Approx. 4300 words
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2015 SJ
Return to Chaos
written by SJ
The next day, the Base was put on alert. Colonel Gallardo announced they would probably have to return to Cornucopia, but didn't, at this time, explain why. During the next two days, the Chaparral was gradually prepared for the inevitable, eventually loading armament and equipment for four Scout squads and three Marine squads, all with their appropriate transports...each armed with twin-linked bolters.
With a new class of trainees starting, Colonel Gallardo was not going this time. But he did give his troops a brief explanation, telling them, this time, they were definitely going on a combat mission. Search and destroy. Two Marines squads from the Omicron Rangers were already on their way to Proxima Altair, due to land at Cornucopia's Marine Base, the very one the Cheyenne Rangers had retaken earlier.
Waiting at the base would be a squad of Federal Investigators. So far, one member of their twelve man squad was missing and three more had been incinerated while investigating one of the Marine Base's underground complexes, where they had detected a strange energy source, one that could've only come from the WARP.
The Terrans knew very little about the WARP, only that it was another dimension of incomprehensible darkness, a place they dared not even investigate, let alone try to enter; however, now it seemed to be a place that was coming to them.
The Federal Investigators were now in a defensive position near the Marine Base, and were currently waiting for reinforcements before continuing any further activity. They had another squad of Federal Investigators which had gone out to look around; but, after being fired on by Chaos Cultists, they had retreated to the bauxite quarry. At last report, they had taken no casualties. But just before the Investigators were attacked, the Emperor Corporation's science ship in orbit detected numerous WARP energy sources in several of the towns.
Gallardo also added that both his troops and the Omicron Rangers would be commanded by a Major Boseman, touted by General Parker as a very capable Federal Marine field officer.
On a dry, windy, day, the troops began boarding the corsair. Lana, however, was met by Major Taliaferro, who called her over to talk at one of the airport's lounges. He knew she liked green tea, and had some waiting for her when she arrived. After a few amenities, he began telling her the reason for the impromptu meeting.
"Lana...do you remember the Colonel talking to you about that book, "The Blood of Khorne?"
"Yes, of course." She added a question of her own. "Did they ever find that place...where the Book was found?"
"No...they didn't. When you arrive on Cornucopia, I want you to look for it...okay?" He took a sip of his coffee. "It'll take a couple days for our troops to unload and get organized. And then, maybe, one more day for Major Boseman to take command. He's...kind of the straight-laced, military type, so you'll have to make sure you say, yes sir...no sir, and all that crap. But I hear he's an efficient field officer. Anyway, as soon as you land, start your investigation. I've already informed the Sergeant Major to have one of your Land Speeder ready in case you need to leave right away. Take Dion or Ramcke with you if you need to go anywhere." The Major sat back and smiled confidently. "If it exists--I know you can find it."
Lana finished her green tea. By the look on her face, the Major knew she understood the task completely. She smiled back modestly.
"If you need anything...I'll be in touch by FTL com link here at the Base. Oh...you're going to be getting a couple new replacements for your squad. One is from the Omicron Rangers. I heard he's good flamer expert. The other one will be assigned later. Good luck."
As the Major started to rise, Lana had to ask. "What happened to Zach...I mean, Private Sparks?"
"Oh, him. He requested transferred to supply."
Lana had to stop and think, then sighed. "I get MY guts shredded by a bolter, and it's the other guy who want's out."
The Major shrugged, as if something like that was normal, then generously saw her out of the airport and watched as she scampered across the tarmac to the Chaparral, the last one to board.
As Lana finally arrived at her assigned ship's quarters, Melinda was there waiting. It was obvious to both women that Lana would now be in charge of the squad. With the ship's take-off lights on, they both took their seats and belted themselves in. Melinda eventually spoke, knowing by the look on Lana's face what was on her mind... "It's okay, LuLu. I don't mind you being in charge of the squad. I think it's going to be great." She smiled, proud of her. "Anyway, it's unlikely I will be in charge of anymore Scout Marine squads. I’m going back to the Federal Guard; they’re making me an Investigator--”
"You're leaving the Marines!" Lana was sincerely worried.
