The Greenwater Bargain
The crump of distant detonations brought another shower of debris down onto the central command holo-display as Ethereal Aun'Tyras consulted with his commanders. Even the Fire Caste's stubborn devotion to their master could not completely hide the air of desperation in the bunker.
“I see that the tactical situation is most dire, Shas'O Revas.” observed the Ethereal, serene even in the face of danger.
“Indeed, Honoured Ethereal.” replied the Commander. “The forces of this Gue'la renegade, the so-called 'Drakash the Corruptor' continue to make rapid advances throughout sectors one-alpha-seven to six-theta-three. Tactical projections place their heavy weapon teams within firing range of the main space-port in three standard days, and our time to full civilian evacuation at five days. Complete military and logistical evacuation adds two more days to that estimate.”
“What if we were to evacuate only essential civilian and military personnel, and destroy all remaining equipment and infrastructure?” asked a junior officer. Revas opened his mouth to reply, but the Ethereal slapped his rod of office down on the command desk with a sharp rap.
“Unacceptable. We serve the Greater Good. No son or daughter of Tau is expendable or non-essential. You-” he pointed at the officer “might one day devise the greatest new strategic treatise the Empire has ever seen. Any Earth Caste technician may be the one to save billions with an as yet undiscovered advance. No, we shall hold the Gue'la here until evacuation is complete, even if I must step forth and humble this Drakash in a personal duel to do it.”
“Perhaps it will not come to that, Honoured Ethereal.” came a voice from the doorway. It was a smooth, reasonable, warming tone, that belonged to a Tau in the robes of the Water Caste.
“Por'O Tash, greetings.” replied Aun'Tyras. “What bounty can the Water Caste pour into this desert of peril? The seedlings of victory seem parched indeed.”
The tall Tau strode over to the holo-display. “Faithful one, show region kappa-sigma-four.”
The simple AI responded, shifting the display to show an ugly, red, skull-like icon.
“That is the main encampment of Drakash the Corruptor, Exalted Champion in the service of the Gue'la renegade lord, Khorne.”
Aun'Tyras nodded. “And you have opened negotiations with this Lord Khorne?”
Por'O Tash shook his head. “Sadly, this is impossible. Lord Khorne is not here, and may even be a figment of Drakash's imagination. He seems to be under the impression that he must collect body parts and vital fluids as tithe for his lord-” he held up a hand against the inevitable question “and I have already established that these parts, notably skulls and blood, must be taken forcibly. Offers of donations from willing and infirm Tau were met with an exceptionally negative response... I am now the only living member of the Water Caste on the planet.”
The other Tau exchanged nervous glances.
“However.” said Por'O Tash, scrolling the display. “We did find this.”
The holo now showed another icon, this one an even more crude-looking skull design, in green.
“Be'gel!” spat Shas'O Revas. “They are as bad as the Gue'la- worse! They live only to fight!”
“Indeed.” agreed the diplomat. “However, there is one crucial difference. These Be'gel are of the Blood-Axe Caste, a clan known for accepting mercenary work. They have fought for the cause of the Gue'la in the past, but dislike the renegade faction, who they call 'bug-eyez' or 'spiky boyz'. They are also trapped on this planet due to the recent crash of their vessel. I believe that the offer of weapons and parts for their ship should be sufficient to convince them to attack Drakash. I would caution that should they win, they will be unlikely to cease fighting and will almost certainly attack the city, but I would suspect this will buy us at the very least three more days for the evacuation.”
“I concur with your analysis, Por'O Tash.” said the Ethereal. “I suggest you proceed to contact these.. Orks. Will communication be a problem?”
Por'O Tash bowed. “Thank you, Honoured Ethereal, and fear not, I am fluent in their language.”
Kaptin Hedrukk stood on the command deck of his personal Stompa, Megakrushakrusha, and fumed. The lads were getting restless. Since their Kroozer, Da Skullrokkit, had crash-landed on this miserable planet they had found almost nothing to fight, and hardly any scrap. Even the squigs had been slow to breed, and a fair few Grots and Snots had ended up getting eaten by peckish Boyz. Even worse, his personal Grot, Drekkit, hadn't been one of them. His mood wasn't improved by the little git banging open the door.
