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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-25-13, 06:44 AM Thread Starter
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Default Falcata: An Account of the Titan War on Sarinor

Original concept for Falcata can be found here:
https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...d.php?t=122537

--

Wars almost always had a definitive ending. A treaty, a troop withdrawl, an "advisory posting", moving to secondary roles, training positions, strategic redeployment, selective retreat. There were so many terms the Imperial Guard in the Vires Subsector used to describe the end of a campaign without actually ending the campaign. It was much harder for the Tactica Imperial planners to determine when exactly certain wars began.

On the world of Sarinor, spared hostilities by dint of being relatively off the main warp lane through the sector- and by proxy, the subsector- when war came to the world, it came without a single Xenos ever setting claw upon the surface.

But it had so many beginnings, the war for Sarinor. The rot had spread through the Quad Hives, the four spires that formed the planetary capital of the agri-world. But it had been most concentrated in the fifth, the mostly abandoned Hive No. 5 just to the south. When the PDF with supporting Imperial Guard elements broke through the gate they found only horrors within- every single member of the Administratum, the Arbites, the church and the mechanicus, had been collected and hung en masse in the hive's central square. So many, in fact, that the heretics had run short of rope and resorted to hanging those captured with their own belts and the straps of bags.

The first reports of the terrible crimes in Hive No. 5 reached the capital when the War for Sarinor began again. Deep within the agri-fields to the south of the population centers, in an old farmhouse later known as the Red House, the most powerful of the traitors gathered and the warp split wide open, spewing forth legions of the damned. Where they stood, the fields turned black. Bloat-flies and twisted, many-limbed things stormed across the fertile earth of Sarinor. Taken off-guard, the PDF mustered a defense of Hive No. 5's walls- fighting both the legions from without, and the continuing resistance from within.

However, Imperial records maintain the war for Sarinor only truly began in 005.M42, when the Imperial Guard landed on the world. Thousands and thousands of troops, artillery to level cities, armored units and airborne assault squads. But none of these- while splendid- captured the imaginations of Sarinor's population more than the pair of god-machines released by the forge-world Pyka, whose native Legio Apsida had heeded the call.

---

"What is this?" Karina Ravenni asked, looking up at the princeps with wide eyes. When they had met Gregori DeRolt had assumed that the girl- for that was what she was, a girl- was driving the groundcar for the Enginseer assigned to the Titan. She had given him the assignment wafers and he'd died a bit inside.

And then had come the war on Fallow, where Arcana Imperii suffered reactor damage- a crack in her fusion bottle where lack of use had made the machine brittle and aged. Where any other Enginseer- perhaps a more wise enginseer- would've demanded the machine be shuttled back to Pyka for months of refitting, Ravenni had held the bottle together with joint compound and reinforcing plates. DeRolt's Steersman, Ben Ebsin, had privately relayed to the Princeps that he had been told to go buy the filler from a hardware store on Fallow.

"It's a ration card," the princeps said, holding a small wad of them in his other hand to pass out to the rest of the crew, "There's a war on and the Emperor can't sustain us drinking all the petroleum and eating all the caf grounds on the world."

Ravenni looked at the card closely. Departmento Munitorum Official Rationing Wafer (Sarinor Front Class 01) was written at the top, a few items beneath it with places to punch. DeRolt waited patiently for the inevitable complaint.

"Three cups of caf," Ravenni finally said breathlessly. The princeps set his jaw, having been a second off on his prediction of when it would arrive.

"We all get three cups every two days," he attempted to justify, "The Guard needs it more than we do, we aren't working in two twelve-hour trench shifts."

"No, I'm working one twenty-four hour shift," the tech-priest whined. When they had met, now almost three years ago, she was one of the few Mechanicus that he'd ever known to eschew the augmetics and machine replacements common to that august order. Still today she was bland by the standards of the priesthood, unremarkably human from head to knee. After Fallow she'd finally accepted what she'd described as "store credit" from Pykan's ruling Mechanicus class, and from the knee her legs were mechanical talons, reinforced with small hydraulic actuators. Her red robe was a bit too large for her and nearly touched the ground.

In comparison, DeRolt was everything a Princeps should appear to be- clean-cut, his uniform neat and pressed, a few decorations on his breast, epaulettes describing him as a Princeps of a Warlord-weight Titan. Arcana Imperii was embroidered on his lapel. He had a single augmentic eye that glowed a faint green, MIU links visible on his neck above the stiff collar of his officer's best.

"Can I have another?" Ravenni asked him hungrily, looking at the stack in the princeps' hands.

"No," he responded simply. With that he'd let the air out of Karina Ravenni, the priest slumping somewhat in despair.

"Stock up before we disembark," he suggested. The air rushed back into her and she almost immediately sped off with a series of clanks as her talons hit the metal decking.

Arcana Imperii was their Titan, and they were their Titan's crew. Umbillicals and walkways cluttered the outer plates of the machine as the priests aboard the landing craft made final assessments to the titan's systems. A few moments later, as DeRolt strode onto his bridge, pulling a semilastic plastic band around the wad of ration cards, he would watch as the ammunition trollies moved away from 'his' feet, carrying the huge yet empty pallets of Gatling Blaster shells.

The bridge of the Warlord was a splendid place- indeed, one of the Princeps' favorite spots in all the Imperium was sitting in the command throne of the Arcana Imperii. It had a somewhat staggered deck, DeRolt's station near the rear, flanked on either side by large Aquila-embossed doors. The MIU links and cables were neatly bundled, connecting into the rear of the throne. Screens and displays ringed the seat, some on armatures hanging from the ceiling. Directly in front of the Princeps was the much more complicated Steersman station, which boasted the Titan's array of lower limb pic-recorders and modar systems to prevent it from stomping on anything the Moderatus manning the station didn't want to stomp on. The paired control sticks on either arm of the chair were cluttered with more controls, the grips worn and softened.

As DeRolt sat in his command chair, his eyes moved to the other two stations- his Sensori to the left, Wyndi Malthovisk, and Nathaniel Shaye, the Moderatus Senioris, to the right. When they had been assigned to Arcana Imperii, the pair had been the two to come with him. As on their previous command, a Reaver, Malthovisk had begged for the targeting and weapons command, while Shaye had politely asked for sensor duty.

He'd then assigned Shaye to weapons and Malthovisk to sensors, trusting the fiery woman to give him the best possible reaction to battlefield conditions, and Shaye's calm patience to mollify the Imperii's fierce compliment of weaponry.

The rest of the bridge was mostly hard decking and walls covered in screens and sensor equipment. A tech-priest shrine was in the far corner near the right-hand door, a few wax seals showing where Ravenni had been up here during their warp jump from Pyka inspecting every inch of the Warlord. The candles were still slightly liquid. DeRolt sighed, slumping backwards in his command throne and feeling the tips of the MIU plugs gently attempt to align with his linkages. Imperii had been mean when they'd first met, princeps to machine. Cooped up like a feral dog beneath the fortress on Pyka. DeRolt's stern hand had to earn every single millimeter of trust from it- and finally, on Fallow, surrounded by dead traitors and heretics, war-horns blaring, he had earned it indeed. Now it greeted him as an old friend, the titan moving to give him a warm embrace.

He stopped it by gently leaning forward to pull the cardboard box of narcs from his breast pocket, patting the opposite arm of the command throne.

"Soon," he assured the Warlord. It made no reply, as it often did, but the princeps knew the war machine understood.

As he lit the narc with an antique lighter- a hideous thing, bright gold with an eagle's head whose beak popped open to reveal the flame when it was struck- another crane rolled past on the overhead rails, laden down with Apocalypse missiles in a huge steady-crate to keep them from shifting. He watched it go, breathing out a gentle cloud of smoke. If Ravenni had been aboard right about now the Titan's intercom would be politely but firmly telling the princeps to put out the narc- thankfully she'd be turning the ship upside-down for powdered caf before their drop, and he could smoke in peace. He'd quit once before on his first wife's request, but then on Fallow he'd picked the habit up once more and it had stayed around.

"Hello Gregori- mind if I join you?" a voice said from the doorway. The princeps didn't even have to turn- he'd heard the voice so many times before. [Target destroyed. Target destroyed. Target destroyed.] Repeated over and over and over again on the unit vox-link, over the audible shriek of plasma fire.

