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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-27-12, 02:09 PM Thread Starter
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Default Heresy Fiction Comp 2012: Not Ashamed

First of all, some notes.

This is a story featuring the Steel Wardens, a Space Marine Chapter that I've been featuring in the HOES shorts. For those interested, a collection of their HOES stories are here:

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8835596/...Marines-Shorts

And the overall introductory short story featuring them (Legacy of Steel) along with the BrennMech is here:

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8699562/...-Space-Marines

The above stories are also available here, but the ones in fanfiction.net are the latest and most edited version.

Word count is 5,000, but this includes title and page breaks.

I hope you all enjoy it.


==========================================

“Not Ashamed”

There had been no warning.

The foul Orks had struck like a lightning bolt out of a clear blue sky, crashing dozens of their Roks into the planet’s surface. Imperial defenders on the ground were caught completely by surprise, and at least eleven million people died on the first day alone.

It was now the seventy-fifth day of the Second Battle for Hydronis Majoris, and Lord Admiral Alcuin Troubridge chaffed at becoming little more than a spectator. The world was Battlefleet Cuxehaven’s main naval base, but its warships had failed miserably to prevent the Xenos invasion. Now they could only watch from above as the greenskins won victory after victory, while the fleet’s mighty guns were rendered impotent by the risk of friendly fire.

The Lord Admiral knew that it was not the first time that Battlefleet Cuxehaven faced the shame of defeat. It had been nearly annihilated late in M38 – over this very same world – after a quarter of the fleet turned traitor and inflicted devastating losses on the loyalists.

But the scum of the First Battle of Hydronis Majoris were eventually defeated, thanks to the arrival of a mysterious Chapter of Space Marines from the outer rim. Identifying themselves as the Steel Wardens, these Astartes had remained in the Cuxehaven Cluster ever since, ushering in an era of stability and prosperity unlike any before.

Troubridge was counting on them now to ensure the continuance of this golden age. Their Chapter Master, Regent Augustus, had readily agreed to send every Warden under his command to aid the defense of Hydronis Majoris. They were supposed to arrive on the sixty-fifth day.

No one outside of Forge World Cuxehaven could imagine the real reason why they were late.

===

Brother-Captain Pontius had seen worlds die before. He had served the Steel Wardens long enough to know first-hand that the local synod of the Inquisition rarely balked at destroying worlds that had been overrun by the enemy.

But he had never seen a world die up close like this. It was different from watching a world die from high orbit, seeing the lights of an entire civilization flicker out for the last time. The fact that the world in question was his home of Cuxehaven added little to the novelty of the experience.

Pontius was witnessing the end from aboard a Thunderhawk, flying low to avoid detection by enemy fighters that now ruled the skies. His pilot, a very brave Adept who was just a trainee hours before, was weaving his way through several massive Hive spires that were hundreds of stories tall. The reckless flight path was undoubtedly already terrifying for the unaugmented pilot, but there was an added macabre twist.

The spires were all on fire, blazing from base to tip, victims of the enemy’s sustained incendiary bombing. Hundreds of people - now little more than living torches - were jumping out of windows every second and fell screaming to their deaths.

"The Emperor Protects, and the Omnissiah watches over us..." breathed a small figure beside Pontius, his eyes also glued to the ongoing holocaust outside. It was Adept Cyprian Eligus, another unaugmented candidate, who was a last-minute addition to Pontius’ ad-hoc assault team. He was a replacement for Veteran-Brother Demetrius, who had died defending the Thunderhawk as it struggled to take off from the ground.

Pontius doubted that Eligus would survive. The Adept was young and inexperienced, still more worried about his mother than the fight ahead. But Pontius nonetheless tried to mentor the young man, acting as though it was just a training exercise instead of the end of all things.

“Focus, Adept. You must learn to master your fear before you can become one of us.”

"Yes... yes sir," Eligus managed to respond, just before the craft shook from what sounded like a direct hit, "By the Cog, have the enemy fighters found us?!"