“Wot?” roared the Kaptin.
“Got a prisoner, Boss!” crowed Drekkit. “Ladz are bringing 'im up 'ere now.”
“Wot do I care?” shouted Hedrukk “Just krump the git and go find 'is mates so we can get a proper fight going!”
“I believe I can help you with that, old chap.” came a voice from behind him. The Kaptin turned to find a skinny, blue-grey creature that seemed to have two hugely long ear-stalks and a single large foot, in the clutches of a couple of sturdy Nobz. Realisation struck.
“Oi! You've got that lanky git the wrong way up.”
“Oh yeah. Sorry Boss.”
“Right, now then. Wot d'you mean, you can help? You couldn't say boo to a Grot, ya git!”
Drekkit snorted with laughter. The Kaptin, still in a foul temper, rounded on him.
“Oi! Are you laughin' at me?”
“Nah, boss, I'm Drekkit. Laafinatme was that pointy-ear boss you scragged a while back.”
Hedrukk grinned. That had been a good fight, though he didn't remember asking the pointy-ear his name when he was bouncing his face off the deck of Megakrusha. He still missed that Gorkanaut, but he had to admit it was fun stomping on it.
“Ahem.” said the lanky git. “As I was saying, old bean, I am Por'O Tash, and I-”
“Nah.” said Hedrukk, cutting him off. “That's a poncy name.”
“E's a thin little git, Boss.” said one of the Nobz.
“Yeah, 'e is. Right, yer name is Fin-Git. Talk, or I let the Grot krump ya.”
To his credit, Fin-Git didn't flinch. “Righto, good show, Boss, Fin-Git it is! So, thing is, there's a mob of those Spiky Boyz a short hop from here, and let me tell you, they're giving our Boyz a right and proper thrashing. We can't fight for toffee, to tell the truth! So, I said to my mates, I hear there's a mob of really strapping Orks in the neighbourhood who could hit these bally rotters for six any day of the week, and do you know what? They didn't believe me! Not one bally word! So I said well, you know what, I'll jolly well go and ask them, you see if I don't!”
Hedrukk was still trying to make head-or-tail of what the skinny alien was yammering about, but one thing definitely stuck in his head- Fin-Git knew where to find something to fight. Still, Kaptin Hedrukk wasn't about to do someone else's work like a Grot unless there was something in it for him.
“Yeah, so wot? Why should we go krump these gits, eh?”
The larger of the two Nobz looked confused. “Er, Boss? They'z Spiky ladz, why not go krump 'em? Might be a laugh!”
Without apparent effort, Hedrukk reached over, seized the Nob by the throat, and kicked him hard in the 'urtybitz before flinging the groaning mass out of the nearest view-port.
“I'm in charge, ya git, and don't you forget it!” he shouted down at the crumpled heap. He turned back to Fin-Git. “Well? Wot's in it for me?”
“Oh, well, you see we do have this big city, and it's full of all sorts of widgets and gubbins and bitz, don'tcha know. Piles and piles of gunz, too- I expect that's why the Spiky ladz want it. We're... going away for a while, got to see a man about a squig and all that, so if you were to decide to, well, loot the place silly, we really wouldn't mind at all! Of course, if you don't think your chaps can handle a few red Spiky Boyz...”
“Red Spiky Boyz, eh?” said Hedrukk. Those were the best kind, the kind that were always up for a scrap. Not like the smelly ones, or the weird pink ones with bitz where bitz shouldn't be. He whirled, suddenly, catching Drekkit grinning with excitement at the prospect.
“Oi! Are you grinnin'?”
“Nah, Boss, I'm Drekkit. Grinnin runs that squig stall down by the drops.”
“Cor, that's the best one!” said the remaining Nob. “Boss, can I nip off and get a bite?”
“Shut it, ya git, or you best hope yer mate gives you a softer landing than 'e got.”
“You will be. Right then, Fin-Git, you and your ladz have got a deal. We'll go krump the Spiky Boyz, and your lot will zog off and leave us a nice big pile 'o gunz for all our bother.”
“Top hole!” said Fin-Git, producing a simple map. “Here's the location of the camp, I'll just nip off and make the arrangements, shall I?” He held out a hand for Hedrukk to shake. The Kaptin grabbed it, and delivered a thunderous headbutt that laid the lean alien out flat on the floor.
