“You’d make me pay for a drink when the world is ending?”
Karra crossed her arms, the mutant horns of her right striking sparks against the black iron augmetic of her left.
“Zeelo, I’d make YOU pay for the drink if Angron appeared in a cyclone of blood and drowned us. And if the world’s ending I’m not spending my last seconds looking at you for free. So pay, leave, or give me an excuse to kill you, and those are in ascending order of preference.”
Zeelo slinked out of the Bloody Cog into the rusting alley between manufactory stacks. No-one had ever proven that Karra served Iron Warriors in the armored upper floor, or that she distilled debtors into the bloodka which got them drunk. But even Zeelo understood this might be because anyone who could prove it was now proof.
Karra unclenched her fists and went back to scouring steel drinking vessels. (Patrons had to pay extra for glass, at considerable markup, but most were smart enough to bring their own blades). She peered at the smog-choked sky through the slats of a presumably sarcastic ventilation grill. A forge world’s sky was always grey, and Ferron V’s seemingly limitless promethium reserves had turned them black even before it had been claimed by Chaos.
Now even the pretence of habitability had been cast aside as daemon-infused manufactories ran with the blood of industrial accident. Truly, Khorne cared not from who the blood flowed, and it seemed a conveyor belt was close enough if was screaming about a False Emperor and carrying replacement sawchains.
(The one smartass comment Karra would never make was “Yes, he’s a mouldering corpse incarnating the rotten lies of a weakling Imperium, true, but he is actually their Emperor. And we don’t have another rival Emperor. So he’s not a False Emperor, is he?”)
No, it was undeniable. The sky was darker. Maybe the rumours of xenos descending to burn the world were true.
Karra turned behind her armored bar/palisade to pour an expensive glass of bloodka. She raised it to the dim grill.
“Skulled for the Skull Throne!” she cried, turning her head to the sky and crushing the glass in her fist, mingled blood and spirit falling into her open mouth.
Any xenos dumb enough to attack this place would join it soon.
Xenos vessels had descended to destroy Ferron V. But it was taking longer than they’d expected. Their shock and awe strategy of awesome sky-filling discs descending into the lower atmosphere to detonate entire cities only worked when there were individual cities. Against the endless sprawl of a forge world it was basically acupuncture. Instead of striking fear and panic into the population they’d been forced to crawl a few kilometers at a time while their weapons recharged. It was like trying to clean a boulder with a toothbrush.
Between shots they’d stared down in disbelief as roving gangs of humans dashed into devastated areas to cart away wreckage for smelting. The surviving manufactories suddenly had new quotas to seize, and until they themselves were targeted they would work to serve their masters’ hunger. A hunger for blood, for vengeance, a hunger above all for the eating of worlds.
And now their masters were descending.
The bridge of World Eaters assault cruiser Knuckle hosted an unprecedented tactical meeting. In that “tactical meetings” of the Blood of Everything warband usually involved fighting your way to the drop pod’s controls and aiming it at the fiercest anti-aircraft fire.
The ship’s human Captain Jakk Beam took another swig from his vodekk canteen and mag-clamped it back to the side of his throne. This was a tactical decision on par with any of his brilliant void stratagems, balancing the risk of movement against the fatal effects of being sober enough to show visible fear. Once the rising star of the Imperial Navy’s Fleet Obscurus, capture by the World Eaters had revealed that his combat genius was not motivated by love of the Imperium but an advanced sense of self-preservation. A sense which had developed new tactics: keep killing enemies even when his masters weren’t on the bridge, and keep his mouth shut when they were.
Right now his mouth couldn’t have been more shut by a Cadian blockade. The assembled World Eaters had just been informed that the xenos’ shields were proof against drop pod assault, and Jakk was just hoping he’d still have some bridge officers left to replace the thin smear of sensorium officer, when the armored bridge portals clanked open to reveal Sergeant Amzara. Now even the other World Eaters went quiet. Jakk held so still his heart stopped.
Amzara’s expressionless helm faced the sensorium bay splattered red in warning lights and bits of its late operator. Glowing lenses turned to the vast circular xenos craft on the main viewscreen. The alien mothership was in high orbit, overseeing its daughter discs’ assault on Ferron V. A tearing grind of gears was revealed as laughter as she removed her helm.
Amzara had become a Space Marine the same way she’d become slaughter-chieftan of her feral homeworld’s largest tribe: killing anyone who objected. She’d shredded the World Eater’s warrior trials, killing her way to the top of the Skull Mound and just not stopping until the Marines had been left with little choice but to take her or leave empty handed.
She’d been saved the bother of killing again in the implantation chambers by Combat Apothecary Grizt, who’d waved whirring narthecium blades under the chin of an assistant gibbering about hormone levels and rejection tolerances.
“Hah!” Grizt spat, jerking the blades close enough to taste blood. “How weak do you think we are? I’ve seen marines take a tank round to the gut and tear the gunner’s head off. The things we implant, we could shove them into a grox and end up with another World Eater. Probably a smarter one than most.”
