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M41.996 20:32 (Macragge time) Ultramarines Strike Cruiser Valin’s Revenge
Captain Cato Sicarius stood on the bridge of the Valin’ Revenge and stared out towards the stars. Thousands of tiny pinpricks of light winked at him, granting a sense of relative peace.
As he watched, the view of the stars was partially obscured by an unidentifiable chunk of debris that drifted by. It bore several large scars, as if a massive predator had reached out and slashed it with its claws.
An apt description, since that was what happened, he thought, and muttered a prayer for the souls of those who had died on board the ship while fighting the Tyranids. The mere thought of those xenos abominations sent a spike of anger through him. By the Emperor and the Primarch, I doubt any other chapter can match the Ultramarines’ hate for them.
The battles in the Ichar IV system had been particularly brutal. A tendril of Hive Fleet Leviathan had come into the system, consuming all in its path. Sicarius and the Ultramarines 2nd Company had been the first to defend Ichar IV. If not for their timely arrival and swift engagement of the Tyranids, the Imperial Guard and PDF forces would have been overwhelmed in a matter of days. The war was far from over, as the remainder of Leviathan was still on the move. Several additional companies of Ultramarines, along with countless regiments of Imperial Guard and dozens of Imperial Navy battleships had been sent to slow the alien onslaught. Currently, there were no major engagements occurring, but reports of isolated Tyranid bio-ships indicated that the next wave of monstrosities was soon to arrive.
Another chance to make them pay for the Battle of Macragge, Sicarius thought bitterly. No matter how many Tyranids were killed, no amount of dead aliens could atone for the damage that they had inflicted to the chapter. Not until every last Tyranid, from each mindless Ripper to the massive Hierophant bio-titans, laid dead could the Ultramarines’ vengeance finally be exacted in full.
Ultramarines Strike Cruiser Valin's Revenge, Crew Quarters
Sergeant Marcellus of the Ultramarines 1st company sat in his quarters, absentmindedly cleaning his storm bolter for the fourth time. There was little else to do while sitting on board the Valin’s Revenge. He had fought in countless battles and humbled innumerable enemies, but the one enemy that no one, neither a 10th company neophyte nor a Terminator Sergeant like him could defeat was boredom. He longed for battle again, to fill an opponent's body with bolter shells, to crush an alien’s skull with his powerfist, to strike fear into the hearts and minds of all who would dare oppose the Ultramarines.
“Forgive my intrusion Sergeant, but Captain Sicarius requests your presence in the tactica control.”
Marcellus turned and saw the form of Veteran Dannelos standing in his doorway in full power armor. He wore no helmet, but his face betrayed less emotion than the Covus-pattern helm would.
“Something amiss, brother?” Marcellus said with an expectant grin. This was the most interesting thing that had happened during the entire voyage.
“We shall soon find out. The Captain is assembling all squad leaders. I think it is safe to assume that he does not wish to ask us our opinions on our rations.”
Marcellus chuckled. He often wondered how Dannelos had made it to the 2nd company command squad with a sense of humor like that. Most members of command squads seemed to have less personality than their bolters, or in Dannelos’ case, his plasma gun.
“I’ll be there soon,” he replied, returning to the table to grab his helmet. Dannelos nodded politely and left. Maybe I’ll be able to make use of my bolter after all, Marcellus thought as he slipped his helmet on and strode out the door.
Ultramarines Strike Cruiser Valin's Revenge, Tactica Control
The immaterium flowed around him, carrying waves of pure sensation. His mind was filled with raw, formless emotion that both repulsed and entranced him. The shapeless energy was like a fierce wind, threatening to blow his feet out from beneath him.
Not if I can help it, he thought resolutely, silently rebuking himself for letting the unwholesome energies into his mind so readily. No warp beast has ever bested me, and I shall not-
“Well, what do you see? Are we chasing shadows?”
Epistolary Argus was pulled from his reverie back to the brightly lit tactica control. Captain Sicarius stood before him, an expectant look on his face.
“The warp is like a stormy sea right now. I can see nothing,” Argus responded plainly. That was obviously not the answer that Sicarius was hoping for, as he scowled and turned away.
“Tigurius speaks highly of you, Argus. Yet for the past few days, you have done nothing but disappoint,” Sicarius grumbled. Seeing into the warp was in no way an exact science, but the Captain could not possibly comprehend Argus’ difficulties. He merely expected results.
