Chapter 7 Dragon von Shreider

AN: Quick thing to let everyone know since that there is some confusion, this story is going to wrap up very shortly, but it is only one story in a series of stories that I am planning to write, so while this one will finish up, another one will come out one day. So you'll be seeing a lot more of Erich and everyone else. I just didn't feel like having a two million word story, so don't worry, there will be a lot more story to tell and plot to build. Funny thing being is that this story hasn't even introduced the second most important character in the series. Most important depending on how you look at it and I still have a ton of plot building and character development left. I thought this story would introduce the character, but sometimes this seems to just go at its own pace. In total, I've been toying with seven stories with seven chapters apiece. Lucky seven I guess, without the seven chapter thing. So, that could be 1.4-2 million words depending. God help me, I think I've started an epic. Also the story will be switched to complete when done.

Two hours ago, Erich had almost been killed by a hive ganger, now, he was her official, yet unofficial bodyguard. She wore some of the protective equipment of the Korps, taking only the lighter scout issue flak armour and NBC raincoat to protect herself from both enemy fire and the dangerous chemicals dripping down from overhead. She had even taken a pair of Korps issue boots that they had managed to find in her size, but she carried them in her bag that had also been issued instead of wearing them. No doubt intending to break them in after she had finished helping the guard and slip away with all the gear she had been loaned. If she didn't just plan on outright betraying them first, which Erich put high on his list of possibilities.

What made Erich nervous the most though, was the fact that they had allowed her to take a KLC-43 with ample ammo from supply and the las carbine currently hung from her shoulder. Fully functional, fully loaded, and fully capable of punching through Death Korps armour. There was a small piece of good news in all of this though. The other ganger Eros, whom Erich had broken his ankle, was even now being treated by Korps medicae staff, far, far away from where they were now. So now all Erich had to worry about was getting shot, which was actually a large improvement from before.

Why they had agreed to give the hive ganger a weapon, Erich could only guess that it was a condition of her helping them, but it still didn't make him feel any better about it. Or how they were trusting her to lead a company of Death Korps soldiers down a secret path that would take them right to the very heart of one of the main generators. Commissar Osei seemed to believe her though and if Osei trusted her, then Erich would trust her. For now.

They were in the lead of the column, the ganger Beth stopping every once in a while at certain tunnels or intersections. Checking little nicks and marks in the rocks, or just seeming to be replaying a route in her mind, before continuing on.

This path didn't seem quite natural, but it didn't seem seem like it had been tunnelled out by the Athenian government, so that meant that either the hive gangers had tunnelled it out or the tyranids had done it. Due to the fact that Erich hadn't been horribly ripped to shreds or eaten yet, he preferred to believe that it was the hive gangers whom had done it. Rather productive work for a bunch of criminals.

"Check and make sure that the tunnel's clear," said Beth to Erich, peering at him with her mismatched eyes from within her foul weather cowl.

"Yes ma'am," said Erich, the word almost catching in his throat as he said it. It galled him to take orders from a hive ganger, but he would not disobey an order and he had been ordered to listen to the hive ganger. So he would obey, no matter how distasteful he found it.

Readying his rifle, Erich crouched down and moved quickly ahead of the ganger, careful to watch for both possible booby traps and tyranid presence. It would be all too easy for Beth to have him killed by having him trip a wire for a trap ahead. Then all she would have to say was that she hadn't known it was there or the Athenian's had booby trapped the tunnels without her knowledge. All to easy and all to possible to happen.

It was for that reason that he had been watching her as closely as the trail in front of them. Watching for any sign of treachery or betrayal from the hive ganger. She had ample reason to want to kill him and the Korpsmen following her. He had killed one of her comrades, wounded another, and injured her in the course of doing so. Guard gear would be worth a fortune down here, especially the high quality chemical and toxin proof Death Korps gear. Each Korpsmen wore what would undoubtedly amount to a small fortune down here and with nearly two hundred sets, whoever claimed it would be instant underhive nobility.

So even as he moved forwards, Erich kept one eye looking over his shoulder at the hive ganger in a manner of speaking, waiting for her to make a move. She had already tried to kill him once today, and a few hours doubtless would change her opinion of the matter and Erich was wondering when she was going to try again. So intent was he on Beth though, that Erich almost slipped several times on the rocks because he was more concerned with her than the terrain.

The rock was rough cut with jagged edges and a dull brown and black in colour, with water dripping down its' sides in beads of water that dripped nearly constantly. Water that would eat Erich's skin right off of his body if it fell on an exposed patch. Thankfully though, Erich didn't have an exposed piece of flesh for it to fall onto. Having to pay more attention because of a small drop off, Erich took his eyes off of the ganger and made sure that his descent didn't end in broken bones.

A sudden twinge of instinct let Erich know that someone was behind him, even though that he couldn't hear anything or anyone. Turning around sharply and bringing his rifle up, he was brought face to face with the hive ganger Beth. Silent as death, thought Erich with grudging approval.

"We need to talk," she said in a business tone.

"About what?" questioned Erich, lowering his rifle, but reluctantly and wanting to keep the ganger in his sights.

"You don't trust me and I get it. I don't like you or any of these frucks behind me, but I'm not going to put a knife in your back the second you turn away. I made a deal, a promise, a vow if you want to be dramatic that I'd help you bastards and I'm getting something that I really want out of it and I'm not going to fruck it up over revenge. You're who they gave me to act as a bodyguard and I don't like it any better than you, but if you keep looking like your going to blow my head off every time I sneeze, then I'm going to get frucking killed. I'm on your side okay?"

"This trooper will protect you, but it doesn't trust you. Loyalty cannot be bought with money, nor can it be inspired in a criminal. Trust is earned, not given. Maybe a new concept for you, but it's how the real Imperium works."

"Oh for frucks sake," said Beth exasperated. "You want to know what they paid me in, do you?"

"Crowns," said Erich simply.

"Fruck you," said Beth viciously. "They paid me in a promise. Something that I get only after I behave like a good little girl for them. Do you know what that promise was, do you? It's a ticket offworld once you leave. A way off of this shitty, polluted, diseased, and frucked up world. I've hardly ever seen the sun, I always have fresh frucking chemical burns, I'm always watching my back against some whacked out junkie, mutie, freak, or psycho, and everything I've ever gotten has been scavenged or stolen. See this?" asked Beth, gesturing to her loaned apparel. "It's the nicest, most comfortable, and most protective shit I've ever worn. And the cleanest. I want out, I want a job, a life outside of this frucking shithole and I'm not doing anything to jeopardize it. I don't care that you killed someone from my gang, Phillip hated me anyways. I don't care that you broke Eros's ankle, the kid's a mouthpiece and a spoiled brat. I don't care that you hit me with your rifle. I don't care about anything you've done to me or vice versa," said Beth, her voice rising. "So for the love of the Emperor, just trust me and stop treating me like a frucking criminal. I'm on your side."

