This fic was inspired by Toasterman's fuckawesome Starcraft/40k fic,"The Confederate." Basic plot is: uberfuntastic Starcraft character gets sent into the grimdark far future. While I was reading it, I thought "Hey, what would happen if you sent some people the other way?"
After reading the reviews I've been getting, I'll be slowly revising my older chapters (like this one) to be 1) less confusing and 2) more fun (hopefully). Reviews and criticism appreciated, as always!
So, shutting up now, and…well…enjoy!
Also, just for reference:
"A character is talking."
A character is thinking.
Primary flight deck, battleship Armageddon
High orbit, Trieste II, Ultima Segmentum
May 21, 998.M41
Parade duty. We live through Trieste, and they give us parade duty.
"Officers..." newly-promoted Sergeant Mathias sighed to himself, as if it explained everything. Perhaps it did. Mathias and the rest of the '1st Trieste Regiment' (although everyone just kept their old unit insignia) was assembled in the Armageddon's cavernous main landing bay, lasguns at their sides and wearing whatever kit they'd held onto during the fight. Mathias wasn't sure, but scuttlebutt held that the other survivors had been 'regimented' and were, like him, held on the other ships of the fleet. The ribbed ceiling of the bay echoed from the pounding of thousands of boots, and Mathias spared a glance at the activity.
Another regiment was pouring into the room from recessed hallways, and Mathias could see the newly-promoted command staff of the Trieste Guard moving towards the raised dais at the front of the room. Mathias sighed…speech time. Despite the ever-vigilant priests and commissars prowling at the edges of the formation, Mathias felt his eyelids drooping.
The figure who ascended the dais, however, instantly woke Mathias up. A Space Marine, high-ranking too by the looks of his armor, was going to make a speech. Having been rescued from the 'nids by the Imperial Hawks back on Trieste, Mathias had a healthy respect (and fear, too) of the Marines. He'd seen them slaughter Gaunts faster than orbital support could, beat an ambushing Lictor to the attack, and take on 'fexes – and win. But seeing a Marine speak? This was new.
Captain Nicodemus, 4th Company, Mentor Legion, hated speeches. When given the choice between leading an incursion into the Eye of Terror or giving lectures to the Cadian command staff, Nicodemus had foisted the speech-making on one of his lieutenants and spent several weeks happily hunting Bloodthirsters.
If the Chapter Master himself hadn't ordered it, Nicodemus would have point-blank refused the request from Ultima Segmentum Command, and damn the consequences, too. Turn a rabble of broken, disunified survivors into working Guard regiments? Make a functioning fleet out of the remnants of an entire Sector Fleet and its inexperienced crew? By the Emperor, most of them don't even speak the same language!
But he'd been ordered, so Nicodemus and the 4th Company had come to the 157th Fleet to turn broken, hollow men into functioning soldiers again. And to add to the Captain's agony, Mentors lore recommended a rousing speech to inspire the scattered Guardsmen. The Captain gazed across the suddenly-quiet ranks of Guardsmen, frowning at their lack of discipline; nearly all the soldiers stood in the characteristic "veteran's slouch." Still, he had to privately admit that they'd earned it. How many of them were left? One out of a hundred? A thousand? Frakkit.
A massive bio-enhanced giant, resplendent in gold filigree and his green-white armor, Nicodemus was (deliberately) imposing for normal humans. He knew he'd need whatever respect he could get from the Guardsmen for what came next. Removing his helm, the Mentor presented his bone-white face to the Guardsmen and holo-'corders broadcasting across the fleet.
1. Name previous victories.
"I am Captain Nicodemus," his vox-enhanced voice boomed. "I have fought the Emperor's enemies for over 500 years, across three Segmentums. I have triumphed against the Orks, Tyranids, Eldar, and the Great Enemy." and the other missions I can't talk about.
