Black Fist Boarding
As his fist smashed into the greenskin’s brutish jaw, Harjek was already spinning away. The snarl toothed combat knife in his other hand followed the motion of his twist, slashing open an opponent’s face. He felt someone trying to grasp his shoulder pad, and executed a hammering reversal. The move shattered the Ork’s arm at the elbow and sent him stumbling away. Following him, Harjek hacked an opening in the press and moved into an open area. A single practised movement brought his bolter to his hip, and a second later he let loose a devastating hail of bolts. It had been a text book manoeuvre, gathering them into one place before disengaging and shooting them down, and he allowed himself a small grin. He didn't smile too hard, in case he was caught. If his squad mates found him grinning like skull in the middle of a battle field, he’s never hear the end of it. Instead, he surveyed the ship corridor. It reminded him of the interior of his own ship, its architecture and origin clearly imperial. The cracked walls and chunks of rock were absent on The Trident however, as were the dead Orks. Perhaps this had once been a loyal imperial vessel, before being consigned to its current, ignominious fate. Doomed to shuttle filthy greenskins from one mad battle to the next, pausing only to be tossed through the warp without the benefit of Gellar fields. Harjek had never been one to closely observe the rituals and beliefs of the tech priests, but the predicament of this ship touched him.
With a grunt, he dismissed such foolish sentiment. Now was the time for battle and blood, not idle wonderings. He replaced the magazine in his bolter and moved carefully down the corridor. Orks substitute cunning and guile for actual intelligence, but were no less deadly before it. He and his squad had split up to get a detailed idea of this part of the enemy ship’s interior. The design, while bearing some passing aesthetic resemblance, was too different to their own ship for any assumptions to be made. It was vital for detailed layout of the ship be available to the command before they launched the full assault. Harjek’s squad, Black Fist first tactical squad, had been given the honour of first blood. After breaching, they had massacred the confused Orks in the area before splitting up to begin reconnaissance. Having committed the layout of the interlocking corridors for his assigned area, Harjek now made his way back to breaching area. There was a wager on to see who would be last back, and he was determined not to let it be him.
As he moved through the ship, he switched his bolter for his bolt pistol, letting the rifle hang in the strap around his torso. In the middle of the fray, he had been forced to resort to some unconventional tactics. Like ramming his bolter into a large Ork’s mouth and pulling the trigger again and again. Well, perhaps it had been somewhat voluntary. His eyes still flickering across the wreckage of the corridor, his hands reloaded the pistol before holstering it. Finally, he brought out his combat knife and started to wOrk out the chunks of gore from the serrated edges. The squelches and rips were the only sound in the dim corridor. Except, somewhere behind him, Harjek caught the telltale scratch of blade being unsheathed. As he span to face the sound, something slammed into his back and sent him stumbling.
The creature, and from its stench he knew it to be an Ork, wrapped one arm around his neck. Harjek heard the skitter of a weapon tearing down his ceramite armour, but the Ork hadn’t got the space to stab hard enough to penetrate it. With a roar, Harjek thrust his torso down while yanking the arm aggressively. The greenskin yelped as it flew over his shoulders and slammed into the floor. Heavy as it was, the Ork was fast. It was already rolling to one side when Harjek’s knife slammed into the deck where its head had been. Before he could make another pass, the creature was on its feet and facing him. It wasn’t much bigger than most of the Orks he had fought, but it had lean muscle and scar tissue in place of bulk. Its skin was a darker green and looked thicker. In its hand was a long knife, half again as long as Harjek’s. Most Orks held their weapons high, the better to hack and bash with. This Ork had his knees bent, his mass low and the knife held in front of him in a cautious position. Its small, dark eyes were constantly flicking across Harjek’s body, evaluating his stance and armour. Across one side of its face was a streak of peeling blue paint, some of it splattered onto the long fangs that sprouted from its mouth. This was a different sort of Ork to the ones Harjek had fought before in his life.
