Shell Case Shorts 8 – Winner

August’s Shell Case Shorts was all about sci-fi as the prize was nothing less than a signed copy of Dropzone Commander from Hawk Wargames.

There was some great entries but the winning entry had to go to Erin Freeman (@SixEleven) for not only setting his story in the Dropzone universe but for telling the story from the point of view from a dropship pilot, something which is at heart of Dropzone Commander.

So, without further a-do I give you…

Seventeen Minutes – by Erin Freeman

Seventeen minutes. Seventeen minutes was the amount of time between take off and being knocked out of the sky. Seventeen minutes and my world would be turned upside down.

It was supposed to be a fairly routine mission, do it by the numbers and go home. We’d done a hundred like ’em and there was nothing to make us think this time would be any different. What’s that saying about pride and a fall?

***

The roar of our twin vindicator cannons reverberated around the cockpit of the gunship, rattling the consoles in their frames and shaking the fillings loose in my head. Another target suppressed. It it rarely matters in war whether you hit the target or not, just whether or not they’re able to fire back. My gunner takes his finger off the firing stud as the temperature gauge starts to turn red and the lack of noise is striking. It doesn’t last for long as movement ahead provokes another withering hail of fire. Something vanishes into a push of red.

The special ops team we were escorting and providing close air support for had been on the ground for four minutes. In that time they had moved into the nearby building and were clearing it room by room. I could hear their comm chatter and bursts of weapons fire. It was messy in there. Above them, my tub and the dropship the special forces had ridden in on were doing their damnedest to keep out of reach of the anti-air fire coming their way from floors our boys had yet to clear. But for all their determination each pot shot only brought more torrents of fire from our guns on to their heads. 

A red light winked on the main console accompanied by a dirty squawk. I tapped at the light, irritated, the missile lock detection system had been playing up for days but none of the mechanics had been able to fix it. A swift thump to the console and the light went out and the squawking along with it. A burst of comm traffic from headquarters warned us of light PHR walkers in the area. I couldn’t help but smile. It was me that had reported them in the first place. Everything we’d seen on the West side of the river had been light walkers and infantry. Nothing we couldn’t handle.

Not that it mattered either way. The mission had been designated Priority-one which meant come hell, high water or immanent crushing defeat, we had to complete our mission. UCM Intelligence had indicated the structure the spec-ops team was in was a hub for a network of underground tunnels that connected to buildings two kilometres behind our lines. They’d been making monkeys out of us, and mince meat out of our men, for weeks and the brass had just about had enough.

The plan was drawn up with the usual flare that the UCM was renowned for. Turn up. Shoot our way in. Complete the mission. Shoot our way out. On top of that we only had a vague idea of which building possessed the tunnel network. It was only the volume of light weapons fire we took coming in that validated our suspicions. 

The comm burst to life in my headset again although it was chopped to hell with static. A lucky shot had hit the communications relay and was now threading everything with static. I recognise the merest sound bite long enough to recognise the voice of my wingman, Janus. I looked over to him waving to get his attention before tapping my head set and then drawing a line across my throat so he knew my comms were down. He nodded his understanding and signed that light walkers had been spotted moving on our position. I signalled my understanding and passed the information to my gunner who was already spinning up his guns.

***

Ten minutes into the mission and the barrels of the vindicators were glowing red as their ammunition ripped apart PHR infantry caught in the open and sawed through the legs of a light walker attempting to protect them. The entire area was choked with smoking wreckage and the burst bodies of the dead. The mission was going well, almost too well. Apart from having to continually adjust the dropship’s position to target the oncoming PHR infantry, the mission was shaping up to be as much fun as escorting a senior officer around a recently secured city sector.

What’s that saying about being careful what you wish for? 

I was torn from my musings by the threat detection console going crazy. System jammers sent the electronic countermeasures haywire and the missile lock warning shrieked like a frightened child. As I struggled to re-engage counter measures the world was suddenly replaced by a searing white light and the sound of shredding metal, explosions and screaming.

For what seemed like an age all I could see was white light as my brain tried to decipher just what had happened to it. As my vision gradually returned to normal everything felt simultaneously normal yet out-of-place. All I could hear was the chatter over the Comm informing me of the bloody obvious, that PHR heavy walkers were active in my sector. There was no howl of engines. No wind noise. And a strange sense of weightlessness. I had just enough time to realise that we were going down before the ground rushed up to meet me and everything went suddenly black.

***

I came to only moments after blacking out. My cockpit was a charred mess and the stink of burning plastics hung in the air, mixing with the taste of blood in my mouth. I numbly fumbled for the canopy release and with a systematic bang of exploding bolts it blew clear. I was immediately bombarded by the battle unfolding on the streets. The crack of small arms fire, punctuated by the crump of grenades all with the undertones of flyers streaking overhead and the familiar whine of vindicator Gatling guns opening up.

Bullets ricochet off the hull of the downed gunship with a comical spanking sound focussing my concussed mind.  Glancing behind me I could see that neither my co-pilot or gunner had to worry about being focussed ever again. How I’d survived a nose first impact with the ground has remained a mystery to me but I was eternally grateful none the less.

Above me Janus’ gunship was still airborne, furiously jinking and bouncing his aircraft in an effort to avoid the worst of the anti-air fire. The hull was scorched and dented from a few lucky escapes where explosives had glanced off or failed to detonate. A smoky contrail and a desperate near miss gave Janus a target of opportunity. I watched from my cockpit as he expertly wheeled on the spot and targeted a crumbling residential building two blocks down.

The familiar, comforting, sound of the vindicators rippled into life and the facade of the building exploded into an expanding cloud of dust and debris before the entire side of the building, already undermined from centuries of neglect broke away altogether and toppled into the street bringing with it broken bodies in opalescent armour.

I remember punching the air like some wet behind the ears, green back, rookie. The PHR deserved everything they got for standing in our way when by rights they should have been fighting alongside us. My elation was short-lived, however, when another rocket burst from the shadowy depth of a nearby tenement and crashed into the back of Janus’ gunship. Flames and smoke belched from the number two engine and the deep throaty engines became plaintive and stuttering.

For a moment I could see Janus struggling with the control stick, desperately trying to keep his bird aloft. He’d lingered too long, stayed on station to try to provide cover for what was turning into a cluster fuck. The gunship lurched upwards, looping drunkenly  down a narrow street. I lost sight of him but the explosion and resulting fireball reaching skywards moments later told me all I needed to know of the fate of my friend and his crew.

With nothing left for me to do but survived I yanked my rifle free from its magclamps on the cockpit floor and made a run for it. I already knew the PHR had me zeroed in as the odd opportunistic shot had come my way. I ducked, I wove and put as much covered as I could between me and where I suspected the sharp shooters were hiding. I felt a round tug at my tunic but ignored it. Stopping meant dead.

