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× Buy your army to crush your enemies.

Morbus Miseriae - Warzone Session short story.

13 Aug 2010 17:49 #71116 by Rliyen
Captain Bradford surveyed his hastily drawn picket line. They were activated after a distress call went out from a mining outpost southeast of Valley Forge. The outpost stated that they were under attack from the Dark Legion and their security force could not hold back the tide. Aerial surveillance that was able to get through Legion fighters and pass over the area saw the ground force heading northwest, directly to Valley Forge itself. Judging by the size of the Legion army, they would be able to cause a great bit of damage before reinforcements would arrive.

Bradford’s job was to hold them back as long as possible. The corporation even entreated the Brotherhood for help, but as of their deployment word from the Brotherhood was mum.

The captain’s team was located at the midpoint between the overrun outpost and Valley Forge, they set up position in a crumbling refinery encampment. His forces were ad-hoc from the city and a nearby training facility. At his command he had two mortar teams, Dragon and Wolf; a Desert Fox AFV; an airborne squad of Line Infantry; and a squad of Free Marines being led by a grim gentleman by the name of Van Tassel, a highly distinguished Free Marine.

Bradford knew only a bit about the man. Van Tassel was a Capitol officer during a counter offensive against Mishima in the Freedom Lands. From what Bradford heard, Van Tassel and his platoon disregarded orders, breaking from their position to attack a seemingly weakened Mishiman flank. The ‘weakened’ flank was a feint and Van Tassel found himself, and his men, encircled. The platoon took horrific casualties and was nearly wiped out.

The remaining men were court-martialed, along with Van Tassel. They were given a choice, join the Free Marines or face execution. All of the Marines under Bradford’s command were those men. They chose redemption over death. As a Free Marine, Van Tassel seemed obsessed with it. His exploits were shown on television from time to time, doing incredibly brazen and unquestionably heroic acts. Currently, Van Tassel was sequestered in a forward position in order to determine what they were up against.

As if the Marine knew that someone was thinking of him, a chime rang on Bradford’s com.

“Bradford. Report.”

“Enemy contact. Sir, you’re not going to like this. I see pus walkers and cultists on the edges of the encampment.”

Pus walkers. It was a slang term given to the troops of Demnogonis, the Great Befouler. They were also known as Blessed Legionnaires, wounded and half-dead humans culled from battlefields throughout the solar system; haplessly dragged back to the Citadels where their bodies were ‘blessed’ with disease and corruption. The ones that died during this process were lucky, for the ones that didn’t suffered an endless state of living affliction. A state that would only end in death’s embrace on the battlefield.

“Baker Two Six! B- Baker Two Six! Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” a voice screamed over the com.

“Who’s on the com?” Captain Bradford asked. “Identify.”

“Corporal Jay Pusateri, 24th Line Infantry, CGF. Baker Platoon, 3rd Squad,” the quivering voice replied.

“Baker Platoon? You guys went MIA months ago after the Battle of Dark Sun. Where are you?”

“Running for my life, sir. I’m in the vehicle park north of your position and headed your way. Please, please, please, sir. Don’t shoot me!” The voice became frantic.

“Contact,” Free Marine Sergeant Mayhew said. “I see him. Man, he’s in rough shape. Wait a sec, he’s stopped at the edge of the park and he’s unlimbering his Deathlockdrum. What the – What is he aiming at? Sir, he’s aiming at the Fox!!”

It came to Captain Bradford all too late. The Battle of Dark Sun was a costly Capitol engagement that focused on keeping the Dark Legion contained in the Rust Desert during a solar eclipse, when the enemy was much stronger than normal. Whole platoons were wiped out to the man that day. Intermittent reports filtered through the lines after that, of Capitol soldiers previously lost during the campaign appearing on other battlefields and opening fire on their own.

“Huntsman!! Mayhew, kill him!!” Bradford shouted into his mike.

