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Eye Of Terror I - The United Chapters Crusade

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'Sir!'
The orderly's voice started him from his thoughts. 

'Sir', the voice repeated, 'The 2nd Company has returned from training operations on Veda'.
He paused a moment, then spoke; 'Very well'.

Lord Kanati raised his large, muscular form from the floor of the Emperor's chapel. He couldn't remember how long he had been kneeling there, going over tactical manoeuvres and fleet dispositions in his mind, trying to divine the Emperor's will. He stood up, marvelling how closely the chapel resembled that on his homeworld of Aviar. Centuries of training pushed the reverie from his head. The Adeptus Astartes were above longing and need. They existed purely to serve the Emperor, wherever that may be. He turned to face his lanky aide, towering over the small human by a head or more, and continued;

'Tell me, Reese, What news does Captain Kyle bring?'
'He reports training with the Fighting Tigers to be a resounding success. 99.65% of our troops achieving 100% kill rate in the humid jungle, the full report is here', replied the aide, handing him a data slate.

Reese had been his aide since the human was just a boy. He had only been a kitchen hand then, but impressed by his perseverance and grasp of tactical logistics, Kanati promoted him, and he had served well for over forty years. Forty years, Kanati thought; a marine could live at least ten times that amount, barring battle injury. 

'Thank you, Reese, that will be all. Would you ask Captain Kyle to join me on the bridge shortly?'.

The aide acknowledged with a nod and Kanati watched him leave the chamber. With a final prayer, Chapter Master Marcus Kanati of the Phoenix Hawks strode out of the chapel and towards the bridge of his battle barge Hawk of the Emperor.

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The bridge was alive with the bustle of aides and servitors co-ordinating the fleet from archaic rune screens and constant comm-net chatter as orders were relayed and confirmed. As Lord Kanati strode onto the long bridge, his eyes scanned the room until they fell on the two officers he had ordered to join him. He saw the unmistakable hulking outline of terminator armour that marked Captain Takar Maximus of the first company, dwarfing the already superhuman form of Risius Kyle. They were engaged in conversation on the raised command deck at the centre of the bridge. Kanati approached the command station, traversing a gantry across one of the recessed operation pits set into the floor of the bridge. Both officers immediately turned to face him and saluted.
'At ease, brothers"' 
Both captains dropped their salutes but remained rigidly at attention. 
'Captain Kyle, I have studied your report from Veda. I must congratulate you and your men on a fine showing. You have upheld the honour of our Chapter with distinction.'
'Thank you Sir', replied Kyle, 'The 2nd Company is now 100% combat-ready and awaiting orders Sir.'
'Don't worry Captain Kyle. I fear we will all know combat again soon enough', Maximus interjected.
'The Esteemed Captain Maximus is correct. The Despoiler is once again on the move. Intelligence reports a black crusade, the like of which the galaxy has not seen since the cursed Heresy is in full motion. Fleets from across Segmentums Obscurus and Solar are being redirected to the Eye. We have responded to requests from several fellow chapters and are en-route to join a gathering fleet at the edge of the Scelus sector here'. Kanati pointed to the tactical holo-display in front of the command station.
'We are to form a small scale rapid response force to reinforce the Scarus, Medusa and Scelus sectors, if and when they need it. Intelligence reports a massive Ork horde inbound to the Scarus sector. 89% probability they are working with or at least are funded by the Despoiler. We all know the threat Orks present on their own but when united like this, and in league with traitor scum... It truly is horrifying to comprehend'
Captain Kyle looked towards the holo-screen. 'Any data on enemy forces yet?'
'Not as yet. More data will be available when we link with the rest of the Imperial forces. We make warp-exit in thirty standard hours. Keep the men on combat-alert. I want us ready for anything. Dismissed'
The two captains saluted again and left the bridge, the groan of terminator hydraulics echoing throughout the chamber.

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Marcus Kanati was troubled. He sat in his briefing room, the table filled with tactical reports on enemy numbers and movements, staring at the data slate in front of him. The veteran of campaigns covering over almost a millenia, he considered himself a master tactician and had led the chapter to victory over countless foes, but by the Emperor, he could find no discernible pattern to these attacks. It was most irregular.
The door-comm chimed.
'Come in'.
Kanati heard the hiss of hydraulics as the door slide to the side, revealing the shape of Reese in the doorway. The aide entered; 
'You requested a thirty-minute warning for warp-exit Sir'
'Yes. Thank you' Kanati responded dismissively, not looking up. Reese turned to leave then stopped.
'Forgive me Sir, but...', he paused, not quite knowing how to phrase his next question.
'What is it Reese' Kanati looked up from his desk.
'Well Sir, its just...'
'Spit it out man'
'Forgive me but ... Are you alright Sir?'
'Alright? What do you mean am I alright?'
'Its just that you seem a little... distracted. Perhaps you should get some rest sir.'
It was true Kanati thought. He had not rested for five standard days. Not that this was unusual for a marine, but perhaps he was performing at less than peak efficiency. There was no time for it now, but he would rest once they had arrived in-system and received orders.
'I am fine Reese. I am however, confounded by these attacks. There seems to be no pattern or purpose'
'They are certainly unpredictable Sir, I believe that is why they are referred to as Chaos'
'Yes, but in previous instances there has always been an objective, a higher purpose to which they are working' Kanati continued, ignoring Reese' obvious sarcasm. 'There seems no such purpose here'.
'I fear Sir, that their goal is larger than we are considering. Would it not be the wish of the foul gods to overrun Cadia so that they may take Terra unopposed? Perhaps they are bluffing to draw out our forces.'
'Perhaps. There is insufficient data here to draw any conclusions. We shall wait until we join the Task force', He put the data slate down. 'I shall return to the bridge shortly. Tell chief astropath Lenir to send our ETA to the fleet'
'Yes Sir'
Reese left, but the commander remained in his office, sitting alone. What was the purpose to these attacks? What was the Despoiler plotting? 
Marcus Kanati was troubled.

