They’re Aboard – 4

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.

Start at the beginning.

The Fourth Hour

Anarchy awaits them on the other side of the elevator doors. Defensive works around the elevator lack any staffing, save for a uniformed body sprawling over the top. Personnel carriers burn on the decking farther in. These provide a modicum of cover for yelling stormtroopers battling yapping killers. Larger beasts knock aside parked planes as tanks belch explosions from their guns. The rest of the field is either canvased in thick smoke or trapped under the toppled observation gangway.

A hand shoves Kye out of the lift’s safety. Stumbling, he rushes to take a knee in front of the works that he can only suppose are there to keep xenos out of the hangar. Two others join him. Peeking over the top, he thinks the group’s arrival hasn’t been noticed yet. To his concealed comrades he whispers, “We can still get back to the elevator, go to another level. There’s gotta be others elsewhere!”

“The bridge is always well protected,” they say, “something we can get -”

“Fire! Kill them all! For the Emperor!” Boss’s lasgun cracks over Kye’s head. He curses, rising up to take his own shot.

Past the gloom, Kye is shooting at the silhouettes in the wreckage. The soldiers already farther into the melee understand, concentrating their blasts in a fury of las light. So effective is their aim, the tanks are able to rumble forward over ruined aircraft hulls without fear of the chittering swarms. The Imperial Guard cheer at the payback delivered.

“Everyone, consolidate,” orders Boss. “Anyone hit? Good. Give me counts on your battery packs. Charged? Do we have any -”

Mechanical groans reverberate through the infrastructure. Kye watches the far bay doors shake. The internal sheets of meters-thick metal juke, tremor, and seize open to a deafening torrent of sound. Kye witnesses a colossal mound of razor spurs and alien hide holding the entry apart. Bits of decking and flight gear sail around the monster and Imperials alike.

Air tears from Kye’s lungs. Wheezing to catch breath, he grabs onto a fallen crane, looping his arm in a hook around a hydraulic pipe. His eyes are ready to pluck out from his face, Kye’s arm to be popped from the socket. In a tornado of debris and flame, Kye tries to scream. Nothing happens in the lack of atmosphere.

The faint thunk-thunk-thunk of emergency shutters stills the decompression lanterns. Hissing tells Kye that there’s leakage in the bulkheads. He doesn’t care. He’s alive on his hands and knees, gulping recycled oxygen as a drowning man would.

Boss hauls him up a second time. Stepping backward, Kye sees through the clear, cold air their doom. Tanks that somehow manage to coordinate gunfire are getting thrashed by a beast that doesn’t care at anything they do. The rounds ping off its hide to explode along the walls. The colossal animal snatches bawling troopers in its maw, on the tips of sharp tentacles, crushes their retreat under hooves the size of armored cars.

Coming to his senses, Kye runs with Boss to the far side of the deck away from the slayer. “Boss! Boss… Wait!” he says.

They stop at the entry to the hangar, also surrounded by deserted barricades. “What, where can we go?” Kye looks around. It’s only himself and Boss. The Vox Boy limps with aid of who must be Pedero after them, waving his hand. Everyone else is missing.

“It’s… Done… Here…” Boss says, “the hangar… Is lost… Regroup elsewhere…” She pounds the keypad. “Emperor damn it! They… Locked it!” Boss spits blood at the interface.

The turret of a tank rolls to a stop next to them with a bang. Kye cowers against a crate. The titanous xeno lacks limbs and gushes fluid from its side but still gives chase. A single smoking vehicle retreats, dragging coils and scaffolding behind it. Guardsmen clamber over downed vehicles and smashed boxes away from the danger.

Now that the battlefield haze was sucked out, a stirring catches Kye’s notice in the rafters. Leathery fiends clearly pick their way through the support beams. They bunch up in clusters, their glinting eyes staring down on the few survivors. A V-shaped pale specter screeches, rocketing down at Kye, its wings spread wide. Kye shouts as the single tank fires a shot, the boom drowning out whatever is said. He hunkers with his hands covering his head, the whoosh of descent passing over so close he can smell its musk.

Boss is smothered from the waist up. The flapping monstrosity writhes with her in its grasp, Boss cries out in surprise and pain. Kye remembers his lasgun still strapped around his shoulders. He aims at the broad of the alien’s back, squeezes the trigger.

Nothing. Kye turns the rifle over. The battery… There isn’t enough juice. He hurls the gun at the deadly marriage of human and xeno. Around the crate he flees. There still remains the possibility of the other elevators…

A crash from the elevator alcove pours forth freaks of every conceivable make. Except one. This thing holds a vox receiver, but casually discards the human device into the horde. Kye can’t wonder. It has eyes and Kye knows it looks his way. At him. Those eyes! Screeches bring his gaze above. Fitful, the flying monsters take off, a swirling flock. They pick off lonely guardsmen from the floor and devour them. Kye falls to his knees, stuttering gibberish at the insanity of it all.