He stared into Amzara’s eyes. They did not lower. Nor, he noticed, did her fists relax even though her arms were clamped to the surgical slab. The implantation procedure didn’t work “with” the weak human body. It overwrote it. Overloaded it. Enhanced it beyond all sanity or structure to become a demi-god striding above its old species as an avatar of war. The idea that a few grams of tissue could stand against that wasn’t just laughable, it was pathetic.
He plunged a scalpel into her chest and dragged it down her sternum in a first incision. She twisted in agony but did not cry out. Grizt grunted approval.
“Any progenoid which can’t deal with this isn’t worthy of marines.”
Sergeant Amzara grinned.
“You mangy curs want someone to tell you it’s safe to attack? Should I clean your waste filters for you too? Get to the drop pods!”
The World Eaters roared their approval and stormed off the bridge. Amzara stepped forward to Jakk, who stood, his dignity demanding that he at least be punched to death instead of stood on. (The vodekk helped).
“Don’t worry Jakk, the Knuckle can punch through their shields!”
“Master,” — he’d seen from experience that prefacing bad news with “forgive me” was the galaxy’s least-self-fulfilling prophecy — “We have sustained maximum bombardment for five minutes with no noticeable effect.”
Amzara laughed again, returning to the brutal hacking of vox-distortion as she resealed her helm and strode to the bridge portal.
“Yes, Jakk, but the Knuckle can punch through their shields!”
The World Eater’s craft plunged into the mothership like a knife through flesh. The impenetrable field had flared like a nova as cataclysmic feedback with the Knuckle’s voids had torn them both down. Now it was just ship to ship. The xenos disc was the size of a civilization. But the xenos disc was a civilization, stuffed with all the weak and vulnerable innards that implied, while the World Eaters cruiser was a blade built only for war.
Forward decks clad in meters of multiply-reinforced ceramite tore like an armor-piercing round through flesh. Forward lance batteries and defense turrets burned through storage silos, civilian habs, maintenance yards and medical bays, burning as they plunged into the soft guts of an entire culture. Jakk roared as it all flared and shattered on his viewscreen, vodekk burning in his veins as the starship captain gained an impossible glimpse of the glory of urban assault.
The Knuckle’s realspace engines deafened half the ship as they overloaded and flared out, their actinic flares now the quills of an impossibly vast arrow mortally wounding the larger vessel.
Then the drop pods fired like a shotgun blast.
Designed to withstand atmospheric re-entry and orbital-insertion impacts on the most brutal battlefields imaginable, they shredded soft internal divisions built for long years of civilian life between worlds. And through the stumbling and dazed survivors tore the World Eaters.
The ridiculous little xenos died by the thousands without a shot fired or blade drawn. That these tiny grey things dared attack anyone was an affront to everything the World Eaters worshipped. When the xenos’ own troops finally arrived, struggling through miles of their own stricken vessel from deployment hangars to their own burning homes, they were just larger versions of the same fleshy targets. Worthier foes attacking World Eaters already drenched in their people’s blood. They could not have been a better gift to Khorne.
One wrapped Amzara’s right gauntlet in the flailing tentacles sprouting from its back. She turned her wrist around them and yanked, headbutting the stumbling alien warrior with a squelching crunch. She roared in laughter, tearing the broken head from its shoulders, then ripping wet shards of biological helm from the small grey face within.
“Blood for the Blood God!” she cried across the vox, “Even their armor bleeds!”
The next week of slaughter was forever marked in the warband’s scar-annals. They would mount planetary assaults on this ritual date that the sheer volume of vitae spilled would reach across the warp to bless fresh butchery.
It only ended when a lowly adept of the Dark Mechanicus emerged from the Knuckle‘s smouldering enginarium. Intending only to scavenge scrap to smelt for crude replacement parts, the same heretical thirst for knowledge which had driven her from Mars now plunged her mechadendrites into the glittering xenos system.
A shock of total access almost killed her organic components on the spot. This …. even after decades on a Chaos vessel, what she now found was lunacy. Even the crude operation-daemons of the World Eater’s most basic craft required access codes to engage or rituals to placate. But so arrogant where these invaders that the vast expanse of craft had no security whatsoever.
“My lord!” she voxed to Amzara, “I have total control of the xenos craft! What should I do!”
The reply grated from a throat torn by days of ceaseless roar, and the crackle of augmitter distortion, but the savage joy of it flooded what little flesh remained on the tech-adept’s frame.
Ferron V thrived like never before. A few paltry cubic klicks of lost manufactorum were nothing compared to the bounty gifted by their heavenly masters. Towers of industry already erupted from the massive discs, the daemon-forges chewing through the corpses of an entire civilization. The xenos had fancied themselves a plague on the galaxy. Locusts feasting on the wealth of countless worlds. Instead they had only served to refine them, gathering a treasury of rare ores, exotic materials, obscure technologies, all dropped into the maw of a forge world’s endless appetite.
Feeding the infinite hunger of the World Eaters.
Read more Space Marines Do It Better, including
- Space Marines Do It Better: For The Emperor
- Space Marines Do It Better: Xenos
- Space Marines Do It Better: Apex
- Space Marines Do It Better: Metal