"Of course," he invited, gesturing to the slightly convex, angular back of the Steersman's seat in front of himself. Bardic Mathais stepped into his field of view, a much younger man who still had most of his natural hair color outbred by gray.

I'm getting old, DeRolt thought to himself, sticking the narc between his lips. Mathais was wearing his own officer's uniform, except his epaulettes were slightly less grand than DeRolt's, his lapel reading Carnivora. The Warhound scout titan had nearly been scrapped on Pyka for it's feral scrap of a machine-spirit, all howling for blood and screaming with glee every time it's paired Plasma Blastguns were unhooked from their cradle limiters.

But Bardic Mathais had conquered the bestial titan- or perhaps the pair simply had too much in common. Before being assigned to Carnivora, Mathais had commanded a Reaver much like DeRolt himself had. Unlike DeRolt, Mathais had six maneuvering citations including three for stressing the Reaver chassis beyond specifications- and amusingly, a parking citation from the local Arbites office in the town of Vale, on Pyka- where he'd stopped to re-establish coordinate links with Apsida's command post with one foot resting on the corner of a lot.

His "success" as a Reaver princeps, however- with five kills to his credit, two of machines outweighing his own- made it impossible for Apsida to simply discard him down to training Knights. And thusly he'd been thrown to Carnivora only to make quite possibly the best friend he'd ever possessed in it's machine-spirit.

"I thought you'd quit," Mathais said accusingly as DeRolt puffed on the narc, the older man's eyes flicking up to meet the younger's.

"So did I," DeRolt said honestly, "Fallow caught up with me, and here we are. Besides, it was on my supply card for the campaign, I hadn't a chance to update it and was confronted by a carton of the things when we landed."

"Can't let them go to waste," Mathais responded, nodding in agreement.

"Is that an offer to help?" DeRolt offered himself, digging out the pack and the tacky lighter and offering them both to the other princeps, who took them with a grateful nod and lit himself a narc, handing them both back.

"Have you looked over the Tactica yet?" the younger man asked, glancing back as the Steersman's chair rotated ever so slightly as his weight leaned on it.

"Some of it," DeRolt nodded honestly, "It looks to be a trench war of the worst kind- all hedgerows and fields. The Guard are getting pasted. Thankfully there's been no mention of traitor machines."

Mathais visibly sighed at the mention of no enemy titans. Maybe Carnivora had rubbed off a bit on the man.

The older princeps smirked past the narc, smoke coiling from his nostrils, "A blastgun will clear a trench for a hundred feet on either side, Mathais. You'll be able to smell the burnt flesh from your throne."

That appeared to cheer the younger man up, rather perversely, and he puffed up a little as he took another draw.

"I'll deploy as a dagger to you," he said when he'd finished breathing back out, "Flanking unit, even if we aren't fighting enemy machines Carnivora doesn't have the advantage of a Warlord's tonnage- I'd rather not expose her to direct fire unless at your order."

DeRolt nodded. That had been more or less their strategy on Fallow- where a few enemy machines had arrived. Arcana Imperii was large and imposing enough to throw a scare into even heavy enemy titans, while Carnivora, moving at a speed even the most liberal tech-adept might object to, would appear in the midst of the brawl, spearing the enemy through it's heart with the paired blastguns.

"To a successful campaign, then?" the old princeps offered, pulling the narc from his mouth and holding it out like a drinking glass. Mathais removed his own, gently tapping the bodies of the two narcs together like a cross in a sort of toast.

"I've got to be along," he said hurriedly, "I won't trust Xevin or Thryst to undock Carnivora alone, the machine will bite their heads off- see you on the ground, Gregori. Good hunting."

The princeps hurried off the bridge, narc waggling between his lips. The last of the cranes disengaged from the Warlord's side as DeRolt watched, trailing huge lines that pumped coolant into the Volcano Cannon on the titan's opposite arm.

[All Titanicus personnel,] the shipboard vox said in a monotonous servitor's voice, [Prepare to disembark to surface.]

DeRolt sat back in his command throne. Arcana Imperii rushed to him now, and in an instant he saw everything there was to see- he was a chiseled god standing amid mere mortals, the scurrying, supplicant acolytes applying a few last dabs of holy oils to his mighty frame as a ramp large enough to crush armies descended, letting the first slice of Sarinori sunlight break across the Apsida drop bay, gleaming into a hundred pic-capture eyelenses.

"Crew to stations," Arcana Imperii said. On the bridge, Princeps DeRolt had silently mouthed the words, the narc laying in a ceramic ashtray glued to the console dash beside him.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-26-13, 02:11 AM Thread Starter
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So often he had stared into the soul of the beast.

Midnight black fur, eyes like blazing coals, claws built like scythes. Twice the size of the largest man he'd ever seen. It howled and scratched, keening as the weapons were disengaged and coolant lines shuddered as thousands of gallons thundered down their length.

The beast was faster, stronger, tougher, crueler, than anything he'd ever seen before. It tore the flesh from enemy machines, stabbed at necks and joints, burst hearts. Bones snapped, muscles strained, gore sprayed over the beast's armored platework. The sigil of the Legio Apsida emblazoned across it's upper chassis, howling, always screaming from the vents as the paired blastguns struggled to cool down in the scant seconds between shots. The enemy broke, came apart, splattered the ground beneath his toes. The beast begged to pursue, chase, destroy. And it did, ground rolling beneath it's claws. It realized it no longer needed to ask to hunt, as a hunter sat upon the throne.

For so long he had stared into the soul of the beast- so too had the beast stared back his soul.

Bardic Mathais woke with a start, blanket twisted around his legs. The princeps slumped back against the pillow, bare chest heaving slightly. A sheen of sweat coated his brow. The small fan next to him was making a quiet whining noise and he hurriedly shut it off.

"Emperor preserve," he intoned. The princeps rolled over, pulling the blankets up over his shoulder.

*****

"Auspex painting, sixteen light to medium, tracked contact. Hive relay showing no Throne units in vicinity, local Guard have given us a grid of free-fire clearance and permission to engage."

"Engage," Mathais ordered. In front of him in the cramped cockpit of the Warhound, Naomi Xevin flicked a switch that disengaged the limiters on the plasma blastguns. Instantly Carnivora's engines thrummed a note higher, it's steps had a fraction more bounce as the machine-soul growled and pawed the ground, modar arrays twisting to face the red dots of unknown contact icons on the display before Mathais.

The princeps clapped his other Moderatus on the shoulder and the man nodded. Palven Thryst was his name- a generation ahead of Mathais himself, but that was just experience as far as the princeps was concerned.

With a shift forward, Thryst pushed the control sticks forward and Carnivora broke into a trot, heavy footfalls echoing up through the chassis as the machine rolled across the broken fields outside of Hive No. 5. Behind them some twenty kilometers, the Quad Hives rose in a metal mountain range. The dull shape of the Arcana Imperii was off in the distance to their east, scouting the huge expanse of Agri-Field 03.

"Enemy contacts, confirmed," Xevin reported, "They're moving into engagement positions. OBSAT reports ten infantry transports, mixed, six aggressors loaded to prey."

"Straight through the heart," Mathais ordered, "Run them over, Moderatus."

The control sticks twitched of their own accord and pressed forward slightly in Thryst's hands. The Moderatus had to slightly rein them in as the speed indicator strained to 55kph. The maximum speed the enginseers on Pyka had recommended for the machine was only 42 off of tarmac.

The beast had taken that bit of advice, balled it up, and never spoken of it again.

Carnivora stomped over the remains of a fueling station, and was confronted almost instantly by what must've been a very surprised Leman Russ tank crew- the tank defaced by ugly symbols that made the titan's exterior cameras twist in their gimbals to look away from. It had the markings of the Sarinori PDF on it's turret.

"Visual contact, modar returning multiple troop transports alongside," Xevin said laconically.

"Pass me fire control, maintain course and speed," Mathais ordered.

The beast roared in glee as the icons for the titan's paired plasma weapons appeared on the princeps' control panels. Mathais closed his eyes, opening them again and seeing the world through Carnivora's eyes. The enemy was a frail little metal-shell thing, turret screeching to rotate and face the oncoming war machine without a hope of arriving in time.

Rather than waste the ammunition, Mathais simply took maneuvering from Thryst without warning, the old Moderatus knowing the twitch of the controls and pulling his hands away rather than fight his princeps' will. The crew of the Leman Russ realized what was happening and the engine of the tank roared, spinning it's treads into reverse in the brief instant before four hundred tons of Pykan adamantium crushed it down into a two-dimensional wad of gore and compacted metal. A few shells cooked off in the ruin, letting out several loud pops audible from the bridge of the Warhound.

