Death or Glory | Chapter 5 of 25 - Part: 1 of 8

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

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ONE

IF I'VE LEARNED one thing in the course of my long and discreditable career, apart from the fact that the more blatant the lie the more likely it is to be believed, it's that an enemy should never be underestimated. A mistake I made a few times in my younger days, I have to admit, but I was always a fast learner where keeping my skin in one piece was concerned; which accounts for the fact that, not withstanding the odd augmetic or two, most of it's still where it belongs.

Of course back in the twenties1 I was far more naive, having managed to emerge from a couple of early scrapes with the beginnings of the reputation for heroism which has followed me around like Jurgen's body odour ever since, and a fine conceit of myself I had as a result you may be sure.

So picture me then in the relatively carefree days of my youth, cocky and overconfident, and still basking in the kudos of having single-handedly saved Keffia from the insidious genestealers who had almost succeeded in undermining our glorious crusade to eradicate them from that remarkably pleasant agriworld. (In actual fact, several Guardsmen and a couple of Arbites had accompanied me,2 but the newsies hadn't let that inconvenient fact stand in the way of a good story.) In the manner of all good things the war had finally come to an end, or to be more precise petered out to the point where the locals could clean up their own mess with the aid of a long overdue inquisitor3 and a couple of squads of Deathwatch Astartes, and the 12th Field Artillery were being pulled out for reassignment along with everyone else.

'So where the hell is Perlia anyway?' I asked, raising my voice above the growling of the Trojans hauling our limbered-up Earthshakers out onto the apron of the main cargo pad of Keffia's premier starport. By which I mean that it had a proper rockcrete landing field, and some rudimentary repair and maintenance facilities for the shuttles that grounded there. Most of the others were little more than cleared fields, where the shuttles from the grain barges in orbit could simply load up and depart again without undue ceremony. No wonder the ''stealers'' had found the planet so easy to infiltrate.

Lieutenant Divas, the colonel's subaltern, and the closest thing I had to a friend in the battery, shrugged, his fringe falling into his eyes as usual.

'Somewhere to spinward I think.' If he was going to say anything else he was forced to give up at that point, as a heavy-lift cargo hauler screamed in overhead, its landing thrusters kicking in at the last possible moment, and dropped to the rockcrete with an impact that resonated right up my spine through the soles of my boots. Clearly the pilot wasn't about to take our victory for granted just yet, coming in as though the landing zone was still potentially hot; and given the number of cultists and hybrids still at large, I couldn't altogether blame him for that.4 I shrugged in return, as the howling of the engines died away to a level where my voice might just be audible.

'I'm sure the colonel will fill us in when he gets back,' I bellowed, and turned away, already dismissing the matter from my mind, content to let Divas deal with the tedious job of supervising the stowage of our precious artillery pieces on his own. He nodded, absurdly eager as always, positively looking forward to the next war.

'I hear they've got a bit of an ork problem,' he yelled back. Well that didn't sound so bad. Never having encountered the greenskins before I was sure they couldn't be nearly as intimidating as the genestealers or the tyranid horde I'd already faced and bested. After all, the popular image of them was of uncouth, slow-witted barbarians, which meant that, if anything, they were considered a bit of a joke, at least by those fortunate enough not to have actually faced them in the flesh, so I plastered a self-confident grin on my face and left him to it.

Wynetha5 had taken a few day's leave to see me off, and I could think of far better ways of spending my last evening on Keffia than watching sweaty gunners lug heavy objects about.

IN THE EVENT, the night passed more than pleasantly, and I found myself stifling a yawn at several points in the briefing the following day. The windows of the conference room had been left wide open to admit a breeze, sharp with the chill of approaching autumn, and I found myself unusually grateful for its assistance in keeping my eyes open. All the battery commanders'6 were present, trying to look 1 I assume he means the years 920-929 here, since, due to his somewhat obscure origins, he had only an approximate idea of his chronological age. Not to mention the fact that his innumerable journeys through the warp confused the matter even further. Time spent in that peculiar realm having, at best, only a tangential relationship to its passage in the galaxy at large.

2 The officers concerned were actually local law enforcers rather than Arbites personnel, but like many seasoned travellers Cain often uses ''Arbites'' as a generic term for all such functionaries. Given the number of worlds he visited, and the bewildering variety of local nomenclature encountered throughout the galaxy, he can hardly be blamed for this, although he tends to be more precise about the distinction in the instances where he had contact with actual members of the Arbites itself.

3 I had been delayed longer than expected dealing with the space hulk Dolorous Tidings, which had more than lived up to its name.

4 It was to take another year or so before the infestation was completely cleansed, but by this point the problem had diminished to a level where a large-scale Guard presence was no longer required, particularly with an ork Waaargh gaining momentum elsewhere in the sector.

5 Sergeant Phu, one of the local law enforcers present at Cain's encounter with the genestealers. His account of the incident in question, elsewhere in the archive, makes it abundantly clear that her relationship with him was far more than merely professional.

6 The 12th, being an artillery regiment, was split into batteries, each roughly equivalent in administrative terms to a company in a line unit. Cain is typically vague about their disposition, but each appears to have consisted of around half a dozen Earthshakers, together with the support vehicles and personnel required for their proper functioning. The regiment also possessed a number of Hydras for air defence, but whether they formed a battery in their own right or were distributed among the others isn't clear from his account, and to be honest I can't be bothered to look it up in the official records. Cain seems to have been assigned

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

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