Securing Snowbear Pass-10: Metal Allies

The side door of Mountainfang slams open. Bolts tear out of the opening of the Razorback, cutting down those few Orks unlucky enough to be trailing behind. Five Wolves charge out of vehicle, one bearing two pistols at the head. “Brother Kalle, clear out those rooted Grots.”

The Wolf, bearing a Flamer in hand, gives a sharp nod. Running a few meters forward, the Rout lets loose a furious blast of Promethum-fuled flame. The Gretchin shriek as some scamper to get away; those unlucky few left char to the bones under the intense heat and flame.

The Hunter bearing the pistols levels his weapons on the Orks closest to them. “Full salvo! Leave none standing!”

The Routs level their Bolters on the Greenskins, squeezing out a precise and quick volley of shots. Bolts catch legs and arms, blowing the limbs nearly off. Boyz drop to the snow before many can react. Howls of retreat echo through the air as those left alive flee for their lives.

*

Haldis stares at the sudden arrival of additional Routs, jaw hanging as low as his helmet will allow. After a few seconds of gaping, the Pack Leader clears his throat and sets his jaw, walking towards the new Hunters. “Brothers, you have my thanks. Your arrival was most timely in our success. I was unaware there were other Vlka present on this moon.”

The leader of the Hunters holsters his two pistols before removing his helmet. His graying black beard is shorter than most of Haldis’ pack, cut with a neater trim. A glowing metal eye sits in place of the Hunter’s right eye, a sharp contrast from the yellowing brown natural left eye. “As was I.I am Aren Crimsongaze, acting Pack Leader of this portion of the Snow Gear Pack. And you are?”

Haldis bows his head. “I am Haldis Starblade, Pack Leader of the Moon Fangs Pack.”

Aren shifts his gaze to Haldis’ shoulder pad. “And what quarry are Bloodmaw Hunters tracking out on this moon?”

Haldis looks back over his pack. “Our mission is a simple one; we’ve been charged with clearing out the five outposts in Snowbear Pass and determining their readiness for Imperial usage.”

Aren raises his one good eyebrow. “And Wolf Lord Redmaw saw it fit to send Hunters on such a mission?”

“And what is that supposed to mean Ironwolf?” Gier snarls, “Are you suggesting we are incapable of performing such a duty?”

“Quite the opposite, actually.”

The Moon Fangs turn towards the voice; an Iron Priest bearing a single servo-arm steps from Mountainfang, resting the head of his Thunder Hammer on the side hatch. “Such a simplified task seems more fitting of an Astra Militarum recon squad; not a Vlka Fenryka Hunter pack.”

Kalle, drumming his gloved fingers on his Flamer’s Promethium tank, nods ad the Iron Priest. “Brother Gearfall makes a valid point. Why would a Wolf Lord send a pack on such a basic mission?”

Manger picks over his runes scattered on the ground. “Something is hidden from us. Perhaps there is more to this mission than simply a recon mission?”

“Brother Stareye did seem to give that impression when he told us of this assignment;” Orn muses softly, “I think the Wolf Priest knew a bit more about what was going on than he let on.”

“Or that more was to be going on than any of us are aware of.” Arvid folds his arms, “If he truly knew what it was we were to face, I doubt he would have left us in the dark.”

“Regardless of our mission,” Haldis holds his hands up, turning his gaze back to Aren. “I pose the same question to you. What is one of Wolf Lord Iron Wolf’s packs doing on this moon? And what happened to the rest of you, seeing as you have an acting Pack Leader?”

Aren looks away, snarling. “Wolf Lord Iron Wolf sent us here to investigate a legend one of our Rune Priests uncovered. It spoke of an ancient Fenrisian cruiser used by the founders of the Iron Priests. Wolf Lord Iron Wolf hoped we may uncover lost technology used by our forefathers in our never-ending war in the name of the Allfather and Russ.”

Gearfall steps forward. “After we landed, we noted a sharp decrease in the effective range of our Vox. Brothers Crimsongaze, Ironfist, Forgecaster, Frostrunner, Blacktail and I were assigned by Pack Leader Gearmaw to establish a base of communications. The rest of the pack ventured into the Bearfang Mountain Range to establish a forward camp. That was three days ago, and we’ve yet to receive word from them.”

“And you’ve yet to go after them to find them?” Gier sneers at the Iron Priest. “What kind of Rout just up and leaves his packmates like that?”

One of the Snow Gears shoves Gier, his black ponytail swaying in the breeze. “You bite your tongue! I’ll not have any bad word spoken of my packmates.”

Gier crouches down, but Orn grabs the Wolf’s arms before he can pounce. “Take it easy Gier; this is no place for a fight.”

Aren glares at the Hunter. “Tell me Bloodmaw, what would you have us do? Venture into those mountains and risk being lost like our Brothers, no word back to our Wolf Lord on our fate?”

Gier returns the glare, but as the Ironwolf’s words set in, his posture relaxes. “I still don’t like it,” he murmurs, looking away.

“None of us do,” Kalle muses, “but until we can at least get word to our Wolf Lord, there’s little we can do about it; no matter how flat the terrain, Mountainfang‘s Vox are not strong enough to reach orbit.”

“We’ve recently come into possession of a modified Rhino with increased Vox capabilities; it’s been able to send messages into Orbit.” Haldis gestures into the Outpost. “I’ll take you to it; you can get in contact with your Wolf Lord with it.”

Aren cracks a small smile. “Thank you Brother Starblade. I’d appreciate it.”

* * *

Haldis leans against Skychanter, arms folded over his chest. “It doesn’t make any sense Brother Suncaster; why is it so hard to get a message off this moon?”

Havard shrugs. “Maybe it’s the Bearfang Range causing problems. I’ve heard Iron Priests complaining before about mountains decreasing Vox range effectiveness.”

“But even large stationary structures built specifically in such proximity to the range having the same problems?” Haldis shakes his head. “It doesn’t seem right.”

The two Routs turn their heads as the Skychanter‘s back hatch falls open; Aren steps out, replacing his beaked helmet. “At least High Orbit knows about what’s going on. They are currently deciding on the next course of action; seems we must stay together until that decision comes.”

Haldis nods, “I’ll have Brother Rockaxe keep an ear open for that Vox transmission.”

Aren bows his head. “Even so, I feel proper thanks are in order. After my pack encountered one of the Outposts north of here, we were beginning to lose hope we’d ever make contact.”

Havard nods grimly. “Pack Leader Starblade and I were just discussing that. We felt it odd that none of the Outposts we encountered had Vox transmitters strong enough to make it into orbit.”

Aren leans in a little closer. “You mean the other outposts to the south are like this one?”

Haldis shakes his head. “Well not as well fortified, but for the most-” He sits up a little straighter, and looks directly at Aren. “What do you mean ‘like this one’? What was the Outpost to the north like when your pack arrived?”

A heavy silence falls between the three until Aren clears his throat. “To be perfectly honest Brother Starblade…I think it might be better if you see it for yourself.”

Warhammer 40k is (c) Games Workshop

((A Quick Word and Update))

Hey all, sorry about the lack of content. Life has been getting hectic for me with the start of the Holiday Season, not to mention my External Hard Drive’s AC Adapter went out on me. I just got a replacement in, and should be able to get a new chapter out next week; however, until the holiday season is over, I do have to cut back to a chapter every other week. I hope, however, to use that time to build up more of a buffer in my chapters so, should this happen again, there won’t be such a delay.

I will promise to have something out next week Sunday, regardless of it’s size.

See you all again on the 14th!

-CharcoalScales

Securing Snowbear Pass-09: Barricades

The first tendrils of pinking sun creep over the snow-capped horizon, blotting out the final glimpse of the setting planet. The roar of Snowhammer‘s engine hisses to a soft rumbling, the plumes of ashy smoke dying out from the Land Raider’s exhaust ports. The Assault ramp slams open, kicking of a wispy cloud of icy powder.

