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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:21 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:10 am
Posts: 437
Walter’s hands were shaking, and he gripped the rifle tighter to eliminate it. Reinhold had fallen back into a patrol stance, the weapon in his hands tracking the uncaring jungle to their rear. Franz walked between them without his impromptu leash, his empty hands shuddering, his now-soundless prayers setting fire to Walter’s nerves.
They had changed direction several times, just in case the monster from the Butane patch picked up their trail, or scent, or whatever it used to find its quarry. They had crossed the stream twice, and were headed for the junction once more.
Walter had developed a quiet longing for more grenades, particularly the special issue ones that he’d heard of but never seen. He couldn’t shake the feeling, as though he could just call up HQ and get a shipment out. He craved the incendiary grenades, airbursting shells that blanketed a small area in burning fluid. Flechette grenades, akin to a giant shotgun and filled with steel darts instead of pellets, had a strong appeal as well.
Walter was deep in contemplation as to how he could acquire some of these grenades when he noticed the man. He halted and trained his weapon on him, Reinhold coming up on his left. The other Hussar noticed the figure and looked at Walter for some guidance.
Walter waved him forward. Reinhold stalked a few paces forward and halted, sweeping the jungle for any other signs of movement. As he paused, Walter moved forward, the trembling Franz following him.
He noticed as he got closer the man was larger than the Hussars, clad in a suit of thick armour. It was painted in dark-toned camouflage. He was lying propped against a rock, facing away from them, his left leg a shattered mess and his lips stained with blood. It was hard to tell if he was alive or dead.
Walter approached and pressed the barrel of his rifle against the man’s cheek. The man jerked as if touched by a live wire, causing Walter to nearly pulled the trigger.
Reinhold circled behind him, checking the area for traps or other soldiers.
The prone figure wasn’t armed. The armour had a number of cracked plates, and his breathing seemed to be laboured. Walter and the stricken soldier stared at each other for a very long moment. Then the soldier spoke, with a strange accent and in broken Bauhausian.
‘You. All are dead.’

* * * * *

Walter felt helpless as he heard the first of the weapons fire. A fizzling crack and a spear of blue-white caught Peter Beutler, their radio man, square in the back. His radio burst into a strange white flame, and Peter scrabbled at the straps to remove it when another shot caught him in the neck. The radio exploded in a shower of sparks and dense black smoke.
His world spun freely as he looked up. From the treetops a hail of plasma fire rained down on them, vaporising the low scrub where it hit. The after-images danced across his eyes and trails of smoke hung in the air.
He sought targets, but the flashes seemed to come from everywhere at once. They splattered all around the tightly-packed Hussars, who dove for cover.
‘Return fire!’ Walter unleashed his weapon into the trees, not caring if he hit anything. They had to fight their way out of this ambush.
Around him, Hussars took up the call and began firing into the trees as well. The plasma fire slackened. He saw Willi take a hit that splashed across his breastplate, but he was still moving when he hit the ground.
Lorenz scampered over to a rock for cover. As soon as he disappeared behind the rock, it and everything around it disappeared in an instant. Walter felt the blast wave like a punch, whipping through his body and stealing his breath. Black smoke obscured what little vision they had. All he could see was the occasional bright flare as the fire from above continued.
He staggered, gagging and retching. Walter tried to see where Karl had gone- the squad needed direction if it was to survive. He couldn’t see him anywhere, and they were out of time.
‘This way!’ He bellowed, waving and charging out of the smoke. He wasn’t sure if any of the squad were following him, but he knew they had to get out of the killing zone. He picked a direction and ran.
He dove over a large tree root and into cover. He turned, looking for his fellow troopers, but only one seemed to have followed him. Josef set up the MG-40 and fired short, controlled bursts of fire into the upper branches. The machine gun drew return fire from the unseen assailants.
‘Come on,’ Walter yelled in Josef’s ear, ‘only the dead lie still!’
Josef burst out of cover and began running. Walter was a short step behind him, but it was enough to see what happened next- light from the a burst of plasma fire glinted off a small metal object with three pins on it. Walter swung the butt of his rifle, knocking Josef off course and narrowly missing the mine. They both tumbled to the ground and lay there for a moment, looking at the trigger pins and the certain death they had just avoided. Then, there was a thud as something fell out of the tree above them.
It was a grenade.
Josef bolted away behind the biggest tree he could find. Walter scrambled and vaulted behind a fallen log, the blast just catching him as he cleared it. There was a sharp bite in his right shoulder as the pressure wave sent him off balance, and he tumbled down the slope.
His vision swam, and went dark.

