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Made in us
Boosting Space Marine Biker






[Quick recap in case you have not read the final post of Third Son. This takes place in the alternate universe known as the Brotherhood of the Lost. Eighteen new legions based on fan-Lost Legion projects replace the canon eighteen. Alexandros is no longer the master of the II Legion, but of the Vth, being discovered second of the Primarchs. Outside a different Prologue, the story follows the exact same notes as Third Son until Chapter 11. Thus, one can view this as the spiritual successor of Third Son. Enjoy!]

Prologue

The aide hurried through the vast garden. He carried with him news, news that would change the fate of their world and their sister worlds. A fleet had been detected entering the system. A fleet composed of ships of vast power and size. A fleet heading steadily advancing toward their defense network. The aide climbed up a small hill, cursing the Prime Minister for his insistence on detaching himself from the world at such an inopportune time. During these times of meditation, the Prime Minister would turn off all of his portable communication devices, and could only be reached via physical messenger. At the top of the hill, the aide paused as he scanned the garden for his task. A single glance was all it took. No one could mistake the Prime Minister for anyone else. After all, not one man or woman could hope to reach the Prime Minister’s height.

The giant was tending to his portion of the garden, several bushes of flowers was his focus for this month. It was strange to see such a famous and powerful man on his knees in the dirt, idly humming as he worked with his gardening tools. The aide sprinted down the hill and closed the distanced between them in a few seconds. Before he could open his mouth, the Prime Minister without turning to look at him lifted one finger. “Catch your breath, Gregory. I already know.”

Gregory resisted the urge to touch the holy symbol around his neck. He was one of many who believed the Prime Minister was blessed by the gods. The Prime Minister’s mysterious foresight, which had led him to becoming the de facto ruler of the entire system, was the largest piece of evidence of the blessing. Gregory took a few deep gulps of air before he opened his mouth to speak again.

The warning finger wagged. The Prime Minister glanced at him with a mischievous smile before he shook his head. He began to pack away his tools. “Relax Gregory. There’s no need to be alarmed. Change is coming, but ultimately, I think it’ll be for the best. Please inform Admiral Zhon to stand down and to welcome our guests.” With a sigh, Gottfri climbed to his feet and stared at the sky. “My father has come for me.”

~~~

Seated on his command throne, Irvin Ruel impassively listened as the reports filed in. One last ship had been claimed by the warp during translation into the target system. Compared to the total fleet's size, it was a minute payment for entry. For the price of one ship, two legions had successfully entered the system. Not just any two either. Out of the corner of his eye, Irvin could see one of the crewman's display showing ships belonging to the Fifth and the First legions. The entire Fifth Legion was here, called in from the various fronts to coalesce into a united whole. While only representing a small portion of their strength, the First detachment contained some of the most powerful and famous ships of the Great Crusade, including the Thunderchild. It was another hint for the reason they had been brought here. Of the twenty legions, only one so far had been reunited with their lost primarch. Somewhere on the Thunderchild was the Primarch Icarion. And, if the whispered rumors roaming the hallways were true, then a second had been found. By far, the biggest supporting evidence was the one ship dwarfing even the flagship of Icarion. The Bucephelus, the personal flagship of the Emperor.

Thus, when the fleet had first been forged and brought together under the personal command of the Emperor, the rumors had started. The second primarch had been found and it was time to bring him back into the Imperium's fold. Irvin had done his best to contain the rumors. While it was certainly a possibility their father had been found, he saw no reason to raise the legion's hopes without some kind of evidence. The Emperor himself had never claimed to have found their primarch and when asked, didn't confirm they had found him. If there was no primarch to be found, it could hurt morale after inflating false hope.

Yet, as scans revealed the local fleet's size and strength, Irvin couldn't keep the rumors out of his own head. The local fleet was a mere fraction of theirs, and their largest warship was half the size of the Thunderchild. Unless there was another purpose to this campaign, it was a waste to have so much of the Legiones Astartes concentrated here. "How quickly is the local fleet responding?"

Fleetmaster Themos answered as he studied the visual feeds, "In slow order. The fleet is dividing into three groups with escorts forming a screen. If I had to guess, my lord, I don't think they've ever prepared to combat a fleet of our size." The Fleetmaster had been recently promoted following his excellent performance in the Selecuid campaign. The man was void-born and marked by it by his unusual height. He was merely a head shorter than a space marine, but his thin frame made him appear almost two-dimensional when standing next to a marine.

Irvin frowned as he judged his possible adversaries. "Is our fleet in position?"

"Yes, my lord.The Lightning Bearers have already formed their spearhead and are beginning their advance." The Fleetmaster glanced at him with his iron-colored eyes. "I fear we may not play much of a role after the Bearers finish their first strike if they don't accept compliance soon."

Before Irvin could reply, communications officer Daylen announced, "My lords, we are receiving a general message from the local fleet commander."

"Let's hear it," Themos commanded.

Throughout the bridge, a voice said, "This is High Admiral Zhon-Vrook Carde of the Delian Federation. We ask you to identify yourselves, and to halt any offensive maneuvers. We are prepared to stand down and are willing to negotiate as necessary."

One of the junior bridge officers snorted. "Negotiate? Someone can't count."

No one had a chance to say anything as the Emperor himself answered, his voice echoing throughout the entire Imperial fleet. "I am the Emperor, and have no desire to engage in hostilities. My only wish is to arrange for a meeting between myself and your head of state at the earliest convenience."

~~~

Gregory waited impatiently as he relayed the avalanche of reports coming to him through his small communicator currently wrapped around his ear. The balding aide was under the distinct impression he was being ignored as the Prime Minister occasionally nodded, while he put the finishing touches on his uniform. Gregory glanced around the small ready room as his mouth instinctively spoke. Small was a relative word for this room and the rest of the mansion that was the personal home of Salim's Prime Minister. The ceiling, the walls, even the furniture were twice the size of their normal cousins on the rest of the planet. It had to be, for the Prime Minister was a giant, though he made sure there was plenty of normal-sized furniture to host the many leaders and guests he often entertained. Unfortunately, this room made no such accommodations for the rest of the humanity as this was Gottfri's personal ready room. A single large desk and chair were the only furniture, while most of the walls were decorated with weapons, pictures, and other keepsakes that supposedly enhanced the Prime Minister's creative desires on the days where he simply wanted to tinker.

Gregory took a moment to ignore his communicator as he asked his own question. "Sir, is it wise to choose your military uniform for this...event? You said there was nothing to fear."

