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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 10-23-11, 07:58 PM Thread Starter
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Default Who Killed Da Dead lad?

First an introduction:
Who Killed Da Dead Lad is the first story I decided to write that I actually managed to finish. I wrote this in 2008 and since then have done some sequels (I'm working on the fifth in the series). Given the length I'm just posting a bit of it.
The story is set in ork society on a world that was once part of the Imperium before it was conquered. What's left of the human population lives as a labouring class that the orks pay little attention to unless bored.
In order to reflect the crudeness of ork spech I've altered the way certain words are spelt in ork speech.
Anyway, here it is:
__________________________________________________ _________________________

Prologue


There was a whistling from above as another shell passed overhead towards the advancing greenskin horde. Hazug Throatslitter of the Blood Axe clan looked upwards towards the source of the sound, but the explosive round was too far up for him to make out which meant that the round was intended for the main body of the ork force rather than his own squad, and Hazug turned his gaze back towards his own troops. Like him, the orks that he commanded wore clothing that had more in common with their humans foes than with other ork clans, dull colours and patterned to break up their outlines rather than bright jackets proclaiming their location for everyone in the galaxy with a gun to be able to pick them out before they got to within chopping distance.
This wasn’t a full-scale invasion by any means, just a friendly raid. A single cruiser had brought the orks, all twelve thousand of them, here and deposited them on the planet’s surface while it continued to blast away at the orbital defences. The warband now had just a few days in which to run amok, kill and steal all that they could, before returning back home. Fortunately for the raiding force, humans always fought back when their worlds were attacked, unlike some species that didn’t have any sense of fun and would instead dodge and run from battle, and they had been quick to bring out their forces to face the orks.
The human front line was not far away now and Hazug’s commando squad was ready, guns were loaded and blades sharpened. They were the only Blood Axes in the tribe and Hazug was now certain that they would be fighting hand-to-hand with the humans before any of the other clans. Even the Evil Suns were far behind them, their war buggies and trucks bogged down in the mud of the battlefield while Hazug and his boys had crept up on the human defensive positions, staying in cover as far as they could. Being the first into combat had two advantages, firstly, and of primary importance to orks, was the fact that it meant that there were more enemies to fight with rather than having to make do with whatever scatter survivors had escaped the orks who had been there first, and secondly it meant that you got first pick of the loot afterwards.
“Stay down,” he ordered, and then slowly he lifted his head above the rocks that were the last large obstacles between the orks and the humans. Hazug estimated there were at least thirty humans in the trenches ahead, he could just about make out the helmets they wore to protect their fragile heads, they were positioned ready to fire with rifles lifted to their their shoulders but they had no heavy weapons deployed.
“Right lads,” he spoke, “on my command. One. Two. Waargh!”
As one the commando squad leapt from behind the rocks and ran towards the human trench, their weapons held aloft and screaming in unison.
“Waaagh!”
The ork charge was met by well disciplined weapons fire from the entrenched human troops, flashes of light and sharp cracks filled the air as they fired their energy weapons towards the running greenskins. Hazug himself felt a stinging sensation in his shoulder as one of the rather weak energy blasts struck him, ingoring the irritation he continued to run towards the humans, firing his pistol at them in disgust.
Above the yelling and the gunfire from the humans Hazug became aware of another sound, a high-pitched whistling growing in volume coming from the sky. He also saw that the humans had now ceased firing at him and ducked down into their trench for cover.
“Lobbas! Dive!” he yelled as he realised that mortar shells were about to start landing amongst his troops, it appeared that the humans had called in fire support.
The commandos scattered and sought what cover they could find before the explosive projectiles began to land. There was a quick succession of explosions as the mortar rounds detonated on impact and sent mud and body parts flying in all directions as the commandoes cried out in pain. Hazug lay flat on his stomach with the mud beneath him adding to that which he had already smeared across his face to help conceal his advance as the barrage continued and debris landed on his back.
When the last of the mortar rounds had detonated Hazug raised his head and called out to his men.
“Alright lads?”
Hazug awaited an answer, but there was no response.
“Lads? Is any of ya alright?” he repeated, but again there was nothing in reply.
“Anybody?”
Slowly Hazug got to his knees and looked around him. They were all dead; his entire Blood Axe commando force had been wiped out before they even got within arms reach of the humans. Here and there he saw something recognisable, a hand, and ear or a weapon. But most of the area was covered in random pieces of smouldering flesh, the smell of which was filling Hazug’s nostrils and made him feel hungry.
Then he heard a groan, and he looked around to see one of his troops getting to his feet. Ahead of them the humans were getting back into position in their trench, but for now they were vulnerable.

“Come on lad!” Hazug yelled at the ork, “Get up and let’s get stuck in.”
The other ork smiled at Hazug, and after getting to his feet retrieved his gun and blade. Hazug then turned towards the human lines and ran towards it.
“Waaargh!” he bellowed at the top of his voice, and from behind him he heard the other Blood Axe echoing his war cry.
Haug lept down into the human trench just and landing right on top of one of the soldiers as he attemped to get into position. Hazug heard the crack of bone as the human’s neck snapped, but he gave it no thought, instead he pointe his gun along the trench and fired off three shots in rapid succession, placing two into the chest of another human and missing with the third.
There was a sound from behind Hazug, and he turned to see that the other Blood Axe had just jumped down into the trench with him. Turning around saved Hazug’s life, a blast of laser energy that would have struck his head instead flashed past him, barely singing his skin.
Hazug roared as he turned around again and he hurled his blade along the length of the trench into the human soldier who had just shot at him. The weapon struck the man in the throat and he fell dead to the ground.
Hazug now sprinted along the trench, firing his pistol as he did so, he didn’t bother aiming for specific targets, he just fired randomly. He plucked his blade from the corpse of the human he had almost decapitated and looked up just in time to see a human lunge at him with a bayonet. Hazug swung his own blade up, knocking the human’s strike aside and then lifted his pistol up a pressed it against the human. He grinned as he snatched back on the trigger and was disappointed when the only sound was a ‘click’ as the firing pin fell on an empty chamber. Without pausing to think, Hazug opened his mouth wide and bent down over the human, biting into his neck and ripping out a chunk of flesh.
The human dropped his weapon and clutched at his throat, trying to scream as blood flowed from the gaping wound. As he slumped to the ground the human looked up at Hazug right as the ork swung his blade down onto his head.
“Dat’s it lad,” Hazug said as he tucked his blade back into his belt, but ther was no response.
Hazug turned around and looked down the trench, there he saw the other ork lying on the ground where he ahd first landed in the trench, a large burn mark evident on his chest. Apparently the laser blast tht had narrowly missed Hazug had instead struck the other ork and killed him.
Hazug Throatslitter found himself the last Blood Axe left in the tribe.

1


It was still early in the morning and sunlight was just beginning to shine through gaps in the shutters into the room when Hazug was woken up by the sound of the first rock striking them. Ignoring it he rolled over, grunted, and tried to get back to sleep. The second rock hit a few seconds later, followed rapidly by a third. But it was the fourth rock, the one that smashed through the wooden shutters where they had begun to rot and came to a stop in the middle of the room that convinced him to get up and do something about the unwelcome disturbance.
It was actually rather uncommon for anyone to come calling for Hazug at any time of the day. As the only remaining member of the Blood Axe clan, a clan with a well deserved reputation for dealing with humans on equal terms when it suited them, on the entire planet he was not popular by any stretch of ven an orks rather limited imagination.
“Can’t an ork get any sleep?” Hazug said to himself as he got up, stretched out his arms and yawned.
Looking around the dimly lit room he tried to find something suitable to throw back at whoever it was that was disturbing him. First he considered just throwing the rock on the floor back at whoever was outside pelting his shutters with rubble, but he didn’t want to use anything that could then just be sent straight back at him. As the next rock bounced off the outside of the shutters Hazug considered the bucket in the corner but dismissed it for having been emptied into the cess pit behind the building the previous evening and he never filled it before breakfast.
As he considered the likely effects on his home of using one of the grenades he kept on top of his cupboard there was the sound of something much softer than a rock hitting the shutters, accompanied by a sudden cry of “Ow!”
Reacting swiftly Hazug picked up his slug pistol and pointed it at the hole in the shutters as a small green arm reached through and dragged its tiny owner high enough to scrabble through after it, landing on the floor with another cry of “Ow,” followed by a “Don’t shoot!” as it stared at the gun pointing straight at it.
Orks were merely the largest of several different breeds of greenskins, while the creature now sat on his floor was a snotling, the smallest and least intelligent breed.
“Wotcha want?” Hazug bellowed, his gun still pointing at the trembling snotling.
“Not me. Dem.”
“Who?”
“Dem outside. Dey chucked me up to getcha.”
“Who are dey?”
“Erm.”
“How many?”
“Erm.”
Interrogating the snotling was a waste of time and Hazug decided that he would just have to go and take a look outside himself.
The snotling rolled out of the way as Hazug strode across the room, pushed open the shutters and stood on his balcony looking down into the street, gun still in hand, and blinked as the light from the morning sun hit his face. There down below, among the handful of runts out on early morning errands stood a pair of large orks looking back up at him, one of who still held a rock in his hand. Slightly smaller than Hazug they were just about large enough to be considered Nobs, and their black clothing suggested they were members of the Goffs clan. Imfamous for their preferance for fighting hand to hand, they were not orks to be trifled with.
“Wot are ya throwin’ rocks and snots at this time of day for?” he shouted at the pair.
“Hazug, da warboss wants ya,” one yelled in response.
“Wot for?”
“Didn’t say,” replied the other, “’E just said dat ‘e wants ya now. So get a move on.”
Hazug didn’t like the sound of this. The warboss in question was the local chieftain, biggest and toughest greenskin on the planet. He had ascended to power three years earlier when he correctly deduced that his predecessor was unable to beat him in personal combat while he slept. A summons from him meant trouble for someone, and a Blood Axe like Hazug was unlikely to be very well received at the best of times.
“Stay put den, I’ll be right down.”
Hazug tucked his gun into his belt and went back inside for his choppa and some grenades, it certainly wouldn’t do to meet the chieftain without a full weapons load and he wanted to make a good impression. Or least have the best chance of fighting his way out of the fort if it came to that. Letting the snotling out of his room as he left, Hazug went down to meet the Goffs. Breakfast would just have to wait.

The Goffs had no transport of their own so the three orks had to walk through the streets of the city to the warboss’s residence. This early on in the day there were few other orks on the streets, most of those that Hazug saw were lying were they had fallen, unconscious mainly, following whatever activities they had been involved in the previous night. There were however a larger number of gretchin and snotlings already up and about. Some were running errands for their ork masters, with tasks to be completed before their employers awoke. Others were simply scavenging whatever refuse had been discarded in the streets, looking for anything that they could use, eat, spend or sell. By the time the streets became full of orks they would be as clean and tidy as greenskin settlements ever got, if there had ever been a time when things were any different the orks neither knew nor cared.
The warboss lived in a heavily fortified building at the centre of the ork city. It was a massive structure originally constructed by the humans who had lived here since before the orks arrived and its straight lines and regular corners were in stark contrast to the somewhat cruder greenskin constructed buildings that made up much of the rest of the city. The two-headed symbol of their emperor was still visible wher the original builders had carved it above the main doors, though now there was an ork’s skull mounted between the heads; the skull in question had belonged to the warboss’s predecessor. Inside, the buildings original decoration was now unrecognisable however. Human looters had removed the paintings and tapestries that had once hung on the walls before the orks had even had the chance to destroy them. Now the only decorations were various weapons and crude drawings of the warboss’s many battles intended to impress into visitors the strength and wealth of the warboss as they were lead to him.
At some point in the past the room that the Goffs led Hazug to had been used by humans for social gatherings and consisted of a large open chamber with a balcony running around its entire outer edge. Now though the only gatherings that took place here were when the warboss summoned someone to meet with him, or they actually felt brave enough to call on him uninvited. The skulls of numerous visitors who had not fared well during an audience decorated the room, especially near to the warboss’s massive throne where he had chosen to display the skulls of his predecessors associates who ahd required a little more persuasion to acknowledge his position of warboss than Kazkal Kromag was willing to give, and Hazug placed his hand on his pistol, just in case it was needed to prevent him from becoming part of the décor.
Warboss Kazkal Kromag of the Bad Moon clan himself was eating breakfast when the two Goffs he had sent brought Hazug into the audience chamber. Orks increased in size as they won more battles, and an ork who had won as many as Kazkal Kromag was huge, even sat down he was as tall as Hazug, who being a nob was larger than typical orks and humans himself. As a further display of his wealth human servants rather than the gretchin more commonly seen in ork service were waiting on Kazkal. Humans were more capable but more expensive than runts to employ, mainly due to the ridiculously long time it took for them to reproduce that limited their numbers. Hazug knew more than most orks about human reproduction but still only a little, it had something to do with the human version of a snotling dropping out of a fat human, but beyond that it was a mystery. The food had obviously been prepared by humans also, it was laid out in neat lines with decorative plants on top that were cast aside rather than eaten. As far as Hazug was concerned anything more lavish than taking a fresh squig, inserting a stick into its bottom and holding it over a flame until it stopped kicking was ‘foreign muck’ and bad for his digestion.
“Hazug Throatslitter of the Blood Axe clan my lord,” proclaimed a human servant in the ork tongue.
“Wot?” replied Kazkal who appeared more interested in his food.
“Your eight o’clock lord.”
“Ah yeah, da sneaky git lover.”
Hazug knew he wasn’t popular, Blood Axes had a history of trading peacefully at times with what passed for human, or gits as they were known in polite company, civilisation and Hazug himself had spent enough time among them to learn some of their speech and customs.
Kazkal picked up a plate of food and held it out towards Hazug.
“Squig on a stick?” the warboss asked, spitting out tiny pieces of meat as he did.
Hazug was surprised. While they were wealthy, Bad Moons weren’t known for sharing, and warboss Kazkal was no exception. But at least it was real food and it would be impolite, and thus likely fatal to refuse the offer. Ignoring the partially chewed bits of meat that had just been spat on him, Hazug reached out for the plate.
“Nice one,” he said and took the biggest squig. Kazkul muttered something about ‘greedy git lover nickin’ da big one’, but Hazug didn’t notice as he bit down on the squig.
“So,” said Hazug as he chewed on the freshly roasted squig and tried to figure out what the human cook had filled it with, “why d’ya want to see me?”
Kakal got up, towering over Hazug and beckoned him to follow him into a side chamber. Hazug pulled the remains of the squig from the stick with his teeth before following Kazkal. He dropped the stick to the floor as they entered the smaller room where Hazug saw the body of an ork lay on a table.
“E’s dead,” Kazkal said, “me lads found some grots pullin' ‘is teef out by the river. Somebody killed ‘im.”
Hazug was puzzled, orks died violently every day, and it was the natural way of things.
“So what? A mob of grots can take down a lad.”
“It wasn’t the grots Hazug, look at his chest.”
Hazug stepped closer to the corpse and looked at the place where the warboss pointed. There he saw the unmistakeable burn mark left by an energy weapon. Orks only used large scale energy weapons that would reduce a human or ork to a pile of dust if they struck them, not the hand held types used by many aliens, and grots were too stupid to figure out how to fire anything more than the most basic of small arms.
Hazug leant for a closer look.
“I knew it,” Kazkal said, “I told everyone dat ya would start thinkin’ as soon as you saw dat burn. All you do is think, and wot I need now is a thinker.”
“Why?”
“A question, see more thinkin. We’re getting ready for waargh, we’ve a pair of gargants bein’ built and I don’t want no aliens turnin’ up payin’ us a visit before we is ready to visit dem first.”
Now it made sense, the warboss was concerned about alien spies and Hazug possessed a reputation as an ork who not only knew more about aliens than any other greenskin on the planet, but also as one who was annoyingly inquisitive. Since his commandos had been wiped out he’d had little to do but poke about in other orks business.
Hazug studied the corpse more closely. All of its teeth were missing, presumably taken by the grots to spend before the ork patrol drove them off. There were traces of blue dye behind the ears too; this was significant, it singled the body out as likely being one of the Death Skulls who frequently painted themselves that unnatural colour. Probably he had been in the grot shanties looking for interesting scrap when he ran into trouble. Which meant that whatever killed him could still be lurking there.
“I need to see da place where ‘e was found.”
“I’ll ‘ave the lads wot found ‘im take ya. And take dis.”
One of the warboss’s human servants had appeared from behind Kazkal with a small bag.
“Fifty teeth,” Kazkal said, “ five for you, da rest for, for… Wot are dey for?” he asked the human.
“Expenses lord,” the human replied, bowing his head in obedience.
“Yeah ‘spenses. Costs and da like for stuff wot ya ‘as to buy.”
Hazug grinned as he took the money, noticing that Kazkal had neglected to ask for him to get any receipts for his expenses.