“Alright Moon Fangs, same as before. Split into your groups and check out the-” Haldis stop dead in his tracks, eyes wide at what his auspecs display. Barbed wire surrounds the outskirts of every building, forming rings in three meter intervals. Barricades formed of machine-shaped posts and walls dot the outpost in a broad half circle design. Sandbags and rocks line what once were snow-cleared paths, snaking between each building.

Gier sneers. “It’s about time the Astra Militarum shows some intelligence in fortifying their bases. Wouldn’t need to go through all of this if every base was defended like this one.”

“But the question still remains,” Orn muses, “Why does this particular Outpost have more defenses than the last two?”

“Hopefully some clues were left behind when this base was abandoned.” Haldis turns to his pack. “Spread out and investigate at your own discretion. Anything that might be of the slightest of importance should be reported immediately. Keep your Vox open and on the primary channel. Understood?”

“Understood Brother Pack Leader!”

“Good. Brother Rockaxe, do you copy?”

“I copy you Brother Starblade.”

“I’d like for you to accompany myself, Brother Blazeheart and Brother Sunchanter in the Command Center. With any luck, there’s information still in the main console detailing the decisions made by the commanding officer. If such records do exist, I suspect you will find them with greater ease than myself or any others in the pack.”

“I’d have just as easy of a time Brother Starblade,” Elof huffs.

“True, but I need you to remain on Skychanter and keep an eye out for any approaching Orks; Snowhammer doesn’t have the long range scanners needed for that, which is why I chose Brother Rockaxe to accompany myself.”

“Oh. O-of course Brother Starblade. Your logic is most sound. I will keep sensors at full range and report anything that may be of note; the Orks will not be sneaking up on us this time.”

Haldis smirks. “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Brother Rockaxe, we depart at your leave; Pack Leader Starblade out.”

* * *

Hakan scowls as he lifts away the console’s side panel. “Oh for the Omnissiah’s sake, does anyone outside of the Mechanicus show even the slightest concern for the Machine Spirit?” One of the Iron Priest’s machindrites applies some oil to one of the larger boxes housed within the large metal frame, murmuring a quick and quiet prayer. “What, do they somehow think that banging on the keyboard rather than applying the proper prayers is going to get them better results?”

Haldis, Havard and Langer share a wary look before Blazeheart quietly chirps in. “I could not imagine anyone thinking that would be a good idea.”

Hakan moves onto another large metal housing, applying more of the holy oil to the casing. Continuing to pray, the Iron Priest continues his work until the console screen flickers with light before booting up with a soft hum. Hakan stands up and replaces the side panel. “There, you see? Treat the Machine Spirit well and it will respond in kind.”

Haldis puts a hand on Hakan’s shoulder. “Good. Now I need you to see if the commander of this station left us any useful information on the status of this outpost.”

“Brother Pack Leader, this is Brother Arvid. Brother Orn and I have finished our search of the Barracks. It seems a few interior modifications have been made in order to house more troops than normal. In addition, all of the exterior doors have additional restraints bolted across them to increase the strength of the locks.”

Haldis frowns. “Seems to match the overall state of the Outpost. Brother Ironmaw, Brother Forgecaster, how goes your search of the Communications Array?”

“Nothing unusual to report Brother Pack Leader, though these doors have the same restraints Brother Arvid described.”

Haldis nods grimly. “I suspect that to be the case with the rest of the buildings. I want everyone to report to the Hanger after you’ve finished your given searches. Brother Rockaxe, stay here and continue to search the commander’s records. I want as clear a picture on what’s going on here as I can. Is that understood?”

“Understood Brother Pack Leader!”

* * *

Haldis looks across the main room of the Outpost’s Vehicle Hanger. The room seems much smaller than the one where they found Skychanter, but the added reinforcements to the Hanger’s walls was the likely cause of that illusion. He taps with a finger an empty Lasgun rack, stark and unpainted as the wall reinforcements bolted on with great haste.

“Alright Moon Fangs, any ideas as to what’s got the former Outpost’s troops spooked enough to reinforce these buildings?”

Gier rolls his eyes. “Like I said, maybe they finally got the idea to secure these Outposts to do their job right.”

Orn cuffs Gier on the shoulder. “But that doesn’t explain why this outpost did so while the first two did not.”

Rolf lets out a short, curt laugh. “You’re trying to apply logic to Guardsmen commanders? Next you’ll be telling me you’ve discovered an Ork war strategy that doesn’t consist of shooting while charging.”

Havard glares at Rolf. “Don’t be so quick to diminish the effectiveness of the Astra Militarum leadership. They must do with hundreds what we can do with a handful. To coordinate that large of a group is nothing to sneer at.”

Orn crosses his arms, leaning against a metal reinforcement. “Even so, the supplies to put all these extra defenses in place would be difficult to get the Departmento Munitorum to relinquish, effective leadership or no. If the Munitorum provided the extra defensive materials, then the threat must be greater than the usual assaults the Outpost was designed to stand against.”

Haldis groans, rubbing the nose of his helmet. “But that still doesn’t answer what or where this greater threat is.”

“The barricades.”

All eyes turn to Soren. Rolf sneers at his brother. “Yes, we’ve established that there are extra barricades that weren’t normally here.”

“The barricades; they’re all backwards.”

Gier’s jaw drops, raising an eyebrow. “They’re a barricade; a giant slab of metal you hide against. You can’t build a barricade backwards; they work on both sides.”

Soren shakes his head. “Not the construction, the placement. If the purpose of these outposts is to keep enemies out of Snowbear Pass, then why are they placed towards the rear of the Outpost, facing deeper into the Pass?”

The Hanger falls silent; Moon Fangs exchanging wary looks with each other. Suddenly, a Vox transmission cuts through the tension.

“Red Alert! This is Iron Priest Steelarm; sensors have picked up a large enemy movement of Orks due east of the Outpost. Estimated time of arrival in the outpost is six minutes.”

Haldis grabs his Storm Bolter from a nearby workbench. “You heard the Iron Priest; we have enemy forces to deal with. Moon Fangs, move out!”

* * *

“Brother Wolfbreath, what do you see?”

Gunnar squints his eyes, Occulobes focusing on the slightest signs of movement on the horizon. “It appears the Orks have split into four main groups, with two smaller groups of Grots leading the charge. The Nob seems to be in the middle, yet very few troops stand in front of him.”

Haldis gives a curt nod. “Split yourselves in half Moon Fangs; focus on the Orks closest to the outer edges and move in; I don’t want them flanking us. Brother Rockaxe, we’ll clear through the center of the group and take out the Nob leading this Mob. Understood?”

“Understood Brother Pack Leader!”

The Wolves level their Bolters on the charging Greenskins, unleashing a flurry of Bolts at the far edges of the mob. After an initial volley, the pack moved in unison a few meters towards their quarry before unleashing another barrage. Bolts tear through their targets as most of the Orks along the edge fall to the ground.

Haldis raises his Storm Bolter. “Brother Rockaxe, we need to breath through the center!” He squeezed the trigger, a flurry of shots cutting straight through the Runtherd dead ahead. Moment’s later, the air thunders with the sound of Heavy Bolter shells tearing down the field. The volley slams into the Nob, sending the massive Greenskin whirling backwards into the powdery ground.

*

“Oy! Doze Furry Marinez kruped up da Boss again!”

“Den wez needz ta choppy dem soz dey kant shooty us!”

With a bellowing ‘WAAAG!” in unison, the Boyz charge headlong into the line of Wolves, sending what Grots hadn’t managed to bury themselves partially in the snow fleeing the trampling boots They squeeze the triggers of their Shootas, spraying the Marines with slugs.

*

“Hold the line!” Manger grabs his pistol, squeezing off a few Bolts at the charging Greenskins. Two slugs catch the Hunter on the neck. With a yelp, Manger drops his pistol and grabs at the wounds, stumbling to his knees as the mass of Greenskins overtakes his position.

