Chapter 6 Wot's a Waaagh!?
Nobody waited for SkagNet. He wasn’t expecting a drive by parade in his honour or some grand gesture expressing an outpouring of gratitude from the massed greenskins who he’d led through the wilderness almost singlehandedly on their way to the promised Waaagh! He didn’t expect to be thrust into the dizzy ranks of GorGoff’s elite cronies for his innate Blood-Axe genius to be better appreciated and utilised in the coming conflict. Nor was even expecting a rousing chorus of “SkagNet, SkagNet he’s our Lad”, but a lift would have been nice.
He picked himself up, dusted himself off and whipped his grots into line. They weren’t the only ones short on transport. Mine fields have a tendency to remove the wheels from under your feet and a steady trickle of stragglers were moving off on foot following the dust trails of the more fortunate. Only a few diehard Deathskulls remained with the stricken vehicles risking their lives for some choice salvage.
The dispossessed greenskins marched slow and sullen, the former exuberance and frenzy of going to war giving way to dusty daydreams and idle minded battle plans.
SkagNet recalled his Kommando glory days: entire months concealed behind enemy lines, the haunting of his foes, the bewildering surprise attacks, the devastating sabotage, the downright lowdown sneakiness of it all!
His wonky peg-leg slipped a thread in its socket and threw his balance breaking his stride and his reverie. Brought back to his present reality SkagNet’s shoulders sagged in forlorn realisation. He was no longer a Blood-Axe Kommando. Now he was just a Runtherd with the sorriest band of grovelling gretchin he had ever seen armed and mobilised. This, he decided with grim dismay was truly to be his last Waaagh! This time he would not be considered an elite, indispensable and highly prized asset, but fodder; the bottom of the ranks, as low as an ork could go and utterly expendable. He stopped marching crestfallen and depressed and slumped down in the dirt to sulk. His motley crew plodded on ahead of him unawares, each equally lost in their own thoughts. Smirking turned. His smirk dropped. SkagNet glanced up and, spying the gloomy look of genuine concern on the face of his familiar little clown quickly made an effort to appear distracted. He fussed and groped in his pockets and emptied a stone from his boot as one by one each of his charges turned and observed. He finally settled with some relief on his wonky peg-leg. In an effort to save face he removed it and made an elaborate gesture of dissatisfaction by throwing it at his gretchin.
“Lousy piece o junk!” he barked. Satisfied that his audience were suitably distracted with the task of retrieving the bent length of pipe that insulted his every stride SkagNet attempted to compose himself.
“’ey Boss.” came a tentative whisper. It wasn’t a familiar voice. SkagNet forgot his troubles for an instant as his beady eye squinted through the sun glare for a face.
“Wot’s it like Boss?” it was Smirking. SkagNet suddenly realised for the first time that he had never once heard a single word uttered from those ridiculous red lips. Nor either that he had believed that Smirking was dumb; he never answered back nor indeed, he now realised, refused or resisted SkagNet’s commands in any way. He had always simply smiled and…
“Eh?” SkagNet blinked, bewildered.
“Da Waaagh! Boss.” Smirking insisted. “Wot’s it like?”
SkagNet’s eye drifted off into the middle distance. Visions of fire and smoke and blood and violence twisted a gummy grin that spread slowly across his age worn features all the way to the corners of his eyes. Smirking’s face lit up with shear infectious joy.
“Ahh Smirking!” he clapped the little gretchin heartily on the shoulder almost breaking a clavicle. “Wot’s it like?” he enthused. “It’s wot we’re ere for!”
SkagNet guffawed and pulled himself up on one leg using his grabba stick as a walking cane.
“Ya eva wanna just smash sumfink but when it’s all smashed up you jus wanna smash sum more? An’ yer sick o’ smashin’ up yer own stuff so ya get yer mates roun’ an’ dey all wanna jus’ smash stuff so yous all go out an’ smash up sum junk an’ den da owners o’ da junk wanna fight cause ya smashed up der junk an’ den der’s a big scrap an’ ya blast ‘em like…” Skagnet whipped out a slugga with alarming dexterity and unloaded a few rounds at a forgotten boot lying on the ground allowing his pistol to finish the sentence. Smirking didn’t quite follow but was none the less amused.
“Den dey get der mates roun’ an’ it gets a even bigga scrap and dey bring der blastas an’ der trucks and ova junk an’ yer all as a real good scrap an’ stuff’s on fire an’ ye can’t see fer da smoke but den ya can sneak up and blow up der junk on da sly an’ even blame der mates an’ den jus’ sit back an’ laugh at em all scrappin togever an’ sumtimes dey gets smart an’ den dey gets mad acha an’ den dey gets sloppy an you gets yer digs in easy, all like…” SkagNet stabbed at the air with his grabba stick and throttled invisible adversaries with hideous delight before overbalancing and toppling over in heap back down eyeball to eyeball with Smirking.
“D’ye see?” he grabbed Smirking by both arms and stared wildly in his face all crazed and dribbling with enthusiasm.
“Dats da Waaagh!” SkagNet was desperate, almost begging him to understand. Smirking smirked nervously. A gallery of faces had formed a semi-circle around them. Even Slakka looked wide awake paying full attention. Snikkit drooled and his eyes flickered with more than his usual amount of crazy. Beholding his mob of eager warriors SkagNet’s Blood-Axe pride once again mastered his faculties.
He had heard tales of ZogRod WortSnagga and his so called Kommando Runts: An elite force of highly trained gretchin, in the hands of a bumpkin Snakebite. But these; he reviewed his painstakingly hand selected team in quiet self admiration: In the hands of a true Blood-Axe with real Kommando skills.
Smudge, a natural born infiltrator the finest example of gretchin sneakery he had ever trained.
Unky, the powerful physique of an ork, almost. A small ork, a gretchin sized ork.
Runt, small and nifty and a talented escape artist.
Slakka, a rare diurnal operative with superb day vision.
Nurd, intelligence and knowhow, the brains of the outfit, after SkagNet of course.
Snikkit, wild, feral, the untamed violent malevolence of the greenskin race.
SkagNet turned and realised he had been holding the gretchin by the arms all this time. Awkwardly he released his grip a little dumbfounded. He still couldn’t figure this grot out. He had taken every rotten job SkagNet could throw at him and always came out smiling. Every back handed slap every boot in the rear and every lash of his whip only made the little clown all the more loyal and willing and somehow able. SkagNet just smiled at the little guy, standing there rubbing his arms looking sheepish. He had rekindled a fire in the old Blood-Axe’s belly when it was most sorely needed. Maybe he was special. Maybe even old GogGob’s kind of special, gifted, or charmed or chosen or some-such mystical nonsense.
SkagNet glowed. He truly had it all. This was going to be a great Waaagh! after all: The first of many in his illustrious new career as a runtherd freebooter. He would show ZogRod, He’d show GrodMek, and GorGoff, he’d show them all.
Nurd returned to him his peg-leg. Now a little straighter missing its worn out rubber shoe but with the screw end newly greased. SkagNet didn’t care to ask where he had gotten the grease from. He screwed it back in place noting with satisfaction a grinding sandy texture in the oily muck improving the grip on the threads. He looked around for his boot but finding only the old, shabby, bullet riddled thing presumably discarded by another sore footed ork, he abandoned the search. After all, where they were going there were plenty of spare boots.