Chapter 11 Da Big Gunz
The MekWorx was emptied of every ork. GrodMek slammed the heavy gates behind them and stomped off alone back to his workshop smirking like a grot with absurdly swollen lips. SkagNet and his grots had been shipped off with the rest of the Deathskulls’ gretchin to crew the Big Gunz and they didn’t exaggerate, Smirking thought, these guns were big.
Smirking had no idea how to operate such heavy machinery but he had full confidence in Nurd's ability to look like he knew what he was doing. Nurd had been assembling their complicated ork-tech weapon as best made sense to him but many other crews had long since begun firing. SkagNet was in a foul mood and was being particularly non-communicative. He sat and ruminated sulkily, refusing to comment or help in any way. Not that Smirking could have heard any verbal communication over the brain splitting noise of the ork ordinance barrage but he still would have appreciated the old ork's input. His three glyph placards would help facilitate battlefield operations but they didn't quite cover all his questions. He had one for 'Fire' another for 'Reload' and the 'Jam' glyph which given the volatile nature of ork artillery might double up as 'Run!'
On his left Snikkit and Slaka were already at work offloading shells into the oncoming Human armoured assault. Their big lobber was a simple load and fire heavy mortar construction. Slaka spotted targets in the reddening sunset using a set of binoculars and adjusted the angle of the barrel while Snikkit cranked the firing lever with destructive gleeful abandon before both set about reloading another giant shell.
A fusillade of various types of looted kannons crewed by the Deathskulls’ gretchin chorused with practiced skill on the right. Beyond them Smirking thought he spied the same large track mounted weapon that he had seen before in GrodMek’s workshop. In the middle of it all Smirking’s ponderous and convoluted Zzap Gun sat atop a spindly tripod.
Nurd held his chin and scratched his head under his tattered human officer’s cap. He had assembled a long slender firing barrel to the fore which he had wired into a fat buzzing transformer to the rear. It was powered by a heavy duty liquid battery which rested on the ground beside them; Its thick acidic chemicals sloshed around with the vibrations of each thunderous report. A lever jutted out conspicuously from the transformer and a pair of shiny brass boluses on top swung in lazy circles in the wind.
An array of metres and gauges attracted Smirking’s concentration as a large red button blinked intermittently in the centre of the control panel. Smirking's finger moved with a will of its own inexorably drawn to the blinking red invitation. Nurd stepped back to observe the effect as a low volume bolt of yellow energy arced from the barrel and flew across the battlefield like a small feeble lightning bolt. It fizzled out with little to no effect but Nurd was sure he had learned what the button did. The whirling boluses stopped spinning and the gauges bottomed out. Nurd pawed the boluses and slapped the button but to no avail. He tapped the gauges in vexation and reached for the lever. A blast nearby from an enemy shell showered them both with hot rubble and told them that the time for experimenting with their new toy was over. The enemy tanks were upon them.
UzKop sat in the gunners seat of GrodMek’s Traktor Kannon eyeing up the various targets on display. A motley crew of Deathskulls capered around at his feet like eager squighounds, drooling over the armoured buffet that the humans were serving up. The rest of the Flashgitz congregated on his right yelling suggestions as they spied out targets with their telescopic snazzgun sights. UzKop tried to ignore their choicest selections and aimed for his clearest target; a transport vehicle which stood immobile supporting its heavily engaged former occupants as they struggled against some of GorGoff’s boys in the fringes of the real fighting. He fired up the main ‘konvershun drive’, twisted the focusing array a little tighter, dropped an anchor over the side, and then, taking the joy stick with theatrical gravitas for the benefit of his audience he thumbed the trigger.
The weapon lurched with the pull of its own attractive force but the anchor held. The target vehicle began to hover as UzKop pulled up on the joystick. He paused to gloat to his fellow Flashgitz but his lapse of concentration cost him his prize. The transport slipped from his hold and came crashing to the ground not far from its original position. The driver elected not to stay for another ride and it started to move off. The Flashgitz pointed and chortled and slapped each-other on the back in overstated hilarity. They jeered and heckled and generally enjoyed the unfolding comedy of the UzKop traktor kannon show.
UzKop knit his brow and tried again. Feeling like he had a firm grasp of the controls he very conspicuously cranked up the power and gave his audience a confident glance. A large wheel-like knob with a spiral design painted on it called out to his curiosity and was duly toggled before he gripped the joystick and braced for contact. Selecting the same transport, or was it a different one: UzKop cared little, he fired.
