Senekal rolled out of his bunk, standing with a sword in his hand before he was even properly awake. He paused a moment, letting his eyes adjust and checking his surroundings trying to figure out what had woken him up. On the other side of his bubble tent the door to his daughter’s quarters zipped open and Melissa leaned out with a holdout laspistol in her hand. Her face was set, calm and focused.

“’Morning Dad,” she said brightly, keeping her pistol trained on the door.

The Colonel shook his head with a slight smile. “Morning, hon. What’s the alarm?”

She was a ‘tween’ now, his daughter. Almost five feet tall at eleven years old. She looked far more like a cute version of the Colonel than she did like her mom, who had olive skin and black hair to Melissa’s pale skin and light brown hair. Her eyes, too, were the Colonel’s. Blue grey even in this light. “Sounded like heavy bolter fire,” she replied. She was completely calm. “Pretty long bursts too. Someone’s pissed off, dad.”

The Colonel scooped up his vox from where it sat in the charge cradle and powered it on. It had been quiet on Callax since they’d driven off both the forces of Nurgle and the Aeldari who had come in at the same time. The 4th had been moved from Callax IV to Callax II – the hives on Callax being simply numbered to differentiate them from one another. Senekal had wondered why they’d felt the need to garrison the other hives when IV had been the focus of the attack due to the vault they’d found, but someone must have had some Intel which made them think it worthwhile.

And given the gunfire, the Intel hadn’t been wrong.

The reports on the vox were calm, the Colonel noted. Various sectors reporting in. The duty Captain handling the chatter without any particular concern. There were a couple of distant ‘crumps’ – tube or satchel charges going off rather than grenades based on the tone. Someone had found some booby traps. The hard way. Still no panic or concern to note. Danikan troops were veterans of a lot of deadly campaigns and it showed. He clicked over to the Command freq. “Senekal here – I’ll be on my way to the CP momentarily. Could you send Exene and the gals over to pick up Melissa?”

“Aww dad! I want to go with you!”

“Not quite old enough yet, hon. Sorry.”

“But –“

“If it helps, the Daughters will not be sitting idle. You’ll have something to do. Get your lasgun.”

She smiled fiercely. “Really dad?”

“Yep. Gotta learn sometime, daughter of mine, and you are a Danikan after all. That means firing a lasgun in anger when needed. So go get it.”

“YES!” She made a ‘victory fist’, disappeared back into her room and half zipped up the door to change into what the Colonel called ‘bang around clothes.’ In this case a small set of tough, custom made Danikan fatigues and a flak jacket made for a ratling. When she came back out the Colonel was also dressed and fastening his boots. She carried a las-carbine which was almost too big for her even with the stock folded.

Senekal unsealed the front of the tent, unsurprised to see a squad of slender figures in covering positions already surrounding it. One of them approached, walking next to a slightly shorter but stockier silhouette. The Colonel didn’t have to guess. “Exene, Wulfgang. Lovely morning for a firefight.”

“We on nappy duty again, Colonel?” One of the other girls commented from the darkness. Senekal didn’t need to see her to know who spoke. The usual flat menace of the tone gave it away.

“After a fashion, Ethyl – but not like last time.” He turned to Exene Thrush, Danikan sergeant and leader of the Daughters of Dystopia. Well on her way to platoon command as a Lieutenant if things continued as they were. “Notice anything different?”

Sergeant Thrush didn’t miss a beat. “Armor and lasgun. Baptism time, sir?”

“Indeed.” He ignored the eager shriek from his daughter. “Standard approach. Keep her in the back and let her see the elephant. Use your own judgement on her performance and capability. Remember she is still a bit immature in some ways.” He turned to his eleven year old who was trying hard to look older and mature. “Melissa – you’re a soldier today, not a child. You follow the Sergeant’s orders and you do it quickly and without question. Any problem or hassle and you WILL be peeling potatoes for a month. I mean it!

He didn’t wait for a reply from her. “Clear enough, Sergeant? No special treatment.”

The Daughter nodded. “As crystal, sir.”

“Excellent. Move out. Wulf, on me.”

“Yessir.”

The Daughters had apparently been given their own destination by the watch Captain and moved off toward it. The Colonel desperately fought down worry and concern. He sent people into battle all the time, but it was different when it was your own daughter. Even though he knew she was in excellent hands with the Daughters, it didn’t change anything. He hated losing people and the idea of letting his daughter fight – well it wasn’t easy, Danikan culture or no. He shook his head. A father is a father no matter where they were or where they came from.

