Note from the author: I'll be trying to post a chapter every month or so - and keep up the momentum through the year. With any luck, the Sydney GW will allow me to release it there at the same time.
- Adrian Collins -
Colonel Andeferon Morn walked into the strategium of the Avenger class grand cruiser Angel’s Fury and almost had to reach up with his hand to stop his jaw from dropping open. He openly marvelled at the immense capital ship’s tactical hall, the trepidation of meeting the battle-group’s commanders melting away in the face of such industry. He felt a hand rest reassuringly upon the colonel’s insignia freshly sewn onto his jacket’s shoulder, and turned to his commander.
“Took my breath away when I came here for the first time too, Ande. Just do your best not let your mouth hang open like a slack-jawed servitor,” said Luten, his general’s stars just as new upon his shoulders. “This is just another part of the war machine, like a baneblade or valkyrie, just not as pretty.”
Andeferon grinned, the strategium’s spell broken, and did his best to take in the vast chamber before him without looking like a green recruit.
From how long it’d taken him to get here he knew the strategium was carved into the deep and protected bowels of the immense ship. Thick buttresses and blocky bulkheads ran up and around the bare adamantium walls like the inside of a titan’s rib cage. Heavy cabling wrapped in ridged grey insulation fed the room from the ship’s proudly beating heart a kilometre or two to stern. Every flat surface except the floor was studded with sound dampeners shaped like round-headed rivets. Thrumming soundlessly, they generated their fields and cast eerie shadows from the boxy glow globes that sprouted amongst them.
Walking beside Luten, Andeferon shook his head in wonder at the sheer volume of tactical officers and servitors that lined the three-tier stadium-style room they were making their way to the centre of. His ears filled with the dull buzz of hundreds of human and mechanical voices as the room communicated between the thousands of Guard and navy units that made up the battle-group, and the huddle of commanding officers at its centre.
As Andeferon and Luten came within twenty paces, the general staff turned to look at them. In some of those gazes Andeferon read genuine remorse. In others there was hard-won respect. One or two officers were unreadable. A man strode towards them from the crowd; almost white eyes, surrounded by brutal red and purple heat scarring, squinting as they focused on the two Arminians.
That’s the bloody lord general. Andeferon instinctively smoothed down his flawlessly pressed grey dress jacket. He ran nervous fingers over the gold plated aquila stamped buttons to make sure they were done up properly, over the hard edge of the corner of his Uplifting Primer in his chest pocket, and then the upper thighs of his matching dress pants. Getting the lines just right had taken him hours of hard work and frustration.
“General Luten, my sincerest condolences and my congratulations,” began Lord General Adarin Tibor, his stocky soldier’s frame still holding its muscle under his thick green, red trimmed overcoat.
Andeferon stopped beside Luten and snapped off a sharp salute, the campaign medals pinned to his jacket clanking heavily. He held the salute until Tibor returned it briefly, and then stood at ease.
“Thankyou, sir,” said General Luten stiffly. “The division will miss him. He was a fine leader.”
“I shall miss him, he was a fine friend the past eight years of this mission,” said Tibor, genuine sadness playing across his features for a moment. “He had assured me, in passing, that you would be a worthy successor should he fall. I pray he is right; I’d hate to have to replace you. Please, introduce your offsider.”
“Colonel Andeferon Morn, tenth regiment,” said Luten, ignoring the barbed comment.
“A 2IC from your old regimental command, General Luten?” asked Tibor, locking eyes with the new general.
Luten nodded resolutely. “Sir.”
Tibor stuck out his bottom lip and nodded slowly, then held out a white-gloved hand to Andeferon. “Welcome to my strategium, colonel. Drink?”
A servitor whirred over, its rubber padded caterpillar tread making little to no sound. A deathly, pale-fleshed limb held out a wide silver tray with a selection of beverages and sparkling crystal glasses.
Both Luten and Andeferon shook their heads. “No thank you, sir.”