I slid to a stop behind a pile of concrete just as a PHR heavy walker lumbered into view. I recalled the garbled comms transmission. Heavy walkers active in your area. No fucking shit. In the area they looked like plucked chickens. On the ground they looked like big scary chickens with massive guns. It’s torso swiveled, weapons tracking skywards as it sought out fresh targets. 

They say in combat time slows down and reactions faster and senses heightened. I don’t know if that’s true or but because when something big comes up against something equally big hell breaks loose to the extent your mind wants to find the darkest corner possible and hide. When the shooting started my instincts took over. I’m not sure how I managed to scramble beneath the debris, let alone curl up into a fetal position, clutching my head as the ground reverberated with the concussive forces being unleashed around me. By the time silence has returned to this corner of the city two more aircraft were smoking wrecks on the ground and the third had bugged out, smoke pouring from its engines.

I risked a glance over the debris and felt the colour drain from my face as barely 10 feet away stood the walker, weapon systems smoking and the sensor dish mounted to its body clicking and whirring. I had no doubt in my mind it was looking for survivors, something else to shoot at. After a few long minutes it loosed a volley of shots into my downed craft almost, it seemed, out of principle and stalked off with what I can only describe as a sense of disappointment.

***

I stayed put for a few minutes to make sure the walker had genuinely moved on before I broke cover. I had to link with the special forces unit and somehow get the hell out of this God forsaken city. With no chance of rescue, at least not from the air, I had to move. The first rule of being downed behind enemy lines was evade capture and, frankly, I was too pretty for prison. My options were clear; either try to hot foot it back to base or link up with the spec-ops and exfill with them. As base was the other side of a war zone it was really no option at all. The second rule of survival training was await for rescue. In the absence of rescue I decided I’d settle for the next best thing; somewhere to hide.

I peered over the balcony rail of an Easterly facing apartment on the 5th floor of an old tenement. In its heyday it would have been quite luxurious but the centuries, and the Scourge, had been cruel. Overlooking the crash site I was in the building diagonally opposite that of the spec-ops team who were plying their trade in. I could only cross my fingers that they were having a better time than I was. 

I stood watch at that balcony for what felt like hours when in reality on minutes were ticking by. The scene below me was oddly calm, the nature left to run-amok oblivious is to the sudden violence unleashed moment before. The scene was ruined seconds later by the walker once more striding into view. It’s body swiveled, as it began to scan the ruins and buildings in the area once more, seeking easy prey or any survivors it might have missed. Hot on its heels a couple of units PHR infantry, clearly emboldened by the presence of such awe-inspiring weapon of war, trotted into view. I immediately dropped down behind the balcony, gripping my rifle tightly. I’m not ashamed to admit that I felt fear or, for that briefest of moments, gave into the real chance that I might not make out in one piece.

I risked a glance over the balcony, with great timing as ever, as I’m just in time to see the target building implode. Spec-ops had continued with their mission, despite the chaos unfolding outside. As the PHR forces scattered I realised that the spec-ops were already out and moving to envelope the PHR infantry. Caught unprepared and in the open the PHR infantry were torn to pieces. The walker, quicker to recover turned and began stalking towards the UCM infantry, its weapons spooling up. I wanted to shout a warning but at this distance it wouldn’t be heard.

My eyes scanned the sky in vain for some sign that reinforcements were on the way to save the out-gunned elite soldiers. And once again my timing was uncanny as no sooner had the thought entered my head but a second squad of special ops broke cover from the building opposite my own. It turned out they were keeping tabs on the battle all along and had been waiting for the opportune moment to strike. The walker had its back to the men as it stalked towards the first squad. To my surprise they ran for the building I had taken refuge in. My angry objections died in my throat as the entire bottom three floors of the building they had just vacated disappeared in an expanding cloud of fire, debris and shattered glass.

The PHR walker immediately span on the spot, forgetting all about the spec-ops team it was hunting. It gave the soldiers the opening they needed. Aiming for the weaker knee joints of the walker both teams unleashed their anti-armour rockets, blasting apart the poorly armoured joints, smashing the legs apart and pitching the walker into the ground with a fatal and final thud.

Time seems to slow down as I watch, such a fearsome machine of war put out of action by the simple act of surprise and a few well placed high velocity armour-piercing rounds. The earth shakes as it crashes down into the ground, smoke trailing from a variety of wounds. I can’t say the sight of it doesn’t fill me with a mixture of emotions, the first of those is vengeance for the downing of my fellow pilots, pride in the ability and quick thinking of our troops comes a close second.

From my vantage point it looked like a slaughtered bird, letting out various groaning sounds that I could only assume were its systems and power plant failing before the walker’s shattered body gave up and went limp, fluids and gases venting from its cracked armour like blood.

The loss of the walker took the fight out of the PHR troops who turned tail and ran for it…towards the building I was hiding in. Broken or not they spotted me soon enough and a hail of gunfire was spattering all around my vantage point within moments. Abandoning my vantage point I ran back into the building, looking for the nearest stair case to move higher into the structure. I dive into the stair well, my heart pounding. Below me I can hear yelling and then a flurry of gunfire. The blood rushed in my ears as I gripped my rifle tight, risking a glance over the railings to determine how much time I had.

I could feel the icy effects of panic creeping over me, threatening to drain my energy and slow me down. Evade capture, evade capture, evade captures. I repeated the mantra over and over giving me drive to move my aching muscles once more. I hit the stairs just as an explosion below shakes the building and I get knocked from my feet. I didn’t wait to find out what happened I just ran.

***

Bursting through the door to the seventh floor I darted into the nearest room and behind the first piece of cover I can find. Rifle resting on what I suspect was once a sofa, before nature claimed it, I had a perfect view of the staircase so I could cut down anyone that came after me. I clicked the selector switch from semi-automatic to full automatic as the sounds of gunfire gradually moved up the stairs. 

As the last of the gunshots rang out I screwed my eyes shut and waited for the inevitable. Who was I trying to kid? I was a pilot not a soldier and I didn’t stand a chance against a single PHR ground pounder let alone a squad of them. The sense of panic returned and I didn’t have the strength to fight it off. As the door slammed open I dropped down and cowered behind my makeshift barricade.

I remember the slightest tremor of heavy footsteps entering the room. It seems like an odd thing to notice now, but, back then, the headset I’d been wearing the entire time was hissing static. The shot that had caught my tunic had severed the wire from my headset to comms pack and I hadn’t even noticed. It’s funny what your mind focusses on the moment before you die. But instead of feeling the cool metal of a gun barrel against my head I feel a strong hand grip my shoulder and pull me bodily upwards. 

“Hey, get ready to move out.” The gruff voiced beyond my tightly shut eyes commanded me. My heart soared; it was a voice I recognised, or at least a dialect I recognised. Peering through flinching eyelids I was met by the glassy stare of a gruff spec-ops squad leader. He was covered head to toe in shit and gravy and looked every bit the grizzled elite soldier he truly was. I know full well I grinned at him like an idiot. At first his distaste is evident but it eventually gave way to a barely perceptible smile and points out of the window to the west. I stand up and look out. Shielding my eyes against the sun I could just make out a huddle of APCs churning up dust as they raced to reach us.

