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Fighting Tiger Black Ops
Chapter 1 <> Chapter 2 <> Chapter 3 <> Chapter 4 <> Chapter 5 <> Chapter 6
Black Ops: Chapter 3
by James Arnold
A man with a gun was strolling down a jungle path. He idly kicked a pebble, watching it bounce a few times before disappearing into the brush. All he could hear was the cacophony that surrounded him, a million different bugs and birds all calling out to one another. Head down, all he could think of was the feel was the weight of his legs as they dragged his heavy boots along, creating a fresh pair of tread marks to match the last set he had left, and the one before that.
Sighing, the cultist glanced into the dense jungle, a thousand shades of green forever shifting, like a translucent piece of fabric in the wind. He leaned his bolter against a nearby tree and wiped the sweat from his face with both hands, then slicked his long black hair backwards. He bent to pick up the bolter when his hand closed on empty air.
The precious weapon was missing, the only remaining sign of it a small impression in the dirt where the stock of the gun had been resting only moments earlier. He spun around, drawing a serrated dagger.
The bugs had stopped.
In the past month and a half they hadn't stopped for even a moment. The constant stream of noise he had become accustomed to was now silent. For the first time since he had landed on this planet, the man wished the bugs would make some noise again. His hands shaking slightly, he peered in every direction, trying to stay calm. Every leaf, every bird fluttering in the distance, caused a twitch of the eye. Slowly backing down the path where he come from, the cultist began working his way back towards the safety of the camp. It was only a hundred yards. He could make it.
Pivoting quickly on one foot, the man broke into a sprint, the wind whipping through his hair. He ran hard. Though he didn't see or hear anything, he could feel a presence right behind him. He ran faster, the leaves biting at him as he rushed past, his heart pounding in his stomach. He neared the last bend that would lead to the camp.
Springing out from the cover of the jungle, the emerald warrior's fist caught the man in the throat. He doubled over, trying to scream, trying even harder just to breathe. She grabbed his head with both hands and twisted. There was a wet snap, like a rotten log breaking.
Further down the path, Ajay sprung.
Darting out from behind a large tree, the Tiger caught a two-man patrol off guard. Twin lightning claws humming with energy, the Marine cut down both men with a single, giant slash. Biting his lip to stifle a bellow of triumph, Ajay caught them before they fell, then silently lowered them to the jungle floor.
Hadin, Maya, and Kamal all had their own traps, their own prey. Appearing from nowhere and vanishing again, the Tigers eliminated the patrol company within two minutes.
Janhavi heard the patrols falling one by one. There were no screams, no gun fire, just sudden gasps of air, then silence. Her ears pricked slightly as she heard someone approaching. Dahana holstered her bolter and relayed her report of the camp.
Dahana's fingers danced and moved with a subtle grace that conveyed her every word and emotion. Whispers, no matter how faint, could be picked up and understood. Vox channels could be jammed if not tapped. But as far as Janhavi knew, there was no way to jam or intercept sign language. There were thirteen Chaos warriors, five of them in power armor, in the camp ahead. From the dark shades of blue highlighted by silver, it was likely that they were Alpha Legion. They were armed with all manner of ballistic weapons, from traditional autopistols all the way up to heavy bolters. Seven sentries, with the remaining six in the center of the camp.
One by one the others appeared, leaving
the fallen patrols for the creatures of the jungle to take away. Janhavi
conveyed the plan to her pack, careful to assign everyone their specific
duty. Vanishing into the jungle once more, the Tigers began the approach.
It was a large camp. The jungle had been torn down to create a hole in the canopy. Several small buildings, makeshift shelters and storage facilities for twenty, had been hastily put together. Around the perimeter were men and women wearing tattered brown robes. Each sentry carried a sidearm and a dagger. They stood motionless, trying to ignore the heat.
“The patrol should have come back ten minutes ago,” the heretic said. A minor sorcerer, his face was plain and almost flat, as if the skull underneath was being eroded. On the center of his head was the eight-sided star, bored into the bone with a burning knife many years ago.
“So?” one of the Chaos Marines sneered.
“So, perhaps something happened to them,” the heretic replied.
One of the Marines paused from cleaning his disassembled heavy bolter. “Maybe a tiger got them,” he chuckled.
An explosion went off at the south end of the camp, killing two of the cultists and throwing many of the others to the ground. The heretic screamed. Dahana was the first to reach the clearing, bolter roaring, rounds ripping into the Chaos Marines, cutting down one and sending the other four scrambling for cover.
Kamal and Hadin rushed past her, moving along the side of the camp, gunning down the shocked sentries. Appearing behind Dahanna, Janhavi and Maya fired their bolt pistols, keeping the Chaos Marines busy.
Ignoring the heretic’s shrieked orders, the Chaos Marines tipped over several large crates to use for cover. Three of them returned fire while the fourth began hurriedly assembling his heavy bolter.
Leaping from a tree, Ajay fell on the last cultist sentry with a furious roar, then charged with Kamal and Hadin. Chaos bolters fired. Hadin caught a round in the chest and spun away as the round exploded, stunning him. Kamal and Maya kept firing to convince the Chaos Marines to stay down. Dahana emptied a clip into one of the Alpha Legion at point-blank range. Ajay and Janhavi got close enough, slashing the enemy Marines. Seconds after the explosion went off, only one Chaos Marine and the heretic remained alive.
