Heresy-Online's Expeditious Stories 12-03: Rebirth
Welcome to the year's third Heresy-Online's Expeditious Stories (HOES) Challenge!
For those of you that are unfamiliar with HOES, here's how it works:
Each month, there will be a thread posted in the Original Works forum for that month's HOES competition. For those of you interested in entering, read the entry requirements, write a story that fits the chosen theme and post it as a reply to the competition thread by the deadline given. Each and every member of Heresy Online is more than welcome to compete, whether your entry is your first post or your thousandth. We welcome everyone to join the family of the Fan Fiction Forum.
Once the deadline has passed, a separate voting thread will be posted, where the readers and writers can post their votes for the top three stories. Points will be awarded (3 points for 1st, 2 for 2nd, and 1 for 3rd) for each vote cast, totaled at the closure of the voting window, and a winner will be announced. The winner will have his/her story added to the Winning HOES thread.
The idea with the theme is that it should serve as the inspiration for your stories rather than a constraint. While creative thinking is most certainly encouraged, the theme should still be relevant to your finished story. The chosen theme can be applied within the WH40K, WHF, HH, and even your own completely original works (though keep in mind, this IS a Warhammer forum) but there will be no bias as to which setting is used for your story.
As far as the theme goes, please feel free with future competitions to contact me with your ideas/proposals, especially given that my creative juices may flow a bit differently than yours. All I ask is that you PM me your ideas rather than posting them into the official competition entry/voting threads to keep posts there relevant to the current competition.
The official word count for this competition will be 1,000 words. There will be a 10% allowance in this limit, essentially giving you a 900-1,100 word range with which to tell your tale. This is non-negotiable. This is an Expeditious Story competition, not an Epic Story nor an Infinitesimal Story competition. If you are going to go over or under the 900-1,100 word limit, you need to rework your story. It is not fair to the other entrants if one does not abide by the rules. If you cannot, feel free to PM me with what you have and I'll give suggestions or ideas as to how to broaden or shorten your story.
Each entry must have a word count posted with it. Expect a reasonably cordial PM from me (and likely some responses in the competition thread) if you either fail to adhere to this rule. The word count can be annotated either at the beginning or ending of your story, and does not need to include your title.
Without further ado...
The theme for this month's competition is:
Entries should be posted in this thread, along with any comments that the readers may want to give (and comments on stories are certainly encouraged in both the competition and voting threads!) 40K, 30K, WHF, and original universes are all permitted (please note, this excludes topics such as Halo, Star Wars, Forgotten Realms, or any other non-original and non-Warhammer settings). Keep in mind, comments are more than welcome! If you catch grammar or spelling errors, the writers are all more than free to edit their piece up until the close of the competition, and that final work will be the one considered for voting. Sharing your thoughts with the writers as they come up with their works is a great way to help us, as a FanFiction community, grow as a whole.
The deadline for entries is Midnight US Eastern Standard Time (-5.00 hours for you UK folks)Saturday, 24 March 2012. Voting will be held from 24 March - 31 March.
If simply being victorious over your comrades is not enough to possess you to write a story, there will be rep rewards granted to those that participate in the HOES Challenge.
Participation - 5 reputation points, everyone will receive this
3rd place - 10 reputation points
2nd place - 20 reputation points
1st place - 30 reputation points
If you have any questions, feel free to either PM me or ask in this thread.
Without further nonsense from me, let the writing begin!
Table of Contents
Adrian - Thus the Song of Legend Sings
Jonileth - Endless Reflection
gothik - Starting Over
VixusKragov - In the Womb of the Warp
Davidicus 40K - The Cycle
andygorn - Blameless Skies
Serpion5 - Old Acquaintances
Dicrel Seijin - Iron Grot
Zinegata - A Boarding Action
Dave T Hobbit - Luck of the Dice
KjellThorngaard - Vulture Down
Thus the song of legend sings.
The ocean waves dipped and lifted simultaneously. At first the rippling effect was small and unnoticeable, but as the winds grew so did the waves. The small boat was not meant for open waters especially not this far out.
The boat was named the Little. It bore its name in truth, but the cargo it carried was worth more than gold. The old man fought with the oars hard against the current the wind and the waves, but try as he might he was just not strong enough to make any headway.
The old man’s heart gave out and as he slumped over and collapsed on the shallow deck the baby began to cry.
No one could understand why the Little did not capsize. Some people believed it was because the baby was blessed while others believed the baby was such a curse the ocean would not accept it. Whatever the case may be, the baby was held aloft in the hands of a young lady who took him as her own.
As the years passed by the baby grew into a man, strong and fleet of foot. His hunger for knowledge grew to such a point the elders could no longer quench his thirst, nor could they answer his questions anymore.
The young man bore the name Obadia. It meant in the language of the coastal people, “For what purpose?”
The name Obadia could not have been so aptly applied than to this young man. Everything was questioned. Everything had to have an answer even if it was as simple as, ‘Why does that rock sit in the sun at that angle and cast its shadow at that angle?’ or as difficult as, ‘Why does death take us all?’
Obadia hated to fight, but when it came down to it he could defend himself with such skill none was a match for him. He was from a place across the ocean, from another tribe…another world. What purpose did he have in this life? He had to find out.
As the sun came up over the ocean waves Obadia said goodbye the woman who had raised him. He left not knowing where he was going, with no direction but the beating of his heart and the rising of the sun.
Years passed, the seasons changed and with them so did Obadia. He became strong from his travels, he became a warrior able to fend off and kill the greatest of beasts. By his hand he clove the enemies of humanity in twain and struck down the great dragon and its child.
Blood had become his way of life and death knelt before him. His red hair grew long and his muscles strong. His skin grew dark under the relentless sun and his eyes strange and cold. In the wilds he felt his purpose. In the darkness he made his home.
His name became a bane to the enemies of men and they cursed him for the fear they felt.
The days passed and with them so did his desire to once again go home. There was nothing left for him of his old life; he had been reborn in the killing fields. Obadia’s mind grew sharp from study. Anything he found with words upon it he took the time to read.
In the Chaos wastes he found ancient libraries buried under time and dirt. There he made his home and there he gained his knowledge. The books were old and cracked. They fell apart when he lifted them too roughly, so it was with a gentle hand that he turned the pages. He covered his mouth when he read lest the pages disintegrate from the breeze his breath would cast.
The things these books taught him were forbidden in the old world; they answered questions that no one else could have answered. If he thought, they knew. It was as if they were alive, old and dying; desperate to impart their knowledge before they met their end.
With the knowledge they taught him he found that the world had not always been a feral place nor was their Chaos in the hearts of men. Death had no place in the land and darkness was natural as was the light.
The minds of men became warped when they were led away by their own lusts and as they sought to gratify their own desires the world began to turn. Darkness seeped in and consumed their minds. It was not the darkness of night, but the darkness of rebellion and faithlessness. It was the darkness of perversity and lust. It was the darkness of curses and murder.
Obadia wept with the sadness of lost civilizations and burned with anger at the travesty and depredation of mankind who had turned their hearts from righteousness and had given themselves unto the daemons of the underworld.
In his heart a fire was kindled and he knew at last the purpose for which he had been born. It was not for him to only kill but to cleanse the land from the stain of Chaos. Reborn from a lowly child into a young man, from a young man into a warrior, from a warrior into a scholar, from a scholar into a priest set apart for the purpose of dismantling the forces of Chaos.
In the depths of the library he came upon a shield and hammer covered in sand and fallen stone. The weapons called out to him in his sleep and bade him come. Once they were in his hands he found he could not let them go. His soul was aflame and his will a fire.
The sword began to glow as the sounds of the minions of Chaos found the city of libraries; the shield began to sing with the power of forgotten saints. As he emerged from the depths his eyes began to burn and from his open mouth the words he had read burned forth in lightning flashes that boiled the enemy in their armor and split the ground as if in a earthquake.
Giants fell before him when he whispered and Chaos gods long forgotten begged for mercy when he slashed his sword. Chained to his soul, the scriptures gave him strength and he fought as if possessed by all who had been slain for their faithfulness.
