Chapter 023

"Back amongst the rank and file, the trash of the Guards, eh?" a soldier taunted Maine as he lined up to receive the tools of his trade.

"Hey, Duke-General. You want me to blow you softly?" another soldier tried to mimic Trance's girly tone. It was a poor performance but it made the guards howl with obscene laughter. One of them kicked Maine in the back where the scourge wounds had yet to heal completely. He fell flat on his face and picked himself up as though nothing happened. Yes, you pathetic worms. Stay quiet or the next dead guy would be you.

The fight that had been dying to break out disappeared in a whiff. That boisterous ruffle was gone. Everyone seemed to be eyeing for their chance to have a go at the ex-Duke General only a second ago. Turned out that the Seigneur Sancta was there along with Essesohn. The Commissar had drawn his saber and rested the heavy blade on his shoulder. A squad of young cadres trailed behind him, eyes-shifting about for the slightest misdemeanor. Maine wished he could thank the Seigneur. But he knew that his present quandary was created by these usurpers of power. He resigned to his fate as a mere private. Perhaps a full-faced mask would be applicable.

"I want the rearmament done at double speed. No camps will be set until we make our first fifty kilometers. Be mindful of your rations for that is all you will be getting for three days!" the Seigneur bellowed. Major Offensive. Lightning strike. Plodding on foot as well. Maine knew that the war had begun. "Prepare your soul, good men. We are the servants of the Eternal Emperor and the Executor of His Divine Will. Fight for justice. Kill the followers of the kinslayer wherever you find them, and give them no succor until they submit themselves completely without question!"

"The Seigneur Commands!" Essesohn echoed.

"Glory to the God Emperor of Man! Glory to our Righteous Creed!" the reply was led by the newly instated officers, chosen with the help of the Departmento Ministorum records that were largely intact. Maine nearly yawned. Just last week he had the entire army kneel before him and Trance while they dressed themselves in garlands and doused themselves with wine. And now they're completely bent over to another guy. Another tyrant and another despot. Nothing special. The fucking hypocrite probably doesn't even know I'm here.

Under the watchful eyes of the fledgling Commissariat, the men dared not make anymore moves. Maine trudged up to the quartermastery. Another insignificant officer trying to appear important. Maine went through the registration protocols he had drafted and received his package. Penal guardsmen get next to nothing. Not even a working rifle. They were given at least two shovels, a whetstone, a pickaxe and standard mallets. Forty five minutes was given for equipping. The Vanguards were already off with the armored companies. Maine, however, was with men of the poorest qualities. Neglected by all its handlers, even the regimental Colonel was a piss-poor and flowery-livered idiot. He probably wetted his pants whenever the fighting starts. These regiments spend more time with mud than the foe. The worst part was that they think they could beat him.

Which they did. The next few days were not exactly enjoyable for Maine. He persuaded an endless stream of challengers to find better opponents. Most were left finding teeth in the mud. Some were taken to the field hospital. He made himself felt better by remembering that the Guardsman served under the 97th in the 11th regiment. Those men were a heap of trash scarcely better than the 166th of Orresian 24th. There were actual criminal elements within these mobs of men-things. Maine shook the daze from his head and attempted to regain his focus on the opponent. He wiped the trail of blood that ran from his mouth as he stared in astonishment. The giant of a man leapt up easily and snapped his broken jaw back to its place with no obvious sign of pain. On any ordinary guardsman it would have killed them. Bastard…is this guy a failed astartes superhuman or something?

"Pig! Pig! Pig!" the soldiers around them chanted. The giant flexed his shoulders and forced it back into the socket. That last double flying kick to his head and shoulder didn't work. Maine could hardly make out the precise outline of his foe. His bionics was smashed and the fried circuitry gave him distracting non-sense that even interfered with the visual inputs from his good eye.

