Treat!

A great choice of subject heading, if only because it gives me an excuse to post this video again. This one never fails to reduce me to helpless giggles.

But there was a real treat for me this week. I actually spent money. This in itself is alarming; I am totally my father’s daughter and would happily sit in the cold and dark to save electricity. I am the original Scrooge and hate parting with money. This is in part because I rarely have any spare. The joys of being a homeowner. But obviously, since I now in effect have two jobs, my income has improved. So I treated myself to a new computer. This is its first blog post. It’s great, too. I put it to the WoW test last night and like some sort of newcomer, I spent a good fifteen minutes just flying around water and marvelling at the ripples. ‘Look!’ I shouted excitedly. ‘I can actually see into the distance!’

What unadulterated joy to have a PC that can play the only games I really enjoy properly. The last PC I had, which has now become Dearly Beloved’s – he games on the consoles – was an emergency buy after my previous computer just curled up one day and refused to ever start up ever again. Thus, it was a cheap ‘n’ cheerful off the shelf at PC World job. This little devil has come from here – and I tell you something, I can’t recommend these people enough. Their understanding of customer service is exemplary. From the very nice and completely honest sales guy to the fella who loaded the PC into the boot of my car on Wednesday, they were courteous, efficient and polite. They came highly recommended and I’m  happy to pass that recommendation on still further.

Of course, this is me we’re talking about. Thus, nothing ever goes QUITE to plan. In this instance it was entirely down to my own stupidity. It went something like this:

Wednesday 26th October

  • 12:30pm: Receive phone call to say my PC is available for collection. I am super-thrilled by this. I elected to come and collect is as the company are only about 30 miles away and it’s much easier than making arrangements for someone to be in to receive delivery. Plus… saving on shipping cost. See: earlier Scrooge comment.
  • 3:30pm: Leave work in a state of childish excitement. Drive up A1 to Gateshead and locate company. Watch with glee as PC is loaded into boot of car. Try not to perform happy dance in front of nice techy guys.
  • 4.30pm: Pop into PC World to buy a 4-way extension socket. Have recently rearranged the room in the house where the computers live and will need an extension lead.
  • 5.15pm: Get home. Unpack PC with great sounds of glee. Extension socket is long enough. Transplant my monitor from old PC to new. Plug everything in.
  • Except the monitor.
  • Because I have a VGA cable.
  • The graphics card has either DVI, HDMI or USB connectors on the back. Wish as hard as I might, no amount of swearing will turn the VGA connector in my hand into a DVI one.
  • Swear.
  • Curse.
  • Swear again.
  • It’s still a VGA cable.
  • 5:45pm: Realise that PC World down in Stockton will probably be open until 7pm.

    Yep. This is familiar.

  • Reach front door.
  • Walk back again. Check monitor. Yes, there’s a DVI socket in there. VGA-DVI? DVI-DVI? I don’t know about such things. I’ll go and check. Although given my past experience with the staff of PC World, I don’t know why I think they’ll know any more than I do.
  • Break speed limit down A19 and arrive at PC World at 6.15pm.
  • 6.25pm: Am scratching head because of a simple bit of wording on a cable package. It’s a DVI-VGA lead. Which seems straightforward enough. But the package says ‘THIS CABLE WILL CONNECT A VGA CONNECTOR ON A PC TO YOUR HD MONITOR’. Mine’s the other way around. It’ll work, won’t it? SURELY it’ll work?
  • 6.30pm: Still looking puzzled. ‘Hello there,’ says Nice PC World Employee. ‘Can I help you.’
  • Explain crisis.
  • Nice PC World Employee looks horrified at my question. ‘I… I… I’m not sure,’ he stammers, equally confused by the wording on the package.
  • 6.35pm: Spot DVI-HDMI cable. Thrust lesser VGA-based purchase at Nice PC World Employee and run to checkout. Buy it on premise that if it doesn’t work, I can take it back. Leave PC World wishing I knew about such things. Imagine Nice PC World Employee sobbing onto shoulders of colleagues who pat him sympathetically on the back.
  • 7.00pm: Get home. Plug things into other things. Push button. PC works.
  • And there was much rejoicing.

