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Fighting Tiger Black Ops
Chapter 1 <> Chapter 2 <> Chapter 3 <> Chapter 4 <> Chapter 5 <> Chapter 6
Black Ops: Chapter 1
by James Arnold
The jungle canvas blurred as it sped along underneath the Land Speeder, a continuous wave of emerald greens and earthy browns. One hand on the stick that controlled the vehicle, Janhavi relaxed and let her other arm dance in the wind. The early morning sun warmed the cold steel of the cockpit. In front of the passenger seat, a heavy bolter sat silent and locked in storage position, a belt of shells sitting neatly on the seat. The holy metals glimmered a fiery red in the rising run, sitting where the gunner would have, had they been off to kill today. But today was different.
As part of her sermon the evening before, Talwar Chakram had spoken vehemently of tradition and its importance to the chapter. As the senior Chaplain prowled behind her ornately decorated lectern, her words boomed throughout the temple, proclaiming battle after battle in which defenders of a homeland had not only survived but triumphed against impossible odds. She wanted her Tigers to fight with such ferocity, regardless of the circumstances.
“I want you to carry your homeland with you wherever you are, in your memory, and in your heart,” she had exhorted them.
It was with this in mind that Janhavi and many other Sergeants of the Tigers of Indra Veteran group had been given leave the next day, so that they may go back and remember what exactly it was that they were fighting for.
Though the thought of not training for war had generated much controversy among the seniormost Tigers, it had proved to be an effective method of inspiration for many of the troops to see the homes they had left so many years ago. As Talwar herself had said, “It is to re-ignite that fire we all feel in the pit of our stomachs, to remember we were once human, and to remember those who still are.”
Everyone in the chapter had a different home to seek. For some it was a mountain cabin to see the man or woman who had raised them. For others, it was one of the larger native cities that had been their home for so many years before being whisked away to the mysterious temples. Others who had been through the process of reincarnation, or those who had grown up in the temple simply stayed for a day of prayer and consultation with the elders. But for Janhavi, it all came back to a small farming town about a hundred miles to the east of the Tiger's' temple.
The Speeder's engines dropped in pitch as the machine began to drift down slowly, gently. As she came into view of the town, Janhavi set the craft down on the opposite side of a large lake. She took her time concealing it with a net of artificial foliage, blending it into the surrounding jungle. Though she wasn't afraid of having the craft stolen, she was more wary of some children finding it and accidentally triggering the weaponry. Hefting a burlap travelers sack over her shoulder, she began her walk.
Beyond the small clearing where she had landed were the lake and then the town itself, Genja. In the midmorning sun, the town was covered in a golden glow, its reflections a perfect mirror in the placid lake. The breeze was gentle, playing with the tall grasses as Janhavi padded silently around the lake. The tips of the leaves had already begun to curl upwards, another sure sign that she was in for a particularly warm day. Though the temperature was already beginning to become uncomfortable, the woman did not even come close to breaking a sweat.
The tan bodyglove she wore was set to max chill, keeping her cool and comfortable even as the sun began intensify. Over the glove she wore a simple farmer’s robe of dyed green muslin, adorned with a series of simple symbols and patterns. The two layers of cloth were just enough to conceal the sharp ridges and flat surfaces created by the black carapace that sat just underneath her skin. The neural uplinks and physical access points would be a sure indication of a Space Marine, even without the massive power armor. With her jet black hair pulled back, she gave the indication of a social status of no real consequence. It was just enough to get where she wanted to go unquestioned, and not enough to attract any attention—well, no more attention that would be given to a woman almost seven feet tall.
Coming in through the main town gate, Janhavi let her fingers slide along the smooth carved stone that adorned the sides of the road in Genja. The stone walls formed terraces for the farmers to grow their crops, a wild array of colors and shapes that looked just as decorative as the walls they had been grown in. Each terrace went up another five or so feet, forming what looked like a set of giant stairs. On each terrace was a house where the farmers lived. The men and women nodded or waved at Janhavi as she strolled by, smiling kindly. Though she was now much taller than the average human being, Janhavi was completely inconspicuous among her own. Her light brown and olive skin was an exact match to the farmers of this region, and her haircut was the same as it had always been since she was a girl. To them she was just another face, beautiful and kind to her own.
