Chapter Four


Daria dreamed. She was crouching in the center of an artillery crater. Her boots sank slightly into the mud at her feet. Above her, lying on the rim of the crater, soldiers lay prone, firing furiously at an unseen foe.


Oh no. I know this place. Not here. Not again. 


Men yelled for ammo, screamed for medics, and muttered prayers. Shells exploded in the distance. One landed close and showered the makeshift trench with mud and debris. A finger landed a few feet in front of Daria. She saw it, and felt that she should be disgusted, but she saw herself ignore it. The dream went on, despite her attempts to resist it.


“There’s another mob of them on the left! Shift the bolter!”


The two man crew swung their weapon around and opened fire. The crater lit up like it had been spotlighted. The distinctive BOOM-SCREECH! that the heavy bolter emitted with each shot formed a wall of noise through which all other audio communication was impossible. The gun bucked as the crew attempted to keep it under control. Huge brass shell casings rained down on Daria. Her thick clothing and leather gloves kept her from getting burnt. The crew paused for a moment to look for more targets. The sudden silence was deafening. The squad’s sergeant called out.


“Ma’am! There’s too many of them! They’ll be on us in a second if we don’t fall back!”


Daria pulled out her bolt pistol, made sure it was loaded, checked the sights, and chambered the first round. It was, at this point, brand new. She had just acquired it, favoring its large, .75 caliber explosive rounds over the standard, weaker laspistol. Never hurt to have more punch in a bad situation. Which pretty much described her entire life, by now.


Commisar Morgendorffer?”


“Sergeant, do you remember what our orders were?” she intoned over cracks of the soldiers firing their lasrifles.


“To hold this line, yes ma’am, but look at…”


Daria cut him off. “Then that’s exactly what we will do.” She unsheathed her power sword and fingered the activation rune. The blade flickered to life, glowing faintly blue and humming. In her command voice, she shouted “Affix bayonettes! Prepare for enemy contact!”


With practiced ease, each soldier pulled his knife from its sheath and attached it under the barrel of his rifle, and then resumed firing. Each was a veteran of several campaigns, and so while no guardsman in his right mind would ever want to hear that particular order, they were used to it by now. The sergeant looked at Daria for a moment, in the dim hope she would reconsider, but then resigned himself to the inevitable. He pulled his chainsword off his back and started it up. The blades that made up the leading edge of the weapon roared to life, and he turned back to the trench edge and fired some more shots with his laspistol.


Daria watched herself approach the crater edge. Oh god, here it comes. Somebody wake me! Please! She saw herself carefully put her head up and peer over the rim. There were Orks. Lots of them. They had mobbed up behind a ruined building about 100 yards away. Some of them would stumble outside the rubble, and those would be picked off, but there were at least 80 of them safe inside. They seemed to be waiting for something.


And Daria saw exactly what that was a few seconds later. Two wartrukks, jury-rigged open top contraptions that looked to be more dangerous to the occupants than their enemies, pulled up behind the building, somehow surviving the Imperial hail of fire, and another 20 or so orks joined their kin. Bolstered with confidence by their reinforcements, a feral “wwwaaaaAAAAAAAGGH!” rang out and they began to charge, stumbling over debris and fallen comrades, but moving inexorably forward and gaining momentum.


Daria leveled her pistol and took careful aim. An ork, becoming overconfident, had gotten ahead of the rest. Daria pulled the trigger and its face exploded. Red blood spattered the other orks coming up behind, darkening their green skin. They swarmed over and past his body. The wall of “greenskins,” as they were commonly called by members of the Imperial Guard, moved ever closer. Daria flicked her pistol into automatic, knowing there wasn’t much chance of a miss at this range. She emptied a clip and reloaded. There were still too many orks left to count.


Then came the part of the dream that Daria hated most. The human and ork lines met. Men screamed from adrenaline and fury as they stabbed forward, skewering the first orks in line. A few men were cut down by the giant axes wielded by their foes. One ork jumped over the body of a trooper that he had just eviscerated and charged Daria, “choppa” held above his head. As he swung, Daria parried high with her power sword and shot him in the stomach with her other hand. She sidestepped as he fell forward, bleeding profusely. Another charged her from the side, and she stabbed it in the chest and took its head off for its trouble. The energy field that surrounded the sword made passing through even an ork’s thick bones as easy as slicing butter with a razor. She paused momentarily, and was showered with blood and bone fragments that the sergeant’s chainsword had ripped out of another enemy.


Three more approached her, holding spiked clubs. She went to shoot them but her gun simply beeped in protest, having run out of ammunition. There was no time to reload, so she dropped it. She swung forward with her sword and took the left arm of one of the orks. Stubbornly, it continued to flail at her. The other two attacked at the same time. She deflected one blow, parried another, and sliced one ork down the middle. She turned around to strike the other, and looked up… to find a spike embedded deep in her side. She shuddered and fell…


And sat bolt upright in bed. She looked around, shocked, for a moment. She felt her side. There was a large, jagged scar there. She sighed, and collapsed back into the bed. So this is what it feels like to have post-traumatic stress disorder. Wonderful. She rolled onto her side, facing the door. The hallway was still dark.


God, I’m someone else. She wondered vaguely if her family would even recognize her anymore. Probably not. Agitated, she got up again. She didn’t feel tired anymore. She had been sleeping in her underwear, an olive drab green sports bra and panties, and so she turned on her optical implants to search for her clothes. She tapped another tiny button on the side of her temple and the room became reddish and bright to her.


This thing is damn useful, she thought, finding the light switch and turning the night mode back off. She pulled on her fatigue pants and her t-shirt, and looked at the clock. It read 3:00AM. Daria sighed. Feeling vulnerable without any weapons, she strapped her sheath knife to her leg. Daria turned the light off, and walked down to the Lane living room. She looked around, lacking direction. On a whim, she turned the TV on.


I wonder if the channels are the same, she though absentmindedly. She flicked a button on the remote and the channel changed. A familiar eye and spiral logo came up on the screen, followed by a picture of a man with red skin, horns, a robe and a mortarboard hat.


“Classroom number six-six-six? Pentagrammic architecture? Textbooks in old Germanic? Demons in detention? Welcome to the high school from Hell, next, on Sick, Sad, World!”


Daria smirked. Here’s to the simple pleasures in life. She watched TV until the sun came up, and then she made coffee for Jane. She had a long day ahead of her.