A wave of Nausea hit Lieutenant Coyle as he slowly stood in the dim light of the medical tent. Gasping, he staggered to the side, clutching at the tent pole for balance before gingerly putting weight on his bad leg.
The outside air was hot and had a bitter acidic taste, catching in the back of his throat and giving Coyle a strong impulse to gag. Quickly he reached for his make-shift mask and pulled it over his mouth and nose.
Shading his eyes with his free hand he looked up into the tainted sky, great yellow clouds floated like foul infected lungs against an inflamed crimson red sky.
The sky itself seeming sickly and diseased.
It had been that way for a few days now. Since the had Tyranids arrived.
"Sir?" said a young voice from behind him. Coyle turned his eyes away from the injured sky to face Edgar, their 'Medical officer' - in truth he was merely the assistant of the last trained medical officer… before he was dragged away, kicking and screaming, into the sky by a tyranid gargoyle.
"What is it, son?" asked Coyle, although he was in a bad mood for conversation.
"I really don't think you should be going out there, sir, not with your leg like that." Edgar pointing out the obvious, gesturing to Coyle's ruined leg "You're in no shape to fight."
Coyle just sighed and looked at the young boy sadly. "I don't have a choice, boy, I die here or I fight out there with the rest of the men. Besides..." He paused for a second, wincing as he leant away from the tent pole "...Who else is going to lead the lads outside."
The young man shook his head, slightly miffed by the Lieutenants seeming lack of care for his injury "But… you'll die if you fight out there, sir…" again, Edgar showing an amazing ability to point out the obvious.
Coyle's expression hardened, rapidly losing patience for the boy's naivety. "Son, we all died as soon as those nids made planet fall. Fighting is all we have left."
Edgar shook his head again, this time more slowly and with some hesitance, "No… the Emperor protects. We'll be alright. The navy will save us, you'll see, help will come…"
Coyle bit back a venomous reply, instead opting to nod along and absently agree with the boy's delusional dreams of rescue. The Navy had been smashed and would have left the system weeks ago by now. No help would be coming for any of them.
Slowly the lieutenant limped his way away from the tent and towards the high vaulted walls of the compound. Slick, Infected, blood seeped from the rough bandages around his leg. Even after the stitches and bandages, the tyranid bio-agents kept the wound bleeding, the legacy of a Hormagaunt that had lept at coyle and caught him close to his thigh with its scything blade-like claw.
Glancing to his left he saw Terlas, his Vox-man, cycling through the vox channels for something, anything, that might bring some comfort to the shattered remnants of the planet's defenders. Coyle knew it was useless. The Tyranids had gone for the cities first, which went dark the following day. After that nothing at all had been heard apart from the last desperate cries of shattered regiments running from the living tide.
Even that had ceased by now. They were all that was left. A few hundred wounded, tired and starving men and women; from all across the continent and from hundreds shattered of regiments, trying to survive in last remaining major bastion on the planet.
Painfully, Coyle ascended the rusty ladder to the compound wall. Scanning the wall he saw small huddles of soldiers, talking in low hushed voices. They could barely stand. Somewhere sat on their haunches, playing cards and gambling away their few remaining possession, a hint of hysteria in their laughter, some wrote letters to loved ones that would never be read; and others still did nothing at all. Staring blankly into their hands, rocking backwards and forwards as their minds shattering as the nature of their current situation sank in.
Coyle had not lied to Edgar. They were all already dead, they just hadn't lay down yet. Coyle leaned against the top of the wall, the plasteel burned and melted where bio-plasma and corrosive alien poisons had hit it. It burned and irritated Coyle's skin to the touch, but he hardly cared as he surveyed the blasted landscape beyond the compound.
Where there was once a dusty arid plain there was now a waving sea of alien grasses, grasping at the air for insect life that had all gone extinct. The landscape's former scenery was perverted further by tall alien towers and chimneys, each one reaching dozens of metres into the sky. The towers pulsated, large vein-like roots sucking the planets moisture away from the ground, and the great chimneys spewed forth acidic spores that sprouted yet more horrifying tyranid plant life. The bio-chimney twisting and spasming in horrid convulsions as they spewed forth their corruption.
The rusted hulks of several Leman Russ tanks could be seen among the tall grass, rope-like vines and thick moss covering the eroded hull. An onlooker would think they where the wrecks of some ancient battle, but in truth they were what was left of the doomed counter attack launched by Captain Leuten a couple of days ago. The same vines covered the wall. But after trying to burn or cut them down proved futile, the infernal plants growing as quickly as they could be removed, efforts to clear the wall where abandoned in favour of preserving the precious promethium for killing Tyranids.
Coyle heard a hacking, wet cough coming from his right. Coyle turned to see the pathetic remains of the once imposing Commissar Bryant. He'd once been the terror of the Belis Corona 55th Mechanised Rifle Division. Famed for his iron lunged shout and incredible size, standing head and shoulders over any other man, he had earned Coyle's respect for his services. Killing the hormagaunt that attacked him before it could finish the job and fending off the tyranid attack with bolt and plasma pistol in each hand. One of the very few in his station that he had genuine professional respect for. Now he was pale and grey, his once pristine uniform hanging gaunt from his wasted frame. He coughed up two foamy black wads, looking almost like a pair of wet black socks, but Edgar had told Coyle that those were what was left of Bryant's lungs. The work of the Tyranid Spores that filled the atmosphere, the Commissar's thunderous shouts simply accelerating their effects on him.
