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Librarium

Admiral Frost Takes Command

The atmosphere in the orbital was thick and sluggish. The cloying scent of old electronics and thick machine grease filled his lungs with every breath. The dormant heaters had been reactivated but there was still a thin layer of ice crystals coating the armour-glass of the long silent orbital. Newly “promoted” Reserve-Admiral Hieronymus Frost cleared a larger area of the window with his sleeve, and returned his gaze to the moth-balled fleet. A shiver ran down his spine, and it was not due to the cold.

Ancient, predatory shapes hung in the void; ships whose obsolete design had been abandoned centuries before, or in some cases, millennia. Tiny shuttles zoomed back and forth between each ship and the main orbital and distant pin-pricks of light moved up and down the network of docking umbilicals. The hard vacuum outside masked the noise of the frantic preparations, so from the windows of the orbital the scene looked almost peaceful.
Yet something itched at the back of Hieronymus’ mind. It was a strange feeling, almost like he had forgotten to do something important. He decided it was because he had never looked upon ships of this design without issuing the order to open fire, or stand by to repel boarders. Apart from a few reserve fleets, these classes were now almost exclusively in the service of the Ruinous Powers.

He cast his mind back to the court of enquiry and the events that had led him to this place. He had entered the tribunal that day almost resigned to loosing his captaincy. He was the most senior officer to survive the battle high above Last Trail, leading the three surviving ships of the 8th Patrol Group back to Antona Australis sector command with reports of the Necron fleet and their overwhelming firepower. The Lord-Admirals would be looking for someone to blame he knew, but he was surprised when their ire had been reserved for the late Fleet-Admiral Doudge.
Certainly the old man had done the honourable thing and gone down fighting, but the loss of an Emperor Class battleship in exchange for so few enemy casualties was not something that could be glossed over. And when the tribunal panel started to heap praise on Frost and talk of promotion, he could scarcely believe it.

Now he stood here, he didn’t want to believe it. But the orders of the Lord-Admirals were clear. Hieronymus Frost was promoted to Reserve-Admiral – although he was not sure “promoted” was the correct word – effective immediately. He would then proceed directly to the Auxiliary Orbital above Clinth Prime. Here he would assume command of the 2nd Reserve Cruiser Flotilla, oversee its return to operational status and immediately set out to locate and neutralise all Necron interstellar assets in the Starfire sub-sector…

His new adjunct, a short stocky man named Feigor, shifted his weight from foot to foot with a pent up nervous energy. Frost cast a glance sideways at him but Feigor seemed not to notice, his eyes fixed on the dark shadows hanging against the star field.

“Something on you mind?” asked Hieronymus, his tone a little sharper than he’d intended. He hadn’t warmed to this new officer yet, but that wasn’t Feigor’s fault. He can’t be any happier about this than I am, the Admiral mused.

“Permission to speak my mind sir?” asked Feigor. Frost nodded.

“I’m just wondering how many more troublesome work crews we’re going to have to…deal with.”

Frost sighed quietly. He was wondering the same thing. When so many ships of a certain design had fallen to rebellion and misrule, one had to suspect an inherent flaw in their specifications. Was some aspect of their protection against the corruption of the warp insufficient? Whatever the truth it was certainly enough to breed superstition and fear amongst the lower ranks. A fifty-strong work gang had refused their new billet on the hanger decks of the Ark Imperial, claiming they could hear a constant buzzing noise as if there swarms of flies around every corner. He’d had no choice but to silence them immediately and send them to join the crews of the penal fleet. With the Emperor’s blessing this would be an isolated incident, but he couldn’t shake the feeling he’d soon be hearing identical reports from the rest of the fleet.

“We can’t waste time waiting for problems that may or may not arise,” replied Frost, “there is real work to be done here, and plenty of it. It’s time I boarded my flagship. It’s time I inspected the Warspite.”

 

                                                                                   *****

 

 Reserve-Admiral Hieronymus Frost stared down at the data-slate, trying to force the words into his numb brain for a second time. But it wasn’t necessary; they’d burned themselves across his mind’s eye on the first pass.

Casualty figures estimated 35,000
Vindictive and Minotaur gutted by fire and in need of total refit
Crippling damage to the
Warspite requiring at least two months repair

He leaned back in his chair, ran his hand through his short cropped hair and groaned loudly. Feigor was hovering nearby but Frost didn’t care. He had to let his frustration out and it was either this or hurling the data slate across the room.
“What went wrong?” asked Frost, addressing nobody in particular.
“The communications problems won’t have helped sir…” answered Feigor hesitantly.
That was true, thought Frost, the fleet comms system had been Ork-shit from the word go. Simple manoeuvres that even an officer cadet could have plotted were met with confusion and dithering. Then the sinister Necron fleet had hoved into view, once more appearing between Last Trail and Unlimited Arrogance, and things had gone rapidly downhill from there.
“At least we accounted for a fair number of their escorts this time,” ventured Feigor.
“It’s not their escorts vessels that scour Imperial worlds clean of life,” sighed Frost.
“Then what are your orders Admiral? Are we to return to sector command?”
“Don’t pre-empt me Feigor,” snapped Frost irritably. He momentarily considered correcting his adjutant on not using his actual title of Reserve-Admiral but decided to let it slide.
“The instructions of the Lord-Admirals were very specific, we’re staying out here until the Necron threat has been eliminated,” continued Frost, “besides, the Clinth Auxilia Orbital is probably the only dock in the sector still equipped to handle these…earlier classes.”

As he finished speaking he turned to look through the armoured view port of his ready room. It was almost the exact same view that he had taken in from the orbital station several weeks previously, except this time he was looking back across the fleet towards the docking ring from aboard the Warspite. Shuttles and void-proof servitor teams swarmed over the hulls of the 2nd Reserve Cruiser Flotilla, doing their best to make the ancient craft battle worthy once more.
“Next time Scarab Lord,” thought Frost, “next time!”