Rolf and Gunnar rush into the Boyz, chainsaws roaring alongside their owners. The two Routs swing their swords into the Mob, but the overwhelming number of choppas find their soft armor. The crude blades dig deep, cutting the counterattack short.

*

Orn and Arvid lower the sights of their Bolters, spitting a volley of shots at mossy legs. Bolts tear through hide and shatter bones, dropping Orks on top of each other. Dropping their holy weapon, the Routs grab their chainswords, ducking low. At the remaining Orks fall upon them with Shoota and Choppa, the Wolves bring their roaring blades up on the closest Greenskins. Cherry-red blood sprays in the air as ceramite teeth chew through leather and muscle. Orks drop left and right as the Hunters press their attack. The chanting ‘WAAAG!’ dies off into mutable cries of horror as the Mob falls back, scampering through snow and slush.

*

“Moon Fangs, group up! Concentrate your fire on the right-most part of the Mob!”

Soren and Havard charge towards their fellows, bolts of metal and plasma tearing through the air. The scampering Greenskins spread out as the attack thins their ranks further. Langer and Orn fall back towards Haldis, Gier covering their retreat with a flurry of shots. As another charge of Boyz begins to form, Gier falls back towards Snowhammer himself.

Haldis surveys the reforming mob of Orks. Biting his lip, he looks back further into the Outpost. “Moon Fangs, I think this position is no longer defend-able. We need to fall back and regroup farther into the Outpost. The Barricades should slow the Orks down and spread them thin enough for us to be able to take on with greater firepower.”

“But what about Brothers Rolf, Manger and Gunnar?” Havard looks at the collapsed forms of his fallen fellows, motionless in the snow.

Haldis sighs ever so softly. “We’ll have to leave them for now; I doubt the Orks will pay any attention to them. Our primary goal is to hold this Outpost, no matter the cost. Moon Fangs, move-”

“Brother Starblade, this is Iron Priest Steelarm. Sensors have picked up an inbound vehicle heading our way.”

Haldis groans. “More Ork reinforcements?”

“Negative Brother Starblade. It’s the Mountainfang, one of Lord Iron Wolf’s!”

A flurry of Heavy Bolter fire tears through the air, slamming into the left flank of the Ork mob. The Boyz flee from the heavy fire, climbing over fallen Orks and hiding Gretchin. A massive engine roars as a Razorback clears a snowy dune and rumbles to a halt.

Securing Snowbear Pass-08: Face to Face

Firekrumper lets out a bellow, the Grot by his feet dodging the Nob’s Power Klaw by centimeters. “Wadaya mean youz din’t hears nofing ’bout wat doze Furry Marinez are doin?!”

The Gretchen crawls backwards on his arms; desperately looking for something to hide behind. “But Boss, the Furry Marinez didn’t say nothing to themselves about what they is up to! I can’t hear nothing if they say nothing!”

Firekrumper grabs the shivering Grot in his Klaw, squeezing the sniveling Greenskin within its massive servos. “Dats no exkuse! Youz shud have ben hearin harder!”

“Boss, might I try somefing?”

Firekrumper glares at Squiggrabber. “Youz fink youz can get da Grot ta hearz better?” As the Runtherd nod, Firekrumper drops the whimpering Greenskin, who immediately tries to hide behind Squiggrabber’s legs.

Squiggrabber nabs the fleeing Gretchen with his Grabbastikk, hoisting the Grot up in the air. “Alright. Now, wat all did you hear da Furry Marinez say?”

The Gretchen whimpers, flailing in the air and pushing himself away from Firekrumper. “Well…well, they did seem to talk bunches about riding in that big Shooty Trukk.”

“Good, good. Now, wat did dey sayz bout da Shooty Trukk?”

The Grot swallows hard. “Um…they did said they gonna be riding in it more…”

Squiggrabber smiles, setting the Gretchen to the floor. “And where iz dey gonna be ridin in it to?”

The Gretchen scratches his chin, squinting his eyes in concentration. “Um…well…I think they say something about ‘outposts’ and-”

“Waaat?!” Firekrumper grabs the Grot in his Klaw, squeezing the Greenskin and shaking him violently. “If youz heard dem talk bout dat why did yaz not say somefing sooner?!” Bones snap under the force of the Klaw as the Gretchen falls limp, a trickle of blood dripping out of his open mouth.

With a roar, the Nob hurls the lifeless Grot against the opposite wall. The body bounces off the floor and collapses on top a growing pile of mangled Gretchen. “Squiggrabber! Get me anudder Grot!”

Squiggrabber frowns. “Boss, if youz keep krushin all my Grotz wez not gonna have any left.”

Firekrumper shoves the Runtherd in the chest, knocking him off his feet. “Den youz find out wat deyz been hearin! And youz beddar find out somefing good!”

* * *

“Brother Starblade, I’ve made contact with the Astra Militarum. I can put it through to your personal Vox, though the connection will not be as strong.”

Haldis turns to his head to each side, Langer and Havard each giving a nod of approval. “That will not be necessary Brother Rockaxe; the Command Console’s Communications array should be powerful enough. Connect us through.”

“At once Brother Starblade.”

The Command Console roars with static before falling silent. Moments later, the familiar hiss of an open Vox fills the room. The main screen flickers as a grayed face of a military man fills the display. The figure tightens up and swallows hard before bowing his head respectfully.

“This is Colonel Gwilyn Crandell of the Cadian 697th Milords. I am greatly to have words with one such as yourself; for your deeds of valor-“

“Colonel Crandell, I must insist you save the flattering for another time. Time is short and we have much business to discuss.”

“Of-of course Milords. I did not mean to offend you in any way. It is a rarity for any Cadian to speak with one of the Emperor’s Angels, let alone three with one holding a position as high-“

“Colonel, please.”

Gwilyn clears his throat and adjusts his dress hat. “Apologies Milord. Please, proceed.”

Haldis folds his arm. “Circumstances have arisen that will require an acceleration of our reclamation of Snowbear Pass. We require the Astra Militarum to keep pace.”

Gwilyn stares at the Pack Leader mouth agape before clearing his throat again and readjusting his dress hat. “I…I do not question your motives Milord but…certainly I am privy to knowing why the sudden increase in pace?”

“We have reason to believe the Orks on this moon may be organizing under a new Warboss.”

Gwilyn leans close into the display screen, a look of confusion written across the Colonel’s brow. “A new Warboss? I’ve received no information of a new Warboss from High Command. Are you certain of this?”

Langer lunges at the console, slamming his palms on either side of the keyboard. “Are you questioning the wisdom and intuition of our Pack Leader Colonel? Suggesting that he may be wrong about this?”

Gwilyn rears back, nearly falling off his feet. “N-n-no! C-c-certainly not! It’s just…High Command hasn’t…A-a thousand apologies Milords, I did not mean to insult your or diminish your greatness in any way with my ignorant-“

Havard shoves Langer out of the way. “Breathe Gwilyn; we’re not going to execute you for the slightest infraction like some Commissars. What the Rout was trying to say is that we would not be bringing this up unless we have strong reason to believe this to be true.”

Gwilyn’s shoulders and brows slump slightly as the Colonel lets out a held breath. “Understood Milords. I will gather the troops and depart for Outpost Two immediately. Is there anything else?”

Haldis shakes his head. “That will be all. Pack Leader Starblade out.” With a push of a button, the Command Console’s screen flashes and fades to black. The Pack Leader turns to his Hunters. “I want you two to run a quick check with the rest of the Pack; make sure we have no remaining Grots hiding inside the outpost. I want us departing for Outpost Three within the hour. Is that clear?”

“Understood Brother Pack Leader.” With a swift salute, the Routs depart the room and head down the stairs. Haldis blinks, opening his Vox channel. “Brother Steelarm, this is Pack Leader Starblade; do you read?”

“I read you Brother Starblade. What is the nature of your communication?”

“I’ve told the rest of the Pack we will be departing for Outpost Three shortly. I wanted to ensure our vehicles will be ready in time.”

