The following is Part 2 of Chapter One of my novel submission to Black Library, entitled Only War.
Chapter One, Part 1 is located here.
flicker out of the corner of Nomu’a’s eye snatched his attention, but
before he could turn his head the car was violently rocked to one side.
A flash of white light and a deafening explosion assaulted his senses,
and Asal grunted when his head was slammed into the window. The car
crashed back to the ground, and the driver cursed. He threw the shift
into reverse, jerked the wheel over, and jammed his foot on the
accelerator. Nomu’a was thrown forward onto the floor of the vehicle.
Another explosion went off, and shrapnel thunked into the car’s armor,
one fragment hitting the rear windshield and starring the glass.
The two Arbites squad cars jerked to a halt. Martel jumped out,
snatching the combat shotgun from its rack on the car door. A pair of
rockets fired from the building had bracketed the ambassador’s car,
which was fortunate to have avoided a direct hit. It was weaving
erratically on the road, damaged but still intact. Panicked citizens
were running in all directions. Barton had already taken up position
behind his car door, pumping suppressive fire from his combat shotgun up
at the building. Troopers Xavian and Winn were also out of the car,
Xavian with his shotgun, Winn with his repeating grenade launcher.
Twenty meters ahead, Squad Torbrin was already deployed and returning
sprinted to the sidewalk, looking to take a position in the recessed
entrance of an hab-block. In his way a stupefied onlooker stood gawking
at the building, too shocked to seek cover. Martel smashed the butt of
his shotgun into the side of the man’s head, knocking him out of the
reached his destination and peered out from behind the stone wall. As
he watched a blind-fired rocket soared out of a fourth floor window,
wildly inaccurate. It slammed into the building several meters away
from Martel, spraying his squad and the armored car with chunks of
“Winn, krak the front of that building!” Martel yelled over the noise.
Winn was only too happy to oblige. Hefting his grenade launcher, he
fired a staccato of krak grenades, sweeping the building from left to
right. His first shot went right through a window, detonating and
blasting it outwards a gout of smoke and debris. Each subsequent shot
impacted the wall and exploded, punching huge holes in the stone facade,
causing showers of pulverized stone to rain into the street. Clouds of
dust quickly obscured the building’s fourth floor, but the Arbites
continued to pump shotgun rounds into it.
“Torbrin, continue supression, Squad Martel is going in.”
car crashed into a utility pole, denting the rear. The pole toppled
ponderously, but the driver threw the car back into forward gear and it
lurched forward again. The violent maneuvers hurled Nomu’a back into
his seat, and he caught a glimpse of the scene out the window.
Civilians running in terror. A well-dressed man in a pool of blood.
Arbites taking cover and firing shotgun blasts upward. A woman
clutching her mangled leg.
fast hit the front of the car. The front windshield shattered into a
million sparkling pieces. Someone screamed. A sheet of pink flame
rushed into the cabin, and then vanished as quickly as it came. Nomu’a
was thrown into the back of the front seat, and he instinctively
clutched at it. The car’s engine was on fire, the hood ripped to
shreds. The driver was dead: his face, neck and chest punctured by
dozens of metal fragments.
car’s momentum carried it forward until it crashed into a stationary
vehicle and came to a halt. Nomu’a could hear more screaming now, and
the reports of the arbites shotguns, but it all sounded oddly far away.
Por’ui Asal was lying awkwardly against the car door, and Nomu’a could
see that much of his scalp was lacerated, indigo blood streaming down
grabbed the door handle and yelped as knives of pain jabbed his wrist.
He twisted and grabbed the handle with his other hand, then whacked the
door with his lower leg to get it to open. The first try failed, the
second, harder, succeeded. Reaching in, he grabbed for Asal and began
to pull him across the seat, trying hard to ignore the agony of his
wrist. He got Asal to the door and then out onto the street, and
dragged him away from the burning wreck.
rocket had finally hit the ambassador’s car, but Martel couldn’t worry
about that now. His job was to kill the shooters and restore order. He
signalled to his squad and they ran across the street, boots crunching
on bits of stone and shattered glass. Reaching the hab-block’s front
steps, they burst into the vestibule, guns at the ready. The squad went
at a steady pace to the nearest stairwell, keeping close together, each
sweeping his sector with his weapon.
Barton led the way, his shotgun aiming high as he smoothly climbed the
stairs. As he approached the third floor, the stairwell door opened and
a frightened looking man burst in. His jaw dropped at seeing the four
heavily armed arbites coming at him. Barton reacted instantly, planting
the muzzle of his shotgun on the man’s chest and pulling the trigger.
The deafening shot blasted a fist-sized hole through his body, sending a
thick splatter of gore onto the door and into the hallway beyond. The
man collapsed in a heap, the surprised expression still on his face.
shook his head at the corpse in disgust. “Idiot,” he muttered. “Go,”
he said, indicating with his shotgun, and the squad continued up the
stairs. They reached the fourth floor, and spilled into the hallway,
two men covering each direction.
“Squad Torbrin, Squad Martel is on four, beginning sweep,” said Martel.
A double mic-click confirmed the acknowledgement. The sounds of gunfire outside ceased as second squad held their fire.
