- "Thunder, it always begins with thunder. Thunder is the laughter of We the oncoming storm, the footfalls of raging Titans, and the heartbeat of a heathen wargod. We are Thunder Incarnate, Goliaths who's fury is built with iron and fire, and who’s souls clang with the wrath of lightning caged. I am Thunder. I am Thanix S’thul. And we will bring heathen heaven down upon all those who defy the Unity."
- — Thanix S'thul, Captain of Targhur Company
Chapter 1: Children of ThunderEdit
I can hear the thunder, it always begins with thunder. The detonations are a distant but pronounced tattoo, gene-enhanced hearing allowing me to pick out the individual roars of singular batteries and the unique loadings of each one. Approximately four hundred and eighty batteries of Pyre Cannons are currently unloading their ordinance on distant targets. For a __ of war like Thunder Warriors, it’s the closest thing I’d say we have to music. Like the great court balls of Merica, a pyrochemical symphony trumpeting another day of slaughter and victory in the Emperor’s name. Their slaughter. Our victory.
Inside the command bunker I shake my head to dispel my revere and turned to my fellow Warriors. Twelve others like me are arrayed around the command table, each encased in all enclosing Thunder Armor but their heads bare. These are veterans of a hundred battles, each a living storm and eater of cities unto themselves. Each has a name to them. To my right, Tzarn the Thunder Giant, glowers with brazen impatience for idleness. To my forward-left stands a mute, a pale-lit shadow that’s somehow thin despite the bulk of his armor, with an alien nothingness in his eyes. Uura they call him, the Eater of Gol-Gotha. Out of anyone here, I always keep one eye on him.
There are others arrayed around the table such as Theta the Emperor’s Trident, Obros the Maw, Ulta the Imperious, and Majand the Hero of By’zantite. Those such as they, Sergeant T’gaul at my side, and myself keep silent and wait for what is to follow, gene-bulked muscles and cable tendons rippling and tensing reflexively. Even flesh knows; this is only the calm before the storm.
None speak, but their armor’s backpacks growl for them. What little light in the room came from a small illuminator and made it so that each prodigious warrior cast a far grander that stood above them. I turn around and see the same is true of me. “What allegory” I mused. “What little lesson can this hold for me?” Such an assembly of Captains could only be the heralding of another great blood letting, and I know whose next for the chop-block.
My thoughts are squelched a new presence in the room as the bunker’s main bulk-doors slide open with a momentarily gust of cold wind. An imposing body stepped out the night-cast shadows and approached the table with utter presence. The giant acknowledged the assembled with a raised chin. One nod from him and all present slammed a fist to their chest in salute, the favored hail of the Unity. The giant let the air speak for him. A head taller than any of the others, head cleanly shaven with a face like a cutting-board, clad in burnished plates of bronze emblazoned with the thunderbolt and raptor’s head of the Emperor’s Finest. But his eyes were the worst –hell-red from years of unspeakable rage and wrath-induced hemorrhaging. Karver is his name, and what he does. My commander. I call him the Minotaur.
He spoke. “Brothers, we are tasked”.
Yes…those were the words everyone has been riling to hear. “In the name of the Unity we are to take the Antarctic and remove the mutants who infest it.” He says it like it was nothing. It was impartial, reported, and stated like a fact. Like another day in the service of the Emperor.
“This is just a bloody routine for him.” I realized with a silent laugh, and then paid attention.
“Our enemies call themselves the Ar-k’yal, genetic degenerates who occupy this portion of this continent” Karver said pointing to the holo-map projected across the table. “Our first targets are this string of hive cities here” he continued gesturing to the string of six red marked dots on the outer rim of the region's mouth. Secondary target zones located farther from the landing zones were market in blue while lesser targets were marked in green. But they were all marked nonetheless, for the Unity to be a success the Emperor would have nothing less.
