So some backstory on this: it's based on a vague plan for a 40k fic I have, in which the Emperor captured Horus' soul in their final duel rather than destroying it, and has purified it over the past ten thousand years. The fic begins when a rogue assistant of Fabius Bile clones Horus, allowing the Emperor to throw the soul into the shell. Horus wakes up with a new body, some psyker powers that he doesn't really know how to use, and a burning rage directed at every individual Traitor Marine and the Chaos Gods...leading to a fun adventure across the stars as Horus, a few Blood Ravens and the Lamenters chapters try to save the Imperium, stop Chaos and find Horus some decent armour.
Having decided to replay Mass Effect, I naturally became consumed by the thought of a crossover between this not-real fic and Mass Effect, so I bashed this out, with this beginning during the Battle of Cadia during the Thirteenth Black Crusade, as Horus and Abaddon duel aboard the Vengeful Spirit. This lacks polish and doesn't have much to follow up, which is why it's in this snippets folder, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
And for anyone waiting for another chapter of Empress Ascendant and thinking 'I can't believe this idiot is working on things like this rather than Empress' believe me, sometimes I can't either.
The choking, rattling roar of Horus's chainsword tore through the air as he swung it in quick, hard blows, backpedalling rapidly as his foe advanced.
"It's not too late, Ezekyle! You can stop this!" he called, leaning away from the hissing Daemonic blade that swept at his chest and returning a vicious blow that ground on armour for a second before his enemy leaped away. Abaddon roared with laughter, his voice echoing and clamouring with unnatural whispers.
"Ten thousand years, Horus. Ten thousand years of war unending, war everlasting, and you beg me to stop?"
The daemon blade in the hands of the Chaos Lord cut through the air with a shrieking cry, the faces that crawled across the tainted metal howling and spitting without rhyme or rhythm, the clangour of hate and agony warping the air. Horus retreated, unable to stem the blade: it would cut clean through his armour and weapons. He had seen that before. Abaddon laughed again, booming sound laced with a legion of murmurs, his golden eyes gleaming with malice.
"It will never end, Horus."
Horus retreated further, drawing Ezekyle across the vast expanse of the bridge without a second thought. There was no shame in retreat to regroup, and he didn't necessarily need to stop Ezekyle. Just keep him distracted. It wasn't exactly difficult. His former First Captain was single-minded in his pursuit.
"A Primarch, fleeing before me. How far you have fallen!"
Abaddon surged forwards, the sword in his left hand sweeping hard, cutting the air in hard, short strokes. Horus didn't even attempt to contest it: he had made that mistake earlier, meeting a blow with his own hard, straight block in an attempt to use his greater strength and weight to his advantage. The sword had cut through his chainsword without even slowing down, only his preternatural reflexes saving him from having his torso opened to the stale, filtered air of the ship. No, he needed to play this differently. Horus darted in as Abaddon lunged at him, meeting the daemon blade with a sliding parry. The screech of metal filled the air as his chainsword was sliced, but the blow was glancing and Horus darted through Ezekyle's guard, his left hand catching Ezekyles' right wrist before the Chaos Lord could bring his Power Claw to bear. They were frozen for a moment, struggling, locked together before Horus jerked his head forwards and smashed his forehead into Ezekyles' face. Abaddon snarled aloud as the first blow struck, his voice thickening with blood from his nose before he dropped his chin, the next headbutt forehead to forehead and Horus shifted his grip, grabbing Ezekyle by the forearm and hurling him away. It took an immense effort to move the man and his armour, Horus felt even his enhanced muscles straining under the task, but it got them away from each other. He felt the sting of cold metal race across his side, but that was it: his flesh was already knitting back together. The blade cut, but it did not poison or corrupt.
Evidently Ezekyle had not fallen so far as to resort to that.
"You know this is wrong, Ezekyle. You aren't like the others. You can stop this," Horus tried. Talking people down wasn't one of his more notable skills, and it didn't move Ezekyle. The Warmaster laughed again, his advance slower now and steady.
"Hoping I can succeed where you failed, Horus? Oh, I will. But in the destruction of the Imperium!"
Horus crossed the space between them in a single bounding leap, chainsword howling in his fist as he brought a barrage of attacks down upon Abaddon. With the initiative he had the advantage, the weight of his blows forcing his enemy to backpedal across the deck, never striking too hard or too straight lest he lose his second sword of the day. It was a delicate balancing act, but Horus knew his business.
"A chainsword! Hardly matches the Worldbreaker, Horus! You can't keep this up for long!" Abaddon roared, his defence unyielding. Horus was faster, stronger, but Abaddon's sword and power claw were unharmed by the furious onslaught, his skill as sharp as it had ever been. No opening was offered, no gap in the wall of metal and fury and Horus knew that any mistake could be his last.
His assault lasted just a fraction too long, and the Daemon blade Abaddon wielded carved through the hardened steel of the chainsword half a foot from the hilt, the throaty roar silenced. Horus brought his armoured forearm across his body just in time to block the carving, gutting uppercut of the power claw, though it carved bloody lines in his forearm where it pierced thick ceramite plates. Abaddon roared in triumph, raising his sword, and Horus punched him in the face.
The Warmaster fell back, roaring with pain, and Horus broke away again, discarding the useless hilt of his chainsword, the only blood it had spilled coming from Abaddon's re-broken nose. Unarmed, the Primarch stared down the husk of the man who had once been his greatest friend.
Behind Abaddon, out of the Warmasters' attention, the hulk of the broken Blackstone Fortress drew closer. It was a plan of stunning audacity, really, removing both the ancient superweapon and the Vengeful Spirit from the battle by ramming them into one another. Castellan Creed knew his business when it came to war. The only problem was- well, the only problem was the master of the Vengeful Spirit.
Horus wasn't especially fond of playing a distraction. But he was a Primarch. Whatever he did, he made sure to do it well.
