Titans at War (40k)

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Darth Tanner
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Titans at War (40k)

Postby Darth Tanner » 2011-05-26 08:23am

Chapter 1. Hive War

The remains of the outer Ork defence ring were little more than a brown smudge on the landscape. What had but a few hours before been a massive ring of rockcrete and metal bunkers, trenches and fortifications had been reduced by aerial bombardment to a pile of burning scrap and broken mud.

From the bridge of the Warlord titan Imperius Martialis princep Marx Van Castle was able to oversee the entire battlefield, be it through his titans view ports or the complex auspex scopes that fed data directly into his consciousness. The massive hive spire before him rose into the low cloud cover, which was a mucky brown colour in stark contrast to the sparklingly white which seemed to cover the rest of the planet. He had been startled by the sheer quantity of cloud on this planet during his titans deployment, the swirling vortex of dense clouds seemingly without end. He had been even more surprised when his drop ship had punched through the clouds to reveal the blasted and polluted landscape beneath.

Pollus Massard was a major hive world of over five hundred and seventy billion people, although doubtlessly many of those where now dead at the hands of either the invader or far more likely the famine caused by the seizing and subsequent destruction of the major starports. The coming of the Orks had been a great surprise to the planetary governor, his fleet of picket ships being subsequently annihilated in orbit without even downing one of the Ork’s fifteen frigates, allowing the green skins to bring in their pair of massive space hulks without contest.

Those space hulks even now orbited gracelessly around the planet, the Imperial Navy relief fleet playing a game of cat and mouse with the two giants, trying to separate them so that they could be engaged separately; their combined firepower being greater than even the trio of Mars battle cruisers which had come to Massards aid. When Marx’s Mechanicus cruiser entered the system from the warp with the Imperial Fleet the enemy frigates had raced to intercept them in typical Ork fassion, leaving the lumbering hulks to linger in orbit, a lethal mistake for the Orks who were dashed to pieces by the long range fire from their combined torpedo and Nova cannon barrages.

The ground battle however was much closer fought. The Orks had landed well over fifteen million infantry and seven hundred thousand various tanks and vehicles, overwhelming the initial planetary defence forces response. The more serious threat however was the scattered reports of enemy titans, or Gargants as the green skinned monsters called them. Supposedly the massed PDF regiments had broken before a phalanx of over a dozen of them, smashing through the lines of tanks and men the governor was throwing at the Ork menace in a vain attempt to contain the threat during the initial Ork landings.

That had however been over a month ago. Now the Orks controlled the majority of the southern continent and had put to the torch sixteen major hives and immeasurable swathes of habitats and industrial precincts. The shattered remains of the PDF had retreated almost constantly fighting a costly rearguard action for the billions of civilians fleeing the ever extending battlefield in what limited transport was available or, for the majority of the poor hive dwellers, on foot.

Now however the might of the blessed and vengeful Emperor had arrived; twenty regiments of the Imperial Guard, mostly Mordian veterans, an entire three companies of Iron Hand space marines and the full might of the Legio Pyrricina’s Titan legion. With a wicked grin Marx almost pitied the filthy xenos to be facing such righteous firepower.

Grandmaster Pius Misenhein, lord of the Titan legion, Lord General Prax Farj’ter, commander in chief of the Imperial Guard forces and Captain Greyhold of the Iron hands had composed a brilliant plan whereby the majority of the Imperial force would be directed against the main Ork army, or Waaagh while a secondary force of four Warlord titans, each supported by a quarter of a single regiment of Imperial Guard would assault and ultimately seize the first hive that had fallen to the Orks and which was currently serving as their command and supply base, a brutal decapitating strike at the Ork leadership which would hopefully destroy the ability of the Ork to fight. The mighty Astartes meanwhile would assault key supply points throughout the continent, using their mobility to annihilate any Ork attempts at organising a counterattack.

That objective stood before Marx now, according to the tactical database it was mostly intact although a large amount of the lower superstructure seemed to have been opened up for some reason, revealing fleeting glances into the dingy interior of the hive. It had been defended by a massive ring of ruggedly built Orkish defences but the sustained bombing from the Naval Marauder bombers had reduced them to rubble, leaving the hive practically undefended as far as the Navy intelligence spotters could determine.

