‘Sacrifice’

sacrifice-image

The soldiers’ uniform was covered in dust and scorch marks, his steel breastplate tarnished by whatever vile corrosive liquid had been sprayed across him.  His neck had been hurriedly bound with a filthy scrap of material torn from the sleeve of his left arm, itself nothing more than a cauterised stump.  A red stain blossomed beneath the rudimentary neck dressing, growing by the second.  He was dragged into the bunker unceremoniously by two flanking guards, each holding him under the arm as his feet dragged lifelessly behind them.  The soldier gazed around uncertainly, head lolling from side to side as glassy eyes flittered around the room.

‘Runner from the 82nd Sir!’ one of the guards announced.

Joens turned to regard the new arrival with an air of ambivalence typical of one in command.  ‘Well, let’s have it man!” he said tersely, addressing the stricken soldier directly.

“The centre… is… gone,’ the man gurgled, spitting forth his answer through a bloody foam. “Brohos Point is…overrun.” His eyes flickered wildly for a moment, before refocusing on the Commanders face.  “They’ve b-broken through… at Laneran’s Pass,’” he stammered, coughing a fine scarlet spray into the air, “B-B-Burkes station…is b-burning…” The man’s flesh had turned a pallid shade of green, and a look of mad panic swept over his face.  “Th-the Daemons, they are coming, th-th-the…” His good hand clawed franticly at one of the guard’s tunic, leaving streaked hand prints of blood and grim against the pastel blue of his pristine uniform. “th-the horror……the-horr-hor-hor…”

One final convulsion racked the soldiers’ body, as a surge of black blood heaved out of his mouth and cascaded down his neck.  The two guards held him rigidly in place as the spasm subsided. His head flopped forward onto his chest, as the man’s lifeless form hung limp in his escorts’ unflinching grip.

The Commander turned and nodded to the medicae officer, who approached the body and placed two fingers to his throat. “He’s gone Sir’ the medicae announced, wiping the blood from his fingers onto the dead soldiers’ fatigues.

Commander Joens attention was already back with the holographic display though, the soldiers’ sacrifice all but forgotten.  Blue lights winked out in the centre of the Imperial line, as defensive positions failed to report in and signals were lost.  Entire regiments were being destroyed, and tens of thousands of troops were being killed, all with the simple blinking of a light.  The red arrows of the traitors advance thrust deep into the rear of the Imperial lines, threatening the undefended hive cities beyond.

“The abominations are through now,” Joens affirmed.  He waved his hand at the attendant officer and the display zoomed out to show the whole front.  “The centre has collapsed, and the heretic’s vanguard is now rampaging behind our lines.”  He turned to face the shadowy giant stoop patiently in the corner of the small room.  The stranger towered over the other men present, the mass of his bulky power armour only serving to reinforce the sense of terrible power that pervaded him.  The low lights of the room gleamed from the dark green surface of his ceramite plates as he stepped out of the shadows and approached the console.

“Indeed Commander,” came the deep, metallic voice over the helmets external vox.  The red glow of the eye lenses flared as he turned his head to regard the image suspended in front of him, “and their appetite for death and destruction will be the end of them.”

Joens looked up to regard the looming warrior, the flickering light from the tactical display picking out the stark white of the Dark Angel Heraldry on his Shoulder pauldron.  When the fleet had left Lvov, no Astartes forces had been assigned to the task force, and no mention of Astartes reinforcements had been made when the request for relief had gone out.  And yet here they were. Jeons still intended to ask exactly why they had come to their aid with no notice, but until the fight was over he would settle for being eternally grateful.

His attention flicked back to the display, the vivid red arrows of the enemies advance pulsing angrily. “Then it is time?”

The Dark Angel raised his giant gauntlet hand and pointed to the centre of the display “The signal has already been sent Commander”

Green dots began winking into life on the display.  Slowly at first, like the first drops of a rainstorm, before turning into a deluge.  They blocked the advance of the throbbing red arrows, before cutting them off and encircling them.  The red arrows halted their thrust and coalesced into an irregular blob, before breaking into indistinct fragments under the pressure from the tide of green reinforcements .

The trap was sprung.  All that remained now was to observe the digital butchery as it unfolded in front of them.  The muffled sound of artillery batteries firing yet another salvo rolled though the bunker like distant thunder, as  the unknown soldiers’ body was quietly removed by it escort, a slick trail of bloody corruption smearing the floor as it went.
 

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