I n f l u x [ I C ]
There was a slight breeze northbound as Lieutenant Mark Richards of the Second Ranger Battalion took a deep breath, "Ready gents?" he muttered; his voice barely audible over the local voice communications line. There was a series of green lights on the Lieutenant's Heads Up Display. The Lieutenant scanned the horizon. "Six crawlers, two chargers." the Lieutenant bit his lip. The soldiers of the Second Ranger Battalion had been thrown to this god forsaken planet without any knowledge or Intelligence gathering, so the troops began resorting to calling the creatures they had been facing different names. The Lieutenant felt a bit of worry befall him, he and his squad hadn't heard from The Bastion for almost 24 hours now, the squad was running low on food and ammunition, among other essentials that would keep the unit combat efficient; with no real exfiltration plan in sight.
The Lieutenant hummed, "On my mark, I want this clean." turning towards the twelve men in his squad, who all nodded in unison.
The squad advanced across the urban cityscape, emerging from their camouflaged positions, rifles shouldered and fixed in front of them. A series of hand signals and gentle shoulder taps kept the unit moving across the city street in a neat, cohesive fashion. Lieutenant Richards found himself a neat foxhole nearly fifteen feet from his position, and pressed his rifle against the nearby debris formation. "Infareds, Mark your targets, wait for my go."
Suddenly, twelve, luminescent, red lasers shined in the daylight, each laser crossing one another and fixating on one of the undead monsters that were standing in the middle of the street, clueless to their position.
"Three, I've got eyes."
This process quickly worked it's way down the chain of command.
"This is lead, get it done."
In a neat and organized fashion, a barrage of gunfire emerged from multiple positions in the urban cityscape, quickly each round had found their marks, and each of the targets that had a laser pinned against them dropped dead immediately. Without celebration, the Lieutenant waved his hand, signaling for the squad to regroup. The Lieutenant and his squad were tired, but he was glad that they weren't getting sloppy. The Lieutenant needed to think of something. Some way to get his squad out of this hell-hole, or at least get some support. Little did he know, his squad were among the very few survivors left on this planet. His squad needed a plan, and needed one fast. The Lieutenant gave it some thought, and decided the best course of action was to search for the origin of the planetary distress signal, while dangerous, it may be the only way to get in contact with either The Bastion or link up with other elements of their unit, which were tasked with reaching the same objective. If his comrades were out there, they would be searching for the same objective.
"Five meter spread. Jacobs, Elena, you two have rear security, Blue Element, your eyes are forward. Keep it clean, keep it professional."
The Ranger Squad pressed forward down the street in an even, organized Vee formation, pushing towards their objective in the aggressive fashion typical of a well-trained Ranger unit.
Graves woke up to the sound of heavy knocking on his door. The Praetorian rolled around in his bed, checking how many hours he had been asleep for on his wrist watch. Before the Praetorian could roll himself out of his own bed, there was a second knock on his door, "Damnit Graves, get your ass out here! We've got briefing in ten minutes." The voice was muffled, but Graves didn't even need to think about who it was. Graves knew full well that there was only one person in the entire galaxy that would have the audacity to knock on his own door. The Praetorian picked himself up and out of his bed, throwing on his service uniform in the most dreary and unenthusiastic manner possible. The Praetorian sighed, pressing the airlock release on his room.
Haven began shouting a string of excessive profanities, closing her eyes in anger as she raised her foot parallel to the door, kicking outwards with the most aggressive kick she could muster. Before her foot could connect with the door, however, the door slid open, revealing her Commanding Officer. Haven opened her eyes, her foot buried in gut of her Commanding Officer. Graves, not even flinching, yawned, "Do you always kick your superior officers or are you just excited to see me?"
Haven grunted, lowering her foot from Graves. "You asshole, if I didn't wake you up, you would have been late for briefing. Again." Haven crossed her arms. "You need to make a good impression today, you're taking command of an entire squad of Praetorians, for Emperor's sake."
"Joy," Graves yawned once more.
Haven bit her lip, "You know, for one of the Empire's finest, you really are a goddamn piece of work."
"Right," Graves yawned again. "Just give me a quick run down of the files you've got on these new squadmates of ours while we head to briefing,"
"What? You mean you seriously didn't even take a look at the files?" Haven buried her face into the palm of her hand.
Graves rubbed his eyes. "I used to get paid to kill people, not read books, love."
Haven sighed, "Alright, I'll give you a crash course, but we really need to leave now or we'll be late."
The two Praetorians left the room and began heading towards the briefing room, Haven opened up the profiles of the six Praetorians they were slated to work with, and began educating her Commanding Officer on the individual members of the squad. Graves pretended to be interested on the way there, but truth be told he already knew each of these Praetorians very well, just by their aliases. As soon as Haven mentioned a name, he was able to link them to some of their very outstanding achievements. Graves understood that he was working with a very talented and respected group of Praetorians, which cleared some reservations that he had previously. When Graves and Haven entered the briefing room a few minutes later, they found that the room was completely empty.
"Not a very punctual bunch, are they?" Graves grinned. "I might like these guys afterall."
