From the Transcript of Sergeant James W. Reed
Bravo Company 2nd Platoon “Delta Dogs” – 10 weeks before war
I knew that something was not normal when they had my work detail report to the gymnasium after breakfast chow. The gymnasium was where they made you go when someone was in trouble or some kind of out of the ordinary transfers were going down.
My detail and I walked the corridors leading to the gymnasium in a single file line, just like the ords demanded. Ords was short for Orderlies; a term we used to describe our guards. No need causing trouble or a stir, especially if we were already in for some deep shit already.
When the doors opened and we were ushered in, the first thing that stood out to me was that there were a lot of us gathered which was definitely not normal. Standard prisoner protocol is to not have more than a dozen or so of us in an area at a time; makes it harder to police us and put down any potential riots or any shit that we want to cause.
The gym was packed with what looked like a few hundred of us. They had us lining up, and forming a kind of column facing each other. Each column had about three lines of prisoners each, kind of like some army shit. I say army shit because the reason they were not afraid to pack us all together in one place like that was apparent as soon as you walked through those doors.
They had a whole squad of army guys pointing rifles at us when we entered. Any thought of causing a ruckus or messing around pretty much went away when we saw that.
The other thing I noticed is that for a big place with all of us lined up in, the only noise was the sound of feet moving and ords telling prisoners which line to fall into. Every now and again someone would mutter under their breath asking their buddy in front or behind them if they knew what the fug was going on, but of course none of us did.
I think we all had the feeling of what was going down though. We aint stupid. We may be criminals and we may have done some bad stuff in our lives, but a lot of us weren’t that stupid to not see what was going on. There was some shit going down somewhere close, and we had just been recruited into the army to fight whatever it was that had stirred the hornet’s nest.
My buddy Cooper asked what was going on and another guy behind him confirmed what many were thinking. “We just got enlisted into some shit.” The dude said. A few of us nodded. You hear about it happening a lot, prisoners getting roped into service in the guard and promised their freedom. Truth is that a trooper has an expected life span of roughly eight minutes on the battlefield, and prisoner conscripts about half that. Freedom my ass. The only freedom you could expect was at the end of the barrel of some ork’s stubber.
I didn’t know then what was to come, but boy I tell you… we would have welcomed fighting some orks over what command threw us up against.
So after a bit they have us all standing in this formation in the gymnasium. Everyone’s looking around at the guys next to them and there’s this impending doom on everyone’s mind. Some of the guys start asking questions and getting a bit lippy, but the ords knock the noise down pretty quickly. They feel a bit more confident with all of the army’s rifles on us and to tell you the truth, none of us were really keen on testing their marksmanship.
The main doors to the gymnasium opened up with a bang and in walks some guys dressed up in dress uniform. Medals are all shiny, ribbons displayed, their rank reflecting off of the lights overhead. These guys look super serious and those of us that can see them come in figure that we are about to get some confirmation on what is going down.
So there we are all standing around, and the guys that had served in the military assume a disciplined stance, while the rest of the guys are still all loose and milling about. What appears to be the head guy slowly walks in between the two formations that are facing each other, and starts inspecting us. He holds a tall grey peaked military cap in his gloved hand, and the other hand rests on the pommel of a sword that he has belted. Behind him, a freakishly large ogryn dressed up in his ceremonials keeps pace and the both of them are eyeballing us all without saying a word.
He gets about halfway down the formation when Blue opens his mouth and asks the guy who he is. Blue is one of our gangers on the workline. In the joint, he has some say with the ords. With this army guy he isn’t shit, and the ogryn lets him know by blasting him across the face with that meaty hand of his.
The guys around Blue help pick him up and put him on his feet again, and the officer doesn’t miss a hitch. He keeps walking down the line as if nothing happened. No one else says a thing after that, its all silence and heel clicks until the guy gets to the end of the formation. Once hes done with the walk, he turns around and begins walking back down the formation in the other direction.
“My name is Captain McCottrell, but to you all my name is Sir. The first thing that comes out of your mouth will be my name, and the last thing that comes out of your mouth will be my name. Do we all understand?”
We all mutter that we understand, and make very sure to begin and end our affirmation with the word “sir”.
“That’s very good troopers. In exchange for your service to the Emperor’s armed forces, you will all be granted a pardon upon the completion of your duty. Signed, sealed, and delivered by the administratum themselves! You may be thinking that a pardon does you no good if you are dead, and that we will be sending you directly into harms way! You’d be correct!
“Fortunately for all of you, dying in service should be the last thing on your mind because from this moment forward you will not eat, sleep, or shit without permission. You will most definitely not fugging die without permission. Is that understood?”
Again, we all acknowledge that we will not die without permission. My day has certainly become one of the shittiest days that I have ever woken up to at this point.
“Starting today you are a fine piece of meat, and the Emperor has seen fit to dress and equip you all with the finest of weapons and armor that any fit and fighting solider could want. You will be issued a uniform. You will be issued a mess kit. You will be issued a primer. You will be issued a rifle. You will name your rifle. You will love your rifle. You will fugging marry your rifle because you will possess no better wife in your entire life than your rifle.
“You will learn how to fight the enemies of the Emperor. You will kill them. You will have victory. You will fight together and have victory. From this day forward you are a fighting member of the Delta Dogs, one of the finest fighting forces mankind has seen fit to create to protect the imperium with.
“If any of you have any personal problems with this conscription, then please speak now so that your cowardly ass can be executed on the spot. I just ask that you don’t bleed too much on the floor, because you will only be creating more work for your fellow soldiers to have to clean up after you have departed.”
This guy’s words have a pretty clear impact on all of us, because no one opts out.
“Excellent. I look forward to forging you all into the fine weapons of the Imperium that I know that you can be. We have a lot of work to do men and not a lot of time to do it in, so look around you. The line you are standing in is now your training squad. You will all be best fugging friends. Prepare to fall out and receive your gear and your new bunks. We’re starting the day off with some physical exercise…”
And just like that I went from serving a ten year sentence to being a trooper in the guard. The last thing that went through my head as we were marched out of the gymnasium was “aint this some bullshit.”
I was never very articulate. I’m still not, but seeing some of the shit I saw in the war made me appreciate at least not sounding like a complete uneducated fop, but damn I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish I hadn’t went to sick call that morning…