"But you are one," said Erich matter of fact. "Convicted or not you are a criminal and this trooper isn't going to give you its trust." Especially because his experience with criminals had ended with them all trying to kill him. It didn't matter whether or not anything about Wilkins had been confirmed. A man who did the things he did was obviously doing something on the side.

"Throne fruck it. What do I have to do, to make you stop being such an uptight pussy and just work with me here? You want my word? A pact in blood? A pinky promise? My favourite number? Just stop being a little cowardly bitch and do what you're supposed to. Why don't you jus-hell," said Beth, her mismatched eyes going wide and going for her las carbine.

Erich's first thought was that it was a trick, but Beth's eyes were focused behind Erich and so he whirled around and was just fast enough to raise his rifle above his head and catch a scything arm of a genestealer hybrid.

On the cultist, skin met chitin in a neutral zone of flesh a greyish pallor, before switching to brown and soft skin, or greyish blue-black chitin. The scything limb hit the top of Erich's rifle and stopped. Following the countless hours of bayonet drill practice, Erich knocked the scythe arm away, parried a return thrust, batted the arm to the side, then thrust his own sword bayonet into its' gut.

The thing howled as Erich withdrew his bayonet, turning it as he did so for maximum damage, then drove it to the ground with Krieg steel in its throat. Erich then put a las round it its head for good measure, the large, compound eyes bursting into thick viscous goo from the sudden influx of heat and energy. Erich turned back to Beth, just in time to see her las carbine levelled at head level. Then with an ozone crack, a red beam streaked past Erich too fast to even try to see, angled higher than Erich had thought and struck the ceiling.

A black shape fell from the ceiling barely a few feet from Erich and hit the ground with a meaty thunk, with thick viscous goo draining onto the ground and steam rising from its wound. A genestealer hybrid had been sneaking up on Erich from above and with how busy he was with the other, he would never have seen it and no doubt it would have taken and killed him unawares. Beth had saved his life.

Heavy footfalls heralded the arrival of more Korpsmen, who came down the gentle incline to where Erich and Beth were.

"There, now do you trust me?" asked Beth re-slinging her las carbine.

"This trooper concedes that it may have been wrong to not trust you," admitted Erich grudgingly.

"What a good girl," said Beth in a mocking tone of encouragement. "Now if only every Pipe Runner could do that, you would find that just because someone lives in the underhive, they're not a total frucking scumbag and actually can tell the truth."

"Are we getting close Bethany?" asked Osei, eyeing the dead hybrid with both caution and concern, coming down the slope with his chainsword and pistol in hand. Red tinted lenses giving him a daemonic look in the low light.

"The opening's just down this tunnel another couple hundred meters or so. It opens up into a water treatment plant and once we get through there, it's just next door. We have to get going fast now though. Once one of those freaks sees us."

"They all know where we are," finished Osei. "Captain, get us moving, quickly. We don't have much time left."

xxx

Guntram was tired. He was tired and his body hurt nearly everywhere. After they had gone down into the root cellar, it had just been one running gun battle after another, trying to keep one step ahead of the cultists and Emperor forbid, some of the purestrains that Guntram had glimpsed from time to time. They had risked burying themselves alive to buy themselves time by collapsing some of the tunnels that they had gone through. A few stick grenades was all it took to bring the roof down and they had done it several times to escape pursuit, but they always found them again and already Guntram was down another three men. Twelve men including himself, just over one full section and only a third of what he had started out with.

They were able to make good time through the cramped and confusing tunnels, Guntram having played in many exactly like these as a child and no doubt many of those under his command had done the some. They were able to move at near a full run, but hour after hour of doing so was finally taking its toll on Guntram and his men. They had food and they had water, but what they couldn't get when they would finally need it would be sleep. They'd already been awake a full day and while they could continue on for another two days of combat operations as they'd trained, they would start to make mistakes and mistakes would get them killed as easily as enemy fire. Or claws, as the case may be.

They'd managed to get to a wider tunnel with many intersecting and smaller and larger tunnels, but Guntram had no idea where they were. His pocket auspex had been broken by a stray las shot and his greatcoat still bore the burn mark from it. Auspex's apparently, were surprisingly good as stopping las fire. A useful trait, if only they wouldn't be turned to slag immediately afterwards.

They came to a bend in the tunnel and too late Guntram recognized the rapid approach of feet. It sounded like a lot of people too, too many to outrun and too many to outfight. It looked like the end had come, but, well, atonement in death right?

Take cover, signed Guntram, pressing himself into the dry, smooth stone wall. What remained of his command pressed themselves tightly into the wall at his side, weapons at the ready. Despite himself, Guntram felt his heart rate pick up and adrenaline flood his system, making him twitchy. Mouthing a prayer of fortitude and bravery, Guntram willed himself to a calmer state, tensed up, and lunged as the first figure came into view.

It was a clumsy tackle, no doubt because of his fatigue, not allowing him to bring his sword to bear, but the smaller figure went down under his weight, and his Korpsmen quickly followed suit, crashing into the other advancing figures, intending to sell their lives as dearly as they could.

Guntram tumbled with the figure, each of them kicking and punching each other and in the brief glimpse that Guntram saw of it, he saw soulless red eyes set in a long and sloping face. Guntram let go of his sword as he managed to pin the figure below him in the struggle that had lasted less than five seconds and pushed its' head back to reveal its throat, only for his hand to slip from the grip and so he forced it back to the ground with a hand on its chest and prepared to plunge his knife down. Only to realize that the figure below him was not a genestealer cultist, but a gorgeous looking young blonde woman, in Guntram's opinion, with large, round sapphire blue eyes, currently filled with confusion and surprise. Guntram lowered his knife, noticing that no one else was fighting and in fact, were all just staring at him.

"Um, can you get off of me? Please?" asked the woman, incredibly politely for someone who had been tackled and almost stabbed to death in a darkly lit tunnel. It was then that Guntram also noticed that his hand holding her to the ground was currently pressed down on a rather compromising place. Rather firmly too.

Colour rising in his cheeks under his mask, Guntram quickly got off the young woman and helped her to her feet.

Guntram had knocked her mask and coif off in the struggle and had caused golden shoulder length hair to fall free into a tangled mess.

"I'm sorry about that, I thought that you were genestealer cultists," said Guntram to the young woman, seemingly unable to stop staring at her bright and open eyes. She had a kind face and when she spoke, she seemed very genuine and sincere. She was probably also a guardsman, which meant off limits.

