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.

To be continued in the ninth hour next week.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

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.

To be continued in the eight hour next week.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

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.

To be continued in the seventh hour next week.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

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

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

They’re Aboard – 3

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 Third Hour

Kye hears distant gunshots and artillery as the squad tours through winding empty corridors. Rooms lie open, making them eerie without their crews. A handful of times they cross paths with a lonely servitor or two, but actual life is missing. Vox casts from the bridge are absent while their hand-vox turns to white noise. Stations still broadcasting only send cries for help or relay the ominous sound of chewing. After a final report that they were headed to the hangar rendezvous, the trooper carrying the device shuts it off as they creep down echoing passageways.

Kye and the others notice skittering in the vents and creaking through the walls. Not until the elevator concourse do they see their first killing since the gun decks. Creeping up to a traffic barrier, Kye watches the enemy. A group of creatures like large canines hunch over and gnaw on hapless servitors. The leader of the squad gestures to take aim without making a sound.

Kye shoots. In crimson light the aliens shriek. Pale flesh turns to black ash under the flashlights’ rays. Rifles crack the air with their report, echoing down through the concourse.

“Good work, guardsmen,” Boss says. “Give them a wide berth. Pedero,” she nods to the soldier next to Vox Boy, the one who’d shot into the fleeing crowds. “Find us an elevator to flight deck -”

“Come on! Through here!”

Human voices! Someone else alive! Past the elevators into the next junction. There appears a guardsman and then another and another.

More guns around Kye was the best option right now. “Hey!” He waves, but the other soldiers don’t look his way. They disappear through a bulkhead, the door clanking secure.

“Squad, catch up to them!” They listen to Boss, picking up in a light jog. They head past the rows of elevators but find only disappointment. The portal refuses to open.

“Even the machines are coy at this alien intrusion!” Boss slams a fist against the breach.

Kye thinks it likely the strangers helped themselves to a few seconds retreat into the confines of the ship. Not a bad idea, closing gates behind them as they go. Before Kye can make a suggestion to Boss she cocks her head. A slowly building ruckus catches up to Kye’s notice. Barking. Clicking. Lots of it. And getting faster. Louder.

Boss shoves Vox Boy. She breaks into a run back towards the elevator room. “Move move move! Get us a lift, any lift!”

Kye sprints on aching legs after her, going around the barrier she vaults over. They skip lift openings that get more and more bloodied as they hurry. Some alcoves include still recognizable bits of things once human. The large icons above are failing to mark an elevator to the hangar, their muster point.

“Where the Throne is it!?” says someone.

Kye is able to make out faint low-Gothic script. Narrowing his eyes, he sees it. “There! Over there!” he says and points and hears the baying filling the chamber. He takes a chance to look back to only regret it.

Seething masses of off-white fangs and claws jump, slither, and gallop after them out of the junction. Purple and magenta tongues lawl down at the far end of the concourse. More emerge from the wall’s service-ways, appearing closer every moment Kye gazes upon the nightmare scene. Tearing his eyes away, he runs harder than he ever can recall running before.

They slam their bodies on the hatch that’s their way out. Vox Boy busies himself at the controls. Kye kneels in a shallow pool of ichor, squeezing shot after shot into the wave of chitin barreling down on them. Some of the enemy pop, sizzle, fall, but not anywhere near enough. Kye clenches his sore teeth, squeezing one eye shut to aim through the iron divots of the lasgun. It’s a mad shooting gallery with the targets getting closer. He can make out the glow coming out of the inhuman eyes, count the spines on their backs, the beasts were so close. Boss orders discipline, just like the commissar. See how much that got him. What it was about to get them!

Curses from seemingly everyone level at Vox Boy while he tries to force an override of a lockdown. In a hiss, the hatches part and Vox Boy steps aside. Kye blows a final xeno skull open then is up and through. The squad piles in but not before a long quill slams Vox Boy into the crowd of them. A thing with too many pointed arms lashes out into the elevator cabin, only to vaporize under the glare of five different point-blank flashlights. Kye pulls the lever they’d all forgotten to trigger. Gears clank to get the barriers in place at too slow a pace. Kye helps blacken and semi-liquefy the edges of the frame as more monsters slide in front of the door.

Clunk. The lock is in place. Frustrated scratching dies away past the elevator’s departure.

“Come on,” Boss says, “we still… need… you.” She wriggles the quill out of Vox Boy’s communicator with little success.

Kye watches at the long, smooth length of the spine: hooks on one end, bulbous fleshy parts and limp tendrils on the other. The missile looks back at him, an eye flapping open to lock on Kye, causing such sincere revulsion that he chokes. Illuminated in red for a split second, Kye blasts the vile apparition away. This seems to do the trick in getting the barbs to retract, letting Boss yank the point out. She casts the bone aside and spits in disgust.

