For the Emperor!
Col. Erwin scrutinised the data-slate the Inquisitors acolyte had handed him, knowing all too well it was unwise to offer any unsolicited opinion in the Inquisitors presence. Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait long, Inquisitor Julius, who’s reputation for bluntness was legendary, was clearly in no mood to stand on ceremony.
“That damned tech-priest Cawl has been dabbling with Xenos tech-heresy Colonel! As you can see this is the latest in a long line of his reckless endeavours, meddling in the arcane technologies of the cursed Necrons. Has he so easily forgotten Cadia, his dangerous experiments with Blackstone will be our undoing”, barely constrained anger was clearly evident in Inquisitor Julius’s voice.
“I don’t disagree Inquisitor, it is certainly, ‘concerning’, although I make a point of not meddling in the affairs of the Adeptus Mechanicus; but if you don’t mind me asking, why have you summoned me here, what exactly would you have me and my men do about it?
Erwin had been more than a little perplexed as to why the Inquisition was interested in conscripting a battalion of the Imperium’s finest battle-hardened troops, when they had such significant ‘resources’ at their disposal, but any curiosity he may have initially had regarding the summons was rapidly dwindling, replaced by a creeping apprehension that he didn’t actually want to find out…
The Inquisitor didn’t answer straight away, pensively staring out into the void beyond his office window. “Let me speak plainly Colonel, I, that is ‘we’ want Cawl stopped, we want him brought to heel, brought here, to answer to the Inquisition.” That got Erwin’s attention, only his years on the parade ground enabling him to hide his surprise. “I see Inquisitor, and you believe that my Denian Guardsmen are most suited to performing this task for you, bringing Imperial justice to this heretic?”
The Inquisitor frowned, and looked out of the portal again, “Yes Colonel, that is precisely why I have summoned you here”. Erwin was more than a little irked by the reference to a summons, in theory, the Imperial Guard did not answer directly to the Inquisition, but he kept his tone painfully civil, he knew where he stood. “While I am flattered Sir, this is not, how can I put it, our usual line of work…”.
“Ah but you do not yet fully understand the task at hand Colonel,” Inquisitor Julius responded. “Your men have a certain ‘reputation’, the 322nd Denian Regiment has ever been a capable force, its insertion and extraction missions behind enemy lines are well known, and your battalion in particular has a penchant for the covert, often succeeding against seemingly insurmountable odds. While we could no doubt send in a Space Marine unit to perform this duty, Cawls actions have already attracted the attention of our battle brothers, not to mention numerous Xenos races in the locality, we have detected signatures from Tau, Necron and Eldar vessels converging on Veridian VII, so rather than enflame matters further I believe that a more ‘subtle’ approach is needed.
With growing apprehension, although he showed none of it outwardly, Erwin was beginning to realise why only he and his battalion of the 322nd Denian Regiment was being requisitioned and not the whole regiment. “In other words, you want a force that, among the madness of multiple invasions of this one planet, would slip in and out unnoticed because we’ll be too small to be a direct threat?” Erwin inquired.
Julius smiled, which sent shivers down Erwin’s spin. “Exactly Colonel, I’ve requisitioned you to slip past the numerous enemies there, find out what Cawl is doing, detain him and his lackies and return him here… alive”. Erwin frowned at the Inquisitor, processing what had just been said. However, the Inquisitor chose to dress it up, he and his men had just been recruited for a suicide mission. A suicide mission to disrupt the plans of a high-ranking Arch Magus he had never heard of, on a planet no-one knew of, for an Inquisitor who clearly had a personal vendetta against the Adeptus Mechanicus… and the day had started so well…
Whatever his misgivings about the mission, Erwin was abundantly aware that he was in no position to refuse, this was not a debate, it was an order. Steeling himself for what lay ahead, he responded. “Very well Inquisitor, I shall rally my men for this endeavour, and proceed with all haste and caution to Veridian VII. We will capture Explorator Delphan Gruss and his team, I promise you that, extract them and bring them to justice, and by the Emperor, we will defeat all comers who threaten our mission!” Saluting the Inquisitor, he turned smartly and marched out of the office, down to the bowls of the transport ship where his crack squad awaited, to inform them of the mission the Emperor’s most loyal agents had provided them. Back in the chamber Inquisitor Julius sighed and prayed to the Emperor that he was doing the right thing in taking on Arch-Magus Cawl and his plans, or at least finding out what the Adeptus Mechanicus were truly up to on Veridian VII.
