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Authors: Gordon Rennie

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Crucible

BOOK: Crucible
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ROGUE TROOPER

 

CRUCIBLE

 

The two snipers looked at each other.

"How many?" asked Venner, shocked at the sound of his own voice. It had been the first time in over a week he had heard it and it sounded almost unfamiliar to him, especially when talking in the harsh, guttural language of the enemy.

"Twelve hundred and fifty-three," answered the Nort sniper, unable to keep the betraying hint of pride out of his voice, even at a time like this.

"Not bad," grunted Venner. The Nort nodded in acknowledgement, as one equal to another. Then Venner shot him almost casually through the heart. The man deserved respect, and a quicker, cleaner death than the one he had been facing.

"But nowhere near good enough," Venner added.

ROGUE TROOPER

 

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Rogue Trooper created by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons.

 

A 2000 AD Publication

 

www.abaddonbooks.com

 

www.2000adonline.com

 

1098 7 65 4321

Cover illustration by Dylan Teague.

Copyright © 2004 Rebellion A/S. All rights reserved.

All 2000 AD characters and logos © and TM Rebellion A/S."Rogue Trooper" is a registered trademark in the United States and other jurisdictions."2000 AD" is a registered trademark in certain jurisdictions. All rights reserved. Used under licence.

 

ISBN(.epub): 978-1-84997-076-1

ISBN(.mobi): 978-1-84997-117-1

 

A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

ROGUE TROOPER

 

CRUCIBLE

 

GORDON RENNIE

THE LEGEND OF THE ROGUE TROOPER

 

Nu Earth is a hellish, nightmare planet ravaged by war. The planet's atmosphere is devoid of life, poisoned by repeated chemical attacks and deadly to inhale. But the planet is close to a vital wormhole in space, a fact which has dragged its two rival factions - the Norts and the Southers - into a never-ending war. Now Nu Earth is a toxic, hell-blasted rock, where millions of soldiers in bio-suits wage bloody battles and die in their millions. Nu Earth is too important to lose. Not an inch of ground can be lost!

Here is where the legend of Rogue Trooper was born. Created by Souther forces, Rogue Trooper is the sole surviving example of the Genetic Infantrymen: a regiment of soldiers grown in vats and bio-engineered to be the perfect killing machine. Complete with protective blue skin and the ability to breathe the venomous atmosphere, the Genetic Infantrymen became renowned figures on both sides of the conflict. Moreover, the mind and soul of the GI could be downloaded onto a silicon chip in case of a mortal wound on the battlefield. Once downloaded, the dog-chip could then be slotted into special equipment and preserved until the soldier could grace a newly grown body.

Betrayed by a general in their own high command, almost the entire regiment of GIs were wiped out in the Quartz Zone Massacre. The sole survivor managed to save just three chips from his former comrades and slot them into his gun, helmet and backpack. Now he is a loner, with just the disembodied personalities of his comrades for company, roaming the chemical wasteland in search of revenge: the Rogue Trooper.

"
And when he gets to Heaven,

To Saint Peter he will tell,

I fought and died on Nu Earth, sir,

so I've served my time in Hell."

- So-called "Nu Earth Epitaph", author anon.

Found written on the grave marker of an unknown

Souther soldier, Nu Earth Battle Sector.

 

 

"I say to you now that I will not rest as long as one enemy soldier remains alive within the ruins of Nordstadt, as long as the footprints of one invader remain pressed into its sacred, blood-soaked soil, as long as one cowardly Souther rat remains hiding there in the rubble of what was once a proud monument to the achievements and glories of we, the Nordland race.

Nordstadt is ours, just as Nu Earth and the galaxy beyond are ours, and we are prepared to tolerate every set-back, we are prepared to pay the price of every sacrifice necessary on the road to final victory; victory in Nordstadt, on Nu Earth, and on every other world in the galaxy where our enemies are gathered against us. Let them raze our cities to the ground, let them hide and burrow like animals amongst their ruins. We will find them and root them out. We will destroy them utterly, and upon their scattered bones we will build the foundations of new cities, cities greater and more magnificent than anything they will have seen before.

Let our voice be heard all across the stars, on every world where our enemies still thrive. Gather your armies, I tell them now. Raise up yet more generations of your brightest and strongest. Put weapons in their hands and send them out to face us. Nu Earth will be their mass grave, and the new and rebuilt Nordstadt, cleansed of the presence of the enemy invader, will be the tombstone we shall erect

to show the place where their ashes lie."