The majority of gretchin in the city lived apart from their ork masters, building homes for themselves in vacant areas from whatever building materials they could scavenge or steal. Just as ork buildings were cruder than human structures, so the dwellings built by the gretchin were cruder still. Scraps of metal, wood and cloth made up wallsa a roofs held together by too few nails for a strong join, or in some cases the components were simply heaped ontop of one another until the building inevitably collapsed. There were several such shantytowns scattered about the city, but the one by the river was by far the largest given its easy access to water.
Most of the gretchin Hazug saw in the shantytown that was squeezed between the river, the docks and the human inhabited area known as Git Town to the north of the city hid when they saw him coming with the ork patrol. The area wasn’t heavily policed by the orks, and the sight of a full nob leading a mob of boys was cause for panic among the smaller greenskins.
The ork patrol took Hazug down to the edge of the river itself, and as dozens of terrified gretchin as well as the other orks watched he crouched down and began to study the area. The river here was wide and deep, the water flowing slowly southwards towards the ocean. There had been great metal bridges across the river here when the orks had invaded, and the remains of one could be seen protruding form the surface of the water nearby. Of course the orks had wanted the metal and ripped apart the bridges even though that meant cutting off the portion of the city on the other bank from this one unless you had access to a boat. Now no one lived on the other side of the river, at least not anyone that the orks cared about.
Hazug could see where the body of the ork has been dragged from the river to a point where the gretchin had been able to gather round and search it clear of the water.
“Wot ‘appened to da grots?” Hazug asked the other orks while he crouched down the study the area.
“Dey is scared of us,” one of them replied proudly.
“No, I mean da grots wot found da body.”
“Erm, dunno.”
“Find ‘em,” Hazug ordered as he stood up, “I wants to know wot else dey found.”
The orks spread out and began kicking in the walls and doors of the flimsy shelters in which the local gretchin lived, demanding information and giving out beatings as they felt it necessary or entertaining. Being natural cowards it didn’t take long for the gretchin Hazug wanted to be identified by their neighbours, and seven quivering gretchin were lined up before him, none of them taller than Hazug’s waist.
“Tell me about da body.” Hazug said as he looked along the line.
“Wot body?” replied one of the gretchin, “we aint seen no body.”
Hazug drew his pistol and shot the gretchin in the head. Its skull split open and blood and brain were sprayed over the gretchin either side of him.
“Da body wot got dragged from da river and left des marks in da mud,” Hazug said, pointing toward the tracks by the river and waving his pistol up and down the line of witnesses.
“Oh dat body,” said another gretchin whose skin was covered in muck over the sound of emptying bowels, “’E woz already dead, we didn’t ‘urt ‘im. ‘onest boss.”
“I know dat, but wot did you pinch before da warboss’s boys found ya lootin'?”
“Erm, nothin’.”
Hazug raised his pistol again and there was the sound of empty bowels trying to empty again.
“We found some scrap, dat’s all,” the dirt encrusted gretchin burst out, “Its rubbish, not even metal.”
“’Ave ya still got it?” Hazug asked, and the dirt-encrusted gretchin nodded his head up and down rapidly.
“Show me.”
“Dis way boss,” the gretchin said, waving Hazug towards the shelter that he had been dragged from. Watched by the other orks, Hazug followed the gretchin and waited while he rummaged through the contents of his home until he found what he was looking for.
“’Ere ya go boss,” the gretchin said, handing Hazug what he had found.
The object found by the gretchin was about the right size to be held in one hand by a human or normal sized ork, so it felt small in Hazug’s larger hand. It was made of a grey material that Hazug had heard humans refer to with the word ‘plas-tik’, at one end was a curved glass disc and at the other a soft rubber tube. Hazug had seen similar devices in battle, with aliens holding the rubber end to their eyes so they could see better or further. Holding it to his eye Hazug at first thought that this example was broken, all he could see was blackness. But then he felt a raised part of the casing give way slightly and he realised it was a button.
Pressing the button caused an image to appear, but it wasn’t what was in front of Hazug at that moment rather it was a picture of the entire city taken from a distance. Git Town appeared in the foreground so it had been taken from the north. Hazug considered how the device had ended up here for the Death Skull to find.
Then, as he saw a log floating down the river from the north he realised the truth. The Death Skull had floated down the river with the device in a pouch, he hadn’t been anywhere near the gretchin shantytown at all when he died.
“’Ere, take dis,” Hazug said to the gretchin who had given him the device as he took one of the teeth given to him by Kazkal from their bag and, stuffing the alien device into his bag, he began to walk back towards the centre of the city.
“Is ya mad?” asked one of the orks as they followed Hazug, “Payin’ a tooth for dat crap?”
“Nah,” replied Hazug, “ Warboss Kazkal gave me thirty of ‘em to cover costs.”

“Da old git city?” exclaimed Warboss Kazkal Kromag when Hazug told him where he intended to go. The human city to the north used to be the planet’s primary settlement until the orks invaded and an asteroid full of assorted greenskins had crashed into it. Aside from any taken there by the Death Skulls as servants, no humans were supposed to be left living there any more.
“Dare’s Death Skulls up dare,” Hazug replied, “Dey is lootin’ the ruins.”
“I know wot dey is doin’ dare, but why by Gork n’ Mork d’ya want to go dare?”
“Cause dat’s where I reckon dat da ork died. Den ‘e fell in da river and floated down ‘ere where da grots found ‘im and dragged ‘im out.”
Warboss Kazkal didn’t look convinced as he leant back in his throne.
“Fine,” he said after a lengthy pause, “but ya aint takin’ any of me lads with ya. Get some others.”
“It’ll cost, and I’d like to take a mek and a weirdo up dare too.”
Kazkal grumbled something about ‘not made of teeth’ but he beckoned one of his servants to bring some more cash.
“’Ere’s another fifty. Now d’ya want anything else?”
“Yeah, dare is one small thing, and it won’t cost a tooth either.”

Nolite Id Cogere, Cape Maleum Majorem
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 10-23-11, 08:49 PM
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this is nice. I never thought of an ork having the brainpower/attention span to solve a crime but thats why orks are awesome.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 11-01-11, 07:26 PM Thread Starter
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Hazug initially considered just joining one of the trading caravans that frequently travelled between here and the abandoned human city. Once there he could just hire what troops he needed, either from the caravn’s guards or the Death Skulls themselves. But then he decided against this idea. The caravans were too irregular in both their timing and their routes to guarantee getting him to the city any time soon. No, what he needed to do was find an ork who could get him to the city quickly and in complete safety. Plus it had to be someone that would follow him.
It was about lunchtime by the time Hazug reached the brew hut where he thought that he could find the ork that he needed. It was a nondescript building with little decoration that could be damaged when the inevitable violence resulting from mixing orks with alcohol began. As was common in such places, gretchin scurried between tables taking orders and delivering food and drink, and there were probably more of them out of sight actually preparing it all. The owner of the bar was a large Bad Moon, not uncommon for a commercial establishment. He wasn’t big enough to be considered a nob yet, but he wasn’t very far off and running a place like this probably gave him plenty of opportunities for combat when it came to closing time and the settling of bar tabs.
Hazug saw that his assumption that the ork he needed to speak with would be here was correct, the nob Two Heads Smasha Butt Face of the Evil Suns clan was sat at the bar arguing over which of him was going to pay for the next round of drinks. Hazug put his bag on the bar and sat down next to him.
Two Heads was a mutant, whatever spore he had grown from had been damaged in some way that had caused he to develop a second head while he was still growing in his pod. What was more, rather than merely being some cosmetic deformity, the second head was fully formed with eyes, ears, nose, mouth and, most significantly, a second brain that was fully independent of the other. This abnormality had caused him to be picked on a lot as a youngster, but being a true ork he had just resorted to violence until he was treated with more respect. Of course winning so many fights had triggered a great deal of muscle growth and he had become a nob before he was even ten years old. Another consequence of having a second head, and the one that matter the most to Two Heads was that having two heads meant that he also had twice as many teeth as other orks, making him very wealthy. Of course there were occasions when the two brains didn’t agree on something, and watching Two Heads fighting himself was supposedly a sight not to be forgotten easily. Inspite of his wealth and undoubted fighting prowess, his deformity meant that the Evil Sun remained something of an outcast with little influence. Hazug hoped that this would make him more receptive to an offer of employment from a Blood Axe.
“’Ello Two Heads,” Hazug said to the Evil Sun, unsure of which head he should look at he shifted his gaze back and forth between them.
“Sod off git lover,” Two Heads said in stereo, the plumes of hair from the squigs he had applied to his heads quivering as he spoke.
Hazug just grinned and held up a tooth and waved it where both of Two Heads could see it clearly.
“Can I buy you a pair of drinks perhaps?” he asked, and a pair of grins emerged on Two Heads faces.
“Oi grot,” Hazug said to the gretchin serving behind the bar, “a beer for me and another two for ‘im,” and he slapped the tooth down on the bar. The gretchin took the money and poured the two nobs their drinks.
As Two Heads slurped on his fungus beers, the heads alternating between drinking and breathing so that there was a constant flow of both beer and air into him Hazug explained to him how he wanted to travel north as far as the ruins of the old human city, and for that he needed the services of a Nob who had access to transport and orks warriors for protection.
“So,” one of Two Heads said as the other continued drinking, “ya gets me, me lads and me jalopy. But wot does I get in return?”
“Da Warboss ‘as given me sixty teeth to spend, and I’ll give ya thirty. Sound good?”
Two Heads both paused at the mention of such a significant cash payment.
“In advance?” one head asked.
“When we leave.”
As Two Heads considered the offer Hazug noticed that a young ork was approaching them from behind Two Heads, the older orks sat at the table where the younger one had also been sat were sniggering.
The young ork reached out a hand and tapped Two Heads on his back.
“’Ere,” the youngster said as Two Heads turned to face him, “why d’ya ‘ave two ‘eads?”
Two Heads roared with rage and grabbed his rifle from wher it lay propped up against the bar. There was the sound of bone and cartilidge cracking as he swung it around and smashed the butt end into the unfortunate young ork’s face, breaking his nose. The orks at the table erupted with laughter as their comrade staggered back clutching at his face, blood pouring from behind his hands. Two Heads turned to face Hazug once more.
“Alright I’m in,” he said, “but ya got to promise ya’ll tell me why ya is carryin’ that severed ‘ead around with ya in a bag.”
“So we can ask if anyone saw ‘im.”
“Ah, makes sense, I think.”
Neither of them noticed them noticed the grime encrusted gretchin watching them through a window.

The human ran for her life because she knew the offworlders would kill her if they found her. The sun was high in the sky, but from what she had seen her pursuers could see just as well at night as they could during the day, and she did not want to still be within the city when darkness fell. Like the other humans in the city she had served the orks who plundered the ruins. She had been born after the orks had arrived here and had known no other rulers. Then the man had come from another world with tales of a glorious empire that would free them from the orks. His stories had sounding so convincing at first, with tales of fantastic technologies and of lives of greater purpose than sifting through the remains of a fallen government, but when some of the others began to ask why they should be ruled by anyone on another planet he got angry. He claimed that this world was the property of his empire and that it would be a privilege for the humans to be allowed to live in it and share in its glorious destiny. When the objectors continued to question why they should follow him, the man had the soldiers he brought with him kill them, bolts of lightning erupting from their weapons.
That was when she began to run; she hadn’t really cared where she ran to at first, she just tried to keep the sounds of gunfire behind her. She had seen others run too, many of them friends she had known for many years, and she saw the soldiers follow and kill them when they caught up with them. Even those that begged for mercy and pleaded for another chance to join the offworlders’ cause were slaughtered. She kept running when the orks discovered the presence of the offworlders and she heard the sounds of the fighting between her ork masters and these newcomers. She had almost died herself when she finally encountered a force of orks, not because they had tried to kill her, but because they were so enthusiastic to enter combat that they had not even noticed her standing in front of their vehicles and almost ran her over as they raced to join in the growing battle.
A battle that it seemed her masters had lost.

Leaving Two Heads enjoying his drinks and agreeing to meet him and his boys later Hazug made his way to one of the areas of the city filled with the workshops of the meks. The workshop districts were all noisy, with the sounds of cutting, hammering and the odd explosion filling the air as the mekboys built and tested their latest creations. Hazug stopped when he saw a sign that read:
MEK BATRUG
CONSTRUCTION, REPAIR AND ADVICE.
CASH ONLY.
Hazug took three teeth from the pouch Warboss Kazkal had given him and entered the workshop, cautiously looking out for anything dangerous. Immediately inside the door was a large stack of explosives, with detonators already attached, beyond that were the various projects that the mek was working on, either because he was being paid to do so or because he had just developed the urge to try something new as meks were apt to do quite often.
He ignored the various gretchin assistants employed by the mek to fetch and carry, and made for the back of the workshop where he could see the mek himself welding armour plates to a wheeled chassis. As far as Hazug could tell this particular mek had not yet begun to replace any parts of his body with custom bionic ‘improvements’. He had once fought alongside a mek who needed to have his brain wound up with a key at the most inconvenient times, such as when he was involved in a battle. Hazug held out the hand containing the teeth with it open and let the mek see his money.
“Gets ya a days work,” the mek said, “but da parts is extra.”
“Just information for now,” Hazug told him as he gave the teeth to the mek. Then he took the device that the gretchin had taken from the dead ork and passed it to the mek also, “What d’ya make of dis den?” he asked.
“Digital camera,” replied Mek Batrug, holding the device to his eye and pressing the button Hazug had pressed earlier, “built in play-back, wide angle zoom and at least twelve million pixels resolution. Might be able to do video, but I’d need a bit longer to figure dat out.”
Hazug looked at the mek somewhat blankly.
“Me no speako meko,” he said slowly and shaking his head as he did so, then at a more normal speed he added, “so stop usin’ fancy words and just tell me where something like dat comes from.”
“It’s alien, not proper orky technology. No mek made dis, could be gits but dats not for certain. Too many straight lines for pointy eared pansie eldar though.”
This made sense to Hazug, the dead ork had found or stolen the device and its original owners had killed him to try and get it back. He put his hand back into the money pouch and counted out another three teeth.
“Me and some lads are 'eadin’ to where the gits had their city before da rok ‘it it. I wants ya to come with us to check out wot else might be dare. We’ll go get a weirdo to go with us too, if its hummies dey could ‘ave some of dare own with ‘em.”
Mek Batrug grabbed the teeth and shouted at his servants.
“We is closin’ up, bugger off ‘ome da lot of ya.”
The gretchin dropped their tools where they were and all ran from the workshop with looks of glee on their faces at the unexpected time off. Meanwhile, the mek picked up a bag of tools and wrapped a length of chain around his waist.
“Lets go den,” he said, and the two orks walked out into the street. As they left the workshop Mek Batrug carefully set the anti theft explosives behind them.
“Bleedin' grots keep tryin’ to nick stuff at night,” he complained, “considered gettin’ a guard squig, but ‘splosives is cheaper.”
Hazug had seen the amount of explosives that Mek Batrug had used in his anti-theft device, and was about ask how much it would cost to replace a workshop that had just been explosively propelled so high into the air that it might well hit one of the kill cruisers berthed in orbit above the planet, but thought better of it.

“I’ll drive,” Mek Batrug told Hazug as he took the lock off the small buggy parked outside the workshop and sat in the driver’s seat. Then he passed a long metal bar to Hazug, “’Ere’s da brake. When I say ‘brake’ ya stick it in da ground and ‘old on tight to slow us down, and if I says we is ridin’ past Mek Fratdak do us a favour and ‘it ‘im real ‘ard like with it. ‘E keeps on nickin’ me customers.”
As it turned out Mek Batrug wasn’t a big believer in slowing down, and the only use that the brake got was to strike at Mek Fratdak as he dived out of the way when Mek Batrug attempted to run him down. The sound of the bar hitting the bionic implants on Mek Fratdak’s head produced a pleasing ‘clang’ sound and caused sparks to fly and flames to erupt from behind his ears.
“Dats for bein’ a thief ya grot lickin’ sod!” Mek Batrug yelled as he and Hazug sped away from the dazed and staggering Mek Fratdak as his gretchin assistants tried frantically to extinguish the fire on his head before their employer suffered too much damage, “Dat’ll teach ‘im,” he added.
The weirdboy huts were visible from a significant distance; they were small dwellings of a typically basic orkish design, but were raised far above the ground on thick copper poles to dissipate the psychic energies that tended to gather around the weirdboys themselves.
“Brake!” Mek Batrug shouted suddenly as the buggy approached the weird huts.
As Mek Batrug took the buggy out of gear Hazug stuck the bar into the dirt and allowed the drag to reduce the buggy’s speed, but the rate of deceleration was not quite quick enough to prevent it crashing into the copper support of the nearest weird hut. Both Hazug and Mek Batrug were carried forwards as the buggy stopped suddenly and also struck the pole. As they untangled themselves a voice came from above them.
“Who’s dat crashin’ into me 'ut?” demanded the weirdboy whose home they had just rammed as his head appeared over the edge of the hut above Hazug and Mek Batrug, “Ya knocked me off me bloomin’ chair ya sods!”
The weirdboy began to climb down the ladder from the hut, still ranting about the damage done to the support for his home and the disrespect shown by so many orks for their elders. By the time he reached the ground Hazug and Mek Batrug had got back to their feet and were ready to greet him. The weirdboy possessed the same dishevelled appearance as most of his kind, his clothing didn’t look like it fit quite right and he was adorned with bells, trinkets and talismans gathered over many years, this particular weirdboy was old, clearly well into his thirties. Hazug recognised symbols used by orks, humans and eldar among them.
“Well,” said the weirdboy as he stuck his metal staff into the ground to earth the psychic energies that flowed through him, “ya made me climb all da way down ‘ere so now ya can at least tell me wots goin’ on dat needs ya to be tearin’ about in one of dese things like dat,” and he gave the buggy a kick, causing a piece to drop off and roll across the ground.
Hazug got out some more money.
“’Ere’s two teeth,” he said, “for the damage, and I’ll give ya two more if ya come with us.”
The weirdboy snatched the teeth from Hazug and leant closer, staring straight at him.
“Go where den?” the weirdboy asked.
“North, to da ruined git city. Probably take two or three days.”
“Make it three teeth, but dat wazzok dare,” at which point the weirdboy jabbed at Mek Batrug with a finger, “doesn’t get to drive nothin’.”
“Deal weirdboy.”
“Let me just get da rest of me bells den,” the weirdboy said, turning back towards the ladder up to his home, “and ya can call me Drazzok.”

