‘Knife’ as it has come to be called – wasn’t entirely original. It began with Mike Schwitzgebel’s fantastic story ‘Deliverance’ on his copperosity site. He asked to ‘borrow’ a couple of my characters for it and I was most happy to allow him their use. He did such a fine job that I was inspired to write a sequel, which turned into a borderline novel length piece.

This was begun away back in around the year 2000 and was only finished in early 2015. It was a long haul to get done with, of course, long long periods of inactivity. I’m surprised it actually got done, but if there is someone who deserves the credit for that, it’s my friend Chris Allen, who was a bit relentless about it and thank goodness. Without his encouragement I’m sure it would have wound up permanently by the wayside somewhere.

As a note – Lodi, Cascade Hive and the Lodian gangs are the creations of Mike Schwitzgebel – who I do not hear from often enough. The Void Phantoms are the creation of the aforementioned Chris Allen. The Raehanivs were originally created by Sebastian Stuart of Australia, and then adapted to be merged with the Danikans, motivated by his selling me his completed models and my incorporating them into my Danikan 40k army. As such, it seemed a good idea to incorporate their history as well.

It’s a long read, and the later pieces are stronger than the early ones as my skills improved. I hope you enjoy the ride though.

Mike M.  July 6, 2015

LODI
Cascade Hive
The Underhive

In near total darkness, a faint rushing whisper hissed gently in the black iron crucible of what had once been some ancient manufacturing plant. The delicate dust fall that caused the noise leaked from a shattered culvert in the high ceiling above. It sifted down onto the top of a tall cooling tower, forming a pyramid of glittering silicate before filtering down the rusted sides like a wedding veil over a desiccate corpse.

Darting from cover to cover, lithe forms approached the tower, shapes only in the wan light. Reaching the foot of the plinth, several of them moved toward the mound of granular glitter that collected at its base. Others took up positions to cover them, the dark shapes of weapons barely visible in the flickering light that leaked from behind an old refinery stack far away across the dome.

The figures by the dust produced crude shovels and began to carefully dig, emptying the shining powder into a separator box one had set up on the metal decking.

Disaster struck. Again.

Exene Thrush cursed, diving behind the ancient tower as heavy bolter rounds tore holes the size of dinner plates in the rotted metal. Hitting the ground in a roll, she came up firing, her green cased plasma pistol sending sun hot bolts in the direction of the muzzle flashes. There was a masculine cry and the firing stopped. She tucked her tongue into the corner of her sensuous, purple painted lips – showing hard concentration as she tracked another target. The covering Daughters of Dystopia opened up; shells and energy flying around the ancient dome like stray fire from the ghosts of long absent work by the ancient machines. Briefly the entire dome was lit by muzzle flashes as more of their ambushers joined the fray.

Exene could make them out now. The leading ones were hulking giants of men; each weighing in at over twice what one of her own girls would. Behind them, more slender forms dashed from point to point, stopping occasionally to fire. Moebius and Brob’nag? She cursed aloud again. What the hell was going on?

One of the girls on the other side hefted a giant weapon really too large for her and centred it on the dusty tower. A grin lit her face as readout lights reflected on the silver rings through her eyebrows, lips, ears and a single nipple intentionally left exposed by her low cut leathers. Heckle centred the lascannon on the tower and let fly yelling out, “Take this you stinking purple bitch!”

There was a tremendous explosion. The tower cracked and sighed, staggering like a ganger on too much White Snake, and then the world came apart.

Exene woke to the cold splash of water on her face. Hard Candice glared down at her. As always, her eyes were like flint chips in her stony face. The leader of the Daughters tried to sit up.

“Nope.” Candy pressed her back down. The ganger’s gentle pressure was assisted by the searing pain in her side and hip. Black spots touched with pink and green nether lights danced before her eyes but she clung to consciousness by the tips of her scratched purple nails. “Hip’s broke. We’ll carry you out. Be a while afore you go dancin’ again.”

“The girls -”

“Is fine. Nobody hurt as bad as you. Two Brob’nags won’t be goin’ home though. Not never.”

“What happened?” She was still groggy. Thinking was tough. Exene put all her force of will into gathering her scattered thoughts. “I thought I heard Heckle.”

Candy chewed a lip thoughtfully. “Maybe. I heard someone sounded like her just before the dust tower blew and took out the main support when it fell. Roof came down. ‘Twas all Sindi could do to get you out.” Sindi was their newest juve. And the ways things had been going lately, likely their last. “The two ‘nags bought it when the roof fell in.”

“I think I might have gotten another one.” It was starting to come back.

“Mebbe. You should see this. Pulled it off a ‘nag. Mebbe the leader. Looked important.” Candy handed the injured gang leader a sheet of bloodstained plastic. Thrush’s eyes squinted to make it out in the unsure light from the small lantern nearby. Her face went cold. Her eyes icy. Understanding dawned.

