Legions of Sol
Book One

Chapter One
August, 3530 – Galactic Calendar

The wet splatter of vomit hitting steel decking carried with it the smell of a wasted breakfast. Groans of disgust made their way down the corridor as a door slid open and Legionnaires spilled out of their quarters, shouting obscenities along the way. Decanus Ilya Volko stumbled out of the room holding a rag over his nose and mouth. "Gods above, Maximus. I know transitioning into realspace is unpleasant for you, but we have to live here."

Maximus Strand clutched a hand to his stomach as he knelt in the cabin, dry heaving over a puddle in the middle of the room. His gasping voice barely reached the door. "The least they could have done is warn us…"

Laughter echoed around the room as the squad's marksman cackled from her bunk across the bay. Mila Turanova clapped her hands together and grinned. "But you're the Emperor's elite, Maximus! You don't need warning! Surely the big bad Legionnaire can handle a little void travel?"

Volko reentered the room, carefully dodging the mess on the floor as he navigated his way to the attached latrine and showers. "I'll get you the mop, but you're the one cleaning that. Turanova, take the squad and head to bay 42. Time to start getting our gear stowed."

The red-haired sniper gave a curt nod in confirmation and hopped down from the top bunk. With a final playful swat at the back of Strand's bowed head, she hopped over the vomit and out of the room. Volko shook his head, smirking as Strand finally stood and grabbed the mop from against the nearest bunk where his squad leader had left it. He then turned and followed Turanova out of his quarters, turning instead towards the access shaft that would take him up a level to one of the many briefing rooms in the vessel.

Stale, recycled air permeated the corridors of the troop frigate Nova Roma. Ancient engines and recyclers thrummed through the walls and decking, so constant that it was forgotten. The low murmur of distant conversations could be heard echoing through old ventilation shafts, mixing with the creaking of aged steel and the pounding of boots on the other levels of the ship. A sharp female voice sounded through the intercom, calling all squad and flight leaders to the nearest briefing room and setting the ship to combat alert status.

Volko ducked into a small theater and paused to dim the lights before proceeding to one of the empty seats near the back. Towards the front sat a long table with holographic images hovering over it, illuminating the room with a pale blue glow. Three other squad leaders sat scattered around the theater. He recognized Zaira Kuska and Steven Anders from the First Century, and Kyr Lenikov from the Third Armored. Lenikov sat in the corner opposite him, quietly whispering into a headset. Kuska fiddled with her knife while Anders glared at the holo-table as though it had insulted him.

The decanus leaned forward in his seat, resting his arms on his knees. "Hey Anders. That table piss in your cereal this morning or what?"

The man in question groaned and turned his ire towards Volko. "Look, I've got some of the dumbest soldiers this side of the Charon Nebula. They fucking broke one of my tripods during training, lost a radio set in an enclosed space, and damn near stabbed Optio Shaw in combatives. I've been herding their asses between the med bay, supply, and the armory all week. So take your jokes and piss off."

Volko chuckled and leaned back. "Ah, children. Don't you love them? They can make the most boring of missions entertaining."

Before Anders could formulate a more coherent threat against his compatriot, the video wall at the front of the room flickered out to a view of the command bridge, bathing the small theater in brilliant white light. Status symbols on the right side of the screen indicated which briefing rooms in the ship were connected to the monitor. Legatus Legionis Felix Aelius stood centered in the view, his haggard face a patchwork of scars and neglect. The commander removed his cap to reveal scruffy hair white with age, and pulled a cigar from his breast pocket. His voice was low and forceful, demanding with quiet authority the attention of everyone within earshot. "Velthora Legion, we are a couple hours from deploying to the planet Pevek. All gear will be stowed and prepped for drop in the next hour."

Behind the Legatus was a flurry of activity as technicians of every caliber scurried across the bridge. The massive viewscreen at the front of the vessel showed the vast emptiness of space, dominated by the presence of a planet swirling with deep reds, browns, and grays. A pair of pilots sat at their consoles just before the viewscreen, bent low over the various readouts in front of them. The holo-table at the front of Volko's briefing room came to life to show a miniature version of the world visible behind his commander.

"This is the colony in question. It is a desert wasteland once home to nine billion citizens of the Dominion. According to the reports I received this morning, as of yesterday there are less than twenty thousand survivors. By the time we arrive I expect that number to be even lower. We will not allow that trend to continue. Thi Trinh, brief them on our enemy."

A strong feminine voice sounded over the room's intercom system while a new image captured everyone's attention. A humanoid creature from a child's nightmares stood over the table, two long, multi-jointed arms extending from its shoulder blades and hanging in front of it. Its primary arms ended in large three-fingered hands while the agile extra limbs culminated in vicious spurs of bone designed for piercing. Four eyes sat centered in its small head while its mouth was filled with razor sharp teeth.

"This is a Bayreen skirmisher. It stands at seven feet tall and has a running speed of roughly 30 miles per hour. The hands and arms can exert a crushing strength of approximately 700 pounds. The blades you see on the third and fourth arms have been able to pierce any armor we set in front of them. The aforementioned arms themselves can extend up to 5 feet and rotate 360 degrees. As far as we are aware, the Bayreen navigate by sight alone, lacking any known method of detecting sound or smell. The Bayreen's back is covered in layered armor that, at the right angle, deflects standard ammunition."