* * * * *

PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:20 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:10 am
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‘Who are you?’
The wounded soldier chuckled and said something in Basic. Walter, having never been off-world, couldn’t pick up more than the occasional word. He jabbed the man’s cheekbone with the Panzerknacker, causing a momentary wince.
Walter recognised the shape of the armour. All of his previous battles had been fought against Capitol and Mishima, but intensive recognition training from his corporation still allowed him to positively identify this one. He was an Imperial, and special forces from the look of the armour.
‘I’ll ask again. Who. Are. You?’
The man moved his fingers slowly, crawling across the ground and behind his back. His face twisted in agonising concentration. He pulled them out and then let his hand open, exhausted, for Walter to see.
In his hand was a small metal disc. Walter snatched it away and nodded for Reinhold to cover the man. He stepped back a couple of paces and slowly lowered his eyes from the soldier. The wounded man looked at him patiently.
The disc contained a small icon of the Imperial Corporation’s logo. Around the edge were a series of words that he guessed were in Basic, Mishiman, Brotherhood, and Bauhaus. He read the words ‘Imperial Blood Beret, James Stirling, 557965123. On the flip side of the disc were pertinent details written in the same mix of languages- blood group, genetypes and the details of the Imperial Office of Recovery if this disc were found on a body.
‘Imperial. That is already clear.’
The Blood Beret returned a level stare. Reinhold finished his search of the area.
‘There are no more enemy here, Danzer,’ he said warily, ‘and I could not find a weapon from this one.’
Walter nodded, holding his stare with the Imperial.
‘Why are you here?’
Stirling hesitated for a moment, as if choosing an answer.
‘Me soldier, Kamrade. Not know. Just soldier.’
‘Just dead,’ Reinhold added.
‘Maybe,’ Stirling said without missing a beat, ‘maybe you. Just wait. Darkness here comes.’
Walter shot Reinhold a withering look and jabbed the man in the face with his rifle again. The Imperial barely reacted this time, just his eyes flicking back to meet Walter’s.
‘You seen?’
Walter didn’t react.
‘You, here. Mission?’ He kept his speech as slow and deliberate as possible.
‘Washing,’ replied Stirling.
Walter squatted there for a moment and looked at Reinhold. Then he reared back to smack the man with his rifle- he wasn’t in the mood for a joke. Stirling interrupted, his eyes going wide.
‘Yes, true! Washing! Clearing! Polishing!’
Walter paused. ‘A sweep?’
The man closed his eyes in gratitude. ‘Yes, sweep.’
‘Sweep for what?’
‘Darkness. Horde.’
It felt like talking to a child. Nonetheless, Walter’s stomach went cold at the mention of the enemy of mankind. It seemed to make sense to him, after their encounter in the Butane patch.
‘The Dark Legion? How many? Where?’
‘Jungle. New castle. Followed. Day.’
Reinhold looked at Walter. ‘The Legion have a new, what, castle here somewhere?’ Walter shushed him. He lowered his rifle and pointed at the Blood Beret.
‘Your support. Where?’ The Imperial looked at him, confused. Walter showed him a medical kit, to a blank look, then mimed an aircraft landing and soldiers getting in, and then pretended to speak on a radio. Stirling’s eyes lit up at the radio part.
Stirling pointed with his eyes, along the stream they had been following.
‘One kilometre.’
Walter looked and nodded. He got up and turned to leave.
‘Wait! Help! Call help?’
When Walter looked back at Stirling, he saw genuine fear in the man’s eyes. The Imperial soldier kept frantically babbling in his broken Bauhaus.
‘Help? Help or kill. Kill me. Kill head. Dead head, Darkness can’t use.’
‘What does that mean?’ Reinhold looked at Walter, then at Stirling.
‘The Dark Legion,’ Walter said slowly, ’What do you know about their troops?’
Reinhold shrugged. Walter continued.
‘I thought so. They look like shattered men, like fallen warriors. I’ve never seen one, but you hear stories of men attacked by their fallen Kameraden. This Imperial seems to think that if we destroy his head, the Legion won’t use his body.’
Reinholder stared.
‘Is that true?’
It was Walter’s turn to shrug. He started walking towards the stream. Stirling let out a panicked cry, and Walter wondered if being turned into a Legionnaire was the only thing the man really feared. He set off down the slope, visions of the Imperial ambush playing in his head.
‘Danzer, are we leaving him?’
Walter didn’t answer.
‘What if The Dark Legion get him? What if they turn him into one of them?’ The younger man looked from the frightened Blood Beret to the departing Walter and back again. ‘What if it’s true?’
‘Then I guess he’ll know for sure,’ said Walter, not turning around, ‘we’re wasting time. We need to keep moving.’
Reinhold couldn’t look at Stirling anymore. He hurried after Walter, disappearing into the night.
The Blood Beret’s whimpering cry faded into the background.