Abaddon brought his right arm up, snapping straight out and the ancient bolter atop the power claw roared, spitting shells towards Horus. Horus moved at full speed, sprinting to his left to avoid the stream of lethal projectiles, their explosions tearing into the bridge and stitching harsh lines across the walls and equipment, the wall approaching fast. Horus calculated swiftly, sliding to a halt and reaching down, bracing himself against the wall as he hauled a dead Traitor Marine from the ground, hurling the corpse at Abaddon with an explosive effort of strength. Abaddon was already moving, surging forwards and his sword cut the dead body in half without even slowing, the Warmaster surging through the spray of gore with teeth bared and eyes wild. Horus dropped into a half-crouch in preparation to face him and the
Horus was knocked sprawling as the Vengeful Spirit bucked violently, the enormous vessel shaken by some immense impact from the side. Abaddon had lost his footing as well, sword sinking into the deck as he used it to steady himself, the Vengeful Spirit tilting on its axis. Horus looked up, out of the broad window that showed the front, before Abaddon snarled.
"The shield- you disabled the shields?"
Horus pushed himself to his feet, body turned enough that most of his right side was hidden from his First Captain. Beyond the window he could see Cadia, the planet burning under the still ongoing assault. The Blackstone Fortress drew inexorably closer.
"Of course, Ezekyle. It was my first action."
"You think Cadia is worth the Vengeful Spirit?" Ezekyle asked, heaving himself upright and hauling his sword from the deck. His low, gravelly voice was calm, thoughtful. Horus shrugged.
"The Vengeful Spirit? Maybe not. But the life of Ezekyle Abaddon…what is that worth?"
"Not to sound arrogant, Horus, but I am the heart of this army. Without me, they…they are scavengers and raiders. For thirteen Crusades and ten thousand years I have led them. While you lay dead, I ruled. While your brothers squabbled and lurked in the warp, I ruled. While champions and lords came and went, I have ruled. If you can kill me here, now, perhaps you can save your rotting Imperium and your corpse father and watch until the end of days come upon you. But for that, you must first kill me. Can you do that, Horus? Can you bring yourself to kill me?"
"It must truly have been ten thousand years if you have forgotten me so badly, Ezekyle."
Horus whirled around, his right hand rising. In it he held a bolter, torn from the dead Traitor: it was a vile thing of writhing symbols and blackened, spiked metal but it fired as well as any other and his aim was true. The bolts roared across the open space and struck Abaddon with a resounding, hammering series of explosions, flame bellowing from his frame. Horus fired until the bolter ran dry and cast it aside, knowing better than to trust that Ezekyle had fallen. He was not wrong to do so: as the smoke cleared Abaddon was revealed, arms clad in void-black armour raised before his face. The pockmarks from the bolter seemed to be closing already, metal slithering together as it was knit by some terrible, unnatural force. Horus looked for another weapon, one that might work this time, but he could see only one: the hammer still clutched in the hands of Captain Antares, the Blood Raven exile slumped against a command console on the other side of the bridge. Antares wasn't dead: the hand clasped around the haft of his thunderhammer flexed slowly, his other hand pressed against a bloody rent in his already red armour, but nor was he moving much, his helmet broken around one eyepiece to show a glimpse of dark blond hair and a single blue eye. Horus saw the eye lock onto him, saw Antares stir, and the seeds of a plan began to form in his mind.
"I'm disappointed, Ezekyle," he said, walking slowly and warily across the bridge, as though repositioning. Ezekyle matched his movement, the Daemon blade unwavering in his fist.
"Ten thousand years of war, Ezekyle, and you still can't bring me down. Not even when you have every advantage you might like. Perhaps you aren't as impressive as you think."
Beyond the Blackstone Fortress Horus saw something on the surface of Cadia, a flare of bright, poisonously green light. His gut clenched with unease, but he showed none of it. Abaddon raised his sword.
"Your mockery is misplaced, Primarch. I've killed a clone of Horus before. You'll be no different."
Horus moved his shoulders in a slow, massive shrug.
"We shall see."
Abaddon burst forwards and Horus made his move. Lunging towards Abaddon he reached down, dragging another Traitor corpse from the deck and hurling it at Abaddon. Ezekyle sheared it in two as he had before but this time Horus was right behind, using his weight to drive Abaddon back with the raw force of his impact. Ezekyle snarled in defiance, his sword-arm trapped across his chest and Horus reached out, grabbed him by the sword arm and wrenched the arm out, squeezing and dragging and the sword was knocked free, sailing through the air to sink into the deck. Abaddon brought his power claw around and Horus caught that wrist too, driving in a headbutt as he had earlier, struggling to assert dominance. Abaddon twisted and Horus lost his grip on his sword arm as a thumb jammed into his wrist, where his poorly matched armour didn't provide full coverage. He snarled as he pulled his arm back but Ezekyle was faster and a black armoured hand smashed into Horus' mouth. He reeled, not letting go of the power claw even as he felt his lip burst between his teeth and the ceramite gauntlet, the sticky, metallic taste of blood pooling in his mouth. Abaddon punched again, catching Horus on the nose and Horus coughed at the pain, mastering his instinct to block in favour of regaining the advantage. Abaddon was still pulling his fist back for a third blow when Horus smashed a fist into his chest and sent him through the air. Pain spiked through his hand from the impact but no bones were broken and he'd brought some distance again. He backed away, looking for another bolter, glancing at Antares. The Captain was trying to rise, but it looked as though his legs wouldn't hold him. Horus took a moment to look about the bridge, split lip curling in contempt.
"I remember, Ezekyle, you telling me that you had no interest in being a king. And yet here you are, a would-be conqueror battling in his very throne room. Have you always been a liar?"
Horus stepped back as Abaddon regained his feet, golden eyes shining with murderous intent. The Warmaster was losing his composure, he clinically noted, most likely shaken by Horus' own presence. Abaddon didn't go for his sword: instead he lifted his power claw before him and began to stride forwards, speeding up every step. Horus didn't glance at Captain Antares: he just had to trust the man.