Snowhammer and Skychanter are ready to depart at your word. But if I may change the subject, I’ve recently received word about the Imperium’s most recent activity on the moon prior to the assault on Nevealbero. It’s not much, but I feel it warrants sharing with you at this time.”

Haldis frowns. “What have you learned Brother Steelarm?”

“It would seem that the moon served as a forward base of operations for Nevalbero up until its abandonment about sixty Solar years ago in favor of a Space Drydock above the planet’s closest neighbor. Apparently the costs of maintaining the base was presenting too high a cost.”

“In terms of supplies?”

“In terms of personnel. Though I’ve not received any figures supporting it, an anecdotal note by the last commanding officer reported sixty percent of all patrols disappeared without a trace.”

Haldis bites his wavering lip. After a deep breath, he sets his jaw. “Keep me up to date on your findings. If there is something else out there we need to worry about, I’d rather have a report on before experiencing it first hand.”

“As soon as more information becomes available you will know right away. Will there be anything else Brother Starblade?”

“That will be all. Pack Leader Starblade out.”

* * *

“Soz let me see if I’z udderstandin’ youz. Youz telling me dat deze Furry Marinez iz headin true deze Outpostz, but youz no idea wat deyz doin’ in dem?”

The Nobs exchange a quick glance between the three of them before Flashjaw approaches the Kommunikator. “But Kaptin, wez try ta figger out wat doze Furry Marinez is up ta. But none of da Grotz didn’t hear nuffing about wat deyz doin’ in dem.”

“Datz no exkuse!” The Kommunikator shrieks with static at the Kaptin’s bellow. “Youz expect me to believe dat youz have ta rely on a bunch a Grotz ta do da hard work for yer Boyz? Iz dat wat you want me ta believe?”

Firekrumper smacks Flashjaw hard over the head with his Klaw, knocking the Nob off his feet. “Datz not it at all Kaptin. Wez just sayin wez not ben able ta figger out wat doze Furry Marinez iz doin.”

The Kommunikator falls silent. The Nobs look to each other warily. Finally, Bludmouf taps the ramshakled device. “Uh, Kaptin, iz you still-”

“Shaddap! I’m finking!”

The Nobs jump back, reeling to catch their balance. After what seems to be an eternity of silence, Kaptin Sluggatoof speaks.

“Soz if da Furry Marinez is goin to deze ‘Outposts’, but not stayin fer very long, dat must meanz dey goin to deze ‘Outposts’ fer somefing, but not findin nothin. Soz dat must meanz dey lookin for somefing. And if deze Furry Marinez be lookin fer dat somefing and not da usual Humines, dat somefing must be important. And if dat somefing deze Furry Marinez is lookin for iz important, dat means it’d be really good if wez get our handz on it. Soz we need ta find wat deze Furry Marinez iz lookin for and get it first.”

Flashjaw scratches his metal-covered maw. “Iz you sure datz wat da Furry Marinez iz doin Kaptin?”

“A korse I’z sure datz wat da Furry Marinez iz doin ya bloated Squigbrain! I’z da Kaptin of dis here Krew, wich meanz I’z da best finker of diz here Krew. Soz if I’z finkin somefing up, dat meanz it’z da rite fing to be finking!”

Firekrumper smack Flashjaw on the head, knocking the Nob over. “A korse datz rite Kaptin. Youz iz da Kaptin after all.”

“And don’t youz Grotspinez ferget it. Now goez out dere and get waddever da Furry Marinez is lookin for.”

Bludmouf pushes his way to the Kommunikator. “But Kaptin, wez kan’t do dat yet.”

“Waaaat?” Static roars over the device as smoke puffs out from within the slapdashed-maintained machine. “Wadda meanz you kan’t do dat yet?”

Bludmouf puts his hands in front of him, the Nob shaking ever so slightly. “But Kaptin, wez don’t have enuf Boyz ta go do dat kind of lookin. Da Furry Marinez been Krumpin us so much wez lozin a lot a Boyz.”

The smoking Kommunikator falls silent. Then, through a loud static, the Kaptin speaks.

“Fine. If youz are inkompitent enuff ta do da job wif wat youz got, den I’z got no choise but ta senz you more Boyz. But datz da last of da Boyz I’z sendin youz until youz get waddever da Furry Marinez iz lookin fer. And don’t slag dis up, or else youz be skrubbin floorz wile me First Boy doez da job rite!” The Kommunikator roars one last time before dying out with a huge plume of smoke and the smell of burning wires.

Firekrumper turns to his fellows and shoves the Nobs to the ground. “Alrite ya limp-legged Grotlingz, Youz heard da Kaptin. Take da Boyz we have and go find deze ‘Outposts’ da Furry Marinez iz talkin bout and find waddever deyz lookin for.”

Bludmouf jumps to his feet and shoves Firekrumper back. “And why do wez have ta be da onez ta look for da ‘Outposts’? Wat iz youz gonna be doin wile wez do dat?”

Firekrumper smacks Bludmouf over the head with his Klaw, nearly knocking the Greenskin out. “Iz da Boss here, soz dat meanz I’z gonna be waitin for da Boyz da Kaptin iz gonna be sendin us. Dat way once youz figger out ware da fing da Furry Marinez iz lookin for iz, wez gonna all go anz get it for da Kaptin?”

Flashjaw rushes over to help Bludmouf up, only to be shoved aside for his trouble. “But Firekrumper, wat about da Furry Marinez? Deyz been doin a good job of krumpin us up.”

Firekrumper smacks Flashjaw in the gut with his Klaw, knocking him too to the floor. “Datz why wez gettin more Boyz, soz we kan krump da Furry Marinez up! Now get goin and find dat fing for da Kaptin!”

With a disgruntled sneer, the two Nobs climb their way back to their feet and depart the Kommunikator room.

Securing Snowbear Pass-07: Shots in the Dark

Gier sniffs at the crisp night air. Though the planet looms high in the sky, casting a reddish light across the ivory landscape, even his superior Occulobes could not match his Fenrisian nose. The faintest scent of Ork swirled through the air, caught on the slightest breeze to the strongest gust; all but one. He snarls, tightening his grip on his Bolt Pistol. With each step, the scent grows stronger; a mix of blood, moss and snow. Could they be here already? The blasted Greenskins are loud enough even a Neophyte could hear one half a kilometer away. So why can’t he-

Gier looks down; through the mess of blood and moss he can make out the vague shape of a Gretchin. He smirks, chuckling softly before letting out a bellowing laugh. “Serves you right for sneaking off alone towards our camp.” He taps the mess of flesh with his foot. “Perhaps the beast that got you will decide to show its head around here; maybe it might prove to be an actual challenge.” With a final laugh, Gier turns back to camp; his body loose and mind at ease.

* * *

Bludmouf cuffs the closest Boy with the flat end of his axe right on the top of the unfortunate Greenskin’s head. “How iz it dat I getz da most inkompatent Boyz fer dis mishin? Wez been at dis since da planet appeared and none of youz can find a singe Furry Marine to krump up fer infermashun?”

“But Boss,” the Boy grumbles, rubbing his head, “Youz havin no luk findin’ any Furry Marinez-” The Ork yelps as Bludmouf smacks him again.

“Don’t youz be talkin’ bak ta me like dat! I’z da Boss here, soz dat meanz I’z got udder fings ta be worryin’ bout. Youz all needz ta be keepin a bedder eye out fer a Furry Marine. Dere’z not gonna be one dat just popz up ouda no-”

A thud thunders out in the silent night air as a Bolt tears through the arm of the Boy closest to Bludmouf. The Greenskins snap their attention to the right as Gier charges the group, roaring along side his chainsword.

“Dere’z wun rite dere! Krump em up Boyz!”

Pulling their coppas, the Boyz charge the screaming Gier. The Rout squeezes off a few more Bolts, scraping harmlessly along arms and legs before detonating into the wall behind them. One Ork swings his Choppa at Gier, aiming to take the Marine’s head off. Gier ducks under the blade and brings his chainsword up along the Ork’s chest. Teeth tear deep through the Greenskin’s hide, ripping a bloody gash up to the Boy’z neck. Another choppa strike falls, catching Gier on his shoulderpad and knocking the chainsword from his hand.

