The Alpha Legion
Traitor Space Marine Legion
Following the Horus Heresy, thousands of records, archives and libraries were destroyed to purge ad mention, indeed any memory, of the traitors. Ten millennia later there are now billions of Imperial citizens who remain unaware that the rebellion ever happened. However, a few tomes survived, mostly in the hands of those in high authority or heretics whose loyalties still remained undiscovered. It is from these works that historians and Inquisitors have gleaned their knowledge of those ancient times. Of course, shifting out the truth is never easy, because most books are copies of copies or simply forgeries filled with lies.
In the case of the Alpha Legion, reliable facts are even harder to come by, as the legion was notoriously secretive. For example - unlike most of the First Founding Legions of the Adeptus Astartes, the Alpha Legion's home world is unknown. The reason for this omission is unclear, but Inquisitor Kravin of the Ordo Malleus has recently unearthed an ancient journal that he claims provides an account of the first contact with, and recovery of, the legions' Primarch. Kravin has estimated the veracity of this journal at 62.6%, but has so far refused to produce it for independent examination.
According to Kravin's claim, towards the end of the Great Crusade, an advance patrol cruiser of the Luna Wolves Legion entered an unnamed system, searching as ever for lost human worlds. Swarming towards it came a horde of small space ships, of varying types and appearances, mainly one and two-man fighters. Despite the ships being of primitive design and apparently from more than one origin, the attack was highly coordinated. Dozens mobbed the Luna Wolves' Thunderhawks, while others braved the batteries of turret defence guns to shoot at the huge cruiser. However, the weapons of the fighters made little impression and the attack soon broke off. The Luna Wolves cruiser gave chase, eager to show these puny attackers the power of the Adeptus Astartes. It was only after the first impact that the bridge crew realised they had been lured into a minefield. Manoeuvring to escape resulted in two more explosions and damaged the engines seriously enough that the cruiser was forced to halt in place until repairs could be made. The horde of fighters renewed their attacks, leaving the outnumbered Thunderhawks hard-pressed to defend against them.
Two days later, the rest of the Luna Wolves fleet arrived, summoned by the cruiser's distress signal. The legion's Primarch, Horus, was shuttled straight to the stricken cruiser, furious at the crew's failure to deal with such insignificant attackers. He found the command deck in a state of high alert, for a small group of the enemy had somehow managed to board the cruiser. They had split up to evade capture in the ship's endless corridors and service decks, and those that had not already been found and eliminated now seemed to be converging on the bridge.
Horus waited for them. As five men burst onto the deck, he shot four of them through the head before they even had a chance to act. Without pause the fifth shot rang out, but the last man was different. More than foot taller even than the Luna Wolves Space Marines, he had piercing green eyes and looked almost a match for Horus himself. Somehow, even at such close range, the man sidestepped fast enough that the bolt shell only grazed his temple and exploded against the bulkhead behind. As the man charged forwards, a second shot slammed into his shoulder, but still he did not slow. More shots were fired by guards and bridge officers as well as Horus. The man staggered under multiple impacts, but incredibly came on through the firestorm to launch himself at the Luna Wolves Priamrch. Then at the last instant, with his hands inches from Horus's throat, the man stopped. The two stared at each other for a long moment, before Horus started laughing. He had found the last Primarch.
The new arrival called himself Alpharius, and claimed to have been travelling this area of space for many years. However, he remained tight-lipped as to where he had originated. Various worlds in that locale were subsequently brought into the Imperial fold, but Alpharius always denied that any of them was his home. The conglomeration of planets he had been leading was persuaded to join the Imperium with little further bloodshed. The wounds Alpharius had suffered healed quickly, but it seems that rather than sending his discovery straight back to Terra to meet the Emperor, Horus kept the Primarch with him for some months. Horus was most impressed with Alpharius's remarkable success against his cruiser - trapping it, boarding it and then penetrating right to the bridge - and during this time he allowed his new found brother to take tactical command in the various actions that occurred. Alpharius was clearly just as impressed with Horus - with the huge martial power he wielded and with his instinct for when and when not to use it.
