An Imperial Guard Story
by Phillip Sobel
Sergeant Reid Salinas dropped behind the wall as the lasbolt struck, showering him and the other men in cover with brick dust. He quickly peered over the wall and ducked as the movement brought a flurry of las and solid slug fire. The hot dusty air caught in his throat and, not for the first time, he cursed this Emperor forsaken planet.
It was the hot season on Pyrranis IV and his hefty flak jacket and pads, essential for survival in an urban combat zone were as much a curse as a blessing in the heat. They were pinned by enemy fire and all the while trying to stave off dehydration. They had to move forward, clear out the enemy and secure some shelter. Then the Armour, and the supplies they brought, would be able to advance and they could push the traitorous bastards back far enough to take the city.
In the heat Reid found his mind drifting back to his briefing on the Guard troopship en route to Pyrranis IV. This had been one of the most productive manufactory worlds in the sector until the planetary governor, Lord Farboër, had fallen to the worship of Chaos and led most of the world’s Planetary Defence Force and many citizen-workers into corruption with him. Eight months ago, in a night of unbridled bloodlust, he had led them in rebellion against the Imperium they had once served. Thus began a planet-wide war that had already claimed the lives of millions.
'We need to advance!' he said, angrily snapping back from his brief reverie. He looked each of his nine men in the eye. Some young and new to the squad and some veterans like himself. They were all filthy, covered in a paste made of dust and sweat, but this was their kind of war; they were the Athonian 107th, ‘The City Fighters’. Specialists in urban warfare, the most brutal and unforgiving of theatres, you got good fast or you died faster.
His men were tired, strained and dehydrated but they’d fight if he could point them at the enemy. 'Corporal Quala' He said turning to a stocky brute of a man with a face like thunder and the fighting spirit to match. 'Take trooper Zane, go through the ruins on the left flank and try to get up high. We need to know what we’re facing.'
'Yes Sir!' he replied, each word clipped and precise, and silently signalled to Zane. Watching their rapid and sure-footed departure Reid was struck by how fortunate he was to have Darle Quala as his corporal. They’d joined the guard at the same time and had served together since. The man was a real soldier’s soldier. Not charismatic enough for the officer corps but a fierce fighter who commanded respect.
Confident that his corporal would find a good position he tapped the Commbead in his right ear and reported to the platoon leader. 'Lieutenant Korba. Salinas, second squad. We’re pinned down amongst the ruins around the main square. I’ve sent Corporal Quala to scope out the enemy disposition. Is there any air support available?' His call was greeted with silence. He waited a few more seconds. 'Lieutenant Korba, Sergeant Salinas. My squad are pinned in the main square, request air support to dislodge the traitors.' Static hissed in response.
'Seems we’re on our own' he said, almost to himself 'we need to move.'
He gestured to the rest of the squad to follow him and led them, crouching, along the damaged wall towards a collapsed building to their right. Half the squad, covered by their fellow guardsmen, made the dash to the cover of the nearby ruins and then in turn covered the Sergeant and the remaining members of the squad as they ran to join them. Reid’s Commbead suddenly came to life.
'Sergeant Salinas, Quala.'
'I can see around forty of them in the temple with a variety of weapons, all traitor PDF.'
'Aren’t they calling themselves ‘Cult of The Blood’?' Salinas asked.
'Chaos loving scum can call themselves what they like sir, won’t stop me sending them screaming into hell!'
Salinas grinned savagely. 'No corporal I didn’t think it would.'
'I think they’re trying to lure us all forward, not sure why. The fire we’ve been taking is a fraction of what they have and I suspect there’s more I can’t see.'
'Good work. I’ve moved the squad right of our original position to another ruin. Don’t join us yet, you and Zane keep an eye on the bastards for me. I want to get the Lieutenant on the vox and see if we can’t rustle up some Vultures to blast them out and give us cover for an assault.'
Just as he was about to try the vox again, his earpiece crackled and a garbled transmission that he couldn’t make out, rang uncomfortably loud in his ear. 'Say again.' he responded, wincing.
'Second……confirm…position!' Korba’s frustration at the radio problems was evident in his voice.
'In the ruins south of the Ecclesiarchy temple in the main square, there are around forty Blood Cultists in the ruins of the temple possibly more. They have us pinned, we need air support' At last, he had his commander on the vox, perhaps now they could take the square and bring up the Armour. 'Quala! Get to my position fast!'
Moments later Korba’s voice crackled on the vox, 'Second squad, air power is on the way. They’ll make their run east to west, two minutes on the chronometer. Prepare to advance and link up with the rest of the platoon moving in from the east. The Emperor protects!' Reid smiled at that, indeed He does.
Quala and Zane ran up to the squad, bent low. Reid nodded his thanks to Quala and quickly outlined his plan. 'When the Vultures drop their ordnance we dash across the road to the ruins northeast of us. I want to charge them from the flank once the Vultures are clear, understood?' His question was answered with a chorus of affirmatives. With the practised ease of the well drilled they checked over their Athonian pattern wire stocked Lascarbines many of them muttering litanies of true firing to the weapon’s machine spirit. Reid watched the countdown on his chron. He motioned the corporal over. 'Flank charge’s the only way Darle. They look pretty well dug in.'
'Yes Sir, Vultures might not keep their heads down while we make a hundred metre dash across open ground. Flank charge through the collapsed east wall will make for a shorter run but we’re going to have to get into position fast before they can rally.'
Salinas smiled to himself, reassured that the corporal shared his assessment. 'We’re ‘The City Fighters’, fast is what we do.'
The corners of Quala’s mouth moved up in, what was for him, as close to a smile as he usually got. Salinas nodded his thanks and glanced again at his chron. 'Ten seconds!' he shouted. Already the distant roar of jet engines was getting closer fast. Suddenly, streaking in from his right two Vultures began their attack run. With their shoulder mounted wings, powerful engine and angular cockpit canopy they always reminded Salinas of a fast, viciously barbed insect he had encountered while fighting on Cruoris, a Jungle death world. Rockets streamed from underwing pods peppering the outside of the temple in explosions. Some of the rockets passed through the shattered window frames, some through gaping holes in the walls detonating within the already wrecked structure. And as fast as they’d arrived they were gone.
'Now! Go go go!' he bellowed at his men to shake the few that seemed frozen from the shock and awe of the airstrike. Quala echoed his order and through the billowing dust clouds thrown up by the violence of the strike the squad ran for the ruins. Once there Reid immediately led a rapid advance through the rubble of the buildings taking advantage of the cover where they could. This was how the ‘The City Fighters’ worked, he thought with pride. Through wreck and rubble to the throat of the enemy! Within half a minute they were poised to strike at the flank. As he was about to sound the assault into the temple movement to the right brought the whole squads’ guns to bear.
'Hold your fire!' a voice shouted 'Friendlies!', Sergeant Artino, a lean wiry man with close cropped blond hair, caked with dust and grime stalked forward at the head of first squad. His laspistol held firmly in one hand his sword in the other.
'Ready to fight?' Reid asked Artino hurriedly.
'For Athonos and the Emperor!' Artino answered with feeling.
They both turned to their squads and sounded the charge; their voices hoarse from the strains of the last few hours of fighting, they nonetheless got the blood of their men boiling. They rushed out of the ruins and into the smoke and fire with bayonets fixed.
To Be Continued…