Excerpt from the Journal of Illustrious Rogue Trader Alrec Roe
Day 98 of the Siege of the Midnight’s Lair
… damn fine mess of it. I expected as much but still had some hope buried deep. No matter.
We’ve established a defensive perimeter through section Estus and are holding fast. The beasts have continued to display a cunning that few expected and we are wary of additional trickery. Morale is holding but I can see the wear and tear is starting to take hold.
This section of the hulk appears to have been an old cargo hauler. Records indicate that she ran a pretty quiet route between a number of old pre-Imperium colonies here in the Expanse. Somehow they survived Old Night intact enough to maintain trade between the local systems. Fascinating stuff. I’ve had Zelle making copies of everything, not that it required much prompting from me. I’m pretty sure she she’d already detailed half the ship’s blueprints before I even spoke to her. Once I can get back to the Starhammer I look forward to adding it all to the archives. I must admit, my own additions to the Librarium are paltry compared to Great Grandmother Arlanis. That wonderful woman put more books and dataslates into the Roe family collection than perhaps any prior holder of the Writ. Where she got it I don’t know exactly, but rumors hold to her having stolen an entire wing of an Administratrum facility…literally the entire wing right off the building. It would explain the fine layer of ferrocrete dust over a good portion of…
…sound like two Gorveran bulls fighting for dominance, but amplified by a factor of a thousand and multiplied by say another thousand. Ok, so nothing like two Gorveran bulls fighting but that’s not important. What’s important is that the Orks have broken off at least a dozen smaller craft that had comprised most of section Fortus. The ships began to drift off away from the hulk itself, but wouldn’t you know… within two days they’d restored power and gotten them on an approach vector towards our backline. The Starhammer and the rest of the armada are tied up in running skirmishes with an assembled Ork fleet and even at full burn will not be able to intercept the oncoming craft. Marcus and I have been in close council trying to determine where they may try and breach. So far the only likely spot is Voidlock 9332-ESTUS. Marcus is convinced they’re going to just ram their way in like a proper Ork. So far however nothing about this lot seems ‘proper’ especially for an Ork. If they were on their own crude but effective ships I’d agree with him; they’re built for that kind of maneuver. But these are old and barely spaceworthy, and not warships mind you. They’d be committing suicide to do so. There has to be something going on…
I don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps the beginning.
Sig and I were having a quiet breakfast, trying to maintain a degree of normalcy while everything but surrounds us. There are moments where I think I know the real Sig, where her guard drops and what I think is the act fades. But then in what feels a blink of an eye she shifts again. Damned peculiar but I’m not sure that I mind to be honest.
The alarms sounded with a sense of urgency I didn’t think possible from a single setting siren. We abandoned breakfast and ran for the command post. Marcus arrived a moment after I had and demanded a status report. Increased vox chatter had been picked up followed by a massive spike in the thermal auguries. The hijacked Ork vessels were on the move towards 9332-ESTUS. Rapid orders flew out as House Guard of so many different colors scrambled to fall into rank and prepare to deploy in response. I’m proud to say that my own House Guard were the first to be fully assembled and ready to move. I must remember to have an extra set of rations for the men delivered, and a round of amsec delivered to the command staff. Expensive yes, but the look on Bucwolf’s face when he realized we’d beaten his men was so so worth it.
Defensive perimeters were established. Hasty fortifications were built throughout the voidlock. Men and women of the Guard held their places, emergency rebreathers deployed and ready in case the Orks actually did just crash through the heavy doors and we lost atmosphere.
The attack never came. Long minutes went by. I still felt like something was wrong but none of our sensors were picking up anything. Nothing from fore or aft, nothing to our side except ancient corridors rigged with sensors that showed nothing, and a set of giant voidlock doors.
Sola was the first to put action to feeling. Her eyes closed and her Eye opened. The look on her face told me everything I needed to know as I struggled to avoid a look into whatever terrors she holds at bay behind that third eyelid. She could see them, thousands of them. They were actually voidwalking along the hull of the hulk and intending to hit our position via the tertiary access ducts that worked their way throughout the entire superstructure of the voidlock. Without her, they’d have been all over us. We’d have had Orks coming out of every access vent in the middle of our lines. I do pause to reflect that I in fact had been standing over one such vent and am doing what I can to keep the thought at bay. Note to self, find out if Sola likes Forvellian wine and buy her a case… or fifty.
We hastily shifted the lines, repositioned our defensive barriers, and brought our heavy guns to better firing angles. The first Orks came not long after, discarding void helmets but still wearing the red jumpsuits. I dare not even think of where they found voidworthy jumpsuits for the Ork physique but there they were, red as dawn on Yenra III.
It was a one sided slaughter… for awhile. No matter how much we kept firing they kept coming. Round after round, las burst after las burst. My own hand cannon became painfully hot to hold with the amount of cartridges I put through her. There was a lull in the assault and some of the men cheered in victory.