Dropping his half-assembled heavy bolter, the Chaos Marine ran, but didn’t take three steps before Ajay landed on him, lightning claws raking his back, severing his spine. Someone yanked the trembling heretic to his feet. Janhavi's fist slammed into the side of his head.
Lifting his unconscious body onto her shoulder, Janhavi looked back to where Kamal was helping Hadin sit up. “I’m fine,” he said, smiling.
Her own smile faded as she looked
over the camp. “Burn it,” she said. “Burn it all.”
The sun hung low in the sky, the color shifting to early dusk. Sitting down with a sigh, the man in blue folded his arms across his chest and leaning back against a tree trunk. Next to the man sat a hulking Space Marine. His sapphire power armor was perfectly still, the red eye lenses glowing softly, reflecting the colors of the sunset.
“What are you thinking, Captain?”
The suit responded in a cold, metallic voice.
“Must you ask? I know of your talents.”
“Yes, Captain, I could read your mind,” the man in blue said, “but I prefer to extend the courtesy of privacy to those whom I trust. On this planet, I must trust you above all others.”
The Space Marine reached up slowly and removed his helmet, interior air hissing as the locks disengaged. Captain Hieronimus breathed deeply, savoring the air as he placed the helmet on his knee. “The sunset reminds me of my home planet, before I was inducted into the Chapter. A small world, much like this one. Not nearly as hot, though. We used to watch the sunset before lighting the bonfires. Every night there was a celebration of the day's achievements. Everyone in the tribe was included. There was always plenty of food. And music. And laughter.”
“You miss those days.”
“I don't suppose you would have to read my mind to know that.” They stood up to continue their search. “Has there been any progress?”
The man in blue shook his head. “These natives are most uncooperative. They seem particularly hostile to you and your men.”
Hieronimus laughed coldly. “How very kind of them to hate the men who fight for their lives.”
“I suspect there is some other reason for their distrust of you. In any case, we're wasting our time here. I would suggest we continue south, but it’s getting late. Perhaps it would be easier to resume our search come daybreak.”
The man in blue sighed—then noticed a thin column of black rising from the jungle. “Or perhaps,” he continued, “we would do best to go northeast.”
Hieronimus stopped and turned to
where the man in blue was looking. “Smoke.”
The flash of burning blue plasma ripped through the jungle, and for a moment, the evening turned brighter than noon. Rising from where she had just dove for cover, Janhavi was on the move again. Ajay and Maya sprinted off across the ruined jungle in front of her, drawing fire long enough for Kamal to work his way into position.
The interrogation had started well enough. The heretic, bound and restrained, had been more than helpful, with some persuasion from Ajay. Ajay would have made an outstanding interrogator, if he had the self-restraint to leave the prisoner alive long enough to talk, which he often did not.
Then everything had gone straight to hell as the Chaos Dreadnought—where had it come from? Why had they not seen it earlier?—stomped, screaming, into the burned-out camp. Janhavi had immediately executed the heretic, and they had run. And they were still running.
Janhavi gritted her teeth as another flash of searing plasma ripped past her, far too close. The skin on her exposed face burnt, her superhuman healing powers scrambling to repair the flesh underneath. Sliding down into a nearby riverbed, Janhavi found Kamal sitting nearby, nursing his left arm.
“What happened?” she asked.
“I tried to get it with a krak grenade. I think I just annoyed it. It has reinforced armor: we can't hurt it with what we've got.”
Thundering footsteps, very near. Too near. The snap of branches and trees breaking as it crashed after them.
“Come on,” Janhavi said.
They set off, wading along the edge of the river, and found Ajay, Maya, and Hadin around a bend. They pressed on, splashing along through the high grass that grew near the banks. The dreadnought roared, searching blindly for its prey, tearing apart the jungle in its fury.
Then, just as suddenly as it had all started, the cacophony stopped.
The Tigers looked at each other in silence, confused.
Go look, Janhavi signed to Ajay. He nodded and began to climb the riverbank.
A massive splash sent everyone reaching for their weapons. Standing in front of them was Dahana, a meltagun slung over her shoulder. Her long black hair fell over one eye, a smile on her lips. She spoke quietly.
“I found this before we burned the camp. M39.75 issue: good year for melta tech.”
Janhavi smiled. “Well done.”
Climbing over the bank, they started back to the burnt Chaos camp. It would serve as the point to lead them to the main Chaos sanctuary. If the heretic had been telling the truth, it would be several days on foot to reach the location, but it would be well worth the surprise assault.
Night fell as they neared the clearing. Janhavi heard voices; the others did, too. Their weapons slid out of their holsters. Ducking down quickly, Janhavi and her pack began creeping forward.
At the edge of the clearing, they saw the Marines. Squinting, Janhavi could just make out the emblem on the shoulder pad of the nearest one. Turning back to her pack, she spoke with a single hand gesture, one she hadn't had to make in a long time. Ajay signed back: Are you sure? She nodded.
Fighting down her anger, all Janhavi could think of was that word in sign language. Many years ago, long before Janhavi, that word had simply been a name from the oldest records, but it had all changed those men who wore that badge had come to Veda. From then on, the word was never to be spoken or heard. That word, that filthy word.
Posted June 2006. Used
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