Having experienced the mekboy’s driving abilites, Hazug fully agreed with Drazzok’s complete refusal to ride in any vehicle driven by Mek Batrug, though he did not say so out loud. He didn’t want the mek leaving now that he had already paid him six teeth. Instead he used the weirdboy’s condition to justify to Batrug why they had to walk the rest of the way to meet up with Two Heads. Unwilling to just abandon the vehicle where anyone could steal it, the mek locked his mangled buggy to the pole of Drazzok’s house before the trio set off walking to the garage where Two Heads and his troops both lived and stored their battlewagon. Walking the streets of the ork city with the weirdboy at least got other greenskins out of their path. The bells that Drazzok wore gave ample warning to those around them that his presence could make their heads explode if they weren’t careful. Reactions varied from subtle changes of direction to screams of terror before running the other way as fast as possible.
When they reached Two Heads home they found that the two-headed ork was getting impatient.
“Wot took ya?” he both demanded.
“Traffic accident,” replied Hazug.
“Yeah,” added Drazzok, staring at Mek Batrug, “dare is some wazzoks wot shouldn’t be allowed to drive. I ‘ope dat none of your lads is like dat.”
Mek Batrug frowned and looked to be about to respond when the other Two Heads spoke.
“And wots up with dis? We caught ‘im creepin’ about the place looking for ya Hazug,” he said holding up a gretchin that was covered in dirt. Hazug recognised it as the one he had paid for the alien device.
“Ratish wants to help,” the gretchin called out as it hung upside down in mid air.
“Who?” asked Hazug.
“Me, Ratish Brownskin master. Please let Ratish help.”
Hazug had never bothered with a gretchin assistant before. The creatures were drawn towards orks both for protection and because they shared the same greenskin attitudes that bigger was better and that might made right, so they automatically saw the larger and stronger orks as their superiors.
“Put him down Two Heads,” Hazug said.
Two Heads released his grip and Ratish fell to the floor, landing headfirst and rolling towards Hazug.
“Ooh thank you master,” Ratish said as he rushed the rest of the way to Hazug and hugged his leg, “Ratish knew you would let me help.”
“I ‘aven’t said yes yet grot.”
“Ooh please say yes master,” the gretchin pleaded as he tightened his hold on Hazug’s leg.
“Geddof!” Hazug yelled as he pulled the enthusiastic gretchin from his leg before he lost all feeling in it, “Alright den, ya can come. But ya ‘ad better behave, and I aint payin’ ya.”
“Ooh thank you, thank you master,” and Ratish scampered into Two Heads’ waiting battlewagon.
“Shall we go?” said Hazug and he followed Ratish towards the battlewagon. The armoured vehicle was typical of ork transports, with a heavy half tracked chassis and an armoured hull constructed from randomly shaped sheets of metal and assembled to appear as aggressive as possible. This particular vehicle was armed with three turret-mounted weapons, an enclosed heavy cannon plus two pairs of twin linked automatic weapons and to improve its speed it had been painted bright red.
Rather than getting straight into the vehicle, Mek Batrug removed the chain from his waist and tied it to the back of the battlewagon so that it ran from the chassis to the ground.
“Best to keep dat weirdo grounded,” he stated as some of Two Head’s boys took an interest in his unauthorised modification to their transport, “I’ve seen ‘em pop sometimes and it’s really messy,” the Evil Suns nodded at this, all to aware of the hazards associated with travelling with ungrounded ork psykers.
The vehicle was spacious inside, and even with the large number of storage crates stacked inside it had enough room for it to able to carry almost two dozen boys plus the driver and three gunners but Two Heads had only fourteen under his command in total so there was more than enough room for the four additional passengers. Hazug expected the driver to start the engine up before everyone was even inside, but he didn’t even attempt to do so even when all the passengers had taken seats and the guns were crewed.
“What are we waitin’ for?” Hazug asked Two Heads who was now sat opposite him.
Two Heads reached out his hand.
“Money first, den we drive.”
Hazug opened the money pouch and counted out the agreed thirty teeth, taking care to prevent any of the other greenskins from seeing exactly how much was left. Two Heads took the cash and then banged his fist on the side of the battlewagon.
“Lets roll,” he both ordered, and with a roar, a splutter and several coughs the battlewagon’s engine came to life.
“’Ere we go!” the driver shouted as he put his foot down on the accelerator pedal as hard as he could, and the vehicle lurched forwards and out of the garage.
“’Ere we go! ‘Ere we go! ‘Ere we go!” the Evil Suns orks chanted.
Two Heads’ driver was moderately more competent than Mek Batrug at operating a motor vehicle. Added to that the sight of a large armoured vehicle mounting two automatic weapons and a heavy cannon was intimidating enough to convince other roads users to get out of the way. Orks had a simple rule concerning right of way, the biggest vehicle wins, and the battlewagon was the biggest vehicle on the roads that afternoon.
Travelling north the orks’ route took them through Git Town, a large sign that read
YA IS NOW ENTERIN’ GIT TOWN
indicated their entry into that area. Beneath the official notice a greenskin had scrawled ‘Fire at will’, and another had written ‘Which one’s Will?’ under that. Most of the humans left on the planet lived here, though there also some scattered bands of them on remote farms or places where orks had seen fit to take them as servants. The humans that lived here at the time of the ork invasion had not put up a fight when the orks arrived, indeed as far as the orks could tell they had killed their own leaders before the orks could. The first ork troops entering into the area had discovered the bodies of local soldiers hanging from the streetlights and since the remaining humans rapidly showed themselves to be willing to work for the orks without them having to shoot or beat a few as an example first, the greenskins had let them be and moved on to where there had still been fun to be had fighting. Now the remaining humans didn’t seem to find living under ork rule any worse than the previous regime, and even though there were random killings of humans by bored ork mobs the humans here knew that the orks wouldn’t punish them if they then killed those orks while still in Git Town. But if the human Imperium was finally about to try and take the world back from the orks then Warlord Kromag would likely order Git Town and its inhabitants burnt to the ground to stop them changing sides again. Even if that meant he had to find some new servants.
Even without the sign, the change in building style made it obvious that the battlewagon had entered the human area. The buildings here were better built than ork structures, and most of them had been here longer than the orks had. After decades of ork rule, however, there were some signs of decay where windows ahd been boarded up and the streetlights last used for lynching soldiers had been ripped out by looters for their metal.
Beyond Git Town was the northern fort that held an ork garrison several thousand strong, another human built fortress that the greenskins had been able to take over unopposed thanks to the local uprising and convert it for their own needs. Numerous heavy guns pointed out of the fortress in all directions, ready to defend against attack. The occupants of the fortress ignored the battlewagon as it drove past. They didn’t care who left the city, or where they were going. They were there only to keep an eye on who was coming into it.
Beyond the fortress there was wilderness, a mix of hillsides and woodland, and the battlewagon kicked up a cloud of dust as it travelled over the crumbling remains of the ancient human road. Out here were a handful of scattered settlements, both greenskin and human, and a few bands of feral orks that had yet to find their way to civilisation, but nowhere that could be reasonably considered safe territory.
Hazug and his team were now on their own.

Nolite Id Cogere, Cape Maleum Majorem
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Rather than join in the typical crude banter and boasts between the other orks Mek Batrug used the journey to study the camera more closely, and by the time the orks stopped to set up camp for the night he had figured out how to gain access to all of the images stored inside. With a few instructions from the mek, Hazug was able to see the entire set of pictures contained within the camera. There were about a dozen images in total all of them showing the ork city from a distance and taken from the north. From that angle of course the airfield and gargants to the south were at least partiually obscured in all of the images, but their existence could still be discerned. Hazug had hoped that at least one of the images would give some more information about whoever had owned the camera, but in this he was disappointed.
He put the camera away when Ratish had his supper ready and Two Heads’ boys had unloaded the fungus beer from the battlewagon. A sound from overhead was ignored by most of the orks as they settled down to eat around the camp fire, but Hazug looked up in time to see a shooting star pass overhead, thinking nothing of it he returned to his meal but he dropped his plate and stood up quickly when from the corner of his eye he noticed the shooting star stop suddenly, then loose altitude over the ruined city where they were heading and disappear.
“We are definitely goin’ to da right place,” he said as he picked his food up from the ground and got back to eating it. The other orks who had drawn weapons as soon as Hazug had jumped up also returned to their meals with little more than a few whispered comments about Blood Axes being jumpier than gretchin.
A watch was set, with pairs of Two Heads’ boys standing guard in shifts while the rest of the greenskins slept. But even though he was asleep it was Ratish with his sharper gretchin senses that heard the noise first.
“Master, master wake up,” he yelled as he shook Hazug awake. Hazug sat upright suddenly and threw Ratish away from him.
“Wots goin’ on?” he demanded when he saw the two sentries with their weapons raised, both looking into a nearby tree line.
“Da grot said ‘e ‘eard somethin’,” one of them responded, “but dare’s nought out dare.”
Two Heads’ orks were all awake now, and the boys formed a rough line with their guns at the ready all pointing into the trees.
“Maybe not,” said Hazug, “ but den again maybe we just don’t see it.”
Aside from the sounds that could be expected from a wood at night none of the greenskins could hear anything.
“Sod dis. Let rip!” both of Two Heads bellowed suddenly, raising his rifle and opening fire. Immediately, his boys all followed his example. The otherwise tranquil night was ripped apart by the thunder of more than a dozen automatic weapons being fired at random into the darkness. Even Hazug joined in, firing round after round from his pistol randomly into the woods in front of him. Only Ratish, ho had no gun, and Drazzok who had still been asleep did not take part in the barrage which, even without the use of the heavier weapons, mounted on the battlewagon were still able to tear up the trees and undergrowth as multiple projectiles smashed through them. It ended only when the armed orks found themselves all holding empty weapons, there was a lot of fumbling as they changed magazines, with some cursing thrown in when the inevitable jams occurred. After which the orks once again stood in a line staring into the night at the ruined tree line waiting for another order to fire.
The gunfire had been enough to wake Drazzok from his deep sleep, and the weirdboy strode up behind Hazug, the jinglijg of his bells and totems giving away his approach.
“Wot’s ‘appenin’?” the weirdboy demanded as he came to a halt and instinctively pushed his staff into the ground to ground himself.
“Shh,” Hazug replied, holding up his hand towards the weirdboy.
“Bah!” Drazzok explained, “If ya is goin’ to shush me den I’m back off to bed,” and he returned to his spot by the fire, leaving the remaining greenskins staring into the darkness.
Even the typical sounds of woodland at night were absent now, the gunfire having scared off every nearby animal. So even the slightest sound of movement would have been audible to the greenskins, especially Ratish.
“Did we get em?” one of Two Heads’ boys said, “Shall we let rip again?”
“Must ‘ave got ‘em, nothin' could survive dat lot,” another added.
“Shut it,” Two Heads ordered and then, while that first head smiled, the other added, “let’s send in da grot to take a look.”
Ratish gulped.
“Me master?” he asked looking at Hazug.
“You see another grot around ‘ere?” one of Two Heads responded while the other just grinned.
An old pistol was found for Ratish, and Hazug ordered his new servant to take a look in the undergrowth. The gretchin took both the weapon and a burning torch and while the larger orks looked on with their weapons still at the ready he advanced nervously towards the trees, pausing nervously as he reached the edge of the woods.
Ratish turned around.
“I can’t see nought master,” he said.
“Get in da woods grot!” Two Heads shouted, and Ratish cautiously advanced until only the dim glow of his torch could be seen through the woods.
“Dare’s nothin’ ‘ere master,” he called from within the darkness, “but its all dark and creepy, can I come out now?”
“Well?” one of Two Heads asked Hazug while the other continued to stare into the night, aiming his rifle at nothing in particular.
“Aye grot,” Hazug called out, “ya can come back ‘ere now.”
Ratish exited the woods quicker than he had entered them, continuing to move as quickly as he could until he had passed the line of orks who were just now beginning to lower theior weapons. As he returned to the camp the orks settled back down with most complaining about having their sleep disturbed by a worthless gretchin none of them observed the three figures watching them through light amplifying optics who had fallen further back into the trees when the orks had woken up. Not even Hazug, who was still looking into the trees when the rest of the orks had gone back to their improvised beds.
“Nothin’ dare master,” Ratish said to him from further back in the camp.
“Perhaps,” Hazug replied, but he made sure his pistol was within easy reach when he went back to bed.

She crept back into the silent Death Skull camp under the limited cover of darkness, the ability of these off-world soldiers to be able see just as well at night as during the day scared her, but at least any of the other humans brought here by the orks who had joined them wouldn’t be able to see her as easily.
There were no orks left, they had all gone off to fight and abandoned their supplies. They left no weapons of course, no ork would enter battle without every weapon he could carry, and in any case weapons seemed to have done the orks no good even though they were all far more familiar with their use than she was. But she knew that there would still be food and water here and she hadn’t had anything to eat or drink in more than a day.
She could tell that some of the off-worlders had been through here before her; even she could tell that not all of the footprints had been made by the greenskin made footwear worn by orks and their servants. They had moved through the camp, probably looking for anyone not yet caught up by the fighting, but they too had left the supplies where they were. They probably didn’t find ork food very palatable.
She found the food stores easily and gobbled down several handfuls of dried mushrooms, then she shook one water bottle after another until she found one that still hand liquid left in it. She opened the bottle and tipped it up, pouring the contents down her throat, gulping it down. Thankfully it was water rather than one of the vile concoctions that the orks brewed from fermented fungus juices, she knew from experience that she would be sick if she tried to drink any of that. Her immediate need for food and water satisfied she gathered up some more provisions in a bag and crawled under an abandoned cart where she fell into a deep sleep.

“Oi grot! Where’s Hazug?” Two Heads asked Ratish the next morning as his boys loaded up the battlewagon, “We’s almost ready to shift.”
”Da master has gone in da woods.”

