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Subject: Smirking Da Chosen One - Ch. 24 An Interview With Da Chosen One
Its been a long time coming and could be longer yet but I've decided to just go ahead and start posting what I've got.
What am I talking about? My second book of Smirking. Don't worry if you haven't read the first one (The Adventures of Smirking: A Grot's Life ) , its a different Smirking. A different character and a different world but some of the names are the same. There will of course be illustrations along the way, some of you may already have seen some of them, so hopefully not too many spoilers there.
Enough preamble, on with the show.
Chapter 1 : Da Chosen One
They came from every corner of the ocean, bourne on boats of all manner of build and description. The remnants of every once-proud tribe. A last desperate unification, in spite of all deep seated rivalries. A final gathering of the savage green-skin race, drawn to the signal of a mighty smoking volcano, the call of the Reek of Gork. (Or the Fume of Mork, depending on who you asked.)
Longboats overloaded with salty Shark Toof boyz, harpoons and scars and hooks for hands. Kite-surfing Wave-Stompas dodged the sleek red sail-boats of the Red-Fin Reavers who sliced the waves as they tacked ashore. A ponderous floating driftwood hulk brought Marly's Whalerz floundering in a perpetual slick. An impressive craft of nautical splendour declared the lofty presence of the Arch-Bukkaneer while stearless rafts of flotsam junk drifted in to shore, their half-sane denizens, the last few die hards of the Gut-rot Gang shambling onto the sand. Above them all, drums and whoops carried down the smoke-choked winds from the fuming mount. An inexorable call stirring their blood to unite at the last.
** ** ** ** ** **
"Der's jus' no stoppin' em!" one ork in a bright red head-band complained. "Dey swoop in from da sky and sink a hundred orks at a time!"
"Even if we 'its 'em 'ard! Wif our best 'arpoonz," a salty scarboy added, "Dey jus' bounce off!"
"Aye, tough as a Grox-back's shell, dey are!"
"An' dat's just da flyers! Av' ya seen da wurrly-burds?" a Gut-Rotter enthused from a corner. He began describing a flying machine with whirling blades that spat tiny metal arrows that flew so fast...
The other orks ignored him and went back to their own tales of woe.
"If you hadn't've gone an' stirred 'em up in da furst place..." began an angry ork waring an oversized red hair-squig.
"Yer cowardly, Oomie-lovin' little..."
The pair fell to blows to the delight of the assembled crowd. Fists and teeth flew as old grudges were aired, recently buried hatchets exhumed and new disputes begun. Someone tossed a grot into the fray for a laugh and those taking bets shouted the odds.
A tall young Shaman appeared on a raised dais in a large Black-Gull feathered head-dress. He was in fact a bald, old, wrinkled shaman on a rather tall rock but the effect was acheived. He raised his bellowing voice and his impressively adorned Magic-Waagh Staff over the crowd. He had their attention, mostly. The Gut-Rotter still ranted to himself at the back.
"We all know the Oomans is gettin' braver. Betta at buildin' stuff an' 'arda ta fight. Used ta be we rooled da waves. We 'unted Sharks an' Sail-fish. Slaughtered whales an' great sea monsters by da 'undreds!"
His crowd were listening now, the Shark-Toof boys Red-Fins and Whalers were getting dewy eyed with memories of the good old days, before the humans grew more advanced, built metal ships and took to the skies, hunting their little boats with impunity.
"Now lookit yer! We've clobbered eachover jus' like dis for too long. Sharks an' Whalerz, Redz an' Bukkaneerz, Gullz an' Stompaz....Bah!"
"Oi! An' Gut-Rotts!"
"Shuv-it you! I'll still smack up a Gut-Rott git any day." A cheer bubbled up from the sullen crowd. Nobody liked the Gut-Rott Gang, much as they all love their Gut-Rott brew. The grot crawled out from the dense pack in the centre of the throng, a black eye and a limp but none the worse for the impromptu scrap.
"We is all Orks!" the shaman continued, "We should all be fightin' da Oomans! We should'a been all along!"
"But how!" they groaned.
"Dey've got bigga boats an' shootas..."
"We tries ta take der stuff but it's no use!"
"We don't even hav' da know wots ta build our own stuff!"
The crowd was becoming unsettled, getting angry and starting to turn on the Shaman. He sensed danger and felt it was time for a little razzmatazz.
"Den it's time we thought bigger..."
"Yeah!" yelled an enthusiastic Whaler
"...an' killier!" he added with vague gesticulation.
"kill 'em all! Deft ta Oomie skum!" they cried.
"We don't need der puny ships an' flyin' wotsits!"
"Yeah, we don't need any... Huh?"
"Dat's why we've all come here, ta dis island!"
"To da big smoke." he pointed to the big smoke perpetually rising from the volcano behind him but the crowd was losing the plot, it was time to cut the chase.
"We need da Godz! Gork an' Mork!"
"Gork an' Mork! Gork an' Mork!" the chant grew loud and started to gather momentum until the lack of any giant stomping deities made itself woefully apparent.
"Well where are Dey den?" asked a big toothy Bukkaneer.
"Yeah! Where's yer Godz, Black-Gull." Yelled an angry Wave-Stompa with a black eye.
The boys of the Black-Gull clan jumped up to the defence of their most venerable Shaman but he stayed their wrath with a withering glare.
"We must call our Godz!" he preached. "Call down der wrath on da Oomans' heads, an' den we will march to da tread of their Giant Stompy Feet!"
The doubters were listening with questions in their eyes. He thought he might have an answer everyone would get behind.
"But first," he explained "we need ta get der attenshun. We need a sacrifice!"
"Da Shark Toofs pledge an 'undred 'arpoons!" yelled the boss of the Shark Toof boys throwing down his own. His boys followed suit. The grot in front had some trouble avoiding the flying spears, he thought some of the boys were aiming at him. No-one bothered to count the gathered harpoons but all agreed the offering was mightily impressive.
"I give a ransom of teef!" bellowed the Arch-Bukkaneer himself, not to be outdone. He waved aloft a string of massive teeth from around his own neck and the assembled mass of orks oohed and aahed on cue.
A whole catalogue of likely offerings were hurled at the Shaman's feet by all the ork tribes there represented.
"Yer not 'avin' me Gut-Rott." a voice in the back grumbled.
"No no no!" complained the Shaman. "These... Worthy offerings," a politic acknowledgment given the present company "are not enough to turn da very faces of our Mighty Ones toward our desperate plight. We need a real sacrifice, a green-skin sacrifice. A Living Sacrifice, a Chosen One!"
There was a pause while they all considered the import of what was being suggested.
The grot in front was hoisted up and carried atop the shoulders of the enthusiastic mob.
"Da Chosen One!" they chanted as the grot was passed from one rough grasping pair of hands to another. Everyone wanted to touch the Chosen One, to be part of the great event.
"To da mountain!" announced the Shaman, leading the throng at the head of their procession.
The grot was carried aloft like a prized relic, a conquering hero to the top of the volcano. He had been many things, he thought along the way. A scrubber, a fisher, a bird plucker. Maybe a sacrifice would be a good change of pace for him. Everyone else seemed to be mightily enthusiastic about it. But what, he pondered, did a sacrifice do exactly?
This message was edited 25 times. Last update was at 2019/10/18 23:57:13
The sky above was turning thick with ash and clouds. A wind had begun to whip around their heads as if a storm was closing in though it was well ahead of season. Great, thought BlackGull the Shaman, perhaps he'd even get to take credit for a lightning strike or two. Beneath their feet the hungry mountain rumbled for it's sacrifice. He hurried them along, up and up and up.
By the time they arrived the Chosen One had gathered to himself a fine assemblage of accoutrements. A Shark-Toof harpoon, a Red-Fin head dress, a necklace of various large teef and black whale-skin cape which was tied to each wrist to give the impression of Black-Gull wings. One of the Wave-Stompas had been adamant that he take a pair of wide wooden skis but they kept falling off. The ork followed after with the skis under his arm regardless. Every tribe and mob would have its icon borne to the Godz by the Chosen One. They had even managed to requisition a gourd full of Rot-Gutt which was liberally poured down the grot's throat at intervals giving him a warm squishy feeling in his head and a tummy ache.
They crested the final ridge that overlooked the fuming mouth of the volcano and the grot beheld the fire within. Toasty, he thought drunkenly.
The mountain coughed and spluttered beneath them. BlackGull island was the last in a series of volcanic islands that stretched for miles out into the ocean in a wide sickle arc known to the local orkish mariners as the bad-moon peaks. It was the last and the largest and the only one of them still active. The symbol of their gods and the cultural centre of all the ocean-dwelling green-skin population.
"Behold da gob of da Godz!" announced BlackGull the Shaman. What a scene, he thought, what an audience! A peal of thunder shuddered in the upper atmosphere
"Hear dem laughing in da clouds!"
The ground shifted beneath them all and noxious sulphurous fumes escaped from the cracks that appeared in the stone.
"Feel der rumbling belly! Sniff der mighty stink!"
The orks capered and roared and gennerated an aura of green Waaagh Energy which hovered in the pregnant air slowly coalescing around the Shaman's staff. He could hardly believe his luck.
"Dey come! Da Mighty Ones are watching!"
The sky above burst on cue, as flashes of static lightening as the heavy cloud and boiling smoke roiled above and fell as burning ash. He could almost see the giant feet descending through the clouds already, in flame and noise and glorious violence.
The sacrifie was prepared, bedecked in all the assembled finery and gear of the tribes, united at last, and He, the Chief Shaman of the Black-Gullz tribe had done it all. Only one thing remained before he would surely stand upon the shoulders of the Godz themselves the greatest warlord ever to wield the power of the Waaagh. The sacrifice.
He touched the tip of his waaagh-charged staff to the grot's rear end and the diminutive Chosen One shot off like a firework, green sparks flying, hurtling down the brief slope on his skis before toppling over the edge and into the abyss.
The sudden whoosh of rising hot air was a shock to the system. Suddenly sober, the grot screamed as he plunged headlong toward certain death. Then strangely he stopped. The harpoon and skis and fancy head dress fell away into the molten rock below as he hung, suspended in the air like a bunny above a boiling pot, borne up by the rising thermals caught in his great whale-skin wings.
The blistering heat was unbearable. Cinders of hair-squig and clothing fluttered off in the swirling hot air. His green skin began to bubble and bake and fused with the whale-skin wings along his arms and shoulders. The gourd of Gut-Rott brew dangled below him strung around his neck. As the heat boiled the brew within, the gourd bulged and hissed and finally exploded in a gout of liquid flame. The grot's face was flash-fried in an instant. He'd had about enough, he thought, of being a sacrifice.
At that moment there came a roaring wind from above and a deep rumbling from below and the mountain cracked wide open. The erupting blast from beneath him compelled the winged grot high into the air. Higher and higher out of the volcano. Past the gathered, frightened orks, now fleeing for their lives. Higher past the heavy clouds of ash and smoke, their sparks of lightning born of heat and friction. Higher still into the roiling clouds, where something massive was falling from the heavens.
On and on it fell trailing tails of atmosphere in flames. The grot tossed and rolled in the turbulence until finally he was flung clear of it all.
High upon a cool sea breeze he rode, watching in utter stupification the answer of the Godz. An incredible hulk of a thing the size of a mountain dropping down upon the smoking burning ruin that had once been his island home. When it finally struck the surface there was an almighty crash. A powerful shock wave blasted up into the air, pushing the sacrificed grot far out to sea on a warm gust. As he fell again, a massive tsunami leapt up from the depths, stretching out in all directions racing upon the surface of the ocean and obliterating all before it. Islands he had known for years were washed away in seconds just as new peaks formed from under the sea breaking the surface and re-drawing the maps anew.
At the centre of it all was a new thing. Twice the size of the island it had obliterated. Rising high out of the ocean, dark and smoking and brooding in the heart of the upheaval.
As the clouds of the ash and dust drifted down to the surface one among them sailed far out to sea. In a gliding dive the flying grot hit the surface of the water and the cool of the ocean at last quenched the heat of his burning skin. The salt in the water stung the raw flesh with a fresh pain bringing on a final swoon, as the Chosen One gave himself at last into the hands of the Godz.
On an unknown beach in an unknowable sea an unknown creature washed up and lay in the surf surrounded by the debris of calamity: Dead fish, drowned hair-squigs, large timber fragments and smaller flotsam. Other broken things and forgotten leftovers littered the shore but this creature was the only one amongst them to rise from the sand, shake the water off its oily wings and drag its pathetic body onto dry land.
The grot lay helpless for a time, suffering the worst Gut-Rott hangover he had ever experienced. His recollections were patchy at best. Had he been skiing? Something smelled smokey. He tried to shake the cobwebs from his hazy memory and wished he hadn't. His brain throbbed with the motion. It was only when he went to cradle his delicate head that he felt how tender was his skin. Then he remembered the fire, the burning. A deep burn spread from his neck right up to his nose. The blistered skin stretched tight across his face pulling his lips thin and wide and exposing many sharp little teeth in a cruel grin.
His voice was hoarse and pained, his throat felt like he'd been breathing fire. When he noticed the Whale-skin wings still tied to his wrists he tried to remove them but even with the chords undone they stayed stubbornly attached to his person. He picked at his scabbed and blistered skin trying to separate whale from grot to no avail and eventually gave up.
On that day he had little strength to do anything more than lie in the shade and sleep. His dreams were filled with wind and fire. He dreamt that as he fell faster and faster a great flame reached down from above and great fingers of fire flew up from below. He swooped and dived like a great black gull fighting through the tempest to reach the shore. He knew he must succeed, the very survival of his race depended on it. All their hopes were pinned on HIM, their chosen one. The ranting voice of BlackGull the Shaman was an ever-present threat echoing in the back of his mind.
"It's time we thought bigger... an' killier..."
"We don't need der puny ships an' flyin' wotsits!"
"We need da Godz! Gork an' Mork!"
"Call down der wrath on da Oomans' heads, an' den we will march to da tread of their Giant Stompy Feet!"
He awoke. It was dark. A pale green moon reflected in the still silent ocean yet his little green heart still pounded like a storm surge. A dream. Just a dream. Yet here he was, alone. The last hope of a desperate people. One chosen to go. A sacrifice, a messenger, a line cast out into the sea to bring back... Something. Fish? He was very hungry and it was hard not to think about fish. The beach was littered with them, left behind from the massive wave that had surely drowned this island. He gathered them up and feasted like a starved thing.
He lay on the beach too full even to roll. Looking up at the stars he could see the little points of light moving to and fro among them. They said the humans could travel to the stars. Far travelled Bukkaneerz and Red-Fin Reaverz had told of how they saw the human ships riding trails of fire into the sky. He wasn't sure if he really believed that but it might explain why they had shot him out of a volcano with wings on. Maybe he was meant to go to the stars to find help, not flop back down and splash into the sea, all wasted and washed up.
He lay there cursing his misfortunes and wondering just when he had begun to care so much. He used to be just as feckless as the next grot. His butt itched.
Soon he was healing well. Much of his once bright green skin remained stubbornly charred and he was starting to accept the unlikely addition of wings to his body. They took a little getting used to. On gusty days he had to keep his arms down by his sides or risk being blown away. He even tried flapping on more than one occasion but always failed to take off.
He sat and watched a flock of black gulls gliding on the ocean winds, and wondered. They were the totum of the Black-Gull tribe, he knew, but they were only ever known to be found around the Bad-Moon peaks where they nested on the warm sides of the volcano. It was said the smoke and ash of the volcano turned them black, just like himself he thought, stretching out one of his wings. He wondered if they had fled the same disaster that had propelled him here; how far they had travelled; what other islands and people had they visited?
Whether jealous of their freedom or simply bored in his captivity the grot decided it was time to leave his solitary island. He had tried to swim once but his wings made manoeuvring in the water very difficult indeed. Eventually he conceded that the most sensible thing to do would be to build a boat of a raft of some sort. He had enough drift wood, he thought, and his own wings would do for a sail at a pinch.
He laboured for days, or at least a couple of hours each day, with long breaks in between until at last it was ready. The thing consisted of five driftwood planks loosely bound together with long strands of ropy vine and seaweed. He gave it a mast made of a thin tree he had found on the island. A few leaves still clung to the twiggy branches as he pushed the thing into the water and hopped on board.
He stretched his arms out wide to catch the ocean breeze and was very nearly blown right off into the sea. Of course, he thought. He couldn't hold onto the mast and spread his wings to the wind at the same time. For his next attempt he held tight with one hand and spread one wing out. The effect was similar only this time he managed to pluck the tree from the planks of his raft. He and the mast tumbled into the waves. Floundering with his wings in the water he swallowed a mouthful or two before managing to claw his way back on board.
Dejected and out of sensible options he lay as flat to the creaking planks as his billowing wings would allow as the wind whipped the waves around him. When the first plank slipped loose he looked around desperately for the shore of his little island, his refuge, his only hope, by now just a speck on the horizon.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2018/05/13 17:26:13
"Waaagh-dar kontact!" a gruff voice bellowed down the communication tubes to the kaptain's control booth. "Big-un too! Dead ahead."
Kaptain GorGoff locked the wheel and grabbed the throttle pulling the leaver down all the way, full power dead ahead. He clapped his hands together and rubbed them with glee. A big Waaagh-dar contact could only mean one thing, lots of orks! Or maybe a lone Wierdboy. They sometimes messed with the readings of Waaagh-sensitive equipment but usually it was a pretty good indicator of where the best fighting was at. GorGoff was the biggest baddest Kaptain in the whole Gorka-Fleet and he was always itching to get out there on the open sea where his name was rightly feared.
"We're nearly der, Boss... I mean Kaptain." the Waaagh-dar operator's voice came down the tubes. "Da lookout reports no sightings but da blip on me screen iz a whoppa, an we'z right on top ov it!"
GorGoff frowned and sent orders to kill the engines. The immense screw-driven Krooza "Gorka-Ship Grond-Hammer" groaned and shuddered to a drift in the rolling waves. No sightings on a whopping great Waaagh-dar blip right in front of them wasn't a promising sign. He stomped out on-deck and up to the bow to see for himself what was there.
Nothing up high, the sky was clear. Not a cloud, no sight or sound of a Morka dakka-jet or Bomba-Wing. Only a solitary black gull wheeling overhead. He crossed the foredeck and looked out over the gunwale. The sight was a sorry one. No enemy boat bristling with angry ork boyz, no fortified island outpost crawling with Morkers ready to be pounded into submission. No prospect of combat of any kind. Just a sorry, bedraggled little figure clinging to a plank in the waves. It looked up at his large, incredulous face peering over the side.
"What're you smirking at?" GorGoff complained.
The smirking grot was in fact staring in total dumbstruck awe. He had never in his wildest dreams imagined a boat this size. Even the largest metal-built human ships he had heard of must be just canoes in comparison; And this one manned by Orks no less!
"Fink yer pretty funny draggin' us all out 'ere fer nuffink do ya?"
The castaway grot tried to pull his scarred-tight lips down to cover his teeth but they wouldn't go. He covered his perpetual grin with a hand.
"Laughin' at us are ya?" GorGoff barked "I'll teach you to laugh in yer sleeve at me yer good-fer-nuffink grot. Jus' wait'll I get yer on board."
GorGoff's face disappeared from view and a rope dropped over the side and dangled in the water. The grot eyed it sceptically. The offer of a solid boat and passage to dry land was very tempting but it was tinged with the danger of an angry ork boss who had already taken a dislike to him. He could still hear GorGoff's giant voice from above as he continued shouting.
"MorGuz!" the Kaptain yelled, as loud as the ships foghorn. "You stupid zoggin' gak-fer-brains spawn-ov-a turd-breath Grox!"
"ermm... Wotcha see Boss... I mean Kaptain?"
"Yer Waaagh-dar whoppa is nuffink but a zoggin' grot on a stick!"
