Calgar's orders had been in effect for the past hour. The news of Macragge's peril had thrown the Rex Aeterna into a rabid scramble to mobilize every asset within their barracks. Hanger bays were flooded with servitor clades scurrying behind their tech-priest handlers tasked with inspecting the ship's wargear and making repairs. Conveyor belts the size of roads transported bulk packages containing rows of cases of ammunition and bolters from their escort ships, their plasteel cases fresh from the manufactorum being rapidly unloaded and prepared by chapter serfs to ensure they are optimal for service. The sound of high gothic commands hung in the empty atmosphere of the hangar. The localized noosphere of the Mechanicus was just as dense in its web of information highways overlapping each other.
A chorus of booming ceramite rose out of the hangar entrance. A brief pause behind the bay doors was followed by the entrance alarm from the control deck. Pistons labored to haul open the bay door, sounding a horn of screaming metal as they rumbled aside. Heads turned and servitor treads halted at the companies arrival. The crescendo of thumping soles entered the hangar. The scions of Guilliman marched in perfect concert, pushing aside any serfs or crew members of their stride by their mere presence. They all looked onward to their posts without shifting their focus. Even for those not born there, Macragge was the closest many of the men of the 7th Company had fought to the heart of Ultramar. To the Primarch himself. Their ship was in a desperate rush to out-maneuver the Xenos' fleet and to make planetfall on Ultramar's crown jewel; a gem dirtied by the venomous hands of what had come to raze their legacy. They had no time to lose, for the lives of their brothers; both in the present and the future were at risk.
Gerad Ixion watched from above, accompanied by a techmarine clad in maroon heavily-modified power armour. From below, it looked as if he was inspecting his men as they armed themselves and sealed ribbons of scripture onto their plate. He was, in actuality, lost in his own thoughts, forgetting the function of his eyes and resting them without his eyelids. He remained in this state until a hand grasped the rim of his right pauldron.
"Captain? Captain." The techmarine shook him, making Gerad whip his head around without changing his drowsy expression. He had the face of a 30-year-old young man. His skin was chemically tanned into a grey hue, yet still held the average features of a Macragge citizen. He had neat salty hair that was cut short from his ears. His cheeks and forehead were striped and spotted with cured scabs and wounds, each with a different story from a different planet. His chest plate was carefully inscribed with his battle-honours and medals; it was a work of art dedicated to himself that he wore with pride. He was an exemplar of the Ultramarine's ethos of 'show, don't tell' in regards to his many achievements. In its center was the ultramarines chapter badge represented by a horseshoe of clean marble that hovered above his sternum. A thick chain lay around his neck that adorned many other badges and trinkets, including a Crux Terminatus, Aquila, and an Iron Halo.
"Yes?" Gerad responded in anxious lethargy.
"How many of the 7th will be making planetfall?"
"All of us. My tactical squads will drop near the last known location of Legio Praetor to escort any princeps or titan crews still alive down in the polar wastes." Gerad recited his plan of action as he had to himself several times. "Then we secure the Southern Fortress to look for any other defenders and ensure the southern hemisphere is safe from the ground and skies."
"I have no doubt you'll be successful. You are supplied with only my best hardware." The marine jested. His sense of humour may have been the most human thing about him. Techmarine Machellus was currently directing the flow of repair crews and servitors around the deck below, overseeing the preparation of the imminent assault. Large groups of industrial servitors attached the drop pods to mag-cranes, which lifted them over the sea of men below. Machellus watched the crane as he guided it with a panel controlling the hangar bay's mechanical assets. The pods were locked over the ejection zones one by one until ten of the cobalt pods were prepared. Bay lights flashed green and indicator runes in Machellus' helmet confirmed all systems were a go.
"Captain. I believe it's time to address your men."
Gerad spared a couple of seconds to contemplate what was about to happen. He walked with his head drooped and hands fidgeting behind his back. He made his way down a short flight of stairs to a mag-lift to the ground floor.
"For Macragge!" The techmarine shouted.
The captain simply raised a clenched fist in response; a common salute. He pounded his breastplate with the same fist before the lift plummeted to the floor of the hangar.
Captain Ixion strutted through the crowd of workers to reach his company. The lower levels were swathed in dense smog. The coughs of welding equipment and machine breath wrapped around Gerad's plate. He emerged from the industrial calamity to find his company combat-ready. Each marine was adorned with the scripture of the Holy Emperor on thin paper ribbons pressed onto their armour for guidance and for triumph. Their hands gripped their bolters; their holy instruments of war. Their helmet's eye lenses burned scarlet in determined silence. Some twitched in anticipation. Or maybe they trembled in fear. Not of death, but of failure.
From afar, a decorated marine stood with several human subjects close to the front of the assembly. The marine spotted the Captain approach and ordered the serfs to their feet. They scrambled to grab the captain's war gear and rushed to his side, almost tripping over their own feet. One knelt down in his path and held up an ornate power axe which Gerad swiped from the serf as he strolled past him without a word. The next jogged to keep at pace with the captain's stride so they could strap his storm shield to his left vambrace. The marine that stood with the serfs hiked over to the Captain. He was different from his company men, he was a veteran, a volunteer to herald the arrival of the 7th Company. He was an Ancient, one who has proven himself to represent his chapter on the frontlines. He copied the captain's stride step-for-step while speaking.
"All personnel are accounted for Captain. Has Calgar willed we strike?"
"Of course Zalthen. Grab your standard."
The Ancient broke away with a quick salute, still maintaining the same power-walk to retrieve his gear. Another serf ran under Gerad's arm to slip a bolt pistol into his holster before darting back to his fellow subjects, awaiting further duties. The Captain reached the front of the company gathering, observing the face of every soldier. Zalthen returned with his standard in one hand and Gerad's helmet in the other.
"Wouldn't want to forget this sir."
Gerad snatched it from his grasp, ignoring his comedic attempt. As much as he admired his efforts, he could not force himself to be comedic in such circumstances. He fitted his helmet on and connected it with his armour interface, displaying every detail and statistic of his gear. All was at maximum efficiency. He flicked at a small switch underneath his helm, switching on his vox-grille to communicate with his warriors. He paused his stroll and turned to face the convention.
"I will not repeat to you all the importance of this mission. We will retrieve the garrisoned personnel so that they may continue to serve. I know many of you would be willing to die for the Emperor, as you all should. That does not mean you will throw your lives away in vain attempts of glory. Our chapter is already stretched thin, and we may not see our brother-companies for weeks to come. Be efficient marines. I will expect nothing less. Neither does Calgar. Neither does Guilliman. Prepare to board, we make planetfall at once."
At once the Ultramarines followed their sergeants to the pods. The side doors lowered into ramps that the marines entered one by one. The pod interiors strobed red LED's in every corner. Shoulder-to-shoulder they strapped themselves to the center pilon of the pod. Each stood as a silent sentinel, waiting to plunge into the fields of frozen ash. Gerad and Zalthen entered the pod beside each other, the company's battle standard falling still upon entering the atmosphere of the transport. Gerad added depth to his breath, puffing a waft of air in a thick cloud that dissolved as it exited his helmet grille.