(1,061 words excluding title)
Every variable had been accounted for. The target's speed and direction. Its armor's capabilities against the Predator's own twin lascannons. Even the prevailing atmospheric conditions did not escape notice - particularly since it had quickly turned from a light drizzle to a torrential thunderstorm.
It was thus already a certainty when the twin beams of light struck the renegade Leman Russ tank. It paused for a moment, as though surprised by its own impending demise, before exploding in what the Guardsmen liked to call a "catastrophic kill".
But while Pride 07 was aware of this terminology - it had served alongside several Akkadian tank regiments in the past - it chose not to record the apt description of its latest kill. It was simply not mission-critical information. It would instead simply be logged as kill number seventeen for the Platean Campaign, while a separate function logged it as the machine's three hundred and sixty-fourth kill overall.
Brother Pollux, the tank's commander, began yelling instructions. Despite the downpour, he had spotted another rebel tank hiding ahead of them.
Subtly, Pride 07 began to adjust its servos in anticipation of what was to come. The gunner, Brother Decimus, bid the turret turn. In one smooth action, the turret snapped into place, locked on the enemy tank. Decimus hesitated for a half second, mentally rechecking his firing solution calculations, before finally pulling the trigger.
Pride 07 always found this habit unnecessary. One of its main functions was to do the rechecking for the Space Marines; freeing them to focus on other more vital tasks. But Decimus was persistent. Neither the reprimands of the Techmarines or their eighteenth kill on this planet was about to make him change his ways.
Brother Pollux's life signs then began to change. Pride 07 could not relate to the emotions felt by non-machines - even the limited range exhibited by Space Marines - but it had come to recognize when the commander was feeling duress. A quick diagnostic scan immediately revealed why: The auspex was beginning to malfunction.
Pollux shouted some orders, directed at Brother-Logis Socrates. The Logis had been told to repair the auspex. The Logis complied, pulling out some panels at the bottom of the tank's main compartment, but Pride 07 knew that no amount of repairs would restore their auspex to full capability. The problem was outside of the tank.
Suddenly, Brother Decimus gasped. He told his comrades to look out the viewports. Pride 07 could only wait for someone else to speak. A Machine Spirit had no eyes but its instruments.
Pride 07 began to record an increase its weight, even as its crew watched silently at what was happening outside. It began to realize that the rain drops were striking much more powerfully than expected. It was as though the Predator tank wasn't being drenched by water. It was being drenched by a much heavier liquid. It was...
"Blood..." Brother Pollux said out loud, before Pride 07 could finish its calculations. Immediately, the machine spirit was thrown into an endless loop of contradictory queries. There was nothing in the database that suggested this was possible. It was a violation of physical laws. Unless...
There was a terrible shriek to the west of Pride 07. Its crew did not hear it, but the Predator tank knew that it had lost one of its brethren. It had heard the dying code scream of a fellow Predator, Pride 03.
Instantly, Pride 07 knew they were in danger. It began flashing warnings on the auspex, announcing the death of one of their tanks. Pollux was attentive and began barking orders. He was about to finish when Pride 07 heard another terrible sound. This time, the crew heard it too.
"Ruinos Monstrum Rex!"
In an instant, everything was clear to Pride 07. It knew the name. It was that of an ancient enemy - a superheavy tank under the service of the Ruinous powers. Many loyalist machines had died because of this monster; and the bloody rain which precedes it is said to be the tears of those it had slain.
But it was too late. A massive Baneblade round struck the frontal armor. Miraculously, it did not penetrate, but the resulting explosion nearly annihilated them anyway. The Predator was rocked to its core, with most of its systems knocked out. Internal spalling instantly killed the Brother Logis, while Brother Pollux cracked his skull and broke his neck. Only Decimus survived out of the crew, but Pride 07 - now on its last legs - could detect that his life signs were fading fast. There was something that had pierced all his lungs and one of his hearts.
Defiantly, Decimus grabbed the turret controls. Painfully, Pride 07 tried to comply. Decimus was trying to execute a snap-shot: A quick reply in the same direction where enemy fire had come from.
The turret somehow swung into position. Decimus adjusted the traverse. Pride 07 waited as Decimus paused for a half second, rechecking his firing solution for one final time.
He fell unconscious before he could pull the trigger.
Pride 07 tried to revive Brother Decimus, operating through a shared link with the Astartes Power Armour. The monstrous enemy superheavy had now appeared out of the bloody rain, and it was fortuitously right between the crosshairs of the Predator's twin lascannons. But the guns could only be fired by a human crew member, for Machine Spirits were intentionally left crippled in this manner to prevent another Dark Age of Technology.
Suddenly, Decimus' life signs vanished. He had died.
An instant later, the twin lascannons fired. Ruinous Monstrum Rex was caught by surprise. The twin beams sliced through an ammunition magazine. Its millennia-long reign of terror ended in a ball of flame.
But Pride 07 did not log this kill. Instead, it logged the exact moment Brother Decimus died. It should not have. It was not mission-critical data. Nor was the fact that Pride 07 had never known any other gunner in its two centuries of service.
The unnatural rain began to subside, the monster that created it now slain. But Pride 07 realized that a different rain had begun.
The Machine Spirit's final log entry would report that the tank had developed a fuel leak, and black drops of oil were slowly dripping down to the ground.
Last edited by Zinegata; 05-24-12 at 04:06 PM.