"A grot... on a...?"
"On a stick! Which I'm gonna shuv' right up yer..."
"Morka-Wing incoming!" the lookout yelled from his post atop the highest point of the ship and the ship's siren sounded the alert.
"Battle-stations!" yelled GorGoff clambering up into the cabin at the helm of the heavy Battle-Krooza.
"Prime da balloons!" he ordered, anticipating the imminent bombing run. A series of big canvas balloons were hastilly inflated. They rose into the air over the ship, tethered by thick steel cables; a discouragement to any plane that might attempt a low level strafing run along the length of the ship but not much protection from any heavy ordinance that may be dropped from high above.
"Ready da big-gunz!" he needn't have bothered with this last order. The big guns of the Grond-Hammer were always ready. Six quad-cannon anti-aircraft guns swivelled in their turrets scanning the skies for diving targets. A pair of twin barrelled heavy ordinance turrets fore and aft, more suited to large stationary targets sprang into motion scanning for an aircraft carrier and perhaps even a couple of Korvett escorts. Morka-wing assault fleets mostly stayed away from the big Gorka-Fleet Kroozas, they let their longer-ranged aircraft take care of them but there was always the chance they might stray too close to the action when the lure of rich salvage was too hard to resist.
A pair of smaller Gorka-Fleet gunboats came circling around the bow at high speed. The grot in the water was tossed off his plank by the turbulent waves in their wake. He clung to the rope like a fish on a hook floundering on the surface of the water.
Then he saw them. Three aircraft training plumes of thick smoke high in the air, they were diving in like meteors falling from some nightmare. The human flying machines, he thought, they had found him!
Then the guns opened up and blazed all fury into the sky. The sound was incredible. Like a torrent of ork-made thunder sending arrows of flaming rage screaming into the wind.
This was more like it, the Chosen One enthused. This was the answer to all their prayers and petitions to da Godz. This was what he was chosen for.
Then the bombs fell. At first they were only specs, like seeds blown from three pods on a high wind-blown branch. They hung in the air and fell and fell, and grew and grew. The first to hit the surface of the water did so well wide of the mark but the blast was enough to shock the grot clean out of his senses. He clung to his rope, his life line, as another pair of blasts sounded from the other side of the ship. The sea grew warm and oily and dead things floated up from below.
The dive-bombers looped up high and there was a deathly silence. Or perhaps it was just a combination of shock and the ringing in his ears. Coming to his senses the grot scrambled up the rope propelled by a surprising burst of energy born of adrenaline and desperation. He clambered up over the side and collapsed in heap on the foredeck.
Aboard the ship he watched the crew go about their business with energy and enthusiasm. His saviours, his salvation, his prize. This was his purpose made real, the very work of da Godz. He raised his hideous little face defiantly toward the enemy. Seeing the bombers hurtling in for another run at the ship he briefly considered jumping back into the sea.
The first bomb splashed down dangerously close, in the water astern of the vessel. The rearward anti-aircraft cannons followed the course of the culprit a fraction too slowly and it swooped away out of range. A second flew in low narrowly avoiding the barrage balloons. The Grond-Hammer received some light damage amidships from the bomber's cannons but little more.
The third aircraft was not so lucky. Coming in late and flying too straight and steady for too long it was caught in a deadly crossfire from a trio of quad-barrelled anti-aircraft turrets. As they sang their chorus of dakka-dakka-dakka one of its engines exploded in a shower of flaming oil and the damaged plane began to drop rapidly. As it approached them at speed the flames went out and the pilot wrestled the controls managing to level out his aircraft, but too late.
The terrified grot threw himself flat as the dive-bomber screamed over his head and collided with the cables of a pair of barrage balloons. The cables whipped around the wing and a set of attached explosive charges swung around, slamming home to finish the job. The flaming wreckage splashed down a heartbeat later on the port side of the ship.
The grot leapt to his feet and followed the crowd of onlookers to the other side of the foredeck for a better view of the action.
"Salvage!" yelled GorGoff and a gretchin crew sprang into action dropping a heavy harpoon into a gun mounted on a post the gunwale. The newcomer was shoved out of the way and they set about harpooning the still smoking wreck as it briefly rested precariously upon the waves.
"Gotcha!" squealed a tiny runt of a grot just as the wreckage sank, and sure enough the cable attached to his harpoon gun was tethering out at an alarming rate.
"Brace!" yelled a fat grot attaching what looked like a massive clamp to the cable-spool. They all dived out of the way as the spool ran out of cable and the whole assembly, clamp, harpoon gun and all were dragged over the edge of the boat. Then he saw it, the enemy plane, dragged back to the surface by a massive barrage balloon secured to the clamp on the spool. A gunboat came alongside and quickly secured the wreck and the gretchin crew began preparing a dingy.
The stranger remained leaning on the gunwale watching, fascinated by it all, waiting to catch a glimpse of the hated human enemy. Then he saw them, two dead orks battered and bloodied inside the cockpit. His world already well and truly upside-down turned inside-out. That wasn't how it was supposed to be! He was sent to get help to fight the humans. Now here was his great ork salvation fighting other orks. Orks in aircraft no less!
There was no time to dwell on his great confusion. GorGoff had arrived to inspect his spoils and he found the newcomer loitering there, the only one stupid enough not to look busy when the Kaptain was around. Not to worry, GorGoff thought, he had plenty of jobs for idle grots.
"Oi, Smirking!" he barked at the newcomer, indicating the gretchin crew about to launch their galley. "Get ta work!"
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2018/05/20 02:41:09
"Runt, you're on lookout."
"Skab, mess duty."
"Unki, fixin' round. Gunz an' armour gets priority."
"Smudge. I gots an extra sneaky job for ya. Hang about, I'll tell ya all about it."
Grots peeled off the group as their work assignments were called. The grot in charge was known as Sleekit. He had a long sharp nose which stuck out below the brim of a fancy military style peaked cap beneath which cunning eyes brooded. He wore a long heavy coat like a robe of office declaring his authority.
Sleekit knew everything there was to be known about what was what on board the Grond-Hammer. There was nothing that his network of grots in every section of the ship couldn't find out. Sleekit decided who was needed where and dished out the day's jobs and apparently no-one complained, to his face.
"Smirking!" the newcomer jumped at his new name and raised his characteristic toothy maw to the speaker.
Sleekit considered the newcomer's charred flesh and facial burns and assumed he must have been an engine grot, and a survivor. Rare enough on account of how hot and dangerous the job tended to be. He had need of a good experienced engine grot down below decks.
Smirking stood and blinked, not knowing which way the engines were, or in fact what engines might even be. He assumed it was perhaps some sort of orientation thing.
Sleekit frowned. Maybe the new guy was a Morker... The wings might have been a clue. Maybe he only knew jet-engines... Nevermind, Sleekit concluded. Gorkas, Morkas...That stuff was for orks to fight over; grots didn't much take sides they just did the work of whoever they were fighting with, much as they resented it.
"Grunt," he yapped, rousing a thug of a grot from a bench behind him. "take Smirking to da engine room." he anounched, then turning and leaning in he added "an' keep an eye on 'im."
Grunt bulled down into the assembled grots and grabbed Smirking by the scruff fully intending to take him by force.
"Steady on Grunt, I meant show him da way."
"An' dat uvva fing, boss?" Grunt asked, Smirking still dangling from his fist, limp as a boned fish. "Keep an eye?"
Sleekit despaired of ever finding intelligent help.
"Watch 'im like a zoggin' squig-hound." he confirmed, throwing subtlety to the wind.
"Duzzee bite?" Grunt eyed the toothy stranger with sudden concern.
"No, but I do! Engine room, now!"
Life onboard the Grond-Hammer was simple, even if understanding where the fleet had come from was not. Smirking learned what food the engines' hot bellies liked best and how and when to feed them: How they turned the screws that pushed the stupendously large boat through the waves. He had never encountered such awesome power contained and directed by ork hands yet at times the awe turned to drudgery as the long days and hard labour took the shine off the novelty.
All the while, in the back of his mind an inner voice bemoaned the sad reality he had discovered, the broken promise of vengeance on the human enemy that was 'Gorkers versus Morkers.' He had once been an idol, a totem of ork solidarity. He was the Chosen One; launched into the hands of the Godz and gifted with all the power the ork race could muster yet still, they used their mighty ships and planes to pound the snot out of each other when they should have been... He despaired, now he was just Smirking.
The morning air up on deck was cool, blissful after hours of hot engine room grafting. Smirking ran up to the bow and peered over the side, clinging tight so his wings wouldn't carry him away on the wind. He loved to watch the waves torn apart and churned to foam by the awesome power and speed of the big Krooza.
Then he heard gulls. Looking up he was taken by a familiar sight. The Bad-Moon peaks. The first island had already receded away to the horizon behind and another was approaching on the port side. The islands were blasted and wrecked by the same giant wave that he had flown above but he recognised their shape and distribution. Eyeing the far horizon keenly he grew giddily aware of where they were headed.
Home! Black-Gull island. He was returning in triumph and bringing the answer of the Godz to his desperate race. They would divert these giants from their petty animosities and steer them in the right direction. The Chief Shaman was clever and to be respected, he reassured himself; he would tell them; Smirking was the Chosen One.
As they approached a dull shadow spread out from beyond the horizon and Smirking remembered the volcano. Surely BlackGull the Shaman had survived the eruption, or at least those surviving would have a new Shaman by now. Nearer and nearer and the shadow became a fog, it reached out and gripped Smirking's hopes threatening to quench them but he clung on desperately. The volcano was always blowing up, he thought; always there smoking away in the background making the gulls-black and... but there were no gulls now. He hadn't seen nor heard a gull in a long while. The noise of the churning engines was all he could hear.
Then it came, looming out of the smokey mist, not a volcano, nor even the wrecked silhouette of his once home island, but a staggeringly large black monument of living, smoking steel and rock, seething under a mass of green-skinned industry.
Smirking gaped and clung to the railing of his new reality. What had happened here? How long had he been gone? It seemed like only weeks ago he was standing on those very shores watching the tribes gathering to the call of the smoking mountain. Where had all this... stuff come from? He looked up to the clouds in silent wonder. This was not his home.
Where once all manner of tribal boats bobbed and blew across the sea now vessels of immeasurable tonnage crushed the waves beneath their orkish weight. Where once wailing gulls and bright kites circled overhead now koptas and cranes laboured and loaded and clogged the air with thick noise. Where once the volcano had risen presiding over all, there now sat a truely monumental thing in bulky mockery and celebration of orkish form, it's two-faced head rising high above the smoke and leering down on all below.
"Mek-town." A voice beside him startled him out of his reverie. It was Sleekit, apparently come to take in the sights; Or just to continue his surveillance of Smirking.
"Dat's where THEY live." He said through gritted teeth.
"Da Big-Meks and their Mek-boyz an' Spannas." he spat.
"Buildin' new deadlier machines an' finkin' up new ways to squash us 'ard workin' grots."
Smirking had no idea what he was talking about. He just stared at Sleekit in silent appeal. Sleekit saw the question in his eyes.
"Why?" he answered, "for what reason do we suffer?"
Smirking hadn't even considered that particular question amongst the myriad others competing for his bewildered attention, but now he did. Why did they suffer?
"For that!" declared Sleekit decisively, pointing up; up so high he could only mean one thing. "That thing!"
The hatred in his voice was palpable.
"The more they take, the more we bleed, the more they build, and for what? For that!"
Smirking looked at the rock and metal monstrosity at the heart of the island, at the heart of the ocean, of the world, easily twice as big as his volcano had been. His mind struggled to take it in.
"The Meks take and build, while the orks fight and destroy, and we toil and suffer" Sleekit continued, "for that. Its all in the name of the GorkaMorka."
The activity at Gorka-Port was mayhem. Fleet ships came and went, offloading scrap and raw materials, loading up with ammo, bigger guns and fresh crews. All around the loading yards Mek-boys speculated and bargained over goods and materials. Ork Kaptains drank fungus-ale and boasted of their exploits out on the open sea. Grots scurried to and fro in search of better stations on bigger boats or at least a safer bet with a smarter Kaptain.
Smirking ducked and weaved between the crowds trying to keep up with Sleekit who's only instruction before abandoning ship had been "Stick wif me, an' don't get lost."
Grunt pushed ahead of them making a path in which Sleekit slipped with ease through the masses. Smirking, lagging behind, didn't benefit at all, contending more often with obstacles and other traffic impeding his pursuit. He jumped a tin box, ducked a low hanging girder and turned a corner. They were gone.
Lost in the crowd Smirking walked and gaped and simply went with the flow. All the talk of the port swirled around his head, percolating in his hungry mind.
"I 'eard GrodMek his-self iz gonna be on board"
"Der's neva been a weapon like it!"
"Da biggest fing dat eva floated on da sea."
"Even bigga dan da Biz-Mork?"
"It's da biggest fing since da GorkaMorka fell!"
"Dem Morkas iz gonna get da shock ov der lives."
"Gargantic ov course! I'm gonna work da Waaagh-dar."
"Is you 'ere fer da launch?"
"No, da boat not da bomb!"
"Who's GrodMek gonna make da Kaptain?"
"Da Biz-Mork iz goin' unda."
It took Smirking a while to realise they were all talking about the same thing. The whole port was alive with speculation excitement and anticipation of the launch of The Gargantic. The single biggest ship that Gorka-Fleet had ever boasted, designed by GrodMek the self proclaimed, though much disputed king of Mek-town. He was to join the Mega-Krooza on her maiden voyage where he would test his newest, most top secret weapon. A new kind of bomb that he promised would put an end to the threat of the most feared Morka aircraft carrier, the dreaded Biz-Mork and her Kaptain, the most ruthless of Morka Bosses, Aaris Da Butcha.
Smirking flowed with the crowd to the huge dry-dock where the work crews prepared to open the flood-gates. The Gargantic was immense. Fully three times the length of the Grond-Hammer and twice as tall. Gretchin construction crews still clambered around making last minute adjustments and slapping on a final coat of festive Gorker black.
The flood gates were slowly rolling open and water flowed in around the hull, steadily rising. It would take some hours before the massive bulk of the Gargantic was afloat. In the meantime the gangplanks bent under the weight of heavy calibre shells, casks of fungus-ale and crates of dried squig-meat.
The announcement had come down from on high that GorGoff would be the one to Kaptain the mighty vessel. He presided over a crowd of eager and ambitious orks who vied for a spot on his new crew. Renowned gunners, trusted advisors and familiar faces made the cut where a hundred other equally worthy bodies did not.
In a smaller mockery of the same Sleekit held court on the other side of the main gangplank. He stood in his trademark coat and cap behind a tall crate upon which rested his manifest. Sleekit spotted Smirking ambling around and sent Grunt to lay hands on him. Once acquired, for reasons he could not guess Smirking occupied an enviable position behind Sleekit amongst his chief henchmen as names were called, a list checked and a crew compiled.
"Grot-father, Grot-father, please!"
The impertinent speaker, a particularly pathetic looking grot was hastily silenced. He received a slap and fierce rebuke.
"Ave you lost yet mind?" Sleekit hissed, "Out 'ere in front ov everyone?" He handed the list off to Smudge who took up position behind the crate and continued the role call while Sleekit took the offending grot aside. He quivered before Sleekit's wrath.
"Der's orks an Meks ev'rywhere an' you go an call me..." He was furious. "You'll get us all killed!"
"You gotta take me Grot-Fa..... Mista Sleekit sir!" He wept, you don't know wot it's like workin' fer Da Butcha's slavers. I'll do anyfing!"
Sleekit felt a pang of regret as he cocked his six-shoota and ended the miserable creature's life. He had hoped to avoid a scene... then again. A grot dies on the dockside; No-one cares. Well, all that would change, he thought. Soon...
A bustle of activity surrounded an unmarked crate on the dock. A crane was being ushered into position by a pair of orks giving contrary commands. A massive ork in heavy mechanised armour waited atop the box to receive the crane's hook as it swung down from above.
It was GrodMek, come to oversee the loading of his new top secret weapon. Well, open secret, at least among the orks of Gorka-fleet. Rumour had it that GrodMek had built a new kind of weapon that would deliver a devastating blow to any Morker aircraft carrier that got within range. Necks craned all along the docks to catch a glimpse of the thing though the box was nailed tight shut.
GrodMek rode atop his precious cargo as it was hoisted aboard to the cheers and delight of the crowd. This would be their finest hour he told them, soon a whole fleet of Mega-Kroozas would rule the waves across the whole planet. Morkas would fly in fear and the accursed Biz-Mork would rot at the bottom of the ocean.
As the crowd followed these momentous events Sleekit pulled a fast one. Beginning embarkation Smudge ticked off one for every two grots he saw hit the gangplank. Soon the ships compliment of Grot-Support was way beyond official estimates. There were even a number of unofficial items sneaked into the cargo bays. When the Gargantic was at last hauled out into the sea by a dozen stout gunboats a stowaway grot hid in every alcove, duct and cubby. More grots than you could shake a Lucky-Stikk at and Sleekit would need every one, especially one grot in particular.
Smirking smiled back at him. It was nice to be invited on board for the big launch. He liked Sleekit.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2018/07/10 21:50:30
The sun was high in the cloudless sky. Hot waves beat down on the deck of the Gargantic and the crew slept.
A pair of grots strolled out in the light sea breeze. One kept an eye on the lookout far above, the other didn't know any better.
"Smirking! Smirking keep yer 'ead down!" Smudge was tense and trying to instil a little caution into his nonchalant companion. Sleekit had told them to act cool but Smudge could see that for Smirking it was no act.
Smudge ducked into the shadowy side of GrodMek's massive crate and hoped to Gork that Smirking would have the sense to do the same. His prayer was not answered. Smirking continued on his way in full view of the Gorker Guard.
"Smirking! Stop!" Hissed Smudge, a sinking in his gut. He knew it was already too late.
Smirking stopped. The Gorker guard turned. A fairly gnarly looking grot was standing to attention at the corner of the crate.
"New guard izzit?" He gruffed eyeing up the grot who apparently had been sent to relieve him. "bout zoggin' time too!" the Gorker stubbed his fat cigar out on the side of the crate and left his menial task to one eminently more qualified for the job without another word.
Smudge was astonished. What in the name of Gork was going on here? Of all the dumb luck... Smirking had it in spades. Smirking stood there in broad daylight, for all the world the rightly appointed guard, rocking on his heals, a friendly wave to the lookout, nothing to see here.
Smudge picked up his jaw, seized his opportunity and slipped inside. It was dark. Little motes of dust hung in slivers of light suspended in the hot air. Smudge turned and collided with a solid black surface. This was it. GrodMek's secret weapon. A great, big, fat, black... something. He had to find out what it was, the whole plan might depend on it.
He stubbed a toe on something heavy and painfully solid. Smudge stifled his yelp and blinked back a tear. His eyes were starting to adjust to the dark interior of the crate. A set of wings were resting against the side of the box. What would any self respecting Gorker have to do with anything that had wings?
He felt around the weapon and found the junction one side where a large wing would surely be bolted on. He also found a ladder, a suspiciously narrow, thin-gauge metal, not-big-enough-for-orks ladder. A grot ladder. He obligingly climbed to the top where a bubble canopy covered a snug, grot sized cockpit.
It's a plane! he thought; A plane for Grots? But why would a Mek make a plane for Grots? None of this was making any sense to Smudge at all. He popped the canopy open and wriggled down inside to think.
What did he know about this thing? It was a weapon, a weapon to put the Gorkers out on top. To remove the threat of the Biz-Mork, he recalled more specifically. But if the Gorkers were set for glory then why had Sleekit chosen now to stage the revolt? Would it not be safer to stay? Perhaps Sleekit didn't believe the rumours.