Gier brings his elbow up into the Ork’s face, breaking its nose and cracking a few teef loose before knocking the Boy to the ground with a strike from his pistol’s grip. Two Orks unload a flurry of shots from their slugas. Gier drops to the knees, rolling away from the shots while squeezing off a few of his own.

An Ork foot catches Gier in the mouth, knocking him flat on his back. Gier scrambles for his chainsword, grabbing it and swinging wildly at the Boy. Knocking the flat of the sword aside, the Boy grabs Gier by the face and slams him into the wall. But before the Ork can land another hit, Gier levels his Bolt Pistol with the Greenskin’s eye and fires a round off point blank. Stumbling away from the wall, Gier looks just in time to see the flat of a massive axe strike him square in the face.

*

Bludmouf sneers over the crumpled form of the Furry Marine, kicking the Rout over as he tries to regain his footing. “Youz bein a pain in my side youz stoopid Furry Marine.” He grabs Gier by the throat, lifting the Moon Fang to eye-level and glaring into the Rout’s wavering gaze. “And now youz gunna tell me everyfing I wantz ta know about wat youz Furry Marines iz doin here.”

Gier starts to twitch ever so slightly in the Nob’s grasp, a soft cough slowly growing into a full blown laugh that rattles the Rout’s limp form. “And what makes you ‘fink’ I will tell you anything?”

Bludmouf snarls and violently shakes the captures Hunter. “You stoopid Furry Marine. Derez only one of youz and bunch of my Boyz. Youz only krumped two of dem so far before wez catch you. You fink you canz do any better now?”

Gier grins, blood splattered across his fangs. “What makes you think there would be only one of me?”

Gier presses a finger to his ear, opening his Vox. “Alert, this is Brother Bloodrune; Ork intruders inside the outpost. I repeat, this is Brother Gier; Ork intruders inside the outpost.”

Within seconds, lights posted on the outpost buildings flicker on, casting back the darkness of night. The whirling of gears pierces the silent night, preceding the roar of a massive engine.

With a snarl Bludmouf hurls Gier to the ground. “Squiggrabber! Sound da horn! We needz ta get oudda here!”

“But Boss? Wat about finding out bout wat da Furry Marinez-”

Bludmouf shoves Squiggrabber to the ground. “I said sound da horn ya snivvlin Grottoof!”

Squiggrabber rips a crudely crafted horn from his side, snapping leather ties keeping it to his belt. Licking his bloated lips, the Greenskin blows hard into the horn. A wailing moan bellows from the horn; gurgling and echoing through the outpost.

“Brother Bloodrune this is Pack Leader Starblade. I just heard something that sounded like a horn blow. Can you confirm this came from the intruders?”

Gier puts a finger to his ear. “Confirm; the Greenskins are sounding a retreat. They are cutting through the Outpost to the western ridge.”

“Understood. Stay with them, we will meet you in the middle of the Outpost. Do not engage the enemy; I repeat, do not engage the enemy. Do you understand Brother Bloodrune?”

Gier bites his lip. After a few moments, he nods. “I understand Brother Pack Leader.”

“Good. We will be there shortly. Pack Leader Starblade out.”

* * *

Masses of Gretchin yels as they climb over each other in ventilation ducts; desperate to escape the now hostile outpost. Bolts thunder through the air, tearing apart the terrified xenos. Haldis levels his Storm Bolter at one such duct, squeezing off a few bolts as his pack approaches Gier. He gives the Rout a once over and scowls. “Brother Bloodrune, I gave specific orders not to engage the enemy.”

Gier looks to the fallen Orks nearby. “To be fair Brother Pack Leader, I did not engage the enemy when you gave that order.”

Haldis groans, grabbing his helmet’s nose between his fingers. “Oh for Russ’ sake.” He turns to his pack. “Moon Fangs, split your fire. There’re more Gretchin than Orks; make them your priority.”

The Wolves turn their bolters every which way, pouring rounds into the crisp night air. Bolts tear through taught Grot frames; dying shrieks rising up along the booming Bolter fire. Amongst it all, the roar of an engine grows louder; soon overtaking the scene as the ground quakes with Snowhammer‘s arrival.

Haldis turns to the Marines closest to him, pointing down the field of battle. “Brothers Blazeheart, Sunchanter, we need to clear out those Gretchin so Snowhammer has a clear shot of the Orks.”

The two Routs nod and join their leader in a hail of Bolter fire. Bolts of metal and plasma find their mark, ripping apart mossy hides. Within seconds, the mass of Gretchin trailing behind the hulking Boyz fall, torn to pieces.

Haldis raises a hand to his helmet. “Brother Rockaxe, full volley on the fleeing Orks.”

Gears whine to life, grinding against each other as Snowhammer‘s Heavy Bolters level on the Mob of Orks. The mighty guns roar with fire, massive Bolts screaming into the mass of Greenskins. Bodies splay under the might of the Heavy Bolters, the ranks trailing behind their Nob Boss falling rapidly.

*

Bludmouf skids to a halt, staring at his dwindling forces. Biting his lip, he snarls and bellows to his remaining Boyz. “Oy! Turn bak dat way and go krump up da Boss Furry soz dey stop dakking at us!”

“But Bozz, day haz da big Shootaz now! How wez gunna-”

Bludmouf shoots the whining Boy in the leg. “I sez youz gotta krump da Boss Furry, soz go krump da Boss Furry!”

With a nod and a ‘WAAAG!’, the Boyz still standing turn to follow their Bozz in a charge of the Moon Fangs, Shootas spraying a mess of metal slugs. The rounds slam into the pack, most pinging off the sturdy Ceramite plating. A few lucky shots graze through rubbery mesh, cutting into legs and arms. Rolf and Gier howl as their legs give out, sprits of blood gushing from entry wounds.

*

“Moon Fangs, tighten up; all guns on the Orks!”

In fluid unity, the Wolves level their Bolters. A burst of rounds erupt forth, slamming into the charging Greenskins; halting their advance dead in their tracks. Bolts rip through limbs, mossy hide spraying alongside ruby blood. The Boyz drop where they stand; their charge fallen apart.

Haldis grins. “Brother Rockaxe, full salvo on the Nob!”

Motors moan as the massive Bolters hone in on the last standing Ork. Bludmouf spins on his heels, stumbling through the snow away from the monotonous machine just as a salvo rips through his massive frame. The Nob crumples under the fire, skidding across the fresh powder.

*

“Retreat!”

Strained muscles ache as the Orks and Gretchin still able to stand scamper towards their fallen Boss. Grabbing where they can, the fleeing Greenskins drag Bludmouf across the snow, desperately trying to get the Nob up onto broken legs.

Havard turns to Haldis. “Brother Pack Leader, should we follow them?”

The Guard shakes his head. “Let them leave. We need to first figure out what exactly they were trying to accomplish.”

“They want to know what we’re doing here.”

Eyes fall on Gier, struggling to his feet with the help of Arvid and Magnar. “They managed to overpower me before you showed up; the leader wanted to know what our goal was.”

Langer narrows his eyes. “You didn’t tell them anything, did you?”

Gier rubs the healing gun wounds. “Of course I didn’t tell them anything. I’m not dumb enough to share vital information with the enemy.”

“That doesn’t mean they don’t know.” Soren looks up at a wretched-open ventilation grate. “If the Greenskins were in the ventilation ducts, who knows what the surviving ones may have overhead us talking about.”

Haldis nods grimly. “Soren makes a good point. From here on out, we’re going to need to assume the Orks on this moon know what it is we are trying to do. Brother Blazeheart, use the outpost’s Communications Array to get in touch with the Astra Militarum; they need to be on as high alert as we are. Brother Goldmane, get with our Iron Priests and consult with our fleet in high orbit; they may have a perspective on this that will better guide our actions. The rest of you, spread out and search the base. If there are any remaining Greenskins hiding in ducts or behind barrels, I want them gone.”

