An Ironstrider Ballistarius (pl. Ironstrider Ballistarii) is a Skitarii walker unit of the Adeptus Mechanicus based upon the Ironstrider Engine. They are peerless marksmen, and are commonly found stalking on the fringes of a Skitarii maniple. It is the role of Ironstrider Ballistarii to hunt down enemy commanders and spiritual leaders, knowing that to slay such individuals is an efficient way to degrade an enemy force's operative capabilities.
Equally capable of disabling the war engines of the enemy, these unmatched riflemen will trample down those who block their passage until they have the perfect vantage point for their shot. They are truly indefatigable foes, relentless in pursuit of the perfect ranged kill. Given the extensive data the Adeptus Mechanicus keeps on the flaws of every species and war construct they have encountered, it is small wonder the Ballistarii achieve such feats of marksmanship upon every battlefield they stride.
Striding upon the fringes of a Skitarii maniple or picking their way into a firing position, the Ironstrider Ballistarii are fast-moving sharpshooters. The distinctive shape of the Ironstrider Ballistarii strikes fear into the heart of xenos, Renegade and Imperial commander alike. Marksmen beyond compare, Ballistarii have at their command the anatomical data, defensive capabilities and weaknesses of every race the Adeptus Mechanicus has encountered. Tirelessly searching the galaxy for high-value targets alongside their Skitarii Ranger escorts, Ballistarii stalk from ochre mists with their oculist lenses flaring. To fall under the azure beam of their omnispex is to have but a heartbeat left to live. For a Ballistarius sniper, making a killshot is as easy and as natural as drawing breath.
Ironstrider Ballistarii are mounted upon the same long-legged walkers as their Sydonian Dragoon counterparts, and are able to walk the most hostile of terrain for years on end without rest. The monotask Servitor charged with the duty of steering the Ironstrider is often the first component to fail, its long-suffering body finally wheezing its last. Upon such occasions the Ironstrider will keep pacing out into the hinterlands on its last heading. Such a Ballistarius only be repaired by the ministrations of a Tech-priest upon a grav-bier who will excise the dead flesh and install a replacement even as the Ironstrider Engine walks on. The Ironstrider will later be returned to duty as if nothing had happened, the remains of the former incumbent cast into the dust without comment.
When a squadron of Ironstrider Ballistarii near a war zone, the sum total of the Adeptus Mechanicus' knowledge about that enemy's leader-figures is downlinked into their data-banks. Target reticules flicker and datagheists glow, each searching for a thousand different iterations of the enemy commander-form's silhouette. When a positive ident is achieved, that Ballistarius will be rewarded with the chime of a brass bell and an intravenous dump of hyperfocus stimulants. The information is quickly shared with the hunter's squadron, and their Ironstrider engines, formerly pounding across the battlefield at a fearsome pace, will slow to an exaggerated stalk. For a Sydonian Dragoon to attempt this would risk his steed toppling, but the gyroscopic stabilisers attached to each Ballistarius' Ironstrider engine compensate.
This gives the appearance that time has slowed down around the squadron as it lopes on the spot or creeps forwards with macabre grace. It is from this mobile but steady platform that the gunner takes his shot. With the power of Cognis heavy weaponry at his fingertips and the enemy's weak spots under his crosshairs, a Ballistarius could shoot through the hull of an enemy tank and still hit the vehicle's commander in the eye socket. Though it would never even occur to the Ballistarii to boast of such kills, their Tech-priest masters ensure their deadly accuracy is well known across the Imperium. Indeed, sharpshooting key enemy vehicles is only second in priority to hunting down enemy commanders, Heretic priests, or xenos warlords, for silencing such leaders can throw the foe's entire army into disarray.
The Ironstrider Engine
Taking his inspiration from the stilt-legged seekers of the Sydonian Mask, the Tech-priest Aldebrac Vingh perfected the Ironstrider Engine in the early 33rd Millennium. His achievement was profound indeed. The strange bipedal apparatus he invented is as close to a perpetual motion machine as the Adeptus Mechanicus have ever seen, its efficiency near to perfection. Acting as a dynamo as the Ironstrider walks, the miraculous design essentially powers itself. There are prototype models still circumnavigating the equator of Mars today. Sadly Vingh, never the most politically astute of his Tech-priest kin, was all but ostracised by his jealous colleagues, and never reaped any reward for his breakthrough invention.
After his mysterious death the design secrets behind the Ironstrider Engine were lost, and the concept of perpetual motion was abandoned. So it is that the Ironstriders of today are never switched off, lest their relentless Machine Spirit fade away forever. Thousands are put to use as mounts in the Skitarii cohorts, their riders lowered into the saddles of ever-circling 'striders by articulated cranes that overlook the Iron Stables. Others are guided onto industrial treadmills and cog-steps where they pound away in their hundreds, used to power inefficient but far deadlier machineries of destruction. Such is the way of the Tech-priest; to turn a work of genius into a weapon, to forge from an exquisite design something that is no longer understood, yet can be replicated and put to use in the Mechanicus' never-ending war effort.
- Ironstrider Cavalier - A Skitarii Legion's Ironstriders will often be mindlinked to to one another, their slave-servitor crewmen instinctively bound together in the manner of stallions in a galloping herd. Their purpose is not like that of traditional cavalry, whose thunderous charges can roll over an enemy's flank or turn the tide of a battle with a determined forward assault. Instead, Ironstrider Cavaliers are implanted with the identity of a specific individual, usually a commander, psyker or other such leader figure, and driven to slay their target no matter the cost. Such is the density of their mental link that the Cavalier formation's Sydonian Dragoons will stalk around each other even in the midst of combat to allow their Ballistarii brethren a clear shot. Glory is of no concern -- only the utter destruction of the foe they have been sent to slay. An Ironstrider Cavalier formation typically consists of two units of Sydonian Dragoons working in conjunction with a single unit of Ironstrider Ballistarii.
- 1-6 Ironstrider Ballistarii
- Twin-linked Cognis Autocannon
- Twin-linked Cognis Lascannon (Optional Replacement for Cognis Autocannon)
- Broad Spectrum Data-Tether - Seen as the mouthpieces of the Tech-Priests, who in turn are the prophets of the Machine God himself, those honoured with bearing data-tethers are obeyed without hesitation by their reverent Skitarii comrades. The vehicle-mounted Broad Spectrum version projects a Tech-Priest's binaric bursts with such clarity that it seems he is amongst the ranks of the Skitarii himself. Imperatives delivered via such information relays are more potent and reliable than any other.
- Searchlight - Searchlights are often fitted to vehicles so that the foe cannot use darkness as an ally.
- Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus (8th Edition), pp. 52-53, 81
- Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus - Skitarii (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), pp. 29, 34, 36-37, 39, 62, 67