Pontius knew better. His supernatural hearing had recognized the subtle difference. It was not a munitions impact. It was simply a chunk of steel falling from one of the Hives, one that was about to lose its battle with gravity.

The pilot confirmed that fact over the vox an instant later, "Blessed Omnissiah, hold on! It's falling right on top of us!"

Without fear, Pontius looked out the window even as he signaled his squad to brace themselves. His ears were already registering the popping and groaning of steel, but Pontius felt compelled to witness the destruction. Centuries before, he may have been born in that dying Hive. Pontius could recognize the irony if he was slain by the place of his birth.

The Hive was certainly trying its best. Gigantic buildings usually collapsed straight downwards, with level after level pancaking on top of one another. But a structural fault was causing the kilometer-high structure to tilt over, and its long shadow had already engulfed the Thunderhawk.

The pilot began shouting incomprehensibly, as he tried to avoid thousands of objects that were spilling out of the Hive like trash thrown out of a bin. The debris pelted the armored craft, some of which struck with the terrible crunch of meat and bone falling apart.

But luck was with them, and the Thunderhawk managed to claw its way clear, its engines on full burn. It would not be consumed by the final, climactic dust cloud created by the crashing spire.

"How many people were in that Hive, sir?" Adept Eligus suddenly asked. Pontius now noticed that the young Adept had also watched the entire spectacle.

"It is not relevant information," Pontius chastised, "Take heart that they met a swifter end than slow death by fire."

Eligus opened his mouth again, but thought better of it and remained silent. For this, Pontius was glad. In truth, he had no clue where the death count stood anymore.

It was already the thirteenth day of the Battle for Cuxehaven, and no official casualty reports had been issued since the second day.

===

Regent Augustus, Chapter Master of the Steel Wardens, knew the best Estimate of where the death toll stood. He did not want to dwell on it. Even beings who knew no fear could still feel pain.

His command center was the worst in the Chapter's entire history, being little more than an apartment requisitioned from a low-ranking noble and stuffed with every surviving vox set and cogitator that the Logis could muster. Contact with other surviving loyalist forces remained intermittent at best, but Augustus was a true son of Guilliman and could piece together the grim picture.

They were losing. And they were losing badly.

Two week before, as Augustus was still marshaling his forces for the Hydronis Majoris campaign, Cuxehaven was suddenly and ruthlessly attacked by a massive Archenemy fleet. The Warden’s great Battle-Barges were caught defenseless at high anchor thanks to the foulest of treacheries, and all were destroyed along with most of the Wardens aboard them.

The enemy then began a merciless orbital bombardment, obliterating entire PDF and skitarii armies along with many Titans of Legio Cux. What little survived had now rallied around the few Wardens who had escaped the massacre in the void, but most of these centers of resistance were still isolated and unable to support one another. Central control had to be re-established if the defense was to have any chance of prevailing.

And even then, Augustus knew that it might already be too late.

"Brother-Captain Pontius and his team are approaching the target," reported Brother-Logis Tacitus, "I have also found sufficient forces for the diversionary effort. Two active skitarii artillery batteries, a Warlord Titan, and a column of PDF armor under the command of Brother-Sergeant Marcus."

"My Estimates also indicate that we only have a 1.65% chance of succeeding,” added Magos Agrippina, who served as liaison between the Wardens and the Forge World’s leaders, "Excellent odds for such a large expenditure of resources.”

Augustus recognized sarcasm despite the lack of emotion in Agrippina’s voice, “We have no choice. Warp interference is preventing us from coordinating our forces. This same interference is preventing our Astropaths from calling for help. We must destroy the source before it is too late.”

“And you believe this Captain Pontius can succeed?” Agrippina doubted.

“When Brother-Captain Pontius makes a promise, it is a Certainty, not an Estimate,” Augustus assured.

“Very well,” the Magos conceded, “I hope you are right, for this is a foe literally greater than anything he has faced before.”

The room suddenly shook violently. Vox-sets and cogitators shorted out, disrupting the precious flow of information between the ragged forces still fighting to save Forge World Cuxehaven. One of the younger Tech-Priests dropped to the floor, dead, as an inaudible code-scream overwhelmed him.

