From the depths of the Chaos warship Hell Castle, in the darkest and most infernal temple to all evil, a demonic voice shook the room.
“I… I REQUIRE POWER. IT IS TIME WE STRUCK OUT FROM OUR SAFE, PATHETIC HOME AND BEGAN A TRAIL OF GLORIOUS CONQUEST”
Two figures stood on high daises, shrouded in shadow.
“Yes, Great General! We… we will go and… conquer! Conquer worlds in your glorious name! All will fear- All will fear- All will fear your GLORIOUS name!” The speaker had a curious defect – its words alternated between a man and woman’s voice. A more observant listener would have noticed half of them came from a book it held in its hand.
“NO!” The demon’s voice was, if possible, louder still. “ACHERON! THIS IS NOT YOUR MOMENT! JU’ZAN, JU’ZAN THE INFERNAL, WARLORD OF THE MYKENE, MY AGENT IN HUMAN FORM, GO! GO AND CONQUER! I HUNGER!”
Hell Castle shuddered as it broke from warp-space, overlooking a system where already wars were beginning to break out like tumours over its blasted worlds.
“Yes…” The warrior Ju’zan’s voice was gentle, a blessed calm after the demon’s inhuman roar. “Yes… This is a GOOD system! There are GOOD WORLDS HERE!” His voice rose in great hysterical shouting. “WE WILL DESTROY ALL ENEMIES BEFORE US! READY MY HOST! PREPARE MECHANICAL BEAST GARUDA XII!”
At the top of the Mek-Shop, Boss Greenbeard peered through his spyglass at the shooting stars. “Wot’s this then?” the Ork mused, puffing on an oversized pipe. “They ain’t the ones we shot last time.”
A small goblinoid creature had brought an oversized flagon of rough spirits, which Greenbeard downed in short order. Looking again through the spyglass, he could make out some kind of ship on a course to land not far from his base of operations.
“ALL RIGHT!” He hauled himself upwards and took his immense hat from where it was hooked. “Are you all listening, you ‘orrible lot?” The speaking-tube his Meks had built was a good invention. “Someone wants a fight. Do we want to give them one?”
“YES!” Dozens of orks shouted as one.
“Are we going to win?”
“Then get to it!” He put down the loudhailer and grabbed a field telephone from its mounting on the wall. “Maverick, this is Greenbeard. Scramble now!”
“WOT?” The line would have been bad even over a properly-calibrated vox. For one which had been passed from dead guardsman to Ork to Ork to Mek and finally welded to an old lamppost, it was hopeless.
“I SAID SCRAMBLE YOU CLOTH-EARED GIT!”
“GET IN YOUR FLIPPING PLANE”
– Cycle 1 –
Ju’zan’s plan was flawless. The Orks had some kind of primitive laboratory set up and all he had to do was crush it. While Acheron’s distraction force kept them occupied, he had moved several of his best units into forward positions under cover of darkness – one of the famed Khedoran Obliterators was currently submerged deep in sand by a collection of fuel bunkers, while he was concealed similarly by an old ammo dump. The Iron Mask Corps, his small retinue of fallen Astartes, were supporting the Khedoran with an aim to bringing down the enemy’s base.
If all went to plan the idiotic greenskins would be so terrorised by the mighty Garuda that they would fail to spot the real threats.
He leapt from his hiding-place.
“GO! MY INFERNAL LEGIONS! BRING THE ENEMY DOWN!” Effortlessly he leapt atop a mountain of containers and raised the bionic arm he had forged to replace a mutated one. Blades and gears spun in impossible motions to bring its gun-barrel to the fore and a bolt of lightning shot forward before abruptly turning direction to engulf an Ork formation
Across his lines, others began firing, but it was too dark to see if their shots were having an effect. Something must have hit because he could hear screaming and swearing from somewhere in the gloom.
Twista’s Shooter Squad prided themselves on being the best shots in Greenbeard’s entire army. Twista himself was feeling quite clever at having avoided the strange lightning bolt unscathed, and now could see a massive thing covered in swords and blades and guns standing at point-blank range.
He did what he always did. Opened fire and hoped the others would follow.
“GO, GARUDA XII! GO AND-” Ju’zan was suddenly cut down by a veritable wall of bullets from Twista’s squad and a formation of primitive motorbikes which had shot out of nowhere towards his perch. “FORGIVE ME, MASTER! FORGIVE ME! ANOTHER CHANCE!”
One of the gods must have been listening because to Twista’s surprise, the enemy vanished without a trace.