"We don't," Gottfri reassured him as he finished pinning the last of his military awards, which covered both sides of his suit jacket with ribbons, seven-pointed stars, and medals. "But, until the unknown is cleared away, the people will fear this strange fleet coming towards us. They will want to know that they will be protected and what better way to show them then by physically reminding them that I am their Commander-in-Chief." The giant turned to the trusted aide. "Has the Senate convened?"

"Most of them, sir. Senators Myron and Senator Xiu haven't arrived, but their aides say they are only momentarily delayed."

"Good. Have my car waiting for me outside. I'll be leaving in a few minutes myself."

"Yes, Prime Minister," Gregory replied before hurrying out.

Alone and free of distractions, Gottfri turned his head toward the ceiling. With ease, his mind reached out, and he left his ready room behind as he awareness flew through the atmosphere. As ordered, Zhon's fleet had stand down and was holding orbit above the planet. The thousands of human minds in the fleet were colored with fear, anxiety, surprise, and hope. With a thought, Gottfri passed through the fleet to study the far more interesting arrivals. Before him another sea of humanity slowly moved towards them. No. Not just humans. While there was humanity numbering in the tens of thousands stretched out before him, some of them were not quite human anymore. Thousands of minds were subtly different in a way that took Gottfri a few seconds to miss out. No fear. No hint of it. Fascinating.

And two minds stood out like stars in the enormous cloud of human thoughts and emotions. Well, a star and a supernova. Gottfri thought about investigating the smaller star, but he recognized the mind of his Father. After several decades of not knowing who his true parent was, he allowed curiosity to focus on the golden power, and he hurried to it.

Not yet, my son. All in good time.

Gottfri blinked and was surprised to see he was on the floor. The words. So few, and yet more than enough to 'gently' push him back into his body. No one had ever shown such power to him. Not even the strange xeno he had caught a decade ago. He climbed onto his feet as he analyzed the words again. He felt hints of amusement, a strong dose of determination and affection. Yet, he could detect a smidgen of disappointment. Without meaning to, he felt his second sight reaching into the future to determine the cause for the disappointment. He frowned and stopped himself. For all he knew, his father would sense that as well and take offense to that. Still, he doubted his brush with his father's mind was the cause of the disappointment, but what was it then?

Salim, the capital of Delos, was originally a small town in the center of the western continent Maghādvīpa. Few events had occurred in this little spot of Delos throughout the ages of mankind, which is why Gottfri chose it upon uniting the world under one government. There was no old blood lingering beneath the foundation to spoil the peace he had crafted after a decade of hard work. In the span of a few years, the small town had transformed into the ideal metropolis, featuring the newest technological wonders the planet had to offer. And at the heart of this new city was the Senate. Utilizing a word from ancient Terra to satisfy Sindhuans, Hellasans, and the smaller represented cultures, it was here the representatives of the planet gathered to guide and vote upon the future of Delos. The building in which they met was a large dome a mile in diameter and divided into three rings. The outer ring featured in-door gardens, restaurants, rooms for solace, and other features that allowed Senators, aides, and governmental workers to relax and interact with the common man. The middle ring housed the numerous offices, libraries, and work stations where most of the daily work of running a government was done. In the center was a vast chamber shaped into an amphitheater with the stage replaced by a platform and a large desk fit only for a being the size of the Prime Minister. Each ring was separated by boundaries of increasing security the deeper one went into the Senatorial dome. Although a web of corridors, walkways, and paths spread throughout the dome, a single path existed that went straight from the southern entrance to the main chamber.

Today, two ranks of security personnel stood on both sides keeping the ever-growing crowd of people as Delos waited for its newest visitors to make their way down the road to the Senate proper. Gottfri waited with the Senate in the main chamber, for once, silent as he allowed the Senators whisper to one another. Normally, he kept a full awareness of each Senator's thoughts and desires. With his powerful perception, no Senator could ever hope of deceiving or conspiring against him. It saved the political process a great deal of time and effort that used to be wasted on such fools. No Senator was ever elected without first understanding that they would be sacrificing their privacy for their term of service. To be a public agent of the people, this was a small sacrifice. At least, in Gottfri's opinion.

With such an old habit, it was taking effort to not peer into the minds of the incoming visitors. His passive sense told him there were three parties coming in in a line. In front, the blazing power of his father's mind led three others. From the tidbits he could sense, these three minds intrigued him. They reminded him of the strange, fearless minds he sensed among the fleet, yet were distinct from them. Behind his father, he sensed another powerful mind, one equal to Gottfri's own power. Yet, though equal in power, this mind was much stranger. It was a mind used to casually wielding authority but possessed discipline sharp enough to cut through adamantium. Curious. Three lesser minds traveled in the wake of this great leader, mirroring the other's discipline to a degree. But the last party of three individuals intrigued Gottfri the most. No great mind there, but each of them were alighted with anticipation and joy to the point that Gottfri was eagerly awaiting to see the reason why.

It wouldn't be long. With precision and ceremony, the Senate guards reached out and open the Senate doors to welcome the self-proclaimed Emperor of Mankind.

Gottfri had mentally prepared himself for being in close proximity to his father's powerful mind. He had not been prepared for his sheer physical presence. When the doors opened, the Emperor stood towering and radiant in golden armor of incredible complexity. It was like the power and brightness of a star had been condensed into a single being. After a momentary pause, the Emperor strode forward, attended by three warriors in golden armor carrying pole arms with guns attached to the shafts. Taking a moment to distract himself from the walking sun, Gottfri peered into the minds of his Senators. All worry, fear, and anger had evaporated and been replaced with awe. Simple, profound awe. If the Emperor had asked of them to resign their positions and come serve him, Gottfri had no doubt that he would be left with an empty chamber. As the Emperor came forward, Gottfri managed to glimpse the rest of the retinue entering the chamber.

The first half of the retinue was a giant poised man clad in sleek power armour, dotted with lightning bolts. A great crystal decorated the center of his chest that Gottfri suspected as being an amplifier of some sort. The man moved with a dancer's grace, every movement precise and measured. He wore a mask of serenity as he studied Gottfri. Four warriors formed a crescent moon behind him, each small reflections of their leader.

Gottfri resisted his curiosity to learn the name of this other giant, for he sensed that he couldn't make such an under taking without discovery. For this man was a psyker, like himself.

Icarion Anasem.

The name was 'said' aloud to a room where only a telepath could hear. The elegant giant barely nodded towards Gottfri before taking his place to the side of the Emperor. Gottfri quickly understood that it was a welcoming gift. Wishing not to be a rude host, Gottfri answered in kind.

Gottfri Alexandros Darshan VonSalim.

Gottfri finished his greeting with his own imperceptible nod before his attention to the last group entering the chamber.

~~~

It was with no small annoyance that Irvin Ruel felt his discipline threatening to break. His instructions were clear, handed down from the Emperor himself. He and two other legionaries of his choice were to form a diplomatic party and join the Emperor in a first contact scenario. A simple mission. Simple were it not for the fact that the other members included the Emperor and Icarion. To be in the presence of the Emperor alone would be one of the highest honors a space marine could achieve. To be in the Emperor's presence and the only discovered primarch was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Add in the possibility that his own gene-father was waiting for him at the end of this road left Irvin nearly overwhelmed. Although they hid it well, he knew his companions were struggling as much as he was to maintain their discipline.

To his left was Immanzeul Kant, the legion's most powerful psyker after Yeshie's demise. Unlike the former Master of the Legion who had a wide mastery of powers, Kant was more focused, limiting himself to three of the psychic disciplines to specialize in. One of them was telepathy, and Irvin could only imagine what the psyker was enduring as he walked behind the two most powerful beings in the galaxy, while the monstrous crowd closed around them. Yet, Kant marched with steady purpose with them. On his right was Jorg Cavso, the best of their champions. No other had survived the lethal whirlwind of close combat as much as he had. It was not without cost. Beneath his power armor was a web of scars hinting at how close to death he had often come, but with such experience none could match his skill with the maul. His infamous maul was missing today as their only armament allowed was a bolt pistol and a combat knife. The way his fingers occasionally twitched, Irvin knew it was missed.

Regardless, they maintained their place behind the Lightning Bearers as they marched into the large domed building. Every step heightened their anticipation as they neared the two large doors at the end of the road. When they opened, Irvin resisted the urge to lean over so he could see past the enormous form of Icaroin. By the Emperor, may our search come to an end.

He knew it wasn't so, but it felt as though their pace slowed as the Emperor entered. It felt slower still as Icarion passed through the doors. As the last of the Bearers entered, the inner chamber came into view. Time switched its moods as suddenly events sped forward. In a few short steps, Irvin and his companions entered the chamber. Before them in the center of the chamber stood a primarch. Their primarch. Even without Kant's mental investigation, Irvin knew that the Primarch of the Fifth Legion was found. Standing erect in an obsidian dress uniform, he wore a confident smile even as the Emperor stood before him. With bright red, short hair, their gene-father turned his attention toward them. His smile broadened as though he already knew they were his sons. Irvin had never before felt such elation.

As they came to a halt behind the Lightning Bearers, the Emperor spoke. "Alexandros Darshan VonSalim, Prime Minister of the Delian Federation and Commander-in-Chief of her military power, I greet you as the Emperor of the Imperium and as your Father. It is my dearest wish that you and your world join me."
   
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Gottfri inwardly twitched. It was a small issue, but he sensed something large behind it. Of course, he wouldn't have shown his disquiet outwardly. One of the first lessons of politics he'd learned from his mortal father was self-control and how to present oneself. A simple yet powerful lesson, especially here. Not only did his true Father stand before him with the entire Senate, above them was a flock of recorders, cameras, and news personnel as they observed and telegraphed the proceedings here to the entire world. All it required was a minute exertion of his will, but a thought whispered, Why didn't he use my first name?

As a child, Gottfri had been discovered at the base of a mountain on the eastern continent of Tyrin. It was Vitrion, a local magistrate, who found, named, and raised him. When Gottfri had accomplished world unity, he had discarded his last name, while giving himself three more. Darshan was to appease and connect with the Sindhuans of the West. Gottfri and VonSalim were two names he had discovered when he read about ancient Terra in Delos' oldest library. He had taken them because they're linguistic and cultural roots didn't exist on Delos. It was a sign that while he identified with all people of Delos, he was a neutral unifier who refused to play favorites, even among the people he had grown up with. Ever since that day, those two were the names he wore in public. Is my name offensive to him?

After his opening statement, the Emperor proceeded to give a speech. It lasted thirty minutes. As it ended, Gottfri knew one thing.

Delos belonged to the Imperium.

Not one man, woman, or child who had watched the broadcast could possibly refuse the Emperor's desire. What had taken Gottfri ten years of careful calculation and hard work was accomplished by the Emperor in half an hour. When the Emperor finished speaking, eight Senators immediately stood to propose Delos' compliance. The proposal seconded by a second wave of Senators. Before the Prime Minister could enact the official sanction of the vote, the rest of the Senators rose and declared, "Yea!" Gottfri smiled and knew he need not fear a painful transition for Delos. It was exactly what he wanted when the first vision appeared to him three weeks ago.

The Senate's decision was quick and simple. The actual process of compliance was a much longer affair as thousands of Imperial ships made planetfall. In a matter of weeks, the technology of Delos would be advanced by decades, a deficiency that had plagued earlier efforts at fighting off xenos raiders. Lasguns would replace their stub guns, Warp technology would allow them to chase raiders outside of their system, and new medical technologies would allow them to combat the various poisons and chemicals the repulsive xenos often employed against them for their twisted motives.

Although Gottfri had won a major victory against them four years ago, he knew he had defeated one faction among many. One of his political cards was to remind Delians that they had no guarantee they wouldn't return. Unity would lead to a much stronger defense against their foes. And now, they had the power to fend them off and destroy them if they desired.

Yet, these weapons pale in comparison to these, he thought as he studied the men assembled before him. No, not men. Astartes. Legiones Astartes. The process of Compliance was now on automatic, allowing Gottfri to invite his Father and his brother to his home.

After a brief tour of his home, they now stood on the back patio of the mansion. While they were inside, another group of Astartes had assembled here. As Gottfri stood above them, he took a moment to enjoy their excitement and pride as they waited for him to speak. These Space Marines would become familiar faces to him as they represented the upper echelons of the Vth Legion. His Legion. His sons. I have a much larger family now, Gottfri thought to himself with a smile. But one issue had to be resolved before he greeted his sons. Without turning toward him, Gottfri 'spoke'. Father. My first name, must I not use it?

No, Alexandros. Gottfri is a name that is ill-suited to you now. Much like how you required the Delians to forsake their petty quarrels to be given a greater purpose, you too must cast away that name as you ascend to your true purpose. It is a small sacrifice, my son, and one you will not regret.

Alexandros briefly wondered why Gottfri was the only name he was losing, but after being separated from his true father for a decade, he was willing to trust him on this. The mental conversation concluded in half a second. Taking a step forward, Alexandros shouted, "My sons! I cannot express my joy on this day of happy reunions. While I knew the Emperor was approaching, what a happy surprise it was for me to learn that I have brothers and sons to share in my happiness. From this day forward, may we never be parted as we partake in our greatest mission: to rescue Terra's lost children and protect them against those who would harm us! We will form the line against evil. We will be the shield of the Imperium. We will be the wardens, watching over our charges as we ward away the darkness! My sons, are you with me?"

In one voice, his legionaries shouted, "FOR THE EMPEROR AND ALEXANDROS!"

Before Alexandros could step forward, the Emperor mentally spoke with him.

My son, your Chapter Master and nine others will accompany you to Terra. There I will teach and prepare you for being a true master of a legion. You may pick the other nine. I will take my leave of you now and will see you again on Terra. Your brother will remain here and in orbit for another day before returning to the Great Crusade. Good-bye, my son. I eagerly look forward to your training.


Not much of a good-bye in human terms, but the words were carefully wrapped with pride, happiness, and anticipation. Alexandros turned and smiled. I as well, Father. With a deep nod, the Emperor walked toward his brother. After a quick round of words, the Emperor strode toward the mansion, while the other primarch approached him. Although Alexandros was eager to learn and interact with his sons, the amount of his time with his brother would be more limited. Best if I take advantage of it while I can.

Formal introductions had been made quickly earlier, so Alexandros knew his name. Now, it was time to learn much more. With an easy smile, he hailed him, "Greetings Icarion Anasem."

The giant in pale armour stopped a respectable distance from him and bowed, unintentionally displaying his warrior's bun. "It is an honour to make your acquaintance, Prime Minister VonSalim."

Alexandros hesitated before indulging in temptation. With a though the thousand paths of the future laid bare to his mind. In a third of a second, he found the answer he sought. Wearing a confident grin, Alex returned the bow before answering, "Please, we are equals. Alex will do just fine."

Anasem raised an eyebrow before assenting. "As you wish, Alex. Then, it would only be fair to address me as Icarion." The Primarch glanced over the mansion before his eyes settled on the garden covering the acres before them. "You have quite the abode. I have seen the homes of many generals and warlords and few are as filled with warmth such as yours. You especially have a capable horticulturalist."

Releasing a hearty laugh, Alexandros said, "I'm glad to hear it! I've only recently picked up the hobby."
   
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Icarion quirked an eyebrow, but Alexandros could sense he wasn't as surprised as he let on. "This garden was made by your hand?"

"Every seed and tree," Alex answered before he swung a hand towards it. "Would you care for a walk through it?"

Icarion nodded. "It would be my honour."

With a subtle hand sign, Icarion signaled for his sons to remain where they were. Alexandros turned to his own sons and said with a smile, "I'll be back shortly."

The head of the Storm Rider company, Irvin, bowed. "As you will, my lord."

The two giants walked off the terrace and into a world of green. Alexandros lengthened his stride to match Icarion's gait as they passed by several crops. "I must confess, I'm surprised you would take the time to grow your own food," Icarion commented. "I assume you could afford any meal that could be made on this planet."

With a chuckle, Alexandros reached over to pluck a cluster of grapes from its stalk. "You assume correctly. With a snap of my fingers, I could order any dish I wish, but my reasons for growing my own food is threefold. First, farming was the key for the ancients to establish themselves and to no longer bend to the fickle fate of hunting. It allowed us to establish roots that led to cities and then to civilizations. Thus, it is a way for me to connect with our collective past. Second, for millennia, it was mankind's primary occupation. When I work here, the Delians see it as a form of humility and respect my leadership all the more so. Third," he finished as he picked a few grapes before tossing them into his mouth, "food tastes better when it comes from my own hand."

He held out the rest of the branch to Icarion. "Would you like some? You're lucky enough to arrive just as the crops have ripened."

"I would be honored," Icarion answered as his fingers adroitly handled the tiny fruit. Although he could eat the branch in one bite, their advanced biology able to digest wood, the Anasem picked and ate one grape at a time. "Delectable."

Alexandros grinned. "Thank you." He gestured toward the path, and the two continued their trek. "Have you ever tried to see how long you can last without eating?"

"The idea to try never occurred to me," Icarion admitted before glancing at his companion. "I assume you tried?"

"You assume correctly. Alas, I had to give up after three years."

Icarion nodded. "I imagine the pain was distracting by that point."

With a laugh, Alexandros shook his head. "Fair guess, but no. I suspect I could have last several more years, but the problem was that the longer my fasting lasted, the more disconcerted my people became with me. I ended my fast to reestablish my connection to them, which is a pity. I'm still really curious what our limits actually are," Alexandros mused as the pair moved to a different part of the garden.
   
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"Were there really enough complaints to justify ending your experiment? If you were really concerned with the people's perceptions, why not just pretend to eat in private?

"Because, I'm a telepath," Alexandros said bluntly. "All my life, I've been able to see past any front, deception, or facade meant to conceal a person's true self. In a few seconds, I can understand a person as deeply as their most intimate lover without their consent or their knowledge. I have used this power to manipulate, to protect, and to build in my rise of power to create unity and peace on my world. I was voted into office upon a promise. Since no man or woman could be safe from my gaze, I surrendered any claim to privacy." Alexandros stopped and waved a hand over the entire mansion. "I'm sure you noticed it when I gave you the tour. Every single square inch of my home is monitored by an entire web of cameras with only one room exempted. That surveillance network is plugged into this world's information network. At any point in time, any citizen can log into their personal cogitator and watch my actions as I go about my day. Thus, I have earned the Delians' trust, and it allowed me to enforce my own requirement that any who seek the office of Senator has to make a similar kind of sacrifice. So, no, no eating in private for me."

"I confess," Icarion began as they turned another corner, a wave of pleasant aroma welcoming them. "It is a rare moment for me to be surprised, but I know of no other ruler, not even the Emperor, who would go to such lengths to reassure his own people. Pardon me if I'm being too far forward, but why? Why do you sacrifice so much of yourself for them?"

"You're not being too far forward," Alexandros quickly reassured him. "We are brothers, after all. As to your question..." A pause lingered between them as the marched down between a row of bright orchids. Alexandros chuckled. "You know, I think you may be the first person to ever ask me that question. A third of my people believe me that I am some deity's servant and assume that my generosity is part of my nature. Another third would never ask, lest my thinking tempt me to indulge in more base desires. And the last third are too busy trying to find a way to take advantage of my kindness to bother inquire as to why." He came to a stop and turned his attention back toward the estate. Icarion halted as well, patient for his answer. "Perhaps I'm selfish. One forward question for another. I know you are a psyker, like me, but what powers do you command?"

"Command is not the word I would use," Icarion said. "It implies a level of control that I don't think is truly possible. The Warp, for all of the potential it offers, is more wild than a raging fire. No one can hope to tame it, but only unleash it in controlled measures."

"There is much wisdom in that," Alexandros agreed as he turned his gaze back to his brother.

Icarion nodded. "Thank you. For a more prosaic answer, I have some mastery of most known arts, but I focus my efforts in the arts of divination and... purity."

In the back of his mind, Alexandros noted the awkward pause but chose not to pursue it at this time. "We are alike in that way, then," he said cheerfully as he held up an open palm. A miniature fire sparked into life a few centimeters above the center of his palm. "I too have knowledge of most of the styles out there, but I find them a distraction." Without a sound, the fire ceased. "Like you, I have a natural inclination toward divination. Yet, my best expertise lies in telepathy." Alex dropped his hand, and his eyes swiveled back towards Salim. "I burn with a desire to know and learn about people. Telepathy has served as my greatest tool in that regard and provided me with some of the most beautiful images of humanity. You know something about telepathy. Have you learned how to see auras? Have you ever seen a metropolis at twilight?"
   
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"I haven't," Icarion said. "While I know some of the basic principles that guide the art of telepathy, I've never pursued any of the more advanced techniques."

"Ah, you don't know what you're missing. You see..." Alexandros trailed off. "Actually, I could show you, if you're willing." 

Icarion glanced at the Delian sun. While the day was late, the Primarch estimated that sunset was still an hour or two away. "I do not wish to be rude, but I have duties I must return to before long."

"No, no," Alexandros explained as he shook a hand. "I understand that we're nearing the limit of our time together today. No, I meant, I can show you my memory of it. As though you were there yourself."

There was a moment of hesitation before Icarion nodded. "As you wish."

Alexandros grinned before suggesting, "It might be easier if you closed your eyes. Less of an abrupt transition that way."

Another pause before Icarion complied. The world changed. The soft sounds of a garden were replaced by the distant sounds of the city. The warmth of the afternoon sun was gone as a chill was carried by strong winds. Icarion opened his eyes and saw an evening sky greeting him. Next to him was Alexandros who was watching him, amused, as the pair stood on the edge of his mansion's roof. Glancing behind him, Icarion was surprised to see a second Alexandros, who did not notice either himself or his duplicate, dressed in casual sleepwear. The other Alexandros was walking towards them before stopping a foot away, his eyes fixated on the city with a smile.

"You settled?" The current Alexandros asked.

"I believe so," Icarion murmured. "When is this?" 

"A few weeks ago before the first of my visions of our father." Current Alexandros pointed toward the city. "Watch."

Icarion turned his full attention toward the city. As any city in twilight, artificial light had filled the void after the last rays of sunlight disappeared beneath the horizon. Despite being a typical city of mid-level technology, no smog threatened to obscure sight of it. Vehicles traveled along the roads, offering their own small lights to the cityscape. 

For a moment, Icarion thought his eyes failed him. As he watched, the lights grew brighter and morphed into different colors. The roads became veins of red and light blue. The skyscrapers reflected bronze and vermilion. By far, the most colorful were, what Icarion assumed, were the city's dormitories. They were rainbows emanating from these buildings, but when Icarion focused, he saw that there was a subtle domination of light greens. 

Alexandros answered the unspoken question without prompting. "To me, light green is the color of excitement. Or, at least, that's the color I see when I see someone excited. Salim is a new city. Most of the people here feel like they are a part of something new. Something that is bigger than them. That they're on the edge of something new and powerful. The city was like this even before I began dropping hints that the Emperor was coming."
   
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"Now," Alexandros began, "here comes the main event."

