She gazed out from the bridge of the starship into the darkness of space, and the pulsing red wound of the Eye of Terror that dominated most of her view. As she gazed upon it she felt despair growing within her, how could a galaxy divided by war and hate hope to stop the relentless advance of Chaos, a power that feed on conflict and division. So focused was she on her thoughts that she failed to hear the foot steps of her master coming up behind her and she started slightly as he spoke:
"Tell me Allira, what is on your mind?"
"I was considering how hard the task before us is. Chaos feeds on war, conflict and division but those are the things most common in our galaxy"
She turned to him as she finished, tearing her gaze away from the Eye and looking instead upon her master. The old Farseer had his helmet off which allowed her to see him simile at her response.
"It is such a shame to see the young turn to despair and hopelessness. Things are not so bleak as they appear"
"Aren't they? While the races of the galaxy fight each other the Dark Gods grow strong. Each mortal life lost only weakens those who would stand against Chaos while their own numbers grow each day"
The Farseer was silent for a moment before taking out the pouch that contained his runes.
"Tell me who wins wars"
"Yes armies do win wars, but what are armies made up of ?"
"Yes, soldiers. Individuals who, for whatever reason, joined an army and played a part in winning a war"
As he finished his sentence he sat down on the bridge's floor and cast his runes.
"Come Allira and see what things soldiers can do"
She sat opposite him and saw.
The Guardsman dived behind a shattered wall as incoming fire whipped over him. All around him the battle raged as the 34th Ironheads clashed with a splinter fleet of Hive Fleet Kraken. He looked behind him in time to see brood of doglike Tyranids with long talons, hormagaunts they were called, slam into the rest of his squad as the ran to join him. Before he could help the nids had slaughtered his squad and were already moving on in search of fresh prey. He started to turn back to battle determined to do what he could while staying alive when he saw movement in the bloodied remains of his squad. One of his sqaud mates, Corporal Ericson, was alive and had only suffered a deep cut to his forehead that must have caused him to black out for a second. As he moved to help Ericson another Tyranid came upon massacred squad, this one was a Genestelaer a feared vanguard beast equipped with slashing claws and razor sharp talons. He paused for a moment staring at the monster then resolved himself and charged not to save the life or Ericson but because staying put or running would both lead to death. He crossed the distance between him and the xenos in mere seconds and lashed out with his bayoneted Lasgun expecting the xenos to either dodge or the blow to land. Instead the Genestealer charged him, taking a long cut across its armoured abdomen, and struck out towards him with its claws that gouged deep rents into his chest armour and the force of the blow threw him onto the ground. He wasted no time and scrambled for a discarded Lasgun that lay just in front of him as the beast came around for another attack, arching its talons to split him crotch to skull. before it could a volley of fire from the downed Ericson drove it back giving him time to reach the Lasgun, roll onto his back and add his own fire to Ericson's. A Las bolt hit a elbow joint making it to rear up in pain, then another struck it a glancing blow on its head then other hit it right in its open mouth blowing out the back of its skull and it fell over dead. Ericson turned to him, his face a pale mask of blood:
"Thanks, you saved my life"
"No worries Corporal, anyway it was more for me than you"
Ericson nodded and they lay there for a second, savouring a moment of triumph in the raging heat of battle.
The vision faded and another took its place.
The las round hit his shoulder but he barely noticed, instead running forward and firing his shoota in the vague direction of the enemy howling with delight while doing so causing the Guardsmen to scatter as the shots rained around them. He was part of WAAAAGHH Blackjaw, the same WAAAGHH that had run slap bang into the middle of a Imperial Crusade much to the delight of the Orks involved. He bounded around the corner of building and saw a convoy of human tanks, Leman Russes they called them, and charged at them. The Tank's drivers opened fire at him with sponsoon and pintel weapons not rating him a big enough of a threat to hit him with everything. A heavy bolter round caught his left arm at the elbow and the whole limb snapped off the force of the hit checking his charge for just a second before he continued. As he reached the first tank he jumped and grabbed the front of the hull, having lost his shoota when he got hit, and clambered up onto the turret. One of the crew was there manning the pintel mounted Stormbolter and he leveled his Las Pistol at Ork. He lashed out with his meaty green fist and crushed the human's face, who promptly fell back through the open hatch and was shortly followed a stickbomb. The Ork lept from the tank as the muffled bang of the stickbomb going off inside the tank sounded and smoke poured from the open hatch. The tank then veered violently to the right and crashed into the tank to its right which had been aiming a battle cannon round at the Orks down the other end of the street. The turret of the rammed tank swung around to face the only undamaged tank just as it fired its round which promptly hit the remaining tank dead center and detonated its ammo magazine with deafening boom that pushed the Ork further into ground and left him momentrily deaf. A few seconds later his was jerked to his feet and came face to face with his mob's boss Gutbasha.
