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Beachhead I.
The players are loaded aboard their company's designated Tetrarch Heavy Lander, and are now descending towards the surface of this world. Little intelligence is to be had on the world and it's defences, and after nearly a century under chaos rulership it is entirely possible all maps and data regarding the layout of the world and its city-factories before its fall are entirely innacurate. Regardless the planetary assault cannot be called off or postponed, the Regiment will land on the surface and must push through miles of fortifications and barbed wire to capture the first of many command positions.
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“Soldiers of the Imperium, do not be afraid. The great enemy awaits us and glorious battle will soon commence. We stand as part of the greatest army assembled in service to the Lord Regent. Our victory is assured.
Trust in the God-Emperor of Mankind, maintain your daily rites of faith, ad-hear to the wisdom of his appointed generals, and he will protect.

...Glory to his name, that is all.”


….

“Soldiers of the Imperium, do not be afraid….“

It was a soulless mechanical drone that repeated itself every few minutes. No doubt spoken by some unfortunate servitor slaved to the ships communication system. It would almost be annoying except for the fact that it could barely be heard over the riot of noise coming from All around the lander as there were literal tens of thousands of souls gripped in a mixture of organized panic and chaos. Soldiers were either waiting idle at parade attention or were being ushered into one of the scores of massive troop landers. Each one large enough to carry a whole company’s worth of infantry. The landers purposed for ferrying the many armour pieces were even more massive. Tech adepts and their servitors prayed fervently over each and every machine they passed. Sprinkling oil and foul smelling incense over the holy machines and their crews.

The entire loading bay, even for this one naval transport was simply huge. There was no other way to describe it. And the knowledge that you were a part of this truly incredible war machine, one small cog…. It made one feel both painfully insignificant to the grand scheme of the war, but also powerful in the knowledge that ‘you’ were a part of such a force.

Artyom knew that there were two other transports in the fleet just like this one. Each with more or less the same amount of soldiers, armour and weapons on board. And each undergoing the same preparations as themselves. Ever since the translation into real space the situation on-board had exploded into activity. Soldiers went from enjoying a lazy, if nerve racking journey through the warp to this new theater of war to being ordered, whipped, struck and corralled into the loading bay and their assigned transports.

The mechanicus were not the only ones performing their rituals. Some men knelt in prayer, either on their own or around the feet of their regiment’s munitorum priests. Others fidgeted and wiped their weapons down with oiled rags. Others drilled for lack of anything better to distract their thoughts. Everyone on-board the ship knew that the battle for Molov would be taking place within mere hours. And each was trying to handle the stress in their own way.

It was difficult for Artyom to imagine what was going on outside of the vessel, in the void of space. Such things were not necessary for a lowly lieutenant to know but he imagined that there was some kind of conflict going on with the fleet. Punching a way through whatever orbital defenses the great enemy may or may not have deployed in preparation for Imperial counter invasion. Or maybe the world was undefended and the fleet was bombing the surface of the world in preparation for deployment? Or maybe the fleet was already destroyed and the transports themselves were about to be consumed in fiery retribution? Or maybe… such thoughts could spiral quickly and Artyom smacked himself in the face to remind himself that it did little good to dwell on things he could not control.

Artyom watched as his company commander turned about with a parade ground snap and bellowed for his platoons to start filing on board their assigned transport. Already company after company of his rag-tag regiment was marched out of formation from their position in the loading bay and into the belly of one of the great landers. Swallowing the men and woman whole like a monstrous steel beast letting itself be force fed to fatten it up. Ten companies in all belonged to the regiment, but only half would land in the first wave. The rest would wait until the landers returned from vomiting their human cargo onto the blighted soil below. unfortunately Artyom’s company was one of those five going down with the first wave. It didn’t have to be said that those five companies in the first wave were going to suffer more than the reserves. All the guardsman in this regiment were there because they were familiar with the reality of war and the toll it could take. Still, no one had any idea what could be expected down there.

Artyom spun about like his captain and sucked in a deep breath as he surveyed the blank eyes of his platoon. They all knew what they were being ordered to do. For Artyom to shout it aloud just seemed like an unnecessary redundancy. But protocol was protocol and orders had to be given down the chain. Artyom rolled his shoulders and fidgeted, his new officers epaulets felt unnaturally heavy. Like they weighed as much as or more as his entire rucksack. A very pointed reminder of his uncomfortable elevation. Being made an officer was only ever something he talked about with his old comrades. Bitching and boasting as any soldier did in their off hours. He never dreamed it could ever actually happen, and now that he had it he desperately wished it could be given to someone else. But the minutorium in their infinite insanity proclaimed he had seniority. To some mind boggling minute degree he couldn't understand. So now he was stuck leading men to the jaws of death just as he once was. No longer able to fall back on the comfort and routine of relying on orders from above to solve his problems and answer his doubts because he was the one who had to provide his own answers. Did the platoon see his uncertainty? Did they look at him as some highborn fop like the many other millions of junior officers? Or a jumped up hive-rat wearing a hat far too large for his head.... It was a question he imagined he would find the answer to sooner than later.

“Single file, leading by the right, Quick march!” He shouted in his best(though still heavily accented) low Gothic drill voice. Watching as they filed away one by one towards their waiting tetrarch. They were the last platoon in their company to file on board, which also meant they were the first to get off and the first to discover just how much firepower the heretics had dug in and waiting for them.

There was nothing to do about it now, orders were orders and Artyom had little idea how, if at all possible his platoon's position might have been changed without coming off as cowardly to his commander. One by one each soldier was strapped into a crash seat, their kit stowed above their heads or below their feet save their weapons. When all four hundred odd souls of the company were secured the boarding ramp closed with a slow mechanic drawl and a final (somewhat sinister) pneumatic hiss. And with the closing of the ramp came a near complete halt to the assault of noise from outside the lander. The air tight seals and thick hull providing a surprisingly pleasant side effect aside from a potentially crippling sense of claustrophobia.
If the ride down to the surface could stay this silent it might just be a decent enough trip.

