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And Guilliman spoke unto them, saying "We are the light in the darkness. We are the hope where all is despair. We are his hand that shall reach across the Universe. Where there is strife, we shall bring unity. Where there is ignorance, we shall bring the Emperor's wisdom. Where there is conflict, we shall bring the Emperor's Peace."
For an instant, matter and energy were one.
A moment of unity and of deadly danger, as the boundary between the physical universe and the Immaterium was pierced.
But as the portal stabilised, so the danger was averted. Through the portal slid the objects, gracefully from warp to space, energy to matter, the portal closing after them.
There were three ships. The Strike Cruiser Abukama and two Hunter class Destroyers,the Nachikaze and the Hayate, of the Space Marine Chapter known as the Crimson Guardians.
On the Command deck of the Abukama, Brother-Sergeant Hikaru gazed through the forward viewport at the planet before him.
It was the reason why he was here. It was the reason that the entire Third Company of the Chapter was present in this system.
The planet was called 'Picard's Landing', a green orb serenely rotating about the ageing yellow star of System N4822356541Q. It was an isolated outpost of no particular value, except to those for who it was home.
Nevertheless, the distress signal had come and could not be ignored. Some Chapters would ignore the request if they had 'pressing business' to attend to.
Not the Crimson Guardians. Their oaths were to the Emperor, to honour, and to all the Emperor's subjects. They would never refuse a cry for help, unlike the secretive Dark Angels. They would never attack the helpless, unlike the ruthless Marines Malevolent.
Therefore the Space Marines of the Third Company had answered the call.
And so here he was.
A voice distracted Hikaru from his reverie. He half-turned to see Ship-Master Saburota, standing at a half-bow.
"Ship-Master," he acknowledged, addressing the Chapter-Serf by his title.
"Lord Senshiro summons you, my Lord."
"Very well Ship-Master." Hikaru gave Saburota a brief nod and then strode towards the rear of the Command deck.
Chapter-Serfs, though mere servants to their Space Marine lords, were to be treated with good care and respect. Without them, the Chapter could not function. Saburota deserved particular respect, having risen to command the crew of a Strike Cruiser, which included a full parish of servitors. While he had no authority over Space Marines, he was nonetheless important.
Hikaru had known the Ship-master for eight years. A servant of his rank could only have been a failed aspirant, and he sometimes wondered how the faithful, competent Saburota had failed to become a Space Marine.
Not that the Ship-Master ever seemed bothered by it.
"Brothers, hear now our orders." Brother-Captain Senshiro was a magnificent presence, clad in ancient artificer armour painted in the Chapter's sacred colours. His piercing eyes swept over the assembled Sergeants.
"At 23:30 hours last eve, contact with the planetary command post was lost. The final message was a pulse-beam transmission received when we entered the system."
Pulse-beam transmissions were the fastest form of telecommunication after telepathy, yet it would have taken years for the transmission to even leave the solar system. It was generally used as a last resort, if no astropaths were available.
And all present knew what that might mean.
"From what information has been gleaned from the transmission, the attackers make use of large repulsor-craft, against which the PDF's weaponry had little effect." The Captain gestured to a servitor working at the hologram projector. The cyborg made no response, but the hologram projector hummed into life. It showed an image of what appeared to be a human, wearing a tight-fitting blue costume.
"These are shown acting as infantry," the Captain explained. "We know little else about them, so I expect the proper caution from you all. I have authorised the equipage of orbital strike homers should you encounter one of the enemy repulsor-craft. The firepower of our sacred vessels may be necessary in order to deal with them."
None of them showed any fear, any feeling at all, but Hikaru knew the truth all the same. They were wondering if a single Company was enough to deal with this threat.
The Crimson Guardians did not follow the Codex Astartes to the letter. Although a Company was approximately the size specified in the Codex, they were not specialised in the same manner. They were battle forces in themselves, each with its own Terminators, Veterans, Assault Squads, Devastators and vehicles. If these enemies would require orbital bombardments to defeat them, then a single Company might prove insufficient.
But they were not intimidated. The Crimson Guardians would fight to the death to punish the murderers of the helpless, no matter what they were or how much power they wielded.
"This is all we know of them," the Captain went on. "Therefore let caution temper your courage and let wisdom guide your actions. We shall make our landing at the planetary command post and increase our understanding of the situation." He moved in front of the hologram in order to have their full attention.