“Titan Martialis in position Majoris,” he reported to the commander of the operation, Princeps Majoris Kaan aboard the Warlord Titan Divine Wrath, his immediate superior in the legion.

He could just about make out his titan with his bare eyes far to his left, coming onto the hive spire from the north while he himself was approaching from the west. Two other titans would be approaching from the south and east although they were not visible directly due to the shear bulk of the hive spire. Marx was however completely aware of their progress as well as their own fields of view thanks to their relaying auspex data to his titan via the satellite link achieved with the Mechanicus cruiser far over head. It was also thanks to this link that Marx was able to fully monitor the progress of the main legion force to the north where the Emperor titan Galleus Emperacanus with Grandmaster Misenhein aboard marched towards the main Ork force alongside the other six Warlords and ten Warhounds that made up the rest of the legion.

“Deploy artillery support along north and west quadrants,” came the response from Divine Wrath’s tactical operations moderati when all four titans were in position.

“Signal our first stage Guard forces to deploy along the ridge,” Marx said to his own tactical operations moderati, a thin man named Freemans who sported a large beard, an unusual adornment for a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Immediately he began jabbering away in code to the various Imperial Guard elements that were trailing behind the titan, taking advantage of its bulk and void shields to protect them from any artillery fire from the spire.

At once a dozen Basilisk self propelled artillery pieces splintered off from their position in the Imperial Guard column and sped to either side of the titan, taking up firing positions along a ridge that gave them clear fields of fire across the debris fields approaching the hive spire as well as the ability to lay down fire to either flank.

“Artillery in position and confirming receipt of targeting data stream princep,” reported Freemans, the holographic table that lay in front of the command throne displayed that the artillery was in position anyway but Freemans was a stickler for the correct protocol and the codex’s of warfare had been written assuming a titan was not equipped with such a fine piece of equipment as a holo-projection table.

For a moment Marx admired the table, it was a gift from his tech priest mother who had given it to him when he had graduated from the Collegia Titanica. The fact that it was likely worth its weight in diamonds was secondary to the fact that the shear level of sophistication of the device made it invaluable for interpreting the hundreds of streams of auspex data that could be fed into a titan’s machine spirit. Lord Generals and Admirals would likely kill to possess one half as advanced as it although the Grandmaster of the legion had one of even greater sophistication aboard the Galleus Emperacanus but according to rumour it was older than the Imperium itself, heralding from the dark age of technology.

“Incoming artillery fire,” said Freemans, his voice as monotone as ever, even as the holo projector tracked the incoming salvo of shells before modelling with startling accuracy and realism their huge detonations as they ripped into the broken mud before the titan, sending blasts of dirt high into the air. The holoprojector also showed the origin points for each artillery shell, displaying markers indicating the exact location and likely size and model of weapon, the titan’s cogitators working instantly to calculate all the required angles and feeding the data into the holo projection. Disturbingly the shells had all come from the lower levels of the hive spire itself.

“Hostile artillery lacks sufficient range from its current location,” he stated, despite the obviousness of it, of twenty shells fired not one even came within fifty meters of the titan or the Imperial Guard forces.

“Turbolasers adjusting for barrage fire on artillery origin points,” reported Ghanx, the weapons moderati from his seat next to Marx’s. Ghanx was a strange one, even for a member of the Mechanicus. His face was completely covered or replaced by augment implants so that he appeared to be wearing a full helmet. As far as Marx was aware he had never left the Titan, except to perform exterior inspections of the weaponry and targeting equipment and had served with Martialis since its construction seventy years ago.

Marx could feel the shoulder mounted turbolasers rotating in their turret assemblies, he could feel the plasma reactor reaching its peak to charge their capacitors and he could feel the various targeting auspexes analysing the wind, the distance to target and a thousand other variables to ensure they hit their mark on the first shot. All this he could feel as if he himself was the titan, as if he himself had kiloton bearing turbolasers mounted on his shoulders. The wonders of his machine link never ceased to amaze him. With but a single thought he fired.

