Author Disclaimer: I do not own Warhammer 40,000. All rights and reservations go to Games Workshop. Enjoy the story.
Space was a vast, empty place. Once, it represented humanity's endless, vast future - it was, as far as most humans could see, endless. The future was so full of hope then. It was so full of ideas. The mere mention of the future regaled the questioner with vivid tales of wondrous technologies, strange aliens, and peace on a universal scale. Something to work toward - something to work for.
But that future would never come. In its place would appear a twisted vision - something not gone terribly wrong, but oh so terribly right. A picturesque scene right out of a fairytale novel set afire, the characters torn limb from limb. The future, once so unlimited, came in waves of oppression - of hate. Once so endless, it became humanity's one wall - its one obstacle. The Imperium of Man, something of a dystopia, was the closest thing to "good" that could be described in this hellish vision of the millennia to come. But there is no morality - no scale of measurable "good" and "evil". For how could you justify a society bent on mass-genocide as "good"? And yet how could you claim a society concerned with self-preservation to be "evil"?
There is no chivalry. There are no knights. This millennia is not one of peace - for there is no peace. Forget everything you know about what the future might be like, for such wishes shall never be fulfilled. Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be re-learned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace among the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter - and the laughter of thirsting gods.
But this future is not set in stone. There will always be the outlier, the deviant, the 'one who is not like the others'. There always has been, and there always will be. In this millennia, that outlier is Commissar Zaddion Stern. In a millennia of strife and bloodshed, he strives to bring forth peace. In a millennia of carnage and slaughter, he seeks to build alliances - to forge lasting bonds. While working as the head commissar for a backwater Imperial Guard world, whispers came forth from those who envied him that he was a daemon - that he consorted with the ruinous powers of Chaos. These were to be expected - people fear that which they do not understand. And he was not a man that was normally understood.
"Sir, did I hear you properly?" the trooper asked incredulously, "You want to go through with that outrageous plan to ally ourselves with the Eldar? The plan you made up last week?"
"Correct," Zaddion replied. He wasn't one for words, preferring actions to speak for themselves. True to himself, he saluted the man smartly and turned back to his desk, the guardsman still standing dumbly.
"But sir," the man protested, "It is... heresy. You are a commissar. Surely you know of-"
"I know," he dismissed the trooper with a gesture of his left hand, "But we should not be making enemies when we have so many already: Orks, Heretics, the Dark Eldar."
"And how," the man began to ask, but quickly stopped himself. Zaddion looked at him knowingly, and sudden realization dawned on the man, "You worked with them - the Eldar."
The Commissar nodded, his cap adjusting its position on his bald head, his mechanical right eye focusing on the guardsman's face, unblinking.
"Corinth," he sat at his desk and took his cap off, rubbing his glinting bald head gently with his hands, "We had a common enemy then. We have one now."
And with that, Zaddion gestured again that the man leave him be. Shrugging, the guardsman left the office. He walked slowly through the huge, empty halls, contemplating what he should do. What Zaddion was suggesting was heresy, pure and simple. If he turned the next corner, he'd bump into the door which led to the Lord-General's office. He could then quietly report Commissar Stern and be on his way.
Seven steps left, assuming he kept pace. His palms clenched.
But Stern had a point. The Lord-General, too caught up in his own glories and raised by a rich family, knew nothing of real battle. He was, as Zaddion had dryly put it, an armchair general. And then Zaddion had gone on to quote a Space Marine or something, citing that wars led by committee were doomed. Something like that. He shook his head.
Five steps. Sweat glistened on his brow.
It would be so simple to just report Zaddion. The man thought to himself - he had a lot in it for himself if he did so. He might get a promotion - maybe even take over the new commissariat position - and he'd gain some respect and trust from the Lord-General, always good things to have. But Zaddion was a good man. A good commissar - he took care of his men. He valued them, saw them as people, not just tools.
Three steps. He saw a guard pass him on duty. He saluted the man instinctively, then returned to his thoughts.