“Nah. Yer coming with us, in case yer mates get any funny ideas.”
The world was bouncing up and down in a most disagreeable fashion when Por'O Tash finally recovered his senses. A large Ork, not as big as Hedrukk but considerably uglier, was shining a painfully bright light in his face.
“'E ain't dead, Boss.” announced the Ork. “Want me to give 'im a shot 'o fightin' juice just in case? Precautionary medicine, it's all the rage.”
“I can see that, ya git. You can put that squig down right now or you'll be getting a kicking you won't forget.”
The Painboy grinned. “Right you are, Boss. Now then, that'll be two teef for patchin' 'im up.”
“Wot? You didn't do anyfin' to 'im, ya cheeky runt!”
“'E's alive, ain't 'e? That was my extra-speshul runt-fixing shiny light, very teknical. Two teef.”
Hedrukk suddenly lashed out with a massive blow that sent the other Ork sprawling on the heaving decking. Several of the Dok's teeth were sent flying by the impact, one of them pinging off the rusty bulkhead next to Por'O Tash. The Gretchin, Drekkit, scurried to gather them up.
“Pay the lad, Drekkit.” said the Kaptin. “'Ere, Fin-Git! That Spiky camp was a full day's stomp away, so I sent some Speed Freaks on ahead all kunnin-like to scout 'em out.”
Por'O Tash shook the cobwebs from his head, and forced himself to stand up, clinging to a railing to keep his balance. “Top hole, good show, and all that! Did they find the rotters?”
Hedrukk clapped him so hard on the back that he felt his left shoulder pop out. “That they did, my lad. Look!”
Through the open port-hole, Por'O Tash could see the dawn breaking over the distant horizon. What beauty the scene might have possessed was marred by palls of oily black smoke rising from the encampment of Drakash the Corruptor. Here and there, the speeding shapes of buggies, wartrakks and deffkoptas flitted about, accompanied by bright orange flashes of weapons fire.
“'Course they got stuck in right away.” said Hedrukk, proudly. “That's my Boyz!”
“So, it's done, then?” said Por'O Tash with some relief. “Drakash is defeated?”
“Nah!” chuckled Hedrukk. “If that were it, I'd krump those gits for havin' all the fun.” He pointed to the horizon, on which could dimly be seen the towers of the Tau city. “See that big cloud 'o dust? That's Boss Drak-arse and his Spiky Boyz comin' ter see who's krumped their trukks and set their grub on fire, and I reckon 'e's gonna be pretty zogged off when 'e finds out.”
“So, the big scrap is still to come then, eh?” said Por'O Tash with as much apparent enthusiasm as he could muster.
“Yeah.” said Hedrukk in a slow, anticipatory tone that chilled the diplomat to the core. “This is gonna be fun.”
“Put that zoggin' fire out!” roared Hedrukk. It had been a good fight, but the veteran Warboss could feel the end coming. The humies had fought well- the beakies always did, and the Spiky Boyz even more so- but the sheer number of Orks coupled with the horrifying fire-power of Megakrushakrusha had proved decisive. The only thing left in the Chaos warband of any note was the big red battlewagon with zzap gunz on either side, which had now launched a head-on assault on Hedrukk's personal Stompa, weapons punching holes in the armour as it came.
“Nice wagon, that.” commented Hedrukk. “Shame if someone stood on it or something. Stompin' speed!”
Megakrushakrusha lurched forwards, deffkannon roaring, excited Boyz clinging on for all they were worth. The oncoming battlewagon disappeared from sight beneath the view-port, and there was a deafening clang, followed by a massive lurch as the Stompa shuddered to a halt. All the lights went out.
“Emergency power!” roared Hedrukk.
“Emergency power busted, Kaptin.” reported one of the Meks. “Lever came off in me hand again. I'll fetch me hammer.”
Hedrukk snarled, and snatched up the speaky-tube. “Oi! Engine room! Wot's going on down there, ya runty gits?”
“That big red wagon's stuck in the engines, Boss!” came the muffled reply. “Them Spiky Boyz are- Oi! That's me leg!”
