Sixty Seconds

Earlier in the year, before this humble blog was founded and before I started to explore new game systems I entered a short story competition at my local Games Workshop. The criteria were simple; 1,000 words and it had to be set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Long story short; I won so I thought it’d be fun to share with you what I wrote…

A siren blared giving the boarding party its thirty-second warning. Grav-harnesses wound down into their primed positions, explosive bolts arming with a click.

            Crewman first class Elijah Neilson spared a glance down the length of the Shark assault boat before bracing himself. A violent jolt pushed Neilson into his harness as the crafts retros fired at full burn. Neilson spared the crewman opposite him one last look before burying his chin in his chest and clung onto his shotcannon for all he was worth.

The impact was as if God-Emperor himself was trying to undo the fabric of creation.

            The jarring pain subsided as Neilson felt the stimm-stick in his harness jab into the back of his neck, flooding his body with stimms to counteract the shock of the impact & combat drugs to heighten his reflexes and sharpen his mind to dangerous levels of hyper stimulation.

            Thunder rolled through the boarding craft as forty sets of explosive bolts blew out, snapping the grav-harnesses up into the ceiling and the hatch charges at the front of the craft blasted outwards into the enemy ship as an exclamation point to follow the roar of an angry, immortal, god.

            Neilson was on his feet, moving to the breach, shotcannon clutched to his chest. He reached down and set his chrono counter spinning down. Sixty seconds.

That’s how long it took for a boarding party to clear the breach. Any longer and the initiative would be lost and they’d be slaughtered in the corridors.

            He knew the drill; primary targets were the main magazine and the reactor core. Keep moving, move quickly and do as much damage as you can on the way.

            Neilson reached the breach. Beyond was smoke, darkness and flickering lights. He gritted his teeth pulled down the firing stud of his shotcannon and jumped through.

 

Flame, hot lead & noise preceded Neilson as his armoured boots rang against the deck plating, pitching shapes in the gloom with howls of agony. He continued to unload shot after shot into the oncoming enemy, the cannon bucking in his hands as it belched flame.

Neilson glanced around as he killed; the flare of his cannon and the flicker of failing overhead lights revealing his surroundings. Of all the nightmares that Neilson had jumped into this was the worst.

Every surface and wall was covered in blood and viscera. Indeterminate body parts littered the floor or hung amid spilled cables from ruptured plating. Such was the violence of their arrival they had pulped the heretics that had been stationed in this section of the ship.

Neilson kept firing as the rest of the boarding party disembarked and set about the gruesome business of war.

 

Within moments the enemy counterattacked; a surge of debase humans brandishing cruel blades and ancient pistols sprang from the darkness screaming foul oaths that made Neilson’s stomach turn. Volleys of cannon fire tore into the cultists, blasting bodies from their feet, and ragged holes blown in chests or limbs torn from torsos in vivid red sprays. Dozens fell, but their numbers were many and soon sickle blades glinted red in the failing light amidst screams of the dying.

The boarding party was getting penned in even as they attempted to drive the enemy back, desperately trying to break out before they were overrun.

Neilson allowed a spent ammo drum drop from his cannon and expertly slotted a fresh one home, wracking back the slide as he watched a rating drive the butt of his cannon into the face of a cultist. Its face caved inwards and it fell to the ground, the rating putting a shell in its head for good measure.

The man was possessed, driven over the edge by the combat drugs. He deftly unloaded his cannon one-handed into a squad of warriors as they rounded the corner, bellowing the litanies of hate. He failed to see the cultist hierarch in the shadows. The wiry thin wretch jumped from the gloom, a wicked knife clutched in a pallid hand. The rating’s furious recital was cut short as he fell in a spray of his own vital fluids.

Neilson reacted, putting a shell into the hierarch, but not before it sprang forward and took the head off the shoulders of a second rating in a single swipe of blade that now crackled with dark energies. Both bodies tumbled to the floor amidst a slick of gore.

 

The corridor was filling with smoke; fires were burning from shattered remains of terminals. All around Neilson shapes were moving, stabbing, fighting, shouting and dying, back lit by yellow flashes of gun fire.

Sweat drenched Neilson’s face and stung his eyes as he aimed and fired, aimed and fired, aimed and fired. Every shot found a target. Every shot killed. But for every heretic that fell there was another to fill its place.

Time had started to slow. He watched a seventeen year old boy lead a break out against a unit of cultists dug in behind a hastily constructed barricade, as if he could reach out and stop the boy’s mad charge.

All around the boy men died, their bodies riddled with las fire, the boy alone made it the position and lived long enough to yank the arming pins from the grenades hooked to his webbing.

The blast blew out the bulkhead and momentarily exposed the corridor to hard vacuum before containment fields snapped into place. Neilson had less than a heartbeat to watch the remaining twenty souls of the boarding party, and fifty heretics, get blown into space locked in a death struggle even at the end,.

His watch timer pipped. Sixty seconds.

He was dimly aware of warm breath on his neck.

 

On the bridge of the Imperial cruiser Indomitable Will, amidst the displays and tactical readouts, Master of Ordnance Archibald Drake was overseeing orders that would see great misery brought down upon his foes with the God-Emperor’s own thunder. He stood at his station willing the gun crews to reload faster as the ship rocked beneath another enemy fusillade.

An indicator light flashed from green to red, catching his eye. Boarding craft SABM5443 was registering zero life signs.

Drake noted the loss of all forty souls including its four senior crewmen in the ships logs before returning to his duties.

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