‘Dis’ ship will self-destruct. Self destruct ‘az been activated. Dis’ ship will self-destruct.’
Freebooter Kaptain Gitcutta stood on the gloomy bridge of the ‘Eadbutt and looked out at the uncaring stars. The viewing portals were slanted like two angry eyes glowering, at the cosmos ahead. The ‘Eadbutt was burning hard out-system towards interstellar space, but the kaptin didn’t have to look at the rear tele-screens to know that the void behind them boiled with countless monstrosities, swarming around Grug’s World.
‘So itz come to dis,’ he growled quietly to himself. He affectionately patted the nearest console with his meaty green hand, ‘we ‘ad a good run, lad.’
The ‘Eadbutt was an Onslaught class brute ship. Not the newest ship the mekboyz could hammer together; in fact, Kaptin Gitcutta assumed it was the rust that kept it airtight. And sure, it often smelt like a herd of squigs had died in the wall cavities, but Gork-dammit it was home!
‘Dis ship will self-destruct. Self destruct az been activated…’ the announcement continued before pausing, ‘‘ere, boss, can I stop sayin’ dis now?’
Gitcutta glowered down at Pinchit the kabin-grot, the massive Ork’s single red eye burning beneath the rim of his truly ostentatious kaptin’s hat. Pinchit shrank back before the kaptin’s fierce gaze, the yellin’ tube still clutched in his diminutive hand.
‘Keep going Pinchit,’ snarled Kaptin Gitcutta, ‘remember wot I told ya!’
‘Da kabin-grot alwayz goes down with da ship,’ sighed Pinchit, before resuming the announcement, ‘Dis ship will self-destruct!’
Satisfied, Gitcutta picked up the yellin’ tube that connected to the engine room.
‘Oi, Rekkgutta, ‘ows it going lad?’ yelled the kaptin.He held the tube up to his ragged ear, pressing it against the mass of earring and piercings. Silence echoed within.
‘OI REKKGUTTA!’ Kaptin Gitcutta tried again, putting even more yell into the yellin’ tube. More silence.
‘I’d better get down dere,’ muttered the kaptin, striding from the bridge in a clank of jewellery and swish of coat tails, ‘somefing ‘az gone wrong. We really should ‘ave ‘xploded by now.’
‘Are we runnin’ away, boss?’ asked Nob Skarcleava. An hour earlier, Kaptin Gitcutta had stood on the bridge of the ‘Eadbutt with his two right-hand Nobs, Skarcleava and Madkrumpa. Grug’s World receded behind them, the entire planet now overrun with swarming Tyranid monstrosities.
‘Nah, we’ze just on our way to seek new employment opportunities,’ explained Gitcutta, ‘our old kontract is void, see?’
The two Nobs nodded solemnly. Grug the Despot was now Grug the Disemboweled thanks to a close encounter with a frenzied carnifex. It wasn’t a sight any of them would soon forget.
‘Let’s get to da system edge, see if any more boyz warp in for da fight,’ ordered Kaptin Gitcutta as the ‘Eadbutt rattled its way through a shoal of orbital spore mines, ‘then we can find a new employa and maybe come back for another go.’
The other Freebootas murmured their half-hearted agreement as Mek Rekgutta limped onto the bridge. His entire left leg was missing and he was using a bent and twisted big shoota barrel as an improvised crutch.
‘Yoo gonna be alright, Rekgutta?’ the Kaptin asked.
‘I reckon so boss,’ puffed the Mek, ‘I’ve got a few bionik bitz in me workshop that I’ve be workin’ on fer emergencies.’
‘Good lad!’ grinned Kaptain Gitcutta, slapping the mek on the back and sending him staggering. ‘Sort yourself a new leg and get down to da engine room and add some more zzaps to the reaktor or whatever it iz yoo do. We want to make sure da bug-eyez don’t catch up wiv uz.’
‘Righto boss!’ said the Mek as he hobbled away.