"Pass this knowledge on to your squads, and then bring them for absolution to Chaplain Yukio in the shrine. We go to battle to avenge those whom the alien has slain." He laid his clenched right fist over his heart in the Chapter's formal salute.
"Warriors of honour! Avengers of the fallen!" he roared exultantly.
"Guardians without hate! Our cause is just!" they chanted in reply, returning the salute.
The one-hundred marines of the Third Company knelt on the cold steel floor of the Shrine, clad in their dark red power armour, staring forwards to the front, where the icons were arrayed. The Imperial Eagle hung in pride of place, with the Chapter's own symbols arrayed around it. The side walls were painted with enormous murals depicting the deeds of past Crimson Guardians, with another mural at the front under the Eagle, depicting the battle between the Emperor and the traitor Horus. Clusters of flickering candles provided illumination, and the smell of holy incense hung in the air.
"Lux Imperatoris luciat omnes," Chaplain Yukio intoned piously in High Gothic.
"Fortitum sacrum dona eis, Domine in Terram" the marines chanted in reply.
"Imperator dominus eternam."
"Imperator defendit triumphans."
Chaplain Yukio stood silent as the banners of the Third Company were brought forward to receive consecration. Brother Shirai, the Icon Bearer, carried the Company's Standard, the Sergeants each brought their Squad Icons. The Chaplain touched his Crozius Arcanum to the pole of each banner in turn, saying "In nomine Imperatoris, animus effet."
As this was carried out, servitors walked along the lines of kneeling marines, anointing their brows with holy water. Once this was done, more servitors did likewise, returning to the marines their freshly-consecrated weapons.
Once these sacred tasks were complete, Chaplain Yukio razed his Crozius Arcanum in benediction.
"Imperator Vobiscum, domines pugnae."
"Ad majorum Imperati gloriam" the marines responded, completing the Rite of Preparation. As one they stood up, and then filed out by squad, singing "My all for thee, Imperator" until all had left.
The wind whistled, blowing at the robes that covered his black armour.
Adamar could hear the wind, as well as he could feel the mist-shrouded ground beneath his feet.
What he could not hear, however, was them.
He had enough problems without them, as he had long before he came to this world. There were powerful forces pursuing him, forces that would stop at nothing to apprehend him and thwart his mission.
His sacred mission. His necessary mission. The mission that had kept him alive for all this time.
He was not sure for how long he had been wandering between the stars. It felt like a thousand years, maybe more.
Becoming stranded on this planet was one of the biggest setbacks of his lonely Crusade. Unless someone came, he would be stuck here indefinitely.
Stranded, on the fringe of Imperial space. Unable to pass on the terrible truth that he had carried for so long. The truth that others wished to hide, the truth that set him against his own brethren, for they would do anything rather than let the truth be known.
Satisfied that there were no enemies close by, Adamar knelt on the frozen turf and offered a silent prayer to the Emperor.
"Immortal Lord, give me the strength to endure." He also prayed to…
He could not. Not after everything that had happened. Not after what had been done ten thousand years ago.
At least, not until his task was completed.
It was no small thing to live for three hundred years. One quickly grew accustomed to solitude, for what point was there in seeking companionship from those who were not like himself? Normal humans were frail, temporary beings. Though a few had wealth or connections enough to afford life-extending treatments, the lives of most humans seemed to short to him, so painful, so desperate, so rushed.
It was why he was who he was. If he could take just one cup of suffering from the hands of beleaguered humanity, then every sacrifice would be worthwhile.
Then he heard it. He could almost sense it. The minute vibrations in the air.
He flung himself sideways. It whistled past him, tearing a hole in his hood as it went. Adamar rolled to his feet, his senses alert, looking all around, straining his enhanced eyes and ears to detect the foe.
There they were, appearing out of the mist. Light-footed, clad in pale blue, carrying exquisite and vicious-looking close combat weapons.
They looked vaguely like Eldar, and might fool a casual observer, but he knew that they were not. Agile though they were, they lacked the effortless grace with which the Eldar bore themselves.
And besides, if they were real Eldar he would be dead by now.
They walked towards him, stylised faces impassive.
"Cycle vision 360 degrees," Adamar whispered. He saw that there were more of them to the sides and behind, making twelve in all.
This made no sense. When he had fought them before, they would simply charge him, even in a situation like this. It was unlike them to take the time to surround him.