The vehicle leapt and spun corkscrewing through the air like a huge fish on the end of UzKops line. UzKop jerked and struggled with the joystick trying to maintain the hold as long as possible before the vehicle finally slipped from his grasp and plummeted with sickening velocity into the ground amidst the furore below. A cheer went up from the Flashgitz who had enjoyed the show immensely and were calling for an encore. UzKop lapped up the adulation grinning like only a Bad-Moon ork can.
A pair of Deathskulls had seen enough and were leaving on a wartrakk to claim looters rights on the stricken vehicle which was even now being overrun by Goffs. A half squad of hapless humans staggered from the wreck and were slaughtered in short order. A massive ork in heavy mechanically enhanced armour mounted the upturned machine and stomped up to its pinnacle to raise his enormous power claw and bellowed his rage at the human enemy. GorGoff would not be beaten down by armoured infantry and he stood tall and defiant over the battlefield heedless of whatever may be drawing aim at his magnificent form. Behind him on the hill UzKop grinned: he had found his next target.
Nurd cranked the lever and held up his hand as he watched the dials. Smirking waited with a hand on the firing button while the the battery sloshed, the transformer hummed, the boluses whirled and his hair squig fuzzed with static build up. Smirking eyeballed the sights which were a pair of nails hammered in at either end of the barrel and slapped the button in premature enthusiasm. There was a tank there, a big one. The emerging beam of energy zapped through the air and fizzled out on the tanks flank. Nurd looked at Smirking with withering condescension his hand still deliberately aloft. Smirking grimaced with chagrin and delicately removed his hand from the button. Nurd pulled the lever again, adjusted his hat to a more officious angle and thrust up his hand in readiness to give the signal.
Shells fell all around. Already a number of Deathskull gretchin crews had been hit; their bodies still lay where they had fallen. Their weapons however, no matter how badly damaged had been looted almost instantaneously by nearby teams returning from looting the battlefield. Below their slightly elevated position Smirking watched as the battle raged. The heavily armoured wave of enemy tanks had clashed with the immovable ranks of GorGoff’s finest and all along the front both sides fought with terrible ferocity for the upper hand. In some places stricken vehicles formed a last bulwark of refuge supporting dying clusters of humans surrounded by a tide of greenskins. At one point a group of tanks had found a week spot and had broken through the ork defensive line. They were struggling to defend a pair of troop transports which had followed them through and it was only a matter of time before their unsupported position became too tenuous to hold.
A thump on his shoulder told him that Nurd had been trying to give the signal while he was dreaming. Snapping back to himself Smirking didn’t bother to check for targets before he obediently slapped the button. A shock went through his arm and the gun went ZZAP much louder than before and with a considerably brighter beam of energy. The shot was wasted though as it didn’t hit anything. Apart from a tangy ozone smell in the air and a hot smoking charred patch of dirt on the battlefield Smirking had very little to show for his dead arm, which he shook to rid it of pins and needles.
Nurd, scanned the battlefield below for more targets and spotted a likely candidate. A Huge Leman Russ Battletank had broken through the ork lines and was coming their way. He screeched to Slaka and Snikit above the din and even managed to budge SkagNet from his lackadaisical stupor by frantically pointing and flailing his cap in the air. Slaka shoved at the big lobba adjusting its aim while Snikkit capered and gestured obscenities at the giant lumbering behemoth. Nurd swivelled the barrel of his Zap gun to bear and cranked the charging lever in desperate hope that he still had enough time. Slaka stopped shoving and stepped away from the lobber as Snikkit slammed down the firing mechanism. The mortar shell flew high and dropped to the ground much closer than before and they all felt the impact. The human crew in the tank must have felt it too but if they were even shaken at all by the very near miss they didn’t slow their progress. The wide muzzle of the huge ordinance cannon on the turret tracked the offending gretchin crew.
SkagNet’s eye grew wide with panic.
UzKop carefully measured the distance against his thumb with one eye closed and adjusted the power dial accordingly. He didn’t want too much of a jolt on this one, nor much spin, he dialled back the spiral knob, but not all the way. With little time to waste he grabbed the first vehicle he could get a beam on and heaved it aloft. A ponderously heavy battletank clearly not designed for aviation began to leave the ground and floated above the fire fight like a lead zeppelin. UzKop strained and wrestled with the joystick edging the massive object closer and closer to his intended target.
GorGoff still stood atop the upturned transport bellowing and whipping the assembled orks up into a fury of battle lust. So intent on his gathering horde was he that he failed to notice the gently rotating armoured assault vehicle floating directly above his position. He was gathering his forces for a Waaagh! The big charge that would break the enemy and turn the human assault into a route. UzKop almost felt a pang of guilt as he let the vehicle slip from the traktor kannon’s grasp.
