himself to defend humanity against the Great Enemy and its overlords. What you saw during the skirmish for the refinery was not a ‘big, red ork’. It was a Bloodletter, a demon of the warp itself, brought into our realm by the reckless actions of Psyker Ty’win, and the failure of Overseer Stenson in his duties.
The reality of his statement washed over them. Certainly they’d heard of warp demons, but always in the nightmare fogginess of children’s tales and ancient scripture. It was like finding out all the monsters under your bed were real all along, waiting for you to get bigger before they ate you whole. Despite years of combat experience and survival in one of the galaxy’s deadliest environs, every skaggi in the room suddenly felt as vulnerable and helpless as a newborn.
“Having witnessed such an event, the Emperor has graced you with two options,” the Inquisitor explained, “First, you may be put out of your misery right here, right now,” he let a hand rest on the hilt of his power sword, “Second is to utilize the abilities you have so far shown in the service of the Inquisition, under my authority. You will continue to operate as delta squad, second platoon, except when I require you to do otherwise. You will reveal your new status, and all of today’s events, to absolutely no one, not even your fellow skaggis, and especially not your superiors. If you do, I will see your entire families wiped-out during the next scheduled purge of Novaskag.”
A mixture of shock and burning hatred flashed across their faces at the threat to their families. The Inquisitor didn’t respond, simply waiting for their answer with all the care of a man watching ants fight. Demetri was the first to answer, his crutches leaning against his chair.
“Well of course we’ll work for you, Sir,” he stated, just barely hiding his sarcasm. The rest of the squad nodded agreement.
“Excellent choice,” Thrane reached into his pocket and retrieved a handful of black medallions, “These mark you as agents of the Inquisition. Do not reveal them unless it is absolutely necessary to carry out duties I have assigned to you. Is that clear?” the inquistor asked.
“Yes, Sir,” they answered as one.
“Good, what I’m about to tell you, in fact everything I tell from here on out, is to be kept with the same confidentiality. There is much for you to learn, and I have little time. Pay attention,” he proceeded to lecture them on the organization of the Ordo Hereticus and the Inquisition, their duties and responsibilities, and the various forms that demons can take and each of their capabilities. Most of them were still dazed by the shock to retain most of it, though they tried earnestly.
Nearly three hours later, the Inquisitor finished and approached the door to leave. “You will be contacted when you are needed. It is your responsibility to present the same choice to your injured comrades when they awake, and your duty to kill them if they choose not to join us,” he said, reaching for the doorknob. His hand pulled back, reached again into his pocket, and retrieved a felt bag, “I nearly forgot. Serving the Inquisition does not come without benefits.” He tossed the sack at Yanov, who caught it reflexively. Then the Inquisitor left, shutting the door behind him. After a few moments of utter, shocked silence Demetri snatched the bag out of Yanov’s hand and pulled the strings open.
“Haha! There’s enough drink chits in here to have us forgetting this planet even exists by midnight,” he said, fluffing the chits together. The rest of them didn’t respond, continuing to stare at their hands, the ceiling, or each other. Tamarova pulled an injector from her pocket and pressed it against her arm with a hiss and a wince. Demetri saw her eyes instantly defocus, pupils constricting to pin-points. Krash reached over and took the injector from her, and proceeded to do the same thing with it before replacing it in her pocket. They stared studiously at the far wall for several minutes while the rest of the squad collected themselves.
That night, once the narcs had worn off, most of the squad went to the Hole to spend the chits as they were intended. After a short playing of the Skaggi anthem on his sardolin, Krash made his exit, bag of chits in hand. He made his way past the generatorum with a wistful look, on to the firing range.
Demetri was already there, firing shot after shot downrange. Since he was a boy, the only thing that had managed to hold is wild attention was shooting. There was something about the feel of a rifle in his hand, the focus of aiming it at a distant target, and the concentration on every movement his body made that quieted his mind. The satisfying snap-whine of the carbine was as soothing as the droning novaskaggi winds in winter. SNAP-whine, aim, breathe, exhale half way, squeeze, SNAP-whine, exhale, aim, breathe, exhale half way, squeeze, SNAP-wh-SNAP-whine. He paused to reload from the neat stack of power packs on the shelf before him.
That’s when he noticed Krash talking to the range officer. Krash, the man driving the truck; the man who’d loaded the generator itself. Demteri tried to force out the image of his sister’s crushed body as they pulled they’d pulled the generator from the wall. He felt his blood starting to boil, his face was hot. _If he’d given us some warning, if he’d taken the second to push the generator further into the bin._ Demetri locked the power pack in place, and realized he was holding the carbine very tightly, and in a very bad direction. He also realized he hadn’t taken a breath in several seconds. Breathe, he willed the carbine back downrange, at the unliving, unfeeling servitor hanging from the ceiling, covered in heavy plasteel plates aim, exhale half way, squeeze, SNAP-whine.