Ten thousand fell to the songs of his shield and a hundred thousand to the sword in his hand. The earth rose and fell by the words in his mouth and the fire in his eyes.
Thus the song of legend sings.
1,100 words not including title.
Dang Adrian..popped that one out fast :) Working on mine now, hope people like it. Late congrats to last month's winners also!
Justicar Erebus stood on the steps of the ruined building that once housed the Planetary Governor of Ranmer Minor. The building still burned in the unholy purple daemonic flames that had consumed it. Justicar Erebus and his Terminator squad had teleported to the surface as part of an advance strike team, only to find that their intelligence had been wrong. The domed city had been nearly obliterated in the time since the first call for aid had gone out. Most of the once mighty and beautiful buildings now sat ruined, nearly unrecognizable as buildings at all.
“Brother Martayus, do you sense the enemy?” the Grey Knights Justicar asked of his Librarian.
Brother Librarian Martayus walked forward to stand beside his Captain and longtime friend, “No, Erebus. That beyond anything else disturbs me…”
Justicar Erebus tapped the hilt of his sword as he considered the situation for a moment, “It is unlikely that the daemons have left this world. How they are hiding themselves is unsettling to be sure but not insurmountable. Come brothers, let us purge this world and be gone.”
The rest of his squad nodded silently and followed their Justicar down the steps of the once mighty administration building. The streets and squares before them were equally bathed in the unholy purple light of daemonic fire, casting vile shadows all around the squad as they pressed into the city. The lack of corpses made it all the more strange that they felt nothing around them. Erebus considered for a moment the possibility that the flames were somehow distorting their perceptions, but could not readily rectify the suspicion with any knowledge he had ever gleaned from his many decades of battle that would justify such a thought.
Further inside the domed city, the squad came upon a twisted effigy that told the Grey Knights rather plainly what daemonic god of Chaos had sent his minions to prey upon the moon. A tree that had once dominated the center of a pavilion had been desecrated, visages of twisted nude figures writhing in agony and pleasure adorning the entire surface of the tree on all sides, the limbs and branches cut down all around it alight with the daemonic flames.
“Slaanesh…” Justicar Erebus growled just loud enough to be heard.
The squad fanned out and continued along the path they had been taking, finding themselves approaching a structure that had not yet been burned to the ground. A temple that had once been dedicated to the Emperor stood before them, the beauty of the structure marred by the tainted symbols of the Chaos daemons that had been sent to Renmar Minor. The very sight of it fanned the flames of fury within each and every Grey Knight who gazed upon it.
“Brothers, let us purge the filth and reclaim this world!” the Justicar urged his men forward as he drew his sword from its place at his hip. The squad let out an angry cry and followed the Justicar forward, each of them brandishing one of their own weapons. As they charged the building, a flood of daemonettes surged from the entryway, each twisted daemon bearing a horrible form that would have repulsed and entranced any lessor men of the Imperium.
Justicar Erebus was the first to come upon a daemon, his Nemesis weapon blazing angrily with psychic energy as it came crashing down into the daemon’s flesh. His victim screamed in utter agony as the blade sliced through flesh without hindrance, fueled by the Grey Knight’s own psychic might. No sooner had the corpse been cleaved in half did Erebus set upon the next daemon just behind it.
The group of Grey Knights waded into the swarm of lesser daemons with the zeal of hardened veterans, all of them shrugging off blows and dealing death to the foul beasts that had been set loose upon the world. Bolter fire, flashes of lightning, and the sounds of cleaved flesh filled the ears of the Grey Knights as they pushed forward. It wasn’t until they had actually breached the structure that their momentum slowed. The horrific sight the squad became witness to was almost too much for even Erebus to behold.
The bodies of countless hundreds, if not thousands, sat pinned to the walls and ceiling of the building. Their blood caked every inch of the floor, turning it into something of a shallow pool. Many of the ones that hung around them had been given the release of death, but not all. Those that had been unlucky enough to live were screaming in horror, pain, and begging for death. In the center of it all, a twisted Keeper of Secrets stood, basking in the glory of it all.
The foul daemon looked almost entirely human, only the clawed hands and twisted, daemon-like legs of the thing gave it away for what it truly was. It didn’t notice the Grey Knights at first, too wrapped up in the pleasure of the agony going on around it. Once it did turn its twisted eyes to the Grey Knights, it was clear the beast cared nothing for talk.
The Keeper of Secrets surged forward, and so too did Justicar Erebus, the pair clashing in the middle of the temple. The beast exchanged blows with the Grey Knight, each punishing hit being greeted in kind by an equally devastating hit from the Justicar. Erebus managed to cleave one of the daemon’s arms off before it finally managed to send a spiked limb through his armor, impaling him. The world went black soon after…
A pale white light was the next thing Erebus saw. A rush of uncertainty washed over him before his senses finally returned. He felt the familiar chill of metal, the alien tingle of limbs that were not his own. He could perceive the world around him clearly a few moments later, and gazed down upon the man who had woken him from his slumber, from the dream that always waited for him.
“Justicar Erebus,” the man who he had not yet known addressed him, “You have been called upon to serve the Grey Knights once more.”
Erebus’ mind grappled with the implications of it. He had been reborn, fated to serve his brothers again inside the great machine. He could not remember if that had ever truly been his wish, but then… he could hardly remember anything except the day of his death with any clarity.
“I will serve,” his voice emitted from the vox as his massive limbs carried him forward to the next battle against the daemons of Chaos…
1099 words not including title.
Hm. A story of Rebirth...
I write about necrons...
I hate you Boc. :biggrin:
Next month lets do Zombies. :-)
Haha you could easily use Rebirth for zombies, besides, I don't think I could ever justify having a theme of "Braaaaiiins"
A tale of Rebirth
A HOES tale 03-12
Word Count: 1080 (titles not included)
The youth was different, his parents knew that, his scholars knew that and the Priest knew that. Outwardly he was hard a worker as he was a scholar and his thirst for knowledge out weighed any of his class mates. Despite his ethics and his knowledge he was indeed a likeable young man, if not intimidating because of his sheer size. He had grown in what the doctors could only call major growth spurts. When asked if he knew why this happened to him, the boy would merely shrug and say perhaps it was something in his family line that had caught up with him. No one could argue with that logic.
He had a charisma that ensured he was the most popular youth at school, he was never without a girl on his arm and he was never without a place in the sports teams. Occasionally his sleep was fractured with dreams of armoured warriors, tens of thousands of men across numerous battlefields chanting a name in glory. Other times the dreams would turn into horrific nightmares, warriors against warriors, a galaxy in flames and a final battle between father and son.
He would wake without a sound and would tell no one of his dreams. His world was superstitious enough and the last thing he wanted was to be tagged as a demon. He would continue his day as he always had, the people of his mining town would remark how he could clear several layers of the mine by himself. When a mining accident trapped several of his friends he took command of the rescue operation and directed men and women to points that he knew would be beneficial to the search.
He would not rest until such work was completed and when it was successful he would celebrate, if it was not he would blame himself for not being quick enough. Despite his now elderly parents words of comfort to placate him it seemed that he was unable to forget the loss almost as if it were a part of him that had been killed in the mine.
The dreams at night became more and more realistic. Not only did he dream about the dead miners but dead warriors’. Some holding the hand of their mighty Commander as they passed into the halls of warriors past, others staring into blackness, the image of their last moments forever imprinted on their eyes and behind them eyes were accusations’ wordless destruction that pointed the finger of blame at their Commander.
He would get up and pace the floor of his home, ducking under door frames to pass from room to room, attempting to make sense of this jumbled jigsaw of pictures that played in his mind and controlled his dreams at night but , try as hard as he might he could not. It was as if his mind was deliberately blocking anything that would help him make sense of such a mosaic of images.
When the Orks came to his world he joined the army without hesitation and under his guidance they managed to beat the Greenskins back despite the losses felt the world over. The people of his world began to see him as a god of war, never giving up and never giving in, there were those who began to whisper that he was more then human, he was bigger then they were, he was able to talk to anyone and they would listen enraptured with his words.
