SHOCKED INTO CONSCIOUSNESS he chokes on a foul rag stuffed almost too far into his mouth. Slowly the roaring noises assailing him coalesce into recognisable low gothic and with it is weary resignation he shrugs his shoulders against vehement instructions for him to open his eyes. A wry smile threatens the corners of his cracked and broken lips at the absurdity of his situation, but too late he realises this is a mistake. His head is yanked back by the hair and harsh light penetrates his eyelids in a red glow so vividly painful it makes him almost glad they are too swollen and gummed up to open.
He realises he should have expected it, but the punch catches him unaware. Red light flashes white then black and time seems to slow, each moment lasting forever. He feels his cheek bone giving way even as the chair rises into the air until it balances precariously on a single leg. Then it topples backwards, the impact focussed on his bound wrists and he feels each incremental agony as his left wrist bends too far and snaps.
Real-time returns as a muffled scream is dragged from the depths of his lungs, echoing far louder in his head than can be heard past the gag. Blessed darkness descends and with the dulled realisation that he has thwarted his captors, the smile returns to his lips, but before oblivion can fully claim him the world returns in a rush. He had barely registered the hypodermic needle as it was forced into his arm, but the flood of stimm it delivers cannot be ignored, adrenaline burns through his body and despite the pain, his eyes tear apart the matted residue that holds them shut. Involuntary tears form quickly and he blinks them away rapidly allowing images to form out of the previously blurred darkness. His prison is dark and dank from disuse, mould and rot have loosened sections of plaster so they hang like cocoons of pestilence from the decrepit walls but his focus is drawn to the heavy pair of black grox hide boots surrounded by a full length jacket made of the same midnight material. The cold concrete pressing against his intact cheek reminds him that the approaching boots aren't, as they appear to be, walking up a wall and he can make out the steel inserts layered into the utilitarian soles as their owner transfers his weight to the balls of his feet. Something cold and unrelenting presses against his temple and for a moment he believes he is about to die, then it trails slowly across his forehead before swinging freely before his eyes. Light glints from the polished gun-metal surround, but it is the flash of red that makes him regret that it hadn't been a pistol against his temple after all.
"You will have to die, make no mistake about that" the voice was refined and casual, although he discerned a faint undertone of contempt. "All that matters is how long it takes for you to be granted the Emperor's Mercy. When you are ready we will start at the beginning."
The chair is righted roughly and a second needle plunged into his arm, almost immediately most of the pain disappears. The rag is torn from his mouth making him retch although quickly replaced by the metallic tang of field-ration water. He gulps hungrily as much as he can before spluttering the remainder down his chest.
"As I said, you may begin when you are ready." It wasn't a request, rather a demand barely wrapped in the pleasantries of cordial civility. But as he had no idea how long he had been held, no clue to whether a rescue party was on it's way or not, he had no option but to stall in the only way he could. He began at the beginning.
"I...I am Planetary Governor Schmied of Hemera. I understand why you are here, but you must understand my choices in the events leading to this moment were somewhat limited..."
Chapter one - Morkloud's Rise
INHALING THICK DARK SMOKE in great gulping gasps Morkloud sits bolt upright. His hands grasp automatically for weapons that aren't there as his eyes, ignoring dead orks and dismembered limbs, scan his surroundings for danger. Finding none he focuses on the sight of this massacre and recalls he'd been run through with a choppa by some low and sneaky grot-lover that had crept up from behind. Momentarily anxious, he feels for the wound but the gaping gash is gone, in its place large metal staples hold together rapidly healing flesh. The puzzled Morkloud staggers to his feet and shaking the disorientation from his head stumbles back toward the Orky fort, pausing only to scoop up a forearm to chew on.
Hours later, Morkloud finally approaches his goal, but wounded, without weapons or armour, he makes a tempting target for the younger orks. As he enters through the great metal gate, one of the upstarts pulls out a weapon and draws near. Morkloud's eyes narrow in recognition as he examines the choppa; the thieving scum has pilfered his weapon as he lay on the battlefield! Mind you, that was how he had come by it in the first place, but at least he'd had the decency to personally make sure its owner had been dead first.
"Dat's mi choppa" snarls Morkloud ominously, rapidly closing the distance between them.
"Naw, Dat's MI choppa. I tuk it from yer. An' I iz gonna keep it!" gloats the orkling, as he lunges forward.
