Advent of Salvation Part 2

Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim, dark future there is only war.

Advent of Salvation Part 2

Postby Dweese » Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:07 am

The tension hanging in the air, almost like a thick, noxious cloud of necrotic particles, was nearly weighty enough to have to be hacked through with a chain sword. An apt analogy, he thought, for what the assembled general officers, all of whom were standing rigidly at attention, thought he might do to them. Let them think that a bit, he mused inwardly. Unlike some generals, however, he never believed in executing subordinates out of hand for their failings. Once and it might reinforce the point, but it was all too tempting, a slippery slope, to make out of it a notorious habit. The more it was utilized the less likely it was to be effective. In fact all it would do would be to enforce an overabundance of caution and a draconian adherence to written orders. Both of which led to a total loss of personal initiative which could, and all too often did, wreck the best of plans. One might as well surrender to the enemy and save lives and precious time. He supposed he should have expected their anxiety; the Imperial Guard was rarely a forgiving organization.
The generals assembled, save for one a collection of midnight and sandalwood hued faces, both men and women, all had either beads of sweat dotting their brows or looks of anxious, nervous, and grim anticipation. He was still standing in the doorway to the Strategium, the officer of the guard having announced him only moments before. Despite their supreme mental anguish, he knew it wasn’t because of his superior physical stature. It was why he let his reputation proceed him, generally it was the only imposing thing about him. Physically he was only of average height, just barely, at five feet eight inches, with a slender though athletic build and his own complexion was deeply tanned by his genetics. His almondine eyes, black, and thick black hair was matched by a meticulously trimmed goatee that framed the lower portion of a face that seemed to perpetually be displaying a stern visage. He deigned any kind of representational ostentation, his uniform held few decorations save that of his rank, and he truly, and emphatically, hated wearing his peaked cap. Today he held it tight against his left flank, pinned by an elbow to his body. Despite his fairly unassuming appearance his demeanor carried his, so far, silent authority.
Slowly he scanned the assemblage of largely un-victorious generals, letting them hang still in pained silence for yet a moment longer. Having made brief eye contact with each and every one of the officers he nodded once and quietly inhaled.
“In case you may not know, I am Lord General Pedro Martinez Montoya. For the past six months you have all tried, and failed, to quash the rebellion here in this system. This has created a rather unfortunate set of circumstances. As you may well know this rebellion against the Holy Emperor is not an isolated incident but, rather, a smaller part of a larger whole which belongs to a sector wide rebellion. Thirty three worlds, including four forge worlds under the auspices of Sector Governor Lord Tarsus have seceded from the Imperium of Man. This, I hope, is not new information to any of you. What is, quite possibly, not new information for you is that the High Lords of Terra have decreed a Crusade to reclaim these worlds. Governor Tarsus has refused to negotiate terms to spare his subjects’ suffering and so it will be a military operation to retrieve this territory for the Imperium.”
He paused, briefly, letting the import and gravity of the situation seep into their minds for a moment before continuing.
“I am the man who has been vested with the sacred duty, and dare I say burden, of carrying out this most holy task. Some of you, no doubt, may be wondering why I am here, now, in this room feeding you information that does not necessarily pertain to you.”
Again he paused, holding eye contact with a veritable mountain of a man, a scar running vertically down the left hand side of his age and stress lined face. Within that dark, veteran face he saw fear. But, to his inner satisfaction, he also saw professional pride. Wounded perhaps, but pride nonetheless and it was warring with his fear for dominance over his face.
“Some of you are also wondering what is to become of you…” He said softly, hushed, nearly a whisper.
“Right now that is the question isn’t it? Some of you are envisioning a firing squad. Had I been another Lord General Militant that might be your fate. Six months of disaster, route and defeat. Humiliation piled on top of humiliation and nothing to show for your efforts but a sea of smashed, broken and burning vehicles, pillaged supply depots, crumbled cities and mangled corpses. Yes indeed had I been any other Lord General Militant I might pull out my bolt pistol and start thinning the herd right now.” He said icily, letting a hand rest on the grip of his bolt pistol holstered to his waist for silent emphasis.
