Snow Patrol Prologue: Munk's Few
"Corporal Geffin, get the men together, we're taking these doo-hicky's on a patrol," Geffin looked up to see Staff Sergeant Munk stomping towards the small camp fire, trooper Reynolds in tow. The two figures approached the guttering fire through an ever increasing flurry of fluffy snowflakes the size of eyeballs. The snows had started an hour previous and already the ground was cushioned with several inches. It was going to be a cold night.
Geffin sighed quietly as he placed his datapad back in his pack. He'd been scratching at the squad performance review for about half an hour and made little headway. The Monian night had come in fast after the battle the previous day. And while Tau and Kochi elite sappers continued to fight and snipe through night sights, the guardsmen had set to entrenching the heavy weapons and supporting the mechanicus servitors in field repairs. Geffin had given his orders, seen the work set to and then settled down in a comfortable spot to write up his report. Back to his pack and feet to the fire.
The men were exhausted, which was to be expected. They were pleased with their performance today and the lack of serious casualties. They'd made it through their first real engagement, no little part to the work of the gregarious Munk. However, there was also an unspoken reserve in the men. They had tightened up, the comradeship was there but also an invisible barrier had formed. Reynolds suspected he now sat in this bubble, and he suspected it was something to do with Munk.
He'd arrived to late to see whatever it was that the men shared hard but satisfied expressions about. When they'd arrived, all that had occupied him were the half dozen Tau aiming at Reynolds and himself. He'd reacted on instinct and attempted to pull the unarmed Reynolds out of the xenos firing line. Instead, Reynolds had charged the enemy armed with a pipe and tabac. For that moment Geffin knew with absolute certainty that he was dead.
As it happened the Tau didn't have time to fire as plasma and lasfire decimated the distracted Tau. Leaving a bewildered Reynolds victorious on the field, staggering about in confusion and relief. Geffin had wondered over his slate whether the men were reading into his action, were questioning his bravery in light of whatever the Sergeant has done, or Reynolds lunatic charge.
Geffin smiled to himself, in situations like this he was always reminded of the notes his father would leave him early in the morning before his shift. His father was dead now, but had cared for and brought him up in the Citadel of Kochi VI. He'd been a smelter at one of the many adeptus mechanicus forges which justified the citadels existence. Geffin had more than once felt the back of his large rough hands for a misdeed or a curse he'd mistakenly uttered. His father had been hard, but fair. He'd worked from daybreak to dust in continuous, laborious and complicated tasks and only spent real time with Geffin on the Emperor's Day and other holiday's. Geffin used to stay up to hear his father arrive home, and then drift off. He was always gone before Geffin rose.
He had however been a clever and thoughtful man. No wit or academic, but intelligent and careful in his own well thought through ways. He also had an uncanny knack for knowing Geffin’s ails and moods. He would write notes to Geffin. Sometimes they were longer, a page or so in his carefully drawn out neat writing. They would explain his working day, the complications of the work, or how his father had felt about Geffin's grades. Other times they would be simple notes or thoughts that would more often than not spear right to the centre of his current frustration or doubts. Sometimes it had been months or years until Geffin had been mature enough to really understand. The notes were now crammed into a leather cover, forming a make piece book in Geffin's pack. A book filled with all the love and wisdom one man could give his son. It meant everything to Geffin.
One such note rose in response to Geffin's concerns about the potential doubts of the men in his command and gave him solace.
Know your true heart and other doubts will have no dominion. The others could doubt, Geffin knew his own heart. They might question, but he had no fear to answer. His time would come.
Geffin stood stiffly in the swirling dark and quickly saluted the Staff Sergeant, who grunted in response. Geffin noticed that Munk's hands were already stretched out to the warming glow. Reynolds stood slightly back. As if afraid any warmth would melt the newly formed strength he'd found in the face of fire. Geffin looked carefully at Reynolds, who avoided his eye, focusing diligently on preparing Munk’s pipe. He wondered if Reynolds strength would be enough, or if Munk would break his newfound toy.
Settling his pack onto his aching shoulders, he adjusted a loose strap. He picked up his warmly wrapped lasrifle from by the fire and trotted into the snow, in search of his men. Munk’s few
Snow Patrol Chapter 1: Trudge Grudge
The small platoon of Kochi Regulars trudged through the maddening snow. A long double line huddling close and marching in muffled discord over treacherous ground. The snow cover falling so fast that one man's tread was full in moments and only the continual passage kept the path clear. The men huddled against the cold, their thick winter fatigues only barely keeping the howling wind at bay. Munk had set the men to a firm pace, well aware of the line between danger of exhaustion and freezing consequences of inactivity the harsh climate would prosecute.