Carnivora clung to Mathais, draped over the princeps' mind, already exalted at the violence of it's first kill on the drab little planet full of flesh-sticks and metal-shells.

"Contact down, contacts two and three, four hundred meters ahead," his sensor clusters said through their flesh-stick operator.

It was true- as they cleared another pall of smog rising from the ruins of Hive No. 5's outskirts they came to a cross between two motorways- dessicated members of the Adeptus Arbites hanging from the lamp posts. Carnivora sniffed at the bodies with it's own sensor clusters, recoiling from the already dead things in search of live, beating-heart spurting-blood prey.

And it found it as two more traitor vehicles growled along the motorway before the titan, fleeing in panic at the sounds of the footfalls rolling through the smog. Chimera, Mark X, max speed was more than Carnivora could manage, but on this terrain, the machine had the advantage. The transports' turrets rotated to face the Warhound and spat a few ineffectual multi-laser shots that left a few ineffectual burns on the armor before Mathais calmly engaged the arm actuators and Carnivora's blastguns aligned.

"Firing solution plotted," one of the flesh-sticks said.

A huge plume of venting heat washed down the street as the weapons unleashed, one of the Chimeras simply erupting outwards in a blobby wave of molten metal and still white-hot plasma. The other was only a partial hit that took it's left side off, still so hot that the soldiers inside were instantly cooked to the walls like overgrilled steaks, fused to the metal as it sagged around them into a red-hot tomb.

The beast cackled with manic glee, sending the modar arrays frantic coordinates as it looked for more prey-things.

Mathais surfaced briefly, opening his eyes as Palven Thryst took control back, turning the Titan down the motorway towards the rest of the red contact icons.

"Princeps DeRolt is hailing us," Xevin reported. The princeps nodded more for his own benefit than the Moderati's, flicking a control beside him.

"Arcana Imperii, you're on speakers," he said. DeRolt's voice came back over the sounds of the Warlord's own bridge.

[I saw that heatwash on my auspex, Bardic. Having fun?]

"Good hunting in this old tomb, Gregori, letting my hair down a little," he responded with a predator's smirk.

[We've engaged alongside the Guard armored on the plains outside the walls, don't get bogged down against anything heavy,] the older princeps warned. Carnivora growled and pawed at Mathais as more prey-things appeared on the auspex, tugging on him to dance with it once more.

"Copy, Arcana Imperii, Carnivora is engaging enemy armor inside the residential district east, will regroup when all contacts are down. Mathais out."

The princeps shut off the com, falling back into the arms of his machine.

"Enemy contacts entering visual range," Xevin said as Carnivora moved around the lip of a stamping factory, where another Leman Russ- this one with paired autocannons for anti-infantry duty- was guarding a second pair of Chimeras. A Centaur light tank was at the head of the formation as the four vehicles moved down the street towards a T-intersection.

"Target the lead vehicle," Mathais growled, eyes still shut. The Moderati responded expertly. The Centaur flashed yellow, flickered, then flashed red in the titan's eyes.

"We have a firing solution, princeps," one of them said.

Carnivora fired again, another huge plume of heat rushing outwards as the Centaur detonated with a foom, a liquified, burning little flesh-thing falling out the rear of the light vehicle, the road bed shifting into gluey muck under the treads of the following Chimera, which almost instantly sank to it's drive wheels in the suddenly liquid rockcrete.

The Leman Russ pulled a hard turn, autocannons spitting shells that clanked and plinked off the Warhound's shin plates. It began to reverse to bring it's hull lascannon into the fight when Carnivora fired again and turned it into a pile of slag and detonating shells.

The second Chimera roared around it's stuck comrade, tearing up the shifting roadway and trying to run for the intersection and the cover of the buildings. The beast howled at the chase, and Mathais once again took control from Thryst.

An almost thoughtless shot from one of the blastguns finished the stuck tank as it tried to reverse out of the situation, passing right through the opened upper doors where heretics were trying to clamber out to run on foot. Through the close-in pic recorders the princeps watched one of them almost make it- jumping off the tank just as the shot struck. The prey-thing screeched in agony as the contact heat set it alight from head to toe, slumping to the molten roadbed and sizzling quietly against the rockcrete as the Chimera burned.

The Warhound skidded around the corner where the second Chimera had disappeared to, only to take a battle cannon shell to it's shoulder that made the beast screech in rage that one of the little metal-shell things had the nerve to fight it, this force of nature.

The heretics had apparently finally gotten wind of the scout titan, the ten remaining armored units desperately trying to realign themselves or make for the gates of the Hive to escape. A pair of Leman Russ tanks, along with a Demolisher, were waiting at the end of the street- three of the last four enemy battle tanks. A worthy show of force, the beast silently nodded inwardly.

But not enough, it added quickly. The fleeing Chimera rushed past the battle tanks as the Demolisher fired, shell glancing off the side plates of Carnivora's torso and obliterating a counting house.

"Firing solution on your will, princeps."

The beast glared down the barrel of the plasma blastgun at the most dangerous of the prey-things, the heavier Demolisher tank. The crew of the tank threw it into reverse, taking cover behind one of the Leman Russ.

Less than a second later the Leman Russ took a blastgun hit for them, the first tank simply ceasing to be while the Demolisher sagged and glowed in the front, stalling abruptly as the driver was incapacitated in some way. The second Leman Russ fired it's own cannon, as well as the hull mount, the lascannon punching a neat hole in Carnivora's shin and making the beast howl at Mathais. The battle cannon hit it square in the chest, blasting a shallow crater and marring the titan with soot, but doing little internal damage. The void shields crackled as they recharged, having spared them the impact of the Demolisher.

"Damage report from the lower decks, all systems nominal, left shinguard is compromised, internal structures are holding," Xevin said. The pain had made Mathais' eyes water, momentarily bringing him back to reality.

Thryst took control just in time to dodge the next Demolisher shell, rotating the titan's torso as the bullet-shaped round whipped past so close the vapor trail smeared on the bridge windshields. The shields let out a whoomp as they surged back to life, deflecting several heavy bolter rounds from the tank's chassis mounts.

Then Carnivora wrenched the sticks away from him again, pressing the controls into Mathais' mind. It centered the guns, absolutely boiling with hate and hunger for the little prey-things who'd managed to hurt it.

The blastguns took the Demolisher's turret off in a spray of liquified metal, the Leman Russ looking to have survived a direct hit for a brief moment before flame burst from every opening in the tank, the structure bending a little.

Though crippled and likely with most of the crew dead, Mathais made sure to crush the still mostly-intact tank beneath Carnivora's feet as they turned the corner towards the bulk of the infantry transports.

"Multiple contacts, mixed designations. One aggressor."

The beast didn't wait this time. The "agressor" was a Hellhound, a fat, slow, easy prey-thing without a prayer of hurting the titan. But it's blood was up, and it's rage forced the firing solution through the cogitators so quickly that before Mathais knew what was going on both of the blastguns had hit the flamer tank.

The Hellhound bent, contorted, then shattered. The prometheum ignited on contact with the boiling air and surged over the transports clustered around it in a vain hope for protection from the oncoming Warhound. Little flesh-things screeched and wailed as they ran, ablaze or with the sinew and gristle falling off their bones in the heat. Carnivora devoted it's processing space to tracking each of them, a pic-recorder on the lower chassis solely tasked with watching the prey-things burn and suffer for hurting it. It tugged at Mathais with glee, like a child might point to a particularly successful bit of art.

And the princeps agreed. The undamaged Chimeras- of which there were few, most caught with their hatches open desperately trying to embark troops to escape- were quickly dispatched with another pair of blastgun impacts that produced another screaming wave of dying heretics that Carnivora stepped over, rounding the corner to face the gates of the Hive.

Five battle cannons, six lascannons, an autocannon, and seventy lasguns were trained on it in an instant.

The beast clawed at the blastguns, taking them and flushing coolant through their systems as it prepared a firing solution.

Imperial contacts suddenly cluttered the auspex.

"Friendly!" Xevin yelled, knowing how Carnivora affected the princeps. She turned in the command chair to look at Mathais as he opened his eyes, looking out over the cratered street to the Imperial firing line at the gate- the first units ready to begin clearing the residential quarter. The titan had been there to break the enemy's armor. Now the hammer of the Imperium was there to finish the job.