‘Yoo two, go an’ count ow many boyz ya hav’ left in ya mobz an’ report back,’ Kaptin Gitgutta told the two Nobs. The ‘Eadbutt shook again under long-range bio-acid fire and the sliding door to the bridge jammed. The Nobs grumbled and cursed as they squeezed through the half-open gap. Kaptin Gitcutta called for some grog and settled down in his fur-covered throne to watch the tele-viewers. Tyranid bio-ships pursued them with the stately grace of ocean predators, but the ‘Eadbutt was a speedboat full of mad pirates; the Orks were easily putting cold void between themselves and the genetic horrors of the Hive Mind.
The grog had just touched Kaptin Gitcutta’s gnarled lips when he heard a muffled voice come rattling out of one of the yellin’ tubes.
‘Wot?!’ snapped the Kaptin, grudgingly lowering his gilded skull of booze.
‘It’s Madkrumpa ‘ere boss,’ came the Nob’s tinny voice over the tube, ‘yooz betta get down ‘ere. Weez got trouble!’
Kaptin Gitgutta rumbled into the grotty galley where Madkrumpa’s Ladz hung out, kutlass in hand and feathers bobbing on his hat. He came to an abrupt halt, an expression that passed for dismay twisting his craggy face. He had come down ready to krump some gitz, but it looked like the krumping had already been done for him. Greenskin body parts were scattered around the room, viscera coating the walls and bunks. It was worse than that time Mad Wazdakka had set the bomb squigs loose ‘fur a larf’.
Madkrumpa stood in the middle of the compartment, looking thoroughly perplexed, scratching at his red bandana. Skarcleava was there too, poking at the severed head of a very surprised looking Ork boy with the butt of his choppa.
‘Wot happened!?’ demanded Kaptin Gitcutta, struggling to keep his balance as his great, booted feet slid on the gore-soaked deck. The battle at Grug’s World had taken a toll on their krew already, and suddenly he had far fewer surviving boyz.
‘Dunno,’ shrugged Madkrumpa, ‘I found ‘em like dis.’
‘Dis iz mutiny, kaptain!’ exclaimed Skarcleava.
‘Nah boss, dis is mutilation,’ said Madkrumpa, aiming a kick at one of the severed limbs.
‘Someone ‘ere iz a traitor, boss,’ said Skarcleava as he drew his ornate slugga and pointed it at Madkrumpa, ‘and he found ‘em so I reckon itz ‘im.’
‘Don’t be a git!’ snarled Madkrumpa, drawing his blasta and aiming it at his accuser.
‘Yeah, maybe the bug-eyez got to ya,’ continued Skarcleava, holding his slugga steady. Kaptin Gitcutta could see the cogs whirring and clanking behind the nob’s eyes. ‘Maybe yooz is one of doze genesneaker boyz.’
‘I ain’t a genesneaker!’ snarled Madkrumpa.
‘Funny,’ muttered Skarcleava, pulling back the oversized hammer on his slugga, ‘dats exactly what a genesneaker boy would say!’
Kaptin Gitcutta seized the two Nobs by the backs of their heads and bashed their skulls together with a satisfyingly hollow thunk. They both dropped their weapons, stunned.
‘Knock it off, yooz two,’ snarled the Kaptin as the two nobs howled their complaints, ‘dis wasn’t done by one of da ladz. A bug-eye must ‘av got on da ship. Yooz two didn’t follow kwar-en-teen protokol, did ya?’
‘What’s kwar-en-teen protokol, boss?’ asked Skarcleava sulkily as he tried to straighten out his squashed tricorn hat.
‘If somefing comes up da boarding ramp and it isn’t green, yoo shoot it in da face!’ yelled Kaptin Gitcutta.
‘Zoggin ‘ek, what happened ‘ere?’
