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Chrysalis2

Short story - The bolt that wouldn't bend

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The bolt that wouldn't bend

 

It is said there is a bolt that runs into the centre of a Predator tank. According to the teachings of the Adeptus Mechanicus this hallowed bolt is the last to be hammered in place by the anointed high tech-priest of the factory.

 

Nearly a millennium ago, the 463rd Cadian regiment went into the Eye of Terror. No contact was heard from them for over five centuries until their troop transports blinked back into reality. Since then they have raided upon Imperial planets and shipping lanes with terrible single mindedness. 

 

Gone were the imperial aquilas, lost were the statues of saints. Their ships showed their age, battle damage scarring across their sides. The warp and the forces of chaos had been harsh in their mocking twistage.

 

Now they gorged their troops and vehicles under the banner of Abaddon the Despoiler. Whose thirst for the destruction of Imperium had only grown in the ten millenia since he exiled himself with the other Space Marine traitor legions to the Eye of Terror.

 

On the deck of a bulk carrier what was once called the Hated Wrath of the Infants now heralded itself as simply the Hated Wrath, tech-sergeant Virt continued to talk one of the Predator tanks. Its engines slowly rumbling in a measured pace as if it had rolled off the production line yesterday. Gore had been slathered across its blackened armour, its proud regimental banners still flew from its aerials. Countless battles had whispered them into tatters. Its crew had been entombed, its hatches sealed from entry. Mummified cadavers still showing their imperial insignia and regimental patches blankly stared at glowing pict screens, the vox crackled with the howl of debased Imperial Guard chatter.

 

Tech-sergeant Virt quickly touched the burnished bolt of the Predator, "Off to one more battle. Eh? My old queen."

 

There was a slow rumble as the Predator waited patiently, even under the decorated gore the name Old Queen could still be seen across its side. Its companion tanks though proudly bore more infernal markings, some even showing the signs of demonic infestation. The other Predator tanks were eagerly grinding their tracks and growling at each other. Their frenzy for blood lust barely contained by the thick chains that kept them on their deployment palettes.

 

"Have you finished tech-sergeant Virt?" An improbably tall man wore a flowing long coat that had been stitched with additional hems for it to reach the ground. Gone was the Imperial aquila from the buttons to be replaced with the eight arrowed sign of chaos.

 

"Yes, yes I am. Commissar Ghast." Tech-sergeant looked down to avoid looking Commissar Ghast in the eyes. The white corpse like face of Comissar Ghast was a ruin, his eyes shaded by cracked cyber-optics that flickered for life.

 

Ghast gripped the tech sargeant by the neck and forced him to look into Ghast's eyes. "Was that fear I detected. Tech-sergeant?"

 

"No. Of course not. I look forward to the oncoming battle." Virt gasps as his neck was squeezed by a deathly cold hand. Ghast's optics bore into Virt.

 

A creature shambled past, what it might have been was swathed in bandaged and tattered rags to unknowability. It carried a brass set of speakers that stopped its braying of demonic exhortation to announce in crisp Gothic "Drop in one minute. Stations. Drop in one minute."

 

Ghast dropped Virt onto the flight deck. "This conversation is not finished tech-sergeant, simply postponed."

 

Virt fell heavily onto his feet as oxygen came to fill his lungs.

 

Already Commissar Ghast was moving among the rest of his tech squad snarling exhortations for slaughter.

 

Virt touched the bolt and silently prayed for the Emperor, before snapping back "You heard the order men! Let's move these vehicles into the drop pods."

 

---

 

The Old Queen had been on the battlefield for forty days as per its internal chronometers. It shook as it rolled through the artillery barrage, passing over the battle field as the churned combatants lay over their weapons. It stopped near the edge of a muddy ridge to spy a shadowy silhouette in its optics. The auto loader clattered as it fired its main gun.

 

The enemy rhino took the strike of the shell to its side, peeling in the outer skin to discharge the exploding contents into its internal workings. The rhino rolled on before stopping, its occupants the bloody smear of a blown orifice across the muddied field.

 

The Old Queen continued on steadily circling the crest speeding up towards the peeking bunkers among the razor wire. Their silhouettes showing in its optics from the repeated muzzle flashes of its defenders.

 

---

 

First Lieutenant Laszlo Mazur wasn't doing well. The renegade forces of chaos had been hammering the planet for three months now. The landscape that he crouched in was the mess of enemy and friendly soldiers. The profane icons of chaos mixing with the divine of Imperial Creed. Somewhere in the haze of weapons discharges were the sounds of rumbling as tanks maneuvered against each other, probing out further weaknesses in the already collapsing Imperial lines.