I slid to the floor and let out a sigh. I glanced at my chrono and smirked. Mission complete T plus 31 minutes.

Shell Case Shorts 9

This month’s Shell Case Shorts is extra special for me as the prize is a signed copy of the utterly awesome Gruntz 15mm written by Robin Fitton, an honoured member or the wargaming community and all round top bloke.

I had the pleasure of reviewing Gruntz v1 a while back and loved it and I’m really excited that it’s coming out in print. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning is the following:

Rules are as follows:

Entrants have two writing options.

1, Write a single short story of between 2,000 & 3,000 words set in any established wargaming IP.

Or

2. Write a pair of short stories of 1500 words the second following on from the first set in any established wargaming IP.

Your work is your own but intellectual property rests squarely with the companies in question and is only used under fair use. I reserve the right to publish any submissions in a strictly non-profit capacity. All published writers will be credited accordingly.

Submissions should attempt to evoke the IP the story is based on.

All entries must be received by midnight UK time Sunday 30th September 2012 after which a single winner will be chosen. Submissions received after this will not be considered.

1 submission per person.

Work believed to be plagiarised will be disqualified.

All submissions must be sent as a Word document attached to an email to theshellcase@hotmail.co.uk

[Any spam from entrants will result in disqualification]

Submissions must include the entrants name, a contact email address, Twitter name if applicable and the title of the story.

1 winner will be chosen and notified by email.

The winning entry will be published initially on The Shell Case blog and later in a free to download anthology.

No discussion will be entered into, my decision is final.

The prize may not be exchanged for its cash value or an alternative. However, I reserve the right to substitute the prize if necessary.

Good luck and have fun!

Shell Case Shorts 7 – Winner

Last month’s Shell Case Shorts was all about Steampunk as the prize was a signed copy of Dystopian Wars by Spartan Games. There was some strong entries which just goes to show much passionate the community is about this growing genre. But as ever there can only be one winner, mainly because I only had one prize.

And that winner is James Wilson (@ChairmanAsheth).

Traitor – by James Wilson

Yeoman Wilson leant against the fore turret of the MKII Tribal Class cruiser HMS Aggressive and stared out into the soupy night. The mid watch was not amongst his favorite duties mainly because nothing ever happened. Just a few late night arrivals, usually drunk and rowdy after a days shore leave. This time of year was especially poor for it. The smoggy haze of Plymouth docklands obscured any possible view, not even the dockyard lights were visible, just an ugly, oily yellow haze creeping through the fog. To make matters worse the December chill had him hankering for the warm beef stew he’d packed away below deck earlier that evening. And the dumplings, the thought of them warmed him briefly. Navy cuisine was hardly fine dining but he’d happily chew his way through the gristly scraps that passed for meat if it meant not being out in the cold.

Further along the dockyard raucous singing echoed through the air. He couldn’t make out all the words but he gleaned enough to know it was a typical Navy tune about a woman named Suki from Bangkok and her surprising anatomic abilities. Wilson couldn’t make out any shapes in the fog and the voices and their colourful ditty didn’t appear to be coming any closer so he allowed himself to relax slightly. He jumped as a chorus of bells start to chime across the dockyard. Wilson moved to the ships bell and began to sound the six chimes that marked the third hour of the watch. 3am rang out for anyone foolish enough to be able to hear it, which was mostly the other poor souls on watch like him on their respective ships. Plymouth was all but empty. Normally a thriving military and civilian port space was usually at a premium. But with a big push in the Pacific to deter the Japs from harassing her Majesty’s interests in that region it was all but empty. The Aggressive was only docked here for a few days maintenance, refitting its ailing shield generator. The MKII substituted fire power for the protection afforded by the shield generator and Wilson had been more than happy with that choice on several occasions over the last year.

Wilson was glad of the relative peace and quiet as it meant time away from the front lines, time away from being shot at and time away from tipping his dead friends over the side wrapped in a Britannic flag. The Britannic empire had mobilised like no other point in history and was involved in some of the most brutal engagements. It was not for the faint of heart. They say that a soldier’s life expectancy drops by 20% with each tour of duty. He was only his forth. He and theAggressive had beaten the odds so far but he knew it was only a matter of time. He loved England but not in a chest puffing salute the flag kind of way that the Yanks beheld their upstart nation. He could see little point in the wars breaking out the world over. Wilson had joined the navy as a way to get an education and learn a trade, now he embroiled in a war that he just wanted to survive. He felt no particular hatred or ill will toward his enemies. He had no doubt that most soldiers serving on the other side felt the same way. That they wouldn’t shoot him on sight or vice versa but that was the business of war. Survival was all that mattered.

Wilson paced the polished oak decking, moving port aft towards the gangway. The early morning chill nipped at him as his oppo on this watch, Bob, appeared with a mug of tea in each hand. Bob came from the furthest reaches of the Empire and his real name wasn’t Bob but it was much easier than trying to pronounce his real name. Bob was we well liked through the ship for the most part but Wilson kept his distance, despite having to share a billet. It wasn’t prejudice, Wilson couldn’t care less where Bob was from so long as he did his job. It was just he was too…good. was just… too good. Too nice. Too popular. It made James suspicious which he suspected was more like jealousy. He Headed toward the Foc’sle and called back to Bob,

‘Gonna do a circuit.’

Bob nodded his response from behind his cup, not saying anything as he watched Wilson disappear into the murk. Moving slowly around the deck lost in his own world, Wilson half heartedly checked the mooring lines with a slight kick to each one. As he completed his circuit he noticed a shadow near the gangway. Probably Bob. He Wilson approached he saw the shadow break up into two distinctive shapes. One moved quickly to the gangway and down off the ship, the other remained in place. Wilson moved closer to it to see the familiar form of Bob emerge from the curling fog.

‘What was that about?’ he asked.

Bob shrugged as he moved towards the stern of the vessel, flinging the remainder of his cold tea overboard. ‘Just some drunk. Got the wrong ship.’ He soothed placing one hand protectively in his pocket. Wilson grimaced at the creeping sensation he felt as Bob spoke. He returned his attention to the cup in his hand, now half drained and took a sip. Cold. Typical.

Wilson continued his circuits around the ship, pausing only to hastily smoke half a cigarette despite light and noise discipline being in force, resigned to yet another tedious night until frantic alarm bells started ringing across the base, the alert bells of those ships at anchor quickly adding their voice to the tumult. Wilson rang to follow suit, grabbing the grimey, rigid rope and clanging the clapper against the sound rim with jarring force. He didn’t know what was going on but the base was on high alert. Moments later a deck hand came scrambling up to Wilson and hurriedly informed him that enemy spies had been spotted on the base and anyone attempting to board was to be shot on sight.

