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Lost Sons


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Lost Sons

 

I

 

Tocsins blared throughout the bridge as a tremendous blast shook the ship. This was bad.

 

Captain Ishmael Lykaddon's perpetual down depended. "Shipmistress, status?" He demanded.

 

To her credit, Captain Tsalic's response was calm. "Warp drive malfunction, lord." She leaned forward from her command throne dais, "Enginseer, what happened?" she asked. Her hawkish face lent increased severity to her angry face. "And silence those damn alarms."

 

The senior Mechanicum representative on the bridge blurted a short message in binary, four mechadendrites snaking from his back and rapidly adjusting dials at his station. He chittered more, his expressionless silver skull betraying no human emotion, much less one as base as alarm.

 

Lykaddon drummed his armored fingers along his vambrace impatiently awaiting the diagnostics. The campaign on Murder had ended, and the Warmaster's fleet made ready to warp to sixty-three eight. At the moment of transition the Imminent Wrath shook with critical system failures.

 

His rage simmered impotently. Void warfare suited him, even when compared to the lofty warriors within the Sons of Horus, but the workings of the complex machinery required to maneuver and operate the Infernus class battleship were well beyond his scope of understanding. His rage would have to wait until it found an appropriate outlet.

 

Activity buzzed on the bridge as the alarms fell quiet. Servitors affixed to their stations stared dumbly at their work, seeming incredulous to the source of the aural stimuli around them. Even after over 50 years since being elevated from a filthy feral youth of Cthonia, he still felt mild revulsion seeing the lobotomized servants of the fleet.

 

He watched Captain Tsalic as she worked on gaining situational awareness. The unaugmented human was a new addition to the command staff, recently gained from a collegium in the Solar System as Lykaddon's duties carried him away from void combat with his new position as Company Captain of the 38th. Her expression stayed hard as she issued directives and waited, impatiently with the rest of the bridge, for some clarity on the warp drive.

 

Another Astartes in the new sea green of the Sons approached from Lykaddon's right, crossing his arms and surveying the bridge.

 

"Captain Lykaddon," the new arrival greeted him across a private vox channel, nodding his scarlet cross crested helm. "This does not bode well for the muster." His company's champion's motionless appraisal was correct, and Lykaddon's scowl deepened.

 

"Aye," he agreed, his gravely voice a deep growl. "Considering our substandard kill averages on Murder, gaining extra scrutiny for failing to muster will reflect poorly." Murder had been a hard fought campaign until its premature end at the intervention of the Interex. All warfare had a learning curve, and the brief but violent intervention of the Luna Wolves, now Sons of Horus, had prematurely cut off the 38th prior to establishing more acceptable results.

 

All of existence was a competition, from clawing his way to dominance in the gangs of Cthonia, to mankind's tenuous grasp in a hostile galaxy. Competition bred strength and bled weakness, and Lykaddon's marines had done their bleeding.

 

His elevation to Company Captain had narrowly passed, with Abaddon himself speaking strongly, and openly, against it. Whatever mechanical failure caused this loss of credibility and confidence may well bring his bring captaincy to an end.

 

A spurt of machine code interrupted his bitter musings. "Shipmistress, status update," Enginseer Theta-Rhota 73 declared in a robotic monotone, "system integrity failure on primary warp reactor. Radiation leaks throughout the aft at levels beyond fatal for unaugmented humans. Estimated isolation and repair is 132.15 hours from time mark." The silver mask turned, finally looking towards the command dias. "Mark."

 

"Very well," Captain Tsalic said softly. She regarded Lykaddon, "My lord, shall I inform the First Captain? The Vengeful Spirit has not yet entered the warp."

 

Lykaddon's gut dropped, and he felt his cheeks flush with shame and anger, hidden behind his expressionless T-visor. He activated his external vox, "I shall inform the Warmaster," his amplified voice boomed. He spun on his boot, his cloak twirling with the sudden motion, as he thought of how he would present this failure to his legion master.

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II

 

"Time until completion?" Lykaddon voxed wearily, already knowing the answer. The enginseer had cooperated with synchronization of the countdown of remaining repair time with his visor heads up chrono display. The answer had never wavered from the countdown.

 

"Six hours, thirty eight minutes, and twenty-four seconds." The monotone reply matched the countdown.

 

Lykaddon's stern brow furrowed, invisible to the others surrounding him in the Legion Strategium chamber. His command coterie and centurions surrounded him, seventeen peerless warriors and leaders awaiting guidance for their change of mission at the behest of the Warmaster. The familiar pang hit his gut as he, for the first time since Murder, saw the absences of those brothers lost beyond data feeds. He would need to find three replacements.

 

The room was dimly lit and spartanly appointed. Fine art belonged to his cousins of the Emperor’s Children, this was a place of solemnity and purpose. Let the feats of a man tell their own tales, rather than ostentatiously boast, as his Sergeant had told him as an aspirant.

