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Strictly Business

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What follows is a written version of the events of our previous Dark Heresy Campaign.  I hope you enjoy it.




Gaz Venris sat quietly, staring out the side of the Valkyrie AAC as it skimmed over the war-torn landscape.  In the distance he could see the flash of artillery shells landing.  He watched as they lit up the horizon, augmenting the evening sunlight with their own peculiar blend of colors, and could hear the echoing thunder that followed.  If he didn't know what it was like to be on the receiving end of that display, it might have seemed beautiful.

Turbulence knocked the Elysian Sergeant from his reverie.  Flicking the lho-stick out of the aircraft, he leaned against the door-mounted heavy bolter and surveyed the cabin.  He could see Arbiter Regis, sitting with his eyes closed and obviously pretending he had his feet firmly on the ground; he never had been one for flight.  Seated next to him was Lug, an underhive dweller from a neighboring hive planet, who was currently examining a stub automatic that he had just slipped from Regis’ holster.  Those two made a strange pair considering their history, but the shared animosity of the past was apparently long behind them; ever since their induction into the Inquisition, they had supported each other and become brothers in service to the Emperor.  Across the cabin Gaz could see the distinctive red robes worn by Acolyte Titus of the Adeptus Mechanicus.  He had never been one for talk, and even now he was completely oblivious to the fact that he was being shaken about as he pored over the second heavy bolter on the other door, looking for signs of poor maintenance by the Valkyrie crew.  He could picture the horrified look that would surely arise should he find any component not properly secured or any moving part not properly lubricated.  It made Gaz chuckle, but he knew it would be a mistake to assume he only knew how to maintain weapons.  He had personally seen the Tech-Priest walk through a fusillade of enemy fire, his venerated las rifle blazing as he pushed the enemy back.  Gaz was a long way from the relative comfort of his unit, but at least he was among people he could trust.

Gaz closed his eyes in hope that he would be able to sleep the rest of the trip.  Their flight plan called for a quick trip through territory that was patrolled by the Imperial Navy.  The Blood Pact was raiding the planet, and the local PDF was barely holding them back with Imperial Navy support.  What they were doing this far from the Sabbat Worlds was a mystery.  Though the Blood Pact raiding force formed a significant threat, engaging them was not the reason this Ordo Hereticus cell was here.  

Inquisitor Atellus was a man of small stature that had served the Ordo Hereticus for over five decades.  His effeminate mannerisms were the subject of some speculation and ridicule, and some considered him a radical, but he had never wavered in his service to the Imperium.  He was a brilliant tactician, and Gaz felt secure in the knowledge that Atellus used his acolyte cells in the way a veteran warrior uses his weapons – each to their strength and with deadly precision.  Gaz knew that if an acolyte cell failed in their mission, the failure belonged to them alone, and Atellus did not have a record of tolerating failure.  His mind returned to the scene of their last mission, and he swallowed hard, trying not to think too hard about the implications of what had happened.

Atellus had requested the cell retrieve an artifact of interest to him, an artifact that might also be of interest to the Blood Pact, which may explain their presence this far from their standard engagement zones.   This assignment was quite different from their normal, seemingly something that should fall under the responsibility of the Ordo Malleus, but nobody in the cell objected; they were all eager to repair their reputation and restore trust after the outcome of their last mission.  Atellus assured the cell that there should be little risk of direct conflict on this assignment, as the artifact was reported to be located within the now abandoned mansion of a noble family.  When Gaz pressed him for details about the artifact, Atellus gave a smirk and said “You will know it when you see it.”  Gaz found this less than reassuring, though if he was not being given details it was likely for a good reason.

Gaz was beginning to doze off, the rhythmic movement of the Valkyrie lulling him to sleep as it had so many times before this, when he heard a low buzzing noise come from the cockpit.  He immediately jolted awake, recognizing that sound as an auspex contact that did not register as friendly with the Valkyrie’s cogitator.  Gaz had a special hatred for that sound – a drop trooper who is shot down in transit is of little use.  He quickly reached forward and secured himself to the heavy bolter while simultaneously reading it for action.  His actions drew a strange glance from Lug.  Gaz was about to say something when a message from the co-pilot came across the vox.

“Fast mover inbound that does not look friendly.  Likely a Hellblade, judging from how fast it’s going.  I don’t know how it slipped through patrols.”  The announcement stirred the cabin to life.  Titus stopped inspecting the heavy bolter and strapped himself in.  Lug buckled himself in, and then leaned over to explain to Regis what was happening, as he had clearly missed some of the announcement while waking up.  As it was explained to him, all the color seemed to drain from his face, and he frantically buckled himself in.  Despite the dire situation, Gaz could not help but laugh, which earned him an angry look from Regis.  “Don’t worry!” Gaz shouted, “Nothing I can’t handle!  I’ll get you back to the ground, one way or another!”

The vox came to life again, and the co-pilot had obvious worry in her voice.  “The ground here is too thick with snow to emergency land and there is no way we can outrun this thing.  We will give you as many shots as we can.  It’s coming up from our starboard side.  Emperor protect us all.”