Augustus was not modified. He could not hear the code like Agrippina and the others. But he had been told what words were said whenever the great monster said its name.

Cuxehaven Mortis.

Death to Cuxehaven.

===

The target was once an Imperator-class Titan, but Brother-Sergeant Marcus was not afraid.

He was alone now. The rest of his squad was dead.

Yet he was also not alone. For other defenders of Cuxehaven had joined him for this final assault. Brave tankers of the PDF. Lost skitarii platoons. Arbites turned soldiers.

Ordinary citizens with old rifles, knives, and bare hands.

"We're fighting that?" asked Roch, a PDF Captain who now served as his second-in-command. There was fear in his voice as he stared at the Cuxehaven Mortis. It was so huge that it was like a daemonic castle that had come to life.

The Warden turned around and looked Roch in the eye. The man was tired. All the men and women under his command were tired. They had all seen too much. Most had lost everyone they loved.

But Marcus could still see a tiny spark left in them. He knew it was time to turn that spark into a final, glorious flame.

“One last foe to slay,” the Brother-Sergeant promised, “One last foe to slay before we can finally lie down and rest.”

He drew his sword and charged forward without another word. He did not look back.

Enemy troops quickly confronted him. Deranged cultists, vicious mercenaries, daemonic tanks, and Traitor Marines. Elite troops that had been tasked to guard the monster’s flank, who should have had no difficulty killing a lone Warden.

But the enemy had not counted on his comrades-in-arms. Roch and the others joined the headlong rush, heedless of their own safety. What was one Warden’s battle had now become an avenging flood.

And they could not be denied.

Marcus became a blur, following his training under the great Champion Felix. He slew dozens of the enemy with his psi-blade, including two of the three Traitor Marines leading the defense. The third also tried to engage him, but a PDF Leman Russ tank suddenly appeared and crushed fifteen hundred years of evil and treachery under its treads.

Finally, the enemy broke. The rag-tag Imperials chased after the routed foe. They harried the Archenemy forces with cannon shots, lasfire, and stones.

But just as the loyalists tasted victory, an ominous horn blew. Brother-Sergeant Marcus knew exactly what the horn meant.

The Cuxehaven Mortis had noticed them. It had turned its main batteries towards the pitiful band that had dared to defy it.

Nothing survived the Imperator's wrath. Everything was vaporized by orbital-class laser fire. The Mortis even obliterated the "allied" troops that had been guarding it, as punishment for their failure.

Brother-Sergeant Marcus was among the last to die, his sword raised to the heavens and the words "Vae Victis" on his lips. It was High Gothic for "Woe to the vanquished".

The words were meant for the enemy Titan. The Warden said them because he knew for a fact that the first part of the plan had actually succeeded.

===

Legio Cux was mortally wounded. Cuxehaven's proud Titan Legion had lost more engines in the past thirteen days than in the preceding thirteen centuries.

But Princeps Hestia knew she would never have been chosen to command a Warlord Titan if she did not have the capacity to multi-task. Her grief over lost comrades was kept locked away until oblivion claimed her. For now, the moment to strike back had come.

She was one with her machine. She felt the exact same rage as the feral intelligence locked away in the heart of the Gloria Magnificat. Together, they charged the oversized enemy Titan, just as it turned to destroy Brother-Sergeant Marcus and his brave band of soldiers.

The Gloria Magnificat had caught the Cuxehaven Mortis looking the wrong way.

Despite the advantage, Hestia did not open fire, knowing that her ranged weapons had no chance of piercing Imperator-class void shields. Her only hope was to close the distance, and she was already devoting all available power to increase the mighty Warlord’s speed.

Engaging the Mortis at range instead fell to two skitarii artillery batteries. Neither had any chance against the monstrous Titan, but both opened fire and revealed their positions, hoping to draw attention away from the charging Warlord. They lasted only thirty seconds – the victim of the Mortis’ secondary batteries and enemy airpower – but this was actually ten more than Estimated.

