They’re Aboard – 1

This is the unofficial story of Reserve Imperial Guardsman Kye Cromp. When the defenders of the massive warship Honorable Action die to the boarding swarms of monsters, Kye’s journey to escape will bring him face-to-face with horror.

The First Hour

Nothing went right for Reserve Guardsman Kye Cromp, one person among many in the Guard. The decks thrum to the beat of cannon fire, the bass ‘whomp’ of missiles discharging into space. Every time the macro munitions fire, Kye’s teeth rattle no matter how hard he clenches them. The last half-hour has been nonstop emergency.

He hurries past servitor cyborg laborers that click dumbly, goggled storm troopers who wear fear on thin lips, and other sweating reserve crew pulling carts much like his. Under glaring lights, Kye cuts a corner to save a few seconds off of his run. Instead, he almost tips the crate of flak canisters on his way around the edge. His cart bumps into Urz Dunnley’s, delaying them both. Other couriers weave around them with curses.

“Bloody hell! Let’s do it, Cromp!” Urz’s shout barely makes it above the din of the hall.

“Roger that, meatsack.” Kye has hopes to say that, but there is only so much air in the recycler before Urz Dunnley disappears into the mass of uniforms and carts.

Kye ran on with little breath to spare to his gun battery assignment. Three meters tall, a broad “0103” over the door let anyone within 50 meters know this is their destination. The barrier bore grease and oil stains no amount of scrubbing would alleviate. Despite these marks being the product of the ship’s untold millennia of service, the commissars made sure the guardsmen put effort into their removal.

He took the time to catch his wind while pounding feebly on the meter-thick barrier. “Come… On… Lazy…” he says, smacking his gloves a few more times. “If… You…”

Gates twice Kye’s size slam up into holding clamps. Kye winces at the flashing muzzle fire lighting the entire compartment despite the smoke. Before him glowers a member of the crew who’s brow would smack the door frame should he ever have the urge to stand on his toes. Ogryn crossbreed, that one.

Dropping all of his ‘r’s, he drawls, “About very time, crewman Cromp.” The giant-of-a-gunnery sergeant grabs the cart. He hefts it over to the shell hopper, dumping 15-kilo explosives into the hungering bullet sorter. Shoving the platform back to Kye, the bonehead reaches for a lever. “We need more ready!” is his bellow to Kye. Blast doors smash shut in front of Kye’s nose.

Turning, Kye’s replacement, another of the refill gang, another corporal whose name Kye long forgot. Were they making everyone a corporal now? This one has short-cropped hair and too much spring in their step coming up the hall at him through the scrambling drove of personnel. Dozens of other carts clamber along to other painted entryways that snap open and shut like the mouths of a forever consuming beast.

Regardless, back Kye goes, huffing and puffing to the Ammunitorium. Sweat stinks through the uniforms everyone is wearing. The reek mingles with bullet grease and hinge oils and firing smog. His eyes burn from the dripping sourness leaking from his streaming forehead.

Their captain voxes shipwide through Honorable Action, “Hold steady, by the Emperor! Make humanity proud this day!” She has been saying things like that since first contact. Kye doubts it’s anything other than a recorded euphemism on autoplay.

Vaults making up the Ammunitorium carry a din no better than the corridors. Possibly worse, with the slam of shell packers and squeal of conveyor belts working above capacity. Hills of brass casings provide a cornucopia of different gauges and purposes. Boxes of blasting powder and plastic explosive break all safety regulations, laying haphazardly over the canyons of machinery. Fervent menials struggle to keep up the demands of their overseers and the jostling masses of crew. Floating servo-skulls plow furrows in the inky haze, their red eye sockets pretending to be lighthouses for the ship’s conscripted. No one appears in control, the rhythm of production breaks repeatedly, but the war gears continue their regurgitation of needed materiel.

Deck slaves jingle their chains when they mound more flak cans onto Kye’s cart. He sees Urz reloading too, likely having made it to his own gun mounting and again before Kye has had time to. Show off. Kye has no say in how far away his assigned compartment is from the Ammunitorium! He nonetheless calls as if at market to the bullet peasants for his rightful share of shot.

The last canister sliding into place, Kye shoves his cart away and through the throng of reservists. Pipes, gantries, and hammering case-fillers have on them painted white arrows to guide his and the hundreds of other loaders back the way they’d come. Between the massive Ammunitorium entryway, he hardly notices the increased cadence of turret fire. His teeth are looking to break anyway at this rate. Hearing’s already a lost cause.

After passing the hundreds of weapons bay alcoves, exchanging curses with those in his way, he repeats the pounding at the flak cannon door. Kye’s cargo is taken away to the assembly as he works a massage to get the acid out of his legs.

The ship vox says, “Prepare for impact!

That is new. That is new! Kye glances up in astonishment. The enemy, whatever it is, has broken through the vanguard of the fleet? Or maybe a flanking maneuver? As what little he understands of void warfare, the Honorable Action is to be at a secondary screen for the supply ships in the rear! It, along with at least a dozen other spacecraft, were a picket intercepting anything the first, second, or third lines failed to catch. At least, that’s what the scuttlebutt was. It didn’t bode well for –

Kye doubles over the carrier crushing into his belly. The gunnery sergeant yells at him, but he loses his comprehension at the sudden nausea. Kye drops, the act saving him from tumbling as everyone else on the gun deck lose their feet. A huge, toneless boom reminds Kye of a brawl he had with a few other drunken guardsmen not so long ago; a bloody fist striking a slack face is too awfully similar.

More impacts actively shift the gravity, causing unidentified guardsmen and crew to gasp aloud where they’d collapsed, an executable offense for weakness. No one cares. He supposes the slaps against the armor hull carry enough force to push the colossal ship. A wet echoing through the floor like the acid rain of his homeworld hitting a thin piece of ceramite pervades. At first Kye thinks it must be a water leak. He corrects himself, realizing the sound is coming from the outermost direction of the ship where such vital systems were absent.

Over the shouts of distress and agitation of soldiers regaining their feet comes the notice that fills Kye’s aching stomach with ice: “They’re abroad.

Continued in the second hour.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited:

Published by

Jimmy Chattin

Processor of data, applier of patterns, maker of games and stories.

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