"Well, no harm no foul right?" said Amy dusting herself off.

"Pardon?" asked Guntram.

"You've never heard that saying before?"

"No," answered Guntram bluntly.

"Oh. Well I guess it doesn't matter, it's not that common of a saying anyways. What regiment are you guys from?"

"These Korpsmen are from the Krieg 101st light infantry regiment, and I am their commissar."

"Oh I know you," said Amy cheerily. "You were there with what's-his-name at that interrogation with that Athenian colonel. I was standing right beside you. You're, um, ah...Guntram," said Amy snapping her fingers in her gloves happily at remembering the name. "Junior commissar Guntram Von...Von...Waisenkind?" said Amy tentatively.

"Yes, I'm sorry though, because I can't quite remember your name. You are a commissar too, right?"

"Mm hm," said Amy pointing to her crimson sash tied around her waist. "Junior Commissar Amy Walker, and the Korpsmen with me are from the 12th heavy siege regiment. But we also have J-Boy, Big Man, Gentle, Lefty, Chalk, Doll, Grind, and what was your street name again?" asked Amy turning to one of the gangers in her group.

"Nick."

"Why Nick?"

The man held up a knife and snapped it out.

"Oh, right, because you nick them with your knife," said Amy like she had just figured out the answer to a hard question.

"They can't un-nick what I nick," said the now named Nick, putting the knife away.

"Hive gangers?" asked Guntram somewhat perplexed and a little leery.

"Piperunners," corrected Amy. "They've made sure that they've remained clear for the most part of genestealer taint. Also, they're leading us to one of the generators that we have to blow up. Turns out that there was an ambush set up for us the route we were going, so we dodged a bit of a bullet and they know paths that aren't even on the maps or auspex readers."

"I see. Would it be alright if me and my men joined up with you? We've become cutoff from our regiment and are starting to run low on ammunition."

"Sure, I'm sure that a few extra bodies will come in handy," said Amy picking up her hat and frowning at her mask.

"I think you broke my mask," said Amy holding up the sloping red-eyed mask of a Krieg commissar.

"I'm sorry, it shouldn't have just broken from that. Are you sure it's broken?"

Amy held up the mask to show the broken straps, the daemonic visage swaying drunkenly on its remaining strand.

"Yeah. The thing never fit right anyways, so it doesn't really matter," said Amy.

"You should get your quartermaster to get you fitted properly for a new one when you get back to regimental headquarters. He really should have done a better job of it," said Guntram.

"I will, but we've got to get going. Gentle says that these tunnels will start getting pretty busy pretty quickly."

"Lead the way," said Guntram.

They followed the tunnel back down the way that Guntram had come from, but they went down some of the ones that weren't lit up and dark inside. Well, not dark for Guntram and the Kriegers, but still unlit. They seemed to actually be lost and it didn't help negate that thought when the gangers argued amongst themselves several times at different intervals.

As they kept going though, they started to feel a hum build up around them, both subsonic, feeling it in their chests and able to hear it. It also started to get warmer too, which made the Piperunners get a little edgy. Apparently from what Guntram understood from the briefings was that

"Junior Commissar Walker, may I ask you a question?"

"Shoot," answered back the chipper blonde.

"Shoot what?" asked Guntram confused.

"Sorry, I used an idiom again. What's your question?"

"I know that this isn't really on topic for our assignment, but why is the one ga-"

"Piperunner," corrected Walker.

"Piperunner called Gentle? All the other ones seem to have names relating to them. Like the female being named Doll, or the man missing his right hand called Lefty."

"Oh, it's actually a funny story," said Walker, a smile splitting her face. "You see, back when they were juvies, like thirteen or fourteen, Gentle there said that when you have sex with women you have to frek them gently or else you'll hurt them. Or they won't like it or something like that," said Walker with a wave of her hand. "Anyways ever since then they've taken to calling him Gentle. He really doesn't like it, but it's better than his regular name."

"What's his regular name?"

"Dick Van Dyke," said Walker giggling aloud, unable to help herself.

"How is that funny?"

"Think about it," said Walker.

"I still don't get it."

"Think dirty."

"Oh, now I get it," said Guntram.

"You didn't laugh."

"It's not that funny," admitted Guntram.

"You Krieger's don't really have a sense of humour huh?"

"Yes we do, it's just that juvenile things relating to sexual organs don't make us laugh."

"Okay, then tell a joke."

"What?"

"You heard me, tell a joke," said Walker.

"Okay, well there's, um, ah."

"Wait, you actually don't know any jokes?" asked Walker surprised.

"No, I know one. You aren't offended by dirty jokes right?"

"Nope," said Walker. "Let's hear it. I've never heard a Krieger actually tell a dirty joke so this should be interesting."

"Okay. A man in a relationship with a woman has sex three times a week. For every other woman in the relationship, he has sex one less time a week with the first woman, but has sex an additional two times a week in total. Every third week he needs to rest and then has twice as much sex the following week, then the regular amount the following week. So, how many times in a month does a man with six wives have sex?"

"Oh, a math joke? It better be funny," said Amy good naturedly, flashing a smile filled with white teeth. "Okay let's see, I'm starting without doubling the first week, is that okay?"

"It's fine."

"Okay, Five times two is ten, plus three take away five is eight. Now times two is sixteen, then there's a week off. So, add sixteen, then another eight-do the last few days of the month count and can I just do four weeks?"

"However you want to do it."

"Okay, so then a man with six wives has sex thirty two times in four weeks. Am I right?"

"No."

"Why? Did I count it up wrong or something?"

"I said wives, not girlfriends," answered Guntram sounding completely serious. Walker burst out laughing.

"That's pretty good Waisenkind, where did you hear that one?"

"Sister Bella told me that one."

"Really? A nun told you that one?"

"Yes, Sister Bella had a few...quirks to put it mildly."

"Neat, well I hope that I'm not coming across too...I don't know, rude or insensitive, but I'm just trying to pass the time so I'm just going to ask. Don't be mad okay?"

"Okay."

"How did your parents die? I'm sorry, it was a stupid question, forget I asked it," said Walker, going red in the face.

"No it's fine, death is part of life and in the end we all die. My mother died when I was five from illness. Extremely aggressive cancer, they missed it when they did the checkup. I've started to think that she had a broken or worn seal on her mask. My grandparents were already dead and I had no relatives on the continent so I was sent to the orphanarium. My father died a few months later, he was a major in the Death Riders. He died an honourable death, he didn't retreat and he was the last one to fall. Also the last man to hold the regimental standard. He was a Korpsman through and through, I just hope that I can be the man that he was. Unflinching, unfailing, and as brave as he was. I got his sword after they buried him and they sent me in for commissar training after a few years of course work. I can't even recall how many hours I spent in that dingy little practice yard with my father's sword swinging it around. What about yours?"