By the time the last of the skitarii had died, the Gloria Magnificat had drawn its fusion mace. It was but two strides away from making melee contact. For a moment, Princeps Hestia believed that she could actually destroy the monster on her own.

She was about to take that final step when the Mortis completed its turn. Simultaneously, every single one of its guns opened fire on the Magnificat.

The Warlord died. Princeps Hestia had felt it even before she was boiled alive inside of her amiotic tank. She had felt the void shields fail. She had felt the armor crumple. She had felt her crew die from shrapnel and flames.

But most importantly, she had felt a round punch through the overload reactor and begin a catastrophic chain reaction.

The Magnificat would not die a quiet death. It would instead die in a ball of light hotter than a star.

And for Princeps Hestia, this was enough.

===

Brother-Captain Pontius had witnessed everything. Brother-Sergeant Marcus' last stand. The sacrifice of the artillery batteries. And now, the death of Gloria Magnificat.

But the Warlord's death had served a purpose. It had exploded right in front of the Mortis, rupturing the latter's void shields. It was not a catastrophic shield failure - the generators had merely shorted out temporarily - and Pontius knew they would be active again momentarily along with its gun batteries

Yet at last, here was their chance to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat. Here was, in the parlance of the old legionnaires, their "practical".

"Go!" Pontius shouted to the pilot, though knowing it was not necessary. The Thunderhawk had already begun its dive, engines at full power.

"Enemy fighters! Right behind us!" Adept Eligus warned, as he quickly manned a gun turret. But he was not quick enough, as several rounds smashed into the Thunderhawk’s passenger compartment and exploded Brother Validus' head.

"Get them off me!" the pilot shouted automatically, though maintaining his death dive. Pontius ignored it all and instead focused on a mental countdown. The best Estimates indicated that the voids would be relighted within thirty seconds. Ten had already elapsed since they went down.

"I got one!" Adept Eligus suddenly shouted in triumph, distracting Pontius from his count. Annoyed, the Brother-Captain turned to a window and watched as an enemy fighter spiraled out of control and smashed into a second, instantly doubling the young Adept's kill count.

Pontius was about to comment on Eligus' continued good luck, when the pilot reported news that indicated that it was about to run out.

"Reverse thruster failure!" the pilot warned, "Brace fo..."

The Warden knew that the pilot was killed instantly when he felt the impact. Despite his strength, Pontius lost his grip and was thrown forwards into a bulkhead. Only the power armor had saved him from instant death. As it was, he broke several bones and blacked out.

When he regained consciousness, Pontius could already hear the sound of bolter fire. A gauntleted fist grasped his own, helping him to stand up.

"Brother-Captain, are you uninjured?" asked Apothecary Melitus, ignoring his own broken left arm.

"No, but these injuries do not matter," Pontius replied as he armed his bolt gun, "Tactical situation?"

Melitus motioned to the sound of gunfire and said, "We have successfully crashed into the Cuxehaven Mortis and begun the boarding action. We landed within three hundred meters of the primary control center, only slightly worse than Estimated. Skitarii and cultist forces oppose us. They are more numerous than Estimated."

"Losses?"

"Besides us, only four other Wardens remain active. Enemy resistance is fierce" Melitus replied grimly, "Brother-Logis Socrates has temporarily assumed command."

Pontius nodded, and was about to ask what happened to Adept Eligus and the other unaugmented humans on the crew. He stopped himself. He remembered that they were likely dead or crippled, and no longer relevant to the fight.

Instead, he looked at the Apothecary's ruined arm and asked, "And you?"

"I am right-handed," Melitus replied simply, hefting his bolter with his good arm.

Pontius nodded, now knowing everything he needed. With a shout, he headed for the gunfire to join the fight

He arrived as the enemy was launching a counter-attack. Socrates had just been killed, his headless corpse dropping his plasma gun, and the enemy was hoping to press their advantage.

The Warden-Captain denied them. It did not matter that Traitor Marines led the assault. As his power-armored foes left cover, Pontius picked them off one by one, punching a mass-reactive round into each of their skulls.