The image of the skirmisher rotated in place while a second creature appeared next to it, lacking the extra arms. "The skirmisher is of course but one of the forms we have encountered. The next most prevalent is the Infiltrator. You'll notice first that it is lacking the bladed arms and clawed hands of its cousin. Instead, both arms of the Infiltrator end in a bioweapon of sorts that launches an acidic parasite at velocities exceeding 3,000 feet per second. The parasite will first burn through most combat armor before it begins to eat its way into the host's body to attack vital organs. Despite having no actual hands, the Infiltrator is known to be able to climb most surfaces due to small rigid hooks covering its body. These hooks have also been used to slash at its target if they are close enough."

Both creatures faded from view to be replaced by a pale blue woman in a flowing golden robe. She extended her arms in a welcoming gesture. "In short, Legionnaires, welcome to the hardest fight of your lives. These are the two most common forms we have encountered, but expect that these are not the only ones present on Pevek. The Bayreen have been theorized to have some manner of space travel, and potentially some form of leadership caste. What these look like is as of yet unknown. That is all."

Volko gave a low whistle. He was not enjoying their new enemy. Legatus Aelius continued the briefing. "These creatures have slaughtered countless civilians, razing entire colonies and erasing our worlds from existence. We have been pushed back time and time again. As a result, for the first time in Dominion history the entirety of the Militarum Legionis has been deployed to combat a single threat. That said, this is intended to be a rescue attempt, not a direct combat action. Centurions Vitalis, Darket, and Farine will deploy to the largest of the population centers that are still sending transmissions. Intelligence indicates there will be approximately ten thousand civilians present, along with a small guard force. You will be Task Force Doleth. Centurions Reiker and Regand will be splitting your units in two. One group will go to the Ankaran Badlands. There is allegedly a natural fortress hidden somewhere in the canyons likely sheltering a large population from the enemy. This will be Task Force Ankara. The rest of you will deploy as needed. Centurion Nolans, I want Optio Monneran and two squads of your choosing to deploy alongside Ankara. Outside of that, deploy as you see fit. Bear in mind, people, that public records state we have only existed for eight years. Therefore, when we do encounter civilians, keep operational security at the forefront of your mind. Dismissed."

The leaders in Volko's theater exchanged silent, anxious glances before departing to round up their units. A few moments later Volko found himself outside Mechanical Bay 42, where his squad's Armadillo Armored Personnel Carrier was stored. Behind him, other vehicles drove down the expanded corridor on their way to various assigned landing craft. The personnel door slid open and he stepped through to see his Legionnaires lounging around the APC, their weapons and gear presumably already stowed. Turanova sat astride the vehicle's main cannon, throwing small pieces of paper at her brother Boris. She glanced up at the sound of the door and immediately called at ease , the squad snapping to.

"Relax and horseshoe around me. Turanova, grab Florensis and the crew and bring them over." He eyed his sniper as she hopped off the vehicle and ducked inside to rouse the crew from their napping. When everyone had gathered around him he continued. "We're deploying to a dustball called Pevek in the Voltok System as part of a rescue attempt. There are about 20,000 civilians, give or take, in need of immediate evacuation. We are will be part of Task Force Ankara, made up of elements from our Century, the Fourth Armored, and the Scouts. Our destination is a natural fortress somewhere in the badlands."

He sighed, running a hand through his close-cut ash brown hair. "We're up against something new, folks, but we're used to new. You've heard of the Bayreen I'm sure, but these things are a nightmare. They're about seven feet tall and have four arms, two of which end in big ass spikes that'll punch straight through you. They've got some kind of natural armor on their backs to deflect small arms fire, and can climb pretty easily it looks like. If they get close they'll rip you apart, so maintain distance during the engagement. If we do get forced into close quarters use your swords as best you can but do not let them grab you. I expect you to be in buddy pairs the entire time. Understood?"

Thi Trinh's voice interrupted him over the ship's PA system. "All personnel, prepare for drop. First wave launches in T-minus ninety minutes. Novaris and Angel Legions have begun deployment. Good luck, brothers and sisters."

Volko nodded. "Alright kids, mount up. We're assigned to Drop Bay 4."

It took mere seconds for the squad and crew to board the Armadillo and lock themselves into place. The ramp at the back slowly raised off the deck to shut everyone in with a heavy finality. The interior was instantly bathed in pale green light as Volko flipped on his command screen just behind the turret access door. A moment later the vehicle commander's voice filtered over the interior radio. "Driver, all secure. Begin movement."

The APC lurched forward and drove slowly out of the mechanical bay to join a line of heavy armor en route to the conjoined drop bays at the fore of the ship. Meanwhile Volko downloaded a sector map for the Ankaran Badlands from the Nova Roma's archives. "Teams are as follows: Turanova with me. Wulfrikson and Pharos, Gordon and Sol, Arran and Strand, and Tanner and Turanov. Commander Florensis, we'll dismount as soon as we've landed. I want you following 20 meters behind."

He was greeted with a chorus of "Aye sirs" and one "Fuck me." All eyes turned to Nicholas Arran and he grinned. "I would be the one stuck with Commander Flight Sickness over here."

Strand glared at him. "Fuck you, man. Going from the Aether to realspace feels like I'm being torn apart and pieced back together. It feels wrong, bro."

The squad laughed. Turanova stuck her tongue out at him. "Looks like you've got competition for squad baby, Boris." Her brother raised a one-finger salute in her direction.

The turret hatch slid open and Florensis' face spun into view, silhouetted by the green interior lights. "Decanus, we're fourth to board, putting us last on the second level. Looks like we're flying with Legionnaire Immunes Jora Lumens." She turned her gaze to Strand. "Flight Sickness, if you puke in my truck I'm kicking you out. You can find your own way down."

Volko nodded. "Understood. Take us in."