 

He removed his helm and watched his brothers as they followed their commander. Lykaddon was much stricter than his fellow captains, disdaining those foolish enough to remove their helms in combat. While immersion in combat euphoria and the overwhelming of the senses with the chaos of war was appealing in some, he viewed himself as a professional. Professionals wore their warplate, amateurs’ brains splattered theirs. Holding his modified Mk IV helm, he regarded his brothers while stroking its crimson crest.

 

“What news from the Warmaster, Captain?” Commander Styrgian asked. Styrgian was far older and experienced than Lykaddon, a fact that he stated loudly and often, just never to his face.

 

“Brothers, we have been retasked,” Lykaddon said. “Rather than rejoin Lupercal straight away, we have been asked to return to Cthonia for recovery of those newly appointed Astartes awaiting to blood their plate.”

 

Styrgian did not even deign to hide his dismay, “We are relegated to courier duty? We are of the Legion!” Armored fists sounded off of ceramite as a few others agreed with his distaste. “Let the Navy do their work, there are worlds to be tamed.” He glared at Lykaddon with barely hidden scorn, “Had the ship not failed to translate, we would be on the way to carry out our Emperor-given purpose, not asked to babysit unblooded whelps.”

 

Vranik, in his customary place as champion at his captain’s side, smirked. “Do we not call them pups anymore?” He chuckled, deep and hearty, “I suppose not, as we are no longer Luna Wolves. Babies then?”

 

Lykaddon gestured for silence. “There is honor in doing as we must at the behest of Lupercal.” He sincerely meant he believed his own words. “Repairs are going as planned, and we should be primed to enter the empyrean at the enginseer’s mark.” He gazed at each commander in turn, until his eyes settled on Styrgian. The man’s broad, scarred visage stared daggers back at him. “And to move on to force disposition. Our battalions are under strength substantially, Murder was a meat grinder of both man and beast. Commander Styrgian, your battalion is to be dissolved to return the others to eighty percent fighting strength.”

 

The other warrior’s eyes flared with rage. Dissolution was hardly uncommon in crusading forces, given relatively high prolonged attrition and replenishment rates. But the dissolution of a senior commander’s battalion was unheard of. Lykaddon did not care, and allowed the sense of satisfaction to show in his face.

 

“The remaining battalions will be filled by recruits and we will reconstitute as a six battalion company. Commander, you will take the lead of the remaining legionaries and, depending on reports, assess and divide them for when we return to the Warmaster.” He smiled coldly, “No doubt the young warriors will learn many valuable lessons from your centuries of experience.”

 

Styrgian moved his mouth as though to protest, but instead set his jaw. Nostrils flaring, he nodded curtly. “As you command, Captain.”

 

Eyebrows were raised and heads were shaking around the room as the other Astartes absorbed the revelation. Lykaddon knew some of his subordinates doubted him from his lack of seniority, but trusted the abrupt dismissal of his loudest detractor to keep them in their places until they could once again join the war effort.

 

“Very well, gentlemen. Make preparations, commanders ensure your men are sorted to your holds. We sail for Cthonia.”

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You're making good progress. I foresee a potential

Chapter war equivalent, as Styrgian challenges Lykaddon for command of the ship and of the Sons of Horus aboard.

Hope the loyal ones win.

Loyal to Horus or to the Emperor, either would be better than a self-serving jerk who might "sail the high seas," recognizing no authority but himself.
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  • 3 weeks later...

III

 

To sail upon the tides of the empyrean was to travel upon the very essence of insanity. Waves of swarming, chaotic energies warred against one another with swirls of raw madness spiraling into mountains of thought. Peace and serenity were anathema, afterthoughts quickly left behind by all. Through this whirling destruction, Mankind invaded, an uninvited but welcome interloper using its misunderstood powers for something so trivial as faster-than-light travel.

 

A raging tempest of crimson rage, swirled with incandescent flickers of pride and courage lost before they could coalesce, crashed into a mountain of lust, excess, and enjoyment. The non-intersection of these unenergies exploded in a silent cacophony of kaleidoscoping, unheard screaming laughter echoing in the deepest recesses of thought.

 

A hard shape, long and sharp, trod ignorantly through this nexus. The Imminent Wrath, its immense 10-kilometer hull normally standing proud and strong in the calm of the void, hardly caused an errant wake as it ignorantly interrupted the annihilating waves of nothing. Twisted, gnarled fingers of hungry power grasped in futility, trying to crack open this tiny morsel to get to the meat within.

 

Safely enveloped within the comforting Gellar field, Ishmael Lykaddon noticed none of this creation and destruction that surrounded his dwarfed ship. His transhuman conditioning allowed him to ignore the always-present almost-whispers in the back of his mind during transition, a privilege not all shared. He stood, motionless, upon the command dias of the bridge, silently watching and listening to the strained activity surrounding him. The human crew was on edge, as often was the case with warp travel. The claws may be deflected, but the echoes of their scratches still sang within the minds of Man.

 

Either unknowing or uncaring of anything beyond the Gellar field, still optimism escaped Lykaddon. While normally he trended towards melancholy, his humours had not been so out of balance since his ascension to Astartes. He knew and understood the practicality of his company’s retasking, but irritation and the shame of Murder could not be shaken.

