The Imperium of Man spans the Milky Way Galaxy, its worlds number beyond the hundreds of thousands and its people number in the trillions. The Imperium is defended and expanded by the might of invincible armies, supported by the most amazing technologies in the history of man. But there are some worlds, fringe worlds, that do not know the blessings of this technology. Some of these worlds live in a stone age, hardly ever visited by the Imperium at large. Others though can still claim to have technology, of a sort. They live in an era humanity knew at the beginning of the Dark Age of Technology, where people knew of the stars and the worlds beyond, but could not yet get there. Regardless of their capabilities though, they could still be visited from the cold vastness of the void, and from the terrors that traverse it.
Silent as the night a miles long vessel traversed the emptiness of space. From another galaxy it came and it brought death by millions wherever it went. No world it left was left populated, or even capable of life, for it devoured everything, for it was the Great Devourer, the Tyranid plague. Now it was coming to the Imperium for the third time. It ate most worlds it came to. But sometimes, it would be defeated by heroes, but this to led to unforeseen consequences. When smashed from a world the tyranid fleets would splinter into hundreds of pieces, each capable of completing its original task elsewhere. Most of these fleets are caught and annihilated. But some slip through the nets the divine soldiers of the Imperium cast and find new feasts.
‘Sir, an anomaly has appeared on the outer system scanners,’ said a junior technician in the Galtan Prime Space Monitoring Center.
‘Run recognition patterns on it,’ said the senior technician in charge of the monitoring center. The man turned to another technician ‘Check the anomaly’s trajectory and find out if it’s coming here,’.
Three days later across the ocean, at the dock of Barsul Theata.
‘I don’t like this, not one damn bit,’ said Rear Admiral Jonas Almos.
‘Sir there’s not much else I can tell you,’ said First Officer Frakes, walking after his commander on the deck of the aircraft carrier: Endurance.
‘Xeno scum descending on the planet, the Galtan Prime pansies mobilize their PDF garrison and don’t bother to tell us about the threat, we could have provided air support dammit! If only we’d known,’.
‘They don’t tell us much sir, that’s the truth,’ said Frakes, trying to keep pace with the older man.
‘A fourth of the world overrun, and only now is the fleet mobilized,’.
‘It’s a bad start sir I know that much,’.
‘Are even ready to cast off?’
‘No sir not at the moment, munitions are still being brought in along with fuel for Endurance and the fighters. There’s also the NT complement coming on board,’.
‘What do we need more T’s for? We have two hundred on board at all times,’
‘The council thought we should have more this time, it’s not exactly a drill.’
‘Well when are they coming?’
‘That’s them now sir,’ said Frakes, pointing to the pier.
Two hundred Nautical Troopers double timed through the miasma of dock workers towards the boarding ramps of the Endurance. Across their chests they held autoguns, weapons less accurate and shorter ranged than the lasguns used by the larger Imperium, but these at least did not cauterize the wounds they inflicted. Lasguns were built for fighting, autoguns for killing.
‘Have the men ready the starboard NT barracks, it looks as though we’ll finally be using them,’ said Almos.
‘Yessir,’ said Frakes.
The pair continued to walk back to the command tower, a thirty foot tiered structure off the side of the flight deck. Around them the flight deck crew hurried to make sure everything was in order before casting off.
Climbing up the steep stairwell the Rear Admiral and his First Officer made their way the command center, returning salutes to seamen they passed.
When they reached the uppermost deck, not counting the anti=aircraft gun crew situated above it, the pair saw another surprise.
Standing in the middle of the deck was a figure, of medium height, clad in the red robes of the Adeptus Mechanicum.
‘What’s this?’ asked Almos.
‘I don’t know sir,’ replied Frakes. Around them the command deck crew went about their tasks, warming up control monitors and running diagnostic programs. They did their best to ignore the newcomer, not least because most of the technology developed in Barsul Theata was not made by the Mechanicum, and was technically heresy against a god that was not theirs.
‘Who are you and why are you on my ship?’ asked Almos.
The hooded Mechanicum agent turned to face the Admiral. ‘We are Okuda, we serve Galatan in this fight against the xeno threat,’. it said.
‘Who gave you permission to come onboard my ship?’ asked Almos.
‘Necessity,’ replied the cyborg ‘the humans of this world required assistance against the extra-galactic enemy, and so we was sent here, to the bodies we now use in this fight against the enemies of the Imperium,’
‘Excuse me, bodies? And when did you come here, no sea traffic has made its way here in weeks and the xenos just landed a few days ago,’ said Frakes.
‘When the local government sent a subspace emergency communiqué, it first reached the Mechianicum science vessel The 011. As the foremost expert on tyranids bio-forms onboard the ship our data-banks were sent in reply to the Mechanicum lab on this continent where we downloaded into numerous bodies to serve Imperium forces on as many fronts as possible against the Great Devourer,’
‘Nice story,’ replied Frakes ‘but how do you plan to help us?’
