Chapter 12 Waaagh! WazzBad
Smirking watched the rest of the battle play out atop his pleasantly warm battletank. The humans were drawing farther and farther back and many of the surviving gun crews had been relocated to more forward positions as the Goffs, now under WazzBad’s irresistible influence advanced into the distance. Smirking noted that nearly all the orks he could see now wore the blue paint of the Deathskull clan and a group of them were looting the tank out from under him at an alarming rate but no-one seemed to refute his right to sit there. Eventually he yielded his seat to their tender care electing not to ride it back to GrodMek’s workshop and stepping down onto the ground where he and his fellows had fought and died he struck upon a surprising sight.
There before his eyes, beyond all hope and seeming probability was a friendly face. Snikkit was not exactly friendly so much as familiar but it was a relief to see him alive none the less. He had lost an ear to a very nasty head wound but was apparently no worse off for it. Snikkit stood atop SkagNet’s lower jaw, the dead ork’s rotten old maw gaping, prying the last remaining tooth from his old boss’ gums. Smirking thought it only right that he should join the party and began by lifting the flap of their runtherd’s forgotten pack. Snikkit sprang over in a jealous possessive flurry, waving his blade at Smirking who stepped back with an appeasing smirk, hands raised in acquiescence.
While Snikkit rummaged the bag Smirking inspected the discarded body of the old Bloodaxe. A string of carven grox tusks still hung around his neck, the same string of charms that SkagNet had looted from GogGob, and Smirking liked the look of them. He fingered the spiralled glyphs and little whittled boars with glee as he dropped the loop around his own neck and gave SkagNet a final smirk in gratitude for his parting gift. Snikkit slashed through the bottom of the empty bag and tossed it away bored and uninterested in any of the boss’s pathetic stash of belongings. Neither of the pair marked the approach of another familiar face.
“Pfff! Worra sorry sight.” GrodMek mocked. “picked clean by ‘is own grots.”
He shook his head in half mocking displeasure. No ork would gladly relinquish his last few teeth to a couple of gretchin underlings but that wasn’t to say it didn’t happen every day. Teeth were currency and no matter what size you were in green society everyone could use a few extra teeth. GrodMek grinned his usual more-teeth-than-most smile before spitting on the dead old ork as if to conclude his most thought provoking insights. He paced off to inspect the goings on along the former gun-line and as if compelled by nature or force of habit Smirking followed at his heels. Rather than be left alone without entertainment Snikkit went along too.
GrodMek tried to ignore the pair of urchins trailing behind him. He was stalking between piles of looted war-gear casting an expert eye over the goods and evidently looking for something in particular. Smirking kept a safe distance but tried to look useful. Inspecting the opposite sides of each pile but still too afraid to ask exactly what it was they were looking for. He found a long length of narrow gauge track, not unlike the tracks that GrodMek’s traktor Kannon was mounted on and offered it up to the BigMek.
“Nah!” dismissed GrodMek, “Arms…” he mused half to himself “Bigguns, like fer big klaws an’ dat sorta fing” Smirking beamed at the MekBoy’s token acceptance and set about looking for ‘arms’. Snikkit as ever was delighting in only the sharpest and deadliest looking bits of scrap.
GrodMek gave up on the pile of loot he was inspecting and seeing UzKop and his Traktor Kannon nearby indicated that the two grots should check the next pile for him as he went to talk to the hairy ork.
Smirking jumped up into the tangle of cables, scrap metal, vehicle and weapon parts. It was a pile much like the rest but this time he felt more at liberty to indulge his own curiosity without the imposing figure of GrodMek staring over his shoulder. GrodMek was a little distance away and Smirking looked over as he heard raised voices. UzKop was squirming somewhat under the less than happy interrogation of his Boss. Snikkit didn’t seem to care and Smirking thought he was probably right to mind his own business: Best not to be the one on the receiving end of GrodMek’s wrath.
Snikkit flipped over a wide sheet of thin metal and began twisting and worrying at a shorn sliver as long as his arm. The sheet had been hiding something that looked to Smirking like it might just be the thing that GrodMek was looking for. A short jointed reinforced steel crane arm which may once have been attached to a vehicle of some sort; Perhaps for the loading of heavy goods or as a means of swinging a wrecking ball. Smirking was about to begin dragging it free of the pile when the conversation over at the traktor Kannon became heated.
