Krak-Lance

In the grim darkness of the far future, man is used up by his own weapon.

Across a galactic realm of tenhundredthousand worlds and voidholms without number, human tongues tell an archaic tale of the brave hero who laid down his own life in service to master or country, or to kith and kin. This martial archetype may have died to protect his home or to exact vengeance upon a hated foe of superior might, and he may have slain his enemy or bought his comrades time by his selfless deed. The details vary greatly, and it will often be part of a larger myth cycle, one rivetting episode among others. But the story is always the same at its core, for it is the never-dying myth of the self-sacrificing warrior, a primordial saga that reverberates in the hearts of men, women and children alike, for they all know it to be true, deep down in their very blood and bones. This has happened innumerable times before, and will keep occuring for as long as man draws breath. For as long as life exists.

After all, hardship and struggle remain an integral part of the human condition, born out of a harsh universe of limited resources where might makes right. This primitive peril and adventure has never once died in the human heart, for even at the peak of human power and prosperity during the Dark Age of Technology did man venture boldly into the unknown, willing to lay down his own life to break new ground across the stars and protect his family and fellow settlers from unspeakable terrors. Even on the wealthiest and safest of worlds had this spirit of self-sacrifice not died, for there has always been firemen and volunteers of courage that throw themselves into danger to save others during disasters. Bravery may ever come to the fore in trying times, however brief they may be.

Likewise, a more peaceful and less intense form of self-sacrifice held sway among many of the most intrepid members of the human species during this long-lost golden age, for did they not willingly dedicate their long lives to ceaseless research and scientific toil and discovery when they could could have easily kicked back and relaxed instead, thus whiling away their allotted centuries in a morass of idle plenty? The stubborn spirit of the hero who offers up himself for a higher cause truly do lives on in man, and may be glimpsed at work virtually anywhere if one knows what to look for, even if its example is often less stark and direct than the sight of a valiant mortal who throws himself bodily before the blazing mouths of enemy guns in order to allow his brothers in arms to conquer a fortified hostile war-nest.

This innate potential for heroic deed and heroic death, in spite of fear and the biological drive for self-preservation, is present in virtually any sentient species to be found across the teeming Milky Way galaxy, for none of them had the idyllic luxury to evolve in an environment bereft of violence and danger. Some of them may have built paradises for themselves, but they always originated from harrowing trials and strife. Sometimes, mad bravery may prove the best way to overcome and survive a hopeless situation, and even if the gutsy martyr did not live to tell of the tale, their kin may very well have been saved by the hero's bold action and defiance of death itself.

Such spirited deeds and scorn for both life and death have always been highly sought after and praised by rulers and their hosts, for such unlikely action can swing the course of conflict and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Naturally, the rewarding of heroics with material benefits and immortal fame in story and song will serve as both a bait and incentive to encourage others to follow the example of that plucky man of action or heroine who everyone looks up to for their reckless daring. Propaganda is usually built upon shaming or inspiring your own side with the worthy deeds of outstanding warriors and other heroes, or by summoning wrath and bitter hatred for the enemy by telling tales of his worst atrocities, regardless of the truth behind such narratives. Fostering a sense of danger will in itself encourage the desired response from populace and military alike, thereby mustering support, strengthening morale and bolstering the war effort both on the line of fire and at the home front.

Yet an overwhelming threat may at worst engender despair, doomsaying and defeatism among many on your side. Such creeping malaise is best checked with unexpected success, and failing that a second best alternative would be the remarkable heroism of one's own warriors when faced with dreadful odds. After all, everyone respects strength and daring. And so human tales of audacious servo-hackers, clankwreckers, infiltrating saboteurs and selfless guerilla warriors flourished during the devastating war against the Cybernetic Revolt launched by man's former servants. Some of these machine war legends have been passed down in distorted form through eighteenthousand years of unsteady human deterioration across the stars. Such sagas have usually been bastardized in forgotten eras by unknown storytellers, yet a hard kernel of truth still remains, around which the malleable narrative is ever re-spun through centuries upon centuries of tinkering oral tradition.

One type of the most ancient legends that is still heard on tens of thousands of worlds and millions of voidholms, is that of humble men, women and children who charge straight into the lethal arms of the Men of Iron, armed with nothing but simple spears and suicidal demolition charges. The sight of such forlorn hopes must have branded themselves onto the collective memories of innumerable human cultures, and their faded imprint is still etched onto the vast flora of myths and legends that abound across the Imperium of Man. Yet their sheer longevity through turbulent aeons may have been aided by certain contemporary visual refreshing keeping the deed relevant in the minds of storytelling humanity, for such desperate means are still commonplace in the star-spanning domains of the God-Emperor of Holy Terra.

