A Warhammer 40K adventure
The powersword buzzed like a caged wasp as Kruger swung it desperately at the ork. He felt the blade shudder as it chopped into the greenskin’s torso. It screamed as it died.
The immediate danger over, Kruger quickly looked to see how his squad was faring. One man was down, but the others had finished off their opponents. A group of orks lay where they had been cut down in hand to hand combat.
‘Drake, see to the wounded,’ Kruger barked over the comlink.
Almost immediately, the corporal’s voice came back: ‘He’s dead, sergeant.’
‘Then let’s move,’ Kruger ordered. ‘Over the hill.’
He immediately led the way at a fast jog towards the top of a low ridge that barred their path. Kruger knew that to stay was only to invite further discovery. His squad had managed to avoid being seen and it was just bad luck that they had stumbled on a party of foraging orks. Fortunately that had given them the advantage. But other greenskins were likely to turn up. Alone and far behind enemy lines, the next encounter would be fatal.
As he ran, Kruger could hear the heavy breathing of the soldiers around him who, although as exhausted as he was, doggedly followed his orders. Breasting the summit, Kruger saw that they were now entering a valley at the bottom of which lay a dry gulley. He led the way down the other side into the riverbed.
‘We’ll take five,’ he announced. The men collapsed almost where they stood.
Then suddenly a shell wailing like a banshee rushed towards them. None of the men lying out in the gulley moved. The projectile passed over to explode on the far side of the hill they had just crossed over. Let it be a stray, thought Sergeant Kruger, half in prayer. At the same time he noted the men’s indifference to the danger. He knew they were dead tired. Too exhausted to care, he thought acidly. Men in their state he knew made mistakes—fatal mistakes. He would have to allow for that when they resumed their retreat. Alone, he reflected. Only the men’s determination to get back would see them through.
‘Sarge, we can’t go on like this,’ Corporal Drake’s voice came over the comlink, as if echoing his thoughts, ‘How much further to our lines?’
Kruger didn’t immediately answer. He wondered what to tell them? As he had topped the last hill, he had caught part of a faint message on the command network. It spoke of a greenskin attack on Hill 278. From his map he knew that was over twenty-five klicks away, an impossible distance for the squad to cover in its present condition. Smitten with the desperate nature of their situation, Kruger silently prayed to the Emperor for assistance.
Flicking the switch of his comlink to speak to the whole squad, he announced, ‘We’ve lost our pursuers and gained a breathing space. We’ll rest up for another ten minutes before moving on. It isn’t far now.’ In reply he got a mixture of expletives, grunts and groans.
The immediate decision made, he sank down to rest. Without really thinking of what he was doing, he started to check his bolter and power sword. Engaged as he was, he didn’t hear the sound until someone exclaimed on the intercom.
‘It’s a Rhino.’
Kruger jumped to his feet and gazed at the apparition. The heavy machine was bumping over the rough ground its engine roaring with the strain. It was headed straight towards them.
He waved to get their attention, although this didn’t seem necessary.
‘Saddle up,’ he announced to the squad. ‘We’ve got ourselves a ride.’ The men, he noted, were already collecting their equipment.
The Rhino was making good progress and, as it closed on them, Kruger could now make out its details. Its blue livery was blackened in several places and numerous pot marks and gouges testified to past hits.
‘Good old fourth,’ someone announced loudly. Indeed, echoed Kruger silently having also recognized the unit markings.
The Rhino pulled up when it reached the squad and the rear door wound down. The men piled in Kruger taking up the rear. He had barely hit the close button before the lumbering machine jerked forward.
Kruger tried to contact the crew on the internal comlink, but got no reply. Holding on as the APC bucked over the rough ground, he made his way slowly forward to speak to the crew. The two crewmen sat controlling the machine, hands moving to compensate as the tracks slipped on rocks or churned dirt.
‘Thanks for picking us up,’ Kruger said.
One of the crewmen gestured in acknowledgement.
‘Our lines and unit lie twenty plus klicks to the north.’
Again a hand momentarily left the controls to acknowledge his words.
Seeing the crew weren’t going to talk, Kruger retreated into the main compartment.
‘I’ve set a watch,’ Drake informed him. Then added, ‘The crew seem to know what they’re up to.’
‘They seem good enough,’ acknowledged Kruger. ‘Yeah, this ride will see us back with the regiment in no time.’ Tired, he sank down on a bench.
He must have dozed off because the next thing he remembered was Drake shouting on the squad net. All around him men were scrambling to the gunports.
‘Corporal, report!’ Kruger bellowed.
‘Gunks,’ Drake rapped out. ‘Straight ahead.’
‘Has the driver spotted them?’
‘Think so,’ Drake replied, ‘for he accelerated a minute ago.’
Kruger grabbed one of the visicopes. He swung it around to get a feel of the terrain. He immediately spotted the greenskins. They were rushing around gesticulating in their direction.
Flicking on the squad link, Kruger gave his orders. ‘We’re going through. Hold your fire until I say so.’ He continued to watch the orks as the Rhino bucketed towards their position. As he hoped, the gunks didn’t know what to make of their approach. A few shot at the APC; others gesticulated wildly.
Kruger now opened the roof hatch and half climbed out to get a better view. The Rhino was rapidly closing the distance on the ork position. A bolt seared past, narrowly missing him.
‘Fire!’ he yelled.
The soldiers in the Rhino unleashed a storm of lead.
Taken by surprise, the greenskins were slow to react.
Kruger fired his bolter at the nearest one watching the slugs strike home, each one punching a black hole as it struck. Each hit knocked the ork backwards until it toppled over. Other greenskins caught in the sudden fire, did a macabre dance as the fire hit home.
Those unhurt dropped their weapons in their rush to get away.
As suddenly as it started, the fire fight was over. The Rhino rolled through the spot where the greenskins had been moments before, the orks killed or scattered in the fury of the charge.
As they left the carnage behind, in the back of his mind Kruger realised that on foot his squad wouldn’t have been able to storm the position.
The Rhino crested another hill and roared down into another valley. Kruger’s command link sprung into life and he picked up a series of messages. He now knew they were near their own lines. Then, at the bottom of the hill, the APC unexpectedly lurched to a halt, the rear door opening.
Kruger slipped back into the passenger compartment and went forward to talk to the crewmen. One of them gesticulated at him indicating that he should disembark pointing towards the west. Getting the meaning, he immediately spoke to the squad.
‘All out,’ he ordered. ‘This is as far as we go.’
The men grumbled somewhat but obeyed. Kruger was the last one out. Immediately, the Rhino accelerated and headed off along the valley in an eastward direction.
Kruger looked around before pointing at a pass between two hills. ‘The regiment and rest are that way,’ he announced.
Leading the way, the squad followed him up the incline and down the other side. As they got near the bottom two soldiers rose from a hidden trench to meet them.
‘Welcome back,’ one of them announced. ‘You’re lucky guys.’
‘Thanks,’ Kruger answered. ‘It’s good to be back.’
The squad trudged on deeper into friendly territory, soldiers manning their positions waving as they passed. Then a captain emerged from a concealed blockhouse and stood before them.
‘You’ve managed quite some trek,’ he announced. ‘You’re the only squad to make it back.’
‘We were lucky, Kruger replied. ‘We got a lift from a Rhino from the fourth marines.’
The captain look startled. ‘That’s not possible,’ he exclaimed. ‘The fourth was completely surrounded and totally wiped out two weeks ago. There’ nothing left.’