“God Emperor,” Vox Boy says, “you got it, all right, guardsman.” He slings his meltagun, popping out the cherry-red canister, its replacement striking home. “Glad to have you around!”

Boss shakes the communication device, finally laying it reverently in a corner. “We’ll make do with our last orders. The loss of the vox is a shame, but command will have more where we’re going. Reload, troopers. They’ll need us ready. Pedero, any other injuries?”

“No, sir,” another guardsman says. “It’s only -”

In a crash, the elevator compartment rocks under the force of something big falling onto it. Everyone hugs the walls, weapons up, searching, squinting into the harsh lamps. Another crash, this time accompanied by an animal’s yip of pain, lights flickering. A vent grill splits, a mangled, clawed paw with too many toes hanging through. Ooze drips down xeno flesh, permeating the space with an alien reek.

“Corporal, they’ve followed us!” someone says.

“Keep it cool, all of you. They aren’t surviving this fall.”

Vox Boy steps forward, meltagun hot. Kye shakes his head at him. Vox Boy pokes the intruder anyways. In a flash, broken fingers curl over the weapon’s casing. While the rest of the squad jumps, red lasers washes all other colors away for a moment. A screech peels past the now lifeless, limp appendage, swinging by the iota of tendon still holding it. Vox Boy grunts, igniting the last of the alien’s parts with a sizzling heatray. Sweat runs down Kye’s face as the air gets too hot.

Another impact on the other side of the ceiling. This one sounds wet, but that’s the end of it. New goo drips from the previous guest’s hole in the elevator.

Kye feels their ride begin to slow. Stopping, the gates remain shut, but Kye detects the crack of lasgun fire and the boom of bolter rounds. He glances around. By the looks on their faces, the rest of the squad knows what this means too.

“Well then,” says Boss, “we best get on with purging the rest of the hated aliens. You, you, and you,” she points to Kye, “up front. As soon as those doors open, shine a light on anything not on two legs. You two, cover the left side. You two, go right. You, seal the doors behind us. I’ll cover up the middle. On three…”

Kye shoulders his rifle. He grips tighter to show less of the shaking. His fearless leader puts a hand on the opening mechanisms.

“One. Two… Three!”

Continued in the fourth 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

They’re Aboard – 2

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 Second Hour

All decks, all soldiery, arm yourselves to repel boarders. Servitors en route to supplement gunnery functions. All decks, all soldiery, do your duty.

As a crewman wretches next to Kye, he somehow restrains himself from doing the same. Duty. They all knew it. The reserve crews who swabs decks in calm and service the vessel’s weapons have their training. They are members of the Imperial Guard, reserves or not. Born to defend humanity, charged with killing its enemies, and destined to die for it. All in the name off the God Emperor of Mankind. Now is their time.

Kye, a menial deliverer of ammunition a moment before, pulls out of his shock. Someone, Urz, is there, offering a hand up. “Let’s do this, Kye. Nothing like the present to earn the Emperor’s blessing!”

“You’ve enough of that for the rest of us.” Rising with what is the rest of his platoon, Kye runs with the corporal down the halls to their assigned armory.

At the crowd outside the unlocked room, Kye loses Urz Dunnley in the jostle. Lasguns, pistols, and heavy bolters pass overhead to equip everyone at speed.

“Discipline,” says the commissar. They must be standing on something to appear above the masses. “Keep your discipline, Guard! The Emperor protects those who believe in His name! Under the light of His Grace from the Holy Throne on Blessed Terra, we will kill His foes this day! You! I! We will prove our wretched selves worthy in His sight! And your discipline and your lasgun will deliver it!”

Kye thinks he hears something else filtering through the commissar’s motivational speech.

Clicking. It is definitely clicking. Kye wonders if his hearing has finally given out and the taps are only his bones and teeth rattling together. A trooper in front of him looks up. The clicking is coming from the ceiling.

A great groan pierces the din over in the busy armory ahead. Rising squeals of metal smother the shouts of crew under the collapsing room’s roof. Millennia-old dust blows back into the hall. Flickering lights bleach white one moment, then plunge into pitch blackness the next.

If only the luminaries would stay off.

In the intermittent brightness, pale monstrosities writhe, saliva-slick teeth shine, bone-things blur in stabbing swipes. All turns crimson from unlucky souls departing under falling beams and sheeting and their killers. The screams keep going. Kye realizes his voice echoes in the shrieking chorus. The commissar fires with reckless abandon into the charnel before they get sliced in two. Helmets, uniforms, limbs, and fluids are tossing in the air outside the armory, into the hall. One shape separates itself distinctly from the melee. It isn’t killing. Kye looks on in awe-struck paralysis and the thing gazes back. It sees him with such eyes…

You.

