They’re Aboard – 7

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 Seventh Hour

Kye knew this would come. It just came too soon for his liking. After multiple wet bumps and angry jostles, loudspeakers greet the visitor. “Now arriving. Command operations. Prepare for security identification and search. The God Emperor protects.” Certainly.

The station is empty, save for carbon scoring telling of a past battle. Blood pools in spots, yes, but much less of it. The defenses might have held in the bridge’s section.

He steps gingerly over his passengers on the trip: alien corpses and chunks of a servitor. Making his way down to the platform, a riveted gate stands before him. Across it reads “CMMND OPS”.

“What now… Off the ship. There are at least escape vessels in this section. Somewhere.” Kye has basic knowledge of how officers work. They have a backup plan almost always, especially when it means off the field. “Sooner through this, the sooner off this…”

Kye opens the portal. There’s little fanfare. He steps out into a desolate hall. The lanterns force him to squint. With tender care, he closes the exit behind him.

For a time he wanders the halls, stalking past corners and muffling the sound of his tread as best he can. Some areas are completely blocked off. Hasty preparation was the best answer to whatever happened here: defenders had stacked crates and metal sheets and reinforcing struts, welded them together with a charring very like what Kye’s own meltagun would do.

At one such obstruction a servitor mills about. Its face has a regal nature lying in a hook nose and sharp skeletal structure. Fine clothing dresses the creature as a menial of aristocratic flair. If it wasn’t for the spinning wheels grafted into its forehead and the blank, glassy stare, it could serve as an officer on a poster. Maybe it once had.

Kye rushes to this fortuitous find. This servitor Kye recognizes as a navigation model. These were guides to lost grunts when they have ventured into the ‘refined’ areas of the ship. It ignores the newcomer’s appearance.

“Servitor! Get me to the bridge! I’m leaving!”

In an almost drunken turning about, a deadpan stare settles on Kye. “Greetings, crewman user 891345. Please redact request.

Kye miserably tries to remember the phrases to use with different braindead cyborgs like this. “Directional command. Honorable Action bridge guidance.”

Vessel lockdown underway. Combat orders negate servitor guidance to mission critical locations. Please redact request.

Kye lightly fingers the safety on his weapon. This was no time for patience. “I need to get to the bridge.” He pauses to let the drone process his enunciation. “Captain’s orders. I’ll even take you with me off the ship.” Truly that desperate.

Captain Gappan’s orders stand as previously stated combat orders. These orders negate –

Kye says, “No, no stop.”

… servitor guidance to mission –

He flicks the melta’s cooling slit open.

… critical locations. Please redact request.

“Fine. What can you take me to?”

It mimics gestures of human understanding, bobbing its head and waving a hand far too uncannily for Kye’s taste. “This servant can take any authorized user to the nearest lavatories, the nearest security post, the medical bay, train hub, astro mapping, command section defense batteries, vessel security operations, mission operations, the officer’s chapel, the officer ward mess atrium, officer billeting, the command shuttle bay, esca-

“That,” says Kye, “Take me to the shuttles!” There would be no going back to the trains at the very least.

Vessel lockdown underway. Combat orders negate servitor guidance to mission critical locations. Please redact request.

The meltagun levels with the servitor’s face. Passive heat wash ripples the odd hair on the cyborg’s skull. It hasn’t the processing capacity to even blink.

“Everyone’s dead, meathead. No one’s going to miss you. Last request. Take me as far as we can. How about the mess atrium?”

Acknowledged. Please follow me to the officer ward mess atrium, honorable crewman.

Kye sighs, lowers the gun. This ought to be enough. Lazy sods in command don’t want to go too far for a meal. He trots after the servitor.

Minutes pass. The cyborg refuses to give Kye distances because of the lockdown. He judges it must be getting close regardless. They come across more barred-tight compartments the further they go. Doors that look like they could open Kye carefully welds together with short bursts from the meltagun. Their pace is certainly slow enough.

… Will execute defense orders from –

The captain’s repeating vox cast ceases in an electronic snap. They may have left without him! The guardsman tries to hurry the unthinking slave along. It slows, dictating it can’t operate faster than its hardware specification. The journey continues.

A few bulkheads need unlocking. They must have been secured ad hoc, not part of the regular ship’s alarm. Otherwise the servitor’s machinations wouldn’t let them through. His guide has a delay on one such bulkhead leading onto a crossroads. Whether Kye’s prodding did anything to speed it up, the door finally whines open.

Crimson boils the air next to Kye, blowing his servitor escort to charcoal with a robotic death cry. Kye dives, scrambling to get into the cover of a support column. More lances strike around him. He tastes the ozone in the air.

Someone down the corridor hollers, “Fast, you bugger! Aren’t ya? We’ll kill a freak like ya! All ya!”

The hallway access closes, shutting off his way out. Kye can’t count the number of heat scores pockmarking its surface. He gives a furtive check around the corner. Another shot sent his way makes him pull back. The scene of bodies, shades of purple mixing with more human fair, imprints on his flash-burned retinas. But what’s next to him are two uniformed corpses at the base of the door, seared holes in their backs.

“Ya never gonna take us! We not gonna be like ya!” says the madman. Clearly a Madman.

Kye says, “In the God Emperor’s sacred name, stop firing! I’m Reserve Guardsman Kye Cromp! Come up from the gunnery decks! We’re supposed to stand with the captain at the bridge!”

“Ya need to learn a different story! We heard the same from ya friends, walking, talking like ya! Taking our clothes.”

He lifts his boots. They’re sticky with brown blood. Laughter cuts the air from Madman.

“Fine. I’ll let you be bait,” Kye says to himself. There’s no gate or barrier down the perpendicular hall next to the one he’s come through. There’s a long way, though, between here and there. More las fire smokes the paint off of Kye’s hiding spot.

“Come out! Humanity gonna kill ya! Aren’t gonna turn us, get a chance to stick us in the back, corrupt traitors!”

With a huff, Kye sticks the barrel of the melta low, at the edge of the column. The ray makes the metal bubble before giving way to the heat. The incandescent shot goes wildly this way and that down the hall. Kye hears Madman curse as the guardsman sprints across the killing zone, firing continuously as he steps over the corpses. Las bursts dance over and around him, the smell of cooked flesh filling Kye’s nostrils.

He has to stop past the protective corridor, wheezing. Patting down the smoldering fabric of his uniform, he finds a hole cut through armpit to armpit in the flabby dress. Madman sputters curses and threats, obviously furious that Kye has escaped his trap.

Breath caught, Kye pounds his boots closer to where the bridge should be. The call of “Freak!” echos down after him.

Continued in the eighth 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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