Rank upon serried rank of soldiers stood in review, the recruitment was complete and they waited to board the descending transports. Commands roared across the parade ground, feet stamped in unison, banners flared and the 7th Lutheran Infantry Regiment boarded the waiting vessels.
Engines sparked into life, farting fumes into the still air as APC’s, aircars and tanks patiently awaited their turn.
The cleansing of Luther had been brutal and it had been nothing less than miraculous that the Inspectorate had found Colonel Walters to lead this Regiment. He had appeared one day, when they had called for blooded officers. Apparently he had been stuck in some outpost, his small contingent more than happy to follow him.
They had quickly assimilated the new troopers, his command organisation rapidly incorporating the new volunteers. The Regiment had easily taken him to their hearts, their loyalty at times bordering on heresy. If it had not been for the urgency of the recruitment, many more questions would have been asked. Particularly the Church Guard had raised numerous complaints at the accidents befalling their personnel, although the Colonel’s reports had been scrupulous in their content.
None could complain at the generosity of the man; he had brought his own pinnace with him, his men crewing the vessel at no extra expense. No-one had seen the full crew; they had remained on board, their bodies covered in a strangely fashioned armour. Some of them appeared big enough to be Church Elite, but everyone had of course dismissed that as a ridiculous notion.
Colonel Walters had been presented with the Regimental colours in a particularly strange ceremony by his huge and forbidding looking Leftenant, the stylisation of the screaming wolf’s head unique in its depiction.
“We are ready, my Lord!” carolled Krantu, his pride in the soldiers obvious.
“I’ve warned you about that,” admonished Walters, smiling.
“Yes, my L… Sir!” replied the K’ran, snapping to attention.
“Are the others on board?” asked Walters, squinting upwards at the latest transport to depart.
“They’re waiting for you, Sir!” said the strange Leftenant, indicating the two platoons of soldiers; their khaki fatigues blazoned with the snarling emblem of the regiment, their tunics uniquely piped with green.
“Very well,” commented, Walters, turning for one last look around.
He knew that he had the best of the people from Luther with him. Men and women made up his new command, their close families and hangers-on had already been ferried up to the awaiting ships. It was true that he was leaching vital resources from this world, but he had promised himself that they would all reap the benefits of their sacrifice a hundredfold.
Silently he prowled forward, Krantu and two other huge soldiers trailing in his wake. If only the Churchmen knew, he thought to himself, they would certainly not be so accommodating.
Major ‘Jimmy’ James tapped his fingers impatiently on his desk, the Inspector in front of him had presented him with a real problem. He had arrived only today, with a small entourage; two junior inspectors and three cadets.
“I do not see your problem,” insisted the man in a whining tone, “my orders are clear and it will go ill for you to delay me longer. I will present myself to your vaunted Colonel, and woe betide him if he tries to thwart me in my task.”
James smiled quietly to himself, thinking of this puny individual, threatening the Colonel. Inspectorr Ivanov noted the smile and his hand reached for his sidearm.
“I wouldn’t if I were you,” growled a new voice, and the Ivanov started as Walters pushed roughly past him, a huge Leftenant sauntering in his wake.
“This man is impeding me in my duty, as an Inspector of the Holy Prelate, I do not answer to you!” he sneered.
Walters waited patiently, the silence lengthening uncomfortably. He glanced once at his Leftenant and the Inspector was driven to his knees by a tremendous blow. The boot placed into his back pinned him to the floor, his cheek pressed firmly against the metallic decking. His men made as if to reach for their weapons but the look in the Colonel’s eyes stayed them; it was chilling, deadly in its promise and brooked no defiance.
“You will address me as Colonel or Sir,” said Walters calmly, “you will never threaten myself or any of my men again. This is my Regiment, not yours and I will accept nothing less than obedience. I think you need a little time to yourself to reflect on this, to pray to the Prelate for guidance.”
He nodded to Krantu, who roughly pulled the Inspector to his feet, other soldiers entering and dragging the rest of Ivanov’s team away, after disarming and roughly searching them.
“Lock them in the cells on the pinnace,” he ordered Krantu, “I want no contact between them and the rest of the transport’s crew. Not for the present anyway.”
Krantu turned away, his silence signifying his acceptance, his large hand firmly gripping the Inspector by the hair.
“You’ll be sorry!” screamed Ivanov as he was bundled out of the office.