Immense las beams of scarlet red shot out from all four barrels and smashed into the distant spire, erupting into raging infernos as they consumed several Ork batteries each and caused considerable damage to the surrounding structure of the hive. Each shot was tracked by the holoprojector table but they were so bright that even as they hit the spire they were still clearly visible, even with the anti glare rituals performed on the portholes. They were oddly beautiful, like the firework displays that had so amused him as a boy. He fired again and a further four shots sped out to join the inferno, hitting another set of targets flawlessly.

As sizeable chunks of masonry and steel began to rain down from the spire amid plums of smoke and molten metal Marx couldn’t help but flinch. Their overall objective was to capture the hive spire intact in order to hopefully reclaim the holy relics that were held within, if they had simply wanted to flatten the place they could have done so with a single shot from orbit but instead they were charged with recapturing the main hive spire at the minimum. Marx would be among the first to admit his disbelief at such orders, holy relics or no. Clearing a major hive like the one before him would be bloody work, especially for the infantry who would have to go though the upper levels fighting the Orks for every nook and cranny. Not for the first time Marx was thankful he was fighting the enemies of the God Emperor from the safety of a massively armoured and shielded mobile fortress.

“Hostile artillery threat neutralised princep,” reported Freemans predictably.

“Never would have guessed,” smirked Preston, the operations moderati from her console. Preston, unlike most members of the Mechanicus of her rank still retained visible traits of her femininity, although her left eye had been replaced by a glowing red augment and a thick cable connecter her mind to the titans machine spirit she was still mostly human, and Marx thought her quite attractive. Although admittedly she was practically the only female he had any contact with these days.

From the holoprojector Marx could see that the other titans had also exchanged fire with Ork artillery originating from the spire, on the eastern side the Ork artillery had even been able to get a few shells to impact on the void shields of the titan. A futile gesture as they had been swiftly annihilated by the return fire before they had been able to reload for another salvo.

What concerned Marx more however was the stream of dark shapes emerging from the exposed lower levels of the spire. Ork tanks. Hundreds of them.

“Advance,” came the now distorted signal from Princeps Majoris Kaan, the high explosives used by the Ork artillery were interfering with the vox channels.

With a thunderous shaking of the ground the four titans stomped forwards towards the spire, each trailed by a hundred chimeras packed with guardsmen and a force of twenty Leman Russ battle tanks that sped to either side of the titans to hold the flanks of the advancing leviathans. Far to the rear lurked the remainder of the regiment, a hundred thousand infantry with the support vehicles to continue the assault on the hive once this armoured spearhead secured a beachhead.

“Targeting all hostile contacts,” said Ghanx.

Marx could feel the turbolaser batteries retargeting the base of the spire and with another thought the massive red beams shot out and bathed the largest of the gaps with fire. Perhaps a dozen Ork tanks were simply vaporised by the impact, the inferno of the blast, combined with exploding fuel and ammunition washed over the surrounding vehicles like a tidal wave and many of the open top Ork vehicles simply exploded as well, their fuel and ammo stocks feeding the growing firestorm.

Marx however saw none of this, his mind had retreated not only into the machine spirit of the titan but into the cogitators analysing the battlefield. He felt the Ork vehicles burning at the opening in the wall in the spire and he felt the other Ork vehicles racing through different holes, forming a massive armoured wedge that was hurtling at him. He felt the presence of Freemans performing the analysis of the combined Ork firepower and the complex calculations determining their success rate against the titan and its Imperial Guard escort. He felt the progress of the other three titans as they advanced and encountered similar forces of Orks moving out to engage them. He felt the reports from the basilisk crews as they turned their earth shaker cannons on the enemy tanks and loaded their shells.

Marx also felt the massive volcano cannon that made up the titans port arm adjusting, bringing its oversized laser weapon to bear on the speeding tanks. With a tiniest of urges the main reactor surged to maximum and a searing beam of pure white light shot out, hitting the Ork tank on the left of the advancing column. The tank, and a sizeable amount of the ground it had been speeding across liquefied, tiny Ork bodies disappearing in the searing light. With the help of the machine spirit Marx rapidly moved the volcano cannon, sweeping it across the Ork tanks line of advance and destroying over thirty of them by the time the weapon started to overheat and automatically shut down, coolant spraying down the length of the barrel in a cloud of crystals. The entirety of the front rank of tanks had been reduced to dribbling metal slush in less than three seconds of sustained fire.