Tibor leaned in, his bulk imposing and his white eyes narrowing as his gaze switched from man to man. “I insist.”
“Sir,” both men responded in unison, Andeferon reaching out and picking up a liquor glass after Luten.
Tibor picked one up also. There was a moment of awkwardness as the three stood there, not moving, before Andeferon realised what was expected of him.
“Lord general, the choice is yours, would you prefer wine or something stronger?” asked Andeferon hurriedly, his big, callused hand reaching out to hover over a small selection of wine bottles.
“Something stronger. We are not holding wine glasses, after all,” said Tibor, raising his stubby glass to ensure Andeferon could see.
As Andeferon reached for a bottle, the lord general sighed loudly. “No, not that one, I’ll have a glass of the 421.M41. A special year, that one.”
Andeferon poured into the lord general’s cup first, and then into the other two glasses. He saw a tightening of the man’s thick lips under those foul eyes before he remembered to pour a few drops of water into each glass to release the flavour. The servitor turned and trundled away. Inwardly Andeferon fumed, I’m a soldier, not some bloody serving wench, you pompous arse!
Tibor smiled without joy. “You, colonel, are an easy man to read. A typical soldier. Remember your place, Andeferon.”
Andeferon quickly hid his shock and looked down at his glass, his cheeks burning. Tibor’s gaze switched back to Luten.
“Sir, my apologies on behalf of Colonel Morn, he will become accustomed quickly,” said Luten.
Tibor waved it off as if it were nothing. “Do not bother excusing the colonel. Let us discuss, quickly, the time required to complete the planet-side ceremony and move on.”
Luten nodded. “The revealing of the statue and headstone shall be today, after the general staff meeting. The entire Arminian division will then need to be lifted back to one of the troop carriers. Just under fifty-five thousand men, four hundred valkyries, fifty vulture gun ships, and two thousand chimeras. Navy estimate has it at four days, sir.”
The muscles on the side of Tibor’s jaw clenched and stuck out like thick cables, before releasing. “Unfortunate your predecessor had to allow himself be killed on this worthless planet. Without his funeral ceremony, we could have been on our way to the next planet tomorrow. As it is, we are already in for three weeks of warp travel to get there.”
Andeferon forced himself to remain calm, watching his general do the same more successfully out of the corner of his eye.
“Annoying, but a must to keep the morale of the men up, I suppose,” mused Tibor whimsically as he took a sip of his drink and turned away. “Join us at your leisure, gentlemen.”
As the lord general walked back to the general staff meeting, Luten turned to Andeferon and hissed under his breath, “Ande, this isn’t an inter-regimental strategium, you can’t fire up whenever someone insults you. This is the bloody lord general and the bloody general staff of the battle-group! Get your head out of your arse and at least act like an aide for the next few hours.”
“I’m not a...” objected Andeferon.
“Colonel, don’t make me repeat myself.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll sort it out immediately,” responded Andeferon curtly, fists discreetly clenching by his side.
“Gentlemen?” called out the lord general, looking over to them and focussing the entire meeting on their separation. “Won’t you join us? I’d dearly like to get started.”
Annoyance flashed across Luten’s face. He turned away from Andeferon and strode over to the tac-table. Andeferon just managed to keep in step as they approached the circle of the general staff. Immediately Andeferon picked out three generals, one colonel, and one surly looking captain from the storm trooper company attached to the battle group. They stood amongst a tactician, a commissar, the master of the navigators, the lord admiral of the navy, and a Mechanicum magos.
Leading the colonel around the tac-table, Luten introduced Andeferon to Lord Commissar Lewin Myke, a lean man with a face that reminded him of the hard dark iron edges of a sword breaker, and General Xonin Ject of the 56th Cemar infantry division along with his aide. Andeferon took an immediate dislike to the Cemar general, a weak-chinned man with a sweat sheened face and a manner that reeked of softness. The man’s aide, a Colonel Illen, was the exact opposite; solidly muscled with a strong jaw line. Andeferon noted two small golden aquilas for valour pinned to his grey dress jacket alongside a host of campaign medals.