“Get me out of here. Now. I have to send a letter and it needs to leave yesterday.”

CADIA
Southwest Isthmus
Just north of the invasion landing zones:

The starry sky flashed with the light of a thousand meteors. Bolts from the hand of an angry god. Giant shapes blotted the stars as the glowing sparks streaked toward the planet’s surface. Striking in rapid sequence faster than a snare drum roll on a parade ground they ripped across the isthmus, a rain of glowing death. They tossed trees with 5 foot boles thousands of feet in the air, ripped holes in the ground big enough to swallow a titan, reaped death and destruction unimaginable. In seconds a thousand square miles of verdant wooded plain was rendered down to molten rock, black glass and shattered wreckage. The Hand of that god was felt and seen.

It was acknowledged.

It was feared.

But it was resisted, nonetheless.

Out of the blasted waste of the isthmus they came. Striding forward. Giants emblazoned with the Eye of Horus and the Star of Chaos.

Giant knights, walking fortresses, pinnacled towers on legs met them. The hammers of the Gods returned to the land so newly silent. The knights fell. The fortresses burned. The giants continued their march. Behind them came their legions. Tiny armoured carriers rolling on their tracks, jump packed fiends in red and black armour long fused to their corrupt bodies. The boiling hordes of Chaos.

From atop a near hill reared another, minuscule threat. The giants turned. One could almost see the laughter of their crews as they faced about bringing their weapons to bear on the pitiful, tiny tanks that dared to roar a challenge with their sad little battlecannon. Void shields flared and strained under the onslaught of the Leman Russ tanks. The giants poised, taking their time to prepare, letting the fools savor their deaths.

All according to plan.

Entrenched deeply in the hill opposite the Leman Russ platoon, Lieutenant Verrus smiled as he spoke a line from an ancient play. “Come ye wrath or come ye wrack. At least we die with harness on our backs!” He stroked the fire trigger as he spoke the words.

Two Baneblades and a Shadowsword can do a lot of damage to a titan whose back is turned and whose shields are weakened. A volcano laser, four battle cannon, and eight heavy lascannon are not to be trifled with. Of course, it is impossible to ambush with superheavy tanks.

Impossible was a word that the soldiers of the 4th Danika did not believe in.

The lead giant fell.

So did the shells of the artillery companies. The targets were now in the killing fields.

* * *

Nearby…

A shell hit ripped apart most of a tactical squad, random bits of brave men sailing through the air. The edge of the blast also caught a black coated Commissar – the man who commanded this sector of the battle. It tossed him back, tearing the jump pack from his back and leaving him bent and broken on the ground.

His troops surged forward in anger, their own jump packs carrying them over the nearest attackers and into the back ranks of supporting marines. Hand flamers spewed fire, bolt pistols cracked. Storm shields flared to life with a crackle like lightning. The heretics fell back before the assault. But Chaos troops also can be clever and brave. A mad dreadnought rushed from behind them towards the hapless guardsmen.

Heironymous Cracken tried with all his might to get to his feet. His will was iron. His broken body was not. Shattered legs would not take the weight, broken ribs ripped at lungs and blood leaked from his mouth, nose and ears. He knew he had to stand. He was the only one who could stop that dreadnought!

A lesser man would have lain there and screamed, or perhaps passed out. A good man might have managed to stifle the screaming and remain conscious. A great man would have managed to get an arm under him and sit up.

Heironymous Cracken made it to his knees.

As the dreadnought charged, the assault troops fell back. Several fell to its fire as it closed quickly. They had jump packs but there was no cover near enough. The weapons fire would rip them apart. It did not look good for the guardsmen as there were no reserves nearby that they knew anything about. Nothing in the battle plan. This sector was in serious trouble.

Cracken fumbled with his personal com-link. His radio man had fallen. He would have to hope someone would be near enough to relay his call. He spat blood to clear his mouth and did his best to talk clearly around his bubbling lungs. “Cracken to Command. Sector 4 in jeopardy.” He choked up more blood, “We need immediate support. Cracken to Command, respond.” The hiss of static filled his ears. “Repeat,” the voice was weaker now, “Sector 4 in serious jeopardy. If you can hear, send support!” Suddenly a voice in the clear came through loud and strong.

“Is that Commissar Cracken of the 4th Danika, by any chance?”

“Yes.” He barely got it out. “Who- ” The pain was rising in the Commissar. It was all he could do to get those two words out.

“Brother Lucien, Dreadnought four of the Cleansing Flames. Hold tight and keep transmitting Commissar, I have some brethren who’ve got a debt to re-pay!”

Cracken would have been happy to hear that. But he had already blacked out by the time the Astartes ancient had replied.

Continued in Part II – the Gathering of Heroes.

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