"No, no. I'll still be around. They're working on creating a team of Federal Investigators that can actually be attached to the Cheyenne Rangers." She smiled. "We'll still be seeing each other...often."
The Chaparral didn't take twice as long to land this time, and the ride was as smooth and easy as a leisurely drive on a paved road in a well tuned, civilian, speeder. As Taliaferro had mentioned earlier, Lana was one of the first Marines off the spaceship. She told Melinda to take command of the squad, but stay in touch, also mentioning the new Omicron Ranger replacement they would be getting.
Since, technically, this was her first Special Ops mission, she made arrangements with the Sergeant Major for headquarters to record all her squad communications. It was simply a case that she wanted a record of her first command, so she could listen to it later, and make improvements. The Sergeant Major thought it a good idea, and made it so.
All during transit, Lana had been thinking about her assigned task. Why didn't the earlier searches of the power plants turn up anything? Her normal oPOD had been replaced by one with more processing speed and memory, and had been downloaded with all pertinent information related to the finding of the book, The Blood of Khorne; it was vague...to say the least. But Lana was stubborn...something she had very much in common with her late Aunt.
Her first destination was the civilian quarters located in the bauxite quarry. After introducing herself, she told them the reason for her visit, then asked if she could meet with one or more of the people that went on one the original power plant searches. She was soon met by a man and a woman, both middle-aged.
"I'm continuing the investigation as to where the book, The Blood of Khorne was found–-"
"Oh...no–-I'm not going back there. This place has become a war zone...I'm not leaving this quarry." The man responded firmly. The woman standing next to him, agreed.
Lana smiled sweetly. "I'm not asking you to. I just want to ask some questions."
The two civilians relaxed.
After talking with the man and woman for a short while, Lana learned that the eight power plants were searched sequentially. The man remembered going with fourth squad to power plants, one through four, searching them from top to bottom, or rather...bottom to top, searching all the rooms and closets as well as the hallways. They found nothing.
Lana thanked the two civilians, then, after thinking for awhile, asked them if the power plants had any schematics, and if so, she needed one for each of them. The man answered simply. There was only one schematic for each of the power plants, since they were all the same. He showed her to a computer, were she sat down, and as per his instructions, found the 3D schematics easily, which she downloaded into her oPOD. However, finding what she was looking for was going to take much longer.
After almost twenty minutes, she called back the man and woman she had met earlier. When she began asking questions about the schematics, they told her to wait while they got someone else, an engineer, someone that knew more about building schematics.
He was an older man, his black hair a little grey on the sides.
After saying hello, she pointed at the computer screen displaying the power plant schematics. "Sometimes new buildings like this get new things added later...after they are built–-not on the schematics. Would you know if anything like that was done...or know anyone that would know?"
The older man wanted to be helpful. He had to think, but then suggested making some calls.
The cities adjoining each of the power plants now all had at least one squad of Planetary Guard, basically just militia, armed mostly with civilian weapons. He made calls to each of them, which eventually lead ironically back to the quarry. Lana and the civilian engineer waited until a second engineer arrived, a man about the same age as the first. "They said you wanted to talk to someone about the power plants?"
"Yes...did you have something to do with the actual construction of the power plants?"
"Yeah...I helped with that."
The first engineer began to explain Lana's earlier question, in engineer terms. The two talked for a minute, before the second engineer answered, remembering. "Oh...yeah." He quickly used the computer's keyboard to bring up a section of the power plant's schematic, a medium-sized, equipment closet. He pointed to it. "Here. We built a basement, with a trap door, and a little winch so we can lower stuff into it. They needed a place to put hazardous materials temporarily. So it's well insulated."
By this time, many of the civilians in the building were watching Lana and her investigation, it being more interesting than their usual routine of sitting around and waiting for more bad news. The man and woman she talked to earlier pointed at the screen, then spoke. "I remember that...we searched there."
Lana was disappointed. "You searched there, huh?"
"Yeah. I remember it. One of your Marines climbed down the ladder and looked around...since they couldn't get a scan. Nothing."
Lana sighed, but then remembered that the man only went with fourth squad, searching plants one through four. She swung the swivel chair around to face him. "Do you know who searched the other four power plants?"
