The Lampetie Accounts
Oldbeard Fic. 40k Version of the Canterbury Tales.
The Lampetie Accounts
The Captain's Tale
I met him, the Hero Captain Lampetie, before I fell on the world named after him. It was before planet fall, when Padre Nuestra ordered up and sponsored the brawl, a competition to warm us up. Get in the spirit of it. I wasn't invited. Convicts are best not to get acquainted with.
I was let to wander, while my comrades and companions sat in the dark of their hold. Whether it was their choice to sit there, hearing the combat of fellow free soldiers above or if theirs were greater sins than mine, I'm not sure.
I had gone, gone up. Wandering the labyrinth of the Bloodied, battle scarred and weary the ship was, its skin and the arteries which I wandered down. I came then to a place, a shrine, one of many tucked away in there. A small sprig of Terran plant, in Holy Terran Earth was there, small, malnourished, artificially crippled. The Captain was there, strangely free of invasive plug, but not free from the scourge and parasites of medals that adorned him, weighed him down. Underneath his coat and hat, he looked tiny, old. I heard he had turned down longevity treatments.
In the chapel, lit by six layered windows above, I heard Lampetie, the Pacifist, speak of the world which bore his name, and his heroic act.
He smiled to me then, as I came behind him, the conscript yellow and black warning hazards painting me, down to my skin. He was probably smiling then because he knew I would be dead. Dead or silent, by the end of this campaign.
Underneath his beard, lips flapped and spit dribbled, breath tasting of bottles too many, and regrets too deep.
"Good day my son," he called to me, "Come, sit closer, a pew is always open for our Beloved Emperor."
I sat then, on the metal cold pew, staring down, unsure. I had been hungry. We were fed the minimum, us in the first, Penal Lines, but we would get more food if we improved our every throw. What few veterans there were carefully timed their improvements over the course of the journey, but, I, I had been new, giving it my all every throw, getting great feasts at the beginning, but now, water and bread every second day until I showed improvement.
"You're a soldier then, a soldier set to go down on that world," spoke the Captain, as he took aloft, his feet pushing off of steel inscribed with the name's of soldier saints, bits of gibberish desperately trying to be seen over one another, "The world which bore my name. Too fair it is, too ironic is the bureaucracy of man, is it not, to give the mission of the finder of the world the job to deliver the soldiers to the self same place," the Captain grinned, as he walked to the pedestal, a dangling wire falling from his pocket. He scooped it up with oil stained hands, as he mused, "Lampetie, my world. I was the one to bring it in line." "This world was once agriland, as far as the eye can see, strips of land devoted to crop and produce, the oceans serving as battleground and fishing territory. Vast navies would go back and forth, fighting over what woods were not shortsightedly stripped from the land in bids for power. One faith had taken hold of the populace, faith in the Sun, life giver and heatbringer. The further north and south, the less sun, the colder, nearer to the equator, warmer, how could they not see the logic? What wood wasn't devoted to the navies were devoted to towers, high towers, trying to reach their god, to hold the warmth closer. Then, came I, with this boat," the holy book was opened, and withdrawn was non regulation devotion to the Mighty Emperor, amber, smoky, delicious fire in a bottle. He drank it deep, closing his eyes, a grin coming across his face.
"They were resistant, at first. Compounding our grievances, my captain had died, just went in his sleep... Syndrome. I can't remember what it was, but it was all the rage for a while there, people thinking that you could die in your sleep during the warp, that's why we always have these exercises and things... Still don't know if it's true or not."
He swirled the glass, watching his sacrilegious obeisance tumble around and around, "Guess I'll know if I wake up tomorrow, harpies tearing off my skin."
"They pointed at us, at our shuttle that we brought and said, 'Why should we listen to you? The sun brings us our crops, our wind, our warmth, our food, our light, and our sky, what have you brought for us?' Gunther wanted to take out his las right there, blow 'em all away, but me, I was the merciful sort."
