• Published 14th Mar 2012
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Warhammer 40k: Courage and Honour and Friendship - Verbose Soubriquet

The Ultramarines 2nd Company pursues Tyranids to Equestria.

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Space Hulk

Chapter 3: Space Hulk

Ponyville, Equestria 9:04 pm

Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Princess Luna managed to reach the library without incident. Fluttershy in particular had been worried that having a Princess with them would draw quite a bit of attention. However, as Rainbow Dash was keen to point out, all three of them had wings, so they took to the skies unnoticed.

Or so they thought.

Nighttime was no impediment to the Cutie Mark Crusaders. The darkness only meant more opportunities to discover their special talents.

Or maybe the results of their exploits were less likely to be noticed at night.

The trio of fillies walked despondently through Ponyville, looks of disappointment etched on their faces.

“It was a stupid idea anyway,” Scootaloo muttered.

“Hey! I thought Cutie Mark Crusader Astronomers would be fun! And the Doctor was nice enough to let us look through his telescope!” Sweetie Belle said defensively, glaring at her orange pegasus friend.

“It was boring! All we did was look at stars. They don’t look any different through a telescope! The way the Doctor was going on about them, you’d think there are whole other worlds out there!”

“We’ll maybe there are!”

Applebloom interrupted her friends before the argument progressed any further. “It wasn’t gonna work in the first place. Besides, how int’restin’ could stars be?”

Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle stood silently for a moment before nodding in agreement.

“I just hope that the Doctor gets his telescope out of the tree,” Sweetie Belle said with a giggle.

“That’s the spirit! Come on, we gotta whole night ta figure out new ways ta get our cutie marks!”

The trio’s expressions immediately became ones of delight as their imaginations ran wild. Applebloom was considering a plan that she knew nothing of beyond the fact that it involved bungee cords when she noticed three shapes flying over Ponyville. As she watched, they flew into the moonlight, revealing them to be Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and a tall, thin pony with midnight blue fur. Her eyes went wide as she spotted a horn and wings that marked this third pony as an alicorn.

“Did ya see that? Princess Luna just went flyin’ off!” she exclaimed.

Scootaloo followed Applebloom’s pointing hoof and spotted the Princess as well. “And Rainbow Dash was with her! They must be going to do something awesome!”

Sweetie Belle simply nodded excitedly at the other two Cutie Mark Crusaders.

“It looks like they’re headed for the library! Princess Luna must be meeting with Twilight and her friends,” she observed. “We should follow them and see what they’re talking about!”

“Yeah!” Scootaloo agreed. “We could be…uh…Cutie Mark Crusader Spies!”

The three fillies took in a huge breath together and shouted, “CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS SPIES YAY!

A short distance away, Lyra and Bon Bon jumped at the Crusaders’ ridiculous volume.

“Well those three are certainly going to cause some trouble,” Bon Bon remarked sarcastically. Lyra merely nodded in agreement.

On a small grassy hill, the brown stallion was busy trying to detangle his telescope from the branches of a nearby tree, grumbling something to himself.

“Oh look, a carefully positioned, fragile, and probably expensive telescope! Do you know what would be a brilliant idea? No, what? We should start knocking it back and forth! Yeah, great idea! I’ll use the magic that I have virtually no experience with to adjust it! Whoops, there it goes!” After swiping at its legs angrily, he finally managed to dislodge the telescope from the tree. “Finally. Maybe now I can…or maybe not,” he muttered as he noticed the cracked lens. “Well, surprises are always fun! I guess even I’ll be surprised this time!”

“No Applejack, that one’s an encyclopedia. It’s supposed to go in the stack with the others.”

Applejack rolled her eyes. “Twi, would ya stop all yer worryin’? Do it really matter where every book goes?”

Her complaint went unanswered, as Twilight was busy berating Rarity about a set of dictionaries that the white unicorn had arranged artfully across the table.

“Rarity, I asked you to put those away!”

“But Twilight, don’t you think it really captures the whole feel of a library? Knowledge everywhere, just tempting you to take a peek! Nopony will ever see these if they’re just sitting on a dusty old shelf.”

Twilight groaned in frustration. She was about to provide a carefully constructed rebuttal to Rarity’s arguments when a loud crash caught her attention.

“Pinkie!” she shouted, rounding on the pink pony.

“Oopsie…” Pinkie said, turning an amusing shade of red. Spike’s groaning could be heard from beneath a heap of books.

With another frustrated groan, Twilight levitated the books off of her assistant. “I don’t think I want to know how you managed to knock the entire biography section off the shelf.”

“Really, Pinkie,” Rarity interjected. “Do you want Princess Luna to see such a horrid mess? Speaking of which, it’s ten minutes past nine. I do wonder where she is.”

As if Rarity’s words were a cue, somepony knocked on the door. Everypony froze, making the room look like a perfectly timed photograph, complete with Pinkie precariously balancing four biographies on her head.

“Ooooo that must be the Princess!” Pinkie exclaimed, bolting for the door. For the second time that night, a stack of books went flying. Somehow, Spike still managed to catch the entire stack.

Pinkie opened the door and greeted Princess Luna with an impossibly wide smile. “Hi Princess howya doing? We haven’t seen you for a long time we have a lot to catch up on! I wonder why you’re late is it because you got stuck in traffic or did you have to stop for a snack oooo that reminds me I’m hungry now I should go to Sugarcube Corner and get some cupcakes for all of us!”

Princess Luna’s expression immediately became one of bewilderment. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, being used to Pinkie’s frantic manner of speaking, simply smiled and walked inside.

“Princess!” Twilight exclaimed, her tone slightly panicked. “I’m so sorry about the mess! We were trying to clean up but-”

“It does not bother us in the slightest, Twilight Sparkle,” Luna reassured her. “And we apologize for our late arrival. We did not want to cause any commotion in Ponyville. We were fortunate to encounter Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash.”