 

He found himself dwelling on the closure of the campaign. The 38th Company had deployed in the latter stages of the extermination effort, into as-yet-uncleared stretches on the northern hemisphere. He had personally led the landings, being the first Space Marine to step foot from the impact craters of the drop pod. The deployment went flawlessly, his warriors fanning out and securing the landing zone designated for follow on armor and Thunderhawk landings.

 

His reverie was interrupted as a figure disturbed him with a rhythmic tapping. For the first time in hours, he moved, looking down to his right to see who would approach him.

 

“Captain Lykaddon, good day, my lord,” the emaciated face appeared malnourished. Sunlight starved skin stood white, broken with blue veins of blood crisscrossing barely beneath its surface. Dried, cracked lips smiled uglily over yellowed, half decayed teeth. Stark blue eyes looked at him, unafraid, under wispy remains of eyebrows. A light turban rested upon the man’s forehead, with disheveled strands of unwashed white hair escaping out in a mess below it.

 

“Navigator?” Lykaddon asked, somewhat confused. The Imminent Wrath had three navigators aboard to handle the stresses of guiding such a massive warship through the warp. The man before him, he believed, was the most senior of their number. “Why are you not attending to your duties?”

 

The figure, Astor Vicare, sighed out a laugh, “Because, my lord, I am old.” He tapped his walking cane to the dais balcony and leaned upon it heavily. He looked up, a smile twisting his face into a poor mimicry of comradely collaboration, “This is my last voyage, you know.”

 

Truthfully, Lykaddon did not. House Vicare had been a mainstay supporting presence throughout his own relatively limited experience with the Crusade. The departure of one as seasoned as Astor was news he should have known. "No, I was not informed." The disrespect irked him, but he kept the irritation from his voice.

 

Unperturbed by the Marine's short answer, Vicare continued. "I have served the Imperium before there was an Imperium, did you know?" Another wheezing chuckle rasped from his rancid mouth. "And this, this will be the last time I sail upon the sea of souls."

 

A prolonged trip down an ancient's memories did not strike Lykaddon as overly appealing. "There are no souls, Navigator. Only the living and the dead." He smiled humourlessly behind his helmet, keeping the volume of his external vox low to keep others from listening. Recalling the speeches of the Orators, he continued, "We have seen behind the stars, and found no gods. No afterlife beyond our inevitable return to the dust. You know this, those gifted with the sight cannot help but see the truth."

 

The navigator nodded slowly. He stood silently for a moment, gazing out at the bustling bridge without seeming to see anything. He seemed to be looking beyond the ship. "I remember," he said softly, "the time before. I was old even then, did you know?" He kept his eyes forward, avoiding the helmeted glare of the towing warrior. "I know the Truth as He has proclaimed, but truthfully," his frail voice cracked and he trailed off.

 

Lykaddon said nothing, and the silence between the two was consumed by the background rustle of activity. The old man had his interest for the moment, as the captain had not had much opportunity to hear first hand about the ascension of the Emperor. Those were times, despite being scarcely a few centuries past, that oft were spoken of as if already legend.

 

"You see, don't you?" Vicare asked.

 

"I see what, Navigator?"

 

"The sea, the empyrean, the chaos of the warp." The old man turned and arched his neck up, and Lykaddon met his milky blue gaze. He knew no fear, but a chill rose up his spine.

 

"I was once of the Librarius, if that is what you asked." Lykaddon answered. "The Edict has closed that door, however, and I am a loyal servant of the Emperor. I have not looked."

 

Vicare nodded, his head unsteadily bobbing atop his gaunt neck. The captain's interest quickly changed to discomfort, not willing to discuss paths now closed. He adjusted his stance, making to leave the bridge. "I must see to my company, Navigator, it seems the empyrean has been kind. How long until we reach Cthonia?"

 

The navigator closed his eyes and thought a moment. "We have made good time, the tides have been tailwinds on our voyage. I believe we will arrive within two days." He placed a fragile hand on Lykaddon's vambrace. "There are levels within the empyrean, did you know?"

 

Lykaddon took care not to remove the man's hand too roughly so as to not break it. "I have heard," he said cautiously, "but I find it prudent to leave that to those who may make use of it, which I do not."

 

"We often refer to the ebbs and flows of the warp as though it were an ocean." Vicare stared intently up at the captain, gazing through his helm to see the man beneath. "We delved a little deeper than normal this voyage, my lord, and it seems we have found a strong current to ride to Cthonia."

 

Lykaddon was done. He had no wish to visit topics such as this, knowing even a rumor of his interest into now-forbidden knowledge could reach the Warmaster and First Captain and lead to sanction. "Thank you for your company, navigator." With finality, he spun on his heel and marched towards the exit.

 

He could barely hear the navigator bidding him farewell, but the next words were unmistakable and sent an unexplainable chill to his core.

 

"If we dive deeper, we may yet find even more speed."

 

The bulkhead door slammed shut, leaving the bridge and the old man behind him.

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