Life returned to the primary hangar of the Rex Aeterna as the regiments of the Ultramar Auxilia prepared for their departure. They had dissimilar practices and routines as the Ultramarines, favoring an aloof organization of huddled cohorts. All were decorated with armour of varying patterns produced by the vast forges of Ultramar, wearing the likes of industrial rags to florid carapace plate. Servitors and navy men cut through brackets of the Auxilia the way a fierce stream splits a rock. Bleats of bristly gothic accents swirled in the acoustic pool of the ship's bowels. The scream of trumpets floated above the commotion to signal the arrival of the ancients. Arminius and Erasmus marched on claws of steel, drawing stares from the usually deadened crowds of guardsmen. Their idolic presence bewitched any who gazed upon them. The red-clad tech-priests stumbled forward to witness their holiness, murmuring in evangelical marvel. The pact between flesh and steel that the dreadnoughts possessed was a connection any martian would only dream of obtaining. Their thin leathery fingers reached out to caress the adamantium plate of the demi-god machines as they strolled with penitent anger resonating in their steel sanctums. Their attendance was a haunting experience; every word they spoke was funneled through their sarcophagus' speakers and expelled into mechanical fuzz only decipherable by the most able ears. Overlapping gantry cranes ran on tracks the width of highways carried Valkyrie transport shuttles to face the bay doors. The cruiser had dropped altitude into Macragge's atmosphere to allow the Auxilia safe insertion and leeway to the drop site. Echoes of the wind and hail whipping the ship's hull rolled through the walls and the pipeworks below.
Machellus was oblivious to the motor harmonies and the waft of machine breath, the tangy taste of smog was nullified on his anesthetized pallet. He grasped his helmet under the pit of his arm to better observe the commotion. His skull was fat and his jaw protruded out like the tip of a boot. His face was modified with bionics that were superior to the implants of the regular Astartes. His Eyes and brow were recast in steel and his sight modified with a macrobinocular suite, giving him lenses for eyes that could never fail him. Studs the size of golf balls had been drilled and cauterized into his cranium as grim medals for his service to the Omnissiah. In his dominant hand, he held his Omnissian Axe, an instrument of the Machine God's will and wrath. He trotted alongside the dreadnoughts toward a Stormbird Dropship, which was coated in the glorious blue and white of the Chapter. Shriveled tech-thralls carried out routine checks on the aircraft with an efficient lethargy, just as Machellus had wished. A brief signal from the Techmarine brought the ancients' march to a halt when an officer of the Auxilia had intercepted them. A bedraggled chap clutching his greatcoat zigzagged toward him, bowing his felt cap over his ashen face as a quick salute. Specks of grey matter tangled themselves in the man's beard, fashioned in a style from his home planet.
"Are we off yet Techmarine? The Auxilia is rarin' to go by now." The Man planted his feet before Machellus and scrunched his neck to meet the marine's gaze.
Upon further inspection, the man was a company commander of the Defence Force from Ultramar's galactic shores. The Techmarine peered down at his emblem, recognizing him as part of the Rhinesguard Raptors. Their insignia was the head of an Imperial Aquila wreathed in golden flora. The symbol took the form of a scruffy patch sewn onto the commander's breast pocket. A wet and half-withered cigarette hung limply from his mouth, seething thin smoke into creeping vines that simmered away at its end. His left arm was suspended in a cast, presumably from a previous engagement. It was clear he tried his best to keep his uniform neat, looping the white oak button at his neck together to signify his crimson collar. It was etiquette within the Imperial Guard to wear the colours of one's homeworld with pride, regardless of how insignificant they might be.
"Are you certain that you are in peak condition for this assignment Wing Commander Kahler?" Machellus replied, ignorant of his query.
"Do not spare any worry onto me Sire, Macragge is our priority." The Commander shot him a toothy yellow grin. He lightly brushed off grains of debris from his coat. The ends of his coat fluttered around, revealing the bolt rifle he stored upright in a sling under his armpit. Only the most accomplished guardsmen officers could wield a bolt weapon of any kind, let alone an automatic one. To Machellus, Kahler's injured arm seemed more likely as a fracture caused by the weapon's intense recoil. Because the weapon was initially designed for use from the Astartes, it was a common occurrence for guardsmen to lack the strength or stability to use it.
