M41.996 4:38 (Macragge time) Ultramarine Strike Cruiser Valin’s Revenge
The hangars of the Valin’s Revenge were bustling with activity. Mechanic servitors and Techmarines attended to the 2nd Company’s assortment of combat vehicles, from the lightly armored but swift Land Speeders to the hulking, implacable Land Raiders.
Sergeant Marcellus strode across the hangar, glancing at the idle vehicles in admiration. As he watched, a Techmarine tested the motors of a nearby Whirlwind artillery tank. The vehicle’s massive battery of missiles swiveled back and forth, its movements smooth and precise. Several meters away, a Land Raider’s assault ramp whirred open and slammed onto the deck. And elsewhere, the distinctive whine of a Land Speeder’s engine starting up filled the hangar.
Marcellus’s chest swelled with pride as he observed all this routine maintenance occurring. We may not have the technosorcery of the Eldar or Tau, but by the Emperor, we can pack a punch.
He turned from the hulking tanks and headed for the other side of the hangar, where a very different type of war machine was receiving its ministrations.
“Greetings, Sergeant,” came the voice of Techmarine Maxilos, who was currently out of sight behind his “patient.”
Maxilos was a large Marine, mainly due to the four extra arms of his servo-harness, but he was completely obscured by the form of Venerable Maccabeus. His blocky form stood twice as tall as Marcellus and almost thrice as wide. His left arm was a massive armored fist that could enclose a human’s entire body and smash even the mightiest walls. His right arm lacked a hand, instead it was a large housing for one of several heavy weapons configurations. Armored plates covered the fronts of his stumpy legs, protecting the powerful servos and actuators that allowed him to charge into battle. The rich blue ceramite shell of his body had been polished spotless, while the gold plates bearing the names of his many victories gleamed brightly.
Power armor and even Terminator armor were more commonplace, but nothing truly embodied the magnificence of the Adeptus Astartes like a Dreadnought.
“Techmarine Maxilos. Ancient Maccabeus,” Marcellus said, bowing his head in greeting. Maxilos nodded in response, but Maccabeus remained silent. Maxilos swung a servo-arm around and whacked the Dreadnought soundly on the torso. With a spluttering of static, his vox-system came to life.
“Blasted thing hasn’t been functioning right since Ichar… hello Brother Marcellus. What news do you bring?” came the deep, resonating voice of Maccabeus.
“Do I need an excuse to visit my old comrade?” Marcellus replied with a grin. “I simply wanted a chance to speak with you.”
“Your timing is impeccable. My maintenance is almost complete.”
Techmarine Maxilos set lowered his servo-arms and bowed his head. Marcellus heard a low buzzing sound and realized that Maxilos was performing his rites of blessing. He spoke in the metallic drone of Binary, the language of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
Marcellus bowed his head respectfully and waited for Maxilos to finish his consecrations. Like almost all Space Marines, he regarded Techmarines with a degree of suspicion. However, he had a healthy share of respect for them, having seen examples of their valour and expertise. He’d seen them outfight crazed Orks in combat, turn barely functioning wrecks into operational vehicles, and even seen Maxilos disintegrate an Eldar Wraithlord with a well-placed conversion beamer shot. Though austere, Techmarines were a valuable part of any Space Marine Chapter.
Maxilos finished his duties and pressed a button, releasing them clamps that held Maccabeus in place. The Dreadnought shifted his feet and strode out of the maintenance bay.
“Excellent. Walk with me, brother. I would like to hear what you have to say.”
The two 1st Company veterans strode out into the vast expanse of the hangar. Servitors hurriedly corrected their paths to give the massive Dreadnought some space.
“Tell me what is on your mind, Marcellus.”
Marcellus sighed heavily, “I do not know what to think of our Captain.”
Maccabeus did not break stride, “What do you think of him, then?”
“He is a warrior without peer. He is the finest fighter and tactician I have ever met.”
“Then why do you have doubts?”
“I won’t pretend that the issue doesn’t exist. Many say that he is next in line to become Chapter Master.”
“That matter is not for either of us to decide,” Maccabeus stated calmly. “It lies solely with Lord Calgar himself.”
Marcellus turned and stopped, facing Maccabeus, “Ancient, you are a member of the Ultramarines’ 1st, are you not? Do you realize the implications of this?”
Maccabeus returned Marcellus’s look, “Yes, I do. The Chapter would gain a great leader. Captain Sicarius would be a worthy successor to Lord Calgar.”
“Sicarius may be a mighty warrior and expert tactician, but he is reckless. Full of fire. Do you not remember Damnos?”