But Morkloud is faster. A subtle shift of his body weight places him out of the blade’s path and lightning quick his massive hands snap around the descending arm. Nearly faster than the eye can follow his hands reverse direction and with a sickening crunch that echoes around the courtyard, the upstart's arm shatters at the elbow forcing it’s useless fingers to release the choppa to clatter on the concrete. Continuing the same single fluid motion, Morkloud sweeps up the still ringing blade and plunges it hilt deep into the belly of the orkling.
"Changed mi mind, yer can keep it" he growls to the young ork as it slumps, grievously wounded, over the blade before he unceremoniously dumps the challenger to the floor. Eye-balling the others to ensure no more attacks, Morkloud grabs the dying ork by the collar and drags it toward a grubby, once white, tent.
"Patient for yer!" calls Morkloud into the darkness, as he slams the orkling onto the rusted metal operating table.
"Ah, Morkloud!" slurs the metal jawed Mad Doc as he appears from the gloom brandishing an overlarge staple gun. "Yer returned at last!"
"Wot 'appen'd Ramizead? I fort I woz ded?" asks a puzzled Morkloud.
"Morkloud, Morkloud." replies the older ork, slowly shaking his head, "Youz an ork, youz immoral! Only takin' yer 'ead can kill yer"
Morkloud nods, then shakes his head as, from deep recesses of his mind, Morkloud appears to remember something. " 'ang about. Wot about Ferm? 'e dint 'ave iz 'ead lopped off" he states.
"Naw, 'e woz on da rong side of da big-burna. Da onli fing dat woz left woz iz 'ead" answers Ramizead as he examines the orkling’s wound, eliciting a guttural scream from his patient as he twists the embedded blade, "Plus burna hurtz ain't gud for healin' "
Morkloud nods again, but the puzzled look remains, " 'kay, but den why iz I 'ealing so kwick?" he asks.
The Mad Doc turns his head to look at Morkloud and a mischievous twinkle appears in his eye as he loudly whispers, "Dat mi lad, iz da Fastenin'..."
His thoughts finally catching up with the conversation Morkloud says " 'ang on. Wen we tuk out Da Rius youz 'ad yer head lopped off by dat big Gurkan bast..."
Ramizead interrupts him by waving his hands before pulling away his collar to reveal the staples holding his head on. "Da Fastenin' can do mirikles for dem dat nose." states Ramizead flatly, "Now lend a 'and wiv dis grot" he finishes as he turns back to the injured Orkling.
Looking around for a means of escape, Morkloud finds the remains of his lunch in his belt and smiling wickedly, drops it on the slab before sidling quickly away.
DUSK IS RAPIDLY APPROACHING by the time he has regained most of his possessions. Using the time-honoured rituals of intimidation, theft and barefaced cheek, he even manages to obtain a grubby, but serviceable, power klaw. Around him Orks scramble toward the walls so Morkloud follows and climbs atop to find Orks are being knocked off to land hard on the floor below, so he seeks a good position. He shoves one particular ork and is told to "Frak off!" so he flexes his power klaw and obtains a front row seat by snipping the head from the obstructive ork and uses it's body as an impromptu chair.
Stood before the fort, outlined against the setting sun, Warboss Orkeez ignores the catcalls and jeers as he goes through a series of Heroic poses. "Wotcha fink ladz?" he bellows toward the walls as he drops to one knee, big choppa raised over his head as he aims the twin-linked shoota. "Gud 'nuff for da Pe-riz?"
Silence spreads across the wall and lasts for nearly ten seconds before being broken by brash laughter.
Smirking, Orkeez stands back up and rests the big choppa across his massive shoulders. "Everyone's a bloody critic" he mutters and peers toward a growing dust cloud "Now wot's dat slag dun?"
A rattling clank issues from the gloom and grows in volume before dropping like the airborne dust as a hulking Deff Dread is revealed. From a compartment welded atop, the maniacal screeching voice of the opposing Big Mek issues from a loudhailer, "Standard challenge rulez yer sed! Any weapon, winner teks all!"
Orkeez takes one look and runs, his silhouette rapidly diminishing against the dying sun.
"I iz da nu boss!" crackles the vox from the Big Mek's armoured compartment.
"Youz a cheatin' yella grox!" shouts Morkloud from his vantage point.
The Deff Dread turns following instructions from its boss. "Da so?" crackles the amplified voice as the walker draws nearer the wall.
Morkloud sees his opportunity and bellowing "DAT'S SO!" leaps from the wall power klaw extended.
He misses and ploughs face first into the hard-packed ground as the Deff Dread pulls up short. He pushes himself to his feet and stands swaying as he looks down the barrels of four big shootas. Shaking his head, Morkloud manages to clear the double vision and is smiles when he sees he only has to face two big shootas.
A harsh tinny laugh reverberates from the speaker, "Havin' a big toy don't make yer a big ork!" mocks the Big Mek before instructing the pilot to "Shoot 'im!"
Shells tear the air around Morkloud and at first he is sure he hasn't been hit, then he coughs out a glob of viscous fluid and realises a lung is punctured. Standing his ground proudly, Morkloud manages a weak smile and raises his middle digit as the Deff Dread bears down on him.
A sudden burst of gunfire hits the rear of the contraption, severing pipelines and cables and the Deff Dread slows to a stop. With the last of it's propulsion it manages to turn to face the unknown assailant and is greeted by the sight of a converted war-bike hurtling through the clouds of dust it is throwing up.
"Soz ladz" bellows Orkeez " 'ad ta get mi chariot cos I can't 'ave dat grox 'avin' a betta entrance dan mi!"
As if to prove his point the warchariot hits a dune and leaps into the air, where firelight and the last shafts from the setting sun glint from the carefully arranged 'shiny bitz'. Never one to miss an opportunity, Orkeez lazily fires his twin-linked shoota one-handed at the Deff Dread before the warchariot hits the ground and he loses his balance slamming into the metal floor.
Pretending he meant to crouch, Orkeez sweeps up his big choppa and bellowing "Waargh!" springs to his feet just as the vehicles collide. The added force from the crash causes Orkeez's initial blow to sever one of the machine's combat arms, a second and third blow rend apart the sarcophagus and kill the pilot, whilst the fourth and fifth tear a jagged hole in the armoured compartment. Entrapped by his contraption the Big Mek struggles in vain.
"Rite, jobz done" says Orkeez over the clamouring of the orks on the wall as he jumps down from his warchariot and approaches Morkloud. "Dat dere woz a gud distraction lad, I iz promotin' yer ta Banna Beara"
Smiling inanely, Morkloud manages a bemused "Fanks Boss"
"Dat's alrite lad. Yer first job is ta add iz 'ead" Orkeez motions toward the wrecked walker as stomps through the baying crowd into fort.
Morkloud opens and shuts the power klaw as he turns to the encased leader, his smile widening as he recognises the desperately struggling Big Mek as Ramizead's mortal foe.
"Oi! Gurkan! I fink yer woz sayin' sumfink 'bout big toyz not makin' big orks!" he taunts.
"Yer can't do dis." demands the entombed Fat Mechanic. "I iz da boss!"
Spreading his klaw wide to enclose the Gurkan's swollen neck, Morkloud leans in close and states calmly as the blades squeeze shut with the hiss of pneumatics, "Naw, youz ain't da boss, Orkeez iz. Dere can be onli one."
THE DEATH OF ‘DA GURKAN’ shatters all remaining resistance on Nreestanaysha (Magark) and Waargh Orkomenid quickly spreads to engulf Sowfurop (Aspaster) and Norfafrika (Keprok). Now in a position to threaten Imperial space in the Vestrid system, Warlord Orkeez sits astride a throne fashioned from scrap steel salvaged from his fallen foes and holds audience with his massed Nobz.
"Rite ladz, time'z cum ta konquer!" booms the Warboss, "Da boyz iz on der own cos I don't won't any of youz Nobz gettin' ideaz abuv yer stashun! Konna, Dunkan, Kwentin an Evva, youz all Morkloud's! Ramizead goez wiv yer so getz a trukk cos yer got ta keep up wiv mi. Mikel, youz kan ‘ave sum ladz wiv shootas an’ tek a Battlewagon. Rest ov yer, sortz yer senz owt. We’z sneakin’ in by way ov Da Perseus Deeps, so we gotta hit da first planet ‘ard an’ mek a base! Now git yer backsidez in gear an’ MOVE!"
