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Another Fire on Voronezh by Wai-Ming Lee (© Wai-Ming Lee 2001)

"All moderati and crew chiefs report in." Commanded Anders to the crew of the Pax Imperialis. “Engineer Cassius – full power to propulsion.” The crews started snapping back status reports and combat readiness as the titan awoke while the young Princeps tried to quell the fear bubbling in his stomach.

“Ordnance crew ready. The warp missile has been readied as per orders sir.” A last minute addition hastily attached between the two carapace weapons.

“Damage control crew ready sir.”

Already, the 27th Kapellan Greys Imperial Guard Regiment was mobilising on the plains below. The soldiers looked like terran ants from Anders's 65 metre high perch, all running to their assigned posts. Tanks and troop carriers belched thick black smoke as they roared off to take up defensive positions, while the other Warp Runner Titans of Franzman’s battlegroup were powering up as well.

Below Anders, Lt. Kane the tactical officer turned round.

"Sir, signal from Group leader Franzman. Do you wish to acknowledge?” Anders swiftly glanced over the rune panels and found that the environmental controls still hadn’t reported in. Irritated he glanced over to the metal-masked individual seated next to Kane.

“Second engineer Maxim – what appears to be the problem with environmental controls?”

“A thousand pardons Princeps. The system still isn’t working properly even after all the correct rites of healing and repair. There’s a blockage somewhere but I think we have successfully by-passed it.” The environmental control rune then winked green.

“Very well Maxim, please continue on-board repairs and appraise Chief Engineer Cassius.” Anders then nodded to Kane. “Acknowledge the signal to Franzman.”

“”Sir. Pax Imperialis reporting: all systems nominal and combat ready." 

Anders reverently touched the emblems of the previous Princeps of this titan and lit the auto-incense burner. He felt calmer and ready for war as the soothing scent of jasmine filled the cabin. A slight mental nudge and the 1000-tonne war machine surged forward. Kane read out the Litany of War and his clear voice echoed throughout the titan.

‘I am Pax Imperialis and it is I. 
We are one, we are now the Gods of war.
Instruments of holy destruction.
Emperor’s sight guides our weapons.
Let his fury power our hate
There is now no peace. 
Only glorious war’.

Already, the Titan consciousness was scanning the horizons for targets to crush and Anders had to slow the Titan down so that he did not break formation with the rest. As he strode towards the mustering point with 100 metre strides, Anders felt truly the lord of the battlefield. Each footstep thundered and made the ground tremble. With weapons potent enough to destroy an entire city and the power of a small sun in the core reactor only another God-like titan could stop him.

Two Reaver class titans on the Pax Imperialis' left loped forward and took the lead. On the bridge, Anders glanced down at the tactical console. 

“Engage long-range communication scans on all frequencies. Apart from the war, tell me what else could be bothering us?” After a few minutes, Kane glanced up.

“Nothing Princeps. Just a level two scramble call. We have co-ordinates for the mustering point though – it’s near the south wall.”

“Take us there at flank speed.” 

“Yes sir.” A flashing red light made Anders switch on the internal vox-links.

"See anything Princeps?" Asked Rand, the moderatus of the carapace mounted volcano laser.

"Nothing yet on the long range sensors. However, keep yourself ready. There is no telling what the chaos-spawned scum will do. We've had little action for the past month so keep sharp."

"Can't wait to get my twentieth kill. I bet a thousand credits that I would hit 20 before Jensen does."

"Assuming you survive to collect." That was Yee cutting in, the chain-fist operator and cynical as always. "Besides, Jensen is with Franzman and no offence meant Princeps; he is better than you. He'll get the kills before you." Anders grunted at this slight insult. 

"Alright shut the chatter." He switched on the links to the reactor room where Engineer Cassius was supervising his team of tech-adepts. “Engineering, status.”

“Cassius here, all power at your disposal. Reactors running at optimum efficiency. We have located the environmental blockage that Engineer Maxim discovered. It has been resolved.”

“What about the patches?”