Geffin had drawn up his squad to the left flank. Marching in single file beside the regulars of squad alpha two zero. Geffin walked at the rear of his line, keeping a steady eye on the troopers for signs of fatigue. Staff Sergeant Munk and his command team of camouflaged and carapace clad irregulars held the front of the column and six more lightly jacketed irregular troopers ranged on point and rearguard to the less experienced Kochi guardsmen.
Geffin had found the two squads of his platoon quickly. Nicknamed Munk's few, the platoon had been singled out by the master Sergeant. The other platoons had set up and without a word had subconsciously left a non standard spacing between their tents and those of the few. Whether this was in deference to their choosing, or recognition of their life expectancy, Geffin didn't know.
Being chosen was an honour, but one which meant the platoon would see twice the action of the other platoons of Kochi Regulars. Protecting Munk's damn pipe was a hefty burden. However it was also Munk's way to train the troops through adversity. Those that survived would be integrated into the standard Regulars platoon with duties more focused on trench warfare, firing lines and Heavy weapons. The easy way. A select few may be promoted to the Kochi Irregulars, the elite force of veteran troopers which made up half of Kochi's foreign light infantry. The final cut would don the camouflaged chameleon armour of the Kochi Irregulars Grenadiers and take up the hellgun and plasma gun in the name of the Emperor.
As they plodded on Geffin noticed that the weather was abating. The snows were lifting and the biting wind which cut at his face dropped dramatically. It was now far past midnight and the Kochi patrol was a good couple of hours into the patrol. They were approaching the outreaches of the sentry line. Within the forest, a series of foxholes laid out the perimeter. Guarded by ten men each, the foxholes were called Bastions. Armed with a heavy bolter and hand cranked mine zones they formed the first line of defense from potential incursion through the trees. Each Bastion was interlinked with the others and connected to central command. Their patrol, alongside others, was making the hourly rounds to each Bastion. So far it had been tiresome and dull work.
Not that Geffin had a care to mind that. It beat the frantic panic of combat, but somehow the promise of action made the time go faster. Usually in terrified technicolour, he thought wryly to himself, but quicker nonetheless. As the snows slowed, Geffin raised his voice to his command.
"Squad beta two zero! Spread out the line and get those rifles down." Each man set about unshouldering his rifle and set about checking the sights and the wrappings on the barrels. As one they also started unzipping their jackets and reaching in to pull out lasgun reload cartridges. The extreme cold challenged las technology like no other. A las cartridge could drain down in less than half a day if dormant. As such all Kochi kept them close to the skin until needed. It made reloading dangerous, but lasguns rarely needed reloading.
His squad spread out, mimicking the other Regulars patrol, either side of the path. Munk's command echelon had also spread slightly. As they walked, Geffin made an extra effort and moved amongst his squad, now able to overhear low banter that had reignited now the wind had dropped.
Trooper Toftsk was cursing his damp cigarette as they failed to take for the third time. Geffin could see how he gripped gingerly at the cigarette between fingers blue with cold. The damp snow and wind conspired against his guttering matches.
Geffin was now trudging beside him, “You're never going to get that one lit again Toftsk, just give it up” he said. Toftsk jumped in surprise. "Didn't see you there, Corporal." He replied as he tied to catch the light again. This time the paper and tabac took. Toftsk inhaled a fulsome breath of hot air and blew it out into the crystal night.
"So Corporal," he said. Looking aslant at Geffin over his glowing cigarette. "You want to know what happened before you and Reynolds played chicken with the Tau?" Reynolds did want to know, but the last person he wanted to hear it from was Toftsk.
"Let me guess, Toftsk. You ran about doing as you were told and you weren't quite killed again eh?" Geffin said, cutting off Toftsk's leering smile. He'd had quite enough of the guardsman's attitude since the incident with Reynolds. Some troopers just spent far too much time looking for weakness in others, and not enough on their own insecurities. Geffin noticed Toftsk mutter under his breath, clearly too fearful to voice whatever cutting remark he dearly wanted to reply with.
"Sorry Toftsk, what was that? I missed it due to the foot stuck in your mouth." Geffin moved to stand in front of Toftsk and the trooper stopped with a start. His surly expression melting into one of surprise. Slowly the Corporal reached up and took the smoldering cigarette from between Toftsk's chapped lips. Putting the cigarette in his mouth, Geffin's eyes bore into Toftsk until the Guardsman glanced furtively away.
"I'm understood then." Geffin muttered, loud enough for the others to hear. He turned back and struck out walking again, turning to the trooper on his right.
Granthem was the squad's heater handler, and as such was in a better mood than most. The meltagun was an awesome weapon, without the downside of self harm the plasmagun was infamous for. It also proved a particular popular weapon during this bitterly cold campaign. Unlike the flamer, the dormant fuels within the meltagun kept the weapon toasty warm.
