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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The continuing saga of the Duct's End Militia: Chapter one

Private Hicks peered out through the narrow slit in the wall at the ganger a few yards away in the gloom. He seemed to be having some difficulty with the shotgun he was cradling in one arm. Hicks raised his autogun to his shoulder and prepared to fire. Just as his finger squeezed the trigger he became aware of Sergeant Apone creeping round the bulkhead in front of him towards the same ganger. Hicks hastily pulled his shot wide and winced as Apone leapt aside into cover, glancing back over his shoulder at Hicks. The shaken marksman waited for the sergeant to advance again, but when there was no movement he levelled his gun at the ganger again. By now his nerves were severely shattered and his hands shook as he fired twice at the figure in the distance, both shots scattering wildly into the darkness. Hicks sank to his knees in an effort to steady his trembling frame, he’d be for it if the sergeant found out who nearly shot him in the back…

Up above on his observation platform, Vasquez surveyed the field. He could just see the Ratskin on the tower opposite, but it was hard to get a clear shot with his hunting rifle. Instead he turned his attention to the ganger slinking over the roof near the building where Hudson’s squad were entrenched. As his vision travelled across he spotted Spunkmeyer advancing through the gap between the buildings in the middle of the dome. His fingers began to itch, it would be so easy to pop a bullet into him right now… He mastered his thoughts long enough to fire at the ganger on the rooftop, who slunk back behind the railing, who knew whether he was injured or not? As Vasquez’ gaze returned to the Juve below he saw a ganger with a shotgun emerge from around the corner below and level his weapon at Spunkmeyer’s chest…

Supremely confident in his role as one of the Imperium’s warrior, Spunkmeyer knew he was more than a match for the scum of the underhive. He gripped his Stub Gun solidly as he advanced towards the Delaque ganger ahead of him, levelling the pistol at the ganger’s head and walking slowly as he commanded the ganger to drop his shotgun. He was a little surprised when the ganger smiled, raised the shotgun and pumped a manstopper slug point blank into the Juve…

Apone was sure he’d estimated this one right. He’d separated his men into three main squads; Hudson, Drake and Crowe taking the middle route through the buildings, Gorman and Ferro skirting round the ruins on the left wing and Frost and himself taking the right flank heading towards the chemical factory. Hicks, Vasquez and Wierzbowski were covering their routes from vantage points behind them. The first sense he had that something was going wrong was when a shot whistled past his right ear, narrowly missing clipping his helmet. He risked a swift glance and was not at all surprised to see the khaki uniform of one of his men behind the barrier from which the shot had originated. He couldn’t be sure, but from the placement he guessed it was Hicks. He made a mental note to discipline him later, the man needed to learn to shoot straight. His attention was drawn back to the present by a commotion away to his left. He saw Hudson’s party come under attack from a rapid individual waving an autopistol and a sword, and a diminutive but no less crazed figure brandishing a sharp-looking umbrella. As Drake went down to a crushing blow round the head Apone took a snap second decision- if he didn’t shoot the assailant Hudson was a goner, if he shot Hudson by mistake the result would simply be the same. He let rip with his boltgun, seeing a flare from his left at the same time, Wierzbowski had made the same call. Sadly both shooters missed both combatants and watched helplessly as Hudson took a blow aross the face from the savage machete.

A shootout had developed among the ruins of the left wing. The heavy stubber positioned above was keeping Gorman and Ferro pinned under cover so all they could do was take pot shots at the gangers moving up behind the buttresses in front of them. Risking a look round the corner, Ferro got the lead ganger in his sights- just as a rain of fire from above strafed his hiding spot and took him out. Gorman watched his colleague go down and gulped. He kept his eyes fixed on the stubber, waiting for his moment. It came at last as the heavy moved along the gantry for a better view, temporarily shouldering his weapon. Gorman broke from cover, tore round the corner and blazed away at the ganger lurking there, who went down with a surprised look on his face. Gorman punched the air, and dived to one side as a lasgun beam whooshed past him. He turned to see a smug Delaque, who looked decidedly less smug as Gorman shoved an autogun in his face. He was spared by a klaxon cry which tore across the battlefield Apone’s signal to withdraw. The Militia fled the field, taking their wounded with them and leaving the residents of the settlement to the marauding of the Delaques. They would return to liberate the inhabitants they swore… after a bit more training.

In the cool of their Old Ruined lair they nursed their wounds as Apone debriefed them. He was not impressed. Fortunately Hudson had recovered, although he was refusing to remove his gas mask, aware of the horrible mess the machete had made of his features. In fact, none of the downed soldiers had suffered too badly although Drake was sitting with his arms round his knees making strange mumbling noises. It was anyone’s guess how he’d act when next put in a stressful situation. Ferro had taken quite a beating from the stubber fire and Apone considered it unlikely he’d be able to participate in the next couple of bouts.

Crowe, the survivor of the doomed central squad, approached Apone about a plan he’d been formulating. He’d been looking through the Guard Manual and was wondering why they didn’t have any Flamers since from what he could see they were standard issue for moist Guard squads and definitely useful in such close quarters fighting. Apone’s mind flashed to Hick’s miscalculation and wondered if it was wise to let one of his men have charge of a highly volatile stream of burning gas. He decided to assess Crowe’s performance in the next action before making his decision. In the meantime their settlement may have been taken, but there were isolated drinking holes to investigate for potential volunteers to join the Emperor’s ranks. Time to go press ganging….


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