Written by James "Eddy the Friendly Rasta" Fanning
Edited by Martin "Commissar Molotov" Tingle
The walls echoed with the sound of another explosion, and shards of ice dropped down from the low ceiling of the tunnel.
"Falrock, Lieutenant! What was that?" Sergeant Hemil, 3rd platoon, 2nd Company, 2nd Eis Tunnel fighters looked over his shoulder at his CO, pressed against the bright white wall. The lights flickered, and then the atmosphere returned to normal, with distant gunshots audible from the fighting in another transport tunnel.
"Sounds like 5th platoon collapsed number 30 tunnel, and don't use language like that when addressing me, Sergeant." Lieutenant Borain was a relatively new addition to the company, and 3rd platoon had drawn the short straw. An intellectual, in peace he would've become a mine administrator, or perhaps even got a cushy surface job in one of the equatorial cities. Here and now, however, he had joined the fight against the invading Chaos forces.
Two yellow-overalled figures came running around the corner, breathless.
"Inopal, Rentis, what's the report?" Sergeant Hemil barked, not waiting for them to reach the relative safety of the empty crates that the rest of the platoon was ducking behind. Trooper Inopal dropped down behind the Sergeant, while, Rentis continued slightly further along to reach his autocannon partner.
"Enemy soldiers, at least three platoons' worth," Inopal reported, panting heavily as he drew the flare pistol that, along with a welding torch, was his only armament. "We saw them rush 30 tunnel, but had to get away before we were seen."
"Where's Oren?" Lieutenant Borain asked from his position a few metres back.
Inopal turned to address his CO. "We tried to get away without being noticed, but we weren't fast enough. They shot at us and he tried to fire back . . . his shotgun jammed and they got him."
"I told him that thing was too old to be useful." One of the other troopers said to his companion.
"Shut the falrock up, Bous." Hemil snapped at the soldier.
"We lost them by taking one of the truck shafts, but it won't be long until they reach us, sarge." Rentis said, helping his companion clear the breach of the heaviest weapon the company had access to.
Suddenly everyone paused as they heard voices bouncing along the walls from the junction less than twenty metres ahead of the platoon. Lieutenant Borain motioned everyone to duck down and stay quiet as he moved towards Sergeant Hemil at the front. Inopal scuttled away towards the rear.
"Sounds like they're speaking Gothic, Kae Mar, Sergeant?"
Hemil paused to listen to the voices. "No, the Winter Hunters speak in their native language most times, and when they speak Imperial, they've got a strong accent." Just then, two strangely bedraggled looking soldiers walked past the end of the tunnel, talking to each other casually. The entire platoon held its collective breath when the footsteps stopped, and one of the men came back to look up the tunnel.
"Lutor, quid compantus imarae Eis locis?"
"Insturare berulis ego tuam beris. Quandut?"
There were two sharp cracks and a loud bang, and the two Chaos troopers crumpled where they stood.
"Who fired that pistol shot?" The Lieutenant demanded. Troop Bous raised his hand slowly as Sergeant Hemil pressed the muzzle of his lasgun against the icy wall to cool it down.
"You wait until the order's given before you shoot, Trooper."
"But the ratzing Sergeant shot!"
"What is it with you soldiers and swearing at me? Watch your language, all of you. We're fighting for civilisation here. Anyway, Sergeant Hemil fired because I ordered him to." Borain stood up to get a better look at the bodies. "Rentis, go and grab their guns."
The young loader obediently scurried over to the bodies, relieving them of their ammunition bandoliers and autoguns.
As he rushed back and handed the rifles to two of his fellow yellow-overalled soldiers, along with the ammunition, he paused to ask the Lieutenant if he could keep a laspistol he'd found. Knowing the teenage trooper was otherwise unarmed, Borain agreed. That left Troopers Inopal and Thoris without any sort of real weapon.
"Who's carrying the charge-launcher?"
"Oren gave it to me before he went off scouting, sir." A voice further back piped up.
"Give it to Inopal, just use your autopistol Thraus. Thoris, run back to the Colonel and tell him that 30 tunnel's been lost and we're expecting an attack on processing room 19 soon."
"But Lieutenant, PR19's right behind us!" The expression on Thoris' face said it all.
