Sergeant-Brother Atticus’ mikel-ceramite encased foot crunched a skull into powder as he and Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brother Ficus of the Rampant Bloodspiller Legion stepped out of the drop-pod’s boarding tube. The pod was clamped like a lamprey to a hulking structure their cruiser’s sensor-slaves had detected emerging into normal space. The lights on the end of their holy grenadier rifles cut through the darkness, revealing a grimy metal hallway full of green plants and dripping moisture.
Atticus wiped away the sudden condensation the covered the compu-auspext screen hidden amongst the baroque decorations on his clunky and oversized power armour’s left forearm. It showed a breathable atmosphere with the Terran norm concentration of gases and no known bio-agents. A grime covered sign caught Atticus’ attention. He walked over to it.
“It’s just as I feared,” vox-cast to Ficus after he’d freed the sign it from it’s layers of dust. “The Tradem Ark.”
“But it was lost centuries ago,” Ficus said, his voice tinny and flat coming the ancient speakers in Atticus’ helmet. “How can there still be air, moisture, or even enough energy available to explain this.” He gestured at the verdant life growing all around them.
Atticus resisted the urge to shrug his oversized armoured shoulders and instead held up a finger, looked at Ficus, and said, “The ancients built many terrible and wonderful things. Then they sent them out into the universe and the spaces between dimensions. We can only guess at their motives and the terrors hidden inside.”
If he didn’t know for a fact that it was impossible for the antediluvian lenses of their power armour to move, Atticus would have sworn Ficus managed to roll his armour’s eyes. The Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brother’s verbal response was the appropriate, “As the Corpse-King wills,” expected of every well-heeled warrior-priest superhuman in a Marines of Space Legion and especially of a Rampant Bloodspiller.
“Good,” Atticus said before switching to the wide-net vox-caster. “Alpha team has penetrated the structure. Confirmed this is the Tradem Ark. Priority is recovering and protecting the IP database.” The five other teams scattered across the hulk via drop-pods acknowledged. Atticus switched back to a narrow cast and said to Ficus, “Let’s move out.”
As they trudged through the narrow and weed-choked corridors, Atticus tried to rein in his imagination of what they’d find in the Tradem Ark’s IP database. It was hard. After all, the right Informatical Productionus (IP) template would equip his Legion with something unseen for millennia. It could give them the edge in a universe filled with the armies of the mutated traitor Disorder Legions, the Munching Hordes of the Tyrannasars, and the feral green Borks.
It also wouldn’t hurt the Rampant Bloodspillers’ prestige amongst the other legions of the Grand Kingdom of Humanity Resplendent, making the Drunken Wolves’ recent acquisition of a rotary plasma cannon look like yesterday’s protein gruel.
In an effort to quash his imaginings at getting one over the Drunken Wolves, Atticus focused on the proper quiet reverence for the Corspe-King a Marines of Space should maintain while remaining alert to the world around him. He was almost in the proper state of divine insanity when screams invaded his vox-caster.
“Sweet Corspe-Of-Earth and Sparkly-Throne!”
“Get it! Kill it!”
“Arrrgh! My leg!”
“Not the face! Not the face!”
Before Atticus could cut in the line went dead. “All teams report!” he called out. Three teams reported back. Atticus consulted his compu-auspext. Both of the missing teams had been in the southern section of the Ark.
“Brave Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brothers of the Rampant Bloodspillers Legion, the enemy has shown himself,” Atticus said, doing his best to make his voice sound resplendent over the tinny vox-caster. “We must not fail to meet him with our utmost hate and firepower. Go forth to the southern section of the Ark, root out the foe, and let him taste our holy grenades!”
The other teams acknowledged his command with a hearty “For the Corpse-King!”. Atticus motioned for Ficus to increase his pace and they were off running.
“Very motivational speech, Sergeant-Brother,” Ficus said on the narrow vox-cast.
“Yes, thank you, Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brother,” Atticus said, unsure if Ficus’ tone was reverent or sarcastic. He hoped it was the former, but with the poor quality of his helmet’s speakers and Ficus’ flat delivery it was hard to tell. It also didn’t help that Ficus was new to Atticus’ section. The Sergeant-Brother hadn’t had the time needed to get to know him before the Ark had been discovered.
“So…do we have any idea of what we’re getting into?” Ficus asked.
“Whatever it is I’m sure six of the Corpse-King’s Marines of Space can handle it,” Atticus said.
“Oh, of course,” Ficus said. “I know there is nothing we can’t handle, but wouldn’t it help if we knew what killed four of our fellow brothers in under a minute before we go charging in guns blazing?”
“Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brother Ficus, I do believe you are lacking in faith and hate. You are not showing the proper blood-thirsty attitude expected of Marines of Space!”
“My apologies, Sergeant-Brother,” Ficus said with his high-protein pancake flat delivery. “I wish merely to know what I must hate.”
“Better, Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brother,” Atticus said as he nodded. “We must have faith in the Corpse-King and move forward, trusting him to show us the object of our hate.”
It was good thing that increased lung capacity was one of the first enhancements made to all Marine of Space recruits.
Atticus’ helmet’s external audio sensors picked up the sound of grenade-fire. The compu-auspext provided a vector and he and Ficus altered course. Fresh screams echoed through the vox-cast.
“Report! Who’s screaming?” Atticus broadcast. “All remaining Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brothers sound off!”
The vox-caster remained dead.
Atticus and Ficus turned a corner to find the remains of four of their fellow Brothers splattered across the floor, walls, and ceiling. Amongst the shredded piles of power armour, muscle, and tissue, sat a tiny purple bunny licking its paw clean.
“What the…how the…?” Ficus said while Atticus’ blood ran cold. “It’s a bunny.”
“That’s no bunny!” Atticus said, slowly backing away as he brought his grenaider to bear. “That is the dreaded Gamma Rabbit.”
“The what now?” Ficus said.
“Scourge of the spaceways, demon from the space between dimensions, fluffy destroyer of worlds.” He held up a hand to stop Ficus from moving forward. “Walk away slowly. We need to get back to the ship and perform the rite of Purificus Nuclearas on the Ark from a safe distance. It’s the only way to be sure.”
“So to be clear, we’re running from a fluffy bunny?” Ficus said with that damnable flat tone of his. Atticus had to resist the urge to grind his adamantium reinforced molars.
“Yes, Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brother, but slowly and carefully so that we don’t provoke it.”
At that moment Ficus stepped on a bloody shard of mikel-ceramite armour and sent it skittering across the floor. It struck the Gamma Rabbit’s midsection.
The Rabbit looked up.
“Uh, Sergeant-Brother, it’s looking at me,” Ficus said with genuine emotion for the first time. “Its eyes are glowing. Why are it’s eyes glowing?”
“It was nice knowing you Ficus,” Atticus said before he turned and ran.