SPACE MARINE APOTHECARIES
Apothecaries are the elite battle-medics of the Space Marine Chapters, skilled in combat surgery and keepers of the medicae lore of the Adeptus Astartes. Wherever a Chapter deploys in strength its Apothecaries are there to heal the grievously injured and recover any fallen battle-brothers, as well as ensuring the continuation of the Chapter’s genetic legacy. It takes an exceptional Space Marine to become an Apothecary – not only must a battle-brother be able to master bio-medicae technologies and the secrets of Adeptus Astartes biology, but he must also be where the fighting is thickest. Often armed only with his narthecium and bolt pistol, the Apothecary must complete his important work under withering enemy fire, his brothers fighting all around while he tends to the fallen.
Every Chapter maintains a core of Apothecaries drawn from its veteran battle-brothers and trained in the genetic mysteries of the Adeptus Astartes. The exact number of these specialists varies from Chapter to Chapter, though most will have enough to oversee the creation of new Space Marines as well as to join the command sections of each of its companies. Just as favoured battle-brothers can rise in rank and work their way into the First Company of the Chapter, an Apothecary will be assigned based on his skill and standing, the greatest of their number tending to the Chapter Master himself.
In accordance with the Codex Astartes, Apothecaries traditionally paint at least part of their armour white to denote their battlefield role – usually their helmet, shoulder pad or narthecium. Often, a shoulder pad or knee guard bears the Prime Helix, the twisting blood-red symbol of the Apothecarion. In battle this makes them distinctive among their fellow Space Marines, allowing their battle-brothers to protect the medic from harm, as well as call for his aid when needed. In combat, this is the heart of the Apothecary’s duty: while his brothers seek glory and vengeance against the foe, the battle-medic moves among the horribly wounded, knitting their flesh with biotic glue and reinvigorating their muscles with shots of adrenium fluids.
When the battle-medic is needed on the field of war, a battle-brother will call across the vox-net for an Apothecary as they stand over the fallen, fighting to keep enemies at bay. An Apothecary must then assess the wounded at a glance, as there is often little time to save their life if the tides of war are quickly rising. In most combat situations, if the shot or blow has not killed the Space Marine, an injection of combat stimulants or a jolt from the narthecium’s cardio-revitalius will get them back in the fight. If the situation allows, he may then be extracted from battle and fully healed on one of the Chapter’s ships, or at local planetary facilities.
In cases where the Space Marine has lost a limb or suffered massive organ failure, but yet clings to life, the Apothecary will use his narthecium to inject the Space Marine with chemicals keyed to his Larraman’s organ. This sends the cells’ healing processes into overdrive, and seals even the deepest wounds under a layer of coagulated blood and scar tissue. The Space Marine can then be evacuated away from the fighting, or if extraction is impossible, filled with combat stimulants and dragged into position against some cover to fight on for as long as he can.
In some cases, if a battle-brother is too close to death or impossible to move, then it falls to the Apothecary to end his suffering. However, this is a rare occurrence, as there are few weapons capable of mortally wounding a Space Marine that are not likely to kill him outright. Sometimes, though, a battle-brother will be torn apart by a foe, partially devoured or impaled on jagged wreckage, his broken body grasping at life for a few agonizing hours as its superhuman endurance keeps death at bay. For a Space Marine in this position, the appearance of the white-armoured Apothecary is a vision of salvation. The Apothecary will lay a reassuring hand on his wounded battle-brother, giving him time to say a gurgling, gore-flecked prayer to the Emperor before the narthecium ends his torment. The battle-medic can use the narthecium’s reductor to deliver the Emperor’s Peace by piercing the battle-brother’s brain, but this is messy and often inefficient. The narthecium also contains a highly secret concoction of poisons that react swiftly with a Space Marine’s biology, causing massive heart failure. Even the existence of these poisons is a secret known only to the Adeptus Astartes and high-ranking members of the Adeptus Terra.
Ministering to the wounded is the secondary battlefield responsibility of an Apothecary. This comes behind the completion of the mission, as well as ensuring the recovery of the Chapter’s gene-seed from the fallen. Without the gene-seed the Chapter would be unable to create new Space Marines – the genetic information it carries is the crucial component in the transformation of a human into a Space Marine. Bereft of this vital bio-component, the Chapter would wither and die within a generation, its losses irreplaceable. Thus the loss of even one progenoid gland is a terrible blow for any Space Marine Chapter, and an Apothecary will go to great lengths to ensure that none are left to rot upon the field of battle, or worse – fall into enemy hands.
Should the Space Marines hold the field after an engagement, the Apothecary is able to walk among the dead, using his narthecium’s reductor to extract the progenoid glands of the fallen, punching the hollow blade into the corpse and sucking out these vital organs. The battle-medic’s task becomes significantly more difficult when the Space Marines must rapidly withdraw from combat, giving ground before a vastly more numerous foe, or if the combat zone is unstable, such as a burning void ship or collapsing hive city. The Apothecary must work quickly under fire to recover the gene-seed, wrestling bodies away from the enemy or making daring charges into no man’s land to reach a fallen battle-brother.
