Defiant to the End
It had been several weeks. The forces of Chaos had thrown numerous waves at the Imperial Guard defending the Denbar Mountain Pass. In command of the forces defending the pass, was Commissar Andrew Benjamin Fergusson, of the Second Company of the 777th "Demon Killer" Regiment of the Emperor's Imperial Guard. Their orders were to hold this pass until relieved, reinforced or until every man in the Company was dead. He would do his duty to the emperor, and so would every soldier under his command.
A voice shouted through the vox: The report coming in from one of the squads farther out in the barren plain, which had more akin to dusty desert, "Chaos Heretics sighted!" The sound of battle echoed in the background, the hiss and snap of numerous lasguns, the thump-thump-thump of a grenade launcher and the shouts of the squad as they sought to hold their position, "Sighted at grid 2603 mark 6043. Request immediate…." the line went silent, before a single scream of horror echoed through the vox before silence and static overcame the final transmission
The approach to the mouth of the pass was a barren open plain and the forces of Chaos swept forward, a destructive tide determined to devour everything in their path, including the men and women of the 777th Regiment. Commissar Ferguson vowed that none of the enemy would clear his defensive lines to threaten the civilians in Denbar City, one of the last bastions of civilization on a planet doomed by the warriors of Chaos. The people had been trapped for over a month, with little food and water, and an equally destitute amount of hope. The Imperial Guard would do their duty, and protect them. Of this, the Commissar was sure.
The Commissar stood behind a line of hastily erected sandbags stretching across a several mile expanse of trench works. The world's sun was setting, casting an amber glow to the naked land in which he stood. His attention fixed upon the mass of black and red upon the horizon that charged closer, bringing the symphony of war and death. Men stood or sat around in the trenches, praying, or weeping, or both, all semblance of discipline having long since evaporated, these broken men and women, all that was left of the Planetary Defense Force. There were enough of them left to occupy the trenches and man the guns, but they were still a fraction of the enemy's number that pounded towards them in the wild rush so typical of Khornate warriors their armor reflecting the dying light of the sun. Outnumbered and outgunned, he felt something that no Commissar of the Imperial Guard should feel: Fear.
He finally tore his gaze away from the approaching monsters to look upon the men under his charge. Ferguson wondered how these guardsmen were faring when even he, a Commissar, was beginning to shake. On all of the men's faces, he could see the same gnawing fear in the tired and gaunt faces that peered out at the approaching wall of flesh and steel, all knowing that there was only one outcome possible. A surge of anger suddenly filled him: The mere fact that these lowly heretics could push him men to the brink of madness infuriated him.
"On your feet you mangy dogs!" he yelled to the men around them, many started in surprise, unsure of what to do. Pulling his chain sword from its resting place, he pointed it towards the advancing horde of Chaos, his anger reminding him of his duty to the Emperor, and the people of this world, "We are the men and women who fight in his name! We are the Imperial Guard! We shall start acting like it! They come to kill and though I see fear in the hearts of you, it will be an hour of artillery and shattered rifles before we fall to these heretics!"
His shouts garnered the attention of his men, letting his own fury and anger seep in to his voice, "Burn the Heretic! Kill the Xenos! Purge the Unclean! Send them to the fiery depths of Hell where they shall burn! Prepare your weapons and use your faith as your shield against these Heretics! Know that the Emperor Protects!"
It worked, as the men took up to the impassioned rhetoric as their own. It began with the soldiers closest to him, but rapidly spread up and down the line of trenches, and Commissar Ferguson noticed prayers in both High and Low Gothic were whispered amongst the men, "These bastards know, deep within their filthy, godless, animal like minds that death stalks their every waking moment. We are the Emperor's Hammer, His Fist and the Soul of the Imperium. These Heretics shall feel our wrath and with their death, shall know us at the greatest force to smite His enemies! For the Emperor!"
