Big Game V – Chapter Fourteen: Encounter

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Brother Liam stepped lightly across the nettles that littered the forest floor. He quickly said a brief prayer to his battle gear for steel while simultaneously wishing for his old scout armor. No matter what brother Erallion said, Liam still could not get used to the bulk of the power armor. Barely one campaign in active duty and he still felt without skill in the artifice. Liam checked his thoughts and muttered a prayer of apology to his wargear for such blasphemous thoughts. Liam swung his bolter left and right as he slowly crept across the more cleared out area of forest floor. He could not see Brother Erallion but he could sense him. The integrated vox and sensors gave an odd mechanical keenness to certain senses. It was almost as if… no it was exactly as if he could feel Erallion’s heartbeat and position. The tactical display did not so much as show him this but the trusty armor told his senses that Erallion stalked to his right.

They had deployed in a wide arc as commanded and their scouting had taken several hours. Both Erallion and Liam had felt the thing in the forest. Brother Sergeant Joseph had given them their leave to search after the target and that was just thirty minutes previous. Liam wished he was not laden down with three satchels of ammunition and explosive compounds. The weight meant little to him but he could tell that it made his footfalls heavy in the forest. Liam knew whatever was out there could hear him.

“Brother,” Erallion’s voice crackled across the vox, “move forward to the boulders and hold. I think that I see something.”

Liam crouched lower and began his move forward. The trees this far down the mountainside were larger than where they had landed. Liam was surprised at the lack of undergrowth, that had not been suggested in the reconnaissance. Liam quickly reached the rocks that Erallion had indicated, three large erratic chunks of granite settled here by some bygone glacier. Liam backed into a small nook between them, placing his back against the solid rock, “In position, brother,” he spoke. Silence echoed from the vox.  Liam glanced around slowly now wishing the helmet was not affixed. At least Erallion had thought to take advantage of his smell and the enhanced sensations from his skin. Sounds from his left quickly drew his attention and aim. Liam saw nothing but reviewed the scene for two beats from each heart, just as master sergeant Thomas had taught.

A whispering, subvocal split the stillness, “Liam,” Erallion said, “drop forward, release your bolter, roll forward and execute a tiger’s deliverance unarmed maneuver… do it now brother.” Liam inhaled and dropped to one knee. His roll forward was halted as a large razor sharp blade penetrated his left leg at the knee. There was a brief moment of discomfort before the neural pathways were blocked, preventing, Liam from being distracted by the physical side effects of being stabbed.

“Death to the false emperor’s servants!” a metallic voice croaked. Liam spun on the ground taking a nearly prone position from which he could repel the attacker’s next advance. The enemy was immediately visible, standing as tall as Liam did normally. The glossy red lacquered armor was caked with dirt and gore. The Chaos space marine’s left hand was severed just above the wrist and large sections of his armor appeared blackened as if from a massive explosion. Liam registered this all as the traitor leapt for him. Liam’s perceptions sharpened immediately and he could see the slow build of his foe as he began his movement. Time slowed and Liam struggled against his injury to heave his weight to the left. He could sense the servos in his arms groan as they took the weight of his nearly disabled limb. The chaos foe would be on him in less than a second and Liam knew that without leverage, he would be unable to execute the throw he knew would avoid his death. The enemy’s feet left the ground and Liam shifted to his side, rolling and spinning. Suddenly, the weight of the traitor marine fell upon him and Liam pushed, fluidly tossing the power armored attacked off to the right. In a fluid motion, Liam diverted the attacker, loosing sight of the traitor marine as he completed his throw. A three-round burst echoed through the forest.

Liam pulled himself around to his knees to see where Erallion stood, boltgun trained on the motionless form of the chaos marine. Three more rounds kicked from Erallion’s ready weapon. The chest cavity of the traitor shook violently as the mass-reactive rounds tore apart every organ. The heavy powered armor acted like a pestle when the rounds detonated, containing the blast and pulverizing the flesh within.

“Business concluded,” Erallion said bluntly as he kicked the corpse, “Looks like the pilot was still able to crawl out of the wreck.”

Liam pulled the jagged blade from the back of his knee joint and examined it for the poison his body told him was there, “Indeed.”

“Good maneuver, by the way, brother,” Erallion extended his hand and helped Liam to his feet, “are you well?”

“I am,” Liam spat on the corpse, corrosive acid etching the lacquer, “My armor will compensate for the wound and the poison is not the worse thing I have felt. How did he survive?”

“It appears that he is a hearty fellow,” Liam said with a smirk, “His armor bears strange markings, though. Perhaps he is some sort of foul sorcerer of their kind.”

“By Vulkan’s hammer, Erallion, watch your tongue!”

Erallion chuckled, “Calm your nerves young-blood, I jest. I’ve never fought a traitor who was easy to kill. Though they have no honor or soul, they are like rats; those beasts from the eye. Each of them draws breath through equal parts traitorous cunning and dark fortitude. If not, we would have wiped them from the galaxy long ago.”

Liam reached down and wrenched the helmet from the marine’s armor, “His face is quite scarred.”

“Take that trophy, Liam. Perhaps the Inquisitor will know from where this traitor came,” Erallion unloaded another shot into the traitor’s skull.

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