"We know, trooper, that's why you need to go. NOW!" Hemil barked. Pausing only for a second, the eldest man in the platoon turned and ran back off up the tunnel.
"We should move those bodies, otherwise they're going to know where we are." Hemil said to Borain.
"Are you volunteering, Sergeant?"
"Why else would I have said it?" Hemil grinned showing his mouth full of golden teeth, before dashing over and grabbing the first body by its collar. The platoon watched him look up and pause.
"Falrock." He said quietly, before being ripped apart by a barrage of gunfire. One round struck him in the mouth and scattered several of his golden teeth, a couple skidding to a halt by Rentis' feet.
"They're coming, defensive positions!" It was a pointless order, the entire platoon had been in defensive positions for the last half an hour, only kept prepared by Sergeant Hemil's voice snapping at them every so often.
"Wow, the sarge really did have a lot of guts."
"That's not ratzing funny, Bous."
Another Chaos trooper walked over to Hemil's body and picked up his lasgun, giving the Sergeant's bloody head a prod with his boot.
"Eisae cet duam militimus pugnavit et interficere." He rolled one of the dead Chaos soldiers over. "Eheu. Est Lutor et Caltus." Another voice spoke from further down the tunnel in the direction the soldier had come from. No-one could make out the words, but the trooper in view just shrugged and turned around casually.
Borain signalled and one of his men fired a three round burst straight into the trooper's chest. The enemy soldier barrelled over, coming to a rest in the mouth of the tunnel off to the right. Shouts were heard echoing and the sound of military boots running along the rubber mesh floor coverings came closer and closer. Another enemy soldier looked around the corner, ducking back just in time to avoid another three round burst. There was a moment's pause, then he leaned round and fired several shots from his lasgun towards the platoon of Eis Tunnel Fighters as his companion dived across the mouth and to the other side.
"Take them out before they call for reinforcements!" Borain barked, snapping off shots with his own lasgun. A shot from the one on the left struck the crate in front of the Lieutenant, penetrated through the front, passed through the hollow interior, exited through the back and scraped past his thigh.
A grenade bounced around the corner and towards the front few crates. Three yellow-dressed figures dashed away from their positions, but the last one was caught in the blast, white hot shrapnel peppering his back. Hemil reached out and grabbed the man's shotgun before throwing it back to another of his men that he knew was only armed with a stub gun.
More voices and boots echoed from around the junction. This was it, the decisive moment for 3rd Platoon. A Chaos trooper dove around the corner and brought up his boltgun. Trooper Bous fired two shots from his stub gun, the first catching the enemy in the jaw, the second missing wildly and striking a wall-mounted cable. Sparks flew as the heretic flew backwards, clutching the remains of his jawbone. In his throes, he pulled the trigger of his bolter, and the immensely powerful shell truck Trooper Rentis' companion square in the head. The bolt detonated inside the gunner's head, causing a huge flower of gore to blossom and splash on the walls, on the autocannon, and over the young Rentis. The boy's eyes where wide and white, framed by blood, brains and flecks of his comrade's skull.
More soldiers came around the corner, firing wildly.
"Kill them!" Screamed Trooper Inopal, firing his charge-launcher. The improvised weapon was originally designed for planting explosives in narrow bore-holes, but both the ammunition and the launcher itself had been modified to increase range and decrease the timer on the charges. The explosion rocked the tunnel and a cascade of ice shards fell all over the narrow tunnel. Lieutenant Borain dove across from his position, ignoring the pain in his leg from the stray shot, and slumped against the wall next to Rentis. Placing his lasgun down, he hauled the headless corpse of the gunner away and took up the firing controls.
"Rentis! Snap out of it! We have to stop the heretics!" The boy turned to look at his CO, the expression of pure shock freezing his features, unblinking. Through the white clouds of ice and smoke, more enemy soldiers came, far better equipped than the native defenders. A lasgun shot hit the crate inches from the boy's chest, and he suddenly seemed to awake from his trance.
"Load the cannon!" Borain checked the breach of the heavy weapon and loosened the swivel mount as Rentis obeyed, slamming in a drum of ammunition. The whole tunnel was filled with the deafening report of gunfire as the miners returned fire on the invaders. Borain rammed the cocking lever and let loose with a barrage of shells into the swarm of Chaos followers. Swathes were cut down, blood and body parts showered the walls, but more still came, just throwing their weight of numbers into the battle.
