Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers
Part 1 <> Part 2 <> Part 3 <> Part 4
“Now we’re alone,” it chortled. “Hello, brother. You must know who I am, don’t you?”
Cruz stared at the worn emblems that decorated Zechariah’s sarcophagus. Some were mere slivers of silver in the pale light of Khrell’s moons. A few still had both wings. One even had the sword.
Never give up. Never, Cruz thought. “Brother Zechariah, you have much to answer for,” Cruz whispered. It was the traditional words spoken when confronting the Fallen.
“True. True.” It leaned over and picked Cruz up by his shattered arm. He felt nothing.
Blessed Emperor, I thank thee, Cruz thought. Once again I owe a debt I cannot repay.
“I’ve waited a very long time for this,” Zechariah said. The barrels of the autocannons began to rotate as it leveled them at Cruz’s head. “Do you know how long, brother?”
“Couldn’t guess,” Cruz whispered. He wanted very much to just close his eyes and let go. But that would be letting him win, wouldn’t it? he thought. Yes. Yes, that would. Slowly, so as not to attract Zechariah’s attention and because he could move no faster, his free hand drifted toward the grenade dispenser on his belt.
“A very long time,” Zechariah replied. The monster half-turned, and Cruz heard more than felt the bones in his arm grinding. “Tell me, little angel, did you ever think that your life would end this way?”
Out of the corner of his eye, Cruz could see Rashna Marga behind Zechariah, and amazingly, the he was still alive, feebly crawling towards his bolt pistol, which lay several meters away, not far from his tiger-striped helmet. Their eyes met—Rashna Marga nodded feebly. What is he doing? Does he have a plan? Maybe. I have to buy him time. Never give up. Never.
“Actually, pendejo, I had always imagined that I would end my days in a little hacienda somewhere warm. And every morning I would awaken to find your mother lying next to me on my pillow.”
The flurrying electronic eyes stopped. For a moment, the great metal beast was perfectly still. Then the barrels of the autocannons rotated again and the claw gripped him tighter. “Are you making fun of me?”
Cruz removed the krak grenade from the dispenser. So far, Zechariah had noticed neither his sleight of hand nor Rashna Marga. “Yes, I am. A dying man dares anything. Snap me in half if you want. But I’ll be the last person you ever kill. There’s no one else on this planet, and I think you will be here until the end of the universe. So if I were you, I would take my time.”
“You are incorrect. And yet you are, at the same time, correct, little angel. You are incorrect in that you are hardly the last man I shall kill. Right now, a ship is on its way. Its crew is expecting to pick up a wounded Fighting Tiger and you, his prisoner. But instead they will find me. I will use my powers to teleport myself aboard, and as I rip them to pieces I will absorb their memories. Then I will go wherever I chose. Millions will die—many of them former brothers like you—before I see my end.
“But you are correct in that I shall indeed kill you slowly. As slowly as I can, anyway. My impulsive nature might get the best of me. So let’s start right away. Why don’t you tell me your name, so I know who you are.”
Behind Zechariah, Rashna Marga crawled closer and closer. His face was contorted in agony, but he kept coming, creeping along quiet as a cat.
“My name? Is it really that important?”
“Names are very important. They define who we are as human beings.”
A few more inches, and Rashna Marga would have his weapon. Slowly, very slowly, Cruz began to raise his free hand, the one that held the grenade. Cruz forced himself to chuckle weakly. “I find it hard to believe that you still consider yourself human, Brother Zechariah.”
“Why? Because I wear this armor? Your name. Give it to me. Now.”
“Because you ceased being a human being when you first licked your Chaos Master beneath his tail.”
“Another insult. Another jest. You really are remarkable.”
Cruz heard a faint keening sound, the whine of an approaching craft, and saw Rashna Marga moving past his pistol, reaching for his helmet.
Zechariah tilted back, electric eyes scanning the dark heavens. “Oh dear. I believe our time together is running short. Do you hear that? Here comes my—”
Never give up. Never. With his last bit of strength, Cruz pressed the detonate button on the krak grenade and stuffed it down the cannon barrel just centimeters from his face.
The screeching of the Garuda’s engines was drowned out by a sharp snapping sound as the grenade went off inside the autocannon’s barrel and Zechariah bellowed in agony. The arm exploded in a shower of shrapnel that pelted Rashna Marga but ricocheted off his armor. He glanced up and saw the monster squash what was left of Cruz against a boulder. Again, there was a horrible wet crunching noise.
Apology accepted, Cruz, Rashna Marga thought. You were a good man.
Zechariah staggered but kept standing, its right arm completely blown away. Smoke poured from its sarcophagus and foul-smelling yellow liquid dribbled from dozens of tiny holes. Yet still the Sorcerer lived. It whirled, saw him, and bellowed again.
He only had a second, perhaps two, before the thing was upon him. He yanked on his helmet, activated the comlink with his chin. The ground beneath him literally shook as the Chaos Dreadnought thundered closer, no more than a yard or two away. Above them, the Garuda’s engines roared.
The thing was bellowing something—Rashna Marga ignored it, waiting for the crackle in his ear that told him the link was forged. It came. “Garuda, this is Rashna Marga. Fire main weaponry on my position. Fire main—”
Rashna Marga’s ribcage under his foot, silencing him. And an instant later,
the gorge filled with searing white plasma.
The black asphalt of the base was dusted with a thin layer of dry soil the color of blood. Zaghnal Maratha, Tiger of Brihaspati, entered the command bunker and easily found the red-haired woman who stood at the center of a flurry of activity.
“—objectives for the next engagement. I want a full report as soon as Vingh Patel’s group returns,” Raja Khandar Madu, co-ruler of the Fighting Tigers, said to the aide at her side. She turned to Zaghnal Maratha. “Yes, advisor?”
“The Garuda is enroute from Khrell,” he said, handing her a diskette. “As Rashna Marga suspected they would, the Dark Angels arrived. His detachment engaged them but was lost to a man.”
“And our enemies?”
“Also destroyed to a man. It is all in the report.”
She said nothing for a moment. “How did Rashna Marga die?”
“Sepoy Raaman Dursha, the pilot, witnessed Rashna Marga's death in single combat against a Dark Angel Dreadnought. The Dreadnought was vaporized moments later by the Garuda’s main plasma cannon.”
“Did the crew of the Garuda verify the enemy’s destruction?”
“Of course, Raja.”
“Fate is truly cruel, Zaghnal Maratha. Rashna Marga had suffered much already.” She handed the diskette to another aide. “When we are finished here on Auros IX we will renew our efforts threefold against the Dark Angels. They will pay for what they have done to Rashna Marga. We will have justice.”
“Of course, Raja. I have already contacted Veda. The HQ staff are rousing Rashna Marga’s next incarnation as we speak. Doubtless, he shall be eager for vengeance.”
“Doubtless.” She turned back to the bank of vidmonitors that covered the walls of the bunker. “Thank you, Zaghnal Maratha. The war goes on.”
The war goes on.”
thanks to Luis Nunez for the inspiration and suggestions and to Patrick
Eibel (as always) for his superb editing.
Like what you've seen? Then vote for the Jungle in the "Top 100 40K Sites"
© Copyright Kenton
Kilgore December 2000
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers