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What follows here is the beginnings of the story of the exiled 14th company of the Luna Wolves, under the command of Captain Titus Cato, a Terran veteran. The fluff that has already been written for this company can be found in my Luna Wolves project log and will be intertwined with the story in its proper order as it progresses.
Any comments and criticism/advice is more than welcome, this is after all, the first time I've attempted to write anything on this scale.


Exile.
The Story of the 14th


“A life given to honour is a life well spent.
Blood spilt for honour is blood well spilled.
Blood begets blood, it runs thicker than water.
Never again will man be forced to kneel against his will.”


—Attributed to Titus Cato, Captain of the Exiled 14th.

“With honour comes duty,
If the price of honour is death.
It is a price I am willing to pay,
For the Emperor and the Exiled Fourteenth!”


-Attributed to Petra, ‘The Rock’, Champion of the Exiled 14th.​



PROLOGUE​


Miner-Df1924:AK-19 - Df for short - eased his pick out of the seam that he was working and stood up. Looking at the night sky he perceived a flash that looked for all the world like lightning in space. Strange, he thought, shaking his head.
By standing up and wiping his brow, Df was committing a potentially capital offence. He had less than fifteen seconds to reinitiate his swing sequence before he would be taken for reconditioning; an ordeal that by all accounts was the most painful thing one could ever endure. If he took another fifteen to thirty seconds on top of this he would be dead. End of the game. His body would be fed into the meat foundries and his body would be processed into the rations that were fed to the rest of the slaves in Mine-AK-19. They were taught to believe that there were no gods, that people had no souls, and that all they were required to do was give their life in the service of the Overseer, who in turn paid tribute to his cruel masters.
Df happened to disagree with this, he was one of the shift leaders by dint of his experience and age. He had survived six cycles, an achievement that was not commonly replicated, so he reckoned that he had attained a certain level of wisdom when it came to life and death. Six cycles he had lived. Each cycle was six months by Terran standards, not that Df knew this. Miners were vat-grown and when they reached twenty cycles were activated and thrown into the mines if they were deemed developed enough to survive for a cycle. Df was thirteen. He was the third eldest miner in the mine, nobody survived past twelve normally.
Tall for his age, Df stood at five-seven and was built of solid, lean muscle courtesy of a life in the mines and a diet tailored for efficiency until the day he expired. He had no friends, and trusted nobody, for nobody was allowed to speak under pain of death and they went to individual cells to sleep and feed after the shift.
People lived short, brutal lives in the mines. They had no idea what went on in the world outside of the mine, for it was not relevant, and they neither heard nor saw rumours of outside, let alone accurate news.
Just as Df reinitiated his swing sequence he smelt something in the air that he had never smelt before. A burning smell, overlaid with an almost salty tang, it invaded the senses. At this stage, little did he know that this would be one of two smells that would dominate the rest of his life. Then the very air about him started to shake. It was as if something had physically forced its way into the world from outside and was being fought by the very planet itself. Looking up he saw that the lightning had changed. In its place something huge was flying through the air towards the mine, bright red lights beaming from it causing horrific damage to the fence about him and cutting into the guard towers at the corners of the mine complex.
He could see guards and overseers fleeing, turning to fight and being cut down by a relentless storm of fire. It was too much to comprehend in a single moment. How could anyone make sense of the slaughter unfolding before his eyes? What fell avenging angels had answered his prayers for freedom?
In this madness he saw his chance. His heart elevated, palms sweaty and the pain in his back forgotten, he roared.
He would leave this place.
Forever.
Turning he swung his the head of his pick towards his Overseer.
Flinching back from the blow the Overseer laughed, bringing his pistol to bear. So many had tried to rise during his time at the mines. None had survived. He was graced with enhanced reflexes giving him much reduced reaction times.
Almost lazily he fired his pistol into the meat of Df’s thigh, knowing that it would incapacitate him, but leave him conscious enough to feel his life leaking away. It was this cruel streak that killed the Overseer.
Df screamed with pain as the nerve-barb embedded itself into his thigh, his charge stopped dead. Reloading, the overseer sauntered over, and crouched by him, watching with idle amusement. It was the ones that tried to fight on that amused him the most.
There was another crash as the main gate of the mine came crashing down under the relentless hammering of some form of light-based projectile, knocking the Overseer to the floor.
Grabbing his chance, Df stabbed his pick into the Overseer’s mid-drift with all his remaining strength. Clawing his way up his body Df throttled the Overseer and using his pick as a crutch he pushed his way to his feet, taking in the desolation around him with a feral laugh.
He was free.
Giants were walking. Giants shooting fire. Pearly white giants, partially shrouded by the smoke and the fire, they truly were the angels of death and deliverance. He was not scared. He knew no fear. He felt the touch of destiny upon his brow, and knew then that he would either join their ranks, or be destroyed by those from within those ranks. Looking at the sky, Df offered a kiss and bowed his head, a sign of thanks to whatever god was looking out for him.
The giants walked on, twenty angels clad in marble-white armour with black facings, barely giving him more than a cursory glance.
Df heard a voice projected from the lead warrior, “see to him Lucius.” Tinny and laced with interference was the voice, and Df hefted his pick in preparation to meet his end, not understanding a word of what was being spoken to him. As the warrior approached Df swung his pick at him with all his strength. The giant, however, caught the weapon with almost preternatural swiftness and threw it aside. Laughing, he pushed Df down and promptly applied a tourniquet to his leg, gave him morphine and said with that terrifying, tinny voice.
“Do not fight, you are free. You are no longer a slave. Your world is free. The Luna Wolves will make it so. Now sleep.”
As darkness rushed up to meet him, Df’s last vision was of a horde of these giant warriors stepping past his supine body, firing massive blocky weapons into the distance. None of that seemed to matter now as Df slept the sleep of the dead.