The surviving Ork tanks now faced the imminent problem of racing headlong into not only the molten remains of their comrades but also the molten mud and rock beneath them. The tanks at either flank swerved around the molten barrier, their turn being so sharp that many of the Ork warriors who were clinging onto the exterior of the tanks were thrown loose to land either in the pools of molten earth and metal or simply to shatter as they impacted against the hard earth. The tanks in the centre of the formation however were not so lucky, being forced to plough straight through the pools of molten metal and earth by their inescapable forward momentum. Most of them sank down into the molten metal before exploding, their fuel tanks and ammunition cooking off in the extreme heat. Others however managed to clear the hazardous area, their tracks and wheels igniting from the extreme temperature leaving them immobile, but not defenceless, their barrels swivelling to target the approaching titan and Imperia tanks even as more tanks rammed into them from behind , shunting them further into the molten pools of mud and metal.

The first tanks to fire were the Ork vehicles that had swerved to either side of the molten metal and had sped onwards in an attempt to flank the advancing Imperials. Their battle cannons and missile racks releasing a hail of fire against the Imperial force at extreme range. Most of the fire landed harmlessly in the path of the titan and tanks, but a spattering of the larger rockets reached the charging Leman Russ’s and two of the might tanks were destroyed in searing explosions. The spattering of fire that the titan received was easily absorbed by the void shields, the missiles and tank shells vaporising in flashes of light as the powerful void generators humming gently as its residual charge began to build.

“Hostile titan analogues detected emerging from hive spire,” reported Freemans, as if commenting on the weather. But with a glance upwards to the viewports Marx was able to see clearly the squat bulky shape of an Ork Gargant emerging from the gloom of the interior of the spire.

“A worthy opponent princep,” said Ghanx almost gleefully, “mass correlates to stompa pattern hostile titan approximately thirty meters in height. Detecting strong plasma emissions from both chest cavity and arm mountings.”

“Acknowledged,” replied Marx, who was studying the holodisplay that showed three other enemy Gargants moving out to engage the other titans. The easternmost titan seemed to be struggling with the host of enemy tanks having raced around its flanks to attack the column of chimeras. “Set as priority target and engage.”

The massive multi-barrelled mega cannon that made up the starboard arm had been rotating to target the main bulk of enemy tanks that had been bottled up by the strip of molten metal but instead Marx began rotating it upwards to target the Gargant, moving both the shoulder turbolaser batteries and the volcano cannon to target it as well once they had cooled down enough to fire again. With another thought the mega cannon began firing before it had reached its target and massive man sized shells shot out of the top barrel before the entire assembly rotated to place another shell laden barrel in the firing position.

The first shell hit the ground just in front of the line of molten metal, its explosion was immense sending three nearby disabled Ork tanks flying through the air like toys and sending a huge amount of dirt high into the air in a fountain of destruction.

The second shell hit an Ork tank head on and the large bulky vehicle simply ceased to exist, alongside the trio of flat bed vehicles that were loaded with Ork infantry that had been sheltering behind it.

The third shell landing in the midst of the largest grouping of Ork tanks still on the field and it caused immense destruction. Four tanks simply vaporised in the initial impact whilst over a dozen were sent rolling to either side, their barrels bent and their engines aflame, their crews being thrown across the battlefield with bone shattering force.

The fourth, fifth and sixth shells landed squarely on the enemy Gargant, hitting it on its fat bulbous belly. Marx had never seen a Gargant outside of the training holograms before, and this one at least looked completely different from the simulations. It looked like a fat Ork with squat little legs, its arms were huge oversized cannons and a massive cutting disc was spinning on what looked like an Imperial standard pattern construction crane mounted on the things back. It was almost comically crude in its construction but Marx knew not to underestimate the fighting ability of the Ork.

