Quarterly Goals Recap – September 2019

Read the updated goal post here.

Spoiler: It was a very fine quarter.

Photo Of People Holding Flags Near Fireworks
Fireworks and people from Pexels.com
  1. Flesh-out three larger outlines
    1. Won. The three stories (all WIP titles) were completed very early on in July. Gem Heist is short but complete, though a little boring despite involving ghosts (surprise). Aladdin gives me a lot of excitement as it explores themes of children entering adulthood and the old guard envying youth. Nightmare Jack is grim though not vulgar with its horror exploring hope, the acceptance of death, and taking life for granted. (Comment if you’d like to see more of these.)
  2. Edit a fan-fiction to be a unique IP
    1. Won… Kind of. I explored outlining a short story, but it ultimately fell flat. The parts that did work worked in a way so far different I was merely writing a new short story. Instead, I blitzed through a horror short story first draft involving some malicious jewelry in two days split over two weekends. (Sounds like a win to me.)
  3. Keep up this blog
    1. Won. Did I cheat, though? Out of the sixteen blog entries since the original goal post, thirteen of them were carving up various short stories. That’s unsustainable going into the future, so how will I pivot?
  4. Make it rain $$$$$
    1. Won. Have more money in the bank not just at the end of the day, but going into the future too. This took a lot (a lot) of work: Timing, negotiations, study, travel, deals, talk. I’ve learned a lot, and can now demand a lot. With my current main income stream, it can boost my earnings to a point where moving to a place like Seattle or San Francisco to work for one of the Big Five between $150K and $200K wouldn’t alter the outcome of my ultimate goal: Financial Independence.
  5. Book education and LeetCode (Bonus!)
    1. Won. Met this through the previous $$$$$ goal. Needless to say, I’ve become a better software developer, leader, and person. #BeHumble 😂

Oh, and did you know the Windows key + the period key gives you an emoji palette on Windows systems??? 😱 I’m hooked 😁 The more you know!

19SQ-Edited.jpg
Phone lockscreen source image from Pablo Olivera

Back to goals. This quarter involved many pivots, some quick action, dedication to getting things done, and was ultimately a very, very successful time in my life. Full steam ahead into the last quarter (or month; more on this later) of the year!

They’re Aboard – Epilogue

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.

Epilogue

The human sits in a cold cargo hold, its hands clammy from the damp. It rubs its larger eyes, wiping goop off on a dirty shirt. The scabbing at the base of its neck itches. Flipping the collar up does little to abate the chill. Memory hints to it that the body remembers such a chill, but it’s more a dream than concrete recollection.

The bulk cargo ship also serves to shuttle passengers. Many people are spending their trip among the ill-insulated containers, storage, whether for holding food, goods, or luxuries. Their destinations for some populated world are the same. For them. For it.

They are coming out of Warp travel. It’s a strange place to go. There are voices without bodies that want to talk to the human like as they prattle to the other humans, the creatures without a family who are ones among none. This human is accompanied by many and can give the whispers no heed.

Bells chime. Orbital entry is close. The human gets up, joints aching in the low temperatures. It doesn’t mind. There’s work to do.

It has long since memorized the paths needed to traverse the labyrinthine aisles between the stacks of freight. With walls whose heights disappear into the gloom above, privacy had been easy to come by. Walking to the main sections only takes minutes.

Before the section’s airlock, many others join the human. They are its family, its handiwork during the length of the dismal voyage. Every one of them smiles at it as their paths converge. It doesn’t know if they recognize how special they are to each other, but it need not wonder about such things. These former strangers are ready for the work ahead.

There are no guards at the hatchway. Security must be looking after the more lucrative passengers. Stepping into the bright light gets the human to squint.

Strolling through the polished halls, members of the family split off down side corridors. Their absence does not disturb the human. Those travelers will find their way to other departures, other ripe vistas teeming with life.

The vibration of atmosphere baking along the superstructure hums in the walls. The human feels the rumble of retrograde engines in the roots of its regrown teeth. The sensation goes away soon enough.

A group of civilians mills about outside of their cabins. The crowd is large. It works a way among them without recoil or pause. No one troubles the filthy wanderer. The vox speakers direct all non-essential personnel to gather at the unloading ramps. A tide of bodies carries the human along as it blends into the soon to be departed.

Waiting doesn’t last long at the exit. With a gentle rocking of the deck, the ship touches down. A smooth, reassuring impact evokes a quiet cheer among the passengers. The human smiles because nothing is stopping its work.

Pressure changes in a hiss. Gates the size of buildings perform a gentle slide along their tracks. The crack between them sheds glorious sunbeams onto the upturned faces of the crowd. Of the dirty human. Its eyes adjusting to the shine, it looks out on the field of wonder.

Megastructures lose themselves in clouds on the horizon. Ground transports zoom along tiered levels of roadway. Ungroomed trees dot the far fields of the landing zone. Able bodied folks, elders and children alike, go about their business. It seems all is right with this peopled world.

Boots stained with human and inhuman blood march off the ramp. Crowds swallow their wearer into superficial oblivion.

The human breaths deep of the crisp air, itself hinting only slightly of ozone, a taint of smog. A tear wets its cheek. “So many to join us in communion,” it says, voice lost in the commotion. Everything was right for this one of many.

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 – 9

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 Ninth Hour

No bodies, alien or human. Only lots and lots of blood. Everywhere. Soaking into the rugs, painting the enameled woodwork, everywhere. Thankfully, not enough macabre horror exists to cover the exit placard.

Kye, regardless of the wailing alarms, checks each corner, inches forward only a step at a time.