 

The lieutenant looked behind, Corporal Vachek, privates Elge and Abbas were all that what was left of the company that had gone out on their mission a week ago. Chewed out in the mill of war, they were what was spat back out. Vachek clutched his meltagun, while Elge and Abbas carried looted lasrifles and demolition packs from dead comrades. All of them were wounded in some way. Laszlo had a las strike through his chest. It made breathing difficult; the raising and firing of his laspistol excruciating.

 

The inhumane sound of treads and an engine mixing with the banshee sound of a daemon made all four pause. The tank rumbled on leaving behind an echoing silence. Agonising moments later Laszlo looked over the trench to see lines of renegade Imperial Guardsmen turned chaos cultists marching inevitably towards their position.

 

A spotlight blinked on to the side, a baleful eye as it bathed the four crouching Imperial Guardsmen in hateful red light. The banshee engine screamed as it treads ground into the corpse mulch cannonballing towards their position.

 

---

 

One of its ancient comrades was burning from repeated strikes with a melta gun, the daemon bound in its shell screamed as Old Queen charged up a port side laser and casually shot into the burning shell, silencing the chaos in its shattered structure.

 

It then turned its attention on the two who remained.

 

---

 

Vachek sucked in more mud through his open chest and remained still. Abbas shuddered to his feet. Laszlo sloughed through the muck towards where Elge's feet lay. Somewhere around there he had lost his laspistol. The top part of Elge's body had evaporated under withering lasrifle fire. Adding insult to injury caustic rain started to fall.

 

The Predator stalked them, pushing aside the burning husk of its shatted brother, allowing the cultists approaching in the haze to come closer. The name Old Queen could be seen on the side under the blackened, pockmarked armour as it drove closer.

 

Abbas his hands empty scrambled around until he found a bolter, its marks of ritual purification scarred off, replaced with the signs of chaos. He sighted and shot at the carriage causing it to ping off its hide. The Old Queen accelerated as if angered driving into the side of the hillock where Abbas stood, grinding its treads as it teethed him legs to hips under its bulk. Abbas fired ineffectually and screamed in fear. More of Abbas was being mulched under the tank.

 

Laszlo ran towards Abbas forgetful of the lasfire coming from the enemy. He surged to the side of the tank, trying to pull Abbas free. He wouldn't budge, the treads kept grinding Abbas further down into the muck.

 

"Just leave me lieutenant. Get out of here." Abbas gulped, brushing away the burning rain water from his eyes.

 

"Throne no." Laszlo said as he looked around for a weapon. Among the detritus of renegade equipment, he spied a bolt gun hanging in the hands of a dead commissar. Scrambling up along, he stumbled as a grenade went off nearby, ripping into his flak jacket exposing his arm. Wetness of blood followed by the burning of the rain kept him travelling until he picked up the bolt gun.

 

A hulking brute in a gasmask and optics hurtled towards Laszlo its chainsword graveling towards him. A blast of heat and what was once the traitor's head is gone, leaving the sword to feast itself among the surrounding cadavers.

 

Laszlo sprinted back, another creature appearing out of the burning wetness to be shot down with righteous bolt fire. Abbas was still stuck. Levelling the bolt gun at Abbas’ head he fired. The bolt gun jammed.

 

A strike from a lasrifle hit on the side of Laszlo’s head scorching helmet and searing his ear into a blackened stump. He screamed holy oaths turning and firing, dropping another cultist.

 

First Lieutenant Laszlo Mazur stood up, staggering to the side of the Predator. The gore on its side came off in long crusted sheets. A silver bolt on its side stood out in this blacked wasteland. He rapped his bolt gun's butt against the side. "In the name of the Emperor, I order you to desist!"

 

It is said there is a bolt that runs through to the center of a Predator tank. The sound boomed through the entombed compartment, the desiccated hand of the tank commander inched with the vibrations before striking a button, changing vox channel.

 

The Old Queen went still.

 

---

 

"That's what I saw. The tank stopped and rolled around Abbas. Took out a company of the enemy then moved on to destroy three enemy tanks before charging forward into the enemy positions."

 

The room was stiflingly hot from the numerous officers and interrogators standing. Laszlo's bandages were itching from the antispetic gels and sacred unguents used by the medicae. A senior interrogator silenced the murmurs, by raising his hands from the steel table by a hair’s breath.

 

The interrogator calmly measured his words, "We went to investigate when the fighting stopped. We found the charred remains of a Predator command tank called the Old Queen."

 

He placed a single bolt the length of his forearm and the thickness of his finger on the table. The ornate engravings of the Adeptus Mechanicus clearly embossed and the name Old Queen was filigreed into it. It gleamed as if forged yesterday, the bolt stood perfectly straight on the steel table. 

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