Author : S. ‘Hrekka’ Clough

The launch chamber decompressed, the escaping air flushing Will’s Swarm from the Carrier like so much flotsam. His sixteen Swarm were joining others who were launching from the Colichemarde and her two sister ships. His visor highlighted each group as he looked at them, bringing them into focus against the inky blackness.

“Remember, the enemy ship is down!” Talen barked over the radio. He was remonstrating a few of the most inexperienced members of Will’s Swarm. They had been falling upwards, their faces pointing towards the ship that they were assaulting. The Athena‘s guns could shred their helmets like wet cardboard. It was only the wasplike sheath they wore from their waists down that was truly armoured. Soon enough, they were all dropping together, like oversized shells, towards the doomed Athena. His Swarm dodged the Athena‘s anti-missile munitions with ease. William scanned the battlefield. Everything seemed illuminated in the dull secondhand light. Except the three carriers. Now high above, each ship gleamed, a newmade coin hanging in the heavens.

The first of his Swarm touched down onto the Athena‘s hull.

“Hook! Andrew! I need some holes in this bloody ship!” Will bellowed over the radio. He hovered about ten metres off the hull of the ship, AG humming. A little dartgun secreted in his glove spat four darts. Red circles blossomed onto the hull, and the two drillmen got to work. Their armour split, and retracted partially, allowing them to stand and brace against the industrial drills they carried. It didn’t take them long to finish. The drills quietened, and Andrew carefully dropped a blasting charges into each of the holes. He finished just before the ship’s lattice attempted to heal over the surface wounds.

“Hold fast! Blast in five!” Will shouted. Hook and Andrew cleared the area, discarding the drills, and drawing their assault weapons. The rest of the Swarm did likewise: boarding axes and pistols, shotguns and blades of all descriptions came out of their sheaths. Will drew his long-handled chainaxe, and waited.

The explosion, when it came, was quite beautiful. The four charges detonated in succession, blowing pillars of fire down into the bowels of the ship, and up, fueled by solidox and the ship’s atmosphere. Gas vented from the breach, and the panel floated away. Then Will’s Swarm were pouring in, their agrav packs keeping them aloft against the pull of the expensive gee-floors. They tore through the ship, blasting holes in bulkheads, forcing decompression. Choking, dying technicians were dispatched by the Swarm’s flashing blades.

And it was all over. The bridge still had air. All the command crew lay dead at their stations. Five Swarm stood in a semicircle in front of the captain’s chair, their armour fully stowed. The captain lay on the floor. Will’s axe lay across his exposed throat.

“Separatism is a doomed cause,” said Will. He lifted the axe, and smashed it down, just once.

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