This is a synopsis for a novella-length piece (30,000 words). In the writing, the end of the story was more truncated and faster-paced to allow for a little more set up for the conflict.
Catechism of Hate
40K LE novella by Gav Thorpe
This is a story of Chaplain Cassius of the Ultramarines. It tells of his fight against the Tyranids, and in particular the counter-attack against a Tyranid swarm on the world of Styxia.
In a ‘present-day’ prologue Cassius explains to a force of Ultramarines about to assault a hiveship why the Tyranids are such an abomination, and why he reserves his deepest hatred for them – their utter alieness and ruthlessness (and quotes Inquisitor Kryptmann). Cassius gives a brief overview of the Tyranids, and how they almost destroyed the Ultramarines. He was there, fighting beside Marneus Calgar on the snow-swept plains of Macragge.They cannot be beaten, only wiped out; a task the Ultramarines should cherish. Extermination is the noblest cause they could pursue in their lives. That hatred is the greatest weapon against the Tyranids, better than bolters or lascannons or battle barges. Cassius is going to explain to the task force why this is; how hatred won them the battle for Styxia.
Marneus Calgar has heard word of hive swarm codenamed Gorgon, sighted a few light years from the Styxia system. He gathers his council about him – Chief Librarian Tigurius and Chaplain Cassius amongst the captains. Some argue that Styxia is not a priority – an agri-world of less than 500 million souls. There are more important targets under threat and the Chapter is still rebuilding its strength.
Cassius argues strongly that no world can be allowed to fall to the Tyranids. If one followed this line of reasoning, there would always be a more important world to defend, right until they have fallen back to hold Terra itself against the alien menace. What message did it send to the people of Ultramar and the wider Imperium if the Ultramarines were content to allow a world to be devoured by the most hated foes?
‘Young’ Calgar agrees, but only in part. The Chapter cannot go in strength to Pryxia; there are other strategic concerns to be met. He will give Cassius a force taken from across the Chapter, 100 Space Marines, to help the other Imperial forces in whatever way they can. He can spare no more warriors. Cassius knows that one hundred space marines is a fearsome enough force for any foe and is happy with the command.
They travel to Styxia and when they arrive they find a star system in anarchy. Imperial Navy ships do their best to hold back the hiveships of the Tyranids, while Imperial Guard hold the world of Styxia Prime. A sizeable force of Tyranids has already landed, though the navy has managed to keep further reinforcements from reaching the planet’s surface.
With his space marines, Cassius makes planetfall, behind the defensive lines erected by the guard. Tens of thousands of men and tanks are under the command of General Arka, drawn from several regiments. Two warlord titans from the Legio Fortitudis also guard Plains Fall, the only city on the world, formed around the massive starport used to export the planet’s resources.
Arka is pleased with the Ultramarines’ presence and asks that they form the hardpoint of the line directly in the path of the Tyranid advance, supported by the titans. Cassius agrees and takes his men to an outlying settlement, to make their stand.
At first they encounter infiltration troops while they wait for the Titans to arrive – Lictors and Genestealers stalking through the warehouses, fighting tooth and claw with the Ultramarines. These vanguard organisms kill and injure several of the Ultramarines, but each death hardens Cassius’s heart even further. The Tyranids will not claim Styxia, not while he draws breath.
The Titans arrive just before the first wave of the main Tyranid attack. The initial assaults are from easy fodder – Termagants and Hormagaunts and ripper swarms for the most part. Easy prey for the Titans’ weapons and the ready Ultramarines.
The Tyranids are attacking elsewhere along the line but the defences are holding, helped out by orbital support. When asked if he needs any assistance, Cassius replies they he does not.
Gigantic Harridan flyers drop flocks of Gargoyles onto the Ultramarines’ position, descending upon them from above while more Tyranids close in. They move to the rooftops to gun down the flying creatures, trusting to the Titans to hold back the ground-based assault. It tests Cassius’s nerve to rely upon the Titans but if he weakens the defence against the air attack, the settlement will be overrun.
It is a close run thing but the assault is held at bay while night falls.
Elsewhere Arka is having difficulty holding the line, but he assures the Ultramarines that they will have whatever support they need. Cassius needs none; he still has three-quarters of his command remaining. A long night follows, lit by explosions as his Thunderhawks make attack runs on the Tyranid horde and the Titans continue to lay waste to any foe that approaches within range. Cassius moves through his company, ensuring they are alert and ready for the task at hand.
