Remorseless by Josh Reynolds. A Legion of the Damned short story, originally published by The Black Library, October 2013. Approx. 25 pages.
I will be completely honest right off the bat here; even with two more stories in the Legion of the Damned series to go, I don't think any will top Remorseless. This is a story written by an author who "gets" the universe he is writing in. And it is a story in which different types of troops, using different styles of tactics, are written properly.
On the shrine world of Wayfarer, Hive Coramonde is under siege by the Iron Warriors (for the uninitiated, these are Traitor Space Marines that are the best in the universe in the siege business). On a somewhat brighter note, the residents on the hive are being assisted by the Imperial Fists, best in the universe at defending fortifications. Alas, the siege has been protracted quite a while, and the defenses are withering.
Taking down the hive, however, is not the Iron Warriors only motive. There are treasures on Wayfarer, treasures of a value beyond estimation; the progenoid glands of the Imperial Fists. These glands are a prize worth fighting a war for.
Remorseless centers on Skaranx, who is what is known as a "gland hound". I don't know if Reynolds coined this term, but if he did, he deserves a lot of credit. The blurb for this story states that it follows a "traitor guardsman", but Skaranx is so much more than that. He has been genetically enhanced to a level of being just below the skill set of your average Astartes. He is pumped full of drugs and stimulants before each hunt, and he is given a retinue of bullet sponges to help him complete his task.
But on this day, as he is unleashed on a gland hunt, something is different. Very different. As he harries a rather resourceful Fist, he keeps seeing ominous shadows just outside of the vision. Then a ghostly chatter begins to cloud his vox....
Okay, since this is a LotD story, it's a foregone conclusion where this is heading. So how did Reynolds fare in his depiction of the Legion? Wonderfully. This is the closest thing to a perfect representation of them that I have seen since Sander's novel. He plays up their fearful physicality superbly. And just when you start to wonder why their tactics differ somewhat from other appearances, he reveals a nice little twist.
It is not just his depictions of the Legion that I laud here, Reynolds writes with a colorful flourish throughout. He paints a wide horizon of a hive under siege, from the crushing artillery to the cannon fodder advancing through the trenches, to gore-soaked details of the handiwork of chainswords and grenades.
The characterization of Skaranx is very well done; he is given a personality strong enough to carry the text. He is as envious as he is proud; determined, and resourceful. One line in particular stood out to me in summarizing Skaranx's aspirations:
"He wondered what it would be like to be an angel, clad in baroque armour and wading through oceans of blood and eternities of slaughter."
If there is any minor quibble I have with Remorseless, it is that some themes get repeated quite a bit. I can understand that Skaranx might be repeating the same mantras over and over in his head, as a way to psyche himself up for the task at hand, so I won't dwell on it.
All in all, if you plan on reading only one of these Legion of the Damned story, make Remorseless the one.
Here's what it is:
A genetically engineered super soldier of the Iron Warriors sent out to harvest progenoid glands gets an unforgiving lesson in what it feels like to be prey.
Same as the rest, but with a nice blood red hue.
Cover Final Score: