The Falling Star
The stars around the Vestige of Hope are hostile, alien. Where the materium and immaterium merge together, the Maelstrom near the galaxy’s heart bares its teeth. The stars here hunger, home to Daemons and beasts warped in their image who hunger for humanity’s lost children, clinging to life aboard fragile worlds, and fragile stations. On this day, a day like any other where the station lights flicker and the monsters lurk outside of the corner of the eye, a star falls upon the Vestige of Hope, but nobody cares.
The enormous space station turned space hulk Vestige of Hope drifted through the void, its inhabitants going about their normal, day to day routines, living their normal lives. Somewhere in the station, someone cooked a breakfast for numerous others, carving thin slivers off of a massive leg of some indistinct creature surrounded by jury rigged glowing red coils. Elsewhere, a man polished a large knife fashioned from a scrap piece of ceramite cladding. Elsewhere still, the staccato thunder of gunfire in an enclosed hallway echoed as bullets and lasfire tore into a swarm of onrushing monstrosities. A dozen people crouched behind makeshift barricades and defenses, taking turns firing on the attacking monsters. Further in the hallway, several mutilated bodies of what had once been people sat beneath hunched over figures, both humanoid and insectoid, that ripped and tore voraciously at tender flesh as their fellows pressed the attack further. Acid spit and poisoned spines flew through the air preceding the gnashing jaws and whirling claws of their owners. The defenders sheltered behind what they could, firing and reloading in turn as the bodies of the horde piled up.
Amidst those people sheltering in the outpost further in, a mother and father tried to hush their squalling child. Others simply prayed as, one by one, they heard the defenders slowly become overwhelmed. Half of their number fell back to the next defense point, bringing whatever ammunition they could from the previous point. Behind them the triumphant beasts busied themselves tearing into the dead or too-wounded-to-move defenders who still lay where they had fallen, the screams of those still alive echoing down the hall as the gunfire resumed from a new defensive point.
A heavily augmented woman charged into the fray, carrying a gun that would normally have been mounted on a tripod, and firing long bursts into the onrushing crowd of mutants. Explosive rounds tearing bloody holes in flesh and bone as they carved a swathe through the onrushing horde. The others around her opened fire again with renewed vigor, and the battle raged on, as did a thousand others like it.
Through the empty void of space, a curious object hurtled towards its destination. Oddly shaped. Myriad wires, tubes, readout displays, and more adorning its form. No rock formed in primordial nebulae or long decayed archaeotech. It was foreign. Abnormal. It did not belong here on the cusp of the Maelstrom.
.TЯƎ⅃A .TЯƎ⅃A .TИƎИIMMI YTIЯӘƎTИI ⅃ƎƧƧƎV ᖷO ƎЯU⅃IAᖷ ⅃AƆITIЯƆ .TЯƎ⅃A .TЯƎ⅃A
The infant within the pod looked up at the sigils in idle curiosity. Suspended in the cushioning fluid of the chamber, numb to the cold and the soundless void that lay barely separated from her now. She pondered - what did they say? They meant something to someone, obviously, or had at one point wherever she had come from.
… where had she come from? She felt vague, indistinct shapes move in her memory. Dim recollections of muted sounds… voices? She had been brought here somehow. For some purpose. Memories bared themselves, floating up from the morass of her mind. She remembered looking out through the tank and seeing similar such symbols. She remembered other people looking in on her and her watching silently, half formed but aware. But she knew those eyes and those people would not have sent her here. Something else had.
Though she doubted the strange symbols that blinked in red a short distance from her eyes held the key to unlocking such mysteries.
She focused in closer on the symbols, they seemed similar. Familiar. And then - ah, of course. They were displayed on the outside of her world. For someone from abroad to look in. To survey her. They displayed vital readouts, developmental information, and more. Information for the white suited scientists to read, to look in on her with faces obscured by respiratory masks and cleansuits, sterile laboratory gloves. She was their creation, she remembered - created for something, even if she did not know what. And the flashing symbols were important for that. Important to ensure she came out right.
They flashed again, and with her new understanding she saw clearly now their meaning.
ALERT. ALERT. CRITICAL FAILURE OF VESSEL INTEGRITY IMMINENT. THREATS TO FIFTEEN DETECTED IN VICNITY. ALERT. ALERT.
