He wonders about the meaning of pain.
Lying broken, bloodied upon the arid ground. The heat cooks, bakes, roasts the husk as shadows dance over the fallen marine. Only thing he can see is the blinding disc of golden light, gracefully blocked out by infrequent blinks of darkness of those terrible beasts.
Sharp shots of gunfire deafened his senses, as the rocky earth shook beneath his body. He turns his head to the side, as their guttural roars and warwhoops escalate as they flaunt his wargear, leaping around in discordant harmony at word of their triumph, now, to their prize. The marine’s gaze parted through the veil of the heat haze, dozens of his brothers scattered across the grilling earth as dots of unmoving red. Every marine is frozen in death, stretching in their torment for safety, as they prayed to the Emperor to save their lives. The tanks of the chapter are smoking across the desert, upturned and erupting with sheets of fire, etching black stains upon the yellow belly of this hell. The sturdy hulls of Predators are filled with lead as Land Raiders are bust with myriad of fissures in their sides. Even the feared dreadnaughts have been knocked aside as effortlessly as child would throw porcelain dolls away, their white armour grained with the green blood they spilt prior to their inevitable destruction.
Across the barren terrain several holy banners of the Dragoons have been burnt to black ashes, while Land Speeders stick out of the ground akin to dragon’s teeth, only no warriors of this chapter will every sprout out to fight the wicked. Terminators and their limbs are scattered by ditches, entrails cast over their torsos. They had barely fired a bullet before they had been carved open with lead. And the headless body of the Chapter Master was lying there by his Land Raider; a huge puddle of blood that frothed from the body is now but a charred oval in front of the massive man. The head of that leader is now stuck on some metal stick, under possession by the creature that was to be the Dragoon’s bane.
This last marine cannot comprehend what had occurred.
He recalls only bloodshed and fire...a bleeding hand, but little more.
Unable even to focus upon some sort of objective, he has forgotten even his name.
The marine clutches at the pebbles around, trying to find salvation in final annihilation of his life. He tries to breathe, but his parched throat forces him to cough out sooty air. His right hand scrapes across the jagged, frying earth to find something, anything. Pain rips through his chest, agony rupturing through his lungs like rusty nails. His extensive armour blocks his attempts to move, due to the fatigue ushered by the blood he had lost. Yet the loyalty to duty overpowers all other thoughts that a normal man would set aside in the anguish, so he stretches a little further, just a little more, just, just enough for his ring finger to contact with the grip of his bolt pistol.
“Oi! You won’t be getting that, humie!”
A massive boot slams upon his ash-stained gauntlet, compelling him to cry out in anguish. But in doing so, rips at his throat, clasping his oesophagus in parched pain.
“…water, water…” he groused.
“Hey lads! The tin man wants water!”
Lukewarm, yellow urine splashes over the deep crimson armour, boiling into a distasteful vapour (and equally unpleasant odour) soon as it hits the cooking admantium. The ork piss even covered his face, burning as the heat boiled across his skin, yet when in such extreme pain, the marine barely recognised that had occurred.
However, the orks did not.
The orks gawfed at that ultimate insult, hollering, bellowing, stamping on the ground with bloody boots and aged axes, loosening scores of bullets into the air.
“Orks, orks, orks, orks, orks, orks, orks, orks!”
“We won! We won! We won!”
“And wee have dat last ‘ragoon,”
The leader of this small squad, a foot taller, wider in statue and sprouting larger fangs than the rest, brought his huge boot upon the marine’s chest and pressed down hard. The Dragoon couldn’t but help but notice that it was a metal boot that was fixed upon him. Whether he had salvaged remnants of power armour around, or had merely fought his way of possession of some armour was unknown, yet he appeared far more formidable than any other out of his group.
“This world belongs to the orks!” he proclaimed, “We shall take back this humie for IronStompa! From ‘ere we will create the most massive Waaagh the galaxy has ever seen, and we’ll be right in the action lads! With this humie, we’ll be able to get ourselves the finest gunz and gear, yeah!”
To add insult to injury, this ‘Nob’ as the orks classed, fired the marine’s own bolt pistol into the air. But not for long.
Distracted by his own zealous speech, the ork had removed any common sense to see that this marine was still a threat. Despite having suffered numerous gunshot wounds, this last marine found the power to snatch the blade out of the Nob’s boot.
“What!” he cried, as the knife sliced through the hamstrings of his left leg. The marine followed through with the attack, dagger grinding through the Nob’s mandible into its stubborn skull. Just as the orks poised their weapons, the bolt pistol pronounced stern judgement. Three flew back in clouds of green gore, innards gushing out into the rays of the fierce white sun. The other two had stumbled in awe of the assault, shrugging off the shrapnel sticking out their sides.
The marine threw aside the empty bolter and plunged his hands upon the nearest ork. One hand on each jowl of the mouth and hard-pressed against the ligaments holding it together. In one simultaneous, ghastly instance the jaw gave way with a crunch, erupting into a fountain of hot blood. The other ork roared and reared its axe, bright yellow eyes fixing upon the marine. It bared its yellow teeth and lobbed its axe upon the last Dragoon. The marine side-stepped to intercept, but stirred too slowly, the rusty blade jarring into the exposed flesh between neck and shoulder. It wedged there, to both of their dismay, unyielding from the marine’s exposed tissue. Funnelling the torment into raw force, the Dragoon pressed his palms upon the ork’s temples. He pressed down hard, roaring louder than the injured ork, until the entire skull disintegrated in a sloppy mush pile of oozing bone, blood and brain.
As the ork’s body convulsed to the floor, the marine dropped to one knee, breathing deeply and coarse. The brightly coloured axe, hot and sharp, sizzled deep into his flesh, digging deeper with each inhale he struggled to accomplish. He placed his big hand upon the hilt and with one swift movement, pulled it free from his body.
