Storytime!

Inspired by some really positive feedback from yesterday's post, I've decided to make good on my promise and publish a bit of a story I'm working on with Headologist.

Yesterday was all about rambling, in-character documents.  This is more an attempt to tell a story from a more neutral perspective, just explaining some fluff along the way.  I think it's important to do that once in a while and get a human perspective on the whole setting.

The project is still underway (and is likely to be for some time).  We don't want to release any major chunks yet, until it starts to take shape but I might cut out the odd paragraph and past it up to keep you interested.  Anyway, this segment is cut from the middle of a chapter, but basically our hero, Sergeant Darius, has just escaped a suicidal attack when his tank was damaged in a drop-landing.  After most of the rest of his platoon was wiped out, Darius was left in silence to wait for the repair crew...




The headphones again heralded a return to reality.  This time, an unfamiliar voice broke through the earphones; at last, the maintenance crew.  Darius stood up in the cupola and threw open the turret.  He didn’t realis just how long he’d been in there; night had set in along with a driving rain that he had not even noticed drumming against the side of the hull.  He spotted the lead light of the recovery vehicles and pulled the hatch back down, swinging back into the main gun compartment.  “It’s raining like a daemon out there,” he swore, grabbing a poncho from atop a fusehousing, “we’d better get out there and get this heap of metal moving again, so we can hurry up and get killed.”  The rest of the crew murmured into action again, and Darius threw the poncho over his head before stepping out of the rear hatch.

The Centaur recovery tank managed, somehow, to skid to a sloppy stop despite only moving at a walking pace, splatting wet mud as it did so.  Mud.  The Imperial Guard’s oldest enemy was catching up with the Palladians.  It followed them like a shadow, managing to manifest itself everywhere.  Deserts, cities, plains … you name it, the Imperial Guard can run a tank battalion around on it and turn it into a quagmire in a day.  Darius tucked his hat down low over his eyes, pulled the poncho ineffectually tighter round him and stepped to the back of the vehicle.  As he did so, a small bespectacled officer in a pristine crewman’s rig stepped into the rain.  “Who’s in charge here?  Is this three-four-zero?”  He bellowed, while facing side on to Darius to avoid the rain.  “Well sir, I suppose I am.”  Darius replied, uncertainly.

“You Sergeant Darius?” asked the technical officer.
“Yes sir.”
“Adj’
 is here for you, so’s the anti-tank officer.  What’s the problem here?”
“Dislocated engine housing.  Not damaged, just a snapped crankshaft.”
“Okay …” the technical officer murmured as his minions swarmed behind him, indifferent to the rain.  They gathered behind the sacred icon of the Mechanicus, and one of the sergeants pulled out a tattered litany.  The officer was tapping something into a dataslate, talking slowly to Darius while concentrating intently.  “The adj’ is inside,” he intoned, “better not keep him waiting.  These your crew?”  They were indeed standing behind Darius, but he said this last without looking up or waiting for a reply.  “Good, don’t worry, we’ll have you all moving soon enough.”  Darius climbed inside the rear hatch of the nearby carrier, swinging it shut.  With a metallic clang, all noise of the whirling storm was gone.  Even after his brief spell outside, Darius stood there dripping.  He pulled off his cap and poncho, sneezed, then saw the regimental adjutant.
A quick survey of his expression and dress told Darius all he needed to know.  Slicked-back black hair, regulation crop, impossibly sharp creases along the arms … Darius dropped the poncho and cap as if they were scalding hot, threw himself up bolt-upright and smartly saluted.  “Captain, Sergeant Darius Mirius Vipanius the Younger, begging leave to report as instructed, sir!
“That’s better.”  The adjutant tried to speak with authority, but his voice had an oily, slippery texture.  He could not suspend it in his mouth long enough to intone the pauses of authority; the words tumbled out in a smooth but uncontrolled way.  “I was beginning to think you had not seen me, Darius Mirius Vipanius.  The Younger?” he cocked his head to make this last a question.
“Father: Darius Edethorius.  Battalion Armsman, Ninth Battalion, First Regiment.  Deceased.”  Darius reeled this off with neither emotion nor conscious thought.  By the time the question had been asked, the adjutant had ceased listening.  He stood up.  “Sergeant Vipanius, you may stand at your ease.”  Darius did nothing, except his eyes went from that imaginary spot one foot above the adjutant’s head, to the adjutant himself.  


The adjutant’s pose was tired, recoiling in the commander’s seat, but his neck and face were set hard.  A gloomy, elderly strip light on the ceiling of the tank’s interior caught and exaggerated the tight sinewy face as it began to speak.
“We’re giving you a brevet command, Sergeant Vipanius.  Until we can secure an officer to lead you.  It is disagreeable to me, but sometimes there is no alternative.  Insignia.”  The adjutant spoke tersely, without emotion.  Darius reached to his arms and unbuttoned the cloth chevrons.  As he handed over the black triangles with their three silver stripes, he felt a pang of anxiety, the first yet.  