"Coming at you, Duke General!" the Pig grunted. Maine cursed. Underestimated the fucking punk. The giant was too fast for his size and his body was as hard as rock. Maine had tried every single critical strike that he had memorized since he was a mere boy. He hated to lose, but he could hardly dodge that left hook and had forgotten about the knee. Bad mistake. It sent Maine flying through the air before landing on the soft ground. Ignore the pain! On your feet before the count of three or I will shoot your baby-heads off! The instructors of the Schola Progenium loomed right before him. Maine bit his lips and climbed back up, much to everyone's amazement and disappointment. Scraps of Orresian purples, packs of chewies and smokes changed hands. Maine could hardly care. He spat a thick pellet of phlegm intermixed with his blood.

"You, very tough. Tougher than all small guys I've fought." the Pig nodded.

"You, very tough. Tougher than all the guys I killed before." Maine taunted. Can't lose to this brainless moron.

"Who's betting for the Duke General? Its three hundred and twenty six purples to one!" the opportunists shouted. A few that were insane enough still betted on Maine, still wanting to ride that tide of thirteen consecutive victories. Not that it made him feel any better. Those men were more brainless than a tree nut.

The Pig came again. Watch the left and the knee. Maine reminded himself. But the Pigs had changed tactics. It came with a spinning kick that Maine quickly ducked under. The wounds that the scourge had left bit deep into his bones. Fuck the Walk. I would have already killed this bastard if only I have another fraction of endurance. The elbow came down swiftly, forcing Maine to catch it with both hands. It hammered him into the floor. Sensing victory, the Pig threw his entire weight on him. This guy was no normal man. He's a trained fighter. His enormous fist, at least fifteen centimeters across, came down like a mighty hailstone. Not on the face! Again Maine managed to duck the blow at the last possible moment, pinning the giant's arm to the ground and trying to break it with every bit of might he could muster.

It didn't break. The Pig's bones were harder than thick cords of steel. Maine flew into the air again, his air smashed from his lungs. He tried, twice, to get back on his feet. The blow must have broken more than just bones.

"Hail the Pig!" the men chorused and chanted. "Hail the victor!"

"Fuck…fuck this." Maine would not be defeated. But it's really bad for health. Something welled up in his throat and came out as torrent. Stomach acid and blood. The vessels must have burst down there inside. His waist burnt with a pain like fire. Both of his legs trembled as he tried in vain to bring them closer so that he could adopt a better offensive position. It must have looked pathetic.

The Pig's did not carry any emotion on his face. "No killing. Seigneur Sancta say so. "

"Fuck the Seigneur Sancta. He will promote me for killing a mound of trash like you…"the taunt ended with a mouthful of blood. The men laughed. Maine would have laughed if he's in the audience. The loser thinks he's going to win. Fiction stories are fiction because they never told the truth about life. And Nigel Maine sailed through the air once more. This time he thought about Trance. She must have conveniently forgotten about him. Probably frolicking with the others.

XXX

Nigel Maine woke up as a heavily bandaged man. He was amongst the first casualties even before the fighting started. Of course, prior to the Pig he hade made a couple of others. Accidents, bad boots and the occasional tank did the rest of the 'expected attrition'. Bad rations and even the good healthy air that some of the men were unused to did their share as well.

"Hey you, get back on bed!"

"Fuck you, medicus." Maine ignored him and walked out of the tent. The fighting must have started for half a day at least. Casualties were already pouring in and stretched as far as he eyes could see. All that moaning and groaning made him sick. Men carrying bucket full of blood, fluids, soaked through aprons, dirty surgical tools and mangled limbs weaved between the rows of wounded men. The new officer corps and their aide hoisted the dying men to their feet. To gain regimental recognition before death before and to have their names entered in the Glorious Book of Martyrs. Maine licked his dry lips and felt for his bionics. It was removed and the wound treated with heavy antiseptic. They probably also force-fed him with purification serums while he was unconscious. That stabbing pain and heat in his forebrain had disappeared.

Maine grabbed one of the Guards by the shoulder. "Tell me, soldier, what happened?"