CHAPTER ONE

I
To conquer a world​

“Roger. Regroup. Out.”
“That’s it. We’re done. Our first world.” Captain Titus Cato smiled at the vox-set in his hand. After everything the Fourteenth had been through, the last thing that they had expected was their single handed capture of a prime world with under one hundred legionaries.
“Adept.” Cato called, “it’s time. By the Emperor, this is our world now. I need a command centre at Sergeant Janhauz’ position, and drop a survey team for resources. Major?” A short stocky man snapped to attention on the bridge. “Good. Deploy with the Adept, provide security and if necessary muscle. Janhauz is needed to mop up the last of the resistance in the south. Deck Six.” With another salute the major left the bridge, talking urgently into his headpiece to form his men up.

II
To rebuild a company[/SIZE][/CENTER]

A bright light shining in his eye was the first thing that Df saw when he woke again.
That same ‘Lucius’ was leaning over him. “What is your name? Your name?”
“Delta…Ugh, Delta Foxtrot Four Alpha.”
“That’s your name? A logic string? Come on lad, on your feet. Put these on.” He said, handing him a white bodysuit and a pair of leather boots. We’ve got to give you a proper name, the apothecary thought, waiting as the lad dressed.
“Done? Good, let’s go.” He said, turning to step out of the large hab-tent that had been set up in the plains around Mine AK-19.
As Df looked around in bewilderment at these giants sat down in half armour, cleaning their weapons as if less than an hour ago, they had not just invaded a planet. Hesitantly he asked, “I’m…free?” Fingering the emblem upon the bodysuit, he was not sure if that was the case. He could have just traded one set of manacles for another.
“Yes lad. You have a chance now, to become one of us. You have no family, what’ve you got to lose?”
“Become what?”
“Become a Luna Wolf son. Just follow me. The Captain can explain it better than I.”
Addressing a group of perhaps one hundred and fifty youths between the ages of ten to sixteen, Cato spoke: “you have been gathered here today to make a choice: one that will change your lives forever.” The captain’s voice was deep and rich, and filled with conviction. “You have been deemed worthy of the chance to become one of us: one of the Emperor’s elite, an astartes. Fight the fights that matter, earn the respect from those whose respect is worth cherishing. For those among you who were slaves, we offer a chance to start again. To the rebels, carry on your fight against the enemies of slavery and the Emperor, here at my side.
You can leave here if you wish. But if you take us up on this, if you make this binding oath, there is no turning back. Only in death will your duty end.
“What say you?”

III
The price of honour​

Being sat behind a desk making notes on a wax tablet was something that Cato had been stuck doing more than he cared to think about recently. He needed to do something to ease the tedium. Fortunately, he was almost done. There were just three more aspirants to interview. The first one passed quickly, the youth had little to say, just a pledge to serve, and a killer’s the glint in the eye. The second was much the same as the first, Cato’s notes said that he’d been the son of one of the rebel leaders, which came across in the form of a cocky swagger. Snorting, Cato doubted that the next time he’d see the aspirant he’d have that same expression.
Finally, the last one. The one he’d heard about from his chief apothecary, Lucius. Then he could get to the training arenas.
Squaring his shoulders he called through the heavy oak doors.
“Enter.”
The boy that entered the room could not really be called a boy anymore. He was tall for his age, and his body was hard from a life in the slave mines. The six months of constant physical training that the aspirants were being put through was preparing their bodies for the implants that would allow them to transcend the shackles of humanity. Cato could tell one thing straight away: he was ready, far more than the others he had seen.
“Sit.”
Sitting down, Df took in the room around him. As with many of the areas of the fortress that he’d been inside, it was very austere: built for purpose not pleasure. The captain was sat behind a massive oak desk, its surface covered in papers and memory stacks. There was a vox set in one corner, and a weapons rack in the other. The captain’s gloriously ornate and plumed helm was hanging off the hanger lining the wall.
Idle talking was not something that either of the people in the room were used to, but there was little else to describe the conversation that they were having. Even six months into his training, Df knew very little. He had had no upbringing, no education, no friends. Being treated as more than just a piece of meat to be used and abused was like food to a starving man. Cato found that simple conversation was an excellent way to judge a person’s character before they took the burden of an astartes’ war plate.
“There is something about you that I like lad. If you survive training you will go far. What is your name?”
“Df1924, sir.”
“Not anymore, shed your slave name. I will have no slaves in my service, only warriors. Petra will be your name, for you will be a rock against the tide of filth that seek to undo the Emperor’s work. Train hard, learn the heritage of your race. Listen to your heart and earn your name.”
Reaching back, Cato grabbed an old, well thumbed book. Chucking it to Petra he told him that it was a history on mankind’s spread through old Earth and their expansion into the stars and the Emperor’s eventual rise to dominance.
“You will read tales of warriors in there lad. Many are dead. Many are still alive. These are the ones that matter. Earn their respect and you will find a place among their ranks.”
Overcome with pride with the captain’s kindness and his new name, Petra didn’t know what to say. Lapsing back into his old habits, he bowed.
“Never bow to me boy. There are currently eight beings in the entire galaxy that you bow to, and you will know them by their presence. I am not one of them.
“Just remember, the price of your honour is eternal service to mankind. It will kill you eventually, just as it has killed so many of my brothers, just as surely as it will kill me. But it is worth it. You will fight where men cannot. When you die, you will die in a way that a man cannot. Surrounded by glory, mourned by immortal beings, instead of lying forgotten on a world that you knew nothing about. Now go. Read that, train hard and live with honour.
“Good luck.”
Nodding, Petra left.
Sighing, Cato picked up the vox horn and spoke to his chief apothecary. “They’re all done now. Training arena three alpha. We need to talk, and I need to get some life back into my bones!”

