It could only have been hours.
Wolcott felt like his insides were tearing out through his side. It took him a full minute to muscle up the strength to wipe the dust from his face. The light burned. As he painstakingly pulled himself up he began to put together the situation he was in.
The Valkyrie had crashed, and everyone inside had died. He could see Sargent Redwoods corpse with several pipes protruding from his chest. The decorated veteran, and his squad. All dead. He’d wondered why he was the one who survived but he heard the familiar drone of his refractor shield and figured it was the only solution.
He spent another few minutes trying to get up. His body was pumping blood back into his legs and he could only stumble.
Once that was done he groaned. Cautiously, he reached for the Valkyrie door controls and pressed the button. It wouldn’t open, as to be expected. The hole that had been ripped in the wall was his only way out. He readied himself and stepped out.
The city centre was filled with ash. Destroyed buildings cloaked in debris. Everything beyond a few metres was blurry and he could feel a throbbing in his forehead. He looked about to see if he could spot anyone.
Everyone was dead. He began to walk, dragging himself forward. To his fortune, the feeling of pins and needles in his legs was starting to disappear, but his mood couldn’t be lifted. He passed rows of guardsmen. Mostly blown apart, their insides littering the ground. He almost tripped over a severed arm at one point.
As he got near a line of destroyed chimeras he noticed the Spireguard troops lying dead near a barricade. Soldiers of the Thousand Sons. Not just them but there was even a couple of marines.
He made his way over to them. He rolled one over, what looked like a sorcerer he couldn’t recognise. Dead just like the guardsmen.
He sighed and checked the body. There was a hole going though it’s torso, and its communication equipment had been short circuited. But, it had some stuff still useful.
A warp grenade and a bolt pistol. The staff wasn’t of much use and he severely doubted that he could use the other marines botlers. The bolt-pistol it would have to be then. Held with both hands.
He attached the warp grenade to his belt and held the heavy bolt pistol with his stronger left arm. It was then that he heard someone’s voice; “Agh!”
It was confused and in pain, like a restrained grunt. “Hello?” he called out.
“Wolcott?” The voice replied. A woman’s. He stepped away from the sorcerer and passed around a large pile of rubble to see an injured guardswoman on the floor.
“Yeah, it’s me.” he called over to her.
She was one of Redwoods squad, the woman Rachel who’d fell out of the Valkyrie. He could tell by her carapace armor but it hadn’t stopped her leg from twisting all the way around as she’d hit the ground. “h-ARRgh-Hey… sir…” she grunted in response to him.
“You hurt?” he asked.
“Kinda…” she said through clenched teeth. “But I’m fine, I just need to-“
There was movement in the foggy dust cloud. Someone there. “Hey!” she called out to them. “We’re over here, if you can-“
Several beams of light burst forth, hitting her all over. Wolcott jumped in shock. If she wasn’t dead before she sure was now.
Several soldiers emerged from the clouds, wearing the colours of Serpia. Wolcott quickly ran back and skidded behind a destroyed Leman Russ. Two of them approached the woman they’d just shot while the others spread out. “There was another voice!” the squad leader said.
Wolcott growled and took a deep breath. He readied the bolt-pistol, took aim, and fired directly at the sergeant.
There was an ear-piercing bang, followed by an explosion of gore, then the patter of body parts hitting the floor. The Serpians screamed but Wolcott continued to fire. He cut two more down as they too ran for their own cover.
“Return fire!” someone yelled as Wolcott blew a chunk of his cover away. Ashton could hear the shouting from others in the clouds, further away but not too far. There others nearby, lots more. He kept pulling the trigger until he heard the clip.
“FETH!” he spat.
He began to sprint away and chucked it in their direction. “Grenade!” someone shouted by mistake. It wasn’t a grenade but that mistake would give him a moments head start. He sprant. He sprant for hs life.
After ten seconds he could hear them giving chase. They were shouting and firing randomly, the clouds of dust blocking their vision as much as his.
Walls exploded nearby him. Bits of earth was kicked up and red beams narrowly missed him. He could hear the sound of engines behind him. A transport of some kind.