Her worries allayed, at least temporarily, Twilight nodded in understanding. “Thank you Princess. Do you mind if we clean up this mess?”

“There is no need. Allow us to assist.”

With those words, Luna’s horn glowed and all the books scattered about the room lifted off the ground. The six ponies and Spike could only watch in amazement as the Princess’s magic deftly returned every book to its place on the shelves. Spike yelped as the book he was sitting on suddenly lifted into the air with him still on it. After a few seconds, the glow receded from Luna’s horn and everypony present stood in the middle of a remarkably clean, well-organized library.

“That was amazing, Princess,” Twilight breathed. “I wish I was that skilled with my magic.”

“We would be proud to teach you our skills when there is time, Twilight Sparkle. And it would please us if you all were to call us ‘Luna.’ We…er, I would like to dispense with the formalities.”

The six ponies and Spike glanced at each other. None of them, not even Twilight, was used to being on such personal terms with royalty.

“Whatever you wish, Prin-… sorry, Luna,” Twilight said nervously.

Luna sat down at the table facing everypony else. “Good. Now, we should get to the matter at hand.”

“Can ya see anythin’, Sweetie Belle?”

“Not really. This window is up way too high.”

Scootaloo grunted from the bottom of the stack. “Hurry up guys! I can’t hold you up forev- whooaaa!”

The three fillies, who had been standing on top of each other to see through the window, toppled to the ground in a tangle of white, orange, and yellow limbs.

“Owwww….” Applebloom groaned.

“Maybe we shouldn’t be trying to see inside. After all, they’re just talking,” Sweetie Belle suggested, rubbing her head.

“Then let’s find somewhere where we can hear them!”

“Great idea Scootaloo!”

With that, the three fillies dashed around the library, looking for a more convenient window.

All six ponies and Spike sat at the table, paying rapt attention to Luna’s words. Spike in particular, was particularly worried. Being essentially the little brother of Princess Celestia’s favored student had its perks, but getting swept up in Twilight’s crazy adventures was certainly not one of them. And this looked like a disaster waiting to happen.

“My sister is powerful and wise, but she is the leader of all of Equestria. Most of the royal duties are hers, so I am free to do as I like more often than not,” Luna was saying. “Consequently, she does not have the time to monitor the states of our world as I do.”

“’Scuse me Princess, but do ya mean that there’s somethin’ wrong with Equestria?” Applejack asked.

“No, Applejack. Equestria is safe, at least for the time being. But I fear for what could happen to our home.”

Twilight cleared her throat. “This problem you mentioned in your letter, what is it? Something to do with the moon? Or the stars?”

Luna nodded gravely. “You are very perceptive, Twilight Sparkle. I have indeed, noticed something strange about the stars that could have dire implications for us all.” She got to her feet. “I asked all of you to be here at this late hour so we could employ one of Twilight Sparkle’s telescopes. I want all of you to see what I have seen.”

Everypony followed Luna to a window where Twilight kept one of her many telescopes. Peering through the lens at the star-speckled skies, she muttered to herself as she made some precise adjustments.

“Ah, here we are. The exact area of space where I saw the disturbance. Take a close look.”

Twilight moved to the telescope and scanned the heavens. What she saw was indeed something very strange.

“The stars… they all seem to be distorted… like a curved mirror. What is this? I’ve never seen anything like it!”

One by one, everypony examined the same patch of space, all coming to the same conclusion.

“Yes, my little ponies. Space is indeed distorted in that spot,” Luna said.

Twilight turned to the Princess. “But how could this have happened? And what does it mean?”

“That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen, and I’m know Pinkie Pie,” Rainbow Dash said, her brow furrowed.

“Yeah! I know me too, and even I think it’s weird!” Pinkie agreed.

Rarity took an extra look through the telescope. “Ugh, just looking at it makes my head ache. It doesn’t seem natural in the slightest.”

“That’s because it’s not.” Everypony looked at Luna in alarm.

“Not…natural?” Fluttershy asked shakily.

“No, Fluttershy. Whatever that is, it is most certainly not of this world.”

M41.996 5:13 (Macragge time) Ultramarine Thunderhawk Gunship Wings of Fury

The engines of the Thunderhawk rumbled as the ship roared through space towards the drifting freighter. Through the external cameras, Sergeant Marcellus could see signs of battle damage on the ship’s hull. The areas around its airlocks in particular, were heavily damaged.

“Have you located our entrance?” Captain Sicarius asked, his voice cutting through the din of the thrusters.

“Yes, Captain,” Techmarine Maxilos answered from the cockpit. “I have identified the specified airlock. It is currently undamaged. Docking procedures will commence in four minutes.”

Sicarius turned to the gunship’s troop compartment. Ultramarines lined its walls, going through their pre-battle rites.

“Brothers, you have all seen the briefing. This freighter has been infested by the Tyranids. We shall board the ship, and sweep it clean from deck to deck.” He turned to Marcellus. “Sergeant Marcellus, your combat squad will be the first ones unto the breach, followed by Brother Tychus and the Assault Terminators. My squad will follow through last.”

Marcellus nodded. “The Reavers of Macragge will do their duty, Captain,” he said, slamming a magazine into his storm bolter. Beside him, Tychus hefted his massive thunder hammer and storm shield.

“Techmarine Maxilos will detach the Thunderhawk after we have boarded. Epistolary Argus will remain on board as well and monitor the warp for signs of trouble. We shall bring our cleansing flame to crush these aliens.”

“Docking in two minutes,” came the voice of Maxilos.

“Ultramarines, with me,” Sicarius commanded, and all twenty-one Space Marines headed towards the docking umbilical. Marcellus took his position in front of the circular door. Beside him, Sicarius took position next to the door, ready to charge in behind the Terminators.

“Docking clamps in place. Equalizing pressure. Thirty seconds until boarding.”

“Brothers!” Sicarius barked. “War calls you! Will you answer?”

“We will answer!” the Ultramarines shouted as one.