“…Well, it’s not anything special, skaggi,” the range officer presented his lasgun for Krash to look at.
“I could make many improvements,” Krash said, running his hands over the predominantly wood-construction weapon.
“Thanks, but no thanks,” the range officer said. Krash looked at him in shock, “They inspect our weapons at the armory every time we prepare for deployment, they’d notice anything not in the standard pattern.”
“But I would make it better,” Krash mocked firing an invisible lasgun smoothly.
“I can’t afford anymore bad marks on my file,” the scintillan range officer said finally, “Not that I don’t appreciate the offer, your weapon looks pretty fine, indeed.”
“Alright,” Krash pulled the felt bag of drink chits out of his pocket ,”You can make use of chits?”
“Of course,” the range officer narrowed his eyes, glancing subconsciously down the firing line at Demetri, but the other skaggi was furiously intense on his activity, “What do you want? Extra range time? Extra ammo? I can make that happen.”
“You have hotshot packs?” Krash asked.
“Hotshots?” the range officer’s eyes widened and he leaned backwards, “That’s a little beyond my reach, mate. Only elite units could pull that kind of ‘req. And they certainly aren’t going to let you fire it off in here. ”
“Fine,” Krash lowered the bag like a dead muska, “What unit has them?”
“Empyrean,” the range officer said quietly, “I suppose Cain’s boys would have a few. Didn’t they pull you out of that refinery massacre a few days ago?” Krash shrugged, then drew a few drink chits from the bag and held them unceremoniously out to the scintillan.
“Thanks,” the range officer pocketed them carefully, then pulled a rack of power packs off the charging deck and handed them across the waist-high table between them. Krash took the ammo and wandered back down the firing line. He fired off two packs worth of shots, his marksmanship barely qualifying once again, but he didn’t seem particularly bothered by this. Krash placed the remaining packs on the shelf Demetri was using as he left.
Demetri unfocused enough to recognize that Krash had just given him over half his requisitioned range ammo. It was small, but from what Demetri knew of Krash, the gesture could be as close to an apology as he could manage. Zhurov had no idea what had prompted Krash to do it, but he accepted it. What skaggi turns down free ammunition? What kind of skaggi gives it away? Krasheninnikov was indeed a strange man.
The next day, Krash approached the barracks that Cain’s veteran mechanized platoon was housed. He strolled up to the door and gave a heavy knock. A few moments later, a liveried servant of some kind answered the door.
“Yesss, how can I help you, soldier,” the yeoman said, his nose slightly elevated in that distinctly scintillan gesture.
“Cain here?” Krash asked.
“I’m afraid he’s indisposed,” the yeoman replied, “What is it you’re looking for, Private,” he said the word emphatically, “Krashenkov?”
Krash ignroed the butchering of his name, “I have questions about Hot Shot las packs.” The yeoman cleared his throat and let a patronizing smile cover his face.
“Certainly, soldier, I’m sure there will be someone here who can help you with that,” the yeoman held the door open and gestured gracefully at the corridor within. The scintillan barracks were quite a departure from the longhouse the Skaggis were housed in. Instead of an open room with fold-down cots, there were several small quarters, probably shared by nor more than two or three soldiers. The wooden walls were festooned with decorative pieces, and there was an actual carpet lining the corridor floor.
Krash followed the yeoman to an empty room with a single table and a few chairs around it. Without invitation, the skaggi plopped down in one of the chair facing the door.
“I’ll fetch a leftenant for you,” the yeoman stated and closed the door with a soft click. Several minutes later, a scintillan officer with polished lieutenant’s brass entered the room with an annoyed expression, straightening his powdered wig.
“You’re the skaggi with questions about how to fire a lasgun?” the officer asked.
“I have questions about hot shot packs,” Krash responded, barely correcting the scintillan’s mistake.
“What of them? The fire much the same way as your standard power pack would, there is obviously no recoil to speak of. What you may notice, however, is a slightly increased barrel heating and significantly more penetrative power in your shot. The most important element to remember is that they are expended in a single shot,” the lieutenant droned, utterly disinterested in the conversation.
“And you have these?” Krash asked.
“We are one of the most decorated units in Gamma twenty-nine, naturally we’re rewarded with rare equipment,” the lieutenant answered proudly.
“How would skaggis get them?” Krash returned. The lieutenant stifled a laugh.
“You would have to earn the right through repeated success and valor in the field,” he said, “You’re off to stumbling start."
“Perhaps, to make us better in field,” Krash attempted a logical argument, “we could have some of yours?”
“Ha? What? You want me to hand over such a valuable item because you need a leg-up to do your job?” the lieutenant huffed.
“Not give. Trade. I am very good at making better weapons," Krash gestured to his heavily modified lascarbine. The lieutenant drew his own laspistol, itself modified with the finest components and customizations available.
“Hardly much to improve upon here,” he said smiling smugly.
“Then something else,” Krash flopped the felt bag of chits on the table. The lieutenant’s expression became very serious. He stepped (posture still ram-rod straight) to the table and looked at the bag’s contents.