* * * * *

Karl jerked upright. He swung the face shield away from his face and spat out a blob of thick blood. The jungle around him was quiet, the muted chirping of insects and patter of water drops seeming very far away.
He flexed his arms and legs, he moved his fingers and toes. Everything seemed to still be there. His hearing was slowly returning, as though he were coming up from underwater. There was a high-pitched ringing in his ears. He looked around, trying to take stock of the situation.
The dark jungle didn’t give him many clues. Karl couldn’t hear any movement, and couldn’t see any sign of people moving, be they friendly or enemy. He wasn’t sure where he was, but clearly the blast or instinct had carried him far enough away from the Imperial ambush to not be found.
An involuntary snarl formed on his face. Imperial! Those bastards, their whole corporation was formed on taking what it could. They grasped too far and brought the Dark Legion into being. Now they were grasping at his homelands here on Venus, snatching at the lives of his men. My men…
Karl hoped that at least some of them had survived. The last thing he could clearly make out was Peter and their radio catching fire before the blast happened.
Karl removed his helmet and inspected the damage he had sustained. His neck was peppered with small fragments of something hard, and he picked them out slowly. An open wound in the jungle invited infection, a far surer killer than any gun.
His left shoulderpad was a ruin, blackened and torn. Whatever force it took the brunt of undoubtedly would have killed him, but for the armour. His breastplate was loose, and he found that the buckles and straps on his left side were frayed and torn. He removed it, suddenly feeling very light.
He looked around as he applied the wound sealant, seeking his weapon. It was not in sight, although finding anything that size amongst the grass and mud was a difficult task. At least he still had his bayonet.
Karl got up and tested his footing. Everything appeared to be undamaged, and he set out moving.
It was a few minutes before he realised that he wasn’t sure where he was going. Should he move to their drop-off point to regroup? Should he search the area for his Hussars? Should he go into hiding and try to learn more about the Imperials?
While he thought, he kept moving. His path led him through the trees, and back out into more open areas. He waded through waist-high grasses, twisting his body to avoid making too much noise.
He stopped abruptly as he realised that he had found the stream. He checked his map quickly- it appeared that this was the stream they were following earlier.
If he turned right, it would lead him back the way the patrol had come. Back to where they had found the pitcher, the armour…
If he turned left, he would be headed towards their objective, and the most likely place his Hussars might try to regroup.
He stood there as a slight breeze cut through the oppressive humidity. He listened to his jungle singing to him. It felt as though it were waiting for him. Waiting for me… Something else was also waiting for him, he realised. He was faster, quieter, more dangerous if he were alone.
He breathed in. As a Bauhauser, the thought of being alone should terrify him. Instead it thrilled him.
The jungle smelled welcoming. My jungle.
He turned and followed the creek.