When he had killed the Ork Commander he had done so with his bare hands, roaring to the heavens as the Greenskins very life blood covered his face and in the moonlight it had illuminated his face with an eerie red light. He was now the saviour of this world and there was no one who did not love this mighty war god.
The vessel approached the planet slowley and cautiously like a Lion hunting its prey. On its ancient and mighty bridge a giant stood with his hands clasped firmly behind his back. His massive armour the first thing that enemies saw and the last thing they would see. His sorcerers’ and Psykers had told him this was the real deal. He was unsure if it was or if it was yet another hoax, or a trick perpetrated by other Legions’, if it was then he would kill this being himself then go after those who dared try this.
The world below him was both familiar to him and unknown she looked like his old home world but before her destruction and long before her rape of minerals. He had recalled the old tales of how she looked before humans had settled in abundance. He closed his eyes and listened to the sounds beyond sounds that only he could hear. The fear in the hearts of those that worked within this ancient and hallowed vessel was like a drug to him, he did not care if they cursed his name, as long as they obeyed him through duty or fear it mattered not.
When the vessel had achieved orbit he took a small retinue in an ancient Stormbird and told the merged pilot to head for the largest township. The pilot had been human once but was now one with the demon spirit within the ancient Stormbird; he patted the pilots shoulder and relayed his orders to his bridge. If this was a wasted journey then this world would burn.
The war god came out as the ancient vessel came into land, his eyes fixed on the craft trajectory and when it had landed a sense of familiarity washed over him. He pushed his long dark hair back and up into a topknot, his muscles’ rippled as his tension built, a wash of adrenalin fuelled through him, only felt when he had killed the Orks and their Commander.
He folded his tree trunk arms across his chest as the ramp lowered and monsters dressed in black and gold armour marched down, causing the townsfolk to step back in fear, their fear reached the war gods incredible sense of smell and he smiled slightly. As he laid eyes on the warriors who stood across from him his mind everything clicked into place, what the pictures meant an who he really was.
Abaddon stared at the man before him “Your name” He demanded.
The silence was deafening and only one word was spoken “Horus”
In The Womb of the Warp
The astropath turned to the Captain. “Sir, we’ve received a message.”
“During warp travel? What does it read?”
“ ‘Mother welcomes you.' Sir, it bears Engineer Adams’ identification code.”
“Alert. Major equipment malfunction. Gellar field shutdown. Critical error. Gellar field shutdown.”
“Shut that damn alarm up!” Captain Soveroc’s voice was lost among the frightened yelling and desperate countermeasures. He turned to the madly twitching navigator. “Pull us out of warp travel! NOW!”
The Captain’s aide turned in his chair. “He can’t, sir! We need to do as protocol dictates and eliminate all psykers before they are possessed. Including our inquisitorial guest.”
Soveroc nodded, accessing the ship’s vox. “Attention crew! All psykers and Engineer Adams are to be killed on sight! All engineers, report to the Gellar field and fix it, on the double!”
At that moment, Soveroc was raised in the air. His back bent backwards, bones crunching together, blood seeping from his mouth. As he fell to the ground, his aide’s head exploded in a surge of blood. The navigator went up in a small warp storm, bolts arching off in the ship.
The astropath began to spasm, looking to the bridge entrance. “I fear…no evil…I fear no death…for the Emperor comes for...”His voice shifted to a deep echo. “ Nobody.” He let out a wail, his jaw cracking and splitting apart. A horrible cracking, like a tree falling, marked his death.
When it cleared, the Inquisitor stood in the doorway of the bridge. He stepped forward, his movement seeming stiff…unnatural. He turned his head, almost in a twitching movement. He opened his mouth, a small clicking sound coming from his throat. He then lowered his head, and when he raised it, he was smiling.
The former Inquisitor looked around at the slaughter, and then he laughed, screams haunting the background of his voice. “Your guest is gone. You are the Warp’s guests now.” When security rushed towards him, he held a hand out, fire stealing the air from their lungs as it burned.
I watched this all from my station on the bridge. I was powerless to stop it- I didn’t even have a gun. I began to tremble, terrified. I thought of my wife on Chosin, my son waiting for me to return.
Then, the Inquisitor looked to me, and his presence overcame my mind. I turned and began entering the override code for the ceramite blinders. They rose from the viewports, and the crew was exposed to the Warp.
Thunderstorms raged in the midst of infernos, beings of unimaginable power lurking just out of sight. I heard far-off explosions, and screams. Things-monsters- began to rush into the bridge, taking form in nightmarish shapes. I couldn’t tell if they were screaming or laughing. They were held back by the Inquisitor raising a hand. He looked to the crew.
“Welcome to our Mother. Welcome to the Warp.”
They took over the ship. Small battles were fought against them, but we knew we had already lost. Demons continuously poured into the ship, held back from the loyal, and set upon the resistance with unending numbers. Madness lurked around every corner, whether from the constant fear of attack or the Warp’s overpowering presence.
Soon enough, we were broken. The lucky ones were taken by the demons as host bodies, their minds torn asunder. The unlucky became slaves to the Inquisitor, keeping the ship working for some unknown purpose. Engineer Adams had been made the Inquisitor’s lieutenant. He was given the gift of mutation from exposure while repairing the ship, his legs morphed into a single worm-like appendage.
The Inquisitor began to transform. As time went on, he became more and more hellish. An unholy fire seemed to burn within him, glowing out from his veins. Great angelic wings sprouted from his back, and he wept blood. He was a monster. A god turned daemon.
Demons lurked in every corner, every nightmare and fear you didn’t know you had residing in them. Whether they were wraiths of a figure, mouths frozen in silent screams, or immense crimson berserkers, every move you made they wished to use an excuse for slaughter.
Our hope of reaching our destination and being freed from the warp were broken. We were lost inside the womb of Chaos.
The changes among the crew were subtle at first. Reluctance to serve lost, eyes morphing, teeth sharpening, thoughts of murder haunting minds. They became more evident as our ship continued to wander through the Warp. We began to grow talons, dark leathery wings among some. The taste and smell of blood sent us into uncontrollable rage and violence.
The Inquisitor sacrificed those who did not obey. We hated him at first. Now we saw how he protected us from the ignorant. Fed us knowledge. Controlled the savage demons that would destroy us. We who were not possessed thought ourselves unlucky at first. In truth, we were the luckiest of all.
The Corpse-Emperor was an illusion, a fairytale. The true Gods were ones of power. The Inquisitor told us that the greatest and most powerful of them all was the Blood God, the Lord of Skulls. Khorne. Soon, we would give him a great offering.
The Inquisitor tells us we are like a long-lost animal, the Phoenix, during its change. Before, we were foolish, serving the false one. We burned ourselves with the Warp’s great beauty, were reborn in its glory. Soon, we would rise from the ashes, and rain the Warp’s wrath on the foolish, he told us.
“Say goodbye to your Mother, children.”
We burst from her womb, the Inquisitor’s demon followers going into their hosts, taking over them, letting them taste the Warp’s greatness before their mind was obliterated.
A planet filled the viewport. Gunmetal gray dotted with the cities of lies, broken by swirling seas between. This world would fall, and it would be Khorne’s. Thoughts raced through my head of slaughter and blood-letting. This day would be glorious.
“We have risen, my children. It is time to give the gift of Imperial blood to our master.”
We cried out words of praise to Khrone, as our ship hurtled towards the soon-to-be fallen world.
The Inquisitor smiled.
I smiled with him, my teeth slashing open black lips, blood dripping to the console in front of me. An appetizer for our master.
1,056 words not including the title. Thanks for reading my first HOES story! :thank_you:
(1,099 words, including title)
Aldrioch – City of Giants – is exactly as I remember it. I never thought I’d see it again.
Split into several equidistant boroughs, Aldrioch was designed to be Axel Nova’s primary manufacturing center. The city was built around the Macharius Industrial Complex, a forty square mile amalgamation of manufactories, refineries, and fabrication mills sprawling across a plateau in the northeastern corner of the metropolis.
I’m a simple miner, working in the shafts that snake through the mountains behind the MIC. I live in Hittari District, a long, shallow string of identical, pre-fabricated habs that hug the northern face of the mesa. Each hab is a squat, two-story structure, nothing more than rockcrete and wood over a metal skeleton.
