Jump to content


Wang Fire

Member Since 31 Mar 2008
Offline Last Active Private

Topics I've Started

Kindling Friendship

07 July 2016 - 12:41 AM

Right, so I said I would have an entry for the fire contest, and here it is!  Think of this as a sequels to one of my unfinished stories from waaaaaay back, Ember in the Dark (which I really need to sit down and finish one of these days). Don't forget to post any comments/criticism below. Enjoy!

 

Spoiler


Warhammer 40000: The Dread Crucible

13 March 2016 - 03:10 PM

I've been working on this story for quite some time now (well, letting it sit, I'd actually been stuck for months on one part) and finally worked up the courage to post and share it outside my teamspeak group.  Before I put it anywhere that actually really cares about Warhammer 40K canon however, I figured I'd post it here, just to see what you guys think of it. Better to put it out in front of people I know first than total strangers, right?  So without further ado, I give you part one of the writing project I've done the most work on to date.
 

The Dread Crucible

 

432.M41

Pleicene was a peaceful, beautiful world deep behind the eastern fringe of the Imperium of Man. The planet and many other worlds of its sector were ruled in practice mostly by their own governing councils, all duly elected or appointed by the populace. Officially however, their rulers were their liberators, the Adeptus Astartes of the noble chapter known as the Dread Wyrms. They kept their rule at a distance, letting the people do as they pleased so long as order was maintained and any perceived threats of chaos or xenos were dealt with swiftly.

 

Unlike their rule, the Dread Wyrms themselves kept quite close to the populace, frequently spending leave and free time amongst them. This trait would have been considered highly unusual for any chapter that did not share the Dread Wyrms' heritage, as descendants of the mighty Salamanders. And so they would eat, drink, and be merry with their charges and supposed subjects, sharing tales of their conquests and swapping news of the Imperium at large. All in all it was not rare to see a space marine in public on Pleicene.

 

What was quite the event was seeing them in their armor. Only once every two years, provided things stayed well in hand of course, did the mighty Astartes descend to Pleicene in full regalia to the major population centers of the planet. That one day every two years they were there not for pleasure or leisure, but for recruitment. True, the Dread Wyrms were always looking for recruits, and did not just limit themselves to one call every two years, but this ceremony dated back to the chapter's founding nearly five millennia ago, when Pleicene had been an untamed feral world. Being such a source of pride and celebration, the chapter had decided there was no harm in continuing the ritual call of recruits, though admittedly it had changed a great deal over the years.

 

It looked as though nearly the entire capital city of Cambris stood in the crowd before the small array of Astartes and their accompanying chapter serfs. Vendors hawked souvenirs, the crowd loudly conversed and cheered in anticipation, little flags and banners bearing the chapter insignia flapped in the breeze. Most people were only there for the spectacle, the chance to see the legendary space marines at their finest. Toward the front however, there was a large group of children, most with their parents. All of them were boys from ages 12 to 14, and all of them were anxious aspirants.

 

An older serf, one of the Apothecarion's assistants, entered the temporary shelter that had been erected for processing the aspirants now gathered in the main square. "Lord Ordovic?" he asked, his tone respectful, "I believe it is time, sir."

 

"Thank you Brother Alphonse," replied one of the massive marines inside, his voice so commanding even without the small voxcaster he wore that, to anyone for a world this isolated, he may well have been the God-Emperor Himself. "Well then," he said to his two assistant marines, turning toward the stage outside, "let's give them all a good show."

 

The crowd roared as Chapter Master Gaius Ordovic, leader of the Dread Wyrms and mightiest warrior that nearly all of them ever hoped to meet, strode out onto the stage. His armor shone brightly in the sun, the chapter's signature dull copper-green livery mostly covered by purity seals, campaign sigils, and lavish ornamentation of rose gold that glistened in the light. Flanking him were the white-armored Brother Felden, Master of the Apothecarion, and High Chaplain Titus Aurelius in his imposing black garb. All three men would have towered over the assembled audience even without the stage. Their unshielded faces were all rather darker-skinned than the locals, and Brother Felden at least had hair the same color as the chapter's armor (Titus Aurelius may have as well, but we do not know because he always kept his head shaved, some of the less disciplined battle-brothers jokingly referred to this habit as "Astartes-pattern baldness"). Both of these were the result of the Dread Wyrms' gene-seed, which passed on a defective, though not as much so, melanchromic gland from their parent chapter the Salamanders, which never quite reset their skin to its natural hue.

