Snow Patrol Chapter 3
Part 1: Something missing
The grating trudge ended with the first of three Kochi outposts. The small raised mound was only identifiable by its global position and snuggled into the tundra. Surrounding the outpost was a clearing of some hundred and a half yards.
Corporal Geffin motioned a halt for beta two zero and had his second in command spread the men out through the woodland edges. He jogged over to where the ancillary Irregular units were crouched. Settling down next to these Kochi sapper veteran unit, Geffin felt at home. He'd been promoted to the Saps eighteen months earlier. Recognition for a particularly bloody but effective assault on a tau skimmer tank.
He'd felt at home with these veterans, his own combat capabilities blossoming in such competitive and hard nosed surroundings. After completing his tour of duty with this unit, he had chosen to return to the regulars. It was an unusual choice, after all, within eight tours he may have warranted promotion to the Kochi Grenadiers, but Geffin wanted command, and the only way to command was through the regulars and the officer training corp. So he'd swapped.
Two of the six Kochi sappers he knew. Corporal Mendark was a swarthy black man of middling years. A good deal of his strength and muscle had run to fat, but he more than compensated for it with a canny eye for the enemy and a wealth of battle hardened experience. Mendark nodded solemnly to Geffin and retuned his smile. The veteran corporal was absently hefting his hellpistol, irratically tightening his grip on the grip. Never a good sign, Munk's nerves was obviously spreading. Geffin was pleased to see that the vets had swapped their jungle attire for some heatmake wrappings and lightweight over gear.
The other veteran was less of a friendly sight, while the other irregulars mimicked Mendark's nod of welcome. Private Pat Ratrick gave no such quarter. His stare was hard and as cold as the frosted bark. A slight sneer affected the privates lip. The remnant squad's grenade launcher handler was a prickly and overbearing personality. Geffin thought back to Toftsk own behaviour and wondered whether something in his own nature attracted these sort of golden thronestools. Patrick held an unpleasently high opinion of his own superiority, backed up by a violent and sadistic nature. Geffin had experienced run-ins with Ratrick before, and the dislike was mutual. Only now, Geffin was senior.
Two of the other vets hefted flamers. The three irregular grenadiers Munk had given him had followed him over like a small bodyguard. Now Hunt spoke, he had the solid clipped voice of.one born to the military. His hellgun pulsed softly in the dark.
'Corporal, we're getting no radio response from the bunker. If there's anyone in there they're either not replying, or are incapable. Sir.' Geffin glanced across at the solid bulk of Hendark and the Corporal grinned in the darkness. 'I know what you're thinking Geffin, but lets take one step at a time. Royale here,' he indicated a sapper to his right with a broken nose. 'He's sniffed out the perimeter, landmine's active and the motion detectors are on. That tells us that that camp operational even if the commanders sleeping. Which I doubt.' Mendark raised one eyebrow.
'You know the Officer out there?' inquired
Geffin flicking some stray powdered snow off his weathered knee guards.
"I know of him. Met him once, but he ain't no officer. Corporal. Dour, miserable sort, but competent. Unlikely to be caught napping.' The veteran NCO thumbed a hand towards the bunker. 'You want to go over and take a look. Us sappers been itching for some nervous work all night. Place is too quiet. Fancy some company?"
It was Geffin's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Just like old times eh? Fine." The prospect of action had his blood up. Already the cold was abating. Geffin pointed at one of the grenadiers, "Jones, right?" the man nodded behind his facemask. "Can you relay back to my second, vice-corporal Burrows that their to spread out and camp down. I want sentries posted and a patrol sent out three hundred yards east and west of our position."
"Understood sir." The grenadier's voice growled through the vox, Geffin was surprised to hear a guttural lower foundry accent, it reminded him of home. The armoured veteran turned and jogged off towards the regular's lines, stopping briefly with Burrows before moving on.
Mendark slapped his fellow NCO in the shoulder as he raised his considerable bulk off his knees. Geffin grinned until he noticed Ratrick's scowl behind the veteran commanders back. Looks like he was in for a long night.
