Feil: Possibly jarring, but how else would you put it concisely?
In any case, I've actually completed this fic. It's more or less a short story, about five to six chapters. Each chapter'll be posted as they come along. So, enjoy the next...
Fortress World of the Inquisition
Somewhere in Segmentum Solar
“Right face! Bolters, up! Safeties, off! Aim! Pray! O Emperor, guide this round to its target, that it may be destroyed in Your Name, amen.
The drill, familiar to Maccabeus, issued from the leathery throat of a sergeant at one side of the parade ground as the tearing blasts of bolter fire resounded. Their armour, grey with golden trim, shone as though new under the harsh sunlight of the planet’s sun. All moved with a lithe grace unfamiliar to him, accustomed to the powerful but ungainly armour of the Astartes. He muttered to Istvaran, standing by him, “And you say these are Luna Wolves, of the First Founding? How then did they survive nine thousand years?”
The Inquisitor—Judas shuddered inside at the thought still—frowned and cleared his throat, making his retainers wince at the burst of static that undoubtedly detonated inside their auditory implants. He spoke deliberately, “They were discovered by my… associate, Maarek. A ship had been ejected from the Immaterium—a small destroyer, of the no longer crafted Sceptre class. It was identified and boarded by the Grey Knights, who discovered an ancient hibernation bay, apparently designed for long-term travel through the Empyrean. The crew were dead; but these had survived by the use of their hibernation nodes. They were accompanied by a Dreadnought sacrophagus of ancient design; we have traced records back all the way on Terra to the thirtieth millennium, and in the very beginnings of those records, a Brother-Lieutenant Mattathias is recorded as having been interred in a sacrophagus. We believe this to be the same Mattathias. As for you, Judas-- what do you think of our discovery?"
He muttered darkly, "Children of a lost and damned legion... why should we trust them, Inquisitor?"
With a slight, smug smile on his face, the Inquisitor nodded slowly and motioned for him to follow. Unsure, but unwilling to be left behind, Maccabeus came along...
Inside a deep chamber of the fortress, the heat still beat down despite their being encased behind several layers of stone. The unarmoured Astartes chained to his seat beneath their view sweated not, nor did the hooded men seated on a long bench before him. An unnatural aura surrounded those men, one that sent people's skin crawling and would make any good man think twice about approaching them. With his training by the Ecclesiarchy as a Chaplain, Maccabeus recognized this for what it was-- the taint of the psyker.
A slight scent of ozone permeated the air. The Marine's face began twitching as his hands clenched tight into fists; his seat creaked as adamant muscles strained at their bonds. Suddenly, release came; he relaxed in his seat, and glowered at the Inquisitorial psykers as a pair of Herculean servitors emerged from the barred door behind him and released his bonds. As he stood, he spat something venomous at the psykers, made a paradeground-perfect about-face, and stalked out, batting aside the servitors' clumsy grasp. Maccabeus wondered just what it was he had said so sharply...
The Inquisitor pressed a rune by the side of a vox-grille, and inquired within, "Name of latest subject and verdict?"
The voice, reedy but curiously strong, replied "Sergeant Kuja Trypho, Master. He is free of all taint. Note: He does not like us. So like a blunt..."
"The Astartes had no Librarians or psykers in his time, Majikathaise. And do not address one of his stature by perjoratives, else you are likely to find your cranium extremely depressed via blunt force trauma. Istvaran out."
Turning to Maccabeus, the Inquisitor nodded to the chamber beneath-- another unarmoured Marine being brought in by the security servitors-- and responded quietly, "That is how we know we may trust them. They are children of the damned, yes, but damned themselves they are not..."
The Chaplain grunted disbelief through his death-mask helmet, and said no more; sighing, the Inquisitor nodded towards the door, and they exited.
Inquisitorial Black Ship
Close proximity to the Oculus Horribilis
Training Ground/Hangar Bay
"Attention, all Astartes! Report immediately to the Hangar Bay for briefing!"
The voxcast throughout the ship brought the Marines on the double; ceramite-booted feet clattered over thick deck plates to the broad expanse of the hangar deck, where upon the prow of a Thunderhawk landing ship stood Judas Maccabeus. Hammedatha Istvaran sat cross-legged beside him, robes flowing around his legs and waving gently in the air recyclers' breeze. Squad Sigma-Delta of the Grey Knights-- Justiciar Thasis and Brothers Eleazar, Alcimus, Ismail, and Avaran stood line-abreast before the Thunderhawk, Nemesis weapons at parade-rest across their chests.
The two squads of Luna Wolves that had survived formed sharply delineated lines abreast; nine men and a Sergeant each. Behind them, the clank of heavy feet resounded as a mighty Dreadnought stepped forward between the ranks and came to attention. His deep, gravelly voice rumbled forth-- "Master Chaplain. Inquisitor. Brother Grey Knights. The Luna Wolves stand before you and salute you. We await your orders."
