-- Chapter 2.1: Fall of the XXI Company --
They called it the Sea of Rust, and it seemed an apt name to Severen Erris.
Sixteen centuries ago, a hive had been raised here - small by the standards of such sprawling monstrosities as the Planalto conurbation of Hy Brasil or the dark stain of Nord Merica, Old Detroi - and perched in the middle of the lush, green valleys of Oxitania like an encrusted jewel in a crown. The hive's original name is forever lost to time, but it was known to be unusual in that it did not desecrate the land around it, taking great pains to maintain a balance with one of the last green havens of Terra.
It died in a single night of atomic fire and radiation that scoured its valleys down to bare rock.
The survivors were forced underground and would slowly strip the hive to its bones for the building materials they needed, but even with these mighty salvage operations, tens of millions of tons of steel and iron were left to rust away under centuries of unrelenting acid fog and rain. It became a desert of sorts, with great dunes of minute chips of rusted metal spreading across an area hundreds of kilometers in diameter. The ruins of the old hive now loom over the expanse of ferric sand like a deathly spectre of ages past and grandeur lost.
It would be here that the forces of King Gotha would stop the incursion of the XXI Company of the Dusk Raiders.
Severen batted away the massive zho-kren's chain axe with with a backhanded slap of his powerfist and had to give ground as the giant came back in with blinding speed. It was a feint his opponent didn't see coming and he stepped inside his enemy's reach, obliterating its hand and the lower haft of the chain axe with a solid punch from his powerfist. The zho-kren dropped to its knees, howling in rage and pain as it cradled the wounded arm, and Severen knew he had scant moments before the powerful stimulants and pain killers would surge into its bloodstream, turning it into a berserk killing machine.
He raised his bolt pistol to finish it off when a searing bolt of energy flashed before him, disintegrating his left hand and pistol into a puff of dark smoke. With a snarl, he charged forward - ignoring the second zho-kren for the moment - and swung his powerfist for all he was worth, caving in the giant's chest with such force that his back erupted in a shower of blood and viscera. A strangled cry and a loud crash signaled the end of the second zho-kren.
Captain Blackwoode pulled the steaming blade of his powersword from the giant's gut and hurried over to Severen. "I got the one that took your hand," he voxed. "How bad is it?"
"Startin' t' feel it now. Cauterized it right up, so there en't no bleeding."
Blackwoode leaned in close, using their personal command vox channel. "They're taking us apart, Sev. I want an orderly displacement back through those tunnels-"
"We're retreating?" Severan asked, incredulous. "We don't retreat, Mar."
"If we don't go now, there won't be anyone left to inform the Legion Master of what happened here! We'll reinforce at the border and-" Another bolt from the damnable zho-kren energy rifles cut Captain Marek Blackwoode in half at the waist and scored deep wounds across Severen's legs, just above the knees. He pitched over onto his back, writhing in agony as Marek gasped and choked on his own blood over the vox channel.
"Marek!" Severen screamed, turning onto his stomach and crawling back to his friend. "Captain!"
Blackwoode's helmet turned slowly to regard Severen. "Don't die here," he rasped, his voice thick with fluid. "Reinforce and crush these bastards. The Legion... must... know."
Just as he reached Marek's body, the signifier icon winked out on Severen's helmet display, indicating both of Blackwoode's hearts had ceased functioning. With tremendous effort, he slowly got to his feet and opened a vox channel to all the remaining squads. "This is Centurion Erris. Captain Blackwoode has fallen. We're t' fall back to the caves and begin an orderly retreat for the border. I want all squad leaders t' copy me immediately for compliance." The answers came in, grudgingly, and there were far too few of them for Severen's liking.
"We'll have 'em yet, lads. They've not seen the last of the XXI."
++Last known image of Centurion-Champion Severen Erris of the XIV Dusk Raiders, XXI Company, directing troop displacements on Day 1 of Oxitania mission.++
Edited by Brother Chaplain Kage, 01 March 2016 - 01:31 AM.