“She’ll be okay, Colonel,” Wulf offered.

Senekal nodded. “I know, Wulfgang. But it’s stupid hard. You can’t even imagine.”

Wulf shrugged. “Not impossible that I’ll find out sometime, sir. One never knows.”

The Colonel’s mouth dropped open. “Exene isn’t – ?”

The Bloodcoat laughed. “No sir. Not yet anyway. Still you know what the Daughters say.”

“What’s that?”

“What Exene wants, she gets. So if she ever decides – well you know.”

“Oh and you will be SO heartbroken…”

Wulf laughed again. “I didn’t say THAT, sir.”

A shape materialized out of the darkness as they moved toward the CP. Not a human shape. Fast, huge, low and it had four arms. “’Stealer!” the Colonel shouted as he rushed forward, both energizing his power fist and triggering his ‘slaught dispenser. Wulf moved up behind, pistol and chainsword out, covering the Colonel’s back. Genestealers are not used to humans charging at them and this sometimes catches them by surprise. This one was, and while inhumanly fast the drug overcharged Danikan Colonel was faster still. He moved in, slashing first with his dress sword, taking off a clawed appendage and then reversing the power fist into its torso. The weapon discharged, tearing the creature into chunks, which the Colonel stomped on for emphasis, before scanning the area for more infiltrators. None presented themselves.

Both men picked up the pace as they moved to the Command Post, alert for more creatures. It wasn’t the first time either had faced the Tyranids but this didn’t seem like that kind of attack. Hive fleets were usually far less subtle in their arrival. This looked more like a cult incursion – something that the Danikans had not yet faced although it was a threat that had been researched, practiced and war gamed – in particular as it had many things in common with non-Xenos based uprisings, which the 4th Danika had put down a great number of. With a Chaos Cult you’d often have similar infiltrations of daemons summoned from the warp appearing in rear areas. This wasn’t much different.

Keying his vox, the Colonel moved to the general freq. Conversation and intelligence was being passed relatively smoothly. “Attempted incursion in Sector 8,” someone was saying. “They tried to ram the fence with a big truck of some kind. Heavy civilian vehicle. Unsuccessful.”

“Very good Sector 8”, it was the deep, bass voice of Captain Cantrell – the CO of “A” Company. “How’s the perimeter there?”

“The perimeter fence went down but we mined the wreck of the vehicle. Good enough for now.”

“The attackers? Same as before?”

“Yessir. Workers with light weapons and some heavy mining equipment. Very disciplined and fought to the death though. Awful good morale for yutzes.”

“All right. I’m assigning a Wyvern to your sector to deal with possible incursions. They have the perimeter areas pre-ranged in already. If you need their support go to ‘I’ frequency and request fire missions from ‘I-1-2’.”

“Affirmative, CP. Thank you.”

The Colonel clicked the talk button on his vox and intentionally slowed his drug sped voice down to intelligible speeds. To him it felt like playing a word game of saying things very slowly – but he knew that otherwise no one would be able to figure out what he was saying. “Break, break – Danikan units this is Danika 6 with Intel.”

The frequency went quiet immediately and Cantrell’s rumble replied, “Go ahead, sir.”

“One purestrain Genestealer spotted. Wulfgang will give you the coordinates but it’s been dealt with. Be on the lookout for other infiltrators. ‘Stealer cult protocol in effect – no one travels in groups smaller than five or unarmed at any time. That probably explains the morale, Sector 8.”

“Affirmative Danika 6, thank you. Vox, repeat on all channels on a break. Danika 6 confirms Genestealer cult active. Repeat – we are dealing with a Genestealer cult and have spotted at least one purestrain indicating a mature infestation. Cult protocol in effect. Act accordingly.”

The Colonel let Wulf report the location of the dead purestrain on the Intel freq while both continued running to the Command Post, the Colonel having to slow his steps to not outrun his bodyguard. Arriving at the CP, he quickly triggered the drug antidote to take him ‘down’. He quickly felt unspeakably awful and tired at the same time, all his muscles in pain, but that he was used to.

