The rain came down hard, mixing the blood and the mud together into something wholly worse than either. I stood there panting from exertion. We just barely beat back the Greenskin assault. I killed the last one myself in bloody close quarters fighting. As for my squad, it was just me and Guardsman Reik left. I saw the carnage the Orks had wrought on our squad and felt the fire in my chest ignite. ‘I swear that the xenos will pay dearly for this.’ I said with quiet intensity.

‘Yes, commissar.’ Reik replied flatly. Suddenly I was falling towards the mud and blood, my legs having given out from under me. At first I thought I fell from exhaustion, then I felt the ice-cold pain of a las-bolt cauterising my flesh. Reik kicked my weapons away from me, not that they would help. The bolt pistol was empty and the chainsword was so choked with Ork viscera it stopped working halfway through the assault.

‘W-What?’ was all I could manage to say. 

Reik stalked around me like a predator cat from Terra’s ancient past. I pushed myself up to the wall of the trench and gazed back at him. ‘Do you know why these dumb animals have overrun so many of our positions?’ He asked in a tone that told me he knew the answer. I shook my head. ‘I have been removing ammo from the emplacements and cutting the razor wire.’ He said this without any edge to his voice. ‘I have been intercepting the vox communications from command and clipping them so they do not get to the regiments they are bound for. I have lost us this war.’

‘Why?’ I say weakly. I am losing feeling in anything below the waist.

‘You seriously don’t know?’ Reik seemed genuinely shocked by my question. He knelt down next to me, his sour breath acrid in my nose and on my tongue. ‘You mean to tell me that when you unjustly executed Private Lutan, you couldn’t even be bothered to remember it?’

‘Private Lutan was executed for-‘

‘Do not insult my love’s memory any more by spouting your lies!’ Reik shouted into my face. With that outburst I could see the tinges of madness that had been there all along. All of the extra duties Reik had volunteered for so he could put his plan into motion.

‘But why the regiment as well? Why not just me? They were innocent.’ I croaked through a rapidly drying throat.

‘Did any of them try to stop you from murdering my love? No. None of them were innocent. Every single one of them is complicit in the murder, and they all have to pay for that complicitness.’ Every word dripped out of his mouth was acid hissing into the mud.

I had to do something, tell someone. I couldn’t move, Guardsman Reik is an excellent soldier and must have shot me in the spine. Enough to paralyse me, but not to kill me immediately. I worked my jaw, pretending to be gritting in pain to hide me opening the comm-bead built into my great coat. I subvocalised my authority codes, masking the little noise as grunts of pain. I couldn’t tell if anyone received my message or was listening, my earpiece was destroyed in the battle, I just had to trust in the Emperor that anyone was listening. ‘So, Private Reik, you sabotaged your own regiment, just for the chance to avenge a criminal that was rightly-‘

The flair of pain that interrupted me was like stepping onto a sun. Reik shot me again, this time in the shoulder. Seems like he wasn’t done with me just yet. Good, I just need to keep him talking. ‘Asher was not a criminal!’ he screamed at me. The words came out in a torrent. ‘I personally loosened the bolts that kept our tanks’ treads from slipping off on every tank in the regiment. I made sure that most lascannons received autocannon ammo instead of charge packs. I scrambled so many vox-casters with scrap code the cog boys were foaming at the mouth. The ones with mouths at any rate.’ He smirked at his own joke like it was the funniest thing in the world. ‘This front is lost, and soon, when the greenies regroup, the next front will fall and the next.’

‘You can’t possibly expect to live after what you’ve done.’

‘If I wanted to survive, I wouldn’t be here, but I needed to see you die personally. I will be with my love after all this is over. I couldn’t think of a better place to be. Certainly not spending the rest of my life fighting the Emperor’s enemies.’ He spat the name like it was rotten fruit he had just bit into.

‘You’ll be in hell, heretic.’ I said with more strength than I felt.

‘You all deserve what you get and I’ll see you in that hell, Commissar.’

Guardsman Reik lifted his lascarbine to his shoulder and took aim squarely at my chest. A loud bang filled the air and to my astonishment Reik’s head exploded. I looked around for my would-be saviour and stared in mute horror as the Ork I killed got back to its feet, brandishing a stubby, heavy looking pistol and a crude hooked knife. Somehow it was even bigger than when I put it down. It looked at me with its beady black eyes, pointed the blade at me and thumped its chest once, then stalked off into the night.

About the Author

George is a tabletop game designer, amatuer writer, and brand new podcaster in his spare time. When he’s not working on hobbies, he’s working his job traveling all across the US.