"Address me properly, private!" the sergeant bellowed. Maine thought about giving him a lethal blow on the temple. But his arms were too heavily bandaged and his movement restricted to help in the healing.

"Sorry, sir Sergeant!" Maine clacked his heels together and saluted the best he could. This man probably didn't even know of his identity.

"Well, private, since you can walk around and give a decent salute, we could sign you up for the next offensive. What is your designation?"

"First company…" Maine almost gave in to his ingrained reflexes. "I mean, 166th of the Orresian 24th, at your service, sir Sergeant!"

"Hmph. Looks like I spotted the wrong man. Grab your shovel and get back to work, plodder." the Sergeant ordered. Maine ravished the Sergeant's female relatives in his mind, saluted, and walked away from the field hospital. The color of the Orresian 24th was the Shackled Saint. Some historical figure that supposedly served in the penal regiments as well. He did something either extremely great, foolish or both and received the Beatification that no one thought possible. Maine didn't even bother learning his name. He made one up for him – Saint Gitbak Tudig Ghin. The Pig was there, shoveling and hauling sacks of soil methodologically with impossible ease.

"Maine the Tough. The Courage." the Pig greeted him with his broken language. He seemed to harbor no animosity towards the ex-Duke General.

"Pig." Maine replied as he caught his shovel in midair. Maine only chose to work with the Pig because the other men gave him a huge amount of room and therefore privacy. Maine would hate having to fight another bunch of losers who think they can score infamy by defeating him.

"You fight good." the Pig said as he shoveled the soft wet earth.

"I know…you fought well, too." Church probably patted people on the back so many times that getting a compliment from the hypocrite never felt special. A compliment from the Duke General, however, was a reward that many thought impossible to earn.

"I know. Me best fighter. Hive 21." the Pig nodded and complimented in return. "You. Best opponent in me life."

"Oh." Maine didn't even feel flattered. He ripped the bandages out and carefully moved his shoulders. It was almost completely healed. His waist still felt sore.

"Most people. Dead in 2 rounds. You. Take five hits. Give me six. All very painful. I endure." the Pig stretched out his big fingers, and discovered that both hands had only five. He tried to make a sixth by moving his hands around.

"Yes, yes. Very nice." Maine was already making a comparison on who could win the competition if there was one for the biggest idiot in the Guards. The Pig could certainly be a contender. Greg Boomer would be another one. Maine even considered himself a candidate. The Duke General that was stupid enough to lose everything to Church.

"Here. Look." the Pig actually regarded Maine as a friend. He was fishing around under his fatigues for a picture. But what he took out was a small metallic necklace which came with a locket. It opened to reveal a picture of a beautiful woman.

"Me mama." My ass. It's Songs Hill straight from the cover of a colored issue of Guard; morale raising literature contained within. She's younger than me when we left the planet. And probably slept with all the officers. She's the type of person that Henson would sleep with. Maine didn't know which bastard gave this to the Pig.

"Who gave you this?"

"Good man Bing Holds. I now work for him as good servant." the Pig smiled. Semi-literate Colonel Holds. The bastard.

Maine felt bitter. It was not from being defeated by the Pig. That was his fault of thrashing twelve men in a row without rest, all of them seasoned fighters. And plus, he picked the fight with the Pig because he thought he was easy. In the end, Maine had to conclude that he felt sorry for the idiot. "I will find you something later." Maine said. The water man trudged up and filled up the canteens for them. Maine was about to drink when the Pig smacked it out of his hands and grabbed the water man that tried to make a dash for it.

"You! Poisoner!" the Pig grunted. Maine stared at the spilled canteen with some suspicion.

"Have the guy try a sip." Maine gave the partially spilled canteen back to the soldier whose face turned whiter than ash. The Pig grinned and took the canteen.

"Drink. Your poison!"

"Please! No! Spare my life! I had to do it or they'd rape and kill me!" the soldier gasped. Definitely poisoned.