Go.

He turns his head. Did… Did something come out of the speakers? It likely was his gut talking. There wasn’t enough time. Gambling on the chance, Kye dashes for the door.

In to the next hall are symbols showing what Kye can recognize as escape pods. Or something of the sort. There’s less blood here, but more bodies.

A pack of xenos beasts charge at him from the far end of the corridor. Kye looks at his empty hands and turns them into fists. It wasn’t fair! Not fair! This close and they had to be here! Kye yells, hobbling towards the bounding monsters as best he can. They come. He goes. The gravity gives way again.

He flies forward, his feet skipping over the ground. Over him go the beasts which snarl and snap their maws at him. Kye tries to get his balance only to send him end over end through the open hatch.

Grandeur gives way to polished fineness and the lack of gravity gives way to weight. Kye is close enough to the deck he merely loses breath at his fall. The door he had floated through slams shut under gravity’s influence. Kye feels he can only groan. Turning his head, there lies his salvation. An escape pod.

Shakily getting up and pulling with unsteady hands, Kye hauls through the round portal of the pod. Pushing off the cushions, the climb through the various compartments leads him up into the flight chair. Once the buckle is in place, hatch sealed, Kye taps buttons the monitors tell him to tap by their lit sigils. Light music begins to play but he cuts that nonsense off immediately. The stellar boat rocks under the power of some unseen force, a low rumble vibrating through the frame.

At a button click, rockets fire the pod like a missile into the void. Pressure flattens Kye into his seat, broken teeth gritting tight. He spies leech-like space attackers enveloping the front of Honorable Action. Debris hits the escape craft, knocking him around. Boosters stop the spinning. His former home’s metal skin seething with xeno bodies comes into view. Great gouts of flame and depressurizing mist strike out of canyons yawning in the sides of the vessel  at nothingness. Explosions engulf kilometers of the warship.

Despite it all, “I… I’m free. I’m alive! Alive, Emperor be praised!” Kye could have been that. He could have been another corpse jettisoned out into the void but he’s free. Away from all the war, all the horror.

Over the desecrated starship Kye witnesses the ruin of the fleet once so prideful. Hulls burn to black, their reactors bleeding into the void. Others list empty, some bearing parasites nibbling on their parts. A minor, pitiful few continue to strike out with lasers, plasma, and cannon shot far, far away from Honorable Action. Their luminous silhouettes dim under the shadow cast by the torrent of alien flies buzzing after them in the dark.

Engine temperature climbs on the monitor before him. “Blast it,” he says. “Shutoff! Shutoff!” Kye grabs a hefty red handle, giving it a yank. “Shutoff…”

Away the boat drifts, a fever taking its pilot. Kye dares not start the emergency beacon. There’s nothing outside but death. Who knows what waits in the dark. Instead, he tries to disconnect as many systems as the little flight terminal will show him. He pleads that the machine spirit grant him a massive drop in temperature. Kye refuses to be found after all this for something as foolish as keeping the lights on.

The pod has heard his prayers when frost creeps to cover the portholes. Kye’s teeth chatter, cutting the puffs of his breath into bits. He picks at the tatters of the uniform that’s no more than rags. There could be a blanket in the hold. The restraints are slick under his numb fingers. Kye stops fiddling with his buckle when a glow leers through the icy panes. Wiping a bit of the freeze away with his sleeve, he stares down on a planet below. Likely the world Honorable Action was supposed to go to, a final destination. They are here. The globe is burning. A living cloud that blocks the stars bears down on it, spreading along snaking tendrils as if a drop of purple ink had been dropped in water, filling, reaching, contaminating every part of the world completely. Spontaneous storm fronts flash, overtaking the sunward edge of pristine natural green, yet to be turned to a blighting alien hue.

“Lost, it’s all lost. The Emperor help them. Help me!” Kye’s ode makes him feel a bit better. He almost feels warm for a moment.

To block the reminder of humanity’s struggles below and above, he pulls the window barrier down. The cold comes in anyway. The pod creaks and ticks, the cabin sighing while the heat escapes. Kye begins to wonder if the lack of temperature is making him delusional. There’s the warmth again.

“What might -?” His exclamation joins another puff of air, one smelling sickly sweet.

Kye’s heart gets caught in his throat. His chest muscles seize. More vapor swirls over his shoulders. He opens his shaking mouth in unimaginable terror. No cry utters. In front of him, pinpoints of shine move out from his own frozen reflection in the dark window. Warm again. And it stays warm, a hotness irradiating through the chair that traps him. His entire focus locks on the glinting images before him. Extraordinary eyes. Hot, gooey lumps probe their ways over Kye’s collar, along his neck, wrapping his forehead. Emperor, he should run. Go. Oh Throne, where? He chokes a whimper passed cold cheeks and burning tears down his face. It doesn’t matter anymore. He is going to die there. To this thing. Its eyes. As hot exhalation beads moisture on the back of his spine, Kye becomes calm. He knows he shouldn’t be calm. The strange face that looks back through the reflection is almost soothing. Is soothing. Kye shouldn’t be anything but calm. But the human wonders who should be calm. It can’t be anything more than this, the feeling of being all right. He’s not been this content since … there is no other time. It has always been this content. Happy. The thing in its mind will bring it back home, whole in the family. No need for worry, wonder. It’s perfect. Perfect.

An unspeakable something consumes its biological freedom, whatever that might have been. The human relaxes to rest in the warm embrace of a will not its own, drifting into a final oblivion of one among many.

Finished in the epilogue.

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 – 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

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: 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.

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

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