When the Space Marine Chapters first encountered the Tyranids, the Adeptus Astartes made a horrific discovery. The vile aliens would consume a battle-brother completely, feasting on his bio-matter and combining it with their own. For the Apothecarion, this was anathema to everything a Space Marine was, and the true and utter death of his genetic legacy. When Space Marines fight against the xenos swarms of the Hive Mind, it is considered a great shame by the Apothecarion to allow the fallen to be taken by the foe, and Apothecaries will fight their way through hordes of chitinous horrors to recover the dead. If the gene-seed cannot be recovered then it must be destroyed, and though it is the lesser of two horrors, it remains preferable to allowing the remains of a Space Marine to fall into xenos hands. In extreme cases an Apothecary will even destroy himself, especially if his narthecium is filled with extracted genetic materials, rather than risk them being absorbed by the Tyranids.
Apothecaries are far more than battlefield medics and angels of mercy. When not at war, they work in the Apothecarion – a sprawling complex of subterranean vaults or fortified towers given over to the Chapter’s Apothecaries. Here, behind heavy ferrocrete blast doors and watchful gun-servitors, the medics keep and catalogue the Chapter’s genetic history and maintain the purity of its gene-seed. Deep-frozen catacombs, connected to the Apothecarion, house thousands of sealed flasks, each one holding an extracted progenoid gland, biscopea, neuroglottis or other Space Marine organ. From this store, the Apothecaries will create new generations of Adeptus Astartes.
This is far from a simple process, and takes all the skill and ability of the Apothecary. Just as the recruits will be tested and trained, the Chapter taking only the bravest and hardiest of candidates, so too must the Apothecaries test the gene-seed. The organs are put through a lengthy series of trials, the battle-medic subjecting each sample to varying stress levels of radiation or chemical agents to see how it reacts. This is vital to ensure its purity, as even the smallest flaw can grow into terrible and heretical mutation if left undetected. Equally, the process of melding a gene-seed organ into one of the Chapter’s recruits is made far more dangerous if there is something awry with the biological secrets held within. This can cause the Space Marine organs to grow out of control, fuse together or burst forth from the flesh of the subject, resulting in death, if fate is merciful, or a horrific semblance of life if not.
An Apothecary therefore oversees every step of the creation of a Space Marine; even after a battle-brother has been accepted into the Chapter, every one is monitored to ensure he does not develop mutation and his organs and glands remain in good function. Space Marines are regularly examined by the Apothecaries, but the results of these tests remain a closely guarded secret of the Chapter. Any flaws in the Chapter’s gene-seed will be seen as a weakness; fractures in its biological construction that could lead to heresy or madness. Even a single mutation, if it escapes notice, might cause the gene-seed to degrade over subsequent generations, polluting whole batches and spreading its taint through the ranks of the Chapter.
Apothecaries must also prepare the gene-seed tithe all Space Marine Chapters send to the Adeptus Terra. This sample will be examined for its purity before being stored away for the founding of new Space Marine Chapters. If there is even a small flaw in the gene-seed, or any sign of mutation, it can cast a shadow over the Chapter and even bring excommunication from the Imperium in extreme cases.
Apothecaries are trained in the performance of advanced surgery and grafting of bionics, delving into the field of bioengineering. When a Space Marine is grievously wounded in battle and survives, he will usually end up on an Apothecary’s table. Whether this is to restore function to damaged organs or to mend shattered limbs, the Apothecarion has a store of the battle-brother’s genetic material kept within gene-banks just for this very purpose. From the bio-seed of the Space Marine, replacement lungs, livers and hearts can be grown, even great sheets of new skin for when a battle-brother’s own has been burnt or flayed away.
Apothecaries have no way, however, of restoring missing limbs. When a battle-brother is maimed in this way, Apothecaries will work with the Chapter’s Techmarines to craft a cybernetic replacement. Often created for a specific battle-brother, these bespoke augmentations are then sutured into muscles and screwed into bone. Through a painstaking process, the Apothecary will then weave nerve endings with monofilament receptor wires so that the limb might respond to the Space Marine’s neural impulses. Eyes, organs, arms and legs can all be restored via bionics, granting a battle-brother little loss of function – sometimes even improving on the original – and the hardened steel casing mimics the natural resilience of the Space Marine’s own flesh. After years of war and thousands of battles, when the battle-brother dies, the Apothecaries reclaim their mechanical bounty, slicing free tendons holding adamantium-plated hands, crystal lenses from eye sockets and blood-drenched organs hidden deep in chest cavities. These devices may then find a future in other wounded Space Marines, passed down from one generation to the next.
Sometimes, on an extended campaign, an Apothecary is forced to repair a battle-brother far from the advanced technologies and sanctified tools of the Apothecarion. This kind of battlefield surgery is cruder and quicker, intended to get the Space Marine back into the fight as quickly as possible. Bionics will be scavenged from the dead, while chemical stimulants are substituted for true healing. Stitched meat and fused muscle is then hidden under the ceramite plates of power armour, and the Space Marine is sent back into the fray.