Sicarius turned to Marcellus and flicked the power switch on his plasma pistol. “Let’s kill some Tyranids,” he growled.

“Victoris Ultra, Captain,” Marcellus replied with eager conviction, yanking the charging lever on his storm bolter.

“Docking procedure complete. Death to the xenos, Captain,” Maxilos intoned.

As the Techmarine’s words echoed through the umbilical, the door slid open and Marcellus strode through into the darkness of the infested freighter. His auto-senses allowed him to see through the gloom, where he picked out many pairs of shining, malevolent eyes.


Marcellus flicked his powerfist on, crackling bluish lightning casting a pale glow across the corridor.

“Courage and honour!” he roared, charging toward his foes.

Ponyville, Equestria 9:21 pm

“Not of this world? What do you mean?” Fluttershy’s incredulous tone broke the silence left after Luna’s last statement. Everypony merely stared at Luna in shock.

“I am sorry. This may be difficult for you to understand-”

“Don’t tell us what ya think we won’t understand. Jus’ tell us the truth!” Applejack said, a hint of anger coming into her voice.

Luna sighed. “Very well. Equestria is not the only world in existence. Across the stars, far away from here, other worlds lie in space. Many of them may be home to whole other species.”

“Wait a second, are you talking about aliens?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“That is exactly what I am talking about. We ponies do not know for sure, but many suspect that there could be strange and new creatures everywhere. We simply lack the capability to seek them out.”

Twilight’s mind raced. “So are you saying that whatever is happening in space is the work of aliens?”

“That is indeed a possibility. Aliens could be trying to find their way into Equestria.”

That was a sobering thought for everypony. Every single one of them had to admit that ponies had it pretty good. War and dispute were virtually nonexistent. Equestria had remained in a state of peace and prosperity for as long as anypony could remember.

“What kind of aliens do you think they are? Big green slimy things? Weird bird-aliens? Fish-aliens? Do you think they’d like cupcakes? I bet we could be best friends if we just try to be nice!” Pinkie, as usual, was apparently having difficulty appreciating the gravity of the situation. Then again, she defied gravity with disturbing regularity, so this was somewhat understandable.

“As little sense as she makes, Pinkie does bring up an excellent point,” Rarity pointed out. “Who knows what kind of creatures the aliens could be?”

“She’s right,” Applejack added. “They could be friendly. Or they could be not-so-friendly.”

Twilight turned her attention back to Luna. “Does Princess Celestia know anything about this?”

Luna sighed wearily. “Sadly, no. She has been quite busy as of late, and I only just made this discovery recently.”

Jumping to her hooves, Twilight immediately began spouting ideas. “We’ll need to notify her as soon as possible. In the meantime, shouldn’t we put the Equestrian Royal Guard on alert? Surely they should be informed?”

“Yes, most definitely,” Luna said. “However, we will need definitive proof of a threat to Equestria before the guard can be mobilized.”

Rainbow Dash turned to Luna, a confused expression on her face. “Uh, aren’t you a princess? Can’t you just tell them to get off their lazy flanks and get ready?” Her expression became even more confused as Luna shook her head. “What? Why can’t-”

“Unfortunately, many ponies still have difficulty trusting me,” Luna interrupted.

Rainbow Dash was dumbstruck at this. “What? They still don’t trust you? We’re the Element Bearers, and we trust you completely! Isn’t that enough?”

“Trust is not something that is easily given. I am grateful that I have yours, but I believe that it will take more than a friendly visit on Nightmare Night to convince the guard commanders.”

Everypony fell silent. A blur in space, though very strange, probably wouldn’t convince all of Equestria that aliens existed. Currently, only seven ponies and one dragon had any idea what might be happening.

However, unbeknownst to the eight inside the library, three more ponies had heard the entire story. The Cutie Mark Crusaders simply sat dumbstruck, staring at each other.

“Aliens! Just like Miss Lyra is always talking about!” Scootaloo said breathlessly.

“Wow,” Sweetie Belle said blandly.

“This is a big deal,” Applebloom said. “We should all be gettin’ ready for the aliens!”

“How? We have no idea what they could be like!” Sweetie Belle argued.

“That don’t mean we can’t get ready!” Applebloom countered. “Come on Crusaders! We might even get our Cutie Marks outta this!”

The mention of Cutie Marks was all it took to spur the small white unicorn and orange pegasus into action. They hopped to their hooves, threw their heads back, and began an earsplitting shout of “CUTIE MARK CRUS-” before Applebloom jammed her hooves over the other two’s faces. Their shout died down and finished with a more tolerable “-ader Alien Fighters Yay!

“Now what in tarnation was that?” came Applejack’s voice from inside. She stuck her head out the window to investigate. She was greeted with the riveting sight of Twilight’s flowerbed. “Coulda sworn that was that little sis’ of mine…”

The three Crusaders nervously peeked out from behind a row of tulips, and breathed sighs of relief.

“Okay Crusaders. Let’s go home now. We’ll meet at the clubhouse tomorrow and discuss our plans for fightin’ the invaders!” Applebloom declared boldly.

“Yeah!” Scootaloo agreed enthusiastically.

“See you two tomorrow!” Sweetie Belle said before turning in the direction of the Carousel Boutique.

The three of them went their separate ways, minds spinning with thoughts about aliens.

As Applebloom trotted down the road to Sweet Apple Acres, she stared up at the starry skies. Their infinite majesty hung above her, filling her with thoughts of aliens and space. A thousand tiny pinpricks of light shone upon the young filly, and she thought of how small she was, and of how tiny her world seemed. There was an entire universe out there, teeming with countless forms of life just waiting to be discovered.

“Wow,” she said reverently. “Just, wow.”

Sweetie Belle stared off into the sky as well. The entire sky was filled with beauty, and she had the privilege of seeing it. She thought of how vast the world must be, and how many fantastic sights it must hold.

“It’s amazing…” she breathed.

