The sound of a fleet of Valkyries went unnoticed over the country side surrounding the sprawling city of Prasia. From the transports, newly promoted Sergeant Bellum looked down below on the former crown jewel of Normandie II; once a symbol of the wealth and prosperity of the Eropea Sector, the planet had fallen to the spreading forces of Chaos three years before, and now lay ruined. Nothing had been forced under the iron heel of Chaos more than the capital city. Now, as Bellum looked down on the city, he thought he could almost feel the suffering rising from its razed streets and decrepit buildings.
Once boasting a population of over eighteen million, after the occupation this had dwindled to less than five. The stunning loss of the planet and the destruction of the city led the Imperium to devote resources to reclaiming the planet. One of the leading edges of this effort was the newly raised 75th Ranger Regiment from the bastion of Cadia. This regiment was raised of the best volunteers from Cadia, including young men like Bellum, and after two years of training he and 2400 of his comrades were poised to infiltrate the Chaos wasteland and open the door for a conventional invasion.
Closing his eyes in one of his last moments of peace for the near future, Bellum ran through his company's objectives. Immediately after the massive grav chute drop, they had to organize and gather the unit into a cohesive fighting force. They were then to move immediately to blocking positions to protect the rest of the force as they dropped in, including the headquarters and all-important air-mobile armored units. Within 4 hours, everyone would be assembled and would move to their following objectives. For Bellum, this included knocking out communications, liberating imprisoned guardsmen captured in the initial assault, and lastly, but most dauntingly, neutralizing a Chaos armored brigade.
At the moment however, Bellum was only thinking about the drop and repeating the sequence of actions. Soon, he noticed the red warning light turn on in the cargo hold. Around him, his forty five man platoon exchanged grim but confident looks, as they struggled to their feet under the immense weight of their equipment. Grunting, Bellum dragged himself to his feet, and steadyed himself in the pitching aircraft. Turning to his squad, he shouted over the turbine engines, "listen up second squad! I know none of this is news to you, but im gonna tell you anyway! Remember your assignments, focus on the drop, and identify targets on the ground. Were shooting rebels not each other. When we get organized, i want to move out asap, and move to objective alpha. Lets keep tight out there, and do what weve been training for. Lets liberate these people and knock those traitors back through the Eye. Hooah?" "Hooah!" shouted his squad. Looking in their eyes, Bellum saw uncertainty but also courage. He knew these men would not falter under extraordinary cicumstances, but the situation on the planet below them was anything but ordinary.
The planet of Normandie II had enjoyed a century of peace, a rarity in the war ravaged imperium of man. Renowned for manufacturing thousands of high quality vox casters for the guard regiments of Cadia, the planet used its immense wealth to expand and develop its urban centers. The largest and most prosperous of these was the city of Prasia. Originally the landing point for the first human colonists, the city expanded into a towering hive, featuring hundreds of towers and chapels devoted to the god emperor. However, light years away, the Chaos warmasters in the eye of terror had long planned on conquering the planet, and subjugating the emperor-worshipping populace to the forces of Chaos.
In the year 765.M41, a combined force of Word Bearers and Alpha legion marines emerged and set course for Normandie II. By 767.M41, the massive force arrived, and within a week, the planet's orbital defenses fell to the onslaught. Soon, Chaos landing barges descended upon the planet. Over years of peace, the planet's defense forces had slowly dwindled, and at the time of invasion, offered token resistance. Despite the best efforts of the guardsmen to defend their families, Chaos swept through and captured Prasia, effectively ending organized resistance. Soon, the souless Marines began slaughtering the civillian populace, punishing them for their denial of the true powers of Chaos. Great executions were held, covering the streets in blood, as the Marines attempted to convert the inhabitants. However, the people kept their faith in the Emperor through the efforts of the Resistance, an underground organization led by Colonel Jas Karron, former commander of the Prasia guard regiment. With the help of fellow guardsmen, Karron organized covert operations against the Marine occupiers, all the while remaining undetected. The myth of the "Prasian ghosts," as the resistance was popularly known, kept hope alive for the populace, and secured their faith. It was due to the Ghosts that a signal was sent to a nearby Imperium patrol notifying them that the planet was still held, despite all evidence to the contrary. This revelation is credited with motivating Imperium Naval Command to organize the effort to reclaim the planet, and saving the people to reward them for their unwavering faith. In 768.M41, the first Regiments were raised for the "Great Salvation" as it became known. Among these was the soon to be famous Ranger Regiment.
