What started out a few months ago as a detailed history of my homebrewed Chapter, the Knights Vindicant, quickly blossomed into a full account of the Poriphon War and the struggle with Hive Fleet Vritra. Some of this included some fluff centered around a few miscreants of the 212th Heralic Armoured Infantry, which you're about to be subject to. I will update this bit by bit as I'm going through rewriting it, but feel free to gush forth with praise/exercise your cutting and profound critique-muscles. Yes, it will feature more power armour as it goes on.
List of Contents:
764.992.M41: Gunnery Private Elisa Cassidy; Fort Carancus, Heral, Poriphon System.
The rain hammered down, soaking her to the bone as she shivered on the gunnery platform of the Basilisk. They'd invented a cannon she could use to fire a 38kg high ordinance shell over 15 miles, putting a crater in the ground large enough to swallow a Baneblade with room to spare, and they hadn't even put a roof on the damned thing. That about summed up anything anyone needed to know about the Emperor's glorious Astra Militarum. Heavy, noisy, uncomfortable.
Elisa Cassidy looked on in quiet misery from her vantage point through the plasteel-link fence, all that separated the 212th Heralic Armoured Infantry and the rows of tanks from the crowds of desperate civilians trying to buy, beg or force their way off-world. The 212th had long ago given up trying to police that little stampede. They'd tried at first, straining together against the pressed mass of bodies, but that had soon stopped once the cults and the rioters had started using the crowd as a mask, launch sudden attacks here and there on the thin line of soldiers and fading away before anyone could respond. There was even talk that a platoon of the 111th, over at Fort Rathan, had been mobbed by looters and torn apart. It hadn't taken long after that for the order to go out. Better to let the Arbiters sort out that mess, Colonel Garlon had said. They'd need their guns for a greater threat.
It was almost three weeks since the chaos had started, all of it caused by one word: Tyranids. Apparently they'd already attacked Karath and Demros, stealing into the Poriphon system undetected. Heral was next, more a city than it was a planet, billions of people all trying to escape at once. Garlon was right. A couple thousand soldiers couldn't do anything to sort this mess. So Cassidy stood on her tank, behind a fence, watching people trample each other to get on the next shuttle as Arbiters struggled helplessly against the weight of the crowd.
She'd had enough of the sorry scene. Turning away from it, she looked through a gap in the massed ranks of tanks, across to the parade ground. A platoon stood to attention, a Commissar prowling about them, yelling himself hoarse. A blindfolded man had been forced to his knees in front of the platoon, and as the Commissar concluded his speech, he turned and put a bolt through the man's head. She watched the body crumple to the floor and the blood wash away in the rain, wondering what crime the man had committed. Not that it mattered, of course. It wasn't really encouraged to argue with the Commissariat. The sight held little more for her than the ugly river of humanity at her back, so she leant back against the loading chamber of the Earthshaker cannon, staring at the sky in disgusted exasperation.
An hour went by before Lian turned up. The Basilisk's designated loader climbed up to join her on the platform, his wiry form struggling clumsily for purchase on the slick metal of the tank. Even once Cassidy had helped him up, he was still a good hand shorter than her. Lian couldn't look less like a soldier if he tried, an unimposing man with a tic in his left shoulder, occasionally jerking his head and arm about when he spoke. But then the 212th had been taking all sorts. Even women, Cassidy thought with a taut smile. Lian had proven himself as able as she had; in training, at least.
Lian shook vigorously, trying in vain to dislodge some of the cold rain that permeated the comically large greatcoat, standard issue for the Heralic Armoured Infantry regiments. “You've been out her some time, Cass. You looked soaked. Watchin' tic the crowds again?”
“Not a lot else to do, Lian,” she replied with a shrug she wasn't fully committed to. They'd been confined to the cramped confines of Fort Carancus for the last ten days, all two-thousand or so men and woman trying to fit into a complex designed for barely a quarter of their number. At least out among the tanks she could get some room to herself, a quiet slice of damp solitude. “Some poor bastard just got found wanting on the parade ground. Fourth company, I think. Couldn't see which platoon.”
“I heard. All the buzz in the canteen. They're sayin' he tried to sell off his kit for a place on tic the shuttles.” Cassidy stood in silence for a moment, Lian obliging her, both letting it sink in. The technicalities of the crime had been left unsaid, but they all knew of it. Desertion was the main concern of the Regiment's commissariat, judging by the amount of propaganda – or 'urgent info-comms' – they'd seen about it over the last few weeks. Not even a glimpse of the alien sword hanging over all their heads yet, and they already had casualties. That was probably the only other thing you'd want to know about the Emperor's glorious Astra Militarum – your life only held as much value as the weapon you held in your hands. Lasguns were damn cheap. Cassidy silently counted herself lucky to have been selected for the fledgling artillery company of the 212th.