In a low orbit, stood in the main hanger of their drop ship the Xenos bane, surrounded by their tanks and munitions, Col. Erwin and his officers scanned the maps of Veridian VII. They had been debating the best place to land and construct their base of operations from which they could strike out, resupply and if needs be, hide out if the other forces, particularly the Adeptus Mechanicus, got wind of their mission.
“There” Erwin pointed on the display. “We can build our base of operations in this wooded valley”. The men looked at the display, it featured a steep, heavily wooded valley, surrounded by high, inaccessible peaks on three sides, bar the southern end which was approached through a narrow cut between boulder fields. “Sir”, it was Erwin’s trusted second in command, Cpt Stern. “With all due respect, is it wise to build a base in such an isolated spot? Our infantry may be able to traverse that route, but our tanks would have a nightmare trying to get back and forth, the logistics alone could cripple us and while the entrance is very defensible, we would be trapped if outnumbered”. This caused a stir amongst the other officers, who all clearly shared Sterns view but were reluctant to say as much. “Precisely” Erwin stated, not bothering to look away from the display to meet Stern’s perplexed expression. “It’s the most illogical base to build a base, with little infrastructure, poor chance of aerial support, logistically taxing, and questionably defensible. That is why it is the best place”. Stern’s face expressed his bafflement with this response; but Erwin, now looking at him with a degree of impatience rolled his eyes. “It’s the best place precisely because it isn’t, no-one in their right mind would believe any force would establish themselves in such a difficult position, the Mechanicus would never consider such a place even if it was the last possible location on the planet. The Tau would follow similar logic. While the marines would seek the ruined cities and derelict manufactoriums or would constantly be on the move. The Necron’s would no doubt cut straight to the point and attack the Mechanicus position and then turn their attention to the other factions. The Tyranids would be the only major issue, their ‘tactics’ if they have any are beyond our reckoning, but with our psykers, we should detect them before they launch an attack on us. If the dread enemy is here…” Erwin, Stern and all the men surrounding the display made the sign of the Aquila upon such a thought. “It is my hope that the traitor forces may simply ignore such a small force and go straight for greater threat in the larger Xenos forces and other Imperial factions”.
Captain Stern nodded, supressing his misgivings, he turned to his officers. “Right you lot, you heard the Colonel, once we arrive, our first objective is to secure this valley, Sergeant Rone!” A young man, no older then 23, saluted, “Sir!” awaiting Erwin’s command. “Once we land, take your squad and set up obs on the southern entrance to the valley, if a mouse dares to come through there I want to know about it! Understood?” Stern turned back to the map, but then shouted over his shoulder. “Oh and Rone”… “Yes, Sir?”… “When you’re done, mine the hell out of the route in, and map it out so our boys avoid getting caught out there, if we do get pinned down, I want our guests to have a nice warm welcome, you know the drill.” Rone marched smartly out, barking orders as he went.
“Sergeant Cullen!” A second man stepped forward saluting sharply, an older man, probably in his mid 40’s, hair streaked with grey and battle scars from years of conflict covering his face, “Sir!”. “You will take your squad, and set up camp in the woods, and build a supply and munitions depot here, and find any local resources we can use, food and water and check out any of the nearby abandoned settlements, we may be here for some time.”
Finally; “Sergeant Burk!”. Another older soldier stood to attention, of a similar age to Cullen, with the build of a jungle fighter, but with less battle scars. “Sir!”. “Take your squad and scout outwards from the landing zone through the forest and over the mountains. Our scans reveal nothing we didn’t expect on the surface, so my bet is everyone’s been looking in the wrong place. If there is something here, it’s under our feet. Find any signs of the Mechanicus presence, but look for passages natural or man-made, I have a hunch they may lead us to what we’re looking for… Those are your orders”.
Erwin glanced at Stern who was still looking at the display map intensely. “Captain…Once we’ve landed, we’ll be on our own here, we will have no comms, limited supplies, minimal support and we’ll be facing forces well beyond our capabilities to take down in a straight fight. Even if we do everything right out there, there are a lot of powers at play and unknowns, I’ll be honest, we may not survive”
The reality of the situation was starkly apparent to both men, but they were seasoned veterans. Erwin sighed, “We have a job to do, find out what the Mechanicus are doing, capture a few of their senior staff and then get the hell out of dodge, the Inquisition can take it from there, and while we’re at it, if we can put some of those Xenos scum and our smug battle brothers in their place all the better!” Stern looked at Erwin, smiled and saluted his commanding officer. “For the Emperor!” a cheer arose from Stern and the other men as they prepared for the onslaught.
Prepare for the new Warhammer 40k Crusade Campaign coming soon to Dice & Bolter. More stories to follow, the full collection can be found under the #tag 40k Crusade Campaign.