Disclaimer: I don't own Star Fox or Warhammer 40,000. They are property of Nintendo and Games Workshop, respectively. The character Jakob belongs to SF Ghost and used with permission.


recording message….

subject: Fox McCloud, xeno mercenary….

999.M41…

unsecured lasline

thought for the day: the dead watch over us and guide us.

Alright, is this thing on…okay…

I am Fox McCloud, I am an orange vulpine born on Corneria, 4th planet of the Lylat System, though my race originated from the planet Evergreen. I am twenty-seven years old and the head of Team Star Fox, self-called 'Commandos-forHire'. My father, James McCloud, and his closest friend, and my mentor, Peppy Hare, had formed it and it was practically my civic duty to take over one day.

When I turned ten my mother, Vixy Reinards, was killed in an assassination attempt. My father's car had been rigged with a bomb, and she had decided to take it for the day. At the time me and my dad, James McCloud were out on a trip through Lylat…which had been my birthday present. Heh, who would've thought…on my birthday? The best, and after finding out later on my mum was murdered, and worst day of my life.

You know they say that life's a bitch? If that's true then it was more like an asshole to Jacques, and it's been nothing but an asshole to him before he was even born. Say around five or six whole millenniums before he was born.

Six thousand years ago the Imperium of Man invaded my home system, Lylat. They came from a neighbouring galaxy that they seemingly occupied completely. They are xenophobic; that is, they hate and fear anything that doesn't resemble a hairless ape. Their religion is based on war, and the person at their very centre of worship is the 'God-Emperor of Mankind', which is self-explanatory. He sees all, hears all, and through him the Imperium is grand…at least that's what they make the half-dead corpse out to be, no offence to any human hearing this.

They would have exterminated every Lylatian back then, but going only as far as Kew if it weren't for Marshall Hare's negotiations with them. What he had said to the Imperium that kept them out of Lylat has been lost…or deleted from the history books. I don't know which, it's anyone's guess.

Seventeen-years ago the Imperium returned, this time their target was Cerinia, a planet on the edge of Lylat not far from Sauria, now known as Sector C. This time they played the so-called 'saviours'…stopping a religious cult known as Chaos or 'the Void' from taking over. The Cerinians were suckered into believing the Ultramarines were saviours, among them Krystal. Cornerian army intelligence monitored that situation for years…

Sorry, zoned out for a second there…ah…four years later, the planet was destroyed. The Cerinian race was wiped out, and according to Jacques and Krystal who managed to get off the planet, a large number of humans including most of the Ultramarines 2nd Company also died as well.

Around the same time there were outbreaks of religious extremism on the planets Evergreen and Falconia. Just as the Cornerian army was about to intervene, the Imperium returned a third time, bringing with them a massive armed taskforce led mainly by the Ultramarines, and overseen by the Alien Hunters of the Inquisition. They had the opportunity back then to wipe out Lylat for good, but instead it was just those two planets and approximately 1.6 billion people.

I had just joined the Cornerian Flight Academy back then, the same place where dad and Peppy went through and earned their wings. I would have officially earned mine if dad hadn't been killed while investigating terrorist activity on Venom, betrayed by his wingman Pigma Dengar. Only Peppy escaped.

And through a…heh…bizarre turns of events about a week ago I found out he had his heart ripped out on a alter that had the Eight-Pointed Star engraved on it by none other than Andross himself. Can you fucking believe that…?

Sorry…excuse my language.

So I dropped out of the Academy and took the helm of Star Fox's chief pilot. Joining me was my childhood friend Slippy Toad, mercenary pilot Falco Lombardi and of course, Peppy.

I'm sure you know what happened during the Lylat Wars, Saurian Incident and Krystal joining the group, so I won't get into any detail on that. Back to the Imperials…and Jacques Mortensen. Eight years later we met each other shortly after the Aparoid crisis and Andrew Oikonny had taken over his uncle Andross in trying to make Lylat a worse place to live in. Jacques helped us take down a pair of rogue daemons that Andrew was experimenting on, though one of them had escape and possessed the body of my other good friend Bill Grey.

We recruited Jacques afterwards to handle heavy weapons, the first human ever to be accepted into Star Fox. After a month on board Krystal tried to get him Cornerian citizenship, but they wouldn't have that…and in a way I secretly didn't want that either. At that time I was afraid of him, but we need him…all that muscle behind that power armour and his pure fanaticism as a fighter. It took another couple of months for me to truly warm up to him.

Afterwards we fought the Greenskin Orks on MacBeth, mercenaries brought in by Oikonny. We wiped out thousands of them, including their leader, Warboss Gorgutz. Their trail led us to the planet Papetoon, the site of several past archaeological studies. To our horror we found out that Andross was cloning an army of Space Marine derived from Jacques' DNA; around the same time those digs had uncovered another Daemon Gate, like the same ones found on Evergreen and Falconia and were responsible for the Chaos outbreaks there.

The Imperium…the Space Marine intervened once again. Spooked, Oikonny had grabbed Krystal and plunged into the Daemon Gate amidst a sea of Venomians, clone Marines and Daemons. Jacques was the only guy that followed in after them…

Minutes late he came back out, Krystal in his arms and Oikonny's blood on his armour. Krystal later mentioned that she heard Jacques say the F word for the first time ever, heh…can you imagine Jacques dropping the F bomb?

