Written by Benjamin Miller
The following is an unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Reading Time: 21 minutes
Fifteen hours after Thalactis and Scratch Company I’s discovered critical intelligence it is passed along heavily encoded channels and the battered but still breathing ship Vorakadence, an old Viper Class Sloop receives a communique. Captain Avrandes, feeling almost as battered and worn as his ship, reads it.
“Chaos Carrier, Soulcage Class Slaveship seeking to deposit troops on Feltriesh V. Vessel unguarded, Archenemy seems to believe we are still without teeth. Vorakadence and Boranthus are to engage at 18:00 System Time tomorrow. It is believed this vessel is carrying over one hundred sixty thousand infantry and some two thousand armored units. If these are allowed to deploy Feltriesh V’s outer defensive cities around the capital will be hard pressed to defy them and for every one of them that falls the Capital City of Argadinash will be put under greater strain. Destroy this carrier before it can deploy.”
Avrandes sighs with exasperation. Under normal circumstances a prize target like this would be something he’d be loath to pass up, but this was far from normal circumstances.
Their powerful Auger Array had at some point also suffered damage during their last battle for Feltriesh, though how this had happened had not yet been explained to Avrandes. The initial report by the Techpriest simply reported vast circuitry failures throughout the system, nothing too serious and with proper cabling could easily be repaired, but they did not have proper cabling. The Techpriests were endeavoring to find a workaround.
This had been the only reason he hadn’t simply made a run for the far side of the system already, they were terrifyingly blind, their long range capability spotty at best, they’d have no way of knowing if they were sailing into an ambush until they’d already walked up the front step and rang the doorbell. What good was all their speed if they couldn’t use it properly…
To make matters worse, the rear void shield generators were severely overtaxed in their retreat from their initial encounter with the Chaos fleet, luckily they held out long enough to preserve the engines, but key hardware in the generators had been damaged and they’d only had the parts to repair some of them, leaving their stern with spotty protection at best. Another retreat could cost it all for them.
On top of it all Vorakadence had never even been an assault vessel. Its weapons were limited from the beginning and almost a third of them were now gone. Thilaneus Broadside cannons, though small, at least had bite. They’d had six going into the initial battles against the Chaos Fleets, but a badly timed drain on power when they’d received a partial bombardment from a Chaos Raider on port side shields had left a dangerous energy drain on their reactor. Instead of focusing on defense, Avrandes had ordered all power to the engines, hoping to outrun their slower adversary only to receive a stray hit at the last second that came from who knew where. It had luckily not been powerful, but just strong enough to punch through their shields and destroy two of their starboard cannons outright and leave the third locked into position.
Techpriests were assessing the damage now but he’d already received initial reports indicating it didn’t look good. If the reports were to be proven accurate by further examination, it would most likely mean all three weapon emplacements would have to be stripped out and replaced – the crippled actuators for the third still fireable cannon were fused into it. The cannon could be salvaged but it would require a total refit of it, something they were entirely incapable of doing without a functional shipyard of which Feltriesh had only one that was likely to have survived the invasion and it was on the far side of the system, currently under the protect of the orbital defenses of Feltriesh I’s Capital City Vrokunda.
Their lances were, as of this time, also painfully unusable. The entire weapon system had been undergoing an extensive retrofit set to take several more weeks when the first hints of the invasion began to reach Avrandes. The problem was Vorakadence was one of the top line scout ships of Feltriesh, if not the top line, its sensors were second to none and its crew knew how to push that to its fullest advantage. Avrandes was now convinced that had the Vorakadence been out there, scouting the void, the defenders of Feltriesh would never have been caught on the back foot. How the enemy had managed to actually reach Feltriesh with next to no warning was still a mystery… a ridiculous mystery that Avrandes wanted to chalk up to the bad timing of the retrofit, but somehow… it was just too convenient. It all was, and it left a bad flavor in his mouth. Had the retrofit been completed it would have seen the lances energy drain on the ships power supply significantly reduced while increasing both their range and punch. As it was, the Techpriests had rushed to seal up and cap off all systems regulated to the lances so that the Vorakadence could participate in the coming battle without hemorrhaging power or blowing itself to pieces the moment an incomplete lance received unregulated energy.