"Dat was zogging amazing, you showed dem huimes"
He grinned back at Gutbasha. Right now he didn't care about his missing arm, he just basked in the thrill of his success.
The ruined Imperial City faded and another battlefield came into focus.
It was dark but the night vision built into her helmet cast the scene before her in a flickering eriee green light. Ahead of her squads of her fellow Adepta Sororitas were moving through the ruins of the town, flashes of bolter fire marking where they met enemy resistance and broke it. Her squads Sister Superior was signally them to advance now as well and she started moving, her bolter held at waist height, finger ready to depress the trigger and dispatch heretics at the earliest notice. As her squad entered the town a cultist sprung out at her from a ruined barn, his cheat visible with painted with crude eye achingly foul symbols. Her training kicked in and she turned and fired in the same second, the bolter round disintegrating his chest and the heretical symbols in one shot. As she turned back to the rest of her squad a discordant scream filled the air and the ground in front of her squad exploded outwards and foul machine strode out from the sewers of the settlement its armoured hull dripping filth. It was one of the blasphemous Helllbrutes, the Archenemy's mocking intimation of the blessed Dreadnaughts of the Adeptus Astartes. It saw the enemy squad before it and charged, the earth shaking with every step as it reached the closet Sister and pulverised her with a blow from its thunder hammer arm while at the same time incinerating another with a shot from it's plasma cannon. The Superior calmly ordered her Sisters to open fire and then began to recite the Emperor's Benediction over the Squad vox as the remaining Sisters fired on the thing. She began to add her own bolter fire to the volley but as she did so the Hellbrute fired another round from its plasma cannon and it landed at the feet of the Sister standing next to her, the resulting force of the blast sent her flying and she hit her head as she landed. She came to after only a few moments to find her visor cracked ,she wrenched the broken helmet off her head and looked around to see the Hellbrute just finishing off the last of her squad. With a cry of rage she regained her feet and began to fire wildly at the abomination, It turned and fired its gun at her the blast engulfing her and the surrounding area. It turned to look for fresh prey when bolter rounds smacked into its rear armour and it turned back to see the Sister of Battle, her head wreathed in halo of white fire. She had discarded her bolter in favour of bolt pistol and chainsword and she recited the Emperor's Prayer as she charged the Hellbrute. Whatever remained of its mind was stunned into a moment of inaction as the Sister reached it and slide between its legs lashing out at its left knee as she slide past. Where normally a chainsword would find no purchase on warp forged armour this time it did, slicing clean through the left knee and the Hellbrute felt the whole left leg collapse from underneath it and it fell, screaming as it did. The Sister reached out for a nearby discarded Krak grenade and then lept onto the back of Hellbrute. She then took her Chainsword in both hands and thrust downwards screaming as she did so.
"The Emperor is with my blasphemous filth, you with him i shall triumph!"
She then took the pin out from the Krak grenade and rammed it into he hole she made with her chainsword before leaping off the Hellbrute and going to ground. The Grenade went off with whump, a small shower of metal and warp tainted flesh raining down on the nearby area. She stood up as the Hellbrute died and surveyed her handiwork and revelled in the fact that the Emperor had been with her this day.
Night draped townscape faded into blackness only to be replaced by a blackness of another kind.
