Home Fires – Introduction: Indominus

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Captain Zeraf Antonius stood before the gateway to the warchambers of Chapter Master Perseus of the Azure Flames. Much more ornately decorated than the plain ceramite hatches aboard the Battle Barge His Hammer II, these doors were adorned with carved sapphires in the shape of flames and aurumite reliefs of the history of the Chapter. Chapter Master Logain’s grimace as he scuttled the first Battle Barge of the Azure Flames in order to save the chapter was a fanciful interpretation of the legendary man; as no one who had seen his exploits had survived that horrific explosion. Opposite him, Antonius’ gene-father, Atrus, stood bisected down the middle of his face. The left depicted a regal, grandfatherly man, eyes closed in meditation. To the right, the same man was a horrifying mass of tubes and wires to be connected to the inner workings of a Dreadnought Sarcophagus. Atrus had been a powerful psyker gifted with foresight, and had led the chapter after Logain’s sacrifice and his apocalyptic vision of the Chapter’s future. Antonius gave a knowing nod to his father’s visage.

Noticeably absent from the reliefs was any of Chapter Master Perseus’ many heroic deeds. The Old Man was too humble to celebrate himself. This, of course, would be rectified by his successor, whoever that may be.

Antonius said a silent prayer that this successor would not be himself. He was unworthy of such command. His next prayer, whispered out loud, was that it not be Captain Leonidas either. That man had no sense of self control, despite being in command of the Azure Flames’ 1st Company.

Antonius went to one knee. “Summoned, I come.” he intoned. Hooded chapter serfs in the deep blue of the chapter appeared from side chambers, and reverently undid the adamantium latches holding the doors shut. Their pulls, seemingly superhuman to move such thick metal, were actually augmented by hidden counterweights. Had the door been locked from the inside, a main battle tank would have trouble breaking through.

Antonius rose and beheld Perseus as chapter serfs assisted him in removing his titanic suit of Tactical Dreadnought Armour. On the wall above, Perseus’ personal heraldry was partially obscured by a shattered shield festooned with blades; his former weapon of choice. Below it hung Lightbringer, the massive sword that Perseus had personally forged. Almost as long as an Astartes was tall, it was long and straight with an ornate crossguard and a tip that splayed out into symmetrical jagged points. Perseus had made it from iron he personally mined by hand from Vulkan’s Awl, the planetary fragment that destroyed the Omega Station. A reminder of a victory bought at a high price. It was the way of the Azure Flames that commanders were to craft their own weaponry. Antonius wondered if he could ever outdo such craftsmanship as that sword.

“Just a moment, Captain.” Perseus’ low gruff voice rumbled. Servo arms extended from the ceiling to grab armor plates as tools whined to undo massive bolts beneath huge slabs of ceramite. The armor came off, piece by piece, until Perseus’ hulking form had been reduced to that of the man beneath; smaller but no less imposing with graying hair and a face that bore 400 years of the scars of war. Perseus stepped out of the leg frames of his armor, and donned a robe offered by an acolyte. It was the deep blue of their chapter, fringed with white fire. A sapphire flame rimmed in gold clasped shut on his chest.

“Reporting, as ordered.” Antonius said as Perseus stepped toward him.

“Good timing.” Perseus replied. “What is the status of the orbital bombardments?”

Antonius’ face fell. “Most of the Mora V district is gone. We evacuated what citizens we could, but daemonic incursions there were the heaviest. It seems that multiple alpha-plus level psykers were able to open a sustained portal for daemons to invade the city. Other instances of extreme daemon concentrations have been targeted with more pinpoint attacks. The Ifanian districts and the new neighborhoods of Del Marva have minor damage.”

Perseus coughed a short laugh. “Del Marva. You mean the Omega Station families?”

Antonius nodded. “Del Marva was a world we couldn’t save. Now their legacy lives on to hide the refugees of the families that escaped. No one need know their true origins.”

“Someone will talk, sooner or later.” Perseus’ face darkened.

“Who will believe them?” Antonius countered.

“Fair enough. I can barely believe it myself. This Psychic Awakening has been a disaster to our new home. What of new psyker activity within the city?”

“It seems to have died down. Almost as if unawakened psykers are afraid of the arrival of Lord Gulliman’s fleet.”