Just before dawn word comes through that the defensive line has been compromised to the east of the Ultramarines’ position. Arka regretfully reports that he can no longer ensure the Ultramarines are not surrounded. The Princeps of the Titans report that their war machines are running low on ammunition and need to withdraw for resupply before they are cut off from their support echelon.
A normal man might have retreated with them, says Cassius. A sane man, even. The defenders are stretched thin and the Ultramarines could be attacked from all sides within hours. It would make sense to fall back to another defensive position.
Not I! says Cassius. The Tyranids grow stronger if you let them. Not even the Imperial Guard can win a war of attrition against the swarm if they are allowed to establish themselves. To take one step back would be to admit defeat and consign Styxia to a slow but inevitable death.
Though not dissent, this announcement creates some disquiet amongst the Ultramarines. The highly-respected Veteran Sergeant Dacion voices their concerns to the Chaplain; he asks if Cassius’s hatred of the Tyranids is blinding him to tactical sense.
Cassius considers the protest, and is not angered by it. He explains that his hatred does not blind him, it focuses him. He controls the hate, not the other way around. It is their task, their over-riding responsibility, to destroy the Tyranids. That is their duty, but it is hatred of their foe that makes it so much more.
To hold on in a glorious last stand is equally pointless as retreat. A space marine owes it to the Emperor and the Imperium to give his life only at great cost to the enemy. To await one’s fate, to accept a death without meaning would be cowardice. Cassius knows the Tyranids well and knows how to hurt them; the Ultramarines will attack!
The Ultramarines are swayed by Cassius’s passionate speech and swear to slay as many of the Tyranids as they can, to ensure Styxia is purged of their taint. They recite battle hymnals as they prepare their Rhinos and Razorbacks for the counter-attack.
He signals his intent to General Arka and asks if the Imperial Guard would stand by their promise to provide the Ultramarines with support. Arka is dismayed at first that the Ultramarines seem set upon a suicide mission. Cassius reminds the general of the oaths he took as a commander, and he is requesting his aid. Arka replies that he also swore to protect Plains Fall and the three million citizens sheltering within.
They are dead if we do not act, Cassius tells the general. Better to strike now while the Navy have the upper hand in orbit than allow the Tyranids free reign on the surface. If I show you it can be done, Cassius offers, will you attack?
I will, says Arka. How will you do that?
Cassius tells Arka that he intends to slay the hive tyrant controlling the swarm. If he does that, the Tyranids will be in disarray, for a while at least. If the Ultramarines can kill the Hive Tyrant, will the Imperial Guard leave their positions and attack?
We will, promises Arka.
Cassius is pleased. He tells his company that they are going to save Styxia. They must stay true to their oaths and follow his lead. There is no time for doubt, no room for hesitation. They will strike into the heart of the Tyranids and slay the Hive Tyrant. They will do this not just for Styxia, but for their Chapter and the Emperor. Their hate will carry them through the battle to victory.
They mount up in their Rhinos and head out into the enemy. Cassius knows how to find his prey, at the heart of the foe. They column punches through the outlying horde, blazing through the lesser creatures without stopping; it matters not whether they are left alive, the death of the Hive Tyrant will render them harmless.
As they move further into Tyranid-scourged territory they come across great carpets of rippers devouring the massive cereal fields and feasting on the grox carcasses. The creatures pay no heed to the space marines, even as theor Rhinos crush their bodies. Cassius tells the warriors under his command to save their ammunition; there will be more worthwhile targets to come.
In the distance, the first spore funnel is spewing a noxious, virulent cloud into the air, breaking down the biomass of everything downwind. The spores coat the vehicles and armour of the Ultramarines, clogging engine intakes and weapons. The cloud is too thick around the funnel for the Thunderhawks to operate, they’ll have to continue on the ground without air support.
Cassius revises his plan. Rather than seek out the Hive Tyrant, they will make the enemy come to them. If they destroy the spore funnel, the Tyranids will be forced to respond.
Won’t that make them the sole target of the swarm? Asks veteran sergeant Dacion. How can they hold against such a foe?