“Electro-welded them myself, even the blessed Machine-God can not undo my work.”

“That’s good enough for me. Bridge out”

“Kane, full tactical display and switch off the over-rides. Get the weapons moderati to re-check their ammunitions levels. Weapon-servitors on standby.” 

“Aye, Princeps and sir, we are approaching the mustering point.”

“Very well, Engineer Maxim, power up three void shield generators. Rest on standby.”

The massive hive-city of Voronezh Prime loomed ahead. For kilometres around there were the burnt out wrecks of massive siege engines and tanks from the previous, failed attacks. The Hive City was built with defence in mind; it had a core spire some three kilometres in height and was surrounded by four concentric circles of adamantium ringed with siege cannons and laser batteries. The last attack finally succeeded in breaching the first ring and a second strike to the next ring resulted in a horrible loss of life. This success was after 6 months of near continuous battle. Then a ferocious warp-storm enveloped the hive all the way to the third ring. Approach to this place was now deadly: the burnt out wreck of a scout titan testified to this. The clear vox-filtered voice of Franzman came through on the command channel. 

"All eyes up ahead. Storm appears to be clearing." The Titans paused, as did the motorised support troops racing alongside them. Kilometres behind the titans the bulk of the Imperial guard at this sector were still getting ready to move out, their massive ranks of artillery being readied and loaded. Overhead a Space Marine dropship swooped down from the heavens bearing the black and red hawk insignia of the Iron Hawks Chapter and flew close to the swirling purple storm front.

There was a bright flash of light as a thousand lasers tracked then punctured the dropship. It exploded into a million fragments and rained down in front of the lead titans. 

“Princeps! Target lock on us!” Almost immediately, a sheet of laser and projectile fire was directed at the titans from the edge of the storm. 

Pax Imperialis: red alert. Full shields!” Powerful pulses of light fired from the hive city's volcano lasers lanced out from within the purple storm. The powerful void shields on the titans absorbed the punishing volley in bright orange flares. Anders grimaced as two of his generators shut down in their effort to bleed off the power. Kane calmly plotted the fire arcs of the weapons so that the titan weapon moderati had something to shoot at. Engineer Maxim raised the remaining shields. The general channel was awash with chatter of the titan Princeps.

"All titans, track the source of the fire." Franzman ordered.

"Negative, the storm is masking all efforts at targeting."

"Well, it isn't stopping me. Emperor's teeth! All moderati, unload into the storm front!" One titan then blazed into the front with its massive city destroying weapons. Chunks of wall and reinforcement, weighing hundreds of tonnes were sent scattering into the smoke filled air like dust. His remaining shots sailed into the purple seething storm.

Below, the support troops took cover amongst the rubble and burnt out wrecks as accurate laser fire shattered the front ranks of soldiers and vehicles alike. Scores of infantry were scythed down by bolter fire and shells started to land amongst the titans. 

Anders pushed his titan forward, in front of the soldiers in an effort to shield them with his shields. The other titan crews did the same while the Imperial Guard artillery; four kilometres back started lobbing shells into the storm front. No apparent damage was done to the purple swirling mass but laser fire poured from it. The city's volcano laser batteries paused in their firing as they recharged. Kane turned around and glanced back towards Anders as he spoke up.

"Princeps, there are millions of laser shots coming but they are at ground level. I think its soldiers sir. The wall defences haven't even fully opened up. Seems to me they are concentrating on the troopies."

"That many soldiers? There must be millions of them! Impossible, latest intelligence said that the hive defence-force was at most three hundred thousand men. There can't be that many." 

"Well, bring them to me." That was Mills on the Gatling-canon. His vox-box implant making his voice metallic and harsh sounding.

"Princeps. The storm front - it's fading." Said Polsen the carapace plasma canon moderati.

Anders quickly glanced to a bank of six lights on the control board: two were red and four were green indicating the state of the void shield generators. As he looked. Two winked back to green and on-line and gave the Pax Imperialis full shields. Whatever, it would take a lot more than even a million soldiers to cause a titan to pause, thought Anders with some satisfaction. The titan turned and strode forward as Franzman ordered the battlegroup to meet whatever would come out head-on.

The storm front abruptly disappeared with a sharp, blinding crack. Sensors all over the sector flickered, while astropaths on board the capital ships in orbit fainted from the shock. The optical sensors darkened on the titan, protecting the crew. Anders could swear he could smell ozone. It was Yee who spoke first. 

"Princeps. Ground troops. Millions of them with heavy support." It was true, like an army of ants the red coloured troops of Voronezh Prime boiled out of the gates from the second defence wall. 

Behind the titans, the support troops leapt forward to engage the enemy. Massive war machines and tanks were massing on both sides and shellfire erupted from amongst the combatants. The Pax Imperialis turned and fired a salvo of Gatling canon shells into the sea of soldiers. The explosions sent a dust-like cloud of shattered soldiers into the air.

"Moderati. Aim for the tanks and heavies. Leave the ground soldiers for the support troops." The Pax Imperialis strode ahead into the mass of soldiers and squashed a hundred enemies per stride. All around the mighty weapons of the centuries old titans poured death onto the enemy but there were so many that the weapon crews had trouble effectively targeting them. The Titan's leg and footed mounted automated-bolters chattered away like angry buzzing flies, chewing great bloodied chunks into the pouring mass of Voronezh city troops. Their numbers were immense and they advanced with a single-mindedness that spoke of only one cause: madness and the work of chaos. Cursing, Anders strode into the middle of the sea of soldiers and felt righteous anger pour forth as the titan weapons unleashed hell on them. Thousands of the hive troops died every second as the titans fired their weapons. 

A massive tracked vehicle of an unknown design clanked closer to Anders and elevated an unusual contraption of wires and tubing. The tank had a long thick cable snaking back towards the walls and was three-quarters the size of a battle-titan. The cable glowed as power from the city was funnelled through it. 

“What the hell is that?”

There was a high pitched whine then a bright green bolt hit the titan's void shield. Instead of a flare, the bolt went through the shields due to its low velocity and energy and struck the titan with a hiss. Inside the titan head, Ander's quickly checked the system’s readout and found that his environmental systems were starting to over-heat. About to slam the over-ride switches, Ander's watched in disbelief as the temperature gauges reached dangerous levels and automatic cut-off switches started shutting down the titan's systems. 

"Princeps! What's going on? I’m losing power to the stabilisers." Yelled Rand from his high cockpit. Anders looked down at his two bridge officers.

“Kane! Maxim! What the hell is going on?”

"Some sort of ionisation charge that tripped the internals. VSGs have gone off-line or they’ll explode. We have no shields, Princeps.”

“Shit! Cassius, get the shields back on-line. I need full flank speed. Hang on." 

“No flank speed sir and the environmental systems are overheating. Attempting to purge systems sir!”

Inside the Engineering room, there was pandemonium: the reactor and secondary systems raced from optimum levels to near-critical in seconds. A power-conduit exploded and a tech-adept was bathed in green fluid.

“It’s eating into my suit. It’s eating through my fragging suit!” He screamed as he thrashed around. A fellow tech-adept raced over to help him. Chief Engineer Cassius frantically adjusted dials and valves and invoked all manners of chants to the Machine-God. He regretted his off the cuff remark earlier as he desperately tried to purge the boiling coolant in the system.

“Forgive me Machine-Lord! May I undertake a thousand punishments for my insolence! But work damn it, work!”

Giving up the subtle stuff, he lifted up a power wrench, asked for forgiveness once more and brought it crashing down on centuries old lever. Outside the titan, a hundred vents opened up and boiling coolant sprayed out of the titan in an enveloping cloud. Inside Engineering, the red lights shifted back to amber. Cassius breathed a sigh of relief and shouted to his adepts.

“Get void shield generators one and two back on-line, now! Divert back-up power to the weapons’ systems.”

Anders shifted the titan forward giving Mills a better aim.