Luten moved him on to General Jon LaFour of the 33rd Parin infantry and General Lombi Bausch of the 21st Alyrian artillery. These two generals appealed to Andeferon’s soldiering mind far more so that Ject. General Bausch was a hard eyed, handsome, middle-aged woman of slight build that spoke of whip-corded muscles beneath her dress yellows. Her dark green eyes shouted intense intelligence in demand of a challenge. LaFour, a stout lean man with short greying hair and hard cold eyes freshly chiselled from an arctic polar ice cap, had a hand equally the size of Andeferon’s, capable of a confident and satisfyingly crushing handshake. Andeferon smiled as he sized the general up subconsciously, remembering the way his father had always taught him that a great way to judge a man’s fighting spirit is through the strong grip of his handshake.
Out of the corner of his eye Andeferon noticed a group of sergeants and lieutenants sitting upon a side bench out of the way, but within earshot of the meeting. They wore different uniforms, a mix of infantry with a scout and armoured cavalry uniform or two, each man in a different state of bored unhappiness. None of those guardsmen met his eye. Andeferon snorted and dismissed them with little afterthought, returning his attention to the men and women around him.
Before long, the lights around the tac-table dimmed and a throat was cleared loudly enough to quiet the assembled generals immediately. Tibor stood upon a slowly rising dais that took him a good meter above the tallest soldier on the floor. He looked down over the assembly, the light of the tac-table playing shadows up his face.
“Gentlemen, and lady,” he said, nodding Bausch. “I’d first and foremost like to raise a toast.”
The group raised their glasses.
“To a fallen general, a great friend, and a servant of the Emperor.”
Glasses clinked and drinks disappeared down greedy gullets. Andeferon pulled his lips back over his teeth as his drink burned its way down to warm his stomach pleasantly.
“In four days the Arminians will have completed their funeral rites for their general, and we shall be able to fully depart this system, bound for the next. At this time I would like to welcome General Luten and his offsider, Colonel Morn, to our fold. You will all have known General Luten from previous strategium meetings, but may not know Colonel Morn.
“Colonel Morn is the esteemed leader of the elite tenth regiment, having previously led their first company with what I have been told is extreme valour and bravado. Please welcome him warmly.”
Faces turned back to Andeferon and glasses were raised once more in welcome.
“Can I have a quick appraisal of losses for this planet please,” said Tibor. “Anything of urgent note, such as a lack of rifles and so forth, as well.”
The Lord Admiral strode forth. “Two light cruisers now stripped and scuttled into Ryvan’s Belt. Six fighter wings lost. The rest of the fleet is warp and combat ready.”
Luten was next. “Two thousand three hundred and forty two men lost. Fifty-five thousand will be ready for duty after the ceremony tomorrow, sir.”
Tibor nodded, marking down on his data slate.
“Under six thousand lost, sir. I have one hundred and twelve thousand troops embarked and ready for transport,” said General Ject.
“Seven and a half thousand lost on this miserable excuse for an Imperial planet, sir, but I’ve got almost two hundred thousand more where those came from,” said General LaFour. “We’ll need the munitorium to divulge a few thousand more flamer units to my men, as we’re running short.”
“Noted,” said Tibor.
“I’ve thirty thousand Alyrians already in orbit, sir,” said General Bausch. “We sustained minimal casualties. In half a day our artillery pieces should be loaded and my ladies’ll be ready to move on.”
“Light casualties,” finished the storm trooper captain.
Tibor finished noting down the casualty counts. “Right, that leaves us with just short of four hundred thousand, plus my armoured division. I hope that is enough to get our next job done.”