***

The next day, when James awoke, the vibrations running through his birth told him the ship was moving at speed. He hauled himself out of his cot, washed and dressed. As he buttoned up his tunic the familiar and foreboding klaxon blared through the ship signifying the beat to quarters.

‘Action stations, action stations, action stations.’ Wilson frantically tugged on his boots as the ship made a sharp turn to port, throwing him into the bulkhead. Cursing the pain and the helmsmen he made for the hatch as another sharp turn knocked him off-balance. Behind him he heard an exclamation as Bob was thrown clear of his bunk, rolled up papers spilling onto the deck below. Wilson instinctively went to help his comrade scooping up one of the rolled up bits of paper. Bob, fully dressed, scrabbled on the floor scooping up the spilled scrolls as they slide across the ship with the yaw of the hull. Stuffing the papers into a battered satchel Bob eyed the on clasped in Wilson’s hands jealously. The two men stared at each other, neither moving, the scroll still in Wilson’s grip.

The distant report of cannon fire and the screech of incoming shells caused Wilson to flinch instinctively. Bob seized his chance, snatched the paper from Wilson’s hands and ran through the hatch. Wilson wanted to chase after the man but his better judgement prevailed. HMS Aggressive’s own guns roared into life, the recoil vibrating through the ship as Wilson grabbed his tool belt and ran through the hatch to take his post.

Running through gangways he squeezed past fellow crewmen on their way to posts throughout the ship. As Wilson took his position with the rest of his damage control team he heard the spitting report of Aggressive’s ack ack batteries turned the sky above it into a death trap, a rasping counter point to the boom of the main guns. Wilson leaned his weight against a bulkhead as the ship pitched heavily to port, at moments like this there was no chatter. A tense silence was the only thing shared between the damage control team, along with the nervous stares. The saying was that the waiting is the worst part. It was said by people who had never served aboard a ship of war in combat. The worst part came next.

Wilson’ hearing was reduced to a high-pitched whistle and he was thrown to the deck as the cruiser took a direct hit. As he pulled himself to unsteady feet he saw water start to floor from the adjoining corridor. The Aggressive had been holed just above the waterline and the swirling ocean was spilling through the gaping wound in her flank.

Move!’ The order snapped the stunned crew out of their shell shock. They moved as one, training leading them to the feeling of rushing air. Rounding a corner they were met with a spray of water as the motion of the ship placed the damage just below the water line. ‘Get that shored up!’ Wilson still couldn’t hear properly but it scarcely mattered, the training was working well. The damage control equipment, such as it was, consisted mostly of wooden wedges, planks and their own mattresses. Wilson hammered a handful of wedges into one of the smaller holes, as the others placed a folded mattress against the largest hole and placed a disc of wood against it before jamming it in place with a wooden beam against the bulkhead. James looked about him and saw Bob passing through the section the bag still clutched in his hands. Abandoning ones post during once action stations had been called was a capital crime. Whatever Bob was up to it must be pretty important to risk a short drop and a sudden stop.

There was a shudder as an enemy shell exploded just metres from the hull jerking the ship to starboard throwing Bob from his feet, hitting his head against a strut, his grab spilling from his grasp. Leaving his team behind him, Wilson closed the distance between the prostrate Bob in moments, scooping up the bag. Injured but not incapacitated Bob whirled from his prone position and caught Wilson’s feet with a sweeping kick, bringing him down hard on deck. The grab burst open spilling files, equipment and photos into the ankle-deep water that now flooded the corridors. Realisation crept into Wilson’s consciousness, it was all too clear what Bob was. Bob was on his feet and looking for a way out but Wilson’s team had seen the exchange and rushed to Wilson’s aide. Another explosion rocked the ship and the damage team stumbled and Bob took his chance, darting through the nearest hatch.

Wilson wanted to go after him but duty overrode his personal desires. A series of bangs signalled the Aggressive’s torpedoes taking to the water and the ack ack batteries opened up once more. The tannoy squawked ordering crews to recovery boats. The small task force had taken losses. Wilson wasn’t surprised, the rest of his team were talking about fleet strength opposition. The Britannians were being taken to pieces. Then the tannoy went again.

‘Brace! Brace! Brace!’ Wilson went cold, they were under rocket attack. Even below decks a faint whistling could be heard over the general din of war and the sound of panicking crew. The hairs on his arms stood on end as the Aggressive’s shield generators flickered to life and a serious of vibrations reverberated through the hull, then the ship lurched as it was struck hard then the world turned white as the magazine exploded. Wilson’ world exploded into fire, heat, blood and pain. He had a sickening sensation of flight then the air was forced from him as he landed on what felt like concrete. He then sank into it. As his body was engulfed by the freezing ocean some coherency was rammed into him but it did no good. He tried to swim but all his energy left him and he stopped struggling. The waves engulfed him. Then he felt rough hands and the sensation of being lifted. Then felt nothing at all.

***

Wilson woke up with a jolt. He was in a hospital bed. God only knew how he got there but he thanked Him all the same for his salvation. Looking around he could see he was in a private room. A small window let in a warm breeze and he could hear the sound of birds singing outside. His arm was in a cast and strapped close to his chest and his head was bandaged.

He tentatively got to his feet, feeling the cool of the floor on his skin. He turned his head, taking in his surroundings causing a sudden wave of pain shot through him as the bailiffs in his head repossessed the energy his body had borrowed. Unable to pay up, his body gave in under him and he collapsed. Crying out, both for help and in pain, he tried to prevent the ground striking him as guards entered the room and rushed to assist him.

Wilson’s pain turned to horror. He quickly redacted his thanks to God as he realised the guards were belonged to the Empire of the Blazing Sun. He tried to fight them but it was futile, his strength quickly leaving him. The guards lifted him back onto the bed and a nurse was summoned. He felt a spreading warmth on his side and realised in his struggle he’d torn some stitches. He lay there paralysed by a cocktail of fear, pain and panic as the nurse entered the room with a trolley. His sense of anxiety rose as he saw a charged syringe. His body refused to act as the nurse swabbed his neck injected him.

A sense of calm swept through him as the sedative took over and he returned to the darkness of his mind, a happy place full of quiet, peace and a complete lack of soldiers. His dreams eventually became fevered and polluted by the leering features of Bob. He had the sense he ought to do something. When Wilson came to days had passed and he’d lost weight. The guards brought him to a mess room where he found there were prisoners from all over the world eating. Most were Britannic. Wilson ignored the rest as they would be of little help or comfort. When he joined the Britannic prisoners they shied away from him. Some stopped eating and asked to be taken back their cells. Wilson was horrified, their bodies looked wasted and broken. He tried to speak to the nearest prisoner. He didn’t look round. None of them would look at him. These prisoners had been treated like unwanted pets. Tolerated. Fed just enough to stay alive and punished ruthlessly for the slightest infraction. Wilson wondered why he had not suffered a similar fate.