Fear left the men as burning faith filled their souls, their roar of approval shaking the landscape around them, several rocks from the walls of Denbar pass shaken loose. With a near naked hunger for battle, the men of the 777th Regiment snapped upright, fire in their eyes, "Mount Bayonets!" A flurry of swishes filled the air as every rifle found itself with a blade fixed to the barrel, as their rifles rose, sighting along the barrels over the lip of the trench, and waiting for the enemies of humanity to come in to range. Seconds later, it began.
The massive Basilisk Guns spoke, a draconian roar and a puff of black smoke, followed by an eerie silence that dragged on for several long seconds. Then the screaming freight train sound as the massive shells passed overhead and pounded in to the advancing lines. Explosions erupted as the heavy shells impacted with the masses advancing ranks of Cultists and Chaos Marines. Suddenly, there was nothing to see as bodies flew in numerous directions, before a wall of smoke, dirt and flashing explosions descended upon the battlefield.
The heavier weapons of the Imperial Guard hummed and hissed their readiness for several long drawn out moments before they poured their fire in to the advancing enemy, heavy stubbers, autocannons and heavy bolters opening up on the red tide as of Chaos that approached the mid way point of the battlefield. The fire tore in to the advancing Cultists, killing many of them in the opening volley. The range was still too great for lasguns and the attacking troops desperately tried to close the range to shoot back, advancing without pause, even as artillery blasted opening in their lines and Chaos warriors fell minus limbs and their lives, the enemy seemed to surge forward, as if every fallen Heretic was replaceable with minimal ease.
Commissar Ferguson shook his head, his blonde hair tight beneath his cap, as the rush of wind from the passage of the Bolter rounds caused his cape to fan out behind him even as he invoked the Emperor, to steady his men, and their trigger fingers, "All squads, volley fire with one second interval in T-minus ten," said Ferguson. He clearly relished the prospect of burning these Heretics in a wave of purification. Even now, he could hear the commands being issued across the vox before the sounds were snatched away by the roar of the Chaos Bolters and the snap-crack typical of lasgun fire. He could see clearly, in his mind what was happening amongst his troops as the countdown began.
Ten. Nine... The guardsmen ceased their fire, as power cells were ejected from their rifles with the barrels having grown warm and smoking slightly.
Eight. Seven... Fresh power cells were slotted in as the Chaos forces pressed forward, with heavy casualties... but confusion set in as they tried to understand why all of the enemy guns, barring the artillery had ceased.
Six. Five... The entire line of trenches was silent as the guardsmen adjusted their positions and their aim, heavy weapons focusing where the concentration of the enemy was at its thickest. Chaos stood a mere thirty five meters away and their roar would have routed the less disciplined and courageous - who would have found bullet from the Commissars' Bolt Pistol in the back of their skulls - as Chaos charged ever closer.
Four. Three... "Mark you targets!" came the shouts from the Squad Lieutenants and Sergeants, who were also taking aim at the advancing horde.
Two... Commissar Ferguson could not hold back the smile, as he noticed that members of the 777th Regiment wore a grim, bordering on savage smile on their face.
One. Zero… No order was needed, or even necessary as months of training took over, the entire regiment acting a single cohesive organism. Hundreds of near simultaneous snap cracks as the whine and roar of Heavy Bolters and the hiss flash of Lascannons merged in to one overwhelming crescendo of death. A wall of ruby and sapphire laser energy interspaced with hundreds of blackened silver bolter rounds flashed forward, annihilating everything in its path. Chaos Marines disappeared in puffs of red and white smoke, arms, legs, heads and torsos vaporized by the barrage. Chaos reeled and the second volley repeated the devastation of the first as the push from the rear of the Chaos army prevented them from falling back or seeking cover, as if the naked broken land gave any real cover to escape the purify wrath of the Imperial Guard.
