The filth was particularly fine today, thought Olaf, a nice squelchy coating over the rocks. He scooped some up in his hands. "Hey, Gunther! Check out this filth! I've struck gold today!"
Gunther, a larger (but slightly smellier) man standing three feet away from Olaf, and knee-deep in muck, just grunted. Olaf smirked. Gunther was just smarting because Olaf had got the filth, while Gunther was relegated to simple muck.
And then something happened that made Olaf forget all about his precious filth for at least thirty seconds.
The sky exploded downwards.
Not literally, of course, that would be impossible. But it certainly looked that way to Olaf. A great deluge of flames came down like… well, Olaf really didn't know anything other than filth, muck and rocks, and none of those was an appropriate similie. But it did come down.
And then, inevitably, it landed. Three feet away from Olaf.
"Oy!" said Olaf, "you've squished Gunther!"
Part of the burning thing fired off, spraying muck everywhere, including all over some of Olaf's precious filth, and scoring a deep groove in a lovely rock that Olaf had been planning to admire a bit later on. From the flaming thing stepped the most incredible group of 'people' that Olaf had ever seen.
They were all dressed up in snazzy clothes, glossy black armour (that looked a bit worse-for-wear after that crash) and bright blue fatigues which were equally knackered. Olaf thought they were royalty. After all, all he had was filth.
Olaf fell to his knees. "Oh great and mighty… uh… Mighty Ones! Cleanse your devoted servants!" he announced, and promptly forgot whatever it was that he had been planning to say. In place of speaking, he decided to do a bit of grovelling. You could never go wrong with grovelling.
"What?" The voice was rough, and completely flabbergasted.
"Cleanse us," explained Olaf. "It's sort of tradition round here. Every time we get visitors, they give us a quick cleansing."
The voice was taken aback. "I'm not goin' to bleedin' well cleanse ya! I 'ain'y got the bleedin' time."
"Oh go on," Olaf pleaded. "Just a bit?"
"Fine!" said the voice, and its owner kicked Olaf in the head.
"That good enough?"
Olaf gave a weak thumbs up from where he lay in the filth. "Much appreciated."
A hand pulled Olaf up. The voice spoke again. "Where the bleedin' 'eck are we?"
"You are on Horenta, oh Mighty Ones," said Olaf, puzzled as to why these great beings would need directions. Especially after they had arrived.
The voice became exasperated. "I bleedin' know that! Where on 'Orenta?"
Olaf was about to answer, when he realised that he didn't actually know. He had worked in the filth for all his life. All he knew was that there was water up the hill and filth and muck at the bottom. "Uhhmmm…" he began.
"Come on! 'Urry the bleedin' 'ell up!"
Another voice interrupted. "Hold up, Caarl. Don't kill him."
Yet another voice spoke up, confusing Olaf completely. "You shut up Bobby! Sergeant Caarl can do what he likes. Especially now that we're off that bloody ship."
After that, a dozen voices started shouting all at once, arguing over whatever it was that Great and Mighty Mighty Ones argued about. Olaf pretended he was back in his filth.
Eventually, the voices stopped, and Olaf was tapped on the shoulder. He looked up into what was quite possibly the ugliest face he had ever seen. He had been prepared to face the Mighty Ones in all their divine beauty, but not this. It was hideous. It was practically deadly to look at.
When it spoke, the first voice came from its lips, if such horrendous things could be called lips. "What's that light over there?" The ugly man pointed to the left, away from the mountain, and towards a patch of grey among the desert's orange.
Olaf hadn't noticed this. He had been far too busy with his filth to look at things like the distance. "Uhh… a bit of grey?"
The ugly man hit him. In the face. With a clenched fist. Holding a gun. Olaf went down, choking and spluttering in the muck.
He picked himself up, saving a piece of particularly nice muck inside his pocket for later. The ugly man was speaking again. "…no, I'll bleedin' well 'it 'im all I bleedin' well want! I'm the bleedin' Sergeant 'ere!" The ugly man, Sergeant Caarl, by the sounds of things, noticed Olaf.
"Oh, you're back up, are ya? Well tell me what the bleedin' 'eck that bit of grey could bleedin' well be!"
Olaf looked at it again. He squinted a bit and made humming and harring noises as though he was studying it. Finally, after he had determined that there really wasn't any good filth on the rock in front of him, he answered. "I suppose it could be a town?"
"Right!" said the ugly Sergeant. "We're off! We're goin' to get back up to that bleedin' ship, and we're goin' to give that bleedin' Colonel what 'e deserves!"
The Mighty Ones left in a rush, trampling around and making a mess of all of Olaf's filth.
"Commissar on the Bridge!" shouted the nameless Ensign near the door.
"Frak!" shouted Sarge, then immediately regretted it. Commissars had a nasty habit of shooting people who swore at them. "Uh… I mean, good! We can show her our unwavering dedication to the Emperor."
Out of the corner of his mouth, he whispered to Comm officer Michael. "What the hell is she doing still here? I though we got rid of all the Guards!"
Michael glanced at Sarge. "Obviously one got left behind, Colonel Sarge. Maybe one of the squads dumped its commissar out when they took off."
Sarge shot a dirty look at the commissar. "Well why can't we ship the damn woman down to the planet with the rest of them?"
"Because we shot the rest of them. Remember, Sarge?"
"Oh yes," said Sarge. "Damn."
Then the commissar was upon him. She was clad in a black uniform with red trim, and looked not unlike what Sarge imagined a bolter would look like if it were dressed up like a dominatrix. Not a pleasant image.