Gaz could feel the Valkyrie pick up speed as the pilot pushed the craft harder, which would make the initial shots at the Valkyrie harder to land considering the high AoA the chaos fighter was coming in on.  He scanned the distance, looking for a dark spot, a blur, or a glint of sunlight, anything at all, hoping to get a few shots in before this chaos scum had a chance to send him to the Emperor early.  He squinted, looking out at the horizon, and saw it – the flash of cannon fire from a rapidly moving craft, coming straight at him at incredible speed.  He squeezed the trigger on the heavy bolter, muttering prayers to the Emperor through gritted teeth over the roar of heavy bolter fire.  Little risk of direct conflict my ass…

To Be Continued…

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A high pitched ring was all Gaz could hear as he looked out at the starboard wing of the Valkyrie, the bright flames so intense they were causing the integrated photo-visor in his drop helmet to dim.  The pilots had done their best, giving him and Titus several chances to fire, but the armor on the Hellblade proved to be too resilient for the heavy bolters to get through.  Gaz muttered a curse as he saw the Hellblade streak by, fairly content at this point to play with them as though he were a hunter and them nothing but wounded prey.  He looked down at the shattered heavy bolter, amazed he had survived the cannon shot that had crippled the powerful weapon.  Truth be told, Gaz thought, his earlier description of them as wounded prey was probably more correct than he wanted to admit.

Gaz spun around in his harness to survey the cabin for the first time since the attack had started.  Regis was busy applying a bandage to his arm where shrapnel from cannon shot had done some damage.  In a strange role reversal, he looked completely calm even though he was bleeding profusely and Lug now looked absolutely terrified.   One look at the side of the cabin explained it – there was a fist sized hole in the side of the craft no more than a few centimeters from Lug’s head, and a matching hole on the opposite side of the craft a meter or so from Titus, who was still buckled in and apparently unscathed, staring intently at Gaz as if waiting for direction.  His team was still intact, though a bit worse for wear, and Gaz breathed a sigh of relief.

As he was considering his next move, the Valkyrie suddenly shifted hard and began to climb at a dizzying pace.  Over the sound of the engines he could barely hear the copilot’s voice over the vox.  “We’re in it bad!  The pilot’s seat took a hit and Able is not responding.  I’m giving us altitude so you can jump!  I’ll steady out in a second so you can get your chutes on!”

Everyone held steady while the Valkyrie ascended.  Gaz kept his eyes on the skyline, hoping this maneuver would complete before the Hellblade pilot got bored with them and finished what he started.  He didn’t see the craft, but that only made him worried.  A few moments later, the Valkyrie started to level out, and Regis and Lug were already unbuckling and reaching for grav chutes as the copilot yelled through the vox.  “We are at jump altitude!  Now!  Get your chutes on now!  We don’t have –“

The Valkyrie rocked as quad-autocannon shells ripped through the Valkyrie, shredding the engines and cutting all power to the vox.  Flames licked through the open port side of the craft, bathing Titus in flames and temporarily turning Gaz’ photo-visor dark as he shrank back from the heat.  The craft immediately lost thrust and began to descend, but the Emperor had seen their plight and the Valkyrie began to fall from the sky in a gliding descent, avoiding a death spiral that surely would have sealed their fate.  Gaz slid his visor up into his helmet so he could see and was horrified at what he saw.

Regis and Lug were gone.  Where they had been standing was now just seating that had been shredded by cannon fire.  The grav chutes they had been reaching for had flown out the back of the craft, save but one.  Gaz quickly looked to Titus, and saw that the flames from the craft were no longer reaching in through the port door, as Titus had managed to slam the door shut despite being burned by the flames.  Despite this, he was far from safe, as his robes and harness had been set on fire as fuel and flames had sprayed through the door.  Gaz then heard a short series of explosions and a pair of rocket motors firing off as the pilots both ejected.  Well, he thought, as the highest ranking member currently onboard, it looks like I finally get my own Valkyrie.

Gaz yelled through the vox, hoping Titus would hear him over the roar of the calamity.  “Hang on!  We’ve still got a chance!”   Titus said nothing, instead looking over at the single grav-chute barely holding on by a single piece of webbing.  He quickly looked around the cabin, his head stopping wherever he saw damage.  He then turned his head and looked at Gaz.  Despite being in pain from the flames that still burned him, his eyes held a bit of mirth.  Through the vox, Gaz heard him say “I do not think I know enough prayers to fix this.  Perhaps you can convince the enemy pilot to parley?”  Laughing quietly to himself, Titus hit the quick-release on his harness, and was quickly pulled through the rear of the Valkyrie and out into the evening sky.

Gaz allowed himself a single moment of shock at what he just saw.  Two members of his team were likely falling to their deaths now, and Titus had just thrown himself from an aircraft without a chute, committing himself to the mercy of the Emperor… or perhaps the Machine God.  It occurred to him that he might not find any of them alive or at all, but he shook off the thought and then returned to the problem at hand – getting his hands on that grav chute.