He blinked, jiggled the joy stick, smacked the machine on the side with an open palm. Nothing. The huge tank still floated impossibly above GorGoff’s head, but something else was odd about it. It was beginning to glow. A nimbus of greenish yellow light emanated from it.
“It’s WazzBad!” yelled a Deathskull who was using UzKop’s snazgun sight for a telescope.
“Givus dat!” barked UzKop snatching the device. He clambered up on top of his seat and gawped through the scope, slack jawed and dumbstruck as the scene below unfolded.
WazzBad NazzKop himself had appeared; the combined psyches or the gathered ork mass providing him sufficient power to maintain the flight of the impossible floating tank which he now rode like an insane circus clown on a huge rolling ball. The eyes of every ork below were upon him and his power was unmistakably waxing to full manifest glory.
GorGoff looked up at last as the Warphead’s cavorting trot began to descend the spinning tank’s flank like a spider, in a doubled defiance of gravity and sanity, until the two would-be warlords stood impossibly face to face, head to head. This final brain boggling insult shattered the Goff WarBoss’ innate self-possession and his mind crumpled under the immense pressure of the Weirdboy’s Waaagh! energy.
GorGoff’s head exploded to the enraptured delight of the assembled throng. The resulting Waaagh! was an irresistible wave of destruction, cutting out the heart of the advancing enemy who wavered to a dead stop and then a messy retreat, as the warp fuelled fury of the orks smashed and rent asunder all in their path. In the heart of the mêlée WazzBad roared and wailed like a gibbering god of madness and death unleashing bolts of armour-melting energy from his fists and spewing vile corruption in the enemies’ terror stricken faces.
UzKop dropped his telescope and scratched his hairy chin-squig. He had been looking forward to being the first to tell the Boss the good news but somehow he didn’t think this was quite what GrodMek had in mind.
Smirking couldn’t see. He couldn’t hear much either but he had gotten used to that. He fumbled about on the ground barely able to see the hands in front of his face. His hand fell onto something wet that smelled of feet. He tossed the severed limb away and continued scrambling to his feet. Standing proved somewhat more difficult than he had anticipated and as he collapsed in a heap he recalled why. The enemy tank had fired on them. He remembered a brief flash from the big battle cannon on its turret before the world went dark but that was all. How he was still alive to remember anything was as much a mystery as that of the fate of the rest of his gang. The smell of fire and blood and the lingering scent of feet in his nostrils didn’t fill him with confidence. A light caught his attention; an orange glow growing stronger. Either the dust was clearing or a fire was growing or… Smirking tilted his head to one side to aid his failing mental faculties at he took in the phenomenon of a miniature fire tornado hovering above him. It was sucking in the smoke and dust and the air was beginning to clear as it grew in strength and started to shoot out little arcs of static. Smirking spotted the leg he had tossed aside and concluded, due to its size that it must have belonged to SkagNet. The Big lobber was gone, as were Slaka and Snikkit.
Smirking jumped at a sudden movement to his left, the body of SkagNet shuffled and rolled to the right revealing a very battered and dishevelled Nurd beneath. Once Smirking had helped him to his feet Nurd noticed their zap gun. The spinning boluses on top were still whirling in a tumult of crazy energies creating the fire tornado, the heat of which both gretchin could feel upon their faces. Then Smirking remembered the enemy tank. He took a pace forward and immediately fell back in fright as the enormous object of his search loomed into view cresting the rise almost within spitting distance.
First the imposing dozer blade and tracks which reared up and fell as the vehicles weight shifted over the lip of the earthwork revealing that same gaping maw mounted in the turret. Smirking fumbled for his guns but found nothing but a skinny unarmed grot in his soiled drawers. Nurd had to think quickly. He dived in behind the zap gun shielding his eyes from the inferno above with one hand and stretching with the other to slap the big red button to make a desperate point blank shot. He was vaporised in a flash. The surging release of energy destroyed both the weapon itself and the target, a bolt of white hot heat lancing through the armoured behemoth and cooking the crew inside in an instant.
Smirking sat blinking and mesmerised in the dust and heat, astonishingly alive. All that remained of Nurd was his hat which lay smouldering on the ground next to Smirking. In a daze Smirking reached out a finger and quenched a glowing ember on the brim producing a thin wisp of smoke that rose up and mingled anonymously with the rest.