Haven rolled her eyes, "We're five minutes early, they'll probably be here in a few."
Thalos woke to the beeping of an alarm clock. Having the urge to swipe it off the bedside table with her loose arm and break it, she drowsily opened her eyes, and moving some locks of black hair from her face to see the time. 9:00 AM exactly. Despite the briefing being one hour away and the opportunity to snooze for another 10 minutes, Thalos got up anyway, groaning as she stretched her arms. As she tried to climb out of bed, her duvet somehow caught her ankle, making her fall to the floor. She managed to extend her hands just in time, avoiding landing face first on the hard metal ground. As she got up off the floor in a sleepy fashion, she grumbled to herself, "Falling out of bed, great start to the morning..." Finally on her own two feet, she moved over to the bathroom and removed her nightwear, immediately hitting the shower.
The blast of hot water kick-started her brain's senses, waking Thalos up further. Only when she tried to grab the shampoo bottle, she realized her hands were shaking unnaturally. She had to admit, she was nervous. Being on a ship where her commanding officer is Lord Commandant Krieg, and her squad leader was the infamous bounty hunter Graves, it was quite nerve-raking. The fight between Krieg and Graves is legendary, as well as their achievements.
Fucking hell Thal, get your act together. You're a Praetorian, not a bloody grunt.
Getting out of the bathroom with a large towel wrapped around her entire torso, and another wrapped around her head, she looked at the alarm clock. 9:45. Her eyes widened as she realized that she has spent 45 minutes in the shower, as well as brushing her teeth and the like. The briefing was in 15 minutes and she wasn't even dressed yet. She immediately scrambled for her wardrobe, opening it, and revealing a collection of black uniforms, all exactly the same. Picking the first one, she proceeded to put it on. She struggled with the straps on the trench coat for about a minute or so, cursing vulgarities at herself every two seconds. She quickly bunched up her hair into a ponytail, and put on a black beret. She took a quick look at herself in the mirror. Satisfied with her appearance, she left her room, only to remember that she forgot to take her dogtags out of the drawer. She breathed out another curse as she turned around back into her room. Making a quick dash for her bedside table, pulling out the drawer and grabbing her dogtags.
"It appears that you have forgotten me. Tsk Tsk." Said a deep voice out of her dogtags. It was rare when Cyan mocked her.
"Shut up Cyan, I don't have time!" she exclamed, irritated and in a small panic. She looked at the clock again. 9:52. She broke out into a jog out of her room, running to the briefing room.
Minutes later she arrived at the door, a little short on breath. "Cyan...time..."
"Don't worry Thalos, you are ten seconds early." He replied in his usual deep tone.
Ten seconds? Wow.
She let out a sigh a relief and took the 10 seconds she had to regain her composure. Straightening herself, she walked in through the door, only to see Graves and a much younger female Praetorian, Haven, in the room. It appears as though Thalos was the first one to arrive. Haven looked sharp and prepared for the meeting, but Graves, his uniform was lazily put on, unironed and crumpled. His facial expression resembled a man who just got out of bed, and he smelled a little of body odour. She was unsure of what to think, whether he thought that he was late or a complete pompous fool, but then she remembered that he was an old bounty hunter, and didn't give two shits, so it was a bit of both, perhaps.
She saluted in a trained military manner none-the-less, and said, "Praetorian Thalos reporting for duty, sir."
Dusty was already up and moving. He had been walking around in his Praetorian suit for quite a while now. He was saluted as he walked by crew members. He slowly walked into the bay area where a scouting ship just got in. An officer came up to him. He nodded and stopped in front of him. "Dusty. You meet with Graves in a few minutes."
"I know that sir."
"You should get in a uniform more fit for this meeting."
"I don't think he will mind. Most people on this ship already know why I don't remove-"
"I command you to get in a formal uniform."
"I don't think I am-"
"THAT IS AN ORDER PRIVATE!" The bay went quiet to see what is going on. Dusty began to walk away but the officer grabbed him, "I SAID THAT IS AN ORDER PRIVATE!!" He yelled louder once more. Dusty looked at this officer. He was one of the newer ones apparently. He wasn't used to seeing Praetorians and he was aiming to mess around with one today. It was clear that the officer planned to get something out of this. Maybe it was respect out of the Praetorian to the officer because it has been awhile since Praetorians did what officers said. But Dusty didn't take this. He didn't like something like this. Someone who that he was above everyone, even the captain of the ship. This meant that he didn't deserve his position. Whispers broke out among the crew members in the bay. It was stopped when Dusty turned his head back to the officer.
"With all do respect officer, you don't control me. I follow orders from Intelligence and the Captain of this ship herself. I will meet Graves the way I want. Whatever his impression is on me is up to him." Dusty pulled his shoulder hard. The officers hand fell to his own side as Dusty walked away. Dusty would always stand up for a squad mate or himself and talk back to a higher or lower rank of him. He walked towards the briefing room this time. Exiting the bay he made his way down a hall.
"Dusty, I don't think you should have done that." A soft feminine voice came from within Dusty's helmet.
"Katrina I know you have a soft spot for the others but you can't make me feel bad for an officer who didn't know how to do his job."