Who's to say that Zaddion would not just be replaced by a more "normal" - more vicious, more ruthless - commissar? The man shuddered, remembering his time on Lorn V, and the horrors that awaited his squad should he condemn them to being led by a possibly trigger-happy and incompetent man.
One step. He saw the door out of the corner of his eye, and his pupils read over the title and words, carved with a distinct gothic style:
Office of Lord-General Jastilus Gallus, Commanding Officer, 1st Kanadorian Enforcer Regiment
He passed the office without further word, his feet refusing to let him turn. Not paying any heed to his surroundings, he bumped into another on-duty guard.
"Sorry," he said, coming back to reality. The guard merely nodded.
"Uh..." the guard searched his memory for the man's name, drawing several blanks, "Think nothing of it... Bones, was it?"
"Yes sir," he replied, "First Lieutenant Mordeci 'Bones' Wrax, pleased to meet you."
"Private Narl," the man saluted him, his face bright under the light, "I just got here."
"Ah, a fresh recruit," Bones observed, "You'll like it here. The fighting's pretty bad out near the Tvinski plains - bloody warzone, what with us squaring off against the Chaos legions there. But you're new. You'll be on patrol here for a bit 'til you get your bearings."
"And then?" Narl's face seemed to contort with worry, though he appeared relieved when Bones laughed.
"I doubt you'll get to see any real fighting," Bones chuckled, "Campaign's mopping up the bastards left over from the old bid to take the sector. By the time you've got your legs on right, it'll be over and this place will be back to the old backwater world it used to be. Orks leave us well alone since they're too busy fighting the Dark Eldar, and vice-versa."
Narl seemed to relax upon hearing that, and he quickly remembered he was on guard duty. Saluting Bones smartly, he strode off, leaving Bones to contemplate Zaddion's heresy. The office of the Lord-General was still nearby, but he knew he couldn't bring himself to go back and report the commissar. So, he headed toward the barracks to get a small strike team arranged for the mission.
A few weeks back, when Zaddion had first mentioned the possibility of a temporary Eldar alliance to Bones, he'd worked out all the logistics "in theory" (at the time, Bones had been sure that Zaddion wasn't serious). The strike force, composed of 30 or so men, would have to move without Imperial support nor knowledge - if anyone loyal to General Gallus found out, they were in trouble. So he had his work cut out for him - building the task force, stocking them with decent weapons from the armory without drawing notice, and getting them some kind of vehicle transport and backup without contacting the Vehicle Headquarters commander, Lieutenant-General Guilliman.
The plan from there was clear-cut. They'd make their way through the various provinces - the main challenge being getting through the Tvinski plains quietly - until they got to the supposed location of the Eldar base: the Gold Concordat Valley, a desolate expanse of frozen wasteland flanked on three sides by unyielding, enormous mountain ranges. If they managed to get there in one piece, then the issue was getting the Eldar to agree to terms which would ensure their support in the coming feuds with their dark brethren and the raging Ork forces.
The plan, from all viewpoints, was supposed to fail.
But they had little choice. Rumors had been going around that Lord-General Gallus had received a rather disconcerting message from Segmentum Command: either he rid the planet of the foul xenos, or they would send in the Inquisition fleet.
An ultimatum: Exterminatus. The cleansing of a planet of all life - loyal and heretic, human and xenos.
But Bones was not about to see that happen. He stopped as he arrived at the exit door, bracing his clothing for the harsh cold outside. As he stepped out, he shivered and rubbed his arms, quietly walking towards the mess hall barracks. When he opened the door, the warmth he felt was an instant reprieve from the biting frost that permeated the rest of camp. Several guardsman looked up at him knowingly, nodding as he passed them - a few throwing mock-salutes. He grinned, grabbing a mess tin and getting in line for whatever foul-smelling rations they were serving today.
"Fried meat with synthetic bread ration," the servitor said mechanically, flicking its wrist and dropping an ugly-looking cup of slop on Bones' plate, "Next."
Bones took a drink cup and filled it before sitting at his usual table, surrounded by his subordinates. They all looked at him expectantly.
"I have news," the men perked up at hearing this, and he picked at his bread, "Commissar Stern has a... special assignment for us."
