Story:The Shape Of The Nightmare To Come 50k section04

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Section 04: Angels Unleashed: The Space Marine 'Free Companies'[edit]

The Fall of the Imperium, while not instantaneous, was brutal and swift. The astronomicon was hacked into pieces, spluttering and dying. Whole Fleets and worlds lost contact with one another. This one action may not have caused the collapse of the Imperium, but compounded by the sudden upsurge of warp storms and uprisings, it certainly hastened it.

Just as the Imperium fragmented, so too did each and every Space marine chapter. At a stroke, all marines on campaign across the Imperium immediately lost contact with their segmentum commands and chapter fortresses. Ten thousand years worth of warp charts became obsolete in a single heartbeat.

A few chapters had the good fortune to see most of their marines in one system, or a few of their navigators survive. These chapters managed to gather their forces together in numbers almost comparable to those before the cataclysm. However, these lucky few shall be covered in a later section.

The majority of chapters were shattered into their constituent parts, be they companies or mere squads. These companies became known as the Orphan Companies, and spent their time desperately searching the void for their lost brothers rather than campaigning. They stumbled through the galaxy near-blindly, their navigators and astropaths all either dead of maimed. Many Orphan Squads were picked off by opportunistic pirates, or rogue Empires eager for a quick dose of vengeance against the fallen Imperium.

However, the grit and fighting prowess of a space marine is not so easily overcome. Even with the loss of so much, some larger companies managed to survive and even thrive in the vacuum left by the Imperium's collapse. Most of these space marine companies marched on undaunted by the prospect of a universe without Him. This may seem strange, but a quote from Brother Burber 'the Eagle blade', one of the leaders of one such Space marine force, may go some way to explaining this mindset:

"You ask me what I fight for? Not Him. Not anymore. The great monolith of Imperial authority perchance? Nay, I say again nay! We fight for a question. You may scoff, but our question is one which drives us on, beyond sense, or reason, when hope and fear are dead. The question which drives us is thus: What else do we have? What else?"

Having no desire to retire or serve a new master, and no marketable skills beyond the blade and gun, these marines found purpose by simply continuing to do what they had been created for.

Whatever their justifications, these self-styled 'Free companies' needed supplies and equipment if they were to continue their Long Wars. These companies rented their services to whomsoever would supply them with boltshells, repairs to armour, and the vast quantities of calories needed for Astartes physiology. These 'Astartes for hire' were employed against rival Imperiums, xenos incursions, and daemonic-led uprisings. They only stipulated that the client must be a true human. Mutant-led Imperiums, such as the Vile-Born Imperium, were repeatedly shunned by all but the most unscrupulous of Free Companies.

Other, less reputable Free Companies merely raided human colonies, taking what they needed and burning the rest. What right did these mortals have to deny their betters? Why should the strong protect these weaklings? Surely punishment was all they deserved. Such was the reasoning of these honorless renegade Astartes. The Free Companies which formed from fragments of the Marines Malevolent were particularly infamous for atrocities. By M46, many Free Companies' savagery made them indistinguishable from the chaotic renegades of legions such as the Night Lords or Dark Tuskers. Only the Raven Guard's fragments, who were used to fighting in smaller groups, maintained their dignity and honour through this dark time. They continued to answer desperate pleas for help, and they stole only from their enemies, refusing to assault human empires.

Yet, they were only one chapter amongst many thousands. The other Free Companies spent the next millenia gleefully plaguing the divided and panic-stricken galaxy.

The Adeptus Astartes know no Fear. Now they would know no mercy either…well, so much for the chaplains.

The Shape of the Nightmare to Come: Section Navigation[edit]

  • The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 04: Angels Unleashed: The Space Marine 'Free Companies'

Continued in Warhammer 60K: Age of Dusk