The Captain turns, teetering for a moment, before setting his bottle down in one greasy hand, and sending another up, pointing up at the refracted hell light above him, "I point, I point up and say, 'But we are the same,' say I, 'We have come from up there! The Emperor is our word for Sun,' it's always, always so damn bloody good that the sleeper colonies speak our language, even if its divergent, 'Our Emperor brings the same things down to you, brings the same things to us. We come from the Emperor in fact. In fact,'" The Captain leans in, a grin tugging apart the ratty beard he has on his face, "And this was the clever part, in my opinion, in everyone's damn opinion, 'Our God shall bring down a fire. To there,' I point to a pile of rocks they have out in the sea, only beloved by the playing children of theirs, 'When the Sun is highest in the sky, again.'"
The Captain, pauses, then slumps down in the pew next to me, his strings cut from above him, "We had a leaky torpedo anyway. Would have been dumped somewhere," Another swig, "Might as well serve the Emperor." Above us, a maelstrom eddies across, for a moment I catch glimpses of derelicts, thousands of them, leering and heaving in the chapel windows, before it recedes again, back to the colors and shapes that hurt my eyes. With regret, I look to the Captain again, leaning back, laying on the pew, his hat down.
"We went back up. The Mechanicus was unsure about launching the defective torpedo, but, he came around eventually. We fire it down, when the sun is above their puissant rock. I'm down there when it happens, everyone from every island around is out, ready to see this outlander with his very informal, abominable ruining mockery of their tongue, get disproved.
I raise my hands, just when the flash hits. Even got a picture of me, with my content grin, back when my beard was full. A picture. Can you believe that? Some people. Maybe its still down there.
They followed us. They were inspired by zeal, and with our weapons, swept across the planet, hailing the Emperor sun. They would ask, and we would follow, again and again. Same demonstration. Same useless rocks in the water. Same flash, and crackle. I swear, every island, they had this little useless spits that were the exact same."
He looked up at me, his teeth showing, pitted, scratched, stained, "I would have been courtmartialed, if they hadn't dug up that STC? 'We feed it rocks, it gives us these bricks,' powerpacks. My God, how much of an uproar when we realized they were building houses out of the stuff. It was good, to be me, I left, a hero, lauded for my non violent unification, and bringing to the fold of that world."
The Captain, frowned then, the first time I'd seen visible displeasure.
"But..." He shook his head, "Maybe if they hadn't built the temples in the craters. If they hadn't grabbed every glassed rock, and steamed bit of water they could. Maybe then, the radiation, the cancer wouldn't have spread as quick as it could."
"I came back, a bare two years later. Maybe more for them, I don't know. They had asked for life, from their sun. Got no answer. Traders, swept through, grabbing loads of water, good genes for plants, women, whatever, for a steal. These primitives weren't used to the idea of a market, much less an interstellar economy. Before they knew it, they'd lost half the water. The only water the Rogues didn't take, was the irradiated variety.
I don't know how long, but eventually some idiot, compassionate do gooding son of a bitch told them. Told them the cancer that was in their temples, their dirt, their drinks, their people. They begged their Emperor Sun to help them. No response. They asked for me."
The Captain sat up, leaning heavily forward on his knees. A good third of the bottle had been lost to his lips by then.
"Like an idiot, I met them," He closed his eyes, "They, they thought me an avatar. A reverent figure. It irked the governor, so he just sprung them on me. I didn't know what to say. They asked me to make the sun deliver a cleansing wind. I said the sun can not do that. They asked for warmth, to cook the infection away. The sun can not do that. They asked for the light to at least make the hurting stop. The sun can not do that."
"'Then,'" The Captain's voice jumped an octave, an embarrassing imitation of a little girl's voice, "'What can the sun do?'"
He holds for a moment. Glumly one hand drifts into his coat, holds a moment, then comes out, in the sign of an 'L'. Thumb out. First finger out, the rest curled in.