From Roks and Kroozers in orbit high above Sowfurop, Big Meks activate teleportas and rip swathes of greenskins off the planet surface, dumping them randomly about the crudely welded battleships and hollowed out asteroids. The fortunate ones find themselves on the right side of forcefields whilst the others claw madly at the metres thick metal, trying desperately to scramble to safety as their blood freezes in their oxygen deprived bodies.
Within hours the planet is stripped of Orkish life and upon ‘Da Big Hulk’, massive Lifta-grabbers pull smaller Roks and Killkroozers into it’s gravity well. As it ponderously breaks free of the planet’s gravity and turns to face the Perseus Deeps, Weirdboyz are strapped into Shokk Attack arrays and launched into close orbit, where their augmented powers rip open the fabric of reality and propel the Space hulk through the Warp toward their next target…
Chapter 2 - Hemera
LAID UPON A GRASSY HILLSIDE with his future wife resting her head upon his chest, Alfron Schmied gazes up at the night sky and contemplates what his life holds in-store; an arranged marriage to the beautiful but vacant Dorisedna Buchhalter, destined to include the mandatory two point four children, a lifetime enduring mind-numbing administration for the Caligulan Manufacturing Cartel, the... shooting stars?
“Oh Alfron, aren’t they wonderful!” sighs the delectable Dorisedna breathlessly, “I wish upon them that we’ll be soooo happy together!”
“Dorisedna. Darling. Telling someone what you wished automatically invalidates the wish.” whispers Alfron spitefully.
Tears welling in her puppy-dog eyes she sobs, “So I’ve ruined our future happiness!” .
Alfron closes his eyes, wills back his murderous rage and manages to utter through clenched teeth, “No my dear, I can’t see how just telling me a wish could possibly do that”, whilst thinking that ever since he came of age happiness had seemed to elude him .
“Thank you Alfron.” simpers Dorisedna dabbing her eyes, “You always know what to say to make me feel better. I do feel so silly crying like this, in fact my eyes are so blurred that all the shooting stars have merged into one.”
Merged into one? The woman was a fool! Damn his father for saddling him with this simpleton for the rest of his life just so the family could gain a little more influence. He can feel his mounting fury start to effect him; his breathing was becoming ragged, his face warmer and he could literally hear the blood coursing through his veins as a mounting roar. In fact, the roar was getting so loud as to be painful.
Realisation hits and Alfron’s eyes snap open moments before the Rok screams past overhead, the trailing wind tearing the wig from his head.
“What in the name of the Emperor, was that?” he yells over the wind.
“A meteor, possibly an Aerolite or a Mesosiderite” replies Dorisedna, all trace of vapidity purged from her demeanour as she views his denuded head. “You may wish to seek cover as the impact will be quite forceful.”
“Wha…What?!” splutters Alfron, his mouth agog as he twists his head trying to look at two equally preposterous events.
“Get down” enunciates Dorisedna slowly as the noise reaches a crescendo. She scrambles lower down the slope and lies flat covering her head with her arms.
Alfron’s mouth opens and shuts without making a sound. All around he can see more meteors entering the atmosphere, their blazing trails combining to produce a false dawn. Suddenly he is swept into the air, spinning head over heels as the shockwave from the distant impact blasts him from the summit.
With a loud squelch he is dumped into the foetid marsh waters at the base of the hill and Dorisedna is by his side within moments, dragging his wallowing and unresponsive body out of the mire.
“You stupid, arrogant, moron!” she berates the semiconscious young heir, “I thought you were dead! After all the trouble I went to fooling your father into thinking I could be easily manipulated, just so I could be with you and you go and do something like that!”
Alfron gazes up at the mud splattered perfect features of his fiancée and into her sparklingly intelligent eyes and feels happy for the first time in years. He tentatively raises his slime covered mouth to kiss her and she begrudgingly reciprocates, both closing their eyes as she slowly lowers her mouth until her lips brush against his and then…they are gone and Dorisedna’s scream fills the night air.
His eyes snap open to view a terrible scene, Dorisedna held aloft as she vainly struggles to free herself from the single-handed grasp of a monstrous creature, easily topping seven feet despite being severely hunched over. Its muscular arms were larger than both his legs together and its thighs were the size of his chest and it’s chest… he couldn’t think of anything to compare its chest to and instead promptly fainted.