“Stupid git, talking big like that. Doesn’t he know green is best?” He paused a moment. “Wot’s a Garuda anyway?”
Elsewhere on the battlefield, the Iron Mask Corps were engaged in a desperate firefight with Boz and his Looters. Currently they were one for one, but Boz was good enough at counting to know there were nine of them and four of his boys left, which was probably a bad thing.
– Cycle 2 –
The sun was beginning to rise on the now-decapitated Mechanical Host of Ju’zan The Infernal. Far to the eastern flank, Khedora Omicron’s seeping, rusted eye-sockets flared red and painted an oncoming vehicle as a threat. Technical. Orkish. Twelve Passengers. One Driver. One Gunner. ENGAGE.
From the fleshy mess of its arm, a long antenna stabbed out and melted into a spherical tip. Coils began to glow along the bleeding mass and a whip of pinkish energy cut the enemy vehicle in half.
Greenbeard realised things had gone very, very wrong at that point. The truck’s forward momentum didn’t stop, the two halves spun off in opposite directions and he was catapulted through the air. When he eventually got himself the right way up, found his hat and pipe and did a quick head-count he found he came up with the right number of bodies but short a few heads.
Khedora Omicron couldn’t smile but it did nod its head. MISSION COMPLETE. AWAITING FURTHER ORDERS.
As he watched from Hell Castle’s regrowth tanks, Ju’zan would come to realise that this point was probably where his grand plan completely failed, and he knew precisely who was responsible.
Had Brocken, Champion of the Iron Masks, opened fire on Greenbeard as his unit was regrouping, there is a good chance that the battle would have been over there.
Instead he saw a chance to earn the favour of the Chaos Gods, and charged.
“I, Brocken, will strike you down and-”
“All right.” The Ork’s disdain was clear.
Brocken swung at Greenbeard and dealt the wizened Ork a blow that should have brought him down.
Greenbeard ignored it and quite handily dismembered the aghast Chaos champion.
“Take that, you… squig-puff.”
The rest of the melee, however, was a far messier affair. Greenbeard’s already depleted bodyguard were being cut to ribbons by the enraged Iron Masks, and they began running.
On the other flank, however, Twista had just found out what a Garuda was. A massive lumbering beast of metal and fleshy parts, with a great spiked fist and a vile cannon that spat out chunks of flaming rock. With methodical movements it pounded the surviving bikers into a smear on the sand and continued undeterred.
As he watched from behind a low barricade, Greenbeard pondered the situation, which was troubling his great Orkish mind. They had killed the enemy boss, for sure, and he had chopped up that idiot who had tried to challenge him, but something was missing.
His radio crackled as if a response.
“GREENBEARD, THIS IS MAVERICK. THIS IS MAVERICK. DO YOU COPY, GREENBEARD?”
“There you are you git, what kept you?” On the horizon, a kind of smoky blur was advancing fast on the battlefield.
“YOU NEVER TOLD ME WOT TO DO.”
“SHOOT THESE STUPID GITS IS WHAT!” Greenbeard sighed. Maverick could be proper stupid sometimes.
The Iron Mask Corps had taken position behind another barricade a few dozen metres from Greenbeard’s depleted retinue, and didn’t see the plane coming. The first salvo from its clusters of machine guns killed them almost to a man.
“GOOD ONE MAVERICK.”
“SOLID COPY BOSS.”
– Cycles 3-4 –
The battle had come to a sort of stalemate. The Khedorans were pouring shots ineffectually into the sky and at the Orkish fort, the seething crowd of fanatical hangers-on that Ju’zan had employed as a human shield were picking at Twista’s unit with their rifles, but nothing was happening.
Even Boz’s mob couldn’t make headway. They were firing off frantic waves of bullets at everything and anything but to no effect. Until Boz suddenly had an idea.
“Look down the aiming thing.”
That seemed to work. The big metal thing that had been making slow progress towards the Mek Shop was suddenly stilled as bullets bit into its organic parts. It slumped downwards momentarily, then rose back up and unleashed a wave of fire back at Boz, who ducked just in time to see the magma-shells explode above him.
Greenbeard had been biding his time, testing the waters for the right moment to strike. Each time had so far been the wrong moment, as every time he tried to emerge from behind the barricade a wall of bullets forced him back.
Elsewhere, Khedora Omega had acquired its own target. Aircraft. Orkish. One Pilot. ENGAGE. Its arm unfolded into a cluster of machine guns, and even the ace Ork pilot Maverick couldn’t dodge all the bullets without putting the plane in a crash dive and gunning the engine to get out of range
Spurred on by seeing Maverick having to dodge like that, Boz ordered his boys to fire again. They had forgotten what he had said about aiming, and the sand around Garuda XII was rent with bullet-scars. Yet for all this, little had changed.