On this day, 427.999.M41, I’m walking back from a particularly long shift. The chalky white dust of the mines clings to my worn clothes, and I’m surrounded by fellow miners heading down the main thoroughfare that bisects the district. I’ve done this before, on this very day, and I know what’s coming.
Those around me are oblivious. I fear many of them will not live to see tomorrow.
Something compels me to look up. In the cloudless twilight sky, I see a raven circling overhead. I hear a name in my mind: Suul’Khan. I feel gratitude. It was he who gave me this gift; I won’t squander it.
The apocalypse begins in three… two… one.
A massive roar disrupts the evening peace. Seconds later, I gasp as I’m hit with a shockwave of pressurized air. All of habs’ windows are blown out, sending cascades of glass trickling down, and the support beams within groan with the effort of absorbing the impact. I turn to the south and see an immense fireball rising slowly, wreathed in thick, black smoke.
I remember that explosion; it came from the Harland Petrochemical plant, one of the oldest and most hazardous manufactories in Aldrioch. It will spark a firestorm that will feast upon the stockpiles of chemicals and other flammable materials throughout the MIC, then spread down the plateau and devour Hittari District.
Last time, I didn’t get to them quickly enough. This time will be different.
Everyone around me is stunned. I can imagine what’s going through their minds – questions like whether or not the city is under attack or whether or not their loved ones in the MIC are safe – but I don’t care. I ignore my fatigue and run westward, pumping my legs hard.
As I sprint, I pass by the innumerable loudspeakers and public viewscreens along the avenue. They halt their monotonous propaganda to broadcast emergency news reports and evacuation procedures. Now the district starts to panic. I focus only on what is directly in front of me; I have no other concern than getting home. Occasionally, I look to the south and observe the ever-growing columns of fire-lit smoke rising into the atmosphere.
Faster, faster; I have to hurry.
By the time I reach my street, my legs are heavy as lead and I’m desperately gasping for breath. I’ve pushed my body too far, but it was worth it; I still have a chance. The inferno has reached the street behind mine, spreading quickly. Smoke and ash chafe my throat and eyes. Glowing embers fly through the air, propelled by the hot gusts created by the firestorm. Sweat covers my brow, my face, and all exposed skin. My body is screaming at me, telling me not to go towards the oppressive heat of the rapidly approaching fire, but I push myself the last distance to the hab’s entrance. When I open the door, I finally let out a sigh of relief.
I stagger down the narrow hallway that connects the major rooms until I reach the door at the end. It opens into the master bedroom, and…
There they are, waiting anxiously for me.
Amanda, my wife; John, my son, nearly six this year. I feel a mixture of love and anger; they waited for me when they should’ve already evacuated. Amanda sees me and rushes over to my open arms. She’s sobbing and apologizing, saying that if they didn’t wait, there’d be little chance we would’ve found each other in the overcrowded evacuation center. She didn’t want John going through that ordeal.
“I understand, Amanda,” I assure her. “But we have to move quickly!”
As she grabs John’s hand and hurries him towards the entrance, I nearly cry tears of joy. This was the second chance I’d always wanted. The first time, I wasn’t fast enough, and I’d arrived at the hab after it had caught on fire.
I’d charged in, frantically searching through the rooms until I found Amanda and John. My son had been huddled in the near corner, but Amanda had become separated, nearly surrounded by a wall of burning death. She'd urged me to grab John and get out of there before the entire building collapsed.
I’d had a choice: heed her final wish and save my son, or sacrifice myself to get them both out. I chose the latter and regretted it the rest of my days. When I finally passed away, I thought it was salvation; I met Suul’Khan, a kindly denizen of the Warp who protected me from the ravenous harpies that tried to rip me apart and offered me a chance to rectify my mistake. I accepted his offer and received this gift. I’m forever in his debt.
I follow my family towards the entrance. Amanda reaches out and opens the door, then collapses with a heavy thud. John faints a moment later. Alarmed, I rush over to them and see a lanky, shadowy figure blocking the doorway. I stare at its avian face and the name slithers through my mind: Suul’Khan.
“What are you doing?” I ask, betrayed.
It cackles and snaps two of its elongated, feathery fingers. The hallway around me bursts into flames, and I watch as they consume Amanda and John. Why? How could he do this to me? My disbelief turns into rage as my skin begins to char. I scream as I die, cursing Suul’Khan’s name. The daemon delights in my torment, and the last thing I see are its malevolent blue eyes.
“So entertaining,” the daemon hisses, chuckling. “This soul has plenty of guilt left to exploit. I shall let him save his family once more.”
With a subtle thought, the reality in its realm is erased and rebuilt, including the plaything’s most recent memories.
Aldrioch – City of Giants – is exactly as I remember it. I never thought I’d see it again.
“Blameless Skies” (1099 words, not including title)
Stepping through the lidless scarlet eye, she is in ‘a-place-which-is-not-a-place’, somewhere other than reality; where dream-stuff is made and imaginations cavort with one another in limitless carnality.
Idols of Gods lie shattered amongst creeping vines which entwine like lovers amongst the broken pink-flecked cobblestones.
Upon a cerise lounge-seat reclines a human, his pure skin radiating menace and enthrallment in equal measure. Like an opening door inside empty lodgings, his words and energy lure her to know more, even though she knows doing so will be her end.
“You arrived not a moment too soon! This place bores me so, but I like revisiting past achievements.
“Let me ask: Which type of God denies you the lusts which you have always wished to slake; or the sensations which you can only dream about?”
“When I can give all that you desire, what use is Khorne, the so-called ‘Lord of Skulls’..?
“At my side, rivers of gore await your merest beckoning: Foes will quail in terror beneath your majesty, unheeding your peerless deathblow which panics their entire army.
“Friends shall throw themselves onto their own blades; not because they love death or hate life, but merely for a chance their exultant demises may catch your glance.
“What blight could Nurgle’s rotting corpulence bestow to dull the glory I proffer?
“An offer of life surrounded by dead flesh and maggotted decay? No! I refuse for one so blessed to be reduced to the level of my brother’s eaters-of-corpses.”
The courtyard walls of this ‘room-that-is-not-a-room’ shake with unbridled fury, irreparably damaging priceless paintings, statues forever broken by madness.
“What, then, of the originator: the God of Change? Constant inconsistency?!
“Why would anybody reject life singularly dedicated to realms of pleasure and exuberance?
“He offers a life allied to base sorcery, but is this trifle to be your allocation? Magic affords great power, yet exacts a steep price, neglecting vitality, sensation and emotion...all of which are necessary to feel truly alive.”
“Even should someone take my brothers’ allegiance, if any experience joy or fulfilment in their works, they nevertheless contribute towards me.
"You know this to be true. There is but one choice, for am I not a giving God as always promised?
"Glory in the new talents bestowed upon you. Yet, for every gift, there has to be a price:
“Most loyal maiden, deprave yourself in every way you crave...become more than you ever thought possible, although someone less than you always were...”
Her merest gasp of wonder at these possibilities is sufficient agreement for The Gift to latch upon her like the most determined paramour.
Although every nerve-ending and sense rebels at this initial violation, her next heartbeat welcomes the intrusions which invade the rest of her form.
Synapses quickly fill to overloading and (with no way to stop the empowerment even had she willed it to cease) bolts of electricity course through her body, contorting her limbs in every possible direction.
In spasming frenzy, muscles and bones continuously tear, break and reform under inhuman strain and she collapses to the marbled floor, screaming with ecstasy and agony in equal measure until unconsciousness robs her of sight and thought.
When vision and control finally return, it takes several moments to realise her talons have grown: now four feet in length, their new pearlescent lilac hues catch the pale skittering light, brazenly attempting to bedazzle and beguile even their owner.
She grins -perhaps a little too widely- at the thought this effect will have upon her foes.
Leaning upon new-formed limbs, she catches sight of her own reflection in the marbled fountain: three pupil-less jade eyes stare back, roaming across an image of armoured yellow skin, the several rows of needle-teeth which overfill her oral cavity and a face adorned with a crown of slender horns akin to the herbivore antee-lopes of Ind.