"Wait! Pig, no killing. Seigneur Sancta said so." Maine said with a hushed tone. A crowd of soldiers had been lured to their trench by the commotion. Maine immediately changed his stance towards the water man. "Remember, plodder, you're dealing with the ex-Duke General. Next time you serve him water, you serve him with two hands. Now get out of the trench before I stuff the mud into your face with my bloody shovel."

"Aye, aye!" the soldier whimpered and ran as though his balls were on fire. The Pig was about to say something but Maine quickly held his hand and motioned him to keep quiet. The soldiers, itching for a fight and blood, left with great disappointment. Their sergeants and lieutenants whipped them back to work with undercity obscenities and criminal slangs.

"Maine! You no tell truth. That man poisoner." the Pig said when they were left alone again. "Must be punished."

"Well, Pig, when you're as smart as me, you'd realize that some things are best left under the carpet." Maine was already creating a list in his mind. A list of people who have the motive to kill the ex-Duke General. The officers and some of the regiments definitely had the motives, but why do it with poison? Maine analyzed his situation again. Trance? I'm only a mud-moving plodder whose rank of private was only a euphemism of my real position. And she's probably a puppet duchess held by the Guards. Church? Not enough motive there. And poison is beyond him. Janus Bring? Well, he wouldn't dare make any move without the consent of Church, and I wrote his love letter that netted his little wife. Boyle Young was too easily satisfied by machines… Got it. The Hospitaller bitch and that legless Zealot friend of hers. That wife of Bring and Church respectively. She wants to get back for that attempted rape.

Maine gripped the handle of his shovel tightly until his knuckles turned white. The Zealot felt good even though it was a trap. The Hospitaller would probably feel even better. The Pig gave his canteen to Maine. He only drank a third of it and gave the rest to the person he considered as a friend. "You. Must be smart. Silent means thinking."

"Not just thinking, Pig. Plotting. Plotting is thinking put to something useful…and disastrous." Maine drank a sip and gave the canteen back. "Keep the rest for yourself, Pig. Thanks."

"You. Good man. First one to thank me."

"Oh." Maine felt flattered now. He probably should call the Pig something more awesome. Perhaps Fat Boar or Tusked Boar. Something that's more ferocious.

XXX

The Trench that they dug earlier that day became the frontlines and a place for bloodbath that very night. The pre-emptive offensive was disastrous. The Mays were more than prepared. Maine wished he had a working Las Rifle in his hand. The battery shorted after the first trigger squeeze and he was reduced to the shovel which worked better than the rifle furniture when it comes to trading blows. The Clansmen had painted their armor and faces with a layer of mud and made their attack in a stagnantly humid night. Probably to foil the sensitive noses of the xenos. And it worked. Maine pried his shovel out of the broken carapace of his dead enemy, and helped him to his muffled indigenous plasma rifle and a fine combat blade. Out of curiosity he brushed aside the blood soaked mud to see what was written on the carapace.

Not the clan symbol of the Mays, but something more graphic. A pair of blank staring eyes that bled blood. Maine cursed as the powerful spotlights were switched on. The entire plain was covered with enemy soldiers. They gave up their infiltration advance and proceeded in an all-out charge. The Guards would be raining high explosive shells on them within a minute and the clansmen no time to lose. Neither does Maine. Standard Guard protocol tells Maine that he's dead in the middle of a concentrated barrage. It's either dash to the support lines or get blasted to smithereens with the clans.

The familiar whine of incoming shells came half a minute faster than expected. Fuck the Sancta. He prioritized the artillery. He knew it was the king of the field. The field exploded with the bodies of clansmen and fellow guardsmen trapped in isolated pockets. There were no morals in war. Only a single race to victory. These were acceptable losses. Nevertheless, the morale of the clansmen was astounding. These insane soldiers shambled forth as if possessed. It reminded Maine of the remnants of the Guards in their final frenzied defense in the Isthmus Theater. Unfortunately for the guards, the entire front was simply too wide and too big, and the clansmen had learnt from their experience with the Imperials and knew to keep themselves in scattered formation to minimize casualties and used dense overlapping cross fire to pin down the opposition. A concentrated battalion of captured Leman Russ tanks with clan paint themes loomed on the horizon, blasting away at the hardpoints.