Aside from explosive belts employed by the Human Bombs of the Penal Legions, there exist a plethora of self-destructive arms throughout the Imperium. For instance, the advanced technology behind plasma weaponry is poorly understood, and any wielder of such devices of techno-sorcery runs a high risk of dying a gruesome death in superheated plasma, should their armament overheat. Similar dangers abound with all manner of sophisticated weapon systems, many of which can no longer be produced anew by ignorant man. At the other end of the technological spectrum can be found such crude and cheap devices, that activating them will engulf the wearer in the flaming shockwave of their single-use weapon.

One such piece of military equipment is the noble krak-lance, which is inhabited by the most simple of machine-spirits, for its make is exceedingly straightforward and it requires only a short litany to soothe and activate. This lunge mine is a common weapon of the Astra Militarum, as well as uncounted Planetary Defence Forces and Voidholm Militias alike. A krak-lance is a suicidal anti-tank weapon for infantry forces. It constitutes a rudimentary piece of equipment, being nought but a conical hollow charge anti-tank mine attached to a shaft. Its operation in the field consists of the user pulling out the safety pin to arm the high explosive charge, and then rushing forward to thrust the mine against an enemy vehicle or heavy infantryman in the same manner as one would do in a bayonet charge. If the strike is true, the death-spear will blow up its user and hopefully also the armoured foe, Emperor willing.

This primitive item in the Imperial arsenal is a child of many names, with various patterns existing throughout the wide-reaching astral realm of the Imperator. Its design is always simple and cheap in order to allow for ease of mass-production, and it is a weapon as expendable as the troopers that wield it. As with so many other depraved tools of self-sacrifice upon the battlefield, the stick o' martyrs do not seem to have been used at all by Imperial forces during the Great Crusade of M30, though the krak-lance may possibly have been used by some rundown, ragtag militias in the Unification Wars on parched Terra. Instead, such crude armaments as the hastam et hostia only entered Imperial service in the darkest hours of desperation during long since forgotten wars in millennia past, and the widow rod eventually became standard fare for ever larger portions of the regressing Imperial Guard and local garrison forces.

The one-use yari is issued by the Departmento Munitorum to millions of Astra Militarum regiments every Terran standard year. The krak-lance is a fine expression of the widely held cult of the offensive that is so dominant in Imperial military doctrine, for it requires the soldier to charge into close-quarters combat with self-denying bravery and forcefully ram the piercing thunderbolt against some of the deadliest ground weapon systems deployed by the enemies of mankind. Such sacrificial spearmen stand as a testament to how utterly desensitized man has become in the dark future, for man routinely sends out fellow man with suicide weaponry against his many foes without even blinking.

After all, the sacrifice of the self is a fundamental creed in Imperial modes of thinking, and what better way to demonstrate your complete reverence and allegience to the sacred rule of His Divine Majesty and the Emperor's appointed deputies, than to charge the foe with a suicide doru in hand, and with no hope of surviving even if you land a killing blow and win the martial contest? Some Imperial commanders of a suspiciously pragmatic mindset have occasionally voiced their doubts over the military value of thrust-bombs, yet their borderline heretical protestations against claimed inefficiency are doomed to be quenched by every high-ranking and right-thinking worshipper of the God-Emperor in close vicinity. For at the end of the day, this stock item in the Imperial Guard arsenal is more a proof of the soldiers' eager loyalty unto death, than it is a reliably effective weapon system. No army can conquer the galaxy, but faith can overturn the universe.

And surely self-destructive displays of valour and die-hard loyalism are to be encouraged among the rank and file, just as it is to be praised everywhere they occur within the Imperium of Man? It is better to die for the Emperor than to live for yourself. And why should we discourage virtuous self-sacrifice of our warriors when the blood of martyrs has enabled His cosmic dominion to last without interruption for over ten thousand years? Clearly, we must allow true servants of the God-Emperor the chance to die a heroic death which will establish their loyalist convictions beyond the shadow of a doubt. Let us purify mankind.

After all, refusal to bear the anti-armour krak-lance is a dead giveaway sign of treacherous deviancy and thought of self, all abominable sins! Indeed, even better than a summary execution to set an example and uphold unit discipline at the front, may be the blessed opportunity to cruelly torture the wretch and find out if any relatives, neighbours or comrades of theirs are involved in wider plots against the shining light of Imperial rule. And so the lunge mine remains a trusty lithmus test for loyalty among Imperial infantrymen, as they grip this anti-vehicle weapon that is also used against heavily armoured infantry and light makeshift fortifications in urban warfare and shipboard purges. Some who think too much might sneer at the callous waste of life by having quirites blowing themselves apart just to take down a barricaded door or blast through a wall inside a building, yet their exemplary devotion to the Terran Imperator and visible obedience to their masters and betters will inspire fortitude in their fellow soldiers, thus feeding a virtuous cycle of courage and honour.

