Let’s talk about why the Alpha Legion might be the last Marines truly loyal to the Imperial Dream.
It’s a common known fact that during the Horus Heresy the Legions split down the middle on the question of supporting the Emperor or Horus. Nine Legions stayed loyal, and nine betrayed the Imperium. For the 10,000 years since then, the survivors and their descendants have fought the Long War, as the traitors have become more and more corrupted by Chaos and the loyalists have evolved with the Imperium into a more ridid army. Among the most mysterious of the Traitor Legions are the Alpha Legion. So mysterious is this legion that we can’t even be sure they are traitors at all.
The Alpha Legion, unlike the other traitors, did not join Horus out of selfish reasons. The other traitors either turned against the Emperor because they felt He was reaching for godhood, or out of loyalty to Horus, or simply for power. The Alpha Legion on the other hand joined Horus for what they thought was the greater good of the galaxy. They were convinced by the Xenos Cabal that Horus winning a quick victory would burn out humanity in a quick orgy of blood, thus ending the threat of Chaos. If the Emperor won however, the Galaxy would be cursed to spend thousands of years in constant war, with Chaos destroying all in the end. Thus the Alpha Legion sided with Horus to ensure he won and save the Galaxy (A task which they failed).
On looking at it, I’m not sure this story really holds together well. First off, the idea that the Alpha Legion, a loyal Legion, would turn on the Emperor due to the word of some Xenos is a bit far-fetched. Moreover, If the Legion was truly committed to Horus they did a rather horrible job of joining the fight. You might think that infiltrators like the Alpha Legion would keep their loyalties hidden until a truly crucial point, such as the Siege of Terra. Instead, the Alpha Legion show their hand during the Dropsite Massacre, at the same time as a number of other Legions.
Moreover, as the war goes on the Alpha Legion really doesn’t seem to do as much for Horus as you’d think they would. They often seem to be playing the middle ground, or express some kind of loyalty to the Emperor. In many ways, one could argue if the Alpha Legion was working against Horus, they would have acted the same way they did. Publicly support Horus, but at the same time infiltrate the traitors and work to undermine them.
This brings us to the present day. If the Alpha Legion never really turned traitor, but instead acted as inside agents among Chaos, then it would stand to reason that in the current day they are still loyal. In fact, it’s quite possible that they are the only, or final true loyal Legion. The rest of the Chaos forces are of course traitors. The other Marines that stayed loyal have been slowly bent and debased over 10,000 years by the ignorance and state religion of the modern Imperium. Only the Alpha Legion, and Guiliman, are left to be loyal to the true Imperial dream and the memory of Unification.
Indeed the novel Shroud of Night gives us an interesting look at the potentially loyal Alpha Legion. It follows a band of Alpha Legion troops, through a battle after the opening of the Great Rift. While the Alpha Legionnaires appear to be fighting on the side of Chaos, it’s clear this isn’t really the case. These Alpha Legion Marines refuse to worship any gods, either the Chaos Gods or the Emperor, sounding much more like believers in the Imperial Truth. While they disdain the loyalists and Imperials they fight, this seems to be because the modern Marines have chosen to worship the Emperor, calling them Corpse Worshippers. At the same time, they don’t seem to dislike the Emperor, saying He deserves better servants and even swearing by the Throne, a most unChaos action.
While some of the Legionnaires do bare mutations, and others use some… questionable equipment, they continue to resist the corruption of Chaos. In-between the clash of Chaos and Imperials, they seem to represent a 3rd way, one true to the vision of Unity that was. Moreover, at the climax of the battle the Alpha Legion is aided by none other that St. Celestine, seemingly working on the Emperor’s orders, or will. She hands over a powerful, divine one might say, beacon to the Alpha Legion. Rather than destroying it, she, and the beacon, on the EMPEROR’S ORDERS, give it to the Alpha Legion to safe keep. This does not seem like something you’d do with a traitor legion. Overall it seems quite likely that that Alpha Legion are still acting in their role as the sword in the darkness, infiltrating Chaos and undermining them while keeping the true dream of the Emperor, that of Unity, alive.
This would make them the last truly loyