Twenty Seconds of His Wrath

The Psalm of Reloading was nearly drowned out by the numbing roar and cacophony of squeals and scrapes endemic to the amber-lit bowels of a war machine. Ceaseless combat had taken a toll on the crew, but their focus couldn’t waver; Tigris Maxima’s machine spirit was a fickle, volatile beast. 

The autoloader began greedily lapping up the thousands upon thousands of linked shells from a pile strewn about the floor. Kipra contorted herself back into the turret’s Gunner Station. She wriggled in place and kissed the icon of St. Hagaar, Patron of Tankers, as status runes blinked one by one from ruby to emerald.

Tigris Maxima was a massive “Vulkan-pattern” Macharius heavy battle tank, a variant sporting prominent twin Vulkan Mega Bolters on her mantlet. The tremendous rotary cannons were typically wielded by the vicious scout Titan effigies of the Machine God, intended to reap a frightful toll upon troops and light vehicles. This last reload of shells, granted by the Holy Throne, only provided a mere twenty seconds of the His wrath. 

Kipra’s voice crackled in Captain Borisova’s headset, ‘She’s been fed and is eager to kill, Mamzel!’


Borisova snatched televised glimpses of the greenskin assault against the defence line. Increasingly desperate updates on the tac-net were followed by silence. 

The heavy tank made under twenty km/h in this shattered urban terrain. Her retinue of Leman Russes did little better. Five klicks to the front, and half that to the maximum range of her guns. Thirty more seconds of impotence. They were too late to blunt the green tide—time was an enemy that couldn’t simply be blasted. 

Borisova watched indications of friendly units disappear one by one in the melee, and Tigris Maxima’s cogitator indicated ever more Orks. 

Kipra called out. ‘Max range, fifteen seconds!’ Borisova began a silent count in her head. Her bile rose, watching an officer caste greenskin sporting massive metal jaws savage the 78th Anfeln Grenadiers. 

A tone from the cogitator indicated that killing time had come. Borisova betrayed no emotion. 

‘Gunner, begin with the large one.’ 


Nob Gark Gutrippa idly picked at his metal teeth with a ‘Umie battle standard, supervising his lads finishing wounded guardsmen. 

A choppa boy to his side was dismembering a flailing servitor, then instinct aroused in the Ork’s atrophied brain. Without pausing his cruelty, he craned his piggish head, beady red eyes squinting in the distance. The Ork’s scarred face erupted into a rictus of yellowed tusks. 

‘Boss!’ he grunted excitedly. When no acknowledgement came from the Nob, the Ork punched Gark in his jaw, sending the flagpole clattering across the ferrocrete.

Gark’s massive hand lifted the choppa boy by his stubby neck, and he stared him down. The gasping Ork was still grinning like an idiot. ‘Boss!’ he croaked, gesturing vaguely north. ‘’Umie tanks!’

Suddenly the world exploded in a maelstrom of grit and gristle. Chunks rained back to earth, and Gark sat up, unharmed, thanks to the choppa boy’s unintentional sacrifice. 

The nearby lads were now nothing more than meat, but already a score more Orks, along with roaring warbikes and buggies, poured across no-man’s land, drawn to the destruction. High explosive tank shells landed in their midst, but they continued forward, bellowing and firing their shootas. 

The delayed, daemonic belch of the mega bolter keened through the air. To Gark, this was beautiful music. Lunging to his feet, he asserted his leadership over the lads with a mighty war cry, determined to either loot that epitome of dakka, or die trying. 


Nineteen seconds of ammunition remained. A pack of Orks on ramshackle buggies rapidly closed the distance, bobbing and weaving around and through the charred remnants of a train station. Witnessing a few crash into each other and explode didn’t amuse Borisova. ‘Gunner, traverse pattern alpha delta on the designated vehicles. Fire.’

Tigris Maxima’s turret oscillated from side to side, unleashing three long seconds of fire. The buggies simply ceased to be.

The foremost Leman Russ spat comparatively pathetic sponson bolter fire at the advancing Orks. A rocket from above struck the tank’s thin top armour, and it seized and smoked momentarily before erupting into a blowtorch.

The cogitator guided Kipra’s aim skyward, spraying hundreds of bolts at Stormboyz aloft. Fifteen seconds of ammunition remained. A rocket impacted on Tigris Maxima’s hull, enraging the machine spirit. It wrested control from Kipra and engaged at will.

Fourteen seconds, a mob of Orks died. Thirteen seconds remained after dispatching greenskins atop hideous Orkish beasts. Twelve seconds. Eleven seconds. More and more death. Kipra ritually repeated the Mantra of Reset, and automatic fire suddenly disengaged. 

Faintly glowing mega bolter barrels ticked to a stop, wisping smoke. Ten seconds of His wrath remained. Ork hooligans clambered on top of another Leman Russ, bashing bits and attempting to pry open the cupola. A blizzard of sparks flew when Tigris Maxima sanitised its companion with mega bolter fire. Nine seconds remained.

‘Fire for effect,’ Borisova ordered. ‘The Emperor guide your hand.’

 More and more Orks died. Eight seconds, seven seconds, six seconds. Another Leman Russ exploded. Tigris Maxima suffered a massive track hit and ground to a halt, unable to reverse.

Five seconds. Borisova surveyed the battle with her periscope. The Ork leader was nowhere to be seen. But the greenskins still kept coming. Four seconds. Three seconds. 

‘Ammunition critical, Mamzel!’ Kipra announced. Two seconds. More charging Orks died.

Gark’s gift of cunning allowed him to close the distance with Tigris Maxima through a field of cathedral debris while it was distracted by the horde. Borisova witnessed him break cover and gave orders.

Defensive sponson fire glanced off Gark’s garish armour, while the main turret ponderously rotated in his direction. The Nob cackled as he closed the distance to his prize. Now at point blank range, the twin barrels began to spin, still coming to bear on the Nob. 

Either it would miss, or he would die here. Tigris Maxima still possessed one second’s worth of the Emperor’s wrath.

About the Author

Thomas Throop moved to LA to become a screenwriter, but ended up in Seattle teaching drones to deliver coffee. His cat has over five times the Instagram followers that he has.