++ Code Alpha Black
“In the name of the holy Emperor!” The loud click of the bolt pistol shattered the quiet. My head span in fear and shame as General Solotov would have leapt at these figures with a chainsword and sold his life dearly, but this broken old man? All he could do was point an unloaded pistol at the Emperor’s worst enemies, because that’s what they were. Standing in my small room was four Chaos Marines. I almost died.
Then as one they knelt down and bowed their heads. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The lead marine looked up and in a horrible, grating voice said.
“Rise and be seated.” I thought this was ridiculous and the situation became even more disconcerting when the marines sat down on my seats and cushions. The lead marine, in scarred blue and green armour spoke once more.
“We seek forgiveness. Let us speak. My name is,” The speaker seemed to struggle as he tried to drag out his name. “Captain Austerus, Alpha Legion, Adeptus Astartes.” I looked at his armour and markings. The Imperial Eagle had long been replaced with the eight-pointed start of chaos but even this was now scarred and barely recognisable. Captain Austerus then reached for his release clips on his helmet and flicked. I remember a sliver of fear go through me as the tubes popped loose from the side of his ornate helmet and air hiss out of the inside. The Captain paused halfway on taking off his helmet, hesitant. He then took the helmet off and placed it on his lap. He had his eyes closed and he appeared to be holding his breath. Quietly, he exhaled and opened his eyes. To my amazement, clear blue eyes looked at me. Apart from the remnants of a flash burn he appeared to be unmarked.
“You looked surprised Padre?” I wasn’t too sure how to answer so I nodded. “The mark of chaos is as random as chaos itself.” He looked at me as if trying to communicate some hidden secrets. He smiled weakly. “My mark is deep, Padre. Too deep for eyes to see.” He then gestured to each of the remaining three marines, the first marine, with the same faded blue and green armour slowly nodded to me.
“This is Lieutenant Ash, Alpha Legion, Adeptus Astartes.” Ash slowly took off his helmet with his one remaining hand and I tried to hide my shudder. He had no eyes, they appeared to have been sutured shut. To alleviate my discomfort Ash produced a bandage and wrapped it around his still bloodied eyes. Austerus continued.
“Lieutenant Lensen, Thousand Sons Legion, Adeptus Astartes and Master Sergeant Fels, Death Guard Legion, Adeptus Astartes. They apologise for not removing their helms. Lensen can’t and Fels won’t.” I noticed that Fels huge body was wrapped tightly head to toe in a robe but even this was not preventing the stench of decay coming through. Captain Austerus looked at me and asked quietly.
“Will you listen to me and my companions’ stories?” I leaned forward and looked at the large bulk of the Captain. What could I say or do? I nodded and Captain Austerus began his tale. I have tried to maintain as much of his prose as possible, adhering to his speech and mannerisms as best as my memory can recall. Any errors in this is purely my own.
So Captain Austerus began his amazing tale.
“I am over ten thousand years old, as are my companions. My time as an initiate with the Alpha Legion I will say little. History has judged us already.” He paused and placed his chin into his great, gauntlets and leaned forward.
“Glorious was the time when we strode forward with Alpharius and reclaimed all of Humanity’s lost realms. Our enemies could not stand before us. On battlefield the co-ordination of the Alpha Legion was terrifying and relentless. Nothing could stop us.” He paused for a moment, lost in thought.
“Then came our greatest shame – an eternal stain on our name. Horus led us off the path of righteousness and into hell. We worshipped Horus as a God but he slowly broke the links with our own humanity and many began to seek out and worship the very chaos powers themselves. Corrupted and fallen we threw ourselves at our own brothers. Great was the slaughter and I killed so many of my kin.” I noticed that the three marines had their heads bowed in shame.
“When the Emperor defeated Horus. We fled to the Eye of Terror and to live to fight another day. The Alpha Legion was foremost in venturing out of the Eye to ferment rebellion on a thousand worlds. The Fourth Quadrant rebellion was largely due to the actions of the Alpha Legion; one of many such actions.
“However, as the nature of chaos if we could not fight the Imperium then we fought ourselves. Our own brothers were set upon by each other for we thought there was no loyalty greater than to the Gods, no, the demons that we worshipped. Some of our surviving Primarchs became Daemon-Princes and the surviving marine champions became Lords and Dukes of a thousand hell worlds. We were pawns in an endless game of power and madness. No one trusted any other. We were truly alone and damned.
“I killed many of my own Legionnaires for what I perceived as weakness and they tried to kill me. One of my best friends, a brother from the first crusades turned on me just to get the honour of leading another, pointless skirmish with a rival Legion. Many marines left and set themselves up as independent companies fighting for one power and daemon-prince after another. This internecine slaughter would go on for centuries until opportunity meant that we too could venture out of the Eye and sow more seeds of corruption and destruction.