"But Dusty, maybe he is right. I mean, you are meeting a legendary bounty hunter. He is gonna be you leader. You have to make a good impression."
"Praetorians make good impressions on the battlefield, not in person. We are known for combat not business. We do what we know how to and that is to follow our orders from the Emperor. WE don't listen to officers. WE don't listen to sergeants. We don't listen to what privates think of there first time on the battlefield. WE listen to the Emperor. Praetorians are the most elite combat fighters on the field. Many of us are hard to kill."
"You think that I don't know you are hard to kill? Dusty we have been fighting for six years together. Its obvious that you are strong if you are taking hits from those big enemies and still coming out on top in the end. Like you are not injured."
"Katrina, just do me a favor and bring up this Graves guy. I need to know who he is if we are gonna trust him."
"You wouldn't be able to do this with the other A.I.'s huh? Graves is an interesting character."
"What do you mean?"
"Take a look." The profile of Graves popped up on the visor in Dusty's helmet. "He is a 42 year old male. Oh! Graves has a stunning relationship with Lord Commandant Krieg. I guess the rebels were down on moral. They hired Graves to take out there number one most feared enemy. Krieg. They fought a long battle with no weapon lay downs until they took a short break. Krieg defeated Graves though by saying some simple words and then getting a sucker shot on him.
"Already know the story, personality?"
"Well first off he doesn't seem to trust many people I guess. He does have an tight bond with Haven though. He stood up to Krieg which surprises me. But I don't see anything unusual. But I like his A.I. already! guess the A.I. is almost like me. Only more advanced.
"Bring up Haven."
"Way ahead of you Dusty. Haven is a 20 year old female and a Second Generation Praetorian. Her real name is Eleanor Langley and like Graves had no known history about her. She has great marksman abilities and her A.I. can spot targets that she can't even see!
"I heard enough. Looks like we have an interesting leader." The rest of the walk was quiet. He looked down on crew members as they stood to the side and saluted. This was the first time Dusty was on the Genesis. An interesting ship it was. Especially the one in charge. She was also an interesting character to Katrina. Dusty had been waiting to see what was going on and why he was getting put in a squad when he was once by himself. Dusty had hoped that this was worth it. He didn't have a choice to take it or not because the only option was to take it. Dusty stood in front of the briefing rooms door. Two men stood in a salute, staring straight ahead. "Is he in there?" All the men did was stand back as they did before saluting. They stood with their feet shoulder width apart and there hands behind there back. They had MP one of their arms and tan berets to match there tan uniforms. Dusty thought it was a yes and walked in. He was happy that he could actually fit in these doors. Upon entering, he saw smaller people. Three actually. Two females and a male. The male most likely being Graves. But the two females, he did not know. Dusty was blocking the doorway as he looked at the three. He tried to figure out who they were.
I remind you that you do have a briefing in 30 minutes Tharon. I’d suggest you start preparing.
Tharon opened a single eye, if a bit lazily, at the faint buzz that alerted him to the new notification. He raised his left hand and from it, out appeared a small window, Sakky’s method of communicating with him when out of the Eclipse armor. It flashed to catch his attention as he read the message and he yawned a bit after he finished. Slowly he stretched out his stance and let his meditation finally come to an end. Looking at himself, certainly his clothes were a bit too casual for meeting with a superior, a white exercise shirt and cargo pants. Then again he was meeting Graves, not some stuck up officer so Thoran figured he’d be fine. Even if he wasn’t at most he’d get into maybe a bit of trouble, might get hit a few times, nothing big.
With a light tap on the window, a keyboard made of light, sprung out onto the air. Got it. Thanks for the reminder. he typed in blazingly fast, his hands having gotten used to operating and manipulating the portable computer over the years.
Thoran frowned a bit at that, though not really concerned, but Sakky’s personality seemed to have developed sarcasm some time ago. With a small shrug though, he closed the window and let his hand drop to his side before shuffling out of his quarters. The hallways were already busy as staff and crew were already hard at work. The occasional person gave him a slight nod, wave or greeting, all of which he returned, making his way slowly over to where the briefing was supposedly meant to be held. It’d be interesting to see who was in his new squad; though he prayed there weren’t any Second Generation Praetorian, fat chance of that. While he himself was one he’d seen how others of his kind worked in squads and it could be described in word, badly.
His thoughts kept him occupied for the slow walk he made through the ship’s winding corridors. Eventually the number of people around him grew less and less, a sure sign he was heading in the right directions. There were many jobs to be done on the ship, but very few involved being near the briefing rooms. The scene he was greeted with was an odd one though. Two stoic faced guards stood at attention at the room’s entrance, but the entrance itself was blocked by a large, bulky man. His size alone made it quite clear he was probably a Praetorian and thus part of Thoran’s squad, but Thoran could hardly be sure.
“Scuse me, you going in or staying out?” he asked nonchalantly, while lightly poking the man on the shoulder to catch his attention.