“I have fire-control sir. Watch me clear this lot!” With a deafening chatter, the Gatling canon rotated and roared out a volley of large, tank-sized shells that slammed into the massing vehicles in front, reducing them into scrap. One shell hit the ioniser tank and vaporised the vehicle, with the back blast travelling back up the cable. A massive explosion soon followed and obliterated an entire habitation level and left a titan sized gap in the second defensive wall. 

The laser and bolter fire, too small to damage the titan pinged and ricocheted off the titan's armour. Void shields were designed to stop large projectiles and beam weapons over a certain energy/mass ratio. Bolters and lasfire were therefore of no real concern. Polsen let loose his first blast of plasma into a squadron of Leman Russ tanks re-decorated with symbols of chaos and adorned with recent sacrifices. The tanks were hit square on by a rush of seething plasma, exploding as they were all reduced to a pool of slag. Knowing full well that the void shields were still down and therefore a tempting target for the volcano lasers on the city walls. Anders moved as quickly as possible to confuse targeting sensors. But since a titan was of an immense size and weighed close to a thousand tonnes, there was precious little that he could do against advanced targeting systems. Suddenly, Polsen shouted out. "Princeps! A volcano laser is coming out of its bubble on the defensive wall. Two-point-four six, 250 metres. It's cycling. My plasma canon is still charging, I've got no shot."

"Get me round Princeps." Requested Rand tightly. "I can nail him." Anders twisted round, crushing an enemy troop carrier like a bug. Pulping the soldiers inside and exploding the stored ammo. A sheet of missile arched up from several massed tanks and pummelled into the titan and for a brief moment the Pax Imperialis was lost in a cloud of explosion and noise. Anders checked for damage and found that only part of the side plating had been ripped off and the emergency ammunition ejection system on that side was no longer functioning. However nothing vital was damaged and the mighty war-machine strode out with the Gatling canon spewing round after round of two-tonne destruction. The missile tanks were tossed into the air like toys, some of their crew tumbling out like ants. Gradually, the void shields were coming back online; Anders now had two shields.

“Thank you Cassius.” Murmured Anders. “Maxim, now get the rest of the shields back online and redline the locomotive units. I need battle speed.”


Meanwhile, the city walls' defensive laser had telescoped out of its protective cocoon and was tracking the titan. It had a higher rate of fire than a titan as it could draw upon the city's vast power supply but it lacked mobility and it managed one shot before Anders was out of its way. The stray hot smashed into the side of the breached, outer wall. Blowing out a good kilometre chunk and showering troops and vehicles in a shrapnel and masonry.

Rand fired his volcano laser in reply and howled in satisfaction when his shot lanced into the narrow gap between the barrel and the protective canopy. He was rewarded with a satisfying explosion that blew out a good portion of the back-supporting wall. The destroyed volcano left a gap in the murderous field of fire from the second wall that could have kept even the titan's at bay. Franzman saw this and ordered the nearest titan forward to exploit this. A Reaver class titan moved forward, firing it's turbo lasers and mega-bolter at the massed enemy ranks and forming a bloodied path as it stoically moved towards it's target.

“Princeps, an incoming transmission from Senior Princeps Franzman.”

“Very well Kane, put it through.” 

“Good shooting Anders. A breach has been gifted to us. Support Velox Lettum and exploit any opportunities.”

“Yes sir. Proceeding to flanking position. Pax Imperialis out.”

Anders checked the ammunition on his leg mounted bolters and found that they were half full. Over a million rounds was used already. 

