Category Archives: Last Son of Caliban

Last Son of Caliban: Tempering the Blade

Cain looked at his gathered Sergeants.  Sergeant Uriah, leader of the Inceptor squad had half his armor off, his face grey as his massively enhanced body fought to recover from the wounds that peppered his shoulder and upper torso.  The other Primaris sergeants stood tense, unsure even after the battle, while the older sergeants of the astartes stood relaxed, glancing around at the wreckage they had created, or watched the guardsmen collecting prisoners, or executing those too wounded to be worth interrogating.

Cain finished reviewing the battle on his display and looked at two of his sergeants.  “Micah, Shamgar, your troops were excessively slow deploying from their transport, and re-embarking to displace.  They selected adequate targets but took far too long shifting between targets once they had acquired one.  Their accuracy was good, but speed is everything brothers.”  Micah and Shamgar clenched fist to breastplate in acknowledgement of the rebukes.  He turned to the next sergeants on his list “Obed, your men deployed too far from their Rhino to re-embark swiftly, they also kept firing too long after the order to re-embark was given.”  Obed nodded sharply.

“Jonah, your men are equipped to take on vehicles, yet more than 40% of their fire was spent on soft targets while there were still tanks and bunkers to be destroyed.  Rectify this.  We can’t have Sgt Maacah punching out tanks all the time for us.”  Jonah grimaced at the rebuke, clenching his fist to his chest.  “Uriah, your men performed well, have them work on their reloading drill to better maintain their fire.  In fact every Primaris squad spent too much time reloading, and frequently had two, three, or even four of their brothers reloading at once.  Fire must be maintained brothers.  We cannot be outnumbered and not firing.”  He paused, eyes leveled at the assembled leaders.  “Lieutenant Bors, set up a series of exercises for the vehicle crews.  They need to be able to pick a route efficiently and there was far, far too much hesitation in their movements.  Especially the Repulsors.  They are hover tanks for the Emperor’s sake, how are Rhinos outmaneuvering them?”

He turned on the Guard officer who had tried to slink up behind him “And you Colonel.  The plan was for you to wait until ordered in.  My force cannot leave this planet unless there are adequate loyalists here to ensure security behind us.  You endangered that with your early charge.”  Colonel Peak looked at him a moment, face paling.

“Master Cain, you left my men none of the glory.  Your plan would have had them sitting and watching while he only good fight in the campaign was fought.  You would have us sit out the greatest battle and then spend a decade policing the hinterlands?”

“Yes Colonel, that is exactly what I would have you do, for if not your guardsmen, then my company would have to wait for another force to arrive, and that could takes years.  You would have a company of the Dark Angels sit idle for years, just for your men to claim some imagined glory executing traitors?”

Zadok pinged Cain, no verbal message, just a chime for his attention.  Cain looked closer at Peak, remembered he was dealing with mortals.

“But your men fought bravely and well.  We would be honored to fight with them again.  Your vehicle crews especially fought with determination, and your Ogryns were a hammer in the Emperor’s hand.”  He said, struggling to find the words to mollify the Colonel.

“Thank you Master Cain” she said simply, straightening to attention and offering a flowery salute.  Cain returned it with a simple gauntlet to his chest, turning to dismiss his sergeants.

Lieutenant Bors and Colonel Peak remained behind.  Bors looked back and forth between the two officers and gestured for Colonel Peak to step aside a moment.  She glared at him, before stepping a few feet away and passing on some orders over her vox bead.

“Master Cain.  The new folks need… They need some balance.  We all know they aren’t performing as well as the rest of the company.  You’ve got squads whose youngest trooper has 50 years fighting the Emperor’s wars.  Your oldest Primaris Sergeant has less than 20.  Half of them are on their first campaign with a battle company.”  The tough old veteran just topped over the Company Master’s shoulders, but his presence, and the weight of centuries of experience pressed down on Cain.

“Lieutenant, I’m not going to lie to these men about their performance.”

Bors held up a hand “I’m not saying to do that Master, but you should couch your criticism a bit more carefully.  Your words could be a mace or a scalpel.  You don’t need to crush them down, you need to cut out the weakness.”  He paused a moment.  “A leader can guide, or he can push.  The Unforgiven need guidance, not shoving.”

Cain paused a moment.  The spoke carefully “Guilliman brought back the rank of Lieutenant to fill in the gaps in leadership.  He wanted line officers to lead strike forces, and he wanted leaders to watch the back of Captains who couldn’t see everything at once.  The Unforgiven have not wholeheartedly embraced the rank, but I think, today, that you have proven his wisdom Bors.  Thank you.”  He finished haltingly.  He looked down.  “Tonight we’ll have a feast.  You are right about one thing, this was the first battle for many of our Primaris in the Fifth. We will feast the start of the campaign.  Celebrate their success; and afterwards I’ll have a word with the Sergeants.”