The Command Post was located in its own force fence zone compound about a hundred and fifty meters from the center of the base. The very center of the 4th’s garrison set up was always the artillery park, fenced in with its own compound as well and surrounded by infantry encampments, interspersed with the armor compounds. While the infantry and armor areas tended to be well laid out but less well prepared, the very first thing set up in a Danikan encampment was the artillery park. It was always in the center and, where at all possible, the perimeters and key areas of the camp were always pre-sighted for fire missions. In this way artillery barrages could be quickly used to break up attacks and the like, or smash incursions if a breakthrough was made. In more permanent encampments, such as this one, the ground of the park received additional treatment. Seismic and teleport sensors were set up and seismic mines were placed against attacks from below. AAA was placed at the cardinal points for defense against air attack and finally, the ground was hardened and cavities such as caves, sewers or the like were filled in with plascrete. A key part of any Danikan defense was the artillery park and protecting it was one of the first things done.

The Command Post was usually the second thing set up and often there were two. The primary one at one semi cardinal point of the compass from the park, about a hundred and fifty yards out to alleviate the noise of firing and a second one directly on the other side of the park. Each had their own AAA unit and, where possible, they received the same burrowing protection as the park did. If the Danikans stayed in one place long enough, eventually the entire base would get such treatment and effluent pipes would be set up to run above ground to allow them to be monitored and patrolled.

As they arrived at the gates and were passed in, the park shattered the skies with thunder, very loud even at this distance. All the Earthshaker Cannon and Manticore vehicles were firing, bringing the pain to some distant area. Someone was in for a very bad day downrange.

Wulfgang joined his fellow Bloodcoats outside the CP hut while the Colonel entered. Inside there was activity, calm, effective and focused without panic. In the center of the room a large strategium holo tank showed the base and surrounding areas picked up by various remote sensors, watchtowers, auspex readings and the like. There was even a real time feed from the small satellite they had left in geosynchronous orbit directly above. Around the perimeter and by the holo tank, specialists, servitors and a few engineseers busied themselves, keeping things up to date and passing intelligence and communications around.

Senekal moved to the holo display and stood next to Captain Cantrell. The huge tank commander towered over the regiment commander. They contrasted in almost every way. Senekal was generally of average build. Perhaps a bit stocky. Cantrell was massive and all solid muscle. Senekal’s skin and eyes were pale, the TC’s skin was a deep chocolate color and his eyes so dark they were nearly black. The Colonel wore his visually bright Bloodcoat gear all crimson and white and shining copper and silver, while Cantrell’s dress was rough field trousers with cargo pockets and an olive tank top showing his massive arms. It was warm enough in the CP that a faint sheen of sweat gleamed on his form, making him look like a well-oiled wrestler. He grinned down at the Colonel, his teeth bright white. “Good thing we practiced this so much, Colonel. So far things are working well.”

Looking over the display, the Colonel had to agree. He could see now a column had tried to form in the distance, not far from where the cultists had made the attempt on Sector 8. Pre-set sensors had matched up to the satellite above and to a pair of roving servo-skull sensor platforms. The combined triangulation was being fed to Captain Daan Mallory, the Ordnance Master who was coordinating the long range fire mission. The terrain here was forested, unlike at Callax IV which had been mostly desert. The trees were still something found mostly in arid areas, as Callax was a fairly dry world – but there were a lot more of them. Well, there had been a lot more of them. The beaten zone was quickly becoming fairly defoliated from explosions. The holo showed that there had been some vehicles and troops of some kind there, but they no longer looked much like a fighting force.

Closer in to the base, other fire missions were landing but these were striking the edge of the woods about a hundred meters from the base perimeter and slowly working outward. Unlike the main fire mission, these did not show as explosions but as clouds of orange fog and where they landed the vegetation melted away like ice on a hot day. These barrages continued to ‘walk out’ from the forest edge, widening the perimeter quickly and leaving no vegetation to hide in.

“Anti plant. Nice.”

“It is working well. Even so we don’t have unlimited stocks.”

From across the room, Mallory spoke without looking up from his optic hood. “We’ll still keep some in reserve, Captain. We can easily widen the perimeter out to half a kilometer. That will give us a decent killing ground for pretty much every DF weapon in the Regiment. Weeks ago I also took the time to pre-sight any defilade areas where there might be concealment and recon placed sensors. Anyone who tries to play games within that open zone will regret it.”

“Thank you, Mallory,” he turned back to Cantrell. “Any other infiltrations?”

“A few attempts but so far as we know nothing much successful. They tried through the sewers that ran under the old facilities here. They couldn’t get into the park or the CP but other areas were accessible.”

“Sensors?”

