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Trial by Fire

by Irondog

The steady drip of water echoed through the cramped tunnel. The orks huddled in the near darkness in silence, illuminated only by a few thin beams of light shining through the sewer grate above their heads.

"So why'z we down 'ere anyway?" asked Grunk in a hushed whisper.

"We'z down 'ere cuz I sez so." replied Krug. Krug was the leader of Da Kan Krakkaz, the toughest bunch of Tankbusta Boyz in the entire army.

"But I don't see why..."

"Lissen boy!" Krug interrupted. "Ya wanna kill a tank or don't ya? If ya do, den ya better do as I sez. Now shut yer yap 'fore da 'umies hear ya!"

Krug looked around at his warriors. They were busy checking their rokkit launchaz, making sure the murky water of the sewer hadn't fouled the firing mechanisms. He looked over at Grunk, thoroughly miserable standing knee deep in filthy sewer water, a tankhammer strapped across his back and holding the chains of two bomb squigs. The boy had potential, Krug could see that, but he needed to prove himself first.

Proving yourself in 'Da Krakkaz' meant one thing. You needed to show the rest of the Tankbustaz that you had the balls for the job. That meant you didn't get to shoot a rokkit launcha until you had killed your first tank up close and personal. The weapon of choice for this 'initiation' was the tankhammer, a rokkit powered hammer that could punch through armor like butter. The only catch was in order for it to work, you had to be close enough to the tank to spit on it.

The other chore that was always performed by the 'new guy' was looking after the bomb squigs. Bomb squigs were just as tempermental and unruly as normal squigs, but with one major difference. They had massive amounts of high explosives strapped to their backs. These explosives were placed there by the meks and rigged with proximity fuses so they would explode when the squig ran under a tank. Now, meks aren't exactly known for the 'reliability' of their contraptions and have no regard for 'operator safety', so the duty of holding their chains always fell to the lowest guy on the food chain.

The sound of a 'umie vehicle could be heard above. Grunk's eyes lit up at the thought of getting out of this stinking sewer and going after some 'big game'. "Iz we ready now?" he asked Krug.

"Not yet." replied Krug, listening to the sound of the vehicle's engine. It was too high pitched and fast for a tank, it had to be a Landspeeder. "Hear dat engine? How it's all whiney-like? Dat's a Speeda. Dey'z too weedy an' quick to make for a good kill. Too 'ard to get a solid hit on 'em."

A few moments later,Krug heard the sound he was waiting for. He looked around at his boyz and saw that they heard it too. A heavy metallic thumping, steady and rythmic. The footsteps of a Dreadnought.

A smile spread across Krug's face as he looked at Grunk. "Yer in luck, boy. Ya get to prove yerself against a kan dat fight's back!"

Krug slid the heavy iron grate to one side. He and the rest of his mob crawled out of the sewer on their stomachs and took cover in the rubble strewn street. He could see the Dreadnought advancing toward them, flanked on either side by power-armored Space Marines. They hadn't noticed Krug and his boyz yet; they were too busy firing at the other orks in the surrounding buildings. The Dreadnought was laying down an impressive amount of fire with it's assault cannon.

An idea popped into Krug's head.

"Da marine boyz can wait. We'z going after da Kan first." He looked over at Grunk holding the shackles of the two bomb squigs. "Gimme dem chains," he said. Krug rummaged around in his pack and produced a large shell casing. He held it under the noses of the two bomb squigs so they could get a good sniff, then let them go. The two squigs scrambled over the rubble and headed straight for the Dreadnought. "Awright boyz, when da squigs get close, open fire," Krug instructed. "Aim fer da gunz!"

The combined explosion of bomb squig and rokkit engulfed the Dreadnought in a massive fireball. When the metal behemoth emerged from the cloud of smoke and flame, it's assault cannon had been utterly destroyed. The Dreadnought was furious. Though primarily a machine, the adamantium sarcophagus at the heart of the Dreadnought still contains a pilot, the remains of a mortally wounded marine sustained on life-support. Though long dead, those entombed within a Dreadnought can still fight, and they can still feel emotions... like anger.

"Battle brothers, continue your advance. These miserable fools are MINE!" shouted the Dreadnought as it advanced toward the Tankbustaz.

The Dreadnought, trailing black smoke from the shattered remains of it's assault cannon, smashed it's way through the rubble toward Krug and his boyz. Krug looked over at Grunk and smiled, "Yer up, boy. Make it count!"

As the Dreadnought reached their position, Grunk lept from behind the rubble and swung his tankhammer, triggering the firing stud on the handle. The rokkit motor in the hammer's head roared to life sending the hammer in a streaking arc right into the Dreadnought's midsection. Grunk felt a surge of adrenaline and roared savagely as the hammer connected with a sickening crunch, tearing it's way through the legs and severing the power train of the huge machine. The Dreadnought shuddered for a moment and then toppled over in heap.

                                                        *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Once the battle was over, Krug and the Tankbustaz returned to the wreckage of the Dreadnought. Krug looked over at Grunk, "Lemme see dat hammer." As Krug walked over toward the Dreadnought, Grunk grew excited. His initiation was over and now it was time for his rite of passage. 'Tanking Up' is a tradition where a rookie Tankbusta devours the crew and drinks engine oil from the smoking remains of his first kill.

Krug used the hammer to smash open parts of the engine and life support system, while the rest of his boyz collected the leaking fluids from the shattered remains of the great machine. When they had finished, Krug presented Grunk with a 'cocktail', served in the helmet of a Space Marine. Grunk took the helmet, his hands still shaking with adrenaline. In it was a steaming mixture of motor oil, blood, and engine coolant, along with a fair amount of fluid from the Dreadnought's life support system.

Grunk downed the whole thing and then wiped his mouth on his sleeve. His stomach churned and his head swam, but Grunk managed to keep the vile concoction down. He looked around at the rest of 'Da Krakkaz', who looked back at him with a measure of respect that wasn't there before. He was now one of them.

Krug offered Grunk a rokkit launcha, the chosen weapon of most of the boyz in the mob. "It's yerz now, lad. Ya earned it."

Grunk eyed the weapon and remembered how he felt crushing the Dreadnought face-to-face. "If'n it's all da same to ya, Boss. I'd rather use da hammer."

Krug smiled as he tossed the tankhammer back to the newest member of Da Kan Krakkaz. "Dat's me boy!"