Lieutenant Bors snapped to attention; crashed his fist hard to his breastplate and spun away, already dictating orders to their accompanying serfs to ready the feast.  Cain looked over his shoulder, catching Peak turning away “And you and your company commanders can join us Colonel.  I am not skilled at the diplomacy and the art of dealing with our mortal allies.  We are leaving you to a hard, long, difficult task, with no glory, you are correct.  You deserve your moment of honor, and I regret my harsh words.”

Colonel Peak looked at him a moment “Thank you Master Cain.  We look forward to your hospitality.  With your permission, some of my men distinguished themselves today.  I beg the honor to present them to you at this feast.”  She paused, planning her words with care.  “It would remind them of their glory during the long years ahead, remembering being presented to a Master of the Dark Angels chapter.”

Cain nodded.  He didn’t fully understand the need but Bors had convinced him that he should listen to those under him.

First Contact

3 Weeks Later.  Godswinson Foothills.  Skagerrak III

Cain watched his company race from the treeline, bikes racing forward to screen a line of Rhinos, Razorbacks and Repulsors.  Scouting Land Speeders had reported the ridgeline ahead of them to be clear, and Cain intended on taking advantage of that mistake.  He watched as the Razorbacks and Rhinos pulled ahead before easing off as they reached the foot of the steep slopes.

As soon as they’d started their climb they had gunned their engines and raced forward.  The Repulsors were more hesitant.  Carefully selecting slopes that were more manageable they struggled to catch up to the Rhinos as they neared the crest.  The doors and ramps of the Rhinos and Razorbacks were opening before they even stopped below the crest, and the marines within charged out, throwing themselves into position peeking over the crest without skylining themselves before the doors of the Rhinos were even fully open.  The Repulsors pulled in at the far left and the doors opened.  The Primaris marines spilled out and took positions, far more hesitantly and continued shifting up and down the line, the last of them not settling for nearly 20 seconds after their conventional brothers had frozen in place.

Looking to his right he saw the devastators Razorbacks and his command squad.  The devastators set up on a little knob just off the ridge’s shoulder, targeting scanners already reaching to select targets.  He left them to Lieutenant Bors and ordered his vehicle to the right of the Razorbacks at the crest.  The bikes gathered on the left of his line, ready to strike as he ordered a skull-drone to pop up to give him a view of the enemy.

The traitorous guard regiment spread in entrenchments for nearly a mile starting just off the foot of the ridge, a company had started to climb the slope to fortify this last weakness in the line, they were looking up in confusion at the sound of the engines and the clatter of battle plate coming down the slope from his so far unseen company.  Everything was positioned as he had planned, his plan would work perfectly.

“Swords and Bolters brothers!  For the Lion and the Emperor!  ATTACK!” He called into the vox, ordering the Repulsors over the ridge.

“Repent, for Tomorrow you Die!” Intoned his company as they crested the ridge and opened fire.  Trusting Lieutenant Nabbuk to direct the Repulsors guns he watched his company fight through the vehicles auspex array.  The veteran marines fought flawlessly.  Covering each others reloads, blasting down any targets that moved to threaten them, pressing back the shrinking company with a hose of fire.  The larger guns of the Primaris blasted holes in the ranks of their enemies but their fire was uneven.  Reloads weren’t timed, targets were selected, but fire was not maintained well.  The bikes gunned from around the far end of his line and the screaming engines of his assault squad and Inceptors striking deep in the entrenchments beyond, preventing them from reinforcing the devastated company caught out on the slopes.

“Forward, Mount up and move to your beacons!” called Cain, rapidly selecting positions at the edge of the trench line.  His own vehicle had nearly reached what remained of the traitors lead company and he ordered a door open, throwing himself out, plasma pistol already firing as his auspex sought targets worthy of its fury.  Two shots blasted melta-gun carrying troopers from a throng around a heavily ornamented officer.  With a guttural growl he lunged forward, drawing back his power fist and caved in the whole side of the enemy commander’s body.  Around him Chaplain Zadok and Lieutenant Nabbuk swung into the fight, precise blasts of fire shattering the bodies of those too far to be reaped by their energised blades.

He glanced down at the battle array cast on the backside of his gorget, showing the state of his troops and the enemy.  Pale red icons flew away down the slopes, shattering and dimming while his assault troops drew in the bright red of the next enemy company in a ring facing away from his men.  Again the Rhinos and Razorbacks were already slamming into position with abandon, the troops spilling out blasting fire while the Repulsors again lagged behind.

His own command vehicle belched fire, trying to carve a gap through to the beleaguered assault elements, wide to the left the bikes cut another furrow in the enemy lines, while to his right Bors made his firepower felt, Hellblasters, Missile Launchers, Plasma Cannons, and Lascannons from the heavy guns simply tore open one side of the ring, as well as shattering several field guns that had been slewing around to fire on the marines.