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, the dormitories exploded with even more color as shades split further into lighter and darker iterations, briefly intertwined to create a stunning sight. These tornadoes of auras engulfed entire neighborhoods as Icarion watched. Almost as quickly as it had come, the cornucopia of colors subsided, yet grew more wild as the spectrum bounced between different hues.

Alexandros happily sighed. "Normally, a human being uses only one hemisphere of their brain during the day, alternating between the logic and the creative given whatever task they're on. But, for a few moments before a person falls asleep, both hemispheres are active, creating some truly incredible sights to my eyes."

"Were only I an artist capable of capturing such beauty," Icarion murmured.

With a wave and a chuckle, Alexandros dissolved the scene before them, returning them to the garden. "Perhaps that's why I serve humanity so diligently. To indulge in the wonderful sights they offer to me."

"If only more men were as 'selfish' as you," Icarion said with a wry smile.

Alexandros' grin grew wider. "I appreciate the thought." He glanced at the sky of today, and his grin shortened. "Ah, I suppose we are out of time. My how quickly it can travel when one wishes otherwise."

Icarion nodded. "True words, but only for this day. You'll soon see. The Great Crusade may become your primary mission, but our Father allows quite a bit of leeway when it comes to personal execution of the war. There will be campaigns where we will fight side-by-side, times we can reserve for leisure, and, eventually, the Great Crusade will end. Then we, and our other lost brothers, will have all the time we desire to learn about one another."

"Then let us return, so we can bring that happy day closer!" Alexandros declared before leading Icarion back to the mansion.
   
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Chapter 11: The Two Seers

Darshan sat in the center of his quarters on bare floor. Hands pressed together with his feet resting on opposing thighs, he wore nothing as he assumed his own replication of the ancient padmasana pose. Although his eyes were closed, he saw far more than the human eye was capable of. Twenty shards of his soul surrounded him in a large circle, a ray of light connecting each shard to him. In a ritual invented on his days of Delos, he inspected each beam for damage. Metaphysical cracks were identified and healed with persistent concentration.

He could not recall the first time he became aware of the spiritual damage he had incurred. Recognition of the corruption had eluded him even as he had gained a gradual awareness that his soul was not quite what it should be. Nor was he sure exactly what would occur if one of the spiritual tethers broke. Would the shard simply fade away? Would it assume a life of its own? Or would it be devoured by a Warp predator?

It was one of the few times Darshan had been tempted to break his own self-imposed divination limitation. The damage was gradual, and it would take decades, scores of years before the event in question could occur. As curious as he was, Darshan decided against looking so far into the future nor would he allow the damage to accrue. It was too irresponsible.

However, he suspected a clue lay in the onslaught of Battle Fatigue that had afflicted his sons. Indeed, he was afraid that it was a fault within him that had manifested among his legion. A small pang of guilt rang out as it always did when he thought of it. Even if it was a weakness that Alexandros had no part in its creation, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of his sons had paid with their lives for it. Still, the symptoms had been diverse, which made it difficult to speculate how his soul would break, or if he would break in the same way. A primarch, despite similarity in appearance, was not the same as a space marine.

With a final effort of will, Darshan exorcised the last of the spiritual blemishes. Before he concluded the ritual, he prayed. It had been a new addition, shortly after leaving Terra. He prayed for the protection of his sons in war, and that his remaining lost brothers be found. There was a reason he always split himself into twenty fragments. He did not pray to any deity and cared naught if his prayer was answered by nothing. It was the action itself he found solace in.

Alexandros opened his eyes and took a deep breath. He had not taught his psyker-sons this technique because it required utter discipline and an intense mastery of telepathy to use. None of his sons had yet to demonstrate the necessary strength or aptitude to perform it. Dharma and rest would have to suffice instead.

Speaking of which...

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2018/03/09 18:40:11


 
   
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Clothing himself with his robe, Alexandros exited his private quarters into a large hallway. Three unique lumens were installed in the ceiling at regular intervals. That had been the last modification to the Elpis, completed only a week ago at Hena-jagathi. Alexandros was eager to put them to use as he exited the hallway into another room. This room, while reserved for his use, served as an ambassadorial suite. Unlike the eclectic collections decorating his quarters, the suite was more focused, featuring the luxuries expected by the elites of Terra, such as a table of mahogany from the On-turas system.

Alexandros swiftly crossed the room and opened the door to the hallway. Standing on the other side was a Halcyon Warden, on the verge of opening the door himself. The legionary recovered and saluted, "My lord, requisition for you." Behind the Warden was another escorting a stasis crate. On the other side of the crate was Irvin Ruel.

"Lord Commander Ruel, what an unexpected surprise," Alexandros said as he returned the salute. "Legionaries, if you would deliver the requisition in the inner hallway."

As the legionaries moved, Alexandros waited for a moment before falling in step behind them. Irvin took his place next to his gene-sire. Although he had offered a respectful nod upon Alexandros' greeting, his following silence was more than enough to reveal his displeasure to the Primarch. Alexandros didn't press. What Irvin wished to discuss would require complete privacy.

The four of them entered the hallway between the rooms where Alexandros directed them to the center. Once there, Alexandros keyed in the code to deactivate and unlock the crate. The legionaries, unaware of what was inside peered around the giant as he opened the crate. Inside the adamantium shell was a young sapling resting within a large pot of fresh earth.

Alexandros smiled as he withdrew the plant, "At last." He delicately placed it next to the wall before reaching for a set of controls built into the wall. After inputting a few commands, the central lumen shined with the brightness and youth of Sol itself. "Thank you, my sons. Please return the crate to logistics. Lord Commander, if you would be so kind as to remain."

Irvin held his silence long enough for the entrance to close behind the legionaries. "You ordered a tree?"
   
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"Not just any tree. This is an authentic green apple tree as could be found on ancient Terra. A descendant species survived in the Alpha Centauri system."

Irvin spared the sapling a few more seconds before he turned his attention to the three ceiling lumens. "Why three? Wouldn't one suffice?"

Alexandros pointed at a space on the wall. "There are two forcefield emitters built into the wall. I intend to have three separate biomes here. The center will be temperate, the section closest to the suite will feature a recreation of a jungle. The final section I'm not sure what I'll use it for. Perhaps desert plantlife as we saw on Hena-jagathi." The Primarch shifted the pot a little bit more before he deemed his work finished. He stood and gave his full attention to Irvin. "Now, what is distressing you enough to come to me, Irvin?"
   
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As far as Alexandros knew, Irvin had never worn off-duty robes. A black, body sleeve was the closest he would ever reach to casual wear. Today, he wore his full armour, meaning he wished to discuss official matters. Irvin came to a position of attention, which, as always, mildly exasperated the Primarch whenever it happened in his private ship-domain. "My lord, I wish to formally protest the new legion organisation."

Alexandros could not be less surprised, even without calling upon his arts. "Not pleased with your new title, Brigadier?"

Irvin's patrician features twitched. "I am able to serve under any title as necessary, whether it be chapter master, brigadier, or sentinel. However, I do not see the benefit of modifying the organisation of the entire legion. Especially four years after Balov."

"The new structure is more forward-looking, Irvin," Alexandros countered. "If we remained with the original organisation, the legion would have well over 50 chapters. Nor do we intend to cap the legion's size at 50,000 marines. At some point, we were going to need an additional layer of unit size to accommodate our growing size."
   
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"I understand that, but why was it necessary to institute so many changes instead of simply adding an additional unit size, such as the brigade? What benefit is there from renaming a company to a century, using company to replace chapter and outright eliminating battalion? Especially now that it has been five years after Balov."

"It suited my purposes," Alexandros said. "The new organisation better reflects the synthesis of the traditional Roma legions and the more modern designations. I agree that it would have been an easier transition if I had implemented the new system during the transfiguration at Balov, but it was not necessary to address it at that time. If anything, this will serve as an abstract lesson that the legion's evolution is not yet concluded. You are well aware that my divination is limited, and that there might be additional reforms necessary as the Great Crusade progresses."

Only partially mollified, Irvin continued. "Very well, my lord, but what of the new rank system? Allowing every officer to choose an alternative title will cause unnecessary chaos and confusion when the chain of command, by its very nature, requires absolute clarity."
   
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"We've reached the rendezvous point."

