Valos had never liked the Artillery. It wasn't just that they sat so far behind the lines that they never saw who they killed. It was the fact that when it came down to it they didn't really care either. For a sergeant in a reconnaissance unit that depended upon getting close to the enemy, he knew that the artillery were as much his enemy as the men he stalked. Yes, it could provide cover, but just as likely it would pin them down, often in places they really did not want to be.
Last night had been a case in point. His squad were reconnoitring a series of bastions that the heretics had been erecting for the past three days when their own artillery had chosen to bring their barrage forwards by thirty minutes. Doesn't sound like much, unless that thirty minutes was your withdrawal window.
Now he and his men were lying in shell craters in no man's land. Hoping against hope that they wouldn't be spotted before nightfall, and having to endure the noonday sun in baking pits.
Valos very slowly turned over so his back was against the hot soil. He couldn't afford to make any noise that might attract the attention of the heretics in the trench only yards from his position. Beneath him, in the bottom of the shell hole, Magda was attempting to tie off the veins in the stump that have been Lorallei's left leg. The shell fragment had cut it cleanly enough, straight above the knee and instantly put the poor Vox man into shock.
Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, for Lorallei, Magda Parrish and Valos had got to him before he bled out and packed the wound. Now dosed into unconsciousness with powerful opiates Lorallei lay like the dead while the squad's stone cold killer worked to save his life.
Valos turned back over. Either he would live or he wouldn't, but it wouldn't be for the lack of trying on Magda's behalf. Emperor knows that there was no love lost between the two of them, but he was her comrade and Magda wasn't about to give up on him.
While Magda worked, Valos carefully laid out six stick grenades next to him, checking their fuse tags and putting them where he could swiftly grab them. If Lorallei should cry out he would need to be able to silence the trench in front of him in double quick time so hopefully he and Magda could get their comrade out of there and into a more distant position.
Below him he heard a whispered imprecation and then the sound of dog tags being snapped off. Lorallei hadn't made it. He glanced down and watched as Magda stripped the corpse of ammunition and grenades.
When she came up beside him she handed over the tags and laid out her three remaining grenades next to her just as Valos had. He pocketed the tags and passed over one of his grenades to even out the distribution. Then he just lay there listening to the noisy frackers in the trench, and to the sound of Magda's breathing as she slept. He would sleep later as she watched over him.
Valos came awake in the pitch dark with Magda's bloodied hands over his mouth. This was standard procedure in recon teams. A man waking might make an unintended noise and give away his position. Seeing he was awake Magda released her grip and then pointed out to the left of their hole. A group of enemy soldiers, just visible in the gloom were snaking forwards, single file, towards the imperial lines. Magda smiled her merry sociopath's smile and Valos knew immediately what she had in mind. It was completely mad, but hey, mad is what they did for living.
As the last soldier left their dugout, Magda and then Valos slithered out of their crater and joined the end of the file. To someone observing from the heretic trenches it would look just like they were part of the raiding party.
As they passed another shell hole Leah Carrick and Bostein joined them.
The trenches were quite some distance apart at this place in the line, some three klicks in fact. The land between them had once been a village and the rubble had been fought over and lost five times while Valos and his squad had been in this sector. It had been shelled repeatedly turning it into a nightmare of crumbling wall and craters.
As the raiding party entered the village Valos and his squad dropped into the cover of a plascrete emplacement. Carrick then expertly fired a star shell from her knee-mortar cleanly illuminating the whole group. Heavy Stubber fire, followed by mortars from the loyalist lines tore the raiders apart. Only one managed to exit the village on his feet and he ran straight onto Magda's fighting blades.
Once the furore was over Carrick began messaging the line with her lamp. After a complex exchange the exhausted squad managed to get safe passage into the trenches. Thank the Emperor this part of the line was held by Carrenian Guard though Valos. Many other units would have just opened up on them just to be sure.