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The ship shuddered as the Warp engines disengaged and Kanati felt momentarily dizzy as the battle barge materialized back into realspace. The bridge immediately lit up as sensor screens hummed into life. Crewman scrambled around attempting to determine the ship's location. Warp jumps were notoriously inaccurate and it had been known for ships to exit the warp only to find hundreds of years had passed in realspace.
Kanati sat in the command chair, flanked by his two captains, and watched the blast shields retract to reveal the unnatural beauty of the Eye of Terror. He had long ago learnt to avoid gazing into such trickeries. To do so would be to invite the lure of evil. A prospect that filled him with disgust.
'Helm. What is our position' he barked at a bridge officer to his left, returning to the matter at hand.
'Scelus sector, Vermaard system. Astrogation reports warp jump 79% accurate'
'Excellent. Reese, send my compliments to our astropaths'. Reese nodded in acknowledgement.
'Situation Report'
'All strike cruisers arrived intact. Sensorius detects a fleet further insystem - 13 battlebarge class vessels and numerous support craft. All registering imperial ID. It's the Task Force Sir' reported a young commsman - a recent addition to the crew as Kanati recalled.
'Looks like we're late. I 'ope there's still some chaos filth left to feel the taste of me powerfist' mocked Maximus, his tactical dreadnought suit groaning as he laughed.
'Situation reports show enough chaos activity to keep even Captain Maximus busy, if that is what he desires', Captain Kyle stared at Maximus, his face unmoving. Kanati suppressed a smile. The hoary old Veteran wouldn't take well to that, but Kanati had to admire the younger officer's audacity. It seemed that Maximus agreed with him.
The veteran grinned; 'Well lad, it seems you've got some spine after all. You'll do alright for yourself, as long as I'm watching your back', he clapped Kyle on the shoulder, the younger marine visibly straining under the strength of the terminator.
The revelry was broken by the voice of the commsman. 'Sir, priority message coming in... The United Chapters have elected Lord Ulric of the Storm Fists as Warmaster. Lords Darmortis, Khryton and Arranihs have been given sector control for the Scarus, Medusa and Scelus sectors respectively'
Ulric. It was not a name Kanati was familiar with. The Phoenix Hawks had dealings with many active marine chapters, but never the Storm Ffists. He felt uneasy trusting his forces to a commander of whom he knew nothing. We must trust in the Emperor, he thought. If it is his will, then we follow it.
The commsman continued, 'Message coming in from Warmaster Ulric Sir. We have visual'
'Very well, put him through'
The tactical holo-map in front of the command station filtered out and was replaced by the figure of a marine commander. The figure began to speak;
'Greetings Commander Kanati, I am Lord Ulric of the Storm Fists. Thank you for your rapid response to our requests. As you can see from the small section of our forces here, the combined might of the Adeptus Astartes stands ready to defend the Emperor's realm. You will no doubt want a tactical update on the current situation. These reports are being transmitted as we speak. The Sector commanders and I have arranged a proposed tactical deployment. The Scelus sector is under-manned and with your approval, your forces shall be assigned to reinforce this location.'
'We go where the Emperor needs us Warmaster'
'Good. You are to report to Lord Arranihs Dolonis of the Warp Wraiths once you reach the Scelus system. Good hunting Commander.'
'May the Emperor guide you' Kanati replied.
'And you, Ulric out'
The image faded from the holo-screen.
'Well, it seems we have our orders. Helm, make best speed for the Scelus system. Captains...' He turned to face Maximus and Kyle, 'Keep the troops on combat alert, I shall address them at 0600 in the chapel. Until then I shall be in my briefing room reviewing the reports. Dismissed'. 
Kanati watched their powerful forms shadowed against the Eye as they left the bridge, it's glare now enveloping the chamber in a sickly purple hue. He turned to leave but paused and stared at the Eye for a moment, considering what lay inside.
'What are you up to Abaddon?'. The thoughts mused through his mind.
Nay, it did not matter. Nothing could stand against the combined might of the Adeptus Astartes. Mighty Warriors. Defenders of Humanity. Servants of the Emperor. 
They would bring swift retribution to the followers of the false gods. They would pay for their treachery.

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