The young Space Marine stared at the guard at the door, his shock evident. He was clad in formal robes instead of the usual power armor and while he carried his bolter slung across his back, only a fool would draw it when both guards at the door stood ready with power weapons in hand. Even in his power armor, he would not have had a chance. Both of these guards were handpicked champions, veterans of hundreds of years of combat. He stood well within their reach and neither was happy to see him.
"I do not understand." The Ultramarine known to some as Leandros simply stood, his jaw slack. "I requested an audience."
"What is to understand, stripling?" The guard on the left asked calmly. "Chapter Master Calgar does not wish to speak with you. His exact words were 'If I see him, he dies.'" At that, Leandros recoiled.
"What did you expect?" The other guard asked snidely. "A promotion? You betrayed your captain and your brothers to the Inquisition. You cost us Titus. Be very glad you are a full battle brother or you might have been sent to the Master of Servitors as punishment for such an act of faithlessness." To be turned into a cyborg to serve as a menial laborer for the rest of his existence... Leandros swallowed hard. Such a horror was unthinkable.
"I did as the Codex demanded." Leandros snapped.
"No." The first speaker retorted. "You were afraid."
"I know no fear!" Leandros snapped, his hand now on the grip of his boltgun. Neither of the others as much as flinched as he slowly released it. Even here, even now, he was still a battle brother and was allowed to carry weapons. He wondered at times if it was to give others an excuse to shoot.
"We have seen the transcripts of what happened on Graia." The other guards said firmly. "Whether you were afraid or not is immaterial. You chose to betray your brother captain to the Inquisition. Do not expect trust from any of us or any kind of leniency from the Chapter Master. You have your orders. Begone." The guard repeated.
Leandros stared at the two armored guards and then turned and walked away. He jerked as he saw a form in red power armor striding towards the door he had just been barred from. He turned and stared as the power armored Space Marine nodded to the two guards and they let him pass. The bewildered Ultramarine shook his head and started for the armory. He had a lot of work to do and a long time to do it. Ordinarily, a servitor would be tasked to clean the weapons that had been stored in the Ultramarine's armory since time immemorial. Some of those weapons hadn't been touched in millennia. He had no idea what a Vulkite Culverin was for or how it worked, but he had been tasked to make it functional and none of the Chapter's Techmarines would help him at all. That was merely the first of thousands of weapons that he had been detailed to refurbish. The list was two hundred pages long. Such menial work for a Space Marine was demeaning in the extreme.
Leandros was an Ultramarine. He would obey orders, no matter how they rankled. He still felt he had done the right thing, but no one else believed that. Maybe... Maybe he needed time to think.
He had plenty.
"I never expected to see you again, Captain Diomedes." The Chapter Master of the Ultramarines was cool and considered. He was both a peerless warrior and a matchless statesman in one. His armor even now bore the scars of honorable combat against the foes of the Imperium. The red armored Space Marine who stood before him nodded.
The Blood Ravens were not what they had been. For a long time, they had been as secretive or more so than even the Dark Angels who defined the word. They still had secrets, but then again, every Space Marine Chapter did. Now however, they had stepped out into the light. They had submitted to review by a number of authorities, including an embassy of Ultramarines. The fervor that had cleansed their ranks from the taint of the Ruinous Powers had been extreme but needed. Now? They were free of corruption for the moment, but many eyes would be watching.
"I know, but I had to say this. You were right." The red armored Space Marine shook his head. "I was wrong. Pride can blind any of us, but it took me completely. I give apology to you and your Chapter for insults given. For my blindness. For my arrogance and stupidity. I am just glad my flaws did not cost you as much as they cost me. Speak your sentence and I shall abide by it. We wronged you. We owe you." Such an admission hurt, that was clear to anyone with eyes. Marneus Calgar stared at the red armored form and then nodded.
"We all make mistakes, Captain Diomedes. You fought honestly and believed honestly. You were less than diplomatic, but your faith and honor was never in question. Anyone can be misled." The Chapter Master of the Ultramarines said after a moment. "You came all the way to Maccragge simply to apologize?" He didn't bother to keep the disbelief from his voice.
