All Hands on Deck
Craglish startled awake. The ship creaked once more, and then fell silent. Assured that he wasn't in for imminent death, he staggered from the squalid bunk in his quarters and threw on his ramshackle mixture of armour and what passed as a uniform on board his bucket of bolts, the Spearhead. As he made his way to the front deck Craglish mused on how effective their most recent slew of raid had been. The Imperial navy ships should have known better than to travel with only light escorts this close to the Halo Stars. They had made fine pickings for his crew, and they would feast for months with the agricultural supplies they had acquired, leaving alone the massive quantity of armaments destined for the Imperial Guard outpost on Jaraxis Prime. Smirking to himself as he patted the artificier sword he'd relinquished the second ship's captain of, Craglish made his way through the inch thick blast doors that guarded pilots nest at the heart of the ship.
There was a feeling of unease among the crew as the captain finally rejoined them in the bridge. Despite the cocky confidence that Craglish had been displaying since the most recent raid, First Officer Danik was worried. It was one thing to raid an agricultural ship here, a transport ship there, and take from them their excess before scuttling the ship but Craglish had taken a shining to a kind of violence some of the crew were uneasy about. Had there really been a need to flay the astropath aboard the last ship, they could have at least disconnected him from the apparatus first. That was to say nothing of jettisoning the captain and his family to the void strapped with melta charges. Word in the system was that the ship had been flocked by Imperial Navy destroyers shortly after the Spearhead had departed and that there was a mounting call among the officers of the region to hunt down and make an example of Craglish and his crew.
Now of course, few enough of them would be inclined to leave the ship, Danik thought. The takings were excellent, the fights were easy. What wasn't there to love? Sure enough Craglish's most recent spate of violence was something that one could worry about, but perhaps he had his reasons, and who was a first mate to question his captain in front of the crew? “A pirate's life for me” he murmured to himself as the captain began his routine.
Warning sensors blared into life aboard the bridge of the Spearhead. Green lights. Which could only mean one thing: Prey. Craglish bolted upright in his chair and began roaring commands to the different officers, while firing up the holographic scanner to get a better look at the solitary ship. “A solitary cargo ship! Ha! Did they not hear about us or something?” roared Craglish, arms raised in merriment to the laughter of the boarding commanders “Get the men ready Reglan, we've got another fish to gut”. Among the excitement of the captain's infectious enthusiasm, only Danik noticed the other reading on the scanner. Or rather, the lack of one. One specific spot, off the starboard side of the ship, where no readings were coming from at all. Not as if there was nothing there; a void, an absence. Danik felt unease creep over him, but kept silent and silently prepared his pistol.
Reglan escorted the men to the belly of the ship, where the boarding craft waited. Practically skipping with excitement. The killing was his favourite part, and ever since the captain had taken to it as well, it seemed that bit more satisfying. There was a dull crump in the distance, followed by a shaking of the hull. Reglan stopped in his tracks, wondering why they would launch the boarding craft without him. Furious he roared “Double time you sons of whores!” as he began sprinting for the nearest hangar, oblivious to the flashing red alarm signals starting in the hallways. Reglan burst through the huge blast doors, sweat pouring from him as he roared at the nearest pilot to ready the ship for him. The pilot stood there shuddering, desperately trying to direct officer's attention to the massive warning signals as the boarding sirens began. Pushed past his tolerance, Reglan lifted the pilot and threw him over his shoulder.
“You'll fly this ship, or you'll be the first blood on my axe today worm!”. “Sir!” the pilot desperately blurted out “those aren't the launch signals for the boarders. WE are being boarded!”. As the look of realisation dawned upon Reglan's face, there was an enormous clunk at the hull just outside. Enormous hooks penetrated the adamantium walls of the ship, and canisters were flung from the across the hangar. Reacting faster than his comrades, Reglan dove behind the nearest craft and turned away from the canisters before they shattered open with a blinding light, incapacitating the boarding parties in their places. The boarding parties were stunned as the hull of ths ship tore open and was flung inwards with explosive impact. Seconds after the explosion killed half the pirates a roar filled the hangar. “IN DARKNESS DWELLS, DROWN THEM ALL BROTHERS!” before the blasts of shotgun and boltgun fire ripped forth from the breach, tearing the crew down in seconds. Reglan grabbed his chain-axe and jumped up to join the few survivors of the initial salvo. Shouldering their shotguns, he signalled that he would lead the way and charged around the corner of the ship. He was greeted by a figure straight from the stuff of his nightmares. The giant in his luminescent armour turned on Reglan, crushing his chest cavity with one might blow of his hammer. As he lay on the deck choking on his own crushed innards, his last thoughts were of the Marine's solitary eye, blacker than the void itself.