 

"Citizens of Cambris," the Chapter-Master's voice sounded out over the small voxcaster he wore, hushing the crowd, "I come to you today, as always, to thank you for allowing us the honor of being your loyal defenders. Of all the planets in all the sectors of the Imperium, I can think of none short of Holy Terra itself that can match the serene beauty of Pleicene." A round of approving cheers and applause sounded at this, which Ordovic let continue for a moment before continuing. "Of course to keep our lovely world, our sector, and especially the rest of the Imperium safe we must replenish our numbers. So we ask this question to you, the same question we ask of every world in the Pleicene sector: Who among you feels worthy? Who will try for the honor of becoming a space marine?" This wasn't entirely true of course. Pleicene was a civilized world now, one where the Dread Wyrms and public institutions ensured that reason could be found and order maintained. This, combined with the sense of duty instilled on them from a young age, meant that simply asking for recruits was amply effective for the needs of the Adeptus Astartes, Astra Militarum, and Adepta Sororitas of the sector on such worlds. Other, more "persuasive", methods needed to be used on more wild planets of the sector.

 

"Of course not all can be space marines, any young man who wishes to try should be aware that you must be compatible with our gene-seed. As always we have a list prepared of candidates we think would be best suited to us. You may refuse, but you would do us and, more importantly, yourselves a great service to at least try. When you hear your name called by Brother Felden, come forward and decide."

 

The Master of the Apothecarion stepped forward and cleared his throat, raising a dataslate. "Let us begin. Andrews, Alexander. Antonius, Kirk. Betcher, Rafael..."

 

------------

 

Halfway across the globe a similar scene had just unfolded in the small city of Darwenus, the largest settlement of Pleicene's small southeastern continent. The square was smaller, there weren't quite as many people, and the speech and its orator weren't quite as grand as the Chapter Master, but nobody seemed to mind. Parents beamed with pride and friends cheered on their classmates as the ivory-armored apothecary called the names of the ones deemed good enough to be requested by the Dread Wyrms from his dataslate. At the edge of the gathering, two girls around twelve years old sat on a pair of large disused barrels against a fence. They looked just enough alike that you could easily tell they were sisters, but different enough that you'd be forgiven for not realizing they were twins. One, with dark brown hair and wearing a look of concern, kept her hand on her sister's shoulder.

 

"Come on Jess, let's go home," the concerned sister, Irina, said as if hoping that her conclusion about the response would be wrong. "It's a stupid idea anyway. You know they only ever pick boys for the space marines."

 

"Maybe that's because they're the only ones that volunteer, or the only ones they call," snapped back Jessica, the one with the black hair and a look of firm determination on her face. For more than half of Jessica's life now this had been an obsession. She had to become a space marine, everything else paled in comparison to this goal. She knew she was born to serve the Emperor and her people in combat, she could feel it in her core. Of course everyone else thought it was nothing but folly, for exactly the reason that Irina had given: Everyone knew that only men could be space marines, though nobody outside the Astartes had ever seemed to know why.

 

"You're just going to get yourself humiliated again, only this time it'll be in front of everyone for a hundred miles!"

 

"Shut it 'Rina, I know what I'm doing!" She didn't, but that was quite beside the point in Jessica's mind. "I'll get in even if I have to do some ridiculous test like killing an Ork with my bare hands, or if I have to sneak aboard their Stormraven and beg on my knees."

 

"That's a Thunderhawk, Jess," Irina retorted dryly, her gaze directed at the large green metal box of a dropship parked behind the aspirants' exam tent.

 

"You know what I mean!" Jessica shook off her sister's hand and crossed her arms in that form of pouting disgusted indignation that preteens had raised to an art-form over the millennia.