IV
To be a Wolf​

Training arena three alpha was part of the newly built training wing in the the grounds of the Fourteenth’s rapidly expanding fortress. As Cato and Lucius, his chief Apothecary walked down the hill from the central part of the complex where Company headquarters were located he examined the progress of the build so far. Since they’d decided to make this world the company’s central headquarters efforts were being made to make this vision a reality. Electricity masts were springing up across the complex, with massive underground generators already well underway. Now that there were new aspirants to train and basic life support systems were in place the focus shifted towards the strengthening of the company’s training infrastructure.
Looking into the distance he could see the massive open air training area that had been planned by his sergeants and put into effect by the Mechanicus contingent accompanying the company. There was even space for the mortal soldiers to train alongside the astartes in joint operations: too often had Cato seen Imperial Army members doing everything they could do avoid operating near astartes for fear of becoming collateral damage. This was something that Cato found unacceptable, every life was precious, be it mortal or astartes. If they were to die it would be at the hands of the enemy not their allies.
As he walked down the hill he exchanged salutes with various Luna Wolves that were involved in the construction of this project. Many had found the work beneath them, but Cato had insisted. After all, he said, astartes are were if nothing else, almost a ton of solid muscle which may as well be put to use so that they could get moving quicker. In the distance he could see the smoke haze that was the live firing range. He had two squads of tactical marines training with breacher shields adapted for urban engagements as well as their prescribed ship-assault use.
At the entrance to the training arenas he could see the aspirants that he had judged ready to begin weapons training drilling with the short-bladed swords that were favoured for the close work that astartes tended to be called upon. His weapons master Kaochan was duelling with three of the more skilled aspirants, a fierce grin on his face. Kaochan was a curiosity, instead of the skin-tight leathers or loin cloth favoured by most in training Kaochan wore a deep black robe, cinched at the waist with a leather belt bearing the Fourteenth’s company insignia. Tattooed across his chest Cato could see the Imperial Aquila, an award he won on Terra during the Unification victory feasts for his blade work.
Pausing on their advance to the arena Cato and Lucius watched Kaochan put the aspirants through their paces. Leaning into his attack the weapons master stabbed his blade at the belly of the first youth, striking him cleanly in the stomach, and loosing a small electric shock, flooring him. As this was happening the second, a lean dark lad swung for his exposed flank, earning a foot to the ribs for his troubles. Petra, his young face all ferocity waited for the kick to land then he struck.
He was fast, I’ll give him that Kaochan thought, as Petra’s blade slapped into the meat of his thigh.
“Good!” Kaochan cried, as he reversed his blade, dancing away from the blow. “We’ll make a Wolf of you yet!” His blade acting as an extension of his arm Kaochan was not going for the win, just testing his instincts. His blade almost caressing Petra as he scored strike after strike on his body. Not enough to cause the shock, but enough to be felt, his arm moving in a blur. Petra’s facial expressions didn’t have time to catch up with Kaochan’s blade, the flush of scoring a strike on the master only just fading from his face, despite receiving ten strikes in less than half those seconds.
All the time Kaochan was watching Petra’s blade and eyes move. His reactions in the face of such overwhelming speed and skill were enough for Kaochan to judge the potential of a swordsman by. Petra would be deadly one day.
Stopping the duel, Kaochan grinned again, and saluted the lads before turning his attention to Cato and Lucius.
“Bored of being cooped up in the citadel sir? You wanted to see real warriors training for once sir?” He bantered.
“Maybe I should teach you to respect your ‘glorious’ captain Kao?” Cato replied, emphasising the word glorious with a laugh.
“Petra, give your blade to the captain, it's time for a proper show.” Kao said, his wolfish grin never leaving his face. “Any bets Lucius?”
“Sorry, but it’s going to have to be Cato, you know his history.” Lucius replied, the ghost of a smile forming on his lips. “Petra, Saito Benkei, Yue Fei, stand with me and watch two masters work.
Shrugging out of his robes, Cato took up the blade that Petra handed to him and shook himself off, rolling his shoulders.
Stepping into the circle he saluted Kaochan and took up a ready position.
The opening move came as a blur, Kaochan’s matched blades flying through the air in a strangely contrasted style. One blade thrusting high for the shoulder, the other a wide swing anticipating Cato’s evasion. Cato’s hand struck Kaochan’s wrist as he dropped to the side, avoiding the first blow. His blade came up to block Kaochan’s second. Then Cato struck. A perfect blow to the heart, stopped only by an elbow to his forearm knocking the blade outside his guard. Blow after blow was exchanged, both combatants acting on instinct, their blades moving faster than the eye could follow. They used every part of their bodies to block and strike. This was how an astartes fought. Every part of his body had been honed to deal death and destruction. From his elbows to his knees, everything could kill when powered by the brute strength of an astartes in full battle plate. As it was, the two warriors were out of plate so there was no damage to either of them, and they were both masters of the blade. Back on Terra Kaochan was counted among the top fifty in the Emperor’s Unification Wars victory tournament, while Cato was previously the Second Company’s champion, and only lost narrowly to Captain Loken in the legion’s most recent competition.
When the break came it came fast.
Cato’s blade rapped Kaochan’s fist, his numb hand dropping the blade, before he could react with his other blade he found Cato’s blade at his throat. His heart throbbing rapidly from the exertion.
Stepping back from each other, they bowed before turning away.
“A good fight, you’ve got faster Kao.”
“Still not fast enough it seems.” Kaochan replied ruefully.
“One day.” Said Cato, clapping him on the shoulder as he moved past.
Just as they were passing out of earshot Cato could hear Kaochan lecturing the three aspirants on how he had lost, running the through the moves with exaggerated slowness.
That was the glory of this unit, they were bound in more than just blood, they were all exiles from the main body of the legion, drawn together by Cato’s leadership and vision.
“They’re ready to go onto the next stage if the Apothecarium’s ready for it Lucius.” Commented Cato as they continued down the path through the rest of the training grounds.
“We have the organs and seed for one hundred aspirants and the staff are trained sufficiently now. I will begin work the day after tomorrow, give the ones you want to progress a day to recover their full strength. You remember how hard the transition was.”
“True, I want Petra, Saito Benkei, Yue Fei, Decius and Hypatius presented to me at the end of the day’s training cycle.”
“Very well sir, I’ll inform Kaochan.” Lucius said, turning back.
“The stars beckon Lucius. We’ll regain our honour, we won’t go back to Horus broken, when we meet him once more it will be at the back of a full company with an established foothold in this sector. Then he’ll realise his mistake.”
“I look forward to that day.” Admonished Lucius, walking back up the hill to the Apothecarium.
 

