In the middle of the Forge subsector rests the desert planet of Ayrakkis. A world of endless deserts and rich minerals, countless wars have been fought on its dry, arid surface for that most precious of resources: prometheum spice. For the last ten years, however, all has been quiet.
At least, until now…
On an Imperial outpost in the lee of the Wyrmborne mountains, PDF Captain Marjorie Depano was awakened by a distant screaming. “Damned psykers,” she muttered. “Can’t a woman have one night of rest?”
A knock on her door heralded the arrival of Sergeant Djems, her second-in-command. “Ma’am, we have a problem,” he said.
“What is it? Another astropath had a bad dream and need me to hold his hand?” Depano grumbled.
“No, ma’am. It’s… well, it’s…. in the sky… um, I think it’s better if you see for yourself.” replied the sergeant.
Noting how pale the normally unflappable sergeant was, Depano shook away the last remnants of sleep and stood up. “Alright, show me”
Djems silently led Depano out unto the balcony and pointed upwards. What Depano beheld shook her to her very core. Blocking out the light of the twin moons was a… thing. It couldn’t rightly be called a ship, it was far too massive. It was a conglomeration of ships, mashed together like small toys at the hands of a toddler. A very large, very insane toddler. It exuded menace from every smashed prow and cavernous docking bay and, more importantly, it was hovering in the skies above HER planet.
“Shit,” she said. “Send out a distress signal, sergeant. A Space Hulk has just appeared above Ayrakkis and we need help.”
“Who do we send the signal to, captain?” asked Djems.
“To anyone listening, sergeant,” Depano said softly. “To any one listening. And pray to the Emperor that someone hears us.”
Chapter I: Dark Tidings
Dark corridors, broken machinery, strange insectoids and greenskins running around.
Wonderful. Simply, wonderful.
I have a curious love-hate relationship with Space Hulks. On one hand, they have all this wonderful technology and are rich with soooo much history but on the other…
Well, the things we do for love.
The particular curio that brought me here today is a C’Tan shard. But not just any shard, no. It contains an ENTIRE Star God! I know not the circumstances (or madness) that led some of my brethren to imprison this one instead of breaking its energy apart like we did the others but can you imagine what a prize it would make? A Star God! If I still had a heart, it would be aflutter from sheer anticipation. Dangerous? Pah! What is danger to a true collector? What is a bit of field work to an explorer of my calibre?
The biggest issue to retrieving this shard is that my brethren, recognizing the danger of what they have wrought, wisely (yet annoyingly) built a prison for it deep within the subterranean vaults of the planet and then decided to seal it off completely, leaving no way to access the shard or their tomb world.
Bloody inconsiderate chaps, I say.
I have this huge armoured fellow in my collection that I like to talk to when I get bored. Of course, being in stasis, he doesn’t exactly talk back, but I often like to pretend he does. At any rate, I was talking to Professor Pauldrons (my pet name for him, on account of his, well, pauldrons) and we concluded that it would take an impact of intense magnitude to break open the planet’s crust and get to the shiny treasures within. A moon wouldn’t work. Too much mass. Neither would any sort of orbital bombardment I could think of, which would either be too weak to break the crust or so powerful that it would destabilize the mantle. I was about to give the shard up for lost but then lo and behold! This wonderful, beautiful Hulk just appears out of nowhere like a gift from the Deceiver himself.
Which brings us here, now, to this floating pile of space junk that the humans call “the Bruised Banner”. It is plenty bruised but I do not understand why they would call it a banner. Whoever the Imperium hires to name these things should be executed or, as they say in their primitive language, “BLAM-ED”. Onomatopoeia at it’s finest. Perhaps there is some hope for these savages, after all.
I am now approaching one of the main plasma engines of one of the many and varied ships that make up this hulk and when there, I will proceed to plant another small knick-knack I picked up across the sector to take control and set the hulk into a crash course with the planet. I feel a small twinge of guilt in my mechanical heart as I contemplate all the knowledge and collectibles that will be lost with the destruction of this Hulk, but sacrifices must be made. A curator must prioritize the pieces most worthy of display and send other, less important items to the trash bin.