~~~

For better or for worse, first impressions carried an inordinate weight when judging a person's worth and character. Thus, while he might enjoy quite the advantage when meeting with recruits from worlds he had liberated, Alexandros always wore his parade armour when he met with the newest additions to the Fifth Legion. He stood in the largest landing bay aboard the Elpis, a line of ten legionaries standing behind him, volkite chargers held at attention. No longer was Alexandros a flash of purple in a sea of grey as those early days with his legion, but now they mirrored the colours he proudly bore.

The same could not be said of the stormbird that landed before him. The Deliverer of Strength had fallen into an odd niche. It had not been present with the legion at Balov when they had spent two entire years adjusting to Alexandros' reforms and being repainted in purple and red. Yet, it had been produced before its manufactorum had received Alexandros' instructions of colour scheme, leaving it in its factory-grey. It was one of a few dozen vehicles that were on the cusp of meeting the legion standard.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2018/03/15 16:28:14


 
   
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Regardless of its external appearance, the stormbird performed its duty with precision, landing smoothly in front of the Primarch. Alexandros held his helmet in the crook of his arm, while his left hand rested on the pommel of his sword. With a hiss, the ramp opened, and one-hundred Halcyon Wardens marched out. Alexandros watched with a smile as he passively judged their performance. It would not be long before he would have to restrict this personal practice. Quite simply, too many recruits were being added to the legion, especially with the new protectorate systems sending regular cohorts of recruits.