"'It can bring death,'" He whispered.
"I was scared. What could I do? What could I say? I left then, returned to orbit, found myself an assignment in the Gothic sector, and went for it," He eyes his bottle, "I received reports. Even a call to return. But no. I kept serving pushing this boat through, the Cambrian Conflict, the Damocles Crusade, the Goffa Cleansing all that, I was involved with those and a mess more. I got reports, occasionally." He heaved back on the bottle, shutting his eyes as he drank, then lowering it, "It had turned to a death cult world. Inquisition was pleased. Can't boss around official assassins without Holy Terran Decree, but the Death Cults were their personal playgrounds to take and use. Population was on the decline, so the governor authorized fertility drugs in the water supply. There was more farm land, now that the ocean fell, but they couldn't support the surge in population. The general of the PDF successfully tied up moving out the STC. Powerpacks, everywhere there. Even rumors they managed to duplicate it."
The Captain sighed, glancing at the bottle, before carefully setting it down on the chapel floor.
"Now, the Guard are called. Heresy. Consorting with the Dark Powers," The Captain snorts, a wet, phlegmy snort, "Not so. Not every heresy immediately jumps straight into the wagon of Chaos," He pats himself down, and I reach back, pulling a tobacco stick out of my pocket, and preferring it to him. He nods his thanks, and leans forward, and under the eyes of the Spirit of Eternal Vigilance lights it in the Eternal Flame of Victory. He puffs, leaning back.
"They're the original sun worshipers. Say we serve the bad sun. The Emperor Sun is the sun of cancer. Wants the Imperium out," The Captain closes his eyes, and then mutters, "I don't care anymore. Bloody primitives," One eye, wet and veined, opens, turns on me, "You're a soldier? Take my advice, do what I should have done. Don't try to help them or relate to them. They're idiots. Idiots convinced a boat beyond the atmosphere delivers divine wrath," He closes his eyes again, bringing a shuddering breath through my burning tobacco filter.
"Kill them. Kill them all. Let their sun sort them out."
I left the heretic then, as he smoked, nursing his drink, in the chapel. I do not know what he tried to tell me.
Six hours 'till planet's fall.
The Veteran's Tale
We catch ourselves on anything nearby as we shudder back into reality. For a moment, I hear whispered laughter along the pipes, familiar of the captain's. I tell myself its the cold that makes me shiver. I go out, get armed with what they tell me is lasgun. When I ask for a magazine, I get hit upside the head with the flat end of a bayonet. The quartermaster instructs me that I want a powerpack. Not a magazine. A powerpack. He replaces periods with flat, lazy swings of the dull bayonet. I stumble away, to wait with the troops in one of the drop crates. I don't know what their official name is. Its what the troops call them though.
The conscripts are spread apart, some still wielding their chains. All of us with brands and hazard patches. I'm unsure why, as I file into my respective delivery box. Do they fear us together leading to revolt? Or are we supposed to value the kindness of mixing with those unimpressed. One squad fresh PDF soldiers. Another veterans. One officer, who I later found was a major. Like a fool, I admired the commanding officer's courage and bravery.
All the veterans were bulky. Over burdened. We were dropping in a "clean" zone, all rumors had pointed to a safe drop, but nonetheless, I had to ask, what was under their battle vestments.
One of the nearer ones smiles, lifts his shirt. Two pairs boots. Nine sets of rations. Fourteen pairs socks, underwear. A small bottle of something pink. Gilded. He looks at me, as if I should be impressed. My, and the fresh troops', blank stare tells it all. They laugh to one another, as they called, echoed, "The economics professor, the economics professor."
A smooth skinned, shining toothed, long haired veteran stood straight, and began to teach.
"You may wonder why we, oh survivors and glorious soldiers of the fine, beloved Imperium of Man laden ourselves down with supplies?" His voice tucks high and low, exercising and dancing with practiced ease, as his smile grows, "What soldiers are we," He looks incredulous, as he leans in, "To carry such extra weight and tackle, when every education of war has taught you that this is a bad idea?" One of the fresher guardsmen sniggers a yeah I was wondering, before glowered into silence by the veterans.