“Soldiers of the Imperium, Do not be afraid....” Suddenly that familiar ever repeating drone sounded from inside the tetrarchs own internal projectors. The enclosed area and metal walls making the propagandist missive all the louder and more annoying than before. And because it was projected from another source it now contained a few hints of static to give it just that little extra edge.

Moans filled the lander from bow to stern, even most of the sergeants joined in while their more disciplined fellows shouted for silence and a return of order.

“Son of a...” Artyom heard the beginnings of what would no doubt be tirade so colourful as could only be thought up by the mind of a soldier. The lieutenant allowed the unfortunate soul several seconds of relief before barking for him to shut up.
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The M36 Kantrael Pattern Lasrifle, the standard-issue weapon of the Cadian Shock Troopers (or what was left of them), and indeed a great many Guard formations the galaxy over. It was a reasonably lightweight weapon, one with a simple charge pack, a bayonet lug and a focused beam of energy capable of burning a hole through the toughened skull of a Genestealer – if somewhat overcharged.

Colour-Sergeant Kinsley wiped the last of any remaining dirt from his own weapon, butt placed on the ground of the ship as his own ad-hoc platoon awaited their own 'turn' in boarding one of the leviathan-like troops transports, or 'Tetrarch' landers as they called them; they had been waiting in an admittedly rugged parade line for some time now, the urge to yell at the more lax soldiers remaining buried within his chest for the moment.

It was upon glancing back up from his work on the barrel of his weapon that he noticed their platoon commander, an Acting Lieutenant from Valhalla if he was not mistaken by the distinctive uniform and marks of rank. Kinsley had never been to Valhalla, nor fought beside a regiment of the famed 'Ice Soldiers' from what was by all accounts a giant ball of frozen nothingness, but that he knew them by repute alone was enough to make him place his cleaning rag back within his knapsack and chew his lips in thought for a moment.

He knew what must be going through the man's mind as he watched - for it was the same thing going through the minds of so many others amidst the hustle-and-bustle of the deck – the very same expression of nervousness, probably wondering what was happening on the other side of the metallic bulkheads around them, reflecting on just how he had ended up as an acting officer of commissioned rank and more.

Such thoughts went differently through the psyche of the Colour-Sergeant, the Praetorian NCO simply allowing them to rise to the surface and then discarding them as so much unwanted scrap, his experiences in life having taught him to keep his thoughts on exactly where he was and very much on what was going on around him. That was all.

When the Company Commander bellowed for his soldiers to file into the landers Kinsley went into a somewhat automated mode, slinging his lasgun over his shoulder and snapping into line with practised efficiency, marching right-foot forward toward his penultimate destination only when Artyom gave the command to do so.

“Single file, leading by the right, Quick march!”

Did the fact that they would be closest to the crafts door – a door that would yawn open when they landed, exposing them to God-Emperor knew what dangers – cause the Praetorian to become unnerved? By the Throne, no sir! If anything the former Hiver could feel that cool calmness washing over him that came with each anticipation of battle, from the grassy savannah of Elriga IX to the rust-stained factorums of Segomo Seven-Two-Five, where his regiment had advanced alongside the Drookians and Death Korps and been blasted by bolt and beam, a composure spoken of by many outside his people that was instilled into each and every one of them by rod and lash and order.

Kinsley made sure he was directly to the side of his commanding officer, leaning back into his restraints after stowing his haversack, weapon never leaving his hand, and enjoying momentarily the lack of noise.

“Soldiers of the Imperium, Do not be afraid....”

Propaganda, speeches from arrogant Generals, all such things were filtered out by the ears of the red-coated Guardsman, who instead slipped his pith helmet – the shining brass badge of his former regiment still fixed firmly to the front of it – over his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest.

May as well get a bit of rest in before the killing began.
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Gill sat in the gloomy light of the Tetrarch lander, the all too familiar dull walls of a lander contrasted by the mishmash of uniforms from the various uniforms from the guardsmen's former regiments. Looking at the lander's thick armour plating, he imagined what may be happening outside, how many shots from the planetary defences had narrowly missed them? How many enemy crafts were racing up from the surface to meet them? He imagined the claw of some monstrosity rending through the hull like paper, he decided to take another look at his surroundings. He spotted his commanding officer, he was wearing yet another uniform from another world, the blue of his coat clashing with the red of his his neighbor's along with the many other colours of his comrades. Gill missed his old regiment, 'Back when a uniform was.' he thought to himself whilst suddenly feeling nostalgic.

Trying to keep occupied he fiddled with his autogun, making sure to check that nothing was wrong. Just in case he muttered a quick prayer "Emperor, please keep up the good work of keeping me alive and such. I'd appreciate it if my gun didn't jam again, I don't think I'd get away with just a limp this time, though I guess I have you to thank for that..." he went on some more; Gill's prayers had always been slightly informal, he'd figured that if the Emperor was always watching he would probably be just as offended by you pretending to be all pious as he would by you just behaving normally.

In an attempt to relax Gill closed his eyes, though he was rudely kept awake by the humming of the lander's engines and the periodic broadcasts on the speakers.
“Soldiers of the Imperium, Do not be afraid....”
He sighed and started to tap on the armour on his leg with his gloved hand, each tap making a metallic ring which echoed eerily. This calmed him and helped him focus, 'taptaptaptap, beat, beat, taptaptaptap, beat, beat,...', before long he became only dimly aware of his surroundings zoning out from reality to the sound of the taping.
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Karl gazed around the Tetrach heavy lander with awe and respect. It had been over 15 years since he was chosen to serve the God-Emperor in the Imperial Guard, but he still could not stop the feeling of amazement and utter gratefulness he had for the Emperor and his loyal servants. The inside of the ship itself would have been able to contain a couple of keeps and still have enough room for a regiment of guards. 'The generosity of the Emperor is limitless to his faithful and loyal servants.' Karl thought before gently shaking his head. 'There is no time to be idle. The Emperor had graciously gave us this opportunity to prepare for the upcoming battle and I will not let his generosity be wasted.'

