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Dirge Eterna 02-02-09 10:07 PM

Steel Talons
Hellos to any and all, this is my next project, a story of the Steel Talons Order on Thracia. Just so you all know, this is what keeps me from going completely crazy from boredom out here, so post feedback! Let me know what you think is cool, or lame, or insane!

1. Potential
2. Boot
3. Steel Talons
4. Old Gregor
5. Sierra Tempest
6. Breaking Through
7. Stubborn
8. A Knight in Full
9. The Council of Jhoran
10. Declaration
11. Whatever it Takes
12. 97 Seconds
13. Downfall
14. The Cost


Thracia Equatorial Mines, 1600 hours.

Ethan Wright moved slowly. He fought off the edges of Rex Ferra's machine-voice.

The machine encased his entire body, a system of hydraulics and pistons moving him along the shaft. His father piloted the Fortanas Nox next to him.

"You got it, son?" asked the elder Wright. The miners of Thracia used simple exoskeletons, two and a half times the size of a man, fitted with breacher drills and seismic hammers to extract adamantium, flexsteel, and other minerals from Thracia's mantle, sending it to the warrior Orders high over their heads. Ethan had never even seen Thracia's sun.

"I can handle it. The right side seems a little weak." he said. Rex Ferra was an old, cantankerous machine, prone to jamming and breaks, but he had forged a hard-earned peace with it's machine-spirit over six months of mining.

"Alright. We're going to shaft nine today, Horgan broke through to a vein last night. He wants us to take a look."

The two mining suits turned on the spot, heading downwards into the mine's lower reaches. Horgan's suit swam into view as their floodlights flickered into life. He led the pair to the end of the shaft, and paused.

"There shouldn't be a tunnel here." said Horgan. Ethan pulled up the map of the mines. Sure enough, shaft nine ended where they were standing, but a second tunnel branched off into the darkness, going downwards at an amazing angle.

"Too angled to be rock drilled. We should call it in." said Ethan's father. His machine stepped up to the hole, it's lights moving down to peer into the deep.

"Something's down there, I'm picking up auspex. Might be a suit." he said. "Hello! Anyone there!? Do you need help!?"

Ethan picked out a shuffling, cracking noise.

A massive brown-scaled creature exploded from the opposite wall, smashing into Horgan's back. The miner went down, the beast clawing at his suit. The creature was fully the size of the exoskeleton, with long fangs and four yellow eyes. Horgan screeched in agony as the claws finally reached him, pulling him from the machine in a welter of gore.

"Tunnel Dragon!" howled Ethan's father. The miners had faced them before; vast, reptillian creatures native to Thracia. He turned, the seismic hammer on his suit powering up. Ethan did the same, moving to stand next to his father.

The pit behind them moved.

"Behind you!" he shouted. Ethan's father swung around as fast as his suit could move, seeing another Dragon lurch from the blackness. A claw batted the suit down, pinning the man. His father's hammer swung up, exploding the dragon in a shower of blood, but the second Dragon leapt on him, claws and teeth bloody from Horgan's slaughter.

Ethan ran forward as fast as he could, unwilling to believe the Dragon's claws growing steadily redder, the machine's struggles getting weaker, and finally stopping. The breacher on his left arm rose to a screaming pitch. He lunged, stabbing the creature. It was obviously the alpha male, nearly twice the size of the dragon his father had killed, nearly one and a half again as large as Ethan, even in the mining suit.

It howled and smashed him across the shaft, crushing his hammer arm under the weight of the machine. He tasted blood. The dragon lunged, claws outstretched, and everything slowed down.

Ethan felt a cool, calm sensation seep into his battered frame. He stepped forward calmly, raising the breacher drill with a squeal of tortured metal. The dragon smashed into him. The drill cut a deep hole into the creature, making it howl in rage and pain. Loops of intestine and organs were sucked from it's innards by the force. It opened it's jaws, and crushed Ethan Wright into the bowels of his suit.


"-he OK?"

"Looks that way. How are the others?"

"Dead. Both of them."

"-lly grown tunnel dragon. He's the right stuff."

"Back to the Mons, then?"

"Yep. Pry him out and let's get moving. Old Gregor's expecting us back."

Ethan opened one eye, the other was gummed shut by dried blood.