So all in all it proved to be highly entertaining if nothing else.

On Writing

Another pretty spiffy review of The Gildar Rift can be found at the Founding Fields website here. For the most part, feedback for TGR has been pretty positive and that’s made me happy. Had a message from a guy who read Accursed Eternity who said that it actually scared the living daylights out of him. Given that it was essentially written as a W40k horror story, I feel it safe to say ‘mission accomplished’.

BL released the cover art for Valkia the Bloody yesterday. It’s by the ultra-talented Cheol Joo Lee (whose incredible work may be seen in more detail here. A particular favourite of mine is this sketch). I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been to have two such awesome cover artists for my first two books in Cheol and Jon Sullivan. The Valkia piece is exquisite: Cheol has such an eye for detail and although this is a low-res version and doesn’t really do her justice, you can still see how deliciously evil she is.

Valkia the Bloody

B-b-b-b-b-b-b-bad to the bone...

So Valkia the Bloody is released in July 2012, but in the meantime there’s a short story in the upcoming anthology Age of Legend, due out in January next year. I get to share space alongside other illustrious Black Library folk such as Andy Hoare, Nick Kyme, Gav Thorpe, C.L. Werner and Ben Counter to name just a few! Now… it just so happens that the final treat for this blog entry is a signed copy of that anthology for the person who can entertain me the most by writing the rest of this limerick…

There once was a Blood God called Khorne…

Competition open until Monday 31st October.

Blood for the blood god!

Bonjour!

Because, you know. French and whatever. Not So Small Anymore Son has spent the last week in France with the school. I only ever went on one trip with the school and that was the ski trip when I was in the second year. Or what they now call Year 8. I get confused by this new-fangled stuff. The ski trip was the thing of nightmares; a comedy of errors that only I could get caught up in (literally caught up in the Incident With The Drag Lift) and to this day, anything by the Stray Cats will set me off on a chain of memories that lead to night sweats and sheer terror. This track in particular.

Get the rockabilly vibe.

That track was on my Walkman whilst we drove down the autobahn at insane o’clock. Everyone else was asleep. I can’t sleep in transit, so I was staring out the window at the huge snowdrifts and listening to my Stray Cats tapes (note: young people, Google it. Cassette tapes. You haven’t lived until you’ve had to wind the entire spool back into the tape with a pencil).

And then my Walkman refused to work any more. It ate the Stray Cats tape. And I was sans music for the rest of the journey and had to listen to the person behind me snoring like a walrus with a cold being hacked to death by a chainsword. It was the first omen in what would prove to be a… bizarre week. Involving drag lifts (as mentioned), the absolute certainty that I was about to die, being teased because I was the only girl on the trip who liked the A-Team…

I discovered several things during that school trip so many years ago.

  1. I hate cassette tapes.
  2. I can’t sleep in transit.
  3. Never catch a drag lift and go up leg-first.
  4. There are fences in the most unexpected places on mountain edges. Just because you are careening towards a sheer drop doesn’t mean you will die. Do not suddenly wish you were religious. Instead, save your energy to save face after the inevitable collision with said fence and tangle of limbs that ensues.
  5. Side-stepping down the entire mountain is tiring. But the only option for several of us who’d never been skiing before and were told to ski to the bottom. Alone.
  6. I hate skiing.
  7. Liking the A-Team is fine.

I also discovered the joy that is Ritter Sport Marzipan during that trip. I still go all foamy at the mouth if I see it and have to buy it.

Anyway… that was in 19… er… it was quite a long time ago. I remember that in the middle of the week, everyone crowded round the pay phone with a handful of schillings and called home to our anxious parents to reassure them that we were Still Alive And Hadn’t Fallen Down A Mountainside. One phone call for the length of the entire week. The Small’s school are modern and hip and all that jazz. They video blogged the day’s events every day of the French trip. The Small sent me a text every night.

I turned into a complete voyeur in this last week. I would sit impatiently on the school’s website waiting for the video blog to upload. Then I would watch a bunch of kids I don’t know getting up to an assortment of antics in a French town I’d never heard of in an effort to catch a glimpse of my son. There’s the back of his head, I would say, hopefully. Dearly Beloved would shake his head. ‘No?’ ‘No. That’s his elbow, just out of shot, there.’

