Thanks for waiting!
I moved fast.
The Swarmlord was pushing through the Ultramarine defence, and I knew that while the Tyranids themselves were individually disoriented and weaker overall from the series of retrovirus that I had fed the Hivefleet, the Swarmlord was stronger than ever at this particular point.
The Hivefleet was having its version of fever to burn away its 'cold', and that immune response came as an enraged Swarmlord with almost all the Hive fleet's attention culminating in one single creature. That was what I was expecting, but I had an issue.
I had underestimated the being of a Primarch.
I had only assumed it through the gaze of a mortal, whose understanding of power is too limited to understand true power. Although I was aware of the power of Space Marines, I could only assume a level of power that a Primarch might exude. Especially for Guilliman, whose psychic powers were never said to be obvious or even existing.
I had vastly underestimated the half-dead Primarch in temporal stasis.
I must admit that I was paying a greater attention of this particular avatar of myself to the carefully managed response of the Hivefleet. For the Hivefleet, its response as an enraged Swarmlord was the last desperate measure of the Hivefleet. It was like the last fever of a dying immune system. I was exploiting it.
Unfortunately, when I grabbed the temporal stasis pod, I could not feel Guilliman through the temporal field. I was prepared for that. I had created a specially designed needle made from a pure Khaydarin crystal. Encasing the Khaydarin needle in a powerful psionic field, I slowly inserted the needle into the field and pierced the skin near the exposed neck.
The instant that the needle shared the same temporal dilation field with Guilliman, I knew I had made a mistake. There was an ugly black and purple vein that grew upward from the neck toward Guilliman's head, and I knew that it was the poison that was killing the Primarch.
Yet, the poison was not the just material thing. It was full of Warp stuff, and that was the true danger against even a Primarch. The issue was that my Khaydarin crystal automatically sucked the corruption in the Warp and purified it.
I did not think too much of it at first, but I knew I was wrong the moment that the needle pierced the skin and drew out the clean blood.
To be fair, the amount of consciousness that this avatar could contain was minuscule compared to my entire consciousness of myself. Of course, even my current self was a small portion of the true conscious of the entire Overmind, but even at less than one percent of my current tiny piece of the whole Overmind, it was an immense presence. Even with this single drop of myself, I was as strong as when I had confronted Ahriman many years ago.
Yet, I did not expect to be dragged into a mindscape so violently and into such a powerful and large mind.
MINDSCAPE of Roboute Guilliman
I stood was the Avatar of the Overmind, standing somewhat like a giant humanoid form with clawed feet and four arms and a pair of wings. It was a slightly improved version of the form that I had fought that Avatar of Khaine.
I was standing in a flat world, covered in a perfect green field of lawn, girt by a circle of giant rough mountains so similar to the mountains of Macragge. At the heart of this circle of the lawn was a city, a perfect Romanesque city with white marble pillars, golden statues, tall buildings.
Yet, it was all empty of people.
This was Guilliman's mind, and it was so orderly, so pure, so resilient, so graceful and without damage that I could not imagine him being corrupted by Chaos. It was as if he was designed to be impervious to Chaos because he so lacked the violent and strong emotions of a mortal human.
His emotions ran like water flowing down through the tiny artificial creeks made of carved white marble. Even the lawn was growing out from a bed of golden sand as if to say there was no dirt in this place.
It was so pure that it was almost inhuman, but I knew that their humanity of Guilliman presented itself in the forms of the circle of mountains. Each of the peaks was easily as tall as five Mount Everests stacked atop one another. The city itself was pure, orderly, almost like a circuit board of pure logic.
There in the heart of it all, was a massive dome, somewhat like the Senate building of Coruscant from the Star Wars franchise.
I knew that was the core of Guilliman's soul.
I also so the strangeness.
In the distance, a crack had opened up in the ground. The pure white marble tiles were broken, and the ground of solid gold and silver bricks had split to reveal a chasm in the ground. It revealed the burning lava below, with every sorrow and disappointment and regret of Guilliman boiling below.
In the chasm, there were thousands of pink and purple creatures, appearing like the pink-coloured Chaos Marines of the Emperor's Children. Some were like Chaos Marines, others looked like Possessed Marines.
Fighting them were a dozen giant Space Marines in blue. They all had same faces, same weapons and same aura. These were parts of Guilliman, fighting the infection of the Chaos poison that plagued his body. There were hundreds of these faux-Chaos Marines in the chasm trying to claw their way up and out, blocked by a dozen massive Guillimans. Each form of Guilliman stood easily twice the size of the Chaos Marine but there were so many Chaos Marines and they kept spawning.
Ignoring them, I went into the dome.
There, in the heart of it all, sat a massive form of Guilliman thrice the size of the huge ones fighting outside, and there were twenty-four thrones around Guilliman, a dozen on each side. Yet, there was more than a dozen missing. There were only seven still sitting in their smaller thrones, and one had withered corpse in armour sitting there, and four were missing utterly.
I knew what I had to do.
I went up to one of the dormant smaller Guillimans, a piece of his soul.
I was going to take him.
I stood in front of the closest one, and slowly reach out to him.
I completely did not see another one that had come off his seat.
I was struck with such a force that would have shattered a moon if it was in the physical world. I felt my avatar waver as the psychic impact of that strike sent such reverberation into my own soul.
An armoured Guilliman stood before me, and a Power Fist glowing and sizzling and a sword burning in terrible psychic fire.
I understood in that moment that I had utterly underestimated the might of a Primarch and what a genius the God Emperor must have been to create such a being. Also, I could guess how strong the God Emperor could have been if his sons were so powerful.
As for the psychic power of Guilliman, I think everyone had underestimated him. It was not that he was without psychic powers. He had it in plenty. He commanded more psychic powers than a dozen Librarian put together and held in place with stronger willpower and adamantine discipline, he could so easily shatter a whole solar system with a single burst.
Yet, his psychic powers never manifested in outward ways. Instead, he built up his mental and physical prowess. His mind was an indomitable fortress, girt by unassailable mountains of his willpower, invisible walls of logic, ordered streets full of weapons of reason and calculations.
Then there was his mind that was fortified by his latent psychic powers. It gave him that ability to micromanage dozens of wars from his throne on Macragge while being swamped by mountains of paperwork during his authoring of the Codex Astartes and holding together the Imperium from falling apart.
Of course, now that he was not burdened with such administrative tasks, his mind was focused on protecting himself from the wound left by his brother, and any other intruder, namely myself.
A swipe of sword sent a burst of pure cold logic. It cut like dry ice upon human skin. Any lesser mind would have frozen on the spot. The impact of the Power Fist came like thundering explosion of a volcano, with Guilliman's reserved emotions carefully honed into a devastating implosion.
Almost instantly, I had lost one of the arms and a chunk of my side. These little pieces, this visual representation of my consciousness, was not a big deal but I still felt the damage.
It was at this time that Calgar came into the temple.
I knew I had to choose to fight and grab a piece of Guilliman or be satisfied with his DNA.
Conservative option was the right choice, and I withdrew, and I winced as my presence and the presence of the Khaydarin crystal needle killed off so many of the Chaos Marines propping up from the chasm.
I had accidentally given Guilliman a chance to revive himself.
Temple of Corrections
Waking back in my physical form, I saw Calgar come up to me and gazed the strange vision he saw.
"No…" whispered Calgar.
"Well, I have a proposition, Lord Calgar, out of my respect to your 'courage'."
I mocked him, trying my best to hide the mental exhaustion from confronting the spirit of Guilliman.
I held the sphere of space around Guilliman with telekinesis and I had gripped the Swarmlord with a pure psionic net that tapped into the re-written genes that my retrovirus had inserted into the base DNA of the Hivefleet. Unlike the mind of Guilliman, the Hive Mind was not so visual. It was pure hunger and instinctively driven intelligence. For now, the Hive Mind was dazed and confused, and it gave me a special opportunity to exploit it all.
"Now, Lord Calgar. Allow me to present a choice here."
Calgar stared at me with so much hate that the old expression 'if looks could kill' was very appropriate at that moment.
"Right now, I hold your Primarch in one hand and the heart of the Tyranid Hive Fleet in the other. In this moment, almost all the Hive Mind's attention is focused on the Swarmlord. If you kill it now, it would cause enough psychic backlash to cripple the Hive Fleet enough to turn the tide of war. However, if you kill it after I have released it, then it will not be enough to save your world. Even without the Swarmlord, the remaining Tyranids will overwhelm your warriors and exterminate the Ultramarines."
This explanation was very important. Each syllable was carefully measured and each intonation had connotations and implications. I wanted Calgar to make a rational decision, but I knew that he would make the decision through his emotions.
"What?" he demanded.
"So, you must choose. Will you save your Primarch from my hands or will you slay that Swarmlord right now and save your world and your Chapter?"
Calgar's eyes widened at the choices.
"It is rather difficult to choose, isn't it? I would say, it is almost an impossible choice."
I carefully mocked him, as I have done in a thousand simulations, and it was going to provoke the correct response.
At least I had hoped so.
The problem of this was that the Ork and Necron interference could have an unintended effect on Calgar's decision-making process.
Ork threat was dealt with, though Lucifer seemed to hide something from me after he returned from the Space Hulk that the Orks had used as their flagship.
The Necrons, however, was an issue.
These were not the half-awakened Necrons under the sway of the shards of C'tan. These were proper Necrons with their proper Overlord commanding them. Although there was something nagging in the back of my mind as if the reality had been somehow altered, such feeling was not something I had the luxury of considering at this crucial moment.
Still, the Necron fleet had just arrived in orbit, and I had set aside some of my fleet assets to block Necron landing.
"Now, choose!" I demanded of Calgar.
Then Calgar roared.
He lunged forward, his Gauntlets of Ultramar crackling in their full emanations. The twin halos of death pulsed in front of me as the Master of Macragge punched at my shield. So powerful were these weapons that my vast shield reserves saw significant loss while the effect of the attack made me stagger back.
Now that he had chosen, the ball was on my court.
I already had Guilliman's DNA, and that had meant that my offer of choices was actually a moot point, given that I did not need to kidnap Guilliman's whole body.
Calgar still hacked away at my shield, and I let Guilliman's body go. Releasing both burdens, I fled, my actions seem like cowardice, but a calculated move to eliminate Ultramarines and other Chapters from the game while crippling the Tyranids enough so I could devour them.
Released, the Swarmlord fled also, venting its frustrations at the gathered Space Marines that had slaughtered the Swarmlord's escorts. Without that moment of focus, slaying the Swarmlord, caused by a final stroke of coup-de-grace by Cato Sicarius in conjunction with Agemman's perfect distraction, did not have the swarm-breaking effect that I had promised Calgar.
To be honest, I was telling the truth about the perfect moment to slay the Swarmlord. Had Calgar gone for the Swarmlord and bashed its head in, then the backlash would have crippled the Tyranids so much so that the ground forces would be able to wipe out the last remaining Tyranids while my Zerg fleet would easily devour the dying Hivefleet.
If that had been the case, I would have retreated safely with Roboute Guilliman while also devouring the Tyranid Hive fleet. It would have allowed the surviving Space Marines to win and survive, perhaps with enough of their numbers surviving to rebuild their Chapters.
Calgar's choice had meant that while he was able to secure the frozen form of Roboute Guilliman, the Tyranids were still rampaging. Although the delayed demise of the Swarmlord had given them a respite, the rest of the Tyranid forces on the ground were still pouring into the last stronghold of the Ultramarines, killing the stalwart defenders one by one.
In the orbit, the Hivefleet would react by producing a new Swarmlord while attacking the last remaining human fleet to cripple the prey. The Hivefleet, still weakened, would eventually be devoured by my forces. It would be a little delayed in the process but it would be worth it.
Of course, I could not have known that the Necrons would act in that very moment.
Also, I certainly could not have seen an intervention from a most unexpected source.
The Necrons engaged the Hivefleet. The Necrons few but they were powerful enough and unappealing enough for the Hivefleet to actually fall back away from the human fleet. After creating a berth and a moment to breathe for the humans, the Necrons fell backwards as if they had detected something no one else could.
I sensed it too late.
A pulse was felt.
It was a dangerous pulse of energy and something almost psionic.
It burned like fires of hell.
An image of the bird-like thing in flames leapt to my mind. A Phoenix image, but I ignored it.
Then a large crack in the Warp appeared right above Macragge.
It was not a Warp Storm.
It was an exit point for a fleet.
Three escorts appeared and they were followed by a very large vessel and a Battle Barge, and four large non-Astartes starships and their escorts.
My mind accessed the myriad of information that I had gathered over the years.
The very large vessel was a Gloriana-class battleship that was ancient and extremely rare. Yet, this vessel looked relatively young.
The newly arrived Imperial fleet took stock of the situation for a moment before firing a volley into the Tyranids and some pot shots at the retreating Necrons.
I could smell a twist in time. The Warp around them was strange, cleaner and burnt. My guess was some sort of intervention by a truly powerful psychic. No Chaos God would help the Ultramarines, so only one god-like being remained to affect such miracle.
Then I felt the quake in the Warp.
There is no such thing as free lunch. The impact of summoning forth an ancient fleet from aeons past had unexpected results. Like lightning, the quakes of the summoning spread out everywhere. I felt at least three Warp Storms between Ultramar and the Tau-controlled space, effectively protecting the Tau from direct Ultramarine interventions even if the Ultramarines had any strength left.
Further into the Eastern Fringe, Warp Storms and terrible eddies blossomed across a vast region of space, covering at least half of the area that the Inquisition had named the 'False Peace Region'. A dozen sectors were isolated by multiple Warp Storms and Warp eddies, while other systems were swallowed up the whole. Others faced ion storms or solar flares.
Billions died within minutes, and I could almost hear their screams.
If the Corpse on Terra had really affected this miracle, he did not think of the aftermath.
It could easily be something the Necrons have caused and since they did not care about other human worlds, it made more sense except for the manipulation of the Warp was not their forte.
Someone like Tzeentch could have made such a deal, possibly allowing the Ultramarines to live for some convoluted scheme while also affecting billions of humans in an area that was once protected and prospered.
Temple of Corrections
Calgar sighed as two Techmarines saw over the stasis field of their Gene-Father.
Roboute Guilliman still sat, ever silent and sleeping. Calgar could finally look at the Primarch with open eyes ever since the invasion of the Tyranids.
He felt so much doubt.
Since the fall of Prandium, Calgar felt so ashamed that he could not look at his Primarch without feeling such a horrid emptiness within, where his pride and sense of honour had been. Now he was ashamed.
Then Calgar noticed something.
As the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, Calgar had long stared at the Primarch for many thousands of hours over the centuries. He remembered every little detail of his Primarch as he sat upon the throne.
"Brother Papirius, do you have a pict-record of the Primarch as he sits on this throne? The most recent one?" asked Calgar.
The Techmarine had one, of course, because such pict-record was an important part of restoring the shrine.
"Look…" Calgar pointed at the zoomed picture.
"The wound inflicted by the traitor, the poison of Chaos, and the vein that had been frozen in time from ever reaching our father's head," replied Calgar.
Fulgrim's attack had been the fatal wound of sorcerous poison, yet, Robute had survived long enough to get himself into the stasis. Since then, everyone could see the edges of that wound.
Now, the thick veins of purple and pink that crept up the neck had retreated and the colour so faded that now it looked like a normal wound.
"What did the xeno do, my lord?" whispered Calgar as the Techmarines began to deal with the cogitators attached to the stasis field generator.
"Impossible…" muttered Brother Papirius.
"What does it say, brother?"
"My lord… These cogitators are ancient make equipped with powerful and advanced sensors that could detect even the frozen time within the stasis so that the primary cogitator unit can maintain the stasis at optimal levels."
"I have heard of that, yes, but what does it mean?"
"My lord, this sensor had been modified by the Apothecaries of the ancient times to detect the levels of the Warp that festers in the wound of our Forefather," replied the Techmarine, "but now the sensor tells us that the signs of Warp from the wound has been reduced to less than three percent of the original wound."
The news had to be processed, and then it hit Calgar.
"Does it mean…"
"We must confer with the Apothecaries and the Librarians, but… if our guesses are correct…"
"Our Lord can be revived…" whispered Calgar.
"We have heard of the offer that the xeno creature had made, and given this, my lord Calgar, you have indeed chosen wisely," answered Brother Papirius.
In that moment, Varro Tigurius, the Chief Librarian came into the temple, despite the grave wounds upon his flesh. His armour was rent and torn, entire pieces were lost with acid and shattered into chunks. The fresh scabs were all over the Librarian's body as the result of the Larraman's Organ.
"Varro, you must hear this news," exclaimed Calgar.
Tigurius shook his head.
"I think you need to hear my news, my lord, and it might be something surprising and may relate to the survival of our Chapter," replied Tigurius.
"I assure you that my news may well return the Ultramarines to glories back in the days of the Great Crusade," said Calgar.
"What could that be?" winced Tigurius as he felt pain in his body.
Calgar was not fazed. He beamed as he pointed at the sitting form of Guilliman.
"I do not know what the xeno creature had done but the Warp poison that had plagued the Avenging Son has now been curbed. Although both the Apothecarion and the Librarium must investigate this, the Techmarines inform me that our lord could be revived," said Calgar.
Whatever news that Tigurius had wanted to deliver, he had forgotten it. Calgar's news trumped it for a moment for its hopes and vision of the future was so great. Yet, the disciplined mind of the Chief Librarian came back quickly to a more pragmatic issue at hand.
"Now for my miracle, my lord."
"There is a new fleet that has just arrived in extreme orbit and it has sent this transmission," answered Tigurius as he held out a portable holographic display device of an ancient make.
There appeared a hologram of a Space Marine in a Mark IV armour with an insignia of the Ultramarines.
-This is Centurion Severus Vinius of the Ultramarine Legion aboard Aeternam Scutus of the 877th Expedition Fleet. I am detecting that this is Macragge and it is under attack. If any Ultramarines brothers are alive down on the planet, you must respond.-
Calgar blinked and shook his head.
"Now that is not something you expect every day."
"No, my lord. It appears that our Chapter and the legacy of Guilliman is not as lost as we despaired it may be," replied Tigurius.
"Answer them back, brother. We will reconnect with the long-lost brothers, or if this is another trick, we shall destroy them."
Zerg World Ship
I had intercepted the communication from the mysterious fleet and was shocked and outraged.
Despite the elaborate and carefully laid out plans of mine, the universe just threw a big rock into this well-oiled machine. I have not lost out on it and still achieved most of the target objectives, but the reinforcement for the Ultramarines did kind of kill one of my secondary objectives.
To be honest, I did not expect the Ultramarines to be completely destroyed by the Tyranids, especially given how much I have weakened the Hive Fleet. However, this miraculous save was not something I wanted at all.
The Ultramarines would survive but it should survive only through my blessings, albeit hidden with so many schemes, but they would survive. Therefore, a reckoning with the Ultramarines from the ten thousand years ago was to happen soon enough.
The main objectives had been achieved, indeed, especially with the Tyranid Hive Fleet.
My first and foremost goal was to successfully absorb the Tyranid Hive Fleet and all its genetic treasure vault. The number of Tyranid creatures was not a big enough issue, though swallowing up a few billion Tyranids was not a bad idea, I did not want the burden right after revealing myself so openly to the Imperium.
The second goal was to weaken the Imperium's hold on the 'False Peace Region' because it was a strategic location from which I could spread through to the rest of the galaxy. Forces of Chaos were driven out from the terrible effect that the Khaydarin crystals had on their powers while the Orks were either driven out or lured out. The Eldar had fled thanks to their own precognitive powers. Only the Imperium had remained there, now with severely weakened defences.
The third goal was to weaken the Ultramarines and other Space Marine Chapters, and this was a resounding success. Entire Chapters of Ultramarine's descendants were lost, and others suffered enough casualty to have to worry about the survival of their Chapters. With the double effect of having crippled the Tyranids and losing a significant number of the Deathwatch, it was a good result.
In this great game, the Tyranids and the Ultramarines had been my pawns as much as the Inquisition had been so. The unfortunate presence of Orks and Necrons was still within acceptable parameters. The Ultramarines from the past was not acceptable.
I must destroy this Aeternam Scutus before the Ultramarines of the past can truly save the Ultramarines of now.
My Zerg Swarm rallied suddenly and appeared from the shadow of the planet. From the distance came two hundred thousand Zerg fliers including so many Mutalisks and Gattlisks. Then there were sixteen Leviathans full of Zerg creatures and several other Zerg ships came upon the Expedition Fleet from M31.
The Imperial fleet had rallied around the Expedition Fleet, and their strength and morale had been renewed considering their ancestral heroes returning. Secure communications between Calgar and Centurion Vinius was established through Tigurius, whose mind was too powerful to intercept. In any case, it appeared that the modern Ultramarines approved of their ancestors, and had ordered the remaining fleet asset around the Gloriana-class Battleship.
My Zerg assailed them with vigour. Thousands of Mutalisks, Gattlisks, Devourers, Corruptors, Guardians, Scourers and Brood Lords died under the intense and heavy fire of the Imperial fleet. Shells exploded in their hundreds and lesser weapons lit up the darkness of the space. Yet, the Zerg were too many, and one by one, lesser ships fell.
A Defence Monitor exploded when a Scourer died but left behind several hundred Scourges that were thrown at the small Imperial ship with the last of the Scourer's dying mind. The impact alone buckled the vessel's hull then the Scourges exploded.
Two Leviathans were obliterated when they were faced with a direct hit from the Nova Cannon of a Dominator-class Cruiser. The impact of a Doppler Shell rent the two Leviathans intro strips of flesh before quaking away at several hundred other Zerg creatures.
For almost an hour, my Zerg attacked the Imperials. Yet, the Imperials held. The might of the Expedition Fleet's relatively 'new' vessels that came with superior weapons, superior energy generation, superior shield and the presence of a mighty Gloriana-class vessel had held them together.
I kept throwing my creatures at them because they were the distractions.
I usually keep to the basic Zerg method of boarding the ships by throwing more and more creatures at the enemy. However, I was quite willing to try either the Terran method or the Protoss method. Of course, inserting a cloaked vessel with an elite team like Terrans do would not work here with the Imperial vessels and their psykers.
Without their shield, however, the Imperials were quite vulnerable to the Protoss' method of inserting troops.
All I needed was to get a chink in the armour.
Only three large Imperial vessels remained to support the Gloriana battleship while the field was littered with the broken escort vessels.
The mighty vessel had finally lost its shield, and its thick armour was withstanding the bombardment of acid balls and organic munitions. It was still too tough and only one Leviathan was left in the game.
The Leviathan slammed into the Aeternam Scutus and plunged its tentacles into the large Imperial vessel near the front of the ship, seemingly trying to insert the creatures into one of the weapons control centres.
It was then that I stepped in.
This was not an ability that anyone else my Swarm can do without the necessary technology and machinery. Being the Overmind, I could do this without the need for twelve Pylons and a complex set of machinery as large as a Protoss Nexus.
Enormous psionic pressure built up within myself, and then I shot into the Aeternam Scutus in a narrow beam that ignored physical space. I could only send a small thing but it would work well because I was able to scan the vessel with my mind despite the interference from the psykers aboard the ship.
I was a little perturbed that some of these ancient psykers would disobey the Edict of Nikaea, but it appeared that either the fleet had been swallowed up by Warp before the Edict or if they knew of the Edict, then the presence of Tigurius who had escorted Calgar aboard would have sent clear enough message to the former Librarians.
In any case, there was Tigurius and at least half dozen psykers of Librarian-grade aboard to interfere with me. I had to create decoys of the insertion point through a randomised psionic bombardment across the enemy vessel.
I felt that the special creature had materialised safely aboard the Aeternam Scutus.
Chuckling at the success, I brought forth a new wave of Leviathans and several thousand fliers to continue the pressure upon the might Aeternam Scutus. Then I focused upon my agent aboard.
The creature was an interesting one.
This was a creature that was based upon the sneaky insert that Kerrigan had sent aboard that Protoss ship and grew into a Broodmother.
Of course, this special Larva was far more complex than that. It was no larger than a Chihuahua, to begin with but it came with a special carapace that allowed it to project both a cloaking field from visible spectrum as well as a low-level reverse psionic field to hide its psychic presence, a desperately needed tool against the psykers aboard.
It had tiny legs that allowed it smooth, quick and silent movements while its tensile core strength had meant that it could leap and jump into places. The layers carapace scales had also meant that it could squeeze into tiny cracks and spaces thanks to its worm-like body.
The creature was spawned in the dark bowels of the ship, with the old neglected parts of the massive vessel serving as the living space for the serfs. Even in the days of 30K, these massive ships maintained a section of space slums where the most dejected and the hopeless had lived. Certainly, the size of this urban decay was smaller, but they still existed.
After all, an Expedition Fleet would often sail across the galaxy with decades if not centuries of war. It was natural that the thousands of serfs aboard the vessel would form communities below decks, making meagre living in the depth of the darkness. This was no exception even for a vessel like Aeternam Scutus.
The Larva swam through the thick and polluted pool of the ship's exposed sewerage treatment pools where the edge of the ship-board slum had inched. The few hut-like structures made from pieces of metal and cast-off materials had lined up around the round pool where relatively cleaner water had gathered before being sent off.
It was into this pool that the Larva came upon, and found that this barely-drinkable water was the primary water source for those of the slum. Had I been human, I would have abhorred what the Larva did, but I was not human. I allowed the Larva to do what it needed to do.
Silently, the Larva began to vomit out a water-soluble sludge of viral matter. This was a water-based version of my Zerg virus but with a twist in the retrovirus. Once the water source was sufficiently contaminated, the Larva moved on.
It sensed a small animal nearby. A hut had a crude chicken coop inside though the animal was more of a reptilian variety than an avian one. Yet, it was going to do very well. The two dozen reptiles screeched as the Larva came through a tiny hole in the ceiling.
The Larva dropped into the pen and the reptiles attacked. Of course, these domesticated food-reptiles were no match for my Larva as it cut through them with powerful jaws and shot tiny spines. Before long, all the reptiles were dead, and the Larva could feast.
Within ten minutes, the pen was cleaned of all meat, and the Larva had turned into a cocoon for the first phase of its evolution. The cocoon grew fast and pulsated in a rapid heartbeat. It was not going to be like Kerrigan's work where she had to grow a whole Brood within the Protoss ship.
I just needed the Larva to turn into one thing.
In another ten minutes, the cocoon hatched, and it was a creature that did not look like any Zerg creature. It looked more like a Spore Crawler except that a Khaydarin crystal had replaced the Spore Cannon. Then as it groaned, the crystal flared.
I felt it.
From one of Lucifer's Hive Ships, I called forth my Zerg.
Just like the Protoss than their ability to warp in their troops, my Zerg began to translate into the belly of the Aeternam Scutus.
With the spawning area created in a large spherical field, my Zerg spawned across four levels and they came pouring out.
The lower sections of the ship were relatively easy, with most of the serf unable to withstand my Zerg, and some were taken to the contaminated water source to be converted or simply slaughtered and devoured. There were some soldiers and they were quickly overwhelmed. Then my creatures met few Lasgun-wielding patrols but it was not until about half an hour into the invasion that the defenders of the vessel had organised proper squadrons to suppress the 'disruptions' of the lower levels.
This slow response had meant that I was pouring in thousands of Zerg creatures into the ship while my Swarm also hammered the vessel from the outside as a distraction.
The Necrons had returned to harass my fleet's outskirts, actively trying to distract my forces away from the humans. This had meant that external pressure would not break the Aeternam Scutus.
Soon enough, my forces aboard the human vessel were facing Space Marines of the Ultramarine Legion. These were ancient warriors yet still so very potent, perhaps more so with their advanced weapons and specialised troops.
A face-to-face meeting with the first cadre of Space Marines did not go well for my creatures.
On one front was a five-men Despoiler Squad with their Chainswords and Bolt Pistols, which forced my creatures to turn their backs against the Tactical Support Squad with their Rotor Cannons and Volkite Calivers as well as the usual Tactical Marines. Then there was a single Moritat whose pair of Volkite Serpentas had caused such devastations.
Eventually, my numbers had won out, but the Space Marines could retreat thanks to the squads of Imperial Army soldiers providing rear-guard, and hundreds of my Zerg died by their hands.
Still, the ship's interior began to fall to mine one defensive checkpoint after another. Entire squads of Space Marines came upon us and failed.
My creatures must have slain at least a hundred Ultramarines from the past before something else happened.
An elite force of Space Marines teleported near the hut where my version of Pylon exuded the spawning field. The attackers included a full ten-men squad of Cataphractii Terminators and a Contemptor Dreadnought as well as five Destroyer Marines. Leading these were the heroic Masters of the Chapter.
Calgar and Tigurius had joined forces with the Centurion Vinius to lead the attack on the spawning beacon.
Hundreds of corrupted Infested serfs came upon the Space Marines, seeking to buy time while summoned creatures to defend the spawning beacon. Calgar had his own elites, and they had been fighting the Tyranids long enough to have greater effectiveness against my Zerg.
A five-man squad of Assault Terminators and four Vanguard Veterans cut a path through the zombies, supported by eight Sternguard Veterans providing cover fire. The Cataphractii Terminators assailed from a left flank, seeking to create a second path to the beacon.
Tigurius and two Librarians without their special helmets formed a powerful shield around their core group of ranged troops. Their rear was defended by three Breacher Siege Marines with their shields. Two Moritat and a Champion had the support of three Assault Marines in slaughtering a handful of Roaches that had been left to defend the beacon.
Then my troops came.
Almost a hundred Zerglings spawned all around them as well as thirty Roaches and twenty Hydralisks. These were diversions because the Space Marines attacked the still-summoning creatures even as they were flaring into existence. Around the hut itself became a hive of summoning with almost three hundred Zerglings were being summoned at once and more.
The battle was as desperate as they were ferocious.
The Space Marines came closer and closer, despite the losses, and I was running out of creatures to summon through one source of the psionic link.
I did have an ace up my sleeve. Well… several aces.
The first was a pair of Hybrids. A Hybrid Reaver and a Hybrid Destroyer were summoned and they came upon the Space Marines.
The Contemptor Dreadnought faced the Reaver while the Moritat and the Destroyers peppered the creature from afar. Surviving Terminator hacked and slashed at the Reaver.
The Hybrid Destroyer was met by none other than Tigurius himself and the two Librarians whose psychic tools were not as sophisticated as those that Tigurius had with him. These ancient Librarians did not even have a psychic hood though a prototype of such device had been noticed.
The Hybrid Reaver roared as its powerful claws were blocked by the deft and impossibly nimble movements of a Contemptor Dreadnought whose deadly Multi-Melta had slain many Roaches. The massive Power Claw of the Dreadnought was quick enough to parry and block the claws of the Reaver even as the Terminators, Destroyers and other Space Marines peppered it with weapons.
A surge of Zerglings, Hydralisks and Roaches came upon the Space Marines, distracting them from the Reaver, but the Dreadnought was still on to the Reaver. A shotgun-like blast from the Multi-Melta flared up the shield while the truly powerful polarization matrix emboldening the already thick armour enough to withstand a direct hit from the Reaver's claw.
An Assault Marine came flying and landed on top of the Reaver's head, and though the Reaver was mighty, the full weight of a jetpack-carrying Astartes was enough to upset the creature's balance. The Reaver stumbled and the Power Claw of the Dreadnought came plunging into the left side of the Reaver while two Cataphractii Terminators slammed their weapons against the right flank.
The Reaver shook its head and sent the Assault Marine jumping off, but the Reaver had a ranged weapon of its own.
Opening its maw, the Zerg creature spat a burst of white-blue energy. The Assault Marine was swallowed up by the energy before it imploded. The Space Marine did not die but he fell and struggled to stand and every crack in his armour bled.
That distraction had cost the Reaver as the Dreadnought fired his Multi-Melta right into the flickering shield. Despite the copious amount of shield it was given, the Reaver had only managed to slay six Astartes before its shield ran out. Even so, it was a tough thing, and its carapace was thick enough to withstand the blasts of thermal beams from the two Moritat Marines and the Chainsword of a Despoiler.
Enraged, the Reaver had kicked a Terminator back and grabbed a Despoiler Marine with its claws. The Contemptor Dreadnought sought to intervene but five Zerglings had leapt atop the Dreadnought and a Brawler Slayer came at the Dreadnought with its six Warp Blade claws.
The two Moritats aided the Dreadnought with their deadly weapons. One of the Brawler's arms was burnt off while two Zerglings were charred ashes, and the Multi-Melta blast had turned two Roaches and a Hydralisk into soot. By the time the Dreadnought had torn out the head of Brawler despite suffering deep wounds upon its metal chassis, the Reaver had gripped a leg and an arm of the Despoiler Marine and pulled hard.
Blood and guts sprayed across the floor, and one of the Caraphractii screamed in absolute rage as he jumped in his Terminator Armour and plunged his Power Sword into the left eye of the Reaver.
The Reaver screamed and stumbled back, crushing a Vanguard Veteran who got in the way, and its thrashing tentacles sent a Breacher Siege Marine aside.
The real opponent of the Reaver was the Dreadnought, and without its shield, the Reaver had its guts pulled out by the Dreadnought's hand. In retaliation, the Reaver fired its mouth weapon into the face of the Dreadnought even as the Stormbolter within Power Claw kept firing into the inside of the Reaver.
Another Vanguard Veteran climbed aboard the back of the Reaver with a Melta Bomb and bound himself to the bomb and the creature even as the Dreadnought held the creature by the nape and held it in place.
Just as the Reaver was dying and the Space Marines losing many of their numbers, the Hybrid Destroyer was in an intense psychic battle against three mighty psykers. Although without the fancy modern tools of the younger Space Marines, the ancient Librarians were filled with such discipline and fortitude to push immense powers through their bodies. Of course, the presence of numerous Zergs had meant that the dangers from the Warp were lighter, and it had allowed the Librarians to put their full might into the fight.
The two ancient Librarians each held their Force Sword forward and focused their mind into a narrow but deadly beams, which the Destroyer blocked with a beam from each of its hands. Tigurius sent forth a great pillar of destructive energy whose outgrowths were flicked at the surrounding Zerg creatures, holding them at bay. The Destroyer replied with a beam from its forehead, but against three mighty psykers, the Hybrid Destroyer had become occupied.
Of course, no good Space Marine would allow such chance to go by, and these were great Space Marines.
A Despoiler, two Sternguard Veterans, a Cataphractii Terminator and the Champion slaughtered all the lesser creatures coming at the Librarians, but then when the Destroyer faltered a little after an Assault Marine came dropping upon its shield and was slain by the pair of energy tentacles from its back, the Champion had surged forward.
The large Relic Power Sword was forged on Mars by the ancient Masters of that world before the Great Crusades. It was created with such advanced technology that its secrets were long lost. What it did do was a visible aura of a pure destructive energy of white hue that sizzled like a flare under water. The very air around it bubbled as the energy crackled around the blade.
Such weapon was deadly even for a Hybrid Destroyer with its enormous reserves of the shield.
The Champion charged forward and he side stepped a Zergling, stepped on a Roach to get a leverage.
The sword came down upon the creature's left arm just above its elbow.
The creature noticed the attack just a moment too late. The shield flared up. Even as the shield still flared, the impossible happened. The unbroachable Plasma Shield of the Protoss was breached. The sword and the Champion bounced back and were flung into a pile of crates. The ancient blade had cracked and was chipped.
The damage, however, was enormous.
The implosion of the sword's power and the shield that protected the Destroyer meeting near the arm had utterly obliterated the creature's arm, and though the shield still held reserves, it did not protect the Destroyer from the impact.
The connection of beams between the Librarians and the Destroyer ended in that moment as the psychic beams struck the shield.
The shield drained fast and the explosions rocked the ground. The Destroyer rolled on the ground, its flesh torn at places. Around it were the corpses of Zerg creatures smeared on the floor after the wide field of psionic energy around the Destroyer rolled upon them.
Hissing, the Destroyer grabbed a Hydralisk and three Roaches into the air and flung them like Broodlings. Clutching the stump of its lost arm, the Destroyer then conjured up almost twenty balls of glowing psionic flame around itself.
The Space Marines dodged and leapt out of the way as the Zerg creatures came flying at them, and splattered against walls, pillars and crates.
"To your doom!" roared Tigurius as he raised his staff upon which hung a huge amount of energy.
Almost like a terrible storm, the energy burst into a dozen streaks of lightning that screeched and struck upon the Destroyer.
The Destroyer had used its psionic energy to restore some of its shields and then reinforced it. The shield formed a dome of a honeycomb-shaped field that giggled and chattered against the psychic attack of Tigurius.
It was a diversion, however, to allow the other two Librarians to get in close. Their Force Sword cut through space, hurting the Destroyer even behind the shield. This was the weakness that the Librarians had divined when the Destroyer created a dome-shield instead of its skin-tight version. Even as the might of Tigurius pushed the Destroyer back with its carapace sizzling in the non-existent and impossible heat of a lightning storm that did not have any electric current, the two ancient Librarians pooled their own energies.
A giant sword, translucent and almost glowing, appeared right on top of the Destroyer and slammed down upon the dome-shield of the Zerg creature. The shield screamed and flickered insanely in and out of the visible spectrum. Then another sword appeared, this time from behind the Destroyer and slammed into the shield. For about five seconds, both swords of pure psychic power drained the shield.
A Destroyer Marine came upon the Hybrid Destroyer and attempted fire off a Rad Missile against the creature, but the Zerg creature was already on a heightened alert. The creature turned its smouldering face at the ancient Space Marine and roared. The desperate and enraged howl filled with such potent psionic source quaked the very space in its path and the Destroyer Marine was julienned into strips of metal and meat, all jumbled together and spraying backwards in a glorious shower of gore.
The distraction had come at a cost for the Hybrid Destroyer, and it allowed Tigurius to get close.
The Bolt Pistol sang and struck the creature a couple of times before a telekinetic backhand knocked it aside. In reply for his pistol, Tigurius slammed his Rod of Tigurius into the creature's remaining arm and blew it up. A flare of psionic flame erupted as the arm was obliterated.
Tigurius pressed on, smashing the creature again and again with his rod, and then sending a burst of a psychic blast. The Hybrid Destroyer lost part of its jaw from this attack.
The creature screeched but even without arms, it was such a potent foe.
The Hybrid Destroyer resorted to one of the more basic psionic attacks of the Swarm, for it cost the creature less from its falling reserves of energy. A pulse formed before its forehead and a powerful field surrounded Tigurius. Trapped in a spherical bubble Tigurius struggled but he was caught in a moment between one attack and the next.
The psionic bubble of the Crushing Grip began to exert enormous gravity upon the powerful Space Marine. A normal human would have begun bleeding within seconds but a Space Marine was tougher, and Tigurius was greater than an average Space Marine.
More than that, Tigurius was among his Ultramarine brothers.
The two ancient Ultramarine Librarians were upon the Hybrid Destroyer, burying their Force Weapons into the flesh of the Zerg creature with extraordinary dexterity and accuracy.
The Hybrid Destroyer gurgled as it began to die. In its death throes, however, it gave a final insult upon the Ultramarines. The creature focused all of its energy into a single ball of Psionic Storm.
This storm did not blanket an area but focused upon a single individual.
One of the ancient Librarians screamed for a moment before he immolated into blue and purple iridescent flames for a second before his flesh charred and turned to a husk.
However, these two were not the only fights.
Calgar, his surviving Honour Guards, the Centurion Vinius and four Terminators had snuck past between the fights and came right for the hut.
With the summoning capacity of the Zerg Pylon still winding down, I could bring forth only a handful of creatures. I needed to step in.
I stepped through in my Avatar Slayer body with ten Hunter Killers. There were already a few creatures around the hut, so I sent them against Calgar's group. Two dozen of Zerglings were slaughtered within minutes while a handful of Roaches met their demise by the mighty Terminators. Calgar's Honour Guards hacked and slashes through Hydralisks while their tough Relic Artificer Armours bouncing off the deadly spines of Hydralisks.
"We meet again, Marneus Calgar, the Lord and Master of the Ultramarines."
Calgar faced me and I could not tell if he was grimacing or smiling.
"Glad to see me, creature? You should, for I generously bring you the joy of death," replied Calgar.
"Perhaps it will be I who send you to your Emperor… in pieces," I snarled intentionally.
"Your insult to our Chapter cannot so easily be forgiven, xeno!" roared Vinius.
I turned to face the ancient warrior.
"We have not been introduced, Ultramarine. I did not think that Scions of Guilliman would be so without etiquette."
"I do not mix words with foul xenos," said Vinius as he charged.
"So be it."
I conjured up a hurriedly reproduced version of Tyranid Bone Sword. It was a sharper in appearance with smooth lines instead of the serrated blade of the Tyranids. Simply put, it followed the basic principles of Bone Swords with adaptation to our Zerg physiology. Although some of the metallic molecules of the Swarmlord's Bone Sword fragment were yet to be identified and deeper secrets of this terrifying weapon still veiled, the basic principle had been discovered.
Just as with the Tyranids, this new sword was attached to my arm but it also had a small brain-sac protected by a layer of carapace as the pommel. Within that compact but powerful brain lay a re-created version of the Khalis crystal, a special shard of Khaydarin crystal imbued with the powers of the Void. A shard of Khaydarin crystal was located at the cross-guard to amplify the energy from the pommel, and such amplified energy would react with the tiny grains of Khaydarin crystal that fills the core of the blade.
Thus I had with me the first Force Sword of the Zerg but based on Tyranid design and with a hint of Zerg and the Dark Templars of the Protoss.
In my right hand, the blade hummed as it came alive with a purple-hued aura that rent the very air around it and coruscated in invisible flames.
My other hand beheld my version of the Power Fist. It was a large clawed hand covered in thick layers of psionically charged scales fed energy through a dozen tiny Khaydarin crystal shards. Moreover, this claw weapon exuded Psi Blade from each finger and was equipped with a bit of Protoss tech wired through and around it. Other than the yellow metal casing of the claw tips for the Psi Blades, the Protoss upgrade was in the form of a Thermal Lance, the weapon of the Protoss Colossus.
My mouth opened and beheld a mechanism for spitting out a pyro-kinetic acid that would react with anything outside the carefully designed psionic containment field. This was a technique taken from the Bio-Plasma mechanism within a captured Tyranid Carnifex carcass.
Centurion Vinius, on the other hand, was merely equipped with a Power Sword, possibly a relic, and a Plasma Pistol. He was no match for me.
At least that was my assumption.
My sword and his sword met, and with a terrible flare of sparks, both of us were pushed back. He was sent skidding at least three feet back while my clawed and hooved feet dragged just over six inches. Then came Calgar's barrage from his Bolters mounted on his Gauntlets of Ultramar.