‘We will educate you to the threat you are facing, and a formidable platoon of tech0guard are at our service here on this ship was we speak, ready to fight the xeno plague,’.
‘Well then Mr. Okuda, I’m glad to have you aboard, next time however, give me an advance warning about your presence,’. said Almos.
‘We do not anticipate a “next time” as you call it against this particular xeno threat,’.
‘Let’s hope not,’ muttered Almos.
‘Sir,’ said an ensign ‘Chief Engineer Olsun reports ready to make way,’
‘I have similar reports from dock master Matthews and Flight Boss Dodsed, we’ve got clearance sir,’.
‘Good, give the order number one,’ said Almos.
The venerable commander left the command deck to his first officer, moments later he felt a surge of movement. The massive two thousand foot long carrier was under way, something it had only done twice before, in the Unification War, when the more populous people of the larger continent became discontent with their lands and desired the smaller continent in the southern hemisphere for themselves. It hadn’t been a war between the faithful and heretic, it had been a war between greed and independence, for both nations had been loyal to the Imperium, just separate with their own ways of life.
Almos had fought in that war and only regretted losing, though not through any fault of his own, he and others like him had fought hard and well, only for the civilian government to give up. He supposed he was lucky the fleet had not been scrapped and he allowed to retain his post within the new fleet.
Almos found his way to the edge of the flight deck, where he stood, looking at out the sea with his hand clasped behind his back. The rumble of thunder blasted in the sky above, and he felt the first few raindrops of a storm.
Below decks on the Endurance.
Nautical Trooper John Martin was new to the Endurance, he wasn’t one of the NT’s who had a permanent station on it. He used to a barracks that did not sway on the ocean, and to a bunk that was slave to solid ground.
John and his battalion had not been given any duties yet, so they had busied themselves by settling into their deck, their new home for the duration of the invasion.
Beneath the flickering light of a ceiling lamp John lay on his bunk, the top out of three, on his side. In one hand he held a pen, in the other a piece of paper he did his best to keep flat.
Doing his best not to punch holes in the paper with his pen, John began to write a letter to his girlfriend back in the dock city of Barsul Theata.
Dear: My Sweet love, went the first draft, Marie
We came on board the Endurance today, just before it set off. We haven’t been given any duties or anything yet, and I don’t expect that to change until we get out to sea. To call this place comfortable would be a drastic overstatement to say the least. I think we’re the first people to set foot on our deck who aren’t on their way somewhere else. But I guess that’s to be expected, ships like this don’t have a full complement of NT’s like us during peace time.
I’m scared, and changing the subject of this letter. I’d never tell anyone else but I will tell you. Going up against invaders from space scares me like nothing else. We don’t know much about what we’re facing, But I doubt they would tell us anything, we’re just the dumb grunts who aim and shoot, knowing about the enemy isn’t something we need to do.
I’m not sure how I feel about going the aid of the Northerners, but if the rumors are true then they’re all dead, so in some perverted way I kind feel better about it. I mean, they’re people to, but they had no right to do what they did. But the xeno threat is a threat to us to, and I guess I’d rather fight it on Northern soil than ours.
That’s all that’s on my mind right now. I’ll try to mail this letter to you, but I don’t know if it’ll get there. I’ll keep on writing no matter what though.
I love you.
John finished the letter and read it over. It would have to do.
‘Drop your cocks and grab your socks!’ came a loud, very angry voice. It was the sergeant, it had to be, no one else was always that pissed off in John’s battalion.
John folded up the letter and placed it under his mattress. The guy in the bunk below would be able to see it, as the mattress rested on a series of metal bars and nothing else, but John knew they’d be back from the drill soon enough.
John was about to drop down to the deck from his bunk when the ship rocked forward again. Some men who had already dropped hit the deck awkwardly and fell to the ground. John decided to lower himself in a safer manner.
‘First thing we’re gonna get used to boys, getting our sea legs, now follow me!’ shouted the sergeant.
John fell into his squad and took his place as the exercise began. He learned a long time ago that the quickest way to get done with an exercise, was to empty the mind of all thoughts and follow the man before him, which is what he did.
Command deck of the Endurance
First officer Frakes studied the mechanicum agent, Okuda. The cyborg hadn’t moved an inch since the Admiral had left, nor had he spoken.
‘So what can you tell us about the threat we’re facing?’ asked Frakes, breaking the silence.
Although they did their best to hide it, the crew pricked up their ears, they wanted to know just as badly as their commanders.
‘The threat we face is a splinter fleet of the tyranids hive designated Leviathan. It is smaller than other tyranids fleets encountered in the past, only one hive ship, which is why it has not yet overrun this planet, but it is still capable of it,’.
‘Now how do you know that? Didn’t you say earlier that you had only just gotten here?’