That may be a little unfair. He did show up in a couple of shots, and my word, he looked bored. Whether it was just an unfortunate camera moment or whether he actually was bored remains to be seen; he’s home today and he’s coming here tomorrow from his dad’s, so I plan to take him to lunch (probably not baguettes) and interrogate him.

Also, I’m glad he’s home.

In other news, Accursed Eternity, my novella from the Architect of Fate Space Marines Battles book went live as an ebook today over at the Black Library site. I love the blurb. It goes…

An Architect of Fate novella. Space Marines of the Blood Swords and Star Dragons Chapters are enlisted by Inquisitor Remigius of the Ordo Malleus to storm the infamous daemonship known as the Accursed Eternity. But all is not as it first appears, and what should have been a relatively simple mission rapidly devolves into a hellish warp-spawned nightmare – the stage is set for a galaxy-spanning tale of Chaotic intrigue and of a war which has lasted for ten-thousand years…

And the cover for the ebook is ultra-pretty:

Accursed Eternity

Looking for a good time? You took a wrong turning, me laddo. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA etc.

Edits for Valkia the Bloody are going very well; up to chapter 13 of 17, so that should be in to the Editor Beast by Sunday. Then I have what we shall call Project: Bedfellows to crack on with and there’s a couple of other Things in the pipeline. Also, there’s another couple of pre-release Gildar Rift signings – one in Durham on 12th November and the other at Warhammer World on 19th November.

Busy, busy!

Love it.

Au revoir!

Breather

I hit the completed first draft of Valkia the Bloody last night, reasonably ahead of schedule. Gives me lots of editing time which I’m pleased about. I’ve enjoyed writing this book and I’m actually looking forward to going back and reading it again. I’m one of those writers who prefers to get everything down… to capture the actual story and then go back and get editing. I suspect that as I keep moving forward, I’ll change that practise, but for now, that’s how I roll.

That’s how I roll. Reminds me of this cartoon that Jon Green posted earlier today. It made me chuckle. Thus… sharing.

*snarfle*

So. Now that Valkia is at first draft status, this means I can take a wee bit of a breather. And it will have to be a tiny break as I need to finish up Project: Blimey, Who’d Have Thunk? Over the last six months, I’ve written so much stuff that I can hardly remember whether up is down or left is right. Everything is such a whirlwind. The ‘day’ job has been hellishly busy which has meant that I’ve been pretty tired when I get in from work. In a ‘meh, I’m tired, I don’t wanna write’ kind of a way. It’s impeded on my precious World of Warcraft time, has meant I haven’t really had a proper go at Space Marine yet… and yet I love it. I love how busy I am.

Life is good.

Heading down to Warhammer World this Saturday (15th October) for another scribbling session, in the company of the illustrious C.Z. Dunn who will similiarly be scribbling over copies of his W40k game book, Hive of the Dead. I’ve not yet got my grubbies on a copy of this tome, but I intend to on Saturday. By Sunday, I fully intend to be emailing him and whining about how crap I am at game books. I was always dreadful at the Fighting Fantasy games years ago and I suspect that dreadfulness will have been ported into adulthood. My brother always used to tell me I was a terrible cheat.

Speaking of brothers (which we were in a roundabout sort of a way), check out this uber-picture of the Primarchs by Neil Roberts. Clicky for details.

Imagine popping out onto the balcony for a quick ciggie and finding this lot standing there.

What else can I regale you with? Not a lot, really. The nights are getting darker and we now have to switch the bedroom light on when the alarm goes off. Soon, the clocks will go back and winter will have us in its grip. This is actually fine by me, I like winter. As long as any snow we have this year doesn’t hang around. Nothing personal against snow other than I hate driving in it. I trust my own ability to drive in the snow and ice, but my word… some of the muppets who insist that WHITE STUFF DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING TO ME and still hurtle along at break-neck speed… they scare me senseless.

*shudder*

Right, enough rambling, I’m going to go fire up Valkia and start nudging it about. Not too hard, she’s a reasonably scary wench and I don’t think she would take too kindly to being nudged about unnecessarily.

