Prologue:

The pale green sky was filled with loud iron.

Peering through his opticals, the young Imperial Guard Colonel watched as the artillery barrage tore apart the ground and trenchworks that surrounded the rebel bunkers. He glanced down at his timepiece. Not long now.

Triggering his whispermike, Colonel Arcturan Senekal, 4th Danikan Imperial Guard, barked out, “All units report.”

“Fire Support Teams ready, Colonel. Standing by for suppression fire.”

“Mortar team Two ready, sir.”

“Tactical elements prepared, Colonel.” That would be Lt. Kenrand with the 2nd platoon of “B” company.

“Assault one, ready.” Sgt. Verlindan in his Chimera APC

“Assault two, ready.” That one was Verlindan’s biggest rival, Tarance.

“Assault three, ready.” Sgt. Sherman’s elite jump pack assault troopers with hand flamers, power shields and a variety of other deadly weapons.

Senekal looked down to his bodyguard, poised in their own Chimera. In the dim green lighting leaking from the sick sky, their pristine white uniforms seemed luminescent. Wulf simply nodded to him and the Colonel finished the report, “HQ reports go. Begin moving,” He paused, counting the seconds on his watch. When the digital counter hit 40 he finished, “NOW!”

The APC ground forward with a roar and Senekal had to quickly grab at the hatch edge to keep from banging his head on it as he pulled it closed. Dropping to the deck he watched as his bodyguard drew their powerswords and plasma pistols. He pulled his own sidearm and energized his power fist. The roar of the barrage shifted into the high pitched “CRUMP” of mortar rounds and the staccato blasts from the fire support teams. The timing was perfect. But then he’d expected no less from his troops.

Ahead of the three Chimerae, the tacticals advanced as a screen toward the rebel bunker. They were followed by the flashy assault troops, their dark blue jackets and white trousers and jump packs in bright contrast to the dull grey and brown tactical uniforms. On cue, the mortar fire ceased and the jumpers soared over the heads of the lead guardsmen to land in and around the enemy trenches, filling them with the bright flares of napalm, the bark of bolt pistols and the crackle of powershields. Those rebels not engaged were subjected to harassing fire from the tacticals and fire support teams.

The two assault Chimerae reached their objectives, the rebel’s own fire support bunkers. As guardsmen with laspistols and chainswords piled out, the young Colonel’s vehicle stopped outside the command post. Senekal vaulted from the carrier and lead his bodyguard into the troops guarding the entry.

“For the Imperium and Danika!”

Epilogue:

At 24 years old, he should be way too young to lose a leg!

“Hold still, sir!” The medic cursed as the Colonel tried to pull away again.

“Dammit, there’s got to be another way!”

The medic looked at his commander, a man only half his own age. The young officer’s formerly white uniform was literally soaked through with blood. The spray was so even you’d almost swear that it had been dyed red to start with. Behind him, the Danikan’s bodyguard were equally tinted. Jackets, powerswords, helmets and gloves. Only some of the material on their trousers still showed any white at all. The medic paused to wonder about the kind of action that could so coat men with human blood, so little of it their own and shuddered. He quickly got back to work.

“I’m sorry, Colonel, but the wound is too deep. You’re lucky to have walked out of there on your own at all. There’s nothing I can do to fix damage this severe. If you keep the leg, you’ll be a cripple for life. If I replace it, you can get right back to your job. Recovery time, less than a week.

The younger man sighed. “Fine then. It comes off. But for now just wrap it up. I’ve got prisoners to question and don’t have time at the moment.” The medico started to argue, but quickly realized it was pointless. The officer wasn’t going to let him work on it now. He shouldn’t be able to even stand on it but, by all accounts, he’d FOUGHT on it for nearly an hour in some of the most brutal close quarters fighting anyone had ever seen or heard of.

He watched as the Colonel limped outside to where the rebel prisoners were being kept. Watched the awe with which they looked at him. Saw the fear. And he heard the name that they called him and his men. A name that would go down in Imperial history:

Bloodcoat.

 

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