As ufar-ma of his tribe, the heretic known as Xy-Tor regularly met with his sub-chieftains every morning in his command tent.
This morning, the air was chilly. Sipping a warm bowl of chiffra, Xy-Tor scanned the adobe buildings of his new base of operations. The desert town of Mizoram was small, only two dozen structures, and the streets were simply a hard-packed version of the arid dust that covered the land as far as the eye could see.
It was a desolate oasis in a desolate land. Two dozen kilometers to the east, other tribes of the Tainted Souls followed their Death Guard masters into battle. But his tribe was here. Bidden by his masters to guard this flea-speck of a town, he had no choice but to endure this byway for supply transports and, this morning, a prison for a half dozen Imperial prisoners whose very existence confused Xy-Tor.
He had always been told that war was about killing or being killed. Prisoners were an oddity, indeed.
Standing under the canopy of his open-walled command tent, Ky-Tor looked around at the sub-chieftains who waited patiently for him to speak.
“Our masters are sending a Rhino to pick up the prisoners later today,” he said. “They need to be in good shape, so make sure none of our men decide to entertain themselves by skinning one alive. Just one death, and our masters will impale us all on spikes in the town square.”
That remark earned a chuckle from the men .
It was at that paint that the shooting began.
Brother-Sergeant Haldur cursed under his breath. The lasgun shots were coming from the roof of the tallest building in the village. The sentry up there obviously had spotted his squad’s approach.
“Will someone kindly kill that wretch by the communications dish,” he snarled into his vox
A second later, a boltgun round slammed into the heretic’s chest and sent him tumbling off the roof.
Haldur didn’t notice. He was running down a dusty street, followed by two brothers and a third lumbering forward encased in Terminator amor.
The brother-sergeant turned toward a metal-sheet door and slammed his boot into it, sending it flying inward. His boltgun in hand, he scanned the room, determined it was empty, and continued down the street.
He was here for three things: Imperial prisoners to rescue, a communications dish to destroy, and heretics to kill.
Not 100 meters away, one of those heretics was pouring down fire on two Space Wolf scouts that were running alongside the three-story building that he guarded from its rootfop.
The scouts were astonishingly fast. The heretic fancied himself good with a gun, but just as he would pull the trigger of his handgun, his target would skew to the side and throw off his aim.
“Enough of this,” he muttered, pulling a frag grenade off his belt. He pulled the grenade pin and got ready to throw.
In the midst of his throw, however, one of the scouts spun in the middle of his run, raised his boltgun upward, and fired. The round nicked the heretic’s heck, and the man’s aim went awry as he released the grenade.
The explosive didn’t land anywhere near the scouts.
The temperature inside the Rhino was 49 degrees Imperial, sufficient to kill an unmodified human within an hour. But for the Space Marine driving the vehicle, Brother Slgvald, the temperature was barely noticeable. He was focused on the tactical implications of the town in front of him—and of the challenge of navigating its narrow streets with a bulky armored transport.
“See anything?” he called up to Helgir, the Long Fang standing in the open top hatch and manning a heavy bolter.
“Nothing. Nothing on visual. Nothing on infrared. The auspex is no help, either.”
SIgvald thought a moment, then hit his vox. “Rhino Two, maintain your position. Provide fire support. Rhino One is moving forward.”
Pressing down on the accelerator, Sigvald edged the Rhino forward. Fifty meters ahead, there was a narrow street that led into the town, and as his job was to distract the heretics from the attack led by Haldur, it was time to start drawing some attention.
With no little unease, the Space Marine edged his Rhino down the street, gunning his engine occasionally to make as much noise as possible. Suddenly, three men ran across the street in front of him then disappeared into the building to his right. One of them was holding an Imperial-issued demolition charge.
“Kraken’s ass,” Sigvald swore, as the Long Fang above him opened fire with the heavy bolter. “We should have painted a big, red target on our front hull.”
The roar of the Rhino’s engine sounded only 80 meters from where Xy-Tor was standing. Ordering his sub-chieftains to return to their commands, Ky-Tor abandoned his command tent and hurried toward the captured Imperial artillery pieces in the wadi on the edge of town.
The artillery was dug in and well fortified, and although it would likely be a key target of the Imperial scum, it was also guarded by his most trusted warriors. That was the most secure place from which to command the town’s defenses.
The vox piece in his ear was loud with panicked calls for help, and it was clear that the town was being attacked from multiple directions.
“Silence,” he screamed into his vox mike. “This is your ufar-ma.”
Demanding reports from one source at a time, he began to understand the the tactical situation. By the time he reached the artillery position, he was giving orders.
“It is clear that this is a raid by the Astartes. But there are no tanks. There are no large units being seen. So hunker down.”
He continued. “We cannot fight the Astartes in open contact. So don’t. Stay put. Stay quiet. Set up ambushes. Look for opportunities to isolate and strike with overwhelming force against the smallest number of Imperial scum as possible. If you try to fight on equal terms, you will be crushed.”
He paused. The silence on the vox meant his men were listening—or were already dead. “Our masters expect us to fight. Our god expects us to fight. But fight smart.”
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.