“Pssshhhh” Warbound heard as his armor pressurized the internals; then followed the familiar lull of the ion generator cores activating to its full operational stage. The interface launched on Warbound’s HUD, and a familiar voice resonated inside the helmet. “Good morning, Operator. It is currently 9:27. Briefing is scheduled for 10 regarding the formation of the new Archangel Squad.” Warbound responded “Copy that Joan. I’ll make it right on time.” as he left his private quarters. Warbound walked through the decks of the ship as received looks and glances from many other crew members and soldiers. A first generation Praetorian stood out fairly easily since many modified their armor. So, no two Praetorians really looked alike. Thus, Praetorians were like snowflakes. No two were similar, so every Praetorian seen was an experience. Whether this attention was something that Warbound enjoyed was questionable. In fact, he remembered when he first became a Praetorian he had saluted a lower ranked officer, which surprised many people around him. It was quite disturbing to Warbound that the Praetorians were essentially treated as if they were above the military. Although in the end, they both served the Emperor with their lives. Warbound quickly stopped saluting lower ranked officers soon after since he wanted to avoid any unnecessary drama.
Now, the only people he saluted were royalty, nobles, or fellow Praetorians. However, whether Warbound really respected some of those he saluted was a different matter. Starting from the top of the chain of command, Princess Sylvaria Malcolm, who despite being female, was proving to have more balls than most of the young noble boys especially at a young age. She isn’t an experienced campaigner who fights on the ground with her men, but as a commander…there wasn’t much anyone could argue about, but the jury was still out on her. Then came the second in command, Lord Commandant Krieg, arguably the father of the Praetorians, there was one word that best described him, efficient. He served the Empire without question, and his skills were immeasurable. However, Warbound sometimes wondered whether the face behind that mask of his was still human. Empathy and feelings seemed to be things that Krieg was never born with, but in the end he still did his duty very well. Warbound was someone who couldn’t really argue against efficiency.
Finally came the new squad leader, Graves. A former bounty hunter and mercenary, words that made Warbound stomach churn, Graves was good at what he did, but as to what was his purpose… That was what made Warbound not really respect or really Graves. Graves was a soldier of fortune, a man who was only loyal to money and his own desires. Duty and honor seemed to be lost upon Graves unlike Krieg. Course, Graves right now was a famous Praetorian, but one’s past often came back to haunt. For now, Warbound would have to deal with working with Graves. One thing was certain though, Warbound would likely learn quite a bit under Graves in this new journey. Warbound finally arrived near the briefing area, but still had a few minutes to spare. So, he leaned against a wall and said “Joan, play Cras Numquam Scire.” soon after a gentle voice entered Warbound’s ear. He closed his ears and listened. This song was one that he heard almost a decade ago, and has been hearing it ever since. However, he had never gotten bored of it. Rather, through the years it had given him peace and courage. Before every mission, he would listen to it and gather his mind so that there were no stray thoughts. He needed to always keeping moving forward into the new day no matter what it was that would challenge him.
The song finally ended and Warbound opened his eyes. He was ready for what was about to come, and so he began walking to the door to enter the briefing room.
Beep, beep, beep. An alarm went off, loud and abruptly it pierced the silence that had developed in the spacious room he laid in. His heart pounded, beating against his chest harder as the alarm beeped louder. Between the sound of his heart pounding against his chest and the increasingly louder sound of the alarm clock's beeping he thought he was going to go deaf. Jamie sat upright in his bed as he listened to the two sounds conflict with one another, adrenaline coursed through his veins as the sounds fought one another inside the tunnels of his ears. He felt awake despite the sleepless night he had just had. His eyes wondered across the room, side to side, as it looked like he was searching for any threats that may linger in the shadows around him. After finally assessing the environment around him he turned his alarm clock off and stood up. He thought about the day before him. Today was the day he was suppose to meet his new squad-mates. How pleasant. Jamie, no wait not Jamie he didn't go by that name any longer. Paladin had only a few experiences in the past with being sent into combat with other people by his side and usually they were not very pleasant ones. Paladin was by no means a team player, he was very bad at working with other people and had a very poor reputation for getting along with the soldiers he worked with outside of combat. He supposed this time could be a little different then the last few, after all these people he was meeting were Praetorians just like him and if there was anyone he would be able to get along with it was probably going to be a fellow Praetorian.
As he stood up he stretched himself out and started searching for his uniform to wear to the meeting. He debated wearing his Praetorian armour to the meeting, after all he felt so exposed out of it that he never felt very comfortable. As he thought about it and started to put on his uniform a sudden voice pierced the room. "You know that wouldn't be a good idea." It was a man's voice that spoke and it had a soothing effect on Paladin. His pacing heart slowing down to a normal beat as Paladin buttoned up his uniform and spoke back.
"How would you know what I was thinking? I don't remember having said anything!" Paladin turned around to face his empty room as he finished putting his uniform on. He wondered over to the counter table by his bed where his alarm clock and a set of dog tags sat as the voice chimed in again.