The only current saving grace they had was their two torpedo tubes but they only had sixteen Tarthactic Torpedoes ready to be launched from each. The reload times his crews had was less than twelve seconds, allowing them to lay down barrages of decent firepower with minimal drain to their power. But Tarthactic Torpedoes were unguided missiles, relatively cheap but when they hit, they hit with heavier punching power than most torpedoes in their size, let alone price range. Captain Avrandes hadn’t cared about the extra punching power of the torpedoes, preferring something that could actually track the target but had been overruled by his superiors and been forced to take on what he considered to be a bunch of paperweights filling up his forward storage bays. Still, during the first battle he had seen what the things could do, they’d left a Raider burning in space with four torpedoes that had shattered it’s shields and left it reeling and a broadside had finished it. They’d even managed to maul an Iconoclast Destroyer, taking out its shields with only five torpedoes, but were denied the kill by a pair of frigates that had been covering the Destroyer. Still, Avrandes now knew the torpedoes had punch, if you could just get them to hit the target.
Now this. When Avrandes had communiqued through encrypted channels to Feltriesh High Command that the Vorakadence had survived the initial battles he’d made sure to give them initial reports on the status of his vessel and requested potential instructions for a place they could refit and repair. Instead, he’d received this. Even if Feltriesh Command’s intelligence was good there was no guarantee the target would remain undefended, no promise this wasn’t a trap… and if it turned out to be the Vorakadence’s would be very unlikely to even escape alive, let alone kill the Carrier before escaping.
He looked at the other name on the orders. Boranthus, a Claymore Class Corvette. He knew the vessel, command of it had even been offered to him once and he’d flatly refused. It was new, a mere few hundred years old and of a cheap variety that were notorious for critical failures at pivotal times that even the most skilled of the Archmagi had difficulty explaining the causes of. The reason why he’d said no though had simply been because since it had been sold to the local forces of Feltriesh from the Imperial Navy it had never once seen combat and the Imperial Navy had not seen fit to turn over the vessel’s war records and ignored requests for it. As far as Avrandes had been concerned the ship was a ticking time bomb waiting to go off and the fact that it punched at a higher weight than his own meant little to him.
He wanted to disregard the orders, he wanted to send an irate return message cursing Feltriesh Command for giving him what was most likely a suicide mission, for not offering some kind of assistance, but he knew that by the time he’d receive a return message it would be too late to join the battle he’d been assigned and that they’d only be ordering him to engage anyways. And more so he knew they were most likely giving him this order because they had nothing else to give him. It had been an incredible long shot to even hope they might have some kind of aid to offer in the first place, he hadn’t expected help, but he had hoped despite the long odds. In return he’d gotten this. He sighed in exasperation. Whomever had issued these orders had known what his response would be, had likely been desperate in their own right, desperately hoping he’d follow them despite knowing it was most likely a trap.
He had a mental timer counting down, the time left it would take for them to make a stealthy journey from their position within the asteroid fields of Feltriesh V’s two twin orbit moons (the moons orbited each other in close proximity and had a field of asteroids that orbited them even as the whole mess orbited Feltriesh V, a dangerous location that only the smallest and most maneuverable ships ever dared venture and it was only by constant course corrections they remained intact,) to the designated battle site above Feltriesh V itself. It was mere minutes now.
With resigned irritation he knew his duty to Feltriesh and Legunus. He looked up at his First Officer, a woman by the name of Memvith Rokar, who had been nearby pretending to read a dataslate and the moment she registered movement from her captain looked up at him of which she received a nod. “Plot a course and engage at will.” Captain Avrandes of the Vorakadence said. 17:48 Feltriesh System Time
Vorakadence drifts into optimal light up position and Avrandes gives First Officer Memvith a nod. “Alight.” He says.
The Vorakadence alit, what had seemed like either nothing to augers not sensitive enough to pick it up or as simply a drifting hulk suddenly turned into a ship, alive and furious in its drive to come to full power. It took less than sixty seconds for full operation to be restored and they lit their engines at full burn.
The Techpriest who’d issued the report on the Auger Array, Tigthan or some such, had apparently succeeded in finding a workaround and long range augers were now semi functional, they could get focused tight beam long range reports from localized areas, but nothing full spectrum yet. Techpriest Tigthan was apparently still working on that.
He ordered a full scan of the targeted coordinates immediately and was almost instantly rewarded with a report. As he glanced over it at his command console his face paled.