He quickly pulled a grapnel from his waistline and secured it to the corner of the open starboard door.  He then released his harness that was holding him to the plummeting Valkyrie.  His grapnel held strong, and Gaz began easing his way towards the last remaining grav chute.  As Gaz got close to the chute, he eased up and reached for the webbing strap – just as another series of cannon rounds blasted through the cabin.  It caught Gaz by such surprise that he lost his holds and was pulled towards the rear of the craft, airborne and on his way out the craft in the same manner as his other team members just moments before.  As he flew towards the waiting empty sky, all he could think about was all the horrible things he would do to that chaos pilot if he ever got hands on him.  He grunted hard as his flight was stopped, his grapnel keeping him tethered to the doomed Valkyrie.  I guess my new Valkyrie wants me to stay, he thought wryly.  Not today.

Bracing his feet against the cabin’s ceiling, Gaz held firm to his grapnel line with his left hand and drew his las pistol with his right.  The ride was too unstable for aiming, so he pointed in the direction of the last grav chute’s webbing and started pulling the trigger, reciting battle cants aloud as he hoped for the best.

The Emperor must have heard Gaz’ meager offering and smiled, as he got lucky and a las shot struck something that was holding the chute in place.  Gaz tried to grab the chute as it flew out of the craft, but missed the webbing with his left hand, instead being rewarded with smashed knuckles as the bulk of the chute hit his hand hard.  He pulled his hand back, screaming obscenities as he holstered his las pistol.  Looking up, he saw the chute falling towards the ground.  It was an odd perspective, and he would have taken more time to take it all in had he not just processed the fact that he was watching his only means of living through this ordeal fall unimpeded towards the waiting snow.

He flicked the switch that released his grapnel, kicking himself off the roof of the Valkyrie, which propelled him down in a quick free fall towards his chute.  Never would have thought I’d have to do this twice, he thought, as both the chute and the ground began rushing up to meet him. 

To Be Continued…

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Gaz lay perfectly still, believing that if he somehow managed to avoid all movement the pain would cease to be.  Despite his best efforts, the necessity of breathing inhibited his plan.  Grunting in pain, he sat up from his bed of snow and shrugged the grav chute from his shoulders, amazed he had been able to both procure and secure the thing on the way down.  He did have the ‘good fortune’ of having practiced the maneuver before, even if it was officially considered a training accident.  Looking up, he could see a trail of smoke that fell from the sky, reaching ground several kilometers from his current position.  In the distance, he could see an orange glow that would periodically increase in radiance.  Gaz assumed this to be secondary explosions coming from the wrecked Valkyrie, possibly the extra fuel tanks lighting off.   He scanned the sky for signs of that bastard Hellblade but could find none.  “Emperor willing, I will find and murder that pilot” he muttered to himself.

As he stood up and shook off the snow, stretching and taking a few steps around to make sure he was not too hurt, a rare thought of hope entered his mind – it was possible that the fresh snow on the ground, which seemed to be almost a half-metre thick in places, had cushioned the fall of his team members.  There was a small chance he might be able to find some of them alive.  After all, he thought, it was possible Regis and Lug had been able to secure their grav chutes before being tossed from the Valkyrie.  Just because he did not see it happen did not mean it didn’t happen.  And Titus was a Techpriest – they had all sorts of tricks and strange implements of the machine cult.  Surely he would not have thrown himself from the craft if he did not think he could survive it?  The thought of it gave him some warmth as the cold of the evening began to chill him to the bones.   It was not going to get any warmer tonight, but perhaps he could have a few happy thoughts.

The snap of a branch brought Gaz to full attention.  Gaz crouched low, drew his laspistol, and looked around, surveying the immediate area.  He had apparently landed in a very large clearing on a hillside, no more than twenty meters from a line of thick fir trees.  Gaz listened carefully, removing his armored jump helmet to give him a better chance of hearing anything out of the ordinary.  A few moments later he heard a pair of voices, speaking to each other in hushed tones, coming from the direction of the tree line.  He looked but could not see anything, the evening gloom and shaded forest working together to obscure his visitors from his sight.

Gaz performed a quick pat down of himself in order to determine what gear he still carried, as it was beginning to seem more likely he would need to use it.  He had his Elysia pattern laspistol, of course, and his engraved mono-knife in his boot.  He swore to himself as he realized his primary weapon, an Armageddon pattern autogun specially modified by Titus with goodies such as an integrated silencer, was not with him – it must have fallen off on the way down.  He did have the three magazines for it loaded with manstopper rounds for all the good that would do him.  He checked his left leg and his compact pump-action shotgun was still there in the leg holster.  A few doses of stimm, some rations, a small medical kit, a few extra shotgun shells, a backup charge pack, a frag grenade, and his armor and web gear were all he had.  That would have to do.

Gaz sat perfectly still, crouched low, hoping whoever was in the forest was either friendly or could not see him.  He drew aim on the tree line and waited.  Several excruciating moments passed, a time that seemed like minutes but was probably no more than twenty seconds.  Then two human figures emerged from the trees.  The light level made it difficult to see them, but they were definitely armed and walking carefully in his direction.  Gaz was about to pull the trigger when one of them shouted.  “Guardsmen!  Looking for survivors!  Are you here?”

