(This is Warhammer 40k fan fiction. Everything other than the main character and his unit is copyright of Games Workshop, used without their permission but hopefully with their indulgence.)
The recording transcribed here was collected during the recovery of bodies in the aftermath of a campaign against the ork corsairs in Segmentum Pacificus, during which the 401st Purganto was overrun and massacred. The speaker has been identified from remains in the destroyed bunker as Sgt. Pard Geram, who had been with the 401st for ten standard years. It is not clear why he recorded this, but it serves as his last words.
“All the others are dead or missing. I woke up and Kerath, who’d been on watch, was gone. What happened to him I can’t say but these damn greenskins can be sneaky bastards when they want. Why they left me I can’t imagine. Or maybe I can. Anyone who thinks orks are stupid hasn’t battled against them. They want me to suffer…
“I’m not done yet, you miserable green murderous bastards!
(Incoming artillery shells can be heard)
“That’s our own artillery turned against us.The greenskins overran a Basilisk position a few days ago, looted the guns and turned them against us. They’re miserable shots. They like the noise of the big guns. More likely to blow themselves up than anything else… though at this point a stray shell dropping on my head might not be the worst thing.
“It doesn’t matter anymore though, does it? Maybe it never did. I’ve put in my time and done it with whatever sad attempt at pride a man like me could muster. I’ve come to believe that humanity is a shit stain upon the galaxy. I wish I’d been born and died on one of those backward, out of the way planets and remained ignorant of the rest of the galaxy.
“They tell us we serve the Emperor of all humankind, who sacrificed himself to save us from Chaos Undivided, or the green hordes, even from ourselves.They tell us we are the first line of defense against xenos and heretics and chaos and things that go bump in the night… the hammer of the Imperium, the Emperor’s fist!
“This the damned priests would have us believe. They should save their lies for the new recruits, who need inspiration to give up their lives for the greater glory of the Golden Throne. Words are nothing more than a thin veil drawn across the truth: we are nothing more than barely armored and lightly armed meat bags, commanded by idiots who feed us into the grinder by the millions. We are shot, burnt, exploded and torn to pieces by every horror the galaxy has to offer. No victory but death, or so they say.
“If you you’ve been in the Guard and survived with your limbs and sanity intact then you were likely in the Munitorum and I don’t have the spit to spare for you.
“I’ve seen entire regiments of new recruits decimated before they had a chance to reload. I’ve seen whole worlds burnt to a crisp. I’ve killed the servants of the archenemy, xenos, and things I can’t begin to describe or explain across worlds beyond my ability to recall.
“My body is broken. My lungs were grown in a vat as a replacement for the damage done while fighting a bunch of heretics on some industrial hive world. I’ve been stitched back together by the chirugeons more times than I can remember.
“And for what… the glory of the Imperium?
“I don’t know much about this galaxy. I sleep, eat and shit and if I’m lucky I get to fuck a Guard provided whore when I’m not slaughtering the enemies of the Emperor. I was born to serve and it’s likely I’m going to die on this shithole of a planet.
“What happens after that is like the rest of my life: out of my control, no matter what the Ecclesiarchy priests tell us. Any afterlife can go fuck itself. A seat at the Emperor’s table? I think any reasonable soldier would know that’s a lie and who in their right mind would want to eat with a ten-thousand year old corpse?
“Commissar Vindlu would shoot me on the spot if she merely suspected I was thinking this, much less said it aloud and that’s just the way it is. There is no doubt she would quite enjoy blowing my brains out, after all the trouble I’ve given her. Even the life debt she owes me would be conveniently forgotten. Order must be maintained. I would not be missed, no matter how many scars prove my worth.
“It doesn’t matter now though, does it? I’ll be dead before dawn, shredded by the next wave of those bastard greenskins. How much ammunition is left… I’ve got one fully charged cell and a couple of frags. I’ve got my knives but I can tell you it’s about as easy to knife an orc to death as it is to eat the crap they feed us without gagging… but I’ll go down killing because we don’t roll over and die without a fight. Not in the 401st we don’t.
“At least I won’t have to see the inside of that filthy troop ship again. That almost makes dying down here in the muck worthwhile.
“Here comes the damn artillery again. By the Throne how I wish they’d do whatever it is they’re going to do. I can’t raise anyone on the vox. I don’t even know if the lines are still intact. My last orders were to hold to the last and so I hold. I am the last…”
(The recording ends abruptly.)