Two Heads paused.
“Yeah, spent ages in dare meself. Somethin’ wrong with dat squig stew last night.”
“No sire, the master told Ratish he wanted to take another look about in da light.”
Two Heads took a deep breath and yelled into the woods, “Oi Hazug! We is ready for off, get a move on or ya is walkin’!”
Hazug heard the shout while he studied the ground in the woods. The torrent of gunfire the previous night had scattered pieces of wood and other vegetation all around, and the flying debris had churned up and covered much of the ground.
But it was still plain to see that there had indeed been something there last night, heavy footfalls had created deep impressions in the ground that, even though they were now no longer clear enough to identify what had made them, were still visible o the naked eye in the morning daylight. What Hazug couldn’t fathom out was why the imprints in the ground didn’t seem to come from or go anywhere; instead they just simply stopped.
“Hazug!” both of Two Heads shouted, and Hazug got up to return to the battlewagon.
Moments later Hazug appeared, pistol in hand but lowered.
“I fink dare was somethin’ in dare last night,” he said to Two Heads as he reached him, “better let da lads know to expect trouble and keep da big guns ready.”
“We is always ready,” Two Heads said as he raised his weapon and pointed it at the tree line.
“Dey is gone now Two ‘Eads, but I fink dey is probably still watchin’ us from somewhere. I need to talk to the weirdo.”
“Ow are ya at lookin’ for stuff?” Hazug asked Drazzok.
“I don’t do lost property, dats grot work.”
“I’m finking more like following trails and finding dem wots 'idin’.”
“Cost yer another tooth,” and Drazzok held out his hand, “cross me palm with enamel.”
Grumbling, Hazug produced another tooth and gave it to the weirdboy.
Drazzok put his payment away and got out a small pouch which he tipped up and emptied the contents into his other hand. It was full of the bones of small animals threaded together on a length of copper wire.
“Normally I needs somethin’ dat belongs to dem wot I is lookin’ for, but dis time I’ll ‘ave to do it a bit different. Now get everyone in a circle about me,” he said, “Or dis aint goin’ to work.”
With a few shouted orders form both Hazug and Two Heads the other greenskins formed up in a circle with Drazzok at its centre just as the weirdboy had requested. At first he just stood there with his eyes closed letting the bones sway in the breeze, then he dropped his copper staff and cried out.
“By Gork and Mork show us da way!” and he began to hop from one foot to the other, repeating his chant and throwing in random wailing and waving of his arms for good measure. Several of the orks began to feel their hair squigs stand on end, and there was the gentle sound of some nervous flatulence. Weirdboys could be somewhat explosive even when they weren’t actually deliberately trying to channel the energy of the ork psychic field through themselves. A ritual like this only made an accidental detonation more likely, and though all orks liked a good explosion, especially if it involved someone that they didn’t like, they weren’t so eager to be a central part of it.
“Dat way!” Drazzok yelled as he suddenly stopped his chanting and dance and pointed his staff in the direction of the ruined city, “but closer dan da ruins. Dare’s a small mob movin' away from us.”
“Are dey gits?” one of Two Heads asked as the other tries to lean closer to the weirdboy.
“Dunno, but dey is definitely not greenskins, dat’s for sure.”
“I reckon dat dey wants to tell others about us,” said Mek Batrug, “but dey don’t wanna break radio silence.”
Hazug frowned and the other greenskins all looked confused.
“What did I say about usin’ posh words rather than talkin’ so I knows wot ya is goin’ on about?” Hazug replied.
“Dey ‘ave machines for talkin’ over a distance,” the mek explained, “but dey don’t know dat we don’t have somethin’ similar that would tell us where dey are if dey use it.”
Hazug knew that ork spacecraft and aircraft normally featured such machines because there was no other way of staying in contact with a warboss, but the idea of using one on the ground rather than just sending a gretchin with a written message or using prearranged signals offended his orkish sense of right and wrong. Even the idea of using weirdboys to send psychic messages to one another made him feel uneasy, you never knew what they were really saying to each other after all, and he knew of at least one ork nob whose message of ‘If you send me another mob then I’ll take that hill’ was turned into ‘Warboss you’re a grot faced pansy’ with fatal results for the nob in question when the warboss did indeed personally lead another mob of orks over to him. The thought that other machines could intercept these messages did give him the beginnings of an idea however.
“How fast are dey movin’?” Hazug asked.
“Yeah,” added Two Heads, seeing where Hazug was going with this, “can we catch ‘em in da wagon before dey gets to da city?”
“Dey is movin’ quickly, I think dey ‘ave a wagon of dare own,” Drazzok answered.
This puzzled Hazug, apart from the eldar he knew of no aliens that produced vehicles that could move silently, and none of the greenskins had heard any sounds of engines the previous night. Then he considered another possibility.
“Nah,” he said to himself as he dismissed the idea, “dey is far too stuck up to come ‘ere,” then he turned towards Two Heads, “we should get movin’, we needs to be at da city by the time it gets dark.”
“Why?”
“Cause I fink dey’ll attack den, and I want to join up with da Death Skulls before dat ‘appens.”
“Right lads,” Two Heads shouted, “mount up. We is off, and I want everyone with guns ready.”
The greenskins all climbed back into the battlewagon, the driver not waiting for them all to be onboard before starting up the engine this time. Rather than sit inside the orks, aside from Drazzok and Mek Batrug stood at the sides, poking their weapons through the slits provided for firing from inside. Hazug took a rifle from one of the crew so that he too could take up such a position.

“Just borrowin’ it,” he reassured the ork, “you’ll get back later.”
“Lets roll,” two Heads ordered the driver, and the vehicle accelerated away leaving a cloud of dust in its wake and causing the orks standing up to have to grab onto anything they could to remain upright.

Having the orks all positioned at firing points with weapons at the ready proved to be a problem. Having been warned to expect trouble the orks were jumpy and even more trigger happy than orks normally are, and the rough ride caused many negligent discharges of the orks’ weapons which then provoked the other orks to fire their weapons also, just in case there was something out there to hit. Hazug would have normally been concerned at either giving away their position, but he knew that their enemies already knew they were coming. But still he thought it might be a wise idea to preserve at least some of their ammunition for when they encountered a real target.
“Let’s give some of da lads a rest,” he suggested, “if half of ‘em sit down den dey can’t be shootin’ at nothin’ all day.”
“I ‘it dat rock!” protested one of the orks who had earlier fired a burst of gunfire into a large rock and cracked it as the battlewagon had driven past. Two Heads wasn’t impressed at this comment and punched the ork in the back of the head.
“’E can be in the first half to rest,” Two Heads said as the ork he had just struck collapsed unconscious to the floor of the battlewagon, then he picked out five others to sit down rather than stand at a firing point, “and you too,” he said to Hazug, “I’ll keep an eye on the rest of ‘em.”
Hazug staggered across the inside of the battlewagon as it pitched and rolled on its journey across the countryside and sat next to Mek Batrug.
“Dese signal machines,” he said to the mek as he sat down, “can you make us somethin’ that’ll let us know wot is bein’ said with ‘em?”
Mek Batrug thought about this for a moment.
“Yeah,” he began, “but I aint got no bits for one even if you ‘ad paid for ‘em.”
“But if da Deaf Skulls ‘ave ‘em you can make one?”
“Yeah, no problem. But it would be better to just nick one from someone whose already got one, its just another one of da signalling machines.”
Hazug, considered this. With a force of Blood Axes he could probably sneak into an enemy camp and steal a chair that someone was still sitting on without them noticing, but the Evil Suns tended to be somewhat conspicuous given their habit of painting absolutely everything bright red. Instead he would have to hope that they could take one as the spoils of battle quick enough to make a difference if he wanted to listen in on what the other side was saying. His thoughts were unfortunately interrupted by the sound of a small greenskin vomiting.
“Sorry master, Ratish get wagon sick.”
Ratish at least had enough sense to find a cloth and clean up his mess without needing to be beaten around the head by one of the orks to convince him to do so first.
He may just be worth keeping around, Hazug thought to himself.
As the journey continued there was a growing number of complaints from the orks on watch that those resting weren’t doing any work, and while morale was maintained by Two Heads by smacking any ork who complained while within reach the two nobs decided that it would be a good idea to take a break for something to eat and then swap shifts.
Once again Ratish prepared his food and it was suitably bland, a squig flattened with a rock then thrown into the battlewagon’s engine long enough for the flesh to turn from red to brown. Meanwhile Hazug stared in the direction of the ruined city, which was now just visible on the horizon. Even from this distance he could make out the plumes of smoke from Death Skull campfires.
“We should go straight to the nearest one,” he said to Two Heads who came joined him while they both ate lunch, “otherwise we might not get dare before dark.”
“Yeah,” agreed Two Heads, “at least the smoke gives us somethin’ to aim for.”
For the next leg of the journey Hazug took charge of the boys at the firing points, and picking one facing forwards he was able to make sure that the driver kept the battlewagon heading in the correct direction. Ratish found himself an empty ammunition crate to stand on so that he could see out of the same firing point that Hazug was stood at.
“Are we dare yet master?”
“No.”
”How long till we get dare master?”

“Dusk.”
“Wot’s dusk master?”
“When it gets dark.”
“When will get dark master?”
Hazug kicked the crate out from under Ratish who fell and rolled to the back of the battlewagon’s interior, much to the amusement of the other orks who roared with laughter. Even the usually miserable Drazzok managed a grin that in turn induced a random telekinetic surge that hurled a loose bolt across the inside of the battlewagon. Ratish took the hint and stayed at the back of the battlewagon, where he got wagon sick again but his time into the empty crate.
As the battlewagon neared the nearest Death Skull camp Hazug began to feel that something wasn’t right. The plume of smoke didn’t appear thick enough for a burning bonfire, and as the light began to fade it became increasingly difficult to pick out the smoke against the darkening sky. More significantly the sky was getting darker uniformly, rather than patches remaining lighter where the campfires should have illuminated them.
“Where to now boss?” the driver of the battlewagon asked as he finally lost sight of the smoke.
Two Heads moved to stand next to Hazug.
“Yeah where to now?” one of him repeated.
“Just keep goin’ straight on, if we stop ‘ere we’re stuck out in da open.”
“Just like a Blood Axe, always wantin’ to ‘ide,” commented one of the orks, who added “wot seems pretty smart to me,” when he found Hazug’s gun was pressed against his nose.

Nolite Id Cogere, Cape Maleum Majorem
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The sun was just disappearing over the horizon when the battlewagon reached the southern edge of the city, the regular shapes of its buildings standing out against the skyline. The driver had held a reasonably straight course and the orks were within sight of one of the Death Skull camps. It was dark, the fire was not lit and none of the vehicles appeared to be running.
“Right, stop now,” said Hazug to the driver and then turned to face the other orks, “We walk from ‘ere. Choppas only, I don’t want anyone shootin’ each other in da dark.”
“You ‘eard ‘im lads,” Two Heads shouted, “Put away dem shootas and lets see dem choppas.”
None of the orks complained about having to keep their guns slung, they had an instinctive desire to get up close to an enemy in any case and using their one handed blades and axes let them carry burning torches in the other to see better.
“’Ang on you lot, I wants ya to stay where ya is,” Two Heads said to the driver and gunners as they began to climb out of their seats, ”I wants ya ready to move if I says so.”
“Ratish stay in the wagon too master?”
Hazug didn’t really care what Ratish did, the gretchin wouldn’t be much use if there was any trouble and there were enough orks to search the immediate area.
“Yes grot, ya can stay ‘ere out of da way.”
The first ork to get out of the battlewagon lit his torch from the heat of the exhaust pipe and held it out so that each of the others could light their torches from his as they exited the vehicle and with torches raised the orks ran towards the silent camp. Their torches forming a line of glowing flames that bobbed up and down in the darkness as they moved.
“Dare’s no-one ‘ere boss,” one the orks said as they all stood around the scorched pile of wood that had been the fire at the centre of the Death Skulls camp. Around them were abandoned carts and trucks, one of which had clearly been looted for some of the supplies it contained. Water flasks and food packets were scattered around the open back ramp. Tents and other improvised shelters were all empty, their occupants long gone, while around the edges of the camp were piles of scrap metal and random pieces of technology plundered from the remains of the city. Hazug almost noticed that there was a significant amount human built furniture scattered about the camp, apparently the Death Skulls had preferred to use decades old furniture looted fom the city rather than build their own.
“Yeah, dey is all gone,” another ork added.
“I sees dat,” one of Two Heads responded as the other just frowned, “anyone anything to say that aint bleedin’ obvious?”
The ork soldiers looked at one another and then shook their heads.
“Keep lookin’” Hazug ordered, “We needs to know where dey went, and grab anything that looks useful while ya is at it.”
The orks did not need any further encouragement to begin looting the camp, the idea of ‘finders keepers’ was far too ingrained in greenskin culture. Mek Batrug headed directly for the piles of scrap, while the boys instead headed for the shelters and trucks that looked like the may contain valuables left behind by the Death Skulls when they left. To maximise the speed of the search the battlewagon crew was summoned to join the others, only Ratish remained in the battlewagon, unwilling to wander about in the dark where it appeared hardened ork fighters had met their deaths, along with Drazzok who refused to do any searching even with the promise of a share of the loot.
“Dat counts as lost property,” he said, “I already said I don’t do lost property,” and he instead closed his eyes and went to sleep.
Gorrid was the youngest of Two Heads’ boys, and he was proud to have been allowed to join his battlewagon-riding mob at an age when most were lucky to be able to rid in any sort of vehicle, let alone one as powerful as Two Heads’. This was his first time out of the city since he had first entered it as a newly born ork half a year earlier. Aware that there were not only two nobs, but also a mek boy watching him he was eager to make a good impression, and he got his chance when he decided to see if there was anything worth taking from a cart near the centre of the camp.
The cart itself held little of interest, it appeared to be used to store the blue paint that meant so much to Death Skulls orks, but before he could move onto another potential source of loot he heard something move underneath it. He jumped off the cart and bent down to take a look, it was too dark underneath the cart to see anything so he lowered his torch to let the flame illuminate the ground beneath it. As he stared under cart he saw a trembling human staring back at him.
“Git!” Gorrid yelled, as he took a step backwards so to enable him to kick the cart over.
The human uttered a high pitch scream as the cart was tipped over and Gorrid raised his blade to strike a killing blow.
“Stop ya squig brain,” Hazug yelled as he barged into Gorrid to spoil his strike, knocking him to the ground before he could bring down his axe and kill the human.
“Watcha think you is doin’?” Two Heads bellowed at Hazug as Gorrid was getting back to his feet, “its just a git.”
The simple garment that the human wore left most of its arms exposed, and a tattoo was visible near its left shoulder. The design was of an ork skull in blue ink, the symbol of the Death Skulls clan. Clearly they ahd wanted to mark their ownership of this human. The ink appeared faded, suggesting that the tattoo had been applied some time ago, when the human was even smaller than it was now, and that it had spread out as the human grew larger.
“Look at da tattoo. It belonged to da Deaf Skulls,” Hazug said, ”we should ‘ang on to it just in case.”
Hazug studied the human as the other orks surrounded it. It was producing a strange sound that Hazug knew had something to do with displeasure and tears were coming from its eyes though it wasn’t making any movements that would suggest there was anything caught in them. By human standards it was of only modest size, a little larger than most gretchin but nowhere near the size Hazug would expect of a human fighter. Two round growths stuck out from the front of its chest, the shape just visible through its clothing and its hair was long, common features in many of the smaller humans that Hazug had seen before. Like most humans, its hair appeared to be growing directly from its scalp rather than having being applied using hair squigs as an ork would do, or an artifical woven object as Hazug had once witnessed on an older human which appeared to be worn purely for the purpose of amusing its underlings. He believed that humans used the words ‘female’ or ‘woman’ to describe members of their species that were like this. These were often quite small and Hazug believed that this particular human was fully grown. The distinction between these females and the larger ‘males’ who made up the majority of humanities fighting forces was lost on even a Blood Axe like Hazug who had encountered undomesticated humans far more than most greenskins ever would, though he did know that humans considered all orks to be male.
“Lets stick it in da back of da wagon,” one of Two Heads suggested before the other added, “Yeah, we aint done searchin’ yet.”
The human didn’t resist as a pair of Two Heads’ orks lifted her to her feet and bound her wrists tightly behind her back, after this they tied her ankles together. Satisfied that her limbs were securely bound the two orks began to drag her towards the battlewagon, the only protest that the human gave out was a scream as its hair was grabbed.
“I’ll take it,” Hazug said, returning his blade to its scabbard and wrapping arm about the woman’s waist before he effortlessly lifted her over his shoulder, “Ratish!” he yelled as he returned to the battlewagon with his captive, “Got a job for ya.” He placed the woman in a seat by the open door at the side of the battlewagon and wrapped rope around her waist to secure her to it.
“Just watch dis,” he told Ratish, “but don’t touch it, I needs it to answer some question yet,” then he turned to the woman tied to the seat and put some of his language skills into practice.
“What are you called?” he asked slowly in the human language.
“So... Sophie.”
“Don’t do anything So-sophie, I will be back soon. Understand?”
“Yes sir, and its just Sophie,” Sophie replied in the ork language.
That should make things easier if I’m not the only one who can talk to it, Hazug thought to himself as he returned to join the other orks in the search of the camp leaving Sophie being watched by Ratish.
Tied to the chair inside the battlewagon, Sophie looked at Ratish sat on the other side of the interior compartment. His finger was inserted in his nose, wriggling around. Even though he was the smallest of the greenskins that had found her, he was the one that worried her most. Though they could be violent and cruel at times, orks considered themselves better than humans and attacking an unarmed one was not considered challenging enough to be worth the effort unless they were very bored. Many gretchin, on the other hand, saw the humans on the planet as competitors for their masters’ affection and would often attack out of sheer spite. Sophie hoped that the order given by Hazug to watch her would keep her safe from Ratish. The ork sitting at the back of the compartment had closed his eyes and was beginning to snore.
Ratish removed his finger from his nose and stared at what was stuck to the end of it. After a few moments of careful study he rolled it between his thumb and forefinger before flicking it towards Sophie, missing her by a fraction.
“Hey, stop it,” she said, using the ork language once again as she squirmed against the ropes tying her to the chair, “you were told not to touch me.”
“I’m not touchin’ ya,” Ratish replied as he stuck his finger back up his nose to search for more ammunition.
“I’ll scream, and then you’ll be in trouble,” Sophie warned him.
Ratish paused in his search while he thought about this.
“Screamin’ is doin’ somethin’, and ya was told to do nothin’,” he told her eventually and produced more mucus from his nostril. Sophie took as deep breath a breath as the rope around her would allow, and as Ratish flicked another sticky ball towards her she screamed as loud as she could manage.
Outside in the camp the orks stopped their searching when they heard the noise coming from the battlewagon, but it was cut short abruptly so they ignored it and got back to the task at hand. Only Hazug paused a little longer, staring back at the battlewagon before he shook his head and turned away again.
Meanwhile inside the battlewagon Ratish still sat opposite Sophie, now giggling at the green ooze dribbling down her face over the rag that Drazzok had pushed into her mouth and tied in place when her screaming had interrupted his nap.
“Don’t know where ya came from ya bleedin git,” Drazzok said as he went back to his seat, “but that’ll stop ya from disturbin’ me bleedin' sleep again,” and with a blast of flatulence from each end as he sat down he fell asleep and began snoring once more.
The search of the camp revealed little more, the orks were able to find only a small quantity of cash, trinkets and ammunition for their weapons, nothing to give any indication of what had happened to the Death Skulls. Only Mek Batrug, who had restricted his searching to the piles of scrap gathered by the Death Skulls seemed happy with the return on his effort.
The orks, apart from Drazzok who was still asleep in the battlewagon and no one could be bothered waking up, gathered in the centre of camp where they relit the fire. Hazug took Two Heads off to one side to talk to him.
“I don’t fink anything happened ‘ere,” he said, “Dare’s no damage to da camp, and all of da weapons is gone. Da Death Skulls went off somewhere, but den dey never came back again. I don’t fink we’ll be needin dat ‘ead after all.”
Two Heads considered this for a moment; he couldn’t find anything wrong with Hazug’s explanation.
“Where’d they go?” one of him asked, “Yeah, where?” added the other.
“Dunno, but the git might. Da Death Skulls brought it ‘ere with ‘em so it could ‘ave been ‘ere when dey left. Get da lads away from the fire, and keep an eye out while go talk to the git. No torches.”
Some of the Evil Suns resented being ordered away from the camp fire they had relit, and Two Heads had to bang some skulls together to get the order carried out while Hazug returned to the battlewagon, taking some food and a water flask with him. As he neared the open doorway he heard three things. First was a snort, then the sound of someone spitting. Nothing unusual about those, there were two greenskins inside after all and none of the orkinoid species were shy about expelling bodily fluids. But the third sound was more unusual; it was a sort of muffled cry that suggested that someone inside the battlewagon was being prevented from calling out. The battlewagon was outside the area illuminated by the campfire and Hazug knew that it was possible someone could have crept into it while most of the orks were occupied with the search, and then he remembered the scream. Drawing his blade he ran the final few paces to the battlewagon and entered it ready for a fight. What he saw inside was Drazzok still sound asleep in his seat, Ratish giggling as though he had just seen someone he didn’t like get hurt and Sophie now gagged and squirming with globs of spit and mucus on her face and in her hair. Hazug was furious.
“Watcha fink ya’s doin?” he yelled, dropping the food and his blade as before lifting Ratish off his seat.
“Ratish didn’t touch it master, da weirdo gagged it when it screamed,” the gretchin protested as his legs kicked randomly in the air.
“I said just watch it grot, now get out while I talks to it,” and Hazug hurled the gretchin out through the open door.
Picking up his blade Hazug cut through the rope tying Sophie to the chair and that binding her wrists. As soon as her hands were free she pulled the gag from her mouth and used her sleeves to wipe her face and hair.
“’Ere,” said Hazug, picking up the food package, “eat dis, and ‘ere’s somethin’ to drink,” and he gave her the flask from his belt.
“Thank you sire,” Sophie replied as she took the food and water and tucked in. She felt the rope around her ankles fall as Hazug sliced it away.
Hazug returned his blade to its scabbard and sat down opposite Sophie.
“I’m a Blood Axe,” he said to her, “d’ya know wot dat means?”
Sophie swallowed the mouthful of food she was eating.
“It means you’re an ork that likes humans.”
”Squig crap, likin’ you humans ‘as nothin’ to do with it. All orks like da idea of humans when dey wants someone to do some fightin’ against. Wot it means is dat I know dat you humans sometimes ‘as stuff we can get without killin’ ya for it first. We is still better than ya.”