It was just a tiny plane after all. Even saving the weight of an ork by putting a grot at the stick it still couldn't carry anywhere near enough bombs to have a chance at sinking any vessel of that tonnage. Assuming the grot in charge got anywhere near his target without getting in a dogfight with Morker fighters. They would, no doubt, be bigger and better equipped. He saw no firing controls or indeed any evidence of any on-board guns and he had no illusions about armour. No-one cared enough about grots to give them any kind of...
Smudge had a sick feeling. One answer seemed to suggest a fit. It was all starting to come into horrifying focus. This wasn't a plane. It was a bomb. A Grot-Bomb! A massive one! Smudge sat, frozen with terror, and fury and morbid curiosity.
Assuming this giant bomb was launched and was flying through the air with a noble green diminutive martyr in control, what was to stop the grot from turning the thing around and striking back at the orks who launched him to his death? Or better yet, the bomb might be steered toward Mek-Town to strike a blow against the Meks for all grot kind. He couldn't really believe that GrodMek could ever really trust a grot. There must be some other form of guidance system. Some computer doo-dad he might reprogram or otherwise tamper with.
He looked around. Joystick, pedals, cup-holder. Big red button... an extreme exertion of will power tore his hovering finger away from the button as discretion won out over professional curiosity. He couldn't find anything that looked at all like a guidance system. He scratched his head.
Smudge's eyes were well adjusted now to the gloaming within the crate and he clambered out of the thing in search of more answers. He could see it now. A huge black bomb with jet engines, wings and a cockpit.
"Goodfernuffink Meks an' der goodfernuffink junk!"
Smudge slipped around under the nose to the other side and stepped upon a large folded sheet. He picked it up and read the title. A pair of glyphs, a git and an explosion.
"Grot-Bomb" he translated. His shoulders slumped. Smudge knew the panic, fear and resentment this document would create. Sleekit must have known all along. That was why they had to leave now, while they still could. Before the Gorkers got behind GrodMek's plan. Before every grot was given his own bomb to fly.
The booklet was getting badly crumpled in his angry little fist. Smudge folded it flat and slipped it into his belt preparing to leave. He took one last look at GrodMek's machine and spat on it.
"Deadly flyin' grots!" He scoffed making his way out of the crate. It all seemed so preposterous, so unnatural.
"If grotz were meant ta fly Gork would've given us wings..."
He slipped out into the sunlight and there was Smirking, wings flapping in a gentle sea breeze. There were more pieces to this puzzle than Smudge, for all his natural grot conniving could quite fit all together.
They both slipped unnoticed back below decks, trusting that Sleekit knew what he was doing.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2018/07/10 21:51:13
"It's all bin arranged, my little'uns." Sleekit consoled the assembled mass of fugitive grots. "All da gallys 'ave been fix up good-an'-propa and da wind iz wiff us. It'll blow us far, far away an' da orks iz gonna be too busy ta notice anyfink."
"But how, Boss?" Grunt asked for the whole group as much as for himself.
"Da dis-trak-shun." Sleekit spelled out to his henchman for what seemed the hundredth time. "Like we talked about afore! You iz gonna over heat da engines an' let 'em blow. Dose orks will be too busy wiff da fire ta fink about uz an' even if dey does dey can't chase us wiff no engines!"
"Fire?" Grunt looked worried.
Sleekit made a mental note to put someone else in charge of that part of the plan. Being the Kaptain's most trusted stooge and being the Grot-Father to every grot on the planet was a difficult balancing act. His extensive network of grot spies in every boat, scrap yard and drinking den kept him and the revolution one step ahead of their larger overlords but all it took was one big mouth, one misstep and the whole plan would come crashing down around them. Knowing when to act and when to walk away was part of the game and Sleekit was very very good at it. He considered the next item on the agenda and the agitated mood of the crowd and elected to allow his chief Know-wotsit to field the technical questions.
Smudge will explain." He passed the buck and sat down at the back. Smudge leapt to his feet in a flurry of papers, all stolen documents; blueprints and schematics of Gargantic liberated in the name of revolution by a hundred sticky little green fingers, at least ten of which were his own.
"Yes, erm... Well." Smudge stalled collecting his thoughts from the floor. "Where to begin?"
"GrodMek!" A helpful grot suggested unhelpfuly.
"Yeah! Wotzee hidin?" Added another
"Well, about that..." Smudge began looking uneasy. He thumbed through the sheaf of papers looking for the one with the Big-Mek's personal security seal, the one he had stolen from the crate."Funny you should ask, you bein' a grot an' all..."
"We're all grots!" A cheer went up for captain obvious. "Long live da Grotz!"
"Quite so, you see...um." Smudge wasn't sure how to approach the subject. The cheer lapsed and there fell an expectant silence, they were all ears.
"It's a bomb dat GrodMek is launchin'... A flyin' one..." He had their undivided attention, they were waiting.
"Well, it needs a very complex, intelligent guidance system you see..." Smudge held up the diagram in front of him like a flimsy shield, dreading the inevitable.
"Meaning..." Sleekit taunted from the sidelines.
Smudge sighed "It's a gargantic Grot-Bomb."
The crowd lost it. Every curse and loose item of furniture was hurled at the Meks and their machinations. No Mek's being present Smudge took most of the abuse by proxy.
"Dey're not 'appy ta jus' blow us up where we iz," they yelled "dey has ta stick us on rokkits an' blow us up somewhere else too!"
"I won't do it! I'm nobodies bomb!"
"No, I won't blow up neither!"
"But grotz don't even explode!"
"I'll explode all ova dat Mek-boy if 'e tries anyfink wif me."
"Der's no need to worry!" Sleekit interjected, a little late for Smudge's liking. Der's one among uz who 'as been chosen to fly dis fing."
"Its not me!" A fearful yell from the back.
Sleekit continued regardless "One who 'as been chosen because he iz uniquely equipped."
Every grot in the room tried his hardest to look like the grot next to him. There were no unique snowflakes on the Gargantic.
"One who will step up and take on da Mek's!" That raised a few eyebrows.
"One who need not explode when da bomb falls!" A brave and heroic bomb-proof grot! Smirking liked the sound of that.
"One who can leap into da clouds an' fly on da wings of a..."
"Who Izit!?" The impatient crowd were eager to meet this flying super-grot hero.
"Grots an' Gretchin," Sleekit announced with a flourish "I give you Smirking!"
"Yeay!" Smirking clapped and cheered as the crowd stared at him expectantly. He paused and scanned the sea of green faces with an odd sense of déjàvu. He turned to Sleekit in appeal.
"Yer not gonna push me inta any volcanos?"
"O' course not, No!" Sleekit replied with total honesty. "Don't worry. Trus' yer ol' GrotFather. Jus' look at 'em Smirking, Dey need ta believe. Go on, lad, just show 'em yer wings."
Smirking turned and faced his audience and slowly raised his hands allowing his thick leathery wings to fill the small stage. The crowd loved it.
"He can fly he can!"
"He's a super-grot! He'll show 'em!"
He smirked, he couldn't help it normally, but this time he meant to. He had fallen on his feet it seemed. He was accepted again, the Chosen One. He dived onto the crowd, their green hands raised in fanatic devotion to touch their hero. It was just like before, when all the tribes had come together and made him their champion, their sacrifice. He recalled all the faces he had once known, now surely dead, crushed beneath the GorkaMorka when it fell... he had been incredibly lucky, and to be chosen again... it didn't seem fair.
A tear came to his eye. Seeing these grots, their joy at their Chosen one. The poor fools, he thought, maybe they didn't understand.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2018/07/10 21:48:57
"Hey, comrade." hushed whispers in dark corridors and secret nods across crowded decks all passed the same message, grot to grot, comrade to comrade.
"Party in da Engine Roomz!"
Sleekit had made no special announcements nor had he given specific orders for a celebration on the eve of their great revolution but spirits were high among the Gorker orks aboard the Gargantic and celebration was the order of the evening. If the grots were having a little party of their own below decks, so much the better. Who would care? He let it slide and joined them in the engine room for a few rounds of Fungus-Ale or whatever it was they had been brewing down there in the heat.
Smirking was there at the centre of proceedings: The hero of the hour. He was taking it mightily well, thought Sleekit. He was a bit of a mystery, this winged and half baked castaway. Sleekit wondered what his story was. His real story. He'd heard all that nonsense about volcanos and the Godz. A likely story. Surely he was a fugitive. Jumped from a burning Morka Bomber on improvised wings. A flask rested inside Sleekit's heavy coat. He had to be sure and it was time to find out.
"Smirking me ol' pal." Sleekit draped an arm around Smirking's shoulders companionably and gently removed the tin cup from his hand.
"You don't need any o' that ol' grog." He poured the dregs of Smirking's fungus beer out and produced the flask from his coat.
"Stole dis stuff from ol' GrodMek hizself." He poured a generous measure into Smirking's cup and handed it back with a smile.
"Drink up Smirking-me-ol'-chum. Hero ov da hour."
Smirking sniffed the liquid in his cup. It smelled familiar. He tasted it. It burned like Gutt-Rott, warming his belly and making his head swim. Memories of Smirking's sacrifice came flooding back. The Shaman's voice boomed in his head, "The sacrifice, the Chosen One! Smirking! Smirking!"
"Smirking... Smirking?" Sleekit waved his hand in front of Smirking's eyes. "Smirking!" He was miles away already.
Sleekit directed him away from the crowd and toward some steps leading to a high gantry overlooking the party. He had known the brew was a strong one but he hadn't expected such instant results. This stuff had been hard to acquire but it was well understood it had a profound effect on impressionable minds. If he could get Smirking talking he was sure he'd get the mysterious grot's real story out of him. To do so with an ork might take a whole flask of the stuff, more if he was a tough character, but a grot, and a small one like Smirking... Well the proof was plain to see. Smirking turned and looked at Sleekit as if in a dream: Or maybe a nightmare.
"It's ok." Sleekit reassured him as they stepped out onto the gantry above the crowd. "It's on'y a dream." He pressed the cup to Smirking's lips one more time for luck. It seemed to relax the frightened grot.
"That's it." He soothed, "take it easy."
"Grotz an' Gretchin!" Sleekit suddenly announced "I give you, your hero and mine... The one an' only Smirking!"
The crowd below gave a fond cheer of approval and Sleekit pushed Smirking forward to receive their adulation.
Smirking looked out over the crowd from up high, he spread his wings and looked like he might drop over the edge. Sleekit caught him by the shorts and dragged his rear end down onto the metal gantry. A green spark shot out as Smirking's butt made contact, which was a first for Sleekit. You learn something new every day, he supposed. But now to learn what he had really come to find out.
"Tell me this, buddy." He began amiably, "What did they call you before you washed up wif us?"
Smirking was mouthing something. Like a chant, over and over. Sleekit listened close.
"Da chosen one, da chosen one!"
"No, no, dat woz jus' this mornin'. I meant afore dat. Like when you got yer wings!" The inspiration struck him. There had to be a story in that. "Or, when your face got burnt?"
Smirking looked down at the Gutt-Rot, and shoved it back into Sleekit's hand as if it might explode in the heat of the engine room at any moment. He didn't want any more.
"Behold da gob of da Godz!" Smirking mumbled. It made little sense to Sleekit. He watched and listened regardless.
"Hear dem laughing in da clouds!" Smirking's voice was becoming strange, he didn't sound like himself. Sleekit was starting to feel a little uncomfortable and more than a couple of grots beneath were still watching them up there.
"Feel der rumbling belly, Sniff der mighty stink!" Smirking's voice had become low and loud and sonorous, not at all like a grot's voice. The assembled mass were watching now, they were getting twitchy. Sleekit was worried. He was rapidly losing control of the situation.
"Dey come! Da Mighty Ones are watching!" The voice screamed, and Smirking leapt from the gantry on a flurry of green sparks, wings outstretched. The confused grots in the engine room below we're packed too tightly to move. They raised their hands and caught their flying champion. A cheer went up at Smirking's daring antics and the party resumed with renewed enthusiasm.
Sleekit watched, alone from his high seat as the celebration below continued. He still didn't trust Smirking. How could he, he was the most zogging unreadable grot Sleekit had ever chanced upon. He had hoped the Gutt-Rott would have loosened Smirking's tongue and revealed something he could understand but it was all nonsense. Never-mind the green sparks and the creepy voice... what was going on?
Sleekit had been expecting more than answers, he had been looking for the truth, but the more he dug into Smirking's mysterious origins the more questions were raised. Unfortunately Smirking was now an integral part of the plan; a vital cog in an intricate design. Too much was riding on Smirking's cooperation to simply trust him on faith. Sleekit hadn't built an underground grot empire by trusting every unlikely fool he came across.
But look at them. They paraded Smirking around on their shoulders, their champion, their hero. They loved Smirking.They really believed in him.
Sleekit looked down and noticed he still held Smirking's cup. He swilled the last few mouthfuls around in the bottom of the cup thoughtfully. Maybe this time, he considered, he just had to believe. Sleekit threw his head back and drained the cup. He felt bolder, more sure of himself and the respect he commanded. He looked down over his people. His people. Sleekit climbed up onto the railing and steadied his fuzzy head. He was sure they would catch him, he was their GrotFather after all.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/05/21 11:07:04
Smirking tossed and kicked in his sleep. In a Gutt-Rott fuelled nightmare he flew like a meteor in a fire-storm sky and a maniacal voice was taunting him from beyond the clouds.
"I'm goin' ta find you."
Smirking banked and rolled between bursts of flack and fire. He was a Black-Gull desperately flying for his life.
"You can't hide from ol' WazzBad."
He dived through the hot air, ducking and dodging certain death.
"I'm comin' for ya... Smirking!"
Smirking flipped and flapped and swooped and swerved.
"WazzBad's gonna getcha!"
Smirking woke with a yelp as he fell from his bunk. He lay washed up on the shore of his cabin clawing together his faculties. It felt just like before, a confusion of hazy recollections fighting with the echoes of strange voices replaying in his mind. Was it just a dream? What about the Shaman and the tribes and the volcano? Just a dream?
Sleekit found him there in a heap on the floor and concluded that Smirking was still suffering the effects of the night before, of the Gutt-Rot, of whatever strange malady afflicted him. There was no time to ponder it however, the big day had arrived and there was a lot to prepare.
He had grots to position. Spies to set, work teams to organise, distractions and decoys, saboteurs and thieves: and that was only plan A. He rubbed a great bump on his head hidden beneath his trademark peaked cap, it was all one massive headache.
There was little room for improvisation though. Everything had to run like a well oiled machine but there was still one piece, one cog, one link in the chain that could prove the downfall of everything. Smirking.
"It's yer big day, Smirking." Sleekit began, "Orders from da Big-Mek. Yer wanted on da deck at last"
Smirking looked more than a little sleepy but true to form he wasn't arguing. He just got up and plodded along following Sleekit's lead ready to do as he was told. No questions, no argument.
Sleekit muddled things over in his mind as they walked. Smirking was everything he could have asked for. He was brave and tough, cool under pressure and resourceful. He was up for the job, a true revolutionary, and a focus for hope and determination amongst the fearful grots like Sleekit could not have hoped for. It was just too good to be true. He even had wings for Gork's-sake! The appearance of Smirking had been like a gift from da Godz, but in Sleekit's experience da Godz had never been so obliging.
All this was largely beside the point, Sleekit concluded. It really didn't matter. As long as every ork on the deck was watching GrodMek launch Smirking from the ship while every other grot on board got away he didn't care.
What might matter, on the other hand, was where Smirking took the bomb. If Smirking could be made to fly his bomb to Mek-town instead of into the Biz-Mork they could really strike a blow against the Meks. The grots would get away either way, Sleekit assured himself but still, if there was a chance for more... He turned to Smirking, he had a plan.
"It's important you unda-stand Smirking. You can't trust GrodMek." Sleekit stopped and, turning looked Smirking in the eye.
"I mean it, Smirking, tell him nuffink! He can't find out about da rebellion."
"Tell 'im nuffink." Smirking repeated obediently, though he had no idea what sorts of nuffinks Sleekit might have in mind that GrodMek might want to know. Smirking had never met a small Mek never mind a Big one. All he really understood was that Sleekit hated the Meks, but all this talk of 'Da Rebellion' made little sense to him.
"But dat's not all." Sleekit leaned in and took Smirking conspiratorially around the shoulders. "Whatever he tells ya, don't hit da Biz-Mork! You know how many grotz dey got on a boat dat size? Nah, mate, If you can, I want you to steer da fing t'wards Mek-town "
Smirking was confused. What was he meant to be doing again? He knew he was due another launch but what was all this about steering and hitting stuff?
"Do you hear me Smirking?" Smirking could hear perfectly it was the comprehending that was the hard part. He nodded regardless.
"Gork knows how many grots dey'll have at work on da Biz-Mork. Don't be any Mek's stooge, Smirking. Stick it to da Meks! Take dat bomb all da way back ta Mek-town if ya can an' let em have a taste ov der own gak."
Sleekit looked mad. He obviously hated anyone mistreating grots and Smirking wasn't about to let them all down. He was sure Sleekit would look after him too.
Smirking felt lucky to have Sleekit to guide him through this strange new world. He gave his Grot-Father his best Rebel salute and Sleekit seemed satisfied. Sleekit turned and led the way, smirking.
Grod-Mek gleamed in all his mechanised grandeur.
"Sleekit ya slip'ry little fish, I hope you know wots good for ya today."
"Teef I suppose." replied Sleekit pointedly. He knew that GrodMek was powerful, that his own existence continued partly due to the Big-Mek's tolerance but he couldn't lose face. A bargain was a bargain to a Bad-Moon ork like GrodMek and a bargain was the only possible equal footing upon which a grot like Sleekit could treat with a Big-Mek.
Grod-Mek may have held all the teef, all the authority and all the technology but he knew where the real power lay. Teef could be stolen, authority questioned and technology made obsolete. No, knowledge was the real power. Knowing more than his rivals, more than his followers and more than his enemies had always been GrodMek's key to success.
Sleekit on the other hand, knew that without the teef, the technology or any real authority Knowledge was a grot's only real asset. He had made it his business to posses as much of this most valuable commodity as he possibly could, and business was good. In fact, GrodMek himself was buying so business had never been better.
"How much I gives ya depends on wocha got dun'nit?"
"I've got ya a Grot-Hero alright."
"Ooh, a hero izee?"
"You expected less, from Sleekit?" Sleekit acted hurt.
It wasn't all just small talk. It was the kind of shop-banter that greased the wheels of Bad-Moon business transactions across the galaxy. It was a testing, a game of wits and a kind of negotiation. The terms of these deals were never set in stone and often the party who talked the talk best walked away with the upper hand in the bargain.
Smirking was miffed when Sleekit, in the presence of the hated Mek, spoke with eloquence and charm. Not a hint of his former resentment, his righteous indignation replaced with a kind of urbane reciprocity. Apparently they were all on the same team.
At last, Smirking thought, a little unity. A hope was kindled in his tiny green heart that it might be possible that the green-skin race could learn to resolve their differences and direct their aggressions toward the human threat that lay at their doorstep. He stood expectantly before the pair, smirking like a prize noodle.
"May I present, for your delight and most loyal service, the one-an-only Smirking!"
GrodMek looked underwhelmed. "Dis iz yer hero?"
"Oh yes! You couldn't ask fer a more competent grot."
"I could ask fer you!"
"Dat may not be da best use of your valuable resources." Sleekit brushed that suggestion under the carpet and hurried on.
"I promise you, Smirking is as intelligent, as capable, as natural a pilot... former Morka air-grot, GorGoff dragged 'im outa a dive-bomba we shot down on da Grond-Hammer just a few months ago. Hates Morkas! Wants ta stick it to 'iz old bosses, see?"
GrodMek inspected the gnarly looking winged specimen before him like a Runtherd at the market, mulling over the constant stream of 'facts' spilling from Sleekit's mouth. He knew about the dive-bomber, he'd bought the scrap himself, and there was no accounting for a burned up winged grot on a Gorker crew. And of course Sleekit would want to be rid of a former enemy partisan, no matter where his loyalties supposedly lay. It all seemed to fit well enough.