Though neither had participated in the battle for Damnos, both remembered it well. The planet had been home to legions of slumbering Necrons, who had awoken and butchered virtually the entire population of the planet. Captain Sicarius had led the campaign to defend and evacuate the planet. Though the planet was lost, he saved a large portion of the planet’s population.
“Yes. The Captain does indeed play a dangerous game.”
“Dangerous does not even begin to describe it! He knowingly attempted to incur the wrath of an entire Necron tomb world, risking his entire company and the surviving population! And for what? So he could challenge the Necron Overlord!”
“Calm yourself, brother. Sicarius’ tactics were daring, but they paid off. The Necron leader was destroyed, and the 2nd evacuated the survivors safely.”
“And almost got himself killed! It was Venerable Agrippan who crushed the Necron Overlord and then took charge of the battle!” Marcellus found himself unconsciously clenching his powerfist. “I find it rather disturbing that the Captain of the 2nd requires the 1st company to save his skin. Captain Agemman would never condone such risks.”
“And here lies the root of the problem. You would rather see our own captain become Chapter Master.”
“That is irrelevant. Captain Agemman is far better suited for the role. He would not plunge the Ultramarines into impossible situations to satisfy his own taste for glory!”
Maccabeus’ tone remained even, in contrast to Marcellus’, which increased in anger steadily, “Captain Sicarius is an Ultramarine beyond all else. He does not place his own desires above those of the Chapter. And think, brother. Remember Commrath, and Orar’s Sephulchre? Our current Chapter Master challenged an Eldar Avatar to single combat, and won. That ‘reckless’ decision broke the entire Eldar siege.”
Marcellus felt his anger evaporating as if shot by a meltagun. He recalled irritably why dreadnoughts were so often called upon for their wisdom. He had enormous respect for Maccabeus, but he found his calm logic rather infuriating at times.
“I suppose you may be correct, Ancient. Forgive me, I lack your experience and wisdom.”
If Maccabeus still had a face, Marcellus was sure he would be smiling.
Veteran-Sergeant Daceus stared out at the stars. Beside him stood Epistolary Argus. Though they both watched the same scene, they saw very different images. Daceus saw a thousand tiny specks of light in an infinite void of blackness. Argus saw a writhing miasma of color that was more felt than seen. The warp was a chaotic, uncontrollable force that was created by the emotions of living beings in the real universe. Here was the necrotic brown of despair from a guardsman back on Ichar IV. A slight shift of warp-sight, and the red glow of anger filled Argus’ mind, most likely from Sergeant Marcellus.
Argus ignored all these distractions and swam though the immaterium. He was searching for Tyranids.
Where most species’ minds left impressions in the warp, the Tyranid Hive Mind cast a shadow over it. Ultramarines Librarians knew this better than most. Unable to see the tides of the warp, Imperial Navigators could not guide their ships safely. At best, warp travel in the presence of Tyranids was difficult. At worst, the Navigator became lost in a void of shadow, steering his or her ship blindly into the warp. Argus was more familiar with the battlefield difficulties Tyranids caused. Normally, Librarians could unleash fire and lightning to destroy their foes, but in the presence of Tyranids, utilizing their warp-talents was like driving a Land Speeder with one’s nose. Generally impossible, and tended to end badly.
Right now, Argus was searching for this shadow.
“Anything?” Daceus interrupted.
“We’ve been here for all of an hour, Sergeant. I haven’t seen anything,” Daceus was at least more understanding than Sicarius was, but he still ha no idea of Argus’ difficulty. “You worry about monitoring the sensors, I’ll watch the warp.”
Daceus said nothing, but he nodded in acknowledgement. Argus was a first-rate psyker, but he had become rather irritating as of recently. Daceus suspected that his bad mood was due to the Tyranids’ ability to nullify his psychic power. His greatest strength had been revoked.
Daceus turned his attentions to the sensor console. Nothing within its range was currently amiss. The only object of interest was the drifting wreckage of an Imperial Navy frigate. The frigate, Swift Retribution, must have been travelling to the battle around Ichar IV when the Navigator became lost in Tyranids’ shadow in the warp and transitioned back to reality. Caught unprepared, the ship was savaged by at least four Tyranid bio-ships. Typical Tyranid activity would be to board the ship, kill the crew, and let the newly infested space hulk drift towards the closest inhabited world. In this case, the xenos must have gotten overeager and scuttled it.
That is odd in itself, Daceus thought. Usually they never miss a chance to use our own ships to deliver their warriors. The fact that this ship was completely wrecked means that they couldn’t spare any of their warriors to board it. These Tyranids must be fairly weakened.
He was about to discuss these musings with Argus when the Epistolary’s eyes snapped open. His eyes glowed a blinding bluish-white, and his face bore a triumphant grin.