 

Irina shook her head, and was just about to remind her sister of her endeavor's futility when they heard something odd. There was a pause in the initiate roster, which had contained an abnormally high number of boys with last names beginning with 'A' this year, as the apothecary and techmarine before the crowd looked oddly at the dataslate, as if there was a typo. A brief moment of confusion followed, before a soft sigh and huff of "whatever" were heard from the apothecary, and he read the next name: "Cuprum, Jessic."

 

Irina and Jessica both sat in stunned silence as the next five names went by. Then, just as Jessica was bout to run for the stage, Irina brought her hand down, grabbing her hard by the shoulder. "No, don't you dare."

 

"He called my name!"

 

"No, he called some guy named 'Jessic', there was a distinct lack of an 'A' at the end."

 

"Maybe it was a typo, you saw how they both looked at the list."

 

"Jess, there's no way he called you, it's impossible and you know it."

 

"Okay, then tell me, how many other Cuprums are there on the continent, or the planet for that matter?"

 

Irina had to admit, she couldn't think of any other families with that name. Their grandfather had come to Pleicene 60 years ago to work in one of the newer Imperial forge-factories the Dread Wyrms had helped establish, and a hadn't found any relatives since then. "Maybe we misheard, maybe his name is 'Jessic Cooper'."

 

Jessica gave her bright, but obviously grasping at straws, sister a look that simply said 'no'. "Uh-huh. Okay 'Rina, same question, different name. And old man Cooper down the street doesn't count."

 

The two sat bickering until the last name was called. The crowd started to disperse, with many people crowding through the nearby gate. With the area becoming more congested Jessica saw her chance, slipping out of her sister's grip and ducking through the moving mass of humanity. She approached one of the marines' chapter serfs at the entrance to the exam shelter, apparently in a heated argument with a tall lean boy who looked a year older than her.

 

"Your machine must be busted, I'm telling you they called my name!"

 

"And I'm telling you, young man, that you are not on the list. Furthermore my vitalex is not 'busted', nor is that last one I used. Your DNA is not compatible with the gene-seed, and checking a fourth time will not change that," the serf retorted, obviously reaching his wits' end with the child.

 

"That's just not right, I'm Jesse Cooper, you called my name!"

 

Irina, who had caught up to her sister and was also observing the exchange, gave her a side-long look of 'I told you so' while simultaneously jabbing an elbow into her ribs.

 

"There is no Jesse Cooper on this list, and there never was. I'll admit, it may be an error, but Brother Gypsen called 'Jessic Cuprum', not-"

 

"Excuse me," Jessica interrupted, cuing a groan from Irina, "That typo, It... Uh, it wouldn't happen to actually say 'Jessica Cuprum', would it?

 

"And how did you guess that?" asked the apothecarion serf, seemingly caught between confusion and ever-increasing frustration.

 

"Well, the thing is..." Jessica took a deep breath, she had waited so long for this moment, but even now hardly seemed able to form the words. "I'm Jessica Cuprum, and I wish to join the Adeptus Astartes and give my life in service of the Imperium!" She blurted out in a near-yell.

 

As the words left her mouth, Jessica felt she had made the biggest mistake of her life. The whole world seemed to stop. Everyone was staring at her. The only sound she heard was a barely stifled "Oh lord" from Irina. Her face was flushed with shock and fear, it was all she could do to keep from shaking.

 

Then an eternity later, a loud voice came from far above her, "excuse me miss, did I hear that correctly?" Jessica looked up, way up. Towering behind her was the apothecary from the stage, at least twice her height in his gleaming white power armor.

 

She had never seen an Astartes in their armor this close, heck she had never seen one this close period, let alone spoken to one. The fear she felt was magnified even further. Before she could barely keep from shaking, now she couldn't have moved even if she wanted to. "Y-yes, my lord?" she gulped.

