Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Fiction - Assault on Barakka - (set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe)

Assault on Barakka


19:37 hours...

The lights went out. All around them their entire world shook violently, as if the very ground were convulsing. The concussive force of the blast was terrible beyond thought, and it reverberated through everything; rockcrete walls, plastek tables, flesh and even bone, too thunderous for the ears alone. They fell. They all fell to the ground, unable to keep their feet when the floor was wrenched left and right beneath them. They wrapped their arms and hands around their heads, to protect themselves from falling debris from the floors above. They wept with fear, their cries lost in the tumult.

Then it stopped. There was a sudden silence. No, not silence, more like an unearthly absence of sound, like a pict that continued to move but the sound was switched off. The noises began to return. First a low whimpering sound from terrified mouths driven by terrified minds, as teeth unclenched, and eyes that had been shut tight eased open to see through the dust and the pale sunlight. There was creaking. The tutor clawed his way slowly to his feet, keeping low, using his hands to steady himself on upturned furniture. He turned to the huddle of children in the corner behind him and gestured for them to stay where they were.

“Shhh, don’t make a sound. It’ll be alright.”

Yhans didn’t really believe the words himself, but these children were in his care, had been so since the invasion began, and he must do what he could to comfort them. They had been holed up in the lower levels of the Scholam building for the past three days, waiting beyond hope to be rescued. It was beyond suicide to attempt to move across the stricken city with all these children in tow and shells raining down on the city from afar. He knew things might not be alright at all, that each moment might bring more pain and death, but looking into the faces of those terrified children, he could not bring himself to give voice to his worst fears.
Looking around the room, it looked like a tornado had passed through the Scholam, leaving devastation in its wake. He could see piles of debris scattered all over the Tutoriam chamber, some chunks of rockcrete massive and brutal in their stark hardness, jagged and sprouting twisted fangs of reinforcing metal bars. He saw a tiny body, its pale skinny legs protruding from beneath the huge weight of rubble, the torso crushed beneath the fall. He stifled a moan of dread, wondering which child it might be.

Shuffling sideways along the wall of the Tutoriam he squeezed past a desk that had been flung onto its side and had another lying on top, which itself had fallen through the crumbling ceiling from the room above. His feet crunched on broken glass. All the windows had been blown in by the force of the blast. He raised his head slowly above the sill. Looking out across the transport way, he could see the remains of the Arbites Precinct House, which had stood less than fifty yards from the Scholam, behind its imposing walls and electrified shield fencing. The entire upper section of that majestic reminder of the Emperors power had been entirely demolished by a huge explosion, though whether from within or without Yhans could not tell. Rubble and debris lay all around, and nearby buildings had suffered damage along with the Scholam building. Somewhere, a siren was sounding. Yhans noticed a liquid drop plip onto the cill. It was red. He reached up, placing his hand on his dusty forehead gingerly. When he took it away to look, it too was red, with blood from a cut he hadn’t realised he had sustained.
He must still be in shock he decided. The pain would follow soon he thought, a pounding and relentless headache on top of every other bruise, ache and scrape he had picked up over the last few days. In the background, the distant sounds which his battered eardrums until now had been too stunned to pick up on began to gather. The sounds of battle, of distant gunfire getting steadily nearer, and of machines on the move. The assault on the city must have begun. The Orks were here.

19:14 hours...

