True Tales from the Great Crusade
Auguste felt the trooper from Earth release him. Still, he marched forward.
"Look up, soldier," the man said from behind him.
Wearily, Auguste looked up. Light! He could see a cluster of campfires and hear voices carrying on the crisp air. The Imperial Army! There was not much left of it, but there was enough. Enough for one more soldier. "We're saved!"
"You are," the Terran agreed.
Auguste turned to look at his savior. Soft light illuminated his pale form. Slowly, the trooper removed his coat and tossed it to Auguste.
"Take this," he said, "as a reminder. Remember. He has not left you. He is waiting for you. The days of Mankind's glory will end one day, but not today, soldier."
Catching the heavy cloth, Auguste nodded.
"Yes. You have reminded me. I almost forgot myself out there. Come, friend, to the warmth of the Imperial Army."
The man merely shook his head. "No. You will go. You will warm your bones and march again. I must go back. Back to the others." He turned around and walked away.
A gasp fled August's dry lips. He leapt back and clutched his chest. He had seen the wound on the trooper's chest, but now, without his coat on, he could see the grievous damage to his back. He could see splintered bones, a gaping hole, and far too much dried blood for any man to have lost and still live. He watched, mouth agape, as the figure trudged back into the featureless snow and darkness. Within moments he was gone.
From the darkness the trooper of the Geno Five-Two Chiliad called out, "Long live the Emperor!"
Blinking, Auguste stepped back. He walked towards the firelight and the comrades whom he had so nearly lost.
"Long live the Emperor," he whispered.
And thus did Auguste de Rivera of Cherbourg Trois live to fight another day.
########## SUPPRESSED FOR HERETICAL CONTENT BY ORDER OF THE INQUISITION