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Jac "Baneblade" O'Bite
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Read through this last night Bliss, really nice work, it sets up a strong identity and theme to your force and is quite tragic which I always like. The action sequences read well.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
@Jacobite: Thanks mate, and it's a nice diversion when the painting mojo is on the wane!

Here's chapter two for general consumption. Any comments, questions or criticisms are more than welcome!!


CHAPTER TWO

I
Tying up loose ends

With the fall of the capital, much of Four-Oh-Two, One, known locally as Aesir, fell into the hands of the Luna Wolves with very little resistance. Only in the southern hemisphere was there any real opposition to the new order. It was for this reason that Cato had dispatched a small strike force to achieve full compliance of Thera, the regional capital.
Inside the Stormbird with Cato and his command unit were two of his veteran squads and two of his most junior tactical squads. They needed live combat experience. Training simulators were all well and good, but there was nothing quite like a proper skirmish to make the lessons hit home. Tactical squads Epsilon and Kilo had been established in the last two years, and between the forty astartes, only the two sergeants and six of the legionaries had any confirmed kills. Only the sergeants had fought in an army level engagement: they had been drawn from the training staff to cover the shortage of veteran sergeants in the company.
As they sat in the troop bay, Cato briefed them on what was expected. A soft hand was required, subduing the last members of the old regime was one thing, but care was to be made to avoid alienating the civilian population. After all, they would be relying on them to work in the factories and workshops.
As the Stormbird dropped through the sky, on its final approach Cato finished up his brief. “Epsilon you’re taking Thera. Kilo, you’ve got the foundries: there have been reports of riots and the destruction of workers’ propertiy. I’ll be acting as a reaction-force if there’s trouble you cannot handle, but this is mainly to get some experience under your belts. If you do well you might even shut the vets up, hey? Get this planet secure for the Emperor and for the Wolves!”
Along with the two tactical squads the veterans split down into pairs and moved off in different directions, covering a wide spread of the ground. They had been tasked to interact with the rural farm workers, and inform them about the new order: most of the serfs had had no idea that there had been any change - life just went on for them.
These were the very best of the company. Most had their first honour stud, commemorating fifty years of service to the Emperor. Armed with stalker-pattern bolters and power blades, they were formidable.
“Not joining us sir?” Enquired Corda cheekily, one of the younger veterans on the expedition.
“Next time perhaps Corda, I’ll let you catch up a few years first.” Cato replied easily, taking the banter into his stride. He’d been taking quite a bit of it recently because of the amount of administration supervision he’d been forced to do. Still, he welcomed the rise in morale, the company had been on the rocks after the exile. It was good that spirits were rising again. It was that, and the fact that he hadn’t seen anyone shoot quite like Corda and was thinking of putting him in charge of marksmanship lessons once the aspirants were ready, that made him take it with a grin.
“See you in a week. Don’t get killed.”
“Yes Sir!” Replied Corda, bowing ironically, dodging out of the way of the boot that Cato aimed at him.
Three days into the patrols the reports started to filter back to Cato. The tactical squads had split down to five man combat squads to cover more ground, figuring that it would take a lot to bring even five astartes down and five would be less threatening than twenty. Kilo had encountered little resistance and was in the process of consolidating their position on the foundries. They were waiting for a Mechanicum convoy with the equipment to begin installation of proper factories. Epsilon, however, had encountered heavy resistance in the outer reaches of the city and was currently entrenched in the merchant quarters, waiting for reinforcement from any of the veteran teams nearby while Cato’s reaction-force could arrive.
Listening to the fractured reports on the vox Cato could tell that the situation was becoming quite dangerous. One of Epsilon was dead, another two injured. It seemed that the locals were had set off some kind of electro-magnetic mine that shut down all the auto-senses in the power armour, electrocuting one. In response to this Cato mobilised another two squads from the Company Headquarters along with some light armour support, tasked to hit the city from the north.
They would touch down in two days. Not nearly fast enough.
Cato’s command squad could well tip the balance if used in the right way. While they were only five marines, each of them had decades more experience than all but the most senior veterans of the company. They would be invaluable in any engagement that they committed to.
Janhauz, the youngest member of the chosen grinned wolfishly at the idea of combat. It had been too long since he had tasted the smell of cordite in the air, and the reassuring kick of a bolter in his shoulder. Kaochan was similarly restless. He was an enigma. Once he was actually in a war he was the picture of a duellists’ composure and controlled aggression, and possessed of the patience to wait for an opening that could be exploited rather than relying on brute strength to force a duel. When he was waiting for it, however, he was a horse champing at the bit. He eschewed a helmet, preferring to wear a death mask depicting a devil of his ancestral culture. His dual blades were already drawn, only to be sheathed once they had tasted the blood of an enemy as his ancient culture dictated.
Cato himself was simply meditating, as was his custom. That was why he held company command. There were a few who were better with a blade or a bolter than he, but there were none with his composure and command finesse. He had his long-hafted axe sheathed at his side, with his shield resting between his legs. Across his knees was his pride and joy: a long blade, shaped like an ancient Romanii Spatha, with a heavy hilt. He would simply rest, mentally preparing himself for the fight to come, absorbing the data from the helmet feeds of his charges already in the thick of the city fighting.