 

The huge marine chuckled, then shifted his gaze to the serf. "Thank you Zachariah, I think that will be all. Mister Cooper, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but as you can see your name was not, in fact, on the list. It would be best if you went home, I think. If your wish truly is to serve, then come by the recruitment post tomorrow, I'm certain we can find something for you." The boy nodded slowly, Jessica thought she saw him trying to hold back tears as he ran off, but couldn't be sure. "Now then Miss Cuprum, why don't you come with me so we can see if can't sort out what exactly is going on here?"

 

"O-okay," Jessica responded meekly. The apothecary placed a large ceramite-clad hand gently on her shoulder and guided her into the exam shelter. Some of the chapter serfs and aspirants they passed gave Jessica odd glances as they walked through the large temporary structure. Finally they arrived at a small room toward the back, bare save for two chairs a desk and some small devices she couldn't quite identify.

 

"Please, sit down," the apothecary motioned to one of the two chairs. He moved to the other side of the table, opting to sit on the ground rather than the chair that seemed to be designed for an unaugmented human being. Jessica sat silently as he scrolled through a dataslate. "So, miss Cuprum," he asked after a moment, "what do you know about the Adeptus Astartes?"

 

She hesitated, this certainly wasn't the question Jessica had anticipated. Then again this was entirely uncharted territory for her, she had no idea what would have been expected in this situation. "Well, I know that they're the best soldiers in the Imperium, that they are modeled after the Primarchs, and that the Primarchs were born from the Emperor Himself."

 

"You've certainly done your homework. But do you know why only young men are accepted to become space marines?"

 

"Well... No," Jessica shook her head, "nobody I've talked to ever said why. I always thought it was just some tradition or something."

 

"I'm sorry that I must disappoint you, but there is more to it than that," the apothecary said, pulling out a new instrument and motioning for Jessica's arm, which she compliantly held out. "Our augmentations, the biological part of what makes us space marines, comes from the Primarchs' gene-seed." He pressed the instrument to her arm. There was a feeling like a small bite as it filled a small reservoir with some of her blood. She tried her best not to flinch. "That gene-seed, for reasons I am not privy to nor fit to question, is keyed to a specific part of a person's DNA: The Y chromosome, which is found only in males."

 

Jessica took a moment to process this. It certainly made sense, she hadn't understood all of the lessons on genetics that she had taken in school, but the two sex chromosomes had been laid out succinctly and clearly. XY made you a male, XX made you a female, no exceptions.

 

The apothecary frowned at the device which had drawn her blood, then at the dataslate. He then pulled out a second, more ornate dataslate, the words 'Codex Helicalum' written on the back. "However, it seems that there may be a first time for everything."

 

Jessica was puzzled as he handed the first dataslate to her. The list of names was gone and in its place was only hers, with what she presumed was her genome listed below in some form of shorthand that she didn't quite understand. Favorable pairings and sequences she guessed were highlighted in green, unfavorable in red, there seemed to be quite a lot of green in comparison. Then, down at the very bottom in gold was what she presumed had made the apothecary frown.

 

46 XYCAIS

 

"What... What does that mean?" Jessica was suddenly mortified, "Am I a mutant?" Pleicene seemed more tolerant than other places she'd heard of from family, friends, and school, but she had still been told all the same: Fear the Heretic, the Alien, the Mutant. If the dataslate was right, if she had some kind of mutation, it could mean a lot of trouble.

 

"Perhaps, but this is something so minor it doesn't even show on the surface. I doubt anyone would declare exterminatus over it." The apothecary smiled, Jessica uneasily returned the gesture. He was obviously trying to raise the black cloud that had fallen over the conversation. "No, anyone such as you who is loyal to the Imperium has nothing to fear. It's not as if you have three eyes or a second head."

 

"What happens now?"

 

The apothecary reclined slightly. "Well, normally it would be very simple. You would agree to endure the training and receive the gene-seed, I would then take you and the other aspirants to our fortress monastery to be sworn into service of the chapter and Imperium, and your training would begin."

 

"But I'm- I mean, this- isn't normal, is it?"

 

"No. So let me ask you a question. Why the Adeptus Astartes? Why not join the Astra Militarum? I know for a fact that the Aresian Legion of Fire is always looking for bright young officers."