“Yes, well. One might expect that soldiers as exemplary as ourselves would be awarded with entrance to the Officers’ Club,” the lieutenant’s tone had become softer, “but no, we are forced to take our swill with the rabble in the Hole. A disgrace. But perhaps quality can be made up for in volume, eh?” the lieutenant let a wry grin grace his guest. He stuffed the felt bag into his blouse pocket and patted it agreeably. “Come, I think it only fair that we share the fruits of our experience with the less able.”
Krash followed him through a maze of corridors to another small room, lined with weapons of similar complexity to the lieutenant’s, and a handful of crates. The scintillan approached one, opened it to verify it was filled with two-dozen yellow-striped hot shot laspacks, and re-secured the lid.
“Consider this a gift, on behalf of your hosts. A leg-up if you will,” the lieutenant hefted the crate to Krash, who accepted it with an awkward grin.
“Thank you, lieutenant,” Krash said graciously, “good to do business with you.” Krash left the barracks with the liveried yeoman, and carried his package directly back to the skaggi barracks before he was caught and questioned by any MPs, or worse, officers. The rest of the platoon was idly occupying themselves with the menial chores of base life when he walked in with a munitions crate.
“We deploying?” Demetri asked excitedly.
“No,” Krash said.
“Oh,” Zhurov reclined back into his rack, continuing to clean his grenade launcher’s cylinder bearings.
“What’s in the box, Krash?”
“You steal something?”
“What did you do, Mikhail?”
“I swear to Novas…” the questions rained on him as he brought the case back to his rack and folded the cot down. Oksana was now continuing her recovery in her rack, and she raised an eyebrow at him, setting aside her scrimshaw. Krash popped the locks on both sides, and punched the unlock code into the pad on the front of the case. Four neat rows of hot shot packs stood at attention in the foam packing. Krash started tossing them out to the assembled heimrocs.
“Hot Shot laspacks?” Yanov said, incredulously, “Krash, where did you get these?”
“From friend,” Krash responded.
“Was it regulation?” he asked.
“Close enough,” Krash shrugged. Yanov narrowed his eyes, but pocketed the hot shot pack anyway. He was still a skaggi after all, “We’re all going to get shot for this, I hope you realize.” Again, Krash just shrugged.
“But at least it won’t be by any greenskin!” someone shouted. The barracks rippled with laughter. Once everyone had a pack, Krash angled the case to show Oksana there were still ten packs left over, then he stowed the case in his footlocker. Oksana signed a thank you to her partner. Her supply of zeropyne cylinders was starting to get worrisomely low. Given that half the platoon was in medico, the skaggis probably weren’t going to be deploying anytime soon.
She’d be more reliant than usual on the stims to maintain her edge; and if she ran out, she’d be going through withdrawals in front of the whole platoon. Not something she wanted given their recent “promotion”.
It had been a week since the Inquisitor had offered them their new job, but they’d yet to deploy at all. The heimrocs were growing very edgy as the other regiments deployed regularly to fight the greenskins, and they were left to stare at the barracks walls. They weren’t even being assigned sentry patrols, which was almost unheard of. Krash had modified just about every weapon in the squad. Oksana had finished three wood carvings, and Father Volkov had rejoined them in the barracks, sporting an intimidating cybernetic hand to replace the once blown apart in the refinery battle.
Demetri had maxed-out his weekly range time, and there wasn’t a drink chit to be found in the whole barracks. Boz was working on a method of fermenting field ration mash into something approaching amasec, but so far had only managed to make putrid, sour grog. He actually tried adding some of the stowed promethium fuel to the last batch, he’d find out in a few days if it helped.
To keep them focused, Lt. Kojomjarov was enforcing three daily PT sessions. They were sweating, but hardly taxed, and it did little to alleviate their boredom.
Oksana ground her tray along the serving line at the mess tent, between Zhurov and Bash. When she spotted Pedesse, the ratling cook, she caught is eye. He came over to scoop potato mash and she slipped the corner of a hot shot laspack out of her pocket. He nodded, “Tonight.” She nodded in return. Tamarvoa took the tray over to the skaggi’s self-designated table and began eating. The Brontian ogrin were already thrashing at the next table.
“How’s the field,” Oksana asked Gdmn. Westergard, the brontian ogrin handler.
“We try to explain heavy weapons tactics,” he sighed, dodging a flying glob of mash, “but they just end-up using them to hit things.” The ogrin around him were all heavily bandaged and scarred, though their appetites seemed hardly wounded.
“You?” he asked.
“We’ve been locked-down for a week,” she replied, “folks are getting a little edgy.”
“Well, I can understand that,” he gestured to his charge, “These fella’s start killing each other if they don’t see a fight every couple of days. So why are you on lock-down?”
“Not sure,” Oksana replied, “I figure they’re trying to reward us for getting the generator back. Either that or their just waiting for half the platoon to make it out of medico,” she said.