At Martel’s signal the squad began to move down the hallway. The
interior of the hab-block had suffered. The ceiling was cracked, and
chunks of plaster littered the floor. One of the doors on the street
side of the hallway had been blown inwards off its hinges, the result of
a krak grenade detonating inside. The air was filled with a haze of
plaster dust and smoke.
said Martel, and the squad followed him into the room with the blown
out door. Winn, his grenade launcher slung, had his autopistol out,
keeping watch on the hallway. Martel and the others cleared each room
with practiced efficiency. Other than shredded furniture and
belongings, it was empty.
proceeded to the next door, this one closed. Martel, Barton, and
Xavian stacked outside the door, and Winn stood opposite. Winn readied a
frag grenade. Martel nodded. Winn kicked in the door, tossed in the
grenade, and dodged out of the way. The grenade went off with a bang,
and Martel charged into the room, sweeping his combat shotgun left to
right. Barton and Xavian were right behind him, covering their own
sectors. This one was also clear.
to the hall, Martel pointed with two fingers to the next door, the last
but for the door to the stairwell at the end of the hall. The squad
stacked up again outside the door, and Winn readied another grenade.
Looking at Martel, Winn pulled the pin and nodded.
spray of bullets holed the door, and Winn was down, the primed grenade
falling out of his hand. Seeing the grenade rolling on the floor,
Martel didn’t have time to think. He stepped past Winn’s fallen form,
scooped up the grenade, shouldered open the door to the stairwell, and
flipped the grenade down the stairs to detonate a second later. Martel
turned back to see Winn, saved by his body armor, half-sitting against
the wall and emptying his pistol into the door. Just as the slide
locked back on the last round, Xavian was there hauling him out of the
was already firing at the doorframe, one shot for each hinge. A fourth
shot took out the lock, and the door slowly toppled inward, landing
with a creak and a thud. Barton and Martel waited for a moment, and
more autogun fire slammed into the far wall and doorframe, sending
little splinters whickering through the air. The instant the burst
ended, Martel and Barton whipped into the room. Both of them saw the
target at the same time, a unkempt man with an autogun, standing at the
far end of the room. His body from the chest upwards simply exploded
into gore as their booming shots tore him apart.
“Reloading!” Barton shouted, putting additional shells into his smoking gun’s internal magazine.
gunman took the opportunity to stick his head out from one of the other
rooms, but saw Martel and ducked back. Martel pumped round after round
into the wall until the gunman’s body thumped back into view, oozing
walked down the hab-unit’s hall, stepping over the body. Reaching the
end, they moved into the last room without a pause, guns ready. The far
wall had multiple holes blasted into it, and the ceiling and interior
walls were a shambles. A pair of rocket launchers and ammunition were
strewn about the room, covered in debris.
they went in, a large man leapt out at Barton. Martel couldn’t assist;
he had his own target to deal with. Dead ahead, a man faced him, an
autogun aimed at his head. Martel already had his gun up, and they both
fired at the same time. The gunman missed. Martel did not.
shot caught him in the gut. The man reeled backwards, dropping his
weapon. He fell against the window, reflexively grabbing at the frame,
trying to prevent himself from falling out. Martel was already there.
He jammed the muzzle of his shotgun into the man’s face and fired,
raining a shower of brains and skull fragments onto the street below.
spun around to see Barton wrestling with his opponent, a huge brutish
man, a head taller than either of them. The man had both hands on
Barton’s shotgun, and was wrenching it around, smashing Barton into the
walls and furniture in an effort to get him to let go. Barton was
trying to knee him repeatedly in the groin, but was off balance and his
strikes were weak and off target.
couldn’t use his shotgun, so he let it go to dangle in its sling and
grabbed the power maul at his side. He thumbed the power switch, and
the maul came to life, its head crackling with blue sparks. Grasping
the handle in two hands, he leapt in and brought the maul diagonally
downward with all his might, aiming for the man’s head.
maul’s head flashed as it connected at the base of the huge man’s neck,
crushing his spine. His head flopped obscenely and he tumbled like a
rag doll. Barton jerked his shotgun away as the dead man collapsed.
Martel met his eyes, smiling grimly.
the distance Nomu’a could hear sirens wailing. Asal was conscious, but
immobile. Nomu’a cradled Asal’s head in his lap, shock preventing him
from doing anything but watch. Asal’s eyes were filled with terror. He
was gasping frantically, his breath coming in shallow squeaks. Nomu’a
just stared at him. Blood was soaking through Asal’s robes, and more
began to well up from his mouth. He began to choke on his own blood,
and his head and neck began to spasm, the rest of his body still and
limp. The spasms began to subside, and with them, Asal’s attempts to
breathe. Eventually they stopped completely.
armored squad cars had arrived on the scene, tires squealing. Heavily
armed arbites raced to get control of the area, some of them heading
into the buildings, others taking up positions in the street.
mind numb and confused, Nomu’a looked up and saw an arbites arbitrator
looking down at him. “Secure the xeno,” the arbitrator ordered, and a
pair of troopers came over to Nomu’a, their weapons ready. Their eyes
were hidden behind the visors, but their distaste was evident. Each one
took up a position near him, standing so they could both keep an eye on
him but also watch for threats.
minutes several medicae vehicles arrived, and the medics poured out and
began to take care of the human wounded. For several minutes none of
them gave Nomu’a a second glance. His wrist was beginning to throb, and
his face felt on fire. He touched his face, and instantly regretted
With the arrival of the arbites reinforcements, order was restored
quickly. After a few minutes an arbitrator carrying a power maul had
come out of the nearby hab-block, and spoke to a small group of medicae
and his subordinate arbites. Eventually he glanced over to Nomu’a,
recognized him, and headed over. Flipping his power maul up so the head
rested on his shoulder, he stopped and looked down at the tau diplomat.
“Fortunately for you, xeno,” Martel said with barely concealed sarcasm, “whoever was trying to kill you blew it.”
Stay tuned for Part 3...