"He's wilin' an' able izzee? Pfff, never met da like!"
"He's yer grot as sure as my name's..."
Sleekit zipped it and rocked back on his heels in anticipation of the Big-Mek's pronouncement. Had he done enough? Which way would the deal go down? GrodMek could easily just grab any grot he wanted but he had come to Sleekit for a reason. This was a high visibility event. A lot depended on the complicity of the grot in the driving seat.
"Of course if you don't want him I can ask for volunteers, I mean...
"No, no." GrodMek wouldn't leave this to chance. What kind of an idiot grot would volunteer for such a job? No, he had more faith in a grot's natural fear of his superiors, Sleekit's uncanny ability to please and so, survive. He would be safer with this hand picked odd-ball than some grot lottery.
"Smirking izit?" GrodMek addressed his new pilot casually tossing a small bag of teef to Sleekit who vanished without another word.
"Smirking, Smirking, Smirking..." GrodMek wore quite a smirk himself. He popped the cork from a little tin flask, not unlike the one Sleekit had produced the night before and swigged a glup.
"Ex-Morka, eh?" he took another swig. "Want to stick it to yer old Morka-Boss do ya?" GrodMek smiled like a snake.
"Ya see, Smirking, I knows all about yer Morka dive bomba." His breath smelled pungent with the fumes of pure firey distilled Gutt-Rot.
"I mean, I knows everyfing about it..." He let the statement hang in the air with his Gutt-Rot breath. "An' I know you wazn't on it."
Smirking squirmed. The Gutt-Rot fumes were making him feel light headed. His eyes were starting to lose focus.
"So, er, tell me, Smirking... Jus' who woz yer ol' boss?"
"WazzBad." Smirking spoke from somewhere far off, the name coming to him from outside his own thoughts.
"WazzBad!" GrodMek blurted, brought up short. "Da wierdboy?" He hadn't expected a genuine Morka spy right under his nose. He had thought Sleekit a bare-faced liar but now it seemed Sleekit had delivered the spy right into GrodMek's hands. The Grot-Father indeed, thought GrodMek, only now beginning to consider quite how dangerous Sleekit really could be.
"I'm goin' ta find you." Smirking continued, his head still spinning in the Gutt-Rot fume. "You can't hide from ol' WazzBad."
GrodMek was stunned. The grot's impersonation of WazzBad was uncanny.
"I'm comin' for ya, Smirking!" The voice went on "WazzBad's gonna getcha!"
GrodMek frowned and put the cork back in his Gutt-Rot flask eyeing it suspiciously. Smirking was obviously traumatised by his time spent under the infamous Morka wierdboy.
"Not if we get him first." GrodMek concluded, "Am I right Smirking?"
"O'course I am."
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/02/11 23:52:28
GrodMek unveiled his grot bomb. The assembled audience, almost every ork on the ship watched and waited for something more spectacular to happen. GrodMek had expected a cheer at least. He supposed Morkas were more the ones for glitz and fanfare. Gorkas liked size and strength, big guns and even bigger boats. They might have been excited about a really big bomb but then he'd gone and put wings and jet engines on it. Maybe they thought he was trying to make them into Morkers. He'd have to play this one just right.
"Gorka-Fleet Kaptain GorGoff, Gorkas and gretchin." He didn't see too many gretchin faces out on deck but then someone had to stay below-decks keeping the Gargantic afloat.
"I congratulate you on dis magnificent Mega-Krooza you haz konstructed!" It was his own design of course. GrodMek was not above a little self-promotion and an appeal to the egos of the Grokas never hurt.
"I have da great pleasure on dis day, an' on dis monumental vessel, an' in such excellent company..."
"Get on wif it GrodMek!" GorGoff was getting impatient. It was already four days into their voyage on the most powerful thing in the sea and he still had yet to blow up a thing.
"Wiff-out further adoo... Da Grot-Bomb!"
"A wot Bomb?" GorGoff was sure he hadn't heard that right.
"A Grot-Bomb." GrodMek replied wishing he'd thought of a more grandiose name, though it was nothing a little hype couldn't fix, as long as he played down the whole 'Grot' element of the thing.
"It looks like a Morka-Bomb!" A skar-boy complained. "It's got wings!"
"Izzit a Morka-Bomba?" Asked another.
"No! It's just a Huge Bomb."GrodMek back-peddled frantically trying to salvage his grand unveiling. "It's da biggest bomb der eva woz! It's bigga dan any bomb any Morka eva made, so it must be a Gorka-Bomb!"
Heads began to nod in agreement to this solid piece of ork reasoning. With a newly re-named Gorka-Bomb it would all be plain sailing from here.
Smirking stood behind Grod-Mek waiting for his cue to climb aboard the Grot-bomb, or Gorka-Bomb or whatever this contraption was. What was a bomb anyway?
"Dis bomb, once launched, from da greatest Gorka-Fleet vessel der iz, will fly farther an' fasta dan any Morka would dare an' strike da Biz-Mork hard, wif deadly force an' perfik accuracy. Da Gorka-Bomb is gonna sink da Biz-Mork!"
"Sink da Biz-Mork!" The Gorkas cried "Sink da Biz-Mork!"
"How's we gonna hit sumfink we can't even see?" interupted GorGoff, "Da Biz-Mork cud be anywhere."
GrodMek grabbed Smirking and pushed him forward. "Dis is no ordinary bomb! Wiff a grot at da kontrols he can find da target and he can fly right inta it!"
Smirking climbed the ladder and clambered inside, he was about to wave gallantly to the crowd when GrodMek slammed the canopy shut over his head, sealing him and any likely grot-antics within.
GrodMek ignored their jibes and went on with his demonstration. Inside the cockpit Smirking got aquatinted with the controls. The stick was obviously for holding onto. It moved a fair bit though so maybe it wasn't the most secure hand hold. The big red button wasn't much fun. He'd slapped it hard at least four times already and nothing was happening. The cup holder had a nifty little spring loaded mechanism for slotting away into a recess in the dash. He was having fun slotting it in and out when the ship's klaxon sounded far away beyond his little private bubble. In, out, in, Smirking hunted about the cockpit, no cup to put in the thing... out, in, out.
GrodMek stopped mid-sentence, interrupted right before the big climax of his grand launch. How rude of the lookout to sound a general alert on his big day.
GorGoff was on the blower getting the news from the bridge when suddenly he turned his face to the skies.
"Morka-Wing!" He bellowed "All hands full alert! Battle Stations! Waaagh!"
GrodMek pulled a stumpy cylindrical device from a pocket and put it to his eye before pulling it out into a telescopic sight pointing in the general direction GorGoff had been looking. Sure enough, a cloud of aircraft were baring down from above. He gave up counting the planes after a brave attempt well beyond the numeracy of most of his race, concluding that the tonnage of explosives soon to be headed his way was similarly well beyond his ability to estimate.
"Dat wasn't part ov da plan!" He grumbled.
"Engines! Get us movin!" GorGoff was barking down the blower, "Why izn't we movin'! Wot iz dose grotz doin' down der?"
"Da Grotz is revolting!" Came a call from above.
"Ov course dey iz! Dey're filthy stinkin' Grotz!"
"No! Dey've took da galley's an' scarpered!"
GorGoff squinted into the sun. High above planes were preparing to release their payloads. He shoved an ork aside and looking out on the water, saw a small fleet of hastily rowed grot galleys escaping the fray, not a Runtherd in sight. They had been newly fitted with tall masts and sails which bore a hated symbol; the old Rebel Grot Red Star.
Then the bombs fell.
A wave of shuddering explosions tracked in from the starboard side sending spouts of fire and water shooting into the air. GorGoff watched in horror as if in slow motion as they got closer and closer. The last was so near that it rocked the vessel and buffeted the Kaptain off his feet. Had there been just one more bomb in that salvo it surely would have hit him right where he had stood.
Getting to his feet GorGoff watched as more and more explosions sent the sea around them into turmoil. The ship rocked and turned in the waves. Gorgoff slowly realised that the Gargantic was still not moving; they were a massive siting target. Of course, there were no grots down there in the engine rooms. GorGoff grabbed a passing Yoof by the scruff and pulled him off his feet.
"Get down inta da engines an' get dis tub movin'!"
He threw the Yoof toward the nearest stair and he fell down below decks.
Batteries of anti-aircraft fire were thundering away sending answering volleys skyward but the on'y things falling from the sky were more bombs.
The wail of dive bombers pierced the thunder of war and GorGoff bemoaned the Gargantic's lack of barrage balloon cover. They had rushed the launch, he had been too eager, eager to please the Big-Mek. He remembered GrodMek.
"GrodMek, wots goin' on?" He bellowed. "You said dis fing would end da Morkas not bring 'em all down round our headz!" More explosions, more heavy gunz sounding thunderously into the massed aerial assault. A single Fighta-Bomba came spiralling down to an oily splash astern.
GrodMek wasn't listening, he was hastily re-winding the catapult from which to launch the bomb. A hose still throbbed pumping jet fuel into the contraption. Smirking peeped out from the cockpit, his nose to the glass, watching the scene unfold.
The Yoof who had been sent below appeared at GorGoff's side.
"We can't get inta da engine roomz boss." He winced, dey're too hot. Da grotz, dey must've let 'em ova-heat. Dey iz gonna blow!"
"Den pull da plug! Shut off da fuel! Fink ov sumfink!"
"Sum ov da Skarr-boyz tried. Dey got all burned up."
GorGoff slapped the Yoof out of his way and made for the largest Port-side anti-aircraft gun and shoved its gunner out of his seat. He checked the ammo bins; plenty o' dakka.
"Waaagh!" He screamed, emptying all his frustrations at the whirling swarm.
A big slow moving bomber above opened up its bay doors and released a torrent of small black drops. They fell inexorably down and down, even as GorGoff saw the offender in his sighs burst into flame he knew it was already too late.
A blast amidships tore the bridge apart and the Gargantic shuddered. Steel warped under the immense heat of the engine fires and a great gout of flame burst forth from the open wound. The Gargantic listed precariously.
GrodMek clamoured to complete the preparations for the launch. The bomb was fuelled, the catapult was set but the explosion had jostled the Grot-Bomb off its track. Even with the strength of his mega-armour GrodMek was struggling, fighting the listing deck to get the thing back in position. Smirking's perpetual smirk mocked his efforts from within the bubble canopy.
All around the fight was growing intense. The first big strike on the Gargantic had given fuel to both sides. The Gorkas fought all the harder to defend their stricken ship. Guns still blazed from every turret and every ork on the deck worked to keep them fed with ammo belts, shells and canisters of flack. The amount of fire pouring into the sky was no joke as the flaming wreckage of Morka planes falling from the sky could testify.
The Morkas circled like sharks smelling blood. Dive bombers wailed in their relentless looping dives, heedless of the ones they lost with each successive wave of attacks. Fightas strafed the decks braving all manner of machine gun fire and worse from the Gargantic's bristling arsenal.
Above the clatter of anti-aircraft fire, the booming of heavy cannon, the droning engines and the thunder of explosives GorGoff felt like he could hear laughing; as if in the back of his skull. He turned his kannon on instinct to face the source of the uncanny sound.
Speeding in low over the surface of the ocean, churning a high spray of water in its wake there came a Fighta wing. Three jet propelled high speed torpedo bombers the leader of which, GroGoff had no doubt, no doubt whatsoever, was laughing, mocking him. The thing was all engines and virtually no wings, as if it flew by sheer force of speed and the will of its pilot. GorGoff thumbed both triggers sending a stream of explosive heavy calibre rounds into the Fighta-Wing leader.
"Eat dis ya Morka Speed Freak!"
"Not 'ungry." Came the matter-of-fact reply in the back of his mind. "But you can 'ave sum ov mine." The Fighta pilot released his torpedo
"Welcome to Waaagh WazzBad."
WazzBad peeled away from the fight at eye watering speed followed by his two companions, one of whom caught some of GorGoff's fire and burst into a spectacular fireball but it was small consolation. GorGoff momentarily spellbound by the inexplicable fact of the brief conversation snapped back to reality just in time to see the bubbling trails of three torpedoes closing in fast.
GrodMek had finally heaved the GrotBomb into place and Smirking sat primed and ready to fly. All that remained was the throwing of the lever to release the catapult and the launch might be a success. Well, he considered the listing deck and the possibility the bomb might just be catapulted straight off the rails and into the sea. It might explode right there and take the whole front end of the ship off. GrodMek shrugged and reached for the lever.
The torpedoes struck with a quick succession of devastating blasts. The waves were flung up in a high tower of fiery spray and there was a scream of metal twisting under tension and a crack as the Gargantic snapped apart.
GrodMek's grot-bomb leapt off its rails with the jolt of the impact and slipped the length of the foredeck spinning like a top. It was intercepted by the gunwale and held precariously, suspended over the sea. GrodMek, unbalanced, went end over end after it. His immense mega-armour suit settled on its back and he lay there beside his bomb like a turtle clawing for purchase to right himself. Getting a claw to the lowest rung of the ladder on the side of the Grot-Bomb he started to pull himself upright but the weight of his suit dislodged the bomb from its precarious perch. Together they fell from the sinking vessel and splashed down into an oil slicked sea.
GrodMek slipped beneath the waves in an instant, borne under by the weight of his armour. The Grot-Bomb was a little more buoyant however and bobbed reluctantly back up to the surface.
Smirking watched from his unlikely boat; the chaos above of the swirling aircraft weaving between streams of fire; the bodies below floating in the filth of oil and bloody waves. He thought he saw on the not so distant horizon, a few small sail boats. Smirking gave them one last Rebel Grot salute before he too sank beneath the waves.
This message was edited 3 times. Last update was at 2019/07/30 21:06:01
Smirking awoke in a strange cramped dingy place. Everything was wet and dripping from the cluttered floor to low ceiling. Every wall and surface was covered with conduits pipes and wires. He lay in a pile of junk up against the Grot-Bomb. One of its tail fins dug into his back. He coughed up some sea water and his shifting weight caused a clatter of tumbling scrap.
"Shhhh!" Hissed an ork from the front end of the Bomb, "we iz tryin' ta disarm it!"
Smirking tried not to lean as he craned his neck around. He did not recognise the orks. A couple of wiry looking old tinkerers in tool belts like saddle bags were untangling wires and removing components. A clamp here and a snip there. They worked away in silence and Smirking sat stock still for fear of causing a fuss.
"Dats got it." Said one of the orks at last. He slammed the access hatch hard and slapped the bomb a couple of times for good measure as if to prove their work was done. It didn't explode.
"Yup." The other concluded lighting up a fat fungus leaf cigar.
"You can get down off der an' go tell GrodMek hiz Bomb iz ready fer workin' on."
"An' tell 'im we can't get 'iz Mega-Armour jus' now but we knows where it iz. We iz comin' back fer da wreck ov da Gargantic anyways so we can get it den."
Smirking was baffled. He had no idea where he was or with whom he was speaking. The unlikely fact of his own survival, and GrodMek's for that matter was a shock to say the least. The orks clearly expected him to hop off and deliver their message. Smirking couldn't recall a word of it but he wasn't about to ask them to repeat themselves. He made a break for the only visible exit and ducked away out of sight.
Smirking was sure he was on some sort of boat. There were some familiar sensations of sea travel but the sounds were all wrong; too muffled, so enclosed. He clambered through narrow corridors and little access hatches, there were ladders and handholds everywhere, and eventually he found a large hatch which he assumed might lead outside. Down below was stuffy and stale and he was starting to feel claustrophobic but the hatch was tight shut.
All through the echoing metal cave of corridors and tiny rooms Smirking wondered like a rat-squig in a maze. No one took any notice of him; apparently the presence of a bedraggled, burnt-black grot with wings on this strange boat was of little consequence. Smirking was about to enter what appeared to be a large, long room when he stopped suddenly at the sound of a familiar voice.
"Plot a course for da oil fields. Full speed ahead boyz."
It was GrodMek, giving commands. Smirking was unsure what to do. He had a message for GrodMek, not that he could remember any of it, but something held him back. He recalled Sleekit's advice. You can't trust GrodMek. Tell him Nuffink.
The something agreed, so Smirking lingered by the open door and listened.
"Iz da Gargantic sunk yet?"
"Right to da bottom Boss."
"You marked it up?"
"All ready fer salvage, Boss."
"Any word on me armour yet?"
"Da ladz iz still workin' on da bomb but I fink dey said dey found yer suit."
"Its me bes' suit! Dey betta zoggin' find it!"
"Don't worry, Boss. We'll get da Bomb up on da Oil-rig an' get it cleaned up an come back fer yer..."
"No wait... I haz a cunnin' plan."
"Let's go meet up wif da Biz-Mork."
"Izit not sunk, Boss?"
"No you stupid burk! Would we beat da bottom ov da zoggin' ocean in a salvage-sub pickin' up da grot-bomb if we'd launched it an' sunk da Biz-Mork?"
"But da plan..." The other ork wracked his brain for some answers, "Da plan woz to sink an' salvage both ships."
"We'll da whole fing didn't zactly go to plan. Dat grot git Sleekit did hiz part alright, da Gargantic woz a sittin' duck but dat crazy warp-head WazzBad didn't wait fer my signal! Afore I knew it hiz ladz woz droppin' bombz on our 'eadz. I didn't get a chance to launch da Grot-Bomb. It would've been easy to hit da Biz-Mork wif all da fightas away an' all. I'll 'ave ta come up wif anuva plan if I wants ta sink it too. But first I gotta go visit WazzBad."
Smirking was shocked. He had thought Sleekit a real hero, a proper leader, an exemplary. "Don't be any Mek's stooge" Sleekit had told him, but all the while the supposed Grot-Father was nothing but a Mek-Collaborator. Smirking felt used. He had been used, like so many others in the pursuit of what? Grot freedom? The Rebellion against the Meks? Not likely. It was all a plot, a Mek-plot no less! A plot to sink the two huge flagships, salvage them from the seabed and sell them back to both sides as scrap. GrodMek was playing both sides of the Gorka-Morka fight and getting rich and powerful selling weapons and materials in the ever-escalating arms race. An unaccountable fury was burning in Smirking's belly at the thought of it.
"Ol'Harlin' Wulf back at da Gorka-Ship yard iz buildin' anuva three Mega-Kroozas." GrodMek continued, "I should know, I've been supplyin' da scrap ta build 'em. If we can get da Grot-Bomb to WazzBad and da scrap from da Gargantic to Harlan' Wulf...
"We can sink da Biz-Mork?"
"No, you squig-brained git!" GrodMek sounded like he was having fun. "If we has WazzBad fit up three bombas wif Grot-Bombs on board pretty soon we'll have all three Mega-Kroozas on da sea bed an' back in my scrap heap!"
"But why d'you want 'em on da scrap 'eap, Boss?"
"So's I can sell 'em back ta da Gorkas you Lug!"
"Wots up wif da Waagh-dar, boss?" Another voice interrupted from perilously close to the door, it gave Smirking a start. "Wots dis 'ere big blob on da screen?"
"Dats us you great lumox!"
"But its huge!"
"Course it's 'uge! I'm on board! I gots nuff Waaagh in me all on me own! Dats why I iz da Big-Mek roun' 'ere."
Smirking had heard enough. It was obvious who was the enemy here. Unless GrodMek could be stopped there was hope that the Gorkas and Morkas could ever be united to take on the humans. Smirking's mission was clear. He had to warn someone about GrodMek's scheming ways, and put a stop to all the Big-Mek's manipulations.