“Half the platoon?” Westergard asked.
“Droppin’ thunder means you’re in the storm, all the time,” she answered around a mouthful, “our medic had 100% deep tissue burns, lost his arm, his eyes, and his lungs. Yanov lost a hand, Foreman Lelukha was shot in the leg, it’s mostly steel now. We’re still waiting for Zhurov’s ribs to heal…there’s a lot of injuries.”
“You don’t look too bad, neither does Krash, how’s that work?” he asked.
“Some zig, some zag, Emperor knows which one is the right move,” she said simply. It wasn’t all that uncommon a skaggi term, equivalent to “some times you’re lucky”, but it was obviously foreign to Westergard.
“Well, I hope I ‘zig’ next time I’m out there,” the brontian gestured to the sling his arm was in.
“Just hide behind your little boy,” she gestured to the ogrin once again stealing food from Westergard’s tray.
“He’s the one who did this,” Westergard nodded to his shoulder again.
“Ha!” Oksana chuckled, returning to her meal. She caught sight of the stormtroopers making their way across the mess tent perimeter, and she made sure to eye them down as they passed. They were boasting with one another and congratulating themselves on their latest victory.
“Keepin’ the barracks secure, skaggis?” Sgt. Dixon called over the tables.
“Somebody’s got to keep your teddy bear safe, Dicky,” she called in response.
“Which one of these guys did you convince to suck you off last night?” Demetri nodded at the ogrin.
The skaggis shared a chuckle, so did a few of the brontians. The stormtroopers laughed it off, but Dixon eyed them hard before throwing a middle finger at them.
“Still got a little shit on the tip of that there, wash that off before you eat, now,” Demetri chided. Boz kicked him under the table.
“Fuck you, Skaggi,” Dixon yelled.
“Not for every chit on base,” Oksana shouted after them, they kept moving to the chow line.
“You skaggis sure know how to make friends,” Westergard chuckled.
“They’re assholes,” Oksana shrugged, stuffing down rehydrated beef.
“Yeah,” the brontian laughed, “assholes with hotshot pistols.”
The meal continued in relative silence as Westergard had to help two other minders break up a fight over a particularly shiny fork at the end of the table.
Later that evening, Oksana returned to the mess kitchen finding Pedess in back peeling potatoes for the next day’s meal. She sat down next to him and started peeling the strange tubers herself. The ratling didn’t raise his eyes from his work, but gestured at a potato sack sitting against the tent wall.
As she peeled potatoes, she’d slip one of the ten hot shot packs she’d brought with into the bag at her feet. It took about fifteen minutes, after which she picked-up the small sack against the tent wall, saw the plastic cases of injector cylinders, and tossed a few potatoes in to cover them up.
“A pleasure,” she said, standing and taking her spoils back to her bunk. She stashed them carefully in her sock rolls with the others. Now there was enough to last a good while without worrying about restocking. Krash looked up at her from the gunstock he was working on. She put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it before she climbed-up onto her own fold-down cot.
Two weeks, and nothing to do but PT, clean, and PT some more. Demetri was starting to go nuts. He was bunking next to Rostilav for the time being, which was proving to be a very disturbing situation. The new hardware riddling the medic’s body made strange noises all through the night, whistling and creaking whenever he took a breath, and this eyes kept doing some kind of auto diagnostic that sent them clicking and whirring every couple of hours.
Rostilav was a far cry from his former self. The burns had destroyed every hair follicle on his body, so he had no eyebrows or head hair to speak of; only the stretched, pale flesh of skin grafts and scars from where it had been attached. They’d seen his mutilated face only once without his respirator/voxmask on. His teeth were clearly visible, but most of the flesh of his mouth was curled scar tissue. The voxmask itself connected to studs implanted in his cheek bones and mandible, effectively immobilizing his jaw while it was on.
There was a little microphone implanted in his throat that transmitted speech pretty clearly through the voxbox integrated with his respirator, so he could still communicate without skagsign if he needed to. It was pretty obvious that without it he’d be unable to speak at all. It looked like eating was a new challenge as well, but the medic didn’t ever complain.
The eeriest part of Rostilav’s new appearance was his cybernetic eyes. They were gunmetal spheres, with a many-pointed steel iris that shrank or widened around the black lens in each one. There was no need for eyelids, so they hadn’t bothered replacing them, instead, when he closed his eyes, the irises just swung completely shut, with the points overlapping in a disquieting, minuscule rosette. The rest of the time he never blinked.
They’d had the funeral for his sister over a week ago, but it was still fresh on Zhurov’s mind. He’d decided that he would kill as many greenskins as humanly possible, then kill several more. If he died killing greenskins, it would be a good death. He hated the base commanders for not letting him carry out his mission. These were a new crop (Col. Mann and Lt. Shrillblute had turned-up mysteriously dead a couple of days after the Inquisitor’s visit, along with all of the MPs that had been in the rooms. No points for guessing who was responsible for that), and they were apparently leery of having anything to do with the Skaggis.