Thus the krak-lance remains a common piece of wargear in the armoury of the Astra Militarum and numberless local Planetary Defence Forces and Voidholm Militias across the interstellar realms of the Master of Mankind. This crude suicide stick stand as a roaring witness to the Imperium of Man's propensity toward throwing bodies at a problem with an unmoved heart of stone, as the corrupt and indifferent grey bureacrats of the Adeptus Terra juggles vast numbers of billions of human lives at a time, all part of a broken calculation to feed the ravenous meatgrinder of endless wars. All an everyday sacrifice upon the altar of war for the lord of hosts and leader of the people. All fuel for that Imperial fire which must never go out.

Such are futile deaths of countless soldiers of the Imperium, all cannon fodder sent into grinding wars of attrition under alien suns, never to return home. No wonder recruitment into the Astra Militarum is often accompanied by both communal celebration and funerary rituals within the clan or kinsgroup for the local men, women and children who are called under arms to Imperial service. Exceedingly few will die in peaceful retirement out of uniform, much less return to their homeworld or voidholm of birth from distant war zones.

And so warriors sworn to die for their species and lord will grip shafts tipped with heavy bombs far more potent than any ordinary explosive lance used by Rough Riders. These footsoldiers' issued spears are all demented weapons, born out of desperation in bygone conflicts, yet their horror and violence is not dimmed in the slightest by their ancient origin and storied tradtion. Thus the doughty men-at-arms will shout their battlecry to the heavens, their throats dry from dust and smoke. They will yell at the top of their lungs, with blood pumping loudly in their ears and adrenaline setting them on edge: For the Emperor! Their warcry will resound, yet often their earnest last words will be swallowed by an orchestra of death and ruination, for the deafening cacophony of war will rip apart words and minds alike.

In this din, the fanatic spearmen will run as fast as they can, in an insane onrush through fire and shrapnel. They will race each other in degenerate contest to the looming target, even as it vomits death and mutilation around it without abandon. Maybe some of them will even make it to their target, and maybe their sacrifice will bite with lethal power into the hated enemy. Perhaps. Their death, however, is almost assured, for the directed detonation of the krak-lance carries a powerful backwash that is almost guaranteed to doom its carrier. Even when triumphant, they will lie dead on the ground by suicide, their bodies blasted apart, their crushed innards leaking through ragged clothing, their eyes glazed and unseeing. And so on thousands upon thousands of embattled worlds and voidholms, Imperial infantry can be seen charging against firespitting enemy vehicles and plated brutes with krak mines mounted upon long handles, as if plucked out of a nightmare vision of primordial hunters swarming hulking behemoths with spears.

Such hellish savagery reveals at last the true face of the Imperium of Man, for under its gilt sacral mask of defending humanity against a galaxy full of hostile monsters, can be seen a monster in its own right, a bloodthirsty predator on the prowl, a raging zealot willing to sacrifice everything and everyone in order to achieve its primitive goals. Its propaganda may glory in its martyred heroes, for the rulers always want the ruled to praise them, yet its bottomless depravity will never end, for the Imperium of Man will trample human life underfoot and take the self-sacrifice of its subjects for given. The terror will never end. The carnage will never end.

If they are lucky, then a rare few quirites who fell for their own krak-lances will pass into legend, their famed deeds destined to join human folklore's tales of self-killing warriors of the misty past, joining the ranks of ancient heroes who gave up their own lives in the greater struggle against towering foes and metal behemoths. This alone may be their legacy.

And so crude tools of suicidal combat will be employed in default methods by an interstellar tyranny of a million worlds and countless voidholms. Here, the degraded state of man means that he will willingly slay himself in order to bring down his enemy, in a baleful spiral of degeneration and bloodshed grinding ever lower into the pit of oblivion man finds himself mired in, without a hope of clawing himself out of.

For in the Age of Imperium, man has become as expendable as the ammunition he carries in a magazine.

All this transpires, in a ruthless empire decaying among the stars.

In a fevered time of unending evil and slaughter.

In an insane epoch where hope has long since perished.

Such is man's lot in the darkest of futures, trapped in an arena of raging mortals where only the screams of those about to die can be heard on the wind. The screams of damned.

And the laughter of thirsting gods.