He turned away in time to hear the shout from a guardsmen further down the wall: "Incoming! Tyranids!"
Coyle Shaded his eyes and looked out at the horizon. Undulating black clouds swirled and gathered towards the garrison. This was it. This was the end.
"Stand to! On your feet! I want every gun on the wall up and ready yesterday!" Coyle shouted, Shaking his lasgun off his shoulder and aiming down its sights at the moving horizon.
The cloud became a horrid horde of leaping, bounding and slithering creatures in his rifle's sights. Some towering beasts as tall as the wall itself, some small and locus like, all moving in erie and perfect unison. Even the grass seemed to come alive with activity, rippling in frenzied movement, as if trying to uproot and gorge on the last defenders of man.
"All Guardsmen, mark your targets and fire at will!" He needn't have bothered giving the order, already lasguns hissed and heavy bolters barked as the line erupted into action. Along the ramparts, the remaining Hydra and Wyvern batteries turning to add their payloads to the fire. Coyle himself squeezed off round after round aiming down the sights of his lasgun, although against a horde so massive it was impossible to miss with or without sights.
Alien bodies were smashed and lanced apart by the hail of fire, iron-shard mortars air blasting dozens of tyranids with each shell, while las-fire, bolts and heavy caliber autocannon shells cut down larger beasts with concentrated fire; but Coyle knew already it was hopeless. For each beast that fell and group of gaunt's smashed into giblets, a hundred more rushed to fill its space. He couldn't know exactly how many there were, but he was well aware that even if every shot fired hit and killed their target there would still be thousands left to finish off the defenders.
Coyle tried his best to disrupt the formation by firing at the larger beasts, hoping their death may buy more time as they lost the control they exercised over the smaller creatures. He'd be eternally damned before he let himself die without taking at least a dozen with him.
The Lasgun's charge indicator flashed red and he dropped onto his haunches to reload in time for an emerald-green spray of alien bio-acid fly over through spot he had just then occupied. Others were not so lucky. Men dropped to ground, writhing and screaming in demented agony as the alien ordnance melted their flesh from their bones. He only barely recognised the man who fell beside him as his vox man, Terlas, alien maggots eating away at what remained of his melted and warped face.
While the sounds were deafening, the clanging and scuttling sound of the tyranid horde scaling the wall could be heard over it all. Shutting out the smell of burning flesh as well as he could, he rose to his feet to meet the new threat, finding himself face to face with one of the numberless hormagaunts of the horde. Time slowed as he surveyed the creature in close quarters. Its hissing head was utterly alien, ridged and gnarled, and with a hard and glossy sheen to it. Like that of a large insect's carapace. The eyes were especially striking, being totally empty and dead looking, like that of a puppet or doll.
It's jaws opened, ready to dart forward and feed on Coyle where he stood. Its mouth was lined with rows of razor sharp steel-rending teeth, snarling Coyle lunged first and shoved the barrel of his lasgun down the beast's throat before pulling the trigger and blowing out the back of its skull. The creature falling limply from the wall into the shifting tide below.
Below, two massive carnifexes rammed into the gate of the compound and hammered at it with their crushing claws. The impact threw Coyle, and many of the other defenders on the wall, off their feet. Coyle quickly flipped over as a second hormagaunt landed behind him, kicking out his boot collided with the bests jaw, breaking it with a wet snap as it's fangs broke apart beneath the heavy military boot sending it reeling away in pain. Coyle quickly scrambled to his feet, gritting his teeth through the pain of his ruined leg, just as a third hormagaunts claws came scything down where his face had been. Turing to face the beast he leaped backwards to avoid it's second disemboweling swipe. His feet met thin air and, before he could even yell, Coyle fell backwards from the ramparts of the wall.
He slammed into the hard rockcrete of the compound, the air in Coyle's lungs leaving him as he felt his ribs snap like twigs in his chest. Coughing for air, blood burst forth from his mouth. He tried to straighten himself and sit up, but his breath caught in his chest preventing it, and he fell back to the hard floor realising that at least one of his lungs had been punctured by the impact. The lieutenant lay there, helpless, as he watched his remaining men be cut down by the swarming beasts on the walls. Screaming and shouting their last cries of defiance as the gaunts leaped at and sliced apart the final survivors on the wall. The gate below the wall bulged and heaved as the carnifexes on the other side pummeled them inwards, a massive claw punching through and began ripping it down.
Coyle coughed up another bout of blood as the rockrete beneath him began to crack and shake apart. He yelled as the ground heaved upwards, dragging himself away from a towering snake-beast heaving its way up and out of the grey dust and showering rock it brought in its wake. Chitinous claws emerged from fleshy folds in its carapace and it screamed, a terrifying alien scream, at Coyle as its predator eyes locked on the crippled lieutenant. More cracks and bulges appearing all around it as its fellow brood mates began to make their presence known. Coyle reached for his pistol, but the ravener was on him in a flurry of stabbing blades before he could draw it from its holster. Coyle's vision fading as the creature ripped open his body, and fed on his corpse.