He then began to don his armor, piece by piece all the while offering silent prayers to the Emperor. The process is paused when He sees the faded number 22 emblazoned on the upper left of the breastplate. He can still remember the names and faces of his former platoon mates. He felt his heart wrench but quickly cast aside the feeling and wore the breastplate, followed by the visored sallet. Some guardsmen took notice of the armor's bulky appearance while Karl placed spare power packs in the ammo pouches on his ammunition rig around his mid-section. The cumbersome armor did not bother Karl, he was used to the weight and it did not hinder his movements significantly. Karl finally donned his backpack, holstered his laspistol,slung his lasgun on his shoulder, and placed his longsword in its rightful place at his left side before walking closer to the designated area where the rest of his new platoon and commanding officer would be.

"Soldiers of the Imperium, do not be afraid..."

The monotonous broadcast could be finally heard by Karl. While some would consider the broadcasts a nuisance and redundant propaganda. The broadcast put Karl to ease as he awaited the inevitable.
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"I 'ave seen the glorious comin' of the vengeance of tha lord, and we'll be fucking up the heretics that dare withstand his sword," he hefted the power pack and clicked it into the magazine well of his laspistol, pulling back the charging lock and checking the juice. Full up. Wonderful. His gun made a satisfying ratcheting clack as he locked it in, and he slipped it into his holster. "We are now the instrument of violence used against those 'e does abhor, the emperor lives on!" He wished he had the rest of his company with him, they could belt out this song proper, they could. "We fight and we die standing! We fight and we die standing! We fight and we die staaaaanding, what a helluva way to die!"

He didn't sing his own version. The warhawk version. That, might not be appropriate. Ah, well, fuck it. He'd sing it. Unclipping his full mask, he began to sing properly

"'E was just a rookie jumper and he surely quaked with fright,
makin' sure to check his gear and that his grav-chute fitted tight,
'E had to sit and listen to those fuckin' engines roar,
And 'e ain’t gonna jump no more."

"Gory, Gory, What a helluva way to die
Gory, Gory, What a helluva way to die
Gory, Gory, What a helluva way to die
'E ain’t gonna jump no more."

"'Is everybody ready?' cried the Sergeant, looking 'round.
Our trooper shook and answered 'ye, and they stood him up.
'E leaped right out into the blast, his static line unhooked.
'E ain’t gonna jump no more."

Damn, was it already time to go? They marched onto the lander, and he took his rucksack off and placed it between his feet. Straight into the action, just how he loved it. The lander's door closed, and he felt a single twinge of sadness. He didn't have a chute rigged to his back. He wouldn't hear the hissing roar as it slowed his descent, wouldn't get to see his enemies below him as he fired down on them from above. Instead he'd get this sterile bullshit. Ah, fuck it, who really cared. He'd shoot the bastards anyway.

An' then everyone was being shut up. Really? Oh, no, fuck that. He was singing.

"'E counted long, he counted loud, he waited for the shock;
'E felt the wind, he felt the clouds, he felt the awful drop;
'E hit the button, the chute failed to pop,
'E ain’t gonna jump no more!"

"Gory, Gory, What a helluva way to die
Gory, Gory, What a helluva way to die
Gory, Gory, What a helluva way to die
'E ain’t gonna jump no more!"

"Tha promethium scorched 'is back, the grav chute cracked 'gainst 'is dome
'Is gear wasn't fastened proper, flapped all around 'is bones
'Is uniform became his shroud, his facemask was 'is veil
AND HE AIN'T GONNA JUMP NO MORE!"

"Gory, Gory, What a helluva way to die
Gory, Gory, What a helluva way to die
Gory, Gory, What a helluva way to die
'E ain’t gonna jump no more!"

"Hey! Sarge!" He looked at the red uniform of the praetorian. "Thay say that your lot don't feel fear! You'd make one of us pretty good then, wouldn't ya? Gotta 'ave them big balls to drop from a ship with nathing but a bit 'o metal strapped to ya back!"
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The Warhawks singing was barely more tolerable than the deadening propaganda message still being pumped from the vox-speakers – he was out of tune, out of time, sang in the horrible Harakoni dialect, and was just all around terrible – but at least it was a human voice with some emotion in it. That, and he could barely hear it anyway.

"Hey! Sarge!"

"Thay say that your lot don't feel fear! You'd make one of us pretty good then, wouldn't ya? Gotta 'ave them big balls to drop from a ship with nathing but a bit 'o metal strapped to ya back!"

“Katadan, Darius,” intoned the Colour-Sergeant as he lifted the brim of his pith only so that he could meet the grey eyes of the grav-trooper with his own, “formerly Seventy-Second Warhawks,” he neither blinked nor looked away as he spoke and expected nothing less from the mouthy specialist.

They say a lot of things, Sergeant Katadan. They say that the T'au are pathetic and weak specimens, they say that the Guard run on clockwork timing and perfect order, and they also say that this war...this 'battle for Molov'...will be over within the matter of a week.”

For a moment he flexed his toughened fingers around the stock of his lasgun, taking in for the first time all those who sat closest to him, before giving a short shrug of his powerful shoulders.

“I will leave you to decide what is truth and what is fiction, but I tell you unequivocally that becoming a grav-soldier has never even crossed my mind. No matter the relative size of my genitals.”