As shell after shell impacted on the Gargant its own Ork shields flared brightly, a huge flash of multicoloured light with each impact. As far as Marx knew Imperial science had no idea on what principles Ork shield technology worked, it simply did but Marx could clearly see its effectiveness here in resisting the mega cannons hi-explosive shells.

As the massive turbo lasers adjusted to target the Gargant Marx took a moment to take stock of the rest of the battle. The Leman Russ formations had engaged the surviving Ork tanks with great efficiency, their battle cannons and las cannons wiping out all but a few dozen that sheltered by the Gargants bulk. Similarly the basilisks had wrought terrible damage against the tanks and other vehicles emerging from the hive, turning most of the gaps in the spires exterior into kill zones filled with the burning debris of Ork vehicles.

Finally the turbolasers were in position and Marx quickly fired them off, four super-heated beams shot at the Gargant and its shields shattered under the barrage. Massive spots of fire sprouted from where the turbolasers had penetrated through the shield, three on the main body and a fourth straight through the crane assembly, the massive spinning blade zooming off and embedding itself into the side of the spire. The Gargant remained operational however and it levelled a pair of massive cannons at the Martialis and fired, rocking itself backwards with the recoil as bolts of plasma rocketed out towards the Imperial titan, nearly toppling itself with the shear level of force that was unleashed.

The impacts tested the Warlords void shields immensely, the two impacts exploded with incredible force and the upper body of Martialis was wreathed in flame as the void shields faltered under the plasma barrage, radiators desperately pumping the absorbed energy away from vital systems.

“Port void shields have collapsed!” screamed Preston in synchronisation with a series of sparks that rained down from the overhead consoles, fuses burning out under the feedback from the energy surge in the shield matrix. From the look of the damage control readouts however they had escaped any real damage from the shield breach, the port hull armour had been able to absorb the residual detonation that had gotten through the shields.

“Hostile Gargants shields remain down,” reported Ghanx with an almost frantic haste, “Ork plasma reactor targeted.”

By the time Marx had focused his mind on targeting the designated point of the target the machine spirit had already focused the volcano cannon onto it, it took the slightest of commands for the weapon to fire before the bright white beam spat out and sliced deep into the Gargants chest, melting straight through the meters of exterior armour and rupturing the reactor casing. The Gargant almost audibly screamed as plasma boiled up out of the wound and poured forth, almost like a living being bleeding out its life essence.

As the Gargant died its noisy death however there was no opportunity to celebrate as a bright beam of energy shot out from the debris fields to the left of the titan and hit it on its unshielded side, cutting into the knee joint just behind its frontal heavy plating. As the beam burned through the vulnerable joint the titan began to tilt as the joint gave way beneath the colossal weight of the war machine.

“We’re going over!” screamed Ghanx in an unaccustomed outburst of panic whilst digging his hands into the seat restraints.

As the titan toppled slowly like a tree felled by primitive loggers Marx was just able to make out the large tank hidden in the broken rubble that had felled them, a Shadowsword super heavy tank, armed with a smaller version of their own volcano cannon. From its burnt and jagged exterior it had likely been looted from the retreating PDF troops and had been securely buried in the outer defence ring when the bombers had levelled them on top of it, hiding it from view and their own auspex scopes. Marx was reassured to see it blown into bits of flaming debris by a barrage from the basilisk artillery just before the titan hit the ground and all became darkness.
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Re: Titans at War (40k)

Postby drakensis » 2011-05-26 06:13pm

Looks good.

Only criticism I'd make is that it's a bit repetitive as each member of the crew is individually introduced as differing from Adeptus Mechanicus 'norms'. It might be worth having a blanket statement that Van Castle has a universally/predominantly odd crew rather than repeating it for each individual before the description.

It also raises the question of why he has all the non-conformists.

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Re: Titans at War (40k)

Postby CyrilsScribe » 2011-05-26 07:28pm

Because it makes the story more interesting. Imperial dogma and standards can be summed up in "KILL THE HERETIC, KILL THE MUTANT, KILL THE ALIEN".
Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.

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Re: Titans at War (40k)

Postby Darth Tanner » 2011-07-09 07:11am

Thanks for the comments.