Gaz breathed a sigh of relief.  They were over PDF controlled territory, so it made sense they would see the crash and investigate.  He stood up and started walking towards the guardsmen, one of which started to smile at the sight of a survivor.  “Thank the Emperor.  For a moment there…”  His voice trailed off as details became clearer.  The local PDF forces wore blue as an identifying color and carried a lasgun.  These guardsmen wore the same blue uniform, but it appeared to be stained red over large portions, and both of them carried autoguns with hooked bayonets.  Both were bald, neither wore a helmet, and as he approached, tattoos on the face and skull became visible over a leering, bloody smile.  Gaz' slow walk forward stopped.  Blood Pact.  ****.

All three of them raised weapons at the same time, Gaz painfully aware that his laspistol was up against two autoguns.  He was fast on the draw and fired as he dropped to a low crouch, his first shot hitting the smiling chaos sod on his right arm, who cursed as his aim was spoiled.  The whip-crack noise of that laspistol shot was the opening of a cacophony as both of the blood pact members opened fire on fully automatic at a distance of less than ten metres.  The ground around him churned with bullet impacts as he tried to aim for a second shot.  He felt several impacts on his chest carapace plate, and he was glad he had decided to switch his standard Elysian light flak chest plate for a heavier version after his previous mission.  A moment later he wished he had done the same for his arm guards as a round slammed through the light protection on his left arm.  He stifled a yell as blood sprayed from the open wound, dotting the snow around him with droplets of crimson.

Gaz knew he would not last long here.  He fired again as he retreated, looking for any sort of cover.  His shot hit the leg of the second pact soldier, causing him to stumble to his knees and breaking his fire.  The shot had burned him, but failed to do serious damage because of his armor.  The smiling pact soldier also dropped to a knee and started to take aim, still smiling and seemingly oblivious to the wound Gaz had given him.  Just as he was convinced that he had no cover and he was going to face another barrage of bullets in the open, he saw the grav chute laying on the ground.

Gaz dove behind the chute as gunfire erupted again, landing behind it amid the whizzing of bullets.  He quickly propped it up, leaning against it as though it were a shield and his only chance at life.  It probably was.  Bullets repeatedly hammered the chute, some bouncing off harmlessly while others crunched through the exterior, ruining the device.  But it served its purpose.  Gaz remained unharmed, and as he considered returning fire, he looked down.  There was his autogun, intact and loaded.  It had been sitting under the chute.  He smiled as he grabbed the gun, seated and seated a round into the chamber, chuckling to himself as the rounds plinked against the chute.

The gunfire ceased as the two pact soldiers’ magazines ran dry.  Gaz could hear them laughing and taunting as they walked closer.  “Hiding until your precious emperor saves you, little man?  We won’t shoot, we swear.”  They snickered, and then the other spoke up.  “You were supposed to have died in the transport, but Tranth will be impressed that you made it out.  Maybe we could take you to him?  I’m sure you’re dying to meet him.”  They laughed again. Gaz could tell they were only a few meters away, and he had not heard them reload.

Gaz stood up, raising his autogun at the one to his right.  The smiles evaporated from their faces as they realized what had just happened, and Gaz spoke.  “Tranth, you said?   I’ll let him know you won’t be making it back.”  Gaz squeezed the trigger and held it.  A repeated clicking noise was all that could be heard as half a dozen manstopper rounds tore through the surprised soldier, cutting through his armor as if it were not there.  He crumpled to the ground as the other soldier roared and charged Gaz, swinging his hooked bayonet at his head.  Gaz raised his autogun and deflected the clumsy attack, following it up with a kick to the groin.  The pact soldier staggered back, hunched over in pain for just a moment.  He roared in rage and looked up, only to find a cold steel barrel inches from his face.  Gaz squeezed the trigger three times, and the pact soldier fell to the ground, joining his comrade in a quickly spreading pool of blood.

Gaz slumped to the ground, suddenly keenly aware of the pain in his arm.  As he held firm on the wound, a thought entered his mind unbidden – what did he mean when he said I was supposed to have died?  Did they know he was coming, or was that him reading too much into this?  It was probably nothing, but it stuck in his mind anyway.  Either way, it wasn’t important now.  He still had to find his friends, and barring that, a job to do.  He would do it alone if he had to.

A quick search of the Blood Pact soldiers turned up nothing but cheap autogun ammunition and crude torture implements.  He stood up, glad they had not taken him alive, and looked around to get his bearings.  He assumed his team, if they were alive, were likely scattered to the East, but their objective was several kilometers to the West.  If they had lived and were in any condition to do so they would be headed West to the objective as well.  He was also sure any Blood Pact members in the area had probably heard the gunfight, so he needed to get moving.  He put his helmet back on and checked his gear one final time before setting out to the West.