It was a half-joke delivered in the deadpan and dry manner that marred all Praetorians – giving them somewhat of a uniqueness not found on other planets – but the kernel of truth that lay in the heart of it was correct enough; Kinsley had never once imagined himself leaping from any aircraft into enemy fire, always straight on instead, he had been born a footslogging grunt, had remained one his entire life, and would no doubt die one.
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"Yeah, that I am. You're Sarge... Fuckin'... Wait, I know this." He paused for a second. Ex-Praetorian, no shit. "Sarge Kinsey, 11th Praetorians." He matched his fellow NCO eye-to-eye, fingers playing over his meltagun. "They also say tha' tha Warhawks will receive reinforcements." He barked a laugh. "Ain't that happen all the time." He smirked. "An' I think you an' I both know that we're either gonna get through this battle the same as the last ones, or we're gonna 'ave our luck run out and get a gun..." He made a finger pistol and placed it to his head.

"Eh, shame. You'd look practically dashin'." Understanding when a Harakoni Warhark was using sarcasm was not difficult. They used it like it was a bludgeon. Clearly, he didn't mean it. Yawning a little bit, he felt a judder go through the lander, but it was nothing new to him. "Ya think any of us are gonna make it? I reckon..." He looked around. "I reckon that this entire lander of folk's gonna be dead before the end of the year. You and me included. Only question is how many of the bastards we get to take out with us."

Leaning back, he clipped his gasmask on. "Maybe even tha 'ssigned sentinel as well, but I 'unno. Might make it with the metal box 'e's got surrounding him." He snorted a little bit. Adjusting the mark a little bit, he took a breath through it. Hissing. Alright, he had the fresh stuff. Not that inside it seemed like there would be much issue breathing, but hey, smoke, rubble, dust... All that shit on the battlefield. He didn't want that getting into his lungs.

"You got anyone gon' miss ya? Any bastard kids you've 'ad? I'm pretty sure I don't. Too much time fighting tha fuckin' greenies." He shrugged. He had met some girls, almost every soldier did, but he doubted any of them even remembered him, let alone would miss him. Eh, not such a bad thing. They were probably dead, he would be dead, none of it mattered.
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"Machine diagnostics complete." The techpriest turned to him. "The linkage Ommissiah has been established. The machine spirit is pleased." His voice crackled out, slightly statick-y. "Mount your vehicle." The red robed man indicated to his vehicle. Reaching through the window of his vehicle, Arkan opened the door and got inside. He settled into the seat, and then pressed the button that would start the sentinel up. "Vehicle running smoothly. Very good. Move onto the lander." The techpriest walked forward, and he closed the sentinel door, before locking it firmly. Using the control sticks, he rose the sentinel up to its height. Flicking a few switched, the autocannon spun up a little bit, and then slowed down. Perfect. Always good to double check what the clankers said.

Slowly, the sentinel walked forward. Whirr. Clunk. Whirr. Clunk. Whirr. Clunk. That was... Loud. Oh, wait, he hadn't turned on the scout mufflers. Another switch, and the sound of the vehicle was muffled. Lowering the sentinel down, he shuffled the sentinel forward a little, and then parked the walker inside the lander. Another techpriest directed a series of servitors to clamp down on the feet of his vehicle. The techpriest looked up at him. "These will automatically release upon landing."

Helpful. The voice continued to boom out as the lander was released, and he ran through the information on his head. He would be out first, and had to meet out with his fellow soldiers, but officially he was separate to the squad, and as such, wasn't underneath anyone but the acting Oberleutnant. Fine fine.
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“Soldiers of the Imperium, Do not be afraid....”

Sax puffed his cigar, casually lounging atop one of the logistic crates next to the regiment with a few of the other Catachan jungle fighters. Men he'd never met, but by their dress and disposition, he knew they were fellow worlders. Of course, that didn't mean they spoke much to one another. Simply enjoying their downtime with a good cigar or a flask of their gut wrenching ale. Saxon sat at the head of them, closest to the regiment.

"Fall in!" a commisar's voice echoed, and Sax gave one last drag before he handed it to another trooper and hopped up. His autogun in his arms and his Catachan fang within easy reach. He slid into the lines of infantry as if he had always been. With an olympian physique such as his, one would think he wasn't as agile and subtle. But without both strength and speed, one didn't survive long on the death world of Catachan.

He stepped into the transport dropship with the others, giving a smirk at the other troopers singing. "They have high spirits." Saxon said aloud, for anyone close enough to hear. It was easy once the loader gate closed and drowned out the noise of the outer ship.
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Kinsley listened to the Harakoni with an expression of mild interest, pretty much forcing himself to listen and nodding at the appropriate moments, wanting to retreat back into the darkness of his helmet and sleep off the rest of the trip down...but this Warhawk would just not quieten down like a good gentleman, insisting on yapping like some Guardsman fresh out of basic training; best to indulge him supposed the broad veteran, never did to make enemies among your own formation.

"You got anyone gon' miss ya? Any bastard kids you've 'ad? I'm pretty sure I don't. Too much time fighting tha fuckin' greenies."

Bought back a little to the present, his mind having wondered somewhat, he shouldn't have been surprised to find the grav-trooper wearing his gasmask inside the lander, nor to find him talking about women and bastard children...no, it didn't surprise him at all.

"Firstly, it is Colour-Sergeant, I am no-ones 'sarge'," it was a statement completely without threat or malice, his tone even-levelled and one hand rubbing his impressive facial hair in thought, eyes never leaving the lean and lanky conversationalist, "I did not spend most of my life in the Guard to be addressed in such a colloquial manner."

Leaning back a little in his restraints and seat, he nevertheless gave another short shrug as he answered the others latest question, "I joined the Guard at eighteen years old and have never left since. There's been women, of course, even loved a girl once - she died of the Black Fever not long after I left Praetoria - but I've not been back there since I was a lad."

Mmemories of his home planet were as vivid as if he had left only that day - of seething masses of humanity, of his own family sharing three bedrooms between two dozen of them, of the very air you breathed being rationed by the wealthy aristocratic classes...it was no wonder at all that so many joined the Praetorian Guard, the quality of life went up exponentially, three meals a day and even pay.

