Velius Animus stood in the large assembly hall where he and the eight Centurions of the Shadow Wraith Legion had gathered. By the order of their Emperor the II Legion had been recalled to their home planet, designated Utopia Mechanis by the Imperial Scribes after it had come under Imperial Compliance. The purpose of their recall had been kept a secret that only their Primarch had been privy to. Many of the men gathered were far from happy at the development, a vast majority of them had been in the midst of campaigns, and had been forced to abandoned both their brother Legions and other forces of the Imperium.
“My Lord, why have we been pulled from the battlefield?” Praetorian Calistarius Admantis asked, the gathered Astartes growing restless and eager for explanations. Admantis was wearing his battlefield Terminator armor; the majority of it was plated in gold save for the joints and other soft point, which were tinted in a deep crimson. His Brother-Centurions all wore similarly plated and colored armor, though most had donned their regular Power armor after returning to their Citadel.
Velius folded his arms across his massive chest, the effect of which made him look more far more intimidating that usual. Unlike the Astartes that were gathered around him, Velius wore an ornate suit of Artificer armor that had been plated almost entirely of gold. Even the soft points on his armor were similarly plated, though they were cast in bronze rather than gold. Intricate carvings of ancient armies locked in glorious battle adorned his armor, each of them said to be a victory won in ancient times that shaped the course of humanity.
“The Emperor demanded we should return home, my Centurions. His wisdom is not something to question,” Velius responded to the impatience of his First Century commander.
“I mean no disrespect,” Admantis backtracked slightly, “I simply do not understand the purpose behind abandoning so many of our brethren during such a critical time.”
The Primarch sighed heavily. He was of like mind when it came to abandoning the Imperium forces. He felt somewhat like a coward ordering his men off the front lines. He had been able to reconcile the Emperor’s will in his head just fine, but his heart had yet to follow suit. Velius walked toward the back of the assembly hall and sank down in the large throne that only he and the Legate, when there was one, sat. He sat in silence for a while before finally leaning forward to address the matter in full.
“The Emperor is concerned about our loyalty…” Velius said at length, “He feels that because of our unique abilities, we would pose a danger should we waver in our dedication to the Imperium.”
The gathered Centurions began to protest rather loudly, something that their Primarch had counted on. He knew that his troops were loyal, and it seemed almost an affront to everything they had been through in the Emperor’s name. They did not, however, have the benefit of hearing the reasons why the Emperor was worried.
Velius held up a silencing hand and waited for the group to fall silent before speaking, “I understand your feelings, my Centurions. The issue at hand is not one of actual transgressions but of the implications of our defecting to the side of the Traitors. As you all know, the psykers among the other Legions cannot stand to be around us. Our power makes us as ghosts to their wide reaching sight. Even the Emperor himself cannot discern us. It is feared that should we deign to side with Horus and his ilk that we would be the instruments of the Imperium’s destruction.”
The murmurs of displeasure continued to emerge, prompting Velius to divulge an even less palatable piece of news, “It was the Emperor’s initial wish that each man down to our newest recruit be slaughtered in the name of the security of the Imperium. He bade me kill you all, raze our home and destroy the Legion utterly.”
A heavy, somber silence fell on the room. The gravity of the Emperor’s fears finally sank in. Though they had been loyal servants of the Imperium, had battled countless enemies along side the forces of the Emperor and even the Emperor himself, the threat of their defection shook their Emperor so deeply that he was willing to obliterate them simply to avoid something that might come to pass.
“Then it is our fate to die?” Centurion Antonio Pontus, Commander of the Second Century, asked his Primarch.
“No, Centurion Pontus, the Emperor was swayed to spare the Legion after much deliberation. He has seen fit to remove us from the battlefields and spirit us away for the time being until the traitors can be put down and the threat has passed,” Velius explained.
“How will He accomplish that?” Praetorian Admantis asked skeptically.
“With a little help from science,” Primus Mechanicus Ixion Cassius called out from behind the group. The Adeptus Fabrum strolled into the large chamber, clad in the rust painted Power armor that was favored by those who had been sent to Mars. The group parted to allow the Primus Mechanicus through, and waited for him to explain himself.
“Is the device prepared?” Velius asked of the man as he came to a halt a few feet away.
“Yes, my Lord. It took some… conversions… to adapt the device to our power grid. It is, however, ready to activate on your orders.” Ixion replied with confidence.
“Very well, Primus Mechanicus… activate the device,” Velius said after a short pause.
“As you wish,” Cassius bowed slightly and retreated back the way he had come. The Centurions gathered in the assembly hall watched him depart before returning their eyes to their Primarch. The questioning looks in each of their faces went ignored as Velius stood and started walking toward a large balcony at the far side of the room.