If only they could have seen what she had seen.
Sergeant Janhavi Vera was one of the twelve Tigers chosen to have this day off for a reason. That same face, the one that smiled at those farmers, had stared down the jaws of death all too often. In time, regretfully, she had learned of its most intricate details and hidden secrets. The same hands that now softly caressed the stone work of her home town had crushed the life from many men, women, aliens, and otherwise. The woman who silently walked the streets of Genja had been walking silently her whole life.
Janhavi, along with her five most trusted comrades in arms, formed a squad that even most of the other Tigers didn't know existed outside the realm of myth and rumor. They were born of shadows and dust, bred to live life outside the searing eye of perception. It was their collective duty to appear where they were least expected, and to wreak horrible, bloody havoc.
Having to duck slightly as she entered the shop, Janhavi padded in, her tall, muscular form barely fitting comfortably in the door frame. Outside the house, an ornately carved silver plaque read “Relisteed, Metalsmith”. Behind a desk sat the man she was looking for, hunched over, embedded in his craft. Janhavi's heightened senses were temporarily dulled in response to the overwhelming number of scents that confronted her. One by one, she sorted the scents out; polish, cleaner, bleach, wax, different metals, rust, earth, stone, tempers of all sorts, sweat, and forge fire.
The worn floor was light in patches where the majority of foot traffic had been through in the years since it had been built. Janhavi amused herself by carefully maneuvering from patch to patch where she knew the floor wouldn't squeak. Working her way over to where Relisteed sat, she stood in polite silence until by chance he glanced up. The man jumped back in shock with a yelp at the sight of the woman standing almost on top of him. The wax medallion he had been carefully carving clattered to the desk, his sculptor’s tools rattling across the floor.
“By the gods!” the man exclaimed, sitting up and adjusting his glasses. His hand shaking slightly, he scrambled to his feet “Don't do that to me!”
Janhavi bowed slightly and apologized with a smile. “I'm sorry. I should have knocked.”
The man nodded and mumbled to himself as he wiped his already clean hands with a handkerchief. Relisteed was in his mid forties, gray in hair but with a youthful aura. His strong arms worked quickly as he went about cleaning up after the mess he had just created. Looking at her for the first time, a somewhat mischievous smile came to his face as he eyed her up and down. “My, my, aren't you a healthy one?”
Janhavi laughed at the comment. It was a good natured comment made in jest, and without knowledge of her real identity. Though it was nice to be saluted with respect in the Tigers, it made for a refreshing change to hear him say that. It reminded her of the days when she used to be just Janhavi, not Veteran Sergeant Vera. Talwar's words echoed in her mind as she remembered her happy past. That was what she was fighting to protect, so that everyone else could have days just like this.
Janhavi blinked and blushed slightly as she realized the smith was waiting for an answer. Looking down at her feet for a moment, she tucked her arms behind she her back and half smiled. “I'm sorry, I didn't hear you, I was just thinking about...just thinking.”
Relisteed nodded quietly. “I was just asking what I can do for you today, memsahib.”
“Oh yes.” Janhavi removed a piece of parchment from her traveling sack, unfolding it several times until it was the size of a map. “How long do you think it would take to make this?”
Taking the plans over to his desk, a look of amazement spreading over Relisteed's face. “This illustration is wonderful, whose work is this?”
The smith began to look giddy as he traced over the intricate details with his delicate fingertips. He mumbled to himself excitedly as he went over the plans. “And then we'd have to put two brackets here, no better make it three. But then if we put the brackets here we'd have to make a case for the internal chamber. Oh but that's okay, no one will see that anyways because of the clasps on the side.”
Relisteed danced back and forth over
the plans, becoming more and more excited. Janhavi couldn't help but chuckle
quietly at the sight of the small man as he worked. The motions had a feline
grace to them, but his glasses gave more the appearance of a very hungry
rodent. Finally he looked up, his face flushed with enthusiasm. “One month,
for two thousand.” Janhavi nodded as she placed a small sack of coins on
the counter. “That will do just fine.”