He peeped out over the top of the pile in time to see GrodMek deliver a sucker punch left jab to his cringing underling followed by a short sharp gunshot to the skull which concluded matters. Snikkit looked up and laughed loud enough to cause Smirking to shrink into hiding. He suddenly wanted to be as busy and as useful and as much in GrodMek’s good books as possible. Freeing the crane arm he began to drag it out for the BigMek’s inspection before he stopped and thought: what if it’s not what he’s looking for? What if it’s something stupid and wrong and…
“Oi, wot’s dat you got?” GrodMek demanded. “Bring it ‘ere den!”
Smirking’s shoulders drooped in abject resignation as he heaved the heavy metal gubbins across the ground.
“not bad… “ GrodMek mused rubbing at his hairy chin. Had he become hairier since last Smirking looked at him? The body of UzKop did appear a little balder than before; perhaps some of his hair-squigs had rejected their former host in favour of his killer. Smirking eyed up the dead Bad-Moon ork’s toothy chops and knew that GrodMek would certainly cash in on his former flunkies demise.
“not badat all…” GrodMek continued. “Ee’s pretty good at finding fings…”
GrodMek was apparently speaking to the dead ork. Smirking just waited politely.
“Per’aps ‘e can find dat Weirdboy an’ all. Couple’ov grots’ll do a better job’n you did Uzza!”
Snikkit had arrived at his side with a bundled up sheet. He threw it at GrodMek’s feet and flung open a fold to reveal a sack load of the nastiest spikiest most lethal bits of scrap and detritus that GrodMek had ever seen.
“Ha!” the BigMek balked, “Ee’s a viscous little git innee, Uzza?”
“Ere’s a gif’ from my ol’ mate UzKop” he proposed, handing them both a long and cumbersome weapon. “ee won’ be needin’ it no more.”
Smirking took the weighty stock end of UzKop’s Snazzgun in both arms while Snikkit grabbed the long slender business end and inspected it looking for anything resembling a bayonet fitting.
“Ee wozn’t much ov a shot ol’ Uzza, but wif dis fing ‘ere yer don’ need ta be. See?” he indicated a long barrel sight which Smirking peered down surprised at the level of magnification.
“It’s a long-shoota. So you won’ even ‘ave ta get close. Jus’ find ol’ WazzBad and pop.” He made a motion as if shooting the grots and Smirking flinched.
“jobsagoodun!” he added with his trademark grin. “Now ‘op it!”
GrodMek thumbed the direction over his right shoulder and Smirking didn’t wait to be told twice. Snikkit snatched a piece of scrap from the bundle as he was dragged on past and GrodMek chortled to himself as he watched them leave. Now his consideration was torn between playing with the shiny new toys left at his feet and smacking UzKop’s teeth out.
* * * * *
Snikkit led the way through the devastated landscape investigating bodies and wrecked vehicles along the way. They slept the brightest hours of the afternoon away hidden in the shelter of an upturned trukk. Its reassuring lack of wheels, engine and gearbox told them they were still inside ork controlled territory. Already today they had been more at risk from rampaging mobs of Goffs than any solid human resistance.
As evening drew near and the sky reddened the vehicle wrecks that they encountered appeared more intact and the bodies less molested. The number of teeth in dead ork mouths testified to the immediacy of the human threat. Snikkit cared not a jot, amassing quite a stash as Smirking kept watch. Smirking elected not to fire his large ungainly sniper weapon unless he was absolutely sure it was a good idea. His last attempt had resulted in no dead humans and a lot of retaliatory fire. He now mostly kept his head down and occasionally scoped the terrain for hostiles with his telescopic sight. Listening hard for any indication of a more local threat.