He sighed and walked to the hololith in the center of the room. Around the table, several other Ultramarines, squad leaders and such, stood waiting for Sicarius to tell them what was going on. Argus glanced around at his assembled Battle-Brothers. He immediately recognized Apothecary Venatio, slightly out of place due to his bone-white armor. Alongside him stood Sergeants Strabo, Atavian, and Solinus of the 2nd Company’s Assault, Devastator, and Tactical squads respectively. Techmarine Maxilos stood apart from the rest, due to the bulky servo-harness that he wore. Scout-Sergeant Darius represented a squad of 10th Company Scouts attached to the 2nd for their current campaign. Finally, Terminator Sergeant Marcellus entered with Veteran Dannelos. The 1st Company veteran’s armor was huge, and he easily took up an entire side of the hololith alone. Despite Marcellus’ haughty attitude, Argus was grateful to have him and his squad along. They provided much-needed heavy support to the 2nd. The only one absent was Chaplain Elianu Trajan, who was currently serving with the Deathwatch.
“Now that we are all assembled, I will explain what has happened,” Sicarius began. “The initial Tyranid invasion force has been repulsed, but the remainder of Fleet Leviathan is still coming. We must be prepared to deal with anything that they send at us.” He paused momentarily. “Unfortunately, despite our thoroughness, some xenos from the first wave still remain. I have taken it upon ourselves to hunt them down and exterminate them.” Sicarius’ words garnered looks of approval from everyone present.
“Have we located a Tyranid ship, Captain?” Marcellus queried.
“We are still unsure. Epistolary Argus believes that there is something out there, but has been unable to locate it. However, Techmarine Maxilos has full confidence that he will be able to locate our quarry.”
Maxilos stepped forward. “My scans of this sector will be complete in four point seventy-three hours. If there is anything to be found, it will be found,” he grated, his voice made inhumanly metallic and raspy due to his extensive augmetics.
Sicarius continued, “Though we have no guarantees of a Tyranid threat, you should all commence wargear rites and other preparations. If there is a battle to be had, we shall be ready for it. You are dismissed.”
The Ultramarines stood and, as one, slammed their right fists across their chestplates in salute, and left. Sicarius turned to Argus.
“You are sure that you saw something?”
“Yes, Captain. A shadow moving across the warp. I do not know what else could cause such a disturbance.”
“I apologize for my lack of faith in your abilities brother. If what you saw turns out to be a xenos straggler, my doubts will be invalidated.”
“Thank you Captain.”
Sicarius turned and left. Argus nodded to himself and returned to his seat. Now, you cannot hide forever, xenos scum.
Ponyville, Equestria 11:32
Spike yawned and stretched his arms, climbing out of his basket. Once on his feet, he stood and stretched his entire body. As he rubbed sleep out of his eyes, he realized that something was out of place. It was almost noon, and he had just woken up. Usually Twilight woke him up much earlier. Memory flowed back to him in a flash. Twilight had planned to go out to breakfast with her friends this morning, leaving Spike alone for most of the morning. At first, Spike was mildly annoyed that his “sister” had gone to do something special without him, but that feeling immediately turned to one of excitement.
Finally some time alone, he thought to himself, dashing toward a shelf where he kept many of his possessions. I never get to do this when Twilight’s around! He dug around on the shelf for a few seconds before pulling out a worn stack of comic books. He grabbed the first one, which was entitled: Shining Silver: Hero of Equestria, and featured a grey pegasus stallion wearing gleaming silver armor fighting a bewildering array of monsters on the cover.
Twilight had never approved of such modes of entertainment. She tended to read much more advanced literature, usually tomes on magical theory and history. Having lived with her all his life, Spike could read at a surprising level for his age, but he did enjoy indulging in a good superhero comic. With Twilight safely gone, he could read his comics without fear of disapproval.
She’s one to talk. Those ‘Adventures of Daring Do’ novels aren’t much more advanced, he thought. Oh well.
He turned his attention back to the comic book, whose pages currently displayed a raging swordfight between Shining Silver and his nemesis, Dark Cloud. Unfortunately, he was interrupted by his stomach rumbling.
Uh oh, he thought, clenching his jaw. Put the book away, then burp up the scroll. Put the book away, then burp up the scroll…
Luckily, he tossed the comic under the bookshelf in time, and a blast of green-and-purple fire shot out of his mouth, accompanied by a thunderous belch. Grabbing the scroll, he quickly read its contents.
“Uh oh. This looks important. So much for having a day to myself,” he groaned and headed for the front door. “Figures this day was to good to be true.”
“Oatmeal? Are you crazy?”
“No Pinkie, I’m not crazy, that oatmeal was definitely the best part of breakfast.”
“But Rainbow, what about the pancakes? And the eggs? And the waffles? And the muffins? And the orange juice? And the-“
“Hold it Pinkie, ev’rything ya made was just dandy.”
