My first thought when I read about Titans in 40k was "Ohmygodiwantone," and my second thought was "what's it like to drive it?" This fic is my try at answering that question.
Sex has nothing on it.
Good food, music, fighting, screwing…nothing beats getting jacked in. In an instant, you leave your fragile flesh-body behind, your senses expand until you can see a single molecule a click away, your heart 'beats' with searing-hot plasma, your skin becomes adamantium, your voice reaches halfway around a world. You can destroy buildings with a thought, and wipe out a superhuman Marine with a careless step. Jacking in makes you feel like you could take on the Emperor, or make the Heresy go away by giving Horus a good kick to the crotch with your 10-meter legs.
That's the first problem of Titan-driving. When I jack into Vicky, I jack into a machine-spirit with four centuries spent heretic-hunting and the attitude to back it up. Whoever says that machine-spirits don't exist obviously never tried out for a Titan crew; handling a Titan in battle is like trying to keep a hungry Bloodletter for a pet. A Titan's heart beats with pride and battle-lust, and jacking in puts that right between your ears. Pride has killed more Titans than Chaos ever will, and Warhounds are especially aggressive. Invictorus is not a dignified lady like a Warlord or Imperator Titan: Vicky wants to get dirty and kill her enemies up close. Like all women, she's good at getting what she wants.
Everything OK up there, boss? I smile, hearing Corrun's thought through the link. I'm a Princeps, the #1 of a Titan, the crazy bastard who wears an angry house to work. My Moderatii keep me from rampaging while I do my best "Space Marine SMASH!" impersonation. Corrun and Thade are my 'rats, and they're good at their jobs. In what's left of the Legio Gryphonicus, the most experienced 'rats get paired with the rawest Princeps aboard the Warhound 'Scout' Titans (seriously, how could a 15-meter god-machine be a scout?). Corrun and Thade each have over fifty years of experience in Titans, forty-five more than me. Without them, Vicky and I would have been a wreck years ago. All good, just the usual jitters, I send back.
Sure thing, boss. Corrun's loud, Thade's quiet. It fits their jobs well: Corrun maintains weapons and motivators, Thade handles autosenses and vox-chatter. Osirus the cogboy keeps me on my feet, and I keep Invictorus in check. A Titan is a group effort: it's four guys and a metal broad bringing stompy death onto a battlefield. With my mind settled again, I glance out at the battlefield. I'm the spearpoint of a 2-Titan 'Hound pack, leading a charge into Hive Tempestus. Chaos took power here several months ago and the Imperium has come calling. I don't know why the Hounds were called in, and right now, I don't care. I 'think' at Osirus, I'm ready. Wake her up.
For once in his life, Osirus acts like a typical cogboy, and without a word he 'wakes' Invictorus to full life. My thoughts are overwhelfriendly contacts spotted, 210-300 degrees. Possible enemy contact 97 degrees, low elevation. Adjust primary weapon to fire on target, checking distance…distance 110 meters. Ready to "Tomas! Weapons hold!" Oops.
The shout pulls me from the Titan's battle-thoughts, and I clear my human throat before answering. "Sorry. She hasn't fired for several months and-" "I know she's ready to go, but keep it together, alright?"
An entire sentence? Thade must've been really spooked there. Sorry, I tell him quietly, slowly extending my senses outward again. At 97 degrees range unchanged, wind minimal, Vulcan mega-bolter prepped for burst fire there was a kid, looking with awe at the god-machines outside his ruined hive. Oops.
Swimming in my autosenses, I'm surprised by the vox crackling to life: "Titans, advance when ready. Primaris formation, weapons free. Emperor guide your aim." Showtime! Invictorus feels my excitement, and she literally bounces as I begin the advance. Corrun gives me a mental laugh as Vicky springs forward, ready to kill the frak out of some poor cultist.
I'm less happy about it all. With Invictorus on the move, the sensor contacts are flooding in. Buildings, rubble, possible movement, confirmed enemy contact, 43 degrees, range 50 meters aaaand now it's shooty time. I let Corrun 'see' the enemies; he steadies Vicky's aim on warning! Missile launcher spotted, firing inferno cannon, 2-second blast!
An inferno cannon is similar to a flamethrower – the difference is size. Even Land Raiders melt under an inferno cannon. The cultists manage a couple screams before the fire turns them to coarse ash, the backdraft collapsing the hab-unit they were hiding in. I'm already looking past them to warning! Explosives spotted, possible ambush uh-oh.