The recruits formed four ranks before their gene-sire and stood at attention. "At ease and helmets off!" Alexandros commanded, his voice carrying above the din of the landing bay. With movements not as smooth as their drill, the recruits managed the task. As Alexandros scanned the faces before his eyes focused on one familiar face. Although his eyes moved away, Alexandros' smile widened.

Hello, Mahtva.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2018/03/17 12:37:49


 
   
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Gone was the thin youth always on the verge of starvation. In his place stood a man in his prime. Wearing a solemn face, accentuated by a thick moustache, Mahtva gave no physical sign he had heard Darshan's psychic message. But Darshan could see the fierce pride blazing in the man's aura and felt a particular joy welling in his own soul.

"Welcome to the Fifth Legion, the Halcyon Wardens," Alexandros began, his words drenched in enthusiasm. "You are here today not because of chance biology nor of indefatigable will. You are here because every one of you made a choice. You were willing to make a sacrifice for the benefit of humanity."
   
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As Alexandros continued his speech, he couldn't help but analyze the lineage of the recruits before him. For the first three years of his command, Terra maintained an uncontested monopoly as the recruits from Jermani continued to pour in. It was only in the fourth year did Delos begin to send her sons to join the Fifth Legion. Fair-skin mixed with tan and dark. Where once the clipped, guttural tones of Low Gothic dominated, now was joined by flowing and elongated tongues. Not long after their arrival, the Delians represented the majority of the recruits. This was not due to favouritism on Alexandros' part, but simple demographics. A planet could produce a great many more recruits than a nation-state.

And now Balov would be represented among the legion, the first of the protectorate systems to have the honour. "Let my words guide and strengthen you as we embark on this noble mission to lift humanity high into glory!"

The recruits cheered after the fire in their souls had been carefully fed by Alexandros' speech. He allowed them to bask in the moment. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Mahtva cheering with a knowing look. Alexandros winked.
   
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Alexandros gestured to a sergeant now joining them. Darshan took a moment to read the Warden's chosen rank. "Lochias Hoffman will give you your assignments. Until the day we meet again, I bid you good fortune and may you honour the Fifth Legion."

With a quick salute, Alexandros took his leave as the recruits saluted a moment before Hoffman began bellowing at them. Alexandros headed for the exit as he made plans to meet with Mahtva later. Undoubtedly, it would have to take place in the Elpis' sanctam. The ten legionaries followed behind him, striking a balance of giving him a bit of space with being close enough to intervene if necessary. Alexandros glanced at the nearest one. "Deshpande, time?"

The bodyguard promptly answered, "1050, my lord."

"Good, I'll have a few minutes to spare for Kharkis."

~~~

As usual, the officer of the XVIth Legion stood at attention next to Alexandros' throne.
   
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Ayatollah Kharkis may have appeared as the undisputed commander of the 8-13th Scout Fleet. The Sixteenth Legion was one of a few legions that had not the numbers to warrant their own Expeditionary Fleet when the Imperium crossed the borders of the Sol System. The campaign against the Dirigiscrae of Neptune had reaped a fearsome tally on the young XVIth. Alexandros wasn't sure if it had been at Lord Commander Hennasohn's command or if it had been a decision among the entire Praetorate, but the Sixteenth chose to separate itself into twenty sub-fleets and attached themselves to other Expeditionary Fleets. Each sub-fleet was then commanded not by a single officer but a democratic council of 'Monarchs', which meant that Ayatollah Kharkis did not truly command the 8-13th but merely served as a representative of the Monarchs.
   
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And the entire Monarch council held a grudge against Alexandros.

When he had assumed command of his legion, Alexandros had desired to fight with his sons and his sons alone. It made no difference that he had personally arranged for the Cthonian Headhunters to join the 8-13th, which had allowed the legionaries to campaign independently. After Balov and his reforms, Alexandros had contacted them to renew their previous arrangement, only to deal with cold resentment. Although it might had been easier to simply allow ties to be cut, Alexandros had been championing the power of diplomacy at Balov and felt that this too provided a learning opportunity to the Halcyon Wardens.

In the end, it had taken two new Cardinal-class heavy cruisers to appease the XVIth's bruised pride. 
   
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Kharkis' salute was brusque but professional and quickly returned by Alexandros.

"Report," Alexandros said. 

"We've finished establishing a perimeter around the fleet, my lord. No hostiles or unusual signs to note." 

"Well done." As usual, the compliment was ignored by Kharkis, who stood at attention. Alexandros could order 'at ease' but had quickly learned the Ayatollah preferred to be at a position of attention. "Are you prepared for the briefing? Will any of the other Monarchs be joining?"
   
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"Yes, my lord, and no." 

In theory, there was no need for the other Monarchs to attend, but Alexandros couldn't help but wonder if this was motivated equally by practicality and spite. Regardless, Alexandros nodded and answered, "Very good. How does this day find you, Kharkis?"

Kharkis' sea-green eyes hardened. The Terran warrior gave Irvin a good running in professionalism, but Alexandros suspected that Kharkis was more frustrated by the subtle influence of Alexandros' power. He wasn't quite sure how to describe itself without resorting to words better suited to unenlightened mysticism, but the Primarch possessed an aura of sorts. He had never been aware of it, until he had met the Emperor. The Emperor emitted something similar and different. Majesty was the word that came to mind. Being in the Emperor's presence was to stand before the power and brilliance of a star in the shape of a man. Yet, Alexandros did not exude such raw might. Instead, he had learned that men and women were predispositioned towards him in friendship and trust. 

It was against this power that Kharkis resisted. Even without his telepathy, Alexandros could easily imagine Kharkis fighting to hold onto his grudge through sheer willpower. 
   
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Kharkis grunted. "Well enough, my lord."

The Ayatollah was spared from further conversation when a shout came from navigation, "Detecting Warp signatures, my lord."

"Ah," Alexandros said with a smile. "They're here."

~~~

Reality screamed in the void as it tore open. Escaping the hellish currents of the Immaterium, a fleet smaller yet mightier than both the 35th and 8-13th combined took its place next to them. Bearing the black and white of Clan Anasem, the ships assumed formation as reality healed behind them. The 2nd Expeditionary Fleet had arrived.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2018/04/01 00:52:54


 
   
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While half of the fleet featured the familiar shapes and blocky construction typical of Martian shipyards, the other half were sleeker and embellished with the touch that bespoke of the Akiran shipyards. Before the Imperium had discovered Madrigal, Icarion had successfully unified the planet and expanded his rule to the rest of the system. Among these other planets was Akira, who's shipyards boasted a tradition dating all the way back to the Dark Age of Technology. Although it could not match the sheer fame and power of Mars, Akira distinguished itself with an emphasis of quality that was sought by many admirals.

