“Fall back!!!” yelled Scout Sergeant Castus, his bolt pistol roaring as it wrought holy justice upon the endless swarms of the Lost and the Damned that were swarming the small Space Marine Scout squad’s position. Castus swung his chainblade down, ripping through a traitor guardsmen’s neck and sending green slime gushing through the air. He dared not pause to contemplate why the man bled green instead of red now, as there were more of the freaks headed their way. The scouts on the ridge scrambled to pack up their sniper rifles, and ran back to their rhino. The last one in line, Brother Scout Brock, was swarmed by a pack of zombies before he could make it into the safety of the armored transport.
“Brock!” screamed Brother Scout Vash, reaching out his hand to help his friend. Before the zombies tackled him to the ground, Brock threw his missile launcher into the rhino, where it landed with a hard clang. The rhino was already driving away, and the troop door was already closing, but Vash still drew his bolt pistol and fired at the pack of death that had enveloped his friend. Castus reached over and patted him on the pack, and gestured for him to sit down.
“We’re heading toward the extraction zone.” The driver said over the vox. “Inquisitor Garrison just declared exterminatus on this entire world, so we need to get the hell out of here.”
Castus stood up. “All right, Squad Castus. You performed admirably today. The loss of a brother shall only serve to make us fight harder. Let us all avenge Brother Scout Brock.”
The rest of the squad cheered, banging the butts of their combat knives against the hull of the rhino.
“Furthermore, you fought as one today. You performed as well as any good Battle Brother should, and so,” Castus smiled, letting the sentence hang for a moment. “I am recommending to Company Commander Reaper that you all become fully fledged members of the Onyx Warriors. You are to be Scouts no longer!”
The cheers turned into roars, and the knives were replaced with gun butts, in an attempt by the scouts to make as much noise as possible. The driver up front shook his head, and muttered something about noise discipline in a combat zone, but Castus pretended not to hear him.
“Congratulations men. I am proud to call you my Battle Brothers.”
The extraction zone was a site of barely contained chaos. Columns of Leman Russes lay abandoned on the side of the road so that their colossal landing barges could be used to evacuate the billions of Imperial Guardsmen planetside. In order to save space on the limited number of troop transports, they had all been ordered to ditch their equipment in a pit that had been carved out of the snowy earth by the plasma cannon of a Warhound Titan. The Titan was being lovingly loaded in a titanic drop pod by its Adeptus Mechanicus masters. And of course, there were the Astartes. Thousands of them were being herded into lines so that they could board the thunderhawks that were waiting patiently to take them back to their battle barges. They were not ditching their guns in hastily dug pits, their transports were roomy enough and there were few enough of them that they could afford to leave with all that they had come with. Which was, at its most basic, a suit of power armor, a close combat weapon, and a gun. Becoming a Space Marine meant forgoing things like possessions.
Above all this, standing on a small hill with his chosen few, was Inquisitor Lord Nathe Garrison, his crimson robes flapping gently in the wind. He held a gold Daemonhammer in his right hand, waving it about every so often to emphasize his orders, and generally intimidate people. It worked. When Squad Castus pulled up in their Rhino, he was talking to an Imperial Guard commander, and they seemed to be arguing about how best to load the remaining soldiers. Vash stepped out of the Rhino, his sniper rifle strapped his back, and heard Garrison scream,
“I don’t care about the equipment loss General. Quite frankly, you’re lucky I’m letting you break protocol and leave the Russes behind, as any one of them is more valuable than an entire company of your men. So stop bitching and tell your men that if they want to live another day, they are to ditch their lasgun, helmet, flak vest, grenades, and any other weapons and equipment they have into the pit. They are to board the ship in nothing but combat boots and fatigues. If I see-” he turned to a servitor standing aimlessly next to him, and waved his hammer in front of its head to get the thing’s attention. “make a note of this. If I see so much as a garrision cap on one of your men, he and the three men closest to him will be pulled out of line and shot by Commissar Molotov. No exceptions.” The servitor scurried away to give the orders to the Commissar.
“What about my officers? Some of their wargear is irreplaceable!”
Garrison moved his face very close the officer’s, until they were about two inches apart.
“Do I look like I care? I am trying to coordinate the evacuation of billions of footsloggers, thousands of Astartes, and an Emperor-damned Warhound Titan, and you bother me with queries about some trinket your color sergeant picked up on Tallarn!” He pointed his hammer at the mess of troops scrambling for space on the transports for effect.