Horus rushed Abaddon in turn, running forwards as Abaddon leapt, breaking from a run into a leap that devoured the space between them, power claw seeking Horus' chest. Horus dropped to the ground, his massive frame sliding with the shrieking screech of ceramite on metal, the blow missing, regaining his feet looking at Antares as the Marine half rose and flung his thunderhammer. Horus reached out, hearing Ezekyle roar behind him.
The haft of the hammer slammed into his palm and Horus turned with the elegance of a dancer, far faster than someone his size should be able to. Ezekyle was mid leap, power claw raised, and Horus relished the look of horror in the Warmasters' golden eyes as he swung the hammer.
The weapon connected with the thunderous crack that gave it its' name, shockwaves of lightning ringing from the head and the sound clamouring in his ears. Ezekyle was flung from his feet, hurled across the bridge and into the far wall with a smashing, ringing crunch almost as loud as the thunderhammer blow. Horus doubted that he was dead: the Warmaster of Chaos was far too tough to be felled by such a thing. But he was at least wounded.
"Lord Primarch!" Antares called, his voice strained with pain and effort, "A vox from the surface! The pylons are- something has gone wrong!"
Horus shot a glance out of the viewing window, seeing the spreading green glow, and gritted his teeth. The Blackstone Fortress was far too close as well, too close to avoid.
"We retreat to the Litany of Regret. Come, Captain."
Horus crossed the deck in a few strides, hearing metal scream and contort as Abaddon tore himself free of the dent he had made in the wall.
"Horus," rasped the Warmaster. Horus glanced at him even as he wrapped an arm around Antares' torso and hauled the marine up, barely noticing the weight and pushing the thunderhammer back into Antares' hands. There was only one other survivor of the bridge strike team, Librarian Menisthenes, leaning against the wall next to the doorway with his hands clasped over the rents in his armour. Horus grabbed him as he sprinted past, slinging the Marine over his shoulder and ignoring the way his muscles protested. Carrying two fully armoured Astartes was far from an easy feat, but he managed.
"The hull was pierced from the Silver Shard earlier," Antares rasped, "The Litany of Regret should be right alongside. We'll need a Thunderhawk."
Horus shook his head, increasing his pace further. The hull of the Vengeful Spirit indeed had a gaping rent in it, his own battleship floating close by.
"Take a deep breath," he snarled, "And hope."
Antares coughed harshly.
"My Lord, what are you-"
Horus hit his fastest pace and leaped into the void. He suspected the only thing that kept Antares from screaming was his bio-engineered lack of a proper fear response, but he still felt the Captain shudder as they hurtled into space, icy coldness closing around them. Horus could survive the vacuum of space for a short while, as could both Marines, but it was still an incredible risk to take. They sailed along at a frightening pace, aimed roughly at one of the rents in the Litany of Regret, but Horus' mind made the calculations, charted their course, recognised that the odds of actually hitting a gap in the armour plating was miniscule. As the bulk of metal rushed towards them he prepared himself to throw Antares and Menisthenes towards the gap, hoping he could survive, before Antares rapped on his arm and Horus realised that he had been ignoring something: the Captain was wearing a jetpack.
Flames tore through the void as promethean fuel devoured itself, spinning them and sending them soaring. Horus smiled for a moment, enjoying the instant of silence and weightlessness before they crashed through the invisible barrier of the Void Shields and into the Litany of Regret.
The breath rushed from his lungs as the three of them slammed into the hard deck, his woefully inadequate armour providing barely any cushioning. He fared better than either Antares or Menisthenes, though, due to being uninjured. He rose quickly, checking on the two of them before a voice boomed through the ship-wide vox.
"All hands, prepare for evasive manoeuvre! Thunderhawks, lock down, prepare to retrieve Lord Horus and bridge strike team!"
Horus lurched to the wall, a vox-comm mounted there providing him with a means to contact the bridge.
"Chapter Master, this is Horus. Antares, Menisthenes and I have returned to the Litany."
He heard Malakim Phoros grind his teeth before an answer came.
"Very well, Lord Primarch. The bridge team?"
"Abaddon was closer than we thought."
Whatever Phoros might have said in reply was lost in the heavy, scorching noise of lance artillery firing and an unholy shrieking din of metal on metal, filling the air and drowning his senses with noise. When he could think again Horus returned to the vox-comm.
"Chapter Master, what was that?"
"The Vengeful Spirit fired artillery batteries before hitting the Fortress, damage is sixty percent lower than expected," Phoros crisply replied, "Although the Spirit is likely still too damaged to engage the fleet. We're retreating before it can return to firing broadsides."
"Understood, Chapter Master."
Horus put the vox down and moved over to Antares. He was just about to lift the Captain again when his head fuzzed with the white noise he had begun to associate with his burgeoning Psyker powers and the voice of the Emperor- of his Father- filled his mind.
"Horus! The Pylons are…the universe…you must-"
But whatever message should have come through the garbled mess of static in his mind was lost, as reality itself seemed to shake around them. Horus turned, driven by some inexorable instinct, just in time to see the Eye of Terror break free from its' greenish boundaries and race towards them, engulfing men, ships and planet in a ravenous, unstoppable wave.
Horus groaned deeply as he awakened, forcing his eyelids open and crawling into a sitting position. Captain Antares, sprawled flat on his back, made a gurgling, grumbling noise and tugged off his helmet, dropping it.
"Permission to rename the ship Litany of Errors, Lord Primarch?"
"Denied, Captain. Although I'm beginning to consider it," Horus rumbled. Antares must be in pain, he reflected: the Captain's sense of humour only emerged under severe duress. Librarian Menisthenes was also slumped on his back, but the man was breathing slowly and steadily, a meditative rhythm to it. Horus slowly climbed to his feet, suppressing a groan as every atom of his body ached, and lurched towards the vox.
