Another Last Chance
Another Last Chance
The warp dreams that plagued me for weeks are real now. I plummet into the chasm towards the raging inferno below, Von Strab screaming and struggling uselessly in my arms.
Urkug’s still bellowing furiously up above, making himself heard even as all hell breaks loose. I hear shots ringing out, the Colonel snapping out orders at the remaining Last Chancers even over the screaming and gunfire, over the howling orks and shrieking Acheronites. It sounds as intense as Diabolus Forge was. I hope they get out.
The crazy thing is, I’m as calm as I was in the dreams. I’m plunging headfirst into the fiery depths below; I should be absolutely terrified. But now, I know why. I know how it is that I am able to accept my fate. The flames burning below are getting closer so quickly.
Everything is so sharp, so clear. I have taken my Last Chance. I am going to die, and I am going to do so with an honour that I thought had long ago passed beyond my reach. It’s as though, because I’m going to die soon, my mind is able to process every last detail and every last sensation with a crystal clarity that I’ve never felt before. I have never been so completely aware of myself.
I can just about make out the nooks and crannies of the rocks as we hurtle past. Small red eyes peer back at me through the fumes and steam. My eyes are blistering in their sockets. Von Strab’s have exploded by now, and the fat in his body is starting to melt. The muscles of my own body – some natural, others the twisted and warped product of the daemon within me – will take a little longer to go the same way.
I bare my fangs as the wind screams in my ears, its wail sharp and loud. The flames licking up below, bursting forth from a river of boiling magma and searing hot, are so close now… so close.
I feel little pain as my eyeballs finally rupture and burst, nor do I feel afraid. It’s so weirdly like my warp dreams. I can’t feel afraid, I don’t feel that I’m dying. I’m just changing. I have finally taken that Last Chance at redemption that Colonel Schaeffer’s been holding out to me for so long.
The heat blisters my entire being. Unimaginable pain consumes me. I know I’ve hit the magma when my skin melts from my body. I still feel no pain, but even if I did I could no longer scream – my throat, my larynx, they’re all gone.
Perhaps this is redemption. Perhaps it is damnation. Maybe this is the Abyssal Chaos that I am doomed to be thrown into now my mortal life has ended.
But this is different to the warp dreams, even that last one. I accept my fate. I embrace it.
At long last I am a true soldier of the Imperium of Mankind, and I have done my duty. Whatever awaits me now, I’ll face it as a soldier, and that is something that no warpspit daemon can ever take away from me.
Like a drowning man bursting to the surface of a tossing sea – a situation I’ve actually been in way too many times for my liking – I awake with a gasp of breath.
Miniature brightly-coloured daemons are all over the place. Stationary ground cars intermittently line the street, while a few more are on the move, their drivers accelerating to flee through the chaos as they realise what’s going on. Detached houses, each with a little plot of land, are on either side of the road. I guess it looks as though it’s normally a rather nice place to raise a well-adjusted family. I wouldn’t know too much about that, having grown up in the factories on Olympas. This place is probably about as far as you can get from a hiveworld.
In short, this is definitely
not the afterlife I was expecting. I should either be being tormented by daemons for all eternity – this lot don’t seem inclined to even come near me – or have met the Emperor by now, and while I don’t know what he looks like, I’m pretty sure he isn’t anywhere around here.
I quickly look down at myself to take stock of my gear, and my train of thought comes to a grinding halt.
I’m completely human.
Those are the only things that I can think about for a few seconds.
My hands are completely normal – better, in fact, as there isn’t a single scar on them. They look younger, too. Nothing remotely claw-like about them. Ha! And my mind is still completely quiet. My body feels different, though. Very different. Maybe younger? I’m not sure. I was never all that certain how old I was to begin with.
I quickly assess my kit: one standard pattern Mark V lasrifle, with a thirty-four mil box-form power cell with back-slant slot locked into the rifle’s ammunition port, and a few more mags in the pouches on my belt-kit over my left hip. A bayonet and a few krak grenades round out my arsenal. It feels as though there’s a pair of canteens and a med-pack on the rear of my belt-kit, and what might be ration bars as well, going by the shape I can feel digging into my arse.