HE STIRS TO FIND HIMSELF tightly bound to the front of a vehicle of dubious construction and peers around. Images of hundreds of the massive aliens standing alongside strange haphazard contraptions flicker across his vision through the dense smoke pouring in gouts from a thousand engines. In the distance ahead he can see the desperately thrown up defences of the Imperial palace. He lets out a pitiful scream, much to the amusement of the boyz in the back of the trukk.
“Be quiet, damn you!” the rasping voice of his beloved cuts through his melancholy and he manages a smile.
“My darling Dorisedna” he cries, “Where are you?”
Through a crushed throat she croaks her reply, “Tied to a vehicle like you. But unlike you, I’m putting my faith in the Emperor you bald-headed spineless gutter-skath. The Emperor only knows what I saw in you! My mother was right, like father, like son. Always taking the easy option, how your family has ruled all this time I’ll never know…”
Alfron stops listening as tears stream unbidden down his face, how unfair life could be? At the happiest moment in his entire life, everything had been torn from him. He barely notices as the trukk accelerates towards the human lines, hardly registers the screams of other similarly bound victims as the defensive force makes the difficult decision to sacrifice the few. The snap of las-fire, the crack of shoota rounds and the grisly sound of blade hacking open flesh bypass him entirely until finally it is over. He opens his eyes to find himself looking directly into the gaze of the biggest creature he has ever seen.
“Youz in charge” says Orkeez smirking
“N-No, my f-father is” stammers Alfron “His name is Lord Ranolf Schmied”
“Naw, yer not listenin’ “ states Warlord Orkeez with a wicked grin as he impales a lopped head onto a spike near Alfron’s face. “Youz in charge”
Alfron screams in terror as he recognises his father’s slack features and continues to do so until long after his voice has cracked and he can no longer make a sound.
FIVE YEARS HAD PASSED since that day and now lay in the balance. Pacing the reception area of his private quarters the Governor again reads the communication received from General Manstein of the Librian 7th Grenadiers. Manstein clearly states his intention to do whatever is necessary to fully return Hemera to the Imperial fold, but what does that mean? Was the General aware of the desperate deal he had struck to save as many of his people as possible and that as a result Hemera was now producing weapons and armaments for the vile greenskins, in addition to funding their piracy of the shipping lanes? He hoped not, but the wording of the command left little doubt that the General was suspicious.
“What troubles you my dear?” asks his wife, still beautiful despite the ragged scar that mars her once perfect features.
He hands her the data-slate, “I think we have here either a solution to our infestation problem or our own death warrants”
Her eyes widen in fear as she to realises the implications and so pleads “No my husband, we cannot allow this. You must prepare the Planetary Defence Force to repel this tyrant and send word to Warlord Orkeez that Imperial forces have entered orbit. If the General knows of our dealings he will kill us all!”
His shoulders sag in defeat as the Governor replies “You are correct as always. The palace can withstand what little firepower the General can quickly bring to bear but not the might of the Warlord. To cross either is to risk death, but Warlord Orkeez has treated us fairly, all things considered and as the saying goes, better the enemy you know.”
Dorisedna places an arm around her husband and softly says “Five years ago when we were tied to those trukks, I called you a coward but then I bore witness your stoicism as everyone else lost faith when your father ordered us to be fired upon. After the battle I saw your bravery as you stared down Warlord Orkeez, despite being still bound to the engine block. Finally, I heard your lament for your father, you never stopped even after your voice had gone and I realised your capacity to care. That is why I love you Alfron. Through your guidance, despite everything, we have prospered. Lead us now and to the Warp with this General Manstein!”
Before Alfron can reply a knock comes at the ornate double door. After a short pause an adjutant of the PDF enters and snaps off a crisp salute as he says, “Governor, sir! I regret to inform you that we are betrayed. Intelligence reports that General Manstein has secured the Spaceport to the south and now readies an armoured column to approach the palace. In addition we believe he has ordered an attack on our main PDF barracks as we are picking up many small craft rapidly entering the upper atmosphere.”
With a wry smile Governor Schmied declares, “It seems our hand is forced. Order the troops to open fire on those craft and prepare to receive the attack. Also send word to Warlord Orkeez and inform him that the traitorous General has landed south of Hemlar Primus and approaches with tanks”
“Very well, sir” responds the adjutant with a crisp salute, before turning on his heel and marching out.
A NERVOUS HOUR LATER the doors burst open and the agitated adjutant rushes in, all pretence of decorum gone. “Astartes my lord! The forces attacking the barracks are Astartes! Our forward positions have confirmed it!”