“Oh goody! I was worried that I would forget to make something that everyone liked so I made everything!”
“The food was simply marvelous Pinkie. We should have these wonderful little get-togethers more often.”
Twilight Sparkle at the table, her unfinished apple fritter forgotten. True to her word, Pinkie Pie had made nearly enough food to feed all of Ponyville. She and her six friends had finished eating a while ago and were now just spending some time together, swapping stories.
“Ooh Twilight, why didn’t you invite little Spikey-wikey? You know how much he loves apple fritters! I made so many because I thought he’d show up, and remember last time how he ate so many alone? I didn’t think there’d be any left for weeks! He’s so small, but he eats so much!”
Twilight laughed at Pinkie’s rapid-fire manner of speaking. It took some getting used to, but she’d quickly learned how to understand what Pinkie was saying.
“Sorry Pinkie. He was up late sorting books last night, so I let him sleep in today,” Twilight responded. “Besides, he probably would’ve eaten all the apple fritters by now.”
“Uh, sorry to break the mood here, but Spike’s coming down the street,” Rainbow Dash interrupted.
“Oh no oh no oh no! Hide the fritters! I was supposed to save some to sell today!” Pinkie said, and shot into the kitchen, basket of fritters in hoof.
“Spike’s here? What could he want?” Twilight trotted to the window and spotted the diminutive purple figure running towards Sugarcube Corner. “He’s holding a scroll. Nopony sends mail through Spike but Princess Celestia! This must be important!” She quickly opened the door to greet him. Spike ran in, panting heavily.
“Letter…. Princess…. important…” he groaned, before flopping facedown on the ground.
Twilight took the letter and levitated it in front of her. “Oh my. This isn’t from Princess Celestia, it’s from Princess Luna!”
Twilight’s exclamation drew stares from all of her friends. Princess Luna might have known Twilight and her friends, as they were the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, but that was as far as the relationship went. The Princess of the Night was largely mysterious to everypony, almost reclusive. Her sending a letter to Twilight was certainly strange.
“Well, read it Twi. We won’t find out why she sent it ‘till we read it,” Applejack said, breaking the silence.
Twilight cleared her throat and began reading,
“Dear Twilight Sparkle,
I understand that we have had very little prior contact with you or the other Element bearers. However, we would like to meet with you and you friends tonight at nine o’clock in the Ponyville Library. Something strange has occurred that we fear may soon involve all of Equestria. We will explain this issue to you and your friends tonight.
All six ponies simply stood, dumbstruck. Unsurprisingly, Pinkie was the first one to shatter the silence.
“Well now that Spike’s asleep I can bring out the fritters again!”
Ignoring Pinkie, Rarity stepped forward, “Well if the Princess wants to meet with us, I suppose that we must oblige her. If she says something is important, then we should believe her.”
Twilight nodded. “Well, I should probably take Spike home. Meet me at the library at nine tonight.”
The six ponies nodded, said their goodbyes, and one by one, left. Twilight levitated Spike onto her back, feeling his reassuring weight against her spine. As she walked back to the library, her mind buzzed as if there was a family of talkative Parasprites in her hair. Why does Princess Luna want to see us? Does Princess Celestia know about this?
Like everypony else in Ponyville, Twilight had been worried that Princess Luna had still harbored some resentment towards ponies in general over the whole Nightmare Moon disaster. Those worries had been mostly dispelled after that one eventful Nightmare Night, but Luna was still considered enigmatic at best. The letter to Twilight only served to mystify her further.
Spike shifted on her back and muttered something in his sleep. Something about superheroes.
Twilight rolled her eyes. “I thought I told him not to read those ridiculous comics anymore,” she muttered. “Well at least it’ll give me something to talk to him about when he wakes up.”
Her mind temporarily taken off of Princess Luna’s letter, Twilight turned down the street and headed back to the library.
Rarity and Fluttershy trotted together through Ponyville’s town square, headed towards the spa.
“…and I simply must say, this is very strange. If anything were happening in Equestria, don’t you think that Princess Celestia would be the first to know? This all seems very unusual…”
Fluttershy nodded in response. Rarity had been talking nonstop since they left Sugarcube Corner.
“Do you think I should wear a dress when we meet the Princess? I know that it’s not really a formal occasion, but I certainly want to make a good impression. Or do you think a dress would be overdoing it? I suppose nopony else will dress up for the meeting, so I’d look very out of place. Perhaps I should just make sure my mane is groomed.”
“Rarity, I’m sure whatever you do will be just fine. Besides, the last time that Princess Luna came to Ponyville, everypony was wearing Nightmare Night costumes.” Fluttershy shuddered visibly. “Those frightening costumes.”