Geffin ducked his head low and scuttled across the intervening snow. The logical part of his brain rallying continuously against his more instinctual fear. Crossing a land mine was his least favourite occupation, but the sapper specialist seemed confident, and more comforting Corporal Mendark seemed satisfied.
Geffin glanced over at the sprinting Mendark. He remembered the first time he'd seen the great man run, and his astonishment over how such bulk could glide at a competent speed. He was even more perturbed at how the larger man made so little noise as he ran. Mendark was leading his veterans to the nearer main entrance while Geffin led his two bodyguard to the rear. They weren't expecting trouble, but had prepared for it. Geffin had unholstered his standard issue chainsword and las pistol while Mendark had proudly drawn his plasma pistol from its holster.
He could feel his breath in his lungs and he pounded up to the bunker side, halting suddenly as the two grenadiers landed up beside him. He motioned them to either side of the bulkhead door, and with shivering fingers he triggered the door access.
The grenadiers moved seemlessly through the hole, hellrifles raised. Geffin followed them in. They search frantically from empty lit room to room, but the only thing alive in the bunker was MenDark's team coming the other way.
"There's no blood, no disruption. It's like they abandoned their post, but that not like Hammound at all." he glared around, as if blaming the furniture. Geffin was about to reply when something caught his eye, the only thing out of place was the controls for the bunker defenses, they were slashed and broken - as if someone had performed it from the inside. Looking up, Geffin's surprised eyes met Mendarks.
"Emperor bless us..." Geffin muttered. Outside the crack of fire announced the opening gambit. It was a trap.
Snow Patrol Chapter 3
Part 2: Trap!
Something wasn't agreeing with private Penrose. He felt rotten throughout the march, some alien bug had him dry then sweating, hot then cold. He really just wanted a quiet place to lie down. Currently, some blasted alien influensa had him bent over double spitting out the last of his dinner as he dry-retched into the base of a large tree. Hacking riles of urging lurches surge up his diaphram as he strained again and again. With such base urges at work, it was a while before the spasms abated. He reached gingerly for his rifle and stepped back haltingly from the tree. Half suspecting a relapse, slow welling relief moved through him. Maybe he had this bug kicked after all.
Then he heard a clack above him. It wasn't a sound of the forest. He froze.
Penrose clutched his rifle tighter to his beating chest as he looked up. Above him he could sense the shape of braced bodies in the swirling snow canopy. His first thought to run, but his legs shook too much and wouldn't move. “In the trees...” he mumbled through cracked lips, his panic consuming him. He span towards the others, and his voiced seemed to croak like a gasping corpse.
VC Burrows grimaced at the retching sounds Penrose was making. His own bile already well risen and the tidemark was floating in the back of his throat. Grimacing up at Penrose, he opened his mouth to tell the corporal to pull himself together. He stopped at the look of helplessness in Penrose's abandoned features.
Penrose spoke, “They’re all around us in the tr...” On the edge of finishing his words a hooked blade split Penrose's helmet and slid with a wet crack into his skull. With a horrific slowness blood welled up around the hilt of the blade as Penroses features strove to express the unique sensation made as the serrated edge skewered his brain cavity. The squad stared in astonishment as Penrose's shaking body soiled itself. His eyes seemed to bulged slightly and a rivulet of blood seeped from his nose to his lips. His tounge lapped out at the blood greedily, smeering his top lip.
A lean black shadow dropped down behind its convulsing vistim. With a lightning flick it jerked the sticky blade out of Penroses head. There was a wet pop as the blade came free, and a spray of compressed blood. Penroses body piroetted slowly and slumped head first at the feet of his killer, his dead face craking loudly against the trunk of the tree.
A shower of powder and lumps of snow impacted around the guard unit as dark shapes dropped from the trees around their clustered group. The terrified humans' feet slipping on the rigid blood of their dead collegues, the pooled ichor frozen solid in the howling winds. A score of horrific Kroot carnivores rose from the swirling shadows around them, dire fetishes and unmentionable bodily trophies adorning their leather and fur hide clothing. As one, the Kroots snarled at the human prey, their bloody maws displaying rough rows of serated teeth.
“Open fire!” screamed Burrows.