Granthem smiled warmly as the Corporal looked over at him. He was nicknamed "specialman" not just for his weapon, but also for his particular outlook on life. Granthem was the sort of man who weathered all climates and all situations with the same optimism and cheery disposition. He held no grudges that Geffin knew of and rarely got involved in the squad backchat. He was a large man, now padded up to overweight proportions by his bulky winter gear. Geffin liked Granthem, but couldn't help but think that the man was one track short of a tank. After all what man could be truly happy in a hellhole like the one they found themselves. Still, he guessed the heater helped.
Granthem looked over at Geffin and then at the cigarette between his lips. "I'd leave those alone if I were you boss. Never do nothing but make Toftsk miserable. Even when he's got one, he barely makes normal. What goods that, eh? Normal's where we all start, not a target in life." Granthem smiled again and hefted the meltagun for comfort.
"Yeah, you're right specialman." said the Corporal as he threw away the untouched cigarette. "I just felt Toftsk deserved to make a new one. One day he might actually learn that baiting me gets him nothing but work." he smiled at the small injustice he'd stung the cocky trooper with. To his surprise Granthem was laughing. A deep base chuckle that reverberated about the trees. Shortly he stopped.
"Yah well, Toftsk only desire is for your pins and he don't care how we gets it. He thinks chipping away at your feelings gonna make you crack. He also think we others want him for a corporal. I think he gonna be sorry how wrong he is, soon enough, soon enough." Again the deep chuckle jumped about Granthem throat. Geffin smiled at the trooper.
Suddenly Granthem stiffened and Geffin looked up to see Munk gesturing him. He waved in return and trotted double-time through the powdery snow.
As Geffin approached, he noticed the Corporal from Alpha Two Zero running up as well. Something was up. Munk waited until the two corporals were close to.
"Gentlemen, something's up. The damn foxholes are replying ok but neither Cavorski nor Mathers have reported in. My gut says something’s up. Corporal Geffin, you take Hunt, Qell and Jones and make your way to Bastion twenty one. I'll take Justin and young Reynolds here with Alpha Two Zero and locate twenty two." He indicated on the datapad. "Keep your eyes peeled and your men tight. Something's not right here. Emperor's Grace. Dismissed."
Geffin walked back to his squad with the three grenadier troopers in tow. He unslung his pack as the troopers crowded round, for information no doubt, and if Geffin guessed right, warmth. He pulled the cold datapad from his pack and switched it over to mapping function. Holding it in his hand, he remembered the doubts that played at him earlier. Looks like this time, his time had come.
Toftsk was the first to speak, "Where's Munk going?" he stammered through chill teeth. Clearly he'd been unable to light another cigarette and the results of withdraw, or his repeated attempts were starting to show. Geffin stood slowly and watched the Sergeant's unit retreat into the night. He'd had enough.
He swung his fist and caught Toftsk right in the bridge of the nose. Toftsk's hands were wrapped up under his armpits. Despite a bitter sounding crack, Toftsk didn't go down but grasped his gushing nose and swore mightily. Before he could respond on instinct the great arms of Granthem has smothered his responses. He glared out at Geffin, his hatred plain to see. Geffin stood calmly in front of him.
"Toftsk, you are a soldier of the Kochi. You are an imperial guard. You will remember your training and learn at some point to treat your superiors with respect. Do I make myself clear?" Geffin eyeballed Toftsk as best he could. Toftsk glared back. Geffin hit Toftsk again, this time in his gut. His fist went deep as he winded Toftsk. Toftsk gasped and sank to the snowy floor were Granthem dropped him.
Standing over a gasping Toftsk, Geffin faced the other men. Indifferent faces glanced down at the shuffling and grunting body in the centre of their group. "Toftsk, you are going to learn civility if I have to beat it into you. You will never address a superior as anything other than sir or corporal. Do I make myself clear?" He grabbed Toftsk hair and pulled his blooded face where everyone could see it. "And I understood?" He glowered.
Toftsk dribbled blood from his mouth and nose, his eyes held hatred but a bitter respect to. He nodded in assent. "Yeshir." He mumbled.
Geffin leant down beside the winded man and quickly relieved him of his tabac tin. Tossing the small tin onto the snow, he motioned Granthem to incinerate it. As the small tin combusted to nothing, he turned back to Toftsk.
"Am I now understood?" he asked, arms locked behind his back. Beneath his gloves his hands were sweating despite the cold.
"Yes ... sir." muttered a darkly resentful Toftsk. Geffin quickly stepped forward. As he approached at speed, Toftsk hands shot up. "Yes, sir. Yes, sir. I understand." he exclaimed.
"That's better." remarked the Corporal. "Men we march, private Toftsk, you and Wilhelm take point. We're going to see what see shall see."
Under his stern gaze squad beta two zero made off into the cold night. Geffin brought up the rear, wondering how much damage he'd done.