Sleekit had known, he had tried to warn Smirking. Or perhaps he had only tried to use Smirking to keep what he had won from his deal with GrodMek. Maybe Sleekit was just making the best of a bad situation; trying to rescue as many grots as he could from a ship he knew was doomed to sink. Then again, Smirking reminded himself, many of the grots on the Gargantic had no business being on the ship at all, he himself was one of them. There was no denying Sleekit had engineered events to secure his place as the head of another little green-skin faction. One that would serve his ends with unquestioned loyalty; the rebel grots of da revolution. Sleekit, the Grot-Father was now their emancipator and no grot under his command would abandon da revolution to unite with their orkish kin unless Sleekit told them to. Smirking despaired; he would take some convincing.
Smirking wandered the passages and cramped working areas of the salvage-sub trying to keep out of the way of GrodMek's spanna-boyz and other mekaniacs who all seemed hard at work. They were all much too important to stoop to the level of associating with a grot and Smirking very sensibly let them get on with their very important business undisturbed.
Eventually Smirking found a convenient little spot to hide and think and wait out the remainder of his surprisingly dull voyage beneath the waves. He curled up inside the cosy damp cockpit of the grot-bomb and went to sleep.
As ever his dreams were filled with fire and smoke, the crashing of waves and the peal of thunder and the fanatical ranting of the BlackGull Shaman.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/05/16 23:00:52
Chapter 13 -Out of the frying pan (into the fire brigade.)
Smirking awoke. Something was different. The engine drone had died down, replaced by the familiar sound of waves. They were up on the surface. Smirking immediately thought about the hatch. Perhaps it was open. He had to get out.
Retracing his steps he found his way blocked by a dozen orks who apparently all had the same idea. The sunlight poured in from the little open hatch above and the waft of salty air in the stuffy gangway was tantalising.
"Dey iz gonna lash us up an' let down some ladderz an' den you can all get out." It was GrodMek's voice coming from beyond the hatch." WazzBad iz out on anuva sortie but I iz done wiff him anyways. Arris da Butcha iz a da kinda Morka I can deal wiff. GitFingaz, get yer crew an' 'ave da Grot-Bomb ready ta unload as soon as we iz up on da Biz-Mork. I rekkon da Butcha iz gonna wanna see dis."
An ork below the hatch made to comply with the Big-Mek's orders but he couldn't move for the press of bodies.
"All right you lot back to yer posts." Barked the chief Spanna.
Smiking fled before the mass of disgruntled orks. He slunk back into the salvage bay and hid in his bomb. Once out on the deck he could escape onto the Biz-Mork and hide amongst the Morka-grots unnoticed and out of GrodMek's hands. It wasn't long before Fingaz's crew were busy with jacks and trucks preparing Smirking's carriage to disembark. The big bay doors were opened and the contents of the salvage bay disgorged onto the narrow upper deck of the Salvage Sub. The dazzling light of day poured down and Smirking ducked deeper into the footwell of the cockpit. He waited in silence listening to the orks at work bustling around his cocoon. Smirking blinked skyward watching as an impossibly distant crane lowered a line from on high and then he marvelled as his little bubble floated up onto the vast deck of the Biz-Mork. He waited inside as if in metamorphosis, waiting for his moment to emerge and stretch his wings, a fully formed Morka-Grot.
Then came that sound. A sound he had learned to fear. Aircraft engines, incoming. Smirking was torn, he wanted to hide from the falling bombs but he also wanted to run. Surely they wouldn't notice an errant grot amidst the chaos, he could go now and find somewhere safer, somewhere maybe that wasn't inside another bomb, he reminded himself. Smirking mustered his courage and popped the canopy.
Out on deck all was business as usual. No panic, no alarms. The Spanna's crew had gone to join the rest of the disembarked Mek-boys. A barrel-chested ork in a heavy overcoat with a fat cigar was there to bid GrodMek a tiers welcome. That must be Arris da Butcha, thought Smirking. He didn't look particularly impressive but his reputation for sheer ruthlessness was fearful.
No one marked the unremarkable sight of a grot emerging from an aircraft on an aircraft carrier full of such unremarkable sights. But the droning of aircraft engines was still loud and getting louder.
Smirking turned to trace the sound an instant before a massive bomba came swooping in inches above his head. He was knocked down by the blast of wind which whipped around the plane and he lay there frozen to the deck as another and then another came labouring in behind. They were all three, dripping oil and blood and fuel and the fume of smoke from more than one burned-out engine covered the deck like a fog bank. Smirking coughed and stumbled his way clear of the reek and watched as the bomber crews fled their burning aircraft.
The first to emerge was an old, really old ork with a limp and a hunch-back and a scowl that could curdle fungus-beer. He spat on the deck, booted a grot carrying a fire hose out of his way and stomped off draining a small flask into his big toothless gob. A trio of bedraggled and injured gretchin followed in his wake carrying another on an improvised gurney.
The second bomber, a big red one, rumbled to a halt and disgorged its crew in a flurry of curses yelps and blows. A half-dozen battered and cringing grots fled before a bullish Runtherd, who lashed them mercilessly all the way from their bullet-riddled bomba to a staircase descending down below decks.
No-one emerged from the third, still burning Bomba. A crew of fire-grots made a token attempt at putting out the blaze but it was clearly a lost cause. At a nod from Da Butcha they abandoned their task. A large tracked shovel appeared and shunted the still burning wreck, survivors and all, over the port side of the deck and into the sea. None of it was apparently of any more use or interest to Da Butcha who went on speaking with GrodMek.
Thinking fast Smirking grabbed an abandoned brush and a fire-grot's hat and began copying the fire-grots packing up and stowing their fire fighting gear and clearing the deck of debris. If anyone noticed Smirking at all they made no indication. A number of them were as burned and scarred as he was and he couldn't help but smirk as he trotted merrily beside them for all the world just another Morka-fire-grot.
If Smirking's heat-blasted features had lips he might have added a nonchalant whistle as he merrily brushed the ash and debris of bomber parts off the deck.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/06/02 20:56:45
"Av I got a deal for you, Arris." GrodMek was smiling his toothiest Bad-Moon grin. Arris Da Butcha didn't look impressed.
"Imagine a bomba dat can't miss da target!" GrodMek began again with a little more success.
"It's not da bombas its da crews." Da Butcha interjected. "Show me a grot dat can hit a target and maybe I'd be interested."
Smirking put his head down and brushed the deck with intent. Nothing to see here, just a busy grot with a brush.
"Funny you should say dat..." GrodMek could hardly keep the wolffish smile from his big iron-clad chops. "A grot, just one grot, is all dis fing needs to guarantee a direct hit."
"Wot fing?" Da Butcha asked incredulously. "Der's no guarantees in dis game Big-Mek."
"Well let me introduce you to..." He turned them both with a flourish toward the Grot-Bomb. "My latest invention. Da ultimate in airborne anti-shipping..."
"It's a bomb."
"I know dat! It's all covered in seaweed." Da Butcha was underwhelmed and worse, was getting distracted. He stomped off to peer over the side, evidently eager to inspect GrodMek's own Salvage-Sub. GrodMek hurried after him hoping to distract the Morka Kaptain from anything of any real value.
"It's a little shabby for Morka-tastes right now but wif a lick ov paint..." He turned Da Butcha back toward the bomb. "A flash of red stripes, red wings, red..."
"Does it go fast?"
"Fast as a dakka-jet."
"Can it sink a Gorka-Fleet Krooza?"
"Nuff stuff in der ta put a Krooza-sized 'ole in a Mega-Krooza."
"An da pilot?"
Smirking shuffled a little further away and looked around for possible escape routes. The rest of his fire crew were already gone back to their posts. He felt a little conspicuous.
"Any grot wif a sense ov d'rection."
"Any grot..." Da Butcha folded his arms and looked GrodMek in the bionik eye. "Grot's don't do heroix Big-Mek. Dey're scaredy little runnin' gitz."
Smirking was a little indignant at this. His angry brush swished and slapped at the deck.
"Den I try a little ov dis." GrodMek produced his flask of Gutt-Rot. "Nuff juice will make any grot a hero."
Smirking's brush stopped mid-swish.
Sleekit had given him Gutt-Rot. Smirking's mind began racing anew. How deep did the supposed Grot-Father's complicity go? He hadn't stolen the stuff from GrodMek, he was given it for that purpose. To make Smirking into the 'hero' they needed for their plan.
Had it worked? Smirking wondered. What ideas were there in his impressionable mind that had been put there by the Big-Mek and his stooge? He couldn't recall the conversation exactly but he knew Sleekit had given him Gutt-Rot at the party and that the grots thought him a hero. But only because they had been told so before the party, by Sleekit.
Then GrodMek had meant to give him some more but hadn't. When he mentioned... WazzBad? Had he been dreaming? It was all so confusing. There was more going on in this crazy war than Smirking could even guess at. And as far as he could tell he hadn't seen a human boat, plane or even a body since all this madness had begun. Was he getting it all wrong? He was still the chosen one, right?
Smirking's burnt-bald head itched under the fire-hat and he scratched beneath it. It toppled noisily onto the deck.
GrodMek looked at the apparently idle fire-grot littering up the landing strip. It looked familiar, maybe he'd seen it here the last time he was onboard the Biz-Mork. It looked like a Morker fire-grot alright.
"WazzBad callin' BizMork! Dakka-Naughts comin' in fer a landin'!" A voice announced inside GrodMek's head. He grabbed his vibrating skull and cursed the Wierdboy.
"Gork-dammit, zoggin' crazy warphead!"
"You need ta lay off da Gutt-Rot, GrodMek." Da Butcha explained, unsympathetic to GrodMek's discomfort. "Dat stuff makes yer brain easy fer Wierdboys ta mess wiff. I don't let any of dat ol' rot on board my ship on account ov jus' that!" He turned and walked away from GrodMek and Smirking scarpered before anyone remembered him.
GrodMek looked out and saw a pair of dakka-jets in a steep banking turn. The lead plane was the familar twin engined design, more engine than plane, of WazzBad the Morka wierdboy. GrodMek could still hear the wierdboy's laughter and maniacal gibbering inside his skull.
"Gerrout ov my head!" GrodMek yelled and threw a futile spanner at the incoming dakka-jet.
"Gerrout ov my runway!" came the reply. Sure enough, the incoming aircraft were dipping in on a direct line toward where GrodMek was standing. Everyone else had the sense to clear the landing strip and a crew of well practiced gretchin were rigging the on-board nets and brakes and braces under the watchful eye of a savage Runtherd.
GrodMek ducked left and felt the heat in the air as the leading dakka-jet came in behind him at crazy speed. A low hanging hook caught a cable strung across the landing strip and a series of other breaking measures brought the hurtling meteor to an abrupt standstill.
WazzBad jumped from the cockpit and came to rest in a flurry of green sparks as Waaagh energy arced off him in every direction. He stood and wobbled a moment trying to reorient himself while the power dissipated, leaving him seeming somewhat smaller but altogether more sane. He shuffled off as the landing crew worked furiously to clear and reset the strip for a second dakka-jet.
It came screaming in, again much faster than the bombas had. Every method of arresting its speed was employed by hooks, ropes, nets and braces. Even the Runtherd's squig-hound chased it down and succeeded in catching a rear tyre as it skidded and screeched to a halt.
The Runtherd was looking out into the setting sun for a third dakka-jet but the ork pilot emerging from the second plane shook his head and the search was called off.
Aaris Da Butcha exploded. "WazzBad I iz gonna skin ya alive! I'll rip dat Rott-bloated head off your Mork-damned shoulders and spit down yer throat!"
WazzBad showed no sign of even being aware of the angry tirade of threats being hurled his way. He was sitting on a cable spool, kicking off his boots. The Ship's Squig Mogz came over and sniffed them, it didn't like the smell.
"Dats anuva of my top dakka-jetz you've lost!" Aaris continued unabated "If yer about ta pull a replacement outa yer arse I'd reckon ya betta stand up first!"
If WazzBad gave a toss Smirking certainly couldn't tell. He picked up Mogz playfully and began to make silly squig noises.
GrodMek failed entirely to conceal his glee as the Da Butcha ranted at the wierdboy ace, taring out his own hair-squigs in his frustration. It was obvious he couldn't afford to replace the valuable aircraft but he couldn't afford not to. Luckily, thought GrodMek with a sly grin, he just happened to be on hand to provide affordable solutions.
"You don't need WazzBad. GrodMek began. "How many Kroozas 'az WazzBad eva sunk? Aside from da one I jus' laid on for ya, I mean dat don't count! An' how many more dakka-jets are you gonna let 'im throw away?"
Aaris didn't respond immediately, he was clearly mulling it all over. Hating hard on WazzBad to no avail.
"I can see yer busy wif dis good-fer-nuffink zog-'ead, Aaris." GrodMek concluded. "If you want ta risk yer best gear on anuva sortie I'll jus' gerr-outa yer way..." He let the thought hang with the still-fuming captain before giving him the out. "Or if you wanna show WazzBad he's about as much use ta you as any ol' stinkin' grot I'll be 'appy ta oblige."
Aaris looked from the wierdboy to the grot-bomb. WazzBad lay sprawled on the deck gazing at clouds, the ship's squig curled in a ball in his lap, his clawed green toes wiggling in the breeze. The Grot-bomb stood big and bold and solid on the deck, a reassuring endorsement from GrodMek not the least of its assets.
GrodMek smiled, like a shark.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/06/05 18:35:10
"I told ya WazzBad's gonna getcha!" The wierdboy gloated from the driver's seat in the forward
Smirking was half in a daze. One minute he was merrily faking it out on the deck with the rest of the fire-grots preparing for WazzBad's departure and the next the wierdboy's long-clawed hand had grabbed him by the scruff and dropped him into the gunner's seat of his Dakka jet.
The twin barrels of a big dakka cannon swung drunkenly in time with the Wierdboy's erratic piloting. Another dakka-jet, the red cross-winged design flown by a hairy ace called UzKop hung in the air slightly above and behind WazzBad's plane. High in the sky above riding on fat black smoke trails another pair of Morka Dakka-jets patrolled.
There was a vox in the cockpit although there was no need of it, WazzBad's every gibbering utterance was broadcast direct to Smirking's highly receptive brain. The jet's two massive engines screamed a deafening howl just outside the cockpit but WazzBad's every word came through to the quivering Grot no less clearly.
"You ain't one of us, Smirking."
Smirking could almost see the Wierdboy's pointed finger of accusation. He'd been rumbled.
"an' I don't jus' mean you ain't no Morka... You ain't no Gorka neither!"
"So wot izzit, Wot iz ya? Cause I gotta tells ya, I ain't never known a grot can set a Waaaghdar off like you. You got nuff stuff to headbang a Bull-Grox! But ya ain't crazy Smirking, you ain't no wierd-boy 'eadbanga, you ain't nuffink!"
"He's not Smirking! And he ain't nuffink! He's Da Chosen One."
Who was that? Something undeniably weird was happening. Smirking looked around the cockpit for the second speaker but there was barely enough room in his small gunners seat to swing a snotling. In his miserable little grot heart he knew, the voice of the BlackGull Shaman; the one who had anointed and sacrificed him, who had made him the Chosen One. Somehow his spirit was still residing in Smirking's Gut-Rott addled brain.
"Da wot?" WazzBad barked.
"Da Chosen one! Gork's Greatest! Da Mighty one of Mork!"
"Pull da ova one. He's a grot!"
Smirking squeezed his eyes shut and wrapped his wings tight around his ears attempting to deny it all. He was shooting through the air at eye watering speeds at the mercy of a clearly unstable pilot, while two ork wierdboyz debated his unlikely greatness in his own head.
"We'll it was supposed to be me o'course, continued the Shaman but then you stupid burkes went an' killed the lot ov' us when your studip zoggin' wotsit squashed the whole island!"
"You mean ta tell me that you lot was 'ere first?" WazzBad balked, "an' da GorkaMorka squashed da lot of ya?"
"Not all of us." The Shaman squirmed somewhere in the back of Smirking's mind. "Da Chosen One was spared for their instrument of vengeance. He's our last hope..."
"For wot?" WazzBad laughed, "You got a bet on or somefink? Waaagh Smirking izzit?" The wierdboy was cracking up with laughter. Green sparks were shooting out from the pilot's position and bouncing crazily over the rear bubble canopy.
"Don't mock Da Godz, Speed Freak!" the Shaman warned. "Da Oomans iz gonna get wots coming to 'em."
"Oomans?" WazzBad guffawed incredulous. "Wot Oomans? You're a lark, you!"
Smirking was losing it, he began to hum furiously trying to block out the voices.
Suddenly there came a sound of laboured engines and the rattle of gunfire. A percussive staccato of impacts sounded across the dakka-jet's fuselage and the wierdboy stopped laughing. They were under attack.
"Wot da..." WazzBad jinked the plane suddenly to the left and began to climb. " but we'z well out ov range!" he complained. "No boat can hit us dis high up!"
"It's not a boat ya Snott-brained lug! It's like I said, it's da Oomans!"
"Well give em some Dakka! Dey're right behind us!"
Smirking reached up and took a tentative grasp of the big dakka-kannon and pulled himself up into the bubble canopy. Sure enough a distinctly unorkish flyer was on their tail, doggedly following WazzBad's erratic flight path.
"Smirking!" WazzBad yelled, "Pull da zoggin' trigga!"
By some instinct born of terror Smirking grasped the handles and squeezed the metal trigger. The twin barrels of his weapon sang out. A rain of firey metal flowed out and away toward the enemy.
"Yeeeeaaaah!" The Shaman was elated. "Da fire ov da Godz iz mine! Waaaaargh!!!"
A sudden surge of energy filled Smirking's psyche. A sense of immortality of infinite power. He was the chosen one of the Godz, he had a godz-eye view of this puny human world and the power of fire at his finger tips.
The enemy flyer twisted and rolled and banked and turned inside and around the trail of bullets before pulling up and away it slipped into the sun and out of sight.
Smirking relinquished his white knuckle grip on the guns and caught his breath while WazzBad levelled out and looked around.
"Uzza! UzKop, come in ya hairy git, yer supposed ta be watching my back!" WazzBad's wingman was a smoking spec in the distance being pursued by another shiny little spec. He was in no position to be of any help but WazzBad kept trying.
A second flurry of gunfire broke from above. A reprise of the staccato percussion of the first attack, more hits, more damage. But this time WazzBad fell eerily silent.
Another peek over the rim of the rear gunners position confirmed Smirking's growing suspicion. A ragged row of impacts from enemy auto-cannon fire traced a line directly into WazzBad's canopy, now gory with splattered green.
"Waaaagh! The weirdboy screamed in Smirking's head. "Wot...? Smirking!" He sounded confused, more confused than usual at any rate.
The Shaman was laughing "What Oomans, You said...Those Oomans you stupid git!" He sounded well pleased with himself, "We tried to tell him, Smirking, dint we?" The Shaman mocked "But now look at 'im, all his fancy Mek-toys an' dakka an' he ends up stuck in 'ere wif us."
"Shuddup." WazzBad sounded grumpy. He had reason to be after all, he had just been killed by an enemy he knew nothing about. "How'd you get me in 'ere! I want out ov' dis grot git! Let me go!"
"Oh no Wazza me-ol'-chum. If I'm stuck in ere' I'm taking you too. Da Chosen One needs all da Waaagh he can get."
"You're insane! This is madness! No grot can hold da mind of WazzBad!"
"I tol' ya already. He ain't just any ol' grot, he's da Chose..."
"Oh kan it ya Git!"
UzKop's jet came screaming overhead now embroiled in a dog-fight with two rugged and well engineered human fighter planes that clearly had the upper hand. Smirking watched as they weaved and spun and dived and turned in a deadly game. UzKop eventually disappeared into a cloud bank in an attempt to escape his pursuers but they were on him like flies on stink.
Meanwhile, WazzBad sat dead at the controls and his dakka-jet, Smirking noted with growing alarm, was beginning to slip into a dive. Worse still, Smirking seemed to be the only one in the least concerned as the two orks continued bickering inside his head. There was only one thing for it. Smirking popped the canopy and prepared to jump.