Grinning at James, Walters spoke, “I already am, my dear Inspector!”
Stiv Viker was feeling lost, lonely and pretty awful. Last night’s party had somehow managed to continue over until this morning, at least that was what his body was telling him. He felt like somebody was trying to pound their way out of his head, his mouth dry and furry, his lungs still choked with smoke and he certainly wasn’t open to conversation.
Not that there was much small talk in his platoon, everyone would rather kill themselves than upset Corporal Johns. He was one of the older soldiers, found somewhere by the Colonel and readily accepted by the rest of their strange leader’s unit.
It had struck Viker, the same as many of the other new recruits, that there was a sameness to the older men. A shape of body; muscles seemed to burst from new tunics, shaggy hair; which seemed to cover every part of their bodies, and those eyes. Like the Colonel they each had piercing green eyes, whose depths seemed to promise raw, animalistic anger.
Shivering, he turned to his bunkmate, Alana and prodded her with a grimy finger, “How you feeling?” he asked as quietly as he could, although it still sounded like a roar to his pained skull.
“Leave me alone!” she snapped, then groaned as she was roughly tossed out of her bunk, by the passing Corporal.
“Up and at ‘em!” roared Johns, a wide grin splitting his face.
“What?” replied a befuddled Alana.
“Leftenant Krantu has a job for us,” he said cheerfully, “and you know better than to keep him waiting!”
As one the recruits moaned in dejection, if there was one person more terrifying than Johns, it was the big Leftenant; he didn’t even look human!
Inspector Ivanov was apoplectic with rage, he had never been treated this way by any Church officer. They knew their place in the scheme of things and had always been terrified of what the snivelly little man could do to them.
This Colonel Walters though, he showed a disdain for the badge and rank Ivanov carried, there was none of the requisite fear, rather an all powerful belief in his own right to command. It all smelled of heresy to the Inspector and in his cell he delighted himself with the thought of what he would do to the Colonel when he got out.
The clanging of the cell door brought him back to reality, and he shrank back against the rear wall at the sight of the hulking Leftenant. Behind the man stood a group of curious soldiers, delight at the predicament of the Inspector written plainly upon their faces.
“Arrest him!” screamed Ivanov, pointing at Krantu, “I command you!”
No-one moved a muscle. Instead they looked at the Leftenant as he began first to chuckle and then roar with laughter.
Finally he stopped his unseemly behaviour and pointed at the Inspector, “This,” he said flatly, “is your first lesson. The only person you owe your unquestioning loyalty to is Colonel Walters. You can see his benevolence and thought for you. This Inspector and the rest of his breed will rot here in this cell unless they are converted to our way of belief. Any who feel the same as this scum will join him here, praying for release from his God.”
There was absolute silence, except for the mutters of heresy from the cowering Inspector. Then, Viker’s tremulous voice was heard, “His God, sir?”
“Ah, yes,” responded Krantu, his eyes flashing, “that would be lesson number Two!”
Second Church Protectorate
A straining of fold space announced the vessel’s arrival, it burst into normal space in full view of the Tauran ships. There was a poised danger about the strange three-masted alien craft; the Galleon had arrived.
One cold transmission was heard, “We warned you!”, and then with no further communication, gun ports slammed open, rapidly followed by a broadside of plasma which tore through the two lead Tauran vessels.
Two more ships appeared, their design that of more familiar Church origin, but they only sat waiting. Desperately the Tauran Commander tried to bargain with his attackers, against whose shields his plasma and rail guns had zero effect.
It was in vain; the Galleon ruthlessly destroyed vessel after vessel, each broadside smashing through ineffective shields and vaporising metal instantly.
When there was nothing left except space dust, a broad band transmission was beamed down to the planet.
“This is the Lost Company, we apparently were not clear enough for your liking. Please receive these gifts on behalf of our Lord. Perhaps others will learn from this lesson and respect the sovereignty of our protected worlds in future.”
The cold voice disappeared, never to be heard by anyone living on the Tauran planet. Objects spat from each of the three vessels, their flight programmed to perfection. They cut into the planet’s atmosphere and screamed down towards their carefully selected targets. Shortly afterwards, small extremely bright suns began to burn in each of the world’s major cities.
Without another word, the three ships once more jumped into anonymity of fold space..
Guest post with D.P. Prior
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