"Well, mine isn't quite as happy as yours. Well, I shouldn't say happy, more like more terrible."

"How so?"

"Well, I guess that both our dads were cavalry officers. Small galaxy huh? Mine died same as yours, fighting on some front in the Imperium, but it was my brother who got the family sword. He joined up right away into the Vangarrian Hussars, got an officers commission and everything. I was his kid sister see? Mom...well, mom went frekking crazy with grief. She had a fight with Michael before he left, I was too young to really know what was going on other than them shouting about Michael wanting to do what dad did. Mom turned to booze after that...and anyone who would give her a quick frek," said Amy, a bitter tone making her usually upbeat and cheery voice sound odd.

"I'm sorry."

"I'm not," said Amy, sounding anything but. "She got drunk one night in late winter and never made it home so I'm told. Just laid behind a propane tank and went to sleep. You know, those big ones?"

"Yes."

"Froze to death. Nobody knew what happened to her at first and nobody thought to come check on me till I went and banged on my neighbours door because I was so hungry I could hardly stand it. I didn't know how to cook, much less make myself three meals a day at five."

"Did you not have any extended family either?"

"No, I had family, lots of them, but none of them wanted me."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Why would they refuse to take you in?"

"These," said Amy pointing to her two sapphire eyes.

"I don't understand," said Guntram.

"On Vangarri, they love green eyes, just absolutely love them, cultural thing. Grey, brown, hazel, black, anything else and you're golden. But get blue eyes, well, you might as well be born a mutie or a xeno."

"Is there a reason behind that?"

"Supposedly according to legend, those with blue eyes are cursed and are doomed to bring bad luck to anyone who spends time around them, usually in terms of death. With both of my parents dead, within a year of each other and my dog doing the same, people were inclined to believe the old myths. Anyways, according to the blue eyes thing apparently blue is a very cold colour and you only get it when daemons curse you while still in the womb and taint your soul, leaving your eyes a glittering blue, like ice to mark you and look out your eyes so that they can influence the world around you."

"Your homeworld sounds very superstitious."

"Yeah, I was lucky though. A few hundred years ago they would have just put out my eyes when I was born. Since I was cursed my grandparents wouldn't let me go live with them, and practically threw me into the first orphanarium they could find. I guess it was because of everything that happened to me that I wanted to help people, still do I should say. I just don't want people to be left alone like I was or sad, you know? I hate it when people are sad. I especially don't want kids to be sad or treated like my grandparents treated me."

"How long did you live with your grandparents?"

"Three days, but they made me sleep in the barn."

"In the middle of winter?"

"Yeah, what can I say, they're jerks. I just dug into the hay in the barn and shivered through most of the nights and I couldn't get too far in it because then I wouldn't be able to breathe. I think that they just wanted me to freeze like my mom did. If that had happened I wouldn't be their problem anymore. And all because of my baby blues. Sometimes I hate the things."

"Well I think they're beautiful."

"Really?" said Walker, turning on Guntram with a playful grin. "Just how beautiful do you find them, Junior Commissar Waisenkind?"

"I'm sorry, t-that was, I mean."

"It's fine. It's always funny to fluster you Kriegers, though it can be hard to do. Sorry if I made you uncomfortable though. If you don't mind me asking, what colour are your eyes?"

"Blue-grey."

"Can I see?"

"Well..."

"Please?"

"Alright," said Guntram taking his mask off with a hiss of pressurized air escaping.

"Wish my eyes were that colour, that's close enough for people to take for grey," lamented Amy. "Still, they just would have frekking burned me if my eyes glittered like that. It's actually kind of pretty though, like a wolf's eyes."

"It's an adaptation from living generations underground in a low light environment. Plus some careful genetics and eugenics."

"Waisenkind, I think that you left something out in your story though," said Amy, flicking her sapphire eyes over Guntram's face, complete with round grey-blue eyes and black hair. It seemed that all Kriegers had sharp and pale faces too.

"What?"

"That you're a total cutie."

"W-well, I," stuttered Guntram, his face flushing a deep red.

"Hah! See, you're blushing. Now that's cute. I didn't take you for a guy who would really blush, but I think it's nice."

"Well I don't usually," said Guntram, putting his mask back on.

"Sorry again, I don't mean to poke fun, it's just that I like to keep a conversation going when I'm underground or in tunnels," said Amy.

"You don't like being underground?"

"No. I just have a thing about being in tight spaces. An acute case of claustrophobia I guess. It's not too bad most of the time, but if I start getting all sweaty and nervous, just give me a little kick in the bum to keep me going 'kay?"

"I don't believe that I'll kick you, but if you need it I'll give you a tap on the shoulder."

"Thanks. So, you have any fears?"

"I don't have any fears, but I don't like being in wide open spaces," answered Guntram neutrally.

"Actually that seems to be pretty common for people from Krieg. Just about all of my troopers have got that problem. I guess it comes from you guys living underground all the time huh?"

"Yes. A person born on Krieg does not do well if they have claustrophobia. It can drive people...to desperate means."

"Oh that's terrible," said Amy genuinely sad about the fact. "Again, sorry if I'm talking too much, but I keep talking and it keeps me from freaking out."

"It's no problem."

"Thanks Waisenkind," said Amy smiling. She looked ahead and then the smile left her face. Looking down, she sighed like she was about to do something unpleasant.

"Look, I feel bad asking you to do this after talking to you about that stuff, but, do you think that you could sign something for me?" asked Amy tentatively.

"What is this thing?"

"Well, it's adoption papers."

"Oh. Well, I could, but I thought that you needed people who had known you for at least several years to sign off on them."

"Well, this isn't that kind of adoption paper."

"Ah. So it's that kind then."

"Yeah I know. Listen, I don't want you thinking that I opened up like that just to get sympathy or something and I just thought of it now. I'll understand if you say no, but no one else will sign it and I need three commissars to sign off on it. Sorry that I brought it up, it's just that I really want to help this girl and I really think that I'd do a good job looking after her. Forget it, I'm sorry."

"I'll sign it."

"What? You will?" asked Amy incredulous, eyes going wide in delight.

"Yes. Maybe I'm just having a soft moment, but I'll sign the papers for you if you wish. Are they back at-oh," said Guntram as Amy pulled out a stack of papers from the pocket of her greatcoat, holding them out and grinning ear to ear.

"Oh, here," said Amy, turning around so that Guntram could use her back to write on. After a few quick pen strokes Amy had the papers back in her hands and was one commissar closer to having the adoption sealed up.

