"All failings are personal failings for a Space Marine! Our power
is too great for the excuse of powerlessness. Self-administer fifty lashes,
and don't let it happen again!"
-Sigismund, First Captain of the Imperial Fists,
Ordering the Punishment of Sergeant Claus
and his Squad after the siege of Galdor Hive
"Your slipping, brother."
Friedrich's épée flashed forward, surprising Claus and causing him to lose balance. He hastily parried it away before Friedrich could draw blood, and cursed himself inwardly for the unforgivable failing of losing concentration. Honour duels were sacred affairs, and no Astartes, let along a Fist, should defile them with the crime of daydreaming. It was bad enough that he was complied to defend his name before his brothers by combat, let along that he fail. Hesitation, hesitation and contemplation are for guardsmen, not Imperial Fists.
Their feet bound into blocks and their eyes hidden behind steel, grated masks, Claus and Friedrich stood facing each other before a clocked battle brother his face hidden, with slim swords named the épée by the Old Tribes of the Frank. Their chests and arms wear bear, exposing the gigantic physic and scared flesh brought about by the controlled mutation of the Gene seed and a lifetime of unrelenting military life. Claus had been on Crusade for approximately a century and a half, such a term of duty unimaginable to the mere human warriors from which the strict behavioural code of the Imperial Fists had been devised. Friedrich had been on Crusade for a mere half a century and had was already challenging Claus' honour. This fight was to maintain what was left of his standing after the Galdor incident.
If I don't win now, my chances of promotion are gone, I may even lose my squad. What's worse, the Company's name will be soiled by my shame.
The Prussic codedemanded perfection in all affairs of military and state, and attention to every detail and a punishment for every slip. Claus had slipped on Galdor, and he had been facing the consequences of that slip ever since.
He regained his balance, and put all thought from his mind. Friedrich was a good Marine, but didn't him in experience, this should be easy. If only I could think straight, I wouldn't have to waste time on a fight which is beneath me. Claus cursed his lack of focus, and launched an assault on Friedrich, fainting to the left and then slashing up to the left. Friedrich beat it away and lunged straight at Claus.Claus struck the incoming blade away, and as Friedrich recovered himself, he whipped his blade across Friedrich's check. With the faintest drop of blood, Claus had maintained his honour.
He paid little attention as the judging brother declared his victory, and took his bow with a sense of detachment. Realised from the blocks sealing his feet to the floor, he turned to leave without a word to his challenger. In the hallway outside, lit by flickering candles, he was approached by Brother Captain Alexis Polux. Polux was an old comrade, and the closest thing to a friend allowed by the serious nature of the Legion's character. His expression was concerned, he had clearly been the hooded judge over the Duel.
"This isn't good, Brother."
"I won, didn't I?" Claus deadpanned, on a bee line to his chambers.
"Yes, but you fight a Brother of lower rank like he was your equal. You won, but you won like a Battle-Brother of fifty years fighting his rival, not a Veteran Sergeant beating off a upstart. He won't be the last, it'll just get worse."
"Perhaps Friedrich is ready for promotion, perhaps his just a quick learner." Claus continued walking, without facing the stern worry of his commander.
Polux took him by the shoulder and spun him round, and spoke face to face with Claus, who met his gaze with an emotionlessness glare.
"Emperor above, Claus! You know what I mean! You've let the Galdor incident get to you too much. You should see a Chaplin, get yourself disciplined. I don't what to see one of my best Sergeants lose his position because of one mistake. The Company won't function if you aren't ready to get over your broken pride!"
"Brother-Captain, with all respect" Claus replied, removing Polux's hand from his shoulder "I think you are being overly-familiar."
Polux shook his head, and walked away, "I won't stand for any more of this slacking when we reach the surface, understand?"
Claus continued to his chambers alone after this point.
"All righty people, time to move along now."
Sergeant Virl Jenkins shook the end of his rifle at the gathering mob of disgruntled/terrified civilians gathering outside of the planetary government HQ as his squad formed up behind him. Though most hadn't understood the Imperial Propaganda message's more complex points, they knew that there was an easy way out of getting their world invaded. Many Anti-Dominion groups had already decided to throw their lot on being liberated by whoever it was who had blown the Dominion fleet to smithereens, despite the lack of any exact information on who they actually were. Jeers, Anti-Dominion slogans and a few cries of "Don't shoot!" met his order.
Jenkins, of course, was a Neurally Resocialised conscript. His particular crime was resisting arrest (it had been a slow recruiting season), but he knew many in his squad were in for Anti-Dominion activity. It would be ironic, if their brains still understood the concept.