Three wrecks were already drifting, currently unidentifiable. Three more were fighting. Their target, the Carrier was one of them, the Boranthus the second and the third was a Havoc Class Raider bearing the symbols of Chaos. The Raider wasn’t a heavy ship, punching in at only six megatonnes but it had firepower to match many Navy Frigates, something that left the Boranthus slightly outclassed, what was more was the obvious signs of damage the ship had already sustained, and the Chaos Carrier itself was proving to not be without teeth and fired a shot at the Boranthus whenever the opportunity arose from one its broadside cannons.
“Full burn, get us in there!” Roared Avrandes and his crew nimbly obeyed. Avrandes had no idea why the Boranthus had engaged so early, maybe they had believed the Vorakadence wouldn’t come, regardless, it mattered not. It took less than five minutes before they entered optimal weapons range but the Vorakadence’s only forward weapons were their torpedoes and having only thirty two left and knowing even the bulkier slaveship could easily avoid them at this range Avrandes opted not to waste what he had.
Two minutes later his sensorium officer reported the carrier was maneuvering to aim one of its broadside cannons at them, indicating it had detected them. “Begin evasive thrustered approach.” Even as he spoke powerful thrusters on the Vorakadence powered into play, altering its trajectory in powerful spins of plasma and even as it changed course a shot blasted from the Carrier Slaveship, slamming through the empty space they would have just been in.
“Fire one torpedo directly at the Carrier’s current position and as soon as you detect them making a course evasion fire one three hundred meters into their path.” He ordered.
“Sir.” Said First Officer Memvith. “Won’t they just turn to thread our Torpedos? They’d only be presenting a five hundred meter profile to us at that point.”
“No, I don’t think so.” Avrandes said, shaking his head even as the Slaveship’s main engine drive fired, beginning to boost it out of the way of the first torpedo now eight seconds into its journey and immediately his Torpedo Gunnery Officer, a man by the name of Sletctis Thoruth fired their second one three hundred meters into the path the Carrier.
“Continue firing pattern Sletctis, as soon as it changes course put another torpedo into its’ path, five hundred meters ahead this time.”
“Sir.” Sletctis nodded.
“That ship is minimally armed.” Avrandes said, now addressing Memvith. “Both of its cannons are broadside mounted, it has nothing forward facing to fire at us head on while trying to thread our torpedos and it doesn’t have maneuvering for grox crath.” They watched as the Slaveships keel thrusters fired, altering its trajectory and aiming its prow away from the second torpedo just to watch the ever encroaching Vorakadence launched another torpedo into its’ new path. “It’s commander knows that once we get in close it’s as good as dead. It won’t be able to fight, it won’t be able to run, it might as well be dead in the water by that point, we’ll just rip it apart at our leisure with our broadside cannons alone. It’s only hope is to kill us at range or hope the Boranthus loses its fight and thus freeing up its last support vessel to fight us for it. It’s dead otherwise and its commander knows it.”
‘But we’ve kept it on the back foot.’ Avrandes thought. ‘They can’t make a shot at us and dodge our torpedos, they can’t make a shot calculated not to hit their own vessel and still hit the Boranthus while dodging our torpedos, all they can do is dodge and pray to the filthy Tenebris Quattuor for salvation that will never come, because now they’ve waited to long, thought to much, they can no longer dodge and now the third torpedo will strike and that’s just the beginning of the end.’
“Fire tube two at three hundred meters from its stern toward amidships and follow up with tube one directly amidships.” Barked Avrandes.
“Yes sir!” Sletctis answered.
Avrandes smiled as the Carrier’s bow thrusters lit in an attempt to arrest its forward motion but far too late to stop it from drifting into the path of the third torpedo just as his fourth was launched at its stern, he could almost feel the panic as the bridge crew would be sensing their captains indecision, requests for orders would be being screamed back and forth. The first and second torpedoes had already passed their target but the third struck voids just aft of the bow, the rippling voids absorbed the impact but Avrandes watched the sensorium feed linked directly to his command console, energy leakage perforated that quadrant of shields, debris from the torpedo on the wrong side of the rippling energy fields, they were already strained and stressed, apparently at least one of the drifting wrecks had been Feltriesh as there was little chance the Boranthus could not have done this by itself.