Finally, the tedious stalemate broke. Garuda’s implacable advance finally bore fruit and it lumbered up to the Mek Shop and smashed a fist straight through its door. Once inside, it wreaked glorious havoc on the gretchin inside, killing all but one before they could even react. One of the Orkish technicians grabbed the stunted creature and leapt through a window, on the way out shouting an unclear order up to Boz.
Boz heard half of the order. The half that said “BLOW THE-”
That was the half that he needed to hear. He pressed the plunger by his feet and covered his ears.
In the hangar of the Mek Shop, Garuda had finally run out of targets. It was just beginning to look for more when Boz’s Big Bomb exploded, caving in most of the hangar and dropping several tons of metal on the Mechanical Beast. A last salvo from the Shop’s guns spat out in all directions, and cut Khedoran Omicron down where it stood.
As Maverick flew off, pulling his plane into insane maneuvers to dodge the incoming machine gun fire, Greenbeard heard the explosion.
“WOT WAS THAT?!”
“I killed the big thing.” Boz sounded proud.
“YOU BLEW UP MY MEK SHOP YOU STUPID GIT.”
Greenbeard, in a fit of fury, threw caution to the wind and charged the surviving members of the Iron Masks, pounding them flat.
– Cycles 6-7 –
Ju’zan’s host was almost entirely wiped out. Khedoran Omega could do little but slowly advance to avenge its brother, firing a white-hot lance of light straight at the massive Ork warlord, but all that managed to do was incinerate Greenbeard’s hat.
Twista’s boys had been being picked off one by one by the mob of cultists and traitors guarding Ju’zan’s field command post, and enough was enough. They charged, braving the wall of fire, and suddenly realised how badly outnumbered they were. Humans, some wearing nothing but rags, swamped them. Eventually, Twista was able to kill enough to force them back, but both sides were looking worn out and bloodied and there were too many humans. He fled, letting the others cover his retreat so he could come back and fight again. Even when he saw Maverick return, he knew the battle was not going to go much differently.
In the wreckage of the Mek Shop, Lucky the Grot, Greenbeard and the surviving Technician huddled around a burning barrel.
“Wot was that all about?”
– Epilogue –
“I think we won, Boss.” Maverick’s voice was now loud and clear for some reason.
“No thanks to you you stupid squig-puff.” Greenbeard quite liked that phrase. “And no thanks to you, Boz.”
“You blew up my Mek Shop. Wot are you playing at?”
“It seemed like the right thing to do.”
The Chaos forces had fled the battlefield, leaving the few surviving Orks and their wrecked building. For what would be the first battle of a bloody campaign, it seemed oddly inconclusive.
“YOU HAVE FAILED, JU’ZAN!”
“I said I should have been there, Great General!”
“SHUT UP, ACHERON! WHY DID YOU FAIL!”
“I… I cannot be held responsible for the failures of others!” Ju’zan stood up. “Give me more Mechanical Beasts, more warriors, and I WILL AVENGE THIS DAY!”
“BE SURE THAT YOU DO!”
Ju’zan stared at the star-chart, and stabbed at a planet with his bionic arm.
“We… we will set out a base here. From here we will send out forces, send our Mechanical Beasts, and truly we will do you proud! All hail the Great General!”
“If I may, your Excellence.” Acheron spoke up again in its strange voice. “The Orks are mustering at this point. If we build up forces in this local strongpoint, after… purging the local defenders… we can more efficiently strike the blow we so greatly deserve.”
“DO IT. AND DO NOT FAIL!”
“I will not fail… for I have the legendary Mechanical Beast Dabura VII just ready to be deployed against the subhuman foe!”
Had the planet Acheron planned to attack actually been under the control of Greenbeard’s forces, it would have been a sound plan. However, it was not. There were two Ork warlords in that system, and they were already at each others’ throats after an alliance had gone sour. Neither Acheron on Ju’zan knew that by launching an attack on Zagboink’s army, they were strengthening their nemesis.
Elsewhere on the planet where the Hell Castle had set down, another, smaller ship had landed
“HE IS HERE. THE DEMON WHO WE HAVE HUNTED FOR SO LONG. BATTLE BROTHERS, TO ARMS! TODAY WE DO OUR DUTY AS GREY KNIGHTS! SUFFER NOT THE DEMON TO LIVE!”