The princeps nodded, settling back against the command throne. Carnivora let it's grip on the blastguns go, embracing Mathais warmly. The princeps' leg throbbed slightly, but the beast was almost dancing with glee at the recorded images of the little meat-twigs and prey-things scurrying around, awash in plasma fire, crushed under it's feet, running, fleeing. None had escaped, none had survived. And that was good.

"Friendly unit is hailing us," Thryst said. He patched them through without waiting for a response.

[Bloody hell, lord,] a man's voice said, [Er- this is PDF firing line off your bow, lord, we're standing down for you to pass. Excellent work, lord.]

Off the bow? the beast remarked quizzically. It chuckled at the edge of Mathais' mind, and he smirked as well.

"Thank you, Guardsmen," Xevin replied, "Please pass along that this quarter is free of exposed enemy armor."

[Of course.]

The vox went dead.

"Nice work on those maneuvering swaps," Mathais said to Thryst, who smiled with one side of his mouth, mimicking taking his hands quickly on and off the control sticks.

"She's a feisty one, princeps," he said.

The hunter closed his eyes as Carnivora replayed the pic-captures for him, a hundred images of triumph every second.

"That I am."
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Arcana Imperii was at rest, secured in it's cradle to the east of the Quad Hives. Legio Apsida had been given a hangar normally reserved for the massive dropships used to ferry in supplies to the hive to use as space for their machines and a few moveable mod-habs being used as barracks for crew and personnel. It was odd for DeRolt to get up in the morning and look out his window to see the shinguard of his titan.

But, the old princeps often thought, being this close to Arcana Imperii was something he could get over.

He straightened his fatigue jacket with a quick snap of the hem, stepping off the small incline from the module down onto the floor of the hangar. Oil and grease had soaked into the slightly patterned flooring, leaving dark patches sometimes five meters across spotting the otherwise relatively clean space. Over a hundred meters up, the ceiling of the place loomed like a steel sky, a few skylights cut to allow in some of Sarinor's sunlight.

Unlike aboard ship, he- and the Legio personnel on the planet- had begun to wear simple, standard Guard fatigues, patterned in the tan-on-green-on-brown-on-orange 'field' camouflage of Sarinor's PDF. The reasoning that had come down from the PDF high command was that the heresy on the world had been in the capital, once. They said it was eliminated- but a heretic could spring up at any moment, and the worst way to discover such a traitor would be the moment a knife sank into a Princeps' back and mothballed one of the god-machines until Apsida either sent a reinforcement or- Emperor forbid- withdraw them.

In truth, DeRolt quite liked the fatigues- they were slightly baggy and comfortable, breathable enough to not be hot but insulated against Sarinor's brisk evening breezes.

"So how was your morning?" Mathais asked him, standing outside the hab looking down the hangar at his own machine- Carnivora looked like the Warlord's clingy child, only waist-high to the much larger machine, angled slightly inwards. Trollies and attendants had rushed to repair the surface damage and armor from the titan's charge through Hive No. 5's eastern residential district.

"The guard elements pushed all the way down to Agri-Field 04," DeRolt reported proudly, offering his fellow princeps another narc, which Mathais accepted and lit with the ostentatious lighter.

"You mean the Arcana Imperii pushed to 04, and the PDF and Guard lined up like children at the schola following their professor," the younger man said dryly. DeRolt chuckled, lighting himself a narc as well as they watched a tech-adept sand off the armor patch applied to Carnivora's left shinguard.

"It's remarkable the courage that she kindles in the hearts of men," he allowed, looking up at his own machine. Legio Apsida was emblazoned on the top half of the war banner hung like a tabard from the Warlord's center chassis, tattered edge dangling between it's legs. An eagle's head being haloed by the rising sun was directly beneath that, Arcana Imperii at the bottom, just above the hem.

The "04 Line" was a main part of the Guard strategy on the world- with the Chaos incursion pouring from Agri-Field 02, the PDF and Imperial Guard were looking to dig in just past the 04 field, across the river from the Quad Hives. This would give them a commanding position overlooking the huge, flat, open expanse of farmland- where the traitors would be visible for miles as they attempted to assault the capital itself. Pushing out to Field 04 had allowed the PDF to begin digging in- and that was something to celebrate indeed.

"Mine was a pain," Mathais grunted, biting the narc a little too hard and compressing the filter into an hourglass shape.

"You killed what, sixteen enemy machines?" DeRolt replied with a raised eyebrow- kills always cheered Mathais up, his great hunting partner instilling that particular love in him over the few years.

"They weren't machines, Gregori," Mathais returned, breathing out a cloud of smoke, "They were mewling little steel tombs- light to medium armor can't hardly scratch her- and there's no pleasure in hunting game that can't hunt back. It's like playing chess where every turn you can move, or fire your sidearm at an enemy piece."

DeRolt chuckled again, coughing a few times as he sucked in a lungful of narc smoke, "Is that how they play chess where you come from?"

"They didn't play chess where I come from, it kept them from killing brain cells on purified prometheum-liquor and huffing torch fuel."

None of the Legio Apsida ever really spoke of where they'd come from- Pyka was a grim, dusty world of gray ash and glades of naturally occurring tourmaline crystals. The only respite from the winds was in the hives and manufactories of the forge-world's mechanicus.

However, the Legio didn't recruit from the mechanicus, they got their members from deep in the Hives, where rogue machinists, handymen, gangers and runners lived. DeRolt himself had been heir to a criminal family that dealt in contraband vox-links and communications equipment, a pirate vox station or two. He hadn't heard anything of them in nearly forty years.

The two princeps looked at one another knowingly. Mathais winced slightly, favoring his right leg- his free hand went to his thigh painfully.

"Stigmata?" DeRolt asked, eying the leg, then Carnivora's wound.

"If I'm ever so consumed by the Carnivora that I have empathetic wounds, shoot me," Mathais said. It wasn't a joke.

The older princeps seemed a bit taken aback, prompting the younger to clarify, "We were going fifty-five through residential east, cratered tarmac. I also crushed two of those seventeen."

"Ah," DeRolt nodded- it was a running joke amongst the princeps of the Legio Apsida that the only princeps who thought the blocky, angular command thrones were comfortable were the ones plugged in for good. The "new blood", princeps like himself and Mathais, had never remained with one machine long enough to form a proper bond- they were recognized by their titans as old friends, or even family, but a proper princeps with decades or even centuries of experience could truly say he and his machine were simply two halves of a greater whole.

And DeRolt could well understand why Mathais would hesitate before giving that much of himself to the Carnivora.

"Well," he offered, trying to change the subject, "For your sanity, Bardic, one can only hope that the Despoiler himself arrives at the head of the breadth of an entire phalanx of enemy machines."

Mathais laughed with a single bark, sticking the narc back between his lips.

"One can only hope," he finished.

*****

Long ago, when the first settlers had landed on Sarinor, they'd built a town on the river that now swept through the Agri-fields. This town's name was so long gone that now it was simply known as the Old Quarter, just across the river from the Quad Hives where the spires had risen up to house a population boom following a brief but bloody political war over succession. Now, most of the Hives were empty- most vacant being No.5.

However, the Old Quarter still had some charm, and a lively population of Sarinori natives called the area home despite the increasing shadow of wartime always hanging overhead. And much like many other fronts, this most accessible of areas of the capital- the main airfield just a half-kilometer away north of Agri-Field 06- it had become a point for troops momentarily off duty to congregate.

The most affected this was a tavern called the Spread Eagle, the sign bearing a gilded Imperial Aquila set into a wooden frame without the bar's name on it. In better times it had been an airman's bar for the PDF flights- known as the Crop Dusters thanks to the world's somewhat more than irregular amounts of air combat.

"I love this song," Wyndi Malthovisk said, nodding to the beat of an older bit of music native to the subsector. Out of her Moderatus gear and in the normal fatigues they'd been given much like the rest of the crew, the silver Aquila around her neck was visible. A drink was in her hand.

"I didn't peg you as a good, honest, Emperor-fearing citizen, Miss Malthovisk," Karina Ravenni accused, nodding at the necklace. The priest was wearing her usual red robe- the logic being that no one would go out of their way to stab an Enginseer Ordinary, slate gray work clothes beneath it.