The Guard reeled in shock at the massed firepower and the veteran squads didn’t give them even a moment to recover, throwing themselves in with abandon, the Primaris behind them throwing themselves in with no hesitation.  Cain caught brief glimpses of his exposed assault element, seeing his Inceptors blasting back any threat to his assault troops, while the screaming chainswords wreaked havoc on the bodies of those near the more conventional assault troops.  The bikes circled clear beyond the ring, racing to an unseen command post and the whine-Bang of teleportation announced the Deathwing arriving at the Ravenwing’s beacons.

The vox came to life again a rich contralto calling “At them Skaggerak!  Into the traitors!” and further to his left, two companies of loyal guard raced forward in Chimeras, supported by Leman Russ tanks.  He could see Colonel Peaks, her short hair waving in the wind as she sat high in the cupola of her command vehicle.

“Bors, bring your element forward, we need to trap them from retreating!  Micah, Shamgar, get your Repulsors forward, get them behind the enemy flank to catch them as they flee.  Move!”

He continued to direct his troops through the desultory fighting that remained.  The traitors fell to the last man, his own losses were a couple dozen lightly wounded, 2 serious injuries and 2 fatalities.  He left Nabbuk to speak to Peaks, and set up security with the Ravenwing and Deathwing, meanwhile he called his squad leaders together to discuss the battle.

The Last Son of Caliban

Newly-Minted Master Cain strode down the hall of the Strike Cruiser Tempus Occidere in his simple robes.  Supreme Master Azrael, his features lined with the weight of centuries in command had just given him command of the 5th Battle Company of the Dark Angels chapter.  He was the first, and he was the last.

He was the first.  No other Primaris brother had ascended to command a company.  Some few had made it into the Ravenwing or the Deathwing, and Cain knew the reason.  He felt the distrust weighing heavily on him and on his brothers.  He knew the secrets the Dark Angels hid, and he and Azrael were working to break the self-destructive cycle of enforced secrecy and obfuscation.

He was the last.  Belisarius Cawl had intercepted him, one of the last recruits of the old Order, stolen for Cawl’s secret scheme, one of the precious few recruits that had escaped the secret rites of the Dark Angels even back then.  He had met Sar Luther, and even seen the Lion, alone amongst the Legion.  Alone amongst the Chapter.  He had been a mortal then, an initiate, not even an Astartes, and then as he slept he was stolen away, awakening ten millennia later to a galaxy shattered, promises broken, and a legion that mistrusted him.

To the Primaris he had been a symbol.  A guidon leading them through the cold distaste of their introduction, a living banner of what the Primaris could be.  Eventually he proved himself in battle and became a squad leader, then a Lieutenant.  He was one of the first to join the Ravenwing, a small, ad-hoc group of Inceptors joining the hunt.  Shortly thereafter he had been returned to the 5th Company, first as a Lieutenant, and now as its Master.  There had been many whispers about a Master who had never served in the bone white of the Deathwing, but as yet there was no suitable role for the new Primaris amongst the Terminators of that venerable company.

His stake in the Hunt was personal.  Traitorous space marines dating back to when he had joined still roamed the galaxy.  He had nearly petitioned to join the Chaplains.  Grand Master Sapphon had interviewed him and had informed him that he would make a great Interrogator-Chaplain, but his greatest gift was in command, and in command he should go.  Shortly thereafter Azrael had summoned him.  He had long known of Guilliman’s frustration that none of the Primaris had been given command in the Dark Angels.  He had received inquiries personally and was copied on others sent to Azrael.  Azrael had called him in alone, and met with him in his chambers, deep within the Rock.

Over wine and in the dim light of candles they had discussed long and deeply the frustration that he and the other Primaris had dealt with.  Azrael had been direct.  His questions blunt, even cutting, but never harsh or cruel.  Finally he had opened up.  He had admitted his frustration at the attitudes within the Chapter, within the Unforgiven as a whole.  He knew that their secret must be held, not for the secret itself for every legion had had traitors, but for the acts they had committed in covering them up.  Eventually they must come forward, admit what they had done, but they needed one last Crusade.  One mighty victory to show that their sins had been worth it.

Cain and the Fifth would lead that Crusade.  Tempus Occidere had been loaded with every sort of weapon and vehicle.  The entire Fifth Company was mechanised with transports and tanks.  Squads, bikes, and even aircraft from the Deathwing and Ravenwing had been attached giving Cain more strength than any two line companies normally held.  Even more proof of Azrael’s trust, he had been reinforced further with vehicle crews being assigned from the Marines of the 7th and 9th companies, rather than providing his own vehicle crews, this left all his squads at full strength even with the vehicles attached.

Tonight the Tempus would launch, on a course known only to Cain and the navigator.  Tomorrow he would brief his officers, and then… To the hunt!

Note – This is, of course, not canon.  I’ve given a lot of thought to how the Primaris would be integrated into the Dark Angels.  It’s a sticky problem, but a fun one, and the characterization of Azrael and his feelings about the curse of the Unforgiven is nearly entirely my own creation, although not an unreasonable one.