//Cargo Ship: Holy Deliverance//+//Time Coordinate – 819.M41//
The hallway was sweltering. The walls weren’t even solid: just an entangled web of metal pipes, plasteel columns, and cords. It created the semblance of hallways and chambers. But in reality the underdeck was one massive platform of the ship. And everything was radiating heat.
This ship was slowly becoming a new home. The familiar smell of grit and oil. The deep thrum of the ships plasma generator. The release valves hissed steam and the electric meshes crackled with discharge. It wasn’t home as most new it, but this was the only home some thousands of voidsmen would ever know. And it was slowly becoming his. With a smile, the man rounded the corner to his bunk.
“Throne take me. We’re gon’ have to work overtime if Kash is comin’ along. He never gets shit done!” someone shouted ribbingly.
“Piss off, old man!” Kassius Washburne shouted back with a smile. “We all know you are a waste on this ship!” Laughter filled the bunk.
It was close quarters everywhere you went. There was no privacy and no quiet. So you got to know your bunk mates quickly. There were four double bunks and eight lockers. All of this space was crammed into a room maybe six paces across both directions. Kassius threw his satchel onto his bed. He sat down and began changing into his stained coveralls. From the bunk directly above his, some thickly muscles calves swung into view. The man jumped down and turned to face Kassius. It was his mate Hart Wettles. Most just called him Wet.
“You weren’t planetside very long this time. How’s the family?” Wet said.
“Kyber keeps busy. The nearby farmers combine harvesters all need repairs so he’ll be working on that till I get back. Kayp never likes to see me go, but we gotta eat. This is pretty good money for being sub-system cargo work.” He laced his boots up. Grabbing his tool belt he began setting out. “Are we stopping for a pickup at any of the Hives? Scintilla? Thical?”
“Yeah, I think we pass through Thical to Wander this time. They want to keep it short. The raiders keep Battlefleet Calixus stretched thin, so we aren’t doing a deep void run. There is apparently a new privateer in the sector abusing their Writ of Trade.”
Kassius grimaced, “Hopefully luck is with us.”
“Did Kayp like the stuffed pandai?” Wet said while donning his own coverall.
“I think so. I hope to buy a whole stuffed family.” Kassius latched his harness on and set out.
“Whats rotation got you doing today?” Wet shouted after him. “Life support system needs new bypass valves. I’ll be up there all week.”
Kassius always eschewed the harness. He was wiry enough to hold himself in place. Unlike a lot of the thickly muscled men on the ship, he could simply wedge himself in between pipes. And he didn’t have to detach and reattach himself every time he needed to move down a segment. He could simply climb across to the next section of pipes. The muscles of his arms burned as he forced the final pipe segment into place. He returned the wrench to his belt and reached to the back of the pipe cluster and turned the airflow back on. The valve began to hiss as Kassius made some final adjustments.
He began to climb down. He judged by how long he’d been up here that it must’ve been early evening. He decided he’d find his superior and ask if he could be done for today. He finished one corridor in a day; faster than the next quickest mechanic. Kassius hadn’t been to the mess hall yet and his stomach was protesting.
A dull, pulsing alarm started howling through the ship. Kassius stopped climbing down. Is that the ship to ship alarm?
A massive explosion somewhere on the ship rocked it from prow to stern. Kassius was thrown to the ground, nearly a three meter drop. He landed hard on his tools and he heard his shoulder pop. He screamed in pain. A few heartbeats later the pain was subsiding into a slow, blooming pulse. He rolled onto his side. His left arm was useless and his legs were numb.
There was another explosion. He could hear a wave of air approaching rapidly as he tried to get to his feet. His gait was hampered by the pain, but eventually he found his stride. Suddenly all the air was being pulled back down the corridor, and then he heard fire. In the distance of the corridor he saw the wave of fire approaching, perhaps half a kilometer distant. The life support system must’ve taken a serious hit. He reached the elevator and had the bulkhead door slam down. As the elevator began to move he quietly cursed the fact that his days labor was all for naught.
Kassius descended to the ships main platform. The door slammed open and all before him was chaos. Men and women were running around frantically. Some screaming and crying, other voidsmen desperately trying to fulfill their duties and keep the ship functioning as it needed to. From where he had exited the elevator he could almost see down the entire length of the ship. There was a loud report of macrocannons from down the macro corridor. Green and blue electricity discharged from the massive weapons and was pulled to the floor by the mesh cowls that housed them.
His legs still in dull pain, Kassius began to run to the nearest ladder to the underdeck. Just as he got his foot on the first rung he heard the distinctive clanking of something on the hull. Sparks began to spatter the ground some ten paces down the wall and then a massive segment of wall shot inwards. Air was briefly sucked out into the void until the raiding party had engaged their hatch seal. Armed men in voidsuits poured forth from the opening and began to open fire pell-mell into the crowd.
Kassius rushed down the ladder as fast as he could. It was just his luck that his dominate hand would be incapacitated in that fall. He jumped the last three rungs with another thump and a groan. The men had started making their way into the underdeck. Kassius could hear gunfire amidst the clanking and hissing of the corridors. He quickly found his bearings and rushed down the passageway towards his bunk.
All he could think about was Kayp. Kassius wouldn’t get to say good bye, or how sorry he was that he’d never come back. But if he was quick, and perhaps a touch mad, he might be able to send one last message.
Kassius ducked into a side opening at the sound of hurried footsteps. Enemy or ally, it didn’t matter, he had no time for anyone else. A group of men rushed by. More gunfire then silence. Kassius dashed. He had to blink the sweat from his eyes. The salty sting was compounded by the humidity in this cramped space. He started to come across dead bodies, but he didn’t look down. Kassius was too afraid to see someone he knew as a bloody corpse. He clamped his eyes shut for certain hallways and tried to think of Kayp.
Arms wrapped tightly about him when he had to say good bye, when they shared their last meal, the way Kayp held his hand as he tried to walk away. Kassius made it to his bunk. Blood had spattered the rear wall. Someone had been gunned down and then dragged away. He accessed the communal terminal. Distant shouts and footsteps were coming up the connecting walkway.
His left arm still useless, he typed on the holo-pad with his off hand. Too slowly. Damn it all, far too slowly. He tried to remember anything useful to say in the message. Hadn’t Wet mentioned a Rogue Trader?
More gunshots and then footsteps almost immediately behind him. He frantically finished the final sentence and dropped in the vox coordinates. A hot gun barrel seared itself against his neck.
“Your Lord-Captain has relinquished the ship. You belong to us now. On your feet or you die.” the soldier behind him shouted.
Kassius waited for one eternal moment. Then he typed in the final digit and sent the communication into the void.
“You piece of-” the gun went off destroying the terminal mid-broadcast.
And then something solid cracked into the side of Kassius’ head.