The arrested momentum of the Carrier now spelled its doom as the fourth torpedo caught it right where Avrandes had fired it three hundred meters off the stern and the void shields collapsed as the torpedo detonated, pieces of the hull were sheared off by proximity to the blast but it was the fifth torpedo that flew directly amidships of the Carrier that did the first and true damage to it. The Carrier had once been an Imperial Transport in some bygone era, it had never had weapons or shields of any truly powerful kind except to vessels vastly inferior to it in size, but they were still powerful in their own right. However the vessel’s armor was truly its greatest weakness and the torpedo punched cleanly through it like a hot knife through butter. For one split second Avrandes was afraid the torpedo would literally spear the vessel, failing to even detonate. Ships of that kind did have vast cargo spaces and hypothetically it could simply punch through it, failing to strike anything that would cause detonation, but even as his Gunner Officer Slectis loosed the sixth torpedo before Avrandes could orders its detonation sensitivity lowered the midsection of the Carrier began to alight with explosions, wreathing it in flames as those explosions continued outward from the initial impact site.
The sixth torpedo punched into the stern and with little warning that entire section of the ship promptly blew away from rest, shearing off completely and beginning to drift off from the main bulk of the vessel. This jettisoned the two parts away from each other and sent the stern directly into the Vorakadence’s path as it had been aiming to pass just behind the vessel and give it a good broadside with its still fully functional port guns right into the engine compartment if necessary, but now Avrandes ordered his helmsman to maneuver quickly to between the drifting sections of the ship and through the expanding debris field there. For the less than one second it took for them to punch through the debris field the soundless explosions went off all around them, bleeding atmosphere from the two sections of the ship feeding the fires that burned visibly to them. Then came the almost insect like clouds of bodies spilling out from rent open cargo spaces, sucked out into the void to a slow death. Even a few armored tanks drifted through that area, the briefest sensor flash indicated a tank the size of a Baneblade drifting in that mess, and then it was all gone behind them as they flew through the gap and into the battle beyond.
Not that there was much of a battle left to fight. The two vessels had both badly mauled the other, linked in a suicidal dance they had traded barrage after barrage that had eventually left them both almost drifting hulks, hemorrhaging atmosphere into the void, only very occasionally seemingly being able to summon the energy to fire another shot at the other. Just as the Vorakadence was drawing up to finish what was left of the Chaos Raider the Boranthus’ remaining starboard cannons lit up and fired two shots just aft of the Raiders bow, punching cleanly through it. Energy signals across the raider began diminishing rapidly, something critical must have been struck, but Avrandes couldn’t guess what as the area just aft of the bow on a vessel of that kind wasn’t typically vital. Nonetheless, the Havoc Class Raider chose this time to die and almost all energy signs from it petered out, and at this range playing dead didn’t work with a vessel like the Vorakadence, it’s Auger Array’s would detect a reactor functioning even at the most minimal power, no, this vessel was dead.
Little more could be said of the Boranthus’. The ship had obviously put up a valiant fight against steep odds, a battle against superior numbers with maybe one companion ship to aid it. Avrandes hailed it immediately before turning to Memvith, about to order the transports to prepare for departure, unwilling to let the Boranthus die without aid when he received a priority answer to his hail. It was one word and it was screamed over the vox by a voice filled with pain and terror.
Without hesitation or preamble Avrandes ordered the Vorakadence to turn and burn as fast as possible and just as it did so, fleeing with all speed the auger array picked up two things, a vast spike in the energy output of the Boranthus’ primary reactor and a small vessel detaching from it, a transport of some kind that was turning to match the Vorakadence’s course. But as it lit its engines it was vaporized as the Boranthus’ reactor ignited. All sensors were blinded as the Boranthus went supernova behind them. Their rear shields were barely there, a blast like this, at this range would cripple them, but without hesitation or orders Memrokedai, the Vorakadence’s helmsman ignited all port thrusters and turned them in behind the drifting wreck of the Carrier just as the wave of energy was overtaking them, allowing the carriers bulk to take the brunt of the explosion as the Vorakadence made its’ escape with minimal energy loss off its shields.
A nervous young officer approached an old beaten door, knocking on it with two knuckles in a backhanded gesture before stepping back and waiting. A voice called for him to enter and he did so, finding two men in the uniforms of generals seated before a desk with a man in the uniform of an Admiral seated behind it. He marched directly up to the desk as the top brass of Feltriesh all watched him, or, more appropriately, the dataslate he was holding as he then held the slate out.