Anyway…afterwards Papetoon was destroyed. Not by the Imperium, but by Chaos, the antithesis of life. Jacques decided to leave afterwards, being the selfless type he is, in order for us to avoid any scrutiny with General Pepper. This was the first time I also saw Jacques and Krystal hug each other. I couldn't tell if it was like they were brother and sister or if they embraced each other like lovers. Gah…I've almost been tearing my headfur out over that…

A year later… this hell that's going on right now…

Unless you're a Lylatian-hating human with the Double Eagle seared onto your forehead and a codex surgically implanted into your arm for quick reference you probably already felt sorry for me. Me saying my mom died on my birthday, killed by the ape that killed my dad afterwards through some sick pseudo-Satanic ritual.

Save your pity, it's Jacques who deserves it…

recording cut off…by order of Inquisitor Mordecai Toth, Ordo Malleus

in the Emperor's name


Prologue – Those Days The World Went Away


Each path must be chosen with care, lest disaster swallow us whole.
- Varro Tigurius, Ultramarines Chief Librarian

Eden, Undisclosed system
Segmentum Ultima

978.M41

The thin, brown-haired youth no older than fifteen laid sprawled on the grassy hillside just outside the technologically adept small village, which smoke rose from the burning buildings and covering the sun as it slowly descended behind the hills, signalling daybreak. He felt his himself slowly losing blood as he gripped the bloodied golden hilt of an Omega/Imperial crested longsword with one hand, the blood coming from a chainsword slash to his back.

The pain he had felt courtesy of the xenophobic Imperium of Man was blaring, almost mind shattering. Amidst the screams, pleas and cries of terror, he had only thought himself as he had tried to get away from his village with only his family and friends in tow, not his other neighbours. The pain he felt now was of shame and regret, as he was the only one now alive. He tried to get up, using the sword as leverage with the blade dug into the ground to lift him up.

"David!"

He spun around and was immediately hugged, if not nearly tackled, by a grey-furred, short black haired kemono wolf girl his age, but an couple of inches taller than him and dressed in linen pants and shirt. The wolf girl buried her face into his chest as they embraced

"S…Seven?"

The wolf girl, with her violet eyes, looked into the boy known as David's eyes, with anticipation, as if he knew what they should do now, despite him near dead from a combination of shock, pain, blood loss and grief. But the boy with his might, fought to stay conscious, and alive…especially since she was here with here.

"God," she moaned, "You're losing blood."

David gritted his teeth, "I don't think I'm…I'm..."

He then fell from her grasp and back onto the ground, finally letting go of the sword. The wolfgirl known as Seven shrieked and got on her knees and attempted to get him back on his feet. She gritted her teeth when she realised he was trying to actively resist.

"Damn it, David," Seven yelled, "You've never given up on anything. Don't even think of starting now!"

"Mum…dad…" David cried out loud, tears streaming down his cheeks, "They're…dead!"

"C'mon!" Seven exclaimed into his face as he carefully walked him as fast as possible down the hill and away from the burning village, his blood all over her clothes now, "Those metal freaks are gonna return any moment!"

Sensing she wasn't going to let him go no matter what, David muttered, "Starbase #23-A…the PDF…were moving survivors there…"

"Then that's where we're going," Seven cried with determination, "It's not far…"

Her words were cut short when the sound of a boltpistol cracked into the air and bolter shell hit the ground next to them. They both looked back to see black-coloured power armoured brutes with various emblem designs on their right pauldrons marching out of the village towards the hillside, various weapons equipped and each having killed at least a dozen each.

"C'mon!"

Seven lugged David along as they ran as they fast as they could down the hill as gunfire blazed behind them. The wolf girl cursed inwardly as she realised they were fleeing across a grassy knoll and there were no way to hide or evade from their pursuers, and they would practically be seeing how far they could go before they finally met…

No. Seven refused to think like that. She just kept running, arm around David's chest as they fled, the boy's movements varying between putting one foot before the other or limping pathetically, but he always kept up with the wolf girl's movements.

That was until his strength gave out…

"DAVID!"

…and he collapsed, taking Seven with him. Still crying, he let got of he.

"Just go," he sobbed, "Leave me here! Get out of here!"

With tears rolling down her eyes as well, Seven shook her head and grabbed him by the arms.

"I'M NOT GETTING OFF THIS PLANET WITHOUT YOU!" Seven shouted in anger, "I DON'T WANT YOU TO DIE!"

Softer and quieter, she added.

"And I don't want to die, either."

Suddenly a Thunderhawk transport flew overhead above the knoll and landed not far from their position, just as the sounds of artillery shells pierced their ears and blanketed the whole area with smoke. The human boy and the wolf girl let got of one another to cover their mouths and close their eyes tightly, a natural reaction to the smoke.

When it cleared, they found themselves before a whole squad of Death Watch, the Chamber-Militant of the Ordo Xeno – the alien-hunting branch of the dreaded Imperial Holy Inquisition.

David forced himself onto his knees as he and Seven stared down the seven Death Watch Marines and two Inquisitors. One of them was a bald-headed, spectacle-wearing man with a faint stubble on his face. He was equipped in grayish power armor with the Mechanized skull and crossbones over the Inquisitorial I motif on his left pauldron and a roaring lion-like creature on his right.