"Wardens, advance!" Pontius commanded, taking the lead himself. He was not a blur, despite many attempts by his good friend Felix to train him. Instead, he was a machine. He selected targets, allocated munitions to dispatch them, and executed without hesitation. This was the main reason why he had become a Captain. The other reason seemed distant and irrelevant in the face of all this insanity.

It took ten minutes to reach the control room. It was the longest ten minutes in Pontius' considerable lifetime. He lost three more Marines - including Apothecary Melitus - before reaching his objective, but he knew that millions were dying outside every moment he tarried.

Only one final foe remained, blocking the door to the heart of the beast. Pontius recognized the foe instantly.

"You Wardens are certainly persistent..." said the Dark Champion standing before them, his armor as black as night with a blade just as wicked, "But I'm afraid this is as far as you will go, my dear Captain."

Pontius did not bother to reply. He had no time for traitors, especially former Wardens who helped cause this atrocity. He raised his boltgun and opened fire.

But his opponent was moving too fast. Pontius’ normally unerring rounds did not strike true. Instead, there was a cry of pain as the enemy slew Brother Branhil. In another motion, the Dark Champion swung his blade and sliced Veteran-Brother Galahad in two. Pontius was now alone, but he still kept firing until he heard the click declaring that his weapon was empty.

"This is why I never liked guns, they eventually run out of ammunition" the former Warden taunted, raising his blade inches away from Pontius' face, "Any last words?"

“Despite your skills, you were never a good Warden,” Pontius replied calmly, “Because you never learned to value your comrades.”

Suddenly, the traitor’s head vanished, struck by a blazing hot bolt of plasma. Pontius allowed himself a tiny smile as he acknowledged its source.

"You're supposed to be dead," Pontius noted dryly as Adept Eligus emerged from cover, wielding Socrates' plasma gun.

"I was just knocked out by the crash sir," the Adept tried to explain, before producing a satchel full of explosives, "And I noticed that none of you had remembered to bring the demolition charges."

Despite the situation, Pontius could not suppress a chuckle. He had indeed missed that detail, much like a mission from long ago, when Pontius was still a young Brother-Sergeant. It was on that mission that he met the then Novice Felix for the first time, who taught him the lesson that his treacherous foe never learned.

"Sir?" Eligus asked, not seeing the reason for levity.

"Plant the bombs before more enemy forces arrive," Pontius ordered, once again hiding the other quality which made him Captain, "And report our success to the Regent."

"Only a full Battle-Brother…" Eligus started.

"I know," Pontius replied, "But the honor is yours, Brother Eligus."

The newly anointed Battle-Brother could not find the words to say in response. He instead busied himself with planting the demo charges. When Eligus spoke again, it was only to sum up the magnitude of their achievement.

“Engine kill.”

===

"Confirmed! Engine kill!" Agrippina was actually shouting. A vid-feed had been uploaded to the main screen, showing the giant Titan falling to its knees, its brain gutted by purifying fire, "Data uplinks are going up all over Cuxehaven!"

"Collect all the data on the main screen," Regent Augustus ordered, wanting to feel elation but knowing that the fight was far from over.

Agrippina complied, and a mass of statistics quickly replaced the image of the fallen enemy Titan. The Magos helpfully overlaid maps on top of the data, showing the remaining dispositions of the loyalist forces and the Estimates on the strength of the Archenemy.

"Astropaths are still unable to send distress calls,” Logis Tacitus reported grimly,” And these numbers…”

“I know what they mean, Tacitus,” Augustus replied, a hint of sadness now in his voice, “What are our options?”

The Logis, despite his years of training, paused in hesitation before answering, “I will explore them. Perhaps some virus bombs or cyclonic torpedoes that survived the initial attack.”

“Wait… what are you talking about?” Agrippina demanded, “Those weapons aren’t useful against enemy troops! They’re only…”

“Look at the data, Agrippina, and confront the truth,” the Regent said quietly, “We have already lost. Reinforcements are not coming to save us. We have insufficient forces to match the enemy’s overwhelming numbers. The fall of this world was already a Certainty since the second day.”

