They’re Aboard – 5

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 Fifth Hour

To all hearing this, reconvene at the bridge. Command will execute defense orders from there. Repeat, to all hearing this…

It has been going on like that for at least a quarter of an hour, but he lacks any way of telling time. Not the captain this time, but a cyborg voicing ship wide orders. Kye tires of hearing it droning on and on, but is more tired of fighting. The promise of escape from the doomed vessel keeps him moving. The simple signs pointing towards the section that houses operational control are easy enough to follow. That, and the absence of guts, aliens, and other survivors makes the trek easier. Servitors are his company now and he’s okay with this.

He notices the silence. There is the constant engine thrum in the ship of course, but everything else has gone. The autocannons fail to bring their thunder through the superstructure. Hand-to-hand combat sounds waned to nothing in what feels like a long time back. Wales of humans and aliens coming from air shafts have ended.

What may be worse is the smell. Methane and sulfur raise a stink that nearly gags Kye. Using an oil-stained rag from his pocket, the noxious odor of bullet lubricant is a thankful relief from the unidentifiable reek. The scent grows worse.

Without warning, the guardsman finds himself in a dark, cloudy room. A chamber with gothic vaulting yawns high above him. Below is only obscurity, the details swamped in malodorous mist. Out of the disappeared floor rises columns bracing the ceiling with ornamentation and holy script. To the left curves a narrow service ledge starting as the guard railing stops. He doesn’t recall ever having been told of such a place, let alone visiting one. Not too unusual – he guesses his life’s work aboard Honorable Action hasn’t taken him a klick from the barracks. He wouldn’t venture to estimate how far the last few hours have brought him.

Kye sees no other way forward. He certainly isn’t going back to the ambling servitors and the melted door.

One foot carefully prods the walkway. This shelf at least doesn’t creak or swing. Kye nudges himself out over the ship’s internal emptiness slowly. Though the width of the suspended walk was easily three feet, the need not to tempt his balance left Kye shaken.

The meltagun provides enough glow to illuminate shadowy slats paralleling the ledge. They hide some space or another, the gaps showing only blackness to their creeping voyeur. A section of these blinds take on a curious sheen Kye can make out even from a distance. It shimmers like water if water trickled against gravity. Kye squints to find where this material is coming from. Or going.

Interesting things don’t show themselves. It’s what is heard that raises goosebumps along Kye’s spine. A low hiss rasps clearly from the direction of the slats. The rhythm is at a slower pace than his, but the process is the same: Kye hears something breathing there. Might it have extraordinary eyes?

Though at least six meters of open air separate the catwalk from the wall, the disturbed guardsman’s hustle is immediate. Too immediate, as he slips.

He catches himself by landing on the meltagun which burns through his clothes. Pain wells through his knees and palms. A curse boils up in Kye. Of all the things that could go wrong, now was not the time for them to get worse with a limp or malfunction.

They got worse.

Kye’s obscenity dies in a whisper. He realizes there had been a sharp snap of metal-on-metal in the fall. The tone continues its lazy dissipation through the ledge’s frame. Eyes widen at the misstep, which has inadvertently cleared some of the gloom.

On the floor far below squirms something. Some things. Mounds of them. Long, sinewy, coiled, bulbous, spiked, glinting, sloshing, squishing, gaping. The thought that nothing more of either humanity or divinity lives in that place lingers. Regardless, a lack of detail feeds all its fear into Kye’s imagination.

Except for the rotund growth that edges around the base of a column. Internal luminescence outlines spidering veins and terrible, fleshy knobs. In what Kye believes is an hour, the dumpy thing opens, spilling light. And it looks up at the prostrate man.

Kye shrieks. He tears across the catwalk in a full sprint. A growing roar chases the guardsman through the room. The catwalk abruptly ends at an open hatch, service lights marking safety in Kye’s mind. Diving through, he promptly backtracks. Fumbling at the bulkhead, it slams on the growing chatter of the vaulted room.

To his surprise he’s been able to hold onto the meltagun. He cradles it, cautious of the hot plates.

They are everywhere. Honorable Action is sick with this beastly affliction. And where were the updates from the captain? Or other survivors? Are they eaten? Can he really be the last one left?

Kye moans.

Sounds of sniffling, snorting shuts him up at once. He wheels the weapon around, training it down the hall. The animal noises get closer and he can’t see anything. It was too close now.

There, above. Kye spies a pipe large enough to fit a canine. Aiming at it, the din stops. He can only hear his own heart pounding in his ears, back against the hatch, breath held, eyes wide in terror.

A snarl comes from the pipe segment above him. A dent balloons outward with bone-crunching force. Another dent. Another. Kye yips in fright, jumping to back away from the pipe. It’s a miracle he remembers enough from his combat drills not to blow a hole through the metal to let the creature through.

The would-be attacker growls with frustrated anger. Claws poke through the thick pipe. Kye looks for a shot to kill the monster. Instead, a long tentacle tongue shoots out from the pipe. It lances through his shirtsleeve. The meltagun fires wide, bubbling the ceiling with its white-hot ray. Blisters rupture on the tongue which speeds back into its hole. Whatever owns it screams, thrashing around in the pipe.

“Enough of this!” Kye beats an escape away from the killer and that seething horror chamber.

To all hearing this, reconvene at the bridge. Command will execute…

To the bridge. That would be the most well-defended point on Honorable Action. Even if it was destroyed, Kye counts on others of the ship’s crew congregating there. Together, they may make it off to continue the fight, continue living. Or it may only be him.

Continued in the sixth 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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