Death or Glory | Chapter 8 of 25 - Part: 1 of 10

Author: Sandy Mitchell | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1532 Views | Add a Review

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FOUR

SINCE THAT OCCASION I've been in rather more space battles than I care to contemplate, but I have to say that the Siege of Perlia stands out in my memory more vividly than most. Partly of course, that's because in the majority of cases I've either been watching the progress of the action in a hololith somewhere, which induces a certain detatchment into the proceedings, or I've been otherwise engaged in hand-to-hand combat with enemy boarders (or to be more accurate trying to avoid them) which leaves little or no time to worry about what's going on in the rest of the fleet. Mainly, I suspect, it was simply the complete novelty of the situation I found myself in.

As the surge of acceleration died away, I realised I was now drifting freely in the crash webbing, obscurely grateful that it had been some hours since I'd last eaten. Evidently the automatic systems on board hadn't gone so far as to turn on the gravity for us.1

Kicking free of the restraints with some difficulty, I took stock of our surroundings.

Our refuge was surprisingly roomy, having been designed, I was later to discover from the instruction slate, to take twenty evacuees under ideal conditions, and two and a half times that number at a pinch. The compartment we'd found ourselves in took up the majority of the available space, lined with storage lockers between metal buttresses of comforting looking solidity, and floored with thick mats which would double up as sleeping space if the pod had taken more than its nominal complement aboard.

(Ten of the lockers were later to prove to be fold-out bunks, however, so we never had to trust ourselves to their dubious comfort.) At that moment, most of the interior space was still choked with strands of webbing, stirring fitfully in the current from the recirculators, which gave the whole place an incongruous air of dereliction, as if it had fallen into disrepair and become home to innumerable spiders.

Kicking my way free of the entangling fibres, and slowly recalling the lessons hammered painfully home in the nullgrav room of the schola, I pushed off in the general direction of the hatchway at the opposite end of the chamber. To my vague surprise I missed it by less than a metre, and a few seconds of fumbling were enough to get me close enough to trip the latch and push it open.

I wasn't quite sure what I expected to find beyond it, but my first shocked impression was one of open space. My mind remained focused enough for me to realise that that was impossible, however, and as I took in more of my surroundings it rapidly became clear that I was staring at an armourcrys shield, not unlike the one in front of the pilot's station of a conventional shuttle. The cold light of innumerable stars punched into the tiny flight deck, which was no more than a couple of metres across in any direction, whirling across our field of vision with dizzying speed.

'What are those streaks?' Jurgen asked, wallowing through the hatchway behind me like an ungainly skywhale,2 his odour preceeding him as always, and I found myself hoping that rescuers would be quick to arrive.

'The stars,' I told him shortly. 'We must be tumbling.' I made my way to the control lectern, fastening the straps thoughtfully provided to keep me in the seat, and began trying to work out how to bring our refuge under some kind of control. I presume it was this happy accident, as much as anything else, which led to our survival, as none of the ork gunners seemed willing to target us, no doubt thinking we were just another piece of debris from the battle.3

Fortunately, the pod had evidently been designed in the expectation that whoever found refuge aboard it would be in no condition to deal with any complicated systems, and most of its functions proved to be under the control of the cogitator which had so precipitously flung us out into space. A few moment's browsing through the pictograms, helpfully projected in front of my face as soon as I sat down, was sufficient to give me a rough idea of what I needed to do, and a few cautious experiments with the dials and levers in front of me was enough to steady our progress.

As the streaks of light beyond the armourcrys slowly settled down, reverting to the pinpoints of light I'd grown familiar with from the observation decks of most of the vessels I'd travelled on since my childhood in the underhive had been so abruptly curtailed'

we began to get an idea of the scale of the conflict going on around us. Contrary to what you might see in an episode of Attack Run,4 starships in combat seldom approach to within point blank range of one another, exchanging fire at distances of hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometres. There are exceptions, of course; you have to get close to your target to launch boarding parties or knock out a fighter screen, for instance, not to mention ramming, which is a favourite ork tactic.5 Even so, we were able to pick out the positions of the combatants by the sudden flares of light as another lance or torpedo volley struck home, and once by a peculiar sensation of sickness and disorientation as space itself seemed to twist in the middle of my field of vision, sucking some luckless 1 Since escape pods, by their very nature, are inclined to violent acceleration, this is generally left for the occupants to do manually once they've orientated themselves. From his later remarks we can infer that Cain discovered how to activate this system shortly afterwards, although he doesn't specifically mention having done so.

2 A species of animal found in the upper atmosphere of Blease's World. It metabolises hydrogen to remain aloft, where it browses on the innumerable plant spores flung out by the thick carpet of vegetation on the equatorial mountain ranges. The natives domesticated several strains millennia ago, harnessing gondolas to these vast, placid creatures, and using them as living dirigibles.

3 In all likelihood, none of the enemy vessels had weapons capable of engaging so small a target in any case, orkish ordnance not exactly being noted for its accuracy, and their fighter pilots would have been far more interested in engaging the starships or their opposite numbers from whichever imperial squadrons had managed to scramble before their carrying vessels were hit.

4 A popular holodrama of the 930s, about a squadron of fighter pilots in the Gothic War.

5 Indeed, the Brute-class vessel referred to earlier is built (''designed'' being perhaps too alien a concept for the ork mindset) with precisely this form of attack in mind.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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