“Well then, what about me then?” The officer asked. He drew his power sword and held it in the air. “This sword was a gift from Ursarkar E. Creed himself!”
Garrison rolled his eyes dismissively. “You have your own shuttle, do you not?”
“Well…yes.” The officer muttered, trying very hard to avoid looking at the Inquisitor right now.
“Look me in the eye when I speak to you worm!” Garrison yelled, nudging him with the butt of his hammer. “Now, you have your own ship correct?”
The commander nodded eagerly.
“Then do what you wish with the space on that ship! Now, leave me, or I’ll rend your head from your body!” Garrison screamed, holding the Daemonhammer under the officer’s chin menacingly.
“Yes sir!!!” The officer yelled, snapping a quick salute, sheathing his sword and scurrying off to the safety of his shuttle.
Castus tapped Vash on the back. “Spying is not generally encouraged brother. Come, our transport awaits.”
Vash nodded slowly, and followed his sergeant toward the landing pad to the squad’s assigned thunderhawk.
The boxy transport, resplendent in the bright green and rich black of the Onyx Warriors, rose slowly into the sky. Vash stared out one of the portholes, eyeing the evacuation zone as it got smaller and smaller.
“We’re approaching the battle barge Semper Vigilans, and should be docking soon.” The pilot said over the vox.
Castus stood, and slammed his fist on the hull to get the squads attention.
“All right, listen up! When we land, you are to proceed to our barracks, and wait until Battle-Captain Jirken calls us to assembly room C. It is there you will receive your new legion assignments.”
The squad responded as one. “Yes sir!”
“We’re now docking with the battle barge, so I need to ask everyone to sit down. There’s a lot of traffic up here.”
Vash looked out the window, and saw hundreds of thunderhawks waiting to board the various ships that made up the fleet the Onyx Warriors had sent. Fortunately, they were headed for the legion's scout barge, and not one of the regular ones, making the wait time a lot shorter.
The thunderhawk flew through the small opening in the landing bay, and slowly set down. It’s engines whined in protest as the pilots brought it down nice and slow, and Vash could barely feel the thud as it finally hit the deckplate.
After a minute or two, the rear door slammed open and the squad filed out.
Castus eyed them all, and then roared, “Scout Squad Castus…dis-missed!”
The four of them walked out of the landing bay towards their barracks, each knowing that that was the last time they would see combat together.
The squad’s barracks was sparse, just some beds and desks for studying the enormous amount of material that came with being a Space Marine. Vash sat down at one of the desks, and laid a greasy dropcloth down on its surface. He set his sniper rifle on the cloth, and began the slow and arduous process of disassembling and cleaning the thing. In the back of his mind, he wondered what kind of squad he would be assigned to. Perhaps he would become an assault marine, bringing death to the foes of the Imperium from the air. Or maybe he would serve in a frontline tactical squad. He secretly hoped, however, that he would be assigned to one of the many devastator squads the legion had.
Scout marines are not allowed to use any heavy weapons aside from missile launchers and heavy bolters, but they do receive operational training in the many other special weapons available to the Astartes. On the day Vash and his squad were sent to receive this training, Vash fell in love with the plasma cannon. He admired the soldiers who were able to strike a balance between optimal plasma output and a deadly overheat. Under controlled condition, they were taught, overheats never happened. But even an Astartes could miss a warning rune during the heat of battle and ask too much of the machine spirit in the gun, causing a massive discharge of superheated plasma over himself and anyone nearby. When Vash was given a chance to fire one, he performed admirably, according to the gunnery sergeant in charge of the training operation. He still recalled the man’s words,
“I hope to see you in a dev squad someday boy. It’d be a hell of a waste of potential to do otherwise.”
Vash beamed at the words, pausing in the disassembly process to bask in the warm inner glow of the memory. After a minute or so, he shook his head to clear it of any distractions, and went back to his assigned task.
A few minutes later, a fully armored Astartes walked into the room, and cleared his throat. Vash looked up, the silencer of his sniper rifle in his right hand and a greasy rag in his left. He looked up at battle-captain Jirken expectantly.
“Will all members of scout squad Castus please follow me? The ceremony is about to begin.”
Castus walked over the man, and they whispered to themselves for a few minutes. The armored marine nodded, and then said,
“I’m sorry brothers; I didn’t realize you were busy caring for your weapons. But there is no time, the ceremony is to begin immediately. Leave the guns to the armory servitors, they shall see to it that they are properly cleaned for the next group of men who use them.”
Castus whistled sharply, and the scouts all jumped up.