Maccabeus nodded gravely as the Dreadnought's close-combat arm rose up and tapped its chest gently; behind him, bowing their heads, the Marines made the sign of the aquila upon their chests in formal salute. Maccabeus responded likewise, and nodded to Thasis, who stepped forward and barked, "At ease!"
Once the formalities were over, Judas nodded to the Inquisitor, who stood smoothly and began speaking.
"Men of the Luna Wolves. It has been nine thousand years since you entered the Empyrean. Your Lord and Master, your Primarch, turned his back upon the Emperor, and embraced the powers that have since devastated the Imperium of Man. You are the last remaining of your Legion; the children of traitors, of oathbreakers!
At that last spat word, a quiet, angered whisper rumbled between the Luna Wolves. Maccabeus nodded to Thasis, who whispered into his intersquad vox; the butts of halberds thumped hard into the decking, the loud clank of metal silencing the Marines. Istvaran continued speaking, "They were oathbreakers, yes. But you-- no. Our psykers have ascertained that you are in fact untainted by the powers that corrupted your Legion. Your allegiance is no longer to he who led you eons ago; your allegiance remains as it was always, your first oath unbroken-- that to the Master of Mankind, our Emperor.
"Astartes, here and now you make a choice! Serve the Immortal God-Emperor of Mankind, and redeem your Legion's name, or remain faithful to your Primarch, and break that final oath!"
As one, the Grey Knights powered up their Nemesis weapons. Silence reigned uneasy for a moment.
Then Mattathias rumbled, "Inquisitor, you offend our honour. Our allegiance is not unto traitors. Once, perhaps; but that time is long gone. We have no desire to besmirch our Legion's name further. Knights, ye may unpower your weapons; we shall not fight this day."
Releasing a quiet breath, Judas Maccabeus nodded to Thasis, who barked a brief order and stepped back into line with his men. A pause weighed heavily upon the air; Istvaran finally spoke again.
"Your mission is to enter the Eye of Terror. In there, a daemonworld is believed to be a former Craftworld of the Eldar. Within, according to my most esteemed colleague Czevak, is a highly valuable record of the existing Legions left there by a scouting expedition that was unable to depart the Eye before they were overtaken by Chaos.
"You will board that Craftworld, accompanied by this squad of Grey Knights. Your commander is Reclusiarch Maccabeus here. His word is your command. The Knights answer to none but the Ordo Malleus; Maccabeus has a seal," which he pulled from within his robe and held up, its jewels shimmering, before handing it to the Chaplain and continuing, "which entrusts to him the full rights and authority of the Ordo Malleus."
Blinking behind his helmet mask, Maccabeus realized that he had just become one of the most powerful people in the galaxy. Before he could reflect upon this sudden empowerment, the Inquisitor continued, "You shall recover the record. It is, I believe, in data-slates upon an Imperial landing craft that was ejected from the Inquisitorial ship prior to its destruction. Find this landing craft; place location markers upon it; and we shall send Thunderhawks to retrive you and the data. Whatever you do, do not venture further. The Eldar left many dark ambuscades and evil devices in their Craftworld; and above all, you are in the heart of heresy. Remain faithful to the Emperor, and your faith shall be your shield. Chaplain Maccabeus?"
The black-armoured giant stepped forward, and reviewed a dataslate for a moment before looking up to the ranks before him and curtly ordering, "We deploy in twenty-three hours. Review of arms in twenty-two. Be fully armed and prepared for war. Ave Imperator."
Without prompting, Thasis stepped forward once again and barked, "Dismissed!" before gesturing to his squad and marching away, his men falling in behind him at precise intervals.
T -14.23.08 Hours till Deployment
A hand-to-hand combat drill was commencing. The Marines, with their combat knives, were lined up facing their sergeants, who bore chainswords. Nimble feet darted back and forth; a shard of ceramite armour flew, followed abruptly by a hiss of annoyance as the Marine realized Trypho's sword was at his neck, ready to decapitate him, even though his knife had taken a chip out of his sergeant's shoulder plate.
The Grey Knights, helmets removed, stood alongside one of the Thunderhawks, observing and commenting to themselves. Eleazar remarked, "Alcimus? Isn't that a pattern we learned on Titan?"
Alcimus nodded, as Avaran chimed in, "Methinks we may do them a disservice. They have fought in the Great Crusades, after all. Are you so certain their fighting methods are as archaic as you might think?"
"I would be interested to find that out indeed, Brother Avaran,"
rumbled Mattathias. The squad started and spun around; somehow, he had come across the deck plates without making a sound, though his Dreadnought suit weighed as much as a standard Marine drop-pod... Thasis chuckled, having sat facing them and observed Mattathias coming up behind. He called to the Dreadnought, "Brother-Lieutenant? Would you be interested in some sparring then? I shall give you the advantage... you need it after all, old man" with a grin.