Mokoyll stepped over the corpse of what seemed to have been the leader of the pirates present in the hangar. Examining his immediate surroundings, he barked out a series of commands to the marines of his strike party. "Brother Theodorus, place the charges. Brother Snaaijer, prepare this area for extraction. Squad Otten, breach and clear the starboard corridors. I am with you brothers"
"They will drown, we will rise" chanted Mokoyll's brother Krakens in Unison as they set about their assigned tasks with mechanical precision. "WHAT. IS. HAPPENING?" bellowed Craglish addressing both his remaining officers in the bridge, as well as the vox system. "I-It appears we've b-been boarded Sir!" piped up one of the petty officers. Craglish roared incoherently, as he tried to gain some sense of what was happening aboard his ship. All of the sensors had been focused on the merchant vessel, and in his blind greed he had been baited in closer to the ship as the jaws of the trap had closed around him. "Yes, I can see that Samuel, but by WHOM. Why has noone responded to the voxx calls? Where are the boarding parties?". "From preliminary internal scans, it appears to be a force of Adeptus Astartes sir. Unknown numbers and chapter, but they have breached the ship here, here and here" gestured Pollinus, the ships tech-expert.
Examining the blueprints, Craglish could make nothing of the entry points of the astartes. "Why would they enter the ship there..." he raged as he considered the scanner. "Scans indicate a splinter force moving this direction sir" droned Pollinus through his mechanical jaw.
"Well, we'd best welcome them as we know best gentlemen! Prepare your arms!". Whipping his saber from it's sheath, he charged out of the room followed by his bodyguards and remaining officers ... with the exception of Danik, who snuck off in the opposite direction.
Mokoyll led the assault party through the broad hallways of the ship, breaching shield held before him. The Techmarine among the boarding party had disabled the lights in this section of the ship, and the shimmering light of the luminescent runes inscribed on Mokoyll's armour lit the way for his unit. To his men, a beacon in the dark akin to Huginn, guiding the Marines in their righteous duty. To the pirates aboard the ship he stalked the corridors, a figure of terror in the dark. Craglish had affixed his raiding visor after leaving the confines of the bridge, and found himself glad of the fact now that the light had been extinguished in the ship. The darkness only seemed to accentuate the dull thumping of footsteps that echoed throughout the ship. He couldn't honestly tell where the footsteps were coming from, or who they belonged to, and that thought terrified him.
The scanners suggested that the Marines were moving towards the central control deck, from which the basic running of the ship was done. Though this struck Craglish as somewhat odd, he knew the Astartes would not be targeting that part of the ship on a whim. There must be some reason he mused, before his thoughts were interrupted by the beeping of his scanner. They were close. Very close. The Marines were less than 200 meters away from his current position. He signaled to his men to prepare their weapons, as he loaded his own shotgun. "Brother Commander" whispered Sergeant Otten "scanner's indicate a substantial group of the pirates in the next room. Shall we engage, or send brother Lojituv to the command center alone to continue as planned?".
"That seems wisest brother" agreed Mokoyll, affixing his helmet as the rest of the squad did the same. "Give Lojituv three minutes, and we shall send these renegades to the deep for their penance." Hefting his great hammer in one hand, and the breaching shield in the other, he formed a wall of adamantium with the other Krakens in front of the blast door, and they waited as Lojituv's footsteps echoed into silence. "What are they waiting for!" Craglish exclaimed, exasperated by the marine's apparent inactivity. "Perhaps they are awaiting backup sir? Maybe we should strike while they are undermanned." suggested Paulson, the heavy-weapons specialist of the Spearhead. Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, and looking around his men in the dark, Craglish considered his options. Either take the fight to the marines on his own terms, denying them whatever it was they were waiting for, or allow them to walk into an ambush that they were almost certain to be aware of. "You're right for once Paulson. Prepare the melta bombs, we'll catch the drop on them." Paulson grinned and quickly began affixing the demolition charges to the bulkhead of the blast door.
"I'll put one minute on the timer sir" whispered Paulson into his vox system as he affixed the final charge. "We should have no problems wi-" he was cut short as the blast door, as well as every other nearby door simultaneously slid open. "OPEN FIRE!" roared Craglish as the ominous glowing figures of the Astartes moved in unison through the blast doors. The massed fire of his men dropped the marine to his left, and seemed to stop them momentarily, before the juggernaught leader crushed Paulson beneath his shield. Their advance began in earnest again. There was a sudden an unexpected popping noise, followed by a rush of air in every direction at once. "DROWN IN THE VOID, TRAITORS. RECEIVE THE EMPERORS JUDGEMENT!" cried out the leader of the marines. Craglish dropped his weapons as he fumbled for his helmet, wide-eyed realization apparent on his face.
"THEY'RE VENTING THE AIR INTO SPACE. REBREATHERS. NOW!" he screamed over the intense noise as he struggled with his own mask. He suddenly understood the trap, and for the second time in one afternoon he knew his foolish lack of foresight had cost him dearly. Craglish's pirates were caught struggling to survive the sudden lack of air by placing their rebreathers on, which left them unable to defend themselves from the onslaught of the astartes. The combat was over momentarily, with the marines left standing amongst the wreckage of the pirate crew, aboard the nearly fully intact ship.
"Brother Commander Mokoyll" rasped Lojituv through the vox channels "the ship has been evacuated of necessary gases to support the continuation of resistance. Only the cargo hold has retained it's atmosphere, as per your earlier orders". Mokoyll nodded in approval to no one in particular. "Very good brother. You do the Chapter proud. Rejoin us, as we cleanse the remainder of the ship before requisitioning the pirate's supplies for the chapter's use."