Maine himself was pinned down by the Pig. "Lots of boom boom, Maine." A burst of bullets and tracers flew across. A squad Clansmen shouted their battle command and charged into the trench. The Pig made short work of them with his looted autogun and impossible might of his fists. Maine helped with his salvaged rifle and killed one of them just as he leapt down with his painted blade.

"The boom-booms brighten my day." Maine felt that he must had broken a rib or two. Having a two meter twenty beast throwing his entire weight on him was not particularly exciting. "What happened to regimental command or battle command?"

"Ran away. Bing Holds gone. Shiny-Uniformed guys gone. Dirty-Uniformed men gone. Only us left, me thinks."

"Yeah. We probably have twenty working rifles to a company. Can't expect us to fight." Maine spat. "With me, Pig?"

"Huh?"

Maine ignored the pack mule. He salvaged all the weapons he could. The clansmen were armed with a plethora of arms. Captured Imperial equipment, indigenous made las rifles, plasma carbines, autoguns, Tau manufactured gue'vesa gears and even ancient black powder multi-action single shots. In the end, Maine estimated he had only about a dozen shots with the plasma rifle, eighteen for the black powder rile and thirty for the autogun made out of poor quality sheet steel. The enemy tank battalion blasted through the mangled trenches and drove straight into the center of the Guards. Counter-artillery bombardment had begun in earnest. The guards melted and ran as the clans threw in the reserves.

"Smart, very smart Church." The hypocrite had probably browsed through his works and crude cartographic work on the subcontinent. This battleground was deliberately chosen. The master of war would fight wars at the place and time of his choosing. And Church definitely expected the Mays to attempt the assault when given the bait. Maine finally knew the difference between a plodder in the penal regiments and the 1st company trooper. The trooper had direct access of local combat situations all the way to regimental level. With their suite of vox receivers and secured channels, they were on top of things, correct to at most ten minutes. The plodder, however, was blinder than a carrion worm. In fact, they were treated like the boneless critters. All they do was dig and take care of the vast amount of trash from the Regulars. What Maine hated most was that they lag at least three hours behind Guards time when it comes to Battlefield updates.

"You talking to me?"

"No, Pig." Maine gritted his teeth as he braced himself for more. "I'm thinking about the Seigneur Sancta." He spied a squadron of locals on crude skimmers attempting to expand the breakthrough made by their armored battalion. These crafts were crewed by two men, one of them mounted on a tail gimbal with a large caliber autogun. Maine aimed for the driver with his black powder rifle. Everything was a potential tool for sublime murder.. Including ancient crap like these. The report was nostalgic. One of the skimmer spun out of control and smashed itself into several pieces against a smoking bunker. Right through the head.

"Wow."

"Watch my back, Pig. I am going to retrieve the standards from Regimental Command." Maine weaved through the trenches now choked full of the dead and dying. Maine ignored those cowardly Guardsmen that feigned death to escape attention and had Pig carry a heavy autogun on his back. The pack mule needed proper exercise anyway. The partially dug-in regimental command was a mess and completely occupied. A squad of men in bright colored scales and plumed helmets were bellowing at each other over a large map.

"What are they talking about?" the Pig clearly didn't understand local dialects. He probably don't even know standard Gothic.

"They knew they were caught in a trap. No real resistance. They only met penal regiments so far. Regiments that have twenty guns to a company." Maine said as he adjusted his sight on the one with a flamboyant plumed helmet and lacquered ceramic-carapace. "Do you know how to unpack the autogun?"

