This is a piece set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe that I wrote as a potential Black Library submission.
The Prime Orbital was dying. Oxygen fires licked the wounded hull as the planetary sphere of Demosthanes loomed closer. Ships surrounded the Orbital, black and blue hulls all but invisible against the void – until they unleashed their broadsides. Ships were dying. Warriors were dying. The Prime Orbital was not alone.
Oort groped his way through the smoke and bodies. That last detour, around the void-sealed compartments… He had no clue where the saviour rafts were. He had to keep going – laying down to die wasn’t in his nature. He knew they were up-spin – somewhere – but he couldn’t be sure he was still heading in that direction.
Members of his PDF garrison lay scattered across the cold deck; they hadn’t been fast enough in donning their masks and rebreathers. Now they were dead. The hull shook violently under impact. Detritus rained down onto the deck and the corpses convulsed in a parody of life.
The assault had come without warning, the guardsmen had barely enough time to scramble to their stations before the attackers had burned their way in. He had caught only the briefest glimpse of their assailants as a bulkhead had slammed shut. Lithe, black armoured and striding through the flames, they’d filled Oort with a terror that he’d never known before. The order to fall back had been given.
The bulkhead had begun to glow with melta-heat. He hadn’t needed to be told twice.
Gathering his wits, Oort peered through the breath-fog on his mask at the stenciled signs on the wall. The rafts were only a few junctions away. The wave of relief nearly buckled his knees and a prayer of thanks to the Emperor spilled from his lips.
I’m not there yet, he reminded himself. Oort set off as fast as he could, picking his way across corpses in a half run.
He slowed as he reached an intersection. Weapons barked close by, but the echoes and the muffling of his mask made it impossible to place precisely. It was loud though; the thunderous roar of solid shot. Perhaps a bolter. Oort had never heard one fired outside the gunnery ranges.
Somewhere, someone screamed.
Oort chanced a glance down the corridor. Blood and soot smeared the wall at the far end. The warning klaxon blared and the lamps flared red in their gargoyle-housings, forcing his vision to continuously readjust. The fires threw jagged shadows. It looked deserted, but it was impossible to be certain. Oort looked out of the viewport. Demosthanes was a lot closer. He thought he could make out the transcontinental highways beneath the clouds. That was probably a bad sign. Another impact shook the superstructure.
It was now or never then. Guardsman Oort launched into a sprint. Just a few more corridors and he’d be at the saviour rafts. Just one more junction. Just a couple more steps.
Something tall and black detached itself from the shadow and flame. Oort stumbled to a halt, terror rooting him to the spot as he stared into piercing eyes and the barrel of a bolter.
“Repent, sinner!” barked the Sister of Battle. Oort could only watch in transfixed horror as she racked the slide on the bolter and aimed it point blank into his face. “Your judgement is at hand!”
Suddenly he was flying through the air.
Oort connected with the wall and there was a gargle of pain. He wasn’t sure if it had come for him.
Dazed, he could only partially focus on what was in front of him. Something mountainous and blue –
a wall of ceramite and wrath – had thrown him clear. Oort’s vision swam as he focused on heraldry of multicoloured lightning and the inscription Vermillion. Blood hissed and spat from a powered blade and the bisected remains of the Sister hit the decking with a wet thwap.
“The only sin here is that brought with you,” growled the Space Marine, spitting on to the floor. Two burning eyes turned to regard Oort. The guardsman shrank back from the Emperor’s Angel.
“To the saviour rafts,” roared the Astartes warrior as bolt shells began to crash from further up the corridor.
Oort didn’t need to be told twice.