"Chapter Master Angelos has been loud about fixing things when we can." Blood Ravens Honor Guard Captain Apollo Diomedes said with a sigh. "Many things we did under the previous chapter master can never be fixed. We may never know the exact cost of Kyras' deceptions but what we can fix, we must. We caused strife between chapters. We cannot always trust the Imperium, but we have to trust our brothers in arms."
"Don't tell the Dark Angels that." Calgar said with a snort that Diomedes shared after a moment.
"I am not that stupid nor arrogant anymore." Diomedes agreed. "But the apology was only the official reason that I am here."
"And unofficial?" Calgar asked carefully.
"Squad Corvus was with the Liberation Fleet that was sent to Graia." Diomedes said softly. "We know what happened." Calgar tensed and Apollo raised a placating hand. "What is between your battle brothers is between them. We have no right to interfere in your chapter's politics nor would we wish to. We have enough trouble with our own. We have opinions of course. Everyone does, but we also have our duty to Emperor and Imperium."
Both Space Marines bowed their heads. It wasn't a religion, per say. Space Marines did not hold to the common Imperium belief of the Emperor as a god. They knew better. He hadn't been mortal and he hadn't really been human in most regards. He had created the Primarchs who had then fathered the Adeptas Asartes. Things had gotten complicated when many of said Primarchs and their legions had turned against the Emperor, but all Space Marines knew who they owed their very existence to.
"That we do." Calgar agreed when both raised their heads. "So... what?"
"Inquisitor Thrax is known to us." The Captain of the Blood Raven Honor Guard said firmly. Calgar stiffened and Dimoedes nodded. "We believe he is Radical."
"Oh, not again..." Calgar actually raised a hand to his face at that as Diomedes nodded.
The very thought of using some powers to fight darker powers was anathema to any right thinking Space Marine. It wasn't a matter of religion either. It was common sense. Some things just were too dangerous to play with. Unfortunately, not everyone thought that way. The Radical movement in the Inquisition seemed to think that the end always justified the means, even when it led to worse things eventually. Not much else was known about them. The Inquisition hid their secrets well. Still, the messes they left in their wakes were equal to some Adeptas Asartes assaults on occasion. Space Marines had been called into clean up a number of such messes. It was never pretty.
"We have no proof. We do not know what he is planning. We do not know that he is doing what his peers have." Diomedes said flatly. "But Captain Titus showed a resistance to Warp energies." Calgar stiffened again and Diomedes nodded. "Your battle brother Leandros was not quiet in his denunciations. The ranking Imperial Guard officer survivor, one Lieutenant Mira, was far more circumspect, but she tried to protest through channels. She vanished two weeks later." Calgar's eyes narrowed and Diomedes nodded. "According to records, an Inquisition ship left the system eight hours after that."
"From everything that I have seen of the records, that young lieutenant was a hero. All of her commanders were killed and her force was in tatters. Most Imperial Guard would have fled or died where they stood. She rallied her men and fought. Fought smart and fought hard. A credit to the Imperial Guard." Calgar said flatly. "She and her men stood against the whole Ork horde until Captain Titus' forces arrived." Diomedes nodded. "And even when the Traitor Legions struck, she held her men together. I know for a fact that her High Command was going to decorate her." Diomedes nodded again.
"Human she may be, but she is a credit to the Imperial Guard indeed." Diomedes agreed. "The Guard that I have spoken to about this are all in agreement. She was to be decorated and promoted. We do not know what happened to her, but we can guess."
"She was connected to Titus. So, you think this Inquisitor -Thrax- took her." Calgar looked as if he wanted to spit for a moment. "Titus surrendered to the Inquisitor to keep her men and his brothers from facing Inquisitorial wrath. If they took her..." He trailed off.