“Pull yourself together man” commands Governor Schmied, leaning on a chair to hide the weakness that suddenly floods his legs. “The men are in a defensible position, they will hold. What of Warlord Orkeez?”
“My lord, he has sent forward units of boyz under the command of Big Mek Wazmek, and races to join them. Battle will be joined shortly”
The intercom blares harshly and Governor Schmied composes himself as he presses the receive signal. “Governor Schmied speaking”
“Schmied, you traitor! How dare you fire on Imperial troops! I will have you head for this” screams General Manstein.
“General, what are you accusing me of? We were made aware of your landing and made appropriate accommodation. None of my troops have fired upon you.”
“Don’t give me that! The Blood Ravens 4th company are suffering casualties as we speak!”
“I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage sir, I was not made aware that the hallowed Astartes were accompanying you.” Alfron pauses and feigns shocked realisation “Oh, by the Emperor! Surely they are not the signals approaching our barracks? Oh no, no, this is most unfortunate. After so many pirating raids, it is now standard practice to fire upon craft that failed to identify themselves!”
“Standard practice to do WHAT? Tell your men to stand-down immediately!”
Trying desperately to sound concerned Alfron responds “Unfortunately, that is impossible General, we lost communications with the barracks over an hour ago. I really do hope my men are still alive, but every minute makes it more unlikely. I will meet you south of the city within the hour and we can travel there together. Hopefully this may be resolved without too much more loss of life.”
“Hmmph! Don’t keep me waiting Schmied” snarls the General as the communication terminated.
Governor Alfron Schmied collapses into an overlarge chair and places his hands over his face. “Well” he sighs resignedly “The die is well and truly cast!”
“WHERE IZ DA GUV’NOR?” echoes the voice of the Warlord through the deserted corridors “Git out ‘ere Schmied!”
Drawing in a deep breath to steady his nerves, Alfron sweeps open the doors and walks out to meet the Warlord. He manages three paces before he is grabbed by the throat and hoisted several feet into the air. Looking down he gazes at the smouldering figure of Warlord Orkeez.
“Go ta da sowf yer sed, da general’s dere wiv yer fanks! Three squads o’ boyz I lost ta da big gunz!”
“T-Tanks” gasps Alfron “The…message…said…the…general…is…to…the…south…with…tanks!” His vision darkens as he starts to lose consciousness. Orkeez continues to constrict the Alfron’s windpipe as he cocks his head to one side and considers the Governor’s words before he releases him to fall into a gasping quivering heap on the floor.
“Dat meks sense” nods Warlord Orkeez before warning “Da next message betta not be az garbled!”
“It…won’t…be” replies Alfron with difficulty “Rest…assured, it won’t be!”
The Warlord stares down at the pitiful human then turns and stalks away, wisps of smoke rising from his armour, skin and bionic implants. The governor watches as the Ork leaves and curses bitterly as he tries to rise.
“My lord, may I assist you?” the adjutant asks timorously.
“No, damn your eyes! I’m fine!” he snarls as he manages to regain his balance, “Now, report. What has happened?”
“As you predicted our forces at the barracks managed to repel the Astartes, though casualties were high. The Warlord managed to force General Manstein into retreat, but sustained too many casualties to press the offensive…”
“I believe I am well aware of that fact!” interrupts Alfron forcefully. “What of casualties to the General’s forces?”
“Three Armageddon pattern sentinels exploded and two fire support squads fled under surprisingly accurate ork fire. Killa Kans practically decimated a squad of storm troopers, Manstein’s command squad was butchered and the General critically wounded. Unfortunately, he was rescued by the crew of a Leman Russ that wiped out the remainder of his attackers.”
“Damn, so close! What of Orkeez? He seems injured.”
“I need to verify these reports sir, they seem a little far-fetched.”