“You’ve found the xenos?”
“I am certain this time. The cry for help was from an Imperial astropath, just before he was silenced by the Hive Mind. I heard enough to show Techmarine Maxilos where to scan.”
“Excellent. You have restored my faith in your abilities, Argus.”
“I did find your lack of faith disturbing, Captain.”
Sicarius chuckled and turned to the hololith, where the same group of Space Marines that had been present less that six hours ago stood once again, along with Sicarius’ entire command squad, the Lions of Macragge.
“As you have all been informed, we have located a Tyranid threat. We do not know its true nature, but we can assume that an Imperial ship has been overrun. If this is the case, we shall undertake boarding action and cleanse the ship.”
Sergeant Marcellus stepped forward. “If we do have a space hulk to clean out, I would assume that my Terminators will be leading the charge?”
“Yes Sergeant,” Sicarius tapped some keys on the hololith and an image of a large freighter appeared. “I have examined all records of ships entering and leaving the Ichar system, and the only ship unaccounted for is the Nebula Rider, a commercial freighter from Forge World Graia. If I am correct, this schematic should be accurate.”
Marcellus studied the freighter’s outline intently. The ship’s layout was familiar to him; he had led boarding actions against this type of ship many times before. As Terminators, it was his squad’s job to be the first ones onto the breach.
“The entrance that we have indentified is on the lower decks of the ship, near the crew quarters. Our Thunderhawk will dock with this airlock and we will board from there. Squad Marcellus will lead the charge. I will lead the Lions in next.”
Marcellus flexed his fingers in anticipation. This was the kind of action that Terminators were made for. Sicarius’ words also made Marcellus alter his opinion of him slightly. He had initially suspected that Sicarius would want to lead the charge himself, but instead, he would be boarding second along with his command squad. Perhaps he has learned some discretion, he thought.
“Sergeant Marcellus, divide your squad into two five-man teams, one with ranged weapons, one with melee wargear. It will be tight quarters throughout the ship.”
Sicarius turned back to address the entire group. “We will move quickly, cleaning out any Tyranids we find until we reach engineering. From there we will plan melta charges on the drives and blow the ship into the warp.”
“Pardon me for interrupting, sir, but is there any chance that there could be survivors?” Dannelos asked.
“Highly unlikely,” Sicarius responded. “Our mission is not to seek any possible survivors, but if we find any, we shall escort them back to the Thunderhawk.”
Marcellus sighed grimly. Tyranids never left survivors, at least not for long. In his experience, if Tyranids had boarded a ship, there was little to for him to do but to avenge the crew.
Sicarius turned back to the hololith. “We have two hours until we reach launch range for the gunship. Until then, look to your wargear. We shall cleanse these damned aliens from the galaxy, one at a time we have to.”
Sicarius stood up straighter and slammed his right arm across his breastplate. “Victoris Ultra!”
The assembled Ultramarines mimicked Sicarius’ salute, and as one, echoed his battle cry. “Victoris Ultra!”
Ponyville, Equestria 8:49 pm
“Spike, did you find that copy of Magical Spatial Phenomena yet?”
“Twilight, I’m still looking for Stargazer’s Guide to Star Formations! Cut me a break!” Spike teetered under a stack of books taller than he was.
Twilight glanced over at him and gasped in alarm. “Spike, those were organized!”
With a resounding thud, Spike set the books down. “I had to move them because Moonwalker’s Guide to Lunar Phenomena was under the stack.”
Twilight groaned in frustration. “Ugghh Spike, I didn’t need that… or wait, it might be helpful if Princess Luna’s discovery has anything to do with the moon. Forget what I said, I need it.”
Spike groaned and disappeared behind the mountain of books, grumbling something unintelligible.
“Really Twilight, he does have a point,” Rarity said from her seat at the table. “Don’t you think you’ve done everything possible to prepare?”
“Yeah, Twi. I think yer overreactin’ just a bit,” Applejack chipped in.
Twilight continued her nervous pacing. “No, I don’t think I’ve done everything I can! I’ve probably forgotten something really impor-“
“Twilight, would you at least stop pacing? Remember how long it took to fix that hole in the floor from last time?” Spike interrupted from behind a tower of encyclopedias.
Twilight froze in mid-step, an embarrassed look on her face. She sheepishly trotted over to an empty seat next to Rarity.
“And really, darling. Don’t you think that Princess Luna would have told you to do some extra research if it was really necessary?” Rarity said consolingly.
Twilight’s face went through an amusing series of expressions starting with disbelief, continuing to frustration, and ending in resignation.
“I guess you’re right Rarity. You can only prepare so much.”
Rarity put a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. “I’m glad you finally decided to lighten up.”