"I know you well enough by now to know what you're thinking Jamie and we both know that it isn't appropriate to wear that when you're going to an important meeting like this." Paladin sighed as the voice used his birth name. It was odd hearing it for once but not surprising. After all he was the only one that seemed intent on using Paladin's birth name anymore. Ever since he became a Praetorian his actual name had long since been forgotten by the military and that was the way he had liked it. Only those who had known Paladin's pre-Praetorian days or those with a high enough clearance to access his files would ever know his true name. Paladin picked up the pair of dog tags on his table and spoke into them as he replied to the man's voice.
"You know Gerald I'm called Paladin rather than Jamie these days." Gerald had known Paladin for a long time, essentially the easiest way to put it was that Gerald had raised Paladin in the end. That was the reason why he had known Paladin's name and at the end of the day that strong relationship between the two was the reason Paladin allowed him to use his birth name when he wouldn't take kindly hearing anyone else use it. Most of the higher ups had learned by now that Paladin didn't response positively to hearing his old name being thrown around. Gerald spoke again and this time it became evident that the voice was coming from the dog tags Paladin was holding.
"It is your name no matter how much you'd like to separate yourself from it. You do have a past before becoming Paladin, Jamie! Now it's time for you to get going you're already going to be late for the meeting. Remember to be on your best behaviour well you're there and stand up straight. Don't forget that you're a soldier of the Ecclesian Empire!" Paladin nodded as he put the dog tags on around his neck and left for the meeting. He was already late which wasn't that surprising for him. He wasn't well known for being punctual. On his way members of crew would occasionally salute to him when he walked past. Paladin would wonder by them without returning the favour as he arrived at the meeting room. He was outside and could see there were a few other people standing outside. He glanced at them, these people Paladin assumed would be his new squad mates, and then looked at the doorway to see why they hadn't gone inside yet. As he looked at the door he saw a large bulky man blocking the doorway. This man was in a full set of Praetorian armour that made it clear to Paladin that he was going to be one of his future team mates just like the ones outside the door. Paladin walked up to the door and tried to get the man's attention by speaking to him.
"Hey you're in the way could you move aside so we could get in?" Paladin waited a moment as he said that but the man didn't seem to be paying attention to what was going on behind him. As he waited he felt his temper rising quickly as the man continued to stand there. Paladin didn't wait long after what trying to politely get the man's attention before his short temper kicked in. Instead he moved for pushed himself through the man, whether that meant pushing the man out of the way just slightly or knocking him over didn't matter to Paladin. For most people moving such a behemoth would probably have been a difficult to task but Paladin wasn't most people. The genetic modifications done to him that became so common for second generation Praetorians made him far stronger than his size seemed to lead people to believe. It took a little effort to push the man out of his way, especially when the man was suited up like he was but he managed it by shoving into him with his shoulder and using his full bodies weight and a bit of a 'running' start to move the behemoth. As he moved into the room after that he spoke to the behemoth again with a bit of an annoyed tone. "Next time it'd be better for everyone if you didn't decide to do your tree impersonation in the middle of the doorway."
Prophet finally finished putting his rifle back together. He didn't sleep much anymore. He only slept for four hours. If he slept any longer, the nightmares would start to pop up. They always did. So, he usually found some way to occupy himself while he was waiting for orders to come through. As he sat in darkness, a sharp, gender less voice, his AI, spoke. "Praetorian Prophet, you are requested in the briefing room at 1000 hours." Unlike the other Praetorians, He did not like the idea of smart AIs. Which was the reason why he had requested it's ability to gather new data on it's own shut off, to have it on read-only. Prophet could perfectly micro-manage without it. He started to put on his armor in preparation for the brief. Apparently he was getting a new squad today.
As he walked around in the ship, Prophet could hear whispers from the crew. Comments like "Is that really the PROPHET?" or "You hear the rumors about that guy?" Prophet smiled inside his helmet. His public appearance was the same as always. He listened closely to are particular conversation between two grunts. "Why's everyone talking about this Praetorian?" "Haven't you heard about Prophet? Man, if you wanna keep up with that guy, you gotta be hardcore. And then some. I heard, on Senae, he killed a whole platoon of rebels! But that's not the amazing part. Any Praetorian could do that. They say that when they saw Prophet, they died out of pure shock of seeing him. He didn't even have to lift a finger.." Prophet wanted to laugh his ass off. Sure, it was pretty much slaughter when he killed all those rebels,them being disorganized and all, but it wasn't overkill like that. He wasn't about to fix piece of information that though. It was probably better that they think whatever they wanted to.
When he got to the briefing room, he saw a big Praetorian smack dab in the doorway. That problem was fixed when he saw another Praetorian shove his big ass out of the way. It was a Second-Gen Praetorian, most likely. He had observed both generations, and they were different to one who looked very closely. Their stances, attitudes, and even their eating habits were different. But he thought he would never see the day when a Second-Gen Praetorian would push around a First-Gen. He let out a hearty laugh that echoed the hallways, and gave a loud smack on the back to the Second-Gen. "Son, you have just done what I thought was impossible. A Second-Gen able to push a First-Generation! God, If only my old sq-." He paused a bit. He thought he had pushed that memory far back into his mind. He pushed it back again and chuckled. "Kid, you are either the toughest Second Gen in the history of the project, or that guy is the weakest First-Gen I have ever laid eyes upon.
"I am a stone.