The lord general held up a controller wand and pressed a stud upon it. A previously saved holo-image leapt up for a moment, showing the fleet’s current orbit around the grey globe of Alanta Prime. In the background, the Ryvan’s Belt asteroid string rolled slowly by, bisecting a small piece of the old Orpheus Salient of the Achilus Crusade. The image dropped back to the tac-table quickly and then leapt back up from the centre, revealing a rusty brown coloured planet as it sprung to lightly flickering life and began to rotate slowly before them.
Andeferon leaned in closer.
“Ronus Four, gentlemen,” said the lord general. “A labour planet; population of approximately eight hundred billion inhabitants. They provide skilled manual workers for almost every manufactorum and harvest planet within a month’s warp travel. Essentially, the planet is breeding and storage. The levies they provide annually to the Guard are in the millions. The Ronus Defence Force is massive, though poorly trained in anything but riot control. The rich here are astronomically so, and the poor live knee high in their own excrement until they are hired off world where they work until the Emperor takes them.
“They have also been infected: Infection Protocol red. In lieu of a Splinter Protocol this is our next priority target.”
Everyone leaned in closer as a recording began to play.
“This is governor Decium Ven Itis, of Ronus Four. 501.576.M41. Calling all military commands in system. As per the Infection Protocol, be advised we have found evidence of genestealer infestation deep within Beta Hive Three. The RDF have been activated and all reserves called for active service. All hives have been advised and have begun security sweeps. Infection Protocol level orange is in place. Stand by for updates. The Emperor protects.”
“That was two years ago,” stated Tibor, as he clicked another button upon the controller wand. “Then, six months after the initial transmission.”
Andeferon listened intently.
“This is governor Decium Ven Itis, of Ronus Four. 451.511.M41. To all military commands in system. We have found the infestation centre at the bottom of Beta Hive Three. The bottom fifteen layers of the hive, along with their inhabitants, have been cleansed by fire. The bugs are assumed dead. Infection Protocol level green is in place. Glory to the RDF. The Emperor protects.”
“If Infection Protocol level green is in place, why are we wasting our time on the planet?” asked Ject.
Tibor shook his head.
“Shut up for a few minutes and you might find out, general,” snarled LaFour, making no effort to hide his disdain for the man.
Ject reddened. Colonel Illen looked up at Andeferon and locked eyes for a heartbeat, his look betraying his embarrassment.
“If I may,” said Tibor, indicating again with the controller wand. “This is from six months ago.”
“Decium Ven Itis, Ronus Thr... no, Four! To all military commands that hear this; send aid immediately. Send whatever you’ve got! Infection Protocol level red. I repeat, level red. They were hiding! They came from nowhere. Three of the smaller hives burned from top to bottom, oh, almighty Emperor forgive me as I send you these tweny billion souls. Look after them as you would my own children.
“Five of the larger hives are showing signs, freaks like you wouldn’t believe! Our men are overwhelmed and slaughtered as they confront the foe...”
Tibor shut off the recording.
“The governor continues along the same line for another five or ten minutes. His reports describe the foe as deep rooted into the hives, attacking key structures and figures, millions turned and billions burned; so on and so forth. The outer planets and systems won’t touch the workforce with the threat of infection. There’s no food going in to slake a hungering populace, and no workers going out to relieve population congestion. Several large-scale uprisings have already been put down, but more are beginning every moment,” Tibor paused for effect.
“That means no guard levies, three hundred thousand of which were supposed to join my fleet, and no workers for the planets who rely on them to meet their quotas. This spirals on to a food and materials shortage in the sector. Shortages that will take months, maybe even years to remedy through increased output from other systems. Again, we will be affected,” continued Tibor, locking eyes with every member of the general staff. “I cannot express to you the importance of this planet in any clearer terms. If it falls, and one of the larger splinter fleets hit the area, we could potentially lose this sector and have a fleet that has fed on the biomass of many trillions of people and the planets they reside upon loose within the Imperium. Does anybody here fail to recognise the trial we face?”