Dawn started to peak through the barracks windows, and Demetri prepared himself for morning PT. After the usual calisthenics to old work songs, they ran a couple of circuits around the base, and stretched. He was just about finished dressing after hygiene when it happened.
Glass broke somewhere outside. He heard several explosions, lasfire, then the raid sirens went off. “Fuck. Me,” he started strapping on his flak armor even as Foreman Lelukha shouted for everyone to suit up.
The skaggis scrambled to their bunks, armor already laid out for quick donning, and in less than a minute they were nearly battle ready. Then the sound of breaking glass whipped Demetri’s head around. He followed the bouncing shape of an ork hand grenade as it rolled across the floor.
“GRENA-,” BOOM. The blast wave hit him full force and he staggered back against the nearest wall. Krash and Tamarova rolled around each side of the broken window and peeked outside. Krash held up two fingers. Another grenade tumbled through the window and exploded between Olga and Rusty. Demetri was just getting back to his feet when Krash and Tamarova rolled-up and fired a few shots out the broken window. He saw Krash try to roll away just as the window and the wall around it exploded. There was now an ork howling over the tiny operator, who had a bloody gash across his left collarbone and chest.
“Holy shit!” he cried, raising his weapon to fire. The entire squad opened-up on the ork, and it died in seconds. Demetri slammed-up against the window sill, popped-up, and took out the remaining ork outside. More orks were rocketing over roof tops, plumes of smoke already filling the skyline, and the sound of heavy weapons echoed around the buildings.
“Fucking moron,” Rusty was chastising the very surprised looking Krash, even as he sprayed disinfectant on the wound and applied some kind of foam. Finally, he jammed a stimpen into the operator’s chest, and it seemed to pull Krash out of his daze. Rusty turned his altered voice on the rest of the squad, “Get outside, we’re sitting muska in here.” The skaggis started leaping through windows and taking positions of cover around the yard. Krash and Oksana moved-up to a corner and took out the auspex. After some deft adjustments, Krash waved all clear and they swept around the corner in a tactical advance.
Toward Command Rusty signed. They all nodded, progressing along the street, moving from cover to cover with Krash in front scanning for targets. They didn’t go far before another four orks arced over a nearby roof and started hurling grenades through the windows of another barracks building. They were wearing fucking rockets on their backs.
“Are you kidding me?” Demetri said to Mitin, the gamma squad soldier just looked at him incredulously.
“Maybe they’ll blow easy?” she suggested.
“Firing positions,” Rusty attempted to whisper on the bead. They rolled up against door jams and building corners, then opened-up on the rocket orks across the street. Three went down pretty quickly, but one managed to flee down an alley and started returning fire.
“Flank ‘em, we’ll keep him down,” Demetri had to look around for Oksana, he finally spotted her next to Krash on the fucking roof. Empyrean
Rusty directed them with hand signals, and they rushed down flanking alleys to get behind the ork while Krash and Tamarova peppered his position with lasfire. The maneuver worked perfectly, and they took him down yelling.
“Nice, keep moving,” Rusty said.
“How the fuck did this happen? We can’t defend the whole damned base, we’re doomed,” Yanov grouched. Apparently, without the yolk of command, he reverted to his natural pessimism.
“Silence, acolyte,” Volkov almost hit his subordinate.
“We get to the command center, we regroup with the rest of the forces. It’s a raiding party, jump infantry,” Rusty stated, gesturing the improbable rocket packs strapped to the backs of the ork fighters. If this were a large scale attack, they’d know in a few minutes when the heavy infantry breached the perimeter. These were blitz troops, not equipped to pry open heavy fortification.
They kept moving, crossing intersections in pairs under each other’s cover. They made it another several blocks before encountering any more orks. Krash and Oksana were first across, then Rusty and Boz, who was still limping from one of the grenade blasts back in the barracks. Demitri made his move, looking both ways as he sprinted. Then they landed, a pair of orks down each street and he in the middle of the intersection.
“Emperor, why do you hate me!” he yelled as they roared in unison.
“Firing positions!” Rusty yelled. Krash and Oksana clambered onto the roof again, Rusty kicked-in the door of the barracks they were next to. Krash laid down suppressive fire to the east, pinning that ork for a moment. Bash did the same to the south, and Dimitri fired a grenade down range at the ork ahead of him.
Demitri ducked into the barracks doorway after Rusty, just at Father Volkov crossed behind him shouting ,”The Emperor’s blade hungers!”
Krash pinned the west approach as well, but the southern and northern orks activated their rocket packs and skimmed lighting fast toward Demitri.
“WAAGGHGHHGHGHG!” the northern ork bellowed as it jammed straight for him.
“SHIIIII-” he yelled back. It did little to deter the greenskin, and it slammed him into the door frame with the force of….well a rocket. He rolled away from the heavy blade in its right hand, but couldn’t dodge the large-caliber pistol in its off hand. The slug blasted through his chest plate and ripped through the side of his ribcage.