Another grenade bounced up the tunnel, to be dived on by a brave miner.
"Doral!" One of his companions cried, a fraction of a second before the grenade detonated, the blast being absorbed by the man's body. Still the enemy came.
Rentis fired constantly with his salvaged laspistol, so much so that the muzzle began to glow. Lieutenant Borain couldn't see behind him, but he could hear several of his men falling to the onslaught of Chaos rifles. Suddenly, one enemy soldier, a look of rabid bloodlust in his eyes, and foul symbols scrawled all over his tattered and blood-stained clothing, leaped up onto the crate that Borain and Rentis were ducking behind with the autocannon. He swung with a savage-looking blade that flashed in the tunnel lights, slick with blood already, the tip slicing open a horizontal line in the chest of Rentis' overalls, but missing the trooper's chest by a hair's breadth. Thankfully, the boy's mining uniform was too big for him, but the whole thing happened so fast that he had no time to think and react. The psychotic heretic brought his blade up for another swipe, only to be flung against the wall like a twisted ragdoll, his left arm torn off by a shotgun blast. Trooper Bous fired another shell into the traitor's chest and then one into his head, ensuring that there was one less worshiper of the Dark Gods on Eis.
"Fall like falrock, worm!" Bous crowed triumphantly, ducking only just in time to miss being shot in the head by another enemy.
"There's too many! Fall back to PR19!" The Lieutenant yelled at the top of his voice. The autocannon was running out of ammunition and the heat from the barrel was starting to melt the wall next to Borain.
Another launched charge landed amongst the advancing enemy and detonated. Half a head landed with a very sickening noise right by Bous' feet.
"Get out!" Borain barked, suprising himself momentarily at how much like the late Sergeant Hemil he sounded. Picking up his lasgun, he stood and sprinted back up the tunnel, away from the enemy, his platoon following suit, far from reluctantly. Inopal blindly fired his flare gun into the smoke and advancing Chaos forces, only to have his right knee shattered as an enemy bullet burst through. Rentis paused to look round at his fallen comrade, but the Lieutenant grabbed the teenager's arm and yanked him away.
Inopal looked up to see his platoon escaping as he tried to crawl along the floor. Giving up to his fate, he loaded two charges into his launcher and snapped it shut, rolling over to face the oncoming enemy.
The whole platoon stopped to look back as the violent explosion shook the very walls. Borain took this moment to survey the survivors. Twenty six, seven, eight men left from his forty-strong platoon. Had he really lost that many men already?
"Keep moving!" The remaining miners, each now armed with a reasonable rifle or shotgun, burst into the cavernous processing room. For now, all the machinery was still and quiet, but the giant robotic arms, equipped with everything from huge drills and cutting saws, to intense plasma-torches and crushing hammers all hung ominously above conveyor belts.
"So what now, Borain?" Trooper Bous kicked a diamond shard over into a corner.
"We have guns, we've just got to stop the invaders" Borain glared at the irritatingly confident man.
"Actually Borain, I'm kind of low on ammo." One of the men said.
"Running on empty."
"Lost my bullets back in the tunnel."
Borain checked his own weapon. The lasgun battery was running dangerously low.
"Great. Just great. For the first time I get this platoon decently armed, and we've got no ammunition. Ok, men, start grabbing tools." There was a chorus of exasperated moans of disbelief.
"The other choice is stand here and swear at the invaders while they gun us down and destroy everything around us, our way of life. I don't know about you, but I'd rather thrust a precision drill through an enemy's skull up close and personal than see that happen." Turning away from the bewildered miners, Borain dropped his lasgun and picked up a portable plasma torch. Testing the range of the superheated energy, about four feet, he started to move some loose mine trucks into place. Taking his lead, the rest of the men set about improvising weapons, or just picking up saws and drills from the work surfaces.
Bous grabbed a shock hammer, a six-foot long device that used air pressure to blast away precise points of loose rock.