Captain Kyskin knelt down at the crest of the scrubby ridge, raised his lasgun, and shot the bellowing Ork in the chest. From the beast’s stunned expression, it was as though it had suddenly discovered the meaning of life, before its body suggested to its primitive brain that it might be dead, and it fell flat on its face at the Captain’s feet. Hard rounds zipped wildly all around, fired seemingly out of sheer excitement rather than with any aim of hitting the Talosian Guardsmen, the Orks crude pistols spitting out shells with a harsh chug chugging sound until their magazines were spent. Kyskin and the rest of his squad had hunkered down among the rocks and old barricades at the crest of the ridge and were shooting down into the mob of brightly attired greenskins charging up the hill towards them, rather foolishly in his opinion. To his right a gurgle followed by a whooshing sound underlined his sound judgement as the remaining Orks were incinerated by C Platoon’s flame troopers.
Looking down across the valley towards the outskirts of the city, the scree covered slopes were scattered with fast moving Orks and their ramshackle war machines. High sided Trukks bounced over the uneven ground on deep tread tyres, their passengers loosing automatic gunfire into the air with glee, or taking pot-shots at the high walls of the city more than five kilometeres ahead of them at the opposite end of the valley. It was a big enough target he supposed, maybe some of them would hit it. The Talosian 24th were engaging the left flank of the Ork Warband as it sped away from them towards Barakka. The Orks, being the feral battle hungry beasts that they are, eschewed using their superior speed and manoeuvrability to escape the pursuing Guardsmen, and instead many were turning to respond to the attack with typical Orkish abandon. Smaller buggies and smoke spewing bikes daubed in red and yellow paint roared up the hill towards their attackers, their mounted weapons spitting bullets, in the commonly held Ork belief that if they fired off enough lead, they were sure to hit something.

Lost for a second in the grandeur of the battlescape laid out before him, Kyskin failed to notice the roaring of the Orks own flame weapon as a Skorcha burst from the roiling smog which choked the hill before C Platoon. Mounted on the nose of the hurtling light assault vehicle was a stripped down dozer blade which its crazed speed freek driver used to crash through mounds of blasted earth and strung out razorwire, cleaving a path through old defences left over from previous engagements. This war moved fast, and the battle lines were fluid and ethereal.

The Skorcha sped directly towards the heart of the Talosian position, and seeing the danger the Guardsmen began to spread out and fall back down the hill. To be caught huddled together in defences that were useless in the face of such an attack was horrendous to even contemplate. The Skorcha ploughed onwards, seemingly aiming right at Kyskin, and as its crude but extremely effective flame cannon screeched round in its turret to drench the ridge with promethium, there was an almighty explosion which knocked Kyskin off his feet and into the dirt. He was in agony, and his fatigues were on fire in some places. He burned his hands putting out the flames, and as he looked up to see what had happened, all he could see was fragments of burning metal raining down around him, everything that remained of the Ork assault vehicle, amidst a circle of scorched scrub and burning Ork bodies.
Feeling intense pain in his shin, Kyskin looked down and saw one such piece of jagged metal embedded in his leg. He wasn’t bleeding too badly, and the pain was slowly being replaced by a light headedness as he went into shock. As he rolled over, his head swimming, to try and get up, he saw a Leman Russ Vanquisher grinding its way up the hill towards the ridge and the high vantage point it offered for its long range anti tank shells. Kyskin would have to buy the gunner a drink for taking out that Skorcha if he ever found himself in the same bar.

19:26 hours, on the opposite side of the valley...

The light was beginning to fade, more rapidly so with help from the layer of thickening smog that now hung threateningly over the valley. The smog had a life of its own, shifting and changing eternally, a product of the vast number of oily engines favoured by the greenskin race. It was their constant herald and companion. The layer of gloom was sporadically under lit by the stuttering flash of explosions, like a lightning storm bank, its colours bloomed into fiery oranges and angry reds where it reflected the escalating conflict below.