A creature leaps out of the bushes at me, and I get a good view of a mouth full of what looks like more teeth than that reptile on XV/108. I give it a quick burst to the face as it swipes at me with a paw bigger than my head, and it goes down, hard. Some redheaded joygirl starts waving at me, babbling about something called a ‘Xander,’ whatever the warp that is. I ignore her, look around one last time, pick a direction at random, and set off.
An hour or so later, I have absolutely no idea what the frag to do. I’m supposed to be dead
, for warp’s sake. And while I haven’t seen any Aquila symbols or the other usual hallmarks of the Imperium, I don’t think this place is particularly evil, either. Maybe it’s some low-tech dump that hasn’t been contacted by an Explorator fleet yet and returned to the Emperor’s light.
Oh, well. I’m no priest so I can’t convert the ignorant little groxfondlers, and as I’m not an Explorator I have no idea how to map the place, but I am
a professional soldier. I can fight, I can protect, and I should probably do some sort of good if I’ve genuinely got a new chance at life.
I seem to have gotten stuck with some slip of a girl, one of the local nobility going by her dress and fancy High Gothic way of speaking, by the name of Elizabeth. All I did was drive off some scaled creature that apparently regarded lasblasts as merely annoying and decided to piss off, and the next thing I know she’s clinging to me for dear life.
To begin with, she got a bit gobby at how I wasn’t paying her the respect she thought she was due. Normally I’d have knocked a few of her teeth down her throat by now or just shot her and been rid of her, but I figure that would make my shiny new Last Chance a bit pointless. I’m not about to do that.
So, I just told Lizzy that if she didn’t like my attitude, she was welcome to get lost and find herself a new protector any time she liked. She got a bit weepy after that, and I still haven’t a clue how to calm her down, but at least she’s not griping at me all the fragging time now. Besides, she’s alive, she’s still as healthy as she was when I found her, and her clothes aren’t even torn – well, not much
, and it’s not like I’m
responsible for any of that – so, I ask you, what more could she possibly want?
A seriously deformed woman with yellow eyes rushes us with inhuman speed from a nearby alleyway. She looks like someone’s hit her in the face with an entrenching tool a few times. Her wrinkled nose sniffs the air, and she grins triumphantly. “Slayer!” she roars, redirecting her rush… towards Elizabeth.
Okay, so maybe this world does
have a touch of the Ruinous Powers to it. That, or they’re really
fragging inbred around here. I’m having flashbacks of the planet Deliverance just looking at her. I swear I can still hear those duelling banjosaws even now…
Elizabeth shrieks as she’s bowled over by the woman, who seems to be ignoring me completely, which just goes to show that she’s not very sensible. I sight carefully, and give her a lasbolt to the back. The woman appears to age thousands of years in less than a second, right before my eyes – her body swiftly reduced to its skeletal structure before disintegrating into a shower of ash.
Most people would probably drop their jaws and gawp at something like that. It’s a testament to the fact that I’ve seen so much fragging weird crap in my time as a Last Chancer that I don’t give it another thought.
I sigh, and reach down to help Elizabeth up. She’s coughing and spluttering, rather like Grenald and seven others did on Hyaxall IV during the last poison gas attack. I push that fragment of memory to the back of my mind as she thanks me profusely. One question stands out amidst her babble: “Good sir, please might I have the name of my saviour?”
‘Good sir’, eh? I’ve been called a lot of names in my time – Penal legion filth, trash, hive scum, rubbish, gun fodder,
to name but a few – but it’s the first one that I was ever given I now furnish her with.
I grin, a gesture that should normally rearrange the network of scars on my face from my little near miss with a ‘Nid spore mine on Ichar IV into a more hideous configuration. As I don’t seem to have them anymore, I can only guess what I look like. Frag, I might have a much easier time with the ladies without all those scars.
“My name?” I ask her rhetorically. “The name’s Kage. Lieutenant Kage of the Imperial Guard – 13th Legion, the Last Chancers. And I’ve just been given something very, very rare, tonight. Another
I don’t own Warhammer 40,000.