He had no idea. Lana looked at the others standing around, as if to ask the same question. But it was obvious no one knew.
As the interested men and women of the civilian group waited, Lana used her com to call third Scout squad.
"Sergeant Bricks...this is LaFong."
"Hey...Little Sarge. How are you doing?" Apparently the sergeant was one of the witnesses to her rec room promotion.
"I need some information."
"You were the escorts for the civilians when they searched power plants five through eight, right?"
"Hmmm. Yeah...that's right."
"Uh huh..." He seemed to be distracted.
Lana got his attention. "I'm on an Ops mission for the Major...so this is important!"
Special Ops missions had the highest priority of any mission. The Marine assigned to one, basically, had the same authority as Major Taliaferro himself.
The sergeant quickly gave Lana his full attention. "Sure. I'm listening."
"I want you to remember back to when you searched the power plants."
"Do you remember searching a small equipment room...located on the," she checked the schematics, "west side of the lowest basement?"
"It had a trap door in it...leading down to a cellar for hazardous materials."
"...oh, yeah...I remember that."
"I guess you didn't find anything, did you?"
"Ummm. No...I don't think so..."
"Damn!" Lana sighed again, frowning.
Lana was upset. She really thought she was on to something.
"Let me talk to the guys...I'll be right back."
Lana waited, eventually tapping her foot.
"Little Sarge." She got the call back from Sergeant Bricks. "The guys remember searching those cellars...all but one."
"All but one?" Lana's investigative enthusiasm was restored.
"It was locked. We couldn't get in." Someone in Brick's squad responded over the squad com.
"They didn't have the key?" Lana was surprised.
"Apparently not." The same Marine answered.
"What power plant was that...what number?"
The Marine didn't respond.
However, Sergeant Bricks did respond, asking Lana to wait a moment. Several seconds went by before he returned. "It was number six. Does that help?"
"I think it does. Thanks, Bricks. LaFong out."
She looked at her audience again...this time smiling.
The second engineer looked back at her...curious. "What was locked?"
"The door to one of those hazardous materials cellars."
The man slowly shook his head. "No...it couldn't be locked...none of them could."
Lana stared at him. She was just about to ask why, when he answered it for her.
"They didn't have any locks installed. The only way it could be locked is if someone barred it from the inside."
Lana slowly smiled wider. Using a civilian phone, she contacted the Planetary Guard commander located in the city next to power plant six. She told him her mission and approximate time of arrival. Before standing up, she thanked the man, and the others, for their help, then exited the civilian building, contacting Melinda to join her on a long trip to a deep cellar.
The two women stopped by supply, first. Lana packed her two 9.1s and two short swords, choosing a Scout bolter for her main weapon. Melinda was happy to be given a plasma gun. In the trunk of their Land Speeder, they packed supplies, ammunition, and grenades.
Next stop was the mess hall, where the two women had something to eat. After informing the Sergeant Major at HQ as to their departure, they boarded their Land Speeder, now armed with a twin-linked bolter and extra crewman. Lana grinned, and waved her hand forward. "Let's ride."
Melinda gave her a wry look.
Lana smiled back. "I always wanted to say that."
The trip to Pomegranate, the city located next to power planet six, took closer to six hours rather that five. Lana decided to not to rush, and delayed the trip an hour so they could arrive at the city's Planetary Guard bunker early in the morning as apposed to late at night.
The two Marines were cordially greeted by the Guard's CO as they drove up in their Land Speeder. The Guardsmen were very happy to see them. After they had been informed about the mysteriously locked cellar in the power plant, they were none too comfortable. Having a Land Speeder armed with a twin-linked bolter backing them up, made them feel much more secure.
Lana and Melinda were offered a nice breakfast, hash browns, eggs, and fried ham, as they talked to the CO, a kindly gentleman in his late middle age by the name of George Cadwallder. The Guardsmen had built themselves a nice bunker out of sand bags; it obviously wouldn't last long against any real military armament, but served to give them ample cover from Cornucopia's mild weather, which was currently a light drizzle.