"Oh no-no-no-no-no..." It was WazzBad, he was having none of it. "I didn't come all the way out here over a zog-load of ocean to be dipped by a grot! You ain't goin' nowhere sunshine."
Smirking screwed up his courage, they couldn't stop him from jumping out. They couldn't make him do anything... Could they?
"He's right you know... Sure you've got wings but there ain't nuffink but water down there. You'll drown the lot of us!"
"You're gonna have to fly this thing back, Smirking-me-lad." WazzBad sounded confident. "It'll be easy, there's some Gut-Rott in the front, just get in the seat I'll do the rest."
Smirking found he couldn't jump.
Was it indecision, terror, unaccountable bravado? Did he seriously think he could pilot this thing? Terror seemed most likely... He wasn't too concerned about the possibility that the two orks in his brain might be commanding his will. It was after all the natural order of green-skin things. What Grot had ever been who had not some Ork to contend with for mastery of his own agency.
"Well ain't you a clever little git..." WazzBad had been listening in on Smirking's private inner monologue. "Now pull yer self together and get the zog on with it!"
By the time WazzBad's dakka jet made its landing Smirking's nerves were shot.
Half a dribble of Gutt-Rott had sufficed to give WazzBad the reigns for long enough to recover the dive and turn them around into roughly the right direction. After that, Smirking wasn't entirely sure if he hadn't just done the whole thing himself. His landing on the deck of the BizMork was atrocious. The shot-up twin engined dakka-jet fell in like a shat brick and littered up the whole deck from stern to bow. In the chaos and confusion of fire crews and salvage teams Smirking slipped out of the wrecked plane unnoticed leaving the body of WazzBad to answer any questions asked.
He skulked beneath deck slinking through corridors, ducking port holes and dodging encounters with orks and Gretchin alike eager to be left alone with his own thoughts. Fat chance.
There resided now in his rott-addled grot brain two of the most unhinged, egotistical and malignant personalities he had ever had the misfortune to encounter. Even at his most lucid they still skulked in the back of his mind, a pair of miserable recalcitrants, resentful of his continuing life, his diminutive stature, his unaccountable good luck.
Smirking it seemed, at first, was charmed. No ork nor gretchin took the slightest notice of his coming or going. Only the Ship's Squig, Mogz seemed to seek out his company. It would sleep in his rack and bring him dead black gulls on occasion.
Its presence was comforting, not least because of the calming effect it seemed to have on WazzBad. Though BlackGull took its little gifts as a personal insult.
Smirking soon came to realise that life on board the BizMork was not at all like life on the Gargantic. Gone was the enthusiastic camaraderie of the Gorkafleet grot crews, replaced with a kind of blank malaise. The rigours of life in the MorkaWing took its toll on the grot bomber crews which Aaris Da Butcha worked to exhaustion and beyond. Every flight was another compounding trauma. The interims between little more than a chance to dwell on the terror. The nail biting take offs and bone jarring landings were nothing compared with the suicidal dive bombing of Gorka shipping, the blanket bombing of their ports and shipyards and the defending of Morka assets from their brutal counter attacks. Such was the inexorable progress toward certain violent death that nerves were fraught, bodies were wracked, minds were shutting down, hope was nowhere to be found. Smirking drifted through the listless ever changing crowd just another unknown figure in the dire faceless gallery of their miserable lives.
Unused to such dull anonymity the pair of Wierdboys in Smirking's brain would gripe at the lack of deference they were forced to endure. Every time Smirking would step aside for an ork, or allow another bigger grot to push ahead of him there was a chorus of groaning dissent in the background. They would balk at his lack of assertiveness, his tendency to drift through life a passive object afloat on the tide.
In that first month aboard the BizMork Smirking learned more about orks from his two mental hitchhikers than he could ever have hoped to learn from his fellow gretchin. There flowed from WazzBad and BlackGull a constant commentary on every ork he laid eyes on. Smirking was privy to every stray thought of both orks in every circumstance. At times sheer volume of complaints and opinions elicited from any encounter was hard to contain without twitching and muttering aloud and drawing considerable attention to himself.
He learned from WazzBad the particular traits and tendencies of all the various Runtherds aboard the BizMork, many of whom also doubled as the bomber pilots. He learned how best to avoid their anger or their attentions. When to make himself scarce to avoid flight service and when to 'volunteer' for comparatively less life threatening work. WazzBad was a champion life-long draft dodger. He was also, however unmistakably insane. On occasion his madness would manifest and give Smirking a terrible headache. Smirking soon became known for the grot who wandered around banging his head with his fists and talking to the voices in his head. Mostly he was left to it and not disturbed for fear that the madness might be catching.
BlackGull the Shaman it seemed had a keen sense of the Ork mentality. Of the power plays and the perception of size or status. The economy of teeth in the pocket to teeth in the head. He preached at length about the primary tenets of orkishness; of ruthless cunning and cunning ruthlessness; of fear and brute force and unpredictability. It was clear that his all encompassing grasp on the fundamental nature of orkdom was the reason he had risen to the very top of their feral ork society.
The ork race, BlackGull taught was naturally inclined to strife. Boyz fought to become Nobz and Nobs to become Bosses and naturally the strongest would rise to the top. Either by fear and ruthlessness like Aaris, raw irresistible force and brutality like GorGoff, or downright sneaky cunning like GrodMek. Though GrodMek, he admitted was an odd case.
Odd-Boyz, according to BlackGull were essential but potentially dangerous. A few good Runthurdz aboard the Gargantic might have quelled Sleekit's rebellion, but too many on the BizMork was turning its grots lacklustre and unproductive. The Grotz, BlackGull admitted reluctantly were essential to ork society too but they had to be governed or the natural order would break down as GorfGoff had learned to his downfall.
A Big-Mek like GrodMek, or a WarpHead like BlackGull, (so he claimed to have been, though WazzBad scoffed) They were potentially among the most powerful allies but often proved the most unpredictable and therefore the most dangerous. They also had a tendency to gather followers and power onto themselves and become rivals rather than allies.
Such things that no ork would see fit to explain to a grot were laid bare in the cramped head space shared by each and every stray unguarded thought. Smirking, still possessing much of his own faculties took note of his companions' thoughts and used much of their inherent wisdom to his advantage. He was sneaking extra meals, dodging heavy labour and getting away with it too, that is until he fell foul of the ship's ruthless Kaptain, Aaris Da Butcha.
"Smirking izzit?" Aaris was smiling, his toothiest smile which was never a good sign. Everyone in Smirking's head squirmed in unison.
"Step inside, my little green hero." A sharp clawed hand indicated an open door behind. Inside the Kaptain's Ready Room waited a familiar guest. It was GrodMek.
"You've met ol' Grodders before I hear?" Aaris was all teeth and thinly veiled violent rage. He clearly meant no good to anyone.
"Smirking, me old chum!" GrodMek beamed, "no don't sit down, this won't take long." There was nowhere to sit. Well the Kaptain's chair was currently unoccupied but Smirking wasn't stupid, he could see what GrodMek was up to.
WazzBad was feeling cornered like a rat-squig in a trap, desperate for an exit. Smirking was trying not to let it show but it was making his left eye twitch. BlackGull on the other hand was still, calm, attentive, watching every smile and every gesture in the unfolding drama. His intensity was such that Smirking couldn't even blink.
"Erm... GrodMek?" Aaris was watching Smirking with an obvious scepticism. "Doz he always look like dis? We got the right Grot?"
"Dis is Smirking alright, I'd recognise 'im anywhere!" GrodMek blustered, "One of a kind he iz. Smirking da Wonder Grot! Da best grot pilot bomba in da fleet... Gyaaa, I mean da Morka-Wing." Hoping to smooth over his obvious gaff GrodMek kept talking.
"Wif dis Grot an' my Bomb you won't need no bomba-wing, no Dakka-jet strike force...."
Aaris sat. He didn't like what he was hearing and it showed. BlackGull spotted his scowl and quickly mirrored it on Skirking's face, making sure to catch the Kaptain's eye. He threw in a well timed eye roll for good measure. He knew how this game was played.
Catching Smirking's incredulous look the Morker interjected. "You mean ta tell me I'm doin' it all wrong?"
"Yesss, dat's right, wif my..."
"You come 'ere, on my ship, wif your sneaky sub an' your daft notions 'bout grot heroes an' you 'as da nerve to tell me, Kaptain Aaris, da Butcha..." He was getting louder and more animated with every furiously spat accusation. Rising from the Kaptains chair he puffed out his chest and gave his voice a lungful of authority. "You mean ta tell ME how ta run da Morka-Wing?!" His ire was peaked, Smirking found himself quite against his will stood with arms folded firmly beside the Kaptain with a convincing look of solidarity on his face.
"I've got airstrips on every island from Red Rox to da GorkaMorka!" Aaris ranted. "My Bombas can hit anyfing as far as Mork could spit in every direction! My spotters can find a spawning ground an' I can 'ave ev'ry ork an' grot on dat island loaded inta a Morka-wing Lugga an' on my deck afore you can say Morkalmighty!" The spit was flying and Aaris was clearly enjoying himself but GrodMek had heard more than enough.
"An' who gave you those Luggas, an' airstrips an' dis 'ere very ship, Kaptain? Who brings you every new-fangled gubbins an' secret bit of know-wotz I got? Me!" Now GrodMek was on his feet. "Wiffout ol' Grodders you'd still be fightin' every other Morka in Mektown fer every scrap of junk an' every Yoof spawned! You'd be Kaptain ov nuffink, Sunshine!"
WazzBad was starting to enjoy this. Smirking's eye was still twitching but now his face began squirming uncontrollably as he started to giggle. GrodMek was delighted, the grot clearly knew how much of a puffed up joke the Morka-Kaptain was. The BigMek doubled down for his main assault.
"It's my job to see that Morka's stay on top! An' you been losin' planes and good pilots faster'n a Gorka grot loses his gak! My Grot-Bomb is smaller dan a bomba, carries more boom, goes fasta dan a dakka-jet an' will only cost you one grot! One lousy grot! Just one..."
Smirking didn't need any prompting to know where he stood on this argument. WazzBad grabbed the reluctant grot's stray thought and pushed it to the fore.
"Lousy!" Smirking blurted "You said I is a Hero!" He quickly covered his mouth but the deed was done.
Aaris chuckled at the little guy's massive attitude. To contradict a BigMek, in front of the Kaptain no less! The grot had some gonadz. He just might be a hero after all.
GrodMek was furious but too dumbfounded to respond. Aaris jumped on the opportunity.
"Well, Grodders?" Aaris grinned, "Wotsit to be? Izzy a lousy good fer nuffink grot?"
Smirking's brow furrowed.
"Or izzy one of a kind? A real hero?"
They waited in silence, watching GrodMek squirm. Smirking had to be a hero, otherwise there was no reason to believe he'd be any good at piloting the bomb. But if Smirking was so special then his grand plan was just a one shot deal. If he was just another lousy and expendable grot there would be no guarantee of success. There was always Gutt-Rott, but GrodMek knew how the Kaptain felt about the stuff. Best not mention it. It wasn't good business, he grumbled. How had he been backed into this corner? Had he just been outsmarted by a grot?
GrodMek glowered at them, his eyes smouldering with contempt. This fool of a Kaptain and his pathetic little grot stooge! There was only one thing for it. It was time to get personal.
"Smirking's twice the hero you'll ever be, Butcha!" GrodMek hurled the insult like a fist. Finally the voices in Smirking's head were silenced as every ork in the room stood aghast.
GrodMek jumped to capitalise "You build yer bomba-wings an' you send out Grotz to do your dirty work! You ain't neva faced a real fight. Even da tired old Runtherd gitz wot fly your damn Grot-bucket Bombas got more gonadz an' know wotz when it comes to flyin' inta a Gorka-fleet gak-storm! Dey don't calls ya da Butcha 'cause you chop up Gorkas! It's only Morka Grotz you send to da slaughter! Yer paffetik, cowardly..."
Aaris sucker punched the BigMek so hard his iron jaw rang like an armoured hull. The blow sent GrodMek sideways. He was rocked but he didn't fall.
BlackGull the shaman watched intently, knowing the significance of the blow. Had GrodMek fallen that would be that but he was on his feet and so the challenge remained for the Morka Kaptain to prove himself. He was willing Smirking to make a move, to step back onto GrodMek's side. To position himself. With the BigMek in his favour and the challenge still to come it made sense to get on side. But after his last unguarded outburst Smirking had a tight grip on his reigns and refused to budge.
"I'll show you GrodMek!" The Kaptain began. "I'll fly a bomber full of grots right into the teeth of the Gorka-Fleet shipyards. I'll drop a gak-load of bombs on old 'Arlan Wulf hizself an' blow them all ta bitz. And..." Aaris paused for dramatic effect, "I'll not lose a single lousy grot!"
"Grox-gak!" GrodMek scoffed.
Aaris spat on his palm and held it out. "Not a single lousy grot." He repeated. "And if I don't come back..." He gestured to their surroundings meaningfully, the BizMork, the Bomba-wing, all that he possessed...
GrodMek eyed the Kaptain's proffered hand with suspicion. It was a deal too good to be true.
"You're full o' gak, Aaris! You'll just drop yer load ova da ocean an circle back here. You ain't flyin' inta no teef ov no Gorka-fleet nuffink!"
"Den I'll take your precious Hero-grot wit me." Aaris beamed, clutching Smirking by the arm. "Smirking 'ere can tell you all about it when we gets back. You trust Smirking, don'tcha? Since he's such a hero an' all." The Kaptain leaned down heavily on Smirking's shoulder.
"You wouldn't lie ta old GrodMek now wouldja, Smirking?"
The joint resentment and disdain of both ork inhabitants in Smirking's mind cascaded from a twitch to a squirm to a shrug and finally to a violent shuck as Smirking threw off the hand on his shoulder and slunk out of reach.
Such a display of pluck and tenacity from a grot on board the BizMork was a real surprise and it broke the tension of the moment. Both of the orks fell into laughter as GrodMek spat on his own palm and slammed the deal home with a hearty shake.
"Yer a fool, Aaris but I'd be fool not to accept." He gave Smirking a light slam on the back as he left and laughed. "Look forward to hearin' your report, Smirking."
Aaris muttered and fussed around his gear throwing items into a thick canvas sack before tossing it at the grot, who was just turning to sneak away.
"Here's me fings, hero-grot. Stick 'em up front in da Big-Red-Bomba and stay der. I'm goin' ta pick us a crew."
Aaris Da Butcha had completed his preflight checks; the bomba was red, it was loaded with bombs, fuelled to the neck, full compliment of grots.
"Right, you lot." he sounded enthused. "Hold onta yer gak!" He slammed the throttle full on and the Big Red Bomba jerked as the engines roared to life. He gave the shooter the signal and the katapult was released. The sudden jerk caught Smirking and his breakfast by surprise. He tumbled bum over bonce and was left upside down pinned to the side of the Waaagh-dar operator's console by the force of the sudden acceleration. They were airborne in seconds flat and Smirking felt decidedly ill.
The Big Red Bomba settled into a long droning climb.
The atmosphere among the grot crew was tense. Smirking noted more than a few of them were engaged in elaborate rituals. Crossing fingers, arms, legs and toes, muttering mantras under their breath or fingering Grox-tusk beads. One even clutched a stuffed fuzz-squig like it was a life preserver. There were of course no grot sized life preservers on board.
Morka grots were, as a rule, a superstitious lot. Always wary of any slight change that might portend disaster. An alternate crew member, a variation in the flight plan, an odd or even numbered sortie, even a new tyre or a fresh paint job could be an omen of dire fortune. The thing that broke a lucky streak. The harbinger of doom.
Smirking felt conspicuous.
Aaris Da Butcha had never volunteered to fly a solo bombing run. Never hand picked a crew for the mission and certainly never left the BizMork in the hands of a Non-Morker BigMek like GrodMek. It was all very strange. Not one element of this mission was in any way routine.
Smirking had the feeling they were all watching his every move. He tried to catch the eye of the grots sitting opposite but they all seemed to be rather preoccupied when he looked at them. But they knew. They all did. It was all on him. Smirking was the crux, the outsider. The source of the ripples rocking the delicate boats of their fragile little lives.
Smirking missed his friends. He often thought of the Rebel Grots, of Sleekit The Grotfather and the revolution that had never reached the Morka grots, these sad creatures around him. They were a hopeless, dispirited lot. A far cry from his former comrades.
"Goggz!" Aaris yelled from up in the pilot's seat, "Gerron ovar 'ere."
The grot Waaagh-dar operator, who already looked decidedly pale took off his head set and climbed out of his seat. He couldn't resist giving Smirkig the old stink-eye before turned to clamber up into the cockpit.
A hushed murmur erupted among the grots. Equipment was checked, weapons readied. Something must be afoot if the Boss had anything to say to one of them.
Goggz appeared again looking paler still and quite worried. He was looking at Smirking. No, staring.
"Oi, Goggz... Wotsit?" One grot spoke for all the rest. Smirking knew him as Nurd. He had a reputation for knowing everything, or thinking he did at any rate.
"It's da Waaghdar." Goggz stammered. "It's on da fritz. Da boss don't like it."
"We'll let's get back to da Biz-Mork an' 'ave it looked at!" suggested Nurd incredulous. Did he have to think of everything?
"Well... Aaris reckons he's got so much Waagh he's blastin' da signal, filling da whole screen."
"Like WazzBad used to?"
"Yeah, like dat. He had some stuff! Morkalmighty I hated flyin' wit WazzBad. Crazy headbanger." Goggz spat. Nurd spat too, and another grot side-gunner who'd been listening.
Smirking skulked at the back. One hand over his left eye hiding the fact that it was twitching frantically. WazzBad was losing his gak; to be so insulted by a bunch of snivelling grot.
"I don't get it but..." Nurd had been thinking. "I flew wit' Aaris before now. We was on da big Lugga comin' back from Mek-town."
"I don't r'member no Waaghdar fritz. Aaris iz a BigBoss, sure, but he don't got nuff Waagh-stuff to wipe out da Waaghdar screen. We found da Biz-Mork just fine comin' back dat time, an' dat woz in da dark."
"So who'z got da stuff?"
It was a good question. It had to be Aaris da Butcha, surely. He was the only ork on board.
"It ain't me." Nurd enjoyed the very suggestion of himself, a mere grot, being the source of the strange power, even the denial didn't fully take away the implication.
"It's him." Goggz announced over a shaking finger. "He's da one, Smirking. We all knowed he woz bad luck from da start."
All eyes were on him now. It didn't matter that he was just another scrawny grot. That no grot in the history of orkdom had ever possessed enough Waaagh energy to roast a squig-foul let alone blast out the entire range of a bomber's waaaghdar navigation. The grots were uneasy, they were scared. They had their fear, their superstition and their scapegoat and in truth, little else mattered.
"You lot!" Aaris Da Butcha yelled back from the cockpit "wocha waitin' for?"
Everyone looked at Goggz.
"Oh, yeah, I forgot... well." Goggz looked uncertain. "Dat iz, I mean, we is supposed to be readyin' da bombs."
"Wot?" Nurd looked askance "But we only just took off! We're not even close to ... You just said... da waaaghdar!"
"We izn't goin' to no Gorka shipyard. Da Butcha's been flying circles."
"We'll wot da zog iz he goin' to bomb den?" Nurd was at a total loss, he didn't like the feeling.
"He wants to sink da Biz-Mork." Goggz could hardly believe it himself. He tried to let the news sink in but it was no use. It still made no sense.
"But dat's our ship..." Nurd stated redundantly, lost for words.
"Have you lot got da doors open yet? Have ya even started?!" Aaris was getting impatient, "don't make me come back dere!"
But the grots were in dismay. Not even Da Butcha's threats could kick them into gear.
"It don't make sense."
