I was a beekeeper's daughter.

Not from dad's side; he was a marine, but a marine with an awful habit of keeping the worst company you could imagine. First there was mother (so hopelessly practical); then, their two dreary daughters (a walking cliché and a useless dreamer); and, at long last, the Ork Warboss who ended up sealing the deal (five shattered ribs and a crushed windpipe).

And so, I used to be a beekeeper's daughter.

I woke, each morning, to buzzing. To buzzing I fell asleep; to buzzing I cried and to buzzing my mother held me, so tightly it felt like she'd never let go. It never stopped buzzing – I could still hear it when steel fingers gripped my left shoulder and pulled me away; and for long months after, for however long I'd keep thinking - like the proper idiot that I was - that I had cried because I'd miss her.

Then, I stopped thinking.

Under the circumstances, it was the smartest thing to do; and, in a way, I've kept it up since – insofar, at least, as passivity is a thing you can keep up, rather than something that keeps you up. I don't think (see what I did there?) I need higher reasoning to roll up a lhostick on the march; I know for a fact I don't want a philosophy of life when I'm ending somebody else's.

Speaking of which...

"I pity..." A gurgle from underfoot. If you've never felt what it means to have your boot pressing into another man's throat, I won't lie – it isn't unpleasant. "...I pity... you, Imp- Imperial." Every wheezing breath they take, it sends a pleasant tickle up your body; a little reminder of what's fluttering in your own breast. "The Greater Good-"

He smells like honey – the heretic, I mean. Everything here does; enough so to make me sick in the stomach.


Crrrack and the gurgling underfoot is gone, replaced by the sickeningly familiar stench of charred meat. The buzzing, though, is there still - hovering above the quaint little meadow, with its quaint little beehives besides a quaint little farmhouse, at the foot of mountains neither little nor quaint. Seeping slowly into my bones and making my teeth tingle like commbead static; making me think. I don't like it.

Fingers like steel grip me by the shoulder and yank me around in what feels too much like mockery, a skewed replay. Instead of a crying little girl there stands Corporal Lenz, her finger still on the lasgun's trigger; instead of a stern-faced Commissar, Mazen's sneering visage, our noses almost touching as he grabs me by the collar. I guess the mangled heretic beekeeper gets to play my mother.

"Sort your frak out, Corporal." Spittle. Why has there always got to be spittle? It's such an unhygienic cliché to maintain. "We don't have time for playing with food."

Slowly, I reach up and wipe the corner of my lips with my thumb; and my eyes, they wander away from his. Because, well, when you have a perturbed Mordian in your face, the last thing you want to do is make him feel challenged – I've the bruises to prove it.

The rest of the squad is, of course, staring straight at us. A dreary ensemble of all the shades of brown that you could want to find within the human eye, broken only by Ludger's concerned violet. He wants me to stop my glance at him, I know he does. That's why I don't, and drill instead into the beady, hateful little things the Emperor saw fit to cram into Peccel's noggin; and she stares right back at me, without so much as missing a beat.

Emperor, but the frakker wants a fight - I can see that, about as well as she can see that I won't give her the satisfaction. The corner of my lips turns faintly upwards in a teasing smirk; the corners of hers droop in a disappointed frown. I turn back to Mazen.

"Roger, Sarge," – and, just like that, his fingers let go of my coat's collar. I turn back around, he storms off; it's like nothing ever happened.

Just another day in our little trek. Another little hiccup the likes of which Mazen's Dozen deals with on a daily basis.

It's been a long time since we were actually a dozen; too long for me to remember all the names, and most of the faces too. That mountain of a man, one of my own – my fireteam, - he was the last one, but already I can hardly recall who he was or where from. In the end, nobody cares about the ones who died before – it's only the ones who die after now that'll be remembered, or so you think. Because if they are, well - that must mean this was a story worth hearing, and so your time wasn't wasted, yeah?

I don't know why that makes me want to glance down at the mangled stump my lasgun's left of the heretic's head – maybe I'm still hoping to see something of those dead in it, find out that my time wasn't wasted in their stories. Maybe it's just morbid curiosity, a primal urge to run your finger along what used to be the inside of somebody else's skull. Either way, all the dots connect to the same picture.

I haven't learned my lessons as a Stormtrooper. The fact I'm still alive is just a small mistake on the galaxy's part, some clerk serving at the Emperor's side cramming the form requesting my imminent termination and eternal damnation into the wrong datapad.

"Move out in ten!" Oh dear, sweet Mazen. I don't know if it's Mordian instinct or sheer dumb luck, but your barking keeps finding all the right moments to snap me back to it. "Hafner, Mohren – pillage the cellar, if there's anything useful and not fouled by the xeno-loving fraks down there, I wanna hear 'bout it before the Emperor does! Rest of you – smoke, recaff and piss, all at the same time if need be! We don't stop until night!"

Reluctantly, my foot steps off the beekeeper's neck. I need to get away, from the thinking and buzzing both; I needn't wonder what's next, ask if some loyal little soul is going to come along to take care of the beehives or if they'll sit here, alone, until the inevitable day when the Warp opens up and swallows it all.

I can feel Ludger's eyes still on me; of course I can. He wants me to stop beside him, to sit down on the rickety box next to his own. That's why I don't.