“All auto-loaders to maximum!” He mentally ordered a reload and inside the massive tower-like legs, small conveyor belts and grasping arms took out the cases of bolter shells and fed them into the bolter housing all watched intently by the ammunition crews and servitors. A flashing cursor caught Anders attention as he moved forward behind the Reaver titan. It was from an isolated company of Rhinos, reduced to three vehicles and about to be surrounded by screaming hive troops. The titan moved closer and its bulk cast a shadow over the melee below. The leg mounted bolters did the rest as the hive troops disappeared in a messy cloud of flesh and blood. A bloodied swath was cut through the hive troops and the rhinos roared off one by one. The last rhino was hit by a missile and its tracks flew high into the air as it skewed to the right and slammed into a reinforcing wall. The survivors piled out of the smoking wreck only to be cut down by a sheet of las-fire. Another warning beacon flashed and Anders magnified the ocular-links to observe the new threat. Through the smoke and haze, it was difficult to see clearly but there was no mistaken the large bulk of power armour as worn by the Adeptus Astartes. The armour that Anders observed was not the neat clean lines of the marines he knew. They were warped and festooned with runes and sigils that hurt the eyes. Body parts were hung like decorations on the chests and waists of these heretics. A bloodied skull topped banner pole held aloft proclaimed their true allegiance. 

“Word Bearers.” Spat Anders with venom. “Polsen. Chaos marines nominated as target Alpha. Take them out.” The readout indicated a plasma drain then a bright flash of sun-fire flashed down and enveloped the ancient warriors. Once the seething plasma storm receded the threat from the mighty chaos marines were no more. 

To the Pax Imperialis' left the second of the Reaver titans suddenly paused. It's void shields flared four times from a salvo of colossal power. The next laser bolt smashed into the side of the titan, forcing it to take a step back and knocking down a nearby reinforcing wall, crushing hundreds of ant-like soldiers. The Princeps of the Reaver titan called in desperation as another shot ripped away armour and left a nasty smoking hole in it's side.

"Group leader! The wall defences are now engaging fully, lost all of my shields. A behemoth canon is out of its armoured hood and is located at point three-oh-six-one." The rest of the report was lost in a burst of static as another volley hit the titan. Luckily, the Princeps was adept and managed to twist the titan and avoid the majority of the damage. Its twin turbo-laser replied in kind and melted the behemoth canon protruding from the wall. The Reaver moved forward crushing more men into bloody ruin. 

Suddenly, the victorious titan was caught in a second barrage of fire from the front and right. It staggered as powerful, focused laser beams hit it on the armoured chest. Over the vox links Anders could hear the frantic calls for assistance from the Reaver Princeps. A blast of raw plasma hit the Reaver on the head while a massive screeching missile exploded into its torso. The Reaver paused a fraction then the fusion reactor exploded and obliterated the titan and half-kilometre of hive city. Pax Imperialis lost a void shield as it was too close to the blast. A thousand men on both sides disappeared in the flash.

"By the Emperor! They got Velox Letum!" Cried Maxim, shocked at the loss of a precious machine. Kane frantically tried to locate the source of the firepower that destroyed the Reaver. 

“All moderati, location of the missile source. That was a warp missile. Find it!” Another cloud of missiles rained all over the titans. It threw up a multi-coloured cloud of crackling static and thick smoke that disrupted the targeting sensors.

“Princeps. I detected a large power signature before the missile strike, the buildings are shielding the readings but it’s coming closer. Damn this interference!” Kane glanced over to his neighbour. “I need help Maxim, boost the gain on the receptors. The Princeps can’t see a damn thing.”

“I’m trying damn it but there’s some sort of interference.”

“I know! Cut through it!” 

"Oh my God. There are dozens of them!" cried Polsen over the vox-net, being higher on the carapace, the moderati here could see with his own eyes further than the Princeps could. 

“What can you see Moderati?” Asked Anders, his heart hammering hard while he tried to keep his voice level and calm.

“Titans sir. Titans.” Pushing the Pax Imperialis through the smoke Anders emerged from the other side and saw them. At least nine Warlord-class titans with a few Warhound scout titans in the front. They were all advancing and firing into the battlegroup and using the remains of a hive-hab as cover. Even at this distance, he could make out the red, yellow and black stripes on the carapace and other foul symbols on these titans. 

