Death or Glory | Chapter 13 of 25 - Part: 1 of 11

Author: Sandy Mitchell | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1532 Views | Add a Review

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NINE

DESPITE MY OBVIOUS apprehension, our journey through the heart of the devastated town passed without incident; which is to say that, to my vague surprise, Jurgen and I made it to the south sector without getting killed. There were a number of narrow squeaks, however. The closer we got to the centre of things, the more greenskins we saw, and other sights too, which even at this remove I'd rather not dwell on. Once we passed a shrine to the Emperor, shattered and desecrated, its offerings looted, now, judging by the stench, being used by the orks as a makeshift latrine.1 Even that, vile as it had been, was eclipsed by our first sight of the main Administratum building in the centre of the town.

It had clearly once been an elegant and well proportioned structure, facing a wide, paved square in which fountains had played and artfully sited colonnades had provided shade for the townspeople going about their business. Now it bore a garland of twisted corpses, hanging from windows and statues, no doubt the civic and spiritual leaders of the community judging by the number of Administratum and ecclesiarchy robes I could see. Few had died easily, that much was clear, despite the familiar desiccation of the cadavers.

Jurgen hawked and spat, and I nodded, my own feelings far beyond words. In later years I was to see just as bad, if not worse, on far too many occasions, but at that time I had yet to encounter the minions of the Dark Powers, the necrons, or the infinitely refined sadism of the Chaos-touched eldar, and perhaps for that reason the memories remain so strong. Right then I wanted nothing more than to exterminate every greenskin on the planet, with my bare hands if I had to, but my survival instinct reasserted itself before I could give way to the impulse to avenge these sorry victims on the next of the creatures to cross our path.

There were plenty of them to be seen, large and small, scutding around on incomprehensible errands of their own, most of which seemed to involve shouting very loudly or hitting one another. On a couple of occasions, we saw weapons drawn to resolve a quarrel, although none of the combatants seemed to take permanent harm from a mere axe wound or bullet hole, and most of the others in the vicinity simply ignored the fracas. Adding to the din was the perpetual roar of their ramshackle vehicles, which hurtled about the place with complete disregard for the safety of either their occupants or any pedestrians in their path. As well as the buggies and bike things we'd seen before, I was able to make out some larger vehicles which looked vaguely like heavily armoured trucks, and once something which might have been intended as a tank, but which looked like nothing so much as a daemon possessed pile of scrap metal rattled past,2 crewed by whooping orks.

On several occasions, we saw foraging parties like the first we'd encountered, although not all were in search of fresh meat. Some of the carts were piled high with stuff only a tech-priest would recognise, while other groups seemed bent on collecting nothing but scrap metal. To my shock and surprise, in some cases what I'd assumed to be even scrawnier gretchin than usual, proved, on closer inspection through the amplivisor, to be human prisoners. I pointed out the haggard, shuffling figures to Jurgen with an inarticulate sound of revulsion, and he nodded grimly.

'They'll not last long,' he said, and I was forced to agree. Indeed, they must have possessed exceptional fortitude, or faith in the Emperor, to have survived their enslavement for as long as they had. No doubt, the atrocity of the Administratum building had been intended to intimidate the survivors into acquiescence, and it looked from here as though it had succeeded in that aim.

'There's nothing we can do for them,' I said, moving a little deeper into the cover of a shattered wall. Trying to liberate the poor wretches would only get us killed, and none of them looked in any condition to make a run for it anyway. Nevertheless, it was in a sober mood that we continued our perilous journey.

At length, we hit a watercourse and took to it gratefully, wading waist high in the blessedly cool liquid. The sun was almost at its zenith, and the relief from the baking heat was more than welcome. I drew the line at drinking it, however, continuing to use the canteen at my waist for that. No telling where it had come from, or what was contaminating it, especially with an army of greenskins in town. If you think that makes it remarkably foolish for us to go paddling in the stuff, you've clearly never experienced desert heat, or tried playing tag with orks, let alone both at the same time.

Despite moving as carefully as we could to avoid betraying our presence by sloshing around too loudly, we made good time. For most of its length, the aqueduct was lined with rockcrete walls, which rose higher than our heads, making it hard to see our surroundings, but by the same token giving us some welcome concealment from the greenskins surrounding us. Jurgen's compass told us we were moving in roughly the right direction still, and after a while, during which time the hubbub of the ork host going about their business had faded away again, I deemed the time was right to stick our heads up and see where we were.

Fortunately, at this point the walls of the aqueduct were sloping, and lined with pre-cast rockcrete slabs, which afforded excellent footing, so we were able to make our way to the top and lie completely concealed below ground level apart from our heads. I raised mine cautiously, seeing no sign of life, and scrambled up, Jurgen at my heels as always. While he dropped into a crouch, lasgun at the ready, I raised the amplivi-sor.

'We're here,' I said, picking out a sign on a nearby industrial unit informing me that it was the property of South Sector Plumbing Supplies. Like everywhere else we'd so far seen in this stricken community, the buildings bore the scars of fighting or ork vandalism, although there were fewer corpses in the street and more of the structures seemed to have roofs. I activated the commbead. 'Tayber, this is Cain. Respond.'

For a moment nothing happened, and I listened to the familiar hiss of static in my ears with tension winding inexorably at my gut.

1 Highly unlikely: the average greenskin simply answers the call of nature wherever they happen to be, the notion of a specific place being set aside for such activities being too subtle a concept for them to grasp. As, indeed, is the notion of hygiene in general. If Cain is right about the use the building was put to, it was undoubtedly meant as a deliberate insult to His Divine Majesty.

2 Probably a battlewagon of some kind. Since the orkish names for most of their vehicles appear to be Gothic loan words mangled sufficiently for their debased larynxes to pronounce, such as ''trukk'' for ''truck'', I've elected to let Cain's original wording stand rather than correct the terminology. Interestingly, according to the sisters of the Ordo Dialogus, this also holds true for much of their technical vocabulary, including most of their weaponry.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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