Eventually, Alpharius was taken back to the epicentre of the ever-expanding Imperium and reunited with the Emperor. There was the usual rejoicing, pomp and circumstance, but records on Terra suggest that the two spent little time together. Alpharius was quickly sent to take command of his legion, while the Emperor had many pressing affairs of state. The Alpha Legion, as it was now named, was the last of the Adeptus Astartes Legions to be created. With astounding prescience, the Emperor had ordered their founding just a few decades before. The new Space Marines were tall and strong, much reminiscent of their Primarch, and were possessed of a cunning intelligence.
Alpharius led his army, created in his image, to the outer reaches of the Imperium, eager to join battle and emulate the glories of the older legions. His first campaigns were well planned and highly successful, and he worked to develop and mould his legions tactics. He advocated that the best attack comes from many directs at once, assaulting the foe on all sides, in every way. He insisted on having options open, never relying on any one thing, individual person or single victory to win the day. He was always prepared with a back-up plan, a flanking force was always in perfect position, and Alpha Legion infiltrators invariably struck behind enemy lines at just the right moment.
Alpharius added to this doctrine by seeking as many other advantages as he could. He would bargain for allies, encourage treachery within the enemy army and develop a network of informers and spies within the populous. Underground rebel groups and activists would be contacted and persuaded to provide diversionary attacks, demonstrations or bombings at agreed times. By the time a battle started, the Alpha Legion would have so many factors to its advantage that it was virtually impossible to lose. The legion soon gained a reputation for devastatingly coordinated campaigns, and while these methods took longer to execute than a simple frontal assault, they were far less costly in troops, enabling Alpharius to spread his forces more widely.
Most of the other legions had taken planets to be their headquarters and base of operations, generally the worlds where their Primarchs had been found. They had constructed glorious cathedral-like fortresses and many had taken over government of their world and even the surrounding systems. But Alpharius clearly did not believe in this high profile approach. He is thought to have established several bases, but kept their locations hidden from everyone outside the legion. Only the whereabouts of smaller staging posts and supply depots were made known, and even this information was highly restricted.
It is thought that Alpharius worked tirelessly to improve and develop his officers, encouraging them to think for themselves and listening to their counsel. He instigated programmes of training, constantly setting challenges to overcome, even in the midst of battle, to force his troops to adapt and improvise. There are even documented occasions when, shortly before or during major offensives, the Primarch simply disappeared, in order to assess how his legion would perform without him.
Alpharius did not seek glory or honours for himself, and rarely attended victory celebrations. Consequently, he never spent much time with the other Primarch's and it was many years before he met all of them. His first encounter with Roboute Guilliman of the Ultramarines was reputedly strained. Guilliman believed in rigid structure and hierarchy, and had a firm battle doctrine that his legion never wavered from. He was in the process of documenting the 'correct' tactics and operation of a Space Marine force, tried and tested during his long years of command, and suggested that the young Alpha Legion should adopt this 'codex' behaviour. However, this attitude was anathema to Alpharius' belief in initiative and adaptability, and a heated debate over tactics and ideology ensued. When it became clear that Alpharius would not bow to his experience and superiority, Guilliman pointed out the thousands of victories and battle honours his legion had won, and told his younger brother that he could never hope to compare.
After that meeting, Alpharius pushed his legion even harder, seeking out the most difficult challenges for his forces. He knew he could not equal the number of worlds conquered by the older legions, for they had been founded centuries earlier, but he seemed determined to win their respect for his legion's martial prowess.