Inquisitor Kryptman – The Hero of the Macharian Heresy.

A/N: I finally found a proper image of Kryptman on the WH40K Lexicanum (wiki).

The other Inquisitor looked out of place when compared to the blackness that surrounded the Ordo Xeno, with his gold/black armor and daemonhammer stored on his back, proper for the Inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus – Daemonhunters. This one was also bald, but black-skinned with a mechanized left eye.

Inquisitor Mordecai Toth of the Demonhunters branch of the Inquisition, the Ordo Malleus.

Gripping his sword tightly, David felt the impulse to push Seven behind himself and confront the attackers.

"What the hell do you want with us?" David demanded, "Why are you attacking us?"

Kryptman just smiled, angering David even more.

"What have we ever done to you?"

Kryptman shook his head, "It is not what you have done to us, it is what you have done to humanity."

Incensed, Seven shouted as she gripped onto David's arm protectively, "What are you talking about?"

One boltpistol blast later Seven fell backwards onto the grass, letting go of David's arm as she went down. To David, time slowed to a crawl as he watched her fall, mouth agape and eyes almost popping out of his skull from the shock. The Imperial looked on in disgust as he got down on his knee and hovered above Seven, seeing that she had been shot in the chest and there left a gaping, bloody hole but she was still alive.

"S…Seven?"

The wolf girl coughed blood, before reaching up to caress David's face, feeling his tears trickle down from his eyes and onto his face, causing her to tear up as well knowing what he was about to lose in her.

She decided to make sure he would definitely never forget her. First by smashing her lips against his in a warm kiss.

"David," she struggled to say, smiling warmly at him, "I…love you so much."

And she died right there and then just before the David could comprehend what had just happened. He looked up from the body of his closest friend at the Inquisitor, tasting her blood on his lips and his face scrunched with hatred for this bespectacled armoured man. His teeth bared in hatred and causing the Deathwatch Marines to aim their bolters cautiously at him. Kryptman frowned and turned to the nearest Marine.

"Restrain him and prepare him for transport."

The Marine nodded and stepped forward, shouldering his boltgun as he stretched his left hand toward the almost feral-like youth, unconcerned about the sword that laid before him and the wolf xeno's corpse. He was an Astartes originally from the Salamanders chapter judging from the chapter symbol on his right pauldron, and had been known back home for his quick reflexes as well as his instinct to detect xeno a mile away. But even he didn't anticipate that David would quickly reach for the sword and sever his left hand with one slash.

The Marine grunted in discomfort and quickly reached for his bolter as David snarled and thrust his sword forward and pierced the black armour and the left heart region of the Marine. The Marine bellowed in surprise and toppled over sideways as David pulled the blade back and awkwardly waved it at the rest of the Deathwatch detachment.

No longer caring if he was to die or not, David charged at Kryptman…

"!"

…screaming out something similar to a battle cry, sword point positioned behind himself as if ready to sever Kryptman's head clean off with one swing. Still frowning, Kryptman waved the guns of his Marines down as David came closer, and when he swung his sword Krpytman reached forward and with both hands grabbed the blade by the flat side with his armoured fingers forcefully.

This startled David to no end, and he had no time to recollect himself as Krpytman stepped forward and slapped the boy across the face, downing him. Toth watched on, deciding to play witness to the events escalating before him.

And with that he knew that the Ultramarines Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes had a hand in this when suddenly blue-coloured drop pods descended from the sky and out stepped the warriors of Ultramar. They were adorned in their slightly golden ornate armour symbolising that they were the Honour Guard of the Lord Macragge, armed with their power axes with embroidered boltpistol sidearms holstered to their sides. When he stepped out, he was a sight to behold in his magnificent artificer armour and his weapons of choice, the massive power fists known as Gauntlets of Ultramars. Though white-haired and his age numbered hundreds of years, the Lord Macragge didn't look a day over fifty, thanks to the supposed Gift of Immortality bestowed upon the sons of Guilliman, the Ultramarines.

"I knew one day this world would taste fire once the rest of this damned galaxy caught up with it," Marneus Augustus Calgar remarked, "Though I would not expect that you would be the one lighting the torches, Kryptman."

"Then that is folly of you to no think so," Kryptman said, "You know why I have come here."

Calgar then turned to Toth and asked, "And what of you, Inquisitor Toth?"

Steel-faced, Toth replied with absolute resolve, "The Puritans demanded to investigate how degraded the Radicals have become. The evidence…"

He indicated a slightly trembling David, who tried his earnest to keep a brave face.

"…is more than I can bear to stomach."

Kryptman smiled, "Come now, Toth of Malleus. The alien threat will finally be quelled in ten or twenty years time once Jacques here has put on the black armour of the Death Watch."

Alarmed at those foreboding words, David hissed, "Screw you!"

The bespectacled Inquisitor frowned at him once again, "You say that now. When you become of age, you will understand."

Calgar stepped forward, immediately having the Deathwatch's guns aimed at him.

"Now if the true servants of humanity have any say in it," Calgar bellowed, "What plans you have in mind for the boy is barbaric at best and unholy at worst. The Ultramarines have much better things in store for David here."

Krpytman snorted, "Yes. I am sure despite the McCloud debacle you will groom the boy to become humanity's saviour. Why your chapter was not declared Excommunicatus Traitorous is beyond my imagination."