Flaming Skulls

A lost titan-order and cursed by all the Adeptus Mechanicus for betraying the Emperor's trust during the Heresy. The carapaces of these titans were covered in banners proclaiming their allegiance to the long dead traitor and heretic, Horus and chaos undivided. Bodies were also hanging from hooks around the rim. Anders groaned in horror when he saw that many of the victims were still alive, writhing in agony suspended hundreds of feet above the battleground. Swaying like cheap decorations. 

Franzman’s titan emerged from blinding cloud just behind Anders and started snapping out orders and allocating titan targets to his battlegroup's Princeps. Anders was allocated to a monster of a modified titan; grimly he pushed his Titan to meet this ancient enemy head on. Quickly, Anders switched to the titans battle sensors and immediately opaque eye-pieces slid down from the top of his neural interface unit and over his eyes. The bright flashes of lights were filtered to reduce eye-strain and a red cross-hair danced in front of his eyes tracking the enemy titans. He was now seeing the battle through the eyes of his titan. 

“Maxim. Re-direct all available power to shields and weapons. Full flank speed – let’s close the distance.” Anders glanced over to the tactical viewer where Kane was strapped in tightly, his face grim.

“Tactical, count range to the target.”

Range, 800 metres.”

The Pax Imperialis strode through with grim purpose casually crushing and kicking tanks out of the way like toys. 

Range, 700 metres.”

Now his titan was already in range of any titan long-range weapons. The electronic counter measures unit remained silent. From this distant, Anders could make out that his enemy titan was armed with one volcano laser, a special long range Gatling canon and two plasma canons. Nasty piece of work designed for long range destruction: he needed to get close so that Yee could chop into the war-machine.

Range, 600 metres.” Kane then gasped. “Sir, I have a transmission! A transmission from that.” He said pointing at the rapidly closing titan.

“On vox-speakers – let me hear what he has to say before we blast him to hell and back.” Kane flicked a switch and the bridge was filled with a high pitch screaming sound. Kane adjusted the settings and a harsh metallic voice blasted out of the speakers.

“BROTHER TITAN. I GREET YOU AS AN EQUAL. PREPARE TO DIE.” The vox went off abruptly and Maxim chuckled, despite the seriousness of the situation.

“That was straight to the point. No mistaking his intentions.” Anders looked down.

“Nor ours.” Anders then tensed as he came within range of the volcano laser and modified Gatling canon. He opened a vox-link and said, ”Rand, you’re in range. Make your shot counts – we’re out-gunned at this range. I see that our target has four - I repeat, four VSGs operating.” 

Inside the head of the Flaming Skull titan amid a mass of pulsing power conduits, unclean fluids and screaming machinery, Princep Laub’s single human eye looked at the approaching Warp Runner. He had forgotten the thrill of combat with another Machine-God and he relished the prospect. It had been so long now and ever since he had completely fused with his titan, combat had taken an entirely new and personal level. 

Aboard the Pax Imperialis, Anders could see that the enemy titan strode away at an angle taking him away from Rand’s field of fire while raising his monstrous volcano laser at Anders. The Pax Imperialis could sense this danger and already was moving to one side when a lance of ruby red light came from the barrel of the weapon. It struck the shields at an angle and ricocheted off into a swarm of infantry. One shield flickered off. Rand replied in kind and Anders could see a bright flare register on the enemy’s shield. It was now down to three shields.

Range, 500 metres.”

The enemy titan paused and pivoted round and faced Anders at an angle, partly sheltered by a smashed warehouse. A second shot from the volcano laser struck the Pax Imperialis and another shield winked off. Maxim desperately tried to get the previously shorted out VSG to regenerate but failed. The Pax Imperialis quickly stepped off to one side as a third blast from the volcano laser struck the ground where it stood a moment ago. 

Range, 400 metres.”

“Kane! Keep an eye out for any more titans! Cassius! More power, my responses are too slow. Mills! Clear the deck and make some space!” In response, Mills’ Gatling canon started to track and then obliterated enemy armour to the front and side of the Pax Imperialis. Rand fired another shot and cursed as it went wide and into a cooling tower. The enemy titan was on the move once more.