* * * * *

PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 2:44 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:10 am
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Walter was so deeply absorbed in counting his paces that he nearly jumped when Franz’s hand tapped him on the shoulder. He made a quick mental note that they had moved about four hundred metres, then turned to look at his comrade.
Franz was pointing to something off to their left. Walter and Reinhold instinctively paused and held their breath, listening. Something was moving out there. They heard muffled speech.
Walter looked at Franz carefully, assessing him. He seemed to be alert again, although he wasn’t speaking. He motioned for Reinhold to give the Hussar his shotgun back.
The movement seemed to be coming closer. The three Hussars raised their weapons and their safeties clicked off. As they did, the movement suddenly ceased. Walter began to take up pressure on the trigger, aiming for the area the sound was coming from.
Achtung! Something there!’ The voice whispering in front of them was clearly Bauhaus.
Walter’s trigger finger relaxed. He carefully waved the other two to stand down.
‘Welcome, Hussars,’ he said, ‘over here, by the stream.’
There were more sounds of movement, and a couple of men appeared out of the bushes. Josef and Willi greeted them enthusiastically.
Josef was missing his helmet, and his face was streaked with grime. He grinned uncontrollably at seeing his comrades. Willi was wearing his breastplate slung across his back, his undersuit open and a white salve visible on his chest. Walter pointed at it, and Willi showed his breastplate. The armour was blackened and corroded from the plasma blast he had taken.
‘The accursed heat, Danzer,’ said Willi, ‘the armour saved me, but the heat, it still got through.’
He pulled his undersuit open a little more and showed his chest. Angry red blisters appeared there.
‘I couldn’t keep wearing the plate, it would have torn this all open.’
‘Ja, you are lucky, my friend. I need you to have a good look at Streit for me. He took a hit to the head, and is a little …confused.’
Willi nodded as he picked up the subtext. He took the young soldier aside. Josef and Walter locked eyes and grasped hands in a firm shake.
‘Thankyou, Danzer. I would not be here if you hadn’t-’
‘Think nothing of it, Lindenblatt. No man stands alone in Bauhaus.’
Walter ensured that they were arrayed to provide defence in all directions, and then they told their comrades what they had seen. Seyffardt taken by the vines, the Imperials and the creature shooting at each other. The Butane patch and the monster. Finding Stirling and their new mission to get to the radio.
‘You have been busy, Danzer,’ said Willi, ‘We have just walked in circles. I think Lindenblatt has a heavy left foot.’
‘Careful, Kroehne, or I might show you how heavy it is!’ Josef grinned as he held up one massive boot. He turned to Walter.
‘So you think we can get this radio to work?’
‘Ja! It will be easy,’ interjected Reinhold, ‘I can work electrics. It was to be my trade.’
Walter nodded. ‘Impressive, we have a worker here. Just needed to get through to your eighteenth birthday, Ja?’
Reinhold looked down, his cheeks turning scarlet under his face shield. Being tall for his age usually hid the fact that he was still just sixteen.
‘It’s alright, Gollwitzer. We have all been young before. I’m sure we will make it through. You’ll be back in the city and drinking beer again in no time.’
‘I could do with a beer.’ Franz Streit’s voice was quiet, but Walter’s heart leapt to hear it.
‘Come on, we need to move. When we get back, I’ll buy!’
Looking far more like a squad than before, the Hussars filed out into the undergrowth.

* * * * *

Razack felt the movement of its body, coming in small whines and pulses. It felt the black fluids of its being flood through the lines that fed the motors.
It looked around the area, seeking the prey. Behind it was the great blurred bright smear of the smouldering fire from earlier. Ahead, it could see very little apart from the jungle and the stream.
It chittered a question to its twin, Howlich. The machine code came naturally, soothingly. The reply came in the same language: to the north.
Razack leapt off the ground and onto a tree branch. The branch was large and thick, but it still shuddered a little under his weight. He raced along it, leaping onto another branch from a second tree. Smooth footsteps carried him across the tree’s span and out the other side, following the branch as it tapered out.
Soon its weight was too much for the reduced thickness of the branch, and bent under its weight. Razack was lowered slowly to the ground. It kept moving north.
It heard its twin once more.
It licked rubbery, blue lips with a cracked tongue.
I am coming, it replied.

