Near silence reigned in the grand hall of the Watch-Fortress - the only sound the steady tramping of oversized feet and the light swishes of identical black robes worn by all recently arrived initiates to the vigil - the vast and expansive cavern having once been nought but barren rock, now it was barren rock from which dangled the banners of fallen heroes and the displayed trophies of previous missions well done only, otherwise empty of furniture and with only a plateau rising over the heads of the serried congregation; standing upon the raised rock dais and coolly casting a red-lensed gaze over the hundred-or-so mustered recruits was Watch-Commander Erazmius Kade, veteran of a thousand battles and specialist when it came to the killing of the Tyranid menace, most of his face damaged by Tyranid bio-acid during a particularly nasty skirmish some forty years ago, leaving a mass of angry scarring and a bionic left eye.
While not formally a part of the 'training' that the newest Astartes had been promised, an address by the Watch-Commander was a traditional greeting, welcome, and warning before the heavy lifting began - whether anyone chose to listen to him was their own choice, but they would be wise to do so.
A tense electricity filled the air as he now stepped to the fore, the fortresses chief Chaplain and Librarian remaining in the rear while their overlord - resplendent in his gleaming black armour and the silver pauldron of the Deathwatch, a deep crimson cape brushing the rock floor behind him, and the singular blue pauldron of his Chapter bearing the 'U' and adding a splash of colour to an otherwise sombre uniform - made ready to speak.
"Brothers of a hundred Chapters," he began in the resonant voice of a trained orator, the natrual acoustics of the cavern allowing every marine to hear him no matter where they stood, "my greetings to you and my strongest welcome to Watch-Fortress Jorval, now let me impart to you some advice, to help you during your service here."
"Firstly, always listen to your superiors, everything they do is in your best interests - though it may not appear so at the time - they are professionals, veterans and conssumate warriors, and their word is law within these walls."
"Secondly, you may be from differing Chapters, you may have feuds that run to beyond living memory, but here you are all Deathwatch. This
is your brotherhood, those around you are your battle-brothers, and unsanctioned conflict will
result in reprimand and punishment."
"Thirdly and last of all, you may believe yourselves to be superlative warriors, prime exemplars of the Emperors finest, without peer. You may even delude yourselves into thinking you have seen all that this galaxy has to throw at you... trust me
that you are wrong, and will soon come to know it."
Pausing to take another look over the robed ranks before him, the larger Primaris recruits easily seen among their firstborn brethren (warriors he had decidedly chosen not to point out as 'other'), Erazmius gave a accepting nod and half smile before a long intake of breath, "may the Emperor watch over you all."
So it was that forty-eight hours from their arrivals, technically forty-nine if you counted the Watch-Commanders welcome, that one-hundred or so new initiates began their formal training to become members of the secretive but venerated Deathwatch; sundered into exactly twenty randomly selected groups of five-man kill-teams, the Astartes were then taken on their assigned path by one of the thousands of cloaked and hooded menials that kept Jorval functioning as it should - they were serfs like any other, as far as any outsider knew, but never revealed their faces and spoke only in hushed tones if at all, communicating with hand signs and an assortment of hisses and whistles.
Some teams would be sent without delay to one of the multitude of firing chambers and ranges, others escorted quietly to the halls of the archives sunk deep into the planets hollowed core, and even more taken to the hypno-induction chambers to sit for hours on end and consume data and knowledge perhaps more widely known, and reams that were most certainly not
All this would be done without armour and sticking to the second of a schedule specially crafted so that within the confines of a week all would have experienced the same.
Rising early, a marine would then join the rest of his kill-team who would have been barracked nearby, they would then join the other teams in morning prayer/devotion to the Emperor, Primarch or whomever, before being taken away to begin the days work. There would be a short respite in the evening, teams circulated to the refactorum to consume what they wished - the standard fare being a nutrient rich gruel-like paste - more picky Chapters granted permission for more flavourful sustenance if they so wished. It was then back to training, evening devotionals, and back to the chamber.
For nearly a month the newcomers will have gone through this with the own kill-teams, the five Astartes alone and trained separately from others, but now it was time to allow a little mingling of the formations... and it was usually here that the friction truly began.
"Brothers, your attention please."
Sergeant Saewine of the Executioners bought Kill-Team Saewine to the present, their focus upon him and only him, though they were presently engaged in unarmed combat practise that had even Milo breathing heavily. Opposite the gigantic marine stood a moustached marine of the Marauders, equally out of breath, but also thus far unable to land a blow that even moved the 'cursed' battle-brother who fought him to a stand still each time.
"Welcome to Veteran-Sergeant Revaz and his charges, come to see how it's done?"
An Astartes bearing a stylised black tome with a white, four-pointed star in the centre, sitting upon a bone backdrop upon one pauldron took a step forward and inclined his covered head.
"Well met Saewine, it appears you have quite the assortment of savages here, perfect for you."
Saewine took the jest in good humour, glancing back at the two Blood Angels, one Son of Antaeus, one Marauder and singular Aurora marine that made up his given kill-team.
Milo smiled full-toothed smile, sensing some competition in the air, able to pick out the unknown faces of Baruchiel Ventarian @Lauder
, Lelandros @Lady Selune
and battle-brother Atrias @Kood
from among several others.
"What say a friendly bout then?"
Revaz gave a helm-boosted chuckle and turned to his own squad, "what say you, my students? Show these curs who the superior fighting force is?"
Drill-sergeant Odilon Hallr gave another shake of his pale head, noting down multiple weaknesses in the performance of his students in the carrying out of his simulated operation - that being the assassination of a high-ranking T'au official. It was a mission he knew went against all codes of warfare the majority of Space Marine Chapters practised, for although they were the Emperors scalpel they were blunt for all that.
Annihilating enemy forces, tearing them apart with bolter and blade, these were things for which the physiology and mindset of the Astartes were formed and perfected but sneaking into a guarded chamber to lay an enemy and then make it out alive? It was another task entirely.
Being judged by one of the Mentor Chapter meant that there were notably more points to work on than would be the case in different circumstances.
"We shall reset the course, and I want it done perfectly
The course as it was consisted of a perfect replica of a walled T'au diplomatic compound, holographic projectors emitting eerily lifelike Fire Warriors and even a couple of XV8 Crisis suits, their shots not able to kill but more than capable of disabling a marine dependant on location and calibre of weapon; set within one of a thousand subterranean arenas, it was just one example of the cutting-edge facilities used by the black-clad Xenos-killers.
In itself the scenario was simple; abseiling onto the domed roof of the compound, removing a number of sentries while avoiding patrolling drones, entry into the main building and room-by-room until the diplomat was located, dispatch the envoy and then extraction over the wall and out - it was unfortunate that with each failure and reset the diplomat was moved to another room, the pattern of the drones changed, the behaviours of the Fire Warriors switched to another.
Parion Sharratar @Eldritch Puppy
, Aodh Cailpeach @BCTheEntity
, and the unknown component of Yndrasil @Hank
- member of a Chapter that not even Odilon had ever heard of in his centuries of service - were to undertake the simulation once more alongside the two others of their kill-team.
A mournful klaxon sounded, all was ready once more.
"Right, Kill-Team Hallr, again!