“Very well sir. The Warlord entered the field once battle was joined, alongside him were his Nobz in their trukk but this was quickly disabled forcing them to continue on foot and they played no further part. Here is where the reports become fanciful. Apparently he charged unsupported toward the enemy line shrugging of a direct hit from a battle cannon and emerged unscathed from being engulfed in promethium to slam into the front of a Leman Russ battle tank. Far from being slowed by the encounter, the Warlord tore through the armour plating and crippled the entire machine before turning his attention on a pair of Hellhounds. They sought to immolate him and managed to sear his flesh but could not penetrate his, as they put it, cybork modifications. In retribution he destroyed one outright and tore the flamer from its mounting on the second. At that point the general’s forces quit the field and the surviving orks started looting the wreckage”
The Governor’s face is ashen as the adjutant finishes his report and he is glad he had only contemplated siding with the General against Orkeez. With a wave, Alfron dismisses the adjutant and re-enters his quarters where he hugs his wife tightly without saying a word.
Chapter 3 - Discovery
THE RANCID TUSKS OF weirdboy Anfrax produce an odour offensive even to orks, indeed the grotz tasked with holding him down had deliberately offered themselves as test subjects for Ramizead's patented 'Nu breave easi stripz'. Despite the stench, Morkloud enters the foetid hut and cautiously approaches the slumbering shaman, an anaesthetic hammer held in readiness.
"Quit tryin' ta sneak up on mi." rumbles the prone form, "Yer embarassin' yerself"
As the ex-kommando sits up slowly, Morkloud lowers the hammer and sighs with relief that he is in a rare lucid moment although as he watches, ghost fire begins to flicker around Anthrax's dark eyes and the grotz tighten their grip on the restraining chains.
"Wotcha want?" asks the psyker wearily. "I herd yer were da nu Banna boy so I presoom dis 'az sumfink ta do wiv Orkeez?"
"Yeah, da boss wantz ta know if yer 'ad visions yet like da humies do?" asks Morkloud fingering the hilt of the hammer and wishing he'd been allowed to wear his klaw.
Anfrax snorts and shakes his head, "Don't yer know anyfin?" he replies "Da powerz of Gork n Mork iz fer shapin' da battle not fer lookin ta see oo iz gonna be da next boss"
Morkloud makes a decision and drops the hammer as he moves closer.
A snarl crosses Anfrax's face. "Der's onli two reasons an ork drops iz weapon an' I hope yer picked da right un" he threatens.
"I 'aven't got a deff wish." says Morkloud shaking his head as he creeps closer "wot would I do wiv dat teeny hamma anyway?"
"Not much before I stripped the flesh from yer bones" boasts Anfrax, his eyes flaring brighter as Morkloud stands face to face with him, "so den if youz not challenging mi why izn't yer grovellin' on da floor?"
"I sed I din't 'ave a deffwish, I never sed I wosn't challenging yer" smirks Morkloud as he pivots under Anthrax's power laden gaze and kicks out at one of the Grot handlers catapulting it into the air. In it's terror the pitiful creature clings desperately to it's chain and completes two full orbits of Anfrax's neck before it's grasp fails and it soars out through the window.
Roaring in fury, Anfrax sweeps the floor of the hut with his burning gaze setting alight anything combustible. But this does not include Morkloud who uses the distraction to manoeuvre behind the weirdboy, where he grabs the dangling chain. Yanking hard on the tether, he plants a boot on Anfrax's back to ensure the shaman cannot bring him into the dangerous line of sight as he chokes the air out of him and grunts "If yer could ... see da future ... den yer woulda known ... wot I woz gonna do!"
Anfrax starts a hacking laugh as he begins to lose consciousness, realising how cleverly the Banna bearer had played him.
WATCHING IMPASSIVELY AS the hut burns down and the large ork lopes toward an equally ramshackle hovel, he tries once more to loosen the steel cable embedded in his armour. Several of his brethren lie centimetres away, limbs and torsos mutilated by the same crude mesh that holds them in a fatal embrace and, as the net slips free of his heraldry, he hears the last of them succumb to their wounds. He closes his eyes momentarily in brief prayer and clasps the bolter to his chest, listening to the chatter of the creatures.
"Oi, Mek! ‘ow many did I get?" comes a cry from the cockpit of the fighta-bomba that captured him. A voice answers from much closer with "Six", but this causes the pilot to make confused noises so the Mek clarifies "More an’ one grotz". Gloating, the pilot demands to know about "da haul" and as the Mek approaches the Marine can hold back his righteous fury no longer. A short burst from his bolter tears it apart and he struggles free of the net, clambering over the bodies of his fallen comrades and quickly seeking cover beneath the hulking aircraft.