The Commissar's bolt pistol spat repeatedly even as he thumbed the activation rune of his chain sword, the teeth grinding over, as if eager the cut through a heretic. He had no doubt that Chaos would continue to push forward. They were Chaos, and these Heretics followed the God of Skulls and Blood, the one they called Khorne. These Chaos Heretics would attack until the entirety of the 777th would be slain or, or until they were yet another lifeless corpse atop a mountain of corpses.
The distance separating the two differing armies was less than ten meters, and at this range, range weapons continued to chew through the fighters on both sides. Fire and smoke poured from holes in sandbag that lined the trenches, with several of the Heavy Weapons being the focus of concentrated enemy fire leaving wreckage that churned smoke upwards into the sky, whipped around like oil in water. The dead stared out with glassy unblinking eyes, blind to the carnage around them, slumped over the edge of the trench but more were alive and still firing.
Less than a minute, and it would be a full-scale melee. The courage of the men around him held fast, as he stood up, drawing himself to his full height, as he raised his chain sword over his head, circling it madly as he shouted, "I shall know no fear for I am fear incarnate! For the Emperor!" His war cry echoed up and down the line even as Imperial Guard sallied forth, hearts bursting with courage, righteous anger in their veins, roaring their fury at Chaos, at these Heretics who sullied the planet with there unwanted tainted presence. It was then, in the fury of the melee that the true butchery began.
The Commissar's chain sword growled its fury as it chewed through the armor of a Chaos Marine to bite in to the flesh of the man within. The entire process lasting several short seconds even as he took aim and fired a pair of shots in to the head a different Chaos Marine, this one with demonic limbs and spines erupting from his flesh, no doubt once a man, now a puppet of the demon that inhabited his flesh.
His chain sword sung outwards, deflecting the blade of Cultist before snap kicking the man in the gut, doubling him over, allowing for the handle of the chain sword to smash down in to the back of the heretics skull, driving him to his knees. He stayed there for only a moment before he was propelled through the air by a brutal foot to the chest. Perhaps his falling body would crush a Chaos Marine, or perhaps another Cultist.
Around him, the regiment had driven forward and pushed back the enemy for a short while but their numbers were too few. The battle raged man to man as bullets and lasers hissed and sizzled through the air as bloodied steel met bloodied steel. The shout and cries of victory, and death mingled together in an orchestra that described the carnage and bloodshed far better than words could ever accomplish. In spite of the success of the initial countercharge, the Imperial Guard were slowly but firmly being pushed back, as the sheer superiority of the enemy's numbers pushed them back, with maddening steadiness. Finally, the fighting was taking place atop and within the trenches themselves.
Where his men fought and struggled, cutting down one of the enemy for two or more of their own, some of the men had been smarter, staying out of the wild melee, trimming the ranks of Chaos before they hit the trench line. The Commissar had seen it coming, that sooner or later, their line would take the brunt of the assault, but the networks of trenches farther back, and the defenses built in to the pass were still intact and in place, this Chaos assault the ninth in three weeks, a desperate attempt to break the defenders. Commissar Ferguson made the call over his vox caster, giving the necessary order that would doom many of his men to their deaths, "This is Bravo Company of the 777th Regiment to Artillery Lead. Request fire mission on my perimeter!""
The channel was heavy with static as he repeated himself, shouting at the top of his lungs, firing directly in to the wave of cultists advancing towards him waving their crude, infantile weapons, dropping seven cultists with as many shots, even as their inaccurate fire caused miniature plumes of smoke to explode from the dusty plain. He chuckled to himself, musing that he had never met a Cultist who could actually shoot straight, and he had been an Imperial Guard Commissar for more than half his life.
"Artillery Lead to Bravo Company: Say again your request!"
His chain sword swept laterally, a brutal hacking blow that ripped the arm, and heavy bolter of a Chaos Marine from its body. He back stepped and swung again, the teeth of the chain sword chewing through weakened armor to gnaw upon the flesh and finally bone within the chest of the hulking monstrosity before him, "Its my call: Fire mission on my perimeter! Expend on my perimeter!"