Kye has to go.

“You! Cromp! There’s nothing we can do!” He gapes at Hara Laye, his messmate for the entirety of the trip, her face nearly pleading. The crowd yanks her away. Back towards the armory there is only carnage. He understands now. Weapons haven’t made it to Kye yet nor would they. He and the other Imperial Guard are worth little more than how fast their legs are carrying them. Kye joins the mob headed in the opposite direction from the approaching murders. Stampeding back down the corridor, boots aren’t the only sound hitting deck plate. Clicking, clomping, splashing, inhuman feet follow behind Kye. The sounds get louder. Closer.

Eyes popping out of his skull in fright, Kye tumbles rounding the corner back the way he came. He corrects himself, up and running hard. It hardly registers that he might have been, could still be, just another body on the floor, like those he is trampling on now.

A sign for the Ammunitorium fleets by overhead. Kye’s in through the monumental archway, racing with guardsmen he knows and does not know. Beasts crawl over walls and tubes to the slaves, shackles secure. They call so desperately then don’t anymore. He keeps going.

The soldier on the filling conveyor Kye was at an hour or so ago slips atop glossy shells. They tumble down, out of sight in the throng. Throbbing machinery keeps going. Xenos are on his level now, leaping into the mass of terrified crewmen. There are so few people to die now. Around a girder, Kye’s legs strain all the harder at the now-visible exit on the chamber’s other end.

Ahead, armed guardsmen shout at him, the group, to hurry, flailing their arms about. They shut up, anguished faces contorting into fright. Red laser beams illuminate airborne dust over Kye’s head, singeing his hair. The soldier in front of Kye – Guardsman Hara – twirls, screaming, grasping at the smoking hole in her chest. Kye shrieks. He crashes into the friendly fire casualty, rolling. On his back, Kye’s terror gets fueled by details more vulgar than his fevered imagination could ever produce. Brown and purple and white flesh consume the Imperials around him. Those persons who aren’t fleeing fast enough explode into pieces from rips stabs slashes bites.

A hand takes hold of his boot. A frantic glance horrifies him. It’s Urz! The roar of gunfire, animal snarls, and human death obscure whatever crying Corporal Dunnley is blubbering. In a spark of recall, Kye accepts that Hara was right. There is nothing he can do. The xenos come at them.

Kye kicks. A second kick loosens the hand holding him back. What happens, Kye doesn’t know. Can’t care for the fright.

Scrabbling on all fours, Kye hurries for the segmented bulkhead. He feels hot, rotting dew breath on the back of his neck. An unseen hand grabs Kye’s uniform, vaulting him over the threshold. The closing bulkhead hits the deck so hard Kye chips a tooth.

He can’t breath fast enough, laying there on the floor, hands shaking. Sweat stings his eyes and soaks his clothes. The butt of a lasrifle knocks the wind into Kye. A stranger among many jabs the gun into Kye’s rib cage again.

“Get up!” She says. “We have to go! Now! Take the thrice-damned flashlight.”

Gripping the rifle, Kye can only nod. Only then does he recognize his rescuer as the energetic corporal of his now ex-refill gang. He gets to his shivering feet while his savior hands gear to the other unequipped guardsmen.

Another soldier shakes her head, saying something about how they can’t believe they… They might have hit other guardsmen. Next to them is a trooper who carries a vox box. It blares garbled messages over whichever station the trooper tries. He hits a channel of only screams. Turning the box off, to the gathering he says, “We’re headed to the starboard muster and docking hangar. The last transmission coming through said they’ve fortified the yard. And non-engaged personnel in our neck of the ship are to report there.”

Members of the group pose many questions to the guardsman who can only shrug. “It’s the best we got.” He gives his name and introduces the corporal. Kye forgets both their names immediately. ‘Boss’ and ‘Vox Boy’ will have to do.

Boss is the highest rank so appoints squad positions to the rag-tag allotment. Kye gets the honor of rearguard of the sorry bunch. The fact that it’s going to be closest to the murder creatures they came from affects his spirits in all the wrong ways.

Kye checks the rifle, the power clip, the safety. The squad is already retreating from the door. Kye looks back at it and can hear scraping, alien howling, hard thuds on the other side. He shies back when a sharp dent pounds into the metal. And the clicking.

To the rhythm of the still firing cannons, Kye trots after his new squad into the deep belly of the massive, echoing Honorable Action.

Continued in the third 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