"And how the Radicals even allowed your little experiments to go forth is madness on their part," Calgar pointed out, "The results…are unsettling to think of."

Despite the death and destruction around them, an unnatural silence passed over the grassy plains and knoll that they stood on as realisation dawned upon them. Kryptman narrowed his eyes as he looked at the ground, angry at himself for once again allowing the real question to slip his mind once again. Projectum: Avalon was constantly having that effect on him: that his mind was too focused on the current results that it left no time to wonder about the consequences to him personally.

Calgar smirked, "I suppose then that the real question is: Which of us is more afraid of Inquisitorial retribution on part of our supposed heresies that would supposedly benefit humanity?"

Toth twitched his nose in disgust, "So you play off the Ordo Xeno's fear of exposure, Lord Macragge?"

The Ordo Malleus Inquisitor faced Kryptmann.

"He has you in a corner once again, Kryptmann," Toth pointed out, "Though I personally keep silent, who I am to decide what should come next in such an unholy duel?"

Kryptmann gritted his teeth, before sighing in defeat and turning to the Deathwatch Marine holding David.

"Release Jacques."

The Marine let go of David's shoulder, causing him to fall forward onto the ground. Calgar smiled, seeing that Kryptmann was giving into his demands once again. However as David got up and hesitantly begun to walk towards the Ultramarine, he noticed that his sword was lying on the ground and so kneeled to pick it up. And as he stood up Kryptmann drew a gladius…

"AWWWWK!"

…and ran David through with it.

Afterwards he sheathed the gladius behind his back; Kryptmann frowned as Calgar kneeled over David's fallen, skewered form as the boy begun to breathe in and out at a rapid rate, knowing that his death was assured. Though Calgar looked up to shoot the Inquisitor an angry glare, his eyes were that of sullenness and regret.

"So if you cannot have him, humanity has to suffer?" Calgar demanded an explanation.

Shaking his head, Kryptmann growled, "And you swore to protect the innocent. Once again…pathetic."

Escorted by his Deathwatch Marines, Kryptmann turned around and walked towards the waiting Deathwatch Thunderhawk waiting nearby. Toth stared over at the Ultramarines and David's rapidly deteriorating physical shell, a hint of pity being evident in his eyes. Toth lowered his eyes and sneered quietly.

"I have pity for an abomination like this child?" Toth questioned himself, then reasoned out loud, "It must be because he looks human."

"He is human, Inquisitor," Calgar chided.

"His eyes say otherwise," Toth responded coolly, "You best hope for your sake that your actions are not considered heretical, Lord Macragge, but rather in the pursuit of a madman."

"You will just watch events unfold?" Calgar demanded.

"I will act appropriately when the time is right," Toth answered, "But for now on behalf of the Emperor I am a witness."

Toth then left the scene, following after Kryptmann and boarding the same Thunderhawk. It then took off and disappeared into the smoke filled sky, leaving Calgar and his Honour Guard on the surface of the burning garden world. Calgar watched the transport as it faded from view, then down at the boy, who had since stopped breathing and closed his eyes.

Calgar grimaced, "Yes, your origins make you an abomination, David. But even you did not deserve this fate. So I say to you now…"

He then stood up, continuing to look down at the boy, but appearing hard and stern.

"…you do not seriously thinking of giving up now, do you 'Jacques'?"

The boy groaned as he found looking up at ceiling of darkness, lying on a ground composed of darkness in a world composed of darkness. To put it simply, he didn't feel like he was floating in darkness, but rather lying on top of the darkness. He could even pick himself up and stand on his own too feet, though he quickly felt woozy and fell back down.

'I must be dead,' David thought, depressed, 'I knew in a way you'd realise you're dead.'

Covering his face with his hand, he peeked through between two of his fingers and thought, 'Is this Purgatory? Is this because I killed that soldier? I lived a good life until this point where I just took some guy's life?'

He tried standing up again, managing to stay on his two feet this time.

'God,' he continued to think miserably, 'Why has this happened?'

Suddenly a bright line shone through the darkness from above and illuminated the spot he stood on him. David was that startled he didn't bother to cover his eyes, but kept his open amidst the blinding light to see someone step out of the light towards him.

"Jacques!"

David's mouth was agape when the tall individual stepped out of the light to reveal himself as a tall, ten-foot man with black hair that reached down to the base around his neck, a crown of golden laurels atop his head. He couldn't see the colour of his eyes as the radiance that shown forth from his golden power armour adorned in the Imperial aquila absconded his face from total view.

The youth stretched his hand in front of his eyes when the glare became too much for him.

"God?" he asked.

In a deep, authoritative, holy voice the towering man in power armour responded calmly, "I prefer not to be referred that way."

"Who are you then?" David asked, "Are you…real?"

"I go by no name, though when I forged the Imperium of Man that still exists to this day I was it's master, it's Emperor," the man replied, "And in some ways I am both real and unreal."

David shook his head slowly, "I…don't understand."

"Of course not. Mercifully you had been spared the horror that is reality for all of your life up to his point," the Emperor looked down at him, "Now it has finally caught up with you."

The boy nodded sadly, "I didn't think it'd all end like this."

He ran his arm under his nose as he tried to stop himself from crying, with little success.