In amongst the trees on the gentler slopes of the eastern valley side, Major Phranc led Jackal Squadron silently towards their target. The Storm Troopers, blacked out from head to foot in stealth camouflaged combat fatigues, stepped carefully between the trees towards the edge of the thinning copse, their night vision oculars allowing them a clear view of the Orks artillery position on the slope below them. Their alien bodies appeared as a mid range red, overlaying the cool greens of the terrain. Phranc could count about two dozen smaller greenskins, the diminutive gretchin, climbing on and under the launch carriages, hammering and clattering away like a mob of belligerent teenagers, intent on wanton vandalism. The carriages themselves were the size of freight cars, great tracked platforms upon whose backs were mounted long launch arms of crisscrossed ironwork.
These arms carried the missiles themselves, each at least thirty yards in length, their metal skins painted with gaudy yellows and blues and jagged black and white tribal designs. Each bore a leering fanged face upon its nose cone, probably a representation of one of their brutal gods. Overseeing them was a beast of an Ork, easily twice the Major’s weight and carrying a vicious man-catcher. He waved around a heavy pistol as he bawled at the gretchin in his own guttural tongue.

Major Phranc switched to a pale overlay of the icons representing each of his troopers, all a vital blue. Standing on the edge of the treeline, he glanced left and right, watching as his squad prepared to attack. To his left, Sergeant Andros, Troopers Effis, Kipris and Fayne, and on the end the Melta Trooper Sysko. On his right, emerging one at a time from the undergrowth were Corporal Kygan, Troopers Reyne and Mysteyka and Trooper Voors, the sapphire blue pilot light of his flamer glowing in the darkness. It was obvious that the Orks were busily preparing the huge seige missiles for launch, and time was of the essence. These missiles were intended to bring down the mighty walls of Barakka, and probably much more besides. Phranc tapped the comm at his ear, and watched the ticking red digits of his chronometer as the men tapped a return that they were set to go, the pale blue icons on his display one by one clicking over to a ‘ready green’.

‘Big Toy Soldiers’ they called them, the rest of the Guard. The men of Jackal Squadron knew, but they didn’t care. They were here to do the Emperor’s work, a sacred duty in payment for the care the Emperor had taken of them, all orphans of Imperial Officials of one ilk or another, trained from children to be the best. They needed no verbal command. Almost as one, they followed the Major’s lead in a swift stride out of the trees and towards the rear of the artillery position.
Matt black Hellguns raised, they were almost on top of the xenos position by the time the gretchin spotted them in the gloom and squealed warnings and threats and dived for cover or weapons. Panning left and right, Jackal Squadron opened up with bright spears of energy, their supercharged shots bursting small scuttling green bodies and punching glowing holes in the plating of the missile carriages. Phranc had half an eye on his chronometer, watching as it counted down the mission time. Twenty three seconds and counting. By the time the Ork Slaver had realised they were under attack, Sysko was cooking the firing arm mountings on the nearest of the three launchers, and with a hiss of superheated metal and then a piercing shriek of tearing metal like nails on a blackboard, the entire arm gave way and the missile crashed down onto the launcher and down it’s flank. It began to roll off down the hill across the Ork positions, picking up speed as it went, until it smashed itself into the side of a battlewagon and exploded with enough force to fling pieces of the wrecked machine and the missile casing in all directions, leaving a gaping scorched hole in the bare rocky ground and devastation all around.

The explosion lit up the valley, and unfortunately attracted the attention of half the Ork army at the same time, though by this point Phranc and his team were on to the second missile position, a trail of blasted green bodies in their wake. So far they hadn’t taken a single casualty, and Phranc wouldn’t expect them to facing off against these pathetic gretchin crew, but the roar of engines heralded the arrival of two ramshackle trukks packed with Orks eager for a fight. Kygan, Reyne and Mysteyka knelt down behind the robust body of a loading winch and began firing into the mob on full auto as they steamed up the slope towards them. Heavy calibre shells whickered all around from the trukk mounted heavy weapons, covering the Orks charge towards the Storm Troopers position, until Phranc loosed an incandescent charge of energy from his plasma pistol at the nearest trukk, and it exploded violently, spitting red hot shrapnel and Ork body parts in all directions. Corporal Kygan had taken down three Orks before he took a wild round in the chest and went down, clutching his gaping wound. He pushed himself back up against the track guards of the wrecked launcher and drew a Hot Shot Laspistol from a thigh holster, cracking shots off down the hill towards the Orks. His aim was off, and the shock threatened to overcome him at any moment. Reyne and Mysteyka crouched down next to him and rapid fired down the slope, punching Greenskins off their feet left and right, but the survivors were almost upon them, a cry of WAAAARRGH issuing from their alien throats.