The hallmark barking of a Deathlockdrum sounded and tracer fire struck the Fox’s armored front, punching through it like a fist through paper. The tank exploded, sending flaming debris everywhere. A chunk of it struck Bradford like a sledgehammer, knocking him off his feet and blurring his vision. While he regained his senses, chatter continued over the com. Overhead, a Grapeshot flew by, heading north.

“Sonofabitch!” Mayhew exclaimed. “Get that fucker! He’s heading back into the park!”

“Alpha Squad disembarking. Engaging cultist forces,” another voice declared, the muffled trill of a M89 thundering in the background.

“Alpha Squad, this is Captain Bradford. Keep those cultists bottled, force them to the southwest. The mortar teams will deal with them then.” Bradford staggered to his feet and shambled north, away from the baking heat coming from the Fox. Activating his chameleon oversuit, he sat on his haunches and stayed wary for any signs of movement.

Suddenly, the ground underneath him rumbled with impact tremors.

“Ezoghoul!” To the far left of Bradford, a M89 roared to life; followed by a screeching reply from a Blutarch from behind a dilapidated building, just out of the captain’s line of sight. He watched as the Free Marine with the M89 headed for cover, the ground exploding all around him.

“Aw, shit. The Ezo sees me. Great, now the pus walkers see me, too,” Van Tassel said as Kratach fire chittered in the background. He grunted in pain. “I’ve been hit. I’ve been hit,” he said in a nonchalant fashion. “Falling back.”

“Man down! Man down! Huntsman just took out Pedalino! Dugas, get him!”

The Marine armed with the M89 broke from cover and fired. Dugas popped his mike. “Tagged him, sarge. Yuck, what in the Cardinal’s name is holding that guy together?”

“Necrotech and gum, private. Necrotech and gum.”

“Mortar team Dragon prepped. Waiting for fire orders.”

“Mortar team Wolf advancing, taking up position near Sergeant Mayhew’s squad.”

Sergeant Milne of Alpha Squad stood pressed against the stone building that provided him cover, with the rest of his men positioned behind and alongside him. After deploying via Grapeshot, they stood their ground, forcing a gaggle of cultists to retreat back behind a building across from them. Private Douglas wasn’t the greatest with the M89 but at least the firepower lain down by the minigun kept the enemy pinned. He leaned forward and looked around the corner to see if the heretics were trying to sneak up on them. A bullet careened off the wall, high above his head. The enemy was armed with the Invader assault rifle, an Imp made piece of shit not worth to field strip. Sure, they hit harder than a M50, but were woefully inaccurate. Milne leaned back.

“Still pinned down?” Private Douglas asked, M89 at the ready.

“Still pinned, private.”

“Are we to advance?” another soldier asked.

“Nope. You heard the captain. We’re sitting tight and making sure that they don’t get past this position.”

“Wait. Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Milne grumbled. He was about to admonish the nervous nelly when he paused and strained to listen over the gunfire. The sound of crunching debris was unmistakable and the ground shook with the contact of something slow, plodding. There was no denying that the soldier was not just hearing things. “I knew cultists were insane, I didn’t think they were stu-“ the sergeant’s comment died on his lips as he leaned to look around the corner and almost collided with a large form on the other side.

It smelled like death itself, wearing white robes decorated with red runes. Its skin was an unhealthy shade of yellow, accented with brown splotches of putrefying flesh. From the top and sides of its head sprouted crimson horns that curved like branches of a dead tree. It carried a repulsive looking rifle and a broad, but thin, grime encrusted blade.

The sergeant’s eyes went wide with terror. He screamed, “Fall back! Fall –glurrk!” His sentence was violently cut short as the Nepharite gouged the human through his mouth.

“I am here to ministrate to you, children,” the monster said warmly as it pulled the Curator sword out of the dead sergeant. “Let me fix what ails you.”
Behind the Nepharite, a squad of Blessed Legionnaires shambled after their master, moaning piteously like wounded animals. The air surrounding them held the nigricant stench of rotting flesh and weeping pus.

Screaming as the children they were named, Alpha Squad turned and ran south towards the ruined remains of the Desert Fox; seeking to put as much distance between them and their nightmares incarnate. Suddenly, Captain Bradford appeared near them on their right.