"Chapter Master? Can you hear me?" he rasped. The vox crackled and buzzed briefly before the voice of the Lamenters Chapter Master came across it.
"Lord Primarch? I hear you."
"Lord Primarch, the Navigator is- suffice it to say, your presence is required on the bridge. We are not in combat, but we appear to have been transported by the Warp event."
Transported? That didn't sound good. And moreover…Horus reached out to the Warp, his fledgling powers uncertain in his grasp and tentative. The backlash he expected…didn't come. He expected the phantom whispers in his ears, the taste of rotten meat on his tongue, the smell of iron on the wind in his nose. Instead it was bland. Empty. Almost as though the Warp was…dead.
"I feel it too, Lord Primarch," Menisthenes grunted, slowly coming out of his meditative fugue and sitting up, "The Warp is quiescent here."
"Have you ever felt anything like it?" Horus asked. Menisthenes shook his head.
"No, my Lord."
Horus nodded, setting the question of what had happened aside for a portion of his mind to work on as he reached down and helped Antares up. The Captain stood at an angle, one arm slung awkwardly over the shoulders of the much taller Primarch, trying to keep his weight of his left leg.
"Broken leg, my Lord," he reported, "But I can make my way to the medbay alone."
Horus almost scoffed at the thought- he was hardly likely to leave one of his Astartes to limp through the ship on broken leg- but Librarian Menisthenes intervened.
"I will go with him, Lord Primarch- my wounds are not serious, but the attentions of an Apothecary will be welcome. You should hurry to the bridge."
Horus somewhat reluctantly handed Antares over, watching the pair lumber away in the direction of the closest medbay before he gathered himself and set off. The distance to the bridge was vast- several kilometres, if he remembered correctly- but his long, loping strides and swift run ate up the distance in mere minutes. He entered the bridge with heavy, swift strides, letting his legs carry him to the command throne. The bridge was half in chaos, men and women scattered about and manning consoles, some trying to extinguish fires or make repairs. Horus raked his gaze across the vast space, picking out the form of the ship Navigator. He was huddled in a ball next to his normal perch, hands clamped over his face and a ring of nervous security Guardsmen pointing their lasrifles at him.
"Chapter Master. Our situation?"
Malakim Phoros glanced at Horus, the mask embedded in the faceplate of his helmet unblinking and unsmiling.
"The emanation from the Eye of Terror has flung us somewhere unknown, Lord Primarch. Ship status is poor, generators are non-functional: however, the majority of damage was inflicted by the Vengeful Spirit before it was disabled and the Techpriests assure me that it is non-critical. Repairs are underway, our position is unknown. The Navigator is incapacitated. The survivors of the strike teams dispatched to the Vengeful Spirit are gathering and preparing to deploy again if needed."
A short and clipped report, but Horus appreciated it. Phoros understood the values of being quick.
"I will see to the Navigator."
Phoros nodded an acknowledgement, returning to damage assessment without a second of pause. Horus liked that about the Astarte: professionalism was a valuable trait. The Primarch crossed the bridge to the fallen Navigator, watching the security Guardsmen fall away with looks of relief. The Navigator hadn't moved, but many men had heard the tales and the myths of the horrors wrought upon any who looked into the Warp Eye of a Navigator. Even Horus would need to be cautious, should the tales be true. He could sense no Chaos taint around the Navigator, but madness took more forms than the corruptions of the Ruinous Powers. Still, should the Navigator attempt an attack, Horus was reasonably certain he could repel it. Since his Father had forced his cleansed soul back into the material realm and he had awoken in a cloning facility of some Traitor Legion madman Horus had killed Chaos Lords and Marines with his bare hands, slaughtered Orks with the raw strength of his fists and arms, even butchered a Tyranid Hive Tyrant with nothing more than a Guardsman's sword and his gene-forged advantages. A Navigator's spindly limbs would shatter like brittle twigs under his hands, should it come to that.
"Navigator? Navigator Belisar, can you hear me?" Horus asked. Asked- not demanded, he was careful with his tone given the almost religious awe that modern humanity seemed to hold him in, no reason to make them go beyond their limits if they didn't need to. Belisar let out a wavering moan, long-fingered hands clutching at his gaunt face. There was blood beneath the fingertips and, more alarmingly, a slight shift of the fingers showed a thick trail of crimson leaking from beneath the bandanna the Navigator wore.
"Belisar?" Horus asked again. The man moaned again, but this time he slowly drew his hands from his face, looking up at Horus. Horus didn't flinch at the sight he beheld, but he heard several of the Guardsmen nearby make noises of shock and horror. Belisar was a grisly sight: his eyes were clotted with blood, more of the liquid dribbling down his cheeks in a gruesome parody of tears. The thickest streak came from under the bandanna, and Belisar was mouthing something, whispering words without voice. Horus leaned in closer, straining sensitive ears to hear. The words that reached him chilled him to the bone.
"The Astronomicon…it's gone…the light…"
The words trailed off as Horus reached out, delicately pinching a nerve in the Navigator's neck and sending the man into unconsciousness.
"Take him to a medbay," he ordered, rising to his feet and striding back to Malakim Phoros. The Chapter Master tilted his head, speaking through his helmet vox: just seconds later two Lamenter Marines had lifted the Navigator and carried him away. Horus moved to stand next to Phoros, lowering his voice.
"Belisar said that the Astronomicon is gone."
Phoros didn't immediately reply, but his fingers clenched on the arm of his throne.
"I see. And yet you say the Warp is quiet, Lord Primarch?"
Horus set his mind to the task of understanding what precisely had occurred, leveraging his ruthlessly efficient intelligence to grind through the possibilities. Assuming that some form of Warp accident had hurled them through the Immaterium to places unknown, he soon narrowed the chances to a few. Phoros seemed to notice, his masked face turning slightly.
"You have a theory, my Lord Primarch?"