"He can't sink da Biz-Mork wif just one Bomba." Nurd observed, "It'd take a lot more 'splosives dan wot we'z got."
"Not if we aim for da grot bomb." Smirking spoke, and wished he hadn't. The thinly veiled hostility emanating from the rest of the grot crew was palpable.
"Dat's his plan," Smirking continued, "it has to be. It's GrodMek he's after." Deep within his psyche the Wierdboys nodded in agreement. The chosen one was learning well.
"But wot about da ship! Da crews!"
"He don't care..." Nurd had heard enough. It all made sense. "He's lost too many bombas, most of his Dakka-jets, WazzBad an' all. An' he always hated GrodMek."
"So this is it." Goggz concluded, "He's taken off in BigRed with his best crew and he's gonna try to kill GrodMek with his own bomb."
"Den lets do it!"
"But it won't work!" Smirking protested.
"And why not?" Nurd hated a know-it-all.
"Because it's GrodMek." Smirking tried to explain. "He'll just escape in his salvage sub. He'll clean up! Its what he wanted all along, to sink da BizMork, that's what his grot-bomb is for!"
"What do you know about it?"
"It was me!" Smirking confessed. "I woz da grot! He wanted me to fly da bomb from off da Gargantic. I woz supposed to sink da BizMork."
"Well, well, well. Smirking, Smirking, Smirking..." Aaris purred. "That is a tall tale to be telling." He had put BigRed on autopilot and had finally come back amongst the grots to see what all the hold up was about.
"Da sad tale of da Gorka Galley Grot turned Mekboy's stooge." It was a comment carefully curated for his audience. The Morka grots were outraged. Aaris had their full attention at last.
"You heard him ladz," he continued with enthusiasm, "GrodMek brought him here to destroy us!" Not technically true, but who was quibbling. The grots were closing in around him, unfettered hatred in their eyes. Smirking shrunk.
"Wot'z da matter?" Aaris laughed. "I'm disappointed, Smirking. I 'ad it on good authority... GrodMek's at any rate, dat you woz a real Hero!"
As Smirking backed into the rear fuselage of BigRed a bright green spark shot out of his butt. Some of the grots paused and cast around worried glances. But they were committed now, there was no backing down.
"He wants to destroy da BizMork? He want's to ride a bomb so bad? He can ride one of mine!" Aaris guffawed, "Grab him, you lot. Let's strap him on da first load!"
The first grot that laid hands on him died instantly. Its head exploded in a shower of green sparks. Where a group of orks might have erupted into cheers and whoops of excitement the assembled grots fell to a shocked silence. Smirking stared at the mess in horror. What was happening? What had he become? He grabbed BlackGull's seething fury and reigned the shaman back in. Smirking hadn't meant for the grot to die in such a way. He'd had no idea, in fact that it was even possible.
"Wot da zog?" Aaris da Butcha was as confused as his grots were.
Nurd, never one to miss an opportunity to provide the obvious answer to his slower, more brutish superiors spoke up.
"He's an 'eadbanger, Boss."
"He's a grot!" Aaris yelled defiant. A grot Weirdboy! It was a thing unheard of. "Gerra a hold of him and tie him up. He's going flying!"
Nobody moved. Da Butcha slapped the nearest grot hard, a viscous backhand that knocked him sprawling into the side bulkhead, but he just scurried away, more afraid of Smirking than of his ork overlord. Aaris was incensed. To be defied in favour of a grot! He bellowed his fury.
"I'll show you, ya little freak..." Tripping over grots and shoving them aside Aaris closed the distance to the rear of the plane where Smirking cowered in abject terror.
Instinctively Smirking raised his hands in futile defence and shrinking back within himself he gave over full control to the Shaman and the Wierdboy within.
Aaris Da Butcha blinked. His vision was filling with a green haze of sunspots. His head felt light. He tried to speak, but his voice sounded faded, far off. He thrashed around to no avail, it felt like swimming in a vat of crude squig oil.
A laughter pervading the fog came to him like a memory. A familiar mocking voice. A hated voice. He knew it in an instant.
"WazzBad you Mork-damned piece of grox-gak! I should'a smashed yer brains out when I had da chance! I swear to Mork you're gonna feel my teeth in yer throat when I getcha. I'm gonna tear you a new..."
WazzBad only laughed. Aaris continued ranting, getting more and more infuriated the more the Wierdboy mocked him. A vision of their conflict as if from afar congealed from the mist. It was a battle of wills. Aaris' will was strong. The force of rage and sheer brutality emanating from him was formidable. He could see it lash and beat upon his opponent who strove to defend himself. But all the while the mocking jeers of WazzBad were chipping away at his pride, gnawing at his confidence. He was losing control.
Aaris took a deep breath and summoning up all his focus he doubled down and faced off his attacker. But who was he? Was it truely WazzBad, returned from the dead? Aaris had never known the old speed freak to be so adversarial. He and WazzBad had had their run ins but in the end Kaptain Aaris had always asserted his dominance, after a fashion. No, WazzBad was not alone. Aaris could feel that he also contended with another. This other will, however was focused, possessed of an intense self belief, an unshakable faith in his innate orkishness. This will was primal and timeless; deeply rooted.
Aaris grabbed at the image of a blade, a butcher's cleaver. The icon of his bloody minded ruthlessness. Feeling the weight of his convictions in his grasp he slammed them home, a brutal smash in the face of his opponent.
Not a flinch.
The butcher's blade shivered in his grip like he'd hewed at solid rock. His adversary was a smoking mountain. Unmoved, fuming, an indomitable will with a heart of fire. And still the derisive laughter of WazzBad continued unabated. If anything it was getting worse, so wildly entertaining was the spectacle. Aaris swung and missed the elusive wierdboy. Ever had he striven to impose his will on the implacable WazzBad. Ever had he defied and rejected the Morka Kaptain's mastery. It was beyond frustrating.
"Damn you WazzBad," Aaris roared into the mist, "Even in death you drive me nutz! You laugh like da fool you are! I am not dismayed! I do not relent, no-one can stand up to Da Butcha!"
"Oh, ho ho," WazzBad scoffed, "but it ain't so, Aaris. GrodMek took yer best shot, didn't he? I seen it, he stood up to ya alright."
"You saw... Gyaaagh!" Aaris exploded in a rage of furry, crashing against the mountainside like a tidal wave. Even then, when all his fury was spent the mountain yet stood.
"What are you!" He yelled at the faceless rock.
WazzBad laughed. "Trust me Aaris you don't wanna know."
"I will know! Show yourself!"
Before his hazy vision there appeared an image of himself, in flight upon BigRed, a crew of grots cowering at his heels. He willed his vision closer, straining to see the face of the one who contested his mastery, the one whose will yet defied him, the coward who would not be named. Closer still and the cramped fuselage of the plane enclosed his view. As his vision drew nearer to the source Aaris saw first his own broad shoulders, back bent, neck straining, arms locked in the struggle. So desperate was he to see past his own hulking form that he reached out and beat himself down upon his knees.
Then at last, the truth was revealed. The unforgettable face of Smirking.
WazzBad erupted into hysterics. For there before their eyes was Aaris Da Butcha, beaten, upon his knees before a grot. How the mighty had fallen.
It was the final shot and Da Butcha's confidence crumpled. His will buckled under the pressure and BlackGull swooped to take him.
"We are da chosen of Da Godz, Kaptain. You'd do well not to resist." He spoke in triumph as he and WazzBad ushered Da Butcha's spirit into the communion of Da Chosen One.
Smirking had won.
He found himself alive, and staring at a dozen awestruck grot faces. He had a massive headache.
Nobody spoke. It was hard to ignore the fact that The only ork on board was dead at his feet. The grots were
essentially free, and Smirking was their emancipator.
He tried to step over the large ork body but by necessity of their cramped quarters had climb on top.
"It's true! He is a Hero!" one grot gasped.
"A grot hero!" another confirmed.
"I heard him, he said he's da Chosen One!" Nurd called with alarming fanaticism.
Smirking was about to step down again among the other grots but the dreamy-eyed throng before him was creeping him out. He maintained his distance as best he could atop the body. They watched his every move with hungry eyes, the spectacle of their new hero atop the vanquished tyrant filled them with purpose and righteous indignation.
"Iz it time to bomb da BizMork now!" Goggz enquired.
"Of course it iz!" Nurd snapped, "Dat's been hiz plan all along!"
"Oh Chosen One..." Nurd implored "what is your command?"
Smirking was a little taken aback. Now that they had their freedom, all they wanted was a new boss. Boss Smirking, he laughed. What a joke. And why did everyone want to sink that boat? Was it really such a great threat? He was at a loss, thrown unexpectedly into the driver's seat... he stopped.
"Can anyone fly this thing?" Smirking asked in a sudden panic.
They all looked around at each other, at the body of their pilot, back to Smirking. He jumped down and pressed his way through the grots to the controls.
In the front of the Bomba he found an odd creature. A small and nervous grot tied to the plane's yolk. It was keenly focused on the instruments, and jumped when Smirking addressed him.
"I'm Auto," he replied, "the auto-pilot, I mean." he resumed his obsession with the bomba's instruments, his white knuckle grip of the control reducing the ropes around his wrists to something of a token gesture.
"Straight and level. Straight and level..." He repeated like a mantra, correcting every slight fluctuation shown by the instrumentation with intense dedication.
"Where are we going?" Smirking asked.
"Straight and level.Straight and level..."
"I think maybe we better turn around soon." suggested Smirking. He reached over and tugged on the wheel. Auto really lost it. He panicked and screeched and almost hyperventilated until finally he got BigRed back on a straight and level flight path.
"Ok," Smirking tried another angle. "We're going to run out of fuel sooner or later. So don't you think you'd better find somewhere to land?"
"Straight and level.Straight and level..."
"I think you better let me take over now." He began untying the auto pilot from the wheel. "We can't stay up here all night."
"Oh no, Aaris wont allow dat!" said Auto shaking his head emphatically, "Grots don't fly. I just hold it steady, see? Straight and level."
"Aaris is dead." Smirking paused to allow that information to settle in. Auto who had missed the whole thing looked back down into the rear of the bomber.
"So," Smirking continued, "either you're the pilot now or you can let me do it. Either way we have to land this thing before we fall out of the sky bombs and all."
"Oooh have we not dropped the bombs yet? Can I pull the lever?" Apparently happy to be relieved of duty, Auto hopped down out of the seat and left Smirking to it.
Smirking grabbed the wheel and pulled himself up. Now, where would Aaris keep his Gutt-Rot. Just a small swig of the stuff and WazzBad could do the rest. Slowly the realisation dawned on him that Aaris didn't like the stuff. He had imposed a total ban on it in fact, a wise precaution born of living in close proximity to a powerful wierdboy.
Smirking tried to call upon any of his Orkish residents but he wasn't getting any of their usual banter coming through. They must have been exhausted after their fight to quell Da Butcha. Smirking shuddered to think of the brutal Morka Kaptain, now the third ork trapped within his diminutive psyche. He wasn't looking forward to the savagely angry thoughts, the aggression, no doubt the resentment and no end of arguments with WazzBad. He should probably just enjoy the silence while it lasted.
No, this time, he was on his own. The Chosen One would make his own choices, and judging by the blinking red fuel light he would be choosing to land the plane. Not an easy job on an ocean planet. Finding an island with a suitable beach was likely his best option. A deserted one preferably; no orks to bother them, just fuel... An abandoned refuelling station might be too much to hope for he concluded.
Smirking pushed gingerly on the controls and eased the bomba down. It was surprising how much easier to control it was than WazzBad's dakka jet. Perhaps this time his landing wouldn't be quite such a disaster. Assuming that he could find somewhere to land.
"Goggz." he yelped over his shoulder, "Anyfink on da waaaghdar?"
"Nope, it's all just da big ol' blip. It is you innit Boss? It's been all Smirking all da time!" The operator replied with enthusiasm. It wasn't what smirking wanted to hear.
A grot was lying prone in the nose blister of the plane. He was the target spotter, Smirking didn't know his name.
"Spot-Grot at yer service, Chief!"
"No, I mean... What's your name?
"You can call me Spot-Grot."
"But... " Smirking didn't really have time for this, "oh nevermind, just keep an eye out for an island with a long beach."
"Got it Kaptain." He saluted "Bomb da beach!"
"No no no, to land on." He corrected the enthusiastic target spotter. "We need a long beach for landing on."
"Oh, ok." The grot looked a little crestfallen, "Will that one do?"
"What, where?" Smirking craned his neck up over the dash and sure enough, down beneath them there lay a crescent shaped island enclosing a great blue bay in wide white sands. As long a landing strip as he could've hoped for, and not a Gorka-fleet Krooza nor Morka-wing airstrip in sight. Smirking pushed the nose down and they began a steeper descent.
Now how did it go? Smirking's memory of landing on the BizMork was a little hazy. Perhaps if he'd kept his eyes open more of the time... well they were wide open now. He nudged the controls and the big plane eased into a left turn as they dropped down over the island, once lined up on his chosen spot of sandy beach Smirking levelled it off and killed the engines. BigRed didn't so much glide in as fall sideways. Smirking couldn't help but think he'd forgotten something as the waves and trees and sand below drew nearer and nearer.
He checked everything he knew how to check. Air brakes, check. Engines, off. Cross winds, he licked his finger and held it up trying to look like he knew what he was doing. He quickly grabbed the controls again and righted the plane. It was almost time to touch down.
"Hey, Boss," it was that smart arse Nurd.
"Not now Nurd! I'm trying to land da Bomba!" Smirking didn't have time for distractions at such an inopportune moment.
"Yeah, about dat, Boss." Nurd continued, regardless, "D'you reckon we oughta drop da landing gear?"
Smudge watched as his worst fear came crashing from the sky to roll to an inglorious halt upon the shore of his splendid isolation. He ordered his patrol down deeper into the tropical undergrowth. A Morker plane landing on their island could only mean one thing. A grot round up.
"Grunt, take Runt," Someone had to warn the camp, they had defences to prepare. "Go tell da boss we got company."
The pair backed away and disappeared silently into the jungle. Smudge gave the signal to move, and together with his remaining band of grots they advanced along the beach toward the threat, staying hidden from sight. As they drew nearer the big red aircraft Smudge couldn't help but feel intimidated by its sheer size. How many orks might be on board? All wild Morka-slavers with bright red hair-squigs and vicious grot-seeking squig-hounds. Such tales were the stuff of grot nightmares. To be rounded up and whipped into service on a flying bucket of bombs. He would sooner die. Smudge screwed up all his reserves of grot courage and aimed his blow-pipe at the thing, standing his ground come what may.
Smirking and his crew were rattled and shaken inside the big red tin-can bomber. It was the bumpiest landing imaginable short of an outright crash. He was sure the undercarriage would need repaired, and maybe his head too.
"Alright, Spot-grot where are we?"
"Looks like a beach, Chief."
Smirking elected not to respond. His headache demanded fewer stimuli. He slunk out of his seat and went for the main exit hatch.
"Whoa, hey slow down there Mister Chosen One, Sir." Nurd took his hand away off Smirking's shoulder, quietly relieved that his head had remained intact. The last grot who had done so hadn't come off so well. "We don't know what's out there."
Smirking didn't care.
"Island's like dese are just da kind of places Gorkers like to watch. Dey know it's da only place for miles a bomba like ours can land. Dey mine da beaches and booby trap da trees. You fink its safe til dey come sailing out of some hidden cove and drop an 'undred shellz on yer."
"I didn't see any Gorka ships." Smirking noted, "Spot-grot?" He asked wincing in anticipation.
"No shipz nor nuffink." the bombardier confirmed.
Good enough. Just the potentially mine-strewn sands to chance then. Their landing had been bumpy but Smirking felt sure none of it had been due to explosives. He reached past Nurd and cracked the hatch open.
He air smelled clean and salty. A fresh sea breeze. Smirking stood in the doorway and took a deep breath. It felt good to be back on dry land. A real beach, a green island. It felt like a homecoming.
The moment his green toes hit the sand something hit him, and in a wave of purple sun spots his vision blurred into oblivion and he flopped down.
Smudge couldn't believe his luck. Those blow darts really worked! The early success fuelled his confidence. That was their morka-grot lackey out for the count. Now for the big prey. He loaded another dart into his blow pipe and squinted into the gloomy interior of the bomba.
Sleekit stood and watched the goings on in his newfound self-made grot paradise. For the first time in his long miserable life he was almost happy.
Well, he'd be happier if his grot followers would get a move-on constructing some kind of a fort but still, they had an island all to themselves and a watchtower and a bottle of Rott...
"Yo ho ho," he hummed under his breath and he finished off another bottle. Life, he had to admit was pretty good.
Grunt and Runt who had made good speed from the shore came barreling out of the jungle undergrowth at an alarming pace. They collided with a group of riggers cleaning down the salty hull of a stilted Galley. Buckets and timbers clattered noisily announcing their arrival. Lookouts yelled and general panic erupted around the camp. By the time Sleekit found them the pair were being held to account by an angry crew chief wielding a mop with bitter intent.
"What's going on? Swab, get back to work!" He gave Grunt a wearying stare and ignored runt completely. The later was likely only along for the journey for the sake of getting the useless little git out of Smudge's hair for the time being. Sleekit knew that was exactly why he'd sent Runt away on patrol with Smudge in the first place. Grunt burst forth in a flurry of confessions.
"I'm so sorry Mister Grotfather Sleekit, chief grot-boss, sir. We was just tryin' to be quick an' get 'ere in time to warn you'n'all dat we dint see Swab's buckets an' well, we knocked 'im into da sticks an' made ol' Skab jump an' he yelled and ev'ryone got spooked an den Swab hit uz wif his mop!"
There was only one part about the whole diatribe that Sleekit found in the least interesting.
"Warn us? In time?" He let the query hang long enough to sink in.
"Oh yeah, dere's a Morka Bomba just landed on da beach at da cove."
Sleekit got that hunted-animal look in his eyes and began to back away slowly.
"Smudge reckoned we haz defences or summink?"
The Grotfather nodded slowly, he was already planning his escape. Truth be told the defences he'd planned for the camp were little more than a pile of sticks and a rickety watchtower. But still, Sleekit thought, they might still serve as enough of a distraction while he effected his own escape.
"Defences... Right." He smiled at Grunt not reassuringly. "We grotz ain't lettin' no orks come in an' tell us who's boss!"
Grunt was enthused, but hardly spawned for the lofty heights of leadership.
No Sleekit needed a grot with some gumption, he needed Smudge.
"Ah gakkit!" He cursed. Smudge was away on patrol. "Skab!" He called to the lookout. "Did you spot any Morka's landing just now?"
"Oh yeah Boss, a Big Red one just down past da trees!"
Sleekit rolled his eyes with enough torque to pull a Gorka Krooza into dry dock. Well that chronic bit of lookout work put Skab out of the running for a grot to trust. It was so hard to find reliable grots in this revolution.
"Right, Grunt. You're in charge of pointy sticks. I wants every pit trap filled wif spikes an' covered up."
Grunt nodded and bounded off faithfully.
"Runt!" The GrotFather continued, producing a big long barrelled shoota from a box at the base of the lookout tower. "Go back to Smudge and give 'im dis shoota. Tell him I said to hold 'em up as long as he can. So's we can get prepared." Runt wrapped his arms around the thing and dutifully hefted it away, heading back to the beach patrol. That was him out of the way at least.
"Swab!" Sleekit continued dispensing orders. A spray of dirty mop water accompanied the rigger's turn. "You gots to rig somefink proppa nasty for dese orks. I wants rocks an' logs an' anyfink we can haul up dem towers an lob down at 'em."
Shouldering his mop Swab snapped off a sharp salute and his crew got to work.
Sleekit went around barking orders loudly while secretly plotting his own extrication. His private skiff was already stowed away from prying eyes and soon, with enough supplies so would he be.
