Some of these pieces of fiction were written as ‘army list introductions’ often when I’d built or painted new models and wanted to present – and for that matter sometimes create – some background for them. About four or five years ago I built a new platoon of Leman Russ tanks including the Eradicator ‘Hell Here’ the Punisher ‘Horribilus’ and the Demolisher Siege tank ‘Rampart’. This fiction was written for Mechanikon, a local tournament where these models and their commander Harald Knox made their public debut.
The sun had gone down recently enough that the western horizon was still inked with orange through the half leafless tree branches. In the gathering gloom campfires were springing to life, illuminating the fronts of bubble tents, the sides of armored vehicles and the tired faces of guardsmen settling in for their evening meal.
Winding a twisted path between the fires, the man in the black jumpsuit and white topped cap marched. His back was ramrod straight, his uniform perfect save for some unavoidable flecks of mud on his boots. Firelight caught his heavy, clean shaven features and failed to bring warmth to the ice-gray pools that were his eyes. Only the slightly canted cap gave any hint of personality that wasn’t humorless military academy perfection.
His boots rang on metal grillwork and he stopped, pulling a wipe from his right side pocket to carefully scrub the mud from his heavy boots returning them to the black mirror that they had been before he started his walk. He held the wipe in his hand, his eyes scanning for a waste receptacle as he trod through officer’s country. Eventually he tossed it into a fire as he passed. Not ideal, his expression said, but it would do.
Finally – he stopped before a battered bubble tent. There was a fire in front, with a half eaten meal sitting on a chair seat. The back of the chair held a heavy flak jacket. A hard shell tanker’s helmet topped a weathered entrenching tool embedded next to the fire. The man lightly scratched at the tent opening.
“It’s open Harald,” came the deep voice from within.
Lt. Harald Knox stepped within, sweeping his officer’s cap off and under his arm and snapping to attention with a perfect salute. “Lt. Knox reporting as ordered Captain.”
Captain Aaron Cantrell rose from behind his rickety folding desk. He was a giant man, tall, broad and bulky with muscle. His skin gleamed like mahogany and white teeth and eyes flashed in that dark expanse of a face. He wore tight black tanker’s trousers, a tank top that might once have been white and a red and white paisley bandana around his neck like a scarf. He gestured at the only other chair. “At ease, Harald. Have a seat.”
Knox sat stiffly, clearly trying to keep as little of his uniform as possible from coming into contact with the mess that was Cantrell’s tent. The huge tank captain swept some of the mess from his ‘desk’ to the floor, revealing a map. “Look here.”
“Advanced positions, Captain. I see you’ve marked roughly 40 infantry there.”
Cantrell nodded. “You know why it’s 40?”
It wasn’t hard to guess. “Because that’s the usual support for three Leman Russ tanks, sir?”
“Correct as always Harald. I suppose you know which three I had in mind?”
Knox didn’t even bother looking more closely at the map. “In that terrain, it would have to be Iron Fist sir. No other platoon makes sense.”
“I expected nothing else from my top Tank Ace, Harald. Yes, I want Iron Fist in there. Spearhead formation. You choose the specifics based on tactics that make sense for each contact. We have no idea what you might meet in there so all I can tell you is form your spearhead and shove it right up the arse of the xenos.”
“Contact and destroy, sir?” For the first time Knox’ voice had a tinge of something that might just be excitement.
“With extreme prejudice, Harald. Kill everything, kill them all. There are no reported civs in that sector so just flatten everything that even might
be a threat.”
A tiny grin touched the edges of Knox’ mouth. “Hmm. I think I shall put Rampart on point and bring Hell Here and Horribilus in on the sides and just behind. Have we infantry in that 40 that can keep up?”
“Zinfan Bock and his Chimera Bock’s Car will be hauling Harlow’s mob.”
“A woman? Captain I – “ Cantrell cut him short.
“Enough. Ariel’s troopers have been in plenty of fracas before and have always acquitted themselves well. You’ll work with her and like it! She and Bock will form the forte of your spear. Now get out there and smash some lines, Knox!”
“Yessir. As you say. Rampart will form the tip of the spear and lay waste to the Xenos.”
The Captain nodded. “That’s it Knox, get to it!”
Cantrell watched the Tank Ace retrace his steps back toward their deployment area, thinking of the assignment he’d given Iron Fist’s platoon commander. A wedge of deadly close in tanks. Rampart to smash vehicles and heavy infantry. Hell Here with it’s Nova cannon and heavy flamers would flush anything out of cover that tried to hide and Knox’ own Horribilus to shred light infantry with its Punisher gatling cannon and bat clean up. Backed up by one of Blackmoor’s infantry platoons, Harlow’s veterans and a pair of scout sentinels and they should make a formidable spearhead. Cantrell grinned at the irony. The tactic should prove a surprise. The Demolisher heavy tank was normally a defensive or siege tank and line breaking with it was only occasionally done. “Not this time,” he muttered to himself, “This time, Rampart leads the way!”