The void reflected off the full face visor of her helmet as she made her way across the hull of the Imperial space station. As she reached the access point she unslung her splinter rifle and took out the small container of corrosive adhesive and applied it to the door's hinges. Then after a few seconds she levered the door out with her rifle and slipped inside. This part of the station was still battle damaged from the main raid a few day ago so the Imperials weren't monitoring it assuming that no one would try and infiltrate the station through a unpressurised section. She made good progress through the dead section despite the lack of gravity and soon reached one of the bulk heads that separated the depressurised section of the station from the pressurised. She used the Imperial Access card and codes obtained with great pleasure from a Imperial officer and opened the bulk head, air rushed out and she hurried inside looking for the first place to hide. The Imperials would reseal the section soon enough and probably blame it on a "Upset Machine Spirit" the fools. She hide herself in a small room just off from the main corridor and took off her helmet, her suit depressurising with hiss, and waited. Not long after she heard the faint unhurried steps of a lone human coming to investigate, just as the man came up to the door and began to inspect it she shot him just below the left knee with her splinter rifle, the round coated in a paralysing venom that would ensure he was ripe for suffering when the rest of her kin came to pick this station clean, after that she hurried the way the man came heading for the control room. Although she had never set foot on this station before all Imperial space stations followed the same basic layouts and so she was able to easily make it to the control room without being detected and in about 5 minutes from when she first entered the station. Before reaching the control room she entered the vents and went the last few meters in them, as she positioned herself over the centre of the control room she paused and counted 5 voices in the room, whats more thanks to her enhanced hearing she knew where each one was standing. She moved onto the grate that lead into the room, splinter rifle held diagonally over her chest, breathed in and applied enough force with her feet to dislodge the grate. She fired as soon as her head was out of the vent, her first shot exploded the skull of the first man and she spun as she fell killing the other 4 in quick succession so that when she landed the final man hadn't even hit the floor. With the rooms occupants dead she hurried over to the command console and quickly shut down all defences with acquired codes, another piece of information courtesy of the captured Imperial officer who had been such a great source of information as well as entertainment. After that she hit the activation button of the beacon on her left arm, locked the doors to the control room and sat back to admire her handiwork as the Dark Eldar Raider ships that had been cloaked decloaked and began their approach to the defenceless station. She smiled as the control room filled with the sounds of at first urgent requests for information that quickly became cries of alarm, then screams. Her Kabal would reap a bountiful harvest today.
The cold drab gunmetal of the control room was replaced by a seemingly untouched wood with a small building in it.
The Fire warrior picked his way over a fallen log as his comrade, Kesish, lead the way and hummed a tune, up ahead was a small log cabin surrounded by trees. Kesish seemed unconcerned by the prospect of Imperial ambush even thought the Tau had recently taken this world. As they neared the cabin the Fire Warrior raised one had and Kesish stopped humming instantly.
"What is it?"
"I heard noise coming from the cabin"
"Alright, lets go take a look"
Despite the casual note to the conversation both Fire Warriors approached the building with cation, Kesish going round the building while he took the front door. As he neared it a bush near the building exploded outwards and a young human male, dressed in ragged gear of one of the Imperial Guard regiments who had been defending, this planet sprung out.
"H-h-halt Xenos s-scum"
Where a younger, less experienced member of the Fire caste may have simply shot the Guardsmen, gambling that his armour could take a las bolt at close range, he didn't. Instead he very calmly laid his pulse rifle on the ground. A less experienced Fire Warrior would have also missed the quaver in his voice and the fearful expression that the Guardsman was trying to keep off his face.
"Easy now i mean you no harm, what are you doing here?"
"Thats none of your concern Xenos"
"Your right, i am here looking for members of the Imperuim's armies which you are not"
"Wh-a-a-at do you mean?"
"Your uniform is ragged and torn beyond what is normal for soldiers in war. Its also the fact that your squad number and regiment markings are suspiciously absent"
"My uniform got damaged in the fighting"
"And that is exactly what you would say to a commissar to avoid summary execution, but most commissars are stupid"
"I however am not stupid. I can see in your eyes fear and exhaustion in equal measure. You are not my concern because you aren't a member of the Imperium's armies, anymore"
The ex Guardsman was about to respond when the sound of a human infant crying came from the building and the door opened to reveal a slightly less ragged looking female human carrying a infant.
"John whats going..." she began only to stop when she saw the imposing form the Fire Warrior. At this point Kesish came up behind John weapon pointing skywards, he had heard the whole conversation and knew that neither human was any threat. He spoke causing John and the women to start.
"We know you are no threat to us, we wont hurt you. You look hungry mamm, i have some field rations i could offer you"
The women looked shocked for a moment before nodding.
"Ye-yes please sir. We haven't had much luck with hunting and John didnt want to go to far incase...."
"In case a Tau patrol found him"
"Or a Imperial one sir"
"Lets go inside and get you and your child something to eat"
As Kesish and the women went inside John turned to other Fire Warrior.
"I appreciate your friend's help, but why help us? I fought against you"
"But you don't anymore, and wont be considering that this planet is now part of the Tau Empire and you are a Imperial deserter"
"But you still could have killed me and been justified in doing so"
He paused for a while before giving John his response
"Because it benefits the greater good to act in this way. My friend will give you and your partner his field rations for the same reason we will escort you back to human settlement where your child can grow up in decent conditions, for the greater good."
