The smoke and steam from the ancient rail transport billowed above and hissed onto the crowd as it pulled in front of the loading platform. Only a few days were left until the last of the transports evacuated the majority of the population. Hundreds of advanced transports lay untouched as their internal controls failed to function. The Machine spirits had been driven from them by the wake of psychic interference preceding the Tyranids.
As the snake like machine rolled to a stop the crowd pushed themselves forward against the barriers occupied by Imperial Guardsmen tasked with crowd control. Some people weren’t going to make it today. Some weren’t going to make it ever. Hellicus II was living up to its name now that the Tyranids had arrived. Hell had arrived in living form.
Captain Marcus Kellen held tightly to his wife’s hand, Lieutenant Marry Kellen. Only a short month earlier had they been wed. You lived, you fought, and you died in the Imperium because in the future there was only war. Compassion was at the end of a medic’s syringe. Love went undefined. Marcus and Marry were in love none the less. I watched them wondering if I would ever know love. Every minute that passed condemned that future.
I heard him say “It’s time to go,” and pulled gently at his wife’s hand. Senior Guardsmen were checking soldier’s names off a list of the first to board the transport. Regiments were being recalled and deployed to protect the few functioning landing facilities. A billion soldiers would fight so millions could be saved.
I stared at the couple until she caught my eye and I turned my gaze back to my feet. I knew they had something that I would only know in my dreams. Life was short to begin with in the Imperium and when war came to your home it became even shorter. I was alone in the world of war with no idea what to do to save myself.
“No, wait,” she said pulling her hand from her husbands. Moving through the crowd she made her way to me all the while being pushed around by people ignoring both of us as they made their way to safety. “Where is your family?” She said as she approached.
Where is your family? It’s a simple question for a child. Any typical child can answer it. All I had to do was answer her, but I couldn’t. I gripped that single bag of all my possessions. I just blurted it out in fear. Fear that I was going to die all alone with no one to hold me in the last moments of my life, to comfort me, or to remember me. “They’re gone. The sisters said if there was room I would be evacuated.” Not once did I look up from my feet even as I offered up a dirty slip of paper.
“I’m Marry” as she took the paper and read it. The heading denoted I was from an Imperial Orphanage. Thomas was my name and I was classified a “nine” according to the travel papers because I have no family. When I was a child I intuitively knew. Later I would learn in Imperial terms it meant I was expendable.
“Marry, we need to go,” called Captain Kellen from a short distance watching her with me. The train was almost ready to leave. The last of the people were baording the train.
There are moments in a person’s life when they make impulsive decisions. For her this wasn’t one of them. If human beings left one another to die then they were no better than the great devourer. “Come with me,” Marry said and took my hand. “We’re getting out of here,” almost pulling me to the transport doors.
“This will never work,” said Captain Kellen. Marry didn’t listen as she pulled both of us through the crowd to the doors. “Orders are orders, especially now.”
“The Emperor protects his faithful” she spit back at him, obviously not in the mood to be trifled with. Looking down at me she managed a faint smile. "It'll work."
“The boy isn’t on your orders, sir,” said the soldier with the checklist. He waved another person onto the train after checking their dataslate. “However, I have authority to amend orders if you…”
“Sergeant,” said Marry looking at his name tab, interrupting him, “Wesson! I don’t know what happened with the orders but we’re getting on that train with our son, with or without your permission. Selling out the human race for a few credits won’t get you far and may get you left behind for them. If you know what I mean.” Hellicus hath no fury like a woman protecting her young.
Taking a look at me, then at Captain Kellen and then back to Marry he sighed. He saw the determined look on her face, the rank on Captain Kellen's collar and realized there was no arguing with them on the matter. “Here,” taking the order and tapping into the data slate. "What’s your first name son?”
Startled by the events I struggled to get out my name, a name that would save my life. “Thomas, Thomas Kellen, sir.” I lied.
“There you go sir, the orders are amended. Please, don’t take…”
Both officers looked at the sergeant but didn’t bother to answer. Captain Kellen and Marry loaded me onto the crowded train which began to move almost as if signalled.
“Thomas,” said Captain Kellen quietly yet directly to me after we got onboard. He looked into my eyes as if they were a doorway to my soul. “I don’t like to lie or make it a habit. As my son, you will do well to remember this.”
“Yes, sir,” I replied in response, exactly if I was talking to a sister superior from the orphanage. I couldn’t bring myself to look at him anymore and looked to the floor.
“Thomas,” he said again placing both hands on my shoulders, his gaze softening little when I was brave enough to look up. ”Thomas, from now on just call me father. We'll figure out everything else as we go along.”
No matter how many times the future looks the darkest, no matter how many times I look evil in the eye, I will never forget the day I met them. They were good people in a sea of corruption, we shared no blood between us, but the bond we created in the short time we had is unbreakable even unto death. We were a family until the Tyranids tore it apart and I hate them for it. It gives me strength.
I will never forget the day I met my parents.