The regiment was newly formed, less than a year old and barely out of basic training. They hadn't even made it off-world yet, or seen real combat; save for a few of the more senior officers, transferred in to command the regiment. Colonel Garlon was one of them. So was Captain Ferris, a tough old man who'd lost a leg fighting cultists on some world she'd never see. All scarred face and wild grey hair, and the heavy limp of a man with a cheap bionic leg. To Cassidy, Lian and all the other crew of the artillery tanks, he was the face of those who had the impossible responsibility of trying to forge a bunch of petty criminals, bored dilettantes and the odd d'n'd – the devout and delusional - into something resembling a functional fighting regiment.
Cassidy fell somewhere between the second and the third of those groups, born into enough money to be comfortable, not enough to ever have status. She knew enough about Lian to class him firmly in the first band, although by the sounds of it he'd been an awful thief, and probably much better off in the 'Guard. She looked out grudgingly on the mass of people trying to move through the Spaceport, wondering where each of them stood on the spectrum of personalties, of economic standings. Who had families, who had loved ones, who'd lost them and who would in the coming days. She'd never seen so many different types of people in one place. All trying to escape. And here she was, stood shivering in the rain, watching them all leave while trying to fool herself into thinking she'd made the noble choice to stay and fight against an enemy so terrible they were beyond comprehension.
She sat with Lian for a while, now perched on top of the main body of the tank, resting back against the gun shield with the cannon looming over them. They shared a flask of the local vintage, Mayr, that Lian had either found or 'found'; it was cheap, but the burning in her throat wasn't too unpleasant given the gloomy circumstances. It was enough. They laughed in the face of the rain, sharing old stories from before they'd signed up, talked about the few hopes they had for the future. That conversation ended when they'd strayed onto the topic of the coming war, both of them falling into a morose silence. Luckily a few members of other crews had picked that moment to wander past, climbing up to join them and pitching in with their own stories and alcohol. There wasn't much, but the welcome sense of companionship and shared misfortune was enough to break the dull monotony of the wait.
It was late in the afternoon when they began to notice the buzz around the Fort. One the distant parade ground, guardsmen were animated, moving with more energy than they had that morning to form little groups of excited gossipers. Eventually, Cassidy leapt from the tank to physically shake the attention loose from a passing soldier, asked him roughly what was happening. The answer was short.
“The Astartes! The Space Marines are coming!”
The parade ground had already filled by the time they got there. Crowds of recruits milled about as frustrated junior officers tried in vain to organise them into their companies, platoons, squads. There was barely enough room for the whole regiment. Cassidy found it odd how the morning's execution, the seventh this week, had disappeared from conversation like last year's news. It seemed everyone had been given a new lease of life by their impending salvation. She was more cautious. The superhuman Space Marines were terrifying warriors, or so went the holovids, saving the Imperium time and time again from it's greatest enemies. No-one else had seemed to notice that their presence indicated the danger they were all in.
They saw the first of the Thunderhawks less than an hour later, silver prows breaking through the dark clouds overhead. They heard them soon after. The flyers were massive, vehicles the size of a Baneblade gliding through the air. It seemed unreal. Other smaller aircraft followed in their wake; Cassidy spotted a few Stormravens, and many more she didn't know the name of. They landed on the military pads beyond the far reaches of the parade ground, each one touching down for just long enough to empty it's hold before taking off again. The Guardsmen stood to attention in their massed ranks, banners waving lethargically beneath the weight of the rain, as soaked and limp as the men and women beneath them.
There were hundreds of them, Cassidy thought. The great plates of their ceramite armour were pure silver, so pale to almost be white, and with rich blue detail. They looked so regal as they formed up, moving with purpose and in tight formation as soon as they'd set foot on the pads. The first of them made their way to the parade ground as the last of the ships gave up their cargo: three Land Raiders, the most heavily armoured tanks in the Imperium. Even she was impressed. She watched as what she presumed was the three commanders, with decorated armour and laurelled helmets, strode towards General Garlon and his entourage at the front of the regiment.
She couldn't see much, the artillery company being situated at the rear of the regiment, but the Marines were tall enough to be visible even from where she stood. She watched as the one at the front removed his golden helmet, approaching Colonel Garlon; it was impossible to hear what was said over the pounding rain and the ragged cheers of the guardsmen, but she saw the Space Marine look over the regiment. If he had any opinion of them, he didn't show it.
Edited by Harlan Skorus, 15 July 2014 - 08:03 PM.