Sophie nodded, “I see,” and drank some more of the water.
“Ya belonged to da Death Skulls didn’t ya?” Hazug asked.
“Yes, ever since I was very little, to an ork called Akrad. He was in charge of this camp.”
“And wot I think ya ‘as is information. Tell me where dis Akrad and all da other Death Skull boys went.”
“Some of the humans that served the orks were visited by another human who told us he came from another world.”
“Da Imperium?”
“He talked about an empire, he said that it owned this planet and that it was coming to take it. He wanted to get us to help them and in return we would be allowed to live in and work for his empire, that things would be better that way.”
“So why didn’t ya join ‘im?”
“Some asked questions that he wouldn’t answer like why should we risk dying for an empire that had never done anything for us but he just kept telling them that his way was for the best, and when they tried to leave his meetings the others who came with him killed them before they could warn the orks. I was lucky enough to escape in the panic and make it back here.”
“Wot about dese other others?”
“Soldiers, they wore armour made of thick plates and hid their faces and they carried guns that shot light rather than bullets like ork guns. I know there was a large battle because I heard the sounds of fighting.”
Hazug had the answers he wanted, there were aliens in the city and they had probably killed the ork found in the river. But this meant that all the Death Skulls were dead and fewer than twenty orks were left facing a force strong enough to destroy many times that number.
“Ah crap,” he said to no one in particular.
Before he could think of anything further to ask Sophie he was interrupted by Drazzok who awoke and sat up suddenly.
“Dey’s ‘ere!” he said.

Leaving Sophie alone in the back of the battlewagon Hazug and Drazzok rushed to meet up with the other orks, Drazzok’s bells and trinkets jingling loudly in the otherwise quiet night.
“Wot’s ‘appenin' master?” Ratish asked as the pair ran past him.
“Just stay dare,” Hazug replied.
Two Heads had positioned his orks along a low rise just beyond the limit of the light cast by the fire.
“Drazzok says dare is aliens about,” Hazug said.
“Well we aint seen anything.”
“Just keep watchin’ da camp, I fink dey’ll ‘ead for da fire.”
“Why?”
“Cause dat’s where dey fink we will be. Den we ambush ‘em.”
“Just like a Blood Axe,” one of Two Heads boys commented, “let’s just go down dare and ‘it ‘em.”
“Shut ya gob,” Two Heads ordered, “ or I’ll be the one doin’ some ‘ittin’ right ‘ere,” and with that his boys became silent.
“Dis better work,” the other Two Heads whispered to Hazug, “cause me lads is getting’ impatient.”
“Trust me,” Hazug replied, also in a whisper, “dare’s somethin’ out dare alright, we just aint seen it yet.”
Moments later there was a noise from the camp as something was knocked over. All of the orks stared ahead of them, searching for an enemy. Hazug thought he caught just a brief glimpse of something moving near the fire, but he couldn’t see anything clearly enough to attack. Whatwever was now moving about the camp was somehow able to hide it self from being seen.
Then an idea hit him; he pulled one of his grenades from his belt and removed the pin. Judging the distance carefully he hurled the grenade into the fire.
Seconds later the grenade detonated and burning wood and ashes were scattered around the camp. The flames and debris in the air suddenly revealed three large and vaguely humanoid shapes that sparkled as their stealth technology struggled to adapt and conceal them amongst the spreading flames and debris. The blast from the grenade knocked the figure nearest to the fire to the ground, while the others staggered away from the explosion, stunned briefly. Even when they were revealed by the blast, Hazug was unable to identify his enemies, all he could tell was that they were wearing heavily armoured suits, and carrying bulky weapons in one hand. But identification of the enemy could wait; what was more important was that there was now something here for the orks to fight.
With targets revealed the orks opened fire without an order, spraying bullets across the campsite. One of their targets was struck repeatedly, sparks flying as bullets were deflected off its armoured suit before several lucky shots found weak spots and the alien fell to the ground and died without a cry, blood pouring from a the holes punched through its armour.
Recovering from the shock of the grenade detonation, a second figure turned and fired in the direction of the orks, guided by the noise and flashes from the muzzles of the orks’ firearms. Rapid pulses of light illuminated the night as their energy heated up the air as they passed through it and the shots tore into two of Two Heads boys who had made the mistake of standing on top of the rise that gave the rest cover. They both died screaming as the energy bolts seared their clothing and the flesh beneath it. The alien weapons were clearly able to penetrate the lightweight armoured jackets worn by the orks without trouble.
Undisturbed by the deaths of their comrades the rest of the orks continued shooting as the two surviving targets moved rapidly away from the centre of the camp. Passing into the darkness they both disappeared again and the orks stopped firing when they realised that they could see nothing to shoot at. Desperately they began to search for their targets.
“Where are dey?” Hazug yelled as he looked around for a target, “Drazzok, find ‘em quick.”
Drazzok lifted his staff from the ground, closed his eyes and reached out with his free hand, but before the weirdboy could attempt to divine their enemy’s position one of them gave his position away by firing his energy weapon again, the muzzle flash and stream of energy botls lighting up the darkness, and another of the orks was hit and fell.
“Over dare!” both of Two Heads yelled simultaneously as he spun around and emptied his rifle towards the alien.
The remaining orks all turned to face the direction of the attack and as their attacker vanished back into the darkness they fired at random but hit nothing. A further burst of fire came from behind the orks, killing two more of them, but before the orks could turn around to face this latest attack the alien’s technology had allowed it to disappear once more.
“Scatter!” Hazug yelled, “Stop bunchin’ up like a mob of grots!”
“Dat way!” Drazzok yelled, pointing into the darkness, and the orks poured fire into the night. There were sparks as some of the bullets hit armour plate and bounced off but the target escaped injury.
Inside the battlewagon Sophie could hear the sounds of battle. She pulled her legs up against her chest, closed her eyes and put her hands over her ears to try and block them out without success. She heard screams as orks died and feared that soon the off worlders would come for her and kill her just as they had killed everyone else. She opened her eyes again and saw the gun. It was an old pistol lying on the chair where Ratish had sat, typical of the cast off weapons that orks gave to their smaller cousins. She picked it up.
Outside another ork died as a burst of energy bolts ripped through his head and chest, but this time his killer had miscalculated how quickly the orks would be able to react and was not able to move aside quickly enough to avoid the return fire and it too fell, critically injured, as the air about it was filled with bullets. One of the orks ran forwards, screaming, and finished it off with a swing of his axe that split open the armoured suit as the alien tried unsuccessfully to raise its weapon and defend itself from the ork standing over it.
For a moment there was silence as the orks searched for their final assailant, but it was holding its fire and they could not find it.
A crackling sound attracted Hazug’s attention and for a brief moment he saw the shape of the target sparkling in the darkness before it disappeared again.
“We ‘urt it,” he called out, “it can’t stay hidden. Look for it sparklin’.”
The orks looked around them, watching for the tell tale sparkling of a failing electronic camouflage system. Whenever one of the orks though he saw it he would yell and open fire, prompting the other to shoot in the same direction whether or not they could see anything themselves.
Hazug’s pistol was empty, and the magazine was stuck, and as he tried to force it loose by banging it on a rock he didn’t notice the air sparkling behind him.
Sophie looked out of the battlewagon into the night. She could make out the shapes of several orks lying dead on the ground, but most of them appeared to still be standing. She watched as one of the largest orks, the one who had stopped the others from killing her and spoken to her, the one the others called Hazug, hitting his gun against a rock. Then she noticed something strange, the air between her and Hazug shimmered and for a moment she saw the shape of one of the off world soldiers. She raised the gun and took aim, but the shape had vanished.
Hazug hit his pistol against the rock again but the magazine was stuck fast so he threw it to the ground in disgust. Instead he gripped he blade tightly and looked for something to hit with it.
There it was again Sophie saw, the shape appeared between her and Hazug but closer to Hazug this time, it was slowly getting closer to him. At the same time it raised its weapon Sophie raised hers. The gun trembled in her hands; despite having served orks for so long she had never actually fired a gun before and the weapon felt heavy and clumsy. The sparkling shape was very close to Hazug now and the large weapon it carried beneath one arm was now pointing at the base of his neck.
Then her gun went off. The noise was loud, and Sophie almost dropped the weapon in in surprise. Wherever her shot actually went, she couldn’t tell, but it definitely didn’t hit her intended target.
Hazug spun around as he heard the sound of the shot and found himself face to face with the last of the alien soldiers, its weapon was pointing straight at his face. Rather than try and push the alien’s weapon aside Hazug struck, head butting the alien before it could fire. Fortunately his skull was thick enough to withstand the impact with the alien’s armoured helmet and it was the alien who staggered back from the blow. Hazug swung his blade and it made contact with the alien’s neck. The blade kept moving across and the alien’s head fell from its shoulders to the ground, followed closely by its lifeless body.
For a few moments the orks just stood still, looking around themselves. The grenade explosion had illuminated only three figures, but that was no guarantee that there were not more aliens around.
“Drazzok,” Hazug spoke, “can ya sense any more of ‘em?”
The weirdboy closed his eyes for a moment then answered.
“If dare was any more dey’ve sodded off,” he said.
Hazug relaxed at this, then he saw Sophie standing in the doorway of the battlewagon still holding the pistol that had been given to Ratish the previous night. He strode up to Sophie and took the gun away from her.
“Watch where ya’s pointin’ dat,” he said and then he added, “and well done ya long ‘aired git. Now get back in da wagon until I says otherwise.”
While Two Heads remaining boys attended to picking over the bodies of the fallen orks and pulling out their teeth Hazug, Two Heads, Drazzok and Mek Batrug took a look at the bodies of their assailants. They were clad in armoured powered exoskeletons that covered their entire bodies and featured a built in multi barrelled weapons system. Hazug could see that they walked on cloven hoofs rather than on feet like an ork or human. One their backs were mounted anti-gravity propulsion systems.
“Maybe dey aint too stuck up to come ‘ere after all,” Hazug said out loud.
“Who’s dat den?” asked Drazzok as he came over for a closer look, pushing younger orks out of his way.
Hazug bent crouched down and removed the helmet from one of the powered suits, revealed a blue-grey head with a flat noseless face.
“Da Tau,” he said.

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I really enjoy your story, right now i'm just itching to read the next chapter! Aww great... now i'm a junkie... lol

The uniforms of the Imperial Guard are camouflaged in order to protect their wearers by hiding them from sight.
The principle is that what the enemy cannot see he cannot kill. This is not the way of the Adeptus Astartes. A Space Marine’s armour is bright with heraldry that proclaims his devotion to his Chapter and the beloved Emperor of Mankind. Our principle is that what the enemy can see, he will soon learn to fear…”
+++ Chaplain Aston, 10th Company, Fire Hawks Chapter +++

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Originally Posted by marineskickass2009 View Post
I really enjoy your story, right now i'm just itching to read the next chapter! Aww great... now i'm a junkie... lol
Thanks for the support!
The entire story, along with the four sequels are up on my own website, but in the mean time...

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5

“Report!” O’Levath ordered as he stood up rapidly, “What’s going on out there?”
The tau technical staff all stopped what they were doing and looked towards the tau sat at the communications panel as he frantically attempted to regain contact with the stealth suit team that had just been attacked at the ork camp.
“Apologies Shas’o,” the communications specialist replied, “but the transmissions from Ui’Jorvora’s suit became intermittent before we lost them completely. I cannot tell if he still lives.”
“What about the others? There were three specialists in that team, have we lost them all?”
“It appears so Shas’o, the orks have killed them all.”
“Impossible!” O’Levath yelled, slamming his fist down on his panel.
“Is there a problem Shas’o?” came a calm sounding voice from the entrance to the control centre, and O’Levath turned to see a figure in flowing robes rather than the utilitarian coveralls worn by his soldiers and base technicians entering the room. Behind the figure a pair of his fire warriors followed as an honour guard.
“Honoured ethereal,” he said, stepping towards the newcomer and bowing his head in respect for the member of the tau caste that held the others in its sway, “I was not aware you were here.”
“I arrived on tonight’s supply ship, I wanted to see the operation for myself. Now what appears to be the problem Shas’o?”
More likely you don’t trust me to run this operation and wanted to make sure we were following your orders to the letter, thought O’Levath.
“A small group of orks was detected approaching a day ago. I ordered the stealth team that discovered them to attack, but we have now lost contact with them all. I cannot understand how such crude creatures could have overcome our elite troops and technology.”
The ethereal sat down in the chair located in the centre of the room where O’Levath had previously sat. The fire caste leader looked uncomfortable as he saw the ethereal taking his position of command.
“Our empire has encountered orks that are capable of employing unconventional tactics before, they are not a species to be underestimated Shas’o,” she said.
“Of course Aun‘Verai. I apologise for my failing.”
“You have not failed me, at least not yet. What do you believe we are facing?”
O’Levath turned away from the ethereal now sitting in his chair and tapped some of the keys on the panel in front of him, causing images of Hazug’s ork force to be displayed on the control centre’s main screen.
“We first became aware of these creatures last night when they made camp between this city and their own,” he began, “Our information suggesets that there were eighteen orks including two of their leadership caste plus one of the smaller gretchin slaves. They were travelling in one of their armoured vehicles. We have confirmed that the stealth team killed five of the orks before we lost contact.”
“And do we know why the orks are here?”
“No honoured ethereal, they could just be seeking to scavenge from these ruins like the others were.”
”Or they could have been sent to investigate the disappearance of the orks your troops killed here,” Aun’Verai responded.

“Yes honoured ethereal.”
“Are we in position to implement our primary plan yet Shas’o?”
“No honoured ethereal, the humans provided to us for questioning did not have the knowledge we require. It seems that that information is known only to the greenskins themselves.”
“Then Shas’o, I suggest that when you send another force to destroy these orks you should tell them bring at least one back alive. For the greater good,” and she stood up to leave.
“Yes honoured ethereal, for the greater good.”
Leaving the control centre Aun’Verai encountered a human in the corridor outside. He was dressed in a similar fashion to the tau technicians who maintained the base.
“Ah Mr Ryton,” Aun’Verai said, “It would seem that your mission cannot begin just yet, I hope that the wait is not too disturbing to you.”
”Of course not,“ Ryton responded fluently in the language of the tau, “though I must admit that having reviewed the information we have gathered since arriving here I do not see why I cannot just navigate the tunnels beneath the ork city myself, I am more than capable.”