"I'm not going out there, Goggz, you must be joking!" Nurd sat atop the corpse of their former Kaptain defiant and resolved. Whatever had befallen Smirking was apparently more dangerous than being attacked by an angry ork boss at close quarters. Smirking had beaten Da Butcha single handed yet whatever was out there had just cleaned his clock in seconds flat.
"But it just got da Chosen One... Smirking, I mean. He's still da Chosen One, izn't he?" Goggz scratched under his goggles, his head felt hot. He wasn't used to doing all the thinking. Nurd didn't reply.
"I di'n't choose him." Auto complained, "he di'n't even drop da bombs. An' he said I could pull da lever!"
"He killed da Butcha." Spot-grot observed. "And he landed BigRed. I reckon I still choose Smirking. He might get up yet. He surprised us before."
The assembled crew nodded and exchanged apprehensive glances. They were used to leaders who always won, projected total confidence and never failed. Or never acknowledged their failures. They had just lost their second Boss in as many hours and no one seemed eager to fill the resulting power vacuum.
"Ok," Goggz concluded. "So if he gets up he's still da Chosen One." Everyone agreed and they settled in to watch and wait for whatever Da Godz decided.
Runt handed off his heavy burden with great relief and collapsed on the ground. Smudge felt the weight of the big gun, a nice proper shoota. He felt instantly bigger and bolder. Then he took anther look at the big red bomba on the beach, and gulped.
"Come out, you Morka... gitz!" Smudge was improvising. He'd never done this sort of thing before and his diminutive grot voice didn't really carry the weight of command. Brandishing the shoota he crept closer to the enemy plane, eyeing the big defensive weapons dangling on the side of the plane for any sign of life. He felt pretty small again afterall.
"This here is Grot territory!" Smudge began again, trying to force a note of conviction into his voice. "The only good ork on dis here island is a dead one!"
One of the engines of the big bomba let off a ping as the metal cooled and Smudge jumped. He scarpered back to the cover of the trees feeling he had been very brave indeed. His comrades at any rate were mightily impressed at his revolutionary rhetoric but the bomba remained stubbornly silent. There was no response.
"Pffff!" What kind of orks would stand for such cheek from a grot? Theses Morkers were not turning out to be the brutal grot enslaving tyrants that Smudge had come to expect.
Suddenly there was movement. At first just a shifting of the shadows within the open hatch. And then a boot appeared, followed by another. A large ork body, a stout grim looking corpse in a thick overcoat slumped down onto the sand in a heap beside Smirking, who still lay where he'd been darted. A big red Kaptain's hat followed. The grot who had thrown it out fled back into the blackness of the bomba's interior.
Smudge was stunned. He aimed a shot at the big ork's head and wasted a couple of rounds until he felt satisfied. A good ork, a dead one.
Sleekit was nearly home free. Just one thing remained, a vital component of any waiting game, his last remaining bottle of Rott. He eyed the level in the bottle with dismay. He'd have to ration it. There was no time to distill some more and, though there was no shortage of the right kind of fungus on their island, licking mushrooms was a poor substitute. The madcap mushrooms had other uses though, Sleekit reminded himself. Smudge's poisoned darts for one. He took a mental note to collect any that he might see on the way to his hideout.
A gull wailed high overhead and the sound of gunfire blew in on the wind. It was time to be leaving.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/07/31 22:04:56
Smirking's unconscious mind wasn't a welcoming place with three angry recalcitrant orks waiting for him. He knew he'd have to face them. His waking mind had been able to hold them at bay but he could hold out only for so long. As his body lay there in the sand his mind untethered and flew away, like a loosed kite on a gusty shore.
Out he flew over a boiling ocean, wings spread fighting the elements. Smirking the storm-borne gull, the familiar avatar of his nightmare dreamscape.
Da Butcha was a burning red mass of rage and resentment. Flaring up he tried to envelope the little gull. WazzBad laughed and bubbled and fizzed. An effervescence of ridicule and amusement. BlackGull as ever, the mountain, unshaken, stoic, primeval.
Smirking, naked before them, felt very small and foolish. Yet still he flew above them. Formidable as each ork was Smirking remained unassailable. The gull called out his defiant cry.
"I did it! I landed da bomba! I didn't need any of you!"
The mountain sat unmoved, even as the fires spewed forth smoke and noise and the wind whipped up the waves.
"I'm Smirking! I'm da Chosen One!"
Claiming his name and title for the first time for himself felt oddly empowering.
"Chosen for what?" It was BlackGull who spoke with contempt. Smirking looked and saw the face of the mountain. A grim orkish countenance of living stone.
"Da Godz is cunnin' an' dey like a good joke. Dey haz chosen a grot leader fer a laugh." The laughter of WazzBad was unmistakable on the wind, it was the wind. So full of mockery and derision was it that Smirking had to fight to stay aloft. He could almost believe it? What ork would see him as a leader? What chance did his mission have?
"Well you ain't laughing! You believe it! You did this BlackGull!" Smirking clung to the accusation like a lifeline in the ocean.
"I din't do nuffink, grot! I din't bring no zoggin' great mountain outa da sky! I never had dat kinda power! It's da Godz, Smirking. Dey answered my call. Dey sent us everything we needs to beat da humans!"
A shift in the wind, a subtle change in tone. WazzBad was still laughing but not at Smirking.
"Yerra darft ol' Zog-head BlackGull!" The wind roared. "It weren't no Godz, it were da Meks! Dey was just followin da Waaaghdar."
"Da Meks! Bah! Useless goodfernuffink..." The mountain top burst into a livid fountain of red fire and smoke as Aaris bellowed his rage. "I hates 'em! It's Morkas an' Gorkas as believe in da Godz. It woz we wot built da Gorkamorka! We fought an' bled an' died for every scrap o' metal an' every nut'n bolt!"
Smirking flew high on the fume of Da Butcha's anger. It drew him up, up high into sky where a swarm of Morka bomba's and dakka jets were gathering. Smirking looked below and sure enough the horizon was peppered with boats. Big Gorka-Fleet MegaKroozas like the Gargantic. Each flanked with a flotilla of smaller gunboats and supply ships. There was going to be a battle of epic proportions.
"See Chosen One, dis iz how it iz." Aaris explained, "We orks fights! An' da more we fights da bigga an' orkier we gets. An' da more ladz as follows a Big Boss da more Waaagh he has to fight wif. Da biggest Boss wif da most Waaagh will beat da rest and take all da ladz an' all da Waaagh will be hiz to fight wif. Da biggest an' orkiest most unstoppable WaaaghMaster! Dat's da way it is, grot. An' its da same all over da galaxy. An' no matter where you look, it ain't no stinkin' grot!"
As Aaris spoke Smiking rose higher and the ork's voice grew more distant. Smirking was losing himself in a still black night filled with countless silent stars. Each cold point of light the scene of world altering conflicts. Planets burned and stars winked out in the blink of an eye, all insignificant lifetimes in an eternity of indifference.
The hand of Gork reached out from the black abyss and placed a finger on him and began to push him back down. Mork smiled upon Smirking and blew him a wind to fill his wings. Down he dived like an arrow flung at the heart of the planet. Defiant he flitted and dodged the fires of da Butcha's rage, he navigated the mocking gusts of the Wierdboy's wind and fell upon the face of BlackGull mountain like a thunder clap.
"I am no joke! I am your Chosen One! I am your only hope against da Ooman threat. You all will help me unite da orks against dem before da Oomans move against us."
"Help you? Unite da Orks! You're 'avin' a laugh Smirking my son." WazzBad was not convinced.
"No ork will follow a grot, not never!" Da Butcha roared. "Size matters, little'un. We can't 'elp you out dere."
"Da grots will follow me!" Smirking objected. "They're not like you lot. I'd rather have an army of willing grots than every ork on the planet."
Everyone joined WazzBad in a chorus of laughter.
"You fink dey is diff'rent? See fer yourself. Morka and Gorka to da core!"
Da Butcha parted his veil of smoke revealing an island below them. On the shore a red bomber stood at the centre of a pack of squealing squabbling grots. Smirking saw his wretched little form sprawled out helpless on the sand beside the bloodied Butcha. Gunfire poured from the side mounted shootas on the bomba. Spears and rocks, darts and curses responded from the jungle.
"No! Stop!" Smirking tucked his wings and dived into the fray but the laughing wind was hot and filled with smouldering ash.
"Dey can't hear you, grot. Dey ain't listening."
"They will listen to me." Smirking fought through the hot blasts and foul smoke. "Let me speak to them. Let we go!"
"Dere's no point, Smirking, grots ain't got no Waaagh. You got nuffink to fight wif."
"I'm Da Chosen one! I don't need Waaagh, I am Waaagh!" The wind howled with laughter and twisted him around but Smirking had set his will against them. Resolute he continued his descent dropping to the earth like a flaming comet from the heavens.
"You watch! I'll do it! I'll unite them, so help me!"
"We can't, Smirking."
"No orks no Waaagh! Der ain't nuffink we can do."
"You're on your own dis time."
With that he dropped. His spirit totem falling upon the body of Smirking with the force of a thunderclap. Immediately he awoke with a gasp, all alone, amidst a scene of utter chaos.
Smirking awoke to the sound of high pitched yelps and cries punctuated by gunfire. His head was foggy, he recalled... laughter... stars... a black gull.
He stumbled to his feet.
"Da chosen One!" The voice a mix of relief and awe had come from the Big Red Bomba. Smudge and the rebel Gorka-grots heard it too. Smudge raised his head from the jungle foliage and looked.
Surely not... Not Smirking, da Chosen One?
There he was, in the flesh. Smudge could hardly believe his eyes. But what of the Morkas in the aircraft? Orks with guns and whips and cages. A small face emerged. A Morka grot with a high red hair-squig followed by another waring a pair of flying goggles appearing at the door of the bomba. They jumped down next to Smirking. One spat on the dead ork at his feet. To Smudge's surprise, no ork appeared to chastise the Morka grot for this insult. Feeling a little braver Smudge emerged slowly from his hiding place and made a tentative advance.
"Smirking?" It was clearly Smirking, the likelihood of coming across another similarly bag-winged, half torched, toothy grinning grot in this lifetime was next to impossible. "It's him! It's really Smirking" He called back to the rest of the Gorka grot patrol. "But how?"
"That's Boss Smirking to you!" Nurd advised, "He IS da Chosen One you know."
Smudge recalled the meeting, when Sleekit had outlined the plan, when Smirking had been chosen.
"Actually he's OUR Chosen One!" Smudge corrected. "We chose him first." On the other hand, Smudge considered, 'Boss Smirking'... Sleekit wouldn't like that one bit.
Sleekit waited for the inevitable sounds of sluggas and shootas and of gruff ork voices barking orders, the baying of Squig-hounds and the shrill yells of defiant grots fighting for their freedom, but they never came.
Gork-damned stupid grots! Had they even put up any sort of resistance? Knowing some of the likely culprits as he did he wouldn't have been surprised had they simply put their hands in the air and marched in orderly fashion right onto the Morka planes. He hadn't heard anything taking off. So the Morkas were still here. He wasn't going to risk his own neck just yet. He'd wait it out, he still had half a bottle of Gut-Rott.
"Wait till da Boss sees you!" Smudge had been a little skeptical at first but was finding that the more enthusiastic he was about the the reappearance of his former comrade the less hostile Smirking's Morka grot entourage became. "He's gonna be so excited." Excited was something of an understatement. Frantic maybe, enraged, furious even. Smirking was, after all supposed to be dead. Sleekit had seen fit to martyr this guy for the cause, or for his own reasons. The trouble was that martyrs weren't supposed to come back from the dead, and back with the enemy, or was it the enemies of their enemies? Gorkas versus Morkas was an orks thing after all. It was the Meks Sleekit had raised his grot revolution to fight. Or at best to oppose; to escape at the very least. But wasn't Smirking given over to GrodMek for his Grot-Bomb? Was GrodMek behind all this?
There were too many questions and Smudge felt sure that Sleekit would be asking him for all the answers, but he was well out of his depth. He had a headache.
"How far now Gorka!" It was one of the Morka grots, the mouthy one who went by the name of Nurd. He seemed to be the group's spokesperson, a real gobby little smartarse. "There better be a suitable welcome for Grot-Boss Smirking when we gets there. He expects a big celebration, you know, with singing and fireworks, and a feast!"
Smudge had been leading the party on a long circuitous route back to the camp but the island was only so big and it was getting harder to delay the inevitable. That gobby grot was grating on his nerves.
"Oh yes, erm Nurd, we're planning a big shindig." He lied, "Nothing but the best for da Chosen One." Smudge caught Smirking's eye. The chosen one looked a little sheepish and quickly looked away. He hadn't said much since the beach. Smudge hoped it was just the effect of the mushroom poison dart he'd taken. Inspiration struck suddenly like gull-gak from above. Mushrooms! He'd take them all foraging, to... experience the rare delicacies of the island. Smudge knew just the place, and by the time Smirking and his cronies reached the camp their fungus addled minds would be all the more susceptible to whatever Sleekit might have in mind. Smudge smiled benignly at his new friends. It was a stroke of genius.
When Sleekit awoke the sky was dark. He felt none the worse for the empty bottle in his coat pocket though the wind outside his cave had a cold edge. At first he thought the wind was playing tricks. A sound like laughter or perhaps singing was carried in the gusts. The cry of the gulls maybe, and the wash on the rocky shore.
Curiosity as ever won out after an hour of indecision. A light in the jungle, a great fire drew him like a moth back to the camp where all was wild revelry.
There were strangers in the camp. Strange grots waring Morka red shorts and bomba jackets. The stink of madcap mushrooms permeated the scene. An aura of jubilation; a celebration of grot-hood; a wild, pure, dangerous expression of the revolution. But it was all happening without him. Outside of his influence, beyond his control. One question above all was burning in his furious little grot mind.
"Who's in charge around here?"
Nobody paid him the slightest attention. Sleekit didn't understand, he was using his most commanding tones, standing up on a crate. He was even waring his hat, the one with the red star on it. Surely these newcomers knew what that meant.
"Smudge! Where is he?" Sleekit scanned the chanting blissed-out revellers for his second in command, "Smudge!"
The stink of mushrooms was intense. Someone had been brewing, or roasting or cooking them. No doubt a huge batch of which all had partaken.
He found Smudge at last, passed out beside a licked-clean cauldron and dreaming of the glorious revolution.
"Gork-damned mushroom gobbler!" Sleekit kicked him to no avail. "What's going on!?"
"Da Chosen one has returned." A spaced out grot yabbered "Da Chosen One!"
Sleekit was momentarily confused. Da Chosen One? Where had he heard that before? Surely they couldn't mean... Then he saw him. Smirking. Alive and well, sitting atop an improvised podium, a throne almost, and receiving the mad adulation of all.
"Smirking!" Sleekit yelled all knee-jerk fury and stupification. Fists and teeth clenched he beat a determined advance through the camp heading right for the source of the disorder. This was his camp, these were his grots and no jumped up burnt-faced bat-winged freak of an imposter was going to steal his revolution. But before he could reach the platform, before he had time to form any kind of accusation at all in fact Sleekit was assaulted. There were six or maybe eight or more of them. All crazy eyed and frothing. Some he recognised. All were too far gone to recognise him. He was simply an enemy, a threat to Da Chosen One. One amongst their number, apparently more lucid than the rest commanded that he be restrained. Sleekit was in no position to resist. He was clobbered, tied to a long slender log and hoisted up to shoulder height to be presented like a prize boar to Da Chosen One.
Sleekit's dignity squirmed to be so affronted. How dare they? Was he not their liberator? Their protector, their own Grotfather! This imposter would pay dearly. Smirking would rue the day he ever thought to challenge the Grotfather's authority.
The heavy drapes were held back and Sleekit was brought into the presence of da Chosen One. He had thought that Smirking would be, well, smirking at least; all self satisfied and gloating in his victory, but no. Smirking was, asleep? His eyes were closed though he sat upright upon a leafy mat on the split log floor.
Sleekit wasn't shy about waking him up. He launched into a tirade of curses and threats but all at once he was silenced as if slapped hard in the face. Smirking hadn't moved. Sleekit was shocked.
"Shut yer big yap, willya?"
Who said that? It sounded like an ork voice. Where was he hiding? Sleekit searched the shadows and the empty corners of the cabin, roof to floor to no avail.
"At last, he's quiet. 'Bout zoggin' time."
"He's a rebel. He'll never be quiet. Once its in'em yer never gerrit out. Too slip'ry fer his own good I say. He needs ta be silenced fer good."
"Da Chosen One wants him alive."
Sleekit didn't understand what he was hearing. "Who? Who wants me alive? Smirking?" This was more than a little disorientating. "...is that you me old pal?"
"Shuddup grot! Orks is talkin'!"
"What orks!" Sleekit yelled defiant. "This here's a Grot Freehold. We don't answer to no Ork!"
Another slap landed hard. It was more of a mind jolt but it had the same effect. Sleekit staggered and reeled. His pride was all that was keeping him upright.
"I ain't nobody's Grot! he groaned "I ain't listening."
"Den lay offa da Rott yer gobby little git. Dat's da on'y reason you can 'ear us at all!" The ork slapped Sleekit's mind once more for good measure and the Grotfather fell to one knee.
"Steady Aaris," BlackGull warned, "He says we needs dis one!"
"Yeah." Sleekit rebounded, "you need me!" He felt emboldened already. "Without me you're... " what was the plan exactly?
"He's a gobby little git, inn'e?"
"You're goin' back to GrodMek, yer little stooge."
"Wot!?" Sleekit leapt to his feet in outrage. His mind was racing. What was going on here? Smirking knew about him and GrodMek; their deal, maybe not all of it. But who were these ork voices? For there was surely more than one. They had called one Aaris? Surely not Da Butcha...
"Da One an' On'y." The Morka Kaptain confirmed. "You is gonna get us back on board Da BizMork" another ork voice cut him off "And we iz gonna take ova an' go hunt out da humans."
Sleekit blinked momentarily stupefied into silence. What was going on? and how? Was Aaris here?
"No, he's dead." One of them laughed.
"We're all dead! WazzBad, BlackGull, the lot of us"
Sleekit, much as he liked the sound of that had a hard time making sense of it. They were dead, but somehow alive... wierdboys? How else could they be in his head? How else could any of this be? Or was it all just the Madcap mushrooms? Someone had mentioned his penchant for GuttRott. His keen grot mind fumbled with the various pieces of the puzzle.
"Yup, all ov dat." BlackGull confirmed hoping he wouldn't have to explain any further.
"And you need me... Why?" Sleekit asked, his attempts to make sense of it all were floundering. "To take over? To hunt humans?" He was more confused than ever. What kind of half baked ork-brained nonsense was this?
"For a start, " Sleekit began to explain, "no one gets between a Mek and his scrap. GrodMek don't care if its floatin' nor sunk. Even if we took da ship from him he'll still 'ave it. He'll just sink us all! Dis whole idea is grox-gak!"
Smirking snapped awake and rose to his feet. His eyes now fixed on Sleekit were somehow terrible to behold in the torchlight.
"You is da key." he began sounding not entirely himself. "Da sneekin'est little liar anyone eva heard tell ov. You was gonna sell all us grots to old GrodMek, all da grots, all yer own little stooges."
Sleekit gulped. They knew the plan. His deal with GrodMek.
"A regular supply of heroes fer his Grot Bombs," his accuser continued. "A grot and a swig of mushroom juice and its wondergrots in bombs from 'ere ta Mektown."
Sleekit squirmed. He had no defence. There was no explanation, no lie that could side step the trap that was closing around him.
"So sell up cheep. GrodMek will buy 'em all now, and when we'z all on board..."
"When GrodMek claps eyes on da Chosen One..."
"We'll 'ave 'im."
That was the plan? They'd 'ave 'im? Then what? Sleekit tried not to think about it.