I have to admit, after getting so invested in the friendship/murder between Fulgrim and Ferrus Manus, I’ve gotten curious about the Iron Hands. In all of my short story anthologies, there’s not a short story about the Iron Hands. I hadn’t even heard of the Iron Hands until I started the Horus Heresy. I wondered if they disappeared from history. Had Ferrus Manus lived long enough, he would have flipped Roboute Guilliman off with his Codex. It seems fitting that his sons would do the same and possibly go off into the sunset.
But evidently, the Iron Hands are around and kicking. After I saw new Black Library author Cameron Johnston tweet about his brand new Iron Hands short story, Faith in Iron, I pounced on it. So what are these guys up to? Are they anything like the Iron Hands from the 31st millennium? The answer to the latter question is such a resounding no, I can hear Iron Hands fans laughing at me from around the globe.
Those Damn Death Guard
It seems that I can’t get away from the Death Guard in anything these days.
This time, they’re on the agri planet Dundas II, wreaking havoc, spreading disease, the usual things. If that wasn’t bad enough, they’ve brought a new disease, one that specifically attacks cybernetics and all tech. They released it for funsies, and hey, the tech grows mold and infected sores! Yes, machines develop visible infections. A Tech Priest happens to be on this planet, and she gets infected. She also happens to develop a cure.
She sends a distress call out to anyone who is around, and a lone Iron Father of the Iron Hands answers her call. Iron Father Rathkugan, a techmarine of the Iron Hands, literally crashes onto the planet and commandeers a group of guardsmen to escort him on his mission.
The story divides between the points of view of the Tech Priest and the Captain of the guardsmen. We get to see from the Captain’s point of view how awful it is to work with a Space Marine. Rathkugan definitely has all of his father’s temperament and patience, that’s for sure. He gets impatient with his escorts in their inability to keep pace with him and gets frustrated when they dare ask a question. In the end, when he rescues the Tech Priest, he tells his escorts good-bye and good luck, because we’re peacing out now. Oh bee tee dubs, this planet is going to fall sooner or later. It’s not worth the Imperium’s resources to save. We’re off to save a forge world from this disease now. Later!
Now that I think about it, I’m not sure how I could have been expecting this to go any other way.
Captain Winters is at first angry, but then he realizes that “things couldn’t get much worse than being drawn into a Space Marine’s mission.” Sad to say, he’d rather die fighting the enemy his way than risking death with a Space Marine. The life of the guard, AMIRITE?
Even more interesting is the viewpoint from the Tech Priest, Virdan Shale. Every decision the Iron Hand makes, she nods her head and declares it logical. It’s a little sad about the guard, but what you gonna do? I mean, when it comes to the Guard, “they were the millions of minor cogs that kept everything else moving.”
How does that introduction to WH40k go? To be a man in this time is to be one of untold billions. In other words, no one cares about you.
So the Iron Hands Are Taking the Whole “Iron Hand” Thing Literally, eh?
Since Rathkugan is a techmarine, it totally makes sense that most of him is, um, not human. I didn’t think much of it. So imagine my surprise when he boards his Thunderhawk with Shale to leave the planet and ALL of the Iron Hands on board have cybernetic arms.
Remember, I said earlier that I never heard of the Iron Hands until I started the Horus Heresy series. My knowledge of the Iron Hands is only from that series and Ferrus Manus’ primarch novel. I just had no idea that ten thousand years later, the Iron Hands would try to emulate their father in the most literal way possible.
Yes, Ferrus Manus had arms and eyes of living metal. Yes, his name literally means “iron hand.” We’re all aware of how WH40k is as subtle as a 2×4 to the face. Even knowing all that, I was still surprised by the Iron Hands going Mechanicus-lite.
I wonder what Ferrus Manus would think if he saw them now. Then again, he’d probably just huff and say, “Whatever,” as he stomps off.
At least now I know how the Iron Hands are doing during this post-rift era. It’s also nice to know that they are just as kind and temperamental as their father. Of that, he would be proud.