 

Her answer was quick and to the point, "I don't want to die pointlessly."

 

The apothecary smirked at this, "Reasonable, but why not the Adepta Sororitas? The Order of the Holy Flame is quite a worthy organization. You wouldn't be wasted as cannon fodder there."

 

"I'm not sure I agree entirely with what they preach. It just seems... Well, it doesn't feel right to me."

 

"True, they can be rather zealous, but the Dread Wyrms have our traditions as well, and we do all serve the Emperor after all."

 

"But you don't..." she stopped abruptly, in some circles what she was about to say was considered heresy, and it had earned her quite a few scoldings and smacks across the head at home. Jessica lowered her voice, "but you don't call Him a god."

 

The apothecary sat up straighter, his gaze was more appraising now. Jessica stammered a little, "I-I mean, if any man alive were it would surely be Him. And I don't mean to sound ungrateful for his sacrifice upon the Golden Throne, but, well, even the greatest man is still just a man, right? B-besides, if all of the other gods people fall to are false, then what makes Him a true god? NottosaythatHeisinthesame-"

 

The apothecary gave a low chuckle and raised a hand to cut her off before she began to babble too much, "All right, all right, you've made your point quite clear."

 

"If you wouldn't think it to presumptuous, lord apothecary, may I ask... Do you think I'm stupid for doing this?"

"Having second thoughts about your choice to step forward?"

 

She nodded, “I just... I guess I've always been so focused on getting to this that I never really stopped to think about what might happen if I said 'yes'. Now that I do, I feel scared, and like I'm an idiot for ever thinking this could work.”

 

"Everyone on this planet knows that the Adeptus Astartes are the most effective warriors that can ever come from this sector. Our training is brutal, many aspirants die in their quest to attain this high honor, others simply wash out in shame. We make sure that everyone knows this before they join. Are you a fool for trying to be something better than what you are now? A fool for answering a call that nobody would have expected would come? Maybe." Her head bowed a bit at that, "But truthfully, you should be more commended for your courage for stepping forward despite that, rather than chastised for any foolishness you may have. And to be honest," he leaned forward a bit, looking her straight in her icy-blue eyes, "everyone who joins us starts out at least a bit foolish."
He spun the dataslate around, bringing back the full list of candidates. Then, tapping her name, brought up two icons. "Now, remember, this is highly unusual, even if I take you back with me there's a good chance you'll be sent back immediately. If that doesn't happen, you still have a less than 50% chance of making it through the process of becoming a space marine. Are you sure you want to go through with this?"

 

Jessica took in a deep breath and nodded, "yes. Yes, I'm sure. This is all I want to do." The apothecary smiled, then tapped one of the two icons next to her name on the dataslate. A golden Aquila appeared next the name Jessica Cuprum.

 

"Welcome to the Adeptus Astartes, Aspirant Cuprum."

 

-------------

 

Nothing short of outrageous! That was the only way to describe what High Chaplain Titus Aurelius had just heard. He had been left with the duty of escorting the Cambris recruits to their barracks near the main chapel, and thus hadn't heard until now what the Chapter Master and Master of the Apothecarion had been told as they dismounted the Thunderhawk. Brother Gypsen, the apothecary assigned to oversee the Darwenus recruitment, had returned with 46 new aspirants from the region. One of them was a female. A female! It was blasphemy, heresy, a nothing short of a slap in the face of the Emperor Himself. Heads would roll for this madness!

 

The thought enraged the High Chaplain as he stormed through the fortress monastery's halls to the Chapter Master's offices. He usually wore a stern, dour look on his gaunt face and sunken eyes, an appearance that would have been similar to the skull-patterned helm of his office, if not for his dark skin. Everyone knew to stay out of his way and be properly deferential. Now however his face was set with barely contained rage as he thundered down the halls in his full armor. Some of the Librarium that leaped out of his way would later recall that he looked as if one wrong move would have made him call down all the powers and daemons of the warp to destroy the offender.

