Written by Lambda Corps.

Chapter One

If I live to be a thousand, I’ll never forget the horror I encountered at that damned Petrol Station. “Whumpa” bolts slicing through flesh, bodies mangled, strewn around, all over the floors, the walls, hanging from the scaffolding above. But most of all, that Orkish war cry. The Orks aren’t normally a religious bunch, but I swear when the come a-chargin’ you can hear hell itself open up and scream its foulest blasphemes at you.

It was 1800 hours. My squad and I- “Thor’s Hammer” Heavy Weapons Infantry Team- were en route to a hot-zone in what used to be called Downtown Vancouver. Strogg gangs had slowly fought their way, block by block, into the heart of the city, seeking a stronghold to establish their base of operations in. The local government threw everything they had at the Strogg: SWAT Teams, Commando Squads, they even called in airstrikes by the Canadian Strategic Zeppelin Corps, but in the end the Strogg were too many. The progressive war on the streets had left the once trendy downtown area into a scene of destruction.

Smouldering tank carcasses littered the streets. Starbuck’s Coffee Houses barricaded up and surrounded in barbed wire as a makeshift bunker. The buildings, the cars, the street signs- they all showed the telltale signs of combat- bullet holes, smoking craters, fires burning on unchecked. The Strogg held that place with an iron fist, but we were there to put a stop to that.

See, the VSP Tech Boys, in their top secret lab, or wherever the hell they are, had created this new Pressurized Duron Armour for us Heavy Weapons grunts. Apparently they shot down a UFO, or something, and grabbed some of the poly-alloys of the hull. Alls I know is, this stuff is strong: I’ve seen Recruits in this stuff take out entire Strogg Machine-gun Nests single-handedly. The words “walking tank” come to mind.

Normally, of course, this you’d be weighed down beyond movement in this stuff, but when you install internal hydraulic thrusters, and link them directly to a computer chip implanted directly in the motor centre of the brain, well, now you’ve got hydraulic limbs that move like you’re very own. Cool beans, huh?

So, this was the plan. We go in, broad daylight, when the Strogg are least suspecting it. Except now, they find that their Blizter Chainguns aren’t so effective anymore. And that a little band of RAW Recruits who should have been cut to ribbons in milliseconds are chewing up their ammunition like bubble gum, and liking it. Oh, and then, we show them that the VSP makes Chainguns too, and give them some hot Tungsten to snack on.

At this stage, we seize one of those Starbuck’s Bunkers, or a Fort McDonald’s, or whatever, and hold out ‘till reinforcements arrive. We’re the only VSP squad assigned use of the Duron armour, and, like I said, your regular unarmoured troops make nice hamburger meat to those Strogg guns. So, we’re pretty much out on our asses until they suit up another Squad of RAW Recruits, and I have no idea how long that’ll take.

At least, that was the plan...

Chapter Two

It was hot in that damn transport. Sweltering hot. The rest of the men could feel it. And of course, being the Sergeant in charge of these mutts, they all turn to me with that “can’t you tell that mean Captain driving this thing to turn on the A/C” look on their faces. I usually shoot back the old “we don’t have any goddamned A/C on this metallic manatee, and even if we did, you little pukes wouldn’t deserve it.” Actually, I really wanted some A/C too, but you can’t let on any sign of weakness in front of the RAW Recruits.

So there we were, rolling through the Langara Desert in our Homard Battle Transport, as its engines hummed ominously like those chanting monks, that you can buy their CD, whatever it’s called. On the subject of music, I notice that the grunt sitting directly across from me hasn’t so much as glanced up this whole trip. He just nodded his head slowly, forward and back, all relaxed like. I wished to myself that the other grunts were as relaxed as this guy. I glanced at the nametag on his chestplate. “Rogers” it said, in that Stencil-font all caps type. Just below it, he had a graphic of a fist clutching a warhammer, with lightning leaping off it, captioned “LOKI” in tall, shaky capital letters.

“PRIVATE ROGERS!” I bark at him, using the loud, authoritative voice us Sergeants have to us. “What in the unholy hell are you doing over there?”

He shot a quick glance over at me, as a tiny smirk cracked his somber lips. He reached back, and cranked up a little dial he had concealed behind his ear. The whole squad’s eyes shifted over to him, as we could now hear the progressive rock blaring from his microspeakers.

Technically, I’m supposed to confiscate stuff like that- not standard issue, right?- but I decided to let it go, since, frankly, I was hoping the other soldiers would follow his lead and just act professional for a change.

That’s what being in the RAW forces is all about- hardening combat-shy grunts into real soldiers.

“Eh... Sarge? Sarge?” began Private Wilson, his scratchy voice full of uncertainty. “what’s the story with this here desert? I...I..I-I just mean, it seems awful wierd to have this big thing of sand right out in the....”

I shot him my fiercest, coldest stare, hoping that he’d notice how unimpressed I was at his ability to master the obvious, and just abandon the sentence altogether. He did.

To Wilson’s credit, though, the Langara Desert is a geological oddity. In the middle of the Pacific Northwest rainforest, there it is, this huge expanse of sand. It’s like somebody spilled battery acid on the giant carpet of Earth.

“Let me put it this way, Private” I said. “You see that cactus over there?”

I gestured out the back of the truck, to where what appeared to be a normal cactus grew out of the tabletop-like terrain.

“Uh-huh,” he responed.

“OK, hand me your Chaingun, soldier.” He quicky unlatched his aSR-17 Assault Weapon from its interior wall holster. As he had many times before in basic training, he popped a fresh clip in, and locked it into place.

“Well, at least he’s got etiquette.” I thought to myself, as he passed his rifle to me, ready to fire.

“Now, watch carefully...” I said. Now, normally, the aSR-17 functions in what’s called “Sabertooth mode”, spraying out hundreds of rounds of hot Tungsten per second. Throwing back the fire mode switch, however, I calibrated it for “Slugthrower mode”. At a sacrifice of rate of fire, and acurracy, you launch a big-ass bolt of white-hot Scheelite at your target. It’s like a miniature cannon, with kick to match.

I take careful aim at the cactus, and let a round fly. It’s kinda neat to watch it go; the round leaves a vapor trail behind as it goes, leaving you with a nice, satisfied feeling when the shot hits its mark.

The round smashes into what I guess you’d call the cactus’ torso, ‘bout six inches off the ground and blows the trunk clear off. I think Wilson was about to question the usefulness of what I had just done, when the cactus let out a piercing scream of anguish. The carcass lit up flourescent green all of a sudden, and a searing yellow gas construed forth from the gaping wound. Then, my favorite part, the stem of what was left shoots up five feet in the air, like bamboo on steroids, and resumes its normal cactus lifestyle.

By this time, everyone in the squad, even Rogers, was staring out the back at the show.

“And THAT, boys, is what we call the miracle of Nuclear Power.” I triumphantly announced.