The Moon Fangs nod in unison before splitting off to their separate tasks. Haldis stares up at the planet looming in the sky. Even from this far a distance, the fires of war are plain to see. The state of the moon suggests at one time, the planet too was covered in snow and ice; much like his beloved Fenris. Yet it seems the fires of War consumed all the ice and snow, leaving behind only earthen dust. He turns from the fiery planet to the snowy fields around him. If War turned snow to ash, certainly the same could happen here. In his mind, the parting words of the slender Xenos echo in his ears.

If you refuse to stay, many will suffer for it.

Haldis sighs softly, biting his lip gently. “If this is just a taste, the last tendrils of light before the night sets in…Can I even imagine what we must face?” He casts a glance over the last glimpses of his Hunters. “Dare we even face it?”

Warhammer 40k is (c) of Games Workshop

Securing Snowbear Pass-06: Ill Omens

Haldis stares at the reddening sky. All should be going well; this outpost they occupy now stands in far better condition than the pervious one. Patrols have reported no movements of the Orks that have assailed them relentlessly since their arrival in the Pass. Brother Duskeye even insisted his pack take the modified Rhino to maintain communication, a prospect Iron Priest Rockaxe was thrilled of; barely masking his excitement behind half-hearted attempts to insist taking Adeptus Mechanicus equipment was a bad idea. Yet one piece of information, or lack thereof, gnaws at the back of Hadlis’ mind, slowly driving him mad as the Heretech nails the abominable World Eaters jab into their skulls.

Haldis flips his Vox open. “Brother Rockaxe, how goes the work on our new Rhino?”

“Nearly finished Brother Starblade. We have Skychanter‘s systems fully slaved to Snowhammer‘s, and are making the final adjustments to the targeting systems.”

“I’ll take any good news at this point. What about your…other project? Any luck with that?”

Hakan sighs rather loudly. “What little we’ve been able to find was clearly deleted by Imperial commanders present on the base; all they’ve been able to tell us is that the Adeptus Mechanicus came to this moon for unstated reasons. Everything else has been wiped by Tech-Priests; that data is lost forever to us.”

 

Haldis grumbles softly. “I was afraid you would tell me that. I’m also guessing there has been no word from our Fleet on the subject?”

“Not one Brother Starblade.”

Haldis grits his teeth before nodding to himself. “Have Brothers Goldmane and Icecutter report to the northern border of the outpost. I want one last sweep before we set night watch and hunker down for the night.”

“I will let them know. Iron Priest Rockaxe out.”

* * *

The first purple tendrils of night etch across the sky, snaking from the looming planet below. Bludmouf sneers behind his crimson metal maw at his small gathering of Boyz and Grots. “Listen up ya snivvlin Squigz! ‘Erez da fing. Da Boss wantz us ta figer out wat deze Furry Marines are doin ‘ere. Soz dis is wat wez gonna do. You Grotz iz gonna be all sneaky-like and find yerselvez some Furry Marines. Den youz gonna hear dem az dey talk about fingz and seez if youz can hear somefing useful. Me and da Boyz here iz gonna find us a Furry Marine datz by hiz self, den wez gonna krump da informashun oudda him!”

A pack of the Grots fiercely chatter amongst each other until one is shoved out by his fellows. He nervously looks around before squeaking out “But Boss, the Furry Marines have those tiny kommunikators. If one of ’em is getting krumped, won’t he call for the others?”

Bludmouf roars as he brings his axe down on the offending Grot, cleaving the unfortunate Greenskin in half before it can scurry away. “I’m da Boss of dis here operashun, soz wat I sez wez gonna do iz wat wez gonna do! Doez any more of youz Squigz got any queschuns?”

The remaining Gretchin look at the splattered remains of their comrade, then shake their heads violently.

“Gud. Den get goin! And find out somefing useful!”

* * *

“But before Russ could draw forth Mjalnar from its sheath, the Wolf Guard cuts the line and the mighty Serpent slips back beneath the waves. To this day the great World Serpent sleeps beneath the seas of Fenris, until the Wolftime.”

A clamor of claps and cheers erupt from the gathered Moon Fangs as Langer takes his seat around the holo-lamp in the middle of the cleared Command Room. “So, which legend do you wish to hear now?”

“That will have to be the last legend for tonight Brothers.” Haldis reaches out and flips the holo-lamp off. “Brother Bloodrune, go relieve Brothers Wolfbreath and Doomweaver. You will be taking watch tonight. The rest of you get some sleep; I want everyone up and ready by O-four hundred. Understood?”

“Understood Brother Pack Leader!” The Moon Fangs settle themselves along the shadow-lined walls, Bolt Pistols close at hand. Geir storms through the door, muttering to himself and nearly running into Hakan on his way out. The two glare at each other before continuing on without a word.

Haldis rises from the floor to greet Hakan. “Brother Iron Wolf, I’m surprised to see you away from our Machines. Is something the matter?”

Hakan shakes his head. “No Brother Starblade. I just felt it might put your mind at ease better if we spoke in person rather than over a Vox.”

Haldis tilts his head to the side. “Put my mind at ease about what? Our mission has been going just fine; we’ve only three more Outposts to clear before we are finished.”

Hakan folds his arms. “You know it’s not the mission I speak of.” A heavy silence falls between the two before Hakan puts a gloved hand on Haldis’ shoulder pad. “Haldis, the technology the Adeptus Mechanicus cares to is very old and very temperamental. Look what a 20 meter fall of a Thunderhawk Gunship has done to Snowhammer‘s communications array. Any information the Mechanicus gathers is kept out of the ordinary soldier’s hands for both their safety and the safety of the technology.”

Haldis looks to the floor as another silence falls over the Wolves. Finally, he raises his head. “So you do not believe there is any maliciousness behind the missing files?”

Hakan chuckles softly. “If there was any maliciousness left behind, all the files would not only be there but also be corrupted. I see a Tech-priest doing his job in protecting the technology he is charged by the Omnissiah to care for; nothing more.”

A few more moments of silence, then Haldis’ shoulder relax. He reaches up and puts a hand on Hakan’s shoulder pad. “Thank you Hakan. Your words do bring ease to my mind.”

Hakan bows slightly. “Glad to be of assistance Brother Pack Leader. Snowhammer and Skycaller will be ready for our departure at dawn. Sleep well Haldis.”

With a final salute, Hakan departs the Command Room. Haldis returns to the middle of the room, curling up in a ball for the night.

* * *

Haldis looks up, familiar cold gray stonework filling his vision; the blackwood chairs, the unpolished metal command nodes, the pelts of beasts great and small, each was in its place from before he left.

“I’m…back?” Haldis pushes himself up from the holo-projector before him, bench creaking beneath his legs.

“I was about to ask you the same thing.”

Haldis’ head snaps to the right, the voice of his Wolf Lord booming in his ears. He hastily bows, palms flat on his chestpiece in the shape of two wings. “Brother Wolf Lord! I didn’t expect-“

“Nor was I expecting you back so soon Wolf Guard.” The Wolf Lord strolls towards Haldis, fur cloak swaying as if caught by an unnatural wind. “You may have completed your objectives, yet your mission seemed far from over. Why were you so eager to leave Issfjall IV?”

“So eager to…wait, you mean our mission is complete?”

The Wolf Lord snarls, placing a hand on the holo-projector. “The objectives you were sent to complete were met. However…” The holo-projector hums to life, casting a fuzzy emerald schematic of the moon covered in red dots and lines. “…the mission to secure the planet is far from over.” The Wolf Lord shakes his head, sighing softly. “I am disappointed in you Space Wolf. I had expected far better of you.”

Haldis reaches a hand up, a finger rippling through the emerald light. “But Brother Wolf Lord, I thought you just wanted us to…wait…” He turns to the hulking marine. “What did you call me?”