"Copy your request! Fire mission fifteen seconds!"
The thump of the Basilisk guns was audible as was the screech; of near joy that echoed through the air as shells began to hammer the Imperial line, now composed more of Chaos even as he shouted to the men around him, "The Emperor Protects!" The world shook and vibrated with each shell that slammed in to the earth, but he swung his chain sword at another Chaos Warrior, armed with only a pair of axes again and again, finally punching through, the teeth of the chain sword grinding though the top of the man's head down to the base of his jaw line.
He looked around as the artillery slammed down, throwing men, both Imperial Guard and Chaos in to the air like fountains, as blood stained the earth a deep crimson, tainting the air with its heavy copper like smell. The rain of destruction continued to fall, a full barrage of twenty-five two hundred millimeter shells that served to pulverize or vaporize everything it touch with the tranquil ease of cleaning off a whiteboard.
A single shell landed behind the Commissar, blowing him forward, head over heels. Stars and static shimmered before his eyes, threatening him with unconsciousness, even as he struggled to clear them, shaking his head, darkness encroaching upon his vision. The orchestra of battle that had rung in his ears seemed strangely muted around him, as he stared down, uncomprehendingly at his legs that seemed to have strangely shortened. Shaking his head to clear the cobwebs, he grasped the ledge behind him, only to have pain explode and lance through what was left of his legs. Every nerve was a flame and he bit down upon his lip, hard drawing blood but successfully muting his scream of pain. He would not show pain, weakness or fear. He could not. His legs were broken, a result of the same shockwave that had thrown him one way and his chain sword and bolt pistol another.
However, it mattered little for he knew that he was already dead. Chaos would never take him alive to sacrifice or torture for the sheer sadistic pleasure involved. His hands scrabbled through the dirt and the few corpses, his search rewarded as his hands wrapped around the butt and stock of a Lasgun. The Chaos horde would keep coming until nothing of it remained, and he knew it was matter of time now, before his soldiers would fall back to the second line of defense and make their renewed stand there. If any of Bravo Company of the 777th Demon Hunters Regiment remained.
Grinning madly, he laughed, and chocked, coughing up blood, his time was nearly at end. Propping himself up, a lasgun in each arm, he aimed them upward at the parapet edge of the trench. Seconds later the helmetless head of a Chaos Marine peered in to the trench, long enough for it to be blow apart, spraying grey matter and viscous fluid in numerous directions.
He knew that soon enough he would run out of ammunition for both rifles, but he did not care. He laughed as a pair of cultists fell, twitching, burning holes stitched in to their chests. Chaos Marines leapt over the side and down in to the trench around him, he smiled through bloody and broken teeth, as he continued to pull the trigger, laughing almost maniacally as he struck down more of the enemies of the Emperor, until, there was no more energy in the power cells. He pulled the pin upon the Frag Grenade, liberated from a deceased guardsman moments before, he held the lever down upon the grenade, as the hordes of Chaos closed in upon him.
Just as their mutated claws sank in to his flesh, did the lever fly upwards, across his face with "kling" like popping sound, that rave the horde of heretics momentary pause as they too saw the lever flipping through space. His last thoughts were of his men and of pride, the way they had fought and bled such a ferocious enemy to hold the line against them. His smile was that of a man satisfied that he had done his best to do his duty and would continue to do so, even as death loomed large before him. Commissar Andrew Roger Ferguson smiled his last as he glared in to the eyes of the hated enemy, "Burn in Hell Chaos worshipping scum!" Seconds later, fire and shrapnel filled the narrow expanse of the trench as oblivion claimed him.
In Honor, Tribute and Memoriam of a Fallen Friend, Comrade, and Brother,
Always to be known for whom he was
Always cherished for the passions of his life
Always remembered for his accomplishments
Rest in peace.
Andrew Benjamin Ferguson.
October 9th, 1987 – May 28th, 2007.