There was silence as each solemn individual awaited his next words. Andeferon exhaled, realising he’d been holding his breath as the enormity of the task placed upon them rested upon him.
“Sir?” said General Luten.
“General Luten,” said Tibor, indicating the general should continue with a flick of his hand.
“It’s rare there would be an infestation and uprising unless there is a splinter fleet nearby, ready to consume the planet. Have we had any word?”
The entire room around Andeferon seemed to go quiet. Looking around, it seemed like even the servitors had gone still in anticipation. He knew enough to understand that a splinter fleet was what they all feared most – and what they had been given standing orders to find and destroy. Luten had explained, over a glass of amasec the previous night when the general had handed him his colonel’s pips, that a battle-group of their size could not hope to stop anything more than a small splinter fleet. Andeferon shivered as the memory ran an icy chill of insignificance down his spine.
The weedy master navigator stepped forward, putting up a skinny, translucently skinned arm to touch the dark blue shawl worn over his third eye. The navigator was stooped over and had fat blue bruise bags under his sunken eyes. A white handkerchief, stained with pinkish blood and yellow-brown mucus was clutched in his other hand. That the man was under an unknowable strain was obvious from his visible exhaustion.
“The way to Ronus is fraught with hidden peril. The warp lingers like heavy storm clouds awaiting an atmospheric shift to unleash its full potential. Something lurks; hangs over this entire region of space like a wet blanket suffocating us, heavy with a predator’s potential. A predator that would step upon us ants without realising we were there on the way to its prey.”
The collective assembly looked at him in confusion. The heavy mixture of perplexity and disgust on Andeferon’s face prompted the navigator to further himself, as if talking to a child.
“The tyranids. Their very presence, or the lingering aftereffect thereof, I cannot tell. A focus point loiters in this region of the Imperium. Every time we jump, we jump blinder than the last time. More than that I cannot say. They may be here, they may be there, their psychic presence blinds and wounds all of us; it is a constant battle to keep us alive. We’ll not know until they are right upon us. The planet and ship’s augurs are our best early warning system.”
There was quiet, for a time, then the navigator sniffed loudly as a fat worm of semi-congealed blood oozed from his nose. He lifted his soiled handkerchief and smeared the blood away.
“I must depart to the stasis chamber, sirs, if you will excuse me. The shadow over this region is straining me. I must be fresh for when you decide to jump,” said the navigator, before turning and leaving without acknowledgement.
Andeferon watched the hobbling man until he left the strategium, before turning back to Tibor.
“Succinctly, we do not know for sure. The best we can get from the data Ven Itis sent out is the region of space surrounding the Ronus system is clear,” said Tibor to a collective sigh of relief. “Though, in truth, gentlemen, that scares me more so. ”
“Better the tyranid you know than the tyranid you don’t,” said General Bausch in her sharp voice, her harsh gaze lingering on the tac-table.
Tibor nodded. “Well said. All the more reason for us to get our forces moving immediately. I am dividing the fleet. The ships conveying the troops currently in space will depart within the next twelve hours. General Ject, you will transport ten thousand of your men aboard the cruiser Mankind’s Wrath and a further five thousand upon each of the escort cruisers Endurance and Mykar’s Shield. The remainder of your men will come with me under command of General LaFour.”
Ject’s jaw tightened and he looked about to object, but was quickly spoken over. Andeferon spied a predatory smile spread over LaFour’s face.
“You will await the embarkation of the Arminians upon the ironclad, Emperor’s Bounty, and then follow with all due haste to the Ronus system and rendezvous with the main force at Ronus Four. General Luten assures me the embarkation will only take four days.”
Ject was obviously still smarting. “Sir, I... If we are attacked after you are gone, I will not have enough men to hold a world.”
Tibor shrugged dismissively. “We all know the xenos hunger. If they were still here, we’d already be knee deep in them. We’ve cleansed this system of its xenos taint, general. I see no risk. I feel I’ve been more than generous with the men I’ve left behind for you.”