Chapter 2. Office Politics

Marx was surprised how well equipped the 451st Mordian medicae facility was. Far from the hacksaw wielding quacks that he had feared as he had been stretchered out of the command cabin of the fallen Imperius Martialis the field surgeons wielded the latest in auto surgeon and laser scalpel technologies from the largest of hive worlds. His broken ribs had been quickly repaired and from all reports his moderatis had similarly escaped the crash with only the most easily treated of ailments, although Ghanx would apparently needed some of his augments replaced once spares became available.

Indeed as he lay on his bunk in his own private tent in the ever growing camp that housed the Imperial Guard camp around the hive spire he felt more concerned for his fallen titan than for its crew. He could actually see the massive scaffold that had already been assembled over the fallen titan, its severed leg was already standing up right, hoisted up by the trio of large cranes that had been intended to begin repairs on the hive spire itself. The Adeptus Mechanicus had quickly confiscated them for the far more important task of getting Martialis operational again, although there was little in the way of fighting going on since Grandmaster Pius Misenhein had annihilated the main Ork army and Captain Greyhold had defeated the Ork Warlord in personal combat.

Laying back he reviewed the reports he had been given on the battle for the spire as it had transpired after the Martialis fell. The other three titans and Imperial Guard forces had moved swiftly to completely annihilate the Ork counter assault and when the Ork forces had broken and attempted to return to the relative safety of the spire they had been exterminated to the last. When the infantry had pushed inside the hive and begun their search they had found thankfully little resistance.

What they did find however was more disturbing, the lower levels had been transformed into a slapdash factory, the machine shops and production lines of the Imperium turned to serve the vile xenos. Massive half complete Gargants stood idly in columns; the four that had marched out to meet them had been merely the first batch. If they hadn’t have stopped the Orks now they would have completed a force large enough to challenge the supremacy of the Imperiums relief force.

Thankfully that had not occurred and the Ork factory, along with the Orks that had manned it were put to the righteous torch of the God Emperor, indeed he could smell the burning bodies of Orks in the wind.

When Marx had watched the video reports of the main battle it had taken his breath away. It was almost a textbook propaganda presentation on the shear unquestionable might of the Imperium. The Emperor class titan Galleus Emperacanus strode across the battlefield, a colossus even compared with the Warlord titans which marched beside it, barely coming to its waist. The destruction that was wrought was incredible, although Marx knew the shear level of violence would be heavily censored before these recordings made it to the public news broadcasters, the military recording he had access to were astounding as the heavy plasma weapon on the Emperacanus disintegrated vast swathes of the battlefield with its bright blue bolts of plasma. He only wished he could find some video footage of the final duel between Captain Greyhold and the Ork warboss, but alas the Space Marines were not known for sharing such resources even if they existed.

“How fare thee Marx,” came the voice from the figure that had appeared at the tent flaps. A tall lanky figure wrapped in the red robes of the Mechanicus, a pair of mechanical arms peering over his shoulders wielding a variety of machine tools.

“Halafway,” shouted Marx, feeling a slight pain in his newly mended ribs as he addressed the Tech Priest that had overall responsibility for his titan’s maintenance. Although he had a seat on the command bridge he rarely used it, favouring moving from one workstation to another deep inside the innards of the titan. “What the news on the Martialis?”

“There is both good and bad news Marx,” replied the Tech Priest, taking a seat beside the bed with great care so that his mechanical limbs didn’t knock any of the medical equipment over. “The good news is that Martialis will make a full recovery.”

“And the bad?” asked Marx, suspecting the worst. Any noticeable damage to a titan was always followed by an inquiry led by the most senior Tech Priests of the legion.

“Oh nothing like that,” replied Halafway, suspecting the cause of unease in his friend. “You have already been cleared by Magos Peele’s inquest. It’s just that Martialis will be out of action for over two weeks while a new knee joint is forged.”

“Two weeks!” repeated Marx in exasperation, the pain in his chest even worse than before as he attempted to rise up only to be pushed back into bed by Halafways coldly metallic hands.

“You must rest my friend,” said Halafway softly. “The battle is won and the war is over. Now you must regain your strength, just because you’ve broke a few ribs doesn’t mean you won’t be expected to attend the new Lord Governors coronation party.”

