They’re Aboard – 6

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 Sixth Hour

What is that voice? He cannot make out what it says, the speaker more high-pitched than the bridge’s spokesman. Paneling reads “Axis Transit” in painted white. If this means an escape from whatever is in the pipes… or the vault… The bulkheads he’d melted wouldn’t hold forever if the creatures wanted through.

The bolt locks come off easily and quietly enough. Gently, Kye swings the sheet into its housing. Bright lights temporarily blind his eyes accustomed to the dim service tunnels.

Before him lies a grotesquely large room. Lanterns of brilliant white bring out stark details in every feature, leaving no shadow to dawdle. A platform stretches below and to his right, coming flush against a windowless wall studded with doors and Imperial Navy regalia. Organizational paint markers become obscure under bloodstains of more than the expected crimson hue – where are the bodies?

To his left are blast gates isolating the chamber from the rest of the ship. Claw marks and more blood sends a chill down his spine. At least whatever did the killing had moved on.

Two train cars remain out of a line of a dozen berths, the farther clearly listing in its dock. The closest sits on magnetic rails. It is three levels tall, looking like a brick laid sideways. The bottom is windowless, tattoos of machine warnings and mechanical blessings edge the hull. Windows on the second and third levels show the vessel to be deserted. What must be the command cabin juts out of the front of the top level. Whether it has an operator or not, Kye can’t see.

Then the voice he heard before booms out from hidden loudspeakers. “Dorsal trains to. Command operations. Dorsal engines one. Two. Aft Batteries. Out of service. Seek commissariate counsel.

Automated notices. No survivors here.

Though, from Kye’s training with wargear, “out of service” doesn’t necessarily mean “inoperable”. The vehicles merely need a jumpstart, someone to coax the machine spirits into action to take him to the command section. He can always head back into the tunnels to hoof it there, however many kilometers that would be. But he ought to at least check, little harm being there in that.

Still hearing and seeing nothing, he slinks out from the corridor. Wall rungs lower him a few meters to the deck. Meltagun at the ready, the guardsman stalks over the splattered platform to the train. The whole chamber stays still as he reaches the boarding ramp.

A crash and whir turns Kye’s bowels to water.

He searches, frantic to find the assailant. Cowering next to the car, he decides to run. Looking back to where he’d come, there’s the skinny silhouette of a servitor outlined in the service tunnel opening. It brings the panel cover in front of it. The final, echoing slam seals Kye in.

A curse later, Kye hears rustling. Backing away from the train car brings the other, broken vehicle into his view.

What had seemed to be an empty machine writhes. Worms. Dozens, maybe hundreds – Kye dares not to tell – of fat worms twist inside the thing, their black mouths lined with teeth visible at dozens of meters in the light.

Kye lunges back to the cover of the train. Peeking around the side, the worms remain content where they are. Kye pads up to the access door on the side opposite the infested train. The portal, to his great relief, is well maintained, sliding away on oiled bearings.

Empty bench seats point him in the direction of the operator’s cabin. He stays out of sight in a crouch walk that tortures his aching thighs, stalking up to the caboose’s entryway.

New noises stop Kye. Why always these terrible sounds? He takes little time to wonder at the chopping and gnashing going on. Gun up, Kye leans around the frame’s lip.

A glance shows nothing inside the cabin. Levers, a keyboard, and single monitor orbit the lone wire chair. The screen is blank, status lights dim. Kye hopes the engine is as well kept as this setup. The second cabin access is open too. Around this Kye peeks but pulls back.

There’s one of the alien monsters in the aisle. Where the servitor pilot had gone is answered. Plastic and gristle crack in powerful jaws.

Kye looks longingly at the starter sigil on the train’s dashboard. There’s no way he can manage to start the vehicle with that thing there. And without power, doors won’t close let alone lock. He figures he’ll burn his way back into the service corridors. The guardsman had survived so far, so best to take his chances there.

He eases away and halts. Down his escape route comes another creature. It claws into the compartment, talons clicking as it lumbers low onto Kye’s level. The thorny head swivels his way, sniffling.

Hidden, Kye mouths a silent curse. No help for it now. They both need to get blasted. The heat from the weapon encourages a new layer of sweat to sheen his face.

Snuffling grows louder. Kye imagines he can hear each ripping toe fall when the investigator takes a step. The servitor being munched makes just as much noise. Thoughts swirl of how he will taste to the intruders. Kye’s hands shake and it’s all he can do to stop his chipped teeth from shattering.

From the bridge, “To all hearing this…

Go.

He yells, leaping to pound the activation key. Power, blessed power, surges through the vessel. The doors slam shut on the startled aliens. Both of them collect themselves in an instant to go wild, carving the thin metal barriers to ribbons.

Kye faces them not knowing which to take out first. The one with its head biting through a hole gets a shot, this only glancing the bony temple of the thing. Knocked back, it bellows fury at him. The other attacker sticks a scythe-tipped limb through the torn metal. Kye falls back over the operator’s seat in dodging the cut. Gun up and now steady on the chair, Kye lets loose a beam splitting the slasher’s head from its limb at the shoulder. It howls before coughing up its vile fluids and slumping. The first killer rips its door off the frame with the screech of tearing alloy. In one move it’s stepping into the cabin. Kye believes he is dead. The thing stops, barks. Its talon is stuck, pulling part of the entry with it, the panel jamming itself on the frame. With the effort the monster is working at, the entire arm is going to sever. Kye takes that pause.

The guardsman leans and fires on the trapped animal. A chest cage explodes under the heat, the beast taking the full force of impact. Not a sound utters while the impact pushes its flaming mass back into the passenger aisle.

Machine noises rise in response to the train readying for departure. Yet, something that’s not the engine, the loudspeakers, or his own rasps makes it through the din. Someone is shouting.

Kye takes a brave glance out the starboard window. Guardsmen are running and shooting across the farthest end of the multi-berth platform. From their egress chases packs of the boarding monsters. Flashlights light-up the horde where legs blow off, rabid faces shear in red laser light, and steaming organs mix with the slick mess painting the floor. Still, mutilated freaks crawl murderously after the limping, bandaged survivors.

What has their hell been like? The foremost soldiers see Kye in the cabin. Hearing the humming sound of the engine, they wave their arms to him. Yet others split off into cover next to the toppled car, firing back at their pursuers.

“No!” Time pauses between the only word that comes to mind and the crack. Out of the distant train bursts a mass of the worms, spilling their hunger onto the unaware guardsmen. A jumping, slithering, hissing mass of death cuts off the slower survivors.

They need to go. Kye throws himself into the pilot’s chair. His illiteracy doesn’t extend so far as to obscure the screen’s meaning: the engine is ready.

How close are they? He cranes his neck to check where his comrades are. More creatures pour into the room. Nightmares snake a shortcut over the tracks towards him, ignoring the guardsmen forced to flee the long way. These soldiers wave and shout and beg him to hold the machine for them.

Train Five. Departing to. Command operations.

Kye’s attention goes forward to watch the blast doors part over his rails.

Worms hiss in the next berth. Red-stained brutes bound faster than a human can escape. And the guardsmen aren’t there yet.

A key press starts the train’s leave. Kye stares back horror-struck. Men and women scream, ruining their throats. Some jump down on the tracks, abandoning their fellows as he is doing. Those unable or unwilling or just too late to disembark are tackled under a pile of alien bodies. Lucky jumpers fry from misjudged landings on the hyper-energized magnetic rails. The remainder drop gear and race. The smooth train outpaces them with uncaring ease. As Kye passes the threshold, he goggles at a lone guardsman merely standing there, looking back at him.

Continued in the seventh 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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