2. Name previous defeats.
"I have been defeated in combat numerous times." Muttering from the assembled soldiers; this already-unexpected speech had taken another strange turn. "I have lost to Eldar xenos in sword combat, been swarmed by Tyranids, and lost my bearings from Chaos treachery." The room erupted in an outbreak of whispering, despite the Commissars' best efforts to silence it.
"None of these enemies who bested me yet live today, while I stand before you untouched. I live today because of my comrades, my discipline, and my faith." A massive armored hand swept over the assembled Marines: "These warriors provided a bulwark and strength and ." Another dramatic sweep: "My reliance on the proven tactics of our ancestors, handed down through millennia of experience, kept let me triumph against all foes." Chew on that, Reinholdt! "My faith in the Emperor and the Imperium has kept me clear of doubt, despite the foes that I faced."
"Guardsmen of the Imperium, you have faced the Great Devourer and triumphed through the actions of your comrades, your use of true Imperial ideals, and your faith. My Mentors will continue to lead and inspire you through your next campaign, and teach you to better destroy the Imperium's foes." And now for the kicker... "The regiment which performs best in the upcoming campaign shall be rewarded with retirement. Its members will be sent to their home planets or given land and work on Trieste, along with a lifelong pension."
There weren't too many cheers; it wasn't that sort of speech. As officers and noncoms ushered their men back to their quarters, the soldiers of the Trieste Guard considered the possibility of actually escaping the Imperial Guard. Little more than a pipe dream on most planets, ("Once you're in the Guard, you're in to stay" was the saying) the specter of freedom now hung above the dispirited men. Many Guardsmen did not believe the Marine's promise, while others were still too shell-shocked to notice. Slowly but surely, however, the dream of 'retirement' began to take root.
Exiting the swarming hall, Nicodemus approached a door guarded by a silent, bolter-armed Marine. Although his face-concealing helm hid his expression, the Captain could tell by his stance that he was grinning.
"Another rousing speech, my lord."
Nicodemus responded with a grin of his own. "Cut the groxshit, Sergeant."
"Of course, my lord. I exist merely to facilitate the elucidative exchange of relevant information."
Closing and dogging the hatch as they continued towards the bridge, Nicodemus let out a laugh. "By the Emperor, I will never make another speech!" His grin fading, the Mentors Legionnaire glanced at the dataslate he held. "The Lady-Commissar is unhappy with our efforts again?"
"The Lady-Commissar exists in a state of perpetual rage. We've merely been the target for this latest outburst."
"Still, she does have a way with words: '…the seditious leanings of the Mentors Legion, particularly when compared with the virtuous efforts of the Imperial Hawks…' how are they faring, anyway?"
The sergeant cocked his head slightly. "They report near-total cleansing of the infestation, and they're due back in two weeks or less."
"So, planet cleared but friendly forces still broken?"
"More or less, my lord. Morale reached rock-bottom a month ago and started digging. Discipline's a mess, resupply efforts are an awful joke, and less than a fourth of the equipment is combat-ready." Sergeant Cato, a child Guardsman prior to being recruited into the Mentors Legion, always kept a keen eye on his allies' supplies and morale.
Nicodemus sighed. "Very well. Aside from our little relations-building efforts, is there any further help incoming from Segmentum Command?"
The sergeant consulted his HUD. "Resupply is promised, along with additional equipment to make up for vehicle and aircraft losses. A Deep-Range Explorator Fleet will rendezvous with the fleet tomorrow. They've promised to repair, refit, and overhaul anything with more than one moving part."
"Good news for a change. How goes the training?"
"It goeth, it goeth but slowly, my lord. Your little speech helped, but we've been forced to integrate twenty different sets of tactics and strategy. Progress has been slow at best."
"Teach our more experimental tactics, but claim that they're traditional. This mission may be far beyond our usual efforts, but let's make the most of it and use the whole battlegroup as a testing ground."
"Understood, my lord."
Leaving Cato behind, Nicodemus entered the muted bridge.
Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap.