Pedero pulls a grenade. She winds-up the throw. A thin, steaming ooze comes arching in the air from the swarm, where it covers her arm, leaving Pedero screaming. Vox Boy lets her go to fall out of the way. The entire limb detaches, the bomb rolling towards Kye. His duck behind an overturned truck saves him in the explosion. Floor panels give way, plummeting Kye into the dark, the truck following.

Pipes smack Kye about. He reaches out for anything, catching a bundle of wiring. These snap in a shower of sparks, leaving him to drop further. He hits a beam and holds on for dear life. Until he sees the truck. Kye screams as he lets go of the beam, falling some more. The truck crunches into the beam, bending it horribly. Then it’s all gone from sight.

Breaking through a grill, Kye – through some miracle of the Emperor – lands upright and steady. He pauses, furtively patting himself down. Nothing seems to have broken or dissolved! He can’t help but laugh in halting, nervous squeaks.

Yelling from above gets louder, filling Kye with dread. He prepares to flee though he doesn’t know where just yet. A grate next to him pops off, spilling out smoking char and Vox Boy.

“Ow ow ow,” says Vox Boy, “my leg! Oh Throne eternal.” He catches sight of Kye. ”Hey, hey buddy, comrade guardsman Cromp, you made it too? We’re going to make it! Yes, yes, yes… Hey, find me… find me something to move, ‘kay? I can’t… it hurts so bad. We’ll make it, yes! So long as we stick together, yes, Cromp? Get through this hellhole.”

“I’ll… see what’s here,” Kye says. “Emperor, what happened up there. I don’t know where we are.”

“Prob… probably the servitor tunnels. Maintenance of… hangar… things. Gizmos and fueling… Got anything yet?”

Kye shakes his head. Nothing but metal tubing and ducts along the wall, a simple light providing the only dim illumination. There may be something further on in the dark, but leave the soft red glow of the corridor lamps?

“What? I… I didn’t hear you.”

“Nothing. Yet.” Kye glances back, notices the trooper’s meltagun. “That, give me your firearm.”

Sweat covers the pale trooper now. From pain or exertion or facing the possibility of being unarmed?

“The light. I need light down the way there. You see how dark it is.”

“Ah… Ah. ‘Kay.”

Kye picks up the humming cannon. A sickly glow subtly brightens the way as he leaves the other guardsman. He gets a few steps into the dark before a guttural cooing breaks the mood. Vox Boy calls him back, though Kye aims back and forth in the gloom.

There. Two sparkles in the shadows on the other side of the injured soldier. Out trods a hunching, three-armed perversion. Black nails drag along the floor, picking up some of the drool from the gaping mouth. Kye, after all the terror of the last few hours, takes on new levels of revulsion. The asymmetrical body is like the swarms tearing the ship apart, but the face. The face is too human. It smiles at Kye, needle teeth showing around a wagging tongue. Kye wretches from his empty stomach.

The Vox Boy wails, “Help! Help!” He drags himself away.

A smile turns into a snarl as an unholy gaze finds Vox Boy. The aberration pounces on the down guardsman. Vox Boy catches it, grapples with it on the ground. Gnashing jaws a hair above the trooper’s throat coat everything in spittle. Vox Boy is shrieking.

Kye pulls the meltagun up. They’re too close. His hands won’t stop shaking. “What in all the hells!?”

“HELP ME!” cries Vox Boy. “CROMP! Kye, please! Oh Terra, OH!!!” His scream is throat-stripping.

The tunnel reflects sound very well. An echo of more inhuman bellows reach Kye. He twists and bolts. He stumbles, blind, careening into walls. The terrified shouting stops. He doesn’t look back.

His flight almost makes him miss a small divot built into the wall. A servitor hatch. Kye glances up and down, though there’s no release trigger. Priming the meltagun, he unleashes the heatray. Eyes shut, head turned away, his world brightens to day while the weapon burns a hole through the plating.

The sizzle stops. He’s through. Grabbing an access ledge, he braces, lifts. Nothing. His muscles strain. His eyes bulge. Nothing. Cooing echoes down the tunnel.

Kye lunges forward as the door gives way. His crash headlong into a servitor on the other side of the entryway sends them sprawling on the floor. Panting, Kye rolls over, aiming the meltagun at the ebony space from whence he came. Nothing. There is a knob next to the door. He realizes that must have been what the automaton had used to unlock it. In a flash, Kye is up, punching his fist into the button. The hatchway closes in a rush.

He falls away, laying on the floor in his sweat and blood and Throne knows what else. His panting matches the cadence of the dumb servitor’s attempts to turn itself upright, metal bits bumping the deck. Sitting up, Kye cries out.

Through the dull cavity left in the door sparkles an eye hardly reflecting the lamps in the room. A tapping, a scratching starts on the hatch. Speech that might be human babbles at the hole.

Kye fires the meltagun towards the barrier, scarring a line along its length. Something howls on the other side. Back up, Kye sprints down the passage. Skidding to a halt, he realizes what he’s left behind.

The servitor is at last getting up. It wobbles around, bringing itself about to key the door again. Before it can take another step, its cyborg brains paint the hatchway in a flash of searing energy.

Continued in the fifth hour.

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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