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The light allowed a thin dusting of snow to fly from the roof of the gothic mansion.  The snow floated lazily across the expansive courtyard and landed on numerous burned out vehicles, which only further accentuated the look of abandonment.  The early morning sunlight cast shadows over the scene, but it also revealed a number of important details to Gaz’ trained eyes.  He was lying prone on a snow dusted hilltop that overlooked the isolated country mansion, having moved into this position several hours ago before the sunrise could reveal him, and had covered himself in fresh snow that had fallen overnight.  From his concealed position he could observe the site without being observed in return, and now that he could see the mansion grounds better, he was glad he had made this decision.

At a cursory glance the place looked completely abandoned, apparently the result of some long ago battle.  Whether through house politics or Imperial justice, it did not matter how.  The burned out vehicles had long ago started rusting and numerous windows were broken, a few shredded indigo colored drapes flapping in the wind.  Some heavy, broken furniture from inside the house had been dragged out into the courtyard and then abandoned, probably by looters.  The numerous raggedly clothed skeletons in the courtyard suggested their looting was probably interrupted by local law enforcement teams, and the dead had been left to rot.  It took about two months for a human body to skeletonize in cold climates, so this coincided with what Inquisitor Atellus had told Gaz – the place had been abandoned for years.

Looking closer, a few details began to emerge that painted a different picture.  Behind one of the burned out vehicles he could see a small fire pit and a large number of discarded lho-sticks.  This, by itself, was nothing special, as it could have easily been drifters, but there were a few footprints in the courtyard, and considering the recent snowfall, those had to be fairly new as well.  This could also have easily been drifters, but Gaz thought different.  The more visible footprints seemed to make a well-travelled path around the compound, which implied a security patrol.  Another half hour of careful observation proved him right – a slow and cautious patrol of what appeared to be Blood Pact soldiers came into view from around the side of the mansion and walked a slow patrol around the compound, stopping for a smoke behind some of the burned out vehicles, next to the fire pit.  Probably more than just those two, he thought.  Gaz scanned the upper windows and, after carefully observing for several minutes, saw a small flash of light as someone likely lit their own lho-stick.  Okay, two in the courtyard, one in the window.  After scanning for a few more minutes, he decided he had to get moving.  It was likely they were after the same artifact.  He could think of no other reason for them to be here.

Waiting for a break in the patrols and hoping that the upstairs watchman was concentrating on his lho-stick, Gaz stood up out of his concealed position, grabbed his autogun from underneath him, and moved quickly for the mansion wall.  He was leaving tracks in the snow so this needed to happen quickly before the guards were alerted.  He made it to the wall and began to skirt the edge of the compound.  The only way in was via the front gates so far as he could tell, but he had not been able to get a look at the back of the compound.  It mattered not – he made his way towards a break in the wall where an explosive from the previous battle had done its damage and he thought he could get in.  He glanced quickly over the ledge and swore quietly to himself as an armored carrier parked next to the house became visible.  He had not been able to see it positioned where he was before, and they must have covered the tracks after driving it in. 

Looking over again and ensuring there was nobody nearby, he vaulted over the wall and landed in a low crouch, gun raised to sweep towards the rear of the carrier.  He moved quickly in a low tactical stance to the rear of the vehicle and pressed himself against it, where he realized that the back of the vehicle was open.  He swept around the corner with gun raised and nobody was there to greet him.  He still did not like what he saw.  On the floor of the compartment was a large amount of blood.  A trail of this blood went out the back of the carrier and into the mansion through a side door.  He kneeled down next to the mess and picked up a helmet that lay within the mess.  It was a Valkyrie pilot’s helmet, and it had the name ‘Abel’ emblazoned on it.  Damnit.  Gaz was about to turn and leave when he noticed a small box in the corner with the warning rune for explosives on the box.  He opened it up and found himself looking at a detonation pack and its detonator apparatus.  Grinning to himself, he pressed the activation rune on the detonation pack and grabbed the detonator, placing it in his vest pocket as he closed the lid and moved out the rear of the vehicle.

Gaz followed the trail of blood to the side door, which was shut but had lost its locking mechanisms long ago.  He listened through the door, listening for anything that would give away an adversary.  He didn’t hear anything from inside, but he did hear talking coming from around the corner of the building as the patrol moved closer, forcing his hand.  He opened the door with his left hand and moved through, aiming his autogun with his right.  Ahead was a hallway with four doors on either side, most of them removed.  In the center of the hallway was a Blood Pact soldier who was facing the other direction, unaware of what was approaching him unseen.  Gaz moved up behind him slowly, checking the rooms to his left and right, and when he was sure they were empty, placed his rifle against the back of the guard’s head and pulled the trigger.  A click and a muffled thump could be heard as the bullet passed through his skull and he dropped like a marionette with cut strings.  Gaz caught him on the way down, preventing his gear from clattering, and dragged him into an empty side room. 