“Gaahhhh!” Demetri gasped, falling away and trying to fire at the ork. Boz scrambled up to yank him out of danger as Father Volkov stepped forward and filled the doorway with promethium fire. The four orks now screaming there were instantly engulfed. Demetri saw Rusty firing at the flaming behemoths, trying to keep them out of the building before they lit it on fire.
Yanov, already bleeding from his shoulder, followed Volkov in a charge at the flaming orks, pistol looking for an opening as Volkov’s battlecry almost drowned out his whirring chainsword. The orks seemed to ignore the fire eating their flesh and one lashed out at the pair of them. Demetri was still seeing stars, but he fired a couple of bursts at the chaotic battle. Something exploded outside, and an ork’s death bellow was barely audible above the conflagration in the doorway.
Yanov ducked, a flaming blade swept over him. Volkov’s blade hit home and ground into the ork’s side, it screamed in rage and swung out again. This time Yanov saw it coming, but couldn’t get out of the way. The acolyte watched, detached, as the blade ripped into his belly, just under the chest plate of his flak armor. Blood sprayed across his weapon, his hands, the orks, Father Volkov, and the floor. He didn’t feel it yet, and he wondered why. His vision went black, his face landed on the wet, hot floor. He never felt the pain catch-up to him.
“Yanov!” Volkov bellowed, seeing his faithful, if pessimistic, companion of so many years fall to the ground, “Green dog!” He lashed out with his chainsword again, cutting down the ork before him. Another explosion from outside. Lasfire lanced out from behind the priest, knocking another flaming ork to the ground. The last, unable to extinguish himself, ran screaming down the street, falling dead a few dozen meters away. There was another ork body crumpled in the street across from the doorway.
“One approaching east,” Oksana said on the vox. Demetri, now on his feet, ignoring the debilitating pain, rushed past Father Volkov to a corner across the street. He swung out from cover and fired a couple shots at the orks skimming the street, then had to dive back behind the wall as they came charging straight for him. One died on impact, the other dug a furrow in the dirt road as it slammed to earth inches from Demetri.
“Fuck!” he quickly brought his lascarbine up, and without thinking, plugged the ork twice in the back of the head. It twitched violently, but thankfully didn’t get up.
“Clear?” Rusty demanded, walking out of the burning doorway.
“Clear,” Oksana confirmed, she and Krash were already moving down the road again, Demetri just leaned against the wall to breathe. His ribs screamed at the effort. He looked at the ork bleeding all over the street, it had come this close to ending him. He raised his carbine as if to shoot it again, but thought better of it and lowered the barrel.
“We have to get out of here,” Rusty stated, “That wasn’t exactly quiet.” Father Volkov was saying a prayer over Yanov’s nearly-severed body, he finished and pulled the cognomen tags from his chest. The priest emerged silently. Bash and Olga shouldered their heavy weapon components and made after Krash and Oksana already several structures ahead.
A few minutes later, the command center came into view. They’d manage to avoid two other skirmishes thanks to the auspex, and now they just had a few dozen meters of open ground to sprint across before they were in the relative safety of the command center. Krash was first, he and Tamarova tightened their straps, and took off at a sprint, making it to the command center in seconds. The door opened before them, and the scintillan sentries ushered them inside.
”We have you covered,” Oksana said on the bead, and the rest of the squad sprinted across. A captain pushed his way through the crowd toward the sweaty, bloodied skaggis.
“What’s going on out there, we’re blind in here,” the fusilier demanded.
“Ork jump troopers are razing anything they find, throwing grenades into buildings. We didn’t see any guardsmen on the way here,” Rusty reported, “Where do you need us?”
The captain seemed to hesitate a moment, “We lost contact with the motor pool, we can’t loose anymore transports. Get over there and secure it.”
“Yes, sir,” Rusty saluted, then turned to his team.
“You heard him, let’s go.”
They were about halfway to the motor pool when Krash held-up a stop sign. He quickly signed that there was a squad of scintillans pinned down around the corner.
“Go, go, go,” Rusty said of the bead. The squad charged out from behind their buildings and opened fire on the counter-charging rocket-strapped orks. A couple of them turned back, but four more continued toward the barricaded fusiliers, who obviously had more wounded than they could carry away from the onslaught.
“For the Emperor of Man!” Volkov cried, running full speed across the fifty meters or so that separated delta’s cover and the fusilier position. Rusty and the rest kept up the fire, but it had little affect.
Bash dropped to a knee and flipped the bipod into place on the front of the lascannon. Olga locked one of the twenty-pound power cells onto the side of the weapon. Bash carefully lined up his shot on the nearest ork, and depressed both of the firing studs on the handles. He felt the gut-rattling thunderclap of the heavy laser. It sizzled passed his target, vaporizing a wall far across the field. The subsonic hum of the capacitors resonated through his arms. He aimed again, KraKOOM. One of the orks exploded in mid-air, tattered gristle the only thing left behind. Again the buzz vibrated his arms. KraKOOM, another section of wall exploded far away, missing the charging ork. The rest of the squad was firing shot after shot into the charging orks. One of Demetri’s grenades struck home, and the target pitched dead to the ground.
