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 Second Hour
“All decks, all soldiery, arm yourselves to repel boarders. Servitors en route to supplement gunnery functions. All decks, all soldiery, do your duty.”
As a crewman wretches next to Kye, he somehow restrains himself from doing the same. Duty. They all knew it. The reserve crews who swabs decks in calm and service the vessel’s weapons have their training. They are members of the Imperial Guard, reserves or not. Born to defend humanity, charged with killing its enemies, and destined to die for it. All in the name off the God Emperor of Mankind. Now is their time.
Kye, a menial deliverer of ammunition a moment before, pulls out of his shock. Someone, Urz, is there, offering a hand up. “Let’s do this, Kye. Nothing like the present to earn the Emperor’s blessing!”
“You’ve enough of that for the rest of us.” Rising with what is the rest of his platoon, Kye runs with the corporal down the halls to their assigned armory.
At the crowd outside the unlocked room, Kye loses Urz Dunnley in the jostle. Lasguns, pistols, and heavy bolters pass overhead to equip everyone at speed.
“Discipline,” says the commissar. They must be standing on something to appear above the masses. “Keep your discipline, Guard! The Emperor protects those who believe in His name! Under the light of His Grace from the Holy Throne on Blessed Terra, we will kill His foes this day! You! I! We will prove our wretched selves worthy in His sight! And your discipline and your lasgun will deliver it!”
Kye thinks he hears something else filtering through the commissar’s motivational speech.
Clicking. It is definitely clicking. Kye wonders if his hearing has finally given out and the taps are only his bones and teeth rattling together. A trooper in front of him looks up. The clicking is coming from the ceiling.
A great groan pierces the din over in the busy armory ahead. Rising squeals of metal smother the shouts of crew under the collapsing room’s roof. Millennia-old dust blows back into the hall. Flickering lights bleach white one moment, then plunge into pitch blackness the next.
If only the luminaries would stay off.
In the intermittent brightness, pale monstrosities writhe, saliva-slick teeth shine, bone-things blur in stabbing swipes. All turns crimson from unlucky souls departing under falling beams and sheeting and their killers. The screams keep going. Kye realizes his voice echoes in the shrieking chorus. The commissar fires with reckless abandon into the charnel before they get sliced in two. Helmets, uniforms, limbs, and fluids are tossing in the air outside the armory, into the hall. One shape separates itself distinctly from the melee. It isn’t killing. Kye looks on in awe-struck paralysis and the thing gazes back. It sees him with such eyes…
Kye has to go.
“You! Cromp! There’s nothing we can do!” He gapes at Hara Laye, his messmate for the entirety of the trip, her face nearly pleading. The crowd yanks her away. Back towards the armory there is only carnage. He understands now. Weapons haven’t made it to Kye yet nor would they. He and the other Imperial Guard are worth little more than how fast their legs are carrying them. Kye joins the mob headed in the opposite direction from the approaching murders. Stampeding back down the corridor, boots aren’t the only sound hitting deck plate. Clicking, clomping, splashing, inhuman feet follow behind Kye. The sounds get louder. Closer.
Eyes popping out of his skull in fright, Kye tumbles rounding the corner back the way he came. He corrects himself, up and running hard. It hardly registers that he might have been, could still be, just another body on the floor, like those he is trampling on now.
A sign for the Ammunitorium fleets by overhead. Kye’s in through the monumental archway, racing with guardsmen he knows and does not know. Beasts crawl over walls and tubes to the slaves, shackles secure. They call so desperately then don’t anymore. He keeps going.
The soldier on the filling conveyor Kye was at an hour or so ago slips atop glossy shells. They tumble down, out of sight in the throng. Throbbing machinery keeps going. Xenos are on his level now, leaping into the mass of terrified crewmen. There are so few people to die now. Around a girder, Kye’s legs strain all the harder at the now-visible exit on the chamber’s other end.
Ahead, armed guardsmen shout at him, the group, to hurry, flailing their arms about. They shut up, anguished faces contorting into fright. Red laser beams illuminate airborne dust over Kye’s head, singeing his hair. The soldier in front of Kye – Guardsman Hara – twirls, screaming, grasping at the smoking hole in her chest. Kye shrieks. He crashes into the friendly fire casualty, rolling. On his back, Kye’s terror gets fueled by details more vulgar than his fevered imagination could ever produce. Brown and purple and white flesh consume the Imperials around him. Those persons who aren’t fleeing fast enough explode into pieces from rips stabs slashes bites.
A hand takes hold of his boot. A frantic glance horrifies him. It’s Urz! The roar of gunfire, animal snarls, and human death obscure whatever crying Corporal Dunnley is blubbering. In a spark of recall, Kye accepts that Hara was right. There is nothing he can do. The xenos come at them.
Kye kicks. A second kick loosens the hand holding him back. What happens, Kye doesn’t know. Can’t care for the fright.
Scrabbling on all fours, Kye hurries for the segmented bulkhead. He feels hot, rotting dew breath on the back of his neck. An unseen hand grabs Kye’s uniform, vaulting him over the threshold. The closing bulkhead hits the deck so hard Kye chips a tooth.
He can’t breath fast enough, laying there on the floor, hands shaking. Sweat stings his eyes and soaks his clothes. The butt of a lasrifle knocks the wind into Kye. A stranger among many jabs the gun into Kye’s rib cage again.
“Get up!” She says. “We have to go! Now! Take the thrice-damned flashlight.”
Gripping the rifle, Kye can only nod. Only then does he recognize his rescuer as the energetic corporal of his now ex-refill gang. He gets to his shivering feet while his savior hands gear to the other unequipped guardsmen.
Another soldier shakes her head, saying something about how they can’t believe they… They might have hit other guardsmen. Next to them is a trooper who carries a vox box. It blares garbled messages over whichever station the trooper tries. He hits a channel of only screams. Turning the box off, to the gathering he says, “We’re headed to the starboard muster and docking hangar. The last transmission coming through said they’ve fortified the yard. And non-engaged personnel in our neck of the ship are to report there.”
Members of the group pose many questions to the guardsman who can only shrug. “It’s the best we got.” He gives his name and introduces the corporal. Kye forgets both their names immediately. ‘Boss’ and ‘Vox Boy’ will have to do.
Boss is the highest rank so appoints squad positions to the rag-tag allotment. Kye gets the honor of rearguard of the sorry bunch. The fact that it’s going to be closest to the murder creatures they came from affects his spirits in all the wrong ways.
Kye checks the rifle, the power clip, the safety. The squad is already retreating from the door. Kye looks back at it and can hear scraping, alien howling, hard thuds on the other side. He shies back when a sharp dent pounds into the metal. And the clicking.
To the rhythm of the still firing cannons, Kye trots after his new squad into the deep belly of the massive, echoing Honorable Action.
This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy
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