One downside to the control device that I am using is that I have to be here the entire time to direct the course of the hulk. It simply won’t do to go through all this trouble and crash the damned thing just anywhere. So, yes, that means that this body is essentially lost (which is a shame as I was pretty fond of it) but I have more waiting for me back on the ship so it’s no huge bother.
After all, they don’t call me the Infinite for nothing.
Chapter 2: Skyfall
It’s been three days since the sky fell.
Me and my brother were out of the sietch that day, on our way to the capital, Afgianistan to trade for parts for our water reclaimer. It was only showing slight signs of wear but on Ayrakkis, a broken water reclaimer meant death for the entire community. Water is a precious resource, even more precious than the prometheum spice that the off-worlders risked life and limb to collect. Like the others, I have heard stories of other worlds where water simply fell from the sky and formed huge bodies called “oceans”.
Like the others, I know that these are merely stories meant to challenge our faith. Life is a struggle, and in that struggle do we show devotion to the Emperor. So it has been since the Desert Prophet came to us with the Word and so it will be until the end of time. These off-worlders, however, are soft. They built a fortress city of walls and safety on the most habital part of the planet and dared to name it after the Prophet, as if they themselves were not an abomination to his doctrine. We of the desert tribes refuse this name and simply call it the City. One day, the Emperor will punish them tenfold for their comforts, but that will come when it comes. The desert teaches us patience above all else.
Yet what these off-worlders do have is technology. Struggle may be holy, but the ultimate goal is still survival and we need their arcane science to survive. Thus our pilgrimage to Afgianistan, the Dessicated Citadel, ironically the greatest concentration of moisture on the planet. The City.
“Your mask is loose, little sister,” said Malachi as he adjusted the straps on his stillsuit. “Fix it before you lose water to the air.”
“I was merely taking in the scent of the desert,” I replied. “I have never been this close to the City before. The air smells different somehow. Dirtier.”
“Taking off your mask in the middle of the day in the open desert wastes precious millilitres to evaporation,” he admonished. “I thought I taught you better than this.”
“Yes, brother.” I sighed, putting my mask back on. You could almost see the spires of the City at this distance, even though it was still miles away. How big must those spires be if they were visible from here?
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a falling star. Falling stars were considered lucky and if you found the place where it fell, you could trade the skyrock for its weight in water. Yet it was unusal for them to be visible during the day. I was about to say something to Malachi when I saw another falling star. And then another. And another. It seemed like all the stars were falling from the vaults of heaven down to earth like the mythical “rains” that fell on other worlds.
The day suddenly turned to night as something unbelievably large blocked out the sun. The Dark Moon, which appeared only recently in the sky over my home was falling stately down to Ayrakkis. The very earth shook as the Dark Moon crashed in the distant desert and I lost my balance. I recall seeing an wall of sand and rock moving rapidly toward us from the direction of the crash. I remember my brother dropping on top of me and shielding me from the storm with his own body. And then there was nothing.
When I came to, I was buried alive in sand, but we are taught from childhood how to escape from something like this and I managed to reach the surface in a little over half an hour. I must have been unconscious for hours for it was already night time. I thank the Emperor for my mask, as the air was thick with particulates and smog. In the direction of the desert stretched a giant expanse of black glass extending thousands of miles. It probably extended all the way to…
“The sietch,” I whisper softly. “It’s gone. Everything is gone.”
It was then that I finally noted my brother’s absence. I searched for hours around the area and must have screamed my throat raw, but it was if the desert or the sea of glass swallowed up all traces of that brave man. In one fell swoop, everything and everyone that I have ever known or loved had been taken from me.
I simply sat there in utter despair for what seemed like years (though it must only have been a couple of hours) until I noticed the lights of the City shining in the distance. As I got up to continue my trek toward the City, I looked back and saw that the vast sea of glass that only a while ago seemed endless and eternal was slowly being swallowed up by the desert. Somehow, this filled me with new strength. All this was part of life.
Life is a struggle. Life goes on.