"My granna gave it to me, sprocket. I wear it 'cause she looks for it in pictures of me," Malthovisk deadpanned, sipping her drink and shaking her head, "Oh this is awful stuff- where do they get this, the bottom of a guardsman's grave? Do they keep it behind the shed until it strips the paint off an agri-combine?"

"You didn't get the one with the grub in it, did you?" Nathaniel Shaye asked cautiously, the Moderatus Senioris sitting across from the two women at the small table lit by a single small oil lamp.

"Which one had the grub in it?" Malthovisk asked, sounding panicked. Her eyes went to her drink, only coming back up when they had ascertained a marked lack of any grubs.

"There's one with a grub?!" Ravenni enthused, looking back towards the bar, "... I'm getting one."

She stood up, leaving her mostly-unfinished drink on the table. Malthovisk picked it up and sipped it, smacking her lips unpleasantly before setting it down again, nose wrinkled slightly in distaste. Rather perversely, quite a few members of the Legio Apsida simply hated higher-class liquors. Coming from a culture that drank purified fuel and laughed all the way to the floor probably did that to you.

"What'd you get?" Shaye asked, eying her drink curiously.

The Sensori wiped her mouth on her sleeve, "I don't know, it just said 'steel liquor' on the sign and that sounded hard enough for a Pykan."

Shaye let out a snrk that made his fellow Moderatus narrow her eyes. The rest of the tavern was crammed with Guard personnel, mostly officers- one of the PDF's lieutenants had rather obviously gotten drunk far before they were attempting to, and had attempted to throw his weight around. The titan crew had agreed that he must've mistaken their plain uniforms as enlisted Sarinori personnel, demanding they leave the table so he could have a seat.

It was only when Shaye had given him their assignment wafer and the lieutenant had sobered up so fast that all the liquored-down blood had fled from his face that he had left them be to a rousing round of laughter from the rest of the pub.

"You know they make that in the fertilizer canisters out in the agri-fields, right?" he said to her, making the Sensori nod sternly and set her glass down, "That's why they call it 'steel liquor', from the cans."

"That's definitely a swill worthy of Pykan lips- I like this planet already," she declared. Ravenni arrived again, a delicate drinking glass in both her hands. Floating in the slightly bronze-colored drink was a many-limbed grub with a half-dozen or more eyes. It was a sort of sickly peach color, like dead flesh. Malthovisk stared rather disgustedly at it as it bobbed slackly in the liquor.

"You aren't," she said.

"You only live once," Ravenni replied, picking up the drink, "Just don't think about it so hard or you'll realize what a bad idea-"

The Enginseer threw her head back and downed the lot, insect and all. Malthovisk looked like she was about to be sick. Shaye had looked away rather than bear witness, and then took a sip of his own drink- a fruity flavored crushed ice concoction with a tiny paper umbrella to one side.

"It is," Ravenni finished, shuddering unpleasantly and slapping the glass rim-down on the table. Both Moderati stared at her.

"You have one of those aug stomachs, don't you?" Malthovisk asked finally, "Like the Astartes or something."

"All natural," the tech-priest boasted, "'cept for the claws."

Beneath the table there was a clank as her talons tapped off the flooring to punctuate that statement. It could honestly be said that most of the crew aboard Arcana Imperii sported more augmetics than their tech-priest did. The bridge crew wasn't there yet, aside from DeRolt's eye and Ebsin's arm.

"That worm's gonna come to life and take over your brain or something, it's some Xenos that rode down on a meteor," Malthovisk said nastily, "Halfway through a linewords puzzle or the morning news and you're just gonna stiffen up and then it'll have you."

"It could happen," Shaye agreed, deciding to play along as he gestured with what the Sensori had brushed off and described as a "foofy drink".

Ravenni looked at both of them oddly, then her eyes glazed over and her jaw went slack. She held the face for a full three seconds, then abruptly returned to normal.

"Nonsense," she insisted, "You should get the grub drink, it is delicious and will not take over or eat anyone's brain."

"Poor thing's going to starve," Malthovisk said, smirking around the rim of her drink- apparently deciding that suffering the awful taste of the Sarinori steel liquor was worth the effect of the stuff.

"It's meteorite, technically," Ravenni replied, taking the conversation a ways back, "That's the bit that hits the ground, the meteor is just the streak of light from when it hits atmo."

"I didn't peg a place called the bloody Spread Eagle for a mechanicus lecture hall," Malthovisk said, twisting around to make sure a schola teacher wasn't about to smack the woman over the wrist with a measuring stick.

"How's she handling?" Shaye asked, changing the subject before the two could get into it fully, "Imperii, I mean."

"Oh, Emperor preserve us, mamzel, can we please drink without work?"

A quick glance at the Sensori and she quieted, still smirking. Ravenni picked up her old drink- looking at it, then rather suspiciously at Malthovisk as she noticed the sip missing. The Moderatus shrugged innocently.

"Quite well," the priest said to Shaye finally, "The fusion bottle's really well-mounted, must've been fitted just before a feast day or something. And it's still intact, we've officially beaten our record from Fallow."

The trio toasted their titan's fusion reactor not turning into a nuclear fireball.

"To our record," Shaye nodded.

"To Emperor-fearing citizens," Malthovisk added.

"Emperor help us should we ever find one," Ravenni finished.

*****
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-26-13, 05:31 PM Thread Starter
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A little niblet while I'm eating lunch, if you guys are reading this and enjoy it, please say so! It'll be a big push to get me to keep on updating!

*****

It was interesting, how so many of them had had a chance at another life.

Benjamin Ebsin had been a manufactory runner on Pyka- an enforcer, more specifically. When the shipments of tourmaline or adamantium came in from the strip-flats he had looked over each huge cargo-12 and taken a bit off the top. Not so much that the Mechanicus would notice and send in the Skitarii, but enough to keep the underhive cartels and gangers at the table when negotiations had to take place. He hadn't been too major of a player- but in the five years he'd spent working "full time", he'd mired his position in toadies and enthusiastic, starry-eyed young ne'er-do-wells such that his sink boss would never think of replacing him.

The skill to avoid being buried alive in rockcrete was key to success in Pyka's underhives, and it was a quality that Apsida desired- that fighting spirit to survive, overcoming obstacles, solving problems the other Titan Legions might simply discard. He thought back to a panicked day on Fallow, buying gallons and gallons of plasteel joint filler to repair Arcana Imperii's fractured fusion bottle.

A smile tugged at his lips as his mind wandered. Unlike the wiry Malthovisk or the average Shaye, he was heavily built- long ago from his life as a runner, then not too long ago from wrestling with the controls of the Imperator simulators in the Apsida fortress on Pyka- dreaming of a Steersman Primaris position aboard the mighty war machines.

And even when he had shot for the moon itself by directly asking the princeps of Apsida's sole Imperator, he had landed among the stars- a primaris position aboard a Warlord. And while the other Steersmen in the legion had scoffed at the Arcana Imperii, Ebsin had simply packed up his things, given a quiet prayer, and arrived the next morning on the tarmac field to meet his new princeps.

That was the other thing that set him apart- where the Pykan natives could never be described as religious, indeed, the only think the undersink gangs could be said to truly worship was coin- Ben Ebsin had found the Emperor during his various postings aboard the Emperor's god-machines. A small steel icon hung around his neck, the Emperor in a deep, hooded cloak, sword held in his hands. A tiny halo of real gold surrounded the head of the figure- the only real gold the Steersman had ever owned.

"Hello, child," the priest said, "Is there anything I can assist you with?"

He'd been so given over to his memories he hadn't noticed himself standing in the sacristy of the Old Quarter chapel, blankly staring up at the rather shallow domed ceiling. The Grand Templum in the Quad Hives would've been fifty times as grand and with the staff to keep it that way, but Ebsin's Emperor was a humble, introspective one. He'd found the god- not the religion.

"Oh- no, I'm sorry father, I'm just thinking a bit," he said quietly, not wanting to disturb the peace of the sacristy- despite himself and the old, warm-faced priest being the only ones there. In comparison to even Apsida's sparse chapels it was a bit plain, simple stone construction with wood and metal reinforcements. Stained glass depicted famous scenes from the stories they told of the Emperor's Great Crusade- his victories, his struggles. The final, fateful duel with Horus. In the center was the Emperor Enthroned, tiny bits of red glass showing his terrible wounds being mended by the faithful Custodians as he took his place upon the Golden Throne of mankind.