"Finish your food," he looked around suspiciously, "Meet me at the barracks in three hours. No one be late - and don't tell anyone about our little meeting."
The men opened their mouths to question, but Bones was already stuffing his face with the rather unappetizing meal, and they caught on, doing the same. A few made rather hilarious faces as the bile rose in their throat - synthetic bread stopped tasting like bread after two weeks in storage.
The rations had been sitting in the warehouse for seven.
After finishing their meals, the men made small talk, each being careful to leave by himself or in pairs, never in a group. A lone commissar, eating at the table opposite theirs, looked suspiciously at the men as they left, though he quickly dismissed his claims after observing raucous laughter coming from the men still at the table. Still, he thought, it would be wise to check what exactly they were doing. Deciding it was his obligation to investigate this possible heresy, he waited until only Bones was at the table and took his tray to the disposal bin. As Bones walked past him to the exit, he quietly followed, shadowing him all the way to the barracks.
Unfortunately for him, and perhaps fortunately for Bones and his men, the barracks on Kanadorias had no windows - the cold would fracture normal ones, and those heavy-duty windows that did exist on the base were reserved for shared rooms: the mess halls, the offices, etc. As Bones shut and locked the door behind him, the commissar groaned in frustration and, in a last-ditch effort to figure out what it was those men could be doing, he slammed his ear against the door and, much to his chagrin, for his face was freezing, waited for them to speak.
"... Special..." the voices inside were hushed, but he could make out a few choice words, "... Tomorrow... Bring... Ammunition... Guns... Raid... Vehicles... Guns... Eldar..."
The commissar deduced that the "special assignment" he'd mentioned was simply an Eldar raid. Deciding against reporting such a thing - the Eldar were a pain in the ass anyways, so any unrecorded raids would suffice for him - he left the barracks, rubbing his cold cheek and ear all the while.
Meanwhile, inside the barracks, a plan was brewing...
"The Special Assignment that Commissar Stern has provided us with," Bones began, and the men perked up once more at hearing this, "Is a diplomatic mission. We'll be attempting to contact the Eldar and possibly form a temporary alliance to make our campaigns against the other heretics and xenos here a bit easier."
The men looked, astonished, and Bones was about to continue when he heard a clunking against the door. Waiting for several moments, he began speaking once more.
"We're to assemble tomorrow - all thirty of us," he explained, "Bring lots of ammunition and guns - preferably any special weapons you can get from the armory. We'll try to raid the depot for vehicles - hopefully we won't have to use any of those guns against them - and once we get some we're going to give the Lord-General the slip. If all goes well, we'll be rubbing shoulders with the Eldar by the end of the month."
"Where do we meet after getting our stuff?" one of the newer recruits, Private Quintus Ramirez, piped up. Bones opened his mouth to answer before hearing another clunking, and then loud footfalls as if someone had just left the barracks door. Ignoring them, he answered.
"Meet at the mess hall, but drop off your equipment at the barracks first," he held up a batch of keys, "I had one of my friends in the Adeptus Mechanicus make me 31 copies of the barracks key - one for all of you, one of me, and the master copy goes to the commissar."
As he passed the keys out, he warned each of them.
"Don't let anyone see you holding it," he nodded at each man, "Only pull it out once you have all your necessary equipment - you get one shot to drop your stuff off at the barracks. Don't even think about coming back here after breakfast until you have your stuff."
The newer recruits nodded eagerly, somewhat disturbingly excited about the heresy they were committing.
"But sir," another new recruit, Private Thaddeus Novus, asked, "What do we say if they ask us why we're requisitioning this equipment? What excuse would I have for needing a plasma gun or a flamer?"
"You won't need excuses," Bones grinned, pulling out a thick wad of paper, unrolling it, "These are copies of official Imperium supply documents - Commissar Stern got these forged from someone in the Administorium. He's got connections."