All this, he processed in a moment as he stepped back to ready his bolter. As interesting as the specimen was, it was still a xenos that would die when perforated with a few bolt rounds. Yet when he reached down, his bolter was absent from its place. His eyes picked it out on the floor, its strap slashed. Harjek realised the Ork was as smart as it appeared, as its aim had been to neutralise his main weapon, rather than inflict any damage. Now it advanced, knife in a ready position and a feral grin plastered across its battered features. It had picked up on his surprise and clearly believed it had the advantage. Harjek clenched his teeth and let out a low growl. With or without his gun, he was more than a match for any primitive xenos scum. This beast would pay for its arrogance, he swore so under his breath.
Instead of letting it move any further towards him, he stepped forward and slashed his own knife across the Ork’s face. There was a hard clang in the air as his opponent leapt sideways and parried, yet another technique Harjek had never seen an Ork use. Most greenskins took hits without caring, or relied upon their armour to save them. But Harjek was not truly focussing on how different this Ork was to the rest, it was simply noted in the back of his mind. His conscious self was solely thinking on the duel. He was stronger than the Ork, and he could move his blade faster. His opponent was impossibly quick on his feet, however, and had a greater reach with his long blade. Harjek’s greatest advantage was his power armour. It would take repeated blows from the knife in the same place to pierce it, or an incredibly accurate stab to one of the few weak points. In between the shoulder pads and the chest, under the arm, the back of the knee and the hip. The places where the sections of armour joined together were the most likely place for the Ork to strike, so Harjek kept them carefully guarded.
For some time, they traded careful blows and circled warily. Although the greenskin’s manner was cautious, the grin still hadn’t left his face. Harjek could feel his anger rising in his chest, and fought to keep it down. It wouldn’t help him to hurl himself at the Ork. It would likely only give him an opening to stab at one of the weak points in Harjek’s armour. Then he noticed something in the way the Ork moved. Wherever possible, the xenos was keeping his knees bent low and his shoulders hunched. He was trying to make himself a smaller target and have the strength in his legs to spring away from the attacks he was unable to dodge. While it made the greenskin hard to pin down, it made his vulnerable to losing his balance. If knocked back, the Ork would have no time to right himself before he hit the floor. It wasn’t much of a weakness, but it was enough to go on.
Harjek launched into an attack, hacking with his knife in his right hand while throwing punches and trying holds with his empty left. The Ork side stepped and backed away, parried and dodged, all the while keeping close to the marine. After almost half a minute of intense offense, Harjek sprung. He dived towards the Ork with both arms out stretched. He saw the Ork’s eyes widen as it realised his intent. It brought its knife across to parry his, but it could do nothing against the oncoming weight. Then Harjek crashed into the Ork and wrapped his left arm around it torso. Together, they hit the floor and rolled across the metal deck. Harjek had his left fist around the Ork’s right wrist, keeping the knife away from him. He squeezed and felt the supple bones in the greenskin’s body twist and pop out of place, before cracking under the pressure. The knife clattered to the deck, even as the Ork tried to press its claw like nails through the eyes of Harjek’s helmet. The photolenses held though, and Harjek was free to bring his own knife into the guts of his foe. He stabbed a few time until the Ork stopped thrashing with such vigour, then rolled until he had a little more freedom. He straightened his back, grabbed the Ork’s head and thrust the knife into its temple. The Ork’s eyes rolled back into its head and its body twitched once, twice and then was still. Harjek felt his muscles relax and pulled himself off the alien’s corpse. He reclaimed his bolter and silently thanked the Emperor no-one had seen this mess. To let a xenos disarm him? Unthinkable. At least he had fulfilled his oath to make the greenskin pay, and regained some honour. Now he jogged through the corridors. The scuffle with the brute had cost him some time, though he was still confident of making the rendezvous without being last. Nevertheless, he hurried. Before he had cautiously scanned every shadow and treated every corner like a trap. Although he had discarded this approach, he had a new one. Occasionally he would spin around and take up a firing position. There never seemed to be anything behind him, but he would not be caught out again. Minutes passed and he neared his goal, when he heard the unmistakeable sounds of Astartes at war. The buzzing screams of a chainsword and the deep roar of a bolter echoed through the ship. Quickening his pace, he flew round the corner and found the source of the noise.
