With a retch, Apostle Galius Shupro awoke and coughed violently, expelling shards of dried blood from his throat. Klaxons still wailed all around him, mixing with the hiss of steam and sparks from destroyed machinery. A great weight pressed on his chest, pinning him to the floor. Momentarily, he wondered how long he had been unconscious, and nearly slipped away again.
The gentle touch of the Heart of Zaral laying on his collarbone brought reality flooding back. His predicament became clear, as did his mission. He had to get off of this damned ship as soon as possible, before the raiders found him. Everything else on this vessel was expendable, but for the sake for the Brotherhood, he had to escape. There was no time to waste.
He could not move, however. The weight on his chest, he realized, was a huge slab of bulkhead that had been torn free during the enemy’s attack, leaving him immobilized. Shupro craned his head around, to try and get a sense of his surroundings and to shout for any crew who could help him, but his head swam with the effort, and he had to close his eyes to keep from vomiting.
Then he heard the sound of heavy footsteps echoing down the hall. Salvation, he thought. Shupro coughed and tried to shout, but no voice came from his throat.
“Help,” he whispered. “Help me… you... fools...”
A huge foot slammed down on the bulkhead that pinned him. It was followed by an enormous form, encased in a primitive void suit, looming over him. Its helmed head cocked to one side and then the other as the raider looked down at Shupro’s prone form with a detached curiosity. Guttural rumbling came from the suit’s vox unit. The creature seemed to be deciding what to do with him.
Shupro shut his eyes and called out to the Angels of the All Father, begging them to rescue him. The stone began to glow and warmth seeped through him. Desperately, he reached out for a mind, somewhere, anywhere, that might come to his aid.
Then his eyes opened, bulging in agony as the monstrosity pressed its weight down onto the bulkhead. Bones snapped audibly, and Shupro felt the strange sensation of several organs bursting within him. He tried to scream, but there was barely any air left in his crushed and punctured lungs. Ringing filled his ears and his vision went gray and tunneled, and the tinny taste of blood began to saturate his tongue.
“No…” he gasped. “All-Father... please... no…” They were the last words he would ever speak.
Shupro watched helplessly as the raider removed its helmet, revealing leathery green skin, a mouth of sharp tusks, eyes that glittered with malicious intelligence. The creature reached down with one meaty fist and delicately grasped the Heart between two fingers. With only a slight gesture, it pulled the jewel closer, snapping the chain around Shupro’s neck. As the world began to go dark, Shupro heard the thing’s deep, rumbling voice as it examined the greatest treasure of the All-Father.
“Well now,” it said. “Wot’s dis, den?”