I do not move.
Very slowly, I put snow in my mouth.
Then he won't see my breath.
I take my time.
I let him come closer.
I have only one bullet.
I aim at his eye.
Very gently, my finger presses on the trigger.
I do not tremble.
I have no fear."
Lieutenant Richards and the remnants of his squad continued to push aggressively to the objective point, their rifles raised and fingers softly pressing against the frames of their trigger guards. They were exhausted, hungry and wavering; but despite this, they were fearless. Imperial Rangers, the Imperial Army's finest. Each one of them operated like the automatons they were trained to be, their weapons clearing every firing sector and every elevation for possible threats. There was a good reason why Lieutenant Richards and his squad were among the few survivors on the planet. It's because they knew damn well what they were doing. The Lieutenant had faith that he would see his squad through this epidemic. The Imperial 2nd Ranger Unit pressed down the nearby street, observing every nook and cranny of the ruined cityscape around them. Eventually, the Imperial Rangers led themselves into a clearing. The Lieutenant signaled his squad to an abrupt halt, where his troops dropped into prone and kneeling positions immediately, the Lieutenant motioned to one of his squad mates, who stood up from the prone position and ran towards him.
The Lieutenant, without looking at his subordinate, scanned the immediate perimeter, "Gabriel, you sure we're heading in the right direction?"
"Positive. This is going to be the fastest route there, we need to get past what looks like this old Industrial Shopping Complex and the distress signals should be somewhere a click or so behind it." The Ranger affirmed.
The Lieutenant nodded, "Right, I just am wondering if there's any other way past this goddamn clearing. I feel like we're exposed to enemy fire here if we try to move across."
"Sir, with all due respect, we haven't encountered a single hostile totting any form of conventional firearm. It's mostly been a bunch of abominations rushing at us ever since we touched down."
The Lieutenant bit his lip, "You're right. I'm probably just getting soft. To be honest I wasn't expecting any sort of resistance much less these thin-"
The Lieutenant was interrupted by a sudden pain in his arm, followed by a loud crack out in the distance. The Lieutenant was swept from his feet and onto the asphalt below. Dazed and confused, he watched as his Rangers began shouting back and forth to one another, putting a hail of gunfire down range towards the nearby buildings. The Lieutenant couldn't hear anything apart from a loud ringing noise in his ear. Lieutenant Richards had no idea what was going on, his head spinning as he finally began to come to.
"The Lieutenant's hit! I repeat, Squad Leader is down!"
The Lieutenant's eyes lulled back and forth as Elena Len, the unit's female Corpsman crouched over him, her hands placed firmly over his numb arm. "You're going to be fine, sir. Just please, look at me."
The Lieutenant grabbed the Corpswoman by her flak jacket, pulling himself upwards, "Rangers! What are you doing?! Get your goddamn asses into some cover now!"
Ranger Elena Len grabbed ahold of her Commanding Officer in an attempt to keep pressure on the wound. It didn't help her case that she was not only under fire but the Lieutenant was kicking like a bull at a rodeo. The Ranger was used to operating on personnel while under pressure, but she was under an abnormal amount of stress. Normally, when she's operating on troops on the field, she's doing it under solid cover while the enemy was firing at her comrades. She and the Lieutenant were in the open, and with the other Rangers dug into cover, it was obvious that the bursts of automatic machine gun fire was for her. The Corpswoman tried to hold herself, continuing to apply pressure on the wound.
"Goddamnit Elena, you need to get your own ass into cover; we're sitting ducks right here." The Lieutenant growled, the pain sinking into his arm.
Elena bit her lip, "No. The shot didn't hit any major arteries, you'll walk away from this as long as I stop the bleeding!"
The Lieutenant kicked outwards, "Jacobs! Help her before she gets her head blown off!"
Sergeant Jacobs, the squad's Second in Command motioned to his squad, "Suppress those assholes!" When the Rangers all took aim and began returning fire at the multiple enemy positions, the Sergeant darted out from cover, grabbing the Corpswoman by the carrying handle mounted to her backpack and dragging her backwards, all the while under a hail of gunfire.
Elena tried to fight the Sergeant as he dragged her away from her bleeding Commanding Officer "Jacobs! You can't! I can fucking save him!"
The Sergeant motioned to his Rangers and the amount of gunfire they put down range intensified. When the Sergeant had successfully dragged the Corpswoman behind the wreckage of a nearby vehicle, the Corpswoman faced the wounded Lieutenant, "Lieutenant! Lean on your arm to put pressure on it, then stop moving! They might think you're dead!" Lieutenant Richards nodded, leaning over on his side to place pressure on the wound, then froze in place to evade the trails of machine gun fire that were passing overhead.
Elena turned to the Sergeant,
"Please tell me you have a fucking plan."
Graves rubbed his eyes as one of the Praetorians entered the briefing room. The ex-bounty hunter pretended to feign interest as the Praetorian, who was dressed in a very sinister, black uniform began approaching Graves and Haven. The leader of Archangel squad scratched his head as the Praetorian approached him. Graves crossed his arms as he attempted to remember the name of the Praetorian before she approached him. As soon as she was in range of the ex-bounty hunter, Graves snapped his fingers and looked into the the air as Thalos saluted in a text-book military manner.