Standing in the door of his Valkyrie, Corporal Raum Weber looked down on the drop zone for the invasion. At the moment, it was an unremarkable plain with trees and rocks dispersed throughout. Soon however, Weber and his comrades were to drop in ahead of the rest of the fleet to mark the zone with nav beacons. Three Valkyries with 12 men in each were dispatched, each specially trained to avoid detection and ensure the safe landing of the force. As the flight moved closer to the field, Weber saw to his dismay that the night had turned cloudy, and the zone was becoming obscured. Nonetheless, he was trained for this eventuality, and he considered it an inconvince at most. Almost putting it out of his mind, he looked closer, and noticed something strange. The clouds seemed to originate from a treeline in a great forest, almost from out of the ground itself. Weber reached to his helmet and switched on his magnifying optics, and to his horror saw great piles of brush burning, and around them were arrayed hundreds of heavy bolters, many placed on armored vehicles. He realized they had been spotted, and the Marines had depolyed to repel them. Weber turned to his commander and shouted, "Captain, targets spotted in the northern treeline! They know were coming!" The Captain, known as Remed, looked and confirmed the sighting. With a worried look on his face he relayed the update to the pilots, who in turn notified the main force. Weber knew at that point that the planning and orders were not going to be of use any longer. When he turned back to the treeline, he saw hundreds of small flashes. Immediately recognizing the danger, he flung himself to the deck of the craft, "Incoming!" he shouted. It was too late. Remed had been shot through the chest, his wound still steaming as he hit the floor. He rolled toward the open door, about to fall out. Weber, remembering the Ranger spirit of bringing every man home, reached out and grabbed his Captain by the belt and dragged him back in the craft. Around him, two more Rangers had been killed already, and three more lay wounded. Weber ran to the front and hit the pilot intercom. "Hit the green light! We're stuck in here!" "Hold for 15 more seconds!" shouted the pilot, "I'm flying on visuals, the navigator's dead. I dont know where we are!" "We'll be in pieces if we wait, for emperor's sake, drop us now and break off!". At that moment, the Valkyrie to their starboard side suddenly bucked hard and burst into flames, taking a direct hit from a heavy artilery piece. Weber saw 4 shapes fall out, grav chutes deploying behind them, followed by two more on fire. At this Weber turned to his remaining squad mates and barked, "Alright lads we need to hit the ground and get the beacons burning or else the rest of our guys are going to fly right through this! Ready?" Not waiting for an answer, Weber wheeled about and ran to the ramp, leaping out into the firestorm.