II
Insurrection​

“Stoppage!” Brother Argon yelled, dropping to one knee.
They had been fighting for four hours and their weapons were beginning to jam from use. That was fine. That’s what the drills they learnt in training were for. The problem was their ammunition count. During a planetary invasion tactical marines would carry about one thousands rounds in bulky box-magazines, and a further two-hundred rounds of link in bandoliers looped across his back. Once the spearhead struck they would be able to expect frequent resupplies to keep up the momentum of the assault, so ammunition was not a concern. They would burn through thousands and thousands of rounds and grenades, and chain-blade tracks in a single engagement.
This was not a planetary engagement. Squad Epsilon was not supported by any resupply engines. Ammunition was now a significant problem. They had enough to last them for the next hour, then it was blades.
Section leader Farmeon leaned out from behind the wall and raked the plaza with fire allowing Argon to drop into cover behind ruins of a once majestic fountain depicting the Overlord of Aesir.
Farmoen spoke quickly into the vox, his massive body hunched behind cover. “Zero this is Epsilon-Two. Request urgent ammo replen. and extraction. Insurgents have us surrounded.”
His movements fluid and calm despite the situation, he switched to the squad-level vox, requesting an ETA on temporary reinforcement.
His reply was laced with static. “…TA…timated figures…ty-six. Over.”
“Say again over.” He yelled over the crump of mortars detonating near the section’s position.
“ETA in figures: twenty-six. Out.” Came Veteran Corda’s terse reply over the net, the echoes of bolter fire washing through the vox.
Las fire and hard rounds stitched through the air around him as Agon stood up squeezing off single shots at the encroaching body of insurgents. Every round had to count. Hearing a bestial roar he snapped left, his foot forward, and bolter braced into his shoulder. He couldn’t credit what he saw, and he hesitated. This was inexperience, not cowardice. Everyone makes mistakes. The trick is surviving them. Gone was his chance to stop them reaching him. Smoothly he changed into a wide stance, unloading his bolter into the charging fanatics whilst drawing his short-hafted axe in his other.
He then came to the one logical conclusion and discarded it. After that…he charged.
Three steps he took, then he leapt, bellowing his war cry.
Heavily armoured astartes boots connected with soft human flesh and flak armour. The flesh and flak armour gave way. Completely. Before he had even landed he had taken the heads of two more insurgents, their blood fountaining into the air, obscuring the beautifully etched legion insignia on his MkIII chest plate.
Facing down an armoured astartes from range is one thing. A bolter is a ferocious weapon in the hands of a Luna Wolf, you can still hide in cover or run. Most run. Facing one down in close combat, however, is suicidal. Un-armoured, an astartes is many times stronger than a human, with an almost inexhaustible reserve of energy, and fail-safe organs. Armoured, all of these statistics are multiplied tenfold. Even without accounting for any measure of skill, an armoured astartes would be able to defeat twenty or more mortals in close combat before falling. A Luna Wolf, however, even an unblooded Luna Wolf is a wholly different matter entirely. They were bred for war, built for the brutality of hand to hand fighting.
The one-hundred or so insurgents that had assaulted Argon were already dead. They just didn’t know it yet. Twenty were in pieces, spread across the plaza in the space of seven seconds.
A sharp pain in the back of Argon’s leg put him to one knee, and in seconds he was being swarmed by frothing fanatics, being beaten by rifle butts and short blades. It was Pkar that saved him. His precise shots freed Argon’s arms of insurgents, allowing him to cut down swathes of them while he rose to his feet. Bloodied, but unbowed Argon nodded his thanks to his brother and picked up his cracked helm and examined it with his one good eye.
He looked up just in time to see a mortar round strike the fountain behind which he had been taking cover. Shards of metal were sent flying through the air towards Pkar, lacerating his torso and taking a leg and an arm.
It was this that once more spurred the insurgents into action. Seeing a real chance to finally kill one of these indomitable warriors they swarmed him, pulling, tearing, shooting.
His optics lost, and blood loss making his thoughts sluggish Pkar lashed out with the monstrous strength that the Emperor had granted him. He was on his back screaming defiance when Argon and Farmeon got within striking distance of the insurgents. Both were now reliant on blades, else they may have been able to prevent Pkar from being swarmed. Sadly, it was not to be.
As if from a great distance Pkar heard his brothers calling to him, bringing him back from the precipice. He had lost himself in his rage, his arm flailing with his blade.
“They’re dead brother.”
Pulling him behind the fountain that felled him, Farmeon pulled in the last two members of Epsilon-Two in an all-round defence whilst furiously talking into his vox.
As designated team medic Argon knelt down by Pkar and started working on his wounds. Sighing, he glanced over at Farmeon he shook his head. This would be the first brother that they had ever seen fall. “We’ll be back for you brother, the captain is on his way, and the Stormbird has a proper medical suite. You’ll be on your feet in no time.” He reassured him.
Pkar’s attempt at replying only resulted in blood bubbling through his torn lips. Clapping his shoulder he moved away from him, taking his place in the circle, bolt pistol in one hand, axe in the other.
Totally out of ammunition now, they were down to blades and there were actions of utter ferocity and heroism recorded in the helmet feeds of all of them. Snatches of the video-feed would show Farmeon dragging Tella back from the press, his right leg shattered, blazing with stolen lasguns in each hand. They would show Argon standing over his fallen brother Maddro, hacking with his axe and smashing enemies down with his helmet. They would show Pkar, bareheaded, pale with blood loss leaning against Argon, screaming his defiance, hacking with his blade, determined to die on his feet.
They would show high powered rounds slamming into the humans bearing down on Farmeon and Argon, pulverising them. Each shot a kill shot. This was an economy of force that even the astartes of Epsilon couldn’t manage. This was the work of a veteran of many campaigns. They would show Corda’s arrival. They heard him before they saw him. A keening through the smoke made the insurgents shiver with apprehension. They were already regretting their decision to assault the astartes, but they had them beaten now, it was just a matter of wearing them down.
The insurgents just saw a blade flashing at first, taking limbs and heads with every stroke. Corda was phantom in the smoke. Nothing could touch him, it was as if he was living a second ahead of the humans. As he worked his way towards the defence he left a trail of dismembered bodies behind him. The insurgents had struggled to handle the wrath of junior astartes of Epsilon, against the unfettered fury of Corda, they had no chance.
Against all odds they started to withdraw, a trickle at first, and then a rush, pursued all the way by Corda. Then there was the sudden appearance of his partner Torrek, who laid into them with his lightning claws, leading the other three sections of Epsilon into the fray.
Within two minutes there was nothing but a trail of broken and burned bodies and wisps of smoke slowly fading out into the sky.
Whilst consulting with Corda and Torrek, Sergeant Arador organised the redistribution of ammunition to the remaining astartes of Epsilon-Two. The other three sections were battered and all had minor injuries, but none had faced the fury that Farmeon’s section had, though Tu had been killed outright by the Electro-mine and was laid by Pkar while Argon stood vigil over them both.
“We’ll hold here until Cato arrives.” Decided Torrek, outranking Arador by dint of his experience and his previous service as a squad sergeant before moving up into the ranks of the veterans. Their course of action decided upon, Corda picked his way through the bodies towards Argon, who was knelt by Pkar with a sorrowful expression on his face.
“You fought well today brother. The Emperor knows Pkar’s name. And no, it doesn’t get any easier.” Corda said, reading Argon’s question in his face. “The first and the fiftieth were just as hard as each other. I hope it remains so, it shows that I’ve kept onto that part of humanity that I fight for most. There is a lesson there, if you want to learn it. Pkar knew what was expected of him when he stepped off the Stormbird. He did his duty as you did. Sometimes it’s just bad luck - a bullet can kill a novice or a veteran indiscriminately. Get your mind back into the fight and we’ll make the bastards pay.”