"Thalos! That's right. Thalos. Almost forg-UGHH"
Haven crushed her heel onto the toes of her commanding officer as the young Second in Command snapped into a responsive salute, "Glad to have you Thalos, please, have a seat."
There were a few moments of silence as the remainder of the Praetorians made their entry in the most fashionable and aristocratically impressive way possible. Graves grinned as Dusty, another one of the Praetorians in the project, decided to block the door way for the other Praetorians of Archangel Squad, who decided to give the larger Praetorian a piece of their own mind. Graves could tell that he was working with a very hardcore bunch of Praetorians, as to be expected from the Praetorian project. Graves and Haven decided to ignore the little display of "disorderly conduct" and motioned for the Praetorians to take seats in the briefing room. There was a slight delay as they watched the Praetorians resolve their quarrels, and each take a seat around the oval conference table in front of them. As soon as every member of the squad had been comfortably seated, Graves pulled one of the remaining chairs out for Haven, and after she had taken her seat, the ex-bounty hunter sat himself down in the seat beside her.
There was another few extra moments of silence as the Praetorians stared quietly at each other, the situation being a bit awkward with the little disputes they had already gotten themselves into. Graves hoped that the Praetorians would be headstrong enough to drop whatever quarrels they just had, and opened up a folder of some extra paperwork he had. Graves noticed that a few of the Praetorians of the squad, specifically Prophet, Dusty and Warbound, had decided among themselves to break protocol and wear their ECLIPSE Armor to the briefing room, but Graves never was a man of protocol anyways, and decided to let it slide. Other than a few whispers between Graves and Haven, the next few minutes were fairly uneventful, the Praetorians having a few moments to stare each other down.
The silence was soon interrupted by the clanking of steel-toed boots against the metal surface of the ship's floor. The Praetorians all turned their heads toward the entrance, which slowly slid open, revealing two very influential figures. Graves and the other Praetorians hastily snapped out of their seats and faced the new figures. One of the people was Princess Sylvaria Malcolm, the Captain of the ship they were currently on and a member of the direct Royal Family. The other, was the Lord Commandant of the Praetorians himself, Krieg.
Graves and the other Praetorians bowed slightly, "Your majesty."
"Please." Sylvaria Malcolm waved, the Praetorians each seating themselves back into their own seats.
The Lord Commandant escorted the Princess to the front of the room, where she took the empty seat at the center of the table. After a few moments of staring, the Commandant faced the Praetorians, his red, glowing eyes scanning each of the figures in the room in an ominous fashion. The Lord Commandant was a very imposing figure, while physically average in height and mass, there was a certain, aura, around the Commandant that stroke a sense of terror and fear wherever he went. Graves wondered for a moment if he had such an effect on people at the height of his career.
"zzzcht Greetings. Praetorians." The Lord Commandant crossed his gloved hands behind his back. "I trust you all know why you are here. Zzzcht."
The Lord Commandant glared at each of the Praetorians in the room, "You're here. Zzcht. Because the Royal Family needs you for an important mission."
Sylvaria Malcolm nodded as the Lord Commandant placed a manila folder that he was holding behind his back onto the table in front of the Princess.
"Lariat Two." The Princess began, opening the folder to review some of the documents, "has a population of nearly one hundred million people. It is a very important industrial sector for our Empire, much of our military equipment originates from this Industrial planet. To make this brief, four months ago, the planet went dark. We don't know why, or how, and the incompetent bastards over at Imperial Intelligence don't have any of these answers for us. There were a few distress signals but that's all we know. Nothing has came or left this planet since those four months." Sylvaria stopped for a moment, staring at each of the Praetorians seated around her. "IAF Command deployed the Imperial Battlecruiser 'The Bastion' to investigate the distress signal, but we haven't heard from the Battlecruiser or it's crew either in the past two months. Normally Praetorians wouldn't be deployed to investigate this sort of problem, but my father wants some answers, and the IAF and Imperial Intelligence, have not been able to provide. Simple as that."
Lord Commandant Krieg nodded, turning towards the Praetorians, "Zzcht. Your missions are a two stage objective. First, find out what happened to The Bastion, which is still flying over orbit as we speak. The second, give us some answers as to what happened below. You will remain in touch throughout the course of the mission, and these objectives may change. Graves will be the Commanding Officer for this operation, you would do well to listen to his judgement. Zzcht."
The Princess closed the manila folder, "If you have any questions, you may refer to your acting CO." The Princess and all of the Praetorians stood up, the Praetorians bowing in unison as the Princess made her exit, escorted by the Lord Commandant.
Graves sat back down, "Everyone, sit back down, if you have any other questions, feel free to ask them, we still have a few other details to go over."