* * * * *

PostPosted: Fri Aug 01, 2014 3:04 am 
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Walter halted his party when they were approximately two hundred metres from the location. He didn’t want to take chances with the distance and accidentally stumble onto more Imperials; or worse, another monster. He told them to stay very alert, and the five of them advanced through the undergrowth in a tight line.
They trod carefully, as silently as they could. They had their weapons up to their shoulders, safeties off, trained on the area in front of them. Every so often, a rifle would point up at the trees above them, checking for more enemy waiting in ambush.
The terrain transitioned from the sharp folds of earth around the stream, through grasses to another treeline. They proceeded through the trees, the branches large and thick like the ones before.
Walter noticed a small light up ahead. He pointed at it, and the squad smoothly dropped into cover. Walter stalked forward to a tree and leaned against the trunk.
It was hard to tell exactly what it was at this distance, but the light was definitely not a part of the jungle. It seemed too definite, too bright. As Walter peered through the gloom, it seemed that it belonged to a dark green box. Small vines seemed to resolve themselves into wires and cables, which trailed off into the jungle canopy, no doubt headed to some sort of antenna.
It seemed that the radio was here, and not too far off the distance Stirling had said. Walter had not expected it to be unguarded- there had to be more Blood Berets around here somewhere. From what he recalled, some Mishima or Cybertronic forces might operate alone or in pairs, but Imperial forces would be organised as squads, like Bauhaus ones.
There was always the possibility that the others had been killed fighting the Dark Legion monster (or monsters, he mused). He wasn’t prepared to take that chance.
The radio was located in something of a clearing, with only small vines and ankle-length grass in the gap between trees. If he approached the radio, there were any number of covered positions that could fire on him.
He returned to the others.
‘Lindenblatt, I need you to cover us from here. Kroehne, Streit, you protect him, your shotguns won’t help us going forward.’ He imagined the effects of the shotgun pellets fired at longer ranges. The fire would blanket the whole clearing, hitting friend and foe alike.
‘Gollwitzer, you and I will move up and try to get that radio working.’
The Hussars nodded, and took up their positions. Once Josef was in place, Walter and Reinhold moved forward as slowly and carefully as they could. As they got closer, Walter confirmed that it was a radio. He started looking very carefully for any signs of traps, mines or enemy around the device.
He whipped around, seeking the source of the voice. Across the clearing, just at the edge of vision, he saw a large figure in dark armour. It strode forward, pushing another man in front of him.
Walter had his weapon into his shoulder, pointed strait at the soldier. As they approached, he was able to make out more detail- it was the same style and colour of armour as Stirling had been wearing. The man had a Plasma Carbine tucked under his left shoulder, pointed strait at them and unwavering. His right hand held a large, ugly pistol to the back of his captive’s head.
The captive quickly turned out to be Theodor, looking ashamed. He was unarmed, unhelmeted and had his wrists bound in front of him. Walter locked eyes with the Blood Beret, who was without his signature headwear. He had his face painted with similar colours to his armour, making his white teeth and eyes stand out. The camouflage paint ended at his hairline, where an impeccably combed, neat blonde head of air looked entirely at odds with the rest of his nature.
‘Hussars. Is that all they sent. I’m surprised you’re not all dead yet.’ The man spoke in slightly accented but impeccable Bauhaus. Walter replied for them.
‘And you are?’
‘Charles Fieldhausen, Blood Beret, Imperial. Also the last remaining hope that you’re going to live through this night.’
Walter’s eyes narrowed.
‘So you go for a walk in our jungle and kill some of our men, then come here and tell us that you’re going to save us. I am unimpressed.’
Fieldhausen snorted.
‘I’ve lost men to these things. Do you even know what the Dark Legion is?’
‘A child knows. Do not frighten us with children’s nightmares.’
‘These are not children’s nightmares. We have been tracking these creatures for days. We finally caught them here when you showed up and spoiled our ambush.’