The three Orks turned to see Mek Rekkgutta stride into the room, carried swiftly along by his newly installed bionik leg. The mek boy looked as shocked as the rest of them. Kaptin Gitcutta looked at the mek’s fancy new bionik, and then at the bits of dismembered Ork that lay scattered across the deck.
‘Don’t suppose yoo can patch ‘em up?’ the kaptin asked cautiously. Rekkgutta shook his head.
‘I ain’t a painboy, I need a boy dats mostly workin’ to stick me bionik bitz to.’
‘Right den, never mind. We need to find da bug-eye that did dis and give it a taste of dakka,’ ordered the Kaptin. The other Orks nodded enthusiastically at the idea of violence.
‘Skarcleava, go get your ladz and get searching dat end of da ship. The rest of us will split up and search dis end.’
The other Orks hurried off to carry out his orders. Kaptin Gitcutta took one last look around at the dead ladz and wondered what type of bug-eye could have done all this and then gotten away so cleanly.
Kaptin Gitcutta approached the problem of finding the Tyranid stowaway like he did most problems in life; by waving his kutlass and yelling really loudly.
‘‘Ere I am, bug-eye, ya nasty fing! ‘Ere I am, all alone an’ tasty! A big delicious meal!’ bellowed the kaptain as he strode along the cramped and gloomy decks. Unfortunately, kaptain hadn’t been too bothered about keeping things ship-shape on the ‘Eadbutt, or luxuries like adequate lighting in good repair. As a result, there were plenty of holes and shadows in which an interloper might lurk. The kaptain stuck his head in the armoury as he went past, but there was nothing hiding in there. He considered picking up a snazzgun from the racks, but he really wanted to chop this bug-eye—up close and personal—for what it had done to his ladz. Wherever the intruder was, he was confident it couldn’t hide for long. As much as he liked to boast about the size and power of the ‘Eadbutt, it wasn’t really that big a ship: a couple of gun decks, forward torpedo tubes and a single launch bay in the stern. There was space for maybe a hundred ladz and all their things when the krew was at full strength, but the meatgrinder of Grug’s World had left the ‘Eadbutt’s metal belly grumbling. Kaptin Gitcutta had no idea how many grotz were part of the krew, but then it didn’t matter because grotz didn’t count for anything.
He was saved from the odious task of having to think about large numbers by the sound of gunfire and choppas hitting flesh, coming from Skarcleava’s end of the ship! The kaptin hurried off towards the sounds of battle—it sounded like a good one!his boots stomping on the metal deck and jewelry rattling as he ran..
Kaptin Gitcutta burst into the kabin as the last echo of gunfire faded away. A thick blanket of smoke lay over another slaughter. Skarcleava’s ladz were dead, as was Skarcleava himself. The nob lay in the middle of the deck, his fancy hat crushed and his eviscerated body half covered by a blood-stained Jolly Ork flag, that had been torn from the wall. Kaptin Gitcutta’s face twisted into a silent snarl. He had liked Skarcleava…as much as an Ork could like a big git. The bug-eye was one step ahead of them again! It certainly seemed to have a good idea of the layout of the ship, mused the kaptin as he stared down at Skarcleava’s slowly cooling corpse.
Madkrumpa clattered through the opposite door, kutlass in hand. He drew to a halt, looking aghast at Skarcleava, then glared up at the kaptin.
‘We wuz too late,’ said Kaptain Gitcutta.
‘Wuz we…?’ growled Madkrumpa, holding the gaze of the kaptain’s one good eye. Kaptain Gitcutta bristled at his subordinate’s tone and puffed himself up.
‘Whatz dat supposed ta mean?’ he snarled back at the nob. Madkrumpa broke eye contact and looked angrily at the floor. The tense silence was broken as Rekkgutta came striding through the door behind Kaptin Gitcutta, kustom mega blasta scanning the destroyed room.
‘Zog it, boss! Dis bug-eye is giving us a run fer our teef!’ the mek boy exclaimed, keeping his weapon raised and his eyes narrowed.