III
The price of defiance


Two days later, the city was in flames. Cato had landed in the plaza with his command squad and loaded the wounded onto the Stormbird before pushing out huge crates of bolter ammunition and chainsword tracks. Once the reinforcements reached striking distance of the city, Cato’s own strikeforce - Squad Epsilon, one of the veteran squads, now operating on a squad level, and his own command squad - resumed their assault from the south.
With almost seventy astartes and light armour and air support at their backs the Fourteenth were able to fully subjugate the city once and for all. It was a sad lesson that had to be learnt, and not one that Cato enjoyed enacting. The people had to know, however, that resistance to the Emperor was met with death.
The screams and flames finally died out on the morning of the fifth day. They had virtually exterminated the city, building by building, room by room. They had eradicated all traces of the rebels’ presence in the city, for by now they were being treated as rebels: it wasn’t simple insurgency anymore, it was rebellion.
In a ragged crowd, the pale and bloody survivors of the siege stood. Less than a thousand out of a city of over one million had survived, and it was to these that Cato spoke. “I have salted the earth. Never again will you rise against the Emperor. Never again will you live here. Know that I speak with the Emperor’s authority in this matter. Make a new life in the service of the Emperor. Or die now. I leave the choice to you.”
Turning away he marched back to his men, “we’re going home. Short straw goes to Vitrix.” He said, indicating the veteran squad. “watch over these, get them spread across the planet. Get their bio-metrics on the database. Good hunting, I’ll organise a relief when we’re back, but I don’t see any other resistance - this was the hub of the Overlord’s power base.”
Nodding Julian’s squad spread out and started shouting orders to the crowd. Wiping the rain out of his face, Corda smiled ruefully. It was going to be another long week.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
CHAPTER THREE

