Labor Days Revisited
The interstellar cruiser was long, shaped like a large pillar of salt crystal, yet it was jet black with some small accents of yellow striping. Long range antennas and cannons alike jutted from its irregular nose, reaching out into the purple and green ether that it spun through. Its aft was cold and dark. There was no need to expend fuel as one traversed warp-space. Despite its immensity, the clouds of warp that whirled around the crevasses and niches would have made the ship look small, as if a giant octopus was attempting to open a jewelry box. The bulkheads that tied the ship together creaked like a wooden ship in a stormy sea, yet everything seemed eerily silent.
Quiet. Stillness. Those are the words. Warsmith Martok slowly opened his eyes after a brief reverie collecting his thoughts. They were approaching the Mercian system, at least the exit that would translate their ship to the outer orbiting moons. He had not yet decided which one he would pick to exert his influence upon.
The moons surrounding Mercia, numbering nearly 100, were the source of almost inexhaustible supply- their mines and refineries received, processed, and shipped millions of tons of product per hour between all of them. Arriving in the system would offer a starship captain 98 moons and one very large ice giant to peruse and purchase supplies. The only problem was procuring the product.
Mercia offered very little in actual military resistance. It was still held under the assumed control of the Imperium of Mankind, this was the territory of Guilliman, despite him actually fighting on some forsaken rock a million light-years away. The problem with purchasing product from the Mercians was navigating the schedules of the corporations. Each moon had its own distinct calendar system, and arriving at a moon might mean waiting days, or even weeks for assistance from the surface.
Martok had not thought this through. He didn't have the time, at this point in the war, to waste time waiting for anyone. He would arrive, and take what he wanted. Then he would leave.
The deck holding his command throne was small and humble in its decor, functionality was instilled into every aesthetic of the design process. Small screens flashed data to the eyes of servitors sitting still in three rows before him. The only other thing of note was the large set of double doors directly in front of him. Unlike other Warsmiths, he cared not to stare out into space. Anyone walking into his command room would immediately see his face.
These great doors suddenly opened, and the power-armored figure of Master Ziggarauth entered the chamber. The Master of Signals stopped immediately after entering into the room, and transmitted his data via the command deck encrypted channel to the First-Chair servitor, sitting closest to the warsmith. Martok had the information in a moment, and responded. Not a word was actually spoken between them.
Mercia. We drop out of Warp now.
The room went dark, and a whisper of darkness was audible as the psychic forces from the belly of the ship ached the hull back into reality. Martok noticed an extra flutter- was it a blinking light? It spun briefly in his mind, as if he was doubting. This was an unlikely feeling for him to experience. He transmitted to the First Chair.
Inform the priestess of an anomaly. It should be investi-
The transmission was cut short as arcs of warp energy shot through the ship, and something large collided with the hull. Lights across the deck turned a sickly-amber color, and klaxons blared. The First-Chair compiled the data and began an emergency broadcast.
Impact on Sectors 17, 18, 19 and 25. Damage within toleration limits, drones state active. Error strings found in navigation systems as follows. Coordinates: error state. Visual confirmation: error state. Deep field sensors: error state...
It went on like this, but Ziggarauth and Martok had stopped listening. They had instead connected a channel directly between the two of them. Immediately after another collision. This one was larger. The entire ship trembled.
Ziggarauth, what is this?
The system is gone, the Master of Signals replied, we are in a debris field. Navigation is compromised. We do not have a bearing.
Something had happened to Mercia. The planet itself was gone. In its place was a debris belt wide enough that sensors could not penetrate it. The hundreds of thousands of beacons that normally shone out when arriving in the system were gone. The only logical conclusion was that Mercia had been destroyed. Something else was wrong as well. There were changes in signal strength, changes in the Astronomicon, beacons were missing, replaced, or had seemingly moved to different locations at impossible speeds. The ship could not right itself and slammed headlong into a giant ice-crusted comet. A second klaxon blared. This one was more shrill, and should have sent panic through anyone able to feel panic on board the ship.
Breach. Sector 5. Drones: error state...
Ziggarauth had already transmitted the order to ignite the main engines, and the ship burst into life. The pounding of steel-clad boots on multiple decks created their own rumbling through the floors. The legionnaires were moving to the drop ships. Martok bellowed out an order, this time using his voice and the intercom, rather than use a proxy.
"We shall land upon the first body we find, and gather what we can find. We will need fuel to leave this disaster, and to get back on course. We care not of who we find. We are taking what we need."
He had little time. There were larger battles to fight. His legionnaires were needed elsewhere.
We are approaching 55, the Master transmitted. This was the Mercian system. WAS. The war had moved quickly. Something had happened here. Something was still happening here. Evidence of orks. Evidence of xenos, unidentified. And what was this beacon on 55? It was inelegant, strange, a warning. A beacon that almost sounded like someone was saying, "Stay away, we have nothing here." What were these strange names? Yarr? Lathekin? Martok knew not of these leaders. The servitors came up with nothing as well, with their thousands of databases to access.
This could not bother him. The engines fired and the ship lurched toward the planet, debris still colliding with the bulk of the ship every few seconds. The noise was astounding. Martok almost wished he was back in the cursed warp, listening to the quiet whispers of silent gliding. His mind drifted, momentarily...
Drop ships in range. Martok received the signal and departed through the double doors, Ziggarauth sharply at his heels. He began touching the minds of all of his men, coordinating their landing procedures and simultaneously picking a spot upon the surface to begin their assault.
Hive city: Yool...
Information was still being fed to him as his dropship released from the bowels of the starship and drifted into the periapsis. Flames began to lick the windshield, and obscured the cloud-covered planet below.
"Close them," he casually ordered, and blast plating lowered across the screens. It was very quiet for some time.