They’re Aboard – 8

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 Eighth Hour

He won’t be caught this time. Meltagun up, Kye stays in focus, checking every opening, all the corners, the halls not taken but needing to be crossed. Writing on the walls indicate the fried servitor has gotten him far enough: “Executive …” something. “Suites”? The bridge is close.

Kye makes his way between two blast doors. One side  shakes with snarling howls. The opposite drips with the bloody tatters of uniforms brushed across the walls, gouges showing no hint of what’s inside. These cuts are wide enough that Kye can make his way through five different ways, one he takes in haste.

Inside he’s at the bottom of a ramp in a vaulted area. No mistaking it. The giant Imperial Aquila over the gate at the top of the incline marks this as the bridge entrance. About the chamber lie the dead, xeno and human alike. Fluids leak out of ravaged piles, creating a sticky layer a finger-deep at the ramp’s foot.

Picking his way over the corpses, he kicks a particularly large carcass with hooks as long as he is tall.

“Bloody wreck. Emperor -”

A vulgar cry utters from a mound of alien dead next to the entryway. Out of the mess a low, toothy beast claws its way out. Kye exclaims his surprise, pulling the meltagun trigger at his hip. The shot goes wide, scorching the body heap. Animal urgency frees the alien. Its missing eye and dragging leg leave it little to envy. Nevertheless, knife-like appendages stab into the uneven surfaces, gaining better speed towards Kye. He fires a second time, tagging the monster in what qualifies as a chest. The thing plows into the guardsman, its cooking organs staining his ruinous uniform, spikes poking into his skin. Kye shrieks when he hits the floor. It’s going to kill him!

But he’s alive.

After a moment he realizes the thing is dead like everything else in the room. Kye moans with the careful effort of rolling the wretch off him. Dabbing at the blood seeping through his clothing merely adds to the wealth of wounds he carries.

“Stupid, trashy…” He kicks and stomps on the offender who’s assaulted him. Kye gives a quick burst from his firearm through the xeno’s unadulterated eye socket leaving it a smoking pit.

Why hadn’t the bridge crew come to defend him? They’d killed everything out there already.

Limping towards the door, he studies a brutal, bodiless crustacean’s claw which jams the hatch open. Squeezing under it and through the gap, Kye finds himself on the bridge. And surrounded by the bodies of the command crew.

“No no no…” Kye rushes to the railing that stands above the main floor.

Down below is destruction. Smoking terminals hold up the bodies of skewered servitors. Stormtroopers have their gnawed limbs scattered in unrecognizable pieces, guns shattered. Techno priests soak dark oil into their scarlet robes, cybernetic eyes dim in their featureless goggles. Cabling juts from astro pilots hunching in pools of murky liquid. The brutish xenos lay curled, jagged gashes in their sides.

Above is the commander’s platform. Broken railings and mutilated remains bode only ill up there. Kye sees the back of the captain’s dictation throne, gold gilding sparkling, with no sign of the captain. Something streams off the edge down into the butchery underneath.

Over them all is the operation’s viewing glass. Stories tall, Kye cranes his neck up and up, getting a full view of the stellar sky. Planets and their moons shine against their starry backdrop. All else that breaks the swath are glittering pinpricks of light, orbs of fire, lines of multicolored fury. The battle still rages, giving Kye the chance he needs to be rescued. An escape pod must be nearby and some recovery vehicle will find him. Surely.

The sound of a metal girder dropping to the deck sends Kye sprawling for cover. Kye cowers underneath a terminal, half a dead guardsman for company.

A thing snakes from the ceiling in profound silence for something so large. Kye watches in awe while a new monster he’s never seen before slithers a path along the gangway, knocking bodies regardless of species off the terrace. Chimneys protrude from its hide above the lashing, barbed tail. It wears a long horn like a crown over a mouth of innumerable teeth that shine in the ambient light. In front of the throne it stops. There it towers over the chair, flexing a multitude of limbs carrying exotic weaponry that beat like hearts on a dish. From it ushers a hiss towards the glass separating it from the rest of its kin in space.

Kye takes his shot. The meltagun, braced on monitors and powered to full, fires a ray meant to bore through layers of ceramite armor. Gore splatters the viewing windows dozens of meters away. Steaming, the hulking body hits the floor.

That wasn’t so bad, just needed to shoot them right. Crawling out, Kye walks his way up to the command deck. His nerves are lucky that no nasty surprise decorates the golden control chair. He thinks it wouldn’t matter anyway. He is dead tired.