Walter paused, unsure.
‘I’ve seen these monsters. I’ve also seen your men killed by them. Why should we think that you can stop them? What can you give us that we can’t do for ourselves?’
‘Two Hussars against the Legion? Even if I armed this whelp here,’ his pistol tapped Theodor on the back of the head, making him wince, ‘you are not exactly an army.’
Walter jerked his head towards the radio.
‘Then why don’t you let us call for help?’
The Blood Beret’s eyes flicked to the radio and back to Walter’s. There was a long pause.
‘Feel free to try. We can’t raise anyone.’
Walter nodded slowly. He kept his rifle level, but took his eye away from the sights.
‘Gollwitzer, do your best. Twenty-two point five Megahertz is the repeater’s emergency frequency.’
The younger man hastened over to the radio and started trying to decipher the dials. Walter turned back to the Imperial.
‘So are you offering to help us or not? It occurs to me that the first helpful thing you can do is-’
There was a scream, and a sheet of blue-white flame erupted from behind Walter. It engulfed the bushes that had been Josef’s covering position.
Fielhausen swore and shoved Theodor aside. He jammed the pistol back into his holster and glared at Walter.
‘Out of time. Well, good luck then Kamerad. I’m going out with my face to the foe.’
He screamed a war cry in basic, and began sprinting into the jungle. He fired the plasma carbine from the hip, blazing white bolts spearing into and through the jungle.
The Imperial quickly disappeared from view, the noise of his charge joined by answering fire from somewhere out in the vegetation.
Walter raced over to Theodor and cut his bonds. The younger Hussar gave him a nod, and Walter directed him to help Reinhold. Their main concern was reporting what was happening to HQ- even if they all died, someone had to know what was happening here.
Walter, however, had eyes only for the flames that had consumed his friends. He darted from cover to cover, dropping in behind a fallen log and dodging around large gnarled tree roots.
He got halfway to the burning bush when there was a primal scream that stopped Walter dead. Looking over to his right, he saw a terribly familiar faint purple glow. The source wasn’t obvious just yet- it was as though the leaves in all directions had started to glow in sympathy with this monster.
He whipped his Panzerknacker into the ready position and scanned for a target. There was still the occasional howl of fire further out in the jungle, but Walter was certain this creature wasn’t the one in combat with the Blood Beret.
He heard a scrabbling sound nearby, and chanced a look down. He saw Willi, his face a horrifying mess of bubbling skin, slowly dragging himself over the ground towards Walter. He immediately forgot the threat from the monster and raced to help.
‘Kroehne… Willi…’
The medic threw his arm forward, hurling Josef’s MG-40 at his feet. He let out a gasping rattle and lay still. Walter found the ammunition pouches clutched in Willi’s other hand. He reached down and placed one gloved hand on his friend’s back.
‘Rest, brother.’ He would mourn later. He picked up the machine-gun and checked its state of readiness.
The howl came again. This time it stood in the clearing, just at the edge of the trees, no more than fifty metres away. Walter’s breath caught in his throat and he moved, as slowly as he could manage, back into cover.
Now that he could see it properly, he was terrified. The creature was as tall as he had seen it before, and the visage was dominated by a large, armoured shell. It had a head that seemed to sit in the middle of the shell, with large bony protrusions on either side. The creature’s hands and face were leathery, alien, and it leered into the jungle over wickedly sharp teeth. The rest of the armoured body was dark and seemed slightly rusted. In its hands it carried a gun about as big as Walter, pointing it left and right around the trees. He noted a bayonet the length of a human arm on the end.
There came a more human bellow, and Walter saw Franz stride from the bushes, walking towards the monster. His armour was blackened, and his left arm ended in a mess of flesh around the elbow. He had an intense, but steady stride. His shotgun was levelled in the other hand, and it boomed, spraying pellets across the trees.
He barely broke his stride as the shotgun kicked. He re-aligned and fired again, and again, and again. Every shot was a few paces closer to the monster. His fourth shot started to draw sparks where the pellets impacted the creature’s armour. It snarled at him and advanced.