There had been no sign of WazzBad for hours. His trail had been easy to follow when SkagNet had led them through the hills but here there had been so much fighting so many criss-crossed vehicle tracks and so many craters left by countless shells from all directions that the task was hopeless. Maybe SkagNet, or Smudge could have made some sense of it all he thought. Dropping down into another crater Smirking dragged his long-barrelled snazzgun after him. Either way he knew SkagNet would have enjoyed this. Being back on the trail, hunting his prey in the deadly no-mans-land of Waaagh!... Smirking was brought up short. GorGoff was dead, was it Waaagh! WazzBad now? It didn’t seem like GrodMek was doing any fighting himself so it could hardly be Waaagh! GrodMek. Snikkit dived in beside him head first with a wide eyed expression of excitement on his face. Waaagh! Snikkit! Smirking joked and gave his last remaining friend a beaming smirk.
Snikkit grabbed Smirking by the string of grox-teeth charms around his neck and dragged him to his feet as a squad of humans appeared on the edge of the crater and took aim. A flurry of crackling las-fire peppered the dirt as Smirking was dragged scrambling backwards over the lip of the ditch. Snikkit took the barrel end of Smirking’s rifle in both hands and swung it in a circle over his head before letting the heavy projectile fly at the assembled enemy. Neither gretchin waited around to see the result but both bolted for the nearest cover.
Smirking felt lighter and faster without the encumbrance of the heavy rifle and he and Snikkit made it to the open side-hatch of an immobilised human tank. A las-round punched the metal beside the door as they ducked inside the relative safety of the inky blackness within. Inside the wreck Smirking skirted around an unoccupied gunners position and made for the hatch on the opposite side. He tried hard but the mechanism was locked fast, there was no exit that way. Snikkit was fleecing a body in the driving seat and he tossed over a pistol which Smirking fumbled clumsily. It slipped from his trembling fingers and clattered around his feet.
As he reached down to gather it up a grenade hit his ankle and rolled around behind his heel, quickly followed by another. One glance at Snikkit’s alarmingly wide eyes was enough to tell that his friend was not the one who had thrown them. Smirking left the pistol at his feet and leapt up for the open top hatch. He felt Snikkit brush past his dangling feet making a desperate bid to escape by their original entry point. Smirking heard lasgun shots as he squirmed through the gap which erupted behind him in a concussive blast that sent him sprawling over the edge of the vehicle’s roof and back down into the muck.
A cloud of white smoke billowed around the open hatches of the wreck and from beyond Smirking could hear the irritating sound of raised human voices. More las-fire cracked beyond the smoke before a shadow emerged; diminutive, one-eared, stooped and limping and unmistakably Snikkit. Smirking waved frantically directing his pal toward a nearby ditch, hoping they could duck down out of sight for long enough to evade their pursuers. Snikkit altered his course accordingly following his friend’s lead.
Half diving half crawling Smirking launched himself gracelessly over the bank of the ditch and once safely out of view he spun around to track his partner’s progress. Snikkit was limping and holding his side, brandishing his twisted shard of sharp steel in one tight fist. His bloody, gritted teeth painted an undimmed determination on his sadistic little face. The humans appeared all too soon, and with another crackling flurry of red lasers Snikkit was down.
Smirking froze on the spot as the men continued forward, his instinct was to run, as it had always been but his legs, his eyes, his mind would not respond. He just stared knuckles pale gripping dirt in pain, frustration, impotent rage and abject terror.
Three of the men carried the usual lasgun, and a fourth man had something else, a fatter and heavier looking thing with a metal hose attached to a tank on his back. A fifth man, warring a hat like Nurd had worn held a smaller laspistol, not unlike the one Smirking had left behind in the wrecked tank. Smirking wished he had grabbed it now, even if SkagNet would have laughed and called him a pansy. It would have been something. In his other hand the man held a thick, heavy sword with a shining silvered edge. He stalked passed Snikkit’s body without breaking his stride and directed his men to fan out.
Smirking could almost feel his sense returning as he slowly ducked down, his eye-level barely over the lip of the dirt. The human officer’s eyes snapped to his and locked in like a predator. Suddenly there was a yelp of alarm from behind the man. Snikkit was up and his bloody teeth were deep in a man’s throat. The next nearest human was the man with the strange weapon who slung it clattering around his back and grabbed Snikkit by the neck with two hands. Snikkit let go of his first victim and twisted his scrawny body like a coiled spring driving his twisted metal shard deep into the second man’s belly. Overbalanced by his back loaded weapon and the impact of Snikkit’s assault the man toppled and Snikkit raised his blade high for a killing blow; but the officer was on him now. He pistol whipped the savage little beast on the back of the skull before running him through with his sword. The blade cut like a welding torch through congealed squig fat and the resulting mess smelled much the same.