Those words were certainly disconcerting. She did not know how she understood their meaning, and yet they slotted into place within her mind as easily as did everything else around her. She craned her neck forward, looking out through the small viewing window and beheld the looming bulk of the space station afore her as she sped rapidly towards it.
The horde of mutants continued to pour in. An inexorable wave of meat and flesh, blood and bone, whirling teeth and gnashing jaws that bit and tore and devoured whole. They continued on, heedless of bullets and lasfire that blasted great rents in flesh and sent them stumbling or collapsing into limp piles. There were more. There were always more. And they smelled blood. Hugging the walls, crawling along ceilings with sharpened talons gouging into plasteel, they came on in droves.
Another defensive position fell, the wall of the things pressing ever onwards as the augmented woman and her autocannon were forced back, taking down dozens of the monstrosities. Behind her her comrades continued the withering hail of gunfire. A mutant crawling along the ceiling dropped down in their midst, landing atop one defender and bisecting him in a shower of viscera, jagged jaws shearing through armor and bone. Beady brown eyes hauntingly like those of a human being’s looked out in hate and fury as a torrent of bullets tore the thing and what remained of its victim apart.
The battle continued on, reinforcements from further within joining the defenders and pushing the mutants back a ways - before all were jolted from their positions and thrown to the floor as an enormous impact shook this section of the station. Emergency lights flicked on overhead as mains power failed, bathing the grisly scene in an eerie red glow.
The mutant swarm picked itself up too, but instead of resuming the attack, it skittered off back into the bowels of the station - towards the point of impact. They left behind a trail of blood and viscera, slick blood and shattered bone in their wake, though many dragged their dead behind with them. The shocked defenders were left to stand in silence.
Somewhere, nearby, something had gouged a massive hole from the structure of the station. Ancient armor plating was rent asunder. Water lines, power connections, abandoned living quarters, warrens and dens of unspeakable abominations and transgressions against the human form - all had been pulverised into unrecognizeable rubble and debris in the span of a second and now only a smoking crater remained where melted steel glowed and slowly resolidified.
The atmosphere of the station was kept intact as numerous redundant void shield generators kicked into gear, still functional even after the time spent in disrepair, sealing the breach and preventing the decompression of the area. Already, the crater had attracted attention and visitors. Even as melted slag dripped down in sizzling metallic stalactites, eyes both human and decidedly not peered in cautiously.
The same argument erupted among the dumbfounded erstwhile defenders. Some, including the augmented woman, wanted to investigate - others insisted it was too dangerous, and that they had to remain behind to defend against another possible attack. In the end, those who wanted to investigate set out on their own, heavily armed and outfitted with plentiful ammunition, picking their way through familiar halls and passages towards the impact point.
No mutants accosted them on their way. The ancient tunnels were almost preternaturally still, as though something had drawn the horrors that lurked away from them.
When they finally reached the crater, they too peered down among many others at the smoldering remains of what had impacted their home. A strange… pod, burnt and blackened on the outside, some sort of unusual fluid having been evidently drained from it. Around it lay a swarm of mutants, violently dismembered by means that only the imagination could devise. And nobody else.
The world was silent now. Silent except for the hiss of steam and the dim blaring of the alarms still muted by the walls of her chamber. Silent compared to the all consuming maelstrom of noise and violence that had engulfed her world for a moment as she crashed into this new, larger one. She extended a hand, instinctively, and the pod opened on her mental command.
She stepped out into this new, larger world, and beheld her welcoming party. She looked out on them - beady, once-human eyes, fanged maws that gnashed and bit as they crept closer to her. She crouched low, instinctively, infant legs already strong and capable.
One of them lunged at her, only to freeze midair as she looked at it with disdain. She looked away, and the mutant crunched into a bloody pulp. Another leaped at her, and another, forcing her back from her pod and towards an exposed duct. With a mental pulse of energy, she killed or pushed away the remainder, and took a breath, surveying her surroundings.
She felt new presences approach. Discordant thoughts and feelings. Confusion. Alarm. Anger. She hadn’t felt these same things from the monsters. Were these different monsters? She caught a dim, blurry glimpse of one. It walked on two legs and made strange sounds, sounds that sounded like human speech. It and the others carried something - she pulled back further, into the shadows, into the ducts. Away from here and towards safety. Whatever she had been brought here to do she would not let herself be taken by monsters, no matter how familiar they seemed.