16: FLESH AND IRON
Five Shotguns. Five lasrifles. Five Autoguns. Two heavy bolters. One plasma rifle. Two bolt guns. Six laspitols. Four autopistols. Five stub guns. Two flamers. One melta gun. Three chainswords and about two dozen assorted grenades. This what decades of hoarding creds had got Hex. He could arm a small platoon of PDF soldiers. Instead he was arming a bunch of old gang war dogs. They still needed to pay the new blood that they would need. Nowadays gangers didn’t join for pride and gang turf, they only cared about the creds. Even the Orlocks living in Dead Mans Hole would be wary of joining a gang that has been outlawed for years. The price of flesh and iron was worth it though. Revenge was always worth it.
So many men that Hex had called brother were no longer with them. Too many. They had been gunned down fighting with or running from, the Arbitrators’ Enforcer squads. Many died at the now infamous “Battle at the Crag”. The final showdown between the outlawed gangs of the Underhive versus Helmwars forces; a force of Necromundan PDF troops, Adeptus Arbites, Watchmen gangs and even an Inquistor and his retinue. The battle may have ended with Jester fighting Arbitrator Rodrigo at the edge of the Crag, but, that’s not how the war started or how it was going to end.
If Hex was worried about the days and weeks to come, he didn’t show it. Logan was now a few days sober and he was thinking clear again. They had found old man Blazer working a slime rig by day. He was more than happy to don his old gang colors. Axle and Alex, the twins, had been found by Logan. Hex sought out Stone for days, but once they found him, the mean old bastard was never far from Hexs’ side.
In the passing days The reformed Iron Fists gang had recruited ten new gangers and two heavies. Hex was surprised by how they had sought him out once word had spread about their return. The veteran gang members had turned away all juves. This was no time to be green. This isn’t a back alley gang fight. This is warfare. Last man standing. Last chance to set the record straight once and for all.
Hex and Logan had decided that they were going to gear up the gang. They knew a Precint house was not too far from Dead Mans and that was the best place to start getting even. The pair of Orlocks decided to meet up Brassers for a good luck drink when they saw Colt running towards them. Logan waved to him and raised his fist, just as Colt hit lost his balance and slammed into the dusty, broken asphalt. They sprinted over to him as others in the community began to form a crowd. He was holding his stomach. His hand sopping with blood.
Hex sat him partially up. Shaking his head, he could tell his old friend had lost too much blood.
“I made it.” Colt said, gritting his teeth and trying to smile despite the pain.
“Those bastards got a lucky shit, but I outsmarted them. Made my way back through the air duct system. Dino…Dino’s gone. I don’t know what happened to Dax either..but..but..we have to be ready brothers. They’re coming.”
Hex bit his tongue. Another brother was dying before his eyes, in his arms, again.
“Who’s coming Colt?” Logan begged.
His breathing was ragged. The fall had knocked the wind from him.
“I don’t know who they are. Thought it was Van Saars but they got more tek than I ever seen. They have to be working with the Dealques. You need to get the hell outta here. Find Dax….finish this. Don’t let these gits come to our town and burn it down. Not after all we been through. It’s all we got. I stuck it to em before I came home though ha ! What good is all that cybernetic crap if it can’t stop a grenade….”
Colt’s body went into seizure and he blacked out. Hex did his best to hold his friend until the shaking stopped. His eyes rolled open and his last breathe left his body. Logan turned away in disbelief.
Hex nodded to his friend. And put his fist to his heart.
“Grab his legs Logan, were taking him home.”
The Stranger was in deep shit. He had been in the thickest of the thick, but this was all bad. Alone in the dark, surrounded by countless walking corpses and what appeared to be a rampaging underhive beast. He was also out of ammo and the constant Hive quakes seemed this whole dome was about to come down on top of him.
He was having hard time staying focused with all the groaning and the wailing of the beast. He still couldn’t make it out and he was sure he didn’t want to fully know what it was. It appeared to be indifferent to the zombies though, as it barged through them to get at him. Twice it had charged and rammed the small shack he was standing on. Knocking him off and into the horde. Twice he fought his back to another roof and managed to avoid the beast. From what he could tell though, the creature seemed to be a filthy hybrid of the giant rats that plagued the Underhive and some other reptilian thing. Only the Sump could have produced such a damnable thing.
The Stranger’s body was aching and he was tired. The cat and mouse game had gotten old, real fast. He drew his his long blade that was fixed to his thigh and decided to put his faith in his steel rather than wait it out an longer. He took a running leap and rolled into a half dozen rotten souls, smashing them to the broken pavement. He beheaded the first one that was within arm’s reach. Kicked another in the chest and began clearing a small hole for himself to make a run for it.
The beast roared and charged as the Stranger fought his way through the crowd, heading in the direction of the vent stack. It was his only hope. He didn’t even bother looking back. He ran with all the remaining strength he could muster and still it wasn’t fast enough. The beast closed in on him, Dax could feel its body heat, the stink of its breath and its hot spit on his back.
The Stranger turned and dropped on his back, holding his blade with both hands he thrust upwards, using the beasts momentum to carve itself a new chest cavity. The beast cried out as its bloated flesh was ripped open and it’s innards spewed out onto Dax and the ground like a giant ball of puss. Dax was knocked into the vent stack bulkhead as the beast’s body smacked into him at crushing speed. His vision spun and his head rang from the force of impact. He was covered in guts from head to toe but he was alive. Staggering up and heading for the vent entrance he looked back.
He couldn’t make out the person in the dark watching him, but Dax knew he was there. He could feel live eyes in the sea of dead ones. He stood for a moment defiant as ever, gesturing with his middle finger his feeling on the situation. Just as he entered the vent stack another Hive quake began. This time it was three times as powerful as the previous. Support beams directly above came crashing down and the rockcrete above came cascading down.
Whoever was tracking him was going to have a hard time crossing the avenue that was now chocked with debris and the hungry dead. Still he wondered who it was and if they were this good, could they track his movements through the massive network of ventilation access tunnels?
He didn't wait to find out. He limped as fast as he could, heading for Dead Mans Hole.