EDITED TO ADD…

Dan posted this picture, taken at Games Day on his blog earlier. I love it. We’re not QUITE as impressive as the Primarchs, but a motley crew nonetheless.

The Writist Squad muster for battle. Or it may actually have been mustering for dinner. I forget. Whatever.

The Great British Public… and other animals

Greetings, programmes!

So, I got to take a trip to the Games Workshop store in the Plaza on Oxford Street at the weekend. In London. All by myself. Well, I travelled all by myself. I was greeted at Kings Cross by my dad and brother who travelled up to meet me for lunch. Which was very pleasant indeed. It was about a gazillion degrees, which is slightly unnatural for the 1st October and three and a half hours on the train left me feeling decidedly warm.

I joined up with the very delightful Nick Kyme who was signing copies of his latest release, Nocturne. It’s the last book in his highly enjoyed Tome of Fire trilogy. I finished it on Saturday morning before I left for London and in response to his ‘how did you find it’ question, I gave him a lower lip sad look. I’ve enjoyed the series and am sad that it’s over.

It was a highly enjoyable afternoon of signing copies of The Gildar Rift and meeting more incredibly nice people – including fine folks from the Bolthole, the Overlords and one guy I’ve known for about 23 years and who I haven’t seen for over 10. He came into town just to see me, which was outstandingly decent of him. The mighty James Swallow rolled by to give us support (and to eat my Haribo) and it’s always a pleasure to see him.

Much fun was had; Nick and I were photographed shooting each other with plastic flint lock pistols… (the store had gone all piratical in honour of the release of Dread Fleet. Which is, by the way, utterly gorgeous and is sitting on the side waiting to be played).

This is what happens when an author turns in a late manuscript. No, really.

Finished the signing and crossed Very Hot London back to Kings Cross for my 17:30 train back home. Got onto the train with ten minutes to spare, found my seat and settled down with my copy of Hammer & Anvil (I’d finished Faith & Fire on the way up to London*) and got comfy.

17:35, the driver announced that there was a ‘problem on the train and that engineers were working on fixing it.’

17:55, the driver sheepishly announced that ‘the engineers couldn’t fix the problem, but THAT’S OK PEOPLE! If you cross the platform, that train next to you will take you where you need to be.

In the traditional scrum that ensues in these situations, I crammed everything back into my backpack and followed everyone else across the platform onto the other train. I re-settled and caught the eye of the lady sitting opposite.

‘Is this train going to Darlington?’

‘I hope so,’ I replied with a rueful smile. ‘If it does, then I’m going in the right general direction.’

‘Me too,’ piped up the fella opposite her. ‘I’m going to Newcastle.’

We chuckled about the confusion of it all and established, quite cheerfully, that OK, we were now 30 minutes late, but if we were on the wrong train, we would all have a Great Adventure together and wouldn’t be lonely. It was all lighthearted and a lot of fun.

18:00 (ish), the train pulls out of the station.

18:02, the woman sitting in front of me starts to complain. She complains that she’s late. She complains that she’s not in the seat she was reserved (note: the train was half-empty and was de-classified. She could have sat in First Fecking Class if she’d wanted to). She complains that it’s too hot on the train. She complains that the wi-fi is a bit rubbish. She complains about everything. She has a go at first the refreshment chap and then the ticket inspector. Then she has a go at the refreshment chap as he goes by a second time.

She complained.

And complained.

And COMPLAINED.

All the way to Doncaster. When she got off, about seven people in the carriage genuinely cheered. I wasn’t one of them, but I was joining in silently. Seriously. It was the most irritating thing I’ve ever heard on a train. It was the fact that she eventually started complaining about pathetic things. The coffee didn’t taste right. The sky was the wrong shade of blue.

When I was growing up, my dad worked for what was then British Rail. I always remember a little poem he told me about the communication cord, for which you get a fine if you pull it without good reason. It used to be £50. Do they even have them any more? Or would you just Tweet up to the driver and say ‘STOP THE TRAIN!’ ?

I digress.

The poem went:

If fifty pounds you can afford
Then try your strength upon this cord
If fifty pounds you do not own
Then leave the bloody thing alone.