As the sun began its descent into dusk, Janhavi had settled down for her final meal before returning to the temple. She had been all though town during the day. She had seen some old friends, though few recognized her. It had been nearly forty years since she had disappeared as a young girl, and time had done much to erase the memories of others. The majority of the day had been spent perched in one shady spot or another. Janhavi spent her time watching the men and women of Genja as they went about their lives.
She had chosen not to return home, knowing that it would cause more heartache than good. Though her parents were proud, and she now considered the Tigers to be her family, she still felt odd returning to the house she hadn't seen in more than two decades. She decided that it was better to avoid internal conflict, to seek the path of least resistance, a maneuver she had turned into an art form these past years.
At sunset, Janhavi ate with the farmers on the lake side, watching the children splash around and play as the day's heat finally broke. It was the perfect end to the perfect day. Janhavi felt refreshed and elated to perform her mission as a Tiger.
And then the killing began.
The sounds of bolter fire sent a chill up Janhavi's spine, as her entire body went rigid. Her first thought was that somehow the Speeder had been discovered, but no. It was definitely boltgun fire. Snatching up her traveler’s sack, Janhavi yelled at the others nearby to run to the other side of the lake. The villagers, most unaware of what a bolter even was, were confused but ready to obey.Gathering up their children, they running.
Tearing off her outer robe in one fluid motion, Janhavi was already running to the cover of the nearest building. Reaching into the sack, she drew two mono-molecular blades and strapped them to her waist. The twin pommels ended in ivory tiger heads, mouths open, teeth bared. Also from the sack were a bolt pistol and three sickle clips of ammunition. Gripping the heavy caliber weapon in her right hand, Janhavi used the left to help her spring up the steps of the terrace, from which she vaulted onto the roof.
Janhavi sprang from roof to terrace and back to the next roof. The sounds of gun fire were getting closer, as were the screams. She felt her hands shaking more violently with every passing moment. Gritting her teeth, holding back a scream of her own, Janhavi landed silently on the final roof before the main crossroad. Peering over, she could clearly see the outlines of men with guns, walking around at random, spraying anyone curious enough to look with a hail of bolter fire. There were six, led by a horribly misshapen being. But their aim was horrible, and their formation nonexistent, certainly not of Space Marine caliber, not even by Chaos standards. And yet, sure as day, they had bolters. Where did they get them? she wondered.
“Questions later” Janhavi breathed
as she leaped across the avenue, landing with her entire body in the opposite
wall. Sticking out in each fist was the roaring white tiger pommel, the
blades dug deep in the wooden logs that formed the wall. Sliding down the
wall swiftly, Janhavi vanished in the shadows.
Grabbing a sobbing woman by her hair, Frekla dragged her across the town square, a hideous laugh forming in his throat. Throwing her to the ground, he pulled the pin of a grenade and handed it to her. “Careful now: it's sensitive to movement” he growled, kicking her in the side. As she froze, gingerly holding the grenade, he walked away, letting off a round of bolter fire into a nearby house where some more villagers were staring in shock.
His overly tall form was thin to the point of appearing emaciated, yet Frekla had the strength of two men, and the disturbingly narrow shapes of his movement gave the impression of an arachnid. His skin, normally pale, was dyed a deep red, and his graying black hair was greasy with sweat and grit. Eyes narrowed into slits of distrust and hate, he was avoided even by those who he had allied with.
“Gregor! We need more bullets! Get the case and bring it over here!” Frekla looked over his shoulder to where his slave should have been. “Gregor! Where are you?” Stepping over the whimpering form of the woman with the grenade, Frekla peered around. The deep sun cast long snaking shadows across the land, making it hard to distinguish where his servant was.
Walking around the side of the building where he had last seen him, Frekla was astonished to find Gregor cowering against a wall. The bulky and deformed slave had his head between his massive knees, rocking back and forth, sobbing. For a moment, Frekla was too shocked to speak.
“Gre...Gregor! Get up, slave!”
The broken form of Gregor peered up at Frekla, his eyes wide with terror.
“Master, Gregor sorry,” the giant intoned in between sobs. The thick hide of Gregor's heavily muscled body was covered in razor thin cuts, which slowly bled in pools of black. Reflexively Frekla reloaded his bolter, peering around, noticing for the first time that the bolter fire from his other servants had ceased. Looking back around the corner, he was shocked to see his men, or what was left of them, lying dead in the road.
