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Ma'nath was jinking before the comm-message ended. The world exploded around him as the distant Chaos titan opened fire with its Mega-Bolter, turning the ground into a storm of explosions.
The Hammerhead roared out, somehow undamaged. The turret-gunner took aim and fired again, the super-sonic slug cracking against the distant daemon-engine's shields. Three more Hammerheads in the formation fired, and the shields of the Chaos machine flashed white-hot with every impact.
The Warlord turned, roaring with daemonic hatred. It took aim with one massive cannon and fired. The ground shook, and Ma'nath winced as the detonation turned the world white. In Hammerhead two, the driver was whimpering as the blast burst his eardrums. The gunner in Hammerhead three had passed out.
Hammerheads four and six had vanished. There wasn't even any debris, just a crater sixty-yards across where they used to be.
They were closing fast now, and the first shot from Hammerhead five knocked down the final shield. The crew gave a cry of joy that was cut brutally short by the Mega-Bolter. Their port engine was blown off, and the Hammerhead skidded to a stop.
"Get out!" Ma'nath screamed down the comm, "get out before it target-locks you!"
The words came too late. The crew turned as one and watched as, in a split-second, they were atomised by one of the carapace-mounted laser cannons. Bits of molten metal began to patter down around the squadron, amidst droplets of vapourised blood and bone.
Ma'nath's vehicle fired again, and was rewarded with a contact. Sparks and shrapnel roared off the machine's hide as the slug found a weakspot in the chassis. Hammerheads two and three fired, but failed to damage. Seven and eight struck the Quake Cannon, and seemed to damage it.
Now they were close, so close they could make out every foul rune, every madness-soaked gargoyle on the machine's body. The Mega-Bolter was roaring constantly now, and the machine tilted down to bring its turbo-lasers to bear. The Railguns fired constantly now, many scoring brutal hits to the Warlord. Then, with dispairing accuracy, all four weapons fired at once. Hammerhead seven and eight died together as the Quake Cannon gave them the same fate as four and six. Hammerheads two and three both took direct hits from the turbo-lasers, and became balls of flaming wreakedge in mid-flight.
Ma'nath and his crew were alone.
Desperately, he ordered his gunner to fire again, and was rewarded by an entire chunk of armour-plating, bigger than his tank, collapsing away from the death-machine. Screaming desperately for his men to fire again, the Hammerhead fired just before the Warlord could, and struck a plasma feed for the reactor.
The detonation was visible for miles.
It was three hours before Ma'Nath and the crew of Hammerhead one were recovered. They had survived, somehow, although their turret was gone. The Orca landed nearby, and Firewarriors assisted the bewildered crew onto the dropship.
Ma'Nath gave one, sorrowful look across the field where his companions had died, and knew this war was far from over. He turned and boarded the Orca, his vehicle just another metal corpse on the plains.