“Forgive me for asking, my Lord, but what is this device the Primus Mechanicus spoke of?” the Centurion of the Exploratores Tirones, Horatius Divinicus, asked.
Velius leaned against the onyx hued balcony and looked upward toward the sky, which was slowly starting to dim as their world’s sun began to slowly retreat from the heavens, “It is something the Emperor found that will cast a veil around our world and hide us from the galaxy. It should only last a few years at most before it ceases to function and we return. By then, the Emperor hopes the traitors will be put down and we will be welcomed back without question.”
“Do you believe that to be true?” Horatius dared to ask.
Velius regarded the Centurion with an even gaze, “What I believe does not matter. It is enough that I was able to spare you all from deaths you did not deserve. Even if my father never welcomes us back, at least you were not sacrifices to paranoia.”
The gathered Centurions fell silent in respect for their Primarch’s efforts. They had already pushed well beyond the point that was normally tolerable, and Velius had shown them more than enough lenience already. The gathered men lifted their gazes toward the heavens to watch for whatever even the Primarch seemed to be expecting to occur in that place, and were not disappointed when they did.
A huge burst of dark purple erupted above the Citadel, at first only a sliver in the sky. As the seconds passed, the sliver expanded with such speed that it covered the entire sky in less than a minute. Down below their vantage point, the population were milling about in a mixture of awe and panic. They had not been given the benefit of advanced warning, nor the comfort of hearing Velius explain what was happening to their world and why.
“Is it supposed to do that?” Centurion Domiano Celsus of the Primus Equites asked as he beheld the otherworldly spectacle.
“I have no idea…” Velius muttered, almost as stunned at the occurrence as his Centurions were.
“Primarch Animus!” the voice of one of many tech-priests who aided the Adeptus Fabrum in their work called out in an urgent manner, “Master Cassius asks that you meet him in the artifice chambers! Something has gone wrong!”
Velius broke out into a dead run, followed closely by his Centurions. As the Primarch hurried through the corridors, his mind struggled to make sense of what was happening and what might have gone wrong. Having never seen a device such as the one he’d been given to use by the Emperor, he wasn’t entirely sure how the thing was supposed to behave or how it might malfunction. His time spent in the Manufactorum with his foster parents had given him ample experience with items of technology, but even that knowledge failed to yield any real tangible answers.
As Velius continued to penetrate deeper into the complex, the sight of their Primarch rushing by began to inspire a healthy unease among the servants and Astartes who witnessed it. Anyone in Velius’ path was swift to get out of it as he showed no signs whatsoever of stopping to allow anyone to pass. By the time the Primarch burst into the sanctum that had been set up for the strange device, word of something being amiss had already begun to circulate.
“What is wrong, Ixion?” Velius demanded as he charged into the room with a stern expression on his face.
“This infernal machine is emitting energies the likes of which I have not encountered anywhere except upon the field of battle with the traitor Legions. I have tried to use the gifts you have imparted to us all but I have not been able to render it inert. Whatever this device is, it is not what we were told it was…” the Primus Mechanicus explained with an equally hard expression on his face.
Velius growled low in his throat. It seemed all too clear that he had been tricked into dooming his Legion under the guise of salvation. The fury that welled up inside of him drove him to approach the device, his mind reaching for the innate powers that he had been born with. By the time he laid his hands upon the device, even the gathered Centurions could feel the nauseating wave of suppressive energy flowing from the Primarch’s body. The machine protested the interference with loud hisses and creaks. The longer Velius pressed his suppressive will against the thing, the louder the objections became. Minutes slipped by as each of the gathered Astartes watched their Primarch hammer the device in an effort to stop whatever dark emanations it had been throwing out with impunity.
With a violent scream, Velius drew upon every drop of disruptive energy he had within himself, the force of it crushing against the device to the point that it almost began to crumple under the weight of it. The device gave one final groan of protest before the thing finally shut down, the ruinous energies wafting off the foul machine dissipating slowly until the thing fell silent. For his effort, Velius dropped to his knees, the world around him spinning rather unsettlingly. Praetorian Admantis was the first to his aid, followed quickly by several of the other Centurions.
“Has the sky returned to normal?” Velius asked of his Praetorian.
“I will have a servant check on it,” Calistarius responded as he struggled to lift the Primarch from the floor, “We need to get you to Medici Rosarion. Whatever that foul machine was doing has ceased. We will figure out what damage has been done, you just need to rest, my Lord.”
“Ixion,” the Primarch called out.
“Yes, Primarch?” the Primus Mechanicus responded to the summons.
“Discover the extent of the damage personally,” Velius ordered.
“It shall be done…”