Nine months after the last of the resistance within the old Overlord’s home city was crushed things were starting to settle on Aesir. The foundries were up and running, and were starting to produce the materials required to develop the infrastructure to allow the Aesir to support the Fourteenth Company.
The fortress was to all intents and purposes, complete. It could house the entire company if necessary and was manned by Imperial Army soldiers under the command of astartes too injured to continue on the Great Crusade.
The Mechanicum attachments had assured Cato that his newly built flagship ‘Lupus et vaga,’ - The wandering Wolves - was built and would arrive by the end of the month. Everything was coming together, the mood was good and the Fourteenth wanted to get on with the crusade. They still had a name to clear.
One hundred and thirty two astartes were gathered in front of Cato in neat ranks; their helms locked to their belts and their pearly white amour reflecting in the bright sunlight. All of them had now been blooded during the compliance of Aesir, this was shown upon the brow of their helmets: a single vertical red line. Oath papers fluttered in the wind, most old and tattered, marked by the fires of war. They all had one upon their person that was brand new, the renewal of their oath to the Great Crusade.
Lined in front of the astartes were the surviving aspirants all in varying stages of their training. At the forefront of these was Petra, Fei and Benkei. They had already received their geneseed and were experiencing the significantly accelerated growth that marked an astartes from a mortal. Alongside them was two hundred and twelve aspirants, of whom it was expected that one hundred and fifty would survive to become full astartes.
Further back were the contingents of the Imperial Army that were continuing with the Fourteenth, many would be remaining on the planet as custodians. The newly raised Imperial Army regiments the First to Sixth Aesiran Wolves would march alongside them. Sixty thousand trained humans to complement the original Terran veterans that had marched with Cato from the beginning.
“It is time brothers. We are going to war. For many of you this will be your first time off planet, for others it is a warm return to the fires of war. We march to carry out the Emperor’s will. To return the lost human colonies back into the fold. March without fear, kill for those who cannot fight, and fight for those who have died on this crusade. And in the Emperors’ name, we march!”

I
The ‘Cradle of Civilisation’​

With the full compliance of the Aesir system having been achieved the Fourteenth recommenced their part in the Great Crusade, and were travelling spinward towards a small cluster of systems in the sub-sector where planets with the capability to support life had been identified. It was thus that the newly named 1017th Expeditionary fleet approached the first life-supporting world. It was the opposite to everything that Cato had ever known of Terra. This was Earth as it should have been, Earth as it had been before the myriad nuclear holocausts that had marred her surface.
This lucky strand of civilisation in possession of this planet had sent requests for an embassy with the expeditionary fleet commanders on their space station. A piece of engineering beauty it was, all graceful curves and clean edges, with none of the brutal architecture that so defined the Imperium.
The embassy would comprise of two members of the expeditionary fleet speaking with one of the inter-planetary Senators on the station and the ranking officer of the station itself.
Cato was set to go himself with one of the colonels of the 5th Europan Janissaries from Terra who marched with Cato. It was decided that should the negotiations turn sour and a military reaction be required Cato’s place was at the bridge commanding the deployment. Thus it was that Kaochan and Colonel Altan disembarked the shuttle alone into a gloriously engineered hanger bay.
The locations of choke points, hastily set up defence lines and automated turrets were absorbed by Kaochan’s experienced eyes in an instant and as he looked at the honour guard that was set up around him and Altan, he curled his lip in the ghost of a smile. They were big men, the largest topping out at six, five point six feet, according to the targeting devices worked into his helmet. They looked well equipped too, carrying heavy looking rifles, and each possessing a full set of body armour, with just their heads showing. At the head of the honour guard were two men, one short, frail and bedecked in voluptuous robes, the other dressed in a similar fashion to the guard.
Snapping to attention a few feet from the Senator and station officer Kaochan unsealed his helmet with a hiss of escaping gases, while Altan held himself in a suitably dignified position, one hand resting on the pommel of his sword.
A thin voice addressed Colonel Altan. “You would bring weapons to an embassy? And that?” He said, indicating the astartes, “what is that?”
“I am one of the Emperor’s Legiones Astartes, chosen of the Luna Wolves, fourteenth company.” Kaochan interposed, his voice all menace, forgetting the diplomatic mission in his ire. “And I am surrounded by your weapons, so who are you to voice such accusations. There are thirty four soldiers surrounding us, all armed. You have a small digital weapon concealed in your right arm, the captain is armoured as well. There are six defence turrets covering me and the Colonel as we speak. If you are still scared of my weapons take them.” He said contemptuously, drawing his massive blades and bolter holding them out at full length towards the Senator.
Indicating to two of the honour guard the commander ordered his men to hold Kaochan’s weapons.
“Shall we begin then?” Alton asked, suppressing a grin, it was always interesting to see a man’s reaction to an astartes for the first time.