“They were smart enough to look for them and managed to remove some without anyone noticing. Skilled work. However they couldn’t do much about the charges placed at the access points or the fact that those manholes were all welded shut. Cutting through with mining lasers and the like happened but generally set off the charges. That’s actually what caused the alert. The attack was very well coordinated.”

“It would be. Apparently they are largely directed by the hive mind network linked to the Patriarch. If you imagine every soldier with a vox, providing intelligence and getting orders based on that – that’s what we’re facing. And they pretty much never run either, although withdrawals might be ordered.”

A servitor handed a data slate to the Armor Commander who quickly scanned it. “Interesting, sir.”

“What’s that?”

“Looks like your purestrain wasn’t the only one, but the others didn’t fare so well. Blown up by charges exiting sewers or gunned down by sentries. A couple tried one of the fences, in the company of some of those workers. Brood brothers, I guess?”

“Undoubtedly. That’s still a pretty low number of purestrains, isn’t it? Aren’t there usually quite a few in a full on uprising?”

“According to our intelligence, yes. Normally there are enough for very dangerous shock units operating in groups. Here they appear in ones and twos.”

“And, also according to intelligence, normally they try various infiltration techniques for units such as ours. Corrupt a couple of guardsmen to blow up ammo dumps and the like. Nothing like that?”

“No reports and no evidence. Per our established cult protocol all key areas are guarded by at least a squad and where possible the squad is a hybrid made up of troops from two different companies, in case the corruption was wide enough to taint whole units.”

“Okay.” Senekal thought for a moment, taking the data slate from Cantrell and perusing it more carefully. Outside the artillery continued to blast although at a reduced rate. Far less in the way of targets were presenting themselves. “So – let’s speculate for a moment. Low numbers of purestrain ‘stealers and what appears to be a less well planned than ideal attack. Would you think it fair to call it ‘hurried’?”

The TC nodded. “I’d say so, sir.”

“So this may be an uprising that wasn’t planned. Something went wrong and now the cult is acting quickly to try and survive. If true, that’s good news.” He paused for a moment, checking the strategium holo. “Mallory?”

“Sir?”

“Cease that anti-plant barrage for now. We’re out to 200 meters. I think that’s good for the moment based on this intel.”

Mallory wasn’t the sort to question the commander. “Aye, sir. Wait one.” He muttered into his artillery frequency vox. “Done sir. Last rounds are in flight and then the barrage is done. How about the explosive strikes?”

“Use your judgement on those, but for now preserve ammo. No recon by fire unless things look really good. Strike only meaningful targets.” He turned back to Cantrell. “Aaron, how are armor and infantry placement?”

The huge man didn’t answer, just flipped some switches on the holo console. All over the base display unit icons popped up in green. Squads, platoons, companies. Most were already in position either at the perimeter or positioned around various key points as security. Senekal couldn’t help doing a quick check for Exene’s squad, which was currently stationed at a point at the edge of the parade ground. Red marks nearby indicated enemy units. It appeared to be the one place where there were actual reported enemies in the encampment. Leave it to Exene to find a fight!

Hiding his concern for his daughter he pointed at the spot. “What’s up here?”

Cantrell checked his slate. “Serious breach with some kind of mining vehicle. The vehicle itself is blown and the engineers have placed and fired charges to ensure that it didn’t leave a useful tunnel behind it. Looks like a few survivors holed up in the wreckage there. They won’t last long.”

“Surrounded and I bet Wyvern Stormshards are on them?”

“Got it in one, sir,” Mallory chimed in from his console. “Two barrages thus far. Given the nature of Stormshard mortars, I don’t expect there to be much left even now. Just mopping up.”

“Nice work everyone,” the Colonel complimented. “Give me the general freq please.

He waited a moment while his vox was patched in to the main comm net. “4th Danika, this is Senekal. Got to say I’m proud of you today people. We’re looking at what is almost certainly a ‘stealer cult uprising and you handled it perfectly, exactly according to training and doctrine. I don’t have casualty numbers yet, but I’m sure they are extremely light. We did well today but don’t let that go to your heads. This isn’t over by a long shot. As soon as Captain Cantrell gives the order I want you to go to your phase 2 positions for a full clear check of the camp. Full strength and full arms. There may be all kinds of nasty hiding anywhere. ‘Stealers are known for that. Stay frosty and listen for further updates. Danika 6 out.”