Toward the end of their breakfast, Cadwallder agreed to go with the two women into the power plant, along with another man, a security guard who used to work there. They seemed a little nervous, but it was obvious they were working hard not to show it.
The CO was armed with a laspistol. He had to ask the two Marines what was to be expected: a cellar...not on the building schematics--locked from the inside. That...along with all the other trouble on the planet, gave them good reason to be scared. However, it was the presence of Melinda's plasma gun that gave the two men the most confidence.
As they entered the power plant, Lana had her Scout bolter slung. Like Melinda, she looked armed to the teeth, with her nine-point-ones and swords, one on each hip in their appropriate holster or scabbard. She really didn't expect to use any of them. But it seemed to make the two Guardsmen feel better.
The power plant was completely deserted, the only sound the clomping of four pairs of boots as they made their way to the lowest basement, then to the equipment storage room. Lana wasted no time in trying to open the trap door. Hearing the ready hum of Cadwallder's laspistol, Lana cautioned him not to fry her head off at the first minor sound...please!
He smiled, then sighed, pointing his weapon upward.
As she began to pull on the trap door, it seemed strange to her: The two men were hoping to NOT find anything. Lana WAS hoping to find something. Either way, the door was locked.
Lana knelt down to use her new Special Ops scanner. It had numerous uses, other than scanning. Remembering what the young man at the quarry had told her, she placed the scanner flat on the trap door. Because of the cellar's shielding, she couldn't get a good full scan of the inside, but she could scan a few centimeters on the other side of the door itself. She was looking for something metallic, anything that could be used to bar the door. When she found it, she used the scanner's electro-magnet function to slide the metal rod out of its position. Afterwards, she heard a faint clang, confirming her success.
The two men were not expecting Lana to open the door so quickly. They took a couple steps back as she swung the door open, asking as she did, "could you turn on the lights for the cellar, please."
There was a delay...then the security guard walked over to an array of light switches, searched, then turned on the lights.
As Lana quickly climbed down the ladder, the lights were a little dim. It smelled bad, kind of like moldy decay. Spotting some wooden shelves and a small cabinet on the north side, she went to investigate.
Melinda quickly followed Lana down the ladder, followed by Cadwallder, then by the security guard. Lana had stepped over to investigate the cabinet, thinking there might be a door behind it. Melinda, as with the others, went the other way. Lana was just about to let out a big sigh of disappointment, when Melinda called her over.
"You have to take a look at this, LuLu!"
In the southeast corner of the cellar, it looked as if someone had cut a two meter wide by three meter tall hole in the cement wall of the cellar. As she stepped over...it led into a hallway, lined, top to bottom by some kind of grey, plastic, paneling. The security guard gasped at it, then pointed. "That...that's not supposed to be there!"
Actually, Lana was happy, almost smiling. She found it! Melinda was happy for the discovery, also. However, the two men didn't share the same feeling. They were scared!
"It...doesn't feel right, in here." Cadwallder gulped.
Melinda had already taken out her standard Scout scanner/digital camera, getting it ready. Lana was the first to step in the hallway and look around. It went down only about ten meters and came to an end, a dirt wall, the one place not lined with the grey paneling. Lana had her scanner ready. But it was Melinda that confirmed the contents of the red markings on each side of the walls. "It's human blood, LuLu. Very old...about four Galactic months."
"Yeah...I'm getting that too." Lana agreed.
"Don't you ladies feel that?" The Guard commander asked, desperately needing confirmation.
Lana looked at him.
"It feels...I mean, really strange down here." He tried to smile.
"I'm going to have to leave." That was the security guard. "I feel sick." The man quickly climbed up the stairs. "I'll be right up here if you need me."
The two Marines looked at each other, then at Cadwallder. "Yeah...it does feel a little strange, doesn't it LuLu?" Melinda nodded cordially.
"Yeah...a little." Lana responded without turning around, remaining involved with her scanning and investigation.
Melinda smiled at the Guard commander. "I think she's just at little excited. It's her first Ops mission."
The man took several big encouraging breaths, then smiled. "Well...I'm happy for her."
"Maybe it's the residual WARP energy I'm getting back here." Lana shouted from the far end of the hallway.