Perseus shook his head. “No. It’s more likely that whoever the Cicatrix Maledictum was going to awaken has done so already.”

“Speaking of Lord Gulliman…” Antonius’ voice was full of anticipation.

“Ah, yes.” Perseus smiled. “You want to know how my audience with him went?”

“Only you can decide whether I am worthy of such knowledge, my Lord… but yes obviously.” Antonius smiled.

Perseus chuckled like a landslide into an ocean. “Yes, Captain, I have some good news. The 4th Company is going to be replenished.”

Despite superhuman control and hypnotic mental training, Antonius could not help but gasp with delight. Ever since the fall of the Omega Station, his company, the 4th Company, was reduced to less than a dozen soldiers plus support staff and had been permanently assigned to orbital defense. Others went forth to spread the glory of the Azure Flames while Antonius sat at home.

“Thank you, my Lord! When will new neophytes be inducted?”

Perseus’ mouth tightened. “There will be no new neophytes.”

“…but, how? Surely you aren’t going to depopulate the reserve companies. You’d have done that right after the Omega War.”

“Do you remember the Grayshields that Lord Gulliman sent in to help pacify the city while we were besieged in the Fortress Monastery?” Perseus asked.

“Ah, yes. The new Primaris Astartes. The ones…” Antonius cut off as he realized. “…you don’t mean them, do you?”

“Good deduction, Captain. Yes, those Grayshields were activated from XVIII Legion stock created for the Indominus Crusade. They’re ours. Or, more precisely yours. Probably.”

“Probably?”

Perseus’ face grew dark. “Lord Gulliman has a new… technology created by the Mechanicus. The Rubicon procedure. It takes a mainline Astartes, such as your or I, and upgrades them with the new organs and genetic sequences to match the new Primaris template.”

“Wonderful news, my Lord!” Antonius exclaimed.

Perseus grunted. “Not that simple, Zeraf. The process is risky. More than three in five Astartes who attempt the process perish.”

Antonius’ eyes popped. Three in FIVE? “Ah, yes, well, I assume I’ll be more than capable to command these Primaris troops without it.”

“No.” Perseus spat. “I’m ordering the entire remainder of the 4th Company to undergo the Rubicon procedure.”

Sorrow filled Antonius. After losing nine tenths of his Company, he was going to lose even more, and possibly die in the process? A noble death in battle was one thing but dying on an operating table was quite another. “Sir, there is a non-zero chance that this will completely wipe out the surviving 4th Company.”

“Yes.” Perseus’ voice was iron. “I am well aware of that, Captain. What remains will be preserved, as Primaris, or as the next generation of our Gene-seed.” His face softened. “Have faith. I have it on good authority the 4th Company will endure.”

“But you said three in…” Antonius inhaled sharply. “The letter Atrus left for you?”

Perseus smiled. “I never said that.”

Antonius’ head swam. Shortly after the Pyrrhic victory on the Omega Station, he had received a letter kept in stasis from his genefather and the former Chapter Master. It contained one final prophecy of the future where the 4th company was restored in a galaxy aflame. Perseus, too, had received a letter, but its contents had been closely held. “Of course not, my Lord. Anything he said in that letter would be kept in the tightest confidence.”

“As was your letter, Captain. Now, go. Deliver the instructions to your Company and make preparations for transport to the Zar Quaesitor in orbit.”

“Yes, my Lord.” Antonius said as he turned to go. “For the Emperor and Atrus.”

Perseus cocked his head. “Our battlecry?”

“To temper my resolve. For the Rubicon.”

“Indeed.” Perseus said, nodding. “Good Luck.”

Antonius stopped, just as he reached the gateway. “My Lord, what was Lord Gulliman like?”

Perseus’ eyes unfocused as he seemed almost serene for a moment. “He has a natural charisma that is difficult to describe. Being in his presence feels momentous, like History is happening directly to you. When he speaks, he does not whisper, but I found myself leaning to listen regardless.” Perseus collected himself and looked Antonius in the eyes. “If he told me to follow him into the Eye of Terror so that we could bring justice to the Despoiler himself, I’d not only follow, but I’d do so with full faith that we would succeed.”

Antonius exhaled deeply in awe. “Thank you, sir.” As he left, the huge doors swung shut behind him.

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