"A few, Chapter Master. We travelled through the Warp without control, I think we must assume that. Therefore there are three options that I can see; we have somehow travelled further than any of our kind have ever done before, to a place so distant that even the Warp is beyond the reach of the Ruinous Powers…or my Father. The second possibility…Warp travel is uncertain in time, we know this. Rare although it might be…we could have travelled to a point in time before my Father, or the Ruinous Powers."
"The second seems unlikely, Lord. A time before the Emperor? Is there such a thing?"
Horus smiled, faint and bitter.
"My father is not eternal, Chapter Master. He was born, so long ago as to be a myth. But I too think that unlikely. To travel more than forty thousand years is unprecedented. Which leaves only my final theory, although I think this one the least likely."
Phoros lifted a hand.
"One moment, my Lord, engineering wishes to speak to me."
Horus nodded, content to wait. He almost didn't get the chance to later elaborate on his theories as the Litany of Regret gave a titanic lurch forwards, knocking half the bridge crew from their feet. Horus himself stumbled a step and was almost impaled on a spike protruding from the command throne, his curses hastily muffled before any of the crew could see their Primarch swearing like some undignified soldier. When he and his rag-tag army of rescued soldiers, lost Astartes and escaped slaves had boarded and captured the Despoiler class battleship Horus had used his connection to his Father to purge the ship of all Chaos taint. Unfortunately, some of the alterations made by the forces of the Ruinous Powers were physical: the ridiculous abundance of spikes and spines on almost every single piece of furniture seemed to be one of those physical changes. Horus regained his footing like nothing had ever happened, gratefully noting that none of the bridge crew seemed to have noticed his mishap, and mentally moved removing the spikes up a few places on his list of things to do to the Litany.
"Steady, helmsman!" Phoros snapped, his voice raising just a fraction. The man at the helm saluted, face a mask of embarrassment and fear.
"Apologies, my Lord, I was not expecting the engines to return to service so swiftly."
Phoros waved a hand.
"Be more careful in future, helmsman. Lord Horus, the Techpriests have returned function to the generators. They assure me that the Machine Spirits are generous: Void Shields and weapon batteries are functional again."
"We are calibrating them now, Lord Primarch," a Techpriest called, it's robotic voice pleasantly sing-song. Phoros shrugged.
"I leave them to it, Lord Primarch."
"Wise of you. Alert the medicae to expedite treatment of the Navigator, he may be essential to finding any others who have been brought with us."
Phoros nodded, but a buzzing crackle interrupted their conversation.
"My Lords! The Auspex scanners have found something- and Vox has found a signal."
Horus walked swiftly towards the Techpriest, eyes fixing upon the being. Words came crackling through the Vox in front of the Techpriest and the being crackled in something that might have been annoyance.
"Some variation of Low Gothic. I shall translate."
Horus tilted his head, listening to the words and straining to remember ancient history lessons, so long ago.
"Begin with an ancient language called…Anglisk?"
The Techpriest clicked softly, whirring and babbling in binary. Horus didn't even attempt a translation, moving to the console beside the Priest.
"Auspex scanners show evidence of a space battle, and possible combat on the nearest planet. A small fleet remains in orbit," he reported, briefly taking over for the still translating Techpriest. Phoros nodded sharply, leaning back.
"Could you enlarge it, my Lord?"
Horus looked over the buttons, fingers moving with quick surety. The controls weren't quite the same as they had been in his day, but they were similar enough that he was able to link the correct sensor to the command throne, the holographic map projecting onto the command table in the centre of the bridge. Phoros looked at it, his helmet moving slightly as he swept his gaze across the expanse. The Techpriest finished its binary grumbling and returned to Gothic.
"I have translated the signal, my Lords. It is a distress signal from a human group, identifying themselves as Systems Alliance. Error: Systems Alliance not found. Distress signal indicates that a xenos fleet has gained space superiority and is conducting planetary assault."
"Engines to full, bring us towards the planet! All Astartes and Guardsmen, stand by for combat!" Phoros snapped, fist clenching on the arm of his throne. Horus was already moving, striding back towards the bridge doorways.
"Chapter Master, I leave the ship in your capable hands. I shall conduct ground operations. Techpriest, attempt contact with this Systems Alliance, inform them that aid is forthcoming."
"Understood, my Lord."
Phoros leaned forwards in his throne, eyes fixed unerringly on the tiny images of his targets.
"Helm, bring us towards the planet and then turn towards their fleet, maintain forwards momentum and bring the Lance Artillery into range. Once we have the range continue closing until we are nearly in broadside range and tack to bring the Macro Batteries in line. Thunderhawk Annihilator squadrons, be ready to launch when we have closed the distance. My Lord Primarch, I will assign half of the Stormhawk squadrons and all of the Thunderhawks for your use as planetary offensive units."
"My thanks, Chapter Master."
Horus strode away from the bridge, hearing Phoros speak again behind him.
"Have a Stormhawk wing prepare for initial scouting, and ready the wings of other fighters. We'll test their mettle before we commit the bombers."
"Aye, my Lord!"
Horus broke into a run through the corridors, proceeding directly to the nearest hangar. He would require weapons, and a helmet, but he could find those in the hangar armouries. Speed might well be of the essence here, if the attacking xenos were anything like the Greenskins or Tyranids. He rushed through corridors, only slowing when he strode into the hangar to find several squads of Astartes and most of a battalion of Guardsmen present. The closest Astartes saluted sharply, his voice booming across the hangar.
"Sergeant Thaddeus," Horus acknowledged, "Your men are ready?"
"Prepared to fight, my Lord."
The Blood Raven Sergeant, rescued from the Warp alongside then-Commander Antares, was surrounded by a trio of his own men, clad in deep scarlet and cream. Two other squads in the hangar were Fire Hawks, their paler red and yellow armour standing proud against the dull metal of the ship, and a final squad was composed of a mixture of Invaders and Mantis Warriors, both Chapters in variations of green. A misfit bunch indeed, rescued from doomed planets and lost ships, but Horus trusted them with his life. Trusted them almost as much as he had trusted his beloved Luna Wolves. The Imperial Guard were a mixture of Cadian and Vendoland soldiers, most of them freed from slavery when Horus and his Astartes had stormed the Litany of Regret -or the Fortress of Agony, as it was then known. Horus still relished the memory of impaling the Traitor Lord-Captain of the ship on the mans own sword and watching the life trickle from him.