Scootaloo’s thoughts were running wild. How many different kinds of aliens were there? How many of those stars up there were suns bringing light to other creatures? And what kind of astonishing new creatures were coming to Equestria?

“I wonder what the aliens will be like…”

M41.996 5:20 (Macragge time) Infested Freighter Nebula Rider


For many people in the Imperium, genestealers were the first, and often the last, sign of a Tyranid invasion that they saw. Capable of acting outside of the influence of the rest of their hive fleet, they infiltrated a planet’s society, subverting the populace through parasitic implants. Using these hosts, they weakened human defences, making the job that much easier when the hive fleet arrived. In combat, they were fearsome opponents. Their four arms ended in lethal claws that could make mincemeat out of any living thing. They could even breach Astartes power armour with a lucky strike to a joint, making them a serious threat, even to a Space Marine.

Marcellus snapped up his storm bolter and fired a short burst into the closest genestealer. The explosive shells punched straight through its flesh and detonated, blowing the foul creature apart from the inside.

The other members of the brood snarled, one of them leaping at Marcellus immediately. Its leap was cut short by the Terminator Sergeant’s power fist, which shot forward and knocked it aside like a rag doll. With all of its limbs shattered.

The third and fourth genestealers shot forward with frightening speed, their four arms extended, ready to tear the intruders apart. They were met by a hail of shells from Brother Lucius, who carried the squad’s assault cannon. The massive, rotary-barrel weapon thundered as Lucius swept it across the corridor, and he was rewarded with several inhuman shrieks of pain.

The area around the airlock clear for the moment, Marcellus waved his squad forward. All ten hulking Terminators exited the Thunderhawk and scanned the murky darkness of the freighter’s interior.

“Spread out. Cover all approaches,” Marcellus ordered. The Reavers of Macragge fanned out with him, weapons at the ready. “Captain, our entrance is secure. Bring your squad up.”

Following immediately after their Terminator-armoured brothers were the smaller forms of the Lions of Macragge, led by the resplendent form of Captain Sicarius.

“Axilon, anything?” Sicarius asked, sweeping his vision across the dank hallways.

“No, Captain,” the squad’s auspex carrier replied. “Nothing within thirty meters.”

“Excellent. Maxilos, are you tracking us?”

“Yes, Captain,” Maxilos’s voice came through the Ultramarines’ vox-beads. “You are currently on the bottom cargo deck. You’ll have to sweep the ship room by room until you find the broodlord.”

Sicarius turned to Marcellus. “Sergeant, your combat squad will lead, followed by Brother Tychus and the Assault Terminators. My squad will bring up the rear and cover our backs.”

“Understood, Captain. Squad, move out!”

The ten Terminators spread out, with Marcellus at the head of their formation. Behind him followed Tychus, thunder hammer primed. Behind them came Sicarius and his command squad, constantly sweeping their weapons back and forth. Bringing up the rear was Veteran Dannelos, covering their flank with his glowing plasma gun.

Axilon tapped on his auspex. “Captain, the auspex shows multiple contacts twenty meters ahead. Based on the schematics for this ship, this should be a storage area.”

“Then that is where we shall go first.” The team headed along the corridor until they reached a large door. “Breach that door.”

Sergeant Daceus stepped forward, melta charge in hand, but Marcellus blocked him. “Allow me, brother,” he said. With that, he drew back his powerfist and smashed the door with a single punch. It flew out of its frame, knocked over a pallet of lasgun power cells, and didn’t even stop when it hit a pair of genestealers.

“Crush the xenos!” Marcellus roared as he unleashed fire from his storm bolter. His burst splattered one alien across a crate of ammunition, and he was already acquiring a new target before the first one’s corpse had flopped to the floor.

Unlike Marcellus, Dannelos was not equipped for the vicious maelstrom of close combat that the Terminators partook in. Instead, he strode forward relentlessly, blasting Tyranids one by one with blazing pulses of plasma. Wherever he aimed, genestealers died, single precision shots melting through their torsos or taking off their heads. Dannelos smiled grimly as he blew two more into the warp. He had not earned three successive Marksman’s Honour badges for nothing.

Tychus represented the opposite end of the spectrum. There was no subtlety in his method of combat. A lunging genestealer was met by the head of his thunder hammer and became an unrecognizable mass of blood and broken limbs. Another attempted to blindside him, but Tychus spun with startling speed, smashing it with his storm shield.

But all of these individual melees paled in comparison to Captain Sicarius. The Ultramarines’ Master of the Watch moved like lightning, the ornate Talassarian Tempest Blade flashing back and forth. Wherever it struck, Tyranid viscera flew as the xenos were violently separated from their limbs. His defence was flawless; not a single claw touched his armour. A genestealer attempting to pounce on him from behind was met with a pulse of plasma that melted its head. Dannelos was no swordsman; his skills lay firmly in the region of supporting fire, but he could appreciate a true master at work.

In what seemed like a matter of minutes, the formerly ten-strong brood of genestealers was dead, leaving the twenty-one Ultramarines standing.

“Auspex shows this deck clear.” Axilon adjusted some settings on his auspex. “Four more to go.”

Epistolary Argus stood behind the Thunderhawk’s pilot seat, watching the drifting Nebula Rider. This was the situation that he…no, every Space Marine hated as much as any xenos: to be unable to do his duty. Incapable of using his psychic talents, his combat usefulness was severely reduced. Not wanting to risk a valuable asset, Captain Sicarius had ordered Argus to remain on board the Wings of Fury. He could understand the Captain’s point, but he couldn’t help his hardwired desire to join the fray. To crush alien skulls underfoot. To incinerate them with the power of his mind. To obliterate-

“The bottom deck has been cleared. We are moving on to the next one. Epistolary, have you noticed anything?”

Sicarius’s voice interrupted Argus’s thoughts of righteous wrath. “Negative, Captain. The warp remains dark. Kill the Broodlord and I shall see again.”

“Well, we’ll not keep him waiting. Sicarius out.” The vox-system clicked off.