"Congratulations, Captain. You've managed to single-handedly wreck the fearsome reputation that the Imperial Hawks spent so long instilling in the Trieste Guard." The shadow of Lady-Commissar Reinholdt detached itself from the wall as the short, stocky woman strode towards the hulking Space Marine. "Now we can happily motivate our Guardsmen with stories of how a near-legendary Marine officer was defeated by the same foes they face!"
Nicodemus grunted. "Good to see you too."
Looking away from the furiously glaring Lord-Commissar, the Captain glanced around the bridge. Servitors, menials, and officers worked at various consoles, the hum and scattered whispers of a ship at rest filling the room. The Marine's enhanced vision picked out two red glimmers near the shadowed captain's chair: the Admiral was watching.
"Good morning, captain. I trust your little…speech was successful?" the reedy voice echoed from above. Although it might sound weak, Nicodemus had seen that same voice raised in battle in the holo-recordings, and recognized the steel that lay under the Admiral's light tone.
"Likely, Admiral. Unit camaraderie is still weak, however. The Mentors will require at least one month to train the men effectively."
A flutter in the shadows as the Admiral waved his hand. "Take your time, Captain. The fleet will remain for at least two months as the Mechanicus restores and restocks."
"Leaving the Imperium without our help!" the commissar exploded. "Planets are under siege, good Imperial citizens in danger, while we twiddle our thumbs and wait!"
"Enough!" The Marine didn't glance at the newcomer. Striding into the bridge, cloak flapping and armored boots echoing on the deck, newly-promoted Governor-General Kalj glared at the Lady-Commissar. "Right now, I wouldn't trust my men to win against Ratlings! We need training, we need weapons, and we need time most of all!"
Glancing around the suddenly-still bridge, Nicodemus idly wondered what the lower-decks rumor mill would make of this. "Sirs, perhaps we should adjourn to a briefing room to continue this conversation."
Glaring at the Marine and the General, Reinholdt realized that she was outnumbered. "This isn't over," she shot over her shoulder as she stomped from the bridge.
"Indeed it isn't," he murmured quietly, before glancing back up at the shadow-shrouded Admiral. "Full fleet meeting, your quarters, 1700 tomorrow, all relevant parties." Pivoting on one heel, he strode out from another hatch.
"He does realize that he lacks power over me?" the Admiral commented to the Marine.
"More likely that he simply doesn't care," Nicodemus responded. "Besides, with his armed veterans berthed in all of your ships, he does hold a fairly important bargaining chip over you."
"And without my communications gear, he can't incite those men to revolt."
"Perhaps then, Admiral, you should consult with the Guard's astropaths and psyker teams before making such a claim."
The Admiral remained hidden, but the Marine knew he was scowling. "Bastard."
"True," the Marine responded. "Still, it would behoove you to host that meeting."
Admiral's quarters, Armageddon
High orbit, Trieste II, Ultima Segmentum
May 25, 998.M41
The Admiral's stately public rooms were filled nearly to capacity with the flood of dignitaries. Fleet Captains rubbed shoulders with the officer corps of the newly-created Trieste Guard Regiments. Several red-robed, high-ranking Mechanicus Techpriests stood out among the crowd, while white-robed Navy and Guard chaplains jostled for attention.
Nicodemus held his own personal space by virtue of his large bulk and human-sized weapons. While every human in the room carried sidearms, as required by Imperial law, most were purely ceremonial. Interestingly enough, the Captain noted that many of the lower-ranking Fleet officers and virtually all of the Guardsmen present possessed weapons with battle damage on it. The Marine nodded his head slowly, surprising the skittish adjutant in front of him: the Fleet had taken severe damage from Tyranid mycetic spores, and the Guard command posts had frequently come under heavy attack.
The entire room, in fact, was distinctly uneasy. Generally, an integrated fleet like this would have spent months or years in transit before reaching combat, giving time for the feudal factions in the Imperial system to make a lasting peace and establish a semi-stable hierarchy. This fleet, formed from the remnants of the Navy and Guard units sent into the meatgrinder at Trieste, was on edge as the various elements of Imperial power jockeyed for power.