“Great. Does that mean I dug these out for nothing?” Spike grunted under the weight of the stack of heavy volumes that Twilight had requested. “Because if I just have to put them all back on the shelves, I might just whoooaaa!”
Spike slipped on a sheet of parchment and he flipped head over heels, sending three massive books flying. He sprang to his feet and caught one, while Twilight grabbed a second with her magic.
Time seemed to slow to the speed of icy mud as Spike lunged for the final book.
I got this, I got this, he thought. I can pull off an awesome save and impress Rarity… wait… noooooo!
Spike flew through the air, missed the flying book entirely. He flew directly into the tower of books that he had spent all evening stacking, causing the entire thing to topple, burying him.
Meanwhile, the errant book landed with a gentle thud on the table right in front of Twilight.
Spike poked his head out of the pile of books. “I got this…” he said weakly. Then Pinkie Pie popped out of the books, directly under Spike, so he ended up balanced on her head.
“You got what? A cold? That would be bad if you started sneezing, because you live in a tree, so the entire thing could catch fire! Or if you sneeze, do you just send stuff to Princess Celestia? Would that happen if you sneezed on the library? Would you send an entire library to the Princess?” Pinkie babbled with her typical speed and questionable comprehensibility, apparently oblivious to the fact that Spike was balanced on her head.
Twilight, Applejack, and Rarity glanced at each other, wearing similar expressions. Pinkie’s ability to pop up seemingly anywhere remained inexplicable, but they had long given up trying to find an explanation.
“Well at least this will give us something to do while we wait for Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said, getting to her hooves.
Outside the library, night was falling. Ponies closed up their shops and turned in for the night. Others trotted about as if it were day, enjoying the nightlife. Lyra and Bon Bon sat on their usual bench, happily gazing at the night sky.
“So many stars…” Lyra said in wonderment. “I can’t believe that anypony would want to miss this.
“Yes. So peaceful…” Bon Bon agreed.
Lyra turned to her friend. “Doesn’t it just make you wonder what’s out there? There could be aliens out there!”
“Oh, please don’t get started on this again. Nopony has any idea whether aliens really exist. And if they did, what makes you so sure that they would have ‘hands?’”
“What makes you so sure that aliens don’t exist?”
“I never said that!”
A short distance away, a certain brown earth pony with a spiky mane was busy setting up a telescope.
“If only they knew…” he muttered.
“He’s definitely the weirdest pony I’ve ever seen,” Rainbow Dash remarked to Fluttershy as they spotted the brown stallion and his telescope.
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” Fluttershy began. “He’s just-“
“Weird,” Rainbow Dash interrupted. “Nopony even seems to know his name. What’s up with that? All we know is that he’s a doctor.”
“Exactly! And if he’s a doctor, why is he messing with a telescope?”
“Maybe he could just like watching the stars?”
Rainbow Dash was about to say something when she noticed a pony crossing the bridge over the stream. At first she thought nothing of it, but then she saw that the pony had both wings and a horn.
“Princess Luna!” she exclaimed, eyes widening in surprise. Both she and Fluttershy reflexively dropped to their knees in respect.
Luna approached the both of them and cleared her throat. “YOU MAY-“ she began in the thunderous Royal Canterlot Voice, but then she clapped a hoof over her mouth. “You may rise,” she finished embarrassedly.
Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash got to their hooves, both their manes blown back comically by Luna’s sheer volume.
“We assume that the both of thou were on the way to meet Twilight Sparkle, are we not correct?” Luna asked, somehow managing to appear regal and imposing, yet tentative at the same time.
Rainbow paused for a moment, trying to wrap her brain around the Princess’s unique manner of speaking. “Um, yeah? We were just on our way now,” she managed, wearing an embarrassed expression similar to Luna’s.
“This pleases us. Permit us to accompany thou to the meeting. And we would be most grateful if we could make haste. We are not completely comfortable being in public like this.”
Rainbow was about to comment about how almost nopony was out and about at night when she saw Lyra and Bon Bon looking in Luna’s direction in amazement, whispering to each other. She nodded in agreement, nudged Fluttershy in an attempt to snap her out of her shock, and headed towards the library.
Meanwhile, the brown stargazing stallion rubbed his forehead where he had whacked it on the telescope. He glanced irritably at the trio of ponies heading for the library. “I can’t even watch the stars without ponies thinking I’m strange. What exactly is suspicious about me just looking through a telescope at…at…” he broke off as he peered at the constellations. “My, that is something interesting. And on a Sunday night too!” He excitedly adjusted some settings on the telescope. “Thinking…ah yes. The Element Bearers meeting with Princess Luna, a strange…something in the stars…oh this is going to be an interesting week.”