Chapter 1: Fonral

Planet: Agri-World Fonral, Segmentum Tempestus

Location: Unknown

996.M41

The most dangerous thing on the battlefield is a junior officer with a compass and a map.

- Lady General Jenit Sulla

"Destruction of the Dauntless-class Light Cruiser Senatus has been confirmed." The escape pod's machine spirit announced.

The lone figure inside the crashed escape pod stirred back into consciousness as he nursed his head.

"Now switching to emergency protocols mandated by the Departmento Munitorum." It continued as dim red lights bathed the pod's interior.

"Ughhh...Emperor's throne what happened?" Corporal Rodemman Luludilius groaned at the sound of the machine spirit's broadcast.

He remembered the moment when he was caught in the blast of the Senatus, countless screams of both terror and pain sounded through his vox-link followed by an eerie static. The lack of human communication despite his hails told him that if not all then most of his brethren had died, engulfed by the flames of their ship. He silently recounted his struggle as he manually maneuvered his pod through the debris of the ruined vessel. With only two functional atmospheric brakes, he was forced to take control of the descent. He had vaguely seen what he had thought to be the prow of the ship before all went dark. The shock of the collision must have rendered him unconscious, an event that might have been avoided if only he had fastened his helmet tighter. But despite the sudden turn of events, he could only be thankful to the God Emperor that he had survived such an ordeal. Even though he was stranded in a practically, unknown planet and might stay as such until his final breath.

The guardsman, albeit not as zealous as his fellow soldiers, worded a prayer of thanksgiving and of guidance to the God Emperor. After several moments of silent words, Rodemman decided that it was time to return to work. But first was survival.

"Give me the exact coordinates of this pod." Rodemman said as he inspected himself for injuries.

"Unable to process the said action." The machine spirit replied in its monotone voice.

Rodemman sighed as he hated being thrown into blind situations. He had learned through his seven years of service to the Imperium that to execute a mission without proper intelligence of the strength and capacity of hostiles or even if there were any possible threats within the area could lead to death. Such was the case of the 27th Kallidian, the regiment in which he was designated to fight with, as they were often tossed into campaigns and missions with little to no intel of who or what they were supposed to fight. Being practically blind, deep within enemy lines or whenever they would attempt to push the lines forward has often led to countless unnecessary deaths.

"Then at the very least, scan the atmosphere whether or not the air is breathable." He told the spirit as he slowly lost his patience.

A few moments of silence followed. Just as Rodemman was about to find it for himself, the monotone voice of the machine spirit told him that the air was indeed breathable.

Satisfied that he had sustained only a few bruises caused by the collision, he gave his hastily retrieved equipment and supplies a quick rundown. He was able to secure at least four days' worth of food and water, seven power packs for his lasgun along with the glorified flashlight itself, his rebreather, a basic medical kit and a survival tool kit. But most important of which was the Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer. And although it tells a guardsman everything about life as a soldier of the Imperium such as regimental regulations and sanitation of equipment amongst many others, its 'importance' for him mostly lay on the fact that he could be easily be shot by a commissar for lacking such standard 'equipment'. He would read it of course as dictated by the Imperium and practice what was inscribed upon it but he would be lying if he said that he wholeheartedly agree with the words within it. But alas, he was but one of many of the Imperium's soldiers whom had sworn to protect mankind and such has set aside his thoughts to fulfill his duty.

He was glad that he was able to gather what he was able to despite the all the commotion caused by the order to abandon ship. He stored his supplies into his pack but left five power packs that would be separately stored in his webbing for quick reloads when needed. He fastened his helmet along with his rebreather but he kept it low so that his nose could breathe in the unfiltered air.

"Open the hatch and once I'm out, close and secure it." He ordered the machine spirit as he shouldered his lasgun and his pack.

"Halt all activity along with the data recording once my previous order has been completed. Put this pod into lockdown. This order will remain until ended by either myself or of another agent of the Imperium."

With an affirmative beep, the hatch opened. The burnt metal doors slid open revealing a moderately built man, chestnut eyes and a hint of raven black hair underneath his helmet. With lasgun raised to eye level, he carefully ventured into the long forgotten world. Rodemman quickly scanned for any immediate threats within his perimeter. It seemed that he had crashed into an abandoned hab and by the looks of it, has been abandoned for a long time. Or so he thought. He cautiously maneuvered around the rubble caused by his entry on the said infrastructure. He heard the hatch locks engage behind him accompanied by the last moments of its electrical system as it shuts down. With no immediate threat within the vicinity, he took the liberty to examine the structure he had crashed on.