“I wear the badges of a Captain, Padre. But I was much, much worse. Depraved, mad and a thirst for violence that knew no bounds. At the height of my power, when the blood flowed like a river from all my killings, when I had eaten the brains of a thousand enemies, slaughter millions on a whim. I was on the verge of Daemon-hood.” The Captain’s bright blue eyes locked onto mine. My breath came in short gasps.
“Then something happened. I led an attack on a planetary garrison. I don’t even know where – what mattered was that I was there. The troops of the planetary defence force who we had corrupted led us to the palace gates itself. Once more I was in the middle of the slaughter. I stormed the palace and found myself in a room. It was crammed with wounded and children. The wounded fought together bravely protecting the children but were hurled aside. I cannot say why, but one death struck me. A little child, no more than four looked up at me and smiled. He was too young to understand his impending death but hugged his even younger sibling close – protecting her. In an effort to placate me he offered me his toy. I crushed him and his sister with my boot. I have never forgotten his look in his eyes. Why him and no-one else? I can not say.
The innocence in his eyes spoke of something better, cleaner in the universe. I have been covered in gore and blood for centuries. Now I realise that his eyes were seeing things as I used to see the universe. Hope and faith in something better.
“For weeks after, his innocent face haunted my dreams. Yes, Padre I dream! But what terrible, terrible dreams! One night the dream changed and the boy, who always smiling, this time spoke. His voice was pure and with a shock I realised it was He that spoke through the child.” Austerus became quiet. I realised with a shock that it was dark and what of his villagers? They must have fled. After a moment, Austerus continued.
“He talked to me like a father would to his son. He told me that the hatred and the mad, convoluted schemes that I was fermenting were twisting my soul and that offering it to a daemon would make things worse, not better. The greatest thing he told me was that I was wrong in thinking I could not leave this damnation and hell that I had found myself in. I dared to believe him, after ten thousand years of heresy, how could I simply leave? I was weak in spirit I realised, with no drive anymore.
“My courage could be shown in an act as simple as walking away from the life I now lived, that it really was just that simple. I chose chaos freely, so I could choose to leave. Get up and walk away. I laughed aloud at this but a dim part of me, hidden for centuries stirred.” The Captain paused once more and reached into his belt pouches. Talking out a canteen he took a deep draft of it. Refreshed he continued.
“The dreams then disappeared but there was a subtle change in me. For centuries I called myself Harakan but one day, I didn’t answer to this name – in fact to my horror, I forgot my name. I had no name! I realised then that it was a sign. I guessed that Harakan was the name I was known so I answered it but the name made my skin crawl. I avoided all contact with the Legion and when I had a chance I finally fled.
“Fevered, confused and sickened. I found myself on the dual sun-baked desert Daemon World that I had called home for centuries. On my knees sick and wretched, I fell into a delirium and He came to me again.
“He told me about his sacrifice and He knew the suffering he would bear for a millennia and how he accepted it. He told me in his many life times on many worlds he had voluntary sacrificed himself so that in his death, humanity and life could learn about sacrifice and unity. In his endless suffering, our sins would be forgiven. He would suffer for us. Such was his love for his children and all life in the universe. This was a nobility and humility I had never seen, or even imagined before then.
“There was even more to come. His essence is out there, in the warp, waiting for His own re-birth and return. The chaos powers hunt in vain for him, for they fear him. His re-birth would herald a new beginning for man and a formidable new power in the warp.
More so, I found that the chaos powers are not the God-like beings but playthings themselves, echoes of something even older than the warp. It is that entity that has our universe in chaos. That entity fears all life and wishes to extinguish it all.
“He told me that we could beat it. That there was hope for me and for all of us; If all of humanity was to unite as one, fighting with a common purpose then we could continue the long fight started off with the Slann and failed with the Eldar and we will win.
The first step in this fight was always the hardest. It is to pursue such a dream that I renounce those I once called master, and give my life entirely to He and life. I seek forgiveness, and will pay any penance that is asked of me, as shall those few of who have followed me to accept His Word. I shall even accept my own long-delayed death if that is the only way I can find redemption, but would prefer to spend my life fighting the true foe.
So in my living room, with the picture of the everlasting God, I, Padre Solotov made the four marines kneel in supplication. I anointed their heads with holy water and accepted their offer of redemption. What was their penance? They said they knew what to do. The marines did not stay long after but left quietly, just before closing the door Captain Austerus warned me of the possible danger to myself from the Inquisition and other, less enlightened individuals. I thanked him and bade him farewell and said that I hope we could meet again. What else could I say? The Captain simply smiled then was gone with his companions.