What else could one ask for?
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Miklos was just like his fellow Guardsmen cramped into the landing vehicle except... not quite. He was with his stunted kinsmen, having a jolly fine time. Over the servitor voice unit droning, the scream of orders and cries for mother, amidst the checking of weapons and relief of bladders he was in a manner an ocean of calm. 

If one viewed him without context, they may well imagine he was destined for a pleasure world. His eyes were tightly shut, obscured by smoke from the corncob pipe at his satisfied lips. His clothes were ragged but comfortable, not too tight nor rough nor loose: a small victory from robbing a man too stupid to realize one does not simply bully ratlings. 

His soft sleep was helped by the firm feeling of his long-las in his fingers as though it were one of the traditional shepherding staves of his home, accompanied by a harmonica's  tune from a metre or two away. 

Fifteen hours. That was how long a Guardsmen would be expected to live upon deployment but this held no worries for Miklos. He knew it was thanks at least in part to the lives of soldiers like him that the grand calculation did not amount to fourteen hours instead. No he was destined for a quiet death, or one so swift and unexpected or hopeless that there was no point worrying. So he treated his work as a relaxing hunt back home; a leisurely activity. It was all a game really - it certainly had the right combination of reward and frustration to be one. 

But for now, he waited. He waited for the fop in the pointy helmet to say something useful, he waited for the tough gits to combine their brain cells and get enough processing power to stampede out and die, so that Mr. Fop could babble on about honour and his stylish red uniform and duty and his uniform again. But most importantly so he could climb up rocks or a building or a tree and shoot some buggers in the face. 
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"We're both men 'a command, I'm just showing ya some leadership comraderie. If ya say so though. Colour-Sargent it is, ain't it?" His fingers continued to play across the handle of his melta gun, running along the individual little grooves, his fingernail plucking out little bits of grime and catching it in his gloves. "Besides, I spent a lot o' fuckin' time in tha guard, and I won't get much better than ya." He chuckled a little again. He liked the praetorian, he had decided. He was dry, and stern, but he was a decent guy, it seemed. "'Ey, not much different to me then. 'Cept I never 'ad a real love. Just a string af women in different travels. Or bunkers."

Black Fever was nasty though. Didn't wish that on anyone, that was for sure. Shame that. He nodded slowly to himself, feeling the ship shudder around him a little bit. The vacuum of space you couldn't hear point defences flashing and crackling, or ships imploding and leaking oxygen, and he preferred it that way. Hearing screams and such was always annoying when you were taking a lander. His mask continued to provide 'fresh' air to him, and he realised something. He hadn't put a fresh filter in. Reaching up to his face, he clicked off the thumb-sized filter and pulled it out, then replaced it. Rinse and repeat with the other side, and then he slipped his goggles on.

"Alright. Harakoni Warhawks." He took a few deep breaths. Perfect. He blinked, his eyes adjusting to the combat filter on his goggles. He was ready. Adrenaline started to pound through him, and he cracked his knuckles, slipping the strap over his shoulder.

"Harakonari an tellika regala!" He held a single fist up. For all the bastards he had fought beside that had been cut down. For all the fuckers he had cut down with his weaponry. To the fucker that would end up killing him. Time to enjoy another life or death situation.
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The Descent to the surface of Molov was as patiently stressful as any planetary assault. The fall from the position of the fleet in orbit to the surface was a process of nearly one standard hour. Although to the average trooper that could feel like it was stretched into an eternity, or as if it passed by in a matter of minutes depending on how terrified the trooper was. The sergeants did their best to still the romours and idle chatter from spreading into dangerous territory, or offered what words of motivation they could to new and clearly terrified troopers

As the dropships hit the atmosphere the turbulance began to grow, as if a comsic hand slowly gripped the vessel and tried to shake it from the sky. Faint rumbling was soon felt through every bulkhead and every seat was rumbling beneath the trooper whose butt was strapped into it. But this in reality was nothing, the lander itself was a centuries old craft whose venerable spirit had performed insertions like this a thousand times over a thousand different battlefields. It's armoured bulk and large guns commanded the skies, They did not bow to them.

But the enemy had guns too, an entire planets worth of arms both large and small to fire upon their would be liberators from the heavens. As the descent dragged on it became less and less clear what rumblings were the fault of mere atmospheric turbulance. From inside the hull thumps and booms could be heard, along with all manner of noises that could only be assumed to be weapons fire. Even the droning propoganda message was soon block out by the growing onslaught of noise.

“Prepare for landing in three minutes.” The message was blurted across the comms by a distinctly human voice. The pilot, even with the mechanical filter of the internal vox it was clear that he was short of breath. Though the common troopers onboard could only let their nightmares run wild with the possibilities of what that might be to cause this effect on him.

“Say again, Prep-Fuck!” The message cut off coincidentally at the same moment the entire Tetrarch lurched violently in a quarter roll. The hull rebounding with unmistakable ferocity of an impact. There was a series of smaller rumbles that followed, which were the lander's own weapons firing in response though no guardsman would be able to appreciate that for long.

“Say again, Forty seconds, Forty seconds, Hard landing!” It was the only warning the company would receive as a second and a third impact rocked the Tetrach so hard that Artyom heard the hull rip open and the rush of ogygen as it sucked itself out of this new opening. The screams of horror couldn't even be made as the air needed was pulled from the lungs of those unfortunate enough to be closest to the impact point. Thankfully that was not Artyom's platoon, through a strange if not cruel twist of fate. Being closest to the ramp saved the rearmost platoons the worst of the attempted bombardment. In the heretics attempt to blast out the bow of the lander the platoon loaded nearest the cockpit suffered the brunt of heretic innaccuracy. What NCO's that had breath to spare were shouting for crash positions to be adopted and shallow breaths to be taken.

