Continued from Part Two
Lt. Revkin peered over the lip of the trench in a vain search for the hidden snipers. He'd heard of them before from his men. "Always deadly, never seen," had been the words of the Angel Company quartermaster he had been grifting over a game of tarok. The fat bastard was right. I can't get a bead on them. How do you kill an enemy you can't tell apart from the trees... Then it hit him. Ducking down into the trench, he tapped his combead to link him to his driver.
"Chimera 1, Chimera 1, come in! We need those woods torched. Enemy snipers ahead. Repeat, Enemy snipers ahead. Relay word to the 57th, and tell them we need Colossus fire 50 yards forward of your position". The driver's acknowledgment was almost drowned out by the roar of promethium from the Chimera's flamer. "Dyalov, we're moving out to rejoin the others. Keep to the trench." Out of the corner of his eye, Revkin though he caught movement, but when he turned, all he saw was more mud and brambles, lit by the purifying light of the flamer. Making the sign of the Aquila as a protection against evil, he moved on.
Precious good that's gonna do you here, iceboy, thought the collection of brambles. Of course, it's just that kind of blasphemy that got me here in the first place. The smoke from the forest fire began to itch his throat as much as the explosive collar he wore itched his neck. The voice of Penal Sgt. Killgore called out over the combeads he and his fellow Legionnaires wore. "Time to earn your penance, squad. Rejoice in His Mercy. Let's move up and find those snipers." The blasphemer knew that to remind the Sgt. that there was artillery fire coming in would be meaningless. The Sgt. was as dedicated as any Commissar, and merciless as an Ork warboss. Just about as bright, too. Whoever assigned a Catachan Penal Sgt. to a Valhallan regiment must have been one cruel son of a bitch.
The eight of them, the ones that survived the infiltration into the woods, moved cautiously forward. As they advnaced, they gave each other mutual cover, leap-frogging between whatever pieces of rock and stump the forest provided. Their orange jumpsuits and ill-fitting flack vests were covered in mud, giving lifesaving concealment to those that deserved none. They moved with collar-enforced discipline through the undergrowth, seeking out the xenos who might stall the 42nd's advance. The woman ahead of him, charged with murdering a superior officer over a card game, scanned the forest from behind a tree stump. Not well enough. he thought, as the rapist behind him was taken down. Just as well, no one liked him anyway. The murderer popped off a few shots at random, and was just as surprised as anyone was when she heard an answering scream. Killgore pointed unerringly in its direction. "Maybe 20 yards ahead! GO! GO! GO!"
And there was no argument. The seven sprinted forward, firing at random, hoping to hit another ghost hiding in front of them. Grenades, why don't they give us grenades! Killgore, the murderer and he were the first to break their way into the clearing. The sudden brightness and stillness stunned them all. After months in on this gray sump of a planet, the sudden riot of color they saw was almost too much to take. An arch of bleach white bone dominated the clearing, glowing and pulsing. Surrounding that were a council of the xenos witches, their attentions focused on the arch. Eldar troops walked beneath the arch, only to disappear. The murderer broke the silence. "They're retreating." Killgore tapped his combead, relaying their position to command.
Killgore turned to the seven penitents. "We have a clear duty. We must kill the witches before they all can escape. For the Emperor..." was all he could get out before a trickle of blood appeared on his lips. The trickle became a torrent, as an Eldar they had not seen appeared behind him. Clad in a riot of color, shifting and whirling, the Eldar disposed of Killgore's corpse in the manner reminiscent of a dance step, that is if your partner was a broken doll. The dancing Eldar turned to the shocked penitents just as they had begun to raise their weapons. A quartet of Eldar, similarly clad and masked, appeared around the six remaining humans. The dancers slapped the weapons from human's hands, and as they did, the penitents heard a familiar sound echo from the leader's mask. It was the scream that lead them into the trap. It ended in a mocking note as the five xenos fell upon them. It was the last sound they ever heard.