Orktober – The Dust Rats – 3. One Small StepFiled under: Ere Be Stuff
Here’s the third section of the Dust Rats background. If you missed the first two you can find them here:
3. One Small Step
In time the readings showed that it might be safe for brief scouting of the outside. Those who ventured forth had been born on the base, as had their parents, with no concept of “outside”, beyond the words of the few remaining elders. The five who stepped out did so in heavy protective suits, half-blind by the bright daylight, with excitement and fear in their hearts. Only a few minutes passed before they returned and their clothing was destroyed immediately, but their survival created incredible hope for the future.
The excitement was somewhat short-lived as excursions remained short as the risks were not unsubstantial, but over time the lockdown began to be lifted. With this new facility it became possible to finally examine and attempt repairs on the exterior damage the crash had created, with the exception of the comms centre. The entire section and the equipment that had been there was destroyed, decayed, or irradiated. Salvage and research were now the only options.
Inevitably the track that had once been the only entrance and exit to the base became a priority and clearing it in full protective gear was a painfully slow task. However, after over a year of hard labour a path was cut through the rock and wreckage, just wide enough for a man. Stepping through and surveying the landscape made it evident that the crash had left a lasting impression on the surface of Angelis. Where there had been hills there were now valleys, sitting between new peaks. The Base had full mapping data for a thousand miles surrounding their valley, but very little of it was still accurate. Without bearings in a barren wasteland, expeditions were necessarily risky to find their way out from the maze of identical canyons. The hope was that perhaps part of the Eternal Vigilance had survived with intact or salvageable communications equipment, but finding it would be challenging to say the least.
Reconnaissance teams were assembled, equipped with mapping devices and hazard suits, they were sent out into the desert to bring back vital data. It was during one of these mapping missions that the world changed for the 534th. On an open plateaux a relative distance from the base, one team encountered survivors and they were unfortunately just the first. These poor souls were the descendants of those who had lived through the fall of the Eternal Vigilance, but at a great cost. Their features were twisted, their bodies abominable affronts to the purity the Emperor demanded. Thinking it an act of mercy the team fired on the creatures as they slunk back to the shadows in fear. This would be the first and only outside contact for decades, but a rifle became part of the standard mission pack for anyone venturing outside. If those things had survived, then there could well be far worse monstrosities out there.
Mapping efforts proceeded but the distance became increasingly problematic. No sooner had a field team reached its designated region before needing to begin the arduous journey back. There was considerable deliberation before it was decided that an outpost would be required. The engineering and logistics corps were tasked with making it a reality, a job they were more than capable of, given time. Large concrete sections were created and dragged by groups of men under the planet’s two blazing suns for miles at a time, before being assembled onsite. Construction took the best part of a year, but upon completion the new outpost was able to provide safe shelter, provisions, and where required, protective suit repairs.
Life continued without event for several months until one slow afternoon when all hell broke loose. The sound of alarms and weapons firing could be heard from miles around the outpost. All who defended their base in the siege were loyal to The Emperor, but all were cut down. To their credit the defenders at the outpost did kill a few of the attackers, but ultimately they were not the victors. A returning recon group discovered the grisly scene and managed to extract a few last words from one of their dying comrades – “greenskins”.