In all the chaos and confusion of the impact, what was clear was the lander was going to crash, and crash hard. Nothing more could be heard over the vox which told Artyom that the pilot was either busy wrestling with the controls to save his own and everyone else's life, or he was dead. Probably the latter. Near the back of the lander the air was thicker and men could clearly be heard screaming, praying or swearing loudly at the Emperor, the fates or whatever comsic force landed them in the current shit-hole that was their situation. Some sergeants did their best to try and shout these down but Atryom knew it was pointless. They were all probably about to die anyway. What difference did a few curses make on anything?

Artyom himself was too terrified to do anything but grip his seat until his knuckles were as white as the snow crusted mountain tops of his homeworld. He braced himself as best he could, trying to recall that useless passage from the primer that once showed a diagram or two, how the hell did he know he would actually end up needing that information? He cursed himself for using the book as toilet paper years ago.

“Sergeants! Corporals! Brace for impact!”
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The lander's temperature didn't affect Karl significantly but Karl's fear of the void of space was still ever present and he could feel the sweat on his forehead drip down his face and heart race as the lander began it's decent into the planet of Molov. The shaking of the lander did not help. The sounds of heretical gunfire outside of the ship was soon to be the only thing Karl could hear. He had faced many a foes of the emperor, but anxiety still gripped onto him as the thumps and thuds of the heretic's weaponry were getting louder and closer to their lander.

"Prepare for landing in three minutes!" The pilot announced, clearly short of breath. "Say again, Prep-Fuck!" The pilot barely managed to spit out the message before the lander violently lurched. Karl barely managed to snag the sling of his lasgun before it slipped off his shoulder due to the sudden movement and tremors caused by enemy anti-air guns. The sounds of the lander's guns firing soon followed.

"Say again, Forty seconds, Forty seconds, Hard Landing!" was the only thing Karl managed to hear before the lander was struck twice by enemy fire. The feeling of dread sank into his heart as he could hear the hull tear open and the sounds of guardsmen screaming in fear as their comrades were sucked out of the lander. Oxygen was being sucked out of the lander as the air grew thinner and thinner inside the lander. Karl was very lucky to be far enough from the hole in the hull and was still capable of taking lungfuls of oxygen. The vox grew deathly silent and he could barely hear NCOs ordering guardsmen to take crash positions and take shallow breaths amidst the screams and curses. It was then he heard his superior officer blurt out a single directive to the men he was responsible for. "Sargeants! Corporals! Brace for impact!"

It was then Karl knew this was the inappropriate time to let his childish fear of death take over. 'I am part of the imperial guard! Brave men and women who fight for the glory of the Emperor and his Imperium! Fick my fear of death, I have a duty to fulfill!' Karl thought to himself, pushing back the fear and dread that gripped his heart. He finally stops sitting there doing nothing like a fool and begins to secure his gear and weapons to ensure none would get loose and be lost when the lander would crash. With his gear and weapons secured, he asks the Emperor for protection before he braced himself as best he could for the surely hard and rough landing.
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“Say again, Forty seconds, Forty seconds, Hard landing!”
Gill was snapped out of his dulled state by the panicked shouting on the vox followed by the piercing sound of the hull being rended apart by enemy fire, he could feel his stomach churn as the ship was thrown about like a paper boat in a storm as it fell to the ground. He felt the air getting thinner as it rushed out the gap in the hull, the vacuum starting to make it hard to hear the shouting of those around him, he wasn't sure what was worse suffocating or listening to the annoying screams of the other guardsmen; he let out a sigh, if they survived he hoped that they would calm down enough to be useful.
He gripped the barrel of his autogun clenching harder as the lander began to judder more and more before cursing himself for getting scared, fear was for conscripts and dead men and stopped you from doing your best, despite this he got into brace position and shut his eyes tightly.
"Well emperor, if today's the day."
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There was a special sensation you got when a landing was royally fucked. This was that sensation. He could feel it, like it was mould creeping across the ship. Or, well, a gust of wind, because the temperature had just dropped by about fifteen degrees. Hard landing, brace for impact. No problem. Squeezing his gun between his knees, he kept his head down and his hands over his head. He looked like a pussy, sure, but he'd rather look like a pussy and be alive than not look like a little bitch and have his neck bent fourteen different ways, that was for sure.
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At first, Sax and the rest of the guardsmen merely swayed with the turbulence. He had an easy-going, casual look to him as he'd gone through a dozen drops before. But even on the easy part, many of the other men looked around anxiously or hyperventilated. First timers or PTSD veterans, he guessed.

Then the missile fire, and the lander began to lurch and jerk this way and that. Saxon rode it easily, the commando used to jumping across branches and keeping his balance in wrestling matches against other Catachan fighters. Of course after the third hit and the rumble of their guns, even Sax nearly hit the floor, catching the steel ground with his hand.

When he heard the call to brace for impact, Saxon waited three scant seconds, and then jumped. His long legs and practiced acrobatics served him well. He leaped into the air nearly above men's shoulders. He couldn't time the jump with approximate accuracy, but he jumped high enough to where it mattered little. The iron cage slammed to a stop as he was feet off the ground, and he caught himself on the floor roughly.
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Ollumhammersong
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The impact of the lander into the blighted soil of Molov was akin to being kicked in the chest by a particularly angry horse, while another was kicking you in the back as if sandwiching you between them, and a third was kicking you in the head just for good measure. So to say it was a violent landing was an understatement.

Artyom didn’t know how long he was dazed. At some point he had clearly released his harness and dropped to his hands and knees on the tilted floor. Struggling to keep himself from tumbling as his sense of balance and self-awareness tried to re-assert itself.

“Sergeant….. Sergeant!” He screamed. Pushing himself to his knees as he surveyed the damage around him. Everything was chaos, everywhere he looked there were injuries and confusion. Bones were broken, necks snapped, men and woman rendered unconscious from the impact and the chemical stench of electrical fires and burning wiring insulation was filling the confined space with toxins that would surely kill them all if something wasn’t done.