"Who- who are you?" he said slowly, to no one in particular. A massive machine, smoke grey with a blue eagle design painted on it's shoulder, turned at the noise.

"Don't worry about me." it said. "Sleep."

He closed his eyes, and the world went away.

Dirge Eterna 02-02-09 11:36 PM

A double-update, not doing anything right now!

Ferrus Mons, Thracia

Ethan opened his eyes.

A lean man with white hair and a goatee was sitting in a chair at the foot of the pad Ethan lay on. He wore a grey jumpsuit with metallic connectors attached to it. The blue eagle design he had seen on the machine's shoulder was repeated on the man's front pocket.

"Ah. You're awake." he said smoothly, putting down a thick book. He scooted the chair closer to the bed.

"Where-where am I? Where's my father? Rex Ferra?"

"Your father's dead, son. And your machine is back at the mining fields."

"Where am- Did you say dead?"

The man nodded. "Yep. Dead. Tunnel Dragon killed him. And you killed it. Impressive, actually. Fully grown tunnel dragon versus barely armed miner suit."

"Dead." repeated Ethan, unable to comprehend the loss. He shook his head slowly, trying not to cry in front of the stranger.

"As to your other question," continued the man. "You are in Ferrus Mons, the Iron Mountain. Home of the Steel Talons."

Ethan blinked slowly. "The what?"

"The Steel Talons. We're a Knight Order." explained the man. He stroked his chin, thinking.

"You know the miner suits, son?" he asked. Ethan nodded.

"Knights are like that. But bigger. And with more guns. You'll see one, if you agree with what I'm about to say."

Ethan sat up warily. "What are you going to say?"

The man leaned forwards to look him in the eye. "You attracted the attention of one of my warriors, son. A miner taking on a fully grown Tunnel Dragon one-on-one and, albeit barely, surviving. How would you like to join the Talons?"

"I- I don't know." admitted Ethan. "This is all so..fast."

The man stood up. He took Ethan's arm, pulling him upright. The pair moved to a wall covered in regular sheets of grey metal. The man hit a green button on the side, and a blast of light nearly blinded Ethan. His eyes slowly adjusted, and he breathed out at the sight.

Nearly two hundred feet below, in a vast staging area at the base of a tremendous cliff, four dozen grey suits sparred, practiced weapons, and received repairs. A building to the south, belching smoke and fire into the air, produced a thick plate of armor as Ethan watched.

"I...I want in." said Ethan. "There's nothing for me. Not anymore. My mother's dead. My father's dead. Do I get to pilot one of those?" he asked, pointing. The man laughed.

"No, son. You'll be receiving a new one. The forge is churning them out as we speak, getting ready for the Feast of Blades."

"The what?"

"Later. Down the lift in the back of the room, press five. Tell them Dom sent you."

Ethan nodded, leaving the man to look out over Ferrus Mons. He punched number five on the lift, and yelped in shock as it plummeted downwards. Just as he was about to think that the lift would never stop, that it would smash into the ground and be destroyed, it stopped with a jolt. He collapsed to the floor, panting. The door opened with a pleasant chime. A middle-aged woman sat behind a desk in a blank room, typing on a cogitator. A metronome ticked on the counter.

"Um. I'm Ethan Wright. Dom sent me." said Ethan. The woman looked up.

"Alright. I'm Scribe Reddin." said the woman. She handed Ethan a pack containing one of the grey suits, among other things, and gestured at a door in the room's back.

"Welcome to Camp Blackhawk, Initiate." she said as he entered the room.



Ethan panted. The trainer, a man named Korgan Steele, had pushed him and a half-dozen others to the breaking point. Sixteen men had already "washed out" of the Talon program, they had been exiled from Ferrus Mons. Two had commited suicide. They had been cremated and their ashes vaporised in the Mons' fusion reactor.

"Come on, Initiate!" howled Steele, an inch from an initiate's face. The man's skin was red with exertion as he attempted to do the trainer's hundred press-ups.

"You think this is a GAME?!" yelled Steele.

The man gasped. "One...hundred." he collapsed. Steele stood up, smiling. He dropped a bottle of water. The man grabbed it and drank greedily.

"Five minute break." said Steele. "Then we run."