“Your enthusiasm does you credit, but is misplaced my friend. To wander the tunnels randomly increases the likelihood of discovery. If you are caught in the tunnels by the greenskins you will never reach their leader, you must know the fastest route in advance. You must remain patient for now, for the greater good.”
Ryton bowed, “For the greater good,” he repeated, sounding less than convinced.
Ignoring the tone of Ryton’s reply, Aun’Verai continued on her way to her quarters.

“Tau?” Drazzok said in amazement, “Just when I was ‘opin’ it was goin’ to be gits.”
There were mumurs of agreement form the other orks. Fighting humans meant fighting against armies that had the good manners to confront you with a large force ewquipped with lots of big, loud guns and plenty of vehicles to be looted afterwards. Tau, on the other hand, meant fighting against an army that would do whatever it took to avoid the hand-to-hand combat in which orks excelled. The quality of loot offered by tau was also considerd inferior to that available from the human Imperium, tau vehicles tended to float in the air and were difficult to rebuild for use by orks, whereas humans used proper drive methods like tracks and wheels for most of their vehicles. Some mekboys from the Death Skulls clan even made a living entirely out of repairing and customising looted human vehicles to meet an ork’s particular needs.
“Ratish,” Hazug called out.
“Yes master,” the gretchin replied, rushing to Hazug’s side at the mention of his name.
“Go get da human from da wagon,” Hazug ordered him, “I wants ‘er to take a look at dese bodies.”
“Yes master, Ratish do it now,” and Ratish ran off towards the battlewagon.
“Wot d’ya expect da git to tell us den?” one of Two Heads asked Hazug.
“She’s already seen da tau wot killed da other human wot was workin’ for da Death Skulls. I wants to know if dese is dem.”
Suddenly there was a scream from the direction of the battlewagon, much like the one that had been suddenly cut off before the tau attacked, and the orks turned around to look towards it.
“Get off me!” Sophie yelled as Ratish dragged her out of the battlewagon, keeping a tight grip on a handful of her hair.
“Master wants ya git!” Ratish shouted as he continued to drag her towards the orks.
“I’m coming,” protested Sophie, “There’s no need to pull me.”
“Ratish, let go of ‘er,” Hazug shouted, then he added, “Get over ‘ere Sophie, I wants ya to take a look at dis.”
“These aren’t the ones,” Sophie said as she was shown the bodies of the tau, at first she flinched when she saw the damage done to them, but she soon recovered enough to speak, “the soldiers I saw didn’t wear such heavy armour and they carried their weapons like you do, with both hands, they weren’t built into them. Plus there were a lot more of them, twenty at least.”
“Den we aint leavin’,” Hazug said, “’ow much ammo ‘ave we got left?”
“Not much for da shootas,” Two Heads told him, “plenty for da bigger stuff but dats fitted to da wagon.”
“I can make us more,” Mek Batrug offered.
“Nah,” replied Hazug, “I wants you to get to work with da scrap, see if dare’s da parts to build us somethin’ to ‘elp find da tau.” Then he turned to Sophie, “Where did ya ‘ear da fightin’?”
Sophie pointed into the city, “That way,” she said.
“Den dats where we can find more ammo, we’ll take da wagon in for a look.”
Mek Batrug was given some time to search through the scrap gathered by the Death Skulls and Hazug ordered Ratish to help load it into the battlewagon.
“Master wants my help, not yours,” Ratish told Sophie as he dragged a box of electronics to the battlewagon, clearly relishing that he had been entrusted with a task while she was being ignored by the orks for now.
Inside the battlewagon Hazug and the other orks watched Mek Batrug at work, he had taken parts of the communications systems from the tau battlesuits and was combining them with bits taken from the Death Skulls’ scrap piles.
“A radio direction finda,” he called it when Hazug asked, and before Hazug could remind him about using technical terminology he added, “it points da way to where dey is using dare talkin’ machines.”
“You needs all dese parts for dat?” Hazug asked, indicating the boxes stacked on some of the chairs.
“Nah, most is for somethin’ else.”
”Wot?”

But before Mek Batrug could reply Ratish brought the last of the boxes aboard.
“All done master. We go now?”
Hazug was about to tell two Heads to give the order to leave but then noticed that Sophie wasn’t in the battlewagon yet.
“Where’s Sophie?” he asked.
“We not needs it master,” Ratish snapped, “leave it behind.”
Hazug didn’t respond to Ratish’s suggestion, instead he stood in the doorway of the battlewagon and looked out at Sophie.
“If ya’s comin’ ya better get in now,” he told her, and she dashed inside. As she sat down next to Hazug she spotted Ratish sat opposite her, scowling. She stuck her tongue out at him, and there were sniggers from some of the orks.
“Let’s roll!” Two Heads yelled at the driver, and the battlewagon set off once more. Like most ork vehicles, the battlewagon lacked headlights and the ork driver drove it into the city at a speed that required he make many sharp manoeuvres at the last minute to avoid obstacles.
“Look for any signs of da Death Skulls,” Hazug told the gunners who, with their heads exposed in the open topped turrets were the only ones with a clear view all around the vehicle.

The Devilfish transport touched down just long enough for the tau pathfinder reconnaissance troops it carried to disembark. The squad wore much lighter armour than the stealth team that had last been heard from here, with unpowered contoured plates covering their chests and heads. As the troop carrier lifted off again, kicking up dirt as its engines rotated around, the pathfinders paused to allow the optics mounted in their helmets adjusted to the level of light available. Then, with his troops’ vision suitably enhanced, the Shas’ui in charge of the squad signalled his men to spread out in response to a simple wave of his hand.
The pathfinders sprinted towards the centre of the camp, where the remenants of the campfire still smouldered after having been scattered over a wide area. One of them suddenly halted, holding a hand up with his fingers spread to indicate that he found something.
“What is it Shas’la?” the Shas’ui stated as the rest of the squad halted, crouched down and brought their weapons to their shoulders, ready to fire at a moments notice.
“I have located one of the stealth team Shas’ui,” the pathfinder replied, “he is dead.”
The Shas’ui ran to where the pathfinder had found the body, where he came to a sudden halt when he saw what had happened to the stealth team member, barely resisting the sudden urge to vomit in his helmet. The suit was pitted from multiple impacts from fragments of shrapnel and fats moving projectiles, but it was not this damage that unnerved the Shas’ui, the helmet of the stealth suit had been cleaved off, seemingly with a single blow from a heavy bladed weapon and it had taken the unfortunate tau’s head off along with it.
“Find the others,” the Shas’ui shouted, even though the communication system between his squad members would just as easily have picked up and transmitted a whisper, “quickly.”
The other two stealth suits were not difficult to find; clearly the orks had made no effort to conceal them, one of the tau had been killed by concentrated projectile weapons fire, while the other had suffered a mixture of wounds. The Shas’ui was in a way comforted to see that their bodies were at least intact. Then something on one of the battlesuits caught the attention of one of the tau pathfinders.
“Shas’ui, look,” he said, squatting down beside one of the corpses and placing his hand on its armoured suit where it had suffered damage, “something has been taken.”
The Shas’ui looked for himself at where the pathfinder indicated. Just as he had said, part of the armoured suit had been removed, presumably after the occupant was killed. The Sha’ui knew that the missing component was part of the suit’s communication system.
“Check the others,” the Shas’ui ordered, “see if anything has been removed from their suits also. The spread out and try and find if any missing parts are still here.”
“I think you should look at this Shas’ui,” another pathfinder said, “these are not the tracks of an ork.”

O’Levath was still in the control centre when the pathfinders reported in, his duty shift was over but he could not bring himself to leave his post until the fate of his stealth team had been determined. The news that the pathfinders brought him was not good.
“The orks are gone sir,” reported the pathfinders’ Shas’ui squad leader told him, “and we have found he remains of the stealth team. Their battlesuits are incomplete Shas’O, it appears that the orks have removed some pieces.”
“In which direction did they go?” O’Levath asked.
“North, into the city, and Shas’o...”
“Yes?”
“There is a human with them, we have found tracks.”
O’Levath thought for a moment. It was known that many of the humans who lived on this world before the orks had invaded were forced to come here as labourers. They had accepted governance by the orks and were used by some orks as servants; that was the key of the tau strategy here.
“It is irrelevant,” he told the Shas’ui, “you are to locate the orks and destroy them.”

The battle site was not difficult to spot, there were several wrecked ork vehicles and damaged equipment scattered over the ground near what had once been a park on the outskirts of the city where the once carefully maintained lawns and hedges had long since become overgrown. Hazug took the remainder of Two Heads’ boys not needed to crew the battlewagon and left Two Heads with the others in the battlewagon with its engine still running. Both Sophie and Ratish asked to go with Hazug but he declined their offers.
“Ya don’t know wot to look for,” he told them, then he spoke to Two Heads, “While we is searchin’ just drive around, keep and eye out for anythin’ comin’.”
After the search party left the battlewagon the driver revved the engine and drove off as Hazug had requested, the roving battlewagon would not be as vulnerable than if it was stationary if they were attacked again. The orks were mainly interested in ammunition for their rifles which they put into sacks, but some reacted with glee when they found heavier weapons that were still functional and had ammunition for them.
“Hey look,” yelled one as he waved a tube-like weapon with a fat red projectile mounted of the end, “a rokkit launcha.”
“Watch where ya is pointin’ dat thing Krumbak,” another of the orks called out as Krumbak swung the powerful weapon around.
“Shut it Slugrippa, you is just jealous of me new gun,” Krumbak replied.
“I’ll show ya jealous,” and Slugrippa drew his blade.
“Shut ya gobs da pair of ya and get back to work,” Hazug yelled. Then he heard something, it was the sound of an engine, but not the low rumble with the added random creaking of the battlewagon, this was a high pitched regular whine more like an aircraft engine, “Does anyone ‘ear dat?”
The orks stopped going through the abandoned equipment and looked around.
“Dare!” one of the orks yelled, pointing to the south, “Incomin’!”
Over the ruined builds Hazug made out the unmistakable shape of an airborne tau troop carrier, the noise it produced came from the engines mounted in rotating pods on each side of the wedge shaped hull.
“Use da rokkit!” Hazug shouted, and Krumbak aimed the weapon he had just found. He fell backwards from the recoil as the heavy projectile streak skywards, missing the tau vehicle by a wide margin. He didn’t get a second shot, before he could load another projectile pulses of light erupted from beneath the nose of the vehicle and tore into Krumbak.
The other orks sprayed bullets into the air as the troop carrier passed over them but they bounced off harmlessly. The carrier reduced its altitude as it turned, and rather than making another run over the orks it lowered it rear door and Hazug counted six lightly armoured tau warriors leaping out. The tau formed a line to the side of their vehicle behind a low wall and fired their weapons, their short carbines were combined with compact grenade launchers that launched grenades that rather than using an explosive charge to spread shrapnel instead worked by emitting burst of light and sound that disorientated the orks they landed near to. The noise from the vehicle increased as it gained altitude again and moved away.
“Where’s ‘e goin’?” Slugrippa shouted over the noise as the vehicle passed overhead.
“Never mind dat,” Hazug shouted back, “just watch wot dem tau is doin’.”
The orks took cover and return fire sporadically, Krumbak’s scavenged anti tank weapon lay in the open and none of the orks could reach it. Without the penetrating power of that weapon, Hazug knew that they could not destroy the armoured tau vehicle. There was another burst of fire from the vehicle and another ork died as the pulses of light blasted through the already destroyed truck he was using for cover. Hazug fired a burst from his rifle and was pleased to see a tau fall clutching its stomach, and then he ducked as the vehicle fired in his direction, having pinpointed him from his weapon’s muzzle flash. There was an explosion as an ork threw a grenade at the tau, but it fell short. However it did produce a cloud of debris that obstructed the tau’s vision. Slugrippa leapt from his hiding place and ran to wards the tau, his axe held above his head.
“Waaagh!”
But before he reached the tau the cloud cleared and a well-placed shot from one of them struck him in the centre of his chest and his war cry was cut short as he died instantly.
Now only three orks remained facing the five tau soldiers and their armoured vehicle. Hazug could see both of the other orks taking cover behind a wrecked ork vehicle.
“Stay down lads!” he yelled, and then he looked around for anything that might help. As he looked in the direction of the tau he noticed that there was a fuel can leaning against the wall that they were using for cover. He fired at the canister and was pleased to see a stream of fuel come pouring out of the bullet holes, then he picked up an empty magazine from by his feet and pushed a rag into it. Next he removed a match from a pouch and struck it against the ruined building he was next to and lit the rag. He hurled the magazine and its burning contents towards the leaking fuel and it landing very close to the puddle.
“Get ready lads! I’m comin’ over dare to ya.”
There was a ‘whoosh’ as the growing puddle reached the burning rag, followed by an explosion as the flames travelled along the stream of leaking liquid and ignited what remained in the can, creating a ball of flame and sending fragments flying in all directions.
Hazug took advantage of the distraction caused by the blast and ran towards the other two orks, grabbing the rocket launcher and ammunition pouch as he did so. He dived the last part of the way and rolled behind the wrecked vehicle.
“Ya got two of ‘em!” one of the orks shouted with glee as he peered around the wreck to see two tau corpses burning.
As Hazug got back to his feet following his dive, he noticed a bright green dot on the front of Slugrippa’s red jacket. Then looking towards the tau, he noticed that wherever the air was filled with dust or smoke there was a thin green beam of light that stretched from the dot on Slugrippa’s chest to one of the tau’s weapons.
The sound of the tau vehicle filled the air once more as it circled round for another pass, but rather than firing the nose mounted cannon again, this time a missile dropped from beneath the vehicle and, with a roar, its engine ignited. At first Hazug was confused as the missile had not been launched directly towards them, but then it performed a sharp turn in mid air and moved directly towards the orks. Or, more accurately, directly towards Slugrippa and green dot on his chest.
“Down lad!” Hazug, bellowed, and he dragged the ork down behind their cover.
“Wotcha doin’?” Slugrippa shouted as he was pulled backwards.
Hazug didn’t answer, instead he just grinned as he saw that the green beam now passed straight over the orks and was instead projecting a dot on the remains of a wall behind them. Moments later the missile launched by the tau vehicle flew overhead, following the path of the beam until it struck the wall precisely where the dot was. The shaped charge warhead that the missile carried detonated on impact and blasted a hole the size of Hazug’s head through the wall. Then there was a groaning sound as the already weakened wall finally lost the ability to remain upright and collapsed, produceing a billowing cloud of dust as it fell apart.
“Dat could ‘ave been you lad,” Hazug said to Slugrippa as he released his grip.
The remaining tau fired another volley of grenades at the orks and moved away from the fire, abandoning their fallen comrades, meanwhile the troop carrier, which had taken no more damage than some scorching of its paintwork now reversed away from the orks, spraying fire from its cannon. Hazug bobbed his head to get a look for himself. The three surviving tau had taken up a position slightly closer to the orks than they had been, using the rubble of a building for cover. Looking inside the ammunition pouch he found two rockets left. He fitted one to front of the launcher and took aim in the direction of the tau soldiers. He fired the rocket not at any of the tau themselves, but rather at the building they were next to. The detonation of the warhead brought down the already unstable structure and buried the tau.
“Now for dat wagon,” Hazug said as he loaded the final rocket. There was a burst of fire from the Tau vehicle that caused Hazug to duck when he first attempted to take aim, but it did not spoil his second attempt. That was spoiled when he discovered that the warhead was a dud.
“Ah crap,” he said as the rocket bounced off its target without leaving a mark.
Before Hazug could come up with another idea the three orks all spun around as they heard the sound of a large gun firing and a massive hole was blown in a nearby wall. Through the hole Two Heads’ battlewagon drove at full speed directly towards the tau vehicle. The cannon gunner was having great difficulty reloading as the vehicle bounced across the uneven terrain, but both of the automatic weapons were firing straight ahead.
Inside his cockpit, the tau pilot was aware of the many projectiles bouncing of his vehicle but they did not concern him. The fact that a large ork tank appeared to be about to ram him was another matter entirely however. He needed to evade the battlewagon and the easiest way was to go straight up so that the orks would pass beneath him, he rotated the pods and increased the power to his engines and felt his vehicle gain altitude. His instruments indicated that he was up high enough for the ork vehicle to pass underneath, which it promptly did. But it did so with its weapons still firing. The armour beneath the Tau vehicle was much thinner than that at the front and sides and some of the ork bullets pierced it. One of them entered the cockpit and after ricocheting off the inside off the armoured vision port it hit the pilot in head and he slumped forwards, dead onto the controls.
Outside the orks watched as the Tau vehicle’s movement became erratic and it plunged nose first into the ground. Its engines were still running, and the intakes sucked in dirt and gravel from the ground, which shredded the delicate components inside.
“Hit da deck!” Hazug shouted right before the tau vehicle exploded in a ball of flame, “Is ya alright lads?” Hazug asked as pieces of the tau vehicle landed all around them.
Before the surviving orks could answer Hazug, the battlewagon turned and skidded to a halt and Two Heads leaned out of it.
“Well watcha waitin’ for? Get in and lets roll.”
Hazug and the other two orks with him picked up the sacks they had filled with ammunition and ran to the battlewagon.
“Is master alright?” Ratish asked eagerly as they entered.
“I is fine,” Hazug replied as he slumped back into his chair, “now lets find somewhere to ‘ide.”
“’Ang on a mo,” said Drazzok as the battlewagon moved off, “where’s da other boys?”
“Dead,” replied Hazug.
“So shouldn’t we stop for their teeth?” Drazzok asked and the other orks inside the vehicle all stared at Hazug.
The battlewagon screeched to a halt as the driver slammed on the brakes. The door was opened and Ratish thrown out with an axe and a sack.
“Quickly ya stupid grot, get dare ‘eads,” Hazug ordered, “and don’t forget to check dare pockets for change an all!”