Across the airborne fleet, vox casters began blaring with warning calls. Bellum rushed to the cockpit, and overheard the operator frantically shouting into the mouthpiece as countless other voices blended together. "Confirm target locations!" "Gamma 6-2 is hit! We've got fire on the port turbine!" "Stinger 4-7 just took a round! There's nothing left! I count zero chutes!" "Where's the dropzone? We need to get these troops down now!" One by one, Bellum heard distress calls coming in. It seemed the whole fleet was being destroyed. "Ranger, prepare your stick to drop. We're putting you down now." Snapped back to his senses by the operator, Bellum turned back to the cargo hold and organized his men. He saw two dark shapes along the far bulkhead, and recognized the bodies of two of his troopers. "Line up in order, check your gear and get ready!" Without hesitation, his troopers assembled on the door, silently waiting for the order. Bellum looked back to the cabin, and saw the navigator's helmet swing around. "Green light sergeant. Send 'em to the warp." Bellum nodded and turned to his men. Over his head, the light switched from red to green, and the Rangers swept one by one out the door. Following behind, Bellum looked to make sure he was the last one out, and leapt. Before he could deploy his chute, the Valkyrie was torn apart behind him. The shockwave flipped him on his back, unable to right himself. Tearing through the air he fell, bolter tracers flying by him, explosions filling the air. To his left he saw a burning Valkyrie turn over and angle towards him. Closer and closer it came, and Bellum had no way of moving to safety. With the nose of the Valkyrie only 20 meters away from him, his grav chute's safety mechanism activated, rapidly deccelerating him. Twisting right side up, he saw the craft fall below him to the ground below. He now directed his attention to the landing. To his surprise, not 100 meters away he could see the rest of his squad falling, still intact. He angled his chute torwards their location, aiming to land nearby. Hitting the ground harder than he would have liked, Bellum detached his chute, not bothering to hide it. The enemy knew they were there, surprise was lost. He sprinted to his men, already assembled and awaiting orders. "OK men, lets move to provide security for the rest of the battalion. We need to neutralize those anti air units." At that moment a heavy bolter roared 500 meters behind them, sending the squad to ground. As soon as it stopped firing, the troopers rose to their knees and returned fire, pouring a fusilade of las beams towards the position. "Taran, take the sniper rifle to that rock pile. The rest of us are going to suppress those traitors. Move out!" The young Lance Corporal Taran grabbed the rucksack holding the rifle while the rest of the squad opened up with another barrage. Taran quickly sprinted to his position and could be seen setting up his weapon. "Weapons section! Set up our bolters in case we get counter attacked! This is our position now. Vox operator, transmit to whoever is listening that we are here." Turning to his caster, the operator began to transmit, "This is Sierra 2-1. We are engaging enemy emplacement, have foothold. Coordinates as follows. 06-76-34A. Direct units to our position to establish a defensive line. Over." Bellum nodded, "Repeat that till you get a response." Looking back to the rock pile, Bellum saw Taran sighting in on the bolter. With a heavy bang, the rifle spoke, and silenced the gunner. Before another Marine could man the gun, Taran put a round through its firing mechanism. Packing up his weapon, Taran turned back to regroup with the squad. As he ran back a flurry of bolts came flying over the field as the Marines fired inaccurate potshots towards the Rangers. One of the rounds passed through the air in a tenth of a second and seared through Taran's thigh muscle. Collapsing under the weight of himself and his rifle, Taran crumpled up on the ground, looking desparately to his squadmates. One of Bellum's troopers immediately sprang to his comrade's aid but Bellum quickly recalled him. "Ranger if you go out there I'm going to have two casualties instead of one. Wait until our bolter is set up and we can get those rebels down." Despite a look of frustration, the Ranger got back down. "Taran, we're going to get you! Just hold on. Tie your tourniquet and apply the bandages. We're coming!" Bellum shouted. "Help me! It's poisoned! They're shooting poisoned bolts! I can't die here! Oh no! Not like this!" moaned Taran. Bellum wheeled to his heavy weapons just in time to see them load a belt of ammunition and open fire. With the burst of fire, Bellum took two troopers with him to retrieve Taran. As they ran across the field, he could see the severity of the wound. The Marine's foul bullets had torn half of the man's leg away, and his foot was hanging on by a few tendons. As Bellum came to Taran, he crouched down to apply additional first aid. One of the troopers hesitantly whispered, "Sir, he's dead." Bellum stopped and looked at his trooper, and saw a blank stare in his eyes, and a relaxed expression on his face. "Damn. Alright, let's get him back to the position. I'll put him in for a citation." Forlornly, the Rangers lifted him and carried him back. As they set him down, the rest of the squad looked on, silently paying their respects. Bellum looked around and said, "OK men, well the first danger's passed, but it's not the last. Lets dig in and prepare defensive positions. The first and third platoons are moving to our flanks. We're holding here until the armor comes in."