“Do your ears refuse to cooperate with me either Space Wolf? The fact at hand still-“

“No.” Haldis rises to his feet and approaches the figure of his Wolf Lord, stopping mere centimeters away from the massive Marine. “Who are you?”

“Do your eyes fail you now too Wolf Guard? Is there no end to your incompetence?”

Haldis snarls. “You may look like my Wolf Lord, but you are not Bran Redmaw.”

The Wolf Lord scoffs. “And what makes you say that?”

“First, Bran would never chastise me in the main Meeting Hall; he’d save that for his private quarters. Second, Bran would never show disrespect against one of his Guard by failing to use the term ‘Brother’. Third, and perhaps the most telling of all, No Rout would ever use the term ‘Space Wolf’; only outsiders call us that.”

The Wolf Lord leans in to Haldis, stopping just short of the Guard’s helmet. His lips curl up, white fangs glistening in the artificial light. Then, unexpectedly, the Wolf Lord laughs. He throws his head back as his laugh echoes through the chamber. “I know not if your own senses or your natural resistance to the Empyrean allowed you to see through my ruse. Still, I must commend you for your perception.”

The visage of the Wolf Lord shimmers, as a calm pond disturbed by a single stone. Through the wavering armor, a slender, alien figure emerges. Colorful cloth drapes the willowy newcomer, each limb bearing a distinct pattern

Haldis recoils, reaching for a bolt-pistol that cannot be found. “You…I’ve heard of your kind before. You are the travelers, storytellers of the Eldar. How dare you take the form of the beloved Wolf Lord you Xenos witch!”

The figure opens its arms, crouching slightly in a non-threatening pose. “Be at ease Wolf Guard, I am not your enemy in mind or in body. I act now simply as a humble guide, to point you down the path you must take.”

Haldis sneers at the masked figure. “Why should I listen to Xenos filth like you? Your mere presence is a slight against The Allfather and The Mighty Russ!”

“Because,” the slender figure coos, “Your enemies and mine will soon be one in the same. Dark dealings began on this moon long before your arrival. To ignore them will have grave consequences.”

Haldis eases his stance, eyeing the figure with less anger but greater wariness. “Suppose I were to listen to your words rather than dismiss them outright as Xenos lies. What would you have me do?”

“There is much still to do on this snow-covered moon Wolf Guard. When the path before you splits, you must follow the road which keeps you here.”

Haldis looks to the emerald image of the moon, following a red line with his finger. “Why should I believe you?”

The hall around Haldis slowly grows dark. His eyes fight to stay open, his body sore with exhaustion. As the world about him fades, the final words of the figure echo in his ears.

“If you do not; if you refuse to stay, many will suffer for it.”

* * *

Haldis opens his eyes to the sound of small trinkets clacking against the refurbished metal floor. His optics adjust to the lack of light before his Occulobe can, reveling one of his Routs huddles over a small pile of runes.

“Brother Icecutter? I thought I told everyone to get some sleep.”

“Apologizes Brother Pack Leader,” Magnar keeps a steady eye trained on his runes. “But I was having trouble finding peace in sleep.”

As quietly at Haldis can muster to avoid rousing the rest of his pack, he slides over to Magnar and gazes down at the cast runes. “What are you seeing in them?”

“I sense some darkness in their message, yet much is still hidden.”

The two ponder the runes in silence, poking and prodding each trinket. Soon, Haldis turns from Magnar and opens his Vox. “Iron Priest Rockaxe, this is Pack Leader Starblade, do you read me?”

A few moments of silence pass before a voice crackles over the channel. “Brother Starblade, this is Iron Priest Steelarm. Brother Rockaxe is currently resting; is there something I may assist you with?”

“You certainly may. There’s some information I hope you can find for me.”

Elof murmurs something Haldis can’t make out before speaking up. “Haldis, I had hoped Brother Rockaxe had finally put your mind at ease about the deleted information and made it very clear that we will not be able-“

“No, no. It’s not about that.”

“Oh!” Elof chirps over the channel. “Then what information are you looking for?”

“Get in contact with our Rune Priests in orbit. I’d like more information on the Imperium’s activity on this moon.”

“I will get in contact right away. Shall I inform you as soon as the information is available, or wait until dawn?”

“Wait until dawn; the information is not that vital.”

“Understood. Will there be anything else Brother Starblade?”

“No, that will be all. I will expect a full report on your findings at dawn. Pack Leader Starblade out.”

Magnar looks to Haldis, picking up his runes. “Is there something you are looking for Brother Pack Leader?”

Haldis shakes his head. “No, I’m not sure what I’m looking for. But I have a feeling once I see it, I will know.”

 

 

Warhammer 40k (c) Games Workshop

Securing Snowbear Pass-05: Missing Words

“How’s your side Brother Pack Leader?”

Haldis looks to Havard, the pangs of concern in the Hunter’s eyes barely masked by their usual jovial gaze. “It’s doing fine; nothing more than a few bruises.” He watches as his Pack passes a skin of Mjog amongst them, the occasional boasts of whom did the most damage to which Ork cut quiet only briefly by the swift chugging of ale. “Besides, we escaped from that battle without a single major injury on our side.”

“All the more reason to celebrate!” Langer offers up a skin to Haldis, the smell of the strong Fenrisian drink wafting through the nose ports in his helmet.

Haldis holds up a hand. “I am fine Brother Blazeheart. The rest of you enjoy yourselves in this festivity of victory.”

“And what is a drink to victory without a song?” Havard hoists himself to his feet, bracing himself on the wall of their Land Raider. “For did the Wolves with claw and fang did charge the fearsome foe!”

In unison, the Moon Fangs join in, ale sloshing as they wave their arms in time with the song. Silent, Haldis leans back against the thin padding of his seat and closes his eyes, letting his superior biology fix itself from the beating he took from the Nob’s Klaw.

* * *

Haldis opens his eyes, feeling Snowhammer slowing down. His pack has since ceased their merriment, content to soft discussions between them on everything ranging from cast runes to severed Ork fingers. Shifting away from his seat, he flips his Vox open. “Brother Rockaxe, how far away are we from the second outpost?”

“Not far, maybe a hundred meters or so. This outpost however was built on top of a plateau, and the road leading up to it is winding and narrow.”

“No doubt good for funneling enemies into an easy kill-box. Any good news on the state of our Land Raider’s equipment?”

“No changes yet Brother Starblade. We’ve slaved the communications array of Snowhammer to our suits, but Vox range is still limited; not to mention the fact that the Bearfang Mountain Range makes communications limited already.”

“Well keep working at it. If anyone can get these fickle machines to work it’s you. Pack Leader Starblade out.”

“You know Haldis I’m starting to think you take some adverse pleasure in twisting my machindrites with your blatant disrespect of these Ancient and Revered-“ Haldis shuts his Vox off, chuckling ever so softly to himself. He turns, Havard eying the Pack Leader distastefully.

“So I’m the one that has to worry about being flayed for disrespecting machinery, hmmm?”

* * *

The Assault Ramp slams open and a blast of wind-swept snow barrages the Moon Fangs. Haldis steps out, surveying the near white-out conditions. He frowns and turns to his pack. “Seems the storm is picking up strength; same groups as before, helmets on. Keep a sharp eye on your auspex readout; anything could be hiding in this.”

The Moon Fangs nod in silent unison, sliding helmets on. Another quick Vox check and the Routs disperse, Soren and Magnar making a bee-line for the Vehicle Hanger Bay.

The drab olive bunker stands foreboding amongst most of the structures dotting the outpost, nearly twice the size of the next-largest structure, the barracks. Windowless walls stretch up along side exposed support pillars, the occasional metal sliding door breaking up an otherwise featureless building. A wide array of Vox equipment, standard and ad-hoc, line the top of the walls along side a number of spotlights facing towards the roof; evidence of a landing pad.

“You see anything that suggests a lack of structural integrity Soren?”

The Grey Hunter shakes his head. “If anything, I’d say this is the most structurally sound building in the whole outpost.”