Smirking finally broke and ran. A shot scorched the dirt beside his hand as he scrambled up the farther edge of the ditch. He caught a brief glimpse of a man with his rifle shouldered on the lip of the ditch as the two others ran its circumference on both sides. Smirking cleared the lip and kept running. Shots flew wild in all directions, he felt more than one very close near miss. Before finally being tumbled over by a hot shock in the shoulder.
Smirking rolled and stopped, legs splayed out in front sitting upright but disorientated. His shoulder hurt, a lot, but his head was somehow buzzing. His vision was grown hazy with green-yellow spots and he was beginning to feel a little… silly. He wobbled to his feet and swayed like a drunk. He turned to face the men, a huge smirking grin plastered across his chops. But what he saw made his jaw drop and he gaped in something approaching awe. His brain still itched but his vision was clearing and through the fading glow behind his eyes he saw a remarkable figure. Huge and luminous, possessed of power and madness, WazzBad NazzKop was unmistakably present and Smirking felt it in every fibre of his diminutive being.
Smirking laughed and reeled uncontrollably as WazzBad unleashed his unique brand of violence on the incredulous humans. One man was dropped with a crushing blow to the skull from the Snakebite Wierdboy’s staff and another fell to his noxious projectile vomit. The Officer put up a brief resistance with his power sword but even that could not deflect a searing bolt of Waaagh! energy. The man lit up and burned with eerie green plasma flames as WazzBad capered and jived in triumph, and eventually turned to regard Smirking.
Smirking managed to still his jangling feet suddenly arrested by the hypnotic gaze of the lunatic ork but the laughter still bubbled up and escaped in bursts of unaccountable hilarity. The wierdboy snapped up a finger, fixing it with his large googly eye directly at Smirking.
Smirking stopped laughing and cringed to feel the full force of WazzBad’s attention; if his full attention it was. The wierdboy seemed to be perpetually muttering and chanting to himself, at once in both conversation and song. A voice that thrummed the beat of a greenskin heart, set the blood to racing and feet to motion. A voice at once his own yet also that of all his greenskin kin. A chorus of madness and war and powerful irresistible propulsion.
“Mork-awazza-Gorka-nazza-Gorka-Morka-razza-ooooow…” Smirking mouthed the chorus with his huge ungainly lips, the very mouthpiece, for a moment, of the Waaagh! itself. WazzBad shuffled forwad. One little beady eye danced and bounced in cadence to his ramblings but the other larger one stayed fixed on Smirking.
Smirking was suddenly aware that his Snakebite charm, the one he had taken from SkagNet, who had it in turn from GogGob, was glowing and rattling like a string of living bones. It sent creeping unease down his spine but he was unsure if the Snakebite ork would take it ill if he removed the charm. For all he knew, Smirking thought, the charm was the only reason he was still alive. WazzBad continued to point and stare and jabber but now he began to lurch forward apace.
Smirking’s mind raced. Did WazzBad know about his mission, the one GrodMek had sent him on? To find WazzBad and… Briefly he congratulated himself on his partial success but he quickly tried to block the thought from his mind. Everyone knew a Weirdboy could read minds and he didn’t want to anger the crazy ork. Was he already angry? Smirking pondered. Or had he spotted the charm and taken Smirking for a devoted follower, or better yet some kind of kindred weird-grot? SmirkBad WazzSmirk the luckiest smirkingest grot in the universe, Smirking let slip a wide self important smirk, daydreaming with infinite complacence.
WazzBad’s finger hovered ominously as he staggered forward pointing, swaying, accusing, mumbling, anointing… cursing. Finally the distance was closed and Smirking’s eyes likewise. He felt a rough greasy prod on his temple and in his mind fires blossomed into a thousand shades of shimmering green light which slowly faded to darkest oblivion.