Each man took a slip and admired it. The seals, the names, the explanations - all of them looked official. Bones noted that each man had different supplies to requisition, so they were to all memorize their items so that they could appear convincing in front of the munitions and armory officers. After all the slips had been handed out, he instructed each man personally on what he was to do when it came time to raid the vehicles. The men nodded solemnly, and when all was said and done, Bones had each man sign a handwritten letter which stated that, should they betray anyone to the Lord-General, they would be shot by their fellow soldiers. This was a mission that they could not afford to fail - even if it was a mission that the Imperial Guard would never approve of.
The men had dreamless sleep that night. Some didn't even get any sleep at all, the excitement of the secret undertaking they were about to initiate all but robbing them of any rest they could possibly get. Soon enough, daybreak came.
It was time.
The men all woke up as usual, and Commissar Zaddion Stern walked in on them dressing, as he did every other day. He did his usual duties - checking for cleanliness, order, etc. But each guardsman saw the glint of madness in his eyes. They saw it, and they nodded. Stern nodded back in approval - a silent moment of acknowledgement in what the men were about to do. As soon as he completed inspection, ensuring the beds were crisp and the men crisper, he turned to face Bones.
"Lieutenant Wrax," he said sharply, Bones cringing at his use of his real name, "Your men are in order. Proceed to mess double-time for morning rations. I understand you have duties to complete concerning the Munititorium, correct?"
"Sir, yes sir," Bones replied, saluting Stern, his arms and legs stiff, "We have Imperial documents that dictate that we acquire heavy hardware, sir!"
Outside, another commissar halted as he passed Bones' barracks. He turned, waiting to hear what Zaddion and his men had to say next.
"Take your documents to the Munititorium offices and get yourselves armed right after morning rations," Zaddion spoke harshly, and the commissar outside nodded in approval, "Make sure you take your munitions and weaponry back to the barracks, and leave it there until further notice. I will be locking the barracks before afternoon rations, and I expect that your hardware will be stationed inside the barracks before I arrive. Is that understood?"
"Sir, yes sir!" the men inside replied. Zaddion felt the piercing gaze of the commissar watching him. His palms glistened with sweat underneath his black leather gloves. His mouth clenched, and he waited until the commissar nodded and left before continuing. He spoke in a low voice.
"Alright," he said, looking back carefully to make sure no one was observing him, "I understand Bones passed out all the spare keys?"
The men nodded in unison.
"Good, good," he spoke hurriedly, "Lock the door when you leave, and only unlock it one by one to put your supplies inside. Don't go in pairs or groups - go alone. As soon as we've assembled in the mess, I'll have everyone disperse to do their jobs. Bones, who is to collect the weapons that they leave in the barracks?"
"Uh," Bones went over his mental checklist, "Xanthis. You, Quintus, and Mallear are in charge of taking all the weapons as soon as everyone meets in mess. I tried to limit the load you'd be carrying for stealth purposes, but you'll be holding a lot. Try not to make more than one trip, alright?"
"Xanthis, Quintus, Mallear," Zaddion pointed out the door, "Proceed to mess. As soon as your mission is complete, meet us at the base entrance. Assuming we make it, of course. If we're caught, drop all the weapons off at the fail-safe. You won't be connected, I'll make sure of that. Good luck."
The three men nodded at him quickly, saluting, and left for the mess hall.
"Alright, I assume the rest of you will be 'commandeering' those vehicles with me?" Zaddion grinned at his rather exaggerated use of the word commandeering. The men nodded.
"Bones?" Zaddion turned to him, "While the men are eating, debrief them. Try to keep your voice down. I'll be finishing up some of the paperwork in my office. As soon as you see me heading for mess, check in with the men's status on the weapon run. Did you pass them the private vox channels?"
"Yeah," Bones paused, "How do we know you aren't being tracked?"
"I have friends in high places, Bones," Zaddion replied, turning to leave, "They made sure the vox channels are secured - they run the delayed astropath feeds as well as the local vox feeds on this planet. They won't fail me. Good luck. Dismissed."
And with that, Zaddion rushed out of the barracks and back to his office. Bones saluted the rest of his men, silently dismissing them for morning rations.