‘Yeah,’ replied the Kaptin slowly, eyeing the other two Orks suspiciously, ‘it iz, izn’t it?’
The kaptin, nob and mek glared at each other for several long moments, none of them lowering their weapons.
‘Alright!’ said Kaptin Gitcutta suddenly, breaking the stand-off, ‘if dis bug-eye won’t giv us a fair fight, den we ain’t gonna fight fair neither! Rekkgutta, get down to da engine room, overload da worky-bitz and blow dis ship! We’ll all escape in me own personal landa. I reckon there’s just room for yoo gitz in der too.’
‘Righto boss!’ replied the mek boy with a gleeful glint in his eye, ‘I’ll add a lot of extra zzaps to da reaktor, dat should do it!’
‘Good lad. Madkrumpa, get any treasure yoo az stashed away, I’m gonna get sum things from da bridge. We’ll all meet at da launch bay.’
The engine room was the clanking guts of the ‘Eadbutt. It was full of things Kaptin Gitcutta didn’t understand: giant pumping pistons, the sweet aroma of oil and the sharp crack of high voltage discharge. The kaptain suspected something had gone wrong with his kunnin’ plan before he even arrived at the engine room. Seeing Mek Rekkgutta pinned to the engine room wall by a kutlass only confirmed this.
‘Zoggin ‘ek lad,’ exclaimed the kaptain as he hurried over to the struggling mek, ‘are yoo alright?’ Mek Rekkgutta coughed weakly and looked down at the massive blade puncturing his sternum.
‘I fink he hit something important, boss,’ gurgled the mek, ‘I don’t fink I’ve got a bionik in my workshop to fix dis.’
‘Who did dis?!’ demanded the kaptin. The mek boy didn’t reply, but his red eyes went wide. Kaptin Gitcutta had been in enough fights to know what that meant. He launched himself to the side as high calibre rounds chewed up the wall and deck where he had been standing less than a second before. Mek Rekkgutta squealed and thrashed but couldn’t free himself from the kutlass.
Kaptin Gitcutta reluctantly removed his massive hat and peaked around the crate of stolen engine parts that he had sheltered behind. Madkrumpa stood in front of the reaktor, ejecting a spent magazine from an enormous dakkagun.
‘Madkrumpa, ya mutinous git!’ roared the kaptain, leaping to his feet and letting fly with his kustom blasta pistol. The nob cast the dakkagun aside and dived behind a control console.
‘Sorry Kaptin, but yoo ain’t me boss any more!’ yelled Madkrumpa, punctuating his resignation with a fusillade of return blasta fire. Kaptin Gitcutta charged at Madkrumpa, heedless of the bullets crashing around him – he knew the nob was a terrible shot. The two hulking greenskins slammed into each other like the thunderous crash of two rutting bull grox.
‘I knew threatening to blow da ship would flush out da traitor,’ spat the kaptin as he grappled with the nob, ‘dere was no way some weedy bug-eye could have done all that choppin. It ‘ad to be one of us. Did ya forget ya can’t be da kaptain without a krew? Itz ‘ard to give orders to a pile of dead boyz!’
‘I’m not da boss,’ grunted Madkrumpa as he strained back against the kaptain, ‘ee iz!’.
Something lithe and multi-limbed unfolded itself from the shadows. It’s skin was the colour of bruised flesh, surrounded by a carapace of midnight blue. Kaptin Gitcutta’s eyes went wide as he watched the genestealer slowly climb down the wall towards Mek Rekgutta. Suddenly realising his mistake, the kaptain’s eyes slashed back onto Madkrumpa. The treacherous nob could have taken this moment to catch the kaptin off-balance, but Madkrumpa was watching the genestealer too, a look of rapturous wonder on his face.