“She so fast.” Gregor mumbled. “She hurt Gregor, she make Gregor tell her things.” Frekla felt his stomach sinking. Turning around, he stalked up the cowering form of his slave. Grabbing Gregor's head with one spindly hand, Frekla stared into his eyes.
“Who did you tell? And what did you tell her?”
Gregor tried to look away, but Frekla held his head fast. Finally the, giant began crying again. “Master, Gregor sorry.” With an exasperated sigh, Frekla released Gregor and stood up. Calmly pulling the chamber into firing position, Frekla fired a single shell into Gregor's skull.
In the new night's silence, Frekla stood motionless, his eyes glowing slightly red in the darkness that had settled over the land. The silence was broken only by the chirp of an insect, or a distant bird's song. The man walked slowly down the street to where his men had fallen. A glimmer of something metallic caught his eye. One of his servants was holding the thing in both hands, as if it was somehow precious. Curious, Frekla wrested it from his slave’s dead hands.
It was all he could do not to scream when he realized he was holding a live grenade.
“Careful now: it's sensitive to movement.”
Frekla whipped around, spraying bolter shells into the night where the woman's voice had come from. The bullets whizzed off into the black, missing their mark. From his left, Frekla felt a rush of wind pass him as he tried to turn in time to see what was coming. However, despite his considerably heightened senses, the knife had already cut him deeply by the time he had turned. Screaming out in pain, he fired wildly in the direction the presence had fled into. As the bolter fired its last rounds, Frekla continued to pull the trigger despite the telltale snap of the empty case.
The wind came again, this time from behind, impaling Frekla for a moment before vanishing again. Falling to his knees, he coughed up blood, trying to concentrate on holding his left hand steady. Despite his best efforts, his sense of calm and control had left him. “The gods damn you, filthy woman!” he screamed, his voice cracking. “My lord will exact payment from you in flesh!”
“I have fought your lord before, beast.” came the response.
Smiling in the dark, Frekla continued. “You know whom I serve then? That oaf must have told you more than I thought.”
“Worshiper of the Chaos Gods, you will find no peace where I will send you and your kind.”
“Nonsense!” Frekla spat. He stood rapidly, pulling his autopistol and unloading the clip where the voice had been coming from. For a moment the night air was lit up with the fiery release of ammunition. And then, the quiet returned.
He began laughing, holding his side where the wound had cut into his body. With a silent wince, he began walking back to where he had left his bolter, when he heard the smooth slide of a bolt pistol being cocked, the safety unhinging.
“Allow me to show you how to properly fire a bolt weapon.”
Janhavi squeezed off her shot from
where she stood 30 feet away. The bolt shell hit the grenade in Frekla's
quivering left hand square on the mark.
Engines set to max thrust, the Speeder screamed through the night air. Janhavi’s bodyglove was torn in several places, and her blades had been badly damaged from the encounter, but she was, for the most part, unharmed. The few minor wounds had already healed over and now resembled no more than scratches. Dried blood covered the glove, mostly from the cultists, but also from the victims she had been too late to save. Blinking back a tear of anger as she flew on, Janhavi concentrated on keeping the craft steady. If the inherit danger of flying so fast at night gave her any concern, she did not show it.
Janhavi punched the emergency signal button on the Speeder’s control panel. The radio burst to life a moment later. A young male voice, stern but assured, was the first to speak.
“Veteran Sergeant Vera, this is Flight Control. We have just received a distress signal from your craft, which is heading towards the temple at max speed. Confirm your identity immediately and state the nature of your emergency. Over.”
Janhavi spoke the confirmation codes she had memorized long ago and filled the controller in on what had happened. The controller asked her to hold. After a minute of silence, the radio crackled back to life.
“Confirm that, Sergeant, I have orders to have you land on Bay 23 and proceed directly to Chaplain Chakram's Reclusiam. Over.”
Janhavi confirmed and continued to race through the night. The bright moons reflected on the sea of leaves and tree tops, like a verdant ocean. It was truly a beautiful sight, but Janhavi did not notice.
The only thing she could see was
Posted: March 2006.
Used with permission.
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