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Riis praised the Emperor he was glad to be back in the field. Aurelius was stoic as they followed the Inquisitors around the subsector, but Riis was champing at the bit. A week of the Inquisitors arguing, backbiting, and general inability to conduct themselves in an orderly and disciplined fashion was driving away every ounce of patience he had. The added annoyance of the pair of Orks and the haughty Eldar scout had brought him close to the breaking point.

The calming advice of Aurelius had kept his anger in check, and now he had an opportunity to get away from all of his irritants, and scout out the frontier town of Bad Crow. The fact that the Sons of Man, an excommunicate chapter, were interested in the town was cause enough for Riis. He and the Eldar Pathfinder had slipped in under cover of darkness to survey the town and report back to their superiors.

Dawn had revealed a ramshackle collection of houses and buildings, all uniformly bleached gray by the dust and wind. A gallows was the only unusual fixture in the Town Square, and Riis supposed it had been there a while, as it was the same gray as everything else. Initially it had been a routine survey, watching people going about their business among the buildings. Then everything had gone wrong. From his vantage he could see a horde of red robed redemptionists burst forth from the town hall. Almost immediately they were on horseback, and headed out. The horde had ridden out to a nearby bluff, then come back, the Eldar scout bound and gagged. Riis shook his head in disgust, how could the flower-eater have allowed himself to be seen by these hicks? “Riis reporting, the… Eldar has been captured by local Redemptionists, confirm.”

A gaggle of argument burst over the comm, and Riis was forced to shake his head again at their lack of communications discipline. Riis cut into the babble, “Awaiting orders.”

Nothing happened, though Aurelius sent, “Patience brother.” on their private channel. The town was still again, and Riis settled in to wait.

Riis took the opportunity to check all of the clips for his rifle, then took a brief sip of water to clear the dust from his mouth. The town was quiet, though the comm still carried the arguments of the Inquisitors. Then the Redemptionists exited the hall again, the Eldar in tow. They headed directly for the gallows, and Riis wasn’t fool enough to have to guess their intentions. He spoke into the comm again, “Riis reporting, the Eldar is going to be hung, time to event ninety seconds.”

The redemptionists weren’t waiting for anything, and herded the Eldar up the steps of the gallows. The inquisitors on the other hand were enjoying another round of argument. Finally Morinito’s voice cut over the others, “Save him.”

Riis shook his head, then sighted on the Redemptionist at the gallows pole, then said, “Confirmed.” The rifle was made a quiet cough, and the Redemptionist dropped like a stone. Riis had switched targets gently pulled the trigger, dropping the other red-robed figure on the gallows before the rest began to react.

One of the redemptionists leapt onto a nearby horse and was clearly trying to organize the rest, who were looking around in shock. Riis centered his sight on the leader, placing the crosshairs between his eyes, waited briefly while the horse started, then fired as it came back down. The needle took him in the head, and he pitched back off the horse to the ground. The rest of the redemptionists dove for cover. Riis quickly shot a pair of horses, and their screams scattered sent the nearby beasts scattering.

His clip empty Riis’ hands automatically reloaded the next while he surveyed the situation. “Riis reporting, Redemptionists are suppressed. Recommend reinforcements stat.” Only bodies were in plain sight, but he managed to pick out a leg protruding from behind one of the downed horses. Sighting in quickly another round went home, and the leg jerked from sight, leaving a splash of blood behind.

Aurelius’ voice came over the comm, “We are on our way brother.”

“Confirmed”. Riis fired another round at a Redemptionist who was creeping from cover, and missed for the first time, kicking up a cloud of dust. This was enough to drive the target back out of sight.

Then a Redemptionist leapt up and leveled a pistol at the Eldar. Riis quickly put the remaining rounds of the clip into him, and reloaded. But another Redemptionist had fired, and a bullet had plucked at the Pathfinder’s arm, leaving a gory red bloom on his fatigues. Riis shot the second Redemptionist down, and a third rose, firing as Riis sighted him in. Riis put a round in his back, dropping him as well, then checked the Eldar. The redemptionist’s bullet had shattered his knee, and he sagged, unable to support his weight. The noose constricted and Riis cursed, realizing that there was only one round left in the clip, his last in fact. As he sighted in on the rope he could hear the whine of the gun cutter coming up behind. They would be too late though. The rope was swaying in his sights, and Riis steadied himself. He exhaled briefly, saying “Emperor guide my hand,” then pulled every so gently.

The rope parted, and the Eldar collapsed to the ground as the gun cutter shot overhead. Riis was already fading back from his position, empty clips carefully stowed and the spent cartridges gathered. As he moved he was concerned that his prayer had been answered in assistance of an Alien.

Korvus 20:54, 9 February 2008 (UTC) Nicholas Cioran

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