“Get it together, you pussies! You’re CGF and I’ll be damned if you sully its name! Turn your asses back around and fuck up that Nepharite. Now!”

“Sir, yessir!” a communal cry rang as the men steeled themselves, turned to face their nemesis, and prepared to fire.

Heavy hoof beats echoed eerily off the building close to them on their left. From around the corner, came the centaur form of the Ezoghoul; galloping headlong into Alpha Squad. Its necro-organic sword wailed as the creature swung it back and forth, killing indiscriminately. Captain Bradford could do nothing but watch in horror. When it was over, all of the men, save one, were dead. The last soldier just threw down his rifle and ran, screaming.

“I walk in the Light, for it protects me,” Bradford mumbled to himself as he realized the Ezoghoul took notice of him. It turned and cantered slowly towards him, a rattling hiss emanating from its mouth. “I follow the Cardinal, for He uplifts me.”

The Ezoghoul was no more than three meters from him. Its head was cocked to one side as it regarded him.

“In Nomine Cardinalis, amen.” Bradford signed himself.

The point of the Ashreketh pierced the captain’s stomach, slicing through him until it exited out his back. With no effort, the Ezoghoul lifted the impaled human into the air, pumping its arm in order for him to slide further down the sword’s length. Bradford gripped the weapon, trying to slow his descent, the edges cutting through his gloves and into the calloused flesh of his palms. Blood spilled out of them, but none of it reached the ground; for as quickly as it spread, it was hungrily absorbed by the sword. His life spent, Bradford’s muscles relaxed. His body slid down the remainder of the Ashreketh, stopping at the melanoma covered cross guard.

Spotting a new target, the Ezoghoul snapped its sword arm to the side, sending the remains of Captain Bradford hurtling through the air to crash wetly into a building. Bones turned to jelly, the skull shattered like glass and left a gory halo on the wall. The Ezoghoul raised its handcannon and let loose a stream of Symmetry infused ordinance that turned Private Dugas into chunks of unrecognizable detritus.

Sergeant Mayhew leveled his CAR-24 at the beast, while yelling over his shoulder, “Wolf! Get that mortar set up, pronto!!” The mortar team worked with agonizing slowness. A shotgun blast peppered the low wall that the Free Marine used for cover, showering him in dust and cement flakes. Glancing over it, Mayhew watched as a group of cultists ran from the protective cover of the park and headed in his team’s direction.

“Blessed are the Pestilent! For the Kingdom of the Befouler is theirs!” they screamed.

“Mortar team Dragon, this is Mayhew. I need you to hock a loogie at the following coordinates,” the Free Marine Sergeant gave them the location of the charging heretics. “Six enemy infantry in the open. Danger close. Fire for effect, over.”

“Coordinates accepted and acknowledged. Fire for effect, out.”

Seconds later, the shrieking whistle of artillery sounded. The Marines and the prepping mortar team covered up as the airburst rounds exploded just north of their position, killing several of the heretics and stalling their advance.

“INCOMING!!!” screamed the sergeant of Wolf squad, pointing at the onrushing Ezoghoul. With a swipe of its Ashreketh, the sergeant’s upper torso and head were removed from his body. The monster followed through with another swing and a trio of the mortar team met with a similar end. The two remaining men readied their weapons and brought them to bear. If they were to die, then they would die to the last man.

A burst of fire from Mayhew’s CAR-24 stitched across the Ezoghoul’s chest, puncturing the bony carapace and oily ichor welled from the beast. Inexplicably, the monster suddenly shrieked and its hindquarters slammed to the ground. Mayhew watched as Van Tassel pulled his chainripper out of the creature and began to viciously slash at its legs. Sparks flew as the weapon was deflected by the alien composition of the beast’s body.

“This is Dragon, taking fire from the Nepharite. Repeat, taking –“ the voice on the com was cut short in a gurgling howl.

“Marines! Punishers out!” Mayhew yelled as he dropped his rifle and drew the short sword strapped to his back. “Charge!” With the beast disoriented and wounded, they would have a chance of bringing it down.