We hold until we slay the Hive Tyrant, that is all we need to do, Cassius replies. With the pressure relieve at Plains Fall the Imperial Guard will launch their counter-offensive. As long as the Ultramarines ensure that, they can consider the mission successful.
What if the Guard don’t come? Normal men are weak, cherishing their lives above honour.
Cassius trusts Arka and says the others must do the same. Since the Second Founding, always has it been that the Space Marines must be the tip of the spear but the Imperial Guard provide the weight of the haft behind it. The Ultramarines cannot win this war by themselves, but it is their job to make it possible for the Imperial Guard to bring victory. If one does not believe in this idea, one must doubt the Chapter’s duty to the Imperium as a whole.
With these stern words ringing in their ears, the Ultramarines press on towards the spore funnel. A swathe of spore mines blocks their path; a seemingly endless mass of floating, tentacle bio-explosives. It is impossible to go around them – to delay heaps more pressure upon the defenders of Plains Fall. The Ultramarines must go straight through and trust to the armour of their vehicles to protect them.
This they do, hunkered down in their transports, listening to the crack of exploding carapace against the hulls of their vehicles. Less than a kilometre from the spore funnel, one of the Rhinos breaks down – its vulnerable tracks finally melted through by successive spore detonations.
The Ultramarines must protect the beleaguered Rhino while the techmarine replaces the damaged track links. Sensing the presence of the intruders, the spore mines close in; the Ultramarines form a defensive ring around the stricken vehicle and disembark, blazing away with bolters and storm bolters to detonate the mines before they come into range. Still the mass encircles them. Veteran Sergeant Dacion volunteers to lead his squad further out, to draw the spores away from the vehicles; it would be impossible to proceed on foot.
Very well, says Cassius. The squad move away from the laager, firing madly and throwing grenades, attracting the crude attention of the spores. The Rhino is finally fixed, but there are too many spore mines between them and the outlying squad for the Veteran Sergeant to return, and to go to them risks another Rhino or Razorback being damaged.
Go on, we’ll withdraw back to Plains Fall, says Dacion. Everyone knows that it is unlikely they will survive the march back.
Stay put, says Cassius, and stay alive; a Thunderhawk will come for you.
They set off for the final thrust toward the spore funnel. It is weakly defended; a few dozen hormagaunts and termagants without any synapse creatures to guide them; easily destroyed. Other spore funnels are growing around the first; great termite-mound-like lumps made up of writhing biomatter. Not yet functioning, they too must be destroyed if Styxia is to be saved; an agri-world infected by Tyranid spores is useless.
The Ultramarines place teleport beacons on the spore mounds and signal their strike cruiser in orbit. The crew of the strike cruiser use the teleport signals to target their torpedoes and launch a salvo from orbit while the Ultramarines withdraw to a safe distance.
A dozen plasma torpedoes smash into the spore funnels, obliterating them.
The Ultramarines are left to wonder if their plan has worked. As night falls, they start to erect a defensive position at the base of the shattered spore funnel, using the Rhinos and Razorbacks like pillboxes on the perimeter.
The night passes without sleep, all eyes on the auspexes and scanners while they await the Tyranid response. There has been no word from Plains Fall and some wonder whether the defenders are still holding out.
Shortly before dawn, a message from orbit warns of a large heat mass moving in the direction of the Ultramarines. They move to their positions, bolters and heavy weapons at the ready. The auspexes begin to ping; multiple small signals.
As before, the first wave of Tyranids is made up of smaller creatures. Cassius orders his space marines to conserve ammunition, so they take on the beasts with fists, knives and chainswords.
Under the cover of the first wave, larger creatures are moving into position. The Ultramarines wonder what they are waiting for – the defenders are occupied with the mass attack, now would be the perfect time for the bigger constructs to approach unmolested.
Cassius knows what is happening, he saw it before on Macragge. He takes his command squad away from the perimeter to act as a reserve. Only a few minutes later, Ravener tunnelers erupt behind the Ultramarines line; snake-like beasts that burst form the ground in a welter of fangs and claws. At the same time, the auspexes show the larger Tyranid creatures advancing.
Cassius attacks with his squad, gunning down the Raveners. He leaves them to guard the holes left, using flamers and grenades to destroy the swathes of smaller beasts following through the tunnels made by the Raveners.