Hedrukk flung the tube away in disgust. “Repel boarders, ya gits! Start up me mega-armour! Arm the Grots!” He gave Drekkit a hard stare. “Not you, ya runt. You and Fin-Git help me get dressed.”
“M-me, old chap?” stammered Fin-Git, his robes now torn and stained black with soot. “Er, not sure I really know all the technical stuff, old bean, not really a boffin...”
“Shut it!” roared Hedrukk, shrugging into the core harness of his armour. “Just bolt the bitz on!”
Somehow, between Drekkit, who actually seemed to know what he was doing, and the Tau, who simply tried to follow the little creature's lead, they managed to get most of the bulky metal plates onto the heavy frame, though whether any were in the right place was anyone's guess. As Hedrukk flexed his huge power-klaw, Drekkit scampered over to retrieve his shoota from the wall-rack. Suddenly, with a deafening boom, the bridge door was kicked open and a squad of power-armoured figures stormed in, bolt pistols blazing and axes hacking. The Boyz roared and surged to meet them, Hedrukk at their head. The Chaos leader, shouldering a path towards Hedrukk, found his path blocked by the panicking Drekkit and savagely kicked the Grot out of the way.
“OI!” roared the Kaptin, so loudly and with such fury that both sides briefly paused to stare at him. “THAT'S ME GROT! NOBODY KICKS ME GROT BUT ME! WAAAAAAAAAGH!”
Por'O Tash thought he had seen Kaptin Hedrukk angry, but he realised, in the seconds of savagery that followed, that he had seen no such thing. The Gue'la champion got in two, maybe even three strikes of his glowing axe before the Kaptin seized him in the klaw that had seemed an almost comically clumsy weapon mere moments before, and then he simply came apart under the Ork's furious assault. Still raging, Hedrukk rampaged through the fight, and warriors who Por'O Tash had seen tear Crisis suits limb-from-limb were massacred like Vespid larvae in a Kroot camp. The diplomat resolved, if he survived this, to never call the alien auxiliaries 'savages' again- the word had simply been redefined. And yet, that this great and terrible rage had been brought about by concern for a smaller, weaker comrade made Por'O Tash wonder if maybe, just maybe, he had misjudged the Orks. Perhaps, with time, they could be made to understand the Greater Good, could be Be'gel no longer. Regardless, he had achieved his primary mission- the Gue'la had been destroyed and the Orks, their vehicles mostly disabled, would take several more days to threaten the city, and all they would find there would be obsolete, burned-out weapons and worthless junk. He had done good work for the Empire this day.
A year later...
“Steady, ya gits! Forward slow!”
Kaptin Hedrukk stood on the command bridge of the Gargant, Megakrushakrushakrusha, overseeing the delicate operation of loading the massive war machine into the hold of Skullrokkit 2. All around, the Orks of Waaaaa-Hedrukk were gathering, leaving their crude shacks in the shells of what had been the Tau city. He had a lot to thank the skinnies for- not only had they showed his ladz where to find the best fight they'd had in ages, but the amount of useful gubbinz they had left behind had sent the Meks into raptures. On top of that, the skinnies had even sent a bunch of their ladz over a while later for a bit of a scrap, although Fin-Git had been right- they were a bit runty. Nice gunz, though, and it had been a laugh chasing them about.
It was a shame they had had to junk Megakrushakrusha, but he had to admit it had been fun stomping on it.
“Now I am become Deff.” muttered Hedrukk, to no-one in particular. He suddenly noticed Drekkit hanging about nearby.
“Oi!” he roared. “Are you listenin'?”
“Nah, Boss, I'm Drekkit.” came the immediate reply. “Lisnin's- oh zog,”
“Gotcha, ya little git!” crowed Hedrukk, snatching up the struggling Grot and drop-kicking him out of the view-port. “That's what ya get fer not payin' attention!”
He listened with some relish to the wet splat as the Grot landed, and then grinned with savage pride as the Ork horde struck up the traditional marching song.
“'Ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go....”
[HISTORICAL NOTE: The Orks of Waaaaa-Hedrukk destroyed two Third-Sphere sept worlds before they were last sighted in the Farsight Enclaves. The final fate of Por'O Tash is not recorded.]