This is knowledge she never possessed whilst mortal, but it now lies amongst an intriguing archive of information already held by her new form.
As he flits between the tongues of this world, his voice is so clear and precise; she understands the hidden meanings behind the words of all races, not just their traditional diction.
Despite hearing the frantic carving of her claws which gouge and break the intricately carved floor as she stands, there is something inherently ‘wrong’.
A tiny part of her acknowledges that this is something she should take note of, but it is submerged beneath a tide of longing as his gaze locks with hers.
Although his lips do not move, her voice is not hers to command as she echoes his words: “Always -and forever- mine...”
Allegiance duly sworn, her new form -Sharessa- stands before her lover...her master...her mistress.
Incautiously ignoring any mental differences which have occurred, her eyes blink against the maelstrom of colours which now swirl around her, simultaneously calling her in two directions.
His soft voice touches her earlobe with feather-like delicacy:
“The option to the right offers an eternity at my side...things will change, but you will no longer care.”
“The option to the left returns you to where you once were, with a chance to now make a difference, but only thanks to me...”
The right doorway holds a scene of milky blue, where strange and unnervingly wondrous animals eagerly lap at the waters, before their eyes lose focus and they slump into pleasurable langour and indolence.
On the left, the life she left behind -full of torment and anguish- those she loved cut down around her. But her new form now offers more comforts and opportunities than she had ever believed possible and she approaches this second portal.
“There will have been changes since you left and the world will not be as you knew,” the God warns.
“Only by dying at another’s hand can you come back to me, whereupon each time we shall resume this conversation.”
Stepping through the sinister opening, she returns to the corpse-field she had departed:
Beheading her first eager opponent, she feels nothing as her razor-sharp claws shear his neck.
Moving faster, her entranced opponents fall to each blow, yet her limbs register no impacts.
Gore fountains from slashed torso’s and rent limbs; she smells the vitae’s coppery tang, but there is no dripping of the scarlet liquid upon her flesh.
Pausing, the grass and rocks beneath her naked feet are neither cool nor sharp; the wind which bends the trees does not cool her skin.
Stripped of the sensation of touch, she has now become as unfeeling as her God and she howls her loss, deprivation and self-loathing against the blameless skies.
Great stories so far, everyone!
As ever, the words of my tales are mine, but I can't lay claim to the concepts or inspiration.
There might be some punctuation mistakes here(?). If so, please let me know so I can put them right to make a better read for yourselves.
popping them out all over the shop here
and some of them are fantastic,
in contrast especially after my underwhelming entry last time :(
i struggle for inspiration
Not that I really know but, speaking for myself: I don't 'write', I 'transcribe', so it's "100% inspiration and 0% perspiration" for me so (perhaps?) I feel your pain.
I think stories are a bit like the old joke about buses: Sometimes, they don't come at all; at other times, you might get 3 or 4 coming along at once.
For me, stories come somewhat sporadically. Sometimes I can be inspired to write volumes, other times I couldn't get a word down that looked right to save my life. But generally they flow well enough.
Old Acquaintances (1,085 words, excluding title)
As the army slowly awoke beneath Mithrahc’s decrepit palace, the cryptek Seprin made his way deeper into the underground labyrinth than even the spyders knew to tread. Here he had buried long ago his most precious of prizes; the last of Mithrahc’s “servants” still to hold loyalty to him. Seprin was under no illusions that the coming of Nemreth had tipped the odds firmly against him. If the cryptek was ever to take his vengeance on the old phaeron, he would need the support of those he could count on. Even though Mithrahc had not ordered the awakening of the other two crypteks, Seprin could easily claim a misinterpretation of the order.
Once Lirac and Neka were awakened, there would be little the old fool could do. He passed through an archway barely remembered in his crystalline circuitry and walked a corridor utterly devoid of light or ornament. His eyes saw not the physical walls of this pathway but instead the layout of the complex before him. He navigated by a projected map on his senses, the absolute dark having rendered him all but blind.
Finally he reached the chamber his circuits told him was his destination. With a hard to recall thought command, the large room illuminated. A dim green glow revealed the details and contents that Seprin had all but forgotten over the long sleep. Innocuous cabling was scattered about, simple glyphs adorning the walls in ancient script, and in the centre of the room lay two sarcophagi that were twins to each other in every way.
If Seprin could smile, he would have as he prepared to return this place to awakening...
* * *
With Alkvar to one side and Nemreth and Arakyr to the other, Mithrahc watched as his legions rose from their tombs by the dozen. Adding to the lychguard and immortals that had already stirred, uncountable Necron warriors emerged from their alcoves and fell into marching order, overseen by clusters of Canoptek Spyders and nanoscarabs. Adding to their ranks were the ponderous Ghost Arks and Annihilation Barges, supported from behind by the lethal Doomsday Arks and Monoliths.
‘This day, has been too long in coming.’ Mithrahc spoke with an air of nostalgia. ‘And now we finally prepare for our return to power.’
‘Indeed my lord.’ Nemreth added. ‘With what we have here, capturing the god shard I reported will be within our means. With it in our control, few will be able to stand between us and our victory.’
Gibbering laughter could be heard as somewhere out of sight, the Flayer Re’kyt responded gleefully to the newly arrived of his own kind. Drawn by the mobilization and the promise of blood, more flayers had begun to gather and instinctively sought out the former noble as a dominant and cunning leader.
‘Brothers and sisters come to me!’ The deranged killer bellowed with a cackle of ecstasy. ‘We will feast tonight!’
His ramblings were largely ignored by the nobles except for a slight chuckle by Mithrahc himself. This would indeed be a day to remember.
* * *
All had gone well so far. Despite the ages and the barely generated power being sent here, the two sleeping crypteks had survived stasis intact. As Seprin watched the final stages of revivification playing out, he could barely contain his anticipation. On the left, one of the vibrating sarcophagi finally cracked as its occupant sought release into the world.
‘Lirac, step forth my able apprentice.’ Seprin called.
‘Sixty million years... And still am I beholden to you?’ Came the answer as Lirac stepped forth. She had been not long out of childhood when biotransference had been instigated and only her status as a cryptek allowed her mind to remain intact. It was unusual for a woman to hold a title of importance in necrontyr society, yet Seprin had taken it upon himself to tutor two female apprentices, the second of whom even now stepped forth from her own erstwhile bed.
‘It is our place.’ Neka said, speaking to Lirac. Both of them spoke with a metallic tinge of a typical Necron, made eerie by the feminine tinge they both carried.
Neka’s form was one of a multi-limbed goddess, slender and seeming to lack physical presence. Her two legs were reverse jointed like a swift running beast of old times and her six arms rested in a myriad of peacock-like patterns, framing her teardrop shaped death mask.
Lirac by contrast was an intimidating figure, appearing as a simple mask and spine surrounded by a swarm of nanoscarabs that constituted her body and limbs. Neither one had been designed with combat in mind, but in the past when needs were dire, both had proven themselves capable of massive devastation. Neka wielded raw energy and plied her craft as a plasmancer, while Lirac was far more subtle and employed the craft of an ethermancer to destroy her foes from afar.
Seprin laughed. It had been too long since he had enjoyed the company of his most able servants. Mithrahc feared what they could accomplished and had barred Seprin from both awakening them and from wearing the true body he had crafted for himself. But that time would come, and when it did his rebirth would be complete. For now, this small victory would be enough.
* * *
‘If I could feel...’ Mithrahc began, speaking to the many thousands of Necrons marching before him. ‘I would feel reborn. I would feel the power of millennia coursing through embattled veins. I would feel the promise of conquest and glory waiting to be seized by my own gauntleted fist!’
Countless empty eyes stared back, utterly uncomprehending of what their king spoke. From his Command Barge above the throng marching through the main assembly chamber he watched. It was a massive and vast room that would fit his legion fully one and a half times over, stretching several kilometres in all directions.
‘Instead...’ Mithrahc continued. ‘I feel nothing. I have no joy in this. I have no anticipation of what we will accomplish...’