‘Yes, the primitive stallites of this planet offered no information as to the size of the fleet. We ran calculations based off encountered hive fleets and the speed at which they consumed planets in the past, we then took the available data from this world to deduce the size of the fleet,’.
‘Are you certain about all that?’ asked Frakes, trying to hold back the headache he just got.
‘No, it is conjecture at this point,’
‘May we ask a question?’ said Okuda.
‘Go ahead,’ said Frakes, rubbing his forehead.
‘Why is Rear Admiral Almos absent? Is it not his duty to see to the function and smooth operation of this vessel?’
‘It is, but if I am to ever have a ship of my own it is something I need to take over. Besides, he has other tasks to see to as well,’.
‘Going over the mission parameters set forth by our ruling council and deciding how best to do that,’
‘We see. May we ask another question?’
‘Go for it,’
‘This vessel is not built by the mechanicum, we can see as much from our immediate surroundings,’
‘The mechanicum labs on this world have never shown interest in how we run our planet, and during the war we had to make weapons that the mechanicum never made before,’
‘Does it offend you?’
Mr. Frakes, we are not like other mechanicum agents, we see the value of new ideas, however, we have seen other water based aircraft carriers and in all our years of service to the Omnissiah we have never seen one quite like this,’
‘She’s one of a kind all right,’
‘All the weapon features, the port and starboard cannon turrets, the rapid fire missile defense system and more besides are the textbook definition of lethal. It makes us wonder how you lost the Unification War,’
‘We didn’t, Endurance was out at sea with its first commander, Captain Almos, he made quite a name for himself before the council surrendered. The only reason he was permitted to stay with the fleet by the North was the fact that were afraid he would go out and attack their ports after peace had finally come after three decades of war,’
‘He could have done that?’
‘Oh yeah, with the crew he had, he could have done anything,’
‘Why didn’t he?’
‘He was ordered back to port by the council, he wasn’t told what for. When he got back they told him about the surrender and disarmed Endurance behind his back so he couldn’t do anything. He spent the next twenty years a desk officer,’
‘What happened then?’
‘The xenos came,’.
Flight deck of the Endurance.
Feet dangling over the edge, Eder Jens wrapped his arms around the safety rails on the side of the flight deck and looked down on the open ocean
Next to him was Gerden Fow, his fellow fighter pilot.
‘Hope the weather clears,’ said Gerden.
‘Doesn’t make a difference, we’ll fly no matter what if we have to,’
‘That’s the truth, I just hope it’s clear when we go up,’
‘Just how long have you been in the fleet?’ asked Eder.
Gerden chuckled. ‘Long enough to know what I hope for won’t happen anytime soon,’ he said.
‘Good thing we got the fighters down below,’ said Eder, nodding back at the empty flight deck when the winds picked up and the rain started coming down faster and harder.
‘No kidding, I think we better get back inside,’ said Gerden.
The duo got up careful to avoided not to take a misstep so close to the edge.
They made it back to the tower without incident and made their way to the mess hall, passing a platoon of NT’s going up to the flight deck.
‘Sucks to be them,’ muttered Gerden.
The mid deck of the Emperor’s Chariot, former trash ship, now a refugee carrier.
Huddled in a sea of humanity in the middle of the ocean is not a fun place to be. Compared to what they were fleeing however, it was paradise.
Hidden behind a hooded cloak, Peter Glenen hid himself from the view of the masses. He had learned quickly when he came onboard that people did not take kindly to men who were supposed to defend their homes, no matter how impossible the odds.
Around him men, women, and children either cried, sat silently in shock, trapped in the nightmares they fled, or just tried to find a place to sit. Some people gave up stood. Some of the men were courteous and made room for others to sit and rest, but only some.
‘Attention all passengers this is the captain speaking’ buzzed the intercom on the ceiling ‘the weather outside is starting to turn ugly, you can expect rougher waters here in just a bit, so get ready for that. Unfortunately there’s not much else the crew and I can do, the Chariot was never intended for this, but we’re about to pull alongside the passenger liner, the Grand Royale to get some food and water for ya so you’ll be able to eat in just a little while now. That is all,’.
Being reminded of the wonders of food and water brought Peter to his feet, seemingly of their own accord. He wasn’t alone in this, around him other refugees got up in anticipation of food.
Again of their own accord his legs took up toward the stairwell, toward the top deck in order to be first in line for food. This he was also not alone in.
When he reached the deck he was greeted by the spray of the sea and by the scattered raindrops of a brewing storm.
On the starboard side of the Chariot, the massive passenger liner Royale kept a steady and straight path through the water while the smaller ship closed in. There was still some distance between the two, perhaps thirty meters, but that didn’t stop Peter from thinking he could smell the food.
Men at the railing of the Royale’s top deck waved signal flags to the Chariot, guiding it closer and closer. Peter looked to the command bridge of the Chariot and saw the dumper’s crew relaying orders to the wheel house.
Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).