Major Rawk limped through the midnight battlefield, trying to make his way through the heaps of dead and smoking tanks. The ground was thick with veterans of a hundred campaigns. The survivors were dumb with shock. None could have imagined that this world on the very edge of the galaxy would be one of the hardest battles of all.
The assault of a hundred Baneblades had failed to break the enemy lines, and convinced his men were about to fail him, Macharius had driven his Capitol Imperialis out of his lines into the very thick of the enemy. The enemy had swarmed over it like rats. They ripped his eagle banner ripped from its summit, used melta-bombs to blow its adamantine blast doors open, slaughtered Macharius’ honour guard, fought their way up to Macharius’ own command chamber.
Blind fury overcome the Imperial Armies then. Each soldier fought with the fury of a hundred space marines. Conquer your fear, and you will conquer death, Macharius liked to say, and they had stared down Death’s gun-barrels as they fought their way through the massed enemy legions, into Macharius’ own command chamber, where the Lord Solar lay wounded.
Major Rawk looked down and saw his left hand had gone, his left leg ripped open by shrapnel. He slumped down against a shattered chimera and looked up at the night sky.
One half was full of swirling stars, but the other was dark.
Dark and empty.
Major Rawk turned to stare Terrawards. The top of his boot beginning to overflow with blood and prayed to distant spot where Golden Throne lay. He could feel his pulse weakening, and never thought that death would come for him, here, like this, alone at the dark end of the Galaxy.
That night the weary survivors listened to Macharius’ victory speech. The Lord Solar’s face was strained, his arm was in a sling, but he still burnt with that fervor to reach the edge of the galaxy. ‘Soldiers! Hardship and pain are the price of glory!’
But this time the fleet greeted his speech with silence. Their answer was clear. They would go no further.
In time, long after the fleet had reloaded its armored companies and burnt back towards Terra, a vast workforce remained and raised twelve great altars on the world’s surface, which men called Ultima Prime: Galaxy’s End.
On the monument’s left flank, a mile up, lost among the millions of others was carved the name: ‘Major Rawk, 102nd Crinan Panthers’, but in golden letters, so vast they could be seen from space, if ever ships passed this way again, were written the words:
MACHARIUS STOPPED HERE.