“Our battle group will be the initial spear-point for the rest of the invasion. We will strike from the Ross Depression” Karver said. “Once we force a breach in their outer continental defensive lines we will join the rest of the primary invasion force in making a full scale assault on the enemy’s home turf.” He tapped the holo-display and zoomed into focus at the edge of the Ross Ridge. Displayed above them was a rocky and treacherous depression leading up and peaking into a thorny ridge, cragged and jagged from centuries of radiological and bacteriological bombardment and stripped lifeless by herbicidal bio-plagues. The Ar-k’yal’s continental defensive line was a continent spanning swath of scar-like webs of trenches with ungodly sized artillery bunkers squatting over them like gargantuan spiders.
I’d admit I am a little bit perplexed. Thousands of garrisons, miles of trenches, tank battalions, and enough artillery to level a mountain range…do they honestly think it will be enough? Amusing.
“After initial target-zone beachheads are achieved we are to make a concentrated stab for their capital, Tyr’onda. From there we shatter native resistance and pacify the region from there.”
The capital? Now that is strange. I speak up. “Lord, permission to speak.” I say, taking advantage of a pause.
Karver looks up from the display. “Granted, speak Thanix”
“Why the capital? It is the brain, but the industrial heart and organs lie closer in the Mari-Byres Lands. Why do we not strike there?” That would make sense. Less fighting, more strategic targets, less troops needed. Efficient. So why? A grating and unfortunately familiar laughter draws my attention. It’s Tzarn. Oh joy. The Thunder Giant smirks from where he stands and folds his arms over his cannon-barrel chest.
“What’s the matter Thanix? Why do you seek to sidestep our enemy’s throne for a string of useless fights rather than end this war?” He leaned over the table with a widening leer. “The enemy’s head is at the capital, remove the head, the body dies” He leans a little farther with a splitting smile. “Or have you lost your stomach for a real fight?”
“Bastard, so tedious.” I have to clench ever muscle in my body just to not rip the fool’s head clean off. “Deepest apologizes Tzarn, I had forgotten that warlords prefer to wait upon their thrones for us to kill them than move out of the way. Such polite fellows, it really is a mystery why we haven’t already taken the whole of Terra…eh Tzarn?” And for the final touch, I let slip a synthetic grin.
They say thunder comes after lightning, but not for the Emperor’s Finest. The Thunder comes before you ever see the flash. Both Tzarn and I had only made the most preliminary move for our blades when Karver roared out.
“Enough! Both of you!” One word and we both shut our mouths. One does not anger a Minotaur. “I admit." He began. "I do not know why we proceed like this” Karver acknowledged. “But these orders come from the highest authority possible.”
“But who in their right mind?” I press. “These orders are counterproductive. You would have to be a complete-”
“These orders come from the Emperor of Mankind Himself.”
The assembled Captains collectively seize up and the words wither and die at my lips. For three point six quarters of a second I am in shock. The Emperor himself gave the order? But when? For what reason? I see that Tzarn has his eyes wide and fixed on Karver. All the Captains stand frozenly and look to the Commander in intense silence. For the first time I notice that there are only twelve figures in the room. One was missing. Oh no...where is Uura?! That freak ghost had vanished from this sealed bunker!
"The clearance codes that these orders arrived with are genuine and broached no questions...they bear His insignia." Karver continued. "Brothers..." He spoke slowly. "His eyes are upon us. We will NOT disappoint him. Our orders were simple. ‘Go to the capital, and break them’. We need not know anything more.”
"We are marching with the 11th Imperial Army Group. Twenty-two regiments, thirteen Spartoi Genos, four Nerod Genos, two Fadasian Fighters, and one Uralian Stormlord” These regiments will make up the bulk of the spear-point invasion force."
I suppress and disgruntled growl. “Will that be enough? Cannon fodder will only take us so far Lord-”
“And thirteen companies of Thunder Warriors.”
“It will be enough.” This was met by affirmative nods from the others.
“Indeed. Now then, if pleasantries are out of the way, you fools have been idle enough. TO YOUR POSTS! He turned and took a few steps towards the door before turning around again."
“For the Emperor, like Lighting we strike!”
“For the Emperor, like Thunder we roar!” we answer.