Saturday, July 7, 2007

Unwitting Foes

Sergeant Ackerman and his squad crept through the silent forest, the snow dampening the sound of their progress to a muted rolling crunch. To his left, Lilienthal and Stryker carried a rocket launcher, broken down into manageable sections. The rest of his squad, including Yager and his plasma rifle, extended off to his right in a tight, even line. Tiefwalders fought shoulder to shoulder, ready to fill any gaps left by falling brethren. Suddenly, he called for a stop. The men quickly took cover behind rotten trees and snowdrifts, readied their weapons, and waited. As the snow continued to fall, their forms melded with the terrain and became indistinct. The trap was set.

Ackerman squinted to see through the fog hanging at the edge of the forest. Dawn was breaking, and he was just beginning to make out a line of figures extending as far as his eyes could see, widely spaced, approaching their woods at a slow pace. Normally the sight of Ultramarines on patrol would fill him with pride and awe; in this case, however, he had good reason to fear this awesome spectacle of arms. Ackerman just happened to be connected enough to know that the governing council of this particular planet was using his outfit for political cat-and-mouse, trying to entice a space marine chapter into breaching a contract the governors no longer wished to honor. They were pawns in the game, but there was nothing unusual about that. It was the same job it always was.

Slowly, he brought his arm over and tapped Yager’s shoulder. One traced circle and a quick tap signaled that he had acquired a target for the plasma gunner. He turned his head and beckoned the soldier to follow his gaze. One marine in particular stood out from the formation, his immense shoulder pads covered in bright gold, wearing on his back a personal jump pack capable of launching him great distances into the air in the blink of an eye. It would only be a few more moments before their position was overrun by other similarly equipped skirmishers emerging from the marines’ line. The larger mass of supermen was slowing its approach and spreading out, surrounding the woods. They had a very small chance of successfully holding out against the angels of death today, but perhaps bringing down one of their seasoned commanders would shift the momentum to their side, if only for a little while.

Ackerman raised his hand, flicking two fingers forward, and Yager tightened his grip, disengaged the trigger lock, and took careful aim at the marine officer.

Two white hot bursts issued from his weapon and exploded into the power-armored captain a short distance away. He flew backwards several meters, coal black smoke issuing from the giant holes in his chestplate. Almost immediately his battle brothers reacted; tactical marines leveled their bolters and began firing as assault troopers leapt over them and sprinted towards their position.

A short time later, a fatally wounded Sergeant Ackerman watched as the downed marine captain passed by his ruined body. The grim figure stopped briefly to administer the emperor’s mercy before engaging his jump pack and taking off through the sparse winter canopy.

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