Agrippina opened her mouth, wanting to protest further, but stopped herself. She instead did as Augustus told her. Her hands began to shake as she came to the same conclusion.

“We can no longer win, but we must still do all we can to deny the enemy,” Augustus declared firmly, “The Archenemy cannot be allowed to gain resources that would fuel further conquests. Everything must be destroyed – the shipyards, the forges, and the gene-seed bank.”

“And I believe I may have a solution, sir,” Tacitus said as he handed a data slate to his Chapter Master, “We have several batteries of vortex missiles still active on Hive Janarus. If used against the system’s unstable star…”

“Has it ever been attempted before?” asked Agrippina, now resigned to this endeavor.

“Yes, mamzelle,” Tacitus replied, “Once, a long time ago, at Calth. Only this time, the enemy fleet in orbit will not have time to escape.”

“Then see that it is done, Tacitus” the Regent’s voice finally began to fail as the enormous weight of the decision fell upon him, “I will inform the citizens of their fate.”

“You don’t have to do that, my lord,” the Logis pointed out.

“I want to,” was the Regent’s only reply.

===

In truth, despite his wishes, not many heard the Regent’s final broadcast. All of the pict-caster stations had been destroyed, and few had access to vox sets. The Archenemy actually had better access to the broadcast than its intended recipients, but by then it did not matter. Tacitus had already fired the missiles, and nothing would stop them from transforming Cuxehaven’s star into blazing supernova in fifteen minutes.

The broadcast was brief. Augustus did not say much. He did not try to hide from the fact that he was murdering his own world. He merely stated the truth, and assured his citizens that he, and he alone, would face the consequences once they were all brought before the Emperor to be judged.

Most of the loyalists who heard him did not take it well. Many broke down and cried. Some cursed his name and that of the Wardens. A few lost all hope and took their lives before the end.

But there were those who did understand. The broadcast was a kind of mercy. It told them that their deaths would not be in vain. It told them that they could face the end with dignity.

And it told those still with loved ones that it was time to say goodbye.

===

Brother-Captain Pontius remained silent as he looked skyward. He had heard the broadcast. The sky was alight with dying Archenemy ships.

Transitioning into the warp was practically suicide while within the confines of a planet’s gravitational field, but the wretched Archenemy fleet was trying – and failing – anyway. Meanwhile, their Titans and ground troops had all been abandoned, left to die along with the rest of world.

This was, Pontius decided, a good death. An equitable trade. Vengeance for all of his murdered Brothers.

There was only one last duty to fulfill.

“It is time for you to leave, Brother Eligus,” Pontius said, turning to the young man, “You mentioned before the mission that your mother was still alive, yes?”

Eligus was taken aback by his commander remembering such a detail, but protested, “I can still fight sir.”

“Further fighting here is pointless, and you have nothing left to prove,” Pontius’ tone was casual and almost dismissive, as though stating a fact that was already well-known, “But you are not yet one of us. You should be with her in the end.”

Tears began to streak down Eligus’ face, “But what about you, sir?”

Pontius actually snorted, “I am past such emotions. I will simply try to amuse myself by killing more heretics.”

An uneasy silence passed between the two of them.

Finally, Eligus turned and ran. He did not look back.

Pontius watched his every step, willing the young Warden to find his way home.

===

Over a thousand innocent souls had been gathered at the Cathedral of Saint Koln. The priest had heard the Regent’s broadcast, and understood his intent. He now led his flock in prayer as they waited for the end.

Among those who were praying was Madam Eligus.

She was blind. She had made the mistake of looking directly at a nuclear detonation on the third day of the war. She wondered where her son was, and consoled herself with the idea that he was already with the Emperor waiting for her.

The ground began to shake. Vast solar energy from Cuxehaven's dying star began to strike the doomed Forge World. There was some panic. There was some screaming. But they were all drowned out by the continued prayers of the faithful.

