( Land Raider by Rick Priestley (White Dwarf 105))

LAND RAIDER

From the beginning of time, man has believed that the stars control his fate. Through their movements, people have seen future events and intimations of the will of their gods. In the forty-first millennium, billions still watch the sky fearfully, searching for a portent of doom. But in this time, they have reason to fear. From the stars come ships, some to trade, many to wage war. Most feared of all are the ships of the Legiones Astartes, gravid with their cargo of death - the Land Raiders of the Space Marines, bursting upon the unsuspecting, roaring like thunder, burning all before them.

The Space Marines are rightly feared by ordinary folk, for their presence signifies death as surely as the plague bells of Phobos. The images of the Space Marines and the Land Raider Battle Tank are forever meshed in the popular imagination. In some cultures, the vehicles are portrayed as Chariots of Destruction ridden upon the solar winds by the Angels of Death, poised throughout the galaxy, ready to crush the serpent of Chaos.

Mysticism is an important part of everyday life in the Imperium. A twentieth century man might recognise in the Land Raider nothing more than a huge battle tank, a mere engine of war. But the men of the forty-first millennium are wiser. They know that every Land Raider has its own spirit, and its own destiny.

Whether a Land Raider is built in the Martian weapon-shops of the Adeptus Mechanicus or in the armouries of the Space Marines, its purity and spiritual welfare are given as much attention at every stage of construction as its mechanical aspects. A wildcat (or other locally-obtainable predator) is sacrificed within its ceramite framework. Armoured panels are inscribed with runes of protection as they are reverently bolted in place. Components are checked and blessed before assembly. As each Land Raider grinds towards the end of the production line, preparations are made for the Ceremony of Commission.

Land Raiders are delivered to the Space Marines, the Imperial Guard, the Inquisition, the Adeptus Arbites, to certain Rogue Traders and to other, more secret and obscure Imperial bodies. Space Marine Land Raiders are handed over to a Techmarine, or Frater Astrotechnicus to use the proper title. In other cases, it will be accompanied to its new home by an Adeptus Mechanicus Technomat - a human machine programmed with the knowledge required to service his charge. For many technicians, the commission represents the culmination of years of training; learning how to divine the runes of engineering, memorising the liturgy of maintenance, and studying the routine of service.

If a Marine Land Raider should be lost, its Techmarine offer prayers of mourning for its spirit. If a Techmarine is slain, hi Land Raider must be reconsecrated by one of his technical brethren. In the field, this is often done simply by taking ring bearing the vehicle's serial runes from the dead Techmarine, and the full reconsecration takes place later.

THE LAND RAIDER IN BATTLE

The Land Raider is ideally suited to the style of warfare favoured by Space Marines. Like the Marines themselves, the vehicle is capable of fighting in almost any environment. The Land Raider also offers protection and transport for a squad of troops, as well as carrying many of their supplies and backup equipment. On Death Worlds and in other harsh environments, the Land Raider becomes a vital life-support unit as well as a fighting machine.

In battle, the squad normally disembark, leaving the Land Raider and its Techmarine crew to fight independently. Its adaptability allows it to fight in a variety of roles. Where appropriate, a single Land Raider or a small group will be sent forward with troops in order to provide covering fire and support. On other occasions, Land Raiders from several companies are brought together into huge armoured formations, ready to do battle with enemy vehicles or defences.

Brother-Captain Fragman's eyes widened as the machine crested the rise behind the advancing Eldar. Once, it had clearly been a Land Raider, but now it was scarcely recognisable. Its codex-standard camouflage had been painted over with a garish array of stripes, dots and multicoloured lozenges, and gaily coloured bunting was festooned from every point. A huge banner bore the foul and decadent devices of a masque of Eldar Harlequins, and some of their blurred shapes could be seen dancing around the machine as is lumbered forward.

"Heresy!" he howled. "Abomination! Advance, Three Company. and take that vehicle! Honour the battle-gear of the dead it is written! Avenge this insult!"

The four las-cannon began to fire as a hundred Star Leopards broke into a charge. Many died, but they knew they could not all be stopped. The battle might be lost, but the insult would be avenged.

LAND RAIDER CAMO SCHEMES

Marines are warriors of a wholly practical devotional order. Whilst their endless liturgies and prayer may appear, to the uninitiated, to be mere superstition, they serve an important and real function. For example, while preserving the accumulated experience of millennia, the doctrinal lore of camouflage schemes is not so dogmatic as to prevent the adoption of appropriate or innovative colours and patterns where appropriate. So, while there are innumerable official or approved colour schemes, there are also many which have been evolved by individual chapters to meet their particular requirements in certain situations.

Some Marine chapters adhere rigidly to the traditional patterns. The chapter of the Red Scorpions not only sticks strictly to the lore of camouflage handed down from their original founding and embodied in the Codex Imperialis, but views any deviance from this practice as tantamount to heresy. This has led to the Red Scorpions actually refusing to fight alongside other Marine chapters on a number of occasions - one of the reasons why they were mostly confined to space lane duties during the Badab War. The Commanders of the Imperial Guard are less stringent about such things than Marines, and will sometimes design their own schemes for a specific campaign.

Wherever they may be serving, Land Raiders may sometimes appear garish in comparison to the camouflage schemes evolved for use in the limited range of combat environments offered by twentieth-century Earth. A Land Raider camouflaged for use in the spectacular cobalt chromate deserts of Galen V, for instance, would be highly conspicuous in a yellow-brown silicone oxide desert beneath Earth's yellow sun. Many schemes show no attempt at camouflage as such, but consist of solid heraldic colours proclaiming the identity of the occupants as surely as the shield of a medieval knight. Indeed, there are some Marine chapters whose tradition actually forbids the use of camouflage on the grounds that "the colours of cowardice" are wholly inappropriate to a true warrior. This attitude, although by no means rare amongst the Legiones Astartes, is not officially recognised and is not embodied within the ancient Codex lmperialis.

Most strange of all are the fully pictorial designs painted onto Land Raiders both by Marines. These take the form of actual paintings of battle scenes or of famous events in the history of the unit concerned. Although this is a spectacular example of vehicle decoration, machines rarely enter the battle zone wearing such lavish paint schemes.