Death or Glory | Chapter 17 of 25 - Part: 1 of 10

Author: Sandy Mitchell | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1532 Views | Add a Review

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THIRTEEN

TO MY MINGLED surprise and relief, there was no sign of pursuit, the reasons for which became obvious after I'd slogged my way to the top of a sand dune and trained the amplivisor back the way we'd come. The explosion we'd touched off as a parting gift to the greenskins had only been the beginning. The blazing promethium gushing from the ruptured storage tanks had ignited everything flammable within reach, which in turn had spread to other caches of volatile substances, ammunition, and Emperor alone knew what else. Even at this distance, the faint concussion of secondary explosions as something else cooked off or burst into flame rumbled on like distant thunder, making me feel unaccountably nostalgic for the sights and sounds of the 12th's artillery park. Not the least of which would be a nice hot mug of tanna, I thought.

'They won't be coming after us tonight,' Tayber commented, appearing at my shoulder and raising his own amplivisor to check out the inferno in the distance.

I blew on my hands and rubbed them together, the desert chill striking hard even through the weave of my greatcoat, an ironic contrast to the conflagration in the distance.

'I hope not,' I agreed. 'But we'd better post sentries all the same.' Few of the civilians we'd picked up were in any condition to travel far, and I chafed at the delay that imposed on us. So far as I was concerned, the further away we got from the rapidly combusting town the better. Nevertheless, I masked my impatience with the ease of a practiced dissembler. If the worst came to the worst, I could always make a run for it while the greenskins picked off the easy targets. That reminded me, time to keep the good sergeant on my side. 'How are the refugees holding up?'

'About as well as you might expect,' Tayber hedged. 'Better for some food, of course.'

'Glad to hear it,' I said. The first thing I'd done was organise a meal for everyone, or to be a little more accurate about it, got Jurgen to organise one, as it had occurred to me that our guests hadn't been properly fed for weeks, and at least if they were kept occupied filling their faces they weren't likely to wander off or otherwise get in the way. That in itself could be a problem, of course. The supplies we'd packed on the buggy might have lasted Jurgen and me for months on our own, and would have kept Bravo squad fed for a couple of weeks, but now we had almost a hundred extra mouths to feed, and that meant we were in deep trouble. 'The problem's going to be keeping them fed.' I indicated the desert sand surrounding us. 'This is hardly the terrain for living off the land.'

'Not really,' Tayber agreed, looking a little smug. 'But there might be a couple of sandsiders1 among the civilians. I'll ask around.'

'Good,' I said, wresting the initiative back. 'And while you're at it, see what other skills you can find. Most of these poor devils could do with seeing a medicae, although I don't suppose we'll be that lucky.' Tayber nodded once, briskly, and I carried on. 'Our main priority, apart from supplies, is going to be transport and defence. See if anyone's had any kind of combat training, or failing that been out hunting, anything like that, and arm them. Have a word with Jurgen about the spare lasguns we packed, and make up the numbers with the ork stuff if you have to. If it turns out we really do have enough warm bodies to mount a credible defence, split them into squads and put one of your troopers in charge of each. And we could really do with someone who knows how to keep these piles of junk running.' I looked at the half dozen or so trucks and buggies we'd acquired, parked in a rough circle to form the best defence we could, and shook my head. 'That really would be a miracle.'

'Something the Omnissiah has been known to provide on occasion,' a new voice said, and I turned my head slightly, noticing the young woman standing a few paces behind Tayber for the first time. Her features were pinched with starvation, like all the other poor wretches we'd saved, but her eyes were still lively and humorous in the flickering light from the burning town. It tinted her hair and complexion, which I was later to discover in daylight were both startlingly fair, a dull orange in colour, a hue which also patinated her stained and grubby robe and flashed from the cogwheel on a chain around her neck. Even though we'd never met before, there was something vaguely familiar about her, and as she took a step closer, holding out a hand, I realised she bore more than a passing resemblance to the sergeant. 'Enginseer Felicia Tayber, at your service.'

'Tayber?' I enquired, raising an eyebrow at the sergeant as I took the hand the woman was proffering. It was cooler than I expected, calloused from the handling of tools, and as far as I could tell completely original. But then tech-priests didn't tend to go in for all that wholesale replacement of organs with augmetics stuff until they'd risen a great deal further up the hierarchy. Tayber looked mildly uncomfortable, although the ruddy light from the inferno in the distance meant I couldn't tell if he was blushing or not.

He coughed. 'My sister.'

'I see,' I said, beginning to suspect that his determination to save the civilians hadn't entirely been motivated by taking my orders too literally. I'd never be able to prove it, and I needed him if I was going to get back to the regiment in one piece, so I decided to let it go. I turned back to the woman. 'It seems we both have a lot to thank your brother for.'

'I'd say that remains to be seen,' she replied, a hint of a smile beginning to form on her face. 'I'll have to take a look at those things first.' She turned her head, taking in the nearest ones, and looked thoughtful for a moment. 'That truck with the yellow skull thing painted on, it's definitely got something wrong with its transmission.'

'You can tell that from here?' I asked, wondering if her eyes were augmetics; although they looked real enough. The few tech-priests I'd encountered up to that point (and most of the ones I've met since, come to that), liked their enhancements to be obvious rather than counterfeiting the natural organs they were replacing, apparently feeling that the less human they looked the closer they were getting to the Machine God.

Felicia shook her head. 'I was riding in it. And my arse is still numb.' A mechadendrite emerged from a fold of her robe, and plucked one of the spare ration bars (which up until then I'd completely forgotten about), from my pocket. She grinned, 1 Local slang for people who lived or worked away from the townships scattered throughout the Perlian deserts, some of whom had perfected the art of survival in that desolate environment.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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