"Then the Inquisitor abrogated his oath and nothing he said can be trusted." Diomedes finished the thought. "We need to know what happened to her and Titus. The Blood Ravens stand ready to assist in any way we can." Calgar stared at him, apparently dumbfounded by such a declaration. "We have not always been comfortable allies, Chapter Master Calgar." Understatement of the millennia... Diomedes carefully did not say. He personally had called the chapter the 'Ultrasmurfs' a few times. Something he regretted now. "But we are Adeptas Asartes. We stand against the darkness in defense of the Imperium. If this Inquisitor took your captain, it cannot be for the good of the Imperium."
"We do not know that." Calgar frowned a little. "Titus was one of our best but even then, if there is doubt..." He trailed off as Diomedes shook his head. "What?"
"We are not ambivalent in this, Chapter Master." Diomedes said softly. "We lost one of our own and are seeking him as well. We believe Thrax may know his whereabouts." Calgar waved for him to continue and Diomedes took a moment to gather his thoughts. "What do you know of the Aurelian Crusade?"
"An attack by Orks and then Tyranids. Eldar were involved." Calgar replied instantly. "Your chapter stopped them, but there were repercussions. The Ruinous Powers came later. The Ordo Malleus moved in but then was called off." Odd that, but Calgar had seen odder in his career.
"Yes." Diomedes looked away and was that shame on his face? It was! "The second phase was not our finest hour. But the first part... That was." Calgar did not interrupt and the commander of the Blood Raven Honor Guard spoke again. "Whatever you have been told is incomplete. When the Orks were pushed to attack the sector by the Eldar, we had one strike cruiser with half a company in the sector. Two escort frigates. That was all." Calgar stared at him and Diomedes nodded. "Three squads of battle brothers. One squad of scouts. Led by the youngest Force Commander in our chapter's history."
"Half a company?" Calgar breathed. "They are a credit to your chapter."
"Them. Yes." Diomedes said sadly. "Not all of us." Calgar shook his head and Diomedes shook his. "What I am about to relate is virtually unknown outside of our chapter. When the Tyranids were defeated, the hive fleet splintered as they do." Calgar nodded. His chapter knew that enemy very well. "The Black Legion took advantage of the unsettled times to invade." Calgar nodded, he had known that. "What no one knows but us and now you is that Kyras had ties to the Black Legion." Calgar stiffened and Diomedes nodded. Such a thing was an affront to everything the Adeptas Asartes stood for. A chapter master of Space Marines working with the Ruinous Powers? Things started to make sense to Calgar that hadn't. No wonder the Inquisition had looked so closely at the Blood Ravens after such a mess. The Inquisition would not have hesitated to brand them all traitors if they had found any trace of further taint. Diomedes nodded as Calgar frowned in understanding. "We do not know how long or what form those ties took completely, but he spread the taint thoroughly through our brothers. When we discovered this, we acted. We serve the Emperor, not traitors."
"That will be hard to prove." Calgar was noncommittal.
"Agreed. We have purged our ranks severely, but now we have recovered." Diomedes said flatly. "Hence my mission here. I offer our assistance to the Ultramarines chapter to seek out this Inquisitor and determine what he is doing to your captain. If he is using powers that should not be used, we can notify the Inquisition."
"And what will they do?" Calgar demanded angrily. "Deny it? Cover it up? Sometimes I think Logan Grimnar has the right approach in dealing with those snakes." He shook his head. "Don't repeat that."
"Wouldn't dream of it." Diomedes said with a shrug. "Even if it is a horrific insult to snakes." Calgar shook his head again. "Thing is, the force commander who led the Aurelian Crusade was lost to us. We seek him and believe the one who took your captain may have answers as to where our lost brother may be."
"What is his name?" Calgar asked. "The force commander?" He froze as sorrow crossed Diomedes' face. "Captain?"
"I do not remember." The Blood Raven said sadly. "I can see his face. I can hear his voice. But Kyras erased his name from our minds. From all of our records. He fought with honor and upheld the Emperor's Light. He stood me off even when I was blinded by my pride and I cannot remember his name!" This last was almost a shout.
"The whole chapter?" The master of the Ultramarines seemed horrified. Diomedes nodded. "I...see."