Eventually he came out of the clouds and into a large opening of clean air. It was the promenade he’d arrived at when he first got to the city centre. He got a good view of most of the city here.
It was totalled. Without the void shield the Serpians had had free reign to fire artillery as they pleased. He could see smoke everywhere, and hundreds of aircraft flying through the sky. Finally, for the first time, the scale of what had happened was clear to him.
He’d lost. There was still heavy fighting going on some areas but it didn’t matter. They had no chance.
A las-beam hit him square in the middle of the back and knocked him over. He landed on top of a dead lieutenant he didn’t recognise and had to push himself off. The refractor shield had saved his life but it was seriously low on energy.
Three Serpians came running out of the cloud and one stamped their foot on him. They raised their guns. “What do we have here?”
“Looks like an officer!”
Wolcott suddenly noticed the dead Guardsman lieutenant had a lasgun next to him with the bayonet drawn.
“Wait…” one of the Serpians said. “Isn’t that… the Brigaider?”
“yeah!” Another agreed. “HEY!!!” He shouted behind him to more Serpians that were emerging from the clouds. “We got Wolcott! Call HQ, tell them-“
Wolcott grabbed for the bayonet and twisted his body. He rammed it into the throat of the Serpian on top of him and reached for his las pistol. The next Serpian trooper tried to fire but the refractor field just about held. Wolcott shot him right in the face and the same with the other.
The other Serpians tried to raise their guns as Wolcott got up but their sergeant raised his palm. “HOLD YOU FIRE!!!”
“He’s got nowhere to run, cut him off!!!”
Wolcott tried to sprint down the promenade. The Serpians weren’t firing at him but where they shouting at him to stop. As he was running he noticed a series of arial transports headed in his direction. A squadron of Valkyries and a thunderhawk gunship encircled overhead.
“No, no, no, no…” he muttered helplessly as he continued running. For a brief minute he’d hoped he could get away, but as Serpian Tauroxes pulled up on the promenade about 100 foot ahead of him, he knew he was surrounded.
He came to a stop and keeled forward, having lost his breath. The Serpians kept their distance and raised their guns as the Thunderhawk and Valkyries came down to land.
He looked about the ground desperately. There was a few dead guardsmen with weapons. They wouldn’t be of much use to him… but… he might as well.
He staggered over to them and pulled out the first thing he could see, a power sword. He swung it slowly and activated it, the energy rippling off it. The Serpians stayed their ground. He expected they’d think he wouldn’t be stupid enough to try and use it, but he still had a warp grenade on him. They didn’t know about that.
He felt his side stinging and leant forward, resting his hand on his stomach.
Everything had gone so wrong, everything had…
Once he got back his breath, he looked up at the visitor stepping off the Thunderhawk, not 20 foot away. It was a large collection of Serpians in carapace, led by the man himself.
Xavier took the cigar from his mouth and blew out a huge puff of smoke, for a second blocking the view of his entire head. “I got say… you got some big ones, boy!” he placed it back in his mouth, holding it in position with his teeth.
Wolcott stood there for a second. The man was much bigger than he was, and strongly built. A clear warrior, unlike him.
But he no longer cared.
Wolcott practically began to cackle, a hideously nasty laugh. “Boy? BOY!?!” he raised his arms and span around a single time. “Look at this!!! Could a boy do this!?! Could a mere child cause all of this!!!”
“No.” Xavier nodded. “This takes conviction.”
Wolcott nodded. “It does. The sort that my people have, and yours don’t!”
Wolcott shook his head. “No. You’re weak!!!”
“And yet…” Xavier removed the cigar and chucked it to the floor. “In front of me stands a small man, barely out of his teens, the leader of an army that lays in ruins at his feet. You took us by surprise, nothing more. You’re no leader, just a pirate. A lucky piece of inbred scum that murdered MY people, attacked MY planet, and slaughtered the innocents I SWORE to protect…” he stood on the cigar, putting it out.
Wolcott laughed again. “And I’d do it again!”
“WHY!?!” Xavier yelled. “What was the point of all this!?!”
“The point,” Ashton said with curved lips, “is that I can.”
The Serpians seemed to be horrified by his response. Xavier even was taken aback for a second, but he quickly regained his composure, his brow furrowing and his face turning red with rage. “Because. You… Can?”