“Now now Fluttershy, those were just costumes. And frankly, most of them needed quite a bit of work. If I hadn’t had to spend all night fixing Sweetie Belle’s costume I would have joined the festivities myself.” Rarity gave a tired sigh. “All this discussion has made me even more tense. What do you say we go for the deluxe spa treatment today?”
Leaves rustled in the gentle breeze along the road to Sweet Apple Acres. The midday sunlight shone through the trees, casting a scattered pattern of light on the thin bed of orange leaves covering the ground.
This serene scene was disturbed when Rainbow Dash and Applejack went galloping down the road, their manes and tails flying behind them. The wind of their passage picked up the leaves and sent them swirling through the air before settling to the ground. The two ponies shot forward, neck and neck. As they ran, the large red shape of the Apple family’s barn came into view.
“Ready to give up yet AJ?” Rainbow taunted, smirking.
“Actually, ah was waitin for you ta give up,” Applejack replied, not taking her eyes off the road.
“There’s the barn! First one ta reach it wins!” Applejack returned Rainbow’s taunting smirk. Their eyes locked, each pony daring the other to break the stare. They were so focused on each other that they both failed to notice an apple cart being pulled by a certain large red stallion.
“What the hay?” was all that Big Macintosh had time to say before Rainbow and Applejack plowed into him. Apples went airborne and ponies flew heads over hooves.
“Consarnit!” Applejack untangled herself from the cart’s mangled wheels and surveyed the damage. She had run face-first into the wheels, while Rainbow Dash had crashed headlong into Big Mac. “Well that’ll be expensive ta replace.”
Rainbow Dash was used to violent crashes, but she still had trouble getting her eyes to point straight for a few seconds. Big Mac was still surprisingly on his hooves, untangling himself from the cart’s straps. Glancing over at Rainbow, his expression became one of concern.
“Are you okay Rainbow?”
“Uhhhh… I’m fine!” Rainbow replied, hopping to her hooves. “That didn’t hurt! I’ve had worse crashes in my sleep!”
“If ya say so,” he said dubiously, turning back to the cart.
Rainbow shook her head clear, trying to ward off the dizziness. Big Mac’s concern had been touching, but she had a reputation to maintain. She’d rather not have everypony jumping to help her just because of one stupid crash.
Not that she minded Big Mac paying her extra attention. Now that is a fine stallion, she thought. Pity he has his eye on Fluttershy.
“Well great. That’s the third one this week,” Applejack grumbled.
“Eeyup,” was Big Mac’s only response, as usual.
“Not much point racin’ now. We’d better get these apples back to the barn. Can’t sell ‘em lookin’ like this.”
Rainbow was just about to fly off when Applejack grabbed her tail.
“Hold on Rainbow, you made this mess too. You’re gonna help us clean it up.”
Rainbow sighed and returned to the cart. “What about the race? That I would’ve won?”
“Sorry Rainbow, we got another tie.”
“Yeah, just keep telling yourself that.”
“’Scuse me ladies, but shouldn’t we get ta work?”
Rainbow and Applejack both turned to Big Mac, who was carrying a barrel of apples and an annoyed expression on his face. The two ponies looked at each other again, shrugged, and started picking up apples.
Back at the farm, the three ponies stacked apple barrels in the barn. Rainbow Dash wore a sullen expression, as she was forced to carry the barrels one by one up the stairs to the attic. After she’d tried to fly three up at once and ended up creating some instant applesauce, she’d finally agreed to do things the old-fashioned way.
“So whaddya think Princess Luna wants to discuss with us?”
Applejack rolled her eyes. Not ten minutes had gone by where Rainbow hadn’t asked that exact same question.
“How should ah know? Just wait until we se her tonight.”
Big Mac remained silent as he hauled his sixth barrel up the stairs. Rainbow watched him disappear in disbelief. She was only on her third barrel, not counting the one’s she’d dropped.
“Does he even know how to relax?”
“Ah still don’t know.”
“He didn’t even seem to care when I mentioned the letter from the Princess. You’d think he’d be interested.”
Applejack hefted a barrel onto her shoulders. “Ah’m not surprised he isn’t. He don’t bother with things that don’t concern him.”
“Darn right ah don’t,” came a low voice from the attic. “You two and your friends are always runnin’ off and havin’ adventures. I prefer some peace and quiet.”
“Hey quit listening in!”
“You’re talkin’ ‘bout me aren’t ya? I think that concerns me,” Big Mac climbed down the stairs and selected another barrel. “Now are ya gonna keep talkin, or can we git this job done before ya have ta run off to meet the Princess?”