This story is based around a rather large battle my friends and I had, and arose from the question, "How and why would Imperial Guard and Grey Knights team up with Thousand Sons?" It's set in a sector we made up for our little 40k gaming group, and most mentions of other battles in the story are also references to other fights we've had. XD
Any comments or feedback are appreciated! I hope you enjoy.
Strange Enemies, Strange Allies
It started with a dream.
A planet of teaching and learning, that reminded him painfully of a long-lost home. A vast repository of knowledge, both mundane and extraordinary, that shone red and white like a beacon. A hidden item of great significance, held deep within the repository, that radiated with power. A key, a key to... something... something incredibly important...
The vision became less clear, as a growing shadow encroached and slowly started to spread. The shadow radiated hunger and destruction and a terrible, unshakable purpose. The red and white beacon began to dim as the shadow expanded and started to overwhelm it. Tendrils of darkness curled and slithered outwards, thickening and joining together as they consumed all in their path.
The tendrils drew closer and reached for him, hungry and unstoppable, wrapping around him and holding him fast. Try as he might, there was no escape. The shadow grew and grew and consumed everything, and he was lost to the darkness--
Captain Akil awoke with a gasp, sitting bolt upright on his cot with a thin sheen of sweat covering his skin, his hearts thundering in his chest. It took him a moment to realise that he was back in his physical body, in his own quarters, and not trapped in a horrible dream of all-consuming darkness. Or, more accurately, a vision - a vision of the future, though one shrouded in allegory and symbolism.
He took a deep breath at let it out slowly, calming himself with a mental recitation of the Enumerations. It was not for nothing that the Thousand Sons had received the best mental training of all the Legions, and even now, Akil’s mental discipline had not waned in the slightest. Emotions once again under control, he clinically analysed the images from the vision, trying to find some clue as to its true meaning.
Even as he thought, he rose from his cot and began donning his armour with the ease of long practice. It was still an hour or two until the next shift, but Akil knew he wouldn’t be getting any more sleep now. As an experienced member of the Corvidae cult, he’d learned to trust his instincts, and right now they were telling him that this vision wasn’t to be ignored. Whatever the beacon represented, it was vitally important and had to be protected from the encroaching threat.
The trick now would be to decipher the vision and figure out what it was, and where it was, before it was too late.
Once Akil was fully armoured save for his helmet, which he hung off his belt, he left his rather spartan quarters and strode through the quiet corridors of the ship. As one of the commanding officers on the vanguard cruiser Aten, his quarters weren’t far from the bridge, and it didn’t take him long to reach it.
The bridge was dim and quiet, as the ship was currently cruising through an area of unoccupied space, changing heading before the next warp jump and making sure nothing was tailing them. There was only a skeleton crew manning the bridge; the rest were off-duty, recovering from a recent hurried extraction, an extended period of combat readiness and a long stint of evasive manoeuvres and warp jumps.
While investigating a sector after an earlier encounter with Necrons, the Sons had been ambushed by a group of Space Wolves. Though the Sons had won that little skirmish, it had been decided that the Aten’s best course of action was to vacate the area immediately, before the Wolves could regroup enough to pursue. Since then, the Aten had made several jumps through the warp, changing direction each time it emerged so as to better confuse its trail.
Lending to the ship’s current feeling of quiet was the fact that it was also lacking over half its usual complement of Thousand Sons. Sefu, one of the other commanding officers aboard the Aten, had taken half the squads and most of the other Sons with Terminator honours in one of the cruiser’s Stormbirds. The reason behind their departure was twofold. One, as an extra precaution against the Aten being followed; and two, to acquire more supplies and resources if the opportunity arose. Though the Aten was currently well-stocked, it wasn’t easy keeping it that way.
As Akil entered the bridge, the helmsmistress currently on duty turned to face him, giving a salute. “Captain.”
Akil halted on the viewing platform that overlooked the rest of the bridge and nodded in acknowledgement. “Status?”
“No signs of pursuit so far,” the helmsmistress replied crisply. “All ship systems are functioning at acceptable levels. We’ll reach the next launch point within the hour.”
“Very well,” Akil replied absently, most of his attention still focused on unravelling his vision. “Carry on.” If the helmsmistress noticed his distraction, she gave no sign and merely saluted again before turning back to her console.
Time passed slowly as the Aten glided through space, guided by its Navigator towards a point where it could more easily enter one of the myriad currents through the warp. Akil let his mind drift, musing over his vision and possible interpretations of it. If he’d been any other Corvidae, he would have dropped into meditation and attempted to better divine the future, but his particular talents in that area had never responded well to such forcing. His foresight came when it willed, and not before.
He ignored the bridge crew as they murmured amongst each other while they worked, at least until the helmsmistress addressed him directly. “Captain? We’ve reached the launch point, but the Navigator has detected an anomaly in the warp.”
That got Akil’s attention, and he blinked and looked down at the helmsmistress. “What sort of anomaly?”
“The Navigator describes it as a shadow in the warp, which seems to have its origins within the Qantm sector, Apollo system.”
Akil was immediately alert. “What data do we have on that system?”
The helmsmistress consulted her console briefly before replying. “Imperial held, four inhabited worlds. They’re of little note except for a forgeworld and a moon around the system’s agri-world, which houses a significant Librarium.”