II
The art of negotiation

“So this is a purely military endeavour then?” The Senator pressed.
“No sir, we merely seek to unite the disparate colonies of humanity back under the banner of Terra, or ancient Earth as you know her. Sadly the galaxy is not a friendly place and the military component of our expeditionary fleet has by necessity been large.” Alton replied tersely, this back and forth had been going on for a few hours now. Kaochan had long since got bored, and seemed content to leave the negotiation to Alton, who was, to be fair, a far more subtle politician than Kaochan would ever be, or ever want to be for that matter.
“How many of you are there then, astartes?”
“One hundred and thirty blooded, six un-blooded, with light air and armour support.” Kaochan replied, not even remotely concerned about concealing the forces that marched with him.
The station commander snorted with derision at this answer, not quite understanding the power of a single astartes. “You couldn’t even take a town with that force.”
Inside a second he found himself pinned against the wall, Kaochan’s scarred face pressed up against him with the shattered remains of the table lying on the other side of the room.
“Never insult my brothers again, mortal. It will be the last thing you ever do.” Kaochan snarled, his left arm instinctively reaching for a blade that was not there.
Panicking, the Senator backed away, pressing against the security alarm embedded in the wall with his back.
“These negotiations are over, we will not surrender Arthax to foreign rule no matter that you claim to be from Ancient Earth, you monster! Guards! Guards!” Came the shrill cry of the Senator’s voice.
“Oh, big mistake…” Kaochan replied, that ghostly smile creeping back onto his face. “There’s what? One hundred of you on board? Not nearly enough.”
Red lights started flashing, high pitched alarms screamed. The Senator screamed in tune with them.
Altan looked bemused and slightly irritated, the Wolves may well be almost indestructible, but his lads weren’t. That said, he still loved a good fight as much as the next man. Promotions, combat bonuses and of course women came with the spoils of war, and since the Unification he hadn’t seen much action. It had all been the legions. Fortunately, there weren’t enough astartes to hold the entire planet on their own here, so there’d be space for him to get a good scrap in.
Still holding the commander’s throat Kaochan simply squeezed, he could feel the monstrous power building in his muscles, the power that would rip the man’s head off in a welter of blood and that same power that would kick the Senator in the chest. Though in the chest is probably the wrong description for what happened. Through the chest is a more apt description, for Kaochan’s foot went clean through his ribs and chest cavity, leaving his ribs hanging out of his back.
“Ever the diplomat my lord?” Altan asked dryly.
“Of course Altan, I live for diplomacy, it’s an art I have made my own over the years!” He laughed in reply, trying to fit his finger inside the trigger guard of the station commander’s rifle. “Useless…bare hands it is.” He muttered, tossing it to Altan who deftly made it ready.
Activating his vox Kaochan contacted the Lupus, “they’re going to fight.”
“Roger that, sending a bird now. ETA figures three-eight Mikes.” Came the bridge’s reply.
“The station will be clear by then. Out.” Kaochan said, shutting off his vox and fixing his death mask on his face and attaching the re-breather just incase. It would be a foolish way to die, getting sucked out of an airlock. “Time to hunt with a Wolf, Altan, one of these bastards had better have my blades nearby.”

III
To hunt with a Wolf

As Altan rounded the corner of station he came face to face with the apprehension squad sent to kill them. Spraying bullets from his stolen weapon Altan rapidly reversed back around the corner to see Kaochan leaping over him and laying into the squad as if they were children. Most were too surprised to fire. Most were never given the chance. Even bare-handed Kaochan was killing them. His body a whirlwind of death, he broke arms and legs with his feet, pulped organs with his elbows, and in one spectacular move butted the sergeant so hard that his head burst, leaving a mask of gore dripping down his death mask.
Twelve kills in fifteen seconds, unarmed against trained soldiers.
Crucially, the sergeant had a blade scabbarded at his waist. Now they stood no chance.
They kept to the shadows, hunting. Altan had lifted a map from one of the bodies and they were working their way towards the command centre dispatching anything that saw them. Kaochan could and probably would end up killing everything on the station, but that aim would be far faster and easier if he was able to do that properly armed. Just as Altan would feel more at ease with his own webbing and rifle back in his hands. These laser rifles packed a punch, but there was nothing quite like a weapon that you knew and trusted. It was a weapon that he prized very highly, and despite it firing high calibre rounds it packed a phenomenal rate of fire, and was small and compact. It was his weapon of choice for the urban and ship environments that he had spent the majority of his career operating in.
Reunited with his weapons once more, Kaochan decided that the time for stealth was over, if stealth it could have been called. They had fifteen minutes to neutralise the station’s defence turrets to stop Cato’s stormbird from being shot out of the sky.
Altan could no longer keep up with Kaochan’s advance. His job was that of an executioner, if anything still moved after Kaochan’s whirlwind of blades had finished, he would put them out of their misery. So far he had only had to do that twice, not much was left of most of Kaochan’s victims: powers swords tended to have that effect when wielded by a marine, he thought wryly.
Altan finally caught up with him at the defence lines. He could see nothing but bodies burst like ripe fruit, and Kaochan down on one knee, his armour battered and broken, and bleeding from the myriad wounds he had suffered on the way.
“Lupus. Mission achieved. Out” He heard him gasp into the vox.
He was still refusing to acknowledge his wounds other than bending down to pick up a scrap of armour that had one been part of his shoulder pauldron. It bore evidence of the gilded honour stud that he possessed for his actions during the Pacification of Luna campaign in the Sol System.
Standing up gingerly and sheathing his swords he he saw Altan. “Come on, let’s go greet them, I need more rounds anyway.”

Mildly impressed, Cato looked about the charnel house. When the stormbird touched down in the station he was greeted by a pale looking Kaochan, and a very dishevelled Colonel Altan. Between the two of them they had managed to secure the entire complex. Altan was the only mortal still breathing on the station, everyone else had been eliminated. Of course, it was not without cost.
Kaochan was sat down on an ammo crate, stripped of his armour, being examined by an apothecary. His armour was almost useless anyway, it would take a month to repair it enough to be battle worthy, the station soldiers had some potent weapons, and he had taken a serious amount of fire.
He was railing against Cato’s decision to pull him from the command squad for the spearhead. His anger was assuaged a bit when he was promised command of the second wave, but even so! He was Cato’s shield brother. It was his right and duty to be first out of the drop pod, the stormbird, or whatever method of deployment that they utilised.
“You were subtle as ever I see Kao.” Remarked Cato, indicating the shredded defence turrets.
“Well, there wasn’t much time was there? My weapons were locked away so I had to make do.” He replied holding up his bloody and broken hands.
Cato laughed, “and that’s why you’re not on the first wave, you cannot hold a blade properly with those. Get patched up, this’ll be a long one, you’re not going to miss out on much.”
Looking out through the display ports of the station he could see the lights of the cities from space. They were massive, and the visual feeds showed that many of the cities were very well fortified. Yes, this was going to be a hard war. He couldn’t wait.
 
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