The men all gathered in the mess hall, chewing noisily as Bones explained the finer points of the plan to them in a low whisper. The meal itself was rather unsavory - week-old synthetic biscuits with moldy gravy and synthetic bacon. The coffee - month-old recaf with fake sugar additives - was not much better. The men barely tasted their meal, however, as they shoved down the food and checked their watches, mentally taking note of everything Bones was telling them. As soon as they downed their last refill cups of the horrid recaf they got, they all stood up and moved with haste. Several of the commissars looked up with interest, but none of them moved to follow nor track the squad that was leaving the mess hall.
None except Commissar Eliphas Thane.
Thane shadowed several of the men heading to the Munititorium offices, carefully watching for any signs of heresy. The men split up, confusing Thane, and he grunted as he had to pick one to follow. Tracking Bones, he noted that he and his men held Imperial notices for special requisition orders - heavy and special weapons, special munitions, etc.
To anyone else, this would've been normal work for a guardsman. But Eliphas Thane knew better. He used to work in the Munititorium, himself. And he knew those slips were fake - could tell from a mile away. The slips provided a near picture-perfect replica of a real requisitions form - so real that anyone else would be able to tell it was fake. But Eliphas Thane knew better, because he spotted one tiny flaw, a rather impressive achievement considering how far away he was and how small the writing was.
The slips' title font was written in a shade of crimson two shades too light for official Imperial documents. And it was then he knew that he was pursuing traitors. He thought about drawing his bolt pistol, but then realized he'd make too much noise - in the quiet, frigid camp, Bones would hear him unsnapping the leather case which held his pistol, and he'd turn around. Opting to instead threaten him with force, he silently drew his combat knife and snuck up on Bones.
But he didn't count on Bones being armed.
Eliphas lunged forward, intending to catch Bones in a death grip to knock him out. Bones heard the air move and instantly reacted. Flipping around, he drew his own las pistol and jammed it in Thane's mouth, pulling the trigger several times. The sickening sound of burning flesh, and the horrified grunts of Commissar Thane as his throat was both torn open and cauterized at the same time, filled the quiet air. As Eliphas slumped forward, dead, Bones knew he would be in trouble if anyone saw his little stunt. Dragging Eliphas, he quickly hid him behind one of the garbage containers, making sure to close the man's mouth and eyes so that no one would see the burn marks his pistol had made in the man's throat. When he was satisfied with his work, he quickly ran over to the Munititorium, hoping that he hadn't wasted too much time.
He sighed in relief as he saw that he still had about 20 minutes left on the clock before Zaddion was finished with his work and due back at the mess hall. Pulling out his fake requisition slip, he handed it to the munitions officer.
"60 hand grenades," he spoke straight, convincingly, and the munitions officer nodded at him.
"Going on some kind of raid?" he asked curiously, "Saw some men I know are yours asking for special weapons - plasma guns, shotguns, flamers."
"Something like that," he grinned at the munitions officer, nudging him, "Don't tell the general... It's a... surprise."
"Ah, one of those raids, eh?" the munitions officer raised an eyebrow as he handed him the satchel with the grenades, "Don't worry about me. Mum's the word. Shame the general doesn't approve of all those Eldar raids we've been sending out lately."
Bones chuckled - not at the joke, but at his own deception - and strolled out of the Munititorium quarters. Lightly tapping his ear, he turned on his vox, tuned to the private signal Zaddion had provided.
"Hey," he mouthed the words quietly, so that no one besides himself could hear them, "Do you boys hear me?"
A resounding number of quiet 'yes' responses came from the other side of the vox channel. He grinned.
"I just got my grenades," he walked slowly towards the barracks, checking every so often if someone was following him, "Has everyone else dropped their supplies off at the barracks?"
Another round of approval. One voice, however, stuck out.
"Uh, I had a slight complication," Bones recognized the voice of Private Quintus, "I spotted a commissar pointing at the barracks and whispering something to another guardsman. The man, a friend apparently, told me that the commissar is going to do a sweep of the barracks after afternoon rations."
"Shit," Bones cursed quietly, "I think it has something to do with Eliphas going missing this morning. Damn."
