Fiction, Sci-Fi, Short Story, WH40K

Active Hydra

This is a piece set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe that I wrote for a 1000 word short story competition. It came third, not too shabby…

***

Stars wheeled around him, Dolor filled the sky and Astartes footfalls hammered the gunmetal grey hull of the Augustine. The void-ice kissed the sensors of his mark V plate, a dissolutely layer of crystals momentarily forming over the deep purple armour as he passed wisps of atmosphere ghosting from micro fractures in the hull. But this was no distraction; Laelius barely registered it at all. A patrol-wing of Imperial fighters flashed silently overhead, the deafening bellow of their engines lost in the void. High above, buttressed and crenulated cruisers hung like a crown of thorns around the star port. Higher still the blue-white disk of the planet Dolor swelled ever larger, great dark bruises of smouldering cities marring her otherwise perfect skin.

Laelius paused – his armour systems projecting a ghostly green waypoint over the airlock fifty metres ahead – and looked up at the ships docked with the star port. Astartes cruisers, Imperial Army transports and commandeered supply ships clustered in knots around the docking umbilici. The “loyalists” seemingly believed all forces aligned with the Warmaster had finally been driven from the sector, and in their confidence had seen fit to muster their fleet together – so close together – above Dolor.

As he watched a flight of Storm Birds departed the closest strike cruiser heading planet side. For a moment they appeared as tiny sparks on the edge of the atmosphere before passing beyond even his enhanced vision.

Without warning the Augustine shifted from holding approach to docking vector, and the star port began to loom above him. Laelius had seen all that he needed to of the orbital station; it was time to get the teleport homer to its destination.

He covered the last fifty metres in brief seconds and drew to a halt on the edge of the well travelled airlock. The superstructure beneath his feet shuddered as retros began to strain against the freighters momentum.

“Grosvenor 268” said Laelius.

The vox-link hissed. The star port filled the sky now, almost obscuring Dolor.

“Grosvenor 268 confirmed,” came a hushed reply, “opening now.”

Laelius felt rather than heard the grinding as the airlock opened in front of his feet; a small cloud of paint flecks and detritus puffed outwards as trace gases escaped. He had stepped over the edge and into the artificial gravity as soon as the gap between the doors was wide enough, landing surprisingly lightly on the deck. Wide eyes stared through a view port, and then the outer doors began to cycle closed again. The ceiling beacons were dark, a good sign that his contact had bypassed the monitoring systems.

The inner doors opened with a hiss of equalising pressure and a wiry man wearing a maintenance body glove hesitantly stepped through. He looked at the Hydra Rampant emblazoned on the Astartes’ shoulder and unconsciously touched a hand to his hip.

“Are you prepared?” asked Laelius through his armour’s exo-vox.

The man’s eyes flicked briefly up to the coal-red optics of Laelius’ helm before hurriedly finding the floor again. The Legionnaire knew that he was an imposing sight in the brutal silhouette of his mkV plate.

“I am, lord.”

Laelius nodded and offered the man the bulky item that he had been carrying effortlessly in one hand. The human needed both arms to lift it.

“The teleport homer needs to reach the target within the next 120 seconds. Loading bay, near the munitions supplies, as you were instructed. Go!”

“Y-yes, my lord.”

The crewman turned and staggered away as fast as he could under the weight of the device. Laelius waited a few moments for him to round a corner before turning to the control panel and pressing a large, gauntleted finger against the airlock cycle button. The outer doors opened and the Marine swiftly pulled himself up onto the icy hull once more.

The Augustine was fully within the shadow of the star port now. Nav-lights blinked and an inviting glow spilled from the armoured windows above him, throwing a checkerboard pattern across the hull of the ship.

Laelius deactivated the mag-clamps on his boots and launched himself upwards with as much strength as he could muster.

People were moving inside the port; labourers and overseers preparing to receive the supplies that the Augustine was about to deliver. None of them noticed the dark figure arcing slowly across the void between them and the closing freighter.

Laelius used the exhaust vents on his backpack to adjust his approach, swinging his feet towards the star port’s hull that was slowly rising to meet him.

Docking arms extended towards the ship as it inched closer in a glacial approach. The device entrusted to operative Grosvenor 268 would activate in less than thirty seconds. The star port rose to meet the Astartes with aching slowness.

Mag-boots reactivating the second they touched the hull, the Legionnaire powered across the outer skin of the star port, following a metal causeway between two panoramic windows. He was moving as fast as his post-human physique would allow.

An intense flash of light threw razor sharp shadows across the hull of the orbital. Laelius did not have to look back to know his macro-bomb had detonated the ammunition supplies in the Augustine’s loading bay. He kept running, even as the concussion wave of the freighters impact with the star port rippled through the structure, shearing bolts and unseating metal panels all around him.

Only once he had covered another kilometre did Laelius pause to look back. A firestorm of venting oxygen licked back and forth along the horizon and the exposed drive core of the Augustine protruded from the wound in the star port’s skin like a fractured bone, weeping bright plasmic discharge. A loose cloud of detritus floated around him in all directions.

Satisfied that the diversion was proceeding as intended, Laelius unclasped the much smaller package of a teleport homer from his armour and continued into the shadow of the Astartes strike cruisers.

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