It seemed to have only one level and might have at least housed a family. His escape pod crashed in the kitchen area of the holding as hinted by old tableware scattered all over the area along with several pieces of furniture.

"Hmmm…must have been caused by my rude entrance." He muttered to himself.

There were some contraptions on top of a nearby table which he failed to determine its functions. He was somewhat surprised given the fact that the contraptions seemed to have not moved an inch despite the shock that his entry should have caused.

Something is not right. He thought as his well-developed sixth sense tingled.

He circumnavigated the now lifeless pod and passed an archway that led to what he took to be the living room or receiving area as some worlds preferred to call it. Seats neatly surrounded a roundtable at the center of the room. His suspicions only grew at the sight of it. It was rather well cleaned and maintained for a dwelling at least ten millennia of age. It also felt out of place as it was vastly different than most tables that he had seen through his travels throughout the Imperium. Carved on its circular surface were various unknown symbols and figures. Its legs depicted ornate carvings of deities unknown to him and its art style was far from the normal Imperium gothic. As he further examined the room, he noticed a doorway stood tall directly in front of him while two others were on his right. He chose to breech the nearest to him which was coincidentally, one of the pair on his right.

He raised his boot, stained with the dried blood of his brethren when he ran through the halls of the ruined Senatus. He shifted his weight to his foot on the ground, leaned forward and kicked with all his might. The door completely shattered to pieces, its materials seemed to have rotten away through time.

"Perhaps I over did it." Rodemman contemplated as he pressed on.

His lasgun lead the way into a room with two bunk beds. An old and stained poster of the Emperor and his Primarchs, both loyalist and traitor slapped on one of the walls indicated the age of the hab that he had crashed on. On a bedside table, sat what was supposed to be a picture frame which was no longer identifiable due to it being exposed to the elements.

Rodemman repeated his previous action on the adjacent room. But unlike the previous room, the materials used on this door seemed to be newer as it was only dislodged from its mounts. The room also has one thick mat on the floor in place of a bed. The coverings were thrown on top of it which told him that whoever or whatever laid there have left in a rush. A table with crafting tools on top of it, stood beside the mat. As he inspected further, necklaces of unknown symbols were left on the table. Some were completed while others were still a work in progress. He also noticed the various papers with unknown language written on it, lay strewn on the side of the table as well as on the wooden floor.

His training yelled at him to burn it as his inner soldier deemed it heretical. But his logic told him that there were other things of importance than such.

Someone lived here.

Based on what he saw, someone or something has lived here then left with haste for reasons unknown to him. Though he thought that perhaps his sudden entrance into the unknown world had caused it to flee.

Rodemman's instincts kicked in, with lasgun still held at eyelevel, he proceeded to move to the doorway that he had assumed to must have led to the outside world. As an alternative to his barbaric approach with the previous doors and to spare it from such a ghastly fate, he decided to take the more civilized path. As he grasped the doorknob shaped as a curved tree branch, he noted that it too was made of more recent materials compared to the first door that he had obliterated. When he stepped out, rows upon rows of houses faced him and as based on its appearances, he assumed that it was abandoned and clung to that belief as the thought of some unknown being or beings watching his every move from the shadows gave the experienced guardsman a shudder. The dwellings were eerily similar to those used in Ancient Terra that he had seen in an old book of his. Every house that he saw was all made of wood and stones.

It was far from the usual slab of concrete that he was accustomed to. In place of the usual concrete and asphalt roads were primitive cobblestone roads. With all these things in mind, he realized that this must have been where the colonists of Fonral have settled as they conditioned the potential agri-world. The ancient settlement was bathed with orange light as the sun began to set, the sky quickly turned from a mix of rich orange and blue to a deep violet. As the night cycle rapidly approached, the lone guardsman decided to take shelter in the adjacent building as it looked safer than the one he had come from. But it was mostly because he would never know whether or not the inhabitants truly left the area.

The dwelling had the same layout as the previous one but the lack of newer furniture and items assured him that it has been truly abandoned. It was dusty and has been a long time since it had its residents maintain it. Despite the unstable structure, he pressed on. As night crept in, Rodemman decided to take one of the bunk beds. It was indeed a relic of the past, an antique well beyond comprehension but was a bit better than the ones he had used during his training. The stranded human quickly drifted into sleep, devoured by fatigue.

He slept, oblivious to the presence that watched him. The form silently observed him as he sleep under the blanket of darkness.