In some ways, Horus might have preferred to take an Imperial battleship, an Apocalypse or Emperor perhaps- the Despoiler class had some issues with Gellar Field generation over long journeys, if the chief Techpriest, Zeroth, was to be believed. But beggars cannot be choosers, as his Father had once told him, and for the moment the Litany would suffice.
"On that planet down there, humans are under assault by Xenos forces. We know not what the aliens seek. We know not what skills they have. We know not how many they are, who they are, how they are armed," Horus began, raising his voice so that he could be heard. The Imperial Guard stiffened to attention, the Astartes shaking themselves into lines that resembled a parade as Horus paced before them, a caged wolf.
"But I know this, my brothers. No matter the number. No matter the skill. No matter their weaponry, no Xenos shall stand before us! The Orks could not break us! The Eldar could not deceive us! The Tyranids could not devour us! These Xenos cannot stand before us!"
A pause, for the cheer that came from the Guard. They were almost ready, Horus knew. Just a little more.
"These humans below, on the planet, they are not of the Imperium. They do not know us. They do not know the Emperor. But when I was created, my Father did not create me to defend only the Imperium! He did not create Astartes to defend only him! He did not stretch out his hands and create his empire to defend only those who will bow. Today, I fight not for myself. I fight not for the Imperium. I do not even fight for my father! Today, I fight for Humanity! Will you fight with me?"
He roared the last question, raising a hand in the air, and the Guard roared with him. Even the Astartes seemed roused, he noted with amusement, small movements of anticipation beginning to stir the otherwise relentlessly stoic warriors. He could still make a speech, it seemed.
"To your transports, my brethren! We will rain from the skies and teach these Xenos the folly of battle with humanity!"
As the men streamed towards the waiting Thunderhawk transports Horus strode to the small Armoury in the hangar. It had been mostly looted already, but he was able to find a helmet that just about fit him- although he was obliged to tear out much of the most delicate wiring to make it fit- and a pair of bolters. The melee weapons were lacking, reducing him to nothing more than a long combat knife. Suitable for a standard Astartes, to Horus it was barely a toothpick. Still, if it came to it there were few things he could not kill with his armoured fists alone. He quickly moved back, taking a place in a Thunderhawk alongside Sergeant Thaddeus and the mixed squad of Invaders and Mantis Warriors. Unable to fit his bulk in the seats without taking more than one, Horus took a position near the loading ramp, wrapping his fingers around a grip moulded into the metal structure.
"Chapter Master, we are ready to launch," he voxed, using what crude systems remained in his helmet. Phoros replied almost immediately.
"Understood, Lord Primarch. We will approach the planet and launch, using the Litany to shield you as best we can. The Xenos fleet is small, a mere scatter of Escorts, but we will not underestimate them."
"Understood, Chapter Master. Good hunting."
"Good hunting, my Lord Primarch."
Sergeant Thaddeus hammered a fist against the cockpit door.
"Ready!" he barked. The vox mounted by the door crackled and a voice came through- Horus recognised it as Techmarine Fenrix, most senior surviving Techmarine of the Fire Hawks.
"Planet approaching. Launching in five…four…three…two…one…launch!"
Horus braced himself and tightened his grip before a titanic jerk pulled at his stomach and the Thunderhawk barrelled out into the void. They attained full speed with tremendous rapidity, blazing a path forwards through space: Horus could hear Fenrix, communicating with the other small vessels over the vox.
"All Stormhawks form up to the front, smash aside any Xenos air cover and split to keep them away. Guard transports, slower. Allow us to take the brunt. Where would you like us to deliver you, my Lord Primarch?"
Horus thought about it for a moment, mind shifting through alternatives and strategies before he decided.
"Place us as close to the Systems Alliance command post as possible, while still in the xenos lines. We will break the Xenos and force them to retreat, then hold the position while we communicate."
"Understood, my Lord. Scanning…position found. All Stormhawks, re-route to clear path, wing two break off and support Guard transports, landing site readied. Be prepared for battle, my Lord."
"I always am," Horus murmured, his voice so low that not even the Marines could have heard it. They were ready, he knew, and so was he. His blood began to sing in anticipation of the slaughter to come, just as it always had during the Great Crusade, and Horus found an anticipatory, predatory smile beginning to drift across his lips.
"Stormhawk two-one, clear left! Two-three, clear our guns! Be ready, my Lord, we have advantage but they are beginning to swarm!"
"Just get us close, we can jump."
"Yes, my Lord. Opening ramp!"
Horus swayed slightly with the wind as the broad ramp opened to a world filled with the sparks and rattling booms of explosions. A Stormhawk whipped past behind them, autocannons roaring as it tore a slender Xenos fighter to splinters, armour barely scratched. Horus grinned more widely, seeing the flat opening below- a park, perhaps, in the middle of a contested city.
His brother rose behind him, ready for war.
His hearts beat in steady rhythm.
"Now! Go go go!" Fenrix barked, and Horus leaped. He cleared the ramp in a single bound, his mass plummeting through the air and into the heart of the Xenos defences. He landed on one of the disgusting creatures, his armour painted with blue ichor as it shattered beneath his armoured boots.
"FOR HUMANITY!" he roared, tearing the bolters from their holsters across his back and opening fire. The explosive rounds tore across the open space, ripping aliens to pieces with their impacts, fountains of gore exploding from fragile bodies. Horus sprinted across the open ground, still firing, still killing with terrible skill as the throaty roar of jump-packs filled the air.