This was overtaken by a pang of guilt, for letting the loss of his comrades slip out of his mind.  He found new epaulettes in his hands, with a tiny a gilt star thereon, smaller than a button.  “You are hereby promoted to the rank of Brevet Third-Lieutenant, Without Commission.  May the Emperor guide you in this your sacred duty.”  The last came as a package, with no pauses.  But then, the adjutant swung his legs down and sprung upright, staring Darius in the face.  His voice changed, and became drenched with loathing emotion.
“Darius Mirius Vipanius.  Do not get ideas above your station.”  He stood on tiptoes in order to look the new lieutenant in the eye.  “Do you know why you are in command of this unit?  Hmm?” he cocked his head, waiting for an answer.  Darius, correctly, did not reply.  “Because, Vipanius, because of the four remaining sergeants, your name is first alphabetically — ” he leaned in here, “ — I hate brevets.  An officer is a gentleman, and you, are not a gentleman.  If you do not wish to find yourself at the mercy of the Emperor — in person — you will serve your brief commission without controversy until we get a real officer.  Is that clear, sergeant?  Sergeant?  I hate breveting people.  I will not have soldiers sully my mess.”  He turned to leave, with one parting piece of advice.  “You would do well, sergeant, to die heroically in this city.  I do not forget easily.”  
It was not bad advice.  But he had no time to thank him; the adjutant was gone.  Darius exhaled, sat down, and smoked.






PS:  I just realised that my previous post marked my half-century of 50 posts.  After a few scant months on here, I'm overwhelmed by all the kind, interesting and constructive comments and the community we have going on here.  A big thank you to all the readers and commenters of the blog!

Comments

  1. Excellent read. I foresee a nasty end to that adjutant's career, maybe eviscerated by a high velocity round whist dressing down a noncom for improper uniform. Keep up the good work.

    Blitz

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  2. Nice. I enjoyed it once again. I like the culture you've created for your regiment. Do you have much fluff around your own commander, or is the captain from the story who you generally see leading your men?

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  3. Nice bit of fiction to back up the more text-book style passage from the last post.

    Interested in where this story has both gone and where it will end.

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  4. Thanks all, mainly for sticking through that big block of text on a black background.

    @Blitzspear: Thankyou, he was only supposed to be a one-off character but reading it again, I think he has the potential to be developed... then killed by a high velocity round whist dressing down a noncom for improper uniform.

    @BoxerSaint: I have a strict fluff rule, that if a commander dies on the table then he dies in the fluff too. None of this 'gravely wounded then fine for the next battle' stuff, so I need a lot of different characters to lead my armies. You can read about the current one, Capt Nero, here: http://palladian-guard.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/service-record-lucius-nero.html, but I'm sure that the adjutant (or even Darius) will get recycled and end up being platoon or army commanders

    @Dai!: Cheers, that's exactly what I wanted, something to offset the laborious formal style of the last entry. As I say I'm currently working on the rest of the story so I will keep you updated!

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  5. Replies
    1. ...Darius would've known the Adj was coming by the inevitable forewarning in the shape of a dozy, lolloping and utterly untactical labrador retriever.

      Or maybe a spaniel I suppose, if he's Cav...

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    2. Thoroughly enjoyed it. And I'm VERY snobbish about narrative fluff. I can't even abide most published 40K writing...but this really is most engaging.

      Thanks!

      Oh, and thanks for having he discretion to only post a short extract, too!

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    3. Haha, I bloody hate most of the published stuff, I barely disguised that in my post about fluff.

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  6. Great little bit of fluff, the best part is I already hate the Adjutant and is so few words.

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  7. I really enjoyed this! You're a talented writer. It has that textured, atmospheric quality which is one of the rasons why I like W40K.

    Two quick thoughts if I may:
    You mentioned how Darius hates mud. Tankers fear muddy conditions not only because it slows them down and makes them vulnerable, but also because globs of heavy mud can cause tanks to throw tracks, meaning hard and dirty work and often requiring the help of a recovery vehicle. Might be something to file away since you mentioned mud.

    Also, I was a bit thrown at the end when the Adjutant (I really dislike him, well done) leaves at the end of the scene. If he is seated in a carrier (a Chimera?), theres really no where for him to go except past Darius and outside, unless IG carriers are bigger than LAVs or Warriors and have more than one compartment. In the APCs I know, however, there is only a wee little space for the passengers.

    Just nitpicking. I wouldn't be thinking so hard about this piece if I hadn't enjoyed it so much.

    Cheers,

    Mike

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  8. I just realized, if you have a military background as I suspect you do, my last comment will fall under the "blindingly obvious" category, so take it for what it's worth. :)
    Cheers mate.

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    Replies
    1. You suspect correctly, Padre ;) sorry, this comment seems to have been sitting in my spam inbox for three months. A belated thanks for your comments.

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  9. Thankyou again for all your feedback.

    @Drax: I'm glad you enjoyed it, particularly if you don't like the standard issue fluff. High praise indeed :) The adj is in fact being incarnated in 28mm battlefield form ... I might take an inspirational leaf from your book and add a perpetual dog at his feet...

    @Chris: Exactly - the adj is a one-off character so I picked this little extract as it didn't have too much before or after it. You can meet, get to know, and hate the adjutant in a matter of paragraphs. Thanks for your comment.

    @Mad Padre: Please, nitpick by all means, tanks are not my area of expertise I'm afraid so all comments like this would be welcome. The second point is very valid: my intention was that the adj leaves Darius behind after climbing out the hatch but that isn't clear. In the text it seems more like a room rather than a cramped Centaur compartment, so a minor tweak may be necessary :)

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  10. I felt the same as Mad Padre, but I didn't want to bring it up either, haha. I thought it would have been more fitting if the Adjutant abruptly dismissed Darius instead of having to walk out into the nasty conditions himself. That is assuming that the Adjutant arrived in the vehicle, which your story doesn't exactly say, so that may be a poor assumption to make. But, as I said, I still enjoyed it.

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    Replies
    1. That's a good idea, making Darius do all the walking. Symbolic and all that, I like it! I should make everyones positions a bit clearer lol

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