Ethan groaned, along with the other initiates. The "run" was actually a five-mile stretch around the entire Camp Blackhawk complex, situated in a massive cavern under Ferrus Mons.

The man drinking his water sputtered as he breathed in. "Jason Matthews."

Ethan shook his hand. "Ethan Wright."

"How did you get here?" asked Jason.

"Killed a Tunnel Dragon." said Ethan.

"Wow. I fought off a marauder suit. You trumped me pretty good." he said. Marauders were renegade miners that outfitted their suits with large bore drills and EMP launchers. They terrorized the mines to the far north, the equatorial regions and the south were more heavily populated.

Steele moved up to the initiates.

"Alright women! RUN!" he roared, setting off at a breakneck pace down the track. Matthews and Wright sighed in frustration and followed, the rest of the initiates breaking into a run after Steele.

"You've only got four weeks with old Steele! Keep up!" howled Steele from down the track. Wright grumbled. The Steel Talons had better be worth it.

Iron Corsair 02-03-09 11:56 AM

Awesome as always, Dirge! Keep up the excellent work!

Dirge Eterna 02-03-09 09:10 PM

Ferrus Mons, 1200 hours

Three weeks later

The enemy engine was burning. Wright watched as it's carapace came apart under massed gunfire as the Knight responded to his commands. His arms and legs were encased in ceramite sheaths, and his head was surrounded by sensors and a thick HUD. The Lancer-class Knight rotated on it's axis, opening fire into another rogue miner's suit, sending the machine to the ground. His machine was equipped with a plasma destroyer on one arm, and a long, crackling energy blade in the other. The weapon hissed as it recharged. A miner suit stomped over the wreckage of a hab unit towards him. He tried to pivot aside as the EMP launcher on the miner's carapace fired, but the bolt struck his engine dead on, making him howl as the shields failed and the electronics of his engine died. The miner stepped forward in triumph, but he fired a shot into it's leg, making it collapse. The miner was crushed under the weight of his engine.

A scream over the Manifold told him his battle-brother had died behind him, and hydraulic claws closed on his engine's arms, pulling it to the ground. He struggled weakly, the electronics still booting up. A huge breacher drill entered his vision, and the world went black.

The simulator pod opened, releasing his limbs.

"You're dead." said the white-haired man. Wright nodded. Next to him, Matthews and another initiate he didn't know stepped from similar pods.

"You're all dead." he said. "You can't be that reckless in an engine fight, son. You have to fight as one. Rickert, you could have killed that fifth suit if you hadn't wasted your blastgun shot on the one you could have killed with the powerblades. Matthews, you need to move more. Those EMP launchers are nasty, and Wright? You need to remember you're a lot larger then you think. Dodge when your body wants to. Don't think. Trust your instincts. That goes for all of you, too."

The initiates nodded.

"But," continued the man. "You're about ready for the story. Come with me."

Matthews and Wright looked at each other. Rickert, the third initiate from their original class of almost thirty, simply looked confused.

The man led them to an elevator shaft, taking them deep below Ferrus Mons, even below Camp Blackhawk. The trio of initiates smiled as they recognized Steele's massive figure berating a new class of potential Talons. The elevator stopped after five minutes of descending into the depths of Thracia.

"Good Afternoon, Crusader Strom." canted a tech-adept behind a desk. The white haired man nodded at the priest.

"Got a new bunch of potentae, Eryk. Think you can tell them a story?"

The priest nodded stiffly. "I can find one or two around here."

The man stood up and pulled a fat key from the depths of his robes. He inserted it into the door behind the desk, and the stench of parchment, oils, and ink wafted out. Strom and the initiates followed into the Steel Talons' Librarium.

They stopped before a vast mural, it's surface cracked and chipped with age. A huge Battle Knight fired into a host of men, while white-green Space Marines fought at it's feet.

"The Steel Talons' history dates back to the Heresy." said Eryk. He gestured at the mural. "The fight to pull the Technocracy into the fold. Knights of the Steel Talons fight alongside the Sons of Horus Legion."

The next stop was at a second mural, this one a vast host of black nightmares charging a thin line of golden warriors, while grey Knights and vast Battle Titans stood over them.

"Stormlord Kuvara's last stand at the Seige of the Emperor's Palace." explained Eryk.