"Colonel Manfred Sarge," she began, and her voice was thick with some accent. She rolled her r's and her letters were clipped. She sounded like an archetypical 'baddie' from a propaganda vid. "Do you know vhy ze Himperial Guardsmen zat were sent down to ze planet are now all dead?"
Sarge struggled to tear his gaze from her disturbingly fang-like teeth. "Uh… yes… those…" he stammered, and then inspiration struck. "They were all heretics!"
The commissar arched one eyebrow. Sarge had to admire that, He had been trying to do that for ages, but he just ended up looking like a half-blind, shellshocked grox. "All," she said, "ten thousand of zem?"
"Ah, yes," said Sarge. He crossed his fingers behind his back. "Definitely."
The commissar, much to Sarge's surprise, nodded her head and turned away. "I vill haff to make amends, Colonel Sarge. Ze disloyaly of my Regiment iz a great shame. Vhat vould you haff me do?"
Sarge cast around briefly. "Uh… just go down to Horenta and make sure none of them escaped, will you? We don't want any more dirty heretics running around down there." That should be a good way to get rd of her for a while.
"Of course," she said, and walked stiffly from the Bridge.
Sarge couldn't believe his luck. That damned commissar would be gone for ages. He was especially pleased with his little lie about the Guardsmen. That, he thought, was very clever, telling her they were heretics like that.
"Uh, Sarge?" said Michael.
"That's Colonel Sarge," replied Sarge automatically. "What, Manuel?"
"One of the landers survived."
Sarge exploded. Not literally, of course, but metaphorically. He didn't turn into a cloud of rapidly expanding gas, but instead, he turned into a Colonel of rapidly expanding anger. Sort of.
"What!?!?" he screamed, with an excess of punctuation. "How the hell did you miss one!?"
Michael winced. "I didn't shoot them, Colonel Sarge. It was Derek." He pointed at the short, bearded Ensign who had taken over Deere's job. Derek glared back.
Sarge walked angrily over to Derek. "Ensign Derek! Why the bloody hell did you not shoot those damn landers?"
Derek scratched his head, trying to look nonchalant. "Uh… I did shoot them, Colonel Sarge. One must have just crashed while it died."
"Not good enough!" shouted Sarge. "I said to kill them, not make them crash!"
Derek suppressed an insouciant smirk. "Well, actually… you said to shoot them down, Sarg - Colonel Sarge. Which is what I did. Right down to the ground."
Sarge got even angrier, until he looked like a cross between a Khorne Berzerker and a Commissar. "Don't be smart with me, Derek! You're fire – no, wait! You're demoted to boot shiner!"
Derek, who had been planning the route for his Grand Storming Exit, looked up abruptly. Sarge suppressed a laugh at Derek's expression. "What!? Boot shiner!?"
Sarge did laugh this time. "Yes, Derek, Boot shiner! Now get below decks! You can start with the maintenance crew. I want their boots to be spotless."
Derek slumped off the Bridge, devastated that he wouldn't get to Storm out. He had been reduced to a mere Dejected Slump.
Sarge was immensely pleased with himself, so much so that he forgot to be angry for a whole minute. He was really getting to like this command stuff.
Gilks was tremendously surprised when the door of his office suddenly decided to fly into the wall.
It wasn't the sort of thing doors tended to do, really, thought Gilks as he pondered the quivering bit of wood propped up against the wall. They usually restrained themselves to opening and closing, with maybe a bit of creaking and sticking when it got to winter. Gilks wondered what had made the door feel so bad it had to fly into a wall like that.
And then the answer walked through the newly created hole. On the whole, Gilks would have preferred ignorance.
It was a group of half a dozen soldiers, by the looks of them. They were all dressed up in some sort of off-word finery, shiny black armour (with quite a lot of scratches, but Gilks could ignore that) and blue fatigues (also with some damage – big burn holes and tears, but Gilks really didn't care about little niggles like those) that was all much better than even the finest rocks.
Their leader, an astonishingly ugly man with a face like the back end of a moron, stepped angrily towards Gilks. "Oy! Are you the bleedin' leader around 'ere?"
After a moment of frantic deliberation, Gilks answered. "Errr… nope. Definitely not. No siree, we sell rocks here."
The ugly man looked askance at Gilks. "Yeah, right. Now, if you 'aint the bleedin' leader, who is?"
Gilks looked around desperately. His eyes finally lighted on the small window, through which he could see the moron. The stupid creature looked like it was bust attempting to eat a rock. That, in itself, would have been tolerable, but the rock in question was more that fifteen times the size of the moron.
"There," he said, pointing resolutely at the moron. "He's the leader."
The ugly man looked sceptical. "What, that ugly little frakker? 'E's can't be the leader, 'e can't. 'Is 'ead's shaped like a bleedin' chair, for a bleedin' start!"
Gilks held out his hands. "No, honest, he is. He might look like a… how did you put it... 'little frakker', but he's deadly smart."
The ugly man shook his head. "This place is just bleedin' mad…" he said under his breath.
The ugly man signalled to his companions, and they bustled out of Gilks' office. They reappeared outside the window a minute later, and began trying to start some sort of argument with the moron. They gave up after a minute or two.
Gilks grinned. That damned moron could even defeat strange off-word types. His grin faded when the ugly one pulled out a chunky pistol and shot the moron in the head. Bits of half-chewed rock and half-cooked brain splattered all over the off-worlders, making them jump about angrily, complaining at the ugly one.
Gilks frowned. That certainly wasn't supposed to happen.