Of course you don’t. Seprin sniggered from afar as he listened via the Tomb Matrix. Your emotions belong to me now you senile old fool.
‘But even so.’ Mithrahc concluded. ‘We will conquer everything. We will re-capture the gods themselves and bring the upstart young races to their knees. They will serve us as is their place! And we will reign supreme forever. My legions...’
Silence pervaded the vast chamber as Mithrahc slowly raised his arms above his head.
‘ONWARDS MY CHILDREN, TO CONQUEST!’
Expeditious Stories 12-03: Rebirth
Word Count: 1,092
Groynstompa startled at the shout, turned, and blanched. He released the gretchin he’d been holding down and torturing with his grabba-stikk and ran before the approaching runtherd could zap him with some judicious voltage.
Nikappa picked Chiptoof the gretchin up out of the mud. “Youse iz betta den ‘e iz. Youse shmat fo’ a grot.” He slipped the gretchin a knife that was almost a shortsword in its hands. “Go show da lad wot youse made of.”
“You’z now Kitbash! You’z goin’ help me build.” Big Mek Zagdreg prodded the cringing gretchin’s chin, chest, and legs with the head of a mace as big as it was. “Den you’z goin’ be wun pilot.” The gretchin’s eyes never left the mace head of stacked gears and cogs. Zagdreg watched the gretchin for a moment, then seeing that it was sufficiently cowed, stomped back to his shop. “Oy, Kitbash! Git in ‘ere!”
The newly named Kitbash looked around for cover.
“Now!” The bellow shook loose a sheet of corrugated iron from the roof; it clattered against the cracked mud of the flats.
Kitbash ran as fast as his legs could carry him; as he pumped his arms, the basket that was still in his clenched fist scattered the fungus he’d been collecting for the brewerz.
Chiptoof checked the squiggut binding the knife to the haft and then the rope cinched at his waist once more. He only had one chance at this. Holding him makeshift halberd aloft, he took a couple of deep breaths and began running toward a large hole in the ground as rope played out behind him, “Wun, too, tree—waaagh!”
Still screaming, he leapt into the dark, thrust his halberd down, and adjusted his aim. A few seconds later, there was a short, sharp squelch as his halberd impaled the squig that had been eager to receive with mouth agape the falling gretchin.
Breathing hard, Chiptoof undid the rope, retrieved his knife, and struggled with the dead weight of the squig as he tied up its tail.
Climbing the rope, he pulled himself out of the cesspit. Now came the hard part. It took him nearly an hour before he managed to drag the squig up and out.
“‘Ere’s yer bitz. Now where’s me leg?” Kitbash set down a metal tray, grating, and coal filched from around Zagdreg’s workshop.
Chiptoof jammed his knife into the squig’s hip joint and casually dismembered it. He held up the severed leg. As Kitbash reached for it, Chiptoof pulled it back. “Youse wants me to barbeque it?”
“Youse gonna luv it.” Chiptoof grinned. “Can you gets sum beer?”
“Squig onna stikk! ‘Ot an’ fresh! Git yer squig onna stikk ‘ere! One toof only!” With a practiced hand, Chiptoof turned the skewers on his portable grill as his other hand brushed on a thick brown sauce. He was making teef hand over fist. Kitbash and his mates had come by earlier and bought three skewers off him. They had promised to return with more teef. He smiled to himself; soon he’d buy a dead killy blasta. He’d paint it red with his blood afterward.
The gretchin turned and saw Nikappa striding toward him. As the runtherd approached, he flicked a toof over to the gretchin. Chiptoof’s hand blurred, pocketing the toof, and offering a skewer. “‘Ere you go, boss.”
“Dis not wot I tawt you wuz goin’ do.” Nikappa eyed the skewer for a moment and then bit. “Mmm. Tasty.” He bought a couple more and walked off, looking for a good vantage point for the contest.
“Oy, git back ‘ere!”
Chiptoof turned at the commotion. One of the face-biter squigs for the upcoming kissing contest was scurrying around and through the legs of the Ork crowd. Groynstompa was in pursuit.
The crowd began to open up to let the runtherd through. Some Orks pointed and laughed, others exchanged teef in bets.
Chiptoof saw that the squig was running toward him and automatically dropped down into a crouch. As the squig hopped over cowering Chiptoof, Groynstompa lunged, with his grot-prod extended and its voltage near maximum.
Coarse laughter erupted from the crowd at the public failure. Minutes later, unnoticed, Kitbash dragged the electrocuted Chiptoof away.
“Boss, I gots ya wun pilot, so I don gotta be wun, rite?”
Zagdreg turned away from the killa kan to find Kitbash dragging another gretchin into the workshop. “Das stone cold dat iz. Doin’ dat ta wun o’ yer mates.” He nodded in approval. “Put ‘um on da slab an’ giv’ me wun o’ dem wot smells good ya got dere.”
Chiptoof woke to the taste of copper in his mouth. In the time it took him to understand what had happened to him, his systems had warmed up. Gradually, he began to distinguish light from cookfires, bonfires, and random arson. These lent the base camp a ruddy glow.
Zagdreg woke to the reverberating howl and the following tinny, manic laughter; in the darkness, he grinned as he heard the pistons work. Kitbash had also heard and whimpered even as he continued to gnaw on a leftover squig leg.
In the morning, Nikappa stood in the doorway of the gretchin’s hovel. “Wun, too, tree, fo’, fiv’, lots.” A lot of gretchin had been stomped into the mud of the floor and unable to extract themselves had suffocated.
Shaking his head at the waste, he walked over to his fellow runtherd’s hut. He wasn’t about to clean up this mess by himself. “Oy, Groynstompa, ya lazy git!”
Shoving the door open, Nikappa winced at what was inside. The back of the hut was gone. By the light of the morning sun, Groynstompa lay, pinned to the ground at his neck by his own grabba-stikk. His grot-prod had been shoved into his vulnerables. From his rictus and the scorched smell, voltage had been at maximum.
Nikappa pulled the grot-prod free with some difficulty and worked the controls. Electricity arced from the other end. Well, it was his now. Before leaving, he quietly ransacked the rest of the hut.
Zagdreg fiddled with the buzz-saw arm on the killa kan. He was bothered by the fact that an electrical shock had shorted out the control mechanism in the limb so easily; he barely noticed the fact that the killa kan was facing in the opposite direction he had left it last night or covered in mud. “Had fun did ya?” A disingenuous snore issued from the kan’s looted vox-caster. Zagdreg laughed. He was definitely building another one.
1,093 words (not including title). More Steel Wardens bolter action :)
A Boarding Action
"Nigra Mortis! Nigra Mortis!"
Brother-Sergeant Pontius tried his best to ignore the infernal chanting. The vox-net had been secured from scrapcode incursions. The squad was already reciting the Litany of Purity. But it was all to no avail; the damn warp-spawned voice was speaking the words directly into their minds.
Another group of misshapen forms appeared down the corridor. They were terrible, bloated beings that were leaking pus and excrement. They were the remnants of the derelict ship's crew, who were suffering an agony worse than death.
Pontius freed them from their pain with three bursts of his boltgun.
"The Estimates are growing worse by the minute, Brother-Sergeant!" said his second-in-command, Brother-Logis Archmides, "We require decisive action!"
A fresh wave of the warp-maddened crew appeared ahead of the Pontius team, while more shambled towards them from behind. Other Steel Wardens took up positions and began gunning them down, while the Brother-Sergeant held off on making his decision. To push forward, he knew that somebody had to be left behind.
"Novice Felix!" Pontius shouted, turning to the young Astartes, "I know this is your first Quest with us, but you will have the honor of serving as the rearguard."
"Understood, Brother-Sergeant," Felix replied with no hint of emotion in his voice.
"I will not lie to you. You will not survive."
Felix snorted under his helmet, "Don't be so sure, Brother-Sergeant. I am not so easy to kill."
Pontius ignored the snide remark, “Would you like to request any additional war gear?”
“I already have a demolition charge, just in case,” Felix replied as he readied his boltgun, “But I would like to ask for a melee weapon, for when the ammunition runs out.”
