Mikkel sat by the fire and gazed into the distance as he puffed casually on his pipe. Thoughts of his home-world, filled his mind... the better days, the days before the invasion.
He started as he felt a gentle tug on his jerkin and the servos in his neck whirred as he looked down into the eyes of a young child.
"And what can I do for you, young sir?" he asked.
"Why are your hands shiny?" asked the child.
"If you tell me your name, I will share my story" replied Mikkel.
"I am Jonas" replied the boy as he sat down on the bench in front of Mikkel's stout chair.
"Well, Jonas" said Mikkel "I will tell you how I got shiny hands but I warn you... it is a very scary tale."
Jonas, with eyes wide, nodded for Mikkel to continue and the old Squat did just that...
It was a good twenty years since Mikkel had stood on his home world and watched the Ark ships depart. He knew what was required of him and he knew how to do what he was good at; make war. He was the leader of a small brotherhood of maybe thirty warriors; both male and female and it was his responsibility to ensure that they all made the encroaching aliens pay for every inch of Squat territory with as much blood as possible. Mikkel knew that it didn't matter where he was positioned or what he was protecting and he knew that he would be meeting his ancestors soon. His brotherhood were of the same reason... they would not be leaving their home-world; they were here to blaze a trail into the history books and sell their lives dearly.
A couple of weeks later, the skies turned black and the invasion began. The Tyranid advance organisms had already taken out the orbital defences and were now pouring down from the sky into the direct fire of a million magma batteries. The guns incinerated millions of pods but for every one destroyed, two reached the surface unharmed and released their wretched payloads. Soon Hormagaunts, Ripper swarms and Raveners were swarming over the surface of the planet. They met heavy resistance but were so plentiful that eventually, the surface was theirs and the Squat warriors were sealed in their fortresses awaiting their fate.
It was as if the Tyranids knew that the end was near because shortly after the final stronghold gates had been sealed shut, the big guys arrived... massive bio-titans, Mawlocks, Tervigons burst from massive bio-pods and began to hammer on the walls and burrow into the earth. Inside the Strongholds, the kings waited with their honour guards; encased in their strongest exo armour and surrounded by the remaining strength of the Squad warrior brotherhoods. Mikkel was there. the ten remaining members of his brotherhood were there too. He remembers the moment perfectly...
... then the floor erupted. A giant Mawlock burst into the chamber and was immediately set upon by the Hearthguard. Their massive power axes cleaving into the beast as it flailed it's fearsome claws around; disembowelling and beheading brave warriors with every sweep. More burrows erupted and smaller beasts leapt out. They were smaller versions of the Mawlock... they were Raveners and they raced towards the kings. Mikkel felt his martial pride well up in his chest as he shouted "BROTHERS! WITH ME!" before he sprinted towards the kings, his bolt pistol blazing as he ran. In moments, he was amongst the Raveners, slicing left and right with his power axe and selectively firing his pistol. He watched as a round disappeared into the eye of one of the beasts and exploded, showering its companions with brain matter. He dodged a scything talon and parried a further attack before cleaving through another beast's breastbone. He could taste the spores in the air and they tasted of damp and blood. He spat before charging into yet another beast but only managed two steps before he was overcome by agony. He looked down at the source of his pain and the stump of his wrist was where his hand should have been. He tried to bring his pistol to bear but it was too late; a talon burst through his flak armour at the shoulder and his pistol arm was lost. Mikkel watched, mesmerised as it tumbled through the air and disappeared into the maelstrom of bodies fighting desperately. The last thing Mikkel saw as he looked into the eye of his assailant was its head burst and at that point, the pain overwhelmed him and he gave into unconsciousness.
Mikkel paused in his story and returned to the present. He looked at the bench in front of him and there were now twenty children staring at him with wonderment. He took a draft of his pipe and smiled.
"And then" he said "the Valkyrie came to get me".
The children ghasped and with a broad grin, Mikkel continued with his story.
The home-world was lost. The kings were all but slain and the ion charges were set to blow. Unknown to Mikkel, the remaining Squat warriors had managed to stave off the Tyranid advance for long enough to evacuate the wounded and get them, along with the scribes to the escape ships that were still in safety in their launch tubes. Many of the wounded were in a critical condition with blood loss from amputations and acid burns being the most common injury. The medics worked tirelessly to stabilise the injured and as the doors closed behind them, they knew they were in for a very rough ride. Soon the ships had burst through the Tyranid blockade and out into space. They couldn't head directly for the rendezvous point because some of the wounded would die if they didn't get urgent attention soon; the medics were experts in their field but some of the injured were beyond their help. It was then that the pilot decided to chance his luck and divert the rescue ships towards mechanicus space.
When Mikkel woke up, he felt strange. He was restrained on a gurney and felt groggy.
"What's going on!?" he asked urgently as he struggled with his bonds. A face he knew appeared; Freya the medic from his brotherhood.
"You are safe, sergeant... but you have had to have extensive surgery. You are being restrained until tests have been carried out and will be released as soon as they are finished" said Freya.
"What tests... what surgery?!" Mikkel responded as he began to get angry "I want out!" he screamed as one of his restraints burst open and he was shocked to see a robotic hand at the end of his arm. He immediately stopped struggling and stared first at his hand and then at Freya. Confused, he asked Freya "what have you done?!"
"Not me, sergeant" she replied as she gestured towards a cloaked figure in the shadows "them".
The Mechanicus stepped forward and nodded "Abhuman; Homo-Rotundus is repaired" it said flatly with a synthetically generated voice "tests will be complete in thirteen point seven seconds".
Mikkel lay back and listened to the strange mechanical sounds all around him. He dreaded thinking about what he had become. He dreaded thinking that he had failed in his mission and should be feasting in the halls of his ancestors instead of lying in surgery, alive.
"Tests complete" said the Mechanicus as it turned on its heels and clanked out of the room without emotion or care.
"Let me help you" said Freya as she unstrapped Mikkel from the gurney. "I'll be blunt... you lost both legs and both arms... part of your shoulder and neck too."
"Oh" replied Mikkel in a stunned reply.
"You were one of the lucky ones" replied Freya "the chemical burns and spore ingestion has caused wounds Like I could never imagine."
"And what of the home-world?" asked Mikkel.
"Gone" replied Freya with a faraway look on her face but she snapped to before saying "but she went out like a dying sun and utterly destroyed the enemy fleet."
"So it wasn't for nought then?" Asked Mikkel.
"The ancestors will be greeting the fallen with mead and cheers in their halls tonight!" replied Freya.
"Then let's get to the Arks and join them in the toast... I am parched and need some cheer!" said Mikkel as he stared at his hand, flexing his metallic fingers while he did so... "I'm sure I'll get used to these" he said to himself.
Mikkel paused and noticed that the children sat around him were clapping and one of them had come over to him and was holding his metal hand. Mikkel smiled and looked at the child's face. It was full of awe.
"And that" said Mikkel, "is how I got my metal hands... and legs too!"
"More!" cried the children but Mikkel was tired. He got to his feet and said to the children "not now, young 'uns... I am tired but thanks to the Ancestors and their guidance, there will be plenty of time for stories another day."
With that, he slowly made his way out into the throng of the feasting hall and merged with the revellers.