Thade, as usual, is already dealing with the situation. I slowly bring Vicky to a halt, her voice growling at me to keep running, while Thade directs a Sentinel group to scout ahead. The Sentinels spot the trap and open up with autocannons, the shells detonating the homemade explosives buried under the roadway. With an almighty roar, the road ahead disappears in a cloud of ash; I resist the urge to blink, knowing that human urges like that make Thade's sensor picture go bonkers.
Still, I jump slightly when the next explosion goes off, Vicky's senses translating the twitch into a 5-meter shuffle. The Administratum block next to me groans danger from falling debris, recommend movement, the explosion inside the office building destroying key support columns and sending a 50-meter hunk of rockcrete plunging towards my girl's head.
I'm already on the move, with Vicky's autosenses looking for a good escape route continue at 47 degrees 150 meters, no enemy contacts spotted. I spare a look behind me as I keep running, seeing the friendly Sentinels following me at full speed. One vanishes under the collapsing building, while another is sent sprawling. Damn. I can see movement in the visible Sentinel's cockpit enemy contacts, estimated 50 humanoids, small arms present …and the mob that'd been sheltering behind the former building.
Corrun's already prepping the inferno cannon for another burn as Vicky and I slow continuing lateral movement, area clear and turn towards the cultists. My commanders would want me to leave the Sentinel driver behind, bait for the horde to get into inferno range. Screw them. I used to drive a Mars-pattern, and I don't leave a Sentinel man behind if I can't help it. Besides, my bosses can't do anything about it once I'm in jacked in. Every Legionnaire knows what happens when you pull a Princeps away from his girl during a fight.
10x zoom, focus on friendly contact and I can see the Sentinel driver pull himself free and begin crawling slowly towards me. Frak. Corrun projects the inferno cannon's expected fire arc onto my vision; the Sentinel driver would be toast. I mutter a quick prayer, Invictorus projecting it over the external vox, and move. A 'Hound can't break the sound barrier, but it damn well feels like it at a full sprint. The horde's almost reached the Sentinel pilot friendly contact 34.43 meters away, enemy contacts 26.32 meters time to change tactics. Seeing a hunk of rockcrete that's well-placed for a springboard, I step down and leap.
A walker design is useful in urban combat for its versatility. A walker can go places where a tank can't: past roadblocks, through rubble, and (very occasionally) into the air. Vicky's 15-meter frame is airborne for less than a second, but in that time she sails over the astonished Sentinel driver and into the equally astonished cultists. A dozen vanish into bloody pulp under her legs, and the rest are sent flying by the impact.Threat assessment: minimal I stomp again, mashing the suicidally brave cultists who thought I looked kill-able, while the two remaining Sentinels roar forward, their guns mopping up the remnants.
Tomas, that was completely AWESOME and you will never, NEVER do that again! Corrun 'yells' at me through the mind-link. Falling back on my usual defense, I mentally project a smiley face, drowning him out.
Corrun resorts to punching me in the leg; Vicky translates my leg's response into a kick that nearly scraps a Leman Russ, the tank swerving at the last moment to avoid Vicky's spiky feet. As expected, the vox crackles again: "Invictorus, cease your current activities and follow the prescribed battle-plan!"
My boss, Titan Master Magrigge (Emperor's balls, what an overblown title!), had his sense of humor amputated three decades ago (and with cogboys, that might even be literal). I learned Ultima Segmentum ship-lingo just to annoy him, and I always speak to Magrigge in it: "Yarrrrrr! We be pillagin' and plunderin' soon, Admiral!"
"Just shut up and kill something already!" he yells back, before cutting the vox-link. It's good advice (for once), and I turn Vicky's senses outward, seeing enemy contact appx. 500 meters, anomalous energy signatures detected, threat assessment unknown uh-oh. In Titan battle-speak, "anomalous" usually means "warp-spawn." Thade's voxing out Invictorus's threat assessments to the rest of the battlegroup as I ready the shields.
A Titan that "goes bad" is every Legion's worst nightmare, and it's happened more often than they care to admit. The Mechanicus installs a ridiculous amount of wards and purity seals on every loyalist Titan, and although I've 'fixed' some seals (a 'd' can become an 'l' pretty easily, so many of Vicky's purity seals defend against the evils of 'Warp-lemons'), when given psychic strength the wards keep the Warp at a safe distance. Then again, this is the Warp – no distance is truly 'safe.' That's why I insisted on bringing insurance.
My insurance is already moving, inferno cannon at 91.72% capacity, no target fixed. I share a philosophy with the Emperor-yappers: when in doubt, kill it with fire. The other 'Hounds are swinging towards the Warp-sighting, but they're still out of weapons range. I swing Vicky's ridiculously long snout at the threat, prepping to warning! Anomalous projectiles spotted, impact projected in THUMP.
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