Unless their mission had changed.
Unless they were here to take him alive.
"Fools," he thought, with what might have been a hint of amusement. "They killed everyone else. And now I'm all that's left and they want information."
Adamar hefted his boltgun and took aim at one of the approaching enemies. The HUD in his helmet told him that he had twenty rounds left. Glancing momentarily at the boltgun, he noted another clip in the auto-reloader. No shortage, but nor was it an excuse for wastage. He would make every shot count.
He pulled the trigger. With a crack and a whoosh the bolt went on its way. He saw the target try to dodge, but too late. The bolt struck it in the shoulder and exploded, flinging it backwards in a mist of what might have been blood.
As though sensing that their prey would not go without a fight, the remaining humanoids charged. They closed the distance rapidly, coming closer and closer as Adamar fired again and again. Two more went down, blasted apart by the explosive bolter shells, but they continued undeterred.
Two of them grabbed his boltgun and tried to wrench it from his grasp. Two more grabbed his other arm, while the remaining enemies piled onto him, trying to bring him down by sheer weight.
Adamar staggered, flailing his pinioned arms in a futile attempt to shake them off. It was obvious now that they were trying to take him alive. Their weight made his knees buckle, forcing him slowly down. No matter how much he struggled, how much he thrashed, they would not give in.
As they overwhelmed his body, despair began to overwhelm his soul, the voices that had haunted him for three centuries. The voices that told him to give up, to lie down and die.
They told him that he could not win. They told him that it was hopeless, that the entire universe was arrayed against him, that the Emperor had turned from him."
But he could not let them win. He could not be defeated now. He could not die on this faraway world, with the terrible truth unspoken.
He rose like a phoenix. With a shout of fury he let go of the boltgun and brought his now free hand around to strike one of the humanoids in the face. The delicate features caved in under the impact and the humanoid fell twitching to the ground.
Another enemy tried to grab his bloodstained arm, but as it tried Adamar thrust his hand forward caught the enemy's neck. He squeezed, ignoring its attempts to break free, then twisted quickly and violently. With a crack, the thing went limp.
Tossing the body away, Adamar reached over his shoulder. Ignoring the humanoids as they pulled at his arm, he grasped the hilt of his chainsword.
He pulled the weapon free, thumbed the switch, and brought it down on one of the humanoids he had earlier dislodged. The jagged teeth cut straight through neck and shoulder, whirring and grinding, spraying the 'blood' everywhere.
The rest was a blur, his mind shrouded in a red mist. He heard only the roar of the chainsword, the wet crunching as the blade went through flesh and bone.
Strike, and again, and again. The strange creatures were not living beings, but targets to be killed.
Yet even as they died, even as they were hewn limb from limb, they tried to restrain him. And so they died, obedient to the last, following their order to take him alive at any cost.
Then all of a sudden, there were no more enemies.
The haze faded. Adamar looked around and saw only death. There they lay, some twitching nauseatingly. Their blood, for want of a better word, was splashed over his robes, over the bodies, over the frozen turf.
Adamar bent down and picked up one of the wicked-looking weapons, it's user's hand and forearm still attached. It consisted of two blades, one above and one below the hilt, forming an S shape. The blades were smooth, slightly curved, and extremely sharp.
He had seen what they did to the humans on this planet. He had seen those blades slice clean through flesh and bone, yet they did not seem to be powered in any way.
He tore some cloth from the uniforms of the dead humanoids and wrapped up the weapon and the arm. One look at the severed appendage had confirmed his suspicions. The Adeptus Mechanicus would be very interested in these trophies, and it was his duty to get it to them as soon as possible, if his mission allowed it.
After stowing the surreal parcel in his pack and sheathing the chainsword, he walked over to his fallen bolter and bent to pick it up.
As he straightened up he heard another noise. A noise that had become horribly familiar. Soft, high-pitched humming. The sound of a repulsor-craft.
It was not enough that they send their servants after him. Now they were coming in force. Evidently they wanted him badly.
With the strange and terrible sound ringing in his ears, Adamar hurried away.
(First chapter completed. I used Latin for the Rite because Latin, or words that look like Latin, keep popping up all over Warhammer 40000, so it might be similar to High Gothic. Say so if you would like translations, and any thoughts are much appreciated. Please review if you want me to carry on.)