A Librarium. A vast repository of knowledge... Akil didn’t even have to stop and think about it. “Set a course through the warp to the Apollo system,” he ordered. “Inform me immediately if the Navigator detects anything else.”
The helmsmistress saluted sharply. “Right away, Captain. Engaging Geller Field.”
As the Aten slipped into the warp and began its journey, Akil remained on the bridge, silently wondering what awaited in the Apollo system and hoping his foresight would give him more clues to the future.
* * *
“Brother-Captain, an unidentified ship has just emerged from the Warp at the outer edges of this system.”
Brother-Captain Stern stood aboard the bridge of the strike cruiser Retributio Titanica, clad in the steel grey armour of the Grey Knights. He leaned forward and rested his hands on the rail separating the viewing platform from the rest of the bridge, his attention momentarily distracted from concerns about the reports of the xenos invasion of this sector. “Bring it up on screen, and tell me anything you can find out about it.”
A moment later the vis-display flickered to life, showing a once-sleek but now rugged and battered-looking cruiser of a design he wasn’t familiar with. Its metal hide was coloured a dark, mottled grey that made it almost disappear against the backdrop of space, save for the glow of its engines. Closer inspection revealed that the mottling seemed to be a mix of old battle damage, repairs, scorch marks, aged metal, and scraps of dull, tarnished red and gold.
Stern eyed the vessel’s image warily, trying to find some clue as to its origin or purpose. His examination of it was interrupted however by one of the bridge crew speaking up again. “It doesn’t match the signature or description of any vessels currently in Imperial service. It does, however, seem to match the specifications of an older design of Imperial cruiser.”
“How much older?” Stern asked, his eyes never leaving the vis-display.
Stern’s breath caught in his throat for a moment, but before he could say anything footsteps beside him announced the arrival of another Grey Knight. “It certainly looks its age,” Justicar Alaric commented dryly, coming to a halt beside the Brother-Captain and eyeing the vis-display closely.
“Hm.” Stern glanced down at the bridge crew. “Any records on which Legion preferred this design of cruiser?”
There was a brief pause before he got his reply. “Records suggest that this particular pattern was favoured by the fleets of Prospero.”
Alaric hissed a breath through his teeth. “The Thousand Sons Traitor Legion.” He frowned thoughtfully, once again examining the vis-display. “It doesn’t bear the usual trophies or iconography of the Traitor Legions, though...”
Stern remained silent as his mind worked rapidly, but then the vis-display showed the cruiser’s engines flaring, and one of the bridge crew spoke up again. “Sirs, the cruiser has started moving deeper into the system.”
“Are they on a battle heading?” Alaric asked, allowing Stern to continue his thoughts without interruption.
“No sir, they seem to be investigating.”
“Investigating what though?” Stern muttered. “The chance to raid the Librarium while we are busy with the xenos invasion? We cannot afford to have our attention divided...”
“But we also do not have the forces to stem the xenos tide alone,” Alaric commented quietly, then nodded towards the vis-display. “Perhaps we can turn this to our advantage.”
Stern gave Alaric a hard look. “What exactly are you suggesting?”
Alaric shrugged. “Only that they may not necessarily be an immediate threat. And if they’re not, then perhaps we can use them as temporary allies.”
Stern eyed Alaric as if the Justicar had gone mad, then shook his head slightly. “I shouldn’t be surprised at such a suggestion from you,” he grumbled. “What makes you think they’d even want to risk themselves?”
“Like I mentioned before, they do not have the look of the Traitor Legions about them. And something has obviously drawn them to this system,” Alaric pointed out. “I find it hard to believe they’ve turned up here and now through sheer coincidence.” He paused, then added, “Besides, what have we got to lose? If they don’t cooperate, well. We’ve dealt with Traitor Legion warbands before.”
Stern scowled and thought for a long moment, then looked back down at the bridge crew. “Any word from the Imperial forces on the ground?”
“They’ve just fought off another wave, and the xenos have fallen back for now. But the Imperial forces have taken heavy losses. Their need for reinforcements becomes more dire by the hour.”
“Damn it,” Stern muttered, the news of the Imperial forces’ plight cementing his decision. He sighed and rubbed his face with one hand, then glared at Alaric. “Fine. We’ll try it your way, but if I see or hear anything that I consider a threat to Imperial forces in this sector, we’re not risking it.” Alaric just nodded, and Stern raised his voice so the bridge crew could hear him again. “Comms, hail that cruiser. Vis and vox.”
“Aye, sir.” The comms officer worked at his console for several moments, then glanced back up at the Brother-Captain and Justicar. “They’re responding. Establishing connection.”
Alaric moved off to the side, and Stern straightened, folding his arms across his chest. “Bring it up.”
The vox crackled for a moment with static, and the vis-display flickered away from the view of the cruiser to instead show a Space Marine in deep blue, gold-trimmed Terminator armour of a much older mark, bearing the trappings of a company Captain. His hands were folded behind his back and his helmet was hung on his belt, showing a calm, ageless face with dark, unreadable eyes. Most interesting however was the white symbol on one pauldron - the eclipsed sun badge of the pre-Heresy Thousand Sons legion. It looked out of place against the blue armour, but nevertheless gave Stern a brief flicker of hope.
“This might actually work,” Alaric muttered off to the side, his eyes narrowed as he took in the vis-display. As Stern took a breath to address the cruiser’s captain, he found himself mentally agreeing despite his doubts. Perhaps it would.
* * *