"Thanks," said Amy hurrying a little to keep pace with the column. The forward scouts had ranged ahead with some of the hive gangers and were now waiting up ahead at an intersection of tunnels. They were only supposed to do that if they had found their destination instead of just a pair standing by to direct them down a tunnel that the rest of the scouting party was going down.

"I believe that we're about to become very busy Commissar Walker, shall you direct this or shall I?"

"You've got more experience in this than I do," answered Walker, unsure as to what she would do when put on the spot or if she would freeze up in the middle of it all.

"Little enough, are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure."

"Alright then, this is what we'll do."

Xxx

"Sir, are you well? You look quite unsettled."

"Fine. Just give me the reports," snapped Stanton at Jaeger.

"Very well then sir. All of our objectives save two have been completed and reports are that the last two will be dealt with shortly. There is however, an issue that must be addressed."

"What kind of issue?"

"It's second battalion sir."

"What of them?" said Stanton sharply.

"They're under intense genestealer attack sir. It seems the whole of the infestation is trying to get to the strike battalions and protect the generators. The Yunari 39th have already been encircled and annihilated, and the Luxon 923rd have withdrawn with heavy casualties. They no longer have the strength for combat operations."

"Bloody throne, both regiments?" blurted out Stanton.

"Yes sir."

"So then that means," began Stanton, growing horror evident in his voice.

"Second battalion is cutoff and surrounded sir. They're holding out as best they can and delaying the brood as much as humanly possible. Vox communication was lost shortly afterwards, but nearby units have confirmed sounds of combat still ongoing."

"Is there nothing we can do for them? Did they give any information at all about what's going on down there besides the brood, any messages? Dammit man, I don't want to leave my boys down there to die."

"They did send one last vox message before communication was lost sir."

"And?"

"Et nos in aeternum luat. That was all that we were able to make out before communication was lost sir."

"We will forever atone," said Stanton numbly.

"Yes sir. Would you like to divert men to attempt a rescue operation?"

"No. I damn myself forever in the eyes of the Emperor and men by saying this, but no. I can't risk losing more men to save men I already know to be dead. If two full strength regiments were annihilated then an understrength battalion will have no sway in the course of that battle. But we mustn't grieve Chief. Not now, not yet. Have all units pull out once their objectives are complete, but make sure our security units keep the way out open for them. I'm not losing anymore guardsmen."

"Yes sir."

"Carry on Chief, and Emperor watch over these brave boys who've become men of war."

"Yes sir." With that said, Jaeger clicked his heels together smartly and went to coordinate the battle plan. Stanton wiped at the sweat on his face and took a hefty swig of his canteen, wishing it was filled with something a little stiffer than water. What scared Stanton though, was that Jaeger knew.

Jaeger was a professional soldier, having been in the Korps longer than out of it and he was a veteran of over a dozen campaigns. He could get a feel for someone with just a few short conversations and seemed completely unflappable, no matter the situation. Whether giving a morning report or calling in an artillery strike, he never seemed to get rattled or excited. A solid liaison for the enlisted to the officer ranks. Competent, confident, and extremely skilled. Yet it was that competency that worried Stanton. It was that competency that made him sure that Jaeger knew about his problem.

Being a Krieger he would be an expert on body language, would have to be after living all his life with people who's faces he couldn't see. He might not be too good at social interactions after the Korps indoctrination, but it had been a long time since then and while he might not be good for an evening drink, he could pick out an imperfection like a lens maker on glass. And anything that threatened the efficiency of the Korps was purged. Immediately, ruthlessly, and permanently. Admirable after a fashion.

Stanton tightened his hand into a fist to stop the shaking. There was still some use left in his old body and he didn't intend to die just yet. At least not by the hand of the Guard.

Xxx

"Watch your step," cautioned Erich as the metal groaned underneath his feet.

The catwalk was made of metal, minimum quality steel, enough to pass safety inspections, but little else. They were going above the water treatment plant, but the tanks had ruptured and flooded the whole storage area. The water had gone slimy and glowed dimly because of a few lights underwater that still managed to function despite all odds. The murky depths were dark farther than that, and as to what they contained, Erich had no wish to find out.

Erich was tired, had been awake for what was approaching 30 hours now and he was starting to feel the fatigue set in. His eyes felt heavy, his senses felt dull, and his body was beginning to ache, and not in a good way. He had gone through his second wind already, and was hoping that a third was on its way shortly. Even still, he trod along, just as he had been trained to do. As long as he kept moving he wasn`t too tired, but if he stopped for too long, he was as like as not to fall asleep.

The ridges in the catwalk gripped at his boots, meaning that at least he wouldn't slip into the thick soup a scant few feet below him. Though Death Korps Armour was buoyant enough to float and keep the wearer above water so long as they weren't wearing their pack, Erich had no wish to test it. But since Erich wasn't wearing his pack, he felt reasonably secure in his safety. Well, from drowning at least. The getting ripped apart by terrible monsters part was sitting somewhere around an eight by this point, though it had been eerily quiet so far. So better bump it up to a nine, just going by experience. Erich found that he hated the quiet now, it was always quiet before all hell let loose.

The catwalk was about a hundred meters long and the only way across the field of ruptured tanks at this point of ingress. All others near it had been gutted, salvaged, or just destroyed for the hell of it. It was a rickety thing, rusted and it swayed under their weight, but it held just as the hive ganger had promised that it would.

"Frucking deathtrap," muttered the underhive ganger Beth as she moved along behind Erich, casting nervous glances this way and that. Her cocky demeanour gone, and her sureness had fled her as well. Impending death had a habit of doing that to people. Erich though...felt alive. Whenever he was in combat he always felt his heart race, his blood soar, and everything came in in crystal clarity.

He had seen some guardsmen, especially from other regiments break under the stress of combat. It put a strain on a person that no one really knew that they could handle until they were confronted with it. Knowing about something intellectually and actually doing it were two completely different things and Erich did not want to have to try and protect someone who was having a breakdown.

If the auspexes and Beth were to be believed, it was just a short journey from the old water treatment plant to the generator. By now they would no doubt be aware of their coming and would be mustering quite a formidable defence against them. The only question being, would the defenders be human? Or something else entirely?

Regular humans or genestealers would be hard enough to deal with and Erich had no desire to go toe to toe with some of the nastier things that the tyranids could bring to bear on him. He especially did not want to have to fight the brood lord. He just wanted to finish his objectives by protecting the ganger, destroying the generator, and getting some sleep. Surely he wasn't tempting fate too much by wishing that for once things be easy?

The catwalk suddenly gave an alarming groan and everyone looked back to the rearmost Korpsman.