“Communique addressed to Admiral Domitrev Aggrandar from Captain Avrandes of the Vorakadence.” Admiral Domitrev stared at the dataslate for a tenuous second before holding out a hand and took it from the young officer. A curt nod excused the man from the room and he turned on his heel and left, closing the door behind him. The two General watched Admiral Domitrev as he met each of their eyes before raising the dataslate up to his face and reading aloud from it.
“Report sent at 19:46 Feltriesh System Time
Mission Report of the Boranthus and Vorakadence Carrier Intercept mission.
Surviving Vessels: Vorakadence
Enemy Ship Survival: None
Status of Vorakadence: Unchanged
Additional Information: Battle had begun before the arrival of Vorakadence which began its operational approach to the battle eleven minutes before it was supposed to begin. Boranthus was already deeply engaged, heavy damage sustained. Three unidentifiable vessels drifting in close proximity to battle presumed to have been part of the engagement before destruction, unknown which side they had been on prior to the battle. Vorakadence engaged Primary objective Carrier and destroyed it before attempting to aid the Boranthus in its engagement with a Havoc Class Raider but it crippled the enemy vessel before Vorakadence could engage. Vorakadence than attempted to aid the stricken Boranthus which by this point appeared almost crippled itself, only to be warned off at the last second and, after engaging engines at maximum velocity managed to shelter behind the wreck of the destroyed Carrier before the explosion from the Boranthus’ primary reactor going critical could overtake them.”
A collective feeling of relief had entered the room and all the men found themselves smiling before the Admiral noted that there was a final part he had not yet read. He cut off the two generals as he continued reading.
“Before sensor blind caused by Boranthus destruction one snap of the auger array detected a transport detaching from the Boranthus and appeared to be aligning its course with the Vorakadence. Sensor blind prevented further observation, but examination of the sensor scan strongly indicates the craft may have been a Stormbird which is only known to still be in service of very remote Chapter of Loyalist Adeptus Astartes in minority, the bulk of these surviving craft are however known to be in operational use by the Adeptus Astartes of the Traitor Legions.
Conclusion: There are Traitor Astartes at Feltriesh, possibly more than were killed in this battle.”
The victorious mood in the room had evaporated like rain on radlands. No one was smiling, no one was laughing. The mission had been a total success, numerous enemy vessels had been destroyed, one of their own vessels had even escaped perfectly intact, but the tiny scrap of information it had managed to collect at the end that was completely unconfirmed was enough to dispel it all.
“It’s not confirmed.” Said the General seated on the right, a man by the name of Telanthus Marlokin. “It was something, but it could have been anything, it could-.”
“The Vorakadence, even with a damaged Auger Array, is a vessel designed for reconnaissance, scouting sensor missions, detection.” Domitrev interrupted. “It’s long range Augers were the ones affected, its close range sensors were working perfectly. If Captain Avrandes didn’t think this possibility was worth our notice, would he have bothered to send it? Include it? He knows his ship better than anyone and if there was not a very distinct chance that that was a Stormbird he would never have sent this.”
“So.” Said the General Akerland Morigrel, the man seated on the left. “What is our course of action in light of this information?”
“Simple.” Said the Domitrev. “Oclunda Fragmentum have always had a presence in Feltriesh.”
“Negligible.” Telanthus seated right said. “Oclunda has been under strength for centuries, their presence is diminished across the Sector and one of their actual ships hasn’t been seen in Feltriesh for over two hundred years. We would be extremely lucky if there were even a few Astartes in the system, Terra, even the presence of one would be a miracle!”
“We are, apparently, that lucky.” Domitrev answered, causing both Generals eyes to immediately turn to him. “There is one squad within the Feltriesh system, but not a full one. They’ve stretched themselves across the system, using their resources to combat the threat on all fronts. I suspect that with this information, we may be able to convince them to gather their number and investigate this potential new threat with us.”
“We can hope.” Said Akerland.
“So long as we do not expect.” Domitrev finished.
About the Author
Benjamin Miller is a 29 year old story seeker who has been in love with the written word since he was 9 years old. Whether reading, writing or finding them in video games, he seeks stories in every form. He runs a YouTube Channel with hundreds of videos where he chases down whatever tidbits of story he can tease out of the games he plays.