Nicodemus, once trained by an astropath to recognize Warp signs, suddenly recognized the ozone stink of it on his right. Casually dropping his gauntleted hands to rest near his weapons, the Marine turned to face the psyker addressing him.
"So, Captain, are you enjoying yourself yet?"
The Captain's mouth twisted. Psyker: estimate Primaris-level. "Today is a perfectly good day to kill more xenos, and yet I wait hand and foot on a puffed-up noble. Tell me, should I be enjoying myself?"
The psyker smirked. "You Marines and your work. Tell me, then, did you enjoying admitting your faults to the men of the fleet today? Did that little soul-clearing help that duty of yours?"
The Marine's features softened. Use chainsword, cut before target can counter with Warp-shielding. Chance of success high. "My duty here, psyker, is to train the humans of this fleet to better serve the Emperor. If I can do so by admitting my faults and making myself appear 'human,' I will do so." Nicodemus's face hardened again. "And if half of the men must die to make the others fight like daemons, I will carry out the executions with my bare hands."
The Warp-signs rose again. Post-operation evacuation routes: left 15m, rear 12m, above 8m. "Well, Captain, I'll leave you to your homicidal thoughts. And do you really think that I'm without chainsword-proof shielding right now?"
Aah…sweet, sweet politics. The Admiral savored the moment, before nodding to his herald. With flying cherubs blaring trumpet music from implanted voice-casters and blowing miniature cornets above his head, the still-shrouded Admiral entered the main hall and sat on his tertiary command throne.
"Attention! The Admiral speaks!" the herald bellowed, pounding the floor once with his shock-staff. Surveying the crowd, the Admiral began to speak quietly, forcing the assembled dignitaries to lean in to hear him.
"Lords and ladies of the Ultima Segmentum's 157th Fleet, we stand at a crossroads. Our fleet is battered, our Guardsmen divided. Although the Imperium's many enemies continue to press on, we must rest and gather our strength before facing them in open-"
"Cowardice! Rank cowardice, from the very leaders who must inspire the lower ranks!" A priest burst from the milling crowds, shaking his fist at the dais. Nicodemus could see naval security troopers closing in, although slowed by the crowds. "The true Imperials here shall not stand for this treas-" WHUMP.
The priest dropped like a rock, the flat of Nicodemus's chainsword impacting in his gut. As he crumpled slowly, wheezing for air, the crowds shifted. None of them missed the shift; by striking the dissenter, Nicodemus had just cast himself (and his Marines) alongside the Admiral.
High orbit, Trieste II, Ultima Segmentum
The room was pitch black, lit only by several pin-pricks of red light. It would seem barren to un-augmented eyes; only those with the right blessings could see the Presence that lurked there. The twin lights approached the Presence, tilting downwards as the first figure bowed.
-Objective reached. Commencing primary objective.-
Continue without delay. Avoid discovery at all costs.
-What shall we do if it occurs?-
The project must take priority.
-And if they resist?-
Execute plan Omega.
So, that's the chapter! A few quick notes:
1. This fic will have plenty of talky-talky alongside the shooty-shooty. As a politics major, I've always been interested in the crazy neo-feudalism of the 40k Imperium, so their crazy politics will get plenty of space on the page. If you're looking for a fic with more BOOM FOR THE BOOM GOD!, try "My Other Car Is A Warhound" (crappy name, I know), which is basically '4 psychos and a Titan.' Aaand if you want to see some hawt Starcraft on 40k action, try Toasterman's "The Confederate."
2. If you thought Nicodemus's public speech was pretty crappy, then consider: why should a Marine be any good at public speaking? Basically, I'm trying to show a Marine acting as best as he can in a situation that he's totally unprepared for. Comments/criticism on this sort of thing are very welcome; let me know what you think!