I tell you what, I’d have paid £50 gladly to get this woman put off the train. I’d have paid £100 if she had been THROWN off.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? She was so typical of people in this country. Lightning fast to complain, but never comment when they receive good customer service. Once, in Sainsbury’s, there was a checkout lady who was just so, so nice. She saw I was struggling with a full load of shopping and a then-one year old baby and she helped me pack and even told off the person behind me when they tutted loudly about how slowly the queue was moving. I stopped at the customer service desk on the way out and asked for a form so I could leave a compliment and thank you note for the member of staff.

The two girls behind the counter blinked slowly and looked at each other.

‘I… think we have something like that…’

‘Hold on.’

The one disappeared behind the counter and then re-emerged with a sheaf of paper that had a layer of dust about seven inches thick on top of it. Spiders had lived and died for generations on that pile of paper. Archaeologists could have found evidence of tiny civilisations if they’d looked hard enough.

The vocal minority likes to complain far too much. Let’s start a new trend! Why not make it a focus, the next time you receive great customer service, to compliment the person behind the counter who smiles at you? Or to tell their manager on the way out the door? Or to phone their head office and say ‘so and so was great – thank you!’ My mother worked for years in a shop and she always got a huge kick out of people thanking her. She gave me many tips for life and one of those was ‘thank you costs nothing and means everything’.

With that in mind, thank you for listening to this brief rant.

And in my writing-related news roundup:

  • my latest short story, Bitter End – featuring Huron Blackheart being a back-stabby git – is now available in the latest ish of Hammer & Bolter (12).
  • Valkia the Bloody is now more than 85% complete and should probably hit first draft stage in the next couple of weeks.
  • I am swamping my poor editor with ideas. He may have drowned by now.
  • The Gildar Rift is due out on 5th December, but there are at least two more signing events planned – 12th November at Games Workshop in Durham and 19th November at Warhammer World in Nottingham. There may be more yet… watch this space!
  • Check out this pretty damn fine advance review (spoiler free!) of The Gildar Rift by the illustrious Shadowhawk.

Happy Book Day!

So. Picture the scene if you would.

I’m sitting in Bugman’s Bar. It’s mid-morning and I started the day with a bacon roll. Which was very tasty. I’ve had a conversation with my editor about stuff that’s already been written and about stuff that’s going to be written. He goes off for a meeting, with a view to having another one with me at 2pm. Not So Small Son and Dearly Beloved are out in the gaming hall, where DB is crushing the orks under the righteous boot of the Imperium.

I’m sat with a cup of coffee, my laptop and Valkia the Bloody. All is well with the world.

Editor re-appears from the Super Sekrit Door that leads to the mysterious depths of BL Towers.

‘Thought you might like this,’ he says. And puts this in my hand.

The Gildar Rift

HOLY HOCKEYSTICKS, THAT'S MY BOOK

Yep. That’s it. The Gildar Rift. My first novel finally printed and in a physical, tangible form. For the last few months, it’s been digital. Digital text, digital images, digital four-page-colour insert. All great fun, but not really real. This however, is a book. It looks like a book. Riffling its pages releases that wonderful New Book smell. It has the dedication in it. And above everything else, more than the story, more than the cover art, this was the thing that did it. This was the moment that put tears in my eyes. I went straight to it.

For my mum, who always told me I could, but never got to say ‘I told you so’, and to my dad – for everything.

NSSS and DB were still out in the gaming hall and the editor-beast sloped back to the office. I’m not ashamed to admit that it was a hugely emotional moment for me. I rang my dad. I wanted my daddy. I read him the dedication and he got all emotional too – but in an entirely good way. He said he was proud of me. And that released a fresh new wave of Awesome.

Today was a magical day. And there are so many people who supported me this far… too many to name, but I just want to give a shout out to a few specific people.

Lee, RayeRaye and Jefficles. Without whom I would have given up halfway through chapter four.

The Combined Super-Might of Graham McNeill, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Dan Abnett and James Swallow. Without whom I would never have even had the nerve to do *anything*. By their powers combined, they were infinite wells of support and knowledge.

The Editor-beast. For dealing with my tantrums.

NSSS and DB. Who know.

The Boltholers. Who rock.