"Take your time, child," the priest said with a smile, "If you require anything, the brothers and I will be in the chapel gardens."

Ebsin nodded as the priest moved off with quiet swishes of his robes against the cool stonework. The Steersman fished around in his pocket, pulling out a small silver circle. On Pyka he'd always carried little coins to hand out to the urchins who brought him news of approaching ore convoys to "do business with". Now he did the same, leaving them for the Emperor so that perhaps in some way the children of the hives had shown him the way to fortune, the lord of all mankind could show him the way to being a good man.

He moved to the central window, beneath it the tiny devotional altar with a few candles burning down upon it. An offering tray was almost empty, Ebsin noticed with something of a frown. Then again, the people of the Old Quarter were hardly swimming in coin themselves. The Emperor had no need for their money, in truth- but he probably appreciated their thoughts and prayers.

The Steersman gently set the little coin down in the dish, kneeling at the base of the altar much like he did his makeshift cot every night, no matter where the Emperor took Arcana Imperii.

"Allfather of the Imperium and all mankind..." he began.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-27-13, 03:06 AM
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I'm surprised no one's commented before. While it is a tad on the daunting side to digest in one sitting (which I did), I can say that it was well composed as far as stories go. There were a couple parts I had to stop and reread just for clarity's sake, but otherwise it flowed about as well as one could hope for. Keep up the good work.


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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonileth View Post
I'm surprised no one's commented before.
You're the first <3

Quote:
Originally Posted by jonileth View Post
While it is a tad on the daunting side to digest in one sitting (which I did), I can say that it was well composed as far as stories go. There were a couple parts I had to stop and reread just for clarity's sake, but otherwise it flowed about as well as one could hope for. Keep up the good work.
I tend to write very quickly when I get in the mood to, and it is sometimes a little thickly written. Thank you very much for the feedback!
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-30-13, 07:29 AM Thread Starter
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"Princeps," the man leading DeRolt said to him, gesturing towards a chubby, slightly gray-skinned man with an officer's uniform stretched rather taut over his belly. His belt strained slightly.

"This is Lord General Schtube, he's the commander of our PDF regiments."

DeRolt shook the man's hand with the best fake smile he could manage. The princeps was in his officer's best once again, the dull gray Legio Apsida fatigues with their stiff collar and gold edging. Mathais was with him, uniform just as gray and stiff, but with less gold clinging to it.

"Ho yes, my boy, heard of your sally into the old Number 5," the fat man said to Mathais, shaking his hand with a limp, slightly moist paw with a thick ring slowly choking the life out of its middle finger, "What a good show that must've been, eh? Give those foul demons what for, eh?"

Mathais didn't even attempt to smile, but his mouth curled into a slightly lopsided sneer.

The two were moved to the next man in line, this one a stern-looking old man with a walking stick and a greatcoat.

"Lord General Ryzpatrick, the Guard division commander."

"A pleasure," Ryzpatrick said, shaking Derolt's hand, then Mathais'.

"Lord General," Derolt said. The younger princeps didn't say anything.

"I can't seem to find Marshall Fike," the house servant who'd been leading the two princeps said, looking around.

"Probably off in the governor's wine cellar," Mathais suggested to DeRolt. Of the three personalities leading the defense of Sarinor, Fike was the only one they knew. A capable artillery chief, he led four batteries of Pykan "Dragon" guns, reinforced and extended Basilisk tanks that tended to eschew the forward gun shield for a covered crew platform- better protection from the ash winds on Pyka.

Famously, Fike also drank like a fish, both on and off the field.

"What about the prestigious Governor himself?" DeRolt asked their guide- a mousy-looking house servant in a carefully cleaned suit jacket and pants.

"Oh, of course!" the little man said, "Please, lords, follow me."

He stepped proudly off, into a large ballroom where a man who was even fatter than Schtube was standing, entertaining a gaggle of rather oddly-proportioned nobles and aristocrats in poofy, lace-rimmed dresses and suits. His face was bright red like he'd just run a suicide down the titan hangars, though in truth the governor probably hadn't walked further than from his throne to that spot the entire night.

Their mousy guide cleared his throat, "My Lord Governor, may I present Princeps DeRolt, and Princeps Mathais. They are the commanding officers of the Legio titans on our fair world."

"Oh, look at that," the governor said, wiping his nose on his sleeve. He didn't bother to shake their hands- Mathais breathed an inward sigh of relief. The beast had remained with him this time, nagging him from the back of his mind- for a brief instant his neck muscles twitched, eyes flicking across the room looking for bright red modar and auspex contacts, heat hissing off his arms, actuators supporting his joints.
He shut it away, looking down at the little glass in his hand, then downed it in one gulp as the governor looked on rather interestedly. DeRolt was glancing the other way, brow furrowed.

"Governor," the princeps said slowly. The portly man looked at the princeps.

"Yes?"

There was a blam and the planetary governor's head exploded. Blood spattered over the two officers. The fat man's jaw waggled for a moment as more blood spurted from the ragged stump of his neck.

*****

"Why don't we get to go inside?" Malthovisk complained. She sat in the passenger seat of the cargo-8, arms across her chest.

Shaye was seated opposite her, smoking a narc and drumming his hands on the wheel of the vehicle, "Just enjoy the break."

"We look like juvies up on a point."

"I wouldn't be smoking yet."

She looked at him sharply, and he glanced back, "Yes?"

"I didn't think you had that sense of humor, you seem so... serious."

Malthovisk made a stern face to illustrate her accusation, brow set, jaw slightly forward. He chuckled, puffing on the narc and blowing the smoke out of the slightly cracked driver's window. They'd borrowed the truck from the PDF motor pool, ignoring the little air freshener on the rearview mirror and the parking ticket beneath the wipers.

There was a blam from somewhere inside the building, across the cobblestone drive up to the manor building itself.

"Fireworks?" Malthovisk said lightly, looking down and out the window towards the building.

"Or juvies, on Pyka they used to mess with the guards during big stuff all the time," Shaye nodded.

Behind them, the second two seats of the cargo-8 had been where DeRolt and Mathais had sat. Ebsin was there now, having been in the back of the truck. The man was taking a nap, coat pulled up over his head.

The palace suddenly began to emit a high-pitched wail of an alarm- bwoo bwoo bwoo bwoo.

"Maybe not juvies," Malthovisk put in. She stepped out of the truck, drawing her sidearm. Palace guard in their stupid bright silver and gold uniforms were running towards the actual building.

"Hey-" Shaye said, leaning back to nudge Ebsin. He grunted and picked himself up, looking around.

"Whazzapinin," the steersman said sleepily.

"Dunno- grab the las out of the back, could be trouble."

*****

The governor was down, obviously. And every vapid toady and politician looking for a leg up had drawn a sidearm of their own. DeRolt and Mathais had almost immediately gone back-to-back without realizing it, the younger man with his service autopistol drawn and a second, stubbier weapon that was almost certainly unregistered in his free hand. DeRolt had his family's laspistol, his last memory of the Pykan undersinks- gold edging, wooden handle.

"He did it, he did it, I saw!" one of the toadies was yelling, pointing at another. The shouting was almost deafening. Fingers and guns were pointed in every direction. Then the palace guard had burst in, screaming for everyone to drop their guns.

"Yes, yes, of course- of course not, you imbecile," DeRolt was saying to one such screaming guard. There was a second shot from somewhere- and then it all went to hell. The toadies started firing at one another at random. The debutantes and suited politicians fired old locklas pistols, half of whom were suddenly without hands as their ancient weapons detonated. The guard, panicked and without any command, simply opened fire.

"Go!" DeRolt shouted to Mathais. The younger man calmly put an autopistol shot almost directly through the eye of a howling house servant who'd raised a slightly bloodied lasgun taken from a fallen PDF guard at them. The two princeps ran, Mathais in front. Lasbolts and bullets whipped past them. A man was thrown from the balcony, shrieking as he hit the stones with an unpleasant crunch.

As they entered the atrium of the house, the doors were kicked in and Wyndi Malthovisk pointed a shotgun at them.

"Down!" she yelled in her best parade ground voice. Mathais hesitated, and DeRolt slammed into his back, bearing them both to the ground. Malthovisk fired, taking a politician with a combat knife off his feet. Shaye was with her, the woman's own sidearm in his hand.

"Throne," Shaye intoned, looking as she cocked the shotgun again with an impressive click-chunk.