As the days passed his strength returned and his wounds healed and all the while Wilson was waiting for the interrogations and gruelling tortures that the Blazing Sun was infamous for. Finally the waiting was over as after his morning meal he was taken to a different part of the detention camp. He was marched down clean brightly lit corridors, guards flanking him every step of the way. He was halted outside an office, the script on the door was unreadable to him but his imagination filled in for his lack of knowledge. One of the soldiers knocked on the door and lead him in.

‘Ah! Yeoman Wilson, welcome.’ The voice had a heavy accent but it was easy enough for Wilson to understand him. ‘You have been made comfortable?’ Wilson nodded, not saying a word. ‘We, of course searched your person when we found you Yeoman Wilson.’ The officer paused and drank a yellow liquid from a small grey cup. ‘You had a number of intriguing items upon your person.’ He opened a draw and began to lay out documents. ‘These papers, specifically, were of great interest.’ Wilson had no idea what he was looking at but they were important enough to have kept him alive. ‘We are gratified you should bring this to us Yeoman Wilson. It seems you intended to defect?’ Wilson’s mind reeled. No wonder the others hadn’t said a word. He’d thought they were broken men. Not so. They thought him a traitor to Queen and Country.

The enormity of it dawned on him. Were he to attempt escape and by some miracle make it home questions would be asked. He would be branded a traitor. He’d be hanged. Wilson’s thoughts came quickly like gunshots, each piercing his soul. The realisation of what had happened shocked him to his core. ‘Did…did you find others near me?’ It was his only bargaining chip. Someone, anyone from the damage control party, someone who had seen what had happened with Bob or whatever he was called would destroy any hope of salvation.

‘You were found floating amongst your…former colleagues, clutching a bag Yeoman Wilson. None was alive but you.’

Nobody would believe he hadn’t betrayed his country now. The thought sickened him. He had no choice but to go along with this officer’s assumption, nnauseating as it was. The officer lit a cigarette, taking a long pull before puffing the smoke into the air.

‘What is it you hope to gain from this Yeoman Wilson? You do not speak Japanese I presume?’ The officer asked clearly not entirely convinced by what had happened or that lowly sailor would want to swap one master’s yoke for another, let alone one where he couldn’t function or even speak to anyone. Wilson’s head, still rushing, went through several possibilities.

‘Peace!’ He said suddenly, truth breaking through the dullness he’d felt since being rescued.

‘I do not follow you Yeoman Wilson.’ The officer took another long drag on his cigarette. Wilson’s brain was cartwheeling through ideas. Being a prisoner was not a good idea, being worked to death had possibilities but it was known that the Empire of the Blazing Sun was not very humanitarian to its own, let alone foreigners. The path of peace was the best he could hope for. To be put somewhere and forgotten. ‘I seek only somewhere to live, away from the fighting, sir.’

Realisation came across the officers face as he pieced together a language he did not fully command. ‘Ah! What is the word for this? …Coward I believe?’ Wilson flinched. A vestige of his sense of honour made its presence felt but he was getting desperate. He needed this officer to believe him, to relent a little. He couldn’t go home, it was too late, too many would suspect him a traitor now, he couldn’t shake the feeling that everyone at home knew already or would find out soon, then he would be hanged. The Japanese would kill him one way or another unless he could pull off the biggest con in history. He couldn’t let this officer think him dishonourable, that was important to these people, to the officer class at least, so far as he could remember. If they found out that this was all an accident he’d be sent to work, tortured to death or just shot as an example to others.

Everything was about survival now. The words flowed from him; ‘No sir. Not coward. Were I a coward I would not have gone to sea. I would not have stayed with my ship. I would not have gathered those items. I would have fled the fighting, not sign up. . Cowards do not go to war. Sir.’ The officer pondered this. Wilson kept up the pace, his conscience quieting down to allow his mind to clear. Tired is the word sir. Tired of fighting. Tired of death. I seek a peaceful life before I die, preferably of old age.’ The officer strolled to his window and looked out. ‘We all seek this Yeoman Wilson. I too am tired of the death. I am inclined to grant your request. Find somewhere quiet to place you. But first,’ he wheeled round to face his prisoner ‘you will speak with me of everything you know about Britannian movements, tactics and procedures.’ The officer motioned to the door. ‘Please, this way.’ Wilson stood and went through to be flanked by his guards. He had no choice. He was already thought a traitor. He didn’t want to die. He would tell them everything. Survival was all that mattered.

Shell Case Shorts 8

August. Who’d have thought I’d manage to keep this competition going this long. It of course wouldn’t be possible were it not for you lovely readers entering and those lovely people donating prizes. And this month’s prize is the tits. It’s nothing less than a signed copy of Dropzone Commander from Hawk Wargames.

This month the entries must be from a science fiction wargame in honour of this top prize. Steampunk isn’t included I’m afraid, sorry.

So what do you have to do to win this rather large slice of awesomeness? Well, I’m glad you asked…

Rules are as follows:

Your work is your own but intellectual property rests squarely with the companies in question and is only used under fair use. I reserve the right to publish any submissions in a strictly non-profit capacity. All published writers will be credited accordingly.

Submissions should attempt to evoke the IP the story is based on.

Short story entries word limit should be 3,000-4,000 words.

All entries must be received by midnight UK time Friday 31st August 2012 after which a single winner will be chosen. Submissions received after this will not be considered.

1 submission per person.

Work believed to be plagiarised will be disqualified.

All submissions must be sent as a Word document attached to an email to theshellcase@hotmail.co.uk

[Any spam from entrants will result in disqualification]

Submissions must include the entrants name, a contact email address, Twitter name if applicable and the title of the story.

1 winner will be chosen and notified by email.

The winning entry will be published initially on The Shell Case blog and later in a free to download anthology.

No discussion will be entered into, my decision is final.

The prize may not be exchanged for its cash value or an alternative. However, I reserve the right to substitute the prize if necessary.

Good luck and have fun!

Sponsored by

Communication Problem

I’ve been having some email problems lately. The shellcase.com email address seems to have expired without any notification and the alternative .co.uk address isn’t receiving. Needless to say this is rather problematic, especially as I can’t even auto forward via the webmail provider. Because they’re shit apparently.

This means that if anyone has sent me an email over, at least, the last week I haven’t received it. So if anyone has sent me an email that I haven’t replied to, including any and all Shell Case Shorts entries (which closes Tuesday – hint hint) they’ll need resending if possible. That includes any of you lovely games companies out there that I’ve been speaking to about one thing or another.

Until I can get this problem resolved I have set up a temporary email account that you can use for any and all communication – theshellcase@hotmail.co.uk

1 Today

The Shell Case is 1 years old today. It’s funny to think that back then I had very little idea what I was going to write about that month let alone 12 months later.

So, what’s happened in the last year? Well…

Since The Shell Case went live I’ve written 387 posts the blog has had over 84,500

In July last year the blog averaged 11 hits a day. It now averages 540.