The Tuesday Night Group. Who must hate me, but never said anything.

I am proud beyond reason. And more than anything, the fact I’m 3/4 way through writing Valkia tells me that it won’t be the last time I feel this way.

Today is a good day.

Two Down, Three To Go… (Or: The Importance of Numbers)

…days, that is. Until I have a break from the Day Job for a couple of weeks. We’re not going on holiday or anything like that… mostly we’re staying here and getting some household things sorted out. There will be trips, no doubt. There are too many castles and bits of old Roman wall up in this neck of the woods to resist!

Housesteads Roman Fort

Housesteads Roman Fort. Where the view probably hasn't changed an awful lot since the Romans packed up and left.

The Day Job isn’t so bad just now. After recently having a very good conversation with a friend, I simply tried shifting my perspective a little and it’s been very good advice. I’ve applied it to several situations and all in all, things are pretty much ticking along in the world of work without too much hardship. Things have eased off considerably now that the team is back up to full strength again; we’ve had a few months where we’ve been struggling to cope with our own workloads and those of two full time members of staff who’ve either moved onto new things or gone on maternity leave. But we’re all still alive, so things are good. So that’s the Day Job. Two days of this week down, three to go. Numbers, numbers, numbers.

The Other Job though… man. I’m so, so busy right now with so much going on that I keep having to pinch myself. The bulk of work I’m doing is for the Black Library – biggest project being Valkia the Bloody, with a couple of other smaller things going on. There’s also two or three non-BL projects going on as well which whilst they aren’t eating up as much of my time are still pretty hectic. I’m still keeping myself to a limit though: if I spent all night every night when I got in writing I’d go quietly mad. More mad. Your mileage, as they say, may vary. My daily 1,000 word base target has recently increased to 1,200 minimum (on ALL projects, not on each) and that’s going well. Those extra 200 words make a hellish difference to an overall word count and thus do wonders for your morale.

For example, I just went over the halfway mark for Valkia the Bloody. I’m not quite at my end of August target, but if I keep up the 1,200 words per day between now and then, I’ll be 8k ABOVE it. Whilst this doesn’t mean that I’ll back off and slow the pace, it certainly gives me a bit of room to breathe during my two weeks off. Knowing I won’t be sitting there day after day muttering to myself whilst attempting to do housework, entertain Small and the Chimp and generally enjoy being off work is very encouraging.

So yes. Numbers are important. I was always interested in ‘how many words have I written’ in the days when I was writing short stories and that’s now become something massively important. I’m more and more frequently being asked for advice and stuff like that (gawd, people, don’t ask me – I’m only PRETENDING I know anything!) And so here’s the advice based on the numbers game.

Word counting is important… but it’s not the be-all-end-all of what you’re doing. If you only write 450 words a day, as long as they are words that you are happy with… as long as they are words that progress the story, even if only a little, then be content. Think that 450 words is better than no words. Because that’s not only accurate, it’s true.

If you don’t make your target… don’t beat yourself up about it. Ladies and germs, this is definitely a DO WHAT I SAY, NOT WHAT I DO situation. Savvy?

Be realistic… about your targets. If you work full time and do your writing in that sneaky little space between getting home and before the family gets in (like I do), don’t go ‘I can achieve 5,000 words in that time and if I don’t, I’ll NEVER DO IT etc., etc., etc.’ Work out what’s reasonable and realistic for you. If you aren’t on a formal deadline, great – but it’s well worth the practise. I get away with getting a lot of words into  a short space because I can touch-type. Very fast. In fact, whenever I’m typing, it sounds like herds of wildebeest. And these guys are not sweeping majestically across the plains; no. These fellas are stampeding. An aside: learn to touch-type if you can’t already. One of the best skills I ever learned – even more so now that I am writing!

OK, that’s enough of that. There will be more advice (bad, good or whatever) at some point. When I remember to blog, mostly.

In the meantime, I was invited to write a guest blog for Civilian Reader, which you can see here.

And stealing the idea shamelessly from the illustrious Jim Swallow, here’s a sort of ‘Coming Soon’… there’s some other things too, but because I’m still new at this, I never know what I can and can’t talk about!

Zomgoose. I have signing events.

