++ FOUR MINUTES OXYGEN REMAINING ++
The mechanical voice grated in her ears, heard only by her. Artificial and sterile.
Trooper Ginny Csilter drifted lazily in the null-gravity. Around her, a twisted, ancient corridor of corroded metal, lit by the dying light of lumen-rods leeching the last vestiges of power from tattered cables, and the pale beam of her chest lamp. She was not the only piece of flotsam drifting in this tomblike space; flakes of rust as big as a handprint; tatters of shredded spall-fabric; particles of ice like midwinter snow, frozen from the last breaths of the long-dead crew.
While it had lived, the ship had been called The Magnificence Of Devotion. Now, six millennia after being named, it was known to the Imperium as Anomalous Object GSP63-697b.
She twitched, like a sleeping child. The movement tumbled her slowly, her lamp beam playing across the ravaged wall panels like a lighthouse illuminating the ocean. The beam glinted crimson off floating globules of slowly freezing blood, seeping from the wound on her thigh. Beneath the foggy, impact-crazed glass of her faceplate, her eyelids fluttered open.
++ THREE MINUTES OXYGEN REMAINING ++
Ginny’s tumble carried her, almost gently, into a collision with a steel hatch frame, and she gasped fully into consciousness, clutching reflexively for the shotgun which was tethered to her flak-armoured vacsuit. Clutching the weapon and trying to slow her breathing, she arrested her tumble with her free hand and aimed up and down the corridor, her combat training not quite keeping the tremor from her fingers.
Satisfied that she was the only living thing here, she tried to flex her gashed leg, swearing as pain shot through her. She fumbled in her pouches, found the patch kit, and gingerly began to apply vacuum tape across the tear. The blood from her wound had partially frozen against her under-suit, otherwise she would have been dead already. From loss of oxygen or blood, it would have been a close thing. Once again, she struggled to slow her breathing.
Where was the fragging breach point?
She barely remembered what had happened. Her platoon, Mozyndan 89th Voidstrikers, best damned breaching team in the sub-sector, had been running a clearance sweep on the hulk. Part of the hulk anyway; the damned thing was huge, at least three distinct ships all accreted together by the tides of the Immaterium. The Astartes had gone in to the deepest, most dangerous, sections. Getting all the glory. Throne, but she didn’t mind. They were so inhuman, even out of their armour. She had expected the Emperor’s angels to be beautiful, instead of monstrous. She pushed the thought away, as if they would smell it on her.
Her head spun, not just from the null-gravity, as her memory began to return. She had been smashed against the corridor wall somehow—the cracks in her visor and the throb in her skull told her that much. She half-remembered their point-man, Graedel, suddenly being shredded by heavy fire that had seemed to come out of nowhere. Frantic vox-traffic and soundless gunshots as they tried to identify and pin the attacker.
It had appeared in their midst like a shadow – hulking, armoured in Astartes plate. But where the Astartes she had known had been sombre giants in their dark green armour, this thing was the colour of the void itself, screaming faces worked into the trim of its cuirass and impossible symbols chiselled into its shoulder guards. It had a colossal bolter clenched in one hand and a crackling servo-claw encasing the other, and it had been butchering them before she could blink. She had fled, screams filling her ears that she realised were her own. Pushing off the bulkheads, something close to her had exploded, smashing her against the walls of the hulk…
++ TWO MINUTES OXYGEN REMAINING++
It might still be out there. I have to move.
She checked her wrist readout. Panned it around until she managed to locate the return ping of the assault boat’s beacon.
After a moment of stillness, she moved down the corridor away from the inviting ping of the beacon, turning off her chest lamp. Her shotgun, for all the good it would do, she held against her shoulder.
Slow your damned breathing, girl.
Pain was seeping into her, and she had to stop and mag-clamp her boots to the deck while she thumbed a nerve-spray from her kit. Once the cold wash of the analgesic had hit her, she continued, feeling her way in near darkness.
++ ONE MINUTES OXYGEN REMAINING++
Must be there by now. Where are they?
Her hand touched wetness in the shadows and she recoiled, blood slicking her glove as she brought up her gun. Out of the shadows drifted a corpse, that of Sergeant Helaynich. His left arm, and a good chunk of his torso, were simply not there, as if something had taken a bite out of him. His dead, terrified eyes were visible under his faceplate. She pushed closer, fumbled with his webbing.
Come on, come on…
She found his air hose, followed it.
Found a ruptured stump.
++ OXYGEN DEPLETED ++
++ REPLACE CANISTER ++
She turned her chest lamp back on, desperate. There were no other bodies to be seen. Had she misremembered? Had Helaynich run too? The airless chill of the hulk seemed to gather around her, and she whispered a half-remembered prayer to the God-Emperor.
Something cold and metallic bounced off her faceplate, and she jerked back.
An air canister. Stamped with the Emperor’s Aquila. The red indicator showed the safety seal was still engaged.
She grabbed it, her hands shaking again, clipping into place on her air-hose. The indicator flickered to green.
++ THIRTY MINUTES OXYGEN REMAINING ++
She almost sobbed in relief.
Carefully and steadily, she checked the beacon again. Then with her gun shouldered and another prayer on her lips, she turned and pushed off toward the breach point.
About the Author
Ed Cornish is a software engineer from Hampshire, England. When he is not writing code, he immerses himself in the worlds of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. An avid reader since childhood, he hopes to become a published author one day, although, like his code, his characters often do not do what is expected of them.