Fresh distress coursed through his system, blurry shapes scattering across his vision. Blood continued to weep from his wound, oozing out from the wound with vicious haste. Anxious that even his enhanced blood was not clotting as quickly as he expected – or would hope – the marine looked upon his metal gauntlet, in which ork blood vaporised off due to the exponential temperature. Gritting his teeth and clamping his eyelids shut, he stamped his palm upon the abrasion and despite the pain, did not stop until no blood trickled amid his digits. He was tearing away the enamel off his teeth just as the gash fully cauterised. He glanced at the injury, seeing only an imprint of his hand over the cut, all the tissue now a charred strand of black.
He just began to comprehend all of this devastation, memories blossoming of thunder and shrapnel when the loud hydraulic movement of something began to reach his ears-
But by then it was too late.
For he was launched hurling back in a cloud of white-hot shrapnel. Some raucous laughing was orientating from the beast in his accurate shot, far off in the heat haze. The marine coughed out blood and vomit over a deceased battle-brother he was sprawled over, fumbling around in pain. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t breathe. His breastplate was a broken mess, wires and admantium sticking out from all places and dripping in his gore.
And it was so hot, so Emperor-Forsaken hot.
His heart felt like it was about to explode, so rapidly did it drum against what remained of his fused rib cage. He hyperventilated as his vision blurred, and darkened as he experienced the heat cook right down to his bones.
Then at last, either through pain or panic, unconsciousness gracefully enveloped him in her cool, soft arms...
“I speak the Emperor’s words!”
Vision came blasting back and the marine witnessed the face of what he assumed was a librarian. His face to the Dragoon was too young, far too young, but the eyes foretold a man who had witnessed far more than what his features conveyed. His chestnut eyes glowed with a certain white eminence, as his outstretch hand resonated the same pulsing power.
“He is alive, Zaku, assist in taking him to the Thunderhawk. With speed!” His voice again, appeared to be far too youthful for a space marine, but the injured marine was in no place to complain, “What is your name, Dragoon?”
“W...Whisky.” the marine replied, finding the fluidity in his voice had returned.
“Good, good,” the Librarian smiled faintly, “I am halting the bleeding process with my powers, but I cannot use them on you for the whole time, so you must keep your faith and hold on, our Apothecary will be here soon.”
Someone rushed past them, lobbing a grenade straight up into the air.
The codex grey armour then turned to them, the helmet eyes of the marine glaring down upon Whisky with anger. But Whisky sensed this was not directed towards him.
“Damn Orks!” Zaku cursed, as the Killa Kan he lobbed the krak grenade at blew apart in a mist of green gore and fire, “The foul xenos are without number!”
“Do not fret, we will be out soon, but you must help me take our battle-brother to the Thunderhawk!” The Psyker cried.
“Alright, alright Half! We’ll get him there! Brothers, give us some cover!”
Whisky, in the hope of living once more did not realise that there was a skirmish occurring. The sounds of bolters were numerous and the roars of Orks came as an escalating echo. He could not see much aside from the white haze, but could assume that this battle was rough indeed. Then he heard a loud fizz scatter across their heads and a sharp bang. Whisky was dropped to the ground and the white haze around his vision vanished to dull pain all around his limbs.
Whisky heard many cries. A chainsword grating through flesh. The salty tang of psychic powers. More screams. All belonged to orks.
“It’s one of their Psykers,” Half calmly announced, now drenched in green gore, “I shall deal with him before he transports any more orks to our flanks. Now go and take good care of him.”
Whisky was lifted up to his rump and was dragged across the ground as Zaku pulled him back, gripping to his sides and making quick progress. He could see, despite the lack of Half’s healing abilities to aid him, the battle playing out. Marines churned through scores of orks with their bolters, even as simple scouts, they were destroying the orks with ease. All clad in grey and red, save from Half, who was ordained in sparkling blue and patches of grey. He strode towards the two hip-high walls that the scouts were taking cover from and launched bolts of red lightning against the orks, who were flung back metres away.
Then a bubble of green fixed around some beast in the distance that also lobbed bolts of physic power at Half. The Librarian was nonplussed by the attacks, deflecting them back with quick backhands in anger and launching them straight back at the orks who stormed towards their position. Some of the orks, uncharacteristically were running right back to the safety of the heat haze.
“I WILL DESTROY YOUR MIND, MUTANT!”
Even Whisky, half-blind and half-deaf heard and felt those words loud and clear. A quake of energy surged through the cooked earth and offset dozens of the orks, while the bubble of green energy surrounding the ork psyker grew more unstable and colourful. Then the scouts were fleeing, rushing back to the Thunderhawk as Whisky’s vision began to dull to grey. Half stood as a pillar against the green tide, right until the orb of green energy surrounding the Weirdboy blew and flew as a pulse of lightning towards the Thunderhawk.
“No!” Half roared, “No more blood of our brothers will be spilt!”
He could barely keep upright as he fought to contain the power that he snatched out the air, cursing and roaring as the power surged through his veins. Then in one blast of blinding light that sent Zaku and all the other marines reeling back, Half unleashed the power against the new wave of orks just coming through the heat haze. All of those orks exploded, the ground painted in buckets of green gore. Then he plummeted to the earth, power weapon snapped in two and power crackled across his power armour.
He did not move.
Zaku stormed past Whisky, along with two other scouts upon the arid ground, leaping over the ditches.
Whisky’s gaze now truly began to fade to blackness, but even his vision as dissipated he heard the words:
“...I think, no...Half is gone. He’s dead...”
“The Wolf Pack is without a Librarian once more.”
And the last thing he saw before he fell to sleep, was the chestnut eyes of the Librarian, staring out into space.