"Much less," the professor continued, "Much less with useless implements such as these? Pantyhose? Extra field rations? Tents, shoe laces, blankets, lights, and radios? What purpose could this be for the finest warriors of the Imperium," He gave us a moment, to digest. To think.
"Because, we're not REALLY going into a war situation."
The pilot performs some initial checks on the package containing us, and it responds with a low, cranky, hissing.
"You see, we're getting deployed to one of the safer zones, and we're going to pots around and wait on the damn dirty island for a good, oh, whaddya think? Three?" The companion next to him grins a little, shaking his head, puts up two fingers, "Tch, an optimist, but I'll go with it, two weeks, while we marshal everything up, the generals settle their last minute arguments, and we get equipment deployed."
He revels in the drama of the pause. He waits for our approval, our cluelessness. Our exhortation for conclusion.
"And before that time, my friends, we are free men. The Vendolanders got the short stick, setting up perimeter and doing last minute secure sweeps, and sure, we'll get the occasional breach, but before then? We are waiting, bored, and surrounded by some of the poor, desperate people."
He slaps his bag of hygienics, a knowing grin seeping across the faces of the others.
"Our tradition," continued the man, "Is a long, revered one. Its roots lie in the Great Crusade."
Fuck off Gluon, giggled one of the veterans in the back of the cab, enjoying the part of the heckler.
"Oh, but it is so!" Veteran Trooper Gluon raised a finger, in solemn pose, "For, when the Emperor of Mankind beautifully, generously and nobly went forth to reunite all humanity, to liberate them from prey of Alien, Mutant and Heretic! He found he had a lot of supporters," Gluon smiled again, white teeth flashing, "Violent, normal, hungry supporters."
"What shock, the Emperor faced, on his return from Holy Terra, when he found that those oh so ambitious brave mortal souls following in his wake engaged in... Less than wholesome acts." "Looting. Murdering. And the big one," His eyebrows waggled above darkened skin, unscarred, "Good 'ol beloved raping."
The Lieutenant by now had raised an eye under his cap of office, focusing on Gluon, so the man hurriedly stumbled over his words, vomiting out, "OF COURSE the Emperor was right pissed about this, mass corporeal punishment, tithes to entire worlds and families receiving a personal visit of apology from the Emperor, but the important thing was, he set it into law: Whosoever follows me, befouls and besmirches not the territories they claim."
Aside from the mutant, heretics and aliens, echoed one. Another stated that this was apocryphal, and that any in such a time would not dare to do such a thing. Gluon shrugged then.
"It's how it was told to me," A thought springs to my mind, generation after generation of soldier, telling this same tale, delivering this same lecture.
"So," Said Gluon then, smiling benevolently at the soldiers in the box, "The Emperor singlehandedly delivered a slap to the face to the billions following him, telling them, 'No Imperial Army shall ever engage in such unprofessional acts'. Naturally, this has been broken over the years, but we," At this Gluon looked back to his cohorts, and smiled at them, "We know better. It's kind of a tradition in the Guard, something you pick up besides. Just goddamn logic, where we get into my economics."
"Pretend your some dumb dirt farmer, who, thanks to Yours Truly putting his balls on the line against horrid threats he could never imagine, gets to enjoy the fine and beautiful range of products only the Imperium of Man can provide. Suddenly," Gluon brings his fingers together, "The prices jack up. 'Trouble over by the beta sector,'" the veteran's head wobbles back and forth, mimicking an accent strange to my ears, putting on the face of a put out old man, "the reason given," The fingers draw together tighter, "Then, you get word that some place you've barely heard of is lit up in rebellion, and you can't get no more chocolate, then the PDF are drawn up and you're on war rationing, then all of a sudden there's no more trade, no more merchants, no more nothing, and you can't get out because the orbital bombardments taken out the bridge, and the market, and you don't know what to do when suddenly!"