"Falcata!" DeRolt roared, "We are leaving!"

The old princeps hauled Mathais upright with surprising strength, pushing him towards the doors. The two other crewmen followed them down the drive as the palace degenerated into chaos behind them. Ebsin started the cargo-8 and put his foot down, and then they were gone.

*****

A single moon and sun later, and then the most faithful had arrived at the Red House.

Far off into the Agri-fields that she had toiled in, there they were at last, at last! Past all the old combi-harvesters, the rotted old silos and shacks. Where the Nine Hosts screamed and wailed and tore at themselves. As she'd neared the Red House she'd cried, laughed, walked and crawled, draped in a shredded white serving girl's outfit, a little auto loosely held in one hand.

Finally on the wooden steps of the Red House itself she'd collapsed onto a boot made of harder stuff than any hive on the planet.

"Welcome," said the Remaker. He was nearly twice her height, armor the deepest shade of onyx black that could still be seen by mortal eyes. Shades of pink and purple complimented it, overlaid by small tanks of stims and substances that made the daemonic faces flowed over his shoulderguards leer and loll their tongues in ecstatic pleasure.

The poor girl wept quietly at the sight of him, hands over her face.

"My little playthings told me about you, dear, no need to cry."

The sorcerer of flesh gently knelt down, armored gauntlet reaching out to raise her chin to look at him. The makeup had run down her face and cheeks, "But it would be an exquisite pleasure to hear it from your lips."

"I-I-I-I'm, um, Alysa," the girl said quietly, struggling to look away. The Remaker gripped her face, keeping her eyes on his dirty green eyelenses.

"Yes you are, aren't you?" he asked her. She tried to nod and only succeeded in shifting her face up and down slightly.

"And you're a member of a profession that my Mistress holds in such high esteem, my dear," the Remaker mused, "Why are you wearing the trappings of some common servant?"

"It was to be in the governor's house- he had paid and I was sent, but he said he paid for an heir and I just... he left me alone, and he had a gun in his drawer- I just... the governor.."

"Shh," the Remaker comforted her, "shh shh shh, all is well, dear. My playthings have sung such sweet songs of the agonies the governor is even now suffering. You may not realize it, but you have singlehandedly offered this world to my Mistress."

"You... have one too?" the girl asked him skeptically. She was still shaking- in fear or because of the trace chemicals painted over his armor from centuries exposed to the perfumed winds of a daemon world.

"We all have a mistress, I am simply more honest about mine than most are willing to be," the sorcerer explained, "And my Mistress wishes to extend to you a very special invitation. Think of it as a gift for the agonizing pleasure you have given her- the tormented, emotional death of Sarinor's elite."

"I'm not a soldier," she pleaded. Behind the Remaker, a pair of lithe, sinuous creatures stepped from the Red House. Clearly female, they flanked the sorcerer on either side, their soft flesh pressing against the hard ceramite plates. Alysa eyed them rather frightfully- suddenly realizing somewhere along the line she had lost the little auto she'd taken from the governor's palace.

"My Mistress has a rather different role for you to play, dear. Thank you for coming, because that means we can begin," the Remaker assured her. The two daemons broke away from him, moving to the girl with a single long step.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-30-13, 03:36 PM
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A very interesting turn of events. Seems to me that more fat aristocrats are deserving of rounds to the face, so I actually chuckled when I saw that part. I did notice in this new block it was mostly dialogue, not much in the way of 'action' other then a few bits here and there. Not to say it was bad, it just left a little more to my own imagination and I may or may not have taken everything in the proper context. But still a good read.


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The entire segment was meant to be a little faster-paced and chaotic, bits and pieces of the point-of-view, especially the palace scene- thanks for the feedback!
-----

Later Imperial tactical assessment showed that the assassination of the lord-governor and the majority of the planet's aristocracy was the point in the war that if the Guard and PDF had buckled, their lines would've been swept into the Quad Hives, where they would've been overrun. At nearly one in the morning the night of the assassination, an all-out assault began on the Imperial lines north of Agri-Field 04.

"Set battle conditions, all hatches and vents sealed," Princeps DeRolt ordered. He was still wearing his blood-spattered dress uniform, the guard's Winged Skull on his breast. He glanced across the wide bridge of the titan, where the single unit decoration was hung. An Eagle Ordinary, awarded for holding the flank on Fallow where any other unit would've failed under the strain- holding the line.

"You alright, sir?" Shaye asked him from the Moderatus Senioris position, setting up the tactica noctis displays for controlling the war machine at night.

"Let's get this done, Moderatus," DeRolt replied, not in a mood to talk about it. The city's praetor office had stopped them in the hangars, wasting valuable time with their idiotic questions. Then they had wanted to arrest Mathais for shooting some little man who'd pointed a gun at them. It was at that point that Mathais, already engaged to the Carnivora, had pointed a plasma blastgun at them.

The praetors had assured the members of Falcata that at least for now they wouldn't be bothered.

The smaller Titan was flanking along Arcana Imperii's side, moving around the side of the Guard armored as they lashed out across the 04, meeting the enemy head-on.

"Hive relay reports ready, we are free to engage all enemy contacts," Malthovisk reported, hand to one side of her headset.

"Engaging the tactica noctis," Shaye added. All four members of the bridge crew started as their helmet displays- and DeRolt's eyes- lit up fluorescent green. The world ahead of them through the viewscreens was a green expanse with red and blue contacts picked out for enemy and friend respectively. There were a lot of red contacts.

DeRolt turned to his left, to a tiny indicator of compartments in the titan. He flipped a switch, sending a query to the stations to report in.

One by one little indicator lights turned from red to green. Far below them, in the thrumming heart of the Warlord, Karina Ravenni leaned over from her control pulpit, flipping one such control.

"All stations report readiness for combat conditions, princeps," Shaye nodded.

"Take us away, Steersman, match speed with the Guard armor. Senioris, charge barrage strike to thin out their flanking elements. Link Volcano cannon to me, please."

"Aye, princeps."

DeRolt shut his eyes. It felt almost like the titan was setting down a news leaf to look at him over the top of it's glasses. A fatherly, laconic figure, the Arcana Imperii. DeRolt greeted it like he would an elder, respectfully bowing to the spirit. It bowed in return, and then it exchanged their usual greeting, gently sifting his state of mind through it's behavioral codices, looking for a proper response.

The Arcana Imperii sighed with sorrow at the assassination of loyal Imperial subjects, going over the sight of the governor over and over. It channeled that sorrow into rage, the reactor seething a note higher as it readied itself for war. As if passing a ceremonial sword, it pressed the Volcano cannon into DeRolt's hands. A targeting icon swept across his vision as the actuators warmed up. The left-hand side engaged a short time later, slightly more jerkily as the elbow of the machine seized for a brief instant.

"Carapace launchers are primed," Shaye reported. Ebsin pushed the sticks forward and there was the slow, rhythmic steps of the Warlord as it moved forward, tiny blocks of Leman Russ tanks and other local vehicles moving with them.

"We're entering Volcano cannon range, princeps," Malthovisk added.

DeRolt nodded, focusing on the weapon- ancient beyond measure, it wasn't even originally the titan's. It had come from a Shadowsword stuck in the Pykan ash desert just outside the primary manufactory. For over a hundred years the tank had been abandoned when it had been knocked out during the inter-manufactory wars. As a child, he'd played in it's shadow. And when Arcana Imperii had been taken out of storage and it's weaponry placed back onto the chassis, the old, worn-out Shadowsword had given of itself.

The weapon creaked on it's gimbal, aligning the long barrel with the closest icon- some traitor over-heavy with too much armor for the straining engine to bear.

DeRolt fired, a lance of energy reaching out from the Arcana Imperii and almost gently touching the tank on the nose. The armor peeled backwards as the spear went straight through the vehicle and into the engine. It blasted apart with a sooty crack, leaving a black stain on the ground. The other heretic armor came on, undaunted.

[Carnivora is engaging,] Mathais said over the vox. Plasma fire began to lance past the Warlord's side.

"Missile barrage, fuse to airburst, target leading enemy elements," DeRolt said to Shaye.

"Aye, princeps, cogitator is aligning missiles now," the moderatus nodded.

The machine-spirit of the titan silently nodded to DeRolt, like a proud parent at some schola function might. It made the princeps smile in return, readying the gatling blaster on his other arm. The weapon let out a heavy ka-chunk as the first round was loaded into the chamber and the barrels began to spin.