“There’s a new governor?”

“Of course,” said Halafway shaking his head, “you hardly expect the last governor to still be alive after he let the Orks ravage half his world and annihilate his space fleet.”

“He’s dead?” asked Marx, taking a drink from his bed side to wash down a few pain reliever tablets the medicae assistant had left him.

“Well he had an accident and fell onto a las bolt backwards and his head exploded,” replied Halafway, “I’m not that knowledgeable in the medical sciences but as far as I’m aware having ones brains splattered over your desk is usually a good indicator of death.”

“Very droll,” replied Marx as he pushed his legs out of bed and slowly rose to his feet. The pain was noticeable but the tablet dulled it enough to deal with so that he could stroll over gently to where a fresh uniform way laid out on a table along with his personal vox unit and sidearm, an ancient stub pistol plated with silver that his father had given him as a graduation gift. It was rather challenging putting on his uniform, especially with the restrictive bandages that had been wrapped around his lower abdomen.

“A shuttle has already been readied for you and one of the Guard commander, a brigadier Black if I remember correctly. You two shall be going to the coronation together,” said Halafway, fussing over one of his mechanical arms like a pet.

“What of Kaan and the other princeps?”

“Our gallant commander has already left, with the holy relics that were recovered from the spire” replied Halafway.

Meaning Kaan left us behind as well as leaving Martialis on its own, thought Marx. That man was far too possessed with the idea of attaining great glory, it went against practically every regulation and procedure ever devised to leave a downed titan unguarded by other war machines of the Adeptus, although true there was still ample numbers of guardsmen to defend the fallen war machine it was a matter of honour that the Adeptus looked after their own.

“Well then,” said Marx, strapping his chest armour over his uniform, it was a custom made chest piece that connected into the command throne of the titan, giving him much greater sensory feedback than a simple direct mind connection could achieve. “We’d best be off lest Kaan writes us off as killed in action.”

As Marx tenderly shuffled out of the tent, Halafway standing close behind to offer a helping hand if it was needed, he was greeted by Lieutenant Orosl, who commanded the forty Skitari soldiers who were assigned to the Martialis, being based in the pair of leg fortress to provide close range anti infantry fire as well as to repel any boarding attempts, which although unlikely in the extreme was theoretically possible.

With a crisp salute Orosl fell into step beside Marx, a more impressive feat than it sounds seeing as he managed to maintain a military step whilst maintaining position with someone who was struggling to manage a waddle, a pair of his Tech Guard formed an honour guard and trailed them at a more respectable distance, their hellgun carbines polished to a fine shine.

“Lieutenant,” said Marx, “how did your lads fair in the crash?”

“Well enough Lord Princep,” he replied in short clipped tone of voice. “Two broken legs and a spattering of bruises but the medicae reports they’ll be returned to duty by the time the Martialis is restored to the Omnissiahs service.”

“Excellent,” replied Marx, regarding the Lieutenant, realising for the first time that he was likely only a year or two younger than himself. He often wondered if he himself would be in the Lieutenants shoes if he hadn’t been selected to join the Collegia Titanica at the age of eight. His farther had been a colonel in the Skitari and he himself had worshipped his farther, spending much of his youth playing hunt the heretic in his mock uniforms while wielding his plastic las rifle. If he hadn’t been swished away into the cloistered training facilities of the Legio Pyrricina he doubtlessly would have volunteered into the Skitari regiments himself. Perhaps he would have been stood a mere meter away talking to another Princep as a lieutenant in command of a small unit of troops instead of commanding a mighty war machine.

Regardless here was where he stood, or rather where he hobbled. As he passed a large tent that was overflowing with vox equipment he noticed the shuttle that was waiting for him, a dirty grey Imperial Guard courier shuttle, barely large enough to carry half a dozen people, including the seat that the pilot would be using.

“Well, we’ll certainly be travelling in style.”

“My apologies, Lord Princep,” said a figure appearing from the vox tent. “But the air transport has been provided by the remains of the God Emperors PDF air fleet and they are somewhat lacking in luxury liners.”

His black uniform identified the stranger as an Imperial Guard Commissioner and he seemed to be bulging out of it with shear muscle mass. A large battered chain sword hung at his belt alongside a bulky looking plasma pistol.