“The cowardly general always asks for more men. The righteous general asks how he can make each man he does have worth more,” stated LaFour, ice-blue eyes glinting in challenge.
“Warmaster Iten Volarnus, M38, if I am not mistaken,” mused Tibor.
“Rightly so, lord general,” said LaFour, ginning at Ject.
“Sir, I... ah, I ah... the potential of a splinter fleet, ah... the navigator said they could be anywhere…” stammered Ject.
Luten stepped forward. “Sir, he has a point. Leave twenty thousand more and a few tank regiments just to be safe.”
“I did not think to put you in the same book as Ject,” snarled LaFour.
“You would question my courage?” asked Luten, his voice colder than the void outside.
LaFour held Luten’s stare for a moment, and then huffed loudly, looking back up to the lord general as if the Arminian was below him. Ject flashed Luten a look of thanks. Andeferon followed Luten’s example, and made a point of ignoring the man. Colonel Illen was right; the Cemar general was an embarrassment.
Tibor made a few adjustments to a data slate and raised his hands. “Placate your anger please, gentlemen. I’ve assigned two regiments of my own Severethian battle tanks to the Arminians. I need the foot soldiers for the assault on the hives of Ronus. Lord Admiral Minus, please make the arrangements for the transport immediately, that will be all for the navy today.”
The heavyset Lord Admiral Tiberius Minus nodded and left without further word, already speaking into the vox attached to his large augmetic ear unit.
“That will be an end to the matter,” said Tibor. “All of you, please refer to the tac-table to see your mens’ ship and command allocations.”
Andeferon held back along with the other aides as the generals all moved forward and inspected the information presented to them by the tac-table. Luten and LaFour were done quickly and moved away. Bausch, Darin and Ject lingered as they double-read the information to ensure their understanding. Eventually Ject was the only one left, shaking his head lightly.
“What now general? Forgotten how to read?” teased LaFour viciously.
“That will be enough, General LaFour,” said Tibor.
LaFour scoffed a laugh. “As you say, sir. My most heartfelt apologies, General Ject.”
Andeferon looked over to Colonel Illen, who was positively red with shame and anger now, as he watched the exchange between his general and LaFour. Andeferon pitied the poor colonel. The Arminian leaders were all battle hardened. They were strong men from a planet where the Emperor stripped the weak away from the gene pool so that His workers and regiments would be harder. Andeferon could never see himself in a position to appreciate what Illen must be thinking as the Cemar’s weak-willed commander continued to ignore all and scroll feverishly through his data.
“Now if that will be all...” began Tibor.
“Sir?” started Ject, raising a hand without looking up.
Tibor visibly stiffened with annoyance. “You have thirty seconds.”
“Sir, I must object! You’ve left me a mix of under strength regiments and reserve companies whilst taking all of my experienced and elite men. One of the companies you’ve left here is an infirm rehabilitation company! Some of them are awaiting augmetic limb implants and haven’t picked up anything more than a bowl of food in months!” finished Ject in an exasperated shout.
LaFour barked a laugh out loud.
“You’ll watch your tone when addressing your betters, general,” growled Tibor, his face clouded with indignant rage. “The Arminians will be with you. Follow Luten around for a few days, maybe he’ll show you how to conduct yourself as a servant of the Emperor.”
LaFour laughed even harder. Bausch cracked the slightest grin.
Ject just looked around at the faces at the table, becoming more incredulous with every moment but unable to form words with his babbling lips. Finally his eyes came to rest on the bench full of sergeants and captains sitting in the shadows. Some of those men sat quietly laughing at him; others stared at him malevolently. Not one face showed any form of sympathy or support.
As soon as the grin appeared in the corner of Ject’s mouth, Illen’s head went down. It took only a moment longer for everyone else to catch on.
“Oh, for the Emperor’s sake...” began LaFour.