 

Titus threw open the door to the offices of the masters of the chapter, startling the serfs attending to the mundaneties of day-to-day logistics and paperwork for the chapter that the Astartes themselves would be wasted on. He paid them no mind, and barely changed his stride as he threw open the door to Chapter Master Gaius Ordovic's office. Nor did he pay any mind to the young girl in the aspirant's uniform seated next to the door, whom he nearly hit with the heavy oak and brass construction, and who jumped along with the other normal humans in the room as the door slammed with a jolt like a thunderhammer.

 

"WHAT HERESY IS THIS?!" Titus bellowed to the assembled space marine officers. The Brother-Captains of the Dread Wyrms' companies were arrayed at the outer edge of the group, while Gaius Ordovic was surrounded by three others, each with different armor than the standard marine officers. Master of the Apothecarion Felden Sparatus had been with him earlier, he was consulting the others closely with a pair of dataslates. Master Severn Malcadus of the Librarium wore armor adorned in copper and deep lapis blue patterning, he studied Titus as if the man who had entered the room were unaware that he had burst into flames, which might have been the impression the High Chaplain's warp aura gave. Lastly the elder Hephaeston Durinius, Master of the Forge and the chapter's chief artificer, the techmarine was likely paying attention to the conversation at hand, but outwardly appeared more interested in the ancient twelve-sided puzzle he was passing between his armor's twin servo arms and large gauntleted hands, occasionally twisting its faces into a new configuration.

 

"High Chaplain, I believe that's a new record time from the barracks to the adiministorum block." Felden and some of the captains snickered at the Chapter Master's jab. Titus was decidedly unamused.

 

"Do not mock me, Sparatus. I have overlooked the Apothecarion's eccentricities in the past, but this time one of your order has far overstepped his bounds. What is the meaning of Brother... Bah, it doesn't matter who, it is your influence behind this anyway, I am sure of it. What is the meaning of insinuating that a woman can be made to become Astartes? This flies in the face of more than ten millennia of tradition, in the face of the Emperor Himself!"

 

"Titus, calm down and listen for once," came the calm even voice of Severn Malcadus. "It would be rather refreshing if you would get the whole story before jumping to conclusions this time. As Brother Sparatus was just explaining, this is a special case."

 

"Hmph, 'special case'. These 'special cases' are nothing more than a ruse to make you all more complicit in these heretical follies." To the High Chaplain's credit he was not entirely wrong about the Apothecarion's practices. Brother Felden Sparatus was an inquisitive man who often performed experiments, limited in scope and always with volunteers or cloned tissue samples of course, but skirting the edge of the accepted orthodoxy of the Adeptus Mechanicus none-the-less. They were largely tolerated however, because of the small increases in the performance of marines and greater retention of initiates and neophytes they produced. "Besides, I don't care how special the case may be, the gene-seed requires a male chromosome and hormones, which your female candidate-"

 

"Has, but cannot process." Felden interrupted.

 

Titus was taken completely aback by this, "I beg your pardon?"

 

"Her genome is perfectly normal, save for a small defect of the Y chromosome which results in her body's ability to produce, but not process, the specific hormone necessary for the development of the body into a male form. The same hormone, I might add, necessary for acceptance of the gene-seed."

 

"This is a farce, a joke, surely!"

 

Felden shook his head, "it isn't. The condition is exceedingly rare, especially following the efforts of the Emperor's genetic screening and purification efforts during the Great Crusade, but it still occurs. I found three documented cases in this sector over the last five millennia of the chapter's history. This one makes four, and the first of them that is gene-seed compatible."

 

"And there is more," the Chapter Master interjected, "This may be no mere chance of fate."

 

"What do you mean?" the High Chaplain was still highly skeptical, but they had his interest now.

 

Brother Felden handed him two dataslates. One was the kind of plain gray tablet used for filing, messages, and reports, the other one was vibrant red, edged in copper with a small precious stone and its title in gold leaf on the back. The Dread Wyrms stored copies of their most sacred tomes and records in this easily updatable format, though the master copy at least was still parchment and binding. This one in particular was sometimes called the Ruby Tome, or the Tome of Blood, but more formally it was the Codex Helicalum, a record of the DNA of every space marine who ever belonged to the Dread Wyrms. Currently displayed on both was a single genetic code, the traits relevant to the gene-seed were specifically highlighted. As with the dataslate showed to Jessica earlier that day favorable traits were in green, unfavorable in red. There was only one difference between the two sequences, one read 46 XY while the other read 46 XYCAIS. "And what is this supposed to..."