Their cheers were short lived as a ‘Mek’ apparently finished his walk, and had brought a portable field generator of some sort with him. Suddenly we found ourselves struggling to contain them at the access panels. Orks were getting to the lines and the inevitable conflict of melee began. I saw the lines start to falter at the onslaught and knew it could not break. I shoved my pistol in my holster and ran for the line, my swords at my hip swaying with each elongated step. I pulled Fortune and Glory from their sheathes and began wading in. Parry. Thrust. Advance. Parry. Thrust. Advance. While it did not feel as such, we were making a difference, but I knew that unless that Mek and his shield were dropped, we were going to lose the bay itself. If they reached the main control room that was it. All of the Orks onboard those ships waiting would have free reign to cut off and destroy the entire operation if we failed to hold them. I also had the concern that the Orks were just crazy enough to open the Voidlock without engaging the access field and would just vent the entire compartment into the void. Neither option seemed appealing.
Through the swirl of limbs and the mist of blood, both human and xenos, I saw him. More rusty machine than Ork, twisted and full of malice. He was yelling into an integrated vox unit at his shoulder, communicating with who I’m not sure. I locked eyes with him and raised Glory up vertically in front of face before sweeping her down in a traditional Swordmaster of Zanig salute. Now I’m good with a sword, but in no way shape or form am I a trained Swordmaster of Zanig. I’m pretty sure I saw the move in a holovid a few years ago and thought it looked quite impressive. But you know what? I’m pretty sure I looked just as impressive as the Ork Mek brought his clawed hand, pulsing with crackles of energy to bear and gestured in my direction.
I wish I could say that I had much on my mind. Moments like that however tend to leave you with little but perhaps one of the first human thoughts: Kill or Be Killed. I’m told by those who witnessed the duel that the Ork ranks broke into a half circle around their Mek while our forces did similar behind me. Fighting there had paused momentarily as each side shared a moment of wanting to engage but also seemingly enthralled by our clash.
I noticed none of this. The stench. I noticed the stench. I noticed the piercing eyes behind crude rotating lenses as the Mek sized me up. I dropped into a defensive stance, swords layered in front of me, Glory’s power field sizzled in ancient reverb, almost singing a lament of ages past.
The Ork struck first. A heavy sweeping slash that would have opened me from hip to hip. Glory flickered out and I pushed hard, keeping the jagged claws from reaching me. I responded with a testing thrust with Fortune, but was deflected by a shield of some sort. The Mek had remodulated his field to a more personal size. We continued this way for what felt like hours but am told was merely minutes. Every attack the beast threw at me I’d deflect, though some came closer to hitting home than I care to admit. Every slash and thrust I gave in response deflected off the force field.
Zelle buzzed in my ear. The momentary distraction saw me come about just a moment too slowly and I found myself thrown to the ground hard, blood seeping through jagged cuts in my coat. She’d seen the energy patterns of the shield and had calculated the timing required to overload the shield. The beast roared in near triumph and continued to press the attack.
I counted the seconds past the pain in my side. One. Hold… Two. Hold… Three… now! Glory moved with a grace I didn’t think myself to have and hit the shield at just the right moment. The field overloaded and the beast was defenseless. Well… except for the power claw and at least nearly my own body weight in additional muscle. With a swing of the claw the Ork had grabbed hold of Glory, their power fields cracked and hissed against each other. I was dragged forward practically face to face with the monster who I assume planned to use the mean looking jaw augment to crush my skull. The Ork laughed or at least I think that was a laugh. Honestly that sound may stick with me until I meet the Emperor at the Stairs of Ascendancy.
I let Fortune drop to the deck, unable to get leverage enough to swing it properly. I pulled my hand cannon, pressed the muzzle to the beast’s temple and pulled the trigger. I could only hope that the manstopper rounds I’d loaded would be enough to penetrate the dense skull. I was rewarded with a spray of xenos blood and another sound that will stick with me, this time a more gurgling death rattle, the kind seemingly universal to all species. Perhaps we aren’t so different after all. Note to self, redact that line before putting back into Port Wander.
The Mek dropped, its grip on Glory lost I found I could regain my footing. The power field gone and their leader down left the remaining Orks scrambling. I holstered my pistol, and returned Fortune to her home at my hip. Glory remained intact, her field not yielding and she looked as pristine as the day I first ‘found’ her.
I’m told I sauntered back to the line as our men and women cheered. I’m told Sola and her personal guard had held the right flank with as much grace as strength, very fittingly. I’m told Sig was instrumental in maintaining communication between our forces even when the vox network was over capacity. I’m told Zelle even brought down a few of the beasts herself, on top of helping me win the day. I’m also told I continued to cheer on the men, directing fire across their retreat paths. Most of it is a blur of shapes and color, a haze seemingly formed over my perception of the time following.
The voidlock was still ours. We were not blown into space, nor had we been cut limb from limb. With their access point denied, the ships the Orks had commandeered were left floundering in the void just long enough for the three squadrons of Starhawk bombers I’d requested from the Starhammer to arrive. Their bombing runs continued until their bays ran dry, but they got the job done.
Note to self, negotiate for more pay out of Marcus. Starhawk bombs aren’t cheap.