I was thinking recently about how disappointed I have been by some W40K stories I had tried to read, so I have written my own fanfiction here as part of the November story-athon. I’ll probably divide it into two or three parts. The title may not make sense now, but it will later on. I hope.
“Don’t mind them. I’ll do the talking. You have questions? I may have answers.”
The man who had said that looked like a savage cannibal from some sun-scorched, feral planet. But he was not an offworlder, as his accents marked him as underhiver. Unlike the three other equally animalistic men sharing drinks with him, he was cooperative and, Corin thought, capable enough to act and talk in a civilized manner.
The rough patrons of that watering hole at the edge of the jungle were already the kind of men normal people keep their distance, and even them were wary of the four ork hunters, with their tribal tattoos, blackened teeth, and other more vicious ritual markings resembling those of the xenos they hunted. Still, Corin was glad he had managed to set up the interview in that place, which although dreadful and filled with hooligans, had to be better than the hunter’s main base, Hell Town. Oh, how he missed his comfy apartment in Hive Acheron! Why, he had wondered many times, had they sent him to this awful place!
Corin coughed. “Well, as I was trying to say, I will ask you a few questions about your military experience. The Munitorum here in Armaggedon is interested in your military experience and insights. We all have learned much during these long years of war, and…” he dried up and coughed again. “Your knowledge may be invaluable to strengthen our might against the greenskins.”
The four men were not impressed and made no attempt to hide that. They looked at the pale man with that mixture of contempt and disbelief he had seen many times in veterans’ eyes when he talked to them.
“Experience and insights?” The more cooperative one said and chuckled. “What to improve? I don’t know, what about everything?”
The other men laughed at that and Corin laughed nervously along. At least now they didn’t seem ready to turn violent.
“Well, let’s start with the essentials,” Corin said and readied his notebook. “Your name, rank, and previous history.”
“Fine. Second Lieutenant Dolman of the Fifth of the Hunters,” the man said. “Forty-three years old, from hive Tempestora, where I was a quarrelsome underhive lad,” he winked at his friends when he said that and they all grinned at some in-joke. “Along with many others, I got conscripted into one of the penal battalions when I was fourteen. Not that they bothered to check our records, which we didn’t have anyway, when they grabbed us by the hundred.”
“You believe you didn’t deserve to be there?” Corin asked, unable to hide his surprise and, although he regretted it immediately, outrage.
“Oh, I did. Almost anybody from the underhives would; it’s just that they didn’t bother to check. They just assumed it.”
“No, I don’t think you do, but it doesn’t matter,” Dolman said. “I don’t know how you think things worked, and still work to some extent, but this is the gist of it: We were one of the many disposable battalions the late Overlord von Strab had created to… fix up personal issues. Off-the-record operations. And nothing better than nameless convicts with bomb collars attached to their necks for that — or at least someone believed that. And speaking of things that go boom, my first mission, which should have been my last, involved a heavily armoured vehicle held by some rebellious fools from the planetar defence force and a bomb harness strapped to my chest.”
Corin looked away from his notes in disbelief. “That’s reserved for the worse criminals and scum, and those seeking redemption. And certainly not for someone as young as you were then.”
Dolman stared at him, or rather through him.
“Then again,” Corin was quick to add, ” the traitor von Strab wasn’t known for his adherence to rules.”
“That’s one way to put it,” one of the other soldiers, one with a bone through his nose, said.
“Quite,” Dolman said. “So anyway, I tricked the guys in the vehicle to open their hatch and then threw my suicide vest inside. Worked as well, if not better. I was severely reprimanded for that. Lack of dedication and faith, I believe was what the commissar said. Then I spent the next three years cleaning up the Overlord’s many cock-ups, and finally, thanks to the arbitrary wisdom of one paper-pusher or another, I was declared redeemed and asked to join the Steel Legion, landing in the 11th regiment.”
“The year 940. The Green Tide would appear next year. I fought in the Stygies and not far away from Yarrick in Hades. I actually saw him once. In the first months of the war my battalion suffered close to a 90% casualty rate, mostly thanks to the brilliance of our officers, and after the official war ended, I was picked to join this…” he opened his arms, as if to embrace the men at his side, “brotherhood of hardcore killers.”
The men nodded in approval.
“You said ‘official'” Corin asked.
“Well, if peace is achieved by forcing a cease of hostilities, then there can be no peace with the orks. I don’t think they have a word for peace, or if they have, it probably just means ‘boredom.’ We may not be at war with them, officially, but they still are at war against us. The fighting still goes in the jungles, but far away from the Hives, so people forget about it. Heh, I guess I still do clean-up operations, but these ones are, well, less repugnant. We have been trying to clean the equator of those beasts for like, twenty-five years now, I believe.”
“And let’s hope for many more!” A man by his side shouted, one with noticeable skin grafts on his face and only one ear, and they all lifted their drinks and toasted to that. They grinned to Corin, clearly enjoying his uneasiness, and once again he noticed how black their teeth were. They were like coal, and some had been sharpened like fangs.
“How… may I ask how you go that wound?” Corin asked fearfully.
“Have you ever been punched so hard half the skin of your face was torn off?” The man asked.
“Uh, no,” he said. In fact, he had never been punched.
“Well, there are some big, nasty orks out there that can make you this,” he said and pointed at his face. “I’m lucky, though. For a moment the medic thought they’d have no skin replacement for me. I told him to grab some from the orks — there were many laying around anyway.”
The men laughed.
“That’s… awful,” Corin said, keeping his face as neutral and the exact intention of his ‘awful’ as ambiguous as possible.
“Bah, it’s only awful if you cut them while they’re alive, I think.”
The four men chuckled at that comment and Corin smiled and kept moving his pencil furiously as if taking notes, but if someone had looked closely at them, they would have seen the page was only covered by frantic doodles. Now he really wanted to go back home.