His fingers come apart, with a soft, 'fftttsss'.
"The Imperial Guard arrive off world. They're bored, and they have plenty of junk laying around."
"Rogue Trader's've got nothing on us man, you sick and tired of smelling like a goddamn barn?" Gluon points to his bag of hygienics, "Some guardsman doesn't care, just says he lost it to some thief, he'll get another set."
Long as you don't push your luck murmurs on of the veterans, rubbing his back.
"Long as you don't push your luck, right, thanks Chive, and all of a sudden, when you get your bare essentials squared away, you gotta ask yourself, man, wouldn't it be nice to get some radio? Maybe, some chocolate? A blanket? Heater?" Gluon leans back, his hands spreading apart to indicate the room, "We got everything."
And they? Asks one of the new troopers, leaned forward. Enraptured. Caught up. The Lieutenant even, though he leans back into the deck, has his eyes covered, has a grin on his face.
"What do you think?" the veteran's face splits, the white teeth coming out again.
I glance back. It's another conscript like me that whispered it. Chained to the wall. He's practically slobbering. As he giggles.
"Exactly," Gluon smiles, "And that's why, we in the Imperial Guard don't rape. We don't need to."
We're all sorta stunned a moment. Well. Those of us new to the business. It's. Intoxicating.
"Not like it hurts," Says Gluon, as he leans back, his smile fading, looking left, wistful, "I mean, you lay down a half hour or so, maybe get something in your mouth, and then you get something from it. Y'know? And its not like they got anything else to sell."
Too bad most of them'll be cancered out.
"Hey now, hey now, we're dropping in a clean zone. Aside from that, cancer chick'll ask for less. And most of the women on world'll be sterile, so you can ride bareback. It's just the fact of life, they don't have things that we have a plentitude of."
How do you know so much about this, asks one of the greens.
"Well, I'm a veteran aren't I? Get around, don't I?" Gluon sits back, stiff for a moment. Before one of the veterans, the sergeant smiles.
He lifts his hand, thumb and pointer finger connected in circle, the rest of the fingers following suit. He brings the hand up close to his lips.
Shluck. The other veterans smile. Imitate. Shluck. Shluck.
The hands go back and forth in concert, as Gluon watched, seeing this once before. Before laughing.
He stands, gathering the greens behind him, saying he'll take them to the armory. Teach them what to take. The noise follows him out, as some of the veterans can't hold it in. Start laughing, keeling over. I can't help but notice Trooper Gluon's tired look. His long, blond hair. His androgynous features.
Not just the young women, I hear, whispered to my side.
Later in the campaign, Gluon made sergeant. They were in deep, one of the sabotage jobs near the end of breaking one of the smaller groups. They, and his men were caught, ammo wasted, ordered to surrender. The soldiers say that Gluon laughed. He liked laughing. I remember his laughter, recognizable from across base, this tinkling, pretty, ephemeral sound. High bass kind of thing. I could only imagine that laughter. The rest of the men were taken alive. When they got returned to the Imperium, fished from the ocean on a raft they were meant to die on, they said the sergeant shot himself, rather than be taken prisoner.
When the Lieutenant made Sergeant Gluon a hero, a main propaganda piece, another piece of the story got out. That before shooting himself, Gluon laughed, placing his mouth over the barrel of his lasgun, looking at his tormentors, as he approximated fellatio on his weapon. Laughing at them. Before shooting himself.
The survivors were executed to the man for Conspiracy to Destroy Morale.
I remembered him, every time I passed the whore houses and alcohol shops that had mushroomed around our base. I remembered, every time I saw Imperial rations being cooked over a fire, tended by young mothers, as they kept an eye on their children, running in Imperial army boots. Very tired looking young mothers.
We called them Gluon Girls.
Hour 'till planetfall.