Argus sighed irritably. I should be by the Captain’s side. He’s likely to challenge that broodlord alone and get himself killed.

“Captain Sicarius is entirely capable of preserving his own well-being. It is illogical for you to preoccupy yourself over his safety.”

Maxilos’s grating, monotone voice cut through Argus’s thoughts. Not for the first time, Argus was reminded that he was incredibly perceptive for a Techmarine.

“The Captain is one of the greatest warriors and leaders of our chapter. It is unfortunate that he repeatedly insists upon placing himself at risk. If he will not concern himself with personal safety, then it should fall to his brothers to ensure his survival.” Argus looked at the Techmarine dispassionately, daring him to spout more of his relentlessly logical views.

“My mathematics are determinate. Based on Captain Sicarius’s performances in previous scenarios, including the Battles for Blackreach and Damnos, as well as his training records, the probability that he will sustain a fatal injury is less than point zero-nine percent. The probability that he will actually die as a result of any such injury is variable, depending upon the status of Apothecary Venatio at the time of the injury-“

“Forget it, brother. I believe that we can agree to disagree in this case.” Argus knew a lost cause when he saw one. He’d have better luck fighting a Titan by throwing Drop Pods at it than he would changing Maxilos’s mind.

“Your illogical judgment is worrying, Epistolary. I will have to factor it in to any calculations of your probability of survival for our next deployment. I would highly recommend that you revise your attitude in such cases like these.”

Argus rolled his eyes. As Veteran Dannelos so eloquently put it, “Techmarines are to the rest of us Ultramarines what Ultramarines are to normal humans.”

He was about to provide Maxilos with a discussion on the topic of relations between Techmarines and the remainder of the chapter when an edge of unease crept unbidden into his mind.

More Tyranids, he thought. Spurred into action, he reached out into the warp. As he did so, he cursed himself for his recklessness. I suppose I’m just proving Maxilos right. I am just as reckless as the Captain.

The presence of the broodlord on the Nebula Rider was already dimming the warp, but now, with even more Tyranids on the way, Argus might as well have been trying to see through ceramite. So I will not see. I will feel.

The shadow in the warp was fairly large. Not a whole hive fleet, but at least four bio-ships. Argus turned to Maxilos. “Brother, we will have to continue this discussion later. More xenos are on their way.”

“Give me some general coordinates,” Maxilos said without hesitation, tapping the sensoria controls.

Argus consulted the map of this sector of space, and supplied the Techmarine with an area to search.

“This area is considerably beyond the range of the Thunderhawk’s sensoria. I will have to contact the Valin’s Revenge.

“Do so, but hurry. I will warn the Captain.” Their previous disagreements forgotten, the two Ultramarines snapped into action.

As he withdrew the Tempest Blade from the corpse of yet another genestealer, Sicarius’s vox-bead beeped with a message. “Sicarius here.”

“Argus here, Captain. The Broodlord must be calling for help. I have sensed at least four bio-ships coming our way. Maxilos has confirmed this with the Valin’s Revenge. We estimate two hours before they arrive.”

“Then we shall quicken our pace here. Sicarius out.”

Sicarius looked up. The Lions and Reavers were cleaning up the remainder of the xenos on the freighter’s third deck. As he looked up, one genestealer, apparently dead, snapped viciously at Apothecary Venatio, who quickly drove his armoured boot down on its head. “Brothers!” he called. “Our actions have not gone unnoticed. The bio-ships responsible for the attack on this ship are returning. Our plans here are unchanged, but we must make haste. We should not keep our hosts waiting.”

All the Ultramarines instantly returned to their formation and continued through the ship. Marcellus took point and opened the door to the second half of the freighter’s cavernous cargo bays. When the doors parted, a veritable horde of genestealers sprang from the shadowy room, definitely the largest group the Ultramarines had encountered yet.

“Tychus! Charge!” Marcellus roared, striding forward to meet the enemy. Beside him, the Assault Terminators surged forward, absorbing the impact with their hulking shields. Dannelos fired his plasma gun, hitting a leaping genestealer. Tychus charged through its disintegrating remains and smashed another with a mighty overhand swing with his hammer. Sicarius swept forward and launched a huge, sweeping strike with his sword. His victim’s torso flew one way, legs flying the other.

Despite their incredible combat prowess, the Ultramarines were sorely outnumbered, with each Marine fighting as many as three opponents at once. This was the situation in which Space Marines could fall: bogged down by countless enemies, running out of ammunition, and cut off from their battle-brothers.

Dannelos was backed into a corner, firing off plasma blasts as quickly as his gun could recharge. He couldn’t provide supporting fire for his brothers, not while so badly swamped with enemies of his own.

Suddenly, the several warning lights lit up on his plasma gun, and heat release vents popped open along the barrel, plumes of bluish-white steam pouring out. “Guilliman’s blood!” he cursed. Plasma weapons were incredibly deadly, but prone to overheating with constant fire. He was fortunate that the gun hadn’t simply blown up in his hands. It would have made a fine grenade if it had overloaded, he thought.

Discarding the temporarily useless weapon Dannelos yanked out his bolt pistol and combat knife and charged straight into an oncoming genestealer. Now inside its slashing claws, he plunged the massive knife into its thorax repeatedly. Still moving like an out-of-control Ork vehicle, he barreled through the throng of xenos, pulping his victim against the wall of the cargo bay.

Shaking various Tyranid organs off of his helmet, Dannelos spun, knife held outward. Another genestealer, having recovered from his aggressive shoulder charge, died with the knife stuck straight through its skull. Unfortunately, Dannelos was forced to release his knife, leaving him exposed to the other monstrosities. He raised his bolt pistol, but he knew he was too late.

His fate was averted as a hail of bolter shells cut through the group of aliens, leaving Dannelos aiming his pistol at empty air.

“The Emperor protects,” came the rumbling voice of Sergeant Marcellus, the twin barrels of his storm bolter smoking.