"But of course. These old bones are but a few hundred years in the sacrophagus. I have not slept for nine thousand years in the Empyrean, Justiciar, and forgotten everything I learned as a babe at Sergeant Dalton's knees. Brother Eleazar, may I use your axe? It seems the only thing robust enough for my hand..."
With a nod, Eleazar handed his Nemesis axe-- a rare make of Nemesis weapon, though the Hammer was even rarer-- to Mattathias, and stepped back as Thasis drew his sword. The power weapons hissed on, and Thasis' sword blurred into a silver streak as he entered into an intricate, elaborate combat form.
Abruptly, the sword sparked and clashed to a halt, visibly jarring the Justiciar; it had struck hard against Mattathias' armoured forearm. With a thrust of his arm, the Dreadnought struck him back hard against the Thunderhawk behind, jarring the sword out of his hand. The axe hovered just before Thasis' neck as Mattathias droned, "The quickest path to victory, Justiciar, is doing what needs to be done. Your blade had to be stopped; I stopped it. A scratch to my plating can be repaired. Your neck, however, cannot. My men understand this. Though their fighting may appear archaic to your eyes, they understand the quickest path to victory rests not in speed nor intricacy, but simple economy. Now-- shall we continue sparring, Justiciar?"
"Aye. We shall. And I am Keevan Thasis, Venerable Brother."
With a gravelly chuckle, Mattathias responded, "I am no Venerable, Keevan Thasis. I feel it in my bones when ye use that word. Call me Mattathias, or Brother-Lieutenant if you must be formal. Now-- on your guard!"
T -0.12.34 Hours till Deployment
The slide on the Crusade-pattern bolter slapped shut with a metallic snick as Maccabeus formally returned it to its bearer, the last Marine in the review line before him. He strode to the front of the line, and leaped upwards, power armour boosting him to a graceful landing upon the nose of the Thunderhawk. Turning around, he quietly dialed up the vox-boost on his helmet, and began speaking.
"Brother Marines, Brother-Lieutenant, what you shall see beneath only the Grey Knights here and I have seen before. This is the taint of the Ruinious Powers at its mightiest, blended with the unholy xenos-craft of the Eldar. Stand firm. Question not our orders. Sergeants Trypho, Asramel, step forward."
The two did so smoothly; once they were at attention, Maccabeus continued, "You have been briefed upon the specifics of what you may experience?"
They affirmed, and Maccabeus mused to himself that the Inquisition had indeed been thorough-- remarkable considering these men were effectively damned from the moment they exited the Warp...
"Very well. Brother-Lieutenant, I understand you distingushed yourself in sparring with Justiciar Thasis. Your weapon was an axe, was it not?"
"Yes, Chaplain. Brother Eleazar's Nemesis weapon. A worthy blade."
Maccabeus nodded and quietly remarked, "See me after this mission. We have a small armoury here; you are free to select any weapon you desire after I see your performance."
Increasing volume, he snapped out, "Form up and board your landing craft. Brother Mattathias, you will have to use a drop-pod due to your size. Justiciar, your squad shall accompany Trypho's in their Thunderhawk. I shall be with Asramel's. Dismissed!"
Mattathias strode up to his specially crafted Dreadnought drop-pod, and looked it over. "Chaplain, I am not certain I shall fit in this thing..."
"Nonsense, Brother-Lieutenant. I myself have taken drop-pods several times. This shall be no different for you-- more braking rockets perhaps, but aside from that it shall be the same. You shall be taking point, so you will launch simultaneously with the Thunderhawks. Your speed will land you faster than we get there; clear the landing zone if necessary. Understood?"
Mattathias turned around, and ponderously, backed up slowly. Watching, Maccabeus lifted his hands and signaled the Dreadnought to a better fit, and once Mattathias was snugly ensonced in the pod, he lifted the detachable doors that protected the interior from re-entry and sealed it tight. As he turned to board his Thunderhawk, he heard the hiss of impact gel filling the pod.
With a mighty blast, the pod was fired through linear acceleration motors, aimed directly at the Craftworld of Yghe'unusu below. Engines roaring in the confines of the hangar were suddenly silenced as the Thunderhawks entered void and followed the pod down.
The dome above the Craftworld's towers was suddenly cracked, and a hole punched through; wraithbone towers shattered as the drop-pod crashed through. The doors petaled open, and Mattathias charged forth, his fist crackling with energy. His body did a complete revolution around his waist, and with a click over the voxchannels he acknowledged the LZ was safe. Within moments, the landing craft growled to a stop. The front hatches fell open, and the Luna Wolves charged into combat for the first time in nine millennia.