 

The High Chaplain's eyes widened in shock as they went back to the top of each dataslate. The plain one was labeled as belonging to Jessica Cuprum, the supposed aspirant girl, as he had expected. The one displayed on the Codex Helicalum, however, was none other than former Chapter Master Malachite Lowell.

 

Malachite Lowell, or Malachite the Foehammer, Brother-Captain of the Salamanders' 3rd company, who helped to end the Nova Terra Interregnum, who pacified the Pleicene sector and brought its worlds into the fold of the Imperium, who held off the Thousand Sons on the death world of Ares in the early 36th millennium, who killed the Ork Warboss Mektool Trackpownda, crushing the then scourge of the eastern fringe and his mighty WAAAGH!, who helped save the Black Dragons chapter of the cursed 21st founding from the wrath of the Inquisition. Who, after aiding in the Dark Marches Crusade at the age of 1008, disappeared into the warp under unknown circumstances while aboard the battle barge Terrible Swift Sword. There had been signs of a disturbance, but none of the Chapter-Master. Only a small piece of parchment, its words still engraved below Master Malachite's Portrait in the Chapter Master's office, had been found unusual.

 

"By Holy Terra..." the High Chaplain murmured. This was either the greatest coincidence he had seen in his six centuries of service, or truly divine providence. "Even so, if the girl truly is... Even if this is true, making her a space marine would be... No She would be better served in the Adepta Sororitas"

 

"But if she truly is Master Malachite reborn," the Chapter Master rebuffed, "should we send her away to be a plaything or puppet of the Ecclesiarchy?"

 

"Now that Brother Aurelius has a more complete view of the situation," Severn chimed in, "I am inclined to agree with him." All eyes were on the Master Librarian, the psyker and the chaplain had virtually never agreed on anything, save which end of a flamer is best pointed toward heretics. "The girl may be Malachite reborn, she may even have the right DNA, but that does not guarantee that the gene-seed will take."

 

Master Apothecary Felden scoffed at this, "If it wasn't heresy I could implant the gene-seed into an Ogryn, provided they had even half the right markers. I can compensate for any major flaws that might occur. If the gene-seed doesn't take, it's not because she's a woman." He paused a moment, looking thoughtful, "Besides, the first source of our gene-seed within the chapter is none other than Master Malachite and his compatriots of the founding company. It will take."

 

"She's ore," all present turned to the Master of the Forge. Hephaeston Durinius never took much interest in personal problems, gossip, or even recruitment. As the years had gone by he concerned himself less and less with things that didn't have to do with machines or warfare. He looked up from the puzzle, still turning it over in his hands habitually, "you don't fight a war with ore. You put it in the crucible, you forge it, and you make a weapon of it." his gaze shifted over to the two captains of the neophytes and marines aspirant, "put her in the fire, forge her for battle. The process will decide if she's a masterwork or unworthy slag."

 

------------

 

It had been a while since Jessica had arrived on the fortress monastery. The ride up had been supremely awkward. After a brief hug goodbye to her sister Irina she had been filed onto the Thunderhawk with 45 other children and the two space marines, the chapter serfs had stayed behind to help clean up and tear down the impromptu recruitment center. The whole way up there were only two people in the dropship's hold that weren't staring, stealing awkward glances, or gossiping about her: The apothecary, Brother Gypsen, who occasionally gave her a wink or a nod but otherwise said nothing, and the techmarine, who spent most of his time shaking his head and glaring at Brother Gypsen. Upon arrival the other aspirants had been led by the techmarine to the barracks that would be their new home. Jessica on the other hand had been told to wait, and after Gypsen had conferred with another apothecary in far more ornate armor was given a uniform, told to change in the dropship, and escorted down a maze of long and winding halls to the chapter's administorum wing. There she had been instructed by the serfs to wait, and had watched as an array of space marines in all shapes of armor thudded past her and through the large oak and brass door she was seated before. Most paid her no mind, thankfully.