"Now look here" he said "we are here for your own protection. If y'all just just move along no-one gets-" A beer bottle bounced off his helmet "All right, you sons of bitches! That does it! All right boys, we are under fire from terrorist elements! We better defend ourselves!"
Without the slightest concern for attacking their own people, the Dominion Marines quickly cleared away the mob with tear gas and warning shots that more often than not warned people to death. After meeting the arrest quota the local government had given them and passing them off to the Resocialisation boys, they continued with the execution of their duty. Lazing about the city square to scare off any more protests.
"Hey sarge" Private Smith approached, his ratty little face out of place in the massive armour suit "What you reckon those outlanders fight like? 'Cause, Dan says they'll fight like Protoss cos' they got some kinda shields an' shit, but I ain't heard no-where of any shields expect from Dan and he's a cheat at cards so it can't be true and I reckon-"
"Smithy boy" Jenkins waved his hand despairingly, "slow down."
Smithy stopped, and then started again, faster.
"I ask cos' if they fight like us (Marines, that is), and we Dominion Boys are best of all Marines, they are gonna be a push over but if they fight like Protoss it'll be real hard and- "
"You want to know if we're going to need Stim Packs?" Jenkins asked wearily, Resocialisation was supposed to reform junkies.
"Well, yeah, sort of Sarge" Smithy admitted "Just for safety like, preparation."
"Pack a few" Jenkins sighed, looking skyward "We don't know what they gonna be like"
Sigismund and Dorn entered the great meeting hall, and the amassed Captains rose to their feet as they strode towards the head of the table. Dorn, a golden armoured and bronze skinned demi-god shone like a light in the darkness, with magnificent appearance balanced out by his Stoic humility. Sigismund followed him, his black and white heraldry a deep contrast to his Lords. It almost seemed as if they were of different Legions, but they were one. The Templar, marked out by the black armour Dorn awarded to them, were the most zealous and elite of the Fist Legion. It's heart and soul, it was unthinkable to consider the Imperial Fists without the Templar Knights who formed it's core. A buzz of skull servitors flew over the great table, which was marked with a great black fist. The wall around the table born the heraldry of each one of the Companies, and the names of favoured recruiting worlds were dotted around them, Terra, Necromunda, Inwit. Aside from this, however, the room was sparse and without decoration. The chairs and ceiling were of dull metal and inelegant design, and the table itself free from any flourish of form or conception. Fulgrim of the Emperors Children, who usually admired the Fists strict perfectionism, had decried their lack of attention to the aesthetic of their fortress-monastery.
Dorn seated himself at the head of the table, and Sigismund stood at his right, his long seethed sword held ahead of him. Dorn addressed the assembled Captains in loud, booming tones.
"The Planetary Defences of the world are now fully broken. It would appear our appearance had already caused a great deal of panic amongst the nearby worlds, with some kind of trading combine already offering talks with us. However, our scouts can confirm that this Dominion is a large centralised Empire with a well-developed communication system and armed forces, though their fleets leave something to be desired."
Another Legion would have expressed mirth at this point, but the Fists remained serious and attentive.
" They are also extremely ignorant, and appear to know nothing of the Age of Strife or their lose of contact with Terra. It is my belief that it is necessary to bring this world to compliance by a direct invasion, as a means to test the strength of the Dominion's armies and send a message that no force can withstand the Imperium. Depending on the smoothness of the Operation, I shall decide whether or not we shall require the aid of other Legions. Fulgrim will have to do without our presence in fighting the Ogryn, as I have decided to put our full resources into bring these worlds the Imperial Truth. First and Third Companies shall lead the first wave-"
"May I speak, lord?"
All eyes turned to Alexis Polux. Dorn didn't so much as blink at the interruption, and nodded consent to Polux.
"I request Second Company replace Third in the initial landing."
"Sigismund believes that elements within Second are not appropriate for such an engagement." Claus was not mentioned by name, and nor was the Galdor incident, but everyone knew why Second Company was out of favour "Do you doubt Brother Efried's abilities?"
"By no means, Lord" Polux replied "I simply wish that my Company be allowed to prove it has done it's rightful penance through combat."
Whispers erupted round the table, Polux continued.
"I do not doubt the ability of any one of my squads in the performance of this mission. Lord, I beg to let us prove our renewed righteousness."
Dorn considered this silently for a few seconds, and then nodded in approval.
Second Company would fall upon the world below.