Voors stepped out from behind the launcher carriage and, standing protectively over his comrades, he unleashed a storm of fire at the oncoming Orks, sweeping left and right until there was almost nothing left. His flamer was of little use in their mission to destroy the launchers, but against the lightly armoured mobs of Orks there were few more effective weapons, though getting this close to the Xenos to start with was not for the feint hearted. As the smoke billowed and rolled across the hill, the burning raging form of a hulking Ork leader burst from the flames, roaring like an enraged bull. Firing on the run, he took Voors in the leg before Reyne atomised his head with a well aimed shot and the Ork pitched forwards just feet from them.

19:35 hours...

Trooper Sysko roared inside his mask as he aimed his melta at the oncoming Ork dreadnought, it’s four snapping claws virtually close enough to snip him in half before it’s shell exploded and it was thrown back onto the ground, it’s limbs waving limply as it’s pilot succumbed to its injuries, sparks bursting from the machines rent metal torso. He clawed his way to his feet, and ran on towards the third launcher, the second going up behind him as the melta bombs the Sarg had planted went off, blowing it to pieces. He felt the heat of the blast on his back even through his fatigues. Pumping his tired legs, he tried to catch up with the Major, Effis, Kipris and Fayne. Powering up the slope he passed the body of Sergeant Andros, face down with arms and legs splayed and a heavy Ork blade sticking out of his back. Kipris and Fayne had taken up covering positions at the corner of the last carriage, firing down into the increasing numbers of Orks as they stormed towards the Jackals, the Ork infantry finally catching up to their vehicle mounted brethren. The darkness was on the Storm Troopers side, as was the Orks infamously poor aim, but against these odds they couldn’t hold for long. Just as Sysko made it to cover behind the giant launch carriage, he was punched off his feet and into the dirt by a round which took him in the small of his back. He didn’t move. The others kept firing down the hill, loosing single shots to preserve ammunition.

Major Phranc moved round to the far side of the launch carriage, melta bomb in one hand, his recharged plasma pistol in the other. As he rounded the machine, a tremendous blow caught him full in the face, snapping his head back. He fell backwards to the ground, the thump knocking the wind from him. As his vision swam, through his crackled visor Major Phranc saw the muscled Ork slaver standing over him, its fangs barred in a feral snarl, the vicious man catcher held loose in its left claw. It’s right was on the launch lever. Phranc raised his pistol and fired. At this range he couldn’t miss, and the back wash from the pistol burned through his gear to sear the skin of his face and arms, but he was too late. The Slavers legs crumpled, all that remained of his vaporised form, but the lever was down. The rockets at the far end of the carriage sputtered, then exploded into life, the entire hillside vibrating as the huge missile soared upwards towards the city.

19:36...

All across the valley eyes, human and alien, turned to the night sky to see a streak of fire propelling the last remaining siege missile through the tracer laced air towards the city of Barakka. The noise was thunderous, like a shuttle launch, and it left a dirty grey contrail behind.

19:37...

Arbitrator Meehan checked the screen again, then lifted his gaze to look out of the viewing portal into the embattled night. From the top most viewing platform of the Precinct House, he could see it clearly, a massive ball of light, with an ugly fanged face at its centre, the painted nose cone of the Ork missile. He hit the evacuation alarm, turning to dash for the stairs through the blaring sirens and flashing red lights. He jumped down the metal stairs three at a time, other officers piling out of doors at every floor and down the stairs, leaving everything but their personal arms behind.

As Meehan made it to the open blast door of the upper third level, the missile, narrowly missing the already crumbling Scholam building across the square, ploughed into the upper reaches of the Barakka City Precinct House...

... The lights went out.