A crowd of Orks packed the corridor, though the density of the crowd was being reduced every second. In the middle of the corridor, surrounded by lumps of flying gore and blood, a lone armoured figure held the line. His right hand was a blur of motion as he hacked a chainsword through the throat of one Ork, before plunging it into the face of another. In his left, he fired his bolter, recklessly keeping the trigger compressed. The deadly tempest rounds blew holes out of Orks and ship walls alike, and the bolter wavered wildly. It was clear that all of the figure’s focus was on the viscous melee, not on firing with discipline or accuracy. As the space marine brought back his right fist for another attack, Harjek was able to identify the colour of his armoured hand, confirming what he suspected. The hand was black ceramite, the same colour as Harjek’s right and the rest of squad Black Fist. A tradition dating back to the squad’s first sergeant, but that’s a tale for another time. Harjek knew from the unsubtle method of the attack which member of his squad it was as well, and would take some pleasure from mocking his brother’s approach to battle.
That would have to come after the Orks were dead though, and Harjek levelled his bolter and activated his vox. “Delmore, get down!” and watched as the figure rolled backward without missing a beat. The second his line of fire was free, Harjek opened up with his weapon. A hail of bolts ripped through the front rank of Orks and sent several diving back for cover. The only cover in the corridor was each other, so their attempt at retreat last only a few seconds. Then they attempted to reassert themselves and charge him down. As Harjek had already noted today, Orks were cunning, but not terribly intelligent. As they dashed forwards, they had completely forgotten the marine who had been hacking chunks out of their brethren mere seconds ago. Said marine rose up in front of them like a terrible beast from the depths, halting their charge with one of his own. He drove them back once again, breaking their spirit as easily as he did their bodies. As they tried to run, tempest bolts from both bolters cut them down.
Only when the last greenskin had howled in life ending agony did the two marines acknowledge each other. Harjek raised his black fist and brother Delmore did likewise. Under his helmet, behind the thick tubes that ran to his backpack, Harjek grinned. “You fight so clumsily, I almost mistook you for one of the xenos and shot you down” he said, struggling to keep his voice level. Delmore gave no sign that he found the comment amusing or insulting, carefully reloading his bolter. Then he set off to the rendezvous point and called back over his shoulder; “I hardly feel threatened. It would take you weeks to hit a void kraken, let alone as fast a moving soldier as me. Keep to stabbing things with that tiny knife you carry, and leave the proper fighting to warriors like myself”. As Harjek strode after his battle brother, he shook his head. Some things never changed. The two of them had been accusing each other of ineptitude for decades, and neither would come out of a verbal bout without a few ruffled feathers.
Working in concert, they cleansed the corridors between them and their goal of any xenos. Both were young for Astartes, being only forty years apiece. Recruited from different worlds but trained at the same time and deployed to the same squad, the two were firm friends and effective partners. During the period between engagements, the two were rarely seen apart. They trained, ate and prayed together. It earned them no end of comments and mockery from their squad mates, but the comments ended on the battle field. Much glory had been won by the steadfast pair, and it was clear they were destined for greatness. If only they could stop bickering for a few minutes at a time.
When they eventually reached the rendezvous point, they were simultaneously concerned and pleased to see that two members of the ten man squad were missing. Any worries they had were dispelled when a grinning battle brother said that the last two members of the squad were racing back, sprinting through the empty corridors to get back before the other. The auspex showed two blinking figures inching across the screen towards them through the ship. Just before they appeared in the corridor, the rest of the squad turned to watch them and cheer. One hurtled out a few hundred metres away and turned towards them. He had only been in sight for a few seconds when the other marine appeared far closer, several dozen metres ahead. Both marines continued their all out sprint, but it was clear who would get their first. After a few seconds, the second marine made it to the group and gave a roar of triumph. He was quickly reminded by his fellows that there was little glory in second to last place but he ignored them, instead turning to greet the last brother. Squad Black Fist laughed as one when the last marine made a mock swipe for his brother’s head, before reaching out his right hand. The two marines grasped their black hands on the other’s right forearms, roughly yanking on the other’s arm. Then the squad straightened and turned as one to face the only member not joining them in their laughter; Brother Sergeant Risi.