These rooms were all almost completely empty, most containing a small amount of refuse and some remains of furniture shattered during an earlier gunfight.  This particular room had a broken mirror on the wall, and as Gaz dropped the body, he got a good look at himself for the first time in quite a while.  He walked slowly towards the mirror, the broken shards separating and rejoining his visage as he approached.  He was of medium height and build, his angular face had not seen a razor in days, and bits of grey beard were beginning to show.  He pulled off his helmet, revealing the grey head of hair underneath.  It had been only three and a half decades since Gaz was born, but during those years he had lost dozens of friends and comrades to an ever unforgiving universe.  His grey hair, often the target of jokes from the rest of his cell because of his relatively young age, combined with the creases around his eyes to make him look like someone of many more years than he had.  He thought he might have been considered handsome had it not been for his eyes, which were a dark shade of brown and seemed to project his internal state regardless of how hard he tried to look friendly.  As of recently this was usually a feeling of disappointment, anger, and loss, not only of friends, but of faith in the Emperor and the rest of Imperium.  He shook his head, pushing his useless emotions down like he was trained to, and put his helmet back on.  Hope nobody could hear my thoughts right now.  That would be a difficult conversation.  He raised his gun and moved out of the room.

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Gun barrel sweeping ahead, he moved out of the room and back into the hallway, following the trail of blood.  It twisted through an open room with a fallen chandelier in the middle, one with only the metal remaining.  This former grand room was a wreck, the walls full of bullet holes, lasgun scorch marks, and blasted stone from explosions many years old.  The blood trail was thinning, but Gaz was able to follow it to a door on the side of a grand staircase.  He opened the door, which opened to a staircase that led to a basement or pantry.  No threats were visible.  Gaz moved in, stepping slowly to avoid making noise.  As he came near the base of the stairs it turned sharply to the left.  He pressed himself against the wall, stifling a gag as a horrible smell assaulted his senses, and looked around the corner, fearing the worst.

A hellish scene greeted him.  The room was dimly lit by rapidly flickering ceremonial candles which dripped wax the color of blood.  Numerous cells lined the walls, each of them containing a set of skeletons chained to the wall.  In the center of the room was the co-pilot of the Valkyrie, but she was not alone.  She was on hands and knees, blond hair covering her face, lying naked in the center of a foul symbol that had been created from body parts and internal organs.  It took Gaz only a second to come to the horrible realization that it was the remains of Abel that had created that symbol.  Standing around the symbol was four incredibly muscled men, each holding a pair of rusty and jagged cutting implements and wearing only a loincloth and a leathery mask.  Another robed figure had his back to Gaz.  Gaz was no psyker, but he could feel the taint of the warp seeping into this room, giving him mental images of violent and sadistic acts and causing a feeling akin to needles in his brain.  As Gaz took in the nightmarish scene the co-pilot looked up, her face stained with tears and blood but a defiant look in her eyes.  She looked around the circle, her eyes stopping for just a moment to meet his, and a look of hope seemed to spread across her face.  She quickly masked it and looked up to meet the eyes of her antagonizers.

He leaned back around the corner into cover, his back against the wall and his gun held in front of him, and swallowed hard.  Five of them, looks like no guns.  Probably a witch.  This is going to have to be bloody surgical.  Committing himself to action, Gaz stood up and spun around the corner, weapon raised and ready to fire.  There he froze.  No more than two meters from him was the robed figure, his face hidden behind a leathery mask of human flesh, his eyes glowing red with sorcerous energy.  In his left hand was a human head, so mutilated Gaz barely recognized it as Abel’s.  In his right was a chainsword that seemed to glow red with malice so strongly it was palatable, which started spinning as soon as Gaz turned the corner.  Startled, Gaz swore aloud and attempted to pull the trigger on his weapon, but then he could feel his strength leaving his body, his will to fight fleeing him and his senses dulling.  He felt unable, and unwilling, to do anything at all.  A part of his mind railed against the walls that were enclosing it.  You will die!  This will be the end of you!  It screamed at him, but he could not stop it.  His eyes began to close.

The co-pilot’s scream, a terrible sound full of pain and hopelessness, jolted Gaz out of his forced slumber, his eyes opening wide and his jaw setting, his adrenaline flowing from a primal reaction to a woman’s screams of torment overpowering the sorcery.  A bony hand had clenched around his neck, and the warp-tainted whirring blade was mere inches from his eyes.  Nice bloody try.  His left hand reached out to grab the arm holding the blade as his finger clenched on the trigger, and his weapon hummed as it emptied round after round into the foul witch.  Gaz held down the trigger and refused to let up until he saw the glowing red eyes behind the mask dim.  The sorcerous blade fell to the ground, releasing sparks as it clattered on stone and stopped glowing, and the hand released from around his neck.  Gaz stopped firing and slammed the stock of his weapon into the face of the dying witch, accelerating his collapse to the floor.  The feeling of triumph stopped as soon as he raised his weapon and sighted down on the center of the room.

The co-pilot was being held up by her hair by one of the cultists, leaving her neck exposed to the other who was muttering heretical prayers to some foul deity in preparation for the sacrifice.  She wrestled with her tormenter but could not break free.  The two other cultists were quickly approaching him, jagged weaponry poised for a kill.  He could not kill all of them fast enough.  Either he was going to die or she was.  The choice was practically made for him.