"No." Bastard. I have to do everything myself. Maine extended the recoil-compensating tripod and fixated the ammo belt. Someone had forgotten about the coolant tank. I am supposed to remember everything. Damn you, Maine. Stop thinking about Trance for a second.

"Do you have water on you?" Maine asked.

"No."

"Piss on it when it starts to smoke." The big fat bladder on the Pig have around two liters at least. Maine began firing, killing three outright and causing the rest to scatter. A couple of them leapt onto their skimmers and began to make a flanking attack on their position. "Fire for me, Pig! I will get rid of them." Maine vaulted himself over the tank carcass that they concealed themselves with. The foe was in his demon-faced mask and mounted on his gravity-defying stallion of steel. He turned the craft around with a masterful precision and swung his pole-blade.

"Imperial!" the clansman shouted. Maine saw the sashes flowing from his scaly shoulder guards. Souvenirs that they stole from the army of priests. The enemy charged at about seventy kilometers per hour. Maine knew he had to leave space for error and the speed of the forearm swing. He unleashed a shot of superheated ionic particles from his plasma rifle that seared through the enemy's neck. The headless body still swung the blade with a forward momentum, and Maine was only barely dodged that blow. The trooper rolled on the ground as the dead pilot was thrown off his mount as it bit the dust. With the support of the Pig and the heavy autogun, Maine mounted the crashed skimmer and narrowly ducked another decapitating swing. This new opponent had painted the same two eyes on every strip of his multi-jointed carapace armor.

"Nigel Maine!" he cursed. He knew my name. The triple streamers on his back betrayed his identity. The self-proclaimed King of the Clans, the Child of Destiny, the Equalizer and Eternal Justice. The boy-maniac known as Lansu May. "This one's mine! No one interferes!" Lansu leapt off his mount and separated his pole arm into the double serrated blades. Retard. Now I'm mounted and you're not. Maine fished a pole arm on the ground and charged straight for Lansu, and suddenly realized that it was a stupid idea. The boy-maniac and his supernaturally sharp swords sliced through the vehicle with hardly any effort. Maine leapt off the vehicle and landed without breaking his knee or ankle. What is the Pig doing? Tear this guy to pieces and we'd win the war immediately!

"Pig! Fuck you! Pig! Fire or something!" Maine bellowed as he dodged the blades. It came like a blizzard of shiny silver. Lansu certainly wasn't a complete let down. Even with all those purely cosmetic streamers that seemed to get into the way, the boy still fought like an acrobat. In the space of about twenty seconds, Maine knew he had at least been cut three times and his legs were once again getting weak. His sight throbbed with darkness, causing his opponent to drop out of focus at times. Blood loss. It would be over in two minutes. It must be over in two minutes.

Maine saw it in Lansu's eyes. An opening was spotted. A lethal one. One that Maine advertised. The blade moved as though it was alive, hungry for the dirty, black heart of the twisted storm trooper. Just as the tip bit into his sorry excuse of flak armor, Maine fired the tiny piston sewn into his sleeve. Penal guards never fought fair, and Maine never intended to fight fair either. A rusty nail was propelled into one of the numerous eye slits, camouflaged between the numerous staring orbs that covered the foe's armor. The boy screamed in pain. Before his own retainers could interfere, a squad of Tau atmospheric transports airdropped a squad of heavily armored Tau battlesuits.

"The Tau! They gambled on the Imperials! Get me out of here!" Lansu screamed. On this aspect Lansu's not that different from Trance. Cowardly and obsessed about their face. Maine made no attempt to finish Lansu off. He was not in a position to. He collapsed onto the ground as the retainers simply ignored him and tried to shield their Pan'fu with their flesh and blood. The plasma bolts tore them apart easily, but by some miracle the boy-maniac was evacuated onto a heavy skimmer which blasted through the air and was soon followed by a small squad of escorts that pinned down the Tau.

"Alright, Lansu. I will finish you." Maine panted as he attempted to stanch his bleeding wounds.