"FOR THE PRIMARCH!" Sergeant Thaddeus bellowed, riding a column of flame from the Thunderhawk. Unlike Horus he did not land on his foe: he landed a fraction in front of the slender thing, cleaving it in half with a single blow of his power-axe before he leapt upon a knot of others, axe swinging, showering blood with every strike. His men followed, bolt-pistols and chainswords hacking at aliens while the second squad sprinted from cover to cover, their own bolters barking an inexorable rhythm of death. Horus fell upon the aliens like an avalanche, like Death Incarnate, one bolter briefly returned to his back that he might fell them in close quarters. They were nothing before him: the xenos might as well have been cloth scarecrows before the speed and power of a Primarch. He lifted one of the creatures from the ground with a single hand, ramming it into a second and exulting in the cracking of bones and the shrieks of pain and fear.
"Tank!" Thaddeus roared from ahead and Horus glanced at it, calculating, understanding. The tank fired and he was already moving: to the perception of a normal human he had simply dodged the round, though it moved faster than he expected. He simply could not be hit, moving faster than the turret could traverse as he closed the distance, bolter still roaring out death even as the Xenos began to retreat. He leaped atop the tank, planting a boot on the top of the cannon and setting his hands around the nozzle: muscles strained and sinew pulled and he simply bent the cannon out of alignment, pointing it to the sky before he tore away the crew hatch and fired in with his bolter. The exploding rounds made short work of the crew: still he fired until the bolter was empty, leaping from the broken tank and letting it list on its hovering tracks.
"Curious that they have mastered hover-fields, yet they are so weak." remarked one of the Invaders. Horus glanced at the man, a Battle-Brother whose armour was scarred with long campaigns.
"They are xenos. Reason is foreign to them," he replied, before tapping at his vox. "Fenrix? We have cleared our landing. Do you have vision of where we should proceed?"
"Lord Primarch," Fenrix replied almost immediately, his voice as calm as though they were conversing on the deck of the Litany rather than caught in battle, "Auspex scans indicate that there is a xenos strongpoint close. I shall mark it upon your helm-map: the Guard can man and defend it once you have taken it. I would appreciate some live xenos, however. It will be much easier to create a translator with specimens for the Librarians and the Techpriests."
"Of course, I shall bring you one at least," Horus said, well aware of the intelligence value of a functioning translator. Unfortunately the waypoint indicator in his helmet had been one of the casualties of his rudimentary engineering to get it to fit: he turned instead to Sergeant Thaddeus.
"Lead the way, Sergeant. These xenos have been unimpressive thus far, but we shall not give them a chance to regroup."
The Marines tore through the streets, killing any of the Xenos that attempted to face them. It was easily done- Horus noted that although the aliens had strange protective barriers around them, they were no match for the power of a bolter round. Perhaps they might survive a single round, but no Marine would ever risk leaving a foe alive for the cost of a single bolt. They reached the strongpoint quickly, a structure of poured concrete with a heavy metal door. Fire spat from slits around the squat structure, but it was utterly meaningless to the Astartes, their armour repelling the attacks with ease.
"I will break them," Horus announced, letting his second bolter rest, "Secure the surroundings."
The Marines scattered and Horus tilted his head down, feral grin still in place. Some projectile sparked off his pauldron and he burst into motion, charging the door at a speed that even an Astartes would struggle to see. The Xenos had no chance: the door was not built to resist the armoured bulk of a Primarch: the Xenos within were not ready for this fight.
Horus hurled the door before him, crushing two foes before his fist swept out, striking a third on the side of the helmet. The Xenos fell, neck broken, and Horus grunted to himself as he ploughed through two more, his fists sledgehammers breaking the fragile bones of his foe. His mind worked, calculated, considered, a blow much lighter driving into the skull of another, one of the last. It fell without a word, two of the final three receiving the same treatment before Horus turned and let himself slow down, exaggerating his movements as he advanced upon the last. It held a weapon that might have been a pistol in one shaking, three fingered hand; Horus raised an eyebrow at it.
The gun flashed.
A pathetic spark touched his chestplate and Horus felled it with a blow to the side of the head, waiting above his fallen foe until Sergeant Thaddeus returned.
"The Guard are securing a perimeter, my Lord. Are the Xenos dead?"
"I hope not," Horus said lightly, "For I would hate to disappoint Techmarine Fenrix."
Thaddeus tilted his head, crouching over one of the Xenos for a half-minute before he rose.
"This one, at least, is alive."
"Good. Techmarine Fenrix? I have your prisoners."
"Excellent news, my Lord Primarch. Chapter Master Phoros reports that the Litany have driven off the enemy fleet: they will take up a defensive position near the planet in case there are more. And the leader of the defences, a General Williams, would no doubt like to speak with you."
"No doubt, Techmarine. Ensure the skies are clear and begin landing additional Guardsmen- these aliens are weak but numerous enough. Sergeant Thaddeus? Come, let us see the mettle of this General Williams…and his System Alliance."
Ezekyle Abaddon was not a man, generally speaking, given to killing his underlings. He did it sometimes, of course, some of them were too useless or too treacherous to be left alive, but for the most part he understood that a live fool was more use than a dead one.
The whining of the Sorcerer before him, however, was greatly straining his patience.
"Cease your snivelling, Sorcerer!" Ezekyle finally roared, his temper frayed enough and not helped by the pain still aching in his chest. The clone of Horus had fought well, and the thought brought his temper to a sharp boil. The Sorcerer cowered before his wrath and the display of cowardice almost drove Ezekyle to an act of violence that even the lurking Khornate Berserkers might find impressive.
"Now, now Ezekyle. Useless as my Acolytes are, I have purpose for them, and they cannot fulfil it if they are reduced to scraps of flesh."
"Ahriman," Ezekyle snarled, "You had best bring news."
The former First Captain of the Thousand Sons, one of the greatest Sorcerers in the universe, Ahzek Ahriman was remarkably unruffled by the impending wrath of the Warmaster. Not that Ezekyle had expected any different: Ahriman was a hard man to ruffle.