On the world of Tesstra Prime, the population was violently resistant to the idea of Imperial rule. Alpharius deliberately delayed his assault a full week, allowing the planet's armies to amass and dig in around the sprawling capital city, and when battle commenced there was close to a million soldiers arrayed against the Alpha Legion. However, the week had not been spent idle. The Space Marines had deployed so that they could attack from various directions, while leaving huge sections of the defensive line untouched. Just as the assault was launched, bombs detonated within the city demolished dozens of bridges and blocked major supply routes. The defending Tesstran commanders found themselves unable to move troops and supplies into the areas under attack, or out of the areas that were being ignored. The divided forces tried to hold out against the relentless advance of the Alpha Legion, but the lack of ammunition and reinforcements made it a hopeless task. And, of course, while help could not be brought in, retreating sliders found they could not get out fast enough either. Thousands ended up herded together down the few remaining escape routes and were cut to pieces in and endless rain of bolter shells. It was two days before enough of the defenders could be redeployed to mount a serious counter-attack. However, officers in the Tesstran army had somehow been compromised and these traitors betrayed details of the plan. The counter-attack advanced into a trap, and found itself beset by armoured Space Marines on all sides. Within a week, the Tesstran forces had suffered ninety percept casualties. When he was asked why he had not simply seized the capital before the defending armies had arrived, Alpharius replied "It would have been too easy." (cf. Inq. File 306621/M.30[battle ethics])
His conduct of the battle for Tesstra brought Alpharius censure from many quarters. Roboute Guilliman is recorded as having called it "a huge waste of time, effort and the Emperor's bolt shells". However, concerns about alleged atrocities committed by the Night Lords legion diverted attention away from the incident. Nevertheless, Alpharius was furious at the reaction to his Legions masterful performance. Only Horus openly praised the manner in which the Alpha Legion had overcome opposition that outnumbered them a hundred to one. Horus was the only other Primarch whom Alpharius had any regular contact with. The two appeared to respect each other greatly, and are thought to have discussed tactics on more than one occasion.
At the start of the Heresy, the Warmaster's forces amassed on Istvaan V. The Emperor sent no fewer than seven legions, fully one third of the entire Adeptus Astartes, to put down the rebellion. The initial wave consisted of three of those legions - the Salamanders, the Iron Hands and the Raven Guard. They were seriously mauled as they made planetfall and battled to secure safe landing zones. This second wave was made up of the remaining four legions, and some sources name the Alpha Legion among them. After their initial landings these 'loyalists' attacked their allies instead of the rebels. Utterly betrayed and attacked on all sides, the three allegedly loyalist legions had no chance at all. Just five loyal Space Marines survived the massacre, bearing the previous gene-seed of many of their fallen brethren. Given the average size of legions at this time, the death toll must have reached 30,000, while rebel casualties on Istvaan are estimated at just a few thousand.
Inquisitor Kravin has observed that such a deceitful trap was strongly reminiscent of Alpharius tactics, suggesting that "he and Horus may have devised this brilliant plan together". Other scholars have made the same connection, though with rather less enthusiastic wording. Exactly when Alpharius chose to side with the Warmaster is not clear. Certainly he spent more time with Horus than he ever did with the Emperor. Perhaps there was an understanding between them right from the beginning.
However, it is not thought that Alpharius was blindly following Horus, for he seemed to have his own agenda. He relished every battle against loyalist Space Marines as the ultimate test of military skill. Again and again the Alpha Legion proved they were the match of the other legions. They started going out of their way to find Space Marine opponents, and inflicted stinging defeats on the loyalist White Scars at Tallarn, a Space Wolves company at Yarant and other legions at dozens of smaller outposts. Well before the Warmaster's forces reached Terra, the Alpha Legion had become separated, but continued to wage war on all that they came across. Even after the defeat of Horus on Terra, the Alpha Legion continued on unchecked, apparently inventing objectives with absolutely no connection to the rebellion as a whole. They moved into the galactic east towards, whether by coincidence or design, the Ultramarines Legion. The Ultramarines had been posted on he Eastern Fringe when the Heresy began, and were racing back to the Segmentum Solar, enraged at the treachery of their brother Space Marines and the Warmaster's connivance to keep them too far away to affect the outcome. It is possible that Alpharius deliberately sought out the Ultramarines, that he wished to confront Roboute Guilliman in battle and prove the superiority of his tactics. Other theories suggest that the Ultramarines tracked down the Alpha Marines, seizing the opportunity to be revenged on one of the Traitor Legions. But, however it came about, the two Space Marine legions met in battle on the world of Eskrador.