Wolcott nodded. His smirk had disappeared and he now spoke with a serious tone. “I should have murdered you all from orbit. Wipe out every disgusting microbe you call your people in a single go!”
Xavier shook his head. “You’re insane…”
“I might be. I don’t really care either way.”
Xavier took a few steps forward, gesturing for his men to hold their fire. “Well you should… because your lucks ran out, little boy.”
“It appears I’ve made myself unpopular doesn’t it. So what? You won’t kill me, you’re not trying to kill me, are you?”
Xavier didn’t respond. Wolcott knew he was right. “You need me alive. A bargaining chip. You kill me, Kestral will send everything after you. Well it makes no difference… because I’ll come back. I’ll just come back again and start another war! Kill and destroy even more of you! And do you know why? DO YOU!?! IT’S BECAUSE I’LL NOT HEAR ANOTHER SLAVE RACE-LECTURE ME-ABOUT FETHING MORALITY!!!”
“Ash…” said a familiar voice, coming from the Thunderhawk, but he didn’t hear it properly.
“This planet belongs to me,” he continued, “it all belongs to me!!!”
“Ash, please…” the voice said again. Familiar but weak.
Ashton began to slow down as he recognised it. “And… and I will… I’ll…”
“Ash… just stop.”
Xavier smirked for the first time, and stepped aside. The Serpians behind him stepped aside as well, making a path.
Wolcott watched in silence as The Sisters of Battle lead someone off the transport. “Traitors!” he was about to shout at them, before he saw her. He’d recognised the voice but he hadn’t expected… this…
Caroline was shoved forward like a prisoner, but she wore no handcuffs. Her head had been shaved and her Armor stripped off. She was covered in fresh scars and cuts, her robe having had the sleeves ripped off and torn all over.
She looked at him.
He looked back at her, tears swelling up in his eyes. “Wh…”
“You need to stop.” She said simply.
He didn’t seem to hear though. “What… what happened…”
“Ash, please…. Just stop already.”
“What happened to you…”
The sororitas stood in silence and the serpians shuffled about uncomfortably. Xavier raised his chin at her. “She got exactly what she deserved. I forget the term…”
“Repentia.” Valentine corrected him, still wearing her own power Armor.
“Yes.” He nodded.
Caroline looked at Ashton, looking right into his eyes. “It’s over… Ash, everything’s over… just…”
“No…” he pleaded.
“If you give up, we can still save as many as we can…” she explained. “There’s no way out of this just… please… for me.”
“Ash! Just for once, do the right thing!” She argued back. “We can’t keep doing this! You can’t! If you give up, you can still…” her voice caught in her throat.
Ash felt his body go numb. “…still what…”
“Fix everything, make everything better! You can get the Kestrals to surrender, to leave… no one else has to die, you can… you can still redeem yourself in the emperors life you can-“
“-No, that won’t happen! There’s no going back for me now!”
“Don’t be an idiot!” Xavier interjected. “I’m willing to let your army live if you surrender yourself right now.”
“Is that what you want?”
“Oh believe me.” Xavier said dryly. “If I could I’d tear you apart piece by piece right at this moment…”
Wolcott looked back to Caroline. She’d been beaten, stripped of her Armor and humiliated. All because of him, all because…
This isn’t me!
This is their fault!
I didn't do this, they did! Valentine, the traitorous sisters, Xaviers, the Serpians, everyone, everyone who’d defied me!
If everyone just did as I said, everything would be fine…
He looked down at his fist, his fist grasping the power sword. “They did this to you…”
Caroline shook her head. “No, Ashton, please, you need to-“
“Caroline… it’s okay.” He nodded. “I’m going to fix everything.”
Xavier grinned pleased with everything and Caroline smiled slightly. “R-really?”
He nodded. “Yes.”
Xavier lit another cigar. “So you’re surrendering?”
Ashton tightened his hand around the swords grip. “Oh yeah…” he growled. “I’m going to surrender…”
He sprang into action, leaping right at Xavier, sword raising. “I’LL SURRENDER YOUR FETHING HEAD!!!”