"I said no more than fifteen at a time!" hissed Osei angrily. The structure too weak and damaged to support more than that.

The Korpsman looked behind him and saw the rest of the company waiting for their turn to cross at the other end of the catwalk.

"This trooper is the fifteenth man Commissar," said the trooper after doing a quick double count and checking to make sure that no one else had started across prematurely.

"Bethany, you said that this could support fifteen full-grown men."

"It can support around twenty, but I said fifteen just in case so that we wouldn't have this problem," lashed back Bethany, as she grabbed onto the handrailing as the catwalk as it gave an alarming groan of overstressed metal. "Dammit! This place got abandoned after the tanks ruptured about ten years ago and they built a new one 'casue it was cheaper than fixing rust bucket, but this way should've been fine. I've come across here with at least twenty other guys last week and it held just fine."

"You said fifteen!" said Osei as the catwalk began to lurch again, groaning and starting to twist, the metal starting to invert itself and Erich now holding onto the guardrail and bracing his feet on the opposite rail as an added precaution. He didn't quite feel like going for a swim just yet. Screws began to snap and bolts pop out as the half-pence materials finally found their breaking point. It was odd though reflected Erich, that it would fail now when they were nearer to the end instead of in the middle where the bridge would have been strained the most. Not now when they were near the spars that held it up. Something was wrong and he flipped the safety off of his long rifle as a precaution.

"Then where's the extra weight coming from?" asked Erich to no one in particular, feeling his temper start to fray from the lack of sleep and now dangling above sludgy water and waiting to get torn apart at any second.

Erich cast his gaze back to the trooper at the rear of the column holding onto the handrail to steady himself. Then almost as if in slow motion, two scythe-like protrusions sprouted from his chest and began to lift him into the air. Lictor.

Erich quickly brought his rifle up and lined up the stealth tyranid unit, it's chameleon quality of mimicking the terrain around it now shifting uncertainly as the blood spatter on its body began to confuse it just slightly, flickering like a bad pict image.

Before Erich could pull the trigger, the catwalk gave way with a final protesting groan of metal, plunging all those present into the murky depths below. He hit the water with a splash and sank below the surface quickly, managing to keep his grip on his rifle though.

It was all swirling water and bubbles for a moment in Erich's vision as he struggled in the water until he managed to break the surface. There was no dramatic breath of air as he surfaced though. His breathing had never been interrupted nor had his body been assaulted by the temperature or texture of the cold and slimy water. Though it wasn't the water that concerned him, it was his duty.

As distasteful as he found it, the hive ganger's survival was top priority, far above his own and his orders were to keep her alive at all costs. No matter the danger or damage to himself for doing so.

He found her quickly, sputtering and floundering in the water, no doubt not even knowing how to swim. He grabbed her about the waist and drug her along with him as he put every ounce of strength he had into propelling himself towards a low permacrete plateau. She gripped him ironically enough like a drowning man to a rock, and Erich was sure that if he hadn't have been wearing his gorget, he would have found breathing to be very difficult.

Risking a glance back, he could see the rest of the Korpsmen who had been deposited into the water were also making a mad dash, or paddle, for the plateau of permacrete. Then one near the back threw up his hands as if in surrender and disappeared beneath the waves in a red froth of bubbles. Red las beams impacted the sight from the Korpsmen still on the far ledge, throwing up clouds of steam, but doubtlessly doing much else.

Need to swim faster, thought Erich desperately, renewing his efforts tenfold, moving as fast as he possibly could. Waiting for the inhuman and steely grip that would grab him from below and pull him down. He tried his best not to think about it. Las fire, splashing water, and brief rending sounds filled Erich's hearing as he struggled to get the terrified ganger to safety. Rubbery stale air made its way to his lungs as his view continually changed from the permacrete plateau to the murky green water as his face went under with each stroke.

With every stroke, salvation came that much closer and already many of the other Korpsmen were climbing up onto the safety of solid ground. Erich reached it and slapped a hand onto it's blessedly hard and slimy surface, thrusting the hive ganger the necessary few feet to get up on top, before hauling himself up.

Erich took a few steps back from the edge of the water and made sure that his rifle was still functional. A hum of power dispelled his fear that the water may have made it short circuit. It wasn't a pretty sight as he looked for the lictor.

Body parts and blood polluted the surface of the water, the Korpsmen on the far bank already looking for another way across and many scanning just as Erich was. Erich could hear faint retching behind him and it sounded like the hive ganger was emptying out all of the water that she had consumed back onto the ground. All would have been well, if not for something that put a severe kink in things.

A ladder was protruding from the water, broken at the top, but still rising ten feet from the water and near its top was a Korpsman. Bloodied, missing his rifle, uniform torn in places to show the lacerated flesh beneath, but there was still a Korpsman alive out on the now placid pool of water. The only sounds now was the occasional drip of water, boots scuffing on wet permacrete, and the thrum of boots on metal on the other side of the room.

"Stay where you are trooper," called out Osei like the young soldier had any other choice but.

Erich scanned the murky depths, looking for anything out of place, anything that might give away the position of the lictor, but he saw nothing.

"Commissar, this trooper thinks it sees something," called out the Korpsman atop the ladder, a grenade clutched in his hand. Obviously intending to end things on his own terms rather than make a quick meal for a xeno.

"Keep looking, but just stay calm. If you think you see a target you have permission to use your grenades," called out Osei. "The percussion from the explosion might be enough to stun it and get it to surface. If it does that, we'll finish it off."

"Yes Commissar," said the Korpsman, activating the grenade with a press of his thumb and tossed it into the tepid water. It hit with a soft plop half a dozen meters from the ladder and for a second or two nothing happened. Then there was a muffled boom and a great gout of water erupted like blood from a wound and rained down on them. He tossed the remainder of his impressive armament of grenades into the water, almost seemingly at random, but his head darting this way and that before each toss, as if tracking something only he could see.

"This trooper think that it got it sir," called out the trooper and indeed a tyranid body did surface, which was quickly riddled with las fire until it was a burned out husk. A dead lictor body at that too.

"Alright, see if you can make it to us now," said Osei.

The Korpsman looked hesitantly at the water, then at Osei, but nevertheless obeyed and began to descend the ladder.

Almost too fast to follow, an organic cord erupted from the water and speared the Korpsman through the calf, causing him to cry out in pain, before he was yanked into the water.

Another lost soul was what went through Erich's mind, before he saw the Korpsman surface again, beating furiously against the water, bayonet in hand and seemed to be trying to hack at the cord and barb in his leg.

"Shoot it!" cried out Osei.

"There's no clear target sir, unless you wish us to terminate the trooper instead?" said a sergeant.