The Ezoghoul’s attention was on Van Tassel, awkwardly twisting its torso in an attempt to strike at him. Mayhew closed with the monster and swung a two handed chop at its forequarters. The blade turned and his attack alerted it. Like a snake, the Ezoghoul swiftly rotated forwards to face him. Hissing, it lunged at Mayhew with the intent of biting off the human’s head.

Instead, Mayhew’s blade lanced through its lower jaw, traveling through the roof of its mouth to protrude out of the top of its snout. The Free Marine twisted the blade sideways and at an angle to lock the sword in place and held on. Ichor spewed all over him while the beast vainly swung its head back and forth to dislodge the weapon. After a few moments, the Ezoghoul let out a gurgling hiss and slumped to the ground.

Mayhew made eye contact with Van Tassel. The hero’s face was masked with a grim admiration for Mayhew’s efforts. Pleased, the sergeant smiled at his commanding officer.

The moment was broken, along with Mayhew’s body, by the heavy caliber rounds of a Deathlockdrum. The gun fired again, taking one of the sergeant’s compatriots along with him.

The Huntsman had struck again.

Wolf team swung out from behind the protective cover of the wall to attack the Huntsman, their CAR-24s chattering. Black blood exploded over the remnants of Captiolian armor it wore. Reacting with preternatural swiftness, the Huntsman pirouetted and disappeared back into the park.

“Dammit!” Van Tassel heard over the com. “Why isn’t that thing dying!!!?”

With Bradford gone, leadership fell to Van Tassel whether he liked it or not. Through the clamor of battle, he took a quick assessment of his remaining resources. Alpha Squad was gone. Their lone piece of armor, gone. Mayhew’s squad and Wolf team were down to two men each. Dragon team was having issues with some of its members after being hit by the Nepharite’s insidious weapon. Their sergeant was killed instantly by a viscous glob of noxious fluid that sloughed off the flesh from his skull. Two others were splashed when it hit and they went into some sort of insane rage, hampering the mortar team’s effort to provide artillery support. He sighed, his breath ragged from pain.

I guess this is it, he thought as he watched the cultists resume their advance towards the position of the Free Marines. He queued the com to general broadcast and began speaking.

“To all who can hear my voice, listen up. Captain Bradford’s bought it and we’ve been torn to shit. But we are going to hamper these Light forsaken bastards as long as we can, DO YOU UNDERSTAND? Wolf team, find that Huntsman and kill it. Dragon team, neutralize your problem. Kill the infected soldiers, immediately. After you’ve done that, keep that Nepharite back from us as long as possible. Marines, you’re with me. We’re going on a cultist purge. After that, let’s kill us some pus walkers.” He held up his chainripper and cried, “LIVE AS FREE MARINES…”

“OR DIE!!!” came the refrain from the other Marines as they broke from cover, meeting the charge of the cultists with gunfire.

The Nepharite Nososmandius tapped his steepled fingers to his sore covered lips, a gleeful smile playing upon them. He surveyed the dead and the wounded humans with the same anticipation as a child in a candy store. So many tests, so many blessings to administer. He would be busy for some time back at his Citadel. His army would grow from this encounter, this he knew.

A Curator approached him and went to one knee. “My lord, the opposition to our advance has been neutralized. Are we to attack Valley Forge as ordered by Aradiel?”

Nososmandius sneered when he heard the name. “Ordered? My dear Pil, he ‘requested’ that we advance to the city, not ordered.”

Pil looked confused. “But, my lord he specifically –“

The Nepharite flew into a rage. “One does not order me to do anything! He is not the Befouler! He is nothing more than a contemptible lackey to Semai, an inferior imitation of his Apostle. He thinks that by plying us with potential test subjects, we will do what he wants. No, my dear Pil. We will not go to Valley Forge as he requested. We shall stay here. We have much last aid to administer here, don’t you think?”

Pil nodded enthusiastically as he stood up and drew his Plague Gun. “Yes, my lord.” he giggled.

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