"Here, stick these down the mouth." Yinoro said, dropping a handful of crystal fragments and bits of loose rock into the shock hammer. Suddenly, two enemy soldiers appeared at the doorway to the processing room. Thinking quickly, one of the miners activated a giant hammer robot arm close to the door, and swung it down full power, slamming one of the Chaos-followers against the wall, and causing blood and other bodily fluids to burst through his skin. The other raised his rifle only to have a large cart thrust straight towards him. He tried to dive out of the way, but the studded wheels ran over his ankle, making a distinctive crunch, and eliciting a painful scream.
More came, but this time, they weren't prepared for what they were going to face. Bous activated his shock hammer, and a lethal cloud of debris shot into the first few through the door, tearing the invaders' flesh from their bones. The entire platoon ducked away amongst the maze of machinery, splitting up the Chaos troopers who went hunting, seeking revenge.
Three walked cautiously down between two banks of conveyor belts, carefully searching for the elusive yellow-clothed miners. Suddenly, a massive drill arm swung down from a high pintle and impaled one of the men, the drill bit whirring viciously and spraying blood everywhere as it shredded the man from inside out. This distracted the other two just long enough for two miners to dive from one belt and push them onto another, rolling away just in time to avoid the machinery activated by a third. A huge block of metal slammed down, splashing liquidised organs all over the floor. As the block raised again, it revealed very few remains of the Chaos invaders, aside from very unpleasant-looking stains.
A huge brute of a soldier barged through the door into the processing room, and looked about, his whole body heaving with some kind of battle rage. He spied the young Rentis standing at the far end of the chamber, standing, grinning nervously, and the huge heretic charged. As he barged through the cavern, a mine cart slamed into him from the right, sending him tumbling off to the left, between two banks of smelters, where a pair of miners were waiting with circular saws.
"Adherant modentium tilit vorcum!" One of the Chaos men called, apparently some sort of officer. A dozen of the enemy troopers gathered close to the officer and they began to move cautiously through the cavern. Trooper Bous swung around from behind a crusher and fired another blast of debris, taking down several and embedding a crystal shard in the officer's eye. A robotic arm wielding a circular saw swung down and sliced four more heretics in two, spilling blood and intestines all over the polished metal floor.
"Altecis! Serto vimbiam interfecit!" The officer shouted, but there were only a few of his men left close to him.
Two Chaos troopers cautiously edged along either side of a conveyor belt, looking extremely nervous. One miner dropped down, armed with a heavy drill bit, and clubbed one of the enemy soldiers with it, turning to the other, only to be blasted through the stomach with a hail of autogun fire. The trooper swivelled just in time to shoot another miner, charging at him with a whirring circular saw. His companion stood up, cradling his head from the blow from the drill bit, before a hole burned brightly in his chest, burning through and scorching the other one partially. The body slumped to reveal Borain looking quite pleased with himself as the still standing trooper suddenly twitched violently, before collapsing face-first onto the conveyor belt, his back ripped open and spine sawn in two. Trooper Wendol looked quite pleased with himself as he revved the saw.
Gradually, the entire Chaos force was carved up and cut down, the surviving half dozen or so herded into the centre, by the now-irate one-eyed officer.
"Deim muderant dominato ego interfecus tuam Eisae!" He shouted at the miners surrounding him and his men, mining tools whirring and pulsing menacingly.
"Shut the falrock up." Lieutenant Borain levelled his plasma torch at the officer's head and activated the burner. Surprisingly, the officer's head burst open, rather than just burned, and this seemed to surprise the rounded up Chaos soldiers as well, long enough for the miners to move in for the final, violent, bloody kill.
After a moment, Trooper Thoris came running back in, breathless. He skidded to a halt and took in the carnage, apparently not noticing the remains of his platoon and their blood-soaked clothes for a moment.
"Yes Trooper?" Borain asked, his hands suddenly shaking violently from exhaustion.
"Err . . . the Colonel wanted a situation report if you were still . . . here." Thoris looked really quite disturbed at the abattoir Processing Room 19 had become. "And to know if this area is secure . . . there's a very important ship coming in, apparently, carrying officers from General Kyoshi himself."
"Really? Strange. I wonder what they could want in a place like this." Borain looked around at the scene of utter slaughter for a moment, before turning his attention back to the few men left in his platoon. "Form up, there are still Chaos invaders on Eis, that means we still have work to do."