XXX

The events after the fight with the King of the Clans could be summarized as a modest tactical victory for the Guards. Lansu never expected the Tau to devote enough atmospheric crafts to insert two full regiments of elites right in their rear echelon. Without the reserves to guard the supplies, the depots were easily overrun and the clansmen that overextended themselves faced a counter-charge led by Trance May herself. At least twenty six thousand clansmen surrendered that day. And the rumor that Lansu May was mortally wounded in the engagement spread like wild fire. The myth of his divinity was destroyed. The King of Clans was reputed to taste his first defeat under the hands of a mere trench digger.

Trance May must have felt good. The counter-propaganda composed by Church and his cronies reached every local ear. Since the locals were ingrained into thinking that the Tau would only help the righteous, the Imperial Guards were easily reprieved from their supposed crimes. Other clans reluctantly withdrew their claims that the Imperials had sent assassins and some even mustered their forces and descended upon Lansu's scattered armies like hungry crows. Every crime and trespass was heaped unto the boy-maniac to further jeopardize his rule. Effigies of Lansu were erected and burnt in cities that declared themselves as vassals of the rightful Pan'fu. Collaborators to Lansu's short-lived regime were tried. Trance did not hand down harsh judgment. Rather, the sparing of them accelerated the surrendering of many more retainer houses and solidified the Guards' grip on May territory. The Clan Capital of Restive Autumn fell without a shot. All that was left of Lansu's pathetic Empire was the Clan fortress, the citadel that used to be Fishpan's headquarters. The Mays reclaimed it after the complete defeat of the Imperial forces. And now it would become the boy-maniac's coffin.

The vanguard of the Guards arrived only a few hours earlier, beaten back by the heavy weapon emplacements that Lansu had installed. Maine ignored the exchange of shells above and crept slowly between the tangled messes of dead guardsmen. Pig followed closely behind.

"Maine. Big army coming. Why not wait?" the Pig asked.

"Because I want to kill Lansu before they do." Maine answered. The spotlight washed across the battered trenches as the defenders started unleashing a merciless stream of fire against a section of Guards testing defense integrity. The duo ignored the skirmish as they used salvaged ropes and picks to scale the battered wall. Potholes of various sizes left by munitions of all imaginable calibers allowed them to have a grip. Muffled curses came from above, forcing Maine to hold his awkward position. The Clansmen were lowered by the dozen in giant buckets and ropes from a cannon tower right next to them. These men, like the ones that assaulted their position a week ago, were painted head to toe in black. The only thing that disturbed Maine was the red staring eyes painted onto their chest carapaces and full-faced helmets. Unfortunately for these suicide squads, optical enhancements that came from Orresian works were returned to the hands of elite Guards regiments.

As the clansmen were getting massacred right in their pathetic buckets, Maine felt a dull thud next to him and bits of cement flew about to hit his face. "Fuck this. They're shooting us as well." the trooper cursed as he doubled his climbing speed. The Pig was already over the wall.

"Waiting for you, Maine." the Pig smiled. Stupidly, as always. Maine wasted no time dispatching a squad of clansmen with his autogun rifle. A self-made muffler from the inner stuffing of military jackets helped to conceal the muzzle blast. The enemy started firing back blindly. The trooper picked them apart as they foolishly exposed their positions. Whatever spotlight that was turned out was put out with the help the Pig. A squadron of clansmen came charging up the stairs as Nigel Maine coolly tossed a grenade. Maine raced down the steps even before the smoke cleared, bayoneting a dazed survivor as he raced for the inner courtyards through the maze of walls and took cover in an alcove. Enemy troops swarmed around like maddened ants. The final offensive must have been started. Explosions blossomed within and without the fortifications as the Tau atmospheric crafts rained death and armored battlesuits from above.

"To the inner sanctum." Maine bit his lips as he took a canteen from a dead soldier and drank his fill. He tossed Pig what remained and stared down the empty passageway, oblivious to the death and carnage around him. "We will kill the bastard before anyone else does."