A precision shot took the cultist holding the co-pilot through the wrist that was holding her up, forcing him to recoil in pain and drop her, and her screaming stopped as she dropped to her knees.  A quick burst of three then took the praying cultist to her left, two shots through the chest and a single through the head, and he dropped quickly to the ground, weapons clattering as they hit the floor.  Gaz quickly spun the rifle to bear on the two charging cultists but could take aim fast enough.  His weapon was easily batted aside by the first cultist, his leathery mask contorted in a leering grin that was probably mirrored underneath.  Emperor protect, these sods are strong.  Gaz let out a scream as the second cultist took advantage of the opening and plunged his jagged blade through the gaps in the side of his carapace chest plate.  A leathery visage with mouth stitched shut stared in silence as the blade was twisted and yanked from his side, the jagged implement tearing muscle and scraping against his ribs as it was pulled.  Gaz nearly went unconscious from the pain of it all, but forced himself to stay awake.  Not for nothing.  Can’t give up yet.

Gaz was still screaming as he threw his head forward into the leering mask of the cultist who held his gun, a loud crunch announcing a broken nose as his helmet slammed into the bastard’s face.  The cultist released his hold on the gun and recoiled back, holding his nose as blood leaked from under the mask, his eyes and actions revealing pain that the smiling mask would have hidden.  Gaz followed up quickly and swung his gun towards the head of the second cultist.  Sparks flew as the steel of his gun scraped the steel of the cultist’s weapon and his attack was blocked.  He ducked under a follow-up attack from the cultist’s second blade that would have gone through his ear, the knife banging loudly off the nearby wall instead.  The cultist maneuvered his arm around Gaz’ weapon, trapping the gun between his body and left arm and leaving his right hand free, which was even now maneuvering for a killing attack.  Gaz was stuck with both hands on his now trapped weapon.  Looking past the cultist, he could see the leering bastard recovering from the hit, and Gaz’ vision swam red with rage when he saw the cultist he had shot in the wrist moving with purpose towards the co-pilot, who had backed herself against a cell door.

Gaz threw himself into the body of the cultist holding his weapon, wrenching the gun around to point at the cultist approaching the co-pilot, and pulled the trigger.  His weapon hummed to life and emptied the remainder of his magazine, the sound of brass hitting the floor the loudest of the noises it made.  Several shots missed, hammering loudly against the walls and metal bars behind him, but a round took the target through his kneecap.  The cultist crumpled to the floor in a heap, his scream the first sound Gaz had heard any of these bastards make.  Gaz would have loved to take the time to revel in that sound but his joy was cut short.  A knife buried itself in his left arm near the shoulder, narrowly missing the joint and bone.  Gaz could tell it had been headed for his throat.  Gaz let out a small yell and fell to the ground, the blood coated knife slipping out of the hand of the attacker.  As he hit the ground he sent his left boot out in a fast kick towards the cultist’s groin, determined to make him pay for the attack and teach him a lesson about why you wear an armoured codpiece in combat.  His boot landed on target and the cultist immediately dropped the empty gun, fell to his knees, rolled onto his back, and threw up, vomit seeping around the sides of the mask because of the sewn shut mouth.  Despite the gravity of the situation, Gaz started laughing a juvenile laugh, the kind you expect from a teenager when a friend takes a hit to the knackers, and he suddenly realized he was losing his damned mind.

The leering cultist was moving towards Gaz with purpose, anger plainly visible in his eyes.  At least I’m pissing them off.  Leaning back in a half sit-up, his laughter subsided as he drew his laspistol with his right hand and his compact shotgun with his left.  As he tried to raise both weapons on the approaching cultist he winced at the terrible pain in his left arm, realizing there was no way he could fire that shotgun with that arm – the pain would be too great.  Looking back towards the co-pilot he could see that the cultist he had shot was struggling to get up and she was looking around in a panic, trying to find a weapon.  Gaz took the shotgun in his left hand and threw it forward.  It slid on the ground past his two assailants, coming to a stop halfway between the co-pilot and the cultist.  Not quite what I intended.  His laspistol let out a crack as he fired, the energy bolt striking the leering cultist in the abdomen.  The look in the cultist’s eyes changed from anger to disbelief, and he fell to the ground into a fetal position.

Gaz lazily swung his gun around to his left to finish off the other cultist, the slow swing in part due to lethargy as his adrenaline subsided, and was surprised as a foot slammed down on his right wrist, pinning his good arm to the floor.  Standing over him was the cultist he had kicked.  His mask was removed revealing an expression so full of hot rage it could have melted ice.  Spittle and vomit leaked from the side of his mouth.  His hands both held the haft of his remaining blade above his head.  He seemed to be taking the time to savor exactly what he was about to do.  Gaz used his left arm to remove his helmet, wincing in pain the entire time.  As he dropped his helmet to his side, the cultist pinning him laughed to himself and spoke the first words he had heard since this fight started.  “You mean to tell me we were bested by an Elysian? An old man?”  He almost spit the last words.

