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Chapter One

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The Zigur

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"It's a trap," the Zigûr answered mildly.

 

Of course, it was his trap, and although it wasn't perfect, it was the best he could manage on such short notice. He sighed at the fact he only had five tanks to ambush the enemy column with. The barbarian detachment was returning from the plunder of a small town on the outskirts of his little kingdom, and keen eyes had reported to him it's numbers and composition. One super-heavy escorted by a number of lesser tanks and artillery pieces. Peering through his binoculars, he espied that the report was accurate.

 

Lieutenant Tengwar swallowed nervously, staring from the commander's hatch of his tank destroyer at the sight of the behemothic super-heavy. Being that they were responding on short notice, the five fast tanks they brought were lightly armored, built solely for mobility and firepower. The fifteen-centimeter howitzer the super-heavy carried would certainly make quick work of them if given the opportunity. While their commander had a mythical reputation amongst the fighting men, Tengwar had been educated at the Imperial War Academy and had no faith in superstition, nor light armor.  

 

The Zigûr smiled serenely at the novice officer to his left. "As you see lieutenant, we have the element of surprise. In their arrogance they do not expect an ambush during their return northward. Our operation will depend on your timing. As their lead elements advance into the gulch, our three auto-loader tanks to the southwest will unload their rounds into the rear of their column, hemming them in. From our position here in the north, you should have a clear shot at the side of the super-heavy's turret when it turns to engage our auto-loaders."

 

The lieutenant nodded with what confidence he could muster. On paper, his destroyer's gun should be capable of penetrating the thinner armor of the super-heavy's flank. Of course, their own two tanks were posted at the exit of the gulch, and they would be vulnerable should the survivors charge them.

 

Tengwar absorbed the details of the column approaching them. Decapitated heads were suspended on crudely welded spikes from the super-heavy, red paint haphazardly splashed across the hull and turret, with the eightfold Mark of Chaos mounted high above the cupola. He noted with disgust that some of the severed heads were fresh. Rape and torture were the passtimes of this War-Boss, and he was glad that they would not go unpunished today for their atrocities.

 

He supposed he ought to be glad that the likes of these creatures were typically lacking in discipline or tactics, else their little ambush might have been detected. He wondered how the world had fallen to such an extent that such behavior was now perceived as unremarkable, and looking to his right at his commander, he was thankful that he had been born in the Imperium and not more savage lands. Fair the Zigûr was, but also cold and remote like the stars above, more handsome and fey he seemed than any mortal he knew. He reminded Tengwar of the Elves in the stories of his youth.

 

The Zigûr lightly brushed the thin hair from his face that the chill wind stirred, and then suddenly lifted his radio and spoke the command of death.

 

A flare shot up into the night sky, revealing the column naked with it's pallid, fiery glow. An instant later, tracers filled the air, as the autoloaders emptied their clips and machine-guns into the column. The enemy was visibly thrown into confusion and disbelief as the autoloaders targeted artillery pieces and the more mobile tanks, and within the first thirty seconds half of the enemy force had been annihilated.

 

Ponderously the War-Boss angled his super-heavy and rotated his turret to deal with these puny upstarts, these petty Imperials who dared threaten his column, and Tengwar saw his opportunity materialize. With a sniper's talent he fired, aiming perpendicular into the flank of the super-heavies turret, where he knew the ammo-rack to be.

 

A boom like thunder reverberated as the massive turret was thrown high into the air, uncounted tons of steel crashing down onto an unsuspecting escort. And in the flash of the explosion, the Zigûr grinned a predator's smile as he suddenly threw his light tank into gear and wheeled with delight through the surviving barbarians.

 

And the lieutenant silently wondered who the real savages were.

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