Father Volkov reached the scintillan lines and challenged an ork smashing apart the barricade. Their weapons met in fierce spark showers, and Bash watched as the ork’s right arm fell limp to his side after a solid hit from the priest. The boomer carefully lined-up another shot, aiming to avoid the priest and vaporize the ork he was fighting. KraKOOM, another miss. Something exploded downrange, but he wasn’t really paying attention. Reed tensed his jaw and took a breath as the capacitors recycled in his ears.
The ork was smashing its crude sidearm into the side of Volkov’s head, apparently it was either jammed or out of ammunition. Exhaling, Bash depressed the studs as the ork held the pistol high, exposing more of his obscenely large torso. KraKOOM! BOOM! Bash smiled as the ork was engulfed in flame before it exploded, showering the scintillans in shreds of burning tissue. The remaining couple of orks were fleeing at the limits of his vision, about to disappear into the maze of buildings. Bash and Olga loaded a fresh power cell on to the lascannon, removing the hot, spent one.
“Thank the Emperor you showed-up when you did!” the scintillan sergeant greeted them. His men were in no condition to fight.
“The command center is secure, and there aren’t any greenskins between here and there, for now. Get moving,” Rusty told him. The Scintillan nodded, slapping the medic’s steel shoulder as they hustled passed with their wounded on each others shoulders.
“Please don’t fire that thing so close to me again, brother Skaggi,” Volkov said to Bash as the boomer sauntered up, assessing the utter destruction his weapon had caused. Reed smiled and shrugged, but said nothing.
The next group they encountered was the mechanicus techpriests sheltering in the generatorum. Krash detected their biosignatures through the wall with his auspex, and Oksana rolled around and slammed on the door with a fist, “Skaggis!” she shouted. The door slid open immediately, and delta squad pushed into the small, hot room.
Servitors stood in various states of disrepair around the perimeter, a few bodies lay against one wall, beyond fixing. The lead enginseer’s servo arm was twitching ineffectually behind him. The smell of burnt oil and leaking fluids mingled with the promethium exhaust of the overtaxed generator trying to keep up with the demands from perimeter defense lasers.
“What happened,” Rusty asked.
“They overran us in the motor pool, So many chimeras lost!” the techpriest mourned.
“We’re headed that way,” Oksana said, “What’s there?”
“Many greenskins, with rockets and grenades, you must rid the holy grounds of them! You mu-mu-must burn them!” the techpriest stuttered like a damaged recording.
“Let’s go,” Rusty said. They filed out, sprinting across the open ground toward the motor pool. Before he left, Krash looked at the damaged servitors, trying to find something he could fix on them.
“Krash,” Oksana tugged his arm, “Lets go.”
When they reached the motor pool fence line, they could see ork rocket troops leaping among the rows of chimeras like fleas. They didn’t appear to see the skaggis. Krash quickly pulled his lascutter out and cut a whole in the chainlink. They rolled into the yard and made for a maintenance outbuilding nearby. Inside, they found a windfall. Two functional sentinel scout walkers stood in the repair bay. One was mounted with a standard-pattern multilaser, the other with a heavy flamer nozzle.
Krash quickly climbed the ladder and ran diagnostics on the multilaser sentinel, it was full functional. He started the twin turbine engines, feeling them rumble and then purr as the noise-dampeners activated. He flashed a thumbs-up at Rusty and Oksana. With that, he piloted the bird-like contraption out of the quansit hut, keeping it low enough to hide behind the rows of chimera.
After a few minutes, he spotted one of the large, nob-class orks leap-up atop a chimera, slamming his massive pole into the top of the transport tank. Without a word, Krash activated the targeting systems, locked-on to the big target, and pulled the trigger on the right control stick. The multilaser snapped to life, its staccato Ticka-Ticka-Ticka reminded him a huge stun gun. The ring of coaxial barrels finished its firing cascade just as the nob exploded in midair, various munitions cooking-off with the intense burst of energy. Surprised bellows erupted all around the repair yard as the orks realized they were under attack. The rest of delta climbed into wrecked chimeras for cover as Krash piloted the sentinel around the end of the row.
Rusty sat in the darkness of the chimera compartment, going over the layout of the yard in his head. There was open ground between the chimeras and the quansit hut. He glanced through the firing port, orks were no longer leaping above the chimeras, a smart move. They could move up between the tanks and be on top of delta in seconds without warning. The team was hurt, they needed a choke point. The image of the flamer sentinel popped into his head. The only had one operator, but how difficult could it be to hit the “flame on” button on a control panel?