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6

O’Levath was asleep in his quarters when the communications officer woke him to deliver the report; the squad of pathfinders that he had ordered to engage the orks had been lost. This time it was not only the squad itself but their Devilish troop carrier also.
“There is nothing here about ork casualties,” O’Levath said as he reviewed the data slate he had just been handed.
“We were unable to confirm any,” the officer said, “we believe that one of them may have been killed in the skirmish, but the feed was not as detailed as that from our battlesuits.”
“One?” O’Levath replied, his voice raised in anger, “We lost an entire squad of our warriors and a Devilfish, and all we managed to do was kill one ork?”
“Shas’o…”
“Never mind, you are dismissed. Now get out.”
O’Levath hurled the data slate across his room in a rage as soon as the other tau left. Three days earlier he had personally taken part in the destruction of an ork force many times larger than this one without any of them escaping to warn the main body of their population and suffered minimal losses in the process, but his victory was now being soured by the repeated failure to destroy this small band of the savages. He blamed the ethereal, she had forced him to adopt Ryton’s plan and while he had been allowed to deploy his entire cadre against the orks in the ruins when they had first arrived it was now considered ‘too risky’, her words not his, to do so again. The ever-shifting positions of the ork vessels in orbit made large scale troop movements detectable. Even the orca transport ship that had delivered the tau ethereal and the latest supply run could not take off again without risking detection now that the ork vessels had by chance taken up positions above the city, even though O’Levath doubted their ability to detect any movement on the ground from space even he, a Shas’O, highest rank attainable of the fire caste, was bound by Aun’Verai’s orders. Damn the ethereals and their insistence on subterfuge rather than honest strength of arms. Perhaps his old friend O’Shovah, the legendary commander Farsight had been correct when he turned his back on the tau Empire when he had found himself free of the constant supervision of the ethereals. O’Levath suspected that his previous friendship with the infamous renegade was another reason why he was being kept under such close observation by the tau’s ethereal caste. He had been here for time now without them watching his every move after all.
Suddenly something occurred to O’Levath and he turned back to his computer terminal, opening the file that contained the full report concerning the lost stealth team from earlier that night. He went through it carefully, line by line, and highlighted the points he felt most important. The report clearly indicated that the components removed from the dead tau’s battlesuits were all part of the communications systems. O’Levath couldn’t see how this could possibly be a coincidence, the orks had a particular interest in the tau’s radio communications. What it was he could not fathom right now, but whatever it was it couldn’t be good.
O’Levath activated his personal communication unit.
“Control centre,” spoke a voice through the unit’s speaker.
“This is O’Levath,” he said, “I want a complete black out on all wireless transmissions from this base until further notice, and I mean all, there are to be absolutely no exceptions.”

“Look, over dare,” one of Two Heads said, and he pointed out of one of the battlewagon’s firing points, “Is dat wot ya is lookin’ for?” the other asked Hazug.
“Could be,” Hazug replied as he stared at the massive opening in the side of the building beneath a faded sign. It looked large enough to have been designed specifically to allow the entry of vehicles, “’Ave ya lad take us in and we’ll see if we can ‘ole up ‘ere for a while.”
“Ya ‘eard ‘im lad,” Two Heads told the driver, “go dat way.”
The driver of the battlewagon turned sharply towards the entrance and drove through it. As soon as the battlewagon passed the threshold of the building there was a lurch as it encountered a ramp that lead down beneath the structure.
The basement parking facility was just what Hazug wanted, it was far enough away from the impact site to have survived the landing of the ork asteroid during the invasion and was large enough for the battlewagon to enter and manoeuvre in. There were no vehicles left in it, only a few pieces of rusting metal that had not been removed by the Death Skulls who had been looting the city for years now.
“We’ll set up camp ‘ere,” Hazug told the others, “we can stay ‘idden till we know were da tau is,” then he lifted both Ratish and Sophie out of their seats, “and you two make yourselves useful and make us some supper. No fire though, it’ll ‘ave to be cold.”
“Wot about askin’ da weirdboy?” one of the orks asked, “Can’t ‘e tell us where da tau is?”
“No I cannot,” Drazzok replied, prodding the ork who asked the question with his staff, “I can only follow ‘em from somewhere I know dey’ve been. I can’t see where dey’ve come from.”
The driver of the battlewagon stopped the vehicle and Two Heads and his surviving boys spread out to survey the parking area, noting all the exits points. Drazzok occupied himself by watching Ratish and Sophie preparing the orks’ meal and telling them they were doing everything wrong. This left Hazug alone in the battlewagon with Mek Batrug who was still busy combining bits of metals in ways that meant nothing to the Blood Axe.
“’Ow’s it goin’?” he asked the mek.
“Da receiver’s done, but wherever da tau are dey aint talking with dare machines.”
“Wot ‘appens when dey start talkin’ again?”
“Da machine I built tells us wot way dey are. Den we either go that way until we find ‘em, or go somewhere else and wait till we pick up another signal. Den the two directions tell us exactly where da Tau are 'idin’. For dat we’ll need a map though.”
“Wot for?”
“When da detector tells us which way da tau are we draw a line on da map, den we draw another from da second place and da tau are where da lines cross.”
“Wot if da lines don’t cross?”
“Den da detector ‘as detected messages from two different places. It can’t tell us if da signals is comin’ from dat tau base ya wants to find or from some other tau with messagin’ machines of dare own.”
Hazug could see that this could be a problem; he wanted to find the tau base, not another patrol that would further whittle down the orks’ numbers. Normally battles of attrition worked in favour of ork armies, but Hazug had started this with fewer than twenty lads and a significant number were already dead. This meant the survivors would all get a bigger cut of the loot, but it made further battles more difficult.
Hazug decided to question what the mek was working on now.
“So watcha doin’ now?”
“Buildin’ a custom force field for da battlewagon. Da tau could ‘ave some real big guns dat’ll smash it to pieces if we aint careful. Dis’ll stop dat bein’ so easy for ‘em.”
Hazug left the confines of the battlewagon to find that Two Heads’ boys had finished their survey and were dividing up the large bowl of chopped squig meat and mushrooms that had been prepared for them. When they saw Hazug both Ratish and Sophie raced to be the one who gave him his dinner. Ratish won by shoving Sophie out of the way so she gave her bowl to Two Heads instead.
“Nice one git,” one of him said as the other gulped down the meal.
Taking his meal with him, Hazug explored the basement area for himself and he found exactly what he was looking for. Beside a doorway that gave access to a stairwell that had collapsed long ago was a map of the city as it had been before the orks invaded. There were notes with arrows indicating points that would been of interest to the humans before that time, but although Hazug could understand human speech he could not read their writing. The map was beneath a transparent cover, the latches holding the cover in place had corroded and Hazug could not release them. However the corrosion that ha sealed the cover in place had also weakened the latches themselves, and Hazug instead removed the cover by simply ripping it away from the wall. The map feel to the floor and Hazug picked it up.
“I know ya is both dare,” he said as he stood up again, “I’m a Blood Axe, its wot we do.”
“Not my fault master! It was followin’ ya without been asked too,” Ratish replied, “I wanted to protect ya from it.”
“I didn’t mean any harm,” Sophie protested, “anyway what could I do?”
“Yeah Ratish, wot could she do?”
Ratish tried to think of an answer, he had just suggested that an ork nob was at risk from an unarmed human that was perhaps only a tenth of his weight. Ratish decided that grovelling was the best course of action and he dropped to his knees.
“Ratish is sorry master, so sorry. Ratish didn’t want to insult master, but Ratish just wants to ‘elp master.”
“Sod off grot, get back to da camp now.”
“Yes master, Ratish go now,” and the gretchin ran off in the direction of the ork camp.
Hazug opened out the map on the ground and took a stick of charcoal from his pocket.
“I can’t read human writin’,” he told Sophie, “so I needs ya to take a look at dis ‘ere map and tell me were we is.”
Sophie crouched by Hazug’s side and looked at the map.
“There,” she said pointing towards an arrow that was labelled ‘YOU ARE HERE’ in the human language, “that’s what the labels says.”
Hazug marked the end of the arrow with a cross and then picked the map up again and rolled it up.
“Good,” Hazug said as he tucked the rolled up map under his arm, “Now I want to take a look at where we are. Is ya comin’?”
“Where to?”
“Back to da camp of course,” he said.

In his quarters Kyle Ryton, formerly Major Ryton of the intelligence division of the fifty third Juronian Rifle Regiment of the imperial guard had also been passed word of the tau’s latest defeat at the hands of the band of orks and he was not pleased.
“What is it Mr Ryton?” Aun’Verai asked when she answered her communication unit.
“O’Levath has failed again, he has lost another squad of troops and the orks are still roaming the city around us. He even lost a devilfish this time.”
“I see, and what do you suggest?”
“Let me go to the ork city now, we know the ways into the ork tunnels and I can find my way into the warboss’s fortress myself.”
“We have been over this before Mr Ryton, without an exact route through the tunnels there is too much chance of discovery. This mission is too important to take such chances, there are over thirty million orks on this world and unless we can reduce their numbers greatly we cannot...”
“Ethereal…”
“Honoured ethereal.”
“Of course I apologise. Honoured ethereal, I planned and carried out many covert infiltration missions when I was in the imperial guard and I was certified as an expert in both armed and unarmed combat. A few stupid gretchin in a tunnel…”
“Mr Ryton I am well aware of your history. That is why I supported your plan over the opinions of many of the fire caste when you first presented it. But you should remember that you are not in the imperial guard any more, you work for us now and you will do as you are told. For the greater good,” and Aun’Verai broke the link.
Ryton was furious, O’Levath’s soldiers couldn’t even deal with a single mob of orks that he’d known about for an entire day now and the ethereal wouldn’t listen to reason.
“That bitch is going to finish us,” he said to his assistant, one of the few humans on this world he had been able to recruit to the tau cause.
“I thought you said the ethereals governed with benevolence and wisdom,” the assistant replied, quoting from one of Ryton’s recruitment speeches.
“Govern yes, but they aren’t military tacticians. They have some sort of hold over all of the other castes, but I still haven’t figured out what it is; the others just follow them for some reason. I planned this entire operation and now after months of lobbying to get this project approved by the ethereals I’m being ordered around by someone with no combat experience whatsoever,” he responded as he poured himself an alcoholic drink and then downed it in one.
The other human considered Ryton’s last comment.
“Their commander is a tactician isn’t he? And I saw him fighting against the orks who brought me here. He defeated them easily but you don’t seem to think much of him either.”
“The tau rely far too much on their technology for my liking, before I left the imperial guard I fought alongside real soldiers who knew that an army is made of men, not machines. I’ve fought against orks several times, all you need to do is show them something shiny and they’ll all charge straight at it. Then you hit them on their flanks, they have no tactical ability at all.”
“You sound like you regret changing sides.”
“Have I ever told you about the priests, the commissars and the inquisition? I regret nothing, now leave.”
“Yes sir, for the greater good,” Ryton’s assistan spoke, adding to traditional tau phrase to his statement.
“Whatever.”
The assistant left and Ryton began to study the map of the ork city on his wall, paying particular attention to the areas inhabited by the smaller gretchin. He took a box from his desk and opened it, inside was a bulky pistol and the cylindrical energy cell, both with their original imperial markings defaced. He had gone to considerable trouble to obtain this weapon and if he couldn’t use it on the orks then he considered that he might just have to find an alternative target. He could think of two of them off the top of his head. Then he poured himself another drink.
“For the greater good my arse,” he said to himself.

O’Levath couldn’t get back to sleep after hearing about the latest defeat, not only did he have an ethereal breathing down his neck but he had been made aware by the communications staff that the human who had come up with the plan he had been forced to adopt was trying to undermine him. Instead he studied the resources he had remaining to him. His pathfinders and stealth team were lost along with an armoured personnel carrier and its pilot. Yes, they had killed almost half of the ork warband in the process but there were many millions more orks on the planet while he now had less than a single cadre remaining, and only five battlesuits including his own. He wasn’t willing to throw away the lives of any more of his men in more failed ambushes, but the orks could not be permitted to continue to roam the city until they discovered the tau base. He could request reinforcements from the tau fleet hidden in the debris cloud at the edge of the system at any time, but that would mean breaking the communications blackout to arrange another drop and then waiting for the ork vessels in orbit to be in the right places to allow a ship to slip trough undetected. That could take days and O’Levath didn’t think he had that long.
Of course he still had plenty of drones, and they were expendable, but their artificial intelligence controllers lacked the imagination and adaptability of real soldiers and maintaining a direct command link to them would mean broadcasting the wireless signals that the orks seemed to be interested in intercepting. There was a knock at his door.
“Enter.”
Aun’Verai entered the room and sat down, her bodyguards remained positioned at the doorway.
“I am not disturbing you I hope Shas’o,” she said in her usual calm voice.
“Of course not honoured ethereal, I couldn’t sleep, I was studying our situation. How may I help you?”
“I have just tried to contact our fleet, but the control room staff tell me that you have ordered a complete communications black out.”
“I did.”
“Why?”
“Because I think that the orks are trying to intercept our communications, they salvaged parts from our stealth team.”
“But I have an urgent requirement to make contact with our fleet.”
“May I ask what for honoured ethereal?”
“I am growing concerned about Mr Ryton.”
“In what way?”
“He is becoming impatient and impatient people make rash decisions.”
“My experience of humans is that they commonly behave in such a manner honoured ethereal.”
“Maybe so shas’o, but I believe that his behaviour goes beyond what is normal for humans, he could threaten our mission. I had hoped to request a replacement.”
”He put a great deal of effort into planning our mission honoured ethereal, and he is eager to see it through.”

“But he is not willing to wait until we have all the information that we need, this system is important to us Shas’o but Mr Ryton sees only the glory of victory.”
”So what do want me to do about it? Ryton is not under my command, and I will not allow you to break radio silence until we have dealt with the orks in this city. In any case I have been evaluating how long it would take to get another ship here and I do not expect it to be possible for the foreseeable future, the movements of the ork ships in orbit suggest that they will remain overhead for some time yet.”

Aun’Verai was clearly disturbed by this information, while O’Levath found her discomfort pleasing
“Then find a reason to keep him away from any transport,” Aun’Verai said, “he must not be allowed to make his own way to the ork city until I allow it.”
“Simple, will there be anything else honoured ethereal?”
“Yes Shas’o. Hurry.”
“Hurry?”
”Get us the information we need, then we can send Mr Ryton on his final mission.”
”His final mission?”

“Yes, his survival will not serve the greater good. I trust you can arrange for that shas’o.”
”Of course, for the greater good honoured ethereal.”

“For the greater good shas’o.”
Aun’Verai got up and left O’Levath’s quarters.
Well, thought O’Levath, things may just be looking up. He made note to step up the monitoring of the humans on the base, deactivated his computer terminal and returned to bed; sleep wasn’t so difficult to achieve any more. By the time he awoke he had an idea.

It was still dark when the doorway of the tau base opened and the first squad of tau troops emerged. They moved southwards, pausing when they came to the first cover available, then the squad leader raised his hand to signal back to the base. On his signal another squad appeared, followed by two walking machines that stood twice the height of the tau. On their shoulders they carried pairs of long barrelled heavy weapons, while their arms mounted smaller weaponry. A third squad of tau infantry emerged from the base and moved up behind the first two. The walking machines continued to move south while the infantry squads moved around them providing cover. Apart from the sounds of footfalls and the motors in the walking machines’ legs this was done in complete silence, the soldiers did not speak with each other or send any messages to the base. The first of these was down entirely to the soldiers’ professionalism over any instructions they had received, however their orders were quite specific on the last part.

While the tau troops departed, their commander was reviewing his personnel files. His men were soldiers, not assasins, but in Ryton’s case O’Levath was quite sure that he would be able to find one he could trust to make sure that the human’s mission to the ork city would be a one way trip.
He briefly considered killing Ryton himself, but it would look suspicious if he was to leave the base and the human had to die before he returned. No, O’Levath would need the services of an otherwise anonymous shas’la soldier for this assigment.