“Commissar Rennings,” he said brusquely, moving to stand by the open shuttle hatch. “Imperial Commissioner to the Mordian 451st by the grace of the Immortal God Emperor.”

Oh great, though Marx. Referring to the Emperor twice in as many sentences, a bloody Emperor botherer if ever there was one.

Not for the first time Marx was thankful that his upbringing had shielded him from both the monotonous fanaticism of the Imperial Cult but also the dogmatism of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Both of his parents, as servants of the Adeptus and residents of a forge world had been free from the mauling of the Ecclesiarchy and his always practical Skitari farther had shielded him from the majority of the influence of the Cult Mechanicus that his mother brought. Not that he didn’t love either his mother or indeed the Immortal God Emperor that was the Omnissiah but he was ultimately a practical person at heart and religion didn’t feature that highly in the battlefield of the high tech super weapons that he occupied.

“How glorious for you,” replied Marx flatly, but before the Commissioner could respond, most likely with some wearisome comment about serving the Emperor for the Emperors sake he cut in, “where is your brigadier?”

“That would be me,” said a softly spoken voice from behind them.

Turning Marx saw an incredibly tall and yet almost painfully thin man dressed in a simple and unadorned Mordian blue uniform, its spotless neatness echoed by the ten soldiers who stood behind him in parade ground rigidness, las rifles held tightly against their shoulders.

“Brigadier Black, at your service, honoured Princep,” he said in his soothingly calm voice that almost dripped command. Now that Marx was able to get a look at him he noticed that his uniform wasn’t as indistinguishable from the common soldiers that stood behind him. It was instead riddles with tiny reflective panels, each no larger than a fingernail. The telltale signs of a personal shield tailored into the uniform itself. An impressive piece of technology, even more so for being the possession of a simple Guard brigadier.

“Ah well met brigadier,” replied Marx, giving a curt nod. “My compliments to your artillery core by the way, they avenged the honour of the Marialis with great effect.”

“I shall relay your compliments honoured princep,” replied Black, his face displaying no emotion what so ever, “although I must remark that my men feel somewhat disillusioned that they got to do so little of the killing on this field of war but that it was your titans that laid waste to the enemies of man in their place.”

This gave Marx pause, he knew full well that the average guardsmen would likely resent on some level the disparity in firepower and prestige that existed between them and practically all other militant arms of the Imperium but he had never encountered it being displayed so brazenly before. The Imperial commanders and soldiery that he had worked with before had been in nothing but awe of himself and the titan legions. They were after all the divine incarnation of the god emperor on the field of battle.

“We all fight the enemies of the God Emperor as our abilities allow brigadier,” he replied carefully. “I for one saw great courage and honour amongst the forces that fought alongside me on this field.”

“And yet it is you princeps who shall reap the honour of recovering the holy relics,” spat the brigadier, a sneer smearing his face.

Ahh, thought Marx, and so the cause of this discontent reveals itself. The Guard had likely spent much blood storming the hive to recover the relic and Princeps Majoris Kaan had simply run off with it to deliver to the new governor himself with barely a word for the lowly Guardsmen he had left in his wake. Marx himself shared his resentment at being left behind like baggage, not that that excused the shear impudence of this Guard brigadier in taking out his frustrations on him.

“Brigadier,” Marx began, “I’m certain that the Lord General is more than aware of your mens sterling work in seizing the relics in the first place, the fact that the legion is delivering them is irrelevant to that point.”

At this the Black was quiet for a time, Marx was however tired of this childish inter-service rivalry and instead turned to enter the shuttle. “Care to join me Brigadier,” he called as he took a seat by the pilot’s station.

Without another word the Brigadier, Commissar and Halafway sat down and the shuttle hatch screeched close, the pilot quickly easing it off the ground and into the air, leaving the camp behind, he could just make out Lieutenant Orosl leading his men away from the landing area. It was going to be a long and uncomfortable ride Marx thought, grimacing as the shuttle roughly accelerated, seeming to hit every air pocket in the atmosphere.
Get busy living or get busy dying... unless there’s cake.

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