Brother-Sergeant Pontius nodded and drew his blade. It was a fine weapon – a Brennic Psi-sword - but Pontius never liked it very much. Like most of his fellow Steel Wardens, he believed in the primacy of ranged combat.
“A blade from my home world,” Felix said approvingly as the Sergeant handed him the weapon, “I thank you for this, Brother-Sergeant. The Emperor Protects.”
“And the Omnissiah watches over us,” the Sergeant replied, before turning to face the foes blocking their way to the lift, “Pontius Team, on me! Assault Pattern Omega-Two!”
With those four words, each member of the squad instantly knew his place. Brother Manlius took the lead, driving back the horde with shorts bursts from his flamer. A pair of Battle-Brothers marched beside him, their bolters set to single shot, and they expertly picked off any who had survived the flames.
The remaining six Space Marines – Pontius included – followed in their wake to protect the flanks and rear. Every intersection and side-compartment had to be cleared or bypassed. Grenades were used liberally, as was Brother Camilus’ Heavy Bolter. It seemed like an eternity before they reached the lifts.
But in reality, it only took them less than fifteen minutes of intense corridor-to-corridor fighting. They had dangerously depleted their supplies of ammunition, and most had suffered some damage to their power armor. But every member of the squad had made it without injury – except one.
The ship shuddered as a demolition charge went off. Pontius did not bother to check his auspex for life signs. Novice Felix had done his duty.
“I have lift controls!” said Brother-Logis Archimedes, just as the doors slammed themselves shut, “We will reach the bridge momentarily!”
“My fellow Wardens, prepare yourselves!” Pontius ordered, “Our warp-spawned foe awaits!”
His men did not reply with words, but with actions. They assumed firing positions. The moment the doors opened, they were ready to unleash a barrage of devastating explosive rounds at whatever monster lurked in the bridge.
Yet somehow, they were still taken by surprise.
As the doors opened, a mass of tentacles suddenly swarmed in. The Space Marines opened fire, but their bolter rounds had little effect. One tentacle wrapped itself around Archimedes’ head and popped it like a melon. Brother Camilus shouted as something grabbed him by the leg and dragged him into the center of the swirling mass. Blood and Ceramite spurted out after it swallowed him whole.
“Keep firing! Keep firing!” Pontius shouted, as the monster grabbed two more Marines and consumed them. Manlius tried to hose the daemon with flames, only to be slapped backwards by one of the tentacles.
Finally, in desperation, Pontius primed a Melta-Bomb and threw it at the daemon-thing’s mouth. If his team was fated to die, then they were going to take Nigra Mortis with them.
Everything went white as the bomb went off. Pontius felt himself thrown off his feet, and he landed somewhere hard and painful. Bones were broken, and he suspected that he had also suffered internal injuries. By some miracle, the auspex still functioned, and revealed to him that three of his men had survived the gambit, albeit they were all unconscious.
But then Pontius realized they were not the only ones to survive the blast. Writhing in agony, with half of its mass torn off, Nigra Mortis was still alive.
Pontius tried to reach for his boltgun, but the enraged daemon smashed it to pieces before he could do so. The daemon grabbed his arms, and then his legs. It held him aloft, spread-eagled, before once again shouting its name.
Pontius did not close his eyes. He waited for the killing blow.
But instead a blur went past him, and suddenly he was free. A new voice somehow drowned out the daemon’s screams.
“Vae Victis!” shouted Novice Felix, as he plunged the psi-blade into the heart of the warp-spawned beast. There was a final horrendous scream.
And then finally, silence.
Breathing heavily, Pontius managed to sit up. He stared at Novice Felix – battered and wounded - yet still alive.
“You’re supposed to be dead,” Pontius said dryly.
“My apologies, Brother-Sergeant,” Felix replied snidely, “But our calculations are called “Estimates” and not “Certainties” for a reason.”
“And how did you get up here so quickly?” Pontius wanted to know.
”Stairs, sir,” Felix answered with a shrug, “Good, strong, steel stairs.”
It was Pontius’ turn to snort under his armor. “Very well. Inform the fleet that we have accomplished our Quest.”
“Only a full Battle-Brother is allowed that honor,” Felix pointed out.
“Indeed, Battle-Brother Felix,” Pontius explained.
Underneath his armor, no one could see Felix’s proud smile. He was still smiling as he spoke into the vox.
”This is the Pontius team, our Quest is complete. This ship is no longer the Nigra Mortis. This ship is once again the Might of Akkadia.”
Luck of the Dice (HOES Entry: Rebirth)
Ibdah cracked open one eye, and wished he were still asleep. His mouth tasted like rustcrawler dung; not the firm stuff that you could barter with Hake to put on his mushrooms, but the runny stuff that oozed off the ceiling onto your face. Odd thing was he seemed to be sitting up and when he tried to spit his tongue was drier than starchbread.
Finally some pieces of last night started to crawl free of his headache. He had gone to the Olympia after second shift with Ardias and Fenoff....
Ibdah creased his head in concentration. "You lost the last five throws, so it don't seem clever to back you."
"Nah.... I'm telling ya....", explained Ardias to Ibdah's shoulder, "swell known fact... chances of getting skull are one in sis as there's sis sides see... and I lost the last five..."
"Then only side left is skull ain't it... so he's gots to win", completed Fenoff triumphantly.
Despite all logic and reason the bone came up coffins. It similarly refused to bow to the law of shaking it real hard. It even defied the well known requirement to roll the winning face if you blew a pretty girl a kiss across it; although Ibdah reckoned that might be because Ardias had a lazy eye even when he was sober so the kiss was aimed more at the man to her left who - although he returned the kiss - might not count as a girl.
Everything ached and something was wrong. Ibdah's eyes had been rutted since he got moved onto the sulphur baths at work, and the hangover wasn’t helping, but the shapes definitely didn't look like his room. He tried to stand but his limbs refused to co-operate. Even his head was rebelling, although squinting sideways as hard as he could he could make out something pressing against his cheek. After several more attempts to stand, with no noticeable effect other than pain, he began to think he was actually wedged. Merri was going to be mad when he got back.
His brain finally catching up with his ears, he noticed that there was a regular beeping noise coming from somewhere behind him. Trying to ignore the presscast running in his head he struggled to understand his surroundings. The air smelt clean but oily with a slight hint of the stuff the cogboys used to commission new presscasts, and he could just make out the occasional sizzle under the beeping.
Where the rut was he...?
"Come on.... I'm late already and Merri will get proper rat if I ain't in bed when she wakes up."
"Emp's Gaze, you're loos' piped letting her reg' you," said Ardias.
"Yeah," crowed Fenoff, "loose piped."
"Rust you. Leas' my bed's warm. When's last time either of you got your pipes serviced?" For a moment Ibdah felt the savour of winning, before his losing streak returned with his supper.
Swaying wildly, the three friends continued their circuitous walk to the transit station. More by luck than judgment they arrived without further incident. After several minutes they realised the gate was not opening.
"Wakey wakey," shouted Ardias banging on the latch, "we're here an we.... bleurgh...."
"You chucked," sniggered Fenoff, "can't handle your... ouff... bleurgh...."
"I'll show you cant's handle drink," said Ardias, removing his fist from Fenoff's belly while trying to wipe vomit off his jacket with the other. Succeeding only in evening out the stain, he slowly turned and, carefully lining himself up, started hitting the latch again.
Meanwhile Ibdah had been blearily studying the wall. "Hang on... s'notice... TS9-43’s close' for reconrecsecation."
"Was reconscration?" asked Fenoff, picking himself up.
"Means pour liquid over something," replied Ardias.
"Well I gotta reconsicrafe soming," declared Fenoff tugging at his overalls. "Hey I gotta idea. Lets do the door so it opens."
"Don't seem right,” muttered Ibdah, watching his friends try to aim at the lock.
"You just don't wanna drop your overalls cos you don't wan' us to see Merri took your nuts," laughed Ardias.
"Least mine ain't pointin' at Fenoff," jeered Ibdah, fumbling with a strap, "But if'll shut you up fine." Letting out an exhalation of relief he jetted straight into the centre of the lock.