“Scout squad Castus, fall in, single file parade formation!” The sergeant barked.
The three remaining scouts jumped up and ran to form a singular line behind the battle-captain, with Castus marching alongside.
“Where to, battle captain?” Castus asked.
“Promenade deck B. The company commander is waiting for you there. He will give the men their new assignments.”
The sergeant nodded understandingly. He had done this hundreds of times with as many squads, training them as best he could and handing them off to the legion.
The squad quick-marched through the starship, never breaking stride, and arrived at the promenade deck within a few minutes. Castus held waited until he could see the Aquila inscribed on the gilded doors, and then yelled,
“Atten-shun!!!” He stopped as soon as the word left his tongue, knowing the squad would do the same. He spiraled around on his foot, and saw three men, standing ramrod straight, with their eyes forward. He nodded to Jirken, and the captain walked to the doors. They parted when he got close, and he stopped, turning back to face Castus. Jirken beckoned the squad forward with a wave of his hand. Castus barked,
“Squad Castus! Advance!”
He led them down the aisle into the small chapel, used solely for the purpose of anointing scouts. Inside, rows of Astartes in full ceremonial battle plate stood along the center aisle, their right arms held high above, each holding ceremonial chainblades. Castus led the squad down the aisle at a lockstep, savoring the moment. He had trained these men since they had been admitted into the legion, and grown to know them like brothers. Each had their own special talents, and he was sure that these would be brought to light today. Castus would often brag to the other scout sergeants that he had never had a batch of men that became normal, bolter wielding marines. And despite how much the other sergeants hated to admit it, they knew it was true. Castus had a way of bringing out a man’s talents, and honing them into useful battlefield skills.
He was ripped from his reverie when he eyed the end of the aisle, and saw the company commander, Drej Reaper, standing relaxed in his gilded suit of armor. As company commander, and the overall trainer of Space Marine scouts, he held a high position of authority in the Onyx Warriors, second only to the First Captain and the Legion Master himself. As such, the commander's armor reflected his personal taste, and allowed him to pick and choose parts from the various Marks to suit his pleasure. The suit he was wearing currently was a combination of many different marks of battle plate, ranging from the Mark VI helmet he was holding under one arm, to the Mark VIII chestplate and throat guard. His shoulderpads were incredibly ornate, as befitted his rank. The right one had a gold eagle, and the left was studded in the style of the ancient Mark V armor, used during the Horus Heresy. Reaper had been a scout during those days, and was one of the few remaining in the legion who were original legion founders.
“Sergeant Castus, is this your squad?”
Castus snapped back to reality, and nodded.
“Squad! Atten-shun!!!” he roared, causing the three scouts to stop as if they’d been struck paralyzed. Even the battle-captain’s step wavered a bit as Castus’s words hit him.
When Jirken was standing at the company commander’s side, Castus saluted and said,
“Sir, presenting Scout Squad Castus.”
They were starting the sacred ceremony, and as custom dictated he do when a squad with missing members was presented, Reaper answered,
“Where is your missing member Sergeant?”
“Sir, he is with the Emperor!”
Reaper nodded, and smiled. “Scout Squad Castus, your sergeant tells me that you achieved the level of fighting required of an Astartes. He says that despite the loss of a brother, you continued your mission in an orderly manner, and proceeded promptly to the evacuation point. He tells me there were no foolhardy search and rescue missions proposed, no body retrieval asked of anyone. You simply accepted the fact that Brother Scout Brock’s time to die had come and gone. This is the mark of a true Astartes, looking death in the face and shrugging. I am proud to present you your squad assignments. Battle Brother Nolan, your close combat prowess has not gone overlooked, even in a legion that frowns on it, and you have been assigned to assault squad Winh in the Third Company.” Nolan slammed his fist to his breastplate in a salute.
“Yes sir, thank you sir!”
“Battle Brother Eurebus, you have been chosen to receive further training as a Techmarine, because of your intense fascination with the arcane.”
“Sir, thank you sir!”
“Battle Brother Vash, you have been assigned to a devastator squad in the Fifth Company. I am told that you are to wield the deadly plasma cannon.”
Pride welling up inside him, Vash slammed his fist to his chestplate and yelled,
“Yes sir! Thank you sir!”
Reaper smiled warmly. “You will find your new equipment in your quarters, where you will stay until we return to the legion fortress. When we do arrive, you are each to report to your new billets. Eurebus, for you, that means a shuttle to Mars to study under the Adeptus Mechanicus. Congratulations, and Emperor be with you all.”