"They hated us," he sobbed, "We did nothing to them, yet they told us they hated us as they killed us. As they killed me."

Not moved at all by the boy's misery, the Emperor stated, "Who has said that you are dead, David?"

Tear running down from his eyes and cheeks, David looked up at the Emperor's face.

"I was just run through with a blade," the boy said, "I'm probably just hallucinating."

"Even if you are hallucinating," the Emperor crossed his arms, "And I am just a figment of your dying imagination, do you really plan to give up on yourself?"

David croaked as he collapsed to his knees and held himself, "My parents…my friends, they're all dead. I…want to be with them…but…"

He closed his eyes tightly and shouted out loud as the tears poured out.

"I…I don't want to die. At least not yet."

Frowning, the Emperor stretched his golden gauntlet forward, for if he wasn't an apparition and was indeed real the machinations and servo-muscles in his ancient armour would have functioned like clockwork to comply with his physical will. Opening his eyes, David wiped away the tears to see the Emperor looking sternly down at him, hand stretched towards him. Sucking back a hiccup, the boy reached forward and took the Emperor's gauntlet.

The Emperor then smiled warmly at him, and then cryptically explained, making sure each word was burnt into the youth's mind.

"You will be denounced traitor. You will be deemed saviour. You will be called sympathiser. You will be considered naive. You will be deemed misunderstood. You will be reviled and celebrated. You will be hated, yet you will be loved."

The Emperor helped David back up onto his feet.

"Father?" David muttered to himself.

"I am not him," the Emperor quipped, "I am considered the Father of Mankind, maybe, but I am not him."

And there in that place that existed not in the material or immaterial realms, but in the realm of the human mind, the boy known as David made his conscious decision to remain in the land of the living. Despite the death and horror that surrounded him, that will surround him, he would choose to remain alive. He didn't care if this magnificent looking being was real or if he was suffering from a blood-loss induced hallucination, but he felt compelled to not die yet.

It was because of that resolve that the boy would grow to be man.

Macragge, Ultramar system
Segmentum Ultima

983.M41

The bald-headed youthful looking man, this day having just reached his twentieth year of existence, stumbled out of the passenger cabin of the Thunderhawk transport. Cuts, slashes and other assorted gaping wounds spread out all over his bloodied muscle blackened torso, all of which destined to become scars. The flak-armour he had previously worn had been ripped off him, leaving him in his pants, the warm red liquid, most of it arterial, spilling off him and onto the asphalt. His vulpine green eyes were pained, dull and almost lifeless, partly due to the pain he was experiencing but mostly to the large purple-scaled bug cross reptillian creature he had strapped to his back.

Though he was tall, standing at seven-feet, his strength gave out and he collapsed before the steps leading upwards to the front entrance of the Fortress of Hera, stronghold of the Ultramarine chapter of the Adeptus Astartes. The steps were lined on both sides with two dozen of these superhuman warriors, adorned in their ornate armour holding standards carrying the emblem of Guilliman, the Omega symbol with the laurel wreath on them. They were unfazed that the neophyte had collapsed before the steps, knowing that he was must walk on his two feet if he want to live long enough to be made a true warrior of the Immortal Emperor of Mankind.

The man looked upward at the steps, a combination of uncertainty and nauseous gripping him tightly. The gene-seed he carried within him were yet to fully develop, allowing him for possibly the final time in his life to throw up, hands firmly on the ground as blood and bile intermixed with each other in front of him. He wiped his mouth of any remaining ejected fluid and gasped for breath, before attempting to stand up so he could begin climbing the steps.

The Space Marines present were beginning to see him as a wretched creature. Not because of where he came from, but that not even the neophyte that came before him looked this pitiful; and even he was more brutalised than he was, having lost both his eyes and his left arm to the Blood Trails that had made him a true Battle-Brother.

Sucking up the pain and focusing enough so that the pain-reducers in his body could take partial effect, he begun the slow, excruciating journey up the stairs towards the monastery Fortress of Hera. He ignored the floating servi-skulls that had camera attached to them, allowing possibly all of Ultramar to watch him at his lowest. Though he wished that the Marines lining the stairs would help him, he knew that was too good a fantasy to wish for, knowing full well he had to walk on his two partially broken feet.

Soon he was halfway up the stairs, when suddenly his viridian irises glazed over and he nearly toppled backwards, and almost fell back down the stairs. He quickly recovered from his split-second blackout and put his feet back firmly on the flat surface of the step he currently stood on, however, and continued his journey.

When he at least reached the top of the stairs, he found that no one was greeting him, except for the large doors that led into the sprawling Fortress of Hera. He smiled painfully as he believed his agony was close to an end. As he stepped towards the doorm he suddenly, the snap snapping of bone was heard he gave way, falling flat on his stomach, the Tyranid he had strapped to his back crushing him beneath it's weight.

Exhaling roughly, he suddenly narrowed his eyes as newly felt determination swept over him and picked himself up. Gritting his teeth he begun to limp towards the ornate cathedral-like door, high gothic written all over it and circling the Omega and Skull symbols. Placing his hands firmly on the door, not having time to read the gothic, he clenched his eyes shut as he looked upward at the night sky and screamed…

Southern Fringes, Kew
Segmentum Pacificus
Lylat/Imperium Border

It was just shy half-a-light year from the human colony world of Kew there existed a tear in space the led into the alternate reality known as the Immaterium, or more commonly known as the Warp. It had the appearance of an Aurora Borealis, only that it was coloured various shades of crimson, those colours associated with any place relating to fire, brimstone and eternal suffering, which could be classified as Hell.