He let the pregnant silence hang still for an agonizingly still and seemingly long moment, watching the turmoil of their inner thoughts play out across their features.
“But you will find that I am not that Lord General Militant.” He said quietly.
A few of the heretofore sullen and sadly doomed generals risked a sideways glance at him. Montoya looked back to the mahogany skinned, muscled behemoth in uniform standing across from him. He read the man’s name strip above his right breast, “al Khalid” and saw in the massive man’s eyes a spark of hope. Hope both personal and professional, a look that Montoya noted with gladness was shared by the others in the Strategium. Now they can be remolded, he thought.
“What you have done for the past six months was make mistakes yes, but a mistake is an opportunity to learn. And if you apply what you have learned to future engagements, you will teach the rebels the sharp lesson of humility.”
Within the eyes of the assembled generals he saw shine forth the light of the hunger for vengeance. It was a hunger Montoya would let them satiate to their wounded hearts content. But first he knew he had to lay down some ground rules.
“As of right now, however, none of you are quite prepared to deliver to the enemy that humiliation that you know you and they so richly deserve. No, sadly you are still thinking in the terms of your original training. One of the things I will do from now on is to re-train you to be better, smarter, more aggressive, yet more intelligent battlefield commanders. It has never been said of the Imperial Guard that it can be wielded like a rapier, rather only like a sledge hammer.” He paused and took in the thoughtful expressions of those listening to him. After looking around the room, to gauge which ones were actually thinking about what he was saying and those who were more interested in having their own skins saved from the proverbial fire. With satisfaction he noticed that most were thinking on what he was saying, though a few were dwelling upon their own restored mortality. He made a mental note of them before continuing on.
“Though it has never been said I will change this perception. Human beings make up the Guard, and the human race is an exceptional race. Under my tutelage I will show you how to wage war in such a way as to not merely throw away lives in meat grinding battles of attrition, but rather how to use your forces wisely and to learn how to maximize the enemies losses while minimizing your own. If the Imperium is to retake all the worlds lost since the days of the Heresy then we will need to re-learn how to fight and fight well. Brute strength may sometimes be what is needed, but it is not always the best option.”
“Your first lessons are these: starting from here on out you will no longer stay in a command tent or a villa or a plush mansion while your troopers sleep and eat and bleed on the cold, hard ground or the grimy slop of the mud. You will learn to be near the fighting to see for yourselves the tactical situation. You will learn to lead from the front. Anyone caught lounging behind the lines, sipping tanna leaf and dining on exquisite fare will be busted back down to front rank status where you will be reminded how your troopers are faring by faring just as they are. And have no fear, I will set the example myself. Trust me when I tell you that you will see a lot of me. I will be the greatest pain in all of your asses that any of you will ever meet.”
Pausing again he glanced around, making brief eye contact with Al Khalid and noted the profound satisfaction on the man’s face. Good, Montoya thought, this one is definitely one to watch.
“Your second and final lesson for the day will be to learn to rotate units out of line whenever possible and to always, always, always, keep a damned mobile reserve ready to jab a counter attack at the enemy when they break your lines. A mobile reserve will allow you to regain control of a messy situation nine times out of ten. Having studied what has been happening here since the start of the rebellion I can tell you that a large portion of the blame for your defeats has been neglecting to utilize a proper reserve. Strength in numbers has failed you every time because it doesn’t matter the amount of resources someone has if they fail to use them properly. I will teach you to use them properly. Now, return to your commands and you will briefed by members of my staff who will be attached as temporary liaisons to you. The following days will be difficult and for many deadly, but I promise you victory on the other side of the dark tunnel you are all in.”
Sighing inwardly he placed his peaked cap atop his head, centered it firmly and made one final glance around the Strategium.
And with that Montoya spun smartly on his heel and marched out of the room.

After the briefing and the initial laying down of his new ground rules and ensuring his staff had hammered out a basic operational plan, he retreated to his proffered accommodations. The officer standing guard outside the entrance to his personal quarters was one of his own, a short, solidly built man with hair just turning to gray around his temples and with a golden skin tone that belied his birth world. Montoya offered a tired smile as he saw his personal aide standing dutifully on guard outside his quarters. Still a fixture of his life as a General after well over two decades.