“Princeps! There is a drop in the plasma readings on that titan. It’s siphoning plasma to its canons.”

“Thank you Kane. Maxim, damage status?”

“Port stabilisers damaged, automatic ammunition ejection system in the pelvic regions non-functioning. Nothing too severe but two servitors and deputy moderati Chazal are dead sir.” The engineer glanced down to his rune panel. 

“Sir, Moderati Polsen is requesting a plasma drain.”

“Very well, inform Cassius and balance the loss with reserve power to the shields.”

Polsen started to siphon plasma from the titan’s reactor core as he too started to ready his weapon. Only Yee remained silent, waiting for his moment. 

Range, 300 metres.”

In bright orange jets, two streams of plasma flashed out towards Anders. He dodged one but the second one splashed all over his shields overloading another VSG and rocking the titan. Maxim groaned “Port cooling systems just shorted out after that hit. Attempting to re-route.” Polsen fired his plasma canon and scored a hit. 

Range, 200 metres.”

The enemy titan stepped out from behind the protective rubble of the warehouse and stomped forward, kicking over burnt out tanks and shaking the ground.

Range, 100 metres.”

“Yee, get ready. I’ll get close enough so you can chop bits out of the heretic!” Rand shouted in joy as another of the titan’s void shields went down but cursed as the enemy Princeps managed to bleed off enough power and re-establish a second VSG. Mills was switching his canon fire from the tanks towards the fast approaching titan. He scored two hits, the enemy titan had no shields and the next few would start to count. Polsen, yelled in frustration as he could see his opening but had little plasma to exploit it. 

“Go get him Princeps!” That sounded like Rand, now in the throes of a battle-induced high. The enemy titan was so close that Anders could practically see small scratches on the titan’s mutated head. Anders was about to order close combat when alarms started blaring on the bridge. Too late, Anders spotted something that he assumed was related to the excess mutation of the titan. It had jump-jets. Lost in a pillar of dust and smoke, the 1000-tonne titan surged high into the air. On instinct, Anders wrenched the Pax over to his left then to the right as two ruby bolts lanced down, smashing craters into the ground. 

“Princeps, he’s getting above us. I think he’s……” Polsen didn’t say anything else as Anders felt a crunch and the titan buckled under and almost fell to it’s knees. Inside the bridge, the rune-panels suddenly all lit up then died suddenly. Gyroscopic relays chattered back through the impulse plugs in Anders’ neck and head, filling his mind with a thousand expressions. He bit his lip as a sharp pain spread out into his shoulders and he almost fainted. Kane looked round and reached back to help his Princeps. 

“Princeps! Princeps!” 

Groggily checking his confusing readout, Anders could not make any sense and opened a vox-link to his carapace moderati. He suspected the worst as he weakly shouted into the link.

“Polsen! Rand! Status report.” There was static as the damaged sections of the carapace refused to answer. Cursing he punched the emergency power backups and tried to wrench the titan to face the enemy.

“Cassius! I need power now!” There was no reply. The Flaming Skulls titan had landed a few hundred metres away and was slowly turning to face Anders. A weak vox-link was coming through and Anders strained to hear it while at the same time he ordered Mills to slam Gatling canon shells into the Flaming Skulls titan. Anders thought it was Rand and he sounded frantic.

….crushed….Sys…-line. –sen……ad.” Anders tried to twist the Pax Imperialis round as a volcano laser gouged another huge crater near where the titan stood. A hit from secondary canons on the enemy titan punched holes deep in the Pax Imperialis’ chest area – killing crew and smashing machinery.

“Maxim, get Cassius and get me power to the legs!”

“Sir, the spinal communications links appears to be damaged, we can’t use the head-sets Re-routing to tertiary-systems.” With a flick the once silent bridge speakers roared into life, deafening the bridge crew.

“Cassius here. Bridge, do you read me? This is engineering! Bridge can you – “

“I can hear you Cassius! I need power and the top sections are dead. I can’t get enough to maintain fire control. My link is fading in and out.”