"I advise you to watch over yourself Commander, with an arm like that you may have difficulty in further engagements." Machellus lectured.
"I am here for command purposes only. It is unlikely that I will need to fight in the first place." Kahler fumbled with his collar to relieve his neck of the hot air contained under it.
"We can only hope." The Techmarine directed the dreadnoughts into the Stormbird. Arminius bowed his head to fit under into the aircraft's interior, followed by Erasmus. Within the transport were benches topped with scuffed black cushions that had become stale from overuse and neglect. The ancients dropped at ease into their seats as the bay door hoisted itself up accompanied by the baritone scream of pistons. In the distance, the beating hearts of machines pounded as the Valkyries came to life. Wilhelm swung his head around in fright.
"I believe it's time to depart Commander, may the Emperor carry you forth." Machellus slammed his knuckles against his breastplate with a closed fist as an informal salute.
"Of course, blessed be the Emperor and the Omnissiah!" The commander yelled as he bolted to his station.
The Techmarine scrunched his mouth into a half-smirk. The Imperial Guard are often ignorant of the beliefs of the Mechanicus, and to have one acknowledge them was a comforting gesture. In dire moments like this, he could use any positive reinforcement he could muster. He motioned over a hunched-over vox servitor, who hobbled on pale blistered feet toward him. He dialed the vox frequency of the Auxilia forces into the servitor's control console and validated the entry, broadcasting the vox unit's audio down the chain of command. He flicked through every channel, dishing out orders to every battle company making planetfall with a Captain's precision.
The regiments of the guard immediately mobilized with light beaming from the floodlights of their Chimera tanks and muddled boot-steps thumped in a leathery chorus.
The Techmarine hoisted himself into the Stormbird's cockpit and secured himself into the aircraft's control throne. The ship's interior dimmed with the atmospheric seal locking into place, with darkness seeping in from the corners of his vision. He was immediately touched by the presence of warning lights and signal runes that danced emerald and ruby shades across his eyes. The artificial atmosphere returned to an optimal level as clear sight funneled through his optic lenses, splitting the bright beams into a kaleidoscope of industrial light. The sting of the rays diluted into the back of his brain and his machine eyes clicked inside his skull to adjust to the quick shift in brightness. He assumed control of the aircraft's primary control panel with the muscle memory of a thousand engagements and airborne spearheads. A silver-coated tube the width of a pen snaked into his cranial ports and flooded his brain with the mechanical rage of the machine spirit. The invasion of his conscience made his jaw clench like a vice, grinding his teeth until they shifted in his gums. It seemed somehow, even the Chapter's war machines possessed the same unfettered fury for the Tyranid menace. This rage was not unconquerable, as the rear of his brain dissolved the silent screams of the spirit housed within. He dragged down the comms panel, attached to a spindly metal arm with multi-coloured wires snaked around it. His final order was sent in binaric code, which translated on the receiving end into an authoritative low gothic command.
"Inform your squadrons we are set for launch. For the Five Hundred Worlds."
The mirage of blazing afterburners churned in shivering waves that splashed against the incoming blizzard bursting through the gap in the gliding bay doors. Whining amber bulbs bathed the interior with a speckled film of gold, sprayed onto the gaudy plate of the valkyrie transports. The sky-craft had scars of metallic boils streaked across their hulls from quick repairs and hastily made welds, which were only highlighted by the auburn alarms. The navy man conducting the lift-off raised his arms high, grasping onto command rods that shone crimson. The anti-gravitic generators bolted to the bellies of the transports sprung them into a steady hover, meters above the cleared hangar deck. The fighter cadre cut through the still air as if the hulking metal birds held no weight, trailed closely by the dreadnought payload.
The chunky gusts of the southern pole rolled beneath the static wings of the Stormbird, vibrating in the deep corners of Machellus's hearing. The shudder of steel and plastic never left his mind, whether it be in his private quarters, the inner forges of the Rex Aeterna, and even in the field. He picked out rhythms of their ceaseless rattling and chords rung from different objects as an ignorant distraction of his duties. Whatever monsters he was yet to face held no grip oon his focus, for his usually pacified brain was filled with a new warm hope. Help was on the way, and the Machine God would see it so.