“Shut up, LaFour!” shouted Ject, before turning to Tibor.
Tibor just raised his eyebrows in anticipation of what was to come as Ject brought a screen full of regiment names and numbers to the centre of the tac-table and enlarged it with a quick swipe-spread of his fingers.
“The 65th and 66th Tallon Rangers, the Riven IV armoured, the 5th and 6th Kistanii infantry, the 59th Kodan heavy infantry, the 659th Strachians light infantry; the list goes on!” said Ject excitedly, building momentum. “Individually used up regiments numbering only in the hundreds but collectively there must be five or ten thousand veteran guardsmen languishing in the hulls of those troop ships and cruisers!”
“A mongrel regiment...” said Tibor, as if the very name was like rubbing dung worms on his tongue.
“You can’t be serious,” said both LaFour and Bausch in unison.
“While the fleet is preparing to set off to the jump point they can all be ferried over to the Mankind’s Wrath. Just give them to me and I’ll manage their integration into my forces!”
“This is an insane waste of navy resources,” stated the munitorium clerk.
“It’s an insane waste of experienced soldiers, is what it is!” shouted Ject.
As the argument raged on, Andeferon placed a hand on Luten’s shoulder and pulled him aside.
“General, some of those regimental names ring a bell. The 659th Strachians are expert hive fighters and we fought with the 65th Tallon rangers five years ago and they were good. Most of them were slaughtered in the jungles on Dagun, but they were good,” whispered Andeferon.
“I remember the Rangers,” said Luten. “What of it?”
“General Ject has a point.”
Luten nodded for him to continue warily.
“Hear me out, sir,” said Andeferon. “It looks like there are five or so thousand experienced fighting men down there. We just spoke about losing our reinforcements to the contamination, we need every man ready to go planetside with a gun in his hand.”
“The logistics of putting together a mongrel regiment border on the ridiculous,” hissed Luten. “You’ve got small groups of men from many different worlds and cultures and martial disciplines all shoved into one regiment, do you have any idea how hard that would be to manage?”
“Couldn’t agree more sir,” said Andeferon.
“Then what is your point, Ande?” asked Luten. “With the threat of the splinter fleet potentially being anywhere, we don’t have the time to mess around with this sort of foolishness.”
“Let’s bankroll Ject to do it.”
“Bankroll him? What do you think this is, a bidding war?” asked Luten.
“That’s exactly what this is,” responded Andeferon, tightening his grip on his general’s shoulder.
“The lord general, the Emperor bless his command decisions, is a cold hearted pompous arse. From the looks of him, he loves his wine and spirits as much as he loves his wars from the safety of his strategium - ”
“You tread a thin line, colonel,” interrupted Luten, his eyes narrowing.
“Okay, fair call, general. I apologise,” backpedalled Andeferon. “My point being we have a chance to strengthen the forces on the ground with these men. Men who may very well direct the claws and fangs of the horde away from our own boys.”
Luten nodded in thought, but was far from convinced.
“Who cares if they are co-ordinated?” continued Andeferon, gaining momentum once more. “Who cares if they in-fight? A harsh commissar and a bolt pistol will sort that out for the most part. All that matters is that we have more lasguns on the ground and more pumping hearts for the bugs to stop before they get to us. Support the general. Offer up some of our wine or something to help his cause. Tibor will never go for it otherwise. Then take over and use them as meat shields for our men.”
Luten frowned. “You disappoint me, colonel. These are guardsmen we are talking about, not sacrificial lambs.”
Andeferon scowled. “You would choose them over us?”
Luten locked his harsh stare in his subordinate. “I would value experienced men as more than kindling for the tyranid fire! Let those poor bastards have their retirement, albeit in the hulls of troop ships. Let them languish in peace. You disappoint me, I’ll not entertain this folly further.”
Andeferon made to object but was instantly silenced by Luten’s venomous stare. The Arminian general’s ice-cold gaze brooked no further disagreement from his subordinate.