"The Force Commander fled an order of execution. Or... I do not know. No one does." Diomedes said softly. "When Angelos took his fleet and went for help from the Imperium, the other stayed. He felt his duty was to the rest of us. Kyras ordered him executed." Diomedes scoffed. "Executed for killing a traitor in his midst who was corrupted beyond all hope of redemption. He simply vanished from the Strike Cruiser he had been confined aboard. None of his men knew where he went. Even after Kyras was defeated, when Angelos was elevated to Chapter Master and all who remained pure were exonerated, no one knew how he had escaped. Or if he had."
"If?" Calgar queried slowly.
"An Inquisition ship left the subsector that day." Diomedes replied. "None of us thought it amiss. They come and go as they will. There were more than few of them around. But it does seem convenient and Thrax was seen nearby about that time. I was busy hunting the Black Legion."
"That is thin." The Ultramarine Chapter Master sounded deep in thought.
"Agreed." Diomedes shrugged. "We have no other leads. One Inquisitor was determined to prove he had escaped into the Warp, but there was no residue. None of his wargear had any discernible taint."
"It can be insidious." Calgar mused, but then he scoffed. "If anyone knows that, you Blood Ravens do."
"We have been as careful as possible..." Diomodes allowed. "But Chapter Master Angelos wanted me to ask for more oversight." Calgar stared at him and Diomedes nodded. "Yours."
"You cannot be serious." It wasn't every day that the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines looked poleaxed. "What are you asking?"
"We want a closer relationship with the Ultramarines." Diomedes said softly. "This goes against the grain." Calgar nodded, but remained silent. "But we cannot allow what happened to happen again. We have to be more open, but... There must be limits. We bear secrets that must remain secret. Every chapter does." Calgar nodded soberly but did not interrupt. "Our secrets nearly cost us everything and Gabriel thinks we need more oversight. Oversight we can trust."
"His words?" The master of the Ultramarines asked carefully. The Blood Raven nodded. "I see."
"Only a fool doubts Ultramarine honor." Diomedes said softly. "I have been a fool, but not in this. Gabriel is correct. We need more eyes on this. We need to be absolutely sure the taint is gone."
"You are proposing an alliance?" Calgar asked, his thoughts obviously moving quickly. "Between the Ultramarines and the Blood Ravens? Or more?"
Chapters did not merge unless calamity befell them, calamity so severe that said chapter could not recover. To even contemplate such without such a calamity was well nigh unthinkable. Then again, wasn't that one thing the Blood Ravens did very well? The unthinkable?
"For now, Gabriel thinks joint training will suffice." Diomedes replied. "As for the future? None can say except maybe the Emperor. Gabriel wants a closer relationship and I cannot blame him. We have been under strength for so long it almost seemed proper. But it is not. We adhere to the Codex and we will prove it."
"This is not something for me to decide on whim." Calgar said flatly. Diomedes nodded. "I will think on this but for now... What did Angelos have in mind for joint training?"
"A hunt." Diomedes said with a smile that was less friendly, but not directed at Calgar.
"Thrax?" Calgar asked softly and then he nodded as Diomedes inclined his head. "If he took your Force Commander as well as our captain... Yes. I can see that. We have many questions for him."
"Then let us go get some answers." Diomedes paused. "Carefully."
"Oh, come now." Calgar actually laughed. "This is an Inquisitor we are talking about. If he is taking our brothers, then we need to know why. If he has good reason, then let him speak it. If not... Then we will speak with him." There was little doubt as to how the Ultramarine meant that. "You have personnel here?"
"The Heroes of Tython asked to seek their commander." Diomedes replied. "Gabriel said 'yes'."
"All of them?" Calgar asked dubiously.
"Captain Thule is in command, but Sergeants Tarkus, Thaddeus and Cyrus came with me." Diomedes smiled a bit grimly. "Techmarine Martellus came along. They are on one of the escorts that accompanied the Retribution here." He shook his head. "Not many of the others are left, but those who are, came. We need to know our brother's fate."
"As do we."