It was because of fate that the warp tear between the Lylatian/Imperium border, and it was the repercussions of said fate the directed the sleek, silvery Dreadnought-class Lylatian cruiser towards it. It gradually slowed down as it approached the tear, not wanting to go through it or, worse, be caught in one of the numerous warp storms bursting forth from it, which has the capability of tearing apart any vessel unwieldy enough to fly towards it.

It didn't take the sounds of the storms (for sound was impossible to generate in the airless vacuum that was space) to rouse the young orange furred, white-striped, green-eyed fox cub from his nap in his personal quarters on board the dreadnought. It was the vibrations and shockwaves that the storm generated that guided themselves across the blackness of space and over the Great Fox that did so. He felt his fur stood on end as he yawned and stretched his arms, before pulling the blankets off himself.

Remembering that he still had his casual wear on, consisting of a red shirt with the winged-fox insignia on the left right breast, blue shorts and white socks, the ten-year old adjusted the wrinkles and folds out of his clothes before shuffling over to the lavatory to do his business. Afterwards he stepped back out of the bathroom, and noticed the crimson light emanating between the gaps of the blinds across his window.

Eyebrows queered in curiosity, he stepped over towards the window across from his bed and pushed the button next to the window, the mechanism causing them to fold back to give the young cub a breathtaking view of the warp tear. His eyes were wide in awe and his mouth was agape as he pressed his hands against the window.

He smiled and said to himself, "Pops was right! This day will only get better…because it's my birthday!"

Tearing his socks off and replacing his feet with sandals, he bounded off the bed and towards the door, in his excitement forgetting that they were automated and running into it. Laughing at his own stupidly, he pushed the button next to the door and it opened. He shot out into the hallway and ran towards the bridge. In the process he nearly slammed into a nacho chomping slightly pump pig in his late thirties.

"Oi! Watch it, kid!" the pig grunted as he wiped hot sauce off his lips.

Still smiling, the pup said, "Sorry, Mr. Pigma. I need to find daddy and tell him that this the best birthday ever!"

Narrowing his eyes and smiling mirthlessly, Pigma pointed towards the door leading into the bridge and said, "Probably in there, kid! Now get outta my sight!"

"Ok!" Fox laughed.

Pigma watched as the pup ran towards the bridge door, shaking his head and frowning.

'Why'd the hell did you bring your spawn with you today, McCloud?' Pigma thought bitterly, "Tryin' to expose him to that shithole Segmentum Ultima?"

He then shrugged and chomped down the last of his bag of nachos.

'Guess the kid's gonna know these things. Thank fuck I don't plan on having any.'

"Ah…James?"

"Yeah, Pep?"

"You're fidgeting again."

"Am I? Heh, hardly noticed."

The adult orange-furred vulpine shuffled in his seat slightly as he and a grey-rabbit sat before the holographic projector on the bridge, where situated behind it was the windows which gave them a much clearer, close-up view of the warp tear. Both men were in their early forties and dressed in their standard mercenary fatigues.

While Peppy looked reasonably calm, his companion was a different story. He could see that James McCloud appeared tense, indicated by the raised fur on his body and how he was rubbing his chin contemplatively.

"How close are we to the tear?" James queried.

Peppy checked the small computer built into the armrest of his chair.

"Close enough," Peppy said, "We should be able to pick up the signal broadcast they've set up for us."

James nodded, "They're taking a big risk doing it for us."

The rabbit closed his eyes and shook his head sadly, "They've just sat this up to torture you, James. Forgive me for saying this, but for the sakes of Vixy and Fox…"

He turned his chair so that he was facing James fully.

"…can't you just forget about him and hope Calgar can look out for him?"

James frowned and exclaimed heatedly, taking Peppy back some, "No!"

He quickly calmed down and sighed, looking at his friend apologetically.

"Watching and praying for him on possibly the worst day of his life is the least I can do for him," James replied, "I owe it to his mother."

"She's dead, James," Peppy reminded him, beginning to sound stern, "Cassius said so, remember?"

With sad, downcast eyes, James said quietly, "She saved my life. She saved me from Kryptmann. She saved me…from that evil bastard."

Incoming live transmission, the feminine tone of voice relayed, Source unknown.

James' eyes widened and turned to the holographic projector, "Patch it through to the bridge right now."

Patching it through.

The holographic projector broadcasted jumbled, green static-filled images, much to James chagrin as he now leaned forward from his chair, clasped hands resting on his knees as he waited in anticipation for the images he so desperately sought after so long. Peppy glances varied between James and the holo-projector, where to his shame he hoped that they wouldn't be able to get an image, and then maybe James would finally be able to move on.

Attempting to clean image.

James' eyes lit up and a small smile was etched on his face when the static gradually begun to fade, producing a colour image of a tall, young adult of a human male with a Tyranid strapped to his back and he appeared to be screaming into the air. James gritted his teeth when he couldn't see his face, the back view of the human what he could see. Peppy mouth was agape some…

"He's…he's grown up," Peppy bristled his chin, biting his lip as sympathy found it's way to his gut, "He…looks like he's in so much pain."