Squad Black Fist’s sergeant was famed throughout the company, and even the chapter, for his grimness and steely. The fourth company’s reputation was one of a balance between band of brother’s and disciplined fighting force, but it seemed that the more relaxed part of the company had missed the sergeant out altogether. He rarely smiled or even let his permanent grim expression drop, and speech was hard to pry from him. New members of the squad were told that he went helmless wherever possible because he knew no enemy could meet his steely gaze, and he had been nicknamed Sergeant Kraken eye. Now he looked at them all impassively, his grey eyes overshadowed by the four service studs in his forehead and underlined by his white beard, trimmed close to the jaw. Three of the studs were silver, each denoting a century’s service to the chapter, but one was a dark black. The obsidian stud had a delicately carved kraken on it, and signified something of greater importance, a century spent in the great deep. When he was satisfied that the squad were ready to attend to their duties, assessing both their physical well being and their mood, he gestured to the ground in front of him and pointed to brother Gêrôr. The marine stepped forward and begin to set up the equipment that had arrived with them in the torpedo.
It was all the machinery necessary to guide a teleporting squad to this point in the vessel. Most companies of the Star Kraken chapter preferred to attack the ship with what was known as the ‘lateral drop pod assault’, utilising a hail of boarding torpedoes to pound the enemy into submission with the weight of men. Each company had their own special variation of this, and 4th company’s method involved the teleporters. Since its founding, the fourth company had been lead by three captains, or points to match the three points of The Trident, the company’s strike cruiser. The three points were known as the Blade, the Barrage and the Kraken. Each controlled a different aspect of the company in travel and in war. During a battle, the Barrage commanded The Trident against the enemy ship, while the Blade and the Kraken each led their personal squad’s into the breach. The Blade, Brother Captain Kester, lead the company’s single, ten man assault squad. Brother Captain Nymar lead the company veterans in his role as the Kraken, and both captains raced for the prize, the enemy bridge.
When Gêrôr was satisfied with the array, he nodded to Sergeant Risis who said in his strangely soft voice “Beacon online”. The crackle in the vox signalled that the message had been received and all of squad Black Fist turned away from the apparatus. They scanned the corridor and readied their weapons, while listening intently for the tell tale sucking of air that would herald the arrival of the captain. A few seconds of baited breath later, the sound came. A rush of air, the sudden cessation of a noise just beyond the edge of hearing and then they were among the squad. Brother Captain Nymar took a few steps forward and turned to face Sergeant Risi. The two marines nodded and Risi thumped his right fist off his chest. “The area is cleansed of xenos, your path to the bridge need not be slowed here” intoned the sergeant. Nymar nodded and strode away, his glittering green armour catching the light.
As Nymar walked past him, Harjek took a moment to study the Kraken. His armour was far more ornate than any worn by his squad, and far more illustrious than those worn by the other two points. The shoulder pads were richly decorated with Kraken motifs, the star made with red gems and the kraken itself of a chalky marble. A stylised scroll stretched the bottom of the pad, reading Kraken*Trident*Corvus. His helmet was different to any other in the company, and Harjek had been told it was a MKIV Maximus helmet, from an older and more venerated brand of armour. Looking at the Captain’s weapons, Harjek saw the famous Blood Grips. A pair of deep crimson power fists, the Blood grips were the traditional member of the Kraken and were famed for the great deeds they had performed. Their name came from an incident many centuries ago, when the Kraken of the time had used the power fists to choke the life out of a colossal xenos beast. The creature’s deep red blood had powered from its ruptured throat and out onto the gauntlets, staining the mettle with it corrosive properties. The Kraken had hardly noticed, however, simply continuing to squeeze until the beast lay lifeless before him. Looking down at his fists, he sent his weapons to the Blade, master of the company’s arms. The two captains had re-forged the fists to be greater than before, and coloured them to match the blood they would spill. More words in high gothic adorned the fists, but Nymar was gone before Harjek could examine them fully. The captain was striding away, and his veteran warriors followed, each one a greater hero than the last. Nymar was younger than all of them though, having but a century of service to his name. His prowess as a warrior, and his deeds as a Star Kraken could not be denied however, and he would likely soon earn the experience the older members of the company possessed.
Delmore slapped his shoulder guard as he walked past. “Get your head out of the clouds Harjek, there’s greenskins to slay. If we want to be the next Nymars, we’d better acquit ourselves well in his presence, don’t you think?” Harjek once again had to suppress a grin under his helmet. Some things never change.