Walter was transfixed by the machine-like advance of the wounded Hussar, but the monster’s reaction got him moving again. He steadied the MG-40 and lined up the sights, anticipating how quickly it would move. His first burst went wide, and the creature ignored it. It caught a shotgun blast to the leg and ignored that too, rearing back and parting Franz’s head from his shoulders with one sweep.
Walter fired again and again, letting short bursts of the machine-gun fly at the monster. It skittered into the bushes with that strange whirring sound he remembered from the Butane patch. There was a whine, and he felt the impact of fire on the tree root he was hiding behind. It was wide to his right, and he noticed acrid smoke rising from the wood as some sort of acid ate its way through.
Walter fired another burst, moved to the left and fired another. He darted back to the right after the third burst, the return fire deceived about his direction. He saw the creature’s hiding place as he changed position, behind a tree. He adopted a firing position.
Willing his heart and lungs to pause, he lined up the shot. Hatred filled his chest. He sighted on the creature’s head, the only unarmoured part he could identify. It was standing still, and he breathed out, tightening his grip on the weapon. He squeezed the trigger.
The creature jerked spasmodically as a train of bullets tore into and dissolved its face. The armoured form toppled over backwards and seemed to be trying to crawl away. Walter tucked the MG-40 under his arm and walked forward, keeping the fire up and using the tracer rounds to keep it on target. He kept the trigger depressed as he advanced, rending the creature and its armour into scrap.
The weapon ceased suddenly, and Walter realised that the ammunition hopper was empty. There was a sudden silence in the jungle, and he was surrounded by clouds of cordite vapour, hanging thick in the air. His lungs heaved for air, and his heart beat pounded in his ears. His grip slackened and the barrel drooped towards the ground.
Walter’s head whipped around and time froze. Running at full speed towards him was another of the monsters, its gaze fixed on him. The terrible gun was pointed his way, the massive bayonet aimed right between his eyes. Blue fire from the pilot light of what he assumed to be a flamethrower danced about the barrel.
This creature had a look of fury etched upon it. Yellow and black eyes sought his blood. Thick, rubbery lips peeled back from pointed teeth. Every footfall seemed to shake the earth. Sparks spattered off its armour from Theodor’s ineffective cover fire.
On the creature’s right shoulder, he noticed a head impaled on a spike. The face was painted in camouflage, and an impeccably kept mat of blonde hair seemed at odds with the death scream frozen on Fieldhausen’s face.
Walter dropped the MG-40. There was no time to reload it. He knew his death was coming, but he drew his bayonet nonetheless. He braced, setting his feet. He reared his hand back to deliver his last blow to the enemy.
The creature seemed to cough, and it stumbled. Another cough and it tripped, and Walter’s face was sprayed with black fluids. It crashed to the ground, momentum driving it forwards. Walter dodged out of the way as it came to rest.
The creature was still moving, arms flailing like a crab left on its back. It flipped over, now lying face up, and reached for something to steady itself.
Walter heard the throaty cough of a grenade launcher. He threw himself out of the way, flat to the dirt.
He felt the bass beat of the explosion, winding him and causing his ears to ring. He lay still for a long moment as his senses returned.
Theodor moved past him quickly, shoulders tight and head held to the sights of his weapon. He returned a moment later, offering Walter a hand. Walter took it, rising unsteadily to his feet.
Theodor was speaking, but Walter couldn’t hear him. He staggered over to the ruined corpse.
Its shell was torn open, again reminding Walter of a crab. Fluid lines and small gears were ripped and twisted- it looked more like a machine than a creature. The grenade had blown the legs from it. The face was frozen into a terrifying roar, with one eye and part of the skull missing from an exit wound. Walter instinctively began wiping more of the black fluid from his face.
‘…you should have seen it, Danzer!’
Walter looked at Theodor. His hearing was returning.
Theodor was pointing madly, talking with his hands.
‘The Ranger! What a shot!’
Walter’s brow furrowed in confusion. Theodor crouched by the monster.
