Alright, I just had to pin this idea down before it slipped away. I really wanted to try to convey the terror one must feel while entering the Warp for the first time, especially if the ship's survival rests on one's shoulders.
Just like last time, please criticize (constructively!)
With Body and Mind
- 1,037 words (including title).
A sense of anxious anticipation flowed through his body, causing his heart to beat rapidly and his muscles to throb. Secured in the cold steel contraption that served as his throne, he did his best to regain his composure. He, of all people, needed to remain calm.
His arms were shackled to the armrests at the wrist; likewise, his legs were locked tightly at the ankle. His head was clamped to the back of the throne by a metal ring, which kept his gaze pointing through the towering glass viewport directly ahead of him. Numerous cybernetic jacks were embedded in the ring, as well as the throne itself, and from each jack protruded a wire mated to ports in his skull and spine. In this way, he was inexorably tied to the massive vessel.
He swallowed, feeling the saliva drop through his esophagus like a boulder. Despite his best efforts, he began to sweat, and his breathing became short and quick. This was his first venture, after all! How could he not be nervous? Yes, he’d been trained, but the realization of being on a ship hurtling through the Warp terrified him greatly. At the mercy of the Empyrean, a ship was nothing more than a massive metal death-trap.
In the background, he heard the crew busily preparing for launch. They shouted orders and status updates across the bridge, sat down at cogitators and tapped away at the ancient brass keys, or performed a myriad of other mundane, yet necessary tasks. Finally, the captain announced with pride that they were ready to set off. Their ship had been delayed for nearly a week by a series of unfortunate setbacks, but their cargo was vital and if they did not leave now, they would be too late.
He urged himself to relax and closed his eyes, focusing not on the situation at hand, but on his heritage; though he was young, he was a member of the ancient House Amaranth. He was part of the next generation, tasked with upholding the family’s proud name throughout the Imperium. If he failed on this, his first trial, then not only would he die in disgrace, he would also forfeit the lives of thousands – no, millions.
The thought of his lineage and the weight of responsibility helped focus his mind, and when he opened his eyes, there was a fierce determination in them. He would succeed, at all costs.
A screeching metal groan echoed through the bridge as the ship uncoupled from its mooring, followed by a deep thrumming as the engines came to life. He felt the ship lurch forward, picking up speed as it departed from the Naval station. The space in front of him was pitch black, with only a few distant stars burning light years away.
“Power to the Warp drives. We need to make good time,” the captain ordered.
Through his neural links, he felt another shift as the vessel prepared to translate. As the drives charged with energy, so did his anxiety. Only a few more seconds, now…
He offered a quick, silent prayer to the Emperor before he was gripped by a moment’s feeling of weightlessness, then blinded by a sea of light.
“Translation successful,” reported one of the junior officers.
The Navigator forced his third eye, a slit-opening just above his right eyebrow, open. Through it, he could see past the protectively shaded glass of the viewport and the translucent bubble that was the Gellar field surrounding the ship’s exterior. He could peer into the very fabric of the Warp; the shifting, pulsing miasmas of primordial, psychic energy. He could hear the predatory howls of the beasts and anguished cries of the souls trapped within its infinite domain.
He was nearly overwhelmed by the experience, until he saw one piercing beam that cut through everything else. This was a beam of pure golden illumination, one that sung to him in a powerful, harmonic chorus. It brought him comfort and guidance. He knew instantly that it was the holy Astronomican.
He breathed a sigh of relief. By focusing on the Astronomican, he was able to organize the chaotic rifts and currents of the Warp into something resembling a safe path. The Navigator relayed the proposed route through his cybernetic links, so that it appeared as a hologram projected in the center of the bridge.
“Hmm… you estimate this will take eight days, eh? I suppose we have no other choice. I’ve heard of Navigators who foolishly ventured too close to the Eye of Terror, to save perhaps a day or two, only to disappear forever. This route may not be the quickest, but it is the most secure. I applaud you, Navigator,” the captain remarked.
His entire consciousness was focused on the Warp, but he heard the captain’s approval as if he was speaking in a distant dream. The journey was far from over, but the Navigator had survived the tumult of his first Warp jump.
Seven days later, the vessel tore away from the Warp and re-entered the Materium. It crackled with incorporeal lightning and trailed wisps of smoke as its realspace engines took over, propelling the ship towards the crystal-blue planet ahead.
The Navigator finally closed his third eye and grinned. It was a harrowing experience, no doubt, but he had served the Imperium well. The planet was called Optimus IX, a plague-stricken world that had been in dire need of medical supplies for months. Crates of medicine and vaccine were piled in the ship’s cargohold, waiting for transfer to the beleaguered people below. If the Navigator had failed in his duty, and the ship was lost to the ravenous entities of Chaos, it was likely the entire planet would have perished.
The Navigator reflected upon his fate. He knew that each Warp jump would be a potential sacrifice, a leap into the fires of destruction, but he was willing to risk that to serve his Emperor. He was one of the very few who could make sense of the Warp and chart a course through its madness, and he would devote everything – his body, and his mind – to using that gift for the greater good of Man.