First to arrive on the planet, Alpharius was able to choose his battleground, for he knew that the Ultramarines would not rest until they had hunted the traitors down. The Alpha Legion deployed deep within a harsh mountain range, at the pole of planet, riven with gullies, ravines and high passes that would seriously hamper movement, especially for ground vehicles. Alpharius was convinced that the battle would be won by the side which overcame these problems the best, thought forward planning, coordinated air transport and detachments coping independently of heavy support. Guilliman was a military commander with few peers. However, all the experience, lessons and tactics he had accumulated over the centuries had been carefully documented, compiled and made accessible to the other legions, in the Primarch's desire to improve the Emperor's armies as a whole. Now this gave Alpharius the advantage because he knew how the Ultramarines operated. Indeed, Guilliman's initial deployment followed exactly the doctrines set down in his own writings, and the Alpha Legion moved to trap them. But Guilliman chose the first nightfall to do something unexpected. Breaking his own rules of operation, he led a large portion of his own forces deep into the mountains, deploying by Thunderhawks, Droppods and teleporters into the midst of the Alpha Legion with no lines of support or supply. Guilliman's target was the enemy command centre and none other than Alpharius himself.
The following account appears to be the personal log of a member of the Ultramarines strike force, probably a sergeant. It is included in Inquisitor Kravin's diatribe 'Lessons of Strife', though other Inquisitors and representatives of the Ultramarines themselves have questioned its validity. The original document was purportedly discovered in a system earth-ward of Eskrador.
[0411.0] Our strike force, numbered over three thousand Marines, and despite the lack of heavy armour in support (due to our mode of arrival), we soon had the traitors' command centre in disarray. There was no way the lightly armoured buildings could stand up to our Devestators' firepower and a direct assault by the most honoured and revered Ultramarines Dreadnoughts. Our enemies were outnumbered five to one and soon started to fall back up the mountain valley, probably to buy time for a relieving force to arrive (my Captain conjectured). But we were zealous with the thought of revenge and pressed them hard, knowing that the terrain would hamper the movement of reinforcements. With perhaps five hundred Space Marines remaining, the Alpha Legion force made a stand at the head of the valley. Their heavy weapons were deployed well, high on the mountainside, and felled many our number as we fought upwards toward them - but their guns were too few and our resolve unswerving. As we closed upon the traitors, Alpharius himself led a counter attack, charging headlong back down the rocky slope with his bodyguard and slamming into our line. Not even Ultramarines could stand before a Primarch, and his power sword felled every noble Space Marine within reach. Our advance halted and I was forced to recite the Canticle of Faith to steady my squad. But then an imposing figure appeared and my heart was gladdened. Our great Lord and Primarch Roboute Guilliman himself strode forward, ignoring the melee around him, straight towards Alpharius. The two Primarch's stood before each other. They were equal in stature, both clad in shining power armour and each wielding a glittering power sword, but where one was noble the other was craven, where one was loyal the other was a betrayer. All other combat ceased as we watched them. There was a long pause, neither Primarch moving an inch, then both struck in an instant. Each sword made a single stroke and then both were till again. For a second, the two great men stood facing, before Alpharius slumped to the ground.
Like every other Ultramarines Space Marine on the field, I let out a loud cry of victory. Guilliman's plan had worked - the very heart of the enemy had been torn out. The remaining bodyguard fought on, but we fell on our adversaries with renewed vigour, and when the last one had been cut down, we turned our attention to the rest of the Alpha Legion command. Trapped by the sheer mountains at the head of the valley, they had no escape from our bolter fire. We left not one alive.