The initiates looked on in awe. The magos led them to a large marble statue, depicting Thracia. The north area around Ferrus Mons was grey, emblazoned with the blue eagle symbol. The south, closer to the city of Hygyrum, was a shade of dark green, with a white skull with dripping paint.

"The division of Thracia after the Talons left Mars." said Eryk. "The Steel Talons took the north hemisphere, the Legio Nex Titan order took the south."

Their final destination was a vast steel door that was covered in names.

"This is the Chamber of the First." explained Eryk. "Every Titan Legio and Knight Order has one. It houses the very first machine, and sometimes, as is the case with the Talons, it also holds the most revered of our warrior's remains, or the remains of their engines. You must be respectful at all times, and do not touch anything. The remains are stasis-shielded to keep them from degrading, and will freeze your flesh in a heartbeat."

The initiates nodded. Strom simply looked amused.

Eryk looked at each of them with a stare, weighing their promise, and opened the door. A light mist fell from it, dissipating into the Librarium. They stepped into the chamber, finding it to be a long hallway dotted with vast spaces for engines, and small chambers for men. They passed a gold-edged Enforcer-Class Knight, it's surface pitted and scorched by what looked like acid.

"Stormlord Davuson." said Eryk, looking at the Knight. "Killed during the first Tyrannic Wars."

They moved on, past a dozen engines and ten times that men. Finally they stopped in front of a pure silver engine, it's armor engraved with vast murals and holy script. Ancient parchments hung from it's frame, and a single purity seal was affixed to it's chassis, bearing the personal mark of the Emperor himself. The initiates breathed in with awe.

"The Deus Aquila." breathed Eryk. "The first Knight, given to the Steel Talons' first initiate by the Regent of Terra and the Emperor."

"It's beautiful." exclaimed Matthews.

"It's not like the ones you'll be driving, believe me." said Strom. "You'll get gray, and you'll like it."

As the men left the Chamber, a single one of the Knights lurched from the wall in front of them, weapons raised.

Iron Corsair 02-03-09 11:16 PM

BUMBUMBUM!!! Cliffhanger! Excellent part, Dirge! I thought that it was an SM story at first, but I'm glad that it is a Knight/Titan story because I've always been fascinated by Titans/Knights. Again, Excellent job!

waltzmelancholy_07 02-04-09 11:27 AM

2nd that last comment... Hehehe... Will there be Titan battles Dirge?...

Dirge Eterna 02-04-09 12:22 PM

Now THAT would ruin the story. If you will notice, however, I did make known the Legio Nex Titan order in the southern parts of Thracia. You might see them as the story progresses :victory:.


Dirge Eterna 02-04-09 10:08 PM

Ferrus Mons Librarium, 1215 hours

The Knight took another massive step, making the stone floor of the Librarium crackle
in protest at the huge weight of the armored machine. Stromm looked from the Knight to Eryk,
then to the initiates, who were slowly backing towards Deus Aquilia in fear.

Eryk stepped forward, raising a hand. The Knight stopped suddenly, and a burst of static
echoed from it's voxcorder.

"Adept Daelus." it canted in an odd, feminine voice. "When will you allow me to walk this

Eryk shrugged. "I do not want all my work to go to waste. Your augments..."

"Are fine. I have been down here for nearly three months. Allow me to Walk, my creator."

The Knight crouched, it's massive armored-over cockpit staring at Eryk through a dozen
sensor suites.

The tech-adept raised his hands. "Alright. I'll open the hanger doors on my way out. Go
north to the Mons' base, then come back. The skitarii will let you back in."

The Knight rose to it's full height, voxcasters and war-horns blaring in triumph. It turned,
and stomped out of the Chamber of the First, the footfalls growing fainter as it left the

"What did you do, Eryk?" growled Strom.

"Well," said Eryk. "I repaired Master Rezayle's mount, and implanted it with battle wetware and targeting matrices, and a VI interface. She's a whole new breed of AI."

"She?" asked Matthews.

"The donor for the wetware was a she." explained Eryk. "But it is a fascinating turn, is it

Strom pointed at the empty alcove the Knight had occupied. "Does the Grand Master know about this?"

The adept looked shocked. "Of course he does! Did you think Korveylan and I were mad scientists down here?"