"For the greater good" John mumbled as he went inside the building in daze. The Fire Warrior nodded to himself, no doubt the poor man had brought the Imperial propaganda that the Tau were all baby killing Xenos filth. It was the duty of all members of the Tau Empire to counter lies with truth and not fulfilling Imperial stereotypes whenever the chance arose.
"For the greater good" he murmured to himself and then radioed back to base to request transport and housing for John and his family.
The green wooded scene faded to be replaced by a cold stone hall filled with warriors.
The stood in rank upon rank as he was borne on the shoulders of his squad mates towards the waiting form of the Dreadnaught at the end of the hall. As he began his final journey as being of flesh they spoke as one.
"He came to us as a man, young and strong with a eager will to server the Emperor"
As the head of the precession that carried him passed each rank they turned to face him even as they spoke.
"We called him Ophiel, for he was not yet a brother. We broke him, trained him, shaped him into more than a man. We made him into a Space Marine, chosen of the Emperor"
Though he clung to life by the barest of threads his heart swelled with pride as the recalled the day he became a space marine, his brothers went on.
"He first tested his mettle against the tenacious Greenskins of WAAAGHH Red Klaw. He served with valour, personally besting the bearer of Redklaw's personal banner and breaking the vile totem over his knee as its bearer lay dying at his feet"
He remembered the moment when Redklaw's nobs charged his squad, he remembered fighting as he had never before and he moment when he got under the Ork's defense and the swell of righteous fury as he broke the banner and the Greenskins morale with one blow.
"He was promoted to Sargent and then went to fight Hive Fleet Karken. He proved himself once more by carrying a injured brother for three days across enemy held ground before fighting and besting a brood of Genestealers by himself"
He could see that trek now, never knowing if that shadow was simply bush or murderous Tyranid beast. He could also see the Genestealers , only 5 of them but enough to take his left arm, leg and eye in the ensuing fight.
"For these acts of bravery he was promoted to the Sternguard where he would go on to best the Chaos Warlord Hebas in single combat."
He could see Hebas now, a towering monster of brass and blood. He could also see the faint look of puzzlement on his face when he decapitated the monster. He was nearing the end of the hall now and he could see the squat, sturdy form of the Dreadnaught.
"He then fought against the forces of the Arch Traitor himself, Abbadon and he Black Legion. It was to be his finest hour when he cut down Abbadon's lieutenant the sorcerer Jigarr though with his last breath he smote Ophiel with foul magic."
As his squad mates reached the Dreadnaught the Techmairne Lytrios stepped forward and with the aide of his squad mates helped him into the sarcophagus which was then entered into the Dreadnaught. Darkness engulfed hum, then there was light as the Dreadnaught's systems fired up, as they did the sound of his brother's came back as he delivered their final line.
"But we would not let death calm him, for the chapter cannot loose so great a hero. So now we bid him rise once more to server the Emperor"
The vox casters built into the armoured hull of the Dreadnaught roared into life as Ophiel spoke with a voice deep and booming.
"For the Emperor"
As the vision faded and Allira returned to the bride of the ship her master spoke.
"Now, what did you see?"
"I saw 7 soldiers, heroes by the measure of their people"
"Exactly, heroes. Each race that stands against Chaos is cable of producing heroes, but do you know the use of heroes?"
"Yes, they provide a symbol to rally behind. A icon to inspire and someone to aspire to become."
"Indeed, heroes inspire and give hope. They rally with words, actions or mere presence. They hold then line where it is weakest. However powerful they seem the Dark Gods cannot take our galaxy yet, they don't have the numbers so to say. This gives the people of this galaxy time to rally behind their heroes and build their defenses so that when the tide of Chaos comes forth from the Eye they will be ready"
"But we stand divided...."
"And yet there are examples of age old enemies putting aside their hatreds to fight the greater threat. The Ultramarines and Tau fought as one against the Tyranids and that is just one example among many"
Allira nodded her head slowly.
"And what then master is our role?"
"That is simple, we give the galaxy the time it needs to produce its heroes and to rally them when the final war against Chaos begins"
She got to her feet and turned back to the Eye, her master coming to stand beside her. Thought it still dominated most of her view she now saw it in context. Yes Chaos was strong but races of this galaxy were stronger.
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