Without waiting, the Colonel walked over to the Vox prime operator. This one was a young woman wearing a standard Danikan uniform although her flak jacket was slung across the back of her seat. Her hair was short and spiky, her features regular. Sleeve flashes indicated a Technical Corporal and Senekal felt a bit bad that, although he had seen her before, he didn’t know her name. Since she wasn’t in Raehaniv green he figured she was likely a new recruit from elsewhere as she was too young to have come from Danika. “Corporal, what have we got on the external frequencies? There must be other units under attack.”

The young lady clearly knew her business and punched a series of buttons on her console. “Yessir, I’ve been logging everything coming in. Shall I display it?”

“Please do.” Senekal watched as the Strategium holo zoomed out, showing the entire Callax II sector.

Close to the center, a large blue area of three dimensional boxes and spires marked the hive itself. Around it were the wooded foothills of the Sawtooth range, the heights and peaks of which began at the northern edge of the map. To the south and west the desert plains began and he knew that those stretched out as unbroken and largely uninhabited badlands for over a thousand kilometers until one got to Callax III. The Danikan position was clearly marked directly to the east of the main hive, around 40 kilometers out and on the other side of the Sawflow River. The location had been selected as the most convenient for their basing as there was sufficient area for the large landers required to transport an entire Astra Militarum Regiment and all its vehicles, equipment and personnel. Moreover, the nature of the 4th meant it would be of more use in the field than in an urban environment should attacks take place. The city fathers had been more than happy to allow the regiment to take over a disused garrison rather than having to find a place for thousands of troops and a great deal of battle gear and vehicles somewhere in the hive itself.

The overlay shifted to display the messages and related intelligence the corporal had been cataloguing. Some of it was noted as having been sent from the 4th Danika’s intelligence staff and she had combined that information with the messages. It told an interesting story.

As Callax II had not been considered a major target, the 4th – which had seen hard fighting against the forces of Nurgle during the campaign, was the only Imperial asset in the area. That did not mean it was the only armed force. Callax II had both its city guard and also a segment of the Callax Planetary Defense Force. The original positions for these had been marked, as last reported, and they were tagged and color coded based on message traffic allocated to them. The Colonel was not surprised to see that the bulk of the city guard units were marked in red, meaning there had been reports of them operating against loyalist units, or flashing red, meaning that there had been no communication and that their status was unknown. Of the PDF forces, fully half were marked in blue – meaning that communications and intelligence had good reason to think that they had remained loyal, a couple in red and the rest in flashing red. While it certainly could have been worse, it also most certainly could have been better. The pattern was also much of what the Colonel had expected – the city guard had been infiltrated first as they were regularly present here in the hive where the infestation was centered. The PDF, which were at least supposed to rotate from time to time and were not generally locals, had less penetration, probably due to less contact with cult elements. Nothing much there was surprising.

The very central section of the hive, near the mine hubs, had a different designator. This one was black and bore a symbol that the Colonel had not wanted to see, but which explained much. There was a unit – or units – connected with the Inquisition here at Callax II. And from the additional iconography, not just any Inquisitorial unit – this was a unit marked as the Deathwatch.

He pointed to the icon. “Corporal, play the communication related to that one please.”

“Yessir.” She pressed several keys and a calm voice came over the speakers in the HQ hut.

“To all Imperial and loyalist forces in the area,” the voice began. It was male, deep and very calm, “this is Ortan Cassius, Chaplain of the Deathwatch. We have detected a Genestealer infestation in the lower levels of Callax II hive and it appears to be relatively mature. We will be striking deep into the mining levels along with allied forces. Be on the lookout for any Genestealer forces which may begin an uprising. Act accordingly to destroy the foul Xenos. Be aware that your own comrades and loved ones may be among them, corrupted by alien biology. If this is the case, you must not hesitate to strike them down as they are no longer themselves but have become tools of the alien. We march for the Emperor. Purge the Unclean!”

Senekal sighed. “Well, that explains a lot.”

Cantrell agreed. “Yes, Colonel it does. Must be the reason the uprising seems pre-mature. The Xenos were detected.”

“Ortan Cassius. The hero of Ghosan Prime. The man who cleansed the first ever Genestealer infestation identified,” the Colonel shook his head. “The man’s a legend.” He turned to the vox corporal. “Any more messages with that identifier?”

“Just one sir.”

“Very well. Play it please.”