‘Skarcleava was right, yoo are one of dem genesneaker boyz!’ barked Kaptin Gitcutta, trying to strangle the errant nob. A zealous light burned behind the burly greenskin’s eyes and Madkrumpa fought back with renewed fury, raining a flurry of blows to the side of the kaptain’s head. Kaptin Gitcutta released his hold on Madkrumpa and staggered back, spitting out a handful of gold teeth.
‘Da genesneakers opened me eyes! Dey gave me da kiss on Grug’s World’ exclaimed Madkrumpa. Kaptin Gitcutta regarded the nob wearily, but right now he seemed more interested in evangelising than renewing his attack. ‘But me ladz couldn’t see da truth. Neither could Skarcleava and iz mob, so we ‘ad to skrag da lot of ‘em. Dat genesneaker’s me new god. He’s me Four-Armed Gork…or possibly Mork.’
‘Dat’s blaz-fem-ee!’ hissed the kaptin, clenching his giant fists. Madkrumpa paused, a look of genuine uncertainty on his face.
‘Dunno,’ replied the kaptain, ‘But I’m gonna kill yooz anyway!’ The kaptain launched himself at Madkrumpa with a furious bellow, The nob retaliating with equal rage. As they traded punishing blows among the cacophony of the engine room, the kaptin managed to snatch glances at Mek Rekkgutta and the genesneaker advancing on him. He wanted to help the loyal mekboy, but Madkrumpa wasn’t going to give him the chance. Over the ringing in his ears from over the cacophony of the fight, the crashing of the engine and Madkrumpa’s fevered ramblings, the kaptain was just able to make out Mek Rekkgutta’s last words:
‘‘Ello beastie, ‘av yoo come to ‘av a look at me Mark 1 Zappa Leg?’
The spectacularly fatal detonation of Rekkgutta’s bionic rocked the entire engine room. Metal twisted and shriekded, gantries collapsed, and the genestealer and mek boy were vaporized in a flash of blue light that blinded Kaptin Gitcutta. But louder still than the explosion was Madkrumpa’s howl of despair. The kaptin staggered away and collapsed behind a pile of debris, momentarily stunned. Madkrumpa came steaming out of the wreckage, throwing a massive sheet of metal off his back as though it was nothing. He limped clear of the wrecked machinery and spotted the kaptain’s ornate hat, poking up from behind the pile of debris where he had collapsed. Frothing with rage and screaming his hate over the tortured howling of the engine, the nob tore a metal pipe free and hammered it down on the kaptain’s ornate feathered tricorn. But the hat was empty.
Kaptain Gitcutta stepped up behind Madkrumpa and sliced his head off neatly with one sweep of his kutlass. The head rolled away into the wreckage of the engine room. The body stayed standing for a moment, before swaying drunkenly and collapsing in a crumpled heap.
‘I’ve got to take my hat off to ya Madkrumpa,’ muttered Kaptin Gitcutta, ‘ya put up a gud fight.’
‘Wot now boss?’ asked Pinchit.
‘Stick to da plan, I reckon,’ said Kaptain Gitcutta thoughtfully. The Freebooter Kaptain had dragged himself back to his command throne, battered but still alive and still the boss, even though his krew size had been reduced.. ‘Weez already on course for da jump point. Da engine wuz makin’ a funny noise when I left, but I reckon it’ll keep goin’ fur now. Reckon I can stop it when we need to. Den we wait at da jump point an’ see if more boyz turn up.’
‘And what if no-one shows up boss?’ asked Pinchit anxiously.
‘Den Pinchit ma boy, yoo get promoted!’ replied Kaptain Gitcutta, giving the diminutive grot a hearty slap on the back. The tiny greenskin shot him a needle-toothed smile.
‘Wow thanks boss! Promoted to what?’ asked the kabin-grot. The kaptin flashed him a gold-toothed grin.
About the Author
Chris Buxey is a writer, laser safety officer and occasional Tony Stark impersonator. He lives in southern England with his wife and two children. Chris has been travelling the Warhammer 40K universe for nearly thirty years and has so far managed to keep his heresies hidden from the Inquisition.