Madame Eligus kept praying with them.

The shaking began to grow worse. Madam Eligus could feel the heat rising. She realized that the world was about to burn. Death had finally come.

But before the brief flash of searing pain that preceded the nothingness of death, Madam Eligus thought she heard a familiar voice shout a single word:

"Mother!"

===

In an Imperium where billions died every day, the loss of a world meant little.

Yet in the tiny corner of the galaxy that the Steel Wardens had protected and nurtured for thousands of years, few ever forgot where they were and what they were doing the moment they heard that the Wardens were gone.

===

On the hundredth day of the Second Battle for Hydronis Majoris, Lord Admiral Troubridge learned of the destruction of Cuxehaven, and the death of the Steel Wardens.

The news spread like wildfire, and demoralized the defenders. Several besieged garrisons on the planet even surrendered and allowed themselves to be butchered by the Orks.

Defeat then had seemed all but certain. Troubridge was already drafting plans for a full-scale evacuation.

But everything changed by the next dawn. A single ship had arrived in the system. One ship should not have been able to change the balance, but this ship was unique.

It was a Battle-Barge of the Steel Wardens. The very last Battle-Barge of the Steel Wardens; carrying the few warriors who had been off-world when calamity struck Cuxehaven.

And these Wardens could not be dissuaded from fulfilling their Regent’s pledge. Not by the grim odds. Not by the virtual certainty of defeat.

Not even by the threat of extinction.

“We are warriors,” their Champion had declared, “This is what we do. We can only hope it is enough.”

Inspired by these simple words, Lord Admiral Troubridge became determined to support the Wardens in their final battle. He shed away his stoic demeanor. For once, fire was in his eyes and on his tongue.

And as the Imperial forces were about to launch their assault, he addressed them with these words:

"Soldiers of the Guard! Sailors of the Fleet!

Know this: We have been joined by a hundred Steel Wardens. The rest of their Chapter cannot fight with us. You all already know why

But they are still with us. They are still watching us. Even now they whisper to us, asking if everything they had built will crumble away now that they are gone.

Today, we give them our answer. The only answer worthy of their memory. The answer made eternal by the valor, courage, and sacrifice of mortal men:

Rest easy, Wardens.

We’ll fight on in your stead.”


===

From this day onwards, men and women of the Cuxehaven Cluster would speak of the Second Battle for Hydronis Majoris.

And they would not be ashamed.

Last edited by Dave T Hobbit; 12-29-12 at 06:19 PM. Reason: Converted to Forum Standard font
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 01-01-13, 08:25 AM
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Wow, this was a great read . Really enjoyed the short story - great job!
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 01-09-13, 11:01 PM
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Positives: The first and final words, for one. The Heresy callbacks. The Steel Wardens really felt like a unique Chapter. The diction/syntax, for the most part.
Negatives: The battle in the Titan felt rather pointlessly long in retrospect. Destroying the sun seemed too easy; it took the Word Bearers a ton of energy, and even there the Calth sun wasn't actually destroyed IIRC. (If it was easy to kill a sun, there would be no Milky Way to speak of by 40K!)
Overall: Good story.

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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 01-24-13, 09:42 AM Thread Starter
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Re: The Titan Battle

The Titan fight had always been meant to yank the feet from under the reader; making the reader expect some kind of last-minute win when in fact it was just the last gasp of a doomed world.

I always try to write stories with a specific theme in mind, and "Not Ashamed" was always meant to revolve around this simple idea: "How do people deal with defeat?".

On one hand, there's that feeling of emptiness and hopelessness after seeing all that heroism "wasted".

On the other hand, there are those who understand that victory or defeat matter less than the manner in which you arrived at the conclusion.

While this story may ultimately be about the latter (hence the title, "Not Ashamed"), it could not have been written without the former.

Re: The Supernova

Cuxehaven's star was particularly unstable, which was why firing votex missiles at it worked relatively quickly. I probably could have expounded on it more, but it really wouldn't have added much to the story other than to add a few lines of made-up technical minutae.
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