"Why would he go-"
"Because I killed him," Bones cut Quintus off. Several horrified gasps made their way onto the vox channel, and Bones shook his head, "He was going to stab me! What was I supposed to do?"
The vox went quiet. Bones continued.
"This doesn't change anything," he shook his head, "It just means we'll have to work faster. I'll alert Zaddion. Don't delay - as soon as we get the signal in the mess hall, leave ASAP and do your jobs. Quintus, Xanthis, Mallear - that goes double for you. Make sure all the special weapons and ammunition are thoroughly cleared out - leave our regular las rifles so they don't think something's up."
The men all voiced approval as Bones arrived at the barracks, fingering his key, "Alright. I'm at the barracks. Maintain vox silence until we meet at the mess hall."
The line went dead. Bones unlocked the barracks and quickly ran over to his bunk, dropping the grenade satchel by his pillow. He quickly inspected the room and found all the requisitioned weapons to be in order. As he left, he locked the door behind him and tried to maintain an air of calm as he quickly walked over to the mess hall. He passed several commissars, but none of them spared any looks at him. He was rather relieved at that. Arriving at the mess hall on time, he spotted Zaddion just about to enter. Stopping him, he pulled his shoulder.
"Zaddion," he whispered harshly, "I killed Eliphas."
Zaddion looked horrified for a moment, before his face reverted to its usual blank stare. His voice betrayed nothing as he asked, "Why?"
"He... followed me," Bones confessed, "Tried to get me in a choke-hold. I responded quickly - by accident, mind you - and shot him in the throat. He didn't make it."
Zaddion pondered the statement for a moment before shrugging, "You tell everyone over the vox that we have to move faster, now?"
Bones nodded quickly, and Zaddion proceeded to enter the mess hall. The men stood up, and Zaddion mouthed at them, "Bones is outside. Go do your jobs."
The men left one by one, a few picking up cups of recaf and chatting with other men as they waited for their time slot to come. Bones himself didn't bother to enter the mess hall, instead doubling back and running over to the vehicle wing. Taking position behind the supply truck doors, alongside several of the other men, he waited for the all-clear from the point man and quickly ran in. The group split up, and proceeded with the vehicle raid.
Two men - Private Archien and Private Tavos - ran up the stairs and found the main office unlocked - the men out on afternoon ration break. Carefully searching, they found the keys and pass codes to the needed vehicles: two Chimeras, and one Leman Russ tank. As they quickly made their way down to the vehicle platform, they found Bones waiting at the bottom with the rest of the men. Bones was seemingly obsessed with whomever he was talking to on his vox, so he ignored the two privates, motioning for the rest of the men to help them find the vehicles. Luckily enough, said vehicles were near the backdoor exit, allowing them to slip out unnoticed. They waited impatiently for Bones, who reluctantly joined them after terminating his vox call.
Meanwhile, three men quickly sprinted across the nearly empty camp after a near run-in with the commissar who had been planning to storm the barracks. The men, heavily laden with equipment ranging from plasma guns to grenades, were sweating buckets and their feet tired as they approached the imposing camp gate. Heavily engraved with gothic symbols, the gates stood as both a physical and symbolic barrier. Within lay order, peace, oppression. Outside was a hunting ground - free, yes, but filled with endless conflict and chaos. Both in the literal and metaphoric sense.
As they arrived carrying their ordinance, they slowed to a shuffle and dropped their payload near one of the empty barracks. Guard patrols were, thankfully, thinner as of late - afternoon ration time was a godsend - but the men nevertheless kept a sharp lookout for anyone who seemed a little too interested in what they were doing. Soon enough, they heard the rumble of engines, and were relieved to see the convoy steaming forward, Bones sticking up out of the Leman Russ' turret, having resumed his vox call.
"What do you mean you can't go?" he asked incredulously, "With all due respect, Commissar Zaddion, you came up with this crazy plan - at least have the balls to see it through. What do you mean I'm being insubordinate? Look who's talking!"
"Where's Zaddion?" Mallear asked, helping Xanthis and Quintus load the weapons, ammunition, and supplies on-board the Chimeras, "We have to go now."
"Hey, what are you doing with those vehicles?"