Moments pass and discerning no retaliation to his actions, he pauses to take in more fully his surroundings. As he watches the large ork enter the hovel, another bursts through the wall and the largest, meanest looking ork peers out of the newly created gap. "Wen I sez tek da Battlewagon, I mean tek da Battlewagon!" it hollers through the twisted gap at the prone ork, then it notices the dazed Wierdboy and turns to address the ork he saw earlier. He hopes to garner some idea of their plans but despite his enhanced senses, he is too far away to hear what is said.
He tests his comm-link and hears nothing but static, even though he broadcasts his status; "Command, this is forward squad three. My brothers are dead. We were captured whilst attempting to shoot down an ork aircraft. Be aware, these orks are employing crude dragnets. Advise seeking cover before attempting to bring down aircraft." He repeats his message twice more before crouching under the broad wing of the fighta-bomba and slipping under one of the large bombs. Suddenly, small hands grasp at his helmet and he hears shrill screams of "Intruda" from above him. Turning, he tears free of the puny grip and seeing the small creature tied to the bomb, silences the screaming grot with a single punch.
From all directions the green horde descends and his bolter spits death until it clicks empty. He draws his mono-bladed knife and takes up a combat-stance, calmly waiting as the first ork reaches him. A side-step and a pinpoint strike rips the throat out of the first ork, a crouching spin hamstrings the next and then there are too many and he strikes out desperately, making no effort to fight defensively, either his armour would hold or it wouldn’t. In a matter of seconds it is all over, pinned under the green tide, he dispassionately assesses inflicted on him and concludes none of it is fatal.
"Let 'im go" comes the muffled command and as the orks relieve the pressure on him, the purple armoured marine quickly climbs to his feet dropping once more into a combat stance before the powerful Warboss and his retinue.
"Relax an’ tek yer 'at off lad, it ain't gonna mek dat much diff'rence." instructs Orkeez
The marine glances around and is forced to admit the Warlord is correct in his assumption, so begrudgingly removes his helmet. His voice full of righteous fury he exclaims "Foul xeno! How dare you lay hands one of the Emperors Mailed Fists? Through low animal cunning alone were you able to capture me!"
"Cunning? Dat meanz subtle don't it?" queries Ramizead, then tilts his head in the direction of the plane "Wot's subtle 'bout a bloody great metal net attached t' back o' fighta-bomma?"
The marine stares mouth agog at the unbarbaric thinking, though he quickly regains his composure only to have Orkeez scream into his face. "Subtle? SUBTLE! Oo do yer fink we iz, da stinkin' Eldar?"
He spots his opportunity and dropping his helmet exclaims "Xeno filth, the Emperor longs for your blood!" as he leaps for Orkeez. He powers through the air faster than most of his captors can comprehend, arm raised then punching swiftly forward, fingers extended for a killing blow that never connects. His forward motion is arrested as the first counter punch cracks his chest plate and as he curls around the fist he briefly sees the uppercut that snaps his head back crushing vertebrae. Dazed and held aloft by a powerful grasp around his throat, he gazes into the harsh red eyes.
"Wotcha go an’ do dat for?" queries Orkeez, "I just wont’d yer to tek a message ta yer boss an’ tell ‘im we’z comin’ coz we’z want a good fight dis time. Now I’z gonna hav’ ta hurt yer"
He manages to remain conscious for a whole minute while the orks play ‘Bash’, a crude game where two victims are held by their arms and legs and swung into each other, the winner being the one who doesn’t fall unconscious or die.
LAID UPON THE cold steel operating table, he completes his debrief to the Chaplain while the Apothecary examines him. With rattling breath he tells of his capture and of his subsequent release from the bomb bay of a fighta-bomba and asks how his brethren have faired.
He is told how the Emperor’s Mailled Fists suffered significant casualties. Almost an entire assault squad was sucked into the warp by a machine the Imperium hoped the Orks would never rediscover and a venerable brother was lost forever. How, despite his warning, their commander had presumed these to be regular Orks and prepared accordingly. How it was only the commander’s intervention with a squad of Terminators that turned the tide of battle.
From the corner of his eye he sees the Apothecary give an almost imperceptible shake of his head and closes his eyes as the Chaplain leads him in the prayer of service.
He feels acutely the gentle pressure of the cold steel tube against his temple.
He relaxes secure in the knowledge that, once the Emperor’s Mercy is administered, his gene-seed will be harvested and implanted into the next generation of the chapter he has served for over a hundred years.