 

She couldn't hear the conversation inside well, that is until a huge marine in black armor with a face that almost looked like a brown skull charged through the room, across the portal, and slammed the door with such force she felt as though lightning had struck the bench next to her. She still couldn't make out most of the words, but there was a brief period of shouting that followed along with accusations of heresy.

 

While that was going on one of the serfs in the main administorum brought her a warm drink. "Th-thanks," Jessica said, still rather unnerved by nearly becoming part of the wall courtesy of the black-armored marine.

 

"Don't mention it," the young blonde woman replied, "you looked like you could use a little something to ease the nerves. If it makes you feel better, High Chaplain Aurelius has that effect on just about everyone. I heard he once scared a Terminator so much the man leaped a hundred feet in the air, without a jump-pack." Jessica smiled, thanking the woman again.

 

A few minutes later the door opened again, and a procession of fifteen high-ranking space marines filed out of the oak and brass door. Soon after Jessica was motioned into the room. It felt massive, the ceiling had to be nearly twenty feet up, and most of the furniture save a few stools and tables were sized and reinforced to handle Astartes in full regalia. The walls were paneled in dark wood with tasteful inlays of green gems and minerals, accented by thin wispy rose gold and copper filigree. The center of the room was dominated by a huge table, large enough that the massive top was level with Jessica's chin, surrounded by sixteen massive chairs. And at the end of the room was a large painting, a portrait of a space marine clad in the Dread Wyrms' oxide green and copper armor, as well as a generous covering of gold ornamentation, sigils, icons, and purity seals, standing on a peak. He was surrounded by dead Orks, holding aloft a thunderhammer that was being struck by lightning. His skin was black as coal, his eyes glowed red, and his features so hard and angular he might well have been carved from the mountain he stood upon.

 

Below the picture, behind a massive desk in the same ornamented style as the walls of the room, sat a space marine in similarly ostentatious armor. He spoke with a commanding, reassuring voice. "Do you know this man?" he asked, having noticed her eyes lingering on the impressive portrait.

 

"That's Chapter Master Malachite, isn't it?"

 

"Correct. Our chapter's great founder. The uniter of the sector. You've heard of him from your schooling, I take it?"

 

"Yes lord." Jessica had seen many space marines today, more than in the rest of her life combined. All of them had been awe inspiring, many had been frightening, the man before her had the air of caring leader, a father to his men and subjects. For the first time today seeing one of the Adeptus Astartes put her more at ease.

 

"Now, do you know who I am, and why you are here?"

 

"You're Chapter Master Gaius Ordovic, and... I'm here because... I'm actually not certain why I am here."

 

He stood from behind the desk, looking further down on her, "You are here because you requested a chance to become a space marine, and because, against all conventional wisdom, we can give it to you. The road will not be an easy one. You may die, or be maimed, your spirit may even collapse under the strain. But I want you to know that from this point on your fate is in your own hands. You will be given the same opportunity as any male aspirant. No slackening of the rules, no special challenges that the instructors would not normally give. You belong to the Dread Wyrms now. We are your battle brothers, and if you survive to earn the black carapace and power armor you will be relied upon just they will rely upon you. This is the mold you chose. Are you 100% certain you will fit it?"

 

"N-No my lord," Jessica replied, finally admitting to herself that this long obsession had probably just gotten her in way over her head, "but I am willing to try."

 

The Chapter Master smiled, he saw a fire and determination in her eyes much like that he many of the more cunning, strong-willed, or masterful soldiers he knew had worn at that age. They were always uncertain, but he almost never was. He knew that they, and that she, had a spark of greatness in them. That was why they were chosen, he knew they were willing and able, they just merely to be forged, as Brother Hephaston had said. As she was dismissed and guided by one of the administorum serfs to the aspirant's barracks he looked up at the portrait of Lord Malachite, and the words etched below it.

 

 

I will find you again when I am most needed