“Then let’s get one of these doors open and see what’s been left behind.”

Magnar raps on one of the large doors. “They seem pretty solid. I doubt even the two of us could pry this more than a few centimeters open. See if you can find some sort of a-” With a loud groan the doors slide open, a gust of wind blowing snow through the growing gap in the building’s side. Magnar blinks, and turns to see Soren standing in front of a hatch hidden in the wall’s structure.

“Well, I suppose that means we can add ‘working generator’ to the list of accommodations the Hanger still has.”

* * *

“There doesn’t seem to be any information on this console either. Any luck with yours?”

Soren looks over and shakes his head. “Nothing on this one either.”

Magnar shuts his console off, a dark frown crossing his lips. “But why? Of nine consoles, why would none of them have any data on them save for the basic operation parameters?”

Soren turns to Magnar, shutting off his own console. “Do you think it deliberate?”

“Of course I think it deliberate; temperamental or no, machines do not erase data on their own.”

“But why would the Tech-Priests go through the effort to clear data from every one of their consoles? Malicious intent?”

Magnar crouches down and throws a few runes on the smooth concrete floor. He picks over the collection of bone-carved trinkets. “Nothing dark, no hints of malice…but something is hidden. Perhaps the Tech-Priests knew this outpost would be abandoned and wished to have no information fall into the wrong hands?”

“It is possible. Still, I think we should check for any non-Imperial markings on the wall.”

Soren turns to a large door nearby. He presses the large red button next to it; the wavy metal door slides up. The two Routs look inside before exchanging a look.

“Why would they leave this behind?”

“Maybe it doesn’t work?”

“Do you think we should-?”

“Better to let our Iron Priests dabble with it.”

After a moment of silence and another exchange of looks, Soren flips his Vox open. “Brother Pack Leader, this is Brother Goldmane. Brother Icecutter and I have finished our sweep of the Vehicle Hanger Bay.”

“Excellent. Anything to report?”

“Actually Brother Pack Leader…we do.”

The Vox falls silent. Finally, Haldis responds. “…And your report?”

Soren looks to Magnar, then back inside the room. “Actually Brother, it might be better if you and our Iron Priests came here and had a look yourselves.”

* * *

Haldis stares into the room, unsure of which was playing tricks on him; his eyes or his auspecs. He blinks a few times, looks away, and then looks back inside to ensure his vision was not lying to him.

“So the fleeing Tech-Priests take the time to erase every bit of data from all the consoles in this building, but they decide to leave behind a Rhino?

“Perhaps it’s damaged.” Magnar taps one of the lights with his finger. “Even the Adeptus Mechanicus must know when to leave something behind and wait for an opportune moment to come back and-” The lights glow as the engine roars to life, a plume of smoke belching from the exhaust ports.

“Good news Brother Starblade!” Brother Steelarm’s voice booms over the Grey Hunters’ Voxs. “The Rhino’s Machine Spirit is in good order, and the Machine itself shows no signs of any issues.”

Haldis looks at Magnar before flipping his Vox channel open. “That is good news, I am certain…though I’m not certain how this would serve us in our mission at the time.”

“Actually, it may. It seems the additional Vox casting equipment visible on the outside of the Rhino allow this unit to serve as a stand-in for a Damocles Command Rhino. I should be able to make contact with our ship in High Orbit.”

Haldis straightens, his ears perking. “You really think that cobbled setup of wires and antennae can get us contact with the Fleet in orbit?”

“I am purposefully ignoring your choice of words and suggest a very high likelihood that we can.”

“Good. Make contact with the Fleet as soon as possible. Brothers Goldmane and Icecutter will remain here if you need additional assistance. Contact me as soon as you make any headway.”

“Understood Brother Starblade. Iron Priest Steelarm out.”

Haldis closes his Vox and turns to his Routs. “Keep a close watch on our Iron Priests. I want communication established as soon as possible, if it can be done. Understood?”

The two nod. “Understood Brother Pack Leader.”

With a nod in reply, Haldis strolls through the open Hanger Bay door into another bout of wind and snow. Peering down the cramped row of buildings, the Pack Leader flips his Vox open once again. “Brother Stonegaze, what is your report on the status of the Barracks?”

“Same as the first outpost Brother Pack Leader. Anything that might be of value has been taken, but the overall structures and furnishings remain fully intact.”

“Good to know. Let me know of anything out of the ordinary. Brother Ironmaw, how is the Communications Array looking?”

“-told you, it’s going to be all the same! There seems to be a potential malfunction with the consoles in here Brother Pack Leader. Either that or someone’s deleted some passages. No, I don’t know why someone would do that. Look Torvald, if you think something is being covered up around here then go out and-“

Haldis bites his lip as Rolf cuts out. Perhaps someone is trying to obscure information. “Brother Rockaxe, do you read me?”

“I read you Brother Starblade. If this is about establishing communication I’ll have you know Brother Steelarm is-“

“It’s not about that. Well, it is, but not all of it. I was curious if there is any way of retrieving deleted data from any of the consoles.”

“I’m already ahead of you on that. Brothers Goldmane and Icecutter are assisting me on attempting to do just that. However, if the Adeptus Mechanicus are responsible for the purging of the data, our chances of finding it will be close to zero.”

“Understood. Brother Steelarm, if you do manage to make contact with the Fleet in orbit, request to have any information on Adeptus Mechanicus activity on this moon transferred as soon as possible. Do you copy?”

“I copy you Brother Starblade, and will make that request. Do not expect a quick response though. Will there be anything else?”

“Not at this time. Pack Leader Starblade out.”

* * *

“Lemme seez if I get dis strait. Youz telling me youz all got krumped by da same group of deze ‘Furry Marinez’?”

The three Nobs look between each other until finally Flashjaw pipes up. “But Kaptin, deyz a lot krumpier den you might be finkin.”

“WAAAG! Don’t youz be telling me howz to be finkin! Iz da Kaptin, soz I be doing da rite finkin around here. And I be finkin youz all just a bunch of snivvlin Grots fer lettin’ some ‘Furry Marinez’ get da drop on youz all.”

Firekrumper pushes Flashjaw out of the way of the kommunikator mikrofone. “But Kaptin-”

“Don’t you ‘But Kaptin’ me! Nowz if you fink deze ‘Furry Marinez’ of yerz are such a big problem for our lootin’ operashun, den youz all best hurry up and get dem krumped. Do I make myself klear?”

“Yes Kaptin!” The three Nobs bellowed in unison.

“Good. Now go get krumpin!” The kommunikator roars with static before falling dead.

The three Nobs exchange wary looks. “So, wat do wez do now?” Flashjaw asks, rubbing his recently reattached Klaw and arm.

Firekrimper cuffs Flashjaw on the head. “Youz heard Kaptin Sluggatoof. Wez need ta find doze Furry Marinez and krump dem good.”

“But Firekrumper, wez all tried to attak dem Furry Marinez head on, and look wat it gotz us fer our troublez.” Bludmouf gestures around their base, noting the smaller number of Boyz then when they started.

Firekrumper cuffs Bludmouf for good measure. “Dem wez need to be more finky about dis! Youz go take some of our Boyz and see what doze Furry Marinez are tryin ta do. Dem wez go plan somefing around dat to krump dem up.”

“But why do I haft ta be da one to sneak around an’-” Furekrumper cuts off Bludmouf with a smack from his Power Klaw, knocking the Nob off his feet.

“Cauze I’m da one leadin’ dis operashun, so dat meanz I make da kalls. Soz I sez youz go sneak around dem Furry Marinez and figure out wat deyz up to! Now get goin!”

Bludmouf shambles to his feet, a Mob of Boyz close on his heels. He cuffs a Runtherd on the head as he passes by. “Oi! Squiggrabber! Get our Grots ready ta move out! Wez gonna need dem if wez gonna figure out wat deze Furry Marinez are up ta.”

Warhammer 40k (c) Games Workshop