"I just saw a centuries-dead Grand Master's mount get up, ask to leave, and then do so. I don't know what to believe." said Strom.

"Oh, she's young." explained Eryk. "Simply looking for adventure."

Wright and Matthews exchanged a look.

"Ah, yes. I'm sure your initiates would also benefit from a meeting with Master Gregor?" asked Eryk.

Strom nodded cautiously, looking at the other Knights with suspicion.

The priest turned and walked out of the Chamber of the First with enthusiasm, followed by the initiates and Strom. They passed a dozen rooms, each filled to the brim with scrolls, texts, or machinery. A robed adept nodded as they passed a room filed with a massive cogitator.

Eryk led them to a huge room, built like a chapel, but with a large conduit running
along the ceiling. A single engine stood in the room, it's back to them.

"Master, it is I, Eryk, the Healer of Metal. I brought Crusader Stromm, and three Initiates
of the Steel Talons."

The Knight turned slowly. It's weapons layout was unorthadox, a Turbo Laser hung from one arm, while the other held a Vulcan Bolter. A sheathed Power Blade was concealed beneath the bolter's barrels. Its legs were massively reinforced to compensate, hydraulics hissing and ribbed cables pulsing with motion as the machine moved.

"I see." it canted, a deep, powerful voice echoing from the voxcaster.

"And who may these Initiates be?" it asked. Eryk pointed to them in turn.

"Jason Matthews of the North, Ethan Wright of the Mines, and Corvan Rickert of the Orbital."

The Knight stood up from it's kneeling position.

"Greetings, young ones. You are always welcome in the domain of Gregor the Third."

Matthews stepped forward. "The Third?"

"I am the Third God-Machine of the Steel Talons." explained Gregor. "I fought alongside
Deus Aquilia at the Technocracy, the Eternity Gates, and finally the skirmish that
killed First Master Ireisan, here on Thracia. The Aquilia has remained dormant here
ever since."

The initiates looked on in awe, amazed at this ancient warrior.

"How have you lived this long?" asked Wright, moving closer to the Knight.

"I am not man any longer." he replied. "I have been confined to the Gladia Eternus for nearly ten thousand years. My augmetics and the Eternus' life support can ensure near immortality for myself, as long as combat doesn't end me first."

"You still fight?" asked Rickert. The Knight turned.

"You'd be insane to try and stop me, initiate. I will fight for the Emperor until the day I rust into dead metal and corpseflesh."

"Which is unlikely to be soon." added Eryk, pointing to a tech-altar covered in machinery and tools. "The adepts are good at what they do."

The Knight's torso shook, making it's cockpit nod in affirmation.

"There are no finer healers of metal in the Segmentum Solar." he said. "Even the vaunted Astartes take counsel from the Steel Talons."

A chime sounded, and Gregor turned away.

"I must return to my studies, adept. Thank you for coming."

Eryk nodded and gave a shallow bow. "By your word, Master."

The priest led them back to the lift, walking in after them and pressing 18 down on the control.

"Well, my friend. You've been busy. Making friends with Gregor and building machine warriors." said Strom.

"I do what I can." replied Eryk, amused. The lift deposited the five men onto a landing.

Wright stared. A dozen tables were set up, each with three Initiates. A thirteenth was vacant. Strom gestured for them to sit, and he and Eryk sat at a higher table, at the north end of the hall.

A man wearing full battle armor, minus a helmet, walked in, a black cloak trailing him.

"Greetings, Initiate Potentae of the Steel Talons!" he exclaimed.

"You have been chosen to join one of the most revered and ancient Knightly Orders the Emperor has to offer! This is the most vaunted Feast Of Blades! Here, after a mighty round of feasting and elaborate tales, you will be taken to the Forge Halls, to receive your charge. For now, you will each be given a Lancer-Pattern Knight. You may later request alternative weapons. Now, Congratulations, Lancers! And let the Ten thousand, nine hundred, and ninety-seventh Feast of Blades commence!"

Wright's face split into a smile as the feasting hall roared, and he found himself joining in.

Ordo Xeno Commander 02-05-09 02:44 AM

more brilliant work dirge. Love it.

waltzmelancholy_07 02-05-09 07:39 AM

I couldn't agree more... MORE!!!

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