The busiest day was a whopping 2,105 hits for my first look at Dropzone Commander which is released today – which has a pleasing symmetry to it.

I’ve written 47 reviews, 9 interviews and 12 essays on 40k. And I’ve even been interviewed by Noobhammer and War More Radio.

In the last year The Shell Case Alliance has been founded and has 33 members and the Shell Case Shorts looks set to run right through to the end of the year just as I’d hoped. This never would have happened were it not for the kindness of the writers and games developers who have donated prizes these last few months.

Thanks to my good and dear friend Dave aka DocBungle. He was an inspiration to me starting out and gave me invaluable advice in those early and timid days. He continues to inspire even now. And make fun of me until I paint things…

There are lots of other people to thank for the continual kind words and encouragement – you all know who you are.

All in all it’s been quite a year and none of it would have been possible were it not for the tremendous community that I have found myself a part of. You all inspire me to write better, write more and take as many #warmongers as I can with me on my meandering journey through wargaming.

The second year of The Shell Case has some ambitious plans, some of which are already getting traction but more on that another time.

Suffice to say that the reason why I have and will continue to write is for those of you reading this now. Thank you.

As a birthday bonus I’m going to do give one lucky person an Empire of the Dead Gentlemen’s Club starter set. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post telling me why you deserve to win. Be as imaginative as you like.

You have until Tuesday 31st July to enter, one entry per person, my decision is final and no alternative is offered. Have fun!

 

Shell Case Shorts 7

This month’s Shell Case Shorts is a little bit special because the prize is not a signed book, but a signed rule book. Those fine chaps at Spartan Games have donated a copy of Dystopian Wars signed by all the development team.

With this in mind, the Shell Case Shorts is going Steampunk. All entries should be based on a Steampunk IP such as Dystopian Wars, Wolsung, Empire of the Dead etc. And, because I’m nice, I’ll even include Warmachine in the mix.

Rules are as follows:

Your work is your own but intellectual property rests squarely with the companies in question and is only used under fair use. I reserve the right to publish any submissions in a strictly non-profit capacity. All published writers will be credited accordingly.

Submissions should attempt to evoke the IP the story is based on.

Short story entries word limit should not exceed 3,000 words.

All entries must be received by midnight UK time Tuesday 31st July 2012 after which a single winner will be chosen. Submissions received after this will not be considered.

1 submission per person.

Work believed to be plagiarised will be disqualified.

All submissions must be sent as a Word document attached to an email to theshellcase@hotmail.co.uk

[Any spam from entrants will result in disqualification]

Submissions must include the entrants name, a contact email address, Twitter name if applicable and the title of the story.

1 winner will be chosen and notified by email.

The winning entry will be published initially on The Shell Case blog and later in a free to download anthology.

No discussion will be entered into, my decision is final.

The prize may not be exchanged for its cash value or an alternative. However, I reserve the right to substitute the prize if necessary.

Good luck and have fun!

Sponsored by

The Shell Case Shorts 6

Half way through the greatest short story competition in the wargaming world! Who’d have thought it?

This month I’m mixing it up again giving entrants two ways of participating. June’s criteria are a wargaming IP (as always), it can be anything you like; Fantasy, Steampunk, Sci-fi, you name it. And you’ve got the choice of writing fiction or doing a comic strip.

The reason for this momentary shift is entirely down to the awesome person who has donated this months prize and the awesome prize itself.

I refer to the community’s very own Chris Webb, aka @Curis and his awesome compilation of comic strips Punishment of the Dice Gods.
You can visit Curis’ website here.

Rules are as follows:

Your work is your own but intellectual property rests squarely with the companies in question and is only used under fair use. I reserve the right to publish any submissions in a strictly non-profit capacity. All published writers will be credited accordingly.

Submissions should attempt to evoke the IP the story is based on.

For short story entries word limit is up to 2,000 words.

For comic book entries it should exceed no more than a DPS (2 pages of A4 or single A3, whichever).

All entries must be received by midnight Saturday 30th June 2012 after which a single winner will be chosen. Submissions received after this will not be considered.

1 submission per person.

Work believed to be plagiarised will be disqualified.

All submissions must be sent as a Word document (prose) or PDF (comic strip) attached to an email to phil@theshellcase.com

[Any spam from entrants will result in disqualification]

Submissions must include the entrants name, a contact email address, Twitter name if applicable and the title of the story.

1 winner will be chosen and notified by email.

The winning entry will be published initially on The Shell Case blog and later in a free to download anthology.

No discussion will be entered into, my decision is final.

The prize may not be exchanged for its cash value or an alternative. However, I reserve the right to substitute the prize if necessary.

Good luck and have fun!

A Contribution to the Shell Case Shorts

I’ve been thinking about adding a short story of my own to the Shell Case Shorts anthology when it’s released in January. A little indulgence on my part but hopefully the illustrious winners won’t begrudge me.

As I can’t enter my own competition I thought, as a compromise, I’d turn the decision as to which IP I write about over to you, the wargaming community.

So, make your choice in the poll below and I will abide by the majority vote:

The Shell Case Shorts 4 – Honourable Mention

The third post for the Shell Case Shorts 4 is for the honourable mention. This entry was by no means poor or a poor second, it was just pipped at the post. The entry belongs to none other than Lee of The Chaps. Having lovingly built his loyalist Emperor’s Children he used the Shell Case Shorts 4 as an excuse to put down the background he’d always carried around in his head. I think you’ll agree that it’s a good entry. The only thing that stopped it from hitting a top spot was its reliance on existing canon rather than a straight up new chapter. But still very good. And he’ll still receive a signed copy of Back from the Dead by Nick Kyme.

So I give you the honourable mention – Loyalist Emperor’s Children

HISTORY

The Emperors Children are known as a Traitor Legion, forever tainted by the moment of weakness displayed by their Primarch, Fulgrim.

When the galaxy stood on brink of achieving the Emperor’s grand vision, instead the most grievous betrayal in the history of humanity was allowed to be realised. Doubts had been raised over Horus’ actions and Fulgrim was had been warned of Horus turning against the Emperor by the Eldar Farseer, Eldrad Ulthuan, during an ill-fated meeting on an Eldar Maiden world, although by this time it was too late.  The daemon bound within a sword he had captured during the Cleansing of Laeran had been fighting for control over his soul and Fulgrim was close to completely falling under its sway. The meeting descended into bloodshed between the escorts of Eldrad and Fulgrim, the Emperor’s Children fortunate to escape the planet with their lives. Fulgrim killed the wraithlord, Khirean Goldhelm, before reinforcements emerged from the Warp Gate Eldrad has chosen as the setting for his greeting.  Forced to kill an Avatar with his bare hands, Fulgrim suffered severe burns but enabled he and his captains to escape the surface.  After these events, Fulgrim met with Horus for answers to the questions over his intent, but rather than hold true to his faith, he put the friendship he shared with his Warmaster before his duty to the Emperor and condemned his legion to bear the stain of the traitor.