Everyone froze, before slowly turning their heads to the source of the voice: a commissar on top of the main gate. Beside him lay the bodies of the gate's guards - guards who'd been bribed by Zaddion to look the other way while his little "special assignment" was getting ready to shove off. The commissar sneered, gritting his teeth.
"I ought to have you all shot for heresy," his teeth curled into a cruel smile, "I'll bet the Lord-General will LOVE to hear about your excuses... Let's see how you worm your way out of this one, here-"
He was cut off by the sound of a bolt pistol firing, followed by a clatter as his own pistol fell to the ground, and his body crumpled, a bullet wound bleeding profusely out of his head. The men turned to the shooter.
"Huh," Zaddion released the clip on his bolt pistol and reloaded, nodding in satisfaction, "Headshot."
Everyone's mouths were agape. Had he just shot a fellow commissar - one above him in rank, no less?
Zaddion merely shrugged, pulling open the gate mechanism. The rusted, frozen gears were quiet for a moment, before suddenly roaring to life as they groaned under the weight of chains, slowly inching the door open. The commissar began walking towards the lift, which he promptly used to scale down the 50 foot walls. Upon arriving at the bottom, he walked briskly towards the Leman Russ, climbing into the gunner's turret, a rather astonished Bones getting up and making room for him.
"Never thought I'd see the day you shot a fellow Imperial," Bones propped himself onto the side of the tank, and one of the guardsmen tossed him a plasma gun, "But I guess there's a first time for everything."
Zaddion merely nodded, medals shining, and tapped on the tank's turret. The metal behemoth groaned forward, before picking up some speed and quieting down. As the convoy made its way through the gates, they knew not what awaited them.
"Ranger Yathool," an Eldar Banshee looked up from her crouched position, "Can you confirm what I just heard?"
"Confirmed," Yathool responded, "The Mon-Keigh are intending to propose an alliance. Foolish prospect, but I have reports from other Rangers... Rather disturbing reports."
"Of-" the Banshee began.
"Exterminatus," he shuddered at the word, "We have not yet found the Soul Stone of Farseer Bal'el. We need more time."
"I will send my report to Farseer Ria," the Howling Banshee got up, "Keep close watch on them, Yathool. Make sure they do not interfere with the Ork Warband."
"What of the Alpha Legion?" he asked, crawling silently across to another patch of ground, keeping his eyes and his gun carefully trained on Zaddion's head.
"They are an obstruction in our plans..." the Banshee contemplated, "Do not let them attack them either - not until Farseer Ria confirms that they are unimportant in the plan. Dissuade them from attacking by any means necessary - but do not reveal yourself, and do not kill any of the humans. They are... important."
And with that, the Howling Banshee quietly slipped off, skirting around the renegade convoy, and made haste toward the Eldar camp. A rather lucky find, she spotted several obstacles along the way, and set non-lethal traps to slow the advance of the convoy, ensuring they would be bogged down for days trying to get through.
But Lieutenant "Bones" Wrax and Commissar Zaddion Stern knew nothing of these deceptive machinations. They knew one thing: they were renegades, and that meant they had to succeed without support - without help from anyone except their own men.
And unbeknownst to anyone but Farseer Ria, victory would come at a terrible price - for all involved.
At the Eldar Base...
Farseer Ria's eyes widened as she got up from her meditation. Something had shifted... something not part of the plan. She peered into the multiple futures she thought she knew, but found her mind muddled and confused. Nervous but not disheartened, she got up from her dwelling and donned her armor, leaving her faceplate off. Taking a walk in the frigid, windswept landscape, she closed her eyes and searched for the source of the disturbance.
Her mind landed on the face of Commissar Zaddion Stern, set in a frown, as he sat atop his Leman Russ.
She opened her eyes.
Author's Note: Apologies for all of you waiting for me to update Lukas' Folly. The story appears to have hit a rut in chapter 3 (contemplating a rewrite right now), so for now I'm branching out with a new story. Lukas' Folly should have another chapter up by the end of next week (hopefully this week), and as for this story, we'll see.
As always, please review!