Death or Glory | Chapter 23 of 25 - Part: 1 of 17

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

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DESPITE OUR BEST intentions, it was well past dawn before our motley collection of vehicles was ready to roll, and I hid my impatience as best I could while the civilians sorted themselves out. The last few precious supplies were hung from the sides of Chimeras already so encrusted with external stowage that their anti-personnel lasguns would be all but useless, and Tayber made ready to blow the place halfway to the Golden Throne. We'd placed demo charges in every building, with a couple of extra det packs wired up to the remaining ammunition in the armoury just for luck, and I intended being a long way away before letting him transmit the vox pulse which would touch it all off.

'That's the last of it,' he reported eventually, trotting up to the command Chimera, where Jurgen and I were settling in with Piers and the remains of his command squad. Normally I'd have followed my usual habit and requisitioned one of the Salamanders, but I'd had enough of riding in an open vehicle in these conditions. They were better employed doing the job they'd been designed for: ranging ahead of us and out to our flanks, keeping an eye open for any unpleasant surprises. They'd been doing that since dawn, checking in periodically to assure me that there was still no sign of the greenskins, although I wasn't about to let that lull me into a false sense of security. Since arriving on Perlia I'd learned to trust my paranoid streak more firmly than ever.

Besides, the command vehicle would be right in the middle of our improvised army, as well protected as possible. I hadn't told Piers that was why I was hitching a lift, citing the need to keep on top of any unexpected developments, which the array of specialised vox and auspex equipment aboard would be invaluable with. The fact that I could have done so almost as easily through the commbead, while eating dust in the back of our old ork boneshaker didn't seem to have occurred to him, and if it had he kept the thought to himself.

'Good.' I responded, with a last glance at our ragtag convoy. What with the mixture of ork and Imperial vehicles, all so overloaded with external stowage that their outlines were barely discernible, we looked more like a bunch of scawies than a military unit.

I was about to give the signal to move out when the familiar hiss of pistons and clanking of camshafts alerted me to the presence of the power lifter. I turned, receiving a typically cheery wave from Felicia as she leaned out of the cockpit, and goggled in astonishment.

'Emperor on Earth,' I expostulated, 'what have you done to that?'

'I told you I had some ideas.' Her voice was conversational, echoing in the commbead in my ear, which was just as well I suppose, as I'd never have heard a word over the roaring of the engines building up around us otherwise. One of the ideas had evidently been the installation of a vox set.

In place of the rockcrete counterweight, she'd mounted a large metal tank, which was full of promethium judging by the tangle of piping which led from it to somewhere within the bowels of the machine. With that much fuel on board she ought to be able to make it to the coast without stopping, although she clearly intended using some of it for other purposes: a heavy flamer had been mounted on the Sentinel's snout, its igniter hissing gently, flavouring the air with a light tang of combustion. How in the galaxy she expected to be able to use it, the panel in the cockpit normally reserved for fire control being devoted to the manipulation of the claws, I had no idea. It was only some time later, when I saw her wading into the middle of a greenskin patrol with every sign of enjoyment, that I realised she'd jury-rigged a manual trigger which she could activate with her mechanical tail.

'Very resourceful,' I told her, keeping my voice as neutral as possible.

Felicia grinned again, and clanked off in search of her artisans, who had commandeered one of the newly arrived trucks for their collection of tools and spare parts (now comfortingly well supplemented by the inventory of the supply dump). I turned to Piers.

'We might as well move out.'

'Outrider two,' a voice said in my ear. 'Contact, south-east quadrant, closing fast.' One of the Salamander teams was doing what it was supposed to. Piers looked grim.

'They were quick off the mark,' he said. I nodded, the dryness of my mouth not entirely due to the desiccating heat and the stink of burned promethium diffusing from the engines of our vehicles like Jurgen's body odour. It seemed our most pessimistic forecast of the ork response to the massacre of their reconnaissance patrol was about to be borne out.

I hurried into the shadowed interior of the command Chimera, a detached corner of my mind still able to welcome the sudden coolness, and stood over the auspex operator.

'Can you give me an estimate of their numbers?' I asked. The man, Orrily by name if I remember right, shook his head.

'They're not in range yet,' he explained, and indicated a blip almost at the edge of the screen, comfortingly tagged with an Imperial icon. 'That's outrider two.'

'This is Cain,' I transmitted, cutting in over Marquony's routine acknowledgement of the incoming message. 'Have you got a visual?'

'No, sir.' The corporal in charge of the four-man scout team responded instantly, no doubt surprised at my intervention and hoping to make a good impression. 'All we can make out so far is the dust they're kicking up.' There was a pause, and I could picture him staring through his amplivisor trying to resolve the image. 'There's a lot of it, though.'

'Let us know as soon as you've got confirmation,' I said. I turned to Piers and Tayber. 'It's decision time. Stay and hope we can defend our position, or pull out now and risk engaging them in the open if they pursue.'

'Pull out,' Piers said. He indicated the auspex screen. 'They're at least twenty minutes away.' Tayber nodded his agreement.

'We were going to blow this place anyway. Pull back to the ridge line while we've still got enough time.'

'Have we, though?' I asked. Our military units could do it, I had no doubt about that, but whether the civilian rabble would be able to get their act together in time was far more debatable. The question was merely rhetorical, however, intended to show some concern for the refugees. I wasn't going to sit around here waiting for the greenskins to arrive, and if some of the civvies ended up acting as a shield for the rest of us I could live with that. So I nodded, as though making a hard decision. 'It's not as if we really have a choice, is it? Let's go.'


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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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