We're all quite mad here... Down the rabbit hole we go, children. Follow me.
Excripts from Interview with the Mad King, by Rememberancer Alexandr Romorov
I hated my so-called “brothers”, the second I smelled them.
I was processed cleanly, and every implant grafted easily, except the last. The Seed ruined my perceptions, and men who I had once stood alongside gladly, I now avoided at all costs, even though we were so few in those days. It was immediate, this curse, and I hated myself for hating them. Worse, I think they pitied me. Shade and shadow,and eternal loneliness, was my only friend during those terrible days, when I wavered between madness and stubborn defiance. Only in the field did I feel anything like peace, forever scouting ahead of my brothers, both to aid them and to keep them out of the range of my torturous senses. I refused multiple recalls after engagements when we were loosed, even forcing my kin to hunt me down once, all because I needed to be away from them, so desperately. 'Just a few minutes more', I'd tell them, over and over as I weaved the swiftest path through the Hive streets away from them. Heh. That didn't go over well. There was blood.
My trial was short. Execution of our breed was nearly unthinkable back then; we were such a rare and difficult commodity to produce and maintain. But it had happened, in dire circumstances. The question was whether I had finally stayed too close to that line, the point of becoming too much a threat to be left alive. Imperial Command was still stumbling upon pockets of Tontrua Milities who had survived The Cull, as well as all sorts of other terrible things that had slept beneath Terra's broken hide, and had no desire to have another post-human wreaking havoc across the landscape.
I expected death, but was given remit. My duty, and punishment, would be to remain on Terra forever, hunting the monsters of Old Earth until their extinction, or mine. With a stroke, I was damned and blessed all at once. I would be free of my kin, free to wage war in His name, but enslaved to the Throneworld and cut off from my Legion forever, taking the mantle of the Black Shield.
I accepted willingly. And my brothers left for the stars.
I never really wanted to meet my Father. I heard the call, of course, when he had been found, but I never responded. To be honest, I was terrified that his presence would wake up whatever made me lose my mind around my former Brothers. I would snap, and a son of the Emperor would crush me like a fly, and that would be that. No, thank you. That would not be my damn epitaph. I was trained by the Golem-Kings themselves, The Firstborn, damn it! I refused to be a traitorous smear on my Legion's honour. Even when the call became a request, then demands to present myself, with increasing anger and in the new tongue of my Father's adopted culture, I knew to respond would be damnation.
I never expected him to find me. He was just there suddenly, at the entrance to my shelter. I didn't hear him, see him....smell him. He was unarmed and unarmoured, wearing only the trappings of his cradle-world, and bearing a swathed package. In the near distance, heavy dark shapes could be seen moving in the rain, a loose patrol on the prowl, and my senses began to burn. Running wasn't an option.
He simply set the package on the ground at the step of my door, and waited for me to respond. Like a programmer-trainer trying to get near to a unwired cyber-mastiff, making slow movements and cautious eye contact. He was treating me like a rabid dog.
I didn't blame him.
“You may be cast out, but you are still my son.” His voice was much richer in real life than I would have imagined, with much less cultural inflection in his voice than I had heard in the vox-recordings. He was suppressing his own language, to make me feel at ease. I loved him for that. ”And I will not see my son sent into the darkness, without knowing him first. Or without what he might need in his trials.” He smiled then, without teeth.
I knelt down and pulled away the wrapping, which was a thick pelt of oiled rad-wolf hide, to reveal a collection of items, ranging from bottles of alcohol, shanks of dried meat, and unleavened bread, to ammunition, ropes, sharpening stones, even a single fragmentation grenade. Most prominent, though, was a brush-subdued and artificer crafted bolter, modified for mid to long range fighting, atop the pile. Other charms and items filled the package as well, loving crafted and packed for poor weather.
I looked up, my bronze mask still covering my face. “Thank you, Father. I will use it all well, and with pride. You honour and humble me.”
His eyes looked sad, suddenly. “I wish you could be alongside us, my son. Simply put, you bonded to a different group during your inception. I do not know how, but it's the only answer. That's why the presence of your gene-brothers, who have bonded to each other, drives you mad. They smell like... the wrong pack, to you. If you desired, we could try to find a way...” He trailed off, an open offer.
I shook my head at that. “My adopted family are all I need. They took me in, when all others refused. They are strange, these mortals, but they are an honest and intense community who live for each other, and I live for them. The Caballeros are my family now, Father. I hope you understand.”
He nodded once. “I do. And I will respect your decision, so long as you continue to act with honour. Fail to do so, and I will have you torn to pieces. Do you agree?”
“Then there is one last point we must discuss, a matter of theatrics. You understand, of course.” He began rolling up his sleeves.
“I expected it, in some form or another, Father.” I stood. I would not be on my knees when this happened.
“I would know your face, and your name, just one time.”
“Of course, Father. I am Amidio Al-Bahram.” I removed the bronze hyena-masked helm from my head with a hiss, exposing clean-shaven and pale features, and blond-brown hair, cut short. So much like my father, yet so distant. Of course, I have his eyes. And his smile.
“I am Leman Russ. Until next winter, my son.”
I never saw the blow coming. I remember nothing after that.
I could never return to the Legion, nor would I dare serve with another. Imperial Command wanted nothing to do with me, but my punishment and my duty beckoned. I must hunt the nightmares, until death or extinction. And the only other beings that I could find who were insane enough to do the same, did so for coin. The Bjaha Sur may be bonded to the Throne, but more as a corporation than as a military organization, and were free to take up bounties and sell their services, as long as it served humanity and it's ascension. In many ways, their old pacts resemble the rogue trader credentials given to tyrants in remit, and the many sub-contracted regiments who belonged to La Familia were given much leeway. I shadowed them on missions a few times, then aided them, then simply followed them home one day. I was welcomed with wary wares and weapons with their fire selector knobs half-turned, but after I convinced them I was no threat, I was let in with little fanfare. I was impressed by their culture of honour and close-knit family, and the swift death they brought into an engagement. I sympathized with them in some ways, as well.
Those who accidentally overdosed on combat stimms would act like I would, when the animal takes hold. The shame they feel at their actions afterwards, I understand too well.
I earned their trust, after years, and now I am La Familia, honour-pacted to the Caballeros Assault. I have nothing else. They are my family, as curious as their little lives are, and I will hunt with them; I already have, for generations of their kind. We will dive into Hell, and tear the darkness from it's lair. Yes, I hunt still to this day, and my tally of murdered monsters grows ever higher, but I no longer hunt like my former kin do. To do so would awaken....It.
My Father calls the thing in our breast a 'wolf'. I cannot see that. My beast is no calm hunter, no noble creature moving swiftly through crystal sprays of snow towards it's prey. Mine is a creature savage and cunning, finding humour in the terror I create in it's name, when it takes me. No wonder my only allies in the word are drug-addicted mercenaries.
I eat the dead. And I laugh when I do it, even as I horrify and disgust the core of my being.
I am VI Legion. But I am no Wolf.
I am The Hyena.
Amidio Al-Bahram, Black Shield (formerly VI Legion), Cogomen 'Hyena'
Life-pacted to Caballeros Assault Company, Bjaha Sur Conglomerate -Terra-Bonded-