“We found him soon enough. The tunnel opened into a huge chamber—at least 200 meters in diameter and 50 meters tall. The Tech Priest was knee deep in some kind of xeno goop, pulling out what looked like larvae and stuffing them in a specimen bag.”
“’Why in the world are you taking bug eggs?’ I asked. “If this is the nest of this bug colony, we could be surrounded by hundreds of these things.”
“‘Thousands, at least,’ Vorkalth said, not bothering to look up. I could have shot him—right then and there.”
“Did you know?” I asked. “Did you know we’d find your people dead?”
“‘The last communication from the outpost reported they were being overrun. Estimates of survivability were low—less than 0.003 percent.’”
“‘So we’re here simply so you could get samples?’ I asked, fingering the trigger of my lasgun. ‘This was never a rescue mission, then?’”
“I didn’t get an answer because all hell broke loose. Suddenly Keve opened up with his heavy bolter and everyone else was shooting, as well. I looked up and this two-meter-tall monstrosity was charging at me. I barely had time to let loose a shot. Fortunately, I hit the bug squarely in the head. It dropped. But there were three more behind it, and for the next few minutes, all I knew was the sound of fire and shadows jumping at me from all directions.”
“I don’t know how much time passed. But suddenly there were no more targets—just a chamber filled with scores of giant bugs.”
“Three of my men were down—four in total now. I wouldn’t say they were friends; I’m an officer and don’t make friends with enlisted personnel. But they were my men. I knew them. Your comrades in arms are as close to family as you have in the Guard.”
“I didn’t grieve. There was no time. I had no idea whether this was the entire bug colony dead before us—or just the first wave coming at us. I was ordering everyone to withdraw when I noticed that Vorkalth was gone.”
“My first thought was that he’d been pulled down. I check where he’d been standing, next to what you might call a breeding pool. He wasn’t there. But I did find something of his: a small silver cylinder that I recognized—a Type IIa thermonuclear mine. About 100 megatons worth of trouble. And right along the side, I could see the display counting down. We had less than 15 minutes to get the hell out of there.”
“I can’t begin to describe what I was feeling at that moment. Terror. A desire to run. To find that treacherous Tech Priest and blow his brains out. It took about half a second to focus on the running.”
“We got out of the tunnels fast—we didn’t worry if there was a bug around the corner. If we had to fight our way out, we weren’t going to get out. So we just ran like hell.”
“Getting out of the bug tunnels was easy enough. But we found the outpost corridors a bit of a maze. We took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up on an observation deck about 15 meters above the front entrance. I thought we were dead men at that moment. There wasn’t time to retrace ours steps, and I was certain the Vorkalth was going to get back to the shuttle, announce we were dead, and leave us behind.”
“But actually we were lucky to end up where we were. As we looked out over the settlement, it was a mad house. The bugs had swarmed, and the ground was covered with thousands of the xenos. There was no way we could fight our way through that horde.”
“My only satisfaction was that the Tech Priest wasn’t going to escape, either. He was right in the middle of the swarm. He had some kind of force field generator, and the bugs were bouncing off the field around him. But, if it was keeping him alive, it wasn’t helping him to fight his way through to the shuttle.”
“He was making progress, mind you. He was killing them right and left. He’d smash one with his servitor arm; his mechadendrites would stab another. He had some kind of plasma weapon that would sweep open a path before him. But he’d only take a step or two before it would fill up with more bugs. He wasn’t going fast enough to get away from the bomb he’d left for us.”
“What saved us was the shuttle pilot. I never learned his name. A shame, really. I owe him big time. He must have lifted off when the swarm appeared, and he was circling overhead. He was having a time of it. There were more of those flying bugs around and the side gun panels on the ship were open, and his gunmen were blazing away.”
“We tried to raise the shuttle, but to no surprise, there was interference. I figure Varklath didn’t want us reporting what a turncoat he was—or that we were alive and would want a ride home.”
“But it was the Tech Priest’s mistake to underestimate us. The way to beat the enemy is by exploiting his weakness. Varklath was too focused on high-tech solutions. In the Guard, we’re not above going Stone Age—a rock can kill as effectively as a lasgun. So I went low tech. I always carry a few flares, and I set one off in hopes of getting the shuttle’s attention.”
“It worked. But it drew too much attention. The next thing I know we’ve got a swarm of bugs heading right towards us. Thank goodness we were so high off the ground. I wasn’t too worried, at least until the damned bugs starting climbing up the sides of the cliff. Of course they could climb. Why should my day get any easier?”
“We lit into them. We kept them back from our position, but we went through ammo at a frightening rate. And I knew there wasn’t much time left on that bomb. I thought we had bought it. But the shuttle came in on an attack run and dropped enough ordinance to knock us all to the ground—and kill every bug within 100 meters of us.”
“By the time I got back on my feet, the shuttle did a hard break, spun its tale to face the platform, and dropped its ramp. We hustled aboard in seconds, and the pilot starting rising before the ramp door shut. I told him he had about three minutes to outrun a 100-megaton bomb—and he went full-out on the throttle. Half of us went to the floor from the acceleration.”
“We made it, obviously. The shock wave of the explosion shook us up a bit, but we made it into orbit and back to the transport. Then it was back home.”
“As for Varklath … to hell with him. I almost hope his force field saved him. Let him rot on that Death World. But, of course, he’s dead. I hope all the bugs are dead, too.”
POSTCRIPT: The clandestine activity of Genetor Vorkalth could lead to political ramifications that could be detrimental to Imperial Guard/Mechanicus cooperation in these increasing dangerous times. Given the Tech Priest’s certain death, it seems advisable that all information regarding this incident be suppressed under Inquisition seals. To this end, Lt. Thule and his squad were summarily executed to ensure that information on this incident can be suppressed. The crew of the Star of Orion also has suffered a tragic shipboard “accident.” In recognition of his ultimate sacrifice for the Imperium, I have submitted a request that Lt. Thule be awarded the Sontaran Cross, posthumously.
Read part 1 of the Inquisition report.
Read part 2 of the Inquisition report.
The Corvus Cluster is a hobby blog that focuses on the wargaming adventures of the Wednesday Night Gamers of Alexandria in the Warhammer 40K universe.
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