“If you only knew” Gaz responded through gritted teeth.  His left hand landed on the handle of the chainsword that the witch had dropped.  As his hand grasped the handle and flicked the activation switch he seemed to fill with energy and hatred, and he could no longer feel pain the pain of his wounds.  The muscled cultist in front of him began to look small and weak, his face showing fear at the sound of the chainsword spinning.  He plunged the knife into Gaz’ chest, the knife forcing its way through the armor and embedding between his ribs.  His weakness made Gaz angry.  He heard a loud blast come from the rear of the room, but it barely registered.  Gaz moved his right foot under the cultist and shoved him off with contemptuous ease.  He stood up and threw his laspistol to the side.  The then used his right hand to rip the embedded jagged knife from his left shoulder.  The cultist was on his back, retreating away from Gaz as he approached, and Gaz dropped the knife to the ground.  His vision swam with images of bloodshed and the room glowed with a strange red light.

Gaz grinned as he walked up to the panicking cultist and grabbed him by the throat, lifting him up into the air with his right arm.  The little weakling started to scream as Gaz hovered the end of the chainsword inches from his face and started to push forward with the blade.  He met a little resistance at first as chunks of flesh and bone began to fly, but then the screaming stopped and he pushed the blade all the way through, letting it spin for a moment before he pulled it back.  He flung the worthless cultist aside and looked to his right, keeping the chainsword spinning to remove bits of bone and brain from the mechanism.  The leering cultist he had shot in the abdomen had stood up and was limping towards the exit.  Gaz ran up behind him and swung his weapon low at the knees, removing both of the cultist’s legs in a single swipe.  The screaming cultist fell to the ground, and Gaz put the sword through the leering mask to stifle the screams.  As he was enjoying his kill he heard a strange sound behind him.  It took a moment for him to recognize it as a shotgun chambering a round.

He turned around slowly, prepared to kill again.  Behind him was the co-pilot holding a shotgun that was pointed at this head.  His shotgun.  Her assailant was dead near the wall, his face a ruined mess from a close range blast.  He grinned and prepared to lunge at her when she spoke to him.  “What did you say?”

The red light faded from his eyes and the sword stopped spinning, a calm reason returning to his brain, and with it, pain.  He dropped the sword and fell to the ground, clutching at the jagged wound to his left arm he had afflicted when he ripped out the knife.  He looked down and noticed he had a knife buried to the hilt sticking out from his chestplate, just underneath where his heart is.  Gritting his teeth from the pain, Gaz responded.

“What are you talking about?  I didn’t say anything.”  Gaz wore a look of pain and confusion.  He wasn’t quite sure why she was pointing his gun at him.  He wasn’t quite sure of anything except that he had just killed these two cultists with a chainsword.  She responded.  “No, you did.  I heard it just a moment ago.  You said it very quietly.  Something about blood.  It was just a whisper.   I heard it.”  Gaz looked around, pausing pointedly at the copious amounts of blood that had been spilled in this room.  “I don’t remember it, but it’s not important.  I mean look around us.  Wouldn’t you say something?”  He then put his right hand on the handle of the knife embedded in his chest.  “I need some help.”

She considered the offer for a second, seeming to have some kind of inner debate as to whether or not to just pull the trigger.  Thankfully the debate seemed to have been won by the side that favored him living.  She dropped the shotgun to the floor and covered her chest with her left hand and grabbed the knife handle with her right.  How did I not realize she was still naked?  Together they pulled on the knife handle, Gaz nearly vomiting from the pain of it all, and removed the blade from his chest, blood flowing freely from the wound.  The blade appeared to have slipped between his ribs and missed vital organs, but he was bleeding heavily.  He was going to have to hope there was some medical equipment here or he was not going to live through this.  He gave an exasperated look to the co-pilot, making very sure to look her in the eyes.  Not that he was in any position to capitalize on his heroics anyway.

She looked at him, some respect evident in her face, and spoke.  “I don’t know how the hell you got out of that Valkyrie alive.  And I don’t know how you managed to make it here without being caught.  And I really don’t understand how it is you managed to kill these bastards and survive those wounds.”  Her look softened a bit.  “Thank you.  Gaz, right?  I remember your name from the briefing.  My name is Sila.”

“Sila?  Good to know.  I don’t know how I manage to live either.  It’s a continual mystery to me.  I’ve never fought Blood Pact before.  Bastards are quite tough.”

She gave him a concerned look.  “These aren’t Blood Pact.”  She could see the question forming in Gaz and answered before he could ask it.  “I don’t know who they are.  I think they are… were Guardsmen  Traitors probably.  But that one?”  She pointed over to the witch Gaz had killed.  “I’m pretty sure he was an Inquisitor.”

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So I'm going to take a short break here while I prepare some material for the DH campaign I'm running.  It will probably be a while (few weeks) before I update any more.

Also, if anyone has any reviews or suggestions on how to improve my writing style, let me know.  I'm a programmer, not a writer.

To Be Continued...

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