“Delta, fall back to the maintenance garage, we’re setting up an ambush,” he said over the microbead. They responded immediately, climbing out of the chimeras and falling back the way they’d just come. He heard the Ticka-Ticka of the multilaser spitting down the lines of tanks again, and heard ork screams. Krash was apparently covering their movement. Nice of him to say something.
Demetri, Mitin, Bash, and Olga positioned themselves outside the building, the lure for the ork charge. Krash had already sprinted his sentinel around the back of the building to the far corner, covering their flank. Rusty plopped into the pilot seat of the flamer sentinel and looked down at the unfamiliar control panel. He found button with an inscription above it he couldn’t read, but he assumed it to be the ignition.
“Machine spirit…Omnissiah, bless the…engine…grant it life,” he fumbled through a prayer of ignition, and it seemed to work. The Sentinel rumbled to life and the readouts flickered symbols that were all green. He took it as a good sign.
”Incoming,” Bash said over the vox. He heard the squad’s weapons opening up just outside the door. It continued for longer than it should have.
“What are you doing out there,” he asked, “Stick the plan! Get inside!” seconds later, Demetri rolled through the open door, fresh blood commingling with the dried stains on his shirt. A moment later, Bash dove into the doorway and covered his head. He had deep gashes covering his upper body and arms. Before Rusty could respond to that, though, a mob of orks appeared in the doorway, he angled the nozzle, and unleashed a torrent of fire over Bash’s prone body, engulfing the orks in fire.
“Boz! Get him out of there!” Rusty roared, his voice amplified but lacking inflection thanks to the voxbox. Boz ran forward and grabbed on to Bash’s web straps, hauling him away from the fire and the orks inside of it. Demetri unloaded. Boz took out a medikit and began spraying sealant and stabbing a stimpen into Bash’s leg. Volkov sprayed his own flamer into the mass of orks, bellowing with laughter.
”More on the roof,” Oksana warned on the bead. Rusty fired the flamer again, washing orks in promethium as they continued to clog the doorway. Just then, a shaft of light stabbed down from the roof, he looked up to see a pair of orks chopping a widening hole in the thin ceiling. A moment later, the Ticka-Ticka from behind him told Rusty that Krash was in the building. The orks tumbled back from the hole.
Delta unleashed carbine fire into the orks still howling in the doorway, trying to keep them from sprinting inside. More appeared on the roof, one dropped through Krash’s hail of automatic fire and smashed into the side of Rusty’s sentinel.
“Gah, bastard!” Rusty struggled like mad with the controls to keep the awkward machine from tipping over. The legs wobbled like a drunk bird, but he kept it upright. Volkov charged the greenskin while Reed opened fire on it from the corner. Another ticka-ticka volley lanced into the roof, searing fresh holes in the metal. A red symbol flashed on the control panel, which meant almost nothing to Rusty until he tried to move the flamer nozzle and it didn’t respond.
“Shit,” he stated to himself. A second later, yet another ork leapt up over the nose of the Sentinel with a wild-eyed yell and slammed his blade down on Rusty’s forehead. The medic saw stars for a few seconds while he attempted to kick-out with the machine’s heavy feet. Slowly, Bash came into focus firing his lascarbine at the orks, then the smell of promethium fuel connected with the warning symbol, and Rusty realized what was about to happen.
The lasfire slammed into the ork, lighting him on fire; since he was standing in a pool of promethium, it ignited instantly. Both orks and Father Volkov were instantly engulfed, and the flames leapt over the sides of the cockpit, burning Rusty’s freshly-grafted skin.
“Emperor damn it all!” he bellowed, bailing over the side of the cockpit and rolling across the floor to douse his own burning body, “Extinguisher!”
Demetri spotted one on the wall, and sprinted for it. He tore it from the mounting, grasped the trigger, and sprinted back to the sentinel, hosing the area in chemical suppressant. The orks were dead, thankfully, and Volkov hadn’t been too terribly burnt by the time he was able to extinguish the flames.
“Status!” Rusty shouted, trying to rub soot from his lenses.
“Clear,” Oksana shouted, “Going to check the yard!”
“Copy, Go!” Rusty turned to the others, “Where’s Olga?”
“She didn’t make it,” Bash said quietly, Boz still attempting to patch his wounds.
“Empyrean, Rusty,” Bosinov saw Rusty’s new wounds and shifted priorities. He sprayed burn-salve on the exposed flesh, “It didn’t take you long to get cooked again.”
“Get on the vox,” Rusty replied in disgust. Boz set down the medikit and wound-up the voxcaster they’d retrieved from the command center on the way here.
“Delta, Command,” he said.
”Command here,” a voice responded after a short pause.
“Motor pool secure,” Boz looked to Rusty, “We could use reinforcements in case they counter-assault.”
”Command copies, reinforcements en route, hold your ground, Delta,” the voice assured.
“Delta out,” Boz looked-up, “Reinforcements are on the way!”
Nobody seemed particularly relieved.