“I’m shutting down the VSGs Princeps.” Power then surged back to Anders with a jolt and he quickly closed the remaining hundred metres in two strides and barrelled into the side of the titan. Yee’s chainfist flashed into the side of titan. In a shower of sparks and screeching metal, the whirling blade chewed through the barrel of the gatling canon and the long, black barrel spun into the ground crushing rubble. Then Anders started to step backwards, still facing the side of the titan and ordered all his weapons to slam shots into the titan’s head. Yee managed a final swipe that opened a massive gash in the side, spilling coolant like blood over the side. Mills rhythmically fired his Gatling canon and the slowly spinning barrel spat fire as shell, after two-tonne shell hit the side of the titan’s head. The noise and shaking in the reinforced head cabin must be close to unbearable thought Anders. Another warp runner, Fastosus Regalis, appeared from the corner of another hive hab and blasted at unseen enemy in the distance as its support troops roared around it. It glanced towards Anders and his opponent and, almost casually it pointed its twin multi-launchers and a twenty missile salvo roared towards the Flaming Skull titan. Caught in a crossfire the titan was badly mauled; completely enveloped in explosions and the side facing the onslaught had armour plates dropping off.

The enemy titan tried to turn but damage to its leg joints must have been quite severe. Anders continued to pour fire into it from his own head mounted multi-bolters. The thousands of heavy calibre bullets hitting the cabin head must be deafening for the enemy Princeps and his bridge crew. Support troops seeing that the enemy was wounded tried to disengage from the red-coloured hive troops and poured missile and rocket fire into the titan. Even small amounts of damage would build up albeit slowly. The enemy titan was far from dead and continued to attack the Pax it fired its mighty volcano canon, smashing and shearing into the shoulder of the Pax Imperialis and what was left of the shoulder mounted weapons system disappeared in a flash. Anders felt like his left shoulder was chopped through and momentarily lost concentration. A burst of pain killing drugs was quickly dispensed through one of his input jacks and the pain disappeared in an instant - Anders would pay for the drug’s after-effects later. 

Anders then skilfully stepped backwards and avoided crushing his own support troops when a lance of light came from the Pax Imperialis’ own volcano laser. It smashed into the badly weakened body section and something exploded inside. At least Rand and his weapon’s team were still alive. The titan stood there, motionless as the remaining enemy weapons moderati tried to fire back. The shot by Moderati Rand must have severed a vital link and without any central control the enemy titan’s VSGs remained off line and Anders circled at his leisure away from their remaining weapons arcs and slammed more shells into the stationary target. The Flaming Skulls’ operational weapons continued to target Anders or failing that fired onto the support troops smashing them. 

Even motionless the titan was still a formidable opponent, equal to a siege tower. Mills aimed for the enemy titan’s weakened legs and a few more shots and the knee joints popped out. With agonising slowness, the Flaming Skulls titan fell over to its side, shaking the ground and crushing thousands. It was time for the Pax Imperialis to finish this:

“Officer Kane.“ His second in command looked up, eyes bright.

“Warp missile sir?” Anders faced twisted into a feral grin.

“Oh yes, warp missile indeed. Target and fire at will.”

With a roar, the missile streaked the short distance from the Pax to the stricken enemy titan. It ploughed through the armoured hull and detonated inside the core. The raw power of the warp blossomed like a miniature storm inside and started to consume the machine. Princeps Laud knew that he was dead and cursed the universe for robbing him of an eternal life of war. He sensed the warp fury reach his cabin but he was immobile; Laud screamed when his reality became hot and white as he was blasted into oblivion. 

A cheer went up from the loyalists as they surged around the wrecks and engaged the demoralised Voronezh troops. New orders came flashing through the command console and the Pax had little time to savour the victory.

Anders turned around and looked for more targets. He didn’t need to go far, they were everywhere. Shouting curses he sent the Pax Imperialis into the very maelstrom of war.

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Copyright 2000 by Doug Wolfe Last Updated Monday, July 2, 2001
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