Nolite Id Cogere, Cape Maleum Majorem
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7

When morning came Hazug decided that he wanted to get a look at the city and assess their situation therefore, followed by Ratish and Sophie, he located an intact stairwell and made his way up to the roof. Holding the map out in front him, Hazug tried to match it up with what he could see of the city.
Many buildings had been reduced to rubble by the shockwave that occurred when the piloted asteroid that the invading orks had used as a landing craft had struck it, but many more had survived relatively intact, with the more heavily damaged sections of the city being those immediately surrounding the asteroid itself. Much of the asteroid was still visible, both the rocky mass of the asteroid itself and also what remained of the modifications that had been made by the orks themselves that were necessary to transform it into a partially viable spacecraft.
“’Ere, grab dis someone,” Hazug said holding out the map behind him without looking. Both Ratish and Sophie reached out to take the map, but Ratish was slightly quicker, and he snatched it away from Hazug’s grip before Sophie could get hold of it herself.
Acting as though she wasn’t bothered, Sophie folded her arms and stood beside Hazug who had removed the tau viewing device and a sheet of paper from his bag. The paper had been marked on each side with ork glyphs by Mek Batrug providing Hazug with instructions on how to access the device functions that the mekboy had figured out so far.
Holding the device up to his eye Hazug looked out over the abandoned city. The device gave Hazug the ability to zoom his view in and out, but even with the instructions provided by mek Batrug he had trouble finding a level of magnification that he liked.
“What can you see?” Sophie asked him as he continued to sweep the device about, searching the city from their vantage point on the roof.
“Nought interestin’,” Hazug replied. He had hoped to see some sign of the tau, but even from here the only none human structure that he could see was the crashed asteroid poking up on the horizon. Wherever the tau had established their headquarters they had hidden it well.
Then for a moment, hazug caught a glimpse of movement; something slipped across a street between two intact buildings and then quickly disappeared before Hazug could get a good look at it. He manipulated the viewing devices controls again, trying to get a better look, but whatever had moved was no longer there.
“Well I reckon dat its breakfast time,” Hazug said as he put the viewuing device and instructions away and took the map back from Ratish, “so we’ll go back to camp and ya can both tell me why I aint got anythin’ to eat yet.”

“So wot ‘appens today boss?” one of the Evil Suns orks asked Two Heads as they were eating breakfast.
“Good question,” Two Heads responded, and he turned to Hazug who ahd just returned from his wandering with his servants, “Ya is payin, so wot are we doin’ today?”
“Waitin’,” Hazug told him, “until we know where da tau is 'idin’ we ‘ave to ‘ide too.”
“Den we smack ‘em?” another ork asked, Hazug knew this one to be calld Kutbit and he was one of those who had been with him when they fought against the tau patrol with the troop carrier the previous night.
“Dat’s right Kutbit, den we smack da tau.”
There was a cheer from the orks.
“In da mean time lads,” Two Heads added, “ I’m sendin’ some of ya out to get us more supplies, but you ‘eard wot Hazug said about us 'idin', so you’ll ‘ave to keep ya ‘eads down.”
“Which means,” interrupted Hazug, “ dat you’ll ‘ave to leave those fancy red jackets ‘ere.”
“Aw boss,” one of the orks complained. Red was an important colour to orks, and even more so to those of the Evil Suns clan like Two Heads and his boys. Only the youngest or poorest Evil Sun, who couldn’t afford the higher cost of red clothing and dye would wear anything else. Hazug reached out and hit the ork.
“Right Skarit,” Two Heads said to the ork who had just complained, “you ‘as just volunteered, Gutnak you go with ‘im. We wants food, water and anythin’ else that looks like we can use it.”
Still complaining, the two orks removed their red jackets and emptied their backpacks to provide room for whatever they found. Then taking just a rifle and hand weapon each they made their way out of the car park.
As the pair made their way through the deserted human city, they saw only occasional signs of the Death Skulls that had made their livings scavenging the ruins and even the body of a human who had been shot in the back by tau weaponry. Of what they had been asked to find they could only locate small furry animals that were a common sight in human areas. They were difficult to catch however, because they combined speed with agility and a habit of running into drains when chased. The two orks instead had to try driving the creatures towards each other before hitting them with their rifle butts.
“Bleedin’ Blood Axe git lover,” Skarit said as he clubbed another rat and scooped its body up into his backpack, “just cos ‘e doesn’t wear red ‘ave we got to go without it too?”
“’E said it was so we wouldn’t be seen by da tau.”
“Wots wrong with getting’ seen, ‘ow else do we kill ‘em?”
“’Ow should I know,” Gutnak said as he grabbed hold of a rat just as it was about to escape through a hole in a wall and bashed its head against the structure, “Dare’s another one for da sack,” he added. Then, as the pair rounded a corner, both of the orks of the orks suddenly stopped and stared straight ahead of them.
“Core!” Skarit exclaimed, whiel Gutnak just dashed forwards. There, in the middle of the street ahead lay an ork battlewagon. Then Skarit added,”’Ang on Gutnak, wait for us,” and he too ran towards their find.
The battlewagon had been facing the orks when they first saw it, and from their angle there had been no obvious signs of damage. It was only as they got closer to it that they saw the great hole torn through it.
On one side, where it faced a side street was a single small hole, about the size of an ork’s head, whereas on the side opposite a massive gap had been ripped in the vehicle’s armour plating. The edges of this hole were bent outwards, indicating that whatever had caused the damage made the small hole as it entered the vehicle before creating the larger hole on its way out. Fragments from the battlewagon could be seen embedded in the wall of the building next to it.
“Let’s take a look inside,” Gutnak suggested as he clambered up through the larger exit hole, then cursing as he placed his hand on the sharp edge of the gap.
Inside the battlewagon, Gutnak just stopped and stared around him while Skarit followed him through the hole. Whatever had come through the entry hole had clearly struck soemthign volatile on its way through the ork vehicle, because the inside of the battelwagon was entirely burnt out. Vague shapes that may have once been the battlewagon’s crew or passengers could be made out approximately, but it was impossible to tell exactly where their remains ended and the scorched vehicle interior began.
“Don’t waste ya time,” Skarit said as he saw Gutnak try to prise open a skull to see if there were any teeth left in it, “dey’ll be all burned up like da rest of ‘em is.”
“Aint no ‘arm in checkin’,” Gutnak replied befoe commenting, “I don’t supposed dat da mek could fix dis up could ‘e?”
“Well it is stil in one piece mainly,” Skarit said, looking around the battlewagon’s interior for himself,” so it probably just needs a couple of parts.”
“And all da burned bits sweepin’ out,” Gutnak suggested.
“Well obviously dat’ll ‘ave to be done,” Skarit replied, “but dat’s grots work.”
The two orks nodded in agreement when they heard a strange humming sound coming from around a corner ahead of them.
“Get down,” Gurnak told Skarit, and the two orks quickly took cover, staring out of one of the battlewagon’s vision slits.
The sound became louder and a disc like object appeared floating around the round a corner. Neither of the orks had seen anything like the object before, it hovered in the air producing only the faint hum that had given away its presence and grew louder when it moved, whatever force was keeping it aloft occasionally kicking up dirt from the ground beneath it. The mysterious disc was the same colour as the tau vehicle that the orks had destroyed the night before, and it appeared to mount a pair of short-barrelled weapons beneath it.
Skarit took aim with his rifle.
“Don’t know wot it is,” he said, “but it looks da same as tau stuff.”
“Wait,” said Gutnak, “it ‘asn’t seen us.”
Skarit lowered his weapon, grumbling as he did so. The two orks watched as the floating disk moved away, and Gutnak began to get up.
“Where is ya goin’?” Skarit asked.
“I’m goin’ to follow dat floatin’ thingy. Hazug wants to know where dare base is and dat may be goin’ dare.”
Skarit got up also, and as the tau disc disappeared around another corner the orks jumped out of the wrecked battlewagon and ran after it. As they reached the corner Skarit grabbed Gutnak to hold him back before they went around it.
“If ya wants us to start actin’ like Blood Axe wazzoks, we may as well do it proper like,” Skarit said as he took a quick look around the corner, “it stopped again, I fink it’s lookin’ for somethin’.”
“Yeah, us. Lucky we saw it first. Now come on let’s keep after it.”
The disc continued to move in the same way, turning a corner and then pausing for a few moments before moving on. Meanwhile the two orks followed at a distance, taking a quick look around corners to see if the disc was there and moving after it only when they heard the humming sound of its engines increase to indicate that it was moving again. In this manner they covered a large distance until they encountered a second floating disc.
“’Ow many of dose bleedin’ things are dare?” Skarit said as they watched the two discs floating side by side, then added “ get back!” as one of the two discs began to move in their direction.
“Its comin’ we need to hide.
“Where?”
The two orks looked around for somewhere to conceal themselves before the tau disc reached the corner and saw them.
“Up dare,” Skarit said, pointing at a point immediately above their heads, one storey up on the building they were stood beside there was a window which had long since lost the pain of glass that had at one time held, “Give us a leg up Gutnak.”
Gutnak helped Skarit to reach up to the window and pull himself in, then Skarit reached down and pulled up his companion. The two orks stood inside the ruined room, which appeared to have once been a human residence. They heard the familiar humming sound of the tau disc as it came around the corner, and they saw the tip of the antenna located on top of the disc outside the window as the disc came to a halt again.
Gutnak edged towards the window and took a quick look outside; there was just the one disc outside, below the level of the window but close to it.
“I’ve ‘ad enough of dis crap,” Skarit said, “Let’s take da thing out.”
“Wot if da other one ‘ears and comes to ‘elp dis one?”
Skarit slung his rifle and drew his blade, “It won’t if I do da orky way,” he said, grinning.
Moving carefully Skarit climbing into the window and judged the distance to the disc carefully, then with his blade still in his hand and, suppressing the urge to yell out a war cry as he did so, he leapt onto the disc and grabbed its antenna to steady himself. The tone of the humming form the disc changed suddenly as its engine tried to maintain its altitude with the sudden addition of the weight of the adult ork now clinging to the top of it, and it wobbled as it began to sink towards the ground. With a sharp ‘snap’ the antenna broke from the tau disc causing Skarit to lose his balance and he toppled from the disc. He rolled as he hit the ground and looked up to see the disc aiming the two guns mounted beneath it directly at him. There was a flash of light as the weapons discharged but the pulses went wide owing to the simultaneous impact of Gutnak who had copied Skarit’s leap from the window onto the disc. Without the antenna to hold onto he just feel straight off again, but as the disc turned to face this new threat Skarit was able to get back to his feet and swing his blade. There were sparks and a high-pitched screech as the weapon’s edge was drawn across one of the disc’s weapons. The disc move backwards at it turned to face Skarit once more, but now Gutnak had got back to his feet and the disc was now facing two adult orks with weapons in hand.
The disc fired, but the weapon Skarit had struck failed to function and only the other one fired. Skarit grunted as the bolt of energy clipped his arm. A human would have most likely screamed and dropped to the ground clutching at the wound, but Skarit was an ork and an ork wasn’t going to be slowed down by anything that hadn’t even managed to strike the bone or take off a limb. Instead like a true ork he went on the attack once more. He swung his weapon again, this time in an upwards arc that brought it up from beneath the disc and struck the central column that was located there, the other weapon fell away as its mounting was completely severed. Skarit’s blade did not stop moving there however, and it smashed into the electronics on the underside of the disc. There were more sparks, accompanied by a flame as the blade struck home before the disc fell to the ground with a clatter and then it was silent.
Skarit dashed to the corner and looked around it, the second disc was nowhere to be seen.
“See I told ya,” he said to Gutnak, “it worked just fine by doin’ it the orky way. Now just never tell anyone we ‘id and jumped out like Blood Axes.”
The two orks now took a closer look at the disc.
“Okay we got it, but wot do we do with it now den Skarit?”
“We was told to gather anythin’ that could be useful, and I’ll bet me entire mouth dat da mek boy can find a use for dis. Now pick up the bits that dropped off it while I get the big bit on its side.”
“Why on its side?” Gutnak asked as Skarit lifted one side of the disabled disc so he could stand it on its rim.
“Well it’s shaped like a wheel aint it? I wants to roll it of course, I aint bleedin’ carryin’ it.”

To the south of the city the tau force had reached its destination. Ahead of them lay only the road that led to the ork capital, the route taken by the ork warband now at large in the city behind them.
The two massive battlesuits turned back towards the city and steadied themselves, ready to fire either their massive shoulder mounted railguns or the secondary missile systems mounted in their arms immediately should a target appear, while the three shas’uis dispersed their men and had them dig in. There was a thick layer of dirt on the ground here that the tau could dig into without specialist machinery. When the defensive positions were dug, each soldier unpacked a square of a silver coloured synthetic fabric that they then joined together with those of other members of their squads to form larger sheets. The sheets were propped up over the freshly dug firing positions and connected to a power source, at which point the silver colour of the fabric changed to instead project an image of undisturbed earth. When the tau took up positions in the trenches beneath the sheets they became completely invisible from the air. One of the squads expanded their trench, digging deeper until there was enough room to allow the battlesuits to join them and the entire force was then concealed.

“Wot’s it doin’ now?” demanded Hazug as the device constructed by Mek Batrug to determine the location of the tau from their communications indicated yet another source of a signal. The device had been behaving oddly all day, the dial mounted on top of it spinning around as it registered one signal after another, each time from a different direction. The signals were always short, far too short to be anybody holding a real conversation. At first this hadn’t bothered anyone, ork technology was notoriously querky at the best of times, and Mek Batrug himself had initially put these signals down to “teethin’ problems,” and sought to adjust the machine, but it continued to register transmissions from many different places.
“I reckon dat da tau ‘ave sent out machines to look for us,” said Mek Batrug as the device pointed in yet another direction, “and dey are all talking to each other. Machines can talk real quick like to other machines.”
Hazug didn’t like the sound of this; as much as he hated the idea of machines carrying messages from one living thing to another the idea that they could just start having entire conversations on their own was even worse.
“So your machine’s no good den? We can’t tell when its da tau base doin da talking.”
“Da signals from da tau base will be stronger, cause dey will ‘ave a bigger talkin’ machine, and da tau themselves will take longer to talk to each other. I need to add some more bits so we can see ‘ow strong da signal is,” and with that Mek Batrug began to sort through the remaining parts he had recovered from the Death Skull camp.
One of Two Heads’ orks came running up to Hazug.
“Two Heads wants ya,” he said, “We’ve spotted somethin’ outside.”
Hazug followed the ork back to where Two Heads and the rest of his boys still in the car park were looking out of a narrow window. Two Heads and his boys had constructed a raised platform from a plank laid out between two empty crates from the battlewagon to raise them up high enough to see out of it. Hazug stood next to Two Heads as the ork who had brought him clambered on to the platform after him, and Hazug felt the platform wobble slightly under the combined weight of all the orks. Though the window was high up in the wall it was at ground level on the outside of the building, and it offered a wide view of the street outside.
“Wot da bleedin’ ‘ell is dat?” Two Heads asked, indicating the disc like object hovering in the middle of the street.
“Dunno for certain,” replied Hazug, “but I reckon dat I may ‘ave seen one of ‘em when I was up on da roof before breakfast, and da colour makes it look like somethin’ belongin’ to da tau. Da mek boy says dare could be tau machines all over da city talkin’ to one another real fast, and dis could be one of dem.”
“Can we shoot it den boss?” an ork enquired, lifting his rifle to his shoulder and pointing it at the floating disc.
Hazug thought about this for a moment.
“Nah better not lad, when da tau notice its gone dey may come looking for it, and if dese things really are talkin’ all da time den da tau know exactly were it is right now,” and with a look of disappointment on his face, the ork lowered his weapon.
“So wot do we do?” Two Heads asked, “Follow it?”
Hazug paused for thought again; if they followed the alien machine then it could lead the orks to the tau base. But if there really were more of these discs floating around the city it was possible that one of them could see the orks before they found the base, and in any case they were two boys short while Skarit and Gutnak were still out foraging.
“Nah,” he said, “we just let go for now. We’ll wait for da other lads to get back and see wot Mek Batrug can come up with to sort out who’s talkin’ to who out dare. Keep an eye out for more though, and let me know which way dey go when ya see ‘em.”
Hazug was about to climb down from the platform when the plank creaked.
“Does dat sound good to ya?” one of Two Heads asked, and the other head shook from side to side just as the plank split and then snapped. The orks collapsed in a heap on the floor, cursing one another as they landed on top of each other. Threats and promises of revenge were issued by most. As he got back to his feet and dusted himself off Hazug heard the sound of cackling laughter from the direction of the battlewagon where Drazzok was finding the site of the orks untangling themselves hilarious. He was still laughing as Hazug walked past him to speak with Mek Batrug.
“We just saw a tau machine outside, it was just floatin’ about out dare. Don’t think it saw us though.”
Mek Batrug didn’t look up from his work when he responded.
“Might be useful to ‘ave one to study, den maybe I could figure out where dese things ‘ave been to. They probably keep dat information inside ‘em. But gettin’ at it’ll take time.”
“Finish wot ya doin’ first mek, den we’ll se about getting’ ya somethin’ new to play with.“
Hazug turnaround to see that Two Heads and his boys had succeeded in separating themselves and were looking for materials to help with rebuilding the platform so that the watch he had requested could be maintained.

Nolite Id Cogere, Cape Maleum Majorem
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