"WARP?" The Guardsman lost his smile.
"It's old...almost as old as the blood."
"If something pops through and eats you, let me know." Cadwallder joked.
The two women turned to look at him.
"Feeling better I assume, huh, Mr. Cadwallder?" Lana shouted from the hallway.
"Call me George, please."
There was a heavy wooden chest of drawers near the end of the hallway. However, there was no book on top of it, even though the dust showed there had been at one time. As Lana looked through the drawers, she responded, jokingly, to the man's earlier question. "Eaten huh?. You know...I got eaten by an Ettin once. But no worries...everything came out okay--in the end."
There was a delay...then the man had to respond. "Okay...okay, I get it." He chuckled.
"If there was an active opening in the WARP back here, we would've know it as soon as we opened the door." Lana assured the Guardsman.
Melinda had finished taking pictures. Cadwallder had put his laspistol back in its holster and was standing by the opening to the hallway. Lana, after finding the chest of drawers completely empty, had knelt down next to the chest. She spotted something. "George...could you help me with something down here?"
Melinda exited the hallway as the man walked down to were Lana was kneeling. Before he had time to ask, she explained, "could you lift up this chest...it's heavy. Just lift it up a little."
As he did, Lana reached under and picked up a small gold-colored disk, about seven centimeters in diameter. It had a few nondescript designs on it, like rune symbols, plus a small slot in which something long and slender could be inserted. George lowered the chest as Lana stood up. She made a brief scan of the discovered object.
Cadwallder looked at her and the disk. Lana looked back, then smiled. "It's made mostly of some kind of dark gold."
"What do you think it is?" The man asked.
"I have no idea."
"LuLu." Melinda called from the other end of the hallway. "Our security guard escort just told me he was called by Guard HQ. They're trying to get a hold of you."
Lana and George looked at each other second, then proceeded back to the cellar next to the ladder. The security guard looked down at them. "Hey...are you, LaFong? Apparently there's a Major Boseman looking for you. He said he'd call back in a little while."
"Major Boseman?" Lana looked at Melinda, disconcertingly.
"Are you in trouble?" That was Cadwallder.
"No. I'm here on a mission for my Major." Lana explained unconcerned. "And MY Major outranks that Major." Looking up the ladder at the security guard she called. "Hey...do you have any security cameras for this place?"
"Can you help me mount one in here...facing the hallway?"
There was a slight delay. "Cameras...yeah. Okay. We have a few extra in the security station."
"Okay...thanks. I'll send Melinda up with you..."
"That's a good idea." Cadwallder smiled, concerning the camera plan. "We can hook the monitor up to my HQ outside. If anything happens–-we give you a call, right?"
"Well, not me personally...call HQ." Lana clarified, then turned to take one last look at the hallway. In a way, she was proud of herself, succeeding at her first Ops mission.
Then she was suddenly overwhelmed with a terrifying vision, a landscape right out of hell appearing around her. There she spotted a Space Marine wearing a reddish-brown, skull-covered, battle suit wielding, one-handed, a very large axe. She gasped slightly, then it was gone, leaving her standing, disturbed and confused. After a deep sigh, she dismissed the vision and climbed up the ladder.
It took a little over thirty minutes to hook up the security camera to Guard HQ. Outside, it was overcast, but showing signs of clearing up. One of the Guardsmen, actually a woman, in charge of communications, called to Lana as she approached the bunker. "Are you LaFong?"
"Uh huh." Lana was a little tired.
"That Major Boseman called again. He seemed upset." The woman explained.
Lana rolled her eyes. Her new CO should know why she's here...and that her Ops mission takes prescience.
The woman handed a piece a paper to a another Guardsman, who then ran over and handed it to Lana. The woman called out. "He wants you to be at that location no later than noon tomorrow."
Lana and Melinda looked at each other...both sighing. The Guardsmen had a building located behind their bunker; it had nice showers. The two women were looking forward to using them.
"You're in charge, LuLu." Melinda grinned.
But Lana had already made up her mind. "To hell with Boseman. Lets take our showers, then get under way."
"You see, LuLu. I knew I wasn't going to mind you being charge of the squad."