In the next installment of "Codan" submitted by Six-Deucer, our protagonist finally gets his chance to serve with a penal squad; while readers are treated to a descriptive narrative on just how rigorous and unforgiving life in a penal squad is... All for one more chance at freedom. So, grab something good to guzzle and enjoy chapter two!
Krieg's tribute to Soriyama's tribute to 1940s' nose art- Obi style!
Codan pulled up, sides heaving from the effort of sprinting the entire length of the "Solo Unum" for the eighteenth time. A little over 17 kilometers, and that was the third such workout of the day. From the interior size, amount of crew, and lack of an armoured prow, Codan concluded the Solo Unum was likely a Dauntless-Class Light Cruiser. Such ships were often used for scouting by the Imperial Navy. The configuration of the ship was foriegn, but so were the crew. Soldiers from some far off imperial death-world called "Krieg". If Codan had not been so familiar with military practice of segmentum command, he may have thought these Kriegsman to be some strain of abhuman, or even possible xenos. Firstly, they did not speak low gothic at all. Codan even knew a few words of high gothic, but the Krieg tongue was guttural and completely alien to him. Secondly, Krieg must have an extremely meager genetic range, as the Kriegsman looked very similar to one another. All had blond hair, grey eyes, and skin pale near to the point of albinism. Codan had learned to differentiate them by their varying scars, which was another thing they all seemed to have in common. It was too early to guess as to what all this meant regarding who he would fight or where they were actually going. All in due time, just pieces to the puzzle.
Codan tried to take in air quietly, as he looked around the cargo deck of the ship he was travelling in. He observed that all the other inmates had long been returned to their communal housing cell. A rigorous routine. It was however, followed by free entertainment. Many of his pathetic peers had been severely beaten for not performing to the standard set by these Krieg guardsmen. Such disciplinary "examples" were an excellent time to catch his breath. Codan had made a point to do half-again the physical regimen required of him. Not only was it imperative that he regain his lost physique quickly, but he also wanted to create an impression in these foreigner's minds.
With three training deaths in the thirty six days they had been aboard, some of his fellow legionnaires believed that the worst was behind them, and the training would become easier, as though they were just being broken-in for disciplinary purposes. Codan knew otherwise. One only had to observe the sheer amount and quality of food given to them. These Kriegsmen were actually attempting to make something resembling a military unit out of these miscreants. Unexpected. Standard practice was to use penal legions as either bullet-fodder, or as a distraction. Codan had little idea what was planned for his unit, but was certain of one thing. Training was going to be more and more challenging. It was ironic, Codan had been worried he would not be afforded the means to train at all, and would find himself on the front-lines in wretched state.
Codan's thoughts were interrupted by the old man who served as the Penal Custodian, his unit's sergeant and supervisor. Only two types of guardsman actually volunteered to serve in a penal legion, criminals and crazies. Codan had this one pegged as crazy. The man's name was Grekkan. From the little he had been able to gather of Grekkan, he had served faithfully in some local militia guardforce until he had grown old. Instead of taking a pension when he was no longer physically fit for duty, the man had gone where they would accept anyone. From the way the fool observed every ceremonial service or random meditation to the emperor, it was likely he was motivated by simple faith and devotion to the emperor. A simple man. Grekkan was proving easy to manipulate, as the priests say, "Blessed is the mind too small for doubt". Orders were to return to the holding cell after exercise, and Grekkan stood watching him with an air of mild expectation. Codan began jogging back in the direction of the man, nodding slightly as he approached.
"Tomorrow we begin training in close-combat, but I imagine you will already be familiar with the material". Grekkan often did that. Turning a simple statement into a question, without actually asking anything. An amateurish attempt to probe Codan about his past. A quote from the imperial ministorum had often served to deflect Grekkan's curiosity. "Foolish are those who fear nothing, yet claim to know everything", he answered. "My life is the Emperor's currency, if it is to be well spent, I can never stop learning". The fool was actually nodding by the end of his second sentence. Grekkan motioned for Codan to walk with him back towards the holding cell, he spoke as they walked. "Those Kriek seem to have noticed you training," Grekkan's particular accent butchering the foreign name. "I have heard them calling our squad Koder Gruppe". "I think that means Codan's Group in that Emperor forsaken tongue of theirs". Codan thought, then answered "thank you for telling me brother, not for false pride, but it is right for the strongest of us to lead the charge against humanity's enemies". Codan grinned inwardly, one step at a time.