James didn't pay attention to Peppy, fixated only on the image.

"Please," he whispered eagerly, "Turn around. Let me see your face…David."

The bridge door opened and in ran an excited Fox…

"DAD! DAD!"

…nearly causing Peppy to jump with fright, but not James as he was busy looking at the holographic image of the mutilated human man. Peppy's eyes widened when Fox, gradually becoming less excited, stood near the door and wondered why his father wasn't paying attention to him and instead on hologram of a human 'demon.'

"Daddy?"

Let me see your face…David.

The young man froze in his place, no longer screaming from the intense pain and pressure being dealt to him. Upon hearing his real name he calmed down and begun to breathe easier, catching his breathe and recovering himself. He thought he heard the calm, gothic voice in his head, but remembered the servi-skulls watching him and so looked up at them.

Ignoring the pain, his relaxed state of mind allowing the pain-reducers to block out the agony, he stood up to his full height with the Tyranid still strapped to his back and looked up at the servitor which was looking down at his face. His face was that of a calm, eyes narrow and lips in a small crease as if he was obeying the voice he just heard.

After a few seconds of looking up at the servi-skull and turned towards the door, and with all his strength he pushed them open, a bright light immediately engulfing him as he stepped into the main hall of the fortress.

James felt himself smile when 'David' looked up at the camera, appearing stoic and determined despite his bloody, torn appearance. Peppy looked between James and Fox incredulously, wondering how the human abomination present above the hologram-projector could draw his attention away from his son, and how much impact this would have Fox, this being the first time in his life seeing live-images of a human in the flesh.

Thinking fast, Peppy feigned anger the older vulpine. "Hey James!"

"Wha…?" James' head shot up, "Er…Pep?"

He looked over his shoulder, immediately horrified to find Fox standing there in the doorway. His head shot back towards Peppy, smiling maliciously at him with a glare.

"Oh, don't tell me you've forgotten about the birthday boy?" Peppy queried.

Quickly catching on, James smiled widely and exclaimed, "Heck no, Pep."

He waved his hand across the holo-projector and the image faded away.

"And so for the hundredth time today…HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FOX!"

Fox's bright smile returned and dashed towards James as he stood up from his seat and bent over, taking his son in a tight embrace, the vulpine cub wrapping his arms around his father's neck and laughing playfully. Peppy smiled at the tender sight, remembering the first time he brought his daughter Lucy on board the Great Fox for her first trip across the cosmos. She was five years at the time, and that fact made him slightly bitter, as James had waited another five years before taking Fox on his first voyage across Lylat and beyond.

Obviously James had wanted to spare his son from the harshness that was life as a mercenary and a space jockey for a few more years.

Pulling back from his father, Fox asked, "I thought you'd never take me with you on your trips, daddy."

James shrugged, "Yeah, well…it was about time you'd see that the universe is a big place."

He nodded his head enthusiastically, before he asked, "Hey dad."

"Yes, son?"

His smile faded again, "How come you were watching footage of that demon?"

Peppy's breath caught in his chest. Puzzled, James asked, "Demon, Fox?"

"You were watching a frazzled image of a hyoo-man," Fox pointed out, "Mom said they're demons, like the priest says on that…er…Religious Remi…Remi…er….that priest's show on TV, y'know?"

Chuckling at his son inability to pronounce 'human' and 'reminisces', James nodded, "Yeah, I was watching a human on the holo-projector."

Eyebrows queered and head slanted in confusion, his bright eyes were large as he asked, "Why?"

James rolled his eye around in his head as he quickly thought of an answer, "Let's just say…I wanted to see for myself if they were what those Bible-bashers make them out to be?"

"Are they?" Fox kept on the inquisition, where the mere mention of that word would have made both James and Peppy freeze in terror.

James smiled warmly, "I think they're just as frail, as confused and as curious as we are, son. They're just like us."

Noticing that Fox was still confused, James suddenly added in a humour laced voice…

"cept' they're hairless, eh?"

Fox giggled as James ruffled his hair, "Yeah."

James then took his son by the shoulder, still smiling, "Listen, why don't you meet me at the hangar bay. Feel like a ride in the Arwing with your old man."

"YEAH! AWESOME!"

And with that Fox took off like a bullet from an auto rifle, running out of the bridge. Peppy stared on bewildered at how James, still smiling at his son's direction, handled Fox's curious nature. He could have sworn that the cub was normally a very intelligent, bright little boy that had hundreds of questions and always played Grand Inquisitor on him and his parents.

Peppy cursed mentally. That word would forever be ingrained into his mind and psyche.

Attention. Holographic link to unknown source lost.

James smile faded and almost in a panic ran towards the projector, rapidly typing at the keypad built into it. When he realised that the feed was forever lost, he bellowed out a word that Peppy also had ingrained in his mind, but circumstances different.

"FUCK!"

Fox wasn't too far from the bridge when heard his father curse out loud, the door into the bridge still open. He froze with fright upon hearing his father say that dirty word.

Thinking that there was no one around to hear him repeat the word to himself, he sampled the word…

"Fuck?"

He heard a sneer and turned to see Pigma watching him from the door into the mess room, glaring down at him.