There was nine of them on the little island, nine out of fifteen that had started out on the bridge and five were already dead. Now there was a Korpsman fighting for his very life against something he couldn't fight back against, in a situation he had never been trained to deal with. He was going to die in pain and fear and there was nothing that any of them could do about it. Nothing anyone would do about it. Was that all they could do, nothing? Was this what xenos could do to humanity any time it wished? That all humanity could do was offer up one of its own, saving as many as it could while the unlucky few trembled and died waiting for salvation that would never come? That no matter how much training, how much will, how much determination you had, you would always be prey for the creatures of the galaxy? That no one would ever stand for you, defend you, shield you? Erich couldn't accept that, wouldn't accept it.

A promise to be as fierce and indomitable as the dragon on our crest. A half remembered explanation from what seemed centuries ago as to why their family crest depicted a dragon defending an aquilla.

With Courage and Sacrifice. His family's motto, words he had been sworn to live by until his dying day. The very words branded onto his flesh.

Erich dropped his rifle, drew his bayonet, and dove into the water.

The murky water swallowed him up nearly immediately, bubbles and slime obscuring his vision as he struggled to stay underwater with his buoyant armour. Erich was now unimpeded by carrying another body though and devoured the distance between him and the trapped Korpsman with powerful strokes. He also saw what was coming to devour the Korpsman.

A lictor is a bipedal creature two and a half meters tall, with two arms with three fingers and a thumb apiece, ending in sharpened claws. They have a mantis like scythe arm above each arm with serrated ends that can cut through bone as ease as paper. They have what look like tentacles coming from their mouth which are feeding tendrils armed with bony spikes that are easily capable of punching through a human's skull and lobotomizing the subject. Learning all they knew through some as of yet unknown bio-chemical means. Everything you were, everything you are was then free to be sifted through by a xeno at its leisure. An intolerable affront. And there it was, using its spined tail to propel itself towards the floundering Korpsman.

It didn't see Erich, only just managed to acknowledge him with eyes the colour of yellow pus that shone faintly as he collided with the side of it, managing to avoide its scything appendages and cut the flesh hook trapping the Korpsman who quickly began to swim away.

It a vindictive move, the Lictor used its tail to swat the Korpsman on the surface, making him go limp and an alarming amount of blood to seep from him In response, Erich drove his bayonet into a soft part of the monster's chitin where two plates met and unleashed a gout of thick ichor.

The beast seemed to roar in pain and began thrashing wildly even as lasbeams impacted around where its tail had broken the surface, turning the water into a frothing mess of bubbles, blood, and ichor.

Erich lost his grip and was thrown free of the lictor, tumbling end over end it the water, unable to see because of the churning water and unable to right himself because of the force with which he had been thrown. The water pulling at him like a thousand greedy mouths, all wanting a piece to savour.

As he was just beginning to right himself in the frothing water, Erich felt his breath leave his lungs as a half-dozen points of pain sang along his back, puncturing his armoured greatcoat and body armour underneath as though it was mere cloth. The the sick pain that flared suddenly made his vision darken as whatever had skewered him began to pull him back in.

The feeding tendrils would get him next, or the scything limbs unless he acted quickly and his window of escape was closing all the time. The outline of the Korpsmans body was still visible on the surface though, and he might still be alive. There would be no escape. Either Erich and the Korpsman lived and the lictor died, or neither of them would. He would not abandon him.

Working off his greatcoat and tearing free, Erich twisted his body violently, feeling the prongs rip free from his back, the pain making Erich's adrenaline soar and blot out enough to keep him conscious, but little else. It was excruciating.

Erich turned around just in time to see the lictor about to cleave him in half, and twisted out of the way, but a flesh hook was still in his back and its sinewy cord wrapped around the lictor's scythe arm, ripping it free from his back, but also bringing him right to the lictors side again, his greatcoat having been reeled into its face, blinding it.

Erich grabbed onto a ridge of the lictor's carapace and withdrew a close combat knife from his belt, then drove it into its eye as it became visible and focused on him. The lictor shuddered and thrashed violently as it lost one of its sensory organs, lashing out blindly with its bone-tipped feeding tendrils.

The struck Erich in the head, puncturing his mask and finally letting in the cold flow of slimy water, giving him a shock as he choked on it as he instinctively inhaled because of the cold.

Once again though, it seemed that the mask had saved him from instant death, through his head flared with pain and his head was threatening to kill him before the lictor had a chance to.

A blow that felt like a leman russ hit him took Erich across the chest and Erich felt, rather than saw his flesh tear as he spun away from the lictor, not nearly recovering as quickly as he felt the cold water on his face and lack of air, like death's icy touch. The water had tendrils of red in it now, from him and the deep lacerations in his chest. He had lost his mask and his vision went fuzzy for a moment before returning to normal. Erich was also dimly aware that he had lost his helmet. Cold water filled his mouth and shocked his face, blinking involuntarily as he adjusted to the

He had been hit with the backside of the lictor's scything arm, the spines still cutting and hurting him, but not killing. Had the cutting edge hit him, there would be two Erich's in the universe, but each just half the man he was now. The pain was terrible though, so much that even a single twitch send angry spasms of pain through his body as damaged and cut muscles were commanded to work.

He wasn't dead though, not yet, and as long as there was still life in this mortal shell called his body, his duty was not done. Only in death did duty end, and Erich still had a lot of dying to do before his end came and he wasn't going to go quietly.

The lictor's chameleon ability seemed to be going haywire, flickering and some parts of it trying to mimic the terrain around it and others not. It was propelling itself wildly around, leaking ichor and tearing away savage pieces of Erich's greatcoat as it attempted to free itself from it. Showing a more intellectual anger than simple animal rage as it tore apart the greatcoat as if angry at it for blinding it instead of just simply freeing itself.

Erich watched, floating in place, transfixed by the spectacle, but pulling his boot knife and last remaining blade he had on his person, and cut his air hose at it's weak point, while bypassing the shutoff on his filtration unit so that it would keep pumping out air regardless of the lack of a valve and proper seal. Moving stiffly now, but still as quickly as he could despite the pain. Ginger movements would not spare him any loss of blood and right now he had more pressing concerns to deal with.

He bit down on the end, tasting the rubbery polymer as he forced what water he could from his mouth and swallowing what he couldn't, trying not to think of what he was ingesting as he felt the slimy water make its way down his throat. The air was stale and dry, but he would be able to stay underwater at least, even if he had to take shallow breaths because of his chest. If breathing pained him this much, Erich dreaded what the next few moments were going to do to it. Then again if he didn't finish the lictor off quickly, then his discomfort would be the least of his worries.