September 25th – Games Day UK, Birmingham NEC, signing pre-release copies of The Gildar Rift
November 12th – Signing copies of The Gildar Rift at Games Workshop, Durham
November 19th –
Signing copies of The Gildar Rift at Warhammer World, Nottingham
May 2012 – Release of The Architect of Fate, including my novella-length story ‘Accursed Eternity‘.
July 2012 – Release of Valkia the Bloody

And as a final inclusion… just look at this beeeeeeeeyooooootiful Space Marine.

Look at it.

A Son of Sanguinius just standing there. AND HE'S STILL COOL WHILST HE'S DOING IT.

Extract From ‘The Gildar Rift’

THE TRIO OF Vindicators formed a superb rolling barrier and their effectiveness was soon put to the test when the first shots from the refinery gate turrets were fired. More than capable of holding up to the task, the massive tanks held their return fire. Once they were within range, Daviks and his Devastators would deploy from the Rhinos and take care of the guns. The tanks would use their shorter range weaponry to flatten the walls.

The highway leading to the gates of the refinery was well-used and as straight as a die affording the advancing company an unobstructed view of what lay ahead. The gates were closed and barred, but such things were not designed to repel Space Marines.  Given the size of the approaching force the gates were akin to holding up a hand to stop a bolt shell.

As the vehicles moved, the ground beneath them shook, small pebbles flying and rebounding off the armour of the Silver Skulls beneath them with dull thud noises. The cloud of red dust that cocooned them was so thick it would have been choking without the filters of their helmets. Apart from the rumble of the Vindicators and the Rhino transports which followed them, combined with the sound of the Space Marine’s boots snapping against the rock, there was no other noise. There was no out-of-place squeaking or groaning of over-stressed metal from the vehicles. The Silver Skulls’ attention to the repairs and maintenance of their vehicular support was every bit as minute as the care they gave their weapons and armour. Behind the well-armoured transports the company bikes cruised, their engines purring at a low ebb.

The two immense Dreadnoughts who marched with them did so without comment, hissing hydraulics and mechanical clanking accompanying their movements. The casing of the venerable warriors was etched in beautiful filigree work that depicted the honour tattoos they had worn in life. Each deeply worked groove had been crafted with care by the chapter’s artisans.

Occasionally, a sliver of steel-grey armour could be glimpsed through the red cloud.

High calibre shells spewing from the gate turrets began tearing up the road ahead, gouging out fist-sized chunks of plascrete and occasionally thumping harmlessly from the heavy armoured exteriors of the siege tanks. The fire was wildly misplaced, sporadic and inaccurate, but without the protective cover of the vehicles would otherwise have presented a serious threat to the Space Marines on foot.

At a hand signal, several warriors fanned out from the marching group, increasing their pace as they traversed the rocky outcrop either side of the road. No longer approaching in a column, the Silver Skulls began to form a v-shape attack squad.

‘Garnet, Onyx, report.’ Matteus sought for an update from the two assault squads who were even now making their way down the mountains either side of the refinery. Once the anti-aircraft weaponry was disabled, then the Thunderhawks could make their first pass and clear the gates and the front of the compound.

‘Target sighted. Estimate ten minutes to contact.’ Emareas’s voice was curt and clipped through the vox. Dyami suggested eight minutes. Emareas countered with seven. It seemed that the two squads were descending in relatively perfect symmetry. Matteus knew both sergeants well and didn’t doubt for a moment that they were engaged in what they referred to as ‘friendly’ competition as to who would succeed in their objective first. It was a moment of harmless frivolity that promoted enthusiasm.

‘Maintain contact,’ said Matteus. ‘Deploy together, whoever gets there first.’ He knew that they would, but it did not hurt to remind them.

The winding column of Silver Skulls advancing determinedly toward the gate had closed to within a few hundred yards of the structure, coordinating their approach with that of the flanking squads. Daviks’s plan called for the assault to be simultaneous on all fronts and that goal was within moments of being achieved. Closeted within the billowing plumes of dust and shielded by their tanks, the Silver Skulls presented difficult targets for the traitors manning the turrets. Such an incidental detail did not stop them pouring fire on their attackers.

Thunder rumbled once again in the mountains.