After Fulgrim had been convinced by Horus to turn from the Emperors light, it took little effort for him to subvert his senior commanders to follow his lead.  The corruption spread throughout the Legion, Captain to Sergeant, Sergeant to Marine, the once proud warriors sliding inexorably into damnation. The pride they held in their perfection too strong to relinquish its grasp on their actions, their arrogance blinding them to their fate.

Not all followed this change in character so readily, but whereas some voiced their opinions, others judged that to show dissent was to invite unwanted attention. Captains Solomon Demeter and Saul Tarvitz of the 2nd and 10th Companies respectively, were the most senior individuals known to have resisted the taint along with scant few others scattered amongst the Legion.  Lord Commander Vespasian had tried in vain to reason with Fulgrim over the Legions fall from grace but was killed for his efforts by the Primarch under the influence of the daemon bound sword he now favoured over the ‘Fireblade’, crafted for him by his closest brother, Ferrus Manus, Primarch of the Iron Hands.  Fulgrim would come to slay Ferrus with this weapon in the Battle of Isstvan V.

When the first of the Traitor Legions comprising of Horus’ Lunar Wolves, Angron’s World Eaters, Mortarion’s Death Guard and Fulgrim’s Emperors Children gathered together at the now infamous Isstvan system, they enacted a plan to purge all those who had not yet given themselves over to Horus’ designs.  Under the pre-tense of removing the planetary governor who had revolted against the Imperium, the four legions arranged for all those whose loyalties could not be counted on to make planet fall on the Capital of Isstvan III, Choral City, in a drop pod assault. Lines of communication were severed and the planet then virus bombed from orbit, annihilating the 12 billion inhabitants and resulting in a psychic death scream so powerful it overshadowed the Astronomican.  Those loyal marines planet side would have surely shared that fate had Captain Tarvitz, not escaped the fleet in a Thunderhawk and carried warning, giving precious little time to find suitable cover in bunkers and other fortifications. Many were unable to find shelter before the bombs fell and were engulfed in the ensuing fire storm that scoured the planet of life.  Captain Tarvitz was supposed to be present on the surface having irked the Primarch on many occasions with his actions, but sensing something was amiss, had managed to remain with the fleet.

Once it emerged that not all the Loyalist forces had been destroyed by the virus bombs, Angron launched an immediate assault with his World Eaters. This forced Hours’ hand into sending detachments from all the Traitor Legions in a show of force to ensure the demise of the Loyalists.  Despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered, the Loyalists managed to organise themselves into a cohesive force and mounted a ferocious defence in the ruins of Choral City. Under the command of a hand full of Captains from the various Legions, including Captain Tarvitz, the Loyalists held out for three months and inflicted massive casualties on the Traitor Legions.  Eventually defeated through yet more betrayal and an orbital bombardment of the city, the victorious traitors then began the systematic extermination of all loyalist survivors hiding in the ruins.

Horus could now count on the absolute fealty of every soldier within his core Legions but it wasn’t without its price.  The ruins of the capital had been turned into a city of death by the staunch Loyalists, the dead and dying covered every corner of the once beautiful gardens and promenades, only to be smashed to atoms under the massive batteries of the Traitor Fleet. The many casualties sustained represented a significant proportion of the forces at Horus’ disposal and ultimate victory over the Emperor was no longer assured.

This is where the story should have ended for those that upheld the honour of the Emperors Children, hunted to extinction by their former friends and brothers.  Yet somehow a scattered few emerged from the ruins of the city, a few of the bunkers having withstood the terrible pounding inflicted on the surface above. Despite their best efforts in leaving nothing alive on Isstvan III, Horus and his fleet were forced to proceed with the next stage in his plan and departed for Isstvan V, allowing the few remaining Loyalists to escape their attentions.  Gradually the prolonged silence encouraged them to break cover and they could no longer see the fleet in stationary orbit above the ruined planet. Evaluating their situation stranded on a ruined planet, who knew how long it would be before they would be found, and even then, how would they be viewed. Banding together for support with most seriously wounded, they had little to do but wait for either death or salvation.

It was only some years later when the Imperium had began picking up the pieces of a galaxy shattered by the conflict did vessels begin to return to the Isstvan system and investigate the events that lead to the Heresy. It did not take long to detect the faint signs of life clustered amongst the devastation of Choral City.  The wreckage of several Legions lay twisted within the ruins and this had provided the Loyalists enough materials and supplies to endure the passing years. The few score of survivors were rounded up and treated with the utmost suspicion before being handed over to the now established Inquisition.  Subjected to many years of interrogations, tests and trials, the Inquisition could find no proof that the taint was endemic to their Geneseed and deemed that the Emperors Children were instead led into damnation by Fulgrim and his Commanders.

The Emperors Children pleaded with their interrogators to be given the opportunity to redeem their honour by fighting for the Imperium once more and help chase down their traitorous former comrades into the Eye of Terror.  Deliberations were lengthy and difficult, with many wishing for an end to their name. The fact that one of the founding members of the Inquisition was none other than Captain Nathaniel Garro, a former member of the Death Guard Traitor Legion who had escaped the Scouring of Isstvan III himself, appeared to carry their argument and stay the executioner’s hand.

Granted their wish, the Loyalist Emperors Children, as they were now officially known, were tasked with helping the Inquisition to locate the planet Fulgrim was thought to have retreated to within the Eye of Terror. After achieving Daemonhood, his chosen world is now twisted into an almost alien realm of indulgence and excess which both the Inquisition and Traitor alike have sought for the last 10,000 years.  They weren’t given free reign by any means, instead attached to a force of Grey Knights operating within the Eye.  Seen as expendable, they were used to absorb casualties and divert the enemy, enabling the Grey Knights limited numbers to carry out their most crucial of missions, while sparing them from the full horror of a Daemonic incursion and the risk of corruption – the life of a single Grey Knight viewed as being infinitely more valuable than that of a former Traitor Legionnaire. As almost all those who come into contact with the Grey Knights either have their minds wiped or do not live beyond the encounter, word of a force of Emperors Children still operating in pre-Heresy livery and their exploits has not spread beyond the Inquisition  – any suggestion of a sighting reported as a case of mistaken identity.

RECRUITMENT

Whether by design or accident, their role with the Grey Knights has meant that the now ‘Chapter’ has struggled to grow in number.  Barely a company could be scraped together when they were first given the Battle Barge ‘Forlorn Hope’ as their new base of operations and attached to the Grey Knights, and in the long millenia since have only managed to double that number.  The attrition of endless conflict and downright brutality of the engagements has meant for painfully slow progress. The marines themselves bear terrible wounds from the many battles, almost all having at least some body part augmented or completely replaced by bionics in order to speed their recovery and sent back into the fray.