“Chen any visitors while I was away?” Montoya asked the shorter Major. With a small smile that Major Chen Wen Zhong failed to hide he gave a brief nod and a grunt of affirmation. Grinning himself Montoya nodded in understanding.
“How many was it?” Montoya asked, though he was sure he already knew the answer.
“Only one Lord General.”
Montoya nodded with a quirked eyebrow, indeed his suspicions had been correct.
“Do you know if he was seen by any of the locals?” Montoya asked after leaning in to lower his voice. Chen gave a brief shake of his head.
“Bu, Lord General. Your visitor was not seen. For his size, he was quite stealthy and well concealed.” Montoya nodded and gave Chen a warm pat on the shoulder before opening his door and steeping into his quarters, asking Chen to prepare an extra copy of reports before closing the door behind him.
Montoya set his cap on the table near the door and looked around the room. He heard, quietly, soft string music playing from the annex and a light on in what he assumed was his own personal pantry. If un-regular, the Obrians had definitely given him a room that hoped to accommodate him personally if not necessarily militarily useful. He heard the sound of liquid gurgling into a glass and smiled.
“Pour another for me old friend.” He said with a chuckle. As he heard another glass being set down on the counter in his pantry he entered the room and looked up into the stern visage of the gigantic individual leaning almost casually against the counter which was softly creaking with his weight. The man took his own glass, tiny in his massive hands, filled with an amber liquid, and used it to shove Montoya’s to him. Montoya took the proffered glass and raised it in a toast to the bemuse giant who snorted a laugh, smiled and shook his head before downing the amber liquid.
“I had told myself that I would never again wear a cloak and cowl and go about without my armor. And yet here I am; cloaked, cowled and absent my red and gold armor. The things I have done for you Pedro, the things I have done for you,” The giant rumbled, his deep, bass voice not without a certain sonorous quality to it. Montoya smiled and shrugged, throwing back his own ambrosia and wincing in pleasure as it burned down his throat.
The giant man’s once blonde hair was quickly silvering, something that had only just been starting the last time Montoya had seen him. And despite his lack of ornate, halved crimson and golden armor, Montoya thought he still looked utterly intimidating and imposing. Stitched in gold filigree onto the nape of the cloak the enormous man wore was a sigil, two crossed halberds, the symbol of his chapter.
“Not necessarily what you are doing for me friend, but what you are doing for the Imperium.” Montoya responded. The giant rumbled a chuckle.
“Oh, I see. So they put a new title upon you and suddenly you speak with the voice of the whole race of man now do you? Still, I feel as though I will have a certain price to pay for this. Every time we meet it seems my chapter gets battered around in one way or another.” He said in a mock accusing tone. Montoya smiled in response.
“It is good to see you again Marcellus. Thank you for answering my call for support.”
Marcellus Aurelianus, Chapter Master of the Crimson Guard Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes returned Montoya’s smile and Montoya took a brief moment to reflect on the strangeness of their friendship.
Twenty three years earlier, when Montoya was a relatively fresh and Captain he had been engaged in deadly battle against the eldar on the world of Latini III. The eldar had struck at the world and Montoya’s unit had been one of the few Guard units stationed there undergoing mountain warfare training. In a matter of hours the eldar had shattered the majority of the Guard formations, but Montoya, an officer in a sea of confused and frightened troopers from several different units had rallied a defense around a small city that contained a relic the eldar were after. For three days Montoya denied the eldar their prize with a force 900 troopers. After three days he had barely 300 remaining but had killed well over a thousand of the eldar. Realizing he was about to die he himself delivered the rites of sacrifice to the survivors in the hour proceeding the final eldar push. But those three days had been enough time to allow a strike force of the Crimson Guard, already hunting down the eldar, to land a company of tactical marines that swept away the eldar, littering the landscape with their smashed vehicles and broken, torn bodies.