The body of the dead Primarch was burnt on a great pyre, and Lord Guilliman allowed us a moment of prayer and reflection on our success before issuing orders to move out and commence the destruction of the leaderless enemy army. We are fully confident that the task will be straightforward - the loss of its Primarch is something no legion can recover from. [END ENTRY]
[0413.4] The optimism engendered by our initial victory appears to have been misplaced. Since my last entry we have ascertained that the Alpha Legion's command function was spread into numerous groups, and the loss of one apparently had minimal impact on their operational abilities, even though it included Alpharius. What is more, our deep strike and the target's subsequent retreat has drawn our force well out of position, far from support. It has become clear that far from hunting out demoralized pockets of traitors, we were facing a superbly organized foe that is closing in on us from all sides. [END ENTRY]
[0413.9] We have sighted our Thunderhawk gunships overhead, engaged in fierce battles with those of the Alpha Legion. Both legions have, of course, very similar numbers of Thunderhawks, so the aerial battle seems to be a standoff, leaving no chance of an air evacuation. Meanwhile, the enemy has launched several hit-and-run attacks upon our strike force, causing numerous casualties, and Lord Guilliman is commenced a drive back out of the mountains to link up with the rest of our ground troops. [END ENTRY]
[0414.9] We are being harassed and ambushed every step of the way. Groups of Eskrador natives, apparently bribed or coerced into helping the traitors, have triggered rockslides to block our path and delay us. Communications with the rest of our legion have become sporadic - our Techmarines think they are being jammed - however some dialogue has been possible and a relieving force compromising most of our remaining ground forces is pushing into the mountains towards us. However, that too has apparently been under attack, and supply vehicles have been sabotaged. [END ENTRY]
[0420.] After five grim days of intermittent fighting we sighted the distinctive blue armour of our Ultramarines brethren advancing down a valley towards us. However, having approached into range our 'rescuers' opened fire. A contingent of the Alpha Legion scum had disguised its heraldry and armour in order to spring a trap. Are there no depths to which these heretics will not sink? The utter dishonour that our erstwhile brothers had shown left me stunned. More of the Alpha Legion appeared to our rear, initiating the biggest attack from our enemies so far. With mountains to either side, we had little option but to stand our ground and fight for our lives. Losses were heavy, and might have been total, if it were not for the timely arrival of the real rescuing force. The reinforcements were in little better shape than our own beleaguered strike force, but the extra numbers allowed us to force a way through and establish a more defendable front line [END ENTRY]
The account goes on to describe how in the next week Guilliman attempted a number of counter attacks to regain the initiative, but the Alpha Legion seemed to have prior knowledge of their every move, and either were not where augurs suggested or had carefully planned ambushes waiting. Finally the Ultramarines evacuated the planet surface and used their ships to bombard the traitors from orbit. Guilliman is recorded as having said he had no interest in righteous battle against such a dishonourable foe and that they were needed back on Terra with all possible speed. However, it seems hard to dispute the fact that the Ultramarines were soundly beaten by the Alpha Legion, despite killing Alpharius. Certainly the deep ravines of the mountain range would have provided plenty of cover from the bombardment cannons.
The months and years that followed were a chaotic time of regrouping, rebuilding and retribution for the Imperium. When Imperial forces returned to Eskrador there was no sign of the Alpha Legion (although the entire native populace was purged to eradicate any taint of Chaos). However it is thought that the majority of the legion did not flee into the Eye of Terror with the other rebels, instead remaining within the Imperium. Numerous secret bases were already in existence, and the legion fragmented itself in order to hide itself in the midst of its enemies. Small forces kept up frequent attacks on military targets especially those weakened by the carnage of the Heresy, and became a major problem for those trying to rebuild the shattered Imperium. The location and destruction of these groups became a priority, and the Inquisition and remaining loyalist legions devoted considerable resources to this end. The last pockets of Alpha Legion forces were declared eradicated in a proclamation by the High Lords of terra at the end of M.32, but subsequent attacks proved this to be untrue. Similar declarations were made during M.33 and as recently as M.39
Alpharius never revealed the planet of his origin, and even the general area of his discovery is now lost to legend. His legion never took a single world as their base, instead operating from various secret locations throughout the Imperium. Many of these bases have been uncovered and destroyed over the millennia following the Heresy, although often they had been deserted by the traitors by the time they were found.