To the carcass he says, “There you go. Now look what you’ve done. We’re both dead. Gone and killed the only way of getting back to the fleet. To humanity. Great work.”

Sitting on the throne, he tosses the meltagun at the king xeno he’s slain. His field of vision now includes the dot his melta has left on the glass. Kye swallows at what could have happened up here, a repeat from being down in the hangar. A beep utters from the seat.

Bridge xeno activity. Zero percent.

Kye peers around for the speaker. “Machine spirit? Hello? Are you a human? Alive?”

Humming from the rafters drifts a servo skull, minute apparatuses twitching with anxious energy. Kye cringes when the red eyes of the yellowed skull come to gaze at him.

The captain’s voice blurts out of the automaton. To a background of gunfire, “Start record! We are abandoning the Honorable Action! The bridge has been cut off. Throne, wherever our reinforcements are, Emperor give them justice.” Concussive blasts drown out vulgar roars in the background. “Guard, deploy it all! For future review, I’ve charged secondary bridge officers for cowardice and treachery. Carried out their execution here. They’ve attempted to sabotage operations…

A ripple in the space outside the ship’s windows catches Kye’s eye. Nothing comes to focus, so he listens.

… some kind of corruption. Cut off communication. Xenos taint has gotten to the bridge, our retreat to the escape pods is blocked, it’s all their doing. They’re in the halls, the ventilation, every cabin –” Shouting from somewhere nearby. “Blessed! No time! All relief forces, abandon ship! If the Emperor gives you time, set Honorable Action’s self-immolation sequence. Let nothing survive destruction to be perverted by xenos. A servitor is unlocking the auxiliary port. We’re –” Snarls, gunshots, and yips.

Destroy Honorable Action? Kye can’t operate a lander, let alone obliterate a city-sized spacecraft from humanity’s holiest forges. This fact doesn’t keep Kye long in contemplation. There might still be rescue from the Emperor’s superhuman sons, the Space Marines. Stories told of more unlikely salvation in more dire situations, right?

The glimmer outside gets bigger.

Playback continues. “Follow us through. Pods … compromised. Set on course to orbit…” Static. “… original destination. Emperor …” More static. Icy fear follows. “… Holy Terra!” Meaningless noise cuts to a haunting silence.

Record complete. Log receipt?” The servo skull bobs side-to-side, anxious to serve, oblivious to the situation.

The escape pods are still there! The captain had said they were preprogrammed, too! Kye could escape and wouldn’t have to pilot the thing. First a rest for his aching legs. But could he blow up the entire ship like the captain had wanted? What about –

The shimmer turns into a grey blob bisecting the sky. A new alarm sounds from the throne. He pokes at a screen’s angry-looking icon. Holograms expand to show the ship, its heading, and a foreign object dwarfing Honorable Action. The unknown comet dives straight at his craft. Glancing back up, Kye can tell details on its surface as he would a face sweating next to him at the mess table: barnacle-like growths, swollen sacs, tentacles of size beyond his guessing. The titanic whale of an alien bears down through the windows.

“Suicide? Can they do such a thing?” Kye is left little time to wonder. He screams.

The ship splits in two. Windows peer out on the topside of the human vessel while the xeno buckles Honorable Action‘s back with astounding abruptness. While debris and dead cascade above and around him, inside and outside, Kye stays in the seat under an orb of electricity and gravity fields, the throne itself getting hot. A hail of detritus takes out the insectoid servo skull, the wreckage catching in the throne’s shields and bursting into flame. Yelling into the maelstrom, shifting weight playing havoc on Kye’s stomach and inner ear. The ship’s systems fight to give back a stable gravity effect. They are slow at reducing the turbulence but manage to somehow do it.

A bang and smoke signal the end of operation for the throne’s functions. Kye hurls clear of the platform onto the middle level. His head cracks on a wall stud. In a daze he holds his cranium, cursing the gravity controls that have saved his life. The gravity shutters again causing him to wretch. Wailing sirens harken the death of the vessel itself and Kye too, if he doesn’t get out into space immediately. Hand over hand, he stumbles over to the other door on the mid level deck. A servitor’s arm sticks out of an access jack, the screen blinking green success.

Out of time, Kye flees  farther on through tapestried corridors venting atmosphere into the void.

Continued in the ninth 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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