Erich had grenades, but he would either have to suicide the lictor, or find a way to get the grenade close enough to it while he himself was far enough away to avoid the blast. If he couldn't, then perhaps he would find his courage and meet his end like a true member of the Death Korps. Although no one could see him down here.

Personal weapons are highly illegal for members of the Death Korps for those below the rank of sergeant. Those caught breaking that rule were usually executed, courtesy of either the commissariat, or any ranking officer who happened to witness the transgression. So it was with no small amount of trepidation that Erich pulled out the auto pistol that he had kept from the 'Emperor's Emissary' and thumbed off the safety.

He had almost turned it in to Commissar Osei and the quartermasters after he had returned from the lower levels and his battle with the daemon Pashin. He had almost done it, but the memory of being caught and beaten within an inch of his life by naval security had changed his mind. If even will his advanced hand to hand martial arts training he could still be so easily overpowered, then he wanted a weapon on his person at all times. True it could easily mean his death, but death seemed preferable than another experience like he had had at the hands of the armsmen.

Erich steadied his aim with his other arm as he saw the lictor propel itself angrily through the water with its tail like some vile serpent. A trail of sickly ichor clouded the water in it's wake like a ruptured vein of pus. Its feeding tendrils tensing like a scorpion's tail, ready to lash forth and skewer its prey. Erich didn't think he'd get more than a couple of shots before the lictor got to him. He'd have to do this right. His target was small though, his vision fuzzy and his body alight with searing pain and deadening numbness. His arms felt heavy and leaden, his eyelids weighted and his stomach a churning sea.

The sight of the auto pistol danced across the lictor as it swam towards Erich, having trouble staying steady and on target. The side to side movement of the lictors propulsion throwing off his aim, the cold robbing him of his steady hand, and his wounds of his clear sight. He needed to make this shot, he couldn't die yet, not before he had wiped the stain from his family's name. Not before he had avenged his father's death. Not until he killed Jain Zar.

Control you breathing. Calm yourself. Aim carefully. Let the target rest just above the front sight that rests in the V of the rear. In and out, in and out, then hold it when you're going to shoot. When you're ready, squeeze the trigger, don't pull. His father's voice and his father's instructions. It seemed a lifetime away already when he had told him that. Erich's father's voice had a reassuring and calm tone when instructing. Sounding wise and knowledgeable at the same time being stern and hard. His father had been a good man, a good soldier, a good leader, a good lord, and a good mentor. Emperor he missed him. Erich held his breath and squeezed the trigger.

The auto pistol sounded odd underwater, but thankfully it worked. The caseless round speeding through the murky depths towards the lictor and hitting it in the eye, popping the organ like a pimple.

The lictor howled underwater and lashed out blindly with all its weapons while still rocketing towards where it had last seen Erich. Erich had raised himself a few crucial feet in the water though and as the lictor passed below him, he grabbed hold of its chitinous back by the protruding bayonet, vision greying and pain exploding across his chest as he did so.

The cold water rushed past Erich and grabbed at him like angry hands, making it difficult to keep his eyes open. Erich let go of the auto pistol, and let it tumble away. It was of no use to him now, and he needed his free hand. The lictor was twisting violently in the water, spinning Erich round and round. Each motion threatening to throw him loose. His grip on the bayonet was good, but the blade itself was coming loose, prying up a section of the lictor's chitinous carapace as it acted like a crowbar.

Grabbing a grenade from his belt webbing, Erich took off the safety cap, primed it, and with all the strength he could muster, drove it into the gap in the lictor's armour. He let go and felt the water pull and spin him seemingly at random, Erich no long having the strength to fight against it. As he slowly stopped spinning, he saw the lictor turn, head towards him, then explode.

A cloud of bubbles, ichor, and chitin erupted from the tyranid, the blast wave travelling obscenely quickly through the water.

Should have planned this a little better, thought Erich laconically and shut his eyes as the water blast wave hit him and spun him around yet again. Erich blacked out briefly and drifted for a time, before a dull realization came to him that he was drowning. The air hose had slipped from his mouth and he was no longer breathing. Nor was the air hose even pumping out anymore oxygen.

Acting more on instinct, Erich propelled himself towards the surface as fast as he was able, feeling his lungs begin to itch, then burn, then scream for air. So much so that it even eclipsed the pain from his chest and his vision began to grey out. Erich clawed at the water like a predator into a meal, pulling himself further towards the surface and when his lungs felt like they could take no more, Erich burst forth from the water.

He gasped dramatically and coughed up water, gulping in greedy amounts of air even as he sputtered, throwing up a little bit. He spit and wiped his mouth, then looped an arm around the other injured Korpsmen and began to paddle both of them to safety.

Erich got himself and the Korpsman to the low ledge, but had little strength left than to simply offer up his arm and be pulled up by those waiting on the little island. He winced at the pain, but simply let himself be limp other than his feeble attempt to help himself up.

"Get a medic to both of them now! Trauma kits and preservation bandages. If we hurry, they just might make it."

It was Commissar Osei who was speaking, directing the Korpsmen with the most medical experience to act. They began cutting away at what remained of his clothing and began applying the bandages and medical gel onto his wounds.

"Emperor. You're just a kid."

Erich looked up with hazy burnished steel coloured eyes at the hive ganger Beth whom seemed to be staring at him in a mixture of surprise and some other kind of emotion that he couldn't quite recognize. Pity? Disgust? Awe? Whatever it was, Erich never got a chance to find out, because a syringe was stuck into his neck, spreading cool, numbing ice throughout his body and Erich let himself fall into a deep sleep. He had done his duty and had survived to tell of it. He could allow himself at least a moments rest.

As the medics cut more of his uniform away, they revealed first his double headed aquilla tattoo, marking him as a member of the Imperial Guard, and then his family crest that had been burned into his arm so he would never forget where he had come from. Who he belonged to, and what he had to live up to. It is said that the von Shreider's produce the most skilled fighters in the whole of the Death Korps. Ferocious, fearless, and utterly ruthless on the field of battle. Some have said that they fight and act like daemons; inhuman in their ability to kill and to fight. How they will never back down, never surrender, and how they inspire those around them to feats of bravery by their own deeds. How they're natural leaders of men. But they aren't daemons. They're dragons.

AN: Because of the huge delay (really sorry about that) I've given it some thought and decided to release some smaller chapters more frequently instead of a massive chapter over a longer period. The job I work at now means that I work a week and get a week off so I'll do my best to keep writing, but I do have other commitments now, but I do enjoy writing and the feedback so I'll try to keep updating this as much as possible. So Living to die isn't going to finish in this chapter, but you'll be pleased to know that I've already got the next story planned out (mostly) and some work already done on it.