Alpharius' doctrine was to attack the enemy in as many different ways as possible, all at the same time. What this meant in practice varied depending on the scale and location of the conflict. Tactics confirmed as having been employed by the Alpha Legion include flank attacks, tunnelling to undermine or bypass defences, teleportation of air drops behind enemy lines, diversionary attacks, infiltration, disguising troops and vehicles in enemy colours, disabling enemy transportation (both vehicles and routes), sabotage of fuel and ammunition dumps, poisoning of water and food supplies, atmospheric and ecological tampering, triggering of volcanic, seismic and tectonic activities, bribery and coercion of enemy troops (including officers) and Imperial officials, enlisting into enemy forces, impersonation of Imperial officers, distribution of propaganda to incite unrest and rebellion, organisation of civilian riots and other anti-Imperial activity, sponsorship and supply of heretical cultist groups, alliance with anti-Imperial forces including other traitor legions and aliens. Generally a number of these tactics will be employed in careful coordination, often resulting in labyrinthine secret plots.
It has been noted on numerous occasions that due to their employment of a large number of completely unorthodox tactics, the Alpha Legion are able to deploy smaller forces than might otherwise be necessary. Combat is only ever really regarded as part of their overall strategy.
Very little is known about the internal organisation of the Alpha Legion. They placed a high value upon secrecy before they turned traitor, and captured Space Marines have revealed little under interrogation. On occasions there have been successful assassinations of members of the legion thought to be high-ranking officers, but their removal has had little visible effect on their operations.
The Legions' symbol, the hydra, is a multi-headed mythical beast which could keep fighting even if one if its heads was cut off. This legend seems to reflect the Alpha Legion's command structure, as well as echoing its doctrine of multiple attacks.
It is known that the legion recruits, supplies and organizes hundreds of cultist cells on Imperial worlds. These groups are not all crazed devotees of the Chaos gods and insane daemon-worshippers (although there are plenty of those). There are also highly organized, trained and motivated groups who work to subvert the authorities, produce and spread propaganda and, when called upon, undertake military action - usually in the form of bombings, sabotage and inciting riots. Such action will generally form part of a larger Alpha Legion plan, for example luring Imperial forces to a particular place by organizing a civil disturbance or preventing the arrival of reinforcements by blowing up a bridge.
The question then arises; how does the Alpha Legion coordinate all its activities and communicate with these disparate cells? Inquisitor Kravin is not the only one to have claimed that the Alpha Legion achieves this through the use of so-called 'operatives'. These figures are apparently human, but may have had limited Space Marine psycho-hypnotic indoctrination to make them utterly loyal to the legion and possibly even the implantation of some of the Adeptus Astartes organs. According to the claim, these operatives form the link between the cultist cells, travelling about with impunity where a Space Marine would quickly draw attention, setting up new groups, guiding their agendas and bringing them instructions. During protracted campaigns, they may be used to pose as soldiers, gathering intelligence of sabotaging the enemy army. The existence of these operatives has not been conclusively proved, but few other explanations have been put forward.
While it is not officially acknowledged by the Adeptus of Terra, the Alpha Legion clearly remains a cancer within the very heart of the Imperium.
Alpharius believed in planning and coordination, he always sought alternatives and multiple solutions to any given problem, with different elements working together for the end result. These doctrines have been thoroughly embraced by the legion as a whole, and have proved effective, especially in the disparate and secretive way they now operate.
All Space Marine legions set arduous tasks and trials for potential recruits, but prior to the Heresy, the Alpha Legion set these initiation tests for squads not individuals. Squads had succeeded as a group or not at all - foolhardy heroics were frowned upon. The overall plan was paramount and more valuable than any one Space Marine. It is not known if this practice is still carried out.
While the Alpha legion does not reside in the Eye o Terror, and therefore is not plagued by the Warping effects of that maelstrom of insanity, there is still evidence of mutation in the gene-seed. If this was the case prior to the Heresy, it was kept concealed, but given the legion's predilection for secrecy that would not be surprising. During the Lethe Ambush, mutated Alpha Legion Space Marines hid their warped body parts, not out of shame, but so they could reveal them as they attacked - adding horror and revulsion to the shock of their sudden attack.
Imperialistic cries of "For the Emperor!" and other similar are deliberately calculated to mock and infuriate foes who recognise them as traitors. Any of their victims who do not know the difference between an Imperial Space Marine and a Chaos Space Marine will simply think they have been betrayed.