He then turned around and back into the mess, muttering, "Kid's and their language nowadays. Fuckin' disgrace."

James collapsed back into his seat, covering his face with his left hand as he rested his elbow on the armrest. Peppy looked on, weariness on his face.

"I'm sorry, James," Peppy stated.

James peeked through his fingers at Peppy, then nodded. Message received.

"I've got to ask," the rabbit continued, "Why did you bring Fox with you today?"

James slouched in his seat and shrugged, "It was his birthday, and Vixy said I was beginning to see him less than I normally do…and she's right."

He then smiled.

"Think of this as making up for the last three birthdays I've missed."

Peppy sounded serious next he asked, "She doesn't know you were coming out here?"

"I made Pepper and Border security swear into silence," James declared, "On account of the last few jobs we did for the hound."

Peppy got up from his seat, stretched, and walked over to the large window and observed the warp tear quietly, taking in it's hellish visage before turned back to James, still seated and looking at Peppy. The mask of happiness that he had worn in front of Fox all but cracked now. It was replaced with that of sadness.

"I wish I could have done more for him, y'know," James lamented, arms crossed and eyes downcast, "With Lucille and Eden gone, he's got no one now."

Peppy scratched his head, now feeling sad himself.

"I never thought I'd ever say this in a million years ago. He's still got you," the rabbit said, "Even if he doesn't know."

James growled, "Don't remind me. Vixy was also right when she mentioned I was starting to become a distant father…"

Peppy suddenly growled, "Don't even go there, James!"

"FORGET it, Pep," James closed his eyes and sighed loudly, "I couldn't protect Lucille from Kryptmann. Couldn't protect her son from Kryptmann. He really does have no one left."

Beginning to feel exasperated, Peppy mentioned, "He's not your son, James. You know that, right?"

James snorted sadly, "I know he's not."

The Lord Macragge of Ultramar, Marneus Augustus Calgar, watched from the balcony overlooking the entrance way into the Fortress of Hera, dozens of Battle-Brothers and twice that many number of Neophytes standing on parade from both sides of the doorway as they awaited the arrival of the latest hopeful Initiate. The doors were pushed open and in stepped a blood-soaked, heavily muscled young man with a Tyranid strapped to his back.

He knew that gift was David's, no, Jacques' if he could manage the next few steps towards the centre of the room. Calgar watched as David/Jacques limped towards the centre of the room, where imprinted on the floor was the laurel omega symbol. When his feet touched the centre, he looked upwards, eyes scaling over the gothic interiors of the fortress' great hall towards the Lord Macragge. With no emotion on his face, his eyes seemed to stare right through Jacques as if expecting something from him.

Jacques seemed to understand as he unlatched the Tyranid from his back and letting it fall off him and onto the ground. No longer feeling any amount of pain Jacques knelt on one knee, bowed his head and stretched his arms wide across, as if ready to accept whatever was coming to him. Calgar looked to his left towards another door, which creaked open and out stepped a procession of blue-robed, techno-augmented priests, led by the Master of Sanctity Cassius himself.

This holy detachment surrounded itself around Jacques, still kneeling before the Lord Macragge. To Calgar, everything became a blur as he looked upwards with pride at the Imperial double-headed Aquila symbol on the ceiling of the hall, smiling to himself as he paid no attention to Jacques' induction into this brotherhood, but rather to just listen to Cassius as he did so himself…

"Jacques Jeán Mortensen…accept Immortality as a Battle-Brother of the Ultramarines, Chosen warrior of the Immortal Emperor of Man. Your life up to this pivotal point is now nothing but a shadow. From this point on, you will stand firm against the enemies of mankind, and you will serve it until the day you die in battle."

"Battle-Brother Mortensen…this is your rebirth…this is your calling…your destiny. Courage and Honour!"

Cliffside Obvervation Area,
Venom, Lylat System

999.M41

The young blue-furred, blue-eyed vixen felt tears in her eyes as she and the brown-haired, green-eyed, late-thirties yet physically younger Aegis Armoured Grey Knight continued to hold each other in an embrace. Though she still felt discomfort from her previously broken arm having been rapidly healed thanks to Cornerian science and medicine yet still in a sling, it was something she would put up with just so she can be comforted and to give comfort in return.

Compared to the eight foot tall daemon-warded warrior in runic-covered armour, the vixen was small in comparison to him, but that didn't impede her expression of affection towards him in any meaningful way. She knew what laid ahead for the both of them and everybody else they cared for, and remembering everything that he had told her relating to his tragic-filled past, she couldn't help but cry for him.

He noticed and frowned, "Krystal?"

"Jacques."

"Are you crying?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"After everything that's happened to you, you've never shed a single tear. So I'm crying for you."

He smiled and rubbed her shoulder comfortingly.

"There is not point in dwelling on the past," Jacques said, "It is done. There is only the present, and soon thereafter the future."

He then whispered, causing her eyes to widen…

"But nonetheless: Thank you."

With that, Krystal smiled as well. And then she believed that although they were still in this blood-soaked universe, the remainder of the day would be a tolerable one.

So long as she had him and he had her.


In case you were wondering the title of this chapter is based off Nine Inch Nails' song 'The Day the World Went Away' which I believe the lyrics perfectly convey how someone close to Jacques' must feel about him.