Medusa System, Ultima Segmentum

Medusa System, Ultima Segmentum

Captain Adiso Paulos had never seen a man so fatigued as General Sturnn. The Imperial Guard general seemed to be fighting the urge to rest, less he dishonor the Imperial Guardsmen and Space Marines still waging bloody war on the dying world of Medusa V. The war on Medusa V had been a short, brutal and rather bizarre conflict. Imperial forces had come to Medusa V in order to evacuate its loyal citizens and prevent the forces of Chaos from transforming the planet into a Daemon world. The warriors of humanity, however, soon found themselves in the middle of a free-for-all against every major power in the Milky Way galaxy. Somehow, either through the providence of the Emperor, the Imperium had managed to break the backs of the Xenos and heretics and succeed in their objectives. The price was incredibly high. General Sturnn's Cadian 412th Shock Troop Regiment had taken nearly 45 percent casualties. And the regiment had been fighting alongside a full company of Space Marines. There had been whispers of entire regiments being completely destroyed. Worse, there were not enough transports or time to evacuate all the Imperial forces before Van Grothe's Rapidity consumed Medusa V. Captain Paulos had prayed for the Emperor's forgiveness almost constantly for that sin.

Captain Paulos raised his voice and called out to the Imperial Guard officer. "General Sturnn, we will be executing our Warp Jump momentarily."

General Sturnn moved closer to the command chair where the Captain was seated. "My troopers are aboard I assume?"

Captain Paulos looked up to General Sturnn, in the literal and figurative sense. Sturnn was one of the few Imperial Guard commanders who did not spend his men's lives like currency. He was also as physically imposing as any non-Astartes human Adiso had ever seen. Sturnn's height advantage over Paulos was amplified by the fact that the captain was wired into the command chair.

"They are all aboard and I have ordered my medical staff to render any and all aid to your men."

General Sturnn smiled weakly. "You have my gratitude. If you will excuse me Captain, I must attend to my regiment."

"Of course, General." Captain Paulos bowed his head politely and Sturnn returned the gesture and left.

A junior officer informed Captain Paulos that the Gellar Fields were operating at peak efficiency. Captain Paulos thanked the Machine Spirits of the Palma and recited a quick prayer to the Emperor.

"Status on our escorts and the Spartan Ward?"

The ship's astropath contacted the captain from his secure position within the ship. "All ships are ready to enter the Immaterium on your orders, captain."

"Commence Warp Jump."

The space surrounding Medusa V was burning with the energies of the Warp, and the holes in reality opened by the flotilla of Imperial ships were like a candle next to a funeral pyre. In an instant the vessels vanished, and in that instant, everything changed.

Cairo Station, Earth Orbit, Sol System

Sergeant Avery Johnson smiled as looked at the blue hunk of rock filling the viewports of Cairo Station.

"Earth. Haven't seen her in years. You know, when I shipped out for basic, the orbital defense grid was all theory and politics. Now look at it. The Cairo is just one of 300 geo-synch platforms."

He then turned and shook his head at his silent comrade and friend, Spartan-117. Spartan-117, Master Chief, as he was known was one of the last surviving Spartan-IIs. He was an intimidating sight at nearly 7 feet tall and clad in MJOLNIR armor. This intimidation didn't even register to the soldiers of the UNSC. Instead, the Chief was a shining symbol of hope that maybe; just maybe, humanity had a shot in the War. The Chief's turned his gaze towards the vast number of human ships orbiting Earth.

Johnson crossed his arms. "They've been arriving all morning. Something huge is about to happen, Chief."

The tram they had been riding came to a stop. Outside, dozens of cheering marines and several hovercams were awaiting Sgt. Johnson and Master Chief's arrival.

Master Chief looked directly at Johnson. "I thought you said there weren't going to be any cameras."

Johnson snorted. "And you said you were gonna wear something nice. People need heroes Chief. So smile, while there's still something to smile about!"

The bridge of Cairo station was a hive of activity. Though this was an award ceremony for Johnson, Master Chief and the late Captain Keyes there were other matters at hand.

Lord Hood looked as if he were appraising the two arrivals. "Gentlemen, glad to have you back. I'm sorry but we'll have to keep this short."

An aide whispered something to Lord Hood and the commander of naval operations nodded. "Go ahead Cortana."

The AI known as Cortana materialized on the holoprojector. "Sir, we're detecting severe spatial distortions near Io. Probes are in route."

Lord Hood turned to his aide and began to speak in hushed tones. Cortana turned towards the Chief and Johnson and smiled.

"You look nice."

"Thanks." The two soldiers replied in unison. Chief and Johnson flashed a glance at each other, if it was annoyance or in good humor Cortana couldn't tell.

"Sgt. Major. The Colonial Cross is awarded for singular acts of courage and daring…"

Lord Hood was interrupted by dozens of alarm klaxons. The room erupted into activity as the space above Luna's 'northern' pole appeared as if it was burning. The Master Chief and assorted UNSC personnel were overwhelmed by the most horrific of smells. The holoprojector, where moments before Cortana had been 'standing' had become a bubbling fountain of human blood. A pair of towers of assorted bones grew from the center of the room and a waterfall of blood flowed between them. Several UNSC personnel panicked and attempted to flee. Then the horror came. A creature as tall as Master Chief emerged from the abomination in the center of the bridge. It was a scene from a more superstitious time. The creature's feet ended in cloven hooves and the demon's body was a rusty color. Its head was flanked by the horns of a ram and it had 8 spider-like eyes.

The demon marched forward and roared. "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!"

It proceeded to cut its own wrists with its massive horns. The blood flowing from the wounds coalesced into two massive axes. In a flash, numerous UNSC personnel were cut down by the demon.

Master Chief turned to Johnson and shouted over the cries of the dying and the bellows of the abomination. "I need a weapon!"

Sgt. Johnson motioned to the other side of the room. The Spartan and the marines present grabbed the heaviest weapons in the security locker and immediately rushed to engage the foul creature. The mass fire from the soldiers was wounding the creature, but the thing's smile only seemed to broaden.

"Khorne does not care from where the blood comes!"

A swing of the massive axes cut down seven marines, but the continuous fire eventually took out one of the beat's knees and a volley of submachine gun fire destroyed one of the creature's arms. Master Chief advanced and aimed his shotgun. The demon looked up at the Spartan and hissed.

"Your actions have pleased the Blood God greatly. A pity we do not fight as brothers…"

Master Chief did not hesitate and pulled the trigger. The entire demon exploded into a cloud of blood as the tower disappeared.

Cortana reappeared into the holoprojector and grimaced. "I hate to be the bearer of more bad news but a fleet has just emerged from the spatial disturbance."

Lord Hood didn't even turn to face the AI, so transfixed by the horrific carnage that had engulfed his bridge. "Covenant?"

Cortana shook her head. "Definitely not. There are no records of any vessels resembling the new fleet."

Warp/Reality Overlay above Luna

Captain Paulos gazed open-mouthed at the world filling the viewports of the Palma. It was a glorious sight. He knew that he had to still be in the Warp, that world hadn't existed in millennium. General Sturnn, who had recently returned to the bridge stood beside the naval captain.

"Is something wrong? What world is that?"

Captain Paulos shook his head. "This must be some foul trick of the Ruinous Powers, a ploy to confuse us. Something. We can't be looking at this world! Not anymore!"

The concern in General Sturnn's voice was rising. "Captain! What world are we looking at!"

Captain Paulos craned his neck to look the general in the face. "This world is Ancient Terra!"