Lowering his pistol, Dannelos glanced around the cargo bay. Fortunately, the Ultramarines all remained standing, with only some minor injuries among them. Apothecary Venatio was tending to the worst of them.

Dannelos grinned under his helmet. “That he does, but I still prefer to not take any chances.”

Ponyville, Equestria 9:50 pm

It appeared to everypony that Princess Luna was stuck. Unable to act without any evidence, she was forced to wait until disaster struck.

I have no idea what could happen, or when, she thought forcefully. If I cannot find evidence to support my claims soon, all of Equestria may be in danger…

“Princess, have you tried applying the concept of cross-dimensional feedback loops?”

Twilight’s voice cut into Luna’s thoughts. “No, I have not. That would assume that the aliens would be coming from a whole separate dimension. We have no evidence to support that conclusion.”

The purple unicorn returned to her massive tome of magical theory, furiously scanning its pages. Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash was fast asleep on the floor, having become bored with the endless “egghead-speak” as she called it. Rarity was busying herself in a romance novel, occasionally blushing and shooting nervous glances at her friends. Pinkie Pie was debating the finer points of cookie baking with Spike (he was encouraging her to bake various types of gemstones into the batter, while she staunchly believed that they would hardly sell). Fluttershy had attempted to read one of Rarity’s romance novels, but after several pages, she dropped it like it was hot, blushing furiously.

Applejack was struggling valiantly to maintain an interest in Twilight and Luna’s work. Unfortunately, she was ay out of her depth. They might as well be cluckin’ like chickens for how well she understood them. “Beggin’ yer pardon Luna, but do ya mean that these aliens could be comin’ from a whole ‘nother planet? How the hay could they do that?”

Luna looked up from several books, a pair of red-framed reading glasses balanced on her nose. “I do not know. For all we know, the aliens could be capable of creating tears in space and time to travel across the stars.”

“Rips in space an’ time? Whaddya mean by that?”

“Time and space are not as definite as you might think. Think of it as a sheet of paper that you could tear holes in, or fold in on itself.”

“So… the world’s like a sheet of paper.”

Luna’s eyes went back and forth embarrassedly. “Well, it is really nothing like that, but if it makes sense to you, just go ahead and think of it that way.”

Applejack’s expression became a mixture of disbelief and frustration. “Well, why dontcha find out? Ya got yourselves a prime example of a ‘tear in space and time’ right up there.”

Twilight and Luna shared a how-could-you-have-possibly-missed-that look. “Of course!” Twilight said excitedly, startling everypony in the room (except for Rainbow Dash, who simply rolled over in her sleep). “We could just probe it magically! I could try a magical synchronization spell to coordinate our powers so we’d have more than enough magic to investigate that… thing in space!”

The purple unicorn and the midnight blue alicorn both shot towards the window. Everypony else followed, their arguments and books forgotten. Even Rainbow Dash followed after being kicked awake by Applejack.

At the window, the two mages’ horns began glowing, Twilight’s with a pinkish light, Luna’s a dark blue. Luna reached out into the stars, as if she were trying to move the moon. But instead of causing an unscheduled crescent moon, she reached beyond it, seeking the distortion in space and time.

It feels… unnatural, that is certain. But what could have possibly caused it? The aliens? Luna mused, her brow furrowing in concentration. Beside her, Twilight shuddered, obviously getting the same feeling that Luna was. You can feel it too?

Yes, Twilight responded. Everything about it is strange. I can sense something… we must go deeper.

Luna nodded, and reached out further. She was not trying to simply get an impression from the distortion; she was trying to immerse her mind in it. I can feel… darkness, darkness everywhere…

“Princess? Are you all right? What darkness?” came the voice of Rarity, but curiously distant, as if Luna’s hearing were damaged.

Cold… dark… I can’t see…” Twilight’s voice was similarly muffled.

“What’s… what’s happening to them?” came Fluttershy’s concerned tone.

“Uh oh, my spine’s tingling!” Pinkie Pie said. “Something is going to happen that could destroy all of Equestria!”

“Uh, Pinkie? I think everypony kinda has that feeling right now,” Rainbow Dash said sarcastically.

“No, Rainbow! When my spine tingles, it makes my hooves itch too! I just know something’s gonna happen!”

“Twilight, are you all right? Talk to me!” Spike waved his hand insistently in front of the unicorn’s face.

Everypony jumped as Twilight and Luna both began speaking simultaneously, their two voices together producing a remarkably bone-chilling effect. “So cold… so dark… we failed… they will consume us all…

“Who’s coming? What’s happening?” Spike tugged at Twilight’s mane, an edge of panic entering his voice.

The Great Devourer…

M41.996 6:44 (Macragge time) Infested Freighter Nebula Rider

After about an hour, Captain Sicaius’s kill team had successfully purged four decks of the freighter and was about halfway through the command deck. They had fought their way to engineering and had planted their melta bombs on the warp drives, but Sicarius had ordered the Ultramarines to continue to the bridge in hopes of slaying the broodlord and recovering any data from the ship’s cogitators. The team moved along a hallway that was blissfully free of xenos for the moment.

With each step, Marcellus’s opinion of Captain Sicarius was degrading. He just wants to slay the broodlord himself. We should have left by now and blown this ship into the warp. He clenched his powerfist unconsciously, resisting and urge to slam it into something.

“Captain, wait.” Axilon turned, auspex in hand. “The auspex is picking up something behind this door. It does not register as a Tyranid.”

The door in question was nothing out of the ordinary, just another of the heavy doors that Marcellus had seen and smashed open. Upon close inspection, he noticed a long line of misshapen metal along the door’s edges. “Captain, this door appears to have been welded shut.”

“Perhaps we have a survivor after all. Breach it,” Sicarius ordered.

Dannelos and Vandius, another of the command squad, took positions on either side of the door, while Marcellus raised his powerfist. “Breaching!” the Sergeant barked before slamming his fist into the door. The door bent almost completely in half and went flying across the room. Dannelos and Vandius both charged in, weapons up, sweeping the room for possible threats.