The Chapter is longer responsible for its own Geneseed and recruitment, the Inquisition do not yet trust them fully and prefer to retain as much control as possible. Recruits are delivered directly and without information on their origins – their minds wiped to ensure secrecy.  Rumours circulate that in lieu of their destroyed home world they derive from Terra itself, as it was for the original Legion before the Heresy, but none could ever be sure. Apothecaries are worryingly absent from their formations, those marines suffering serious injury must trust in their brothers to succeed before being recovered for treatment.  Those that pay the ultimate price are stripped of their equipment and taken by the Inquisition for Geneseed recovery. Nothing is known of these events and no communication forthcoming, their brothers can only hope the fallen receive the honour they deserve.

Whether the Inquisition will one day loosen the grip they keep over them is unknown, but it will be many more years before the possibility would even be considered.  Perhaps one day they may even be granted a home world of their own to replace Chemos, which was destroyed by the Inquisition and placed under quarantine following the end of the Heresy, its location unknown to anyone outside the Ordos.

COMBAT DOCTRINE

They Loyalist Emperors Children possess precious little in the way of heavy armour despite the forges on the ‘Forlorn Hope’ working day and night to constantly repair the non-stop procession of damaged vehicles cycling through the workshops. However, the Chapter is one of the few who retain the knowledge of building Dreadnoughts. This combined with the endless casualties the Chapter sustains giving ample candidates for internment, has lead to the Emperors Children fielding more Dreadnoughts than most other Chapters, despite their relatively small size. Of those currently active, some are truly ancient and have witnessed death on a scale unimaginable.  These do not enjoy the long slumbers as is traditional for such heroes, they are relied upon time and again to bolster the lines with their formidable abilities and serve as the spear heads for the rest to follow.  One such Dreadnought, Rylanor, was pulled from the rubble of Choral City some 700 years after the conflict ended.  Almost shorn into two when a towering spire had collapsed upon him, his life support had gone into a mode of extended shutdown, but was somehow still functioning when his battered purple sarcophagus was unearthed from the tonnes of rubble that had buried him.  After he was repaired and slowly awakened from his state, he was informed of the events that had taken place during the Heresy. On hearing of Fulgrim’s decent into depravity and the Emperors grievous wounding at the hands of Horus, he flew into a terrible rage, destroying anything he could, believing it all to be tainted with their deeds.  Most feared he would not be able to continue in his service so terrible was his anger, but gradually he began to acknowledge what his new brothers were endeavouring to achieve.  He is now a common sight on the battlefields graced by the Emperors Children, his timeless rage unleashed upon his enemies, he show’s no mercy in his prosecution of the Emperors will.

Pre-Heresy, the Emperors Children were strict adherents to approved combat doctrine. They put much effort into preparation and used templates for each combat situation, detailing the appropriate use of available forces to overcome the enemy.  The Chapter has now had to radically change its tactical philosophy, primarily due to the equipment and manpower restraints it currently operates under. Their formations are now focussed around bringing about large concentrations fire at close range. Tactical squads are mounted in lightly armoured Rhino’s and Razorbacks which deploy them swiftly into cover, supported by their advancing Dreadnoughts. Landspeeder’s and Assault marines provide fast moving flanking forces to keep the enemy off balance while an endless wave of fire keeps them pinned in place. Having not forgotten the lessons learnt in the ruins of Choral City, they excel in defence and possess a vast wealth of strategic and tactical knowledge.  The bare handful of marines who manage to keep themselves free of any augmentation either through supreme ability or divine fate are formed into units of elite Honour Guard who accompany the current Chapter Master into battle, although only in the most dire of circumstances,  their numbers being few to point of extinction . The rank of Chapter Master is merely an honorary title held by the most senior Captain, as there is no need for such a position when the amount of warriors to lead is so few. In truth, a Master of the Forge is just as likely to put in command as his abilities in repairing bionic components and tending to the many Dreadnoughts are of great importance to the Chapters survival.

NOTABLE ENGAGEMENTS

The cleansing of Laeran should have a victory remembered by all the Imperium as a monument to the marines fighting ability.  The Administratum on Terra had feared the technologically advanced Laer would take over 10 years to be brought to compliance and even suggested the xenos be made a protectorate of Imperium to spare the resources necessary to bring about their defeat.  Fulgrim was disgusted by this opinion, and he and the Emperors Children set about cleansing the entire planet in only a month. Laeran consisted of many atolls floating above an ocean that covered the entire surface of the planet, their altitude maintained by mysterious energy columns.  Bridge heads were established by assault forces and then used as staging posts for defeating the next platform in quick succession.  On finding a temple at the heart of the atoll deemed as the focus of their civilisation, Fulgrim recovered a shimmering silver blade.  Unbeknownst to him, it contained the bound essence of a Daemon Price and the Laer temple was dedicated to Slaanesh, corrupting everyone who entered it without their knowledge.  With the sword now in the possession of Fulgrim, it began to whisper thoughts to him, masquerading as his conscience and manipulating his decisions.  In so doing, it engineered his siding with Horus over the Emperor, a fact Horus himself was ignorant of until he met with Fulgrim after the Battle of Isstvan V and was presented with the head of Ferrus Manus as a gift.

As a species, the Laer combined a serpentine lower body with four arms on an armoured torso, and an insect like head with large multifaceted eyes. They wielded a pair of swords in their arms which easily defeated a marine’s armour, as did the energy gauntlets on the second set of limbs.  These gauntlets spat a green energy which no protection was proof against, and combined with the creature’s tremendous speed, reaped a terrible toll upon the Astartes.  At the end of the war, 700 Emperors Children had lost their lives and over 4,000 had been admitted as casualties, in exchange for the entire Laer species.

As for the silver sword, devoid of the entity which now resided with him, Fulgrim gifted it to Lucius, former Captain of the 13th Company following the events on Isstvan V.  He is now known to be the Slaaneshi Champion, Lucius the Eternal.

Since their attachment to the Grey Knights, all records of their exploits within the Eye of Terror are sealed under order of the Inquisition.

MISSION

It was one of the greatest tragedies of the Heresy that the Emperors Children succumbed to Slaanesh. During their founding, an unexplained accident led to almost all of their Geneseed being destroyed and so they began their service with barely 200 marines to call to arms. The Emperor bestowed upon them his name and gave them his symbol of the Imperial Eagle to wear on their armour – the only Legion given this highest of honours. And so they dedicated every victory, every glory to his name.  They strove for perfection in every aspect of warfare in order to serve him better, none could claim to be more devoted to the Emperor than they. The brothers who now make up the Chapter’s 200 or so able marines are fully aware of their history and see themselves in a similar position as those first courageous crusaders. Each battle brother still strives for perfection in his duties, but it is without the taint of arrogance displayed by their forbears.  They hope that by achieving this they can progress as a Chapter, increase their numbers and one day take their place amongst the other Chapters as true defenders of the Imperium.  They fight on to reclaim the name of their Chapter from those who have kept it as an insult to its honour. Fate has not been kind but still they toil, never allowing doubt in their cause to enter their thoughts.