This time the voice was that of a woman. It was not cold and emotionless like Cassius’ had been. Her voice was full of hate. “To all Imperial and loyalist forces on Callax who are receiving this message. This is Lady Inquisitor Thessalonica Jones, Ordo Xenos. I enact the following order and code it with the seal of the Inquisition as being given by the Authority of the Immortal Emperor of Mankind. Proceed at once to Callax II Hive. I say again, proceed to Callax II. Strike any and all forces in rebellion against Imperial Authority. The foul hand of the Xenos is upon this city and if we are to save it, it must be destroyed. Act immediately. If you are a commander of Imperial forces contact channel Gamma – Gary – R3. Additional support may be available.” There was a short pause and then, “To all Imperial and loyalist forces on Callax…”

The corporal cut it off. “It’s on a repeat, sir. I’ve tried voxing back for a confirmation or additional details or instructions but there is no reply. At least not yet.”

“That’s all right, Corporal. I think we’ve got what we need. At least for now.”

“What do you figure happened, Colonel?” The huge tank commander was pulling on his tactical vest over his shirt and scooped up his tanker helmet.

Senekal’s laugh was humorless. “Exactly what you are probably thinking. This Lady Inquisitor finds some Xenos and dumps her Deathwatch on them. Good crew that. In fairness she had every reason to expect success, I suppose, but it turns out it’s not just a little cult with its hooks in the top echelons of the hive. Apparently this cult went bottom up. Workers, soldiers. The works. Look at those city guard units. We have precisely one of them that even appears to be loyal – and I bet they aren’t doing too well. The PDF are a mess too. This cult went for manpower and guns rather than political power. Pretty much the opposite of what was done on Ghosan.

He looked at the map display, thinking hard and tapping his teeth. “All right, we’ll need Lekcic in here ASAP.”

“What’s the plan, sir?” Cantrell was fastening his helmet straps now.

“You heard the Inquisitor. We break camp and move.” He indicated areas on the map. “I want recon out here, here and here.” Points of light appeared where he’d pointed as the servitors reacted. They marked out the bridge over the Sawflow directly to the west, an area which was marked as fordable to the north and another area where the river narrowed to the south. “Make sure the speeders get to the bridge and I mean ten minutes ago. I want that thing secured. It’s the best way to get armor across the river and I’d rather some cultists not blow it. Anyone and anything hanging around it are to be kept clear. There may be some refugees but the clear the area of the bridge and the road and we aren’t asking. Use force if you have to and if anyone offers any resistance at all – shoot to kill. This is a cult we are dealing with. Anyone can be the enemy and they will be fanatical. They’re under Xenos control so a mother with child could be just as much an expendable asset to the enemy as a termagant or a ripper. It’s abso-frackin’-lutely horrible – but that’s what we’re up against.

“Anyone or anything who offers resistance of any kind is to be dealt with. Don’t let anyone approach the vehicles. One warning shot only – after that it’s fire for effect. The cavalry goes here,” he indicated the northern ford, “at full gallop. Mech recon gets split. One third to each point. Engineers with bridging equipment go south. If we lose the main bridge we’ll put a new one there, although it isn’t gonna hold the superheavies. If we lose the bridge, they’ll have to try the ford. Keep them on the road west for now. Artillery packs up last and the big guns stay as long as they can to provide cover. One company of infantry with rides stays with them. Shorter ranged arty moves with the column.

Everyone in the HQ hut was silent, waiting to see if there was anything else. “That’s it people, move like you got a purpose!” the Colonel turned to leave and then remembered one last thing. “Corporal!”

“Yessir?!”

“What’s your name anyway?”

“Corporal Tech Spec. Lamia Kinrad, sir.”

“Well, good work, Kinrad. Now get me whatever was on that Inquisitor’s special channel and patch it through to my personal vox. We are burning daylight!”

Major Artan Lekcic winced at the term as he finally entered the hut. “Um, sir. You know it’s the middle of the night…”

“Of course I do, but by the time we get this circus moving the sun will be up and we need every second we got. Do your thing like you’ve never done it before Artan. Those poor sods in the hive are like frogs in boiling water.”

He exited the hut without waiting for a reply and strode toward the exit, waving at the Bloodcoats to follow. Cantrell was just behind him, half jogging to keep up despite his longer legs. “Frogs Colonel?”

“Old legend Captain. If you put a frog in boiling water, he’ll hop out. But if you put him in cool water and slowly bring it to a boil, he’ll just stay there until he cooks.”

“So what’s that – “

“The folks in that city. They went in and they thought the water was cool. Well now it’s boiling and it’s our job to get them the hell out before they wind up as someone’s dinner.”

Uprising Part III – Pit Friends