"I do, in fact. My snivelling Acolytes may have been unable to pierce the veil, but I have seen and seen much. I can tell you, Warmaster: we are beyond the reach of the True Gods."
Ezekyle rose from his throne, a snarl coming unbidden as he stalked towards the Sorcerer. Ahriman remained unmoved, his helm in place and his voice oozing oily from behind the skull faceplate.
"I had thought it impossible, of course, yet the Warp is quiescent. Unaltered by the power of the True Gods…it is fascinating. I never dreamed to gaze upon such a thing, infuriating as it is."
"Infuriating?" Abaddon rasped, coming to a halt mere feet from the Sorcerer. Ahriman nodded placidly.
"Entirely so, Warmaster. Without the presence of the True Gods the Daemons have vanished into the ether, our forces are damaged. I can still call beasts from the Warp and bind them to my will, but they are weakened. My powers are weakened. It is…concerning."
"You do not sound concerned, Sorcerer."
"Oh, Warmaster. I worry. And yet, is there not opportunity in this?"
Ahriman had drawn closer, his voice sinking to a low purr. Ezekyle already knew what the Sorcerer spoke of.
If there were no Gods…what would it take to replace them? Could they be called forth? Or, instead, could they find a more…pleasing…solution?
"You have experiments in mind, Ahzek."
Ahriman spread his hands in a broad shrug, eyes of blue flame burning behind his impassive visor.
"I have a few, lord Warmaster, but I will need many…sacrifices. Many souls, to feed the furnace. Many souls, to twist the Warp to its true glory around us."
"And you have a place to find these souls?" Ezekyle idly asked, wondering if his gene-father had followed them on this leap. His wrath had cooled somewhat, curiosity taking its place. Curiosity, and ambition. Ahriman would need to be watched carefully, of course, but that was nothing new. And if Ahriman required slaves, there would be a surplus. That should be enough to sate the appetite of the Khornate and Slaaneshi devotee's aboard, to maintain the constant balancing act. And those sworn to Nurgle…they could be a little more irritating, but fresh worlds to blight would perhaps keep them satiated for now. Ahriman chuckled deeply behind him, tendrils of his power leaking from his frame and caressing the air. Ezekyle dispelled the ones closest to him with an effort of will and a warning growl, but Ahriman, it seemed, was too caught in his fanatical search for understanding and knowledge to care.
"I have divined a world, Warmaster, close by. It is populated by Xenos of many species…weak things, petty things, but things good enough for me. There are even more than I need…"
"Knowing my thoughts is a dangerous thing, Sorcerer," Ezekyle growled, "But I see your point. Direct the ship…and call Thraxos Hellbreed to me."
The assault on the Xenos world was a bloody thing. Not for the Legions of the True Gods: there were none who could stand before them, but the aliens died in droves as Abaddon unleashed his berserkers upon the world. He left most of them to the amusements of his Khornates and Slaaneshi, but he ordered a smaller force to make sure they had prisoners. Some for Ahriman and his experiments, of course, but more for intelligence. The Vengeful Spirit was mighty beyond the nightmares of men or xenos, but it was only one ship. If they were alone he would need more supplies, more recruits, more slaves, and the best way to do that was to question those he had captured.
So long as enough were captured, of course. He had sent what Alpha Legion and Night Lords he had at his disposal in an attempt to ensure prisoners were taken, but there was never any guarantee. He watched from the bridge as a planet burned, lines of slaves being dragged from the mines and loaded into transports…those that survived. He felt nothing but disgust at the sight; mewling Xenos, barely even worth the sacrifice. If he had fought on the surface he would have felt nothing but rage at the mockery of a resistance that they offered, he knew. Even with the blade of Drach'nyen dulled and blunted by the weakness of the Warp here, they would have been unworthy of it.
"Warmaster, we have prisoners as you requested," rasped the vox next to him, the grating voice of the Night Lord Erstan ripping the air. "Shall we bring them to you? There are many of them, although they are…pathetically human."
"Mockeries of the human form, my Lord. I almost killed them all for their impudence."
"You shall have your chance, Erstan. Bring some to the bridge and whet your knives. I shall see these creatures for myself, before we tear all they know from their soft minds."
Ezekyle gazed at the hideous thing thoughtfully, tapping the claws of the Talon on the arm-rest of his throne as he did so. Truly these…Batarians…were disgusting, a mockery of the human form. He should order them exterminated now. And yet, the Vengeful Spirit was a ship with needs. It required many hands to crew. And he had determined that his earlier thought had been correct: if he was to thrive in these new worlds, he would need information.
"Magos Cruellan," he said, drawing the attention of the half-robot thing that maintained the Spirit, "How suitable are these xenos for conversion into Servitors?"
Cruellan stirred, servos grinding and gnashing. The Dark Mechanicus did not make even the faint gesture towards Humanity of their brethren who still served the Corpse Emperor; Cruellan was a monstrous thing of snaking, spindly limbs and thrashing, spiked tails.
"Unknown, Warmaster. I shall find out," it grated, voice a thick, liquid buzz of oil and steel. Ezekyle nodded absently, looking back at the prisoners.
"Erstan, kill the five weakest. Let us see if we can loosen their tongues for the Sorcerers."
The former Night Lord chuckled and motioned to his fellows, prowling among the kneeling prisoners until he found one to his liking. The second Night Lord hoisted the unfortunate up, lifting it from the ground and pinning its' arms behind its' back. Erstan leaned in, gauntleted fingers reaching to the face, ignoring the screaming and writhing of the captive as he reached two massive fingers forwards to an eye, pushing into the socket and pulling with lazy cruelty.
Ezekyle didn't bother to watch the torture, deaf to the screams. Instead he watched the other prisoners, seeing the revulsion and fear they displayed, and smiled. Wondering…wondering which would break first.
Which would demonstrate weakness enough to become the second example.