“Get the ramp open! Open all emergency hatches, Do it now!” He was shouting to everyone around him, not just his NCOs. Artyom was not going to let this metal monstrosity be his tomb, machine spirit be damned. He attempted to rise, nearly slipping off of a wet tongue that was severed by someone unfortunate enough to have had their mouth open during the crash.

Struggling to get any other officers on the vox but the forward sections of the lander seemed to have suffered far more than the stern. He had no idea how many of the company survived the crash, but the first priority was to get out of the lander before it was blown away by whatever artillery the enemy possessed.

When the company did earn its freedom and the emergency release handles were cranked until arms were ready to pop out of their sockets, Artyom began giving orders and his platoon piled out of the lander in a far less organized fashion than when they originally marched in. Stumbling out into the open battlescape first and what greeted him was a site from hell.

Chaos had warped the planet, All around the lander was blighted wasteland of twisted iron and a stench so horrible it had Artoym scrambling for his rebreather. Coughing all the while as his lungs protested as they inflated with fetid air. It was almost pure poison and the smell was one of the most foul things he had ever experienced. The very ground itself was blighted with a mixture of genuine industrial waste, haphazardly dumped where the masters of the dark factoriums willed, and chaos taint.

“Masks! Masks!” He called to the troops crawling out of the lander after him.

As he fumbled his own mask into place and breathed a few easier breaths of relief, he surveyed his sorroundings. The battle was definitely still being raged around them. Some landers had managed to land close to the city while others carrying the most valuable war machines and cargo landed father out, in the extreme ranges of the anti-aircraft guns which brought their, and apparently several other landers down too. Their wrecked frames belching black smoke that did nothing to improve the already rank and polluted air. Artyom could see the hull of at least one other lander covered in tiny shapes, likely playing out a scene mirroring his company's own desperate crash and escape. He had no idea where the other lander's for their regiment were however, and how far the crash put them off course from their original landing zone.

And the lander..... holy throne the lander. It frankly was a miracle they landed at all. The entire front half was a crumpled mess of steel and the broken cockpit was one raging inferno. Artyom wasn't an expert but it probably took a direct hit, which would explain about their descent. If anyone was alive from the first and second platoons they were probably trapped under several tons of broken iron, Bodies pinned or mangled by the impact. Artyom wasn't sure if he could to anything to dig them out even if he wanted to.

Elsewhere there were signs of proper war being waged. Lines of light and heavy armour had already touched down, unloaded and were now making their way towards the dark city. Their hulls attracting the aim of the yet un-fired ground artillery and other heretic defenses. The Imperial infantry were slower to mass but also seemed to be collecting themselves as best they could and readying to march through the wastelands to support the armour. It was an all out invasion, the Imperium didn't want to establish some wasteland toehold and be bombarded with artillery and sorcery all while they tried to assemble something approaching an invasion force. They wanted to overwhelm the enemy in one blitz invasion, at least here. To take an entire city to establish their firm, un-removable presence on the world and demoralize the heretics.

Cannons roared, flame belched and explosives tossed up tonnes of tainted earth every few minutes. So far the enemy artillery hadn't taken much notice in their battered and fairly isolated company.

“All squads take cover behind the lander and report. Sergeant Kinsely! I want a headcount. How many survived the crash? And are there any officers? And we we have a damn vox caster?!” Artyom really, reaaaaaally hoped he wasn't the last one alive right now. He had no idea what to do next or if a vox unit was or could be salvaged from inside. Without it he was blind. And had no idea where his regiment might be or which direction he should lead this shattered mess of a company. Towards the city? Away from it? Would he be shot for cowardice if he tried to lead them away? His gut told him 'probably' They Guard tended to have a narrow and unforgiving view on these things.

Artyom tried not to betray his own mental freak-out as he nearly tore himself apart from the inside trying to determine what was best to do. Being an officer wasn't his job. It wasn't supposed to be his job. He was a fucking corporal, a field medic. He had no idea how to lead these people or what to possibly say to them after that shit-show of a crash.

A piercing howl, one sharp enough to cut through the thunder of cannon fire and loud enough to betray it's nearness reached his ears, and the ears of everyone else around the lander. The noise was definitely animalistic but also.... not from an animal. At least no animal Artyom was familiar with. Whatever produced that noise was almost human, it sounded pained and angry and.... sad? Mournful? Soon it could be heard again, and was followed by a second, shriller but still inhuman shriek.

Looking out among the battlefield again he saw one of the crashed landers, the one like his own that survivors were trying to crawl their way out of. Only now there were other shadows crawling over and around it. These shadows were much less human in their appearance though it was hard to tell from here. They seemed to be a pack of some kind, like predators only more hunched, gangly and misshapen. The small flashes of las-light told him that the Imperial soldiers did not appreciated the creature's presence whoever they were. The noises of war hid the cracking of ionizing air and the shouts of terrified men, but they were clearly under attack by whatever it was those creatures were.

“Uh, lieutenant! LIEUTENANT!” One terrified Valhallan trooper shouted to Artyom in their native tongue. If it wasn't for that jolt of recognition Artyom may have been to engrossed with the scene across the wastes to pay it much heed. “What?!” Artyom spun around, genuinely pissed at off the trooper's tone. “Speak Gothic you *******” He chided the trooper. Not knowing where the offender was at first he eventually found him, climbing up the side of the lander in an effort to get a better view. Artyom almost ordered him dragged down and beaten for being such an idiot without proper permission.

“Well, what is it?” He shouted up. “Mutants.” The man called out eventually, his attention apparently focused rather intently on something only he could see from his angle. “I think their mutants! Coming towards the lander.” He called back. Artyom swore, packs of mutants would make sense. Much more than mere animals roaming loose in the chemical wastes. Probably seeing these landers as a perfect opportunity for potential fresh meat.

Looking around at the survivors he had Artyom knew it may not be enough depending on the size of the pack approaching. Some survivors were still being hauled out, as was valuable equipment. Artyom swore again and asked for confirmation from the trooper. Numbers, direction, anything But little was forthcoming.