Thus, though the Halcyon Wardens outnumbered their cousins in ships, Alexandros doubted their numerical advantage could guarantee their victory. At the very least, the 2nd Expeditionary Fleet possessed a potent advantage in its capital ship: the Thunderchild.
   
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"Communications," Alexandros commanded, "Contact the Praetorate and inform them that they are to assemble in hangar bay one." He turned to Kharkis. "I extend an invitation to you to fly on my stormbird, if you are so inclined."

Kharkis shook his head. "I need to speak with Lusca after the briefing. Privately."

With a nod, Alexandros said, "Very well, I'll see you on the other side shortly."

~~~

With war yet to make its reappearance, the hanger bay was more quiet than usual. This is not to say it was silent as various squads and centuries did embarkment drills, tech-priests completed maintenance checks, and pilots practiced their craft. Alexandros greeted or acknowledged each group between him and his destination. As expected, most of the Praetorate had already arrived since Alexandros had the longest trip from the Elpis' bridge all the way to its head. There were other launch bays closer to the ship's center, but hanger one was the largest and most notable since it opened directly to the ship's front.

Since this would be Alexandros' first official meeting with the First Legion, a level of decorum and theatre was necessary.
   
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To that end, Alexandros' personal stormbird would serve. As a Nepheros-class stormbird, it possessed the distinction of being one of the largest stormbirds of the entire Great Crusade. Gold edging served to distinguish the Byangoma from the rest of its kind. "My sons," Alexandros said after he returned their salutes. His eyes scanned the group of officers. "Where is Weyland?" 

Qapibain answered, "He should have received the order."

Before anyone could explain, the sound of heavy footsteps broke through the bedlam. While most of the legion officers predominantly bore the purple, the figure who approached favoured Martian red. Even for a simple meeting with another legion, the High Lord of the Forge could not part with his servo-arm. Alexandros appreciated the fact that Weyland did not carry his ax. 
   
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"After Icarion reformed it," Alexandros added. Several raising hands fell back down, leaving half of the Praetorate remaining. "Good, then this will serve as an introduction and a refresher course. Madrigalan culture places a large emphasis on honour and social cohesion. In that regard, they tend to favour social rituals that show proper respect and deference. Right before we disembark, we will assume formation. Ruel, you'll stand on my right, Praun, my left."

The Lord Commander and the Commander of the Signal Corps nodded.

Continuing, Alexandros gestured to Crassus, Lothar, and Qapibain, the Brigadiers. "You three will form the first rank behind me. Adalbard, Villrof, and Scholl the next rank, while Vonsmith, Ludendof, and Niemann will form the last rank."
   
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"Desh, you and your men will form two columns of five on our flanks as an honour guard. The Lightning Bearers will have their own party waiting for us. After we have disembarked, they will greet us with a bow. All of you are expected to bow as low as they do with myself excepted. They'll lead us to my brother's strategium. From what I've been told, when we reach the location, we will be declared before Icarion and bow again. Throughout the meeting, use titles at all times. Only by Icarion's command can this stricture be relaxed. I expect all of you to properly represent the Fifth Legion. Any questions?"

There was a pause before grey-eyed Qapibain asked, "While I have no intention of embarrassing ourselves, how severe are the repercussions if we fail to observe all of the social necessities?"
   
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"Officially, none. The Lightning Bearers pride themselves on their professionalism. However, you will learn that campaigns will become much more difficult as First Legion units ignore requests for support. You will discover that you will be unable to enter their camps, along with a reluctance to share intelligence. Not to mention that the First is favoured by the Emperor above all of the legions." 

"Sounds petty," Niemann said. 

Alexandros glanced at the former destroyer. "It's no different than how the titan legios or the knight houses operate. Pay proper respect, and in turn be respected. This will be the first time I've campaigned with my brother, and I want this to go as smoothly as possible. Understood?" 
   
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"Yes, my lord."

~~~

By the time the Byangoma's ramp opened, Alexandros and his legionaries were in formation. The moment the ramp rested on the floor, they marched out. Awaiting them was a party of three Lightning Bearers. The forward one bore a helmet with the signature datemato crest, marking him out as one of the First Legion's highest officers. His sapphire irises bespoke of the First Legion's geneseed, but his darker skin and bright hair marked him as a Terran instead of a Madrigalan.

"Greetings, Lord VonSalim. I am Valorion Manst, Sentinel of the Second Company," the officer declared with a low bow, going well past his waist.

Merely deeply nodding his head as custom dictated, Alexandros replied, "A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Sentinel Manst."
   
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Behind Alexandros, the Halcyon Wardens matched Manst's motion, though a couple of them struggled with unfamiliarity. Once all were upright, Manst said, "If you would follow me, my lord." With an about face, the Lightning Bearers marched forward.

Maintaining an exact distance of seven (human) paces, the Halcyon Wardens followed. Given its colossal size, the Thunderchild was less a ship and more of a flying city. It took five minutes alone to simply cross the hangar to the proper exit. Although much of the hangar mirrored a similar scene on the Elpis, one element stood out.

In addition to the transhumans performing drills and maintenance throughout the deck, they were paralleled by mortal warriors bearing crimson armour. No simple armsmen, these were the Rakurai that Alexandros had read in his reports. Not every man was capable of becoming a legionary. Yet, that did not bar him from war if he so chose. Failed aspirants and men of the Sphere who wished to fight beside their lord were recruited into the Rakurai. While they would never enjoy the protection of power armour or wield the strength of a volkite, the Rakurai were outfitted as well as the famed Solar Auxilia.
   
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Alexandros could not help but recall similar issues that were happening on Delos and and the protectorate systems. To become a legionary required a powerful combination of a pristine genetic system with an indomitable will to survive the process. If either one was lacking, failure and death were never too far behind. For now, failed aspirants and those eliminated through the screening programs were directed to the Imperial Army...

The train of thought faded as they left the hangar and made their way through the ship to the distant strategium. What struck Alexandros as they journeyed through the ship was the sense of openness. Outside of structural keypoints, the Lightning Bearers eagerly used armacrys glass for walls, including entire rooms. Although Alexandros' eidetic memory knew room and corridor widths and sizes were equal to the Elpis', the Thunderchild felt more open and larger for its transparency. 
   
 
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