Saturday, 9 July 2011

World Eaters Short Story Series Pt. 7

This will be most likely the last in the short story series, unless a few other people I have written to get back in touch and give me permission to post on this site (for anyone reading this that's a big hint, it's a bit weird why anyone would say no! ^^). A little bit different to the other, predominantly Heresy-era shorts, this story focuses on the Legion in their guise as the 'War Hounds' during the earlier days of the Crusade, fighting alongside the White Scars (giving me an excuse to post this cool piece of bike-related art from the CCG game).

White Hot

By Michael Vincent (aka Vinnie)

THROUGH THE WHIRLING dust cloud that had filled the heavy atmosphere of the city, he watched the assault squad of the War Hounds legion descend on roaring columns of flame. Dropped from a Stormbird, the Astartes reinforcements came not before time. However confident of victory he happened to be, ten snarling chainaxes were always an appealing addition to one’s efforts.
Suddenly, a heavy armoured vehicle bearing the heraldry of the dissenting nation lumbered around the buttressed corner of the city wall. It had the snub nosed muzzle of its formidable looking main turret raised, and the crew clearly intended to eliminate the War Hounds before they made planetfall.
He smiled at the sight of this new target. It had been nearly forty seconds since he had teleported into the warzone and he had not yet engaged, mainly due to the lack of enemy units in the vicinity. He wasn’t sure whether to chastise his teleport operators for dropping him into a dead sector, or congratulate his Astartes warriors for making one.
But now it was time to get his hands dirty. Time to make his presence known.
Jaghatai, Great Khan and Primarch of the Vth Legion, cricked the tendons in his neck, flexed his immense gauntleted hands, and loped into a thundering charge. Even if what passed for auspex technology on the enemy vehicle detected his approach, there was no way any turret could traverse quickly enough to do anything about it.
‘For the Scars, and for the Emperor!’ the Khan bellowed in the flowing, affricative tongue of Chogoris. He drew his glittering qhatan blade, forged from the hardy ores of his homeworld, and threw himself shoulder first into the side of the vehicle.
It was not large by the standards of many battle tanks he had seen in his time at the Emperor’s side: perhaps thirty-five tons. It shifted with the impact. Not far, but far enough.
A blistering stream of tracer fire erupted from the barrel of its main weapon, hissing past the War Hounds squad at a distance of no more than a few inches. Yes, thought Khan, far enough.
A periscopic device appeared almost comically from the top hull of the tank. Jaghatai brought the palm of his hand down hard on top of it, and was rewarded with a muffled scream of agony from within. Grabbing the edges of the periscope cavity, the Primarch hauled himself on top of the vehicle and sprang towards what he knew was the commander’s hatch.
The vehicle began to move, jerking in and out of gear, attempting to dislodge their assailant. A mortal man might have been pitched from the hull, but not the Khan – a lifetime spent hunting game on the uneven peaks of the Khum Karta mountains; and riding first the powerful tahki warhorse and then later the Astartes assault bikes; all had given the Primarch reflexes that defied comprehension. Sometimes, to a mortal, they might even appear prescient.

Riding the juddering vehicle like he would a bolting horse, Jaghatai Khan grasped his blade with both hands and drove it hilt-deep down into the armour of the command hatch. Swinging his massive form, he wrenched the blade sideways into what he hoped would be the driver’s compartment.
Tortured metal screamed as it peeled into ribbons, booming as welds in the superstructure gave way. The vehicle stalled and trundled to a halt.
With a squeal and a clang, a trooper bearing a heavy energy pistol emerged from a hatchway behind Khan. The Primarch turned and was ready to dive from the path of the inevitable shot, but the trooper was cut down by bolter fire before he could level his weapon.
Khan peered around, and saw the War Hounds assault squad sprinting toward the tank, smoke rising from their pistols. He leapt down from the top of the tank.
‘My gratitude to you, War Hounds.’ He spoke in their common High Gothic, ‘I was very nearly injured.’
The squad’s sergeant stepped forward. ‘My Lord, it was our duty and our pleasure.’ Khan regretted that he did not know the warrior’s name.
There was another noise from the disabled tank. A terrified crewman pushed open a side hatch and was scrambling out on his hands and knees. One of the Astartes hopped forwards and slammed his power boot into the hatch, effectively crushing the man’s midsection in the jamb. With a twitch, the crewman vomited bloody tissue onto the ground and died.
Khan punched the locking mechanism of the hatch, the inhuman strength of his blow buckling the metal and effectively sealing the port. Cries and hammering erupted from within as at least two more crewmen panicked and scrabbled for escape.
The War Hounds sergeant cocked his helmeted head, as if listening. He was, but not to the doomed men.
‘My lord,’ he looked to Khan, ‘We have orders to assist in contesting a vital strongpoint to the west.’
‘Indeed,’ replied the Primarch. He nodded to the enemy tank. ‘Torch that before you go, would you?’
‘If you intend to head westwards, we will be honoured to accompany you,’ the sergeant said.
The Khan felt slightly uneasy. He still struggled to comprehend the reverence with which he was treated by Astartes of his brothers’ legions – to his own Scars he was a beloved commander and respected leader, not an object of veneration.
A clanking rumble from behind them drew his attention. It was another enemy tank approaching.
‘No,’ he said with a dark smile, ‘I think I shall be fine here.’
‘Yes, my Lord!’ With a nod of the head, the sergeant unclipped a melta bomb from his belt and clapped it to the side of the vehicle before leading his Astartes into the scorched sky with a roar of turbofans.
Jaghatai Khan stepped back, and with a bright flash the tank crumpled outwards, everything inside immolated. The sound was almost desultory, but the effect was inarguable.
He turned to face the thunder of the oncoming tank, and cricked his neck again.
For the Emperor, he thought, and grinned.

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