Thoran had stepped to the side after the Praetorian blocking the door hadn’t reacted to being poked. Maybe the armor made it impossible for him to feel Thoran’s poking, or maybe too many battles had left the man’s brain a little rattled. It didn’t matter though, as another Praetorian was dealing with the man. A bit ill-mannered perhaps bull rushing the man, but then again the other was a Praetorian. They weren’t really renowned for their finesse and grace. Glad that the obstacle had been cleared one way or another, Thoran followed the others in, whistling to himself as he found a seat. It seemed he had dressed perhaps a bit inappropriately to the briefing, but as Graves and the female beside him declined to comment, he sat down with little care.
Slightly bored as the silence drew out between the others, a few glares being tossed around but no words, Thoran shrugged indifferently. If they were already holding grudges from that, Thoran wanted no business working with any of the lot. Instead he took the few moments to lean back against the chair comfortably, closing his eyes as he did so. A faint buzz made him open an eye, but Sakky’s complaints could wait till later. No one had said anything yet, so as far as Thoran was concerned it was free time for him. A faint sound, of boots against metal, caught his attention, but it wasn’t until the hiss of the door sliding open that Thoran actually turned to catch a glance of the new arrivals.
When he did though, he snapped to attention, if a bit later than the others. Oh well crap, now I’m definitely dressed inappropriately, he thought to himself as he took a quick second to look himself down. Exercise shirt and cargo pants when meeting with direct royalty, you couldn’t get much more informal than that. Again, like with Graves though, the pair declined to make any comment on his attire and so Thoran sat down to listen to the two. He nodded occasionally as the Princess began to brief them on their mission, a complicated one at that. He would have liked it to be less so, but Praetorians were only brought together for the most demanding of tasks. Scouts... We're essentially a bunch of scouts... he thought to himself as the Princess finished, and Krieg began to talk. Sure the chance of combat was probably certain with an entire Battlecruiser going silent, but it didn't change the fact that their job was essentially information retrieval. With a silent sigh that mixed relief and exhaustion, Thoran watched from the corner of his eye as the Princess and Lord Commandant left the room before he slipped back into his seat.
He didn’t have any questions for Graves; all the answers he’d needed had been provided already or would be by Graves. He went by the need to know basis assumption. Anything he’d needed to know would be told to him, questions were unnecessary, even hazardous at times. The fact that the Princess and Lord Commandant had personally come to brief the team had raised his interest, but it was just that, interest. Nothing that needed an answer. Sliding deeper into the chair, Thoran waited for questions to be asked or for the briefing to continue. Either suited him just as well as the other.
Dusty looked over and saw a First Generation Praetorian congratulating the Second Generation Praetorian. Dusty was staring at him for a long time before he decided to move towards them in a bit of anger. "Dusty don't do it." Dusty was thinking about it for a while. He was walking towards them slowly. He observed the Second Generation. He realized he would be in his squad so Dusty thought it would be best for him to warn the Second Gen. But it was too late. They sat down and looked at one another. Giving glances here and there. It wasn't until everyone stood up that Dusty knew what was going on. The briefing. Dusty wasn't surprised that he was in a squad of Praetorians and getting briefed on some odd happenings. The ship especially. He was curious to find out if they were going for the ship first. Maybe make sure that the crew was still on the ship. But things were always different, even with six years of experience. There was always a different procedure to follow. As the leader asked for any questions to ask Dusty stayed in his seat. He looked around for awhile. He realized no one was going to ask.
Dusty was first to get up. He walked around the table slowly. He was making his way around the table for that Praetorian that decided to push him out of the way when he could have just pushed him aside lightly. "Dusty. What are you doing? DUSTY!" Katrina was trying to be loud as possible."Dusty you may get discharged if you do something." Katrina didn't want that to happen. "Dusty STOP!" Dusty stopped alright. He stopped right behind the office chair of that Second Generation hard headed Praetorian. "You are going to make a bad impression on the leader!" It was way too late for reasoning. Dusty made his decision.
It was silent at first. But Dusty. He broke the silence quickly. With somewhat of a quick move. Dusty grabbed the throat of this Praetorian, while squeezing the throat of this man he ripped him right from his office chair and slammed him hard into the wall. The office chair was on the ground and the loud bang helped the silence break. Dusty looked straight into the eyes of the Praetorian that was now eye level with him. "You are already making mistakes and we don't even know each others names. Push me like that again and you will regret meeting me." Dusty threw him on the floor and walked away. The only reason you would know he was mad was because of what he did to the young Praetorian. You wouldn't be able to tell by his voice because of the deep and calm seriousness of it. He was unsure if people were staring at him or not. Either way Dusty didn't care, and he hoped the kid would not say a word until after they were dismissed. He shot a glance at that first Praetorian who congratulated him for pushing a First Generation.
"Dusty! You could have just killed him! Way to make an impression on the leader! He will hate you now!" Dusty just nodded to himself. He didn't care about the way friends outside of a combat zone worked. He didn't even care about friends. Making an impressions meant nothing to him. Whether the leader saw it as an act of bravery to do something like that in front of him, or whether he saw it as an act of harshness towards other squad mates was up to him. Either way, Dusty didn't care. Their leader was a mercenary and for some odd reason Dusty felt like Graves was going to burst out laughing. But it didn't matter much to him. He knew the kid would be fine. He was a Praetorian. He had to be strong. Dusty sat down in silence.