"Barrels are at speed, princeps, firing control passed to your MIU."

Then the weapon began to spit a tongue of flames nearly ten feet long as the shells left it, shrieking down into the little tanks and trucks. Armor buckled, shells cooked off. Barrels bent and tracks snapped. The Volcano cannon fired again, hitting a huge, wallowing troop carrier that burst into flames.

"Missiles aligned, barrage on your command, princeps."

DeRolt nodded in his seat, eyes still shut. He shifted his vision, letting go of the arm weapons and feeling Shaye gently take them from him, keeping the machine-spirit on target. On the Warlord's upper carapace, a pair of vast Apocalypse missile launchers nestled against the armor, loaded down with pointed Hellscape munitions native to Pyka. On DeRolt's cue, a full barrage of them left their tubes with a series of chuff noises as the propellants engaged.

For a brief instant it almost looked like a random web of streamers had flared out from the titan. Heretic tank commanders and gunners stared openmouthed through their scopes. And then every single one of the missiles turned hard, fins straining, and came right at them.

DeRolt opened his eyes.

"Glare shade!" he yelled. Ebsin reached forward and hit a control that slammed down a dimmed shutter over the bridge viewscreen.

In the core of each screaming missile, a tiny timer counted down- the Pykan enginseers didn't know how exactly they worked, but they knew how to build them. And the machine-souls of the Legio's war machines knew how to tell them to bring war to the enemies of man. The missiles detonated in a series of bright fireballs that would've left bright circles in the eyes of the crew had the shields not been engaged. On his bridge, Bardic Mathais grumbled and lowered his own glare-shield, Xevin cursing and rubbing her eyes.

When the missiles detonated the heretics thought they were safe for the briefest instant. And then the explosions began. When the Hellscapes detonated they released over sixty fist-sized magma charges apiece. The gluey shells of the mini-bombs stuck to enemy tanks and infantry, and the ground they stood on. With a roar the entire expanse of ground in front of the Arcana Imperii vanished in a fireball, leaving behind a scorched plain of glassy earth and torched vehicles.

"All ahead forward, charge a secondary barrage to cover our flanks. Hail Mathais, tell Carnivora to follow us in. We go into the maw, Steersman."

"Aye, princeps."

"Something on the scope," Malthovisk said suddenly, "Out in the 05 field."

She focused on something that none of them could see- her helmet hardwired to the large sensor clusters on the carapace of the titan. They twisted and focused, trying to see through the smog leftover from the barrage.

"Reaver!" the sensori yelled. War-horns screaming, the traitor titan lurched from the pall of smoke, stomping carelessly onto a tank that proved too slow to avoid it, and lashed out with howling weapons.

*****

The beast howled and spat at the sight of the enemy war machine. Mathais reined in the titan, focusing on the enemy Reaver.

"All ahead flank, push reactor to 15, give me sixty kloms," he growled.

"Reactor redlining to 115%, princeps, we will overload in six minutes. Putting the timer to your MIU."

A little 5:59 popped onto his vision. Carnivora roared forwards, stomping along the ground over loyalist and enemy tanks alike. Arcana Imperii fired it's Volcano cannon, striking the enemy titan's knee joint. The gatling blaster roared, stripping armor and shredding components along the Reaver's upper armor.

The Warhound shuddered and then grabbed the plasma blastguns from Xevin, pressing them to Mathais and howling for the kill. He aligned the weapons, firing as a single battery as the Reaver twisted to avoid the Warlord, inadvertently exposing the weakened side armor to Carnivora.

The Reaver was forcibly twisted further as the plasma blastguns took it's arm off at the shoulder in a spray of white-hot gas and liquified metal. The beast cackled maniacally, spreading out it's claws and howling at the pain of the enemy.

Mathais twinged, watching the counter on his vision go from 5:31 to 0:19 from the heat caused at the blastgun firing. An alarm began to blare.

"Princeps, overload in fifteen seconds, reactor breach imminent."

"Bring us down to 80, vent coolant gases through the guns."

The titan slowed, and the paired exhaust vanes on it's back shrieked as superheated air swept past them. The Reaver stumbled as its crew tried to divert power and coolant from the damaged section. Gouts of what looked like black gore flowed out of the wounded limb, followed by oily coolant. Arcana Imperii fired the Volcano cannon again, this time the shot going straight through the Reaver's knee.

"Bring us in for the kill," Mathais growled. When Thryst didn't react fast enough he took maneuvering, the man letting go of the controls.

Carnivora stomped down hard on a troop carrier of the little prey-things, loping closer to the dueling heavier titans. The heat indicators were flashing again. The beast shut them off with a quick gesture, targeting reticules on Mathais' vision sweeping over the enemy- no, too much armor. Too off-center, too shielded- there!

For a brief second the Reaver twisted back towards the Warlord, and a brief sliver of bright red fusion was visible through the twisted, fused armor of its side.

The plasma bolts struck it just under the arm joint, breaching the reactor room with a shrieking noise as the air inside boiled instantly. Steam burst from every hatch and accessway of the titan, and finally the reactor seams burst and the core fused into a single, solid chunk. Then it exploded outwards, shearing the Reaver clear in half at the chest. The top half creaked, then separated and hit the ground with a whumpf that raised a dust cloud in the dark sky. Traitor armor began to swing around as Arcana Imperii stepped into the lower half of the enemy machine, knocking the legs and waist over. Flames had engulfed the Reaver, pouring from every hatch- bright pink and gold fire that dazzled the beast. It reached out with sensors, poking at it with laser temperature gauges and warpsight.

Mathais gently pulled it back, and it growled briefly, but pacified by the death of the Reaver, it came back to him, embracing the princeps warmly. It felt his own distaste for the way things had gone at the palace, and instead of greedily hoarding the glory of the field, it replayed for him the death of the Reaver, showing him that no matter how the rest of the world fell apart, he still had the loyalty of the Carnivora.

"Thank you," Mathais said aloud.

"Aye, princeps," Xevin and Thryst both replied, neither of whom he had spoken to.

*****

The Remaker watched from behind the waves and waves of the Nine Hosts, watching the Lesser Lord fall beneath the weight of the loyalist fire. When the Reaver toppled over the sorcerer flinched slightly with sympathetic, rather alluring pain from the thousands of slaved spirits escaping the machine's failing wards.

"Was that part of your plan, lover?" Alysa said to him, leaning her slight weight on his huge ceramite figure. She'd taken to it all so well- her light pinkish skin with darker purple freckles across her cheekbones, shoulders, upper arms and legs. A single strip of mail-backed black hide fell between her legs, twin-jointed limbs ending in three-toed talons.

"No, but plans change," he said to her lovingly, looking at the daemonette, "I love what you've done with yourself."

She smiled faintly, a ring through her lower lip glinting. A pair of vampiric fangs had replaced two of her teeth, pointed ears and dark, almond-shaped eyes.

"Blame your friends," she teased him, running a finger up his curved breastplate- standing with her leg joints stretched she was almost as tall as he was now. Her hands went to his face, holding him to face her.

"She's very proud of you, you know," Alysa said to him. The Remaker smirked.

"Already falling into the position, I see," he commented of her. The Nine Hosts were breaking, falling back in droves. The battle was already lost- no pleasure to be found there, so he'd have to make do with what he already had. One of the huge, armored gauntlets went to the daemon's thigh, lifting her leg with knee bent to press the feminine creature against himself as if they'd frozen mid-dance.

"In fact," Alysa admitted coyly, placing her clawed hands flat against his chestplate. One of the onyx daemon faces was at the perfect height to leer at her and the claw gently moved, covering it's eyes. The Remaker smirked at his new pet's antics.

"Yes?"

"In fact, she's impressed enough that she and her knight in shining armor, are coming here personally."

For the first time since landing on the world, the Remaker paused. Alysa sensed his hesitation, closing her eyes and gently breathing in past her teeth with a sigh of rapture as she drank in his uncertainty.

"Is she now?" he asked, more to himself than to the daemonette. He moved his other hand around her back, holding the changed woman against his armor and lost in his thoughts as the Nine Hosts fled all around them.

Last edited by Calistrasza; 03-30-13 at 11:40 PM.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-05-13, 10:09 AM
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Damn this is getting good! I am really enjoying your work and want to see more. Thank you for sharing!

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