Back at the line, the Chaplain sees Tyranid Warriors approaching. The heavy weapons of the Razorbacks open fire, chewing through the warriors a handful at a time. Yet in their wake lumber two carnifexes. The heavy weapons must be turned on the gigantic beasts before they get into range, but that will allow the Tyranid Warriors to reach the line.
Cassius sees that the line cannot hold but to attack against the warriors and Carnifexes would be futile. Instead of despair, he is filled with righteous ire. He begins to recite the Catechism of Hate, exhorting the Ultramarines to destroy their foes. The Space Marines join with him, shouting out the verses as they slaughter. This is no mindless battle rage, but it is an ecstatic fervour, filling each space marine with the merciless desire to slaughter their foes. It is no swan song of a final stand, but a last defiance of their enemies.
Unbidden by Cassius, the Ultramarines start to push forwards. They do not charge heedlessly into the foe, but drive into them, squad-by-squad, destroying everything they encounter, advancing into the fire of barbed stranglers and death spitters, spine rifles and bio-plasma. Those that fall continue to fire their weapons; those that are slain will be remembered. Cassius joins the attack, running to the front as the first squad engages the Tyranid Warriors. Behind them the Razorbacks turn their fire on the carnifexes, lascannons punching holes through their chitinous armour and solid flesh.
In the thick of the fighting, Cassius receives a communication from Dacion; the Veteran Sergeant; with the spore funnel destroyed, the air is clear enough for the Thunderhawks to attack. He will be at the battle in minutes, ready to strafe the foe and relieve the pressure on the Ultramarines before lifting them out of danger.
Cassius countermands him, ordering the Thunderhawks to seek out the hive tyrant – that is the target. If the hive tyrant is not destroyed, the mission is vanity. Such pure hatred as the Ultramarines have shown is not to be wasted on pride. The Hive Tyrant must die.
Slaying a Tyranid Warrior, Cassius sees the controlling creature, advancing behind its Tyrant Guard. Every fibre of his being wants to attack the creature, but that is not his place. Hatred will be sated soon. He turned his attention to more of the Warriors, laying about with his Crozius Aracanum.
The Thunderhawks appear overhead, dorsal cannons pounding the Tyrant and its guard, lascannons slicing through the creatures while heavy bolters chew through the termagants and hormagaunts assailing the Rhinos and Razorbacks, rounds sparking off the vehicle’s hulls as the Thunderhawks rain down fire on the creatures swarming over them.
Then comes a sight that lifts Cassius’s heart: an explosion that engulfs the Hive Tyrant, ripping it to pieces. Disorientated, the Tyranids fall prey to the Ultramarines renewed offensive, and as the last of the Warriors are slain, the smaller beasts scatter.
It is only a respite, Cassius knows this. There are still Warriors alive, and in the distance he can see the creatures massing again, gathering around the synapse creatures. Without the Hive Tyrant, they will no be as strong, but there are still thousands of them out there.
His hate spent, Cassius commands the Thunderhawks to land. There are less than fifty survivors and they can all embark on the gunships if they abandon the vehicles. Paying due respect to the battered Rhinos and Razorbacks, commending the bravery of their spirits, the Ultramarines board the Thunderhawks and leave.
The force heads towards Plains Fall, and Cassius is surprised to see the lead elements of the Imperial Guard, with the two Titans, only twenty kilometres away – too far from Plains Fall to have reached there since the Hive Tyrant was slain.
Landing at Plains Fall, Cassius is met by the general and his command staff. It seems General Arka was not prepare to wait either, launching his counter-offensive before he even knew of the success of the Ultramarines’ mission.
When Cassius asked why, Arkas replies that if one has faith in the Emperor, one must also have faith in his Space Marines. The general thanks Cassius for his intervention and asks if they will be staying.
No, says Cassius. We have done what we have come to do. The Ultramarines have won a battle for the Imperium, but it is the Imperial Guard and Imperial Navy that must win the war here. Styxia is in safe hands with General Arkas in command, Cassius tells the officer. Others need the Ultramarines.
In epilogue, Cassius commands his new company of warriors to their boarding torpedoes and Thunderhawks and reminds them that they carry a weapon more deadly than any made by the Adpetus Mecanicus: the righteous hate of the Ultramarines.