"You have not seen the best of me yet, xeno scum."
The shield flared up as the Bolter rounds slammed upon it. At the same time, one of the Honour Guards came through the ranks of my Zerg creatures that had blocked them. A swing of the Relic Blade took a major chunk from my shield reserves, as these ancient weapons were far superior and strange compared to their modern counterparts.
"Not much honour in these Honour Guards," I commented with a sneer.
My 'Power Claw' backhanded the Honour Guard, sending the man sprawling across the floor and into two Zerglings that were crushed under the weight. My blade met Vinius' own weapon three more times, each strike causing enormous impact, while Calgar was close enough to directly slam his Power Fist into my shield.
I winced at the impact.
"You will get your turn, Calgar!"
Growling at the perceived distraction of Calgar while I was trying to kill the ancient Centurion, I opened the palm of the claws and fired the modified Thermal Lance. A wave of searing heat swept over Calgar in his Armour of Antilochus, the ancient armour's mechanism was quite capable of handling the heat while the thick Adamantium plates with amazing weaves and mesh of futuristic materials that blocked the heat so well. Yet, against the incredible technology of the Protoss, even a solid layer of treated Adamantium began to glow in dull red.
Vinius was a skilled opponent with his centuries of swordplay almost overwhelming my superior speed and reflexes added to the collected memories and experiences of hundreds of swordsmen across the galaxy. His blade kept nicking at my shield while my blade only making half the number of cuts upon his Artificer Armour.
"You are quite skilled, Centurion. I would commend you on your swordplay, but this has to end," I commented even as I drew back my blade and activated the Warp Blade.
"And your skills are stolen. I can see that your movements are not of your own. Your body flinches and twists to keep up with the movements of others. You cannot defeat me," replied Vinius.
"Not with the movements of the sword, certainly, but I do have my superior weaponry!"
The purple Warp Blade flared up from my sword and I slammed it down upon Vinius.
Vinius rolled and evaded my attack, leaving me dangerously open to Calgar's haymaker that pushed my shield to dangerously low levels. Feeling cheated of a kill, I turned my head toward Calgar.
"I am annoyed with you, 'Master of the Ultramarines'!"
With a roar, I spat a glowing ball of acid that quickly burned up into a ball of plasma. Another Honour Guard jumped in and slammed away the plasma ball with his Thunder Hammer, which exploded, and sent both the wounded Honour Guard and Calgar backwards.
"For the honour of the Chapter!"
A Terminator teleported right behind me in that moment and plunged his Lightning Claw into my back. My shield finally flickered and died, but not before halting the momentum of the attack. Slowed to a crawl, the Lightning Claw could not pierce my thick carapace whose scales exuded their own protective energy field.
I spun on the spot and grasped the Terminator's arm with my claws before plunging my sword into the chest of the Terminator. The glowing energy blade was enough to punch through the thick plates of Adamantium of the modern Terminators. Had he been wearing a Catraphractii Terminator Armour, the superior polarization technology and shield technology of the ancient armour would have protected him.
Instead, the sword cut through armour and flesh.
"You have done one more injustice, monster!" roared Vinius.
My claw came up instinctively and blocked his sword with the back of my claw, and I saw several carapace scales split and shatter, scattering everywhere in a storm of sparks.
His Plasma Pistol fired, slamming near my face, which I quickly blocked by growing a collar bone just in time. The metallic bone shattered and melted, but it saved my left eye from the hot plasma.
"That was close," I hissed.
"Not close enough, beast."
"Calling me such names. Is that a hint of familiarity you feel towards me?" I mocked him.
He swung wildly but with an incredible degree of control. I dodged it and replied with a quick double strike with the sword. Vinius blocked one but the other grazed across his chest plate. Unlike the destructive aura from before, the Warp Blade was far deadlier to the armour plating. Even with the incredibly sophisticated polarization technology of his Artificer Armour, the metal could not handle the matter-slicing power of the Warp Blade.
Vinius fell back, his chest bleeding through the deep gash.
Yet, Calgar was upon me once more.
"Enough from you!"
Annoyed, I decided to push this avatar to its limits.
A Psionic Storm erupted from my avatar's body. One of the Honour Guards and a Terminator was burnt alive while Calgar blocked the lightning of pure psionic death with the maximised aura of his Gauntlets.
This had drained him of strength for the moment, and I came upon the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines and kicked him.
A large dent appeared upon his armour, and then he coughed blood.
"Enough playing. Time to end this."
I summoned a tiny gravity bomb into Calgar's right shoulder pauldron and let it implode. Calgar groaned as he intensely stared at me even as his right prosthetic arm was crushed into scrap metal.
"NO! Release him!"
The last Honour Guard attack from behind, but I was already burning up the Essence of my avatar and such minor attack was not going to hurt me.
My gaze turned to the offending Honour Guard who stoically bore my deadly gaze before my raised claw crackled with energy and fired an amplified version of the Thermal Lance added with my psionic powers. Gripped into place by my telekinesis, the Honour Guard faced the white-hot Thermal Lance that compounded upon him.
"No…" groaned Calgar as he laboured to raise his left Gauntlet of Ultramar and fired a volley of Bolter rounds into my chest.
While keeping the Thermal Lance upon the Honour Guard, I turned my head back to Calgar and spat a plasma ball at his left arm.
The shoulder melted down.
"Now, you are back to being a cripple, Calgar. I shall add to your disability."
My Warp Blade came down hard and sliced through both of Calgar's thighs, rending the flesh into zig-zag of psionically infected wounds that kept on bleeding despite the Space Marine's implant.
"Now to end your suffering," I whispered.
Having dissolved the Honour Guard into a pool of boiling metal and ash, my claw was free again. This time it would slay the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines.
I did not even hear it.
I felt the Relic Sword of Centurion Vinius dig into my side, rupturing organs and coming so close to the heart of the avatar. My head turned to see Vinius still trying to push in the blade.
"Your head is mine!"
With that, I bent down and bit his head off.
The Loud crunching of bones was me chewing his head.
Yet, I should have paid attention.
Too late, I recognised the Melta Bomb that Vinius had attached to my back.
"Lucky, Calgar! You get to live… if you can call that living," I made the final snide comment before the bomb went off.
END OF CHAPTER 87