Supreme War Marshal Vladimir Zell, addressing the seventy-fourth Concordat of the Sekretariat of the People's Deputies of the Greater Nordland Territories, on the twentieth anniversary of the commencement of hostilities on Nu Earth against the Confederacy of the Southern Cross Republics.

 

 

 

PART ONE

COMMS-SIGNALS

 

 

 

ONE

 

The secret of the art of killing, Venner knew, was patience. He was a very patient man, perhaps almost superhumanly so, and so it was no surprise to him at all that he was equally gifted when it came to the business of taking the lives of others.

His target was a hidden enemy listening post in the no-man's-land wildness between the two front lines. Those front lines were immense, stretching out for thousands of miles in both directions; jagged twin ranks of defence bunkers, trench works, missile silos, launch bases, gun batteries, fortified emplacements and siege bastions that spanned the entire breadth of a continent, marking out the borders of a huge battlefield that had remained mainly static for almost the last twenty years. Millions of lives had been expended by both sides on just this one continent-wide battlefield, with little or no gain for either party.

They had poisoned the air with their chemical weapons. They had blighted the very ground they died trying to control, leaving it completely sterile and barren as the toxins and pathogens they used against each other seeped down into the earth. Whole tracts of land, hundreds of kilometres wide, the so-called "hotspots", had been rendered completely uninhabitable by the unbridled use of nuclear weapons in various earlier stages of the conflict. Cities had been vaporised, forests and farmland burned to ash, deserts, plains and prairies transformed into endless frozen seas of fused glass by the heat of the nuclear fire. The radiation level in such places was high enough to cook the flesh from a man's bones, even inside the supposed protection of an armoured chem-suit.

This was just one campaign, just one battlefield on a world that had been transformed into one huge scene of battle carnage. This was Nu Earth, which both sides in the war needed to capture for themselves, even if it meant laying to waste the entire planet in the process. This was Nu Earth, where the killing never stopped.

Venner was stalking no-man's-land, destroying the line of enemy listening posts secreted there amongst the smashed debris of innumerable past battles and failed assaults. The work was child's play. He had identified and destroyed four of the facilities in the last week, travelling west along an eighty-kilometre stretch of the front, amusing himself along the way by picking off several small reconnaissance patrols of foot soldiers, not really caring which side they might have belonged to.

He had expected the enemy, as slow-witted as they were, to have reacted to the continuing loss of their listening posts by the time he found the fourth one on his list. Disappointingly, they had not, and all he had found waiting for him there, in the ruins of a bombed-out bunker that had probably changed hands dozens of times in the course of the last twenty years, were a few listless, incompetent sentries guarding the handful of technicians who operated the listening post's electronic eavesdropping equipment. He had dealt with them all ruthlessly and dispassionately, and they had all died even before they were fully aware that he was there amongst them.

After that, feeling irritated and even somewhat slighted by the enemy's slowness in reacting to his now clearly-signalled presence out here in no-man's-land, he had set the demolition charges to destroy the listening post and its equipment before scouting out the area around it and spitefully planting a few extra booby-trap surprises for the first infantry patrol to enter the area after his departure. Whether that infantry patrol belonged to his side or the enemy's was a matter of complete indifference to him.

Two days later, at the fifth target location on his list, he finally got the reaction he had been hoping to provoke out of the enemy all along.

He had taken up position a few kilometres short of the target location - the burnt-out shell of a Golgotha heavy bomber - and watched patiently through his binox as the enemy deployed into the surrounding shell-churned terrain from a hovering atmocraft. They were good, Venner could see. He could tell by the way they handled themselves, swiftly and silently melting into the nearest cover as soon as they hit the ground. One of them wasn't quite as good or experienced as the others, landing clumsily and fumbling with the release catch on the harness of his anti-grav jump-pack. Venner shot him in punishment, sending a steel jacketed screamer slug straight through the faceplate of his lightweight chem-suit from a range of over two thousand metres.

After that, having announced his presence to the rest of the enemy sniper troupe, he was ready to begin the hunt in earnest.

He had counted five soldiers: all of them doubtlessly well-equipped, well-trained and highly motivated. To be anything less would have ensured their deaths long before now. Nu Earth was a completely unforgiving combat arena, and ruthlessly weeded out the weak and the unlucky. Venner had served in similar sniper troupes, and knew well enough how they operated. Three, or perhaps even four of the remaining enemy snipers would act as bush-beaters, there to flush the prey out of hiding.

BOOK: Crucible
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