A juddering hiss broke Ibdah's recollection, and he felt something move below his waist. His legs felt slightly lighter... if it shifted a little more he might be able to stand! Struggling, he felt a slight movement before falling back.
"You are conscious. Remain still."
Ibdah tried to turn to face the voice, confirming his head was still stuck.
"Remain still. Your flesh suffered damage. The weakness been replaced with tracks."
Tracks? Ibdah discovered his last memory of the station was agonising pain. Trying to ask questions he emitted only a breathy rasp.
"Non-essential systems offline to aid repair process."
Offline? Ibdah's mind carefully dragged itself to a conclusion. He was not wedged; he was in a surgical bay and an Adept was healing him. How badly injured was he?
"Bioelectrical activity outside optimal range. Adopt efficient function."
What? Racking his mind he realised the Adept was trying to keep him calm. Personal care cost money. How long had he been here? What had Merri done to afford it?
"Interaction Protocol indicates that the flesh is calmed by information in excess of functional necessity. Commencing audio patch....
"You and your companions committed an act of defilement on the lock of Transit Station 9-43. The machine spirit struck back. Your companions' waste disposal processes were flawed resulting in vengeance striking all of you. Lacking efficient surge protection this rendered you offline. You were found when we investigated the machine spirit's distress call. As your flesh was aberrant we commenced optimisation. Your biological and neural distinctiveness has been reduced.
"Interaction Protocol indicates that flesh is calmed by association with familiar flesh. You will be assigned to function alongside your companions.
"Initialising Test Routine Epsilon Delta."
Ibdah tried to understand the words but they kept slipping beneath the fog of his hangover. Lost in his silent battle he did not immediately realise that he was moving; however the sight of a cutting disc rising slowly into his field of vision followed by his upper arm ended his search for answers.
With a faint clatter, something rolled into view.
"This cuboid talisman was discovered in your pocket. Inspection showed that inferior production methods had resulted in an imperfect cube. It has been optimised."
The skull filled Ibdah's vision before madness euthanised his vestiges of self.
- 1096 words
A tiny part of Relle Lawsea’s brain was having a conversation with itself. The rest was struggling mightily to keep him alive.
“How the feth did we end up like this?”
“We? Your gunner is dead. You’ll join him soon enough.”
“Shut up. We’re not dead yet.”
Beeping warnings, flashing runes and a dozen or more dead systems were enough to tell a straight leg infantryman his Vulture was dying.
“Come on girl, give me something,” Lawsea begged. The banging on the port side suddenly picked up in intensity then stopped abruptly.
“Well there goes the wing.”
“No it didn’t. We aren’t in a flat spin stupid.”
“Feth you, you dying piece of grox crap. Just give me a chance.” he screamed.
A new light started blinking. Fast. “Oh no, that can’t be right,” he thought. The fuel indicator was below one hundred pounds. And the Vulture was burning fifty pounds a minute.
Two minutes of flight time to go at least two hundred kilometers. Going Emperor-knows how fast. The very first shell impact had torn the whole augur package away. Airspeed, ground mapping radar, altitude, everything essential gone in an instant.
‘Too bad the ejector is broken.”
“Thanks for remembering.”
Yanking the activator bar he tried again. Nothing.
Suddenly the pitch of the engine changed from the thrumming roar of a redlined turbine to a grinding screech. What he couldn’t hear were the impacts of fan blades shattering and smashing against the inside of the engine housing.
The RPM’s lurched upwards when the blades broke free. The needle stuck hard against the stop causing another light to start flashing.
He tried the thrust-vectoring control again. Did his forward thrust start dropping?
“Yes!” he almost shouted.
Flipping a switch he turned on the forward floods. Bright spotlights illuminated the ground. The rubble-strewn Emperor-damned rough ground.
“Hey, did you notice we aren’t hovering?”
“Then why is forward speed dropping?”
“Engine is out.”
“No, it’s not. Listen.”
“I am. And feeling. Feel that? That is a shaft losing blades.”
“What do you know?”
“No up thrust,” Lawsea noticed.
“No fething up thrust.”
Pushing the vector lever forward again did not increase thrust. The noise of the slipstream dropped enough so he could hear the dying buzz of the turbine. The banshee wail caused him to feel the engine for the first time since the warning lights had started up.
“Oh no,” he realized.
“Sacred Father of the Imperium…” he began.
The impact was bone-jarringly rough. The light frame of the Vulture collapsed around the dead gunner and the live pilot smashing them against unyielding metal.
Before the blackness took him he tried vainly to finish the prayer.
“…take us to your bosom, we faithful, we servants…”
And all was black.
“So this is death.”
“Are we dead?”
Were you not there for that crash? Yes we are dead.”
“Oh? Did you expect something different?”
“Yeah. A bright light. Everyone says they see a bright light.”
“I don’t know. They just say that.”
“No bright light.”
“No bright light…”
Utter blackness. And pain. Terrible, burning pain. “Why do we hurt? Shouldn’t death be painless?” Silence reigned. Silence and utter, impenetrable darkness. Distant sounds and a faint spot of light disrupted the nothing. Just barely.
“Is he alive?” one faint, female voice asked.
“I think so. His pulse is very faint,” answered a deep male voice.
“Will he survive?” the female voice asked.
“I don’t know,” the male voice replied.
The noise and light faded. Silence and dark.
Gradually the silence faded again. Was it again? Or the first time? What caused the silence?
“The crash. We crashed.”
“I didn’t ask anything.”
“Did we crash?”
“I think so. Why?”
“Then what is that noise? The engine sounds terrible.” A keening wail, metal on metal abruptly broke the silence.
“That is not the engine.”
“What is it?”
Bright light invaded the dark. Bright light and unbearable pain. They only lasted a moment.
Through the quiet, noise began to filter in.
“A fan. Air recirc maybe.”
“Yeah. And a constant beeping. What the feth is that beeping?”
“Low oil warning.”
The sounds were muffled. Or filtered. Something about the noise was off. They were so muffled as to be incomprehensible. There were smells too. Not the smells of flight and combat. Different smells.
The pain was suppressed somehow. Suppressed to just below excruciating.
“I don’t want to die.”
The light and noise and pain leapt into full being. The light was so very bright, painfully bright even. And the pain was unbearable.
“He’s crashing!” a voice yelled.
“Ressetrex is charging,” another voice answered.
“I told you there was a bright light.”
Utter blackness enveloped everything again. In the deep dark time was meaningless. The total lack of sense was a bit disconcerting.
“Am I dead?”
“I don’t know. How could we tell?”
“I don’t know either. I thought you’d be able to tell somehow.”
“It still hurts.”
“I don’t think we’d hurt if we were dead.”
“So we’re alive?”
“I think so.”
“Morlan didn’t make it.”
“No, he didn’t.”
“Fething stupid lucky shot by a backwater, chaos-damned PDF.”
“It hurts so bad.”
“Don’t be weak. Fight the pain. Never show them you hurt.”
“I remember the mantra.”
“Then live it. Fight the pain.”
Slowly, ever so slowly, the light filtered through the dark. What is dark anymore?
“Hey trooper,” a familiar voice said.
“He’s waking up,” another familiar voice.
“Where are we?”
“I don’t know.”
“I know those voices.”
The light and sound still seemed filtered and strange.
“Hey Relle. You awake?”
“He knows me.”
“I know him. I think.”
Gentle pressure on his shoulder broke through the pain, the fog, and the drugs.
The pain was lingering, a backdrop to consciousness.
“Hey buddy. Can you hear me?”
“Come on Relle. Wake up buddy.”
Relle opened his eyes. Bright, powerful lights flooded the room, chasing shadows away.
“Where am I?” Relle asked quietly.
“The medical annex.”
“You don’t remember?”
“I remember the crash…”
“Loyalists found you and brought you in.”
“How long have I been out?”
“You died. Three times.”
“You’ll live. Welcome back.”
how many entries this month???
Looks like 11. A good crop of stories this month. Maybe they'll be a couple more in the last days?
There are normally 2-3 stragglers. I for one have 3 stories in progress, each about at the 500 word mark, and I still have no idea which one I actually want to finish haha. I'll get these latest added to the ToC later today.
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