What they found was a relatively neat room, most likely the crew’s recreation room judging by the tables and bar. The emergency lights glowed a dull red, casting an eerie glow upon the Ultramarines.

Sicarius strode inside, the remainder of the team remaining outside. As h scanned the room, he spotted a figure curled up beneath one of the tables.

“I am Captain Sicarius of the Ultramarines 2nd Company. Identify yourself.”

The man did not respond. He simply shivered as if he were freezing. Suddenly, he sprang to his feet, arms flailing wildly. Marcellus snapped up his storm bolter, but Sicarius halted him with a raised hand.

Looking at him closely, Marcellus realized several things. First of all, the man seemed uninjured. Secondly, his eyes were glazed over and bloodshot, and drool dribbled from his jaw. Finally, he had a third eye in the center of his forehead, marking him as the ship’s Navigator.

Navigators were a human mutation. Their third eye allowed them to see into the warp and guide a ship safely through it. He must have been driven mad by the Tyranid presence, Marcellus thought.

“Can you hear me?” Sicarius asked, stepping forward.

So cold… so dark… we failed… they will consume us all…” the Navigator gurgled, his head lolling slackly about.

“We are wasting our time. The bridge is just down the corridor,” Marcellus growled, immediately regretting the outburst.

Surprisingly, Sicarius acknowledged him with a curt nod. “You are correct. But we should still leave him a guard. Brother Dannelos, stay here and guard the Navigator. He may be able to provide information later.”

Dannelos nodded. “Yes Captain.” He glanced down at the pitiful survivor, who had collapsed and was hugging a chair leg. “Though I do not believe he will be going anywhere.”

Sicarius quickly left the room, Marcellus and Vandius close behind. “Ultramarines, to me. Only the bridge remains to be cleansed. We shall not suffer these aliens to live for much longer.”

As the team moved down the final corridor, Marcellus noticed that Sicarius was matching his pace, and had both his sword and pistol drawn. Marcellus was about to remind the Captain that a Terminator should take point to breach the door, when the door at the end of the hallway slid open.

Behind it stood a creature of nightmares. Standing nearly twice the height of a normal genestealer, the broodlord let out a roar, flinging globules of saliva from its jaws. With one of its massive talons, it pointed down the hallway directly at Sicarius. From behind it, another horde of genestealers poured forth, skittering down the hallway.

Igniting the Tempest Blade, Sicarius pointed it down the hallway at his opponent. “Charge!” he thundered. “For the glory of the Ultramarines!” With those battle cries, he took off, charging straight towards the oncoming storm.

“What does he think he’s doing?” Marcellus barked incredulously, but his words were lost in the clatter of bolters firing. All eighteen other Marines joined the charge, firing as they went. Caught in the assault, Marcellus ran as well, firing his storm bolter. If we are to die, let us die with guns in our hands and fury in our souls!

The two sides collided, the Ultramarines’ superior mass and strength allowing them to simply trample their opponents underfoot. Smashing his powerfist into the face of one, Marcellus glanced ahead at the Captain. What? The fool still hasn’t stopped! What is he… the broodlord. Realization dawned. Sicarius intended to slay the Broodlord himself. So focused was he on this plan that he neglected to even look at the other xenos clawing at his sides. Marcellus snarled in anger, both at the Captain and the aliens. Fortunately, he could take this anger out on one of them.

Sicarius shot forward, firing his plasma pistol indiscriminately. The broodlord was all that mattered. Kill it, and the other Tyranids would be a mindless rabble, turning a brutal engagement into a simple clean-up affair.

Finally he reached his adversary. The broodlord was quite formidable. It towered at least half a meter over his head, and had about twice his reach. Its arms ended in wicked talons that could probably tear him limb from limb if they found a vulnerable part of his armour. Against this opponent, Sicarius’s skills would be sorely tested.

The broodlord turned its eyes upon him. He stared back into those black, soulless pits, knowing the danger they hid. Broodlords, like many Tyranid leaders, were naturally psykers. This nature manifested itself in their ability to render opponents paralyzed with fear simply by staring them down. Many lesser men would simply snap and be torn in half by the alien.

Sicarius was not a lesser man.

“For Guilliman and the Emperor!” he roared as he charged. The beast snarled back and reached forward to grab this human who dared to challenge it.

Ducking under the long arms, Sicarius pointed the Tempest Blade upwards, and rammed it straight into the broodlord’s abdomen.

If he had to characterize such an inhuman, vile creature, Sicarius would say that it looked surprised.

Slashing upwards, he swung the sword clear in an artful flourish, and it exited through the top of the broodlord’s head. The two neat halves of its body fell to the floor.

Sicarius turned around to see his battle-brothers massacring the remaining genestealers, who had lost all signs of intelligence or coordination due to the death of their leader. He was about to offer some words of congratulations when his vox-bead chirped. “Sicarius here.”

“Captain! Dannelos here! Something is happening to the Navigator! Get back here!”

“On my way.” Sicarius launched into a full on sprint, contacting the Thunderhawk as he went. The other Ultramarines followed close behind. “Epistolary, what is happening?”

“Rrrggghh! The warp is ablaze, Captain! Something must have happened when you killed the broodlord!”

Sicarius entered the recreation room to find yet another horror.

The Navigator was floating four feet above the deck, glowing a bright purplish-red colour, and screaming.

It is happening! I can see! Fire, storms, and doom!

With these ominous words, there was a blinding flash, and the Navigator’s body was gone, replaced by a misshapen mass of wet, pulsating tissue that flopped wetly to the ground.

“Warp-spawn!” Marcellus barked.

“Everyone, to the nearest airlock!” Sicarius switched on his vox-bead. “Techmarine, dock at the Deck One airlock! And hurry!”

“Understood, Captain.”

Ponyville, Equestria 10:07 pm

It is happening! I can see! Fire, storms, and doom!