‘These things are Praetorian Stalkers. I saw footage of one on Mars. Some living creature put into a mechanical body- like a Panzersuit.’
Theodor looked confused for a moment, and then went back to babbling excitedly.
‘Up in the trees, he was! A real Venusian Ranger! He shot this one down!’
‘That wasn’t you, Weinbuch?’
‘Nein, my shots had no effect. But that Ranger… he was firing something different, like some sort of miniature rocket. Went right in!’
Walter looked around. Reinhold was standing off to one side, looking lost.
‘Have you fixed the radio yet?’ Walter tried to steady his hands as he spoke.
‘Ja, Danzer. I was about to make the call when this all happened.’ He gestured to the scene of carnage.
‘Alright,’ Walter tossed the empty machine gun and ammunition to Reinhold and retrieved his own rifle, ‘let’s call for a pickup.’
Reinhold keyed the radio to transmit and handed the mouthpiece to Walter. He sat there for a moment and decided how to sum up the situation.
‘Command, this is patrol one.’
There was a long moment of static.
‘This patrol has been in combat. Heavy casualties. Incursions of Imperial special forces and the Dark legion both defeated locally. Reports of a Legion base in the sector. Gellert is missing, Danzer is now in command.’
The pause at the other end seemed to go on forever.
«Patrol one, confirm your location.»
Walter gave them as precise a position as possible. The radio operator quizzed his last statement, gathering more detail on some points. After a few minutes, a stern, cultured voice replaced him, clearly some sort of nobleman.
«Patrol one, who is this?»
‘Trooper Danzer, excellency.’ Walter’s genuflection came instinctively.
«You have assumed command?»
‘Ja, herr execllency.’
«And you have faced both Imperial special forces and Stalkers of the Dark Legion?»
Walter felt like he was going around in circles.
‘Ja, excellency, and they are all dead. We don’t know if there are more in the area, though.’
«Well done, Unteroffizier Danzer. We will debrief you on your return. A transport is on its way.»
Walter dropped the mouthpiece.
‘Unteroffizier? Congratulations, herr Unteroffizier.’
Walter waved Reinhold away, and then sank onto a log. He was shaking. He looked at the carnage littering the clearing- the Imperial’s head, the two stalkers, the acidic sludge of the weapon impacts, the smouldering bushes. He removed his helmet and cradled it in his lap, laying his rifle against his seat.
‘Weinbuch, Gollwitzer. Get our kameraden and lay them out. I want them ready for repatriation to Bernheim.’
‘Jawhol, herr Unteroffizier,’ They chorused. The two Hussars set to their grim work.
A small movement in the trees above them caught Walter’s attention. He was about to snatch up his weapon when he saw the figure crouched there.
The armour was once white, but now was dirty and stained with time in the jungle. The mask was a stylised skull. The soldier wore a cloak that made it disappear into the jungle.
Walter didn’t need to see the man’s face, or read a name on the armour, to know his old friend. The way he moved, the way he stood, the way they shared a nod. It saddened him that this might be their last meeting.
He rubbed his eyes, and Karl was gone.

PostPosted: Fri Aug 01, 2014 1:30 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:10 am
Posts: 437
Now that the whole story is up, I'm very interested in getting some feedback. Please let me know, love it or hate it- I have a very thick skin!

PostPosted: Wed Aug 20, 2014 5:57 pm 

Joined: Sat Aug 16, 2014 11:02 pm
Posts: 4
I thoroughly enjoyed this one! You're formatting and pacing are good, the use of detail is impressive in bringing the somewhat Germanic Military style of Bauhaus to life without bogging down the flow of the story in confusion over terminology. I enjoy being allowed by an author to reach my own conclusions about the nebulous details of something so your scenic descriptions worked very well for me. All in all, top notch work!

PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2014 2:30 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2014 10:50 pm
Posts: 38
AWESOME STORY!!!! I've red it all at once!! Danzer is my Hussars' team leader, from today :mrgreen:

Very very good rhythm, nice atmosphere..

A rated :mrgreen:

PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 2:20 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:10 am
Posts: 437
For those who aren't aware, this story is currently being serialised for CTC Magazine. part 1 appears in issue #3 of CTC.

Last bumped by ADG_Wraith on Mon Sep 07, 2015 2:20 pm.

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