“Fourth Company!” Artyom bellowed in his best and least accented low gothic. Making the decision to fight, after all they could hardly go back inside the lander and hide, and after being shot down from the sky and tossed about like a child's doll during a tantrum the Valhallan felt like venting his anger on something or someone. And a mutant was as good an opportunity as any. “Prepare to receive!” This was at least something he was would be able to take control of. Whether they all survived it or not was another matter.

"Form circle and Fix Bayonets!" One mustached mordian sergeant shouted out in the typically impeccable parade ground snap his people had perfect over the millennia.
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The crash landing was by far the worst Karl had experienced, without a doubt. Not even the time an Ork stormboy had crashed into the Valkyrie transporting them could compare to this. It took him a good couple minutes before he managed to unlock his harness and unceremoniously to the floor of the lander. He fell directly onto one former comrade...well what was left of him anyway. It seemed that he was in the process of getting his harness on before the lander crashed. The sheer force of the crash combined by the improper placements of harness straps, caused a big mess. Some parts of his upper body was still secured onto his seat but the rest was was what Karl landed on. He could barely hear his own thoughts in the chaos of screams, wails of agony, clamor of surviving guardsmen, and noises produced of the destroyed lander. Smoke was also beginning to fill the lander with noxious and, most likely, toxic fumes. It seemed bleak at the time that he, along with the rest of his platoon mates, would be able to leave this metal casket.

...and as if the Emperor heard their silent pleas, the lander's ramp and emergency hatches manage to open. He grabs his gear and does his best to rush out of the lander...only to be met with the hellish landscape of the planet Molov. It was an absolute hellscape. 'Emperor preserve us.' Karl thought before the nauseating stench invaded his senses. He could hear his CO telling them to wear their respirators. Karl did not need a second order for him to affix the respirator. It took him a moment to get the respirator on, but had to remove his helmet. He secures the visored sallet to the side of his pack before gazing upon his surroundings. The battle was still raging but for the most part, they were not yet in the middle of it. The sight of several columns of black smoke rising in the distance did not help raise his spirits and the roar of cannons and explosions pushed his already diminishing spirits even lower. Though that along with the fact that they were still alive, reassured him that the heretics have yet to spot them.

That was the first good news Karl has had the pleasure of knowing. Given this small amount of respite, he did his best to take advantage of it and begin to calm himself and regain composure. The call of his CO telling the survivors to head to the back of the wrecked transport and report among other things. "Private First Class Karl Ockmann Tolzen, reporting in and ready to serve the Emperor and his Imperium!" Karl shouted. The shout bolstering his spirit and revitalizing him enough to be combat ready...and not a moment too soon. The inhumane and almost beastly howls and shrieks easily catches his attention. Karl did not know what caused those sounds, but he was sure that it was not friendly. He could hear someone crying out in Valhallan and his CO angrily talking to and reprimanding the offending guardsman. Karl was about to ignore the squabble until he heard the guardsman speak again.

"Mutants. I think they're mutants! Coming towards the lander."

Karl was still registering the statement when his CO had yelled out while a mustached Moridian Iron Guard Sargent ordered soon after.

"Fourth Company! Prepare to receive!" "Form circle and Fix Bayonets!"

Karl followed the orders to the letter. Quickly forming into a circle and raising his Iothea pattern lasgun. It was only a matter of time until the mutants got into range. One particular mutant caught the Iothean's attention. It was a grotesque and large mutant. It had abnormally pale skin that revealed its blackened veins and his body had countless sores and scars. Very large tumor-like growths upon it's back and caused it to hunch forward, forcing the mutant to support itself upon a limb that seemed to have mutated into three grotesque teethed tendrils. It had more than one set of eyes, each of which had a glint of madness and hunger. The mutant's mouth produced a bloody froth as a lengthy tongue lolled out of it's disgusting maw.

This beast was an affront to the purity of the human being. A complete and outright insult to the perfect image of humanity. That in itself was reason enough for Karl to kill the abomination, the fact that it had intent to harm those who serve the God-Emperor just solidified his right to kill it. Karl levels his lasgun and lets out an aimed shot at the center of mass. The shot hits true as the sudden intense heat caused by the laser vaporizes the blood and causes a miniature explosion. Exposed flesh was no match to the lasgun. The mutant stumbles and staggers as fist sized portion of mutated and heretical flesh was turned into a bleeding fist sized crater. It struggles to run but keeps going. Giving Karl more than enough reason to fire another shot at it's chest. Another fist sized crater appears as flesh and blood vaporizes. This time, the mutant does not get up.
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All was good for the happy ratling, as they flew on and on. He was definitely not happy with what one could easily call a crash-landing. Still, work was work. He fell over with a grunt in annoyance before he drew his pistol and turned off the safety in one handy motion. With his other hand he grabbed the mask he was issued and slapped it into place, wincing as the elastic straps hit him.

At last, he stepped out of the lander. The enemy wasn't quite in sight or range for his sniper and regardless he didn't have any targets yet. Adelbert calmly waited for whatever the hell would be their target, with his pistol held forth in examination of the terrain. He was not happy at all when he heard an unsettling noise. At this point he realized it was true rumours spread faster than lasbolts, for all ready he was hearing six different theories on just what precisely they were going to be fighting here. No, that wouldn't do at all.

In a second he ducked, and moved inwards to the formation of soldiers. Sure, one could call him a coward. But when you were dead cowardice is the least of your worries. When the scream of 'mutants' came about, he redoubled his efforts. He had seen what real scum humanity could become, and he knew his mutations were rather benign in comparison. One time Adelbert had even been cursed to see a scalie, an odd thing from hive sewers that look like an Ogryn decided to get romantic with a turtle. Adelbert cursed quietly for reminding himself of exactly what evolution could do to mankind, as he levelled his pistol and got ready for the attack.
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