Fluttershy and Rarity screamed in surprise at these words. Spike leapt back, and Applejack, Pinkie, and Rainbow Dash all jumped.

“What they hay is going on?” Rainbow Dash and Applejack shouted simultaneously.

“Snap them out of it!” Rarity cried.

“How? We don’t even know what’s wrong with them!” Rainbow Dash replied.

“Try this! Spike rushed in with a bucket of water and doused Twilight with it. Broken from her trance, Twilight gasped and collapsed, breathing erratically. Princess Luna toppled over as well, without Twilight’s magic to sustain her. At once Fluttershy rushed over to the fallen mages, placing a hoof on Twilight’s forehead.

“Twilight, are you all right? Can you hear me?” she asked soothingly.

Twilight twitched spasmodically. “No… so cold… dark… terrible! I saw so many horrible things!” She snapped to her hooves. “Oh no, Princess!”

Luna was shivering despite the warm temperatures in the room. Rarity withdrew a small, wet towel, helpfully provided by Spike, and began wiping it across the princess’s brow. “Please, Luna. Tell us what happened. We need to know.”

Luna looked up, and shakily got to her hooves. “Something from another world.” She turned to Twilight. “Perhaps your idea of other dimensions was correct.”

Applejack stomped a hoof impatiently. “Well, Princess? Was it aliens that caused that thing in the sky?”

“I believe so, Applejack. It was strange though. It was not caused by magic, but I still felt… something coming from it.”

“You felt what, exactly?” Rarity asked.

“Something very strange. It felt like… every feeling at once.”

“Like you were happy, and nervous, and angry, and hungry, and sad, and laughing, and chronically depressed, and obsessive-compulsive, and feeling paranoid delusions maybe brought on by your repressed feelings of inadequacy despite your…”

Thankfully, Rainbow Dash jammed a hoof in Pinkie’s mouth before she could continue.

“Yes, actually. It felt like every emotion at once. The sensation was overwhelming. I fear for any unicorns who attempt to do what we just did.”

Suddenly, Twilight went rigid, her eyes glowing a blinding white. Before anypony could react, she spoke in the same voice she had used before.

They’re coming! The shadow in the warp! The darkness! The Great Devourer!

M41.996 7:01 (Macragge time) Ultramarines Strike Cruiser Valin’s Revenge

“Argus, what did that mutant do?” Sicarius was livid, his fiery temper showing in full.

“I believe what you saw was the worst possible thing that could have happened to an Imperial Navigator. He must have tried to guide his ship away, but was overwhelmed by the Tyranid Hive Mind. You killing the broodlord removed its influence, and his fragile mind was invaded by the warp.” Argus shook his head in frustration. “Captain, that is my only theory. This is like nothing I have ever seen before.”

The Epistolary’s words did nothing to calm Sicarius, who turned to Techmarine Maxilos. “Techmarine, do you have any definitive answers?” Argus set his jaw at that question. The Captain’s unspoken rebuke of him angered him to no end.

“The Revenge’s sensoria show a significant distortion around the freighter. It is likely that the Navigator’s sudden exposure to the raw warp resulted in some spatial phenomena.” Before Maxilos could continue, several lights began flashing on the sensoria console. He turned to it and checked the readings. “Captain, those Tyranid ships are here and closing rapidly.”

Apothecary Venatio stepped forward. “Pardon me for interrupting, Captain, but I took several readings of the Tyranid corpses on the freighter. They are match for Hive Fleet Behemoth.”

Those words silenced every Ultramarine present. “Behemoth? The invaders of Macragge?” Sicarius snapped.

“Yes Captain. These particular Tyranids must have been from a splinter fleet of the original attackers of Macragge.”

“Enough talk. We shall exact more revenge for our fallen brothers!”

Sergeant Marcellus stared incredulously. “Captain, we have one ship. It would be far better to seek reinforcements first rather than throwing away our lives needlessly!”

Argus felt a tingling at the back of his mind. Curious, he reached out towards the remains of the Nebula Rider. Instantly, he recoiled, both mentally and physically. Sicarius turned towards him. “Epistolary, are you all right?”

“The freighter… something is happening!” The two of them rushed toward a window.

Nothing was wrong with the freighter. The space around it was distorting bizarrely. Waves of purplish-red light flowed outward from a central point.

“Warp storm!” Argus shouted.

Maxilos wasted no time in firing the Revenge’s engines. “Captain, judging by my scans, the storm is expanding at a constant rate. If we leave now, we can escape it before it becomes a danger.”

“And miss an chance to obliterate the despoilers of Ultramar? Never!”

Marcellus spoke up again. “Captain, this is foolish! We should not throw away our lives in a hopeless battle!”

Sicarius rounded on Marcellus. “Then we shall lead the cursed creatures into the warp storm!”

“We may not have to.” Maxilos’s words broke through the brewing argument. “They are flying into it on their own.”

As the Ultramarines watched through the viewports, four Tyranid bio-ships sped through space, straight into the rapidly expanding miasma of colour. One by one, they distorted and vanished, swept up into the tides of the immaterium.

“It seems that our problem has solved itself,” Maxilos said plainly. “All xenos ships have vanished from the sensoria.”

“No… they are not dead.” Argus’s words chilled everyone to the bone.

“What are you talking about?”

“I can see through the warp… the storm is calming. The Hive Mind must be nullifying it. I can see… the Tyranids are unscathed!”

“I will not be cheated of revenge! Maxilos! Plot a course into the storm!” Sicarius thundered, drawing his ornate sword.

“Captain, I highly advise against this course of action. Even against crippled bio-ships, our odds of victory are less than seventy-nine point zero-zero-two to one.”

“Never tell me the odds! We go into the fire! Our faith shall hold us!” Sicarius ignited the Tempest Blade, allowing bluish-white lightning to coruscate along its length as he pointed it toward the warp storm.

“For Ultramar and the Imperium!”