That company had been led by then First Captain Marcellus Aurelianus. In the final moments of the battle Montoya found himself in hand to hand struggle with a red armored Dire Avenger. Despite being wounded by the xeno, Montoya slew it only to face another. Montoya slew that one as well only to face a third, this time a Howling Banshee. Weak from blood loss Montoya still summoned the courage to face this new threat though it quickly battered him to the ground. Just as it was beginning to make the killing blow, a chain sword speared through its midsection, killing it instantly. Showered with xeno gore Montoya struggled to rise but his weakness caused him to stumble. Wiping the filth and blood from his eyes he saw a gold gauntleted hand stretched out towards him. Grasping it Montoya allowed the Astartes Captain to pull him to his feet.
“Are you the commanding officer of this defense?” The crimson and gold armored titan rumbled. Montoya, despite his near delirium managed to straighten his posture and nod in the affirmative.
“Yes my Lord, how many of my troopers are left?” The Astartes cocked his un-helmed head in thought at Montoya’s question.
“Despite having been near death you are more concerned for the lives of those under you?” The Astartes asked. Montoya shrugged weakly.
“It is my duty my Lord. Without them, I am nothing and have done nothing. I only hope I have not condemned all 900 of those who stood with me to death.” For a moment the Astartes was silent, the only sound being the fading gunfire and din of hand to hand combat as the Astartes mopped up the broken eldar.
“Though not a precise number, you still have over 100 of your troopers left alive. That in and of itself is quite remarkable considering what they faced here. You are certainly deserving of recognition Captain, what is your name?”
“Montoya Lord, Captain Pedro Martinez Montoya of the 6th Veracruz Rifles.” The Astartes grunted an affirmation of Montoya’s salute and then laid a massive hand on Montoya’s shoulder.
“I am honored to meet such a noble human Captain Montoya. I hope you continue to serve the Emperor as greatly in the future as you have here today.”
And with that First Captain Marcellus Aurelianus stalked back to take command of his company.
Over the years Montoya would run into Aurelianus, once more as First Captain and then again more than once when Aurelianus became Chapter Master. Each time the two served in the same theater it always seemed the divine will of the Emperor that Montoya’s unit, whichever one that was, be in a zone of conflict where the Crimson Guard were also engaged. Upon their third meeting then Chapter Master Aurelianus and then Brigadier General Montoya had drunk a toast to victory together and Montoya could look back at that moment and declare that that was the moment when a human and a transhuman became friends.
Aurelianus nodded, smiled and poured the both of them another round of ambrosia.
“Tell me old friend, what insidious plots you have boiling around inside that head of yours this time.” Aurelianus asked good naturedly as he handed Montoya his glass.
“Victory Marcellus, always victory.” With a grunting nod Aurelianus tossed back his drink and gently, surprising for a man or ab-man of his size, set the glass back down on the counter with a soft click of glass upon polished marble.
“How would you like us deployed?” Aurelianus asked, blunt as always.
Montoya finished his drink, set the glass down behind him and looked up at his friend.
“As of right now I do not want to deploy as of yet. I would prefer to keep your presence here a secret until I can figure out who among the Obrian General Staff and the assorted battlefield commanders is leaking intelligence to Lieutenant General Adebola Muskwe.” Aurelianus raised an eyebrow and rubbed his granite like chin with a massive hand in thought.
“You think that is how the rebels have been so victorious?” Aurelianus asked. Montoya nodded.
“In part yes, truth be told she is also ten times the commander all the others in the Strategium I talked to earlier combined. Still, the rate of her success and the level of her victories can only be explained by an inside leak passing vital information. As it is she is on the verge of launching an assault on both the industrial district and Obrian City itself. We can’t lose either.” Montoya said.
“Are you still holding to the notion that you can turn the Imperial Guard into a force as highly capable as the Astartes at least in part? Even the Obrians?” Aurelianus asked.
Montoya smiled, a smile that was both hungry and predatory and he leaned in close to his friend who bowed his head closer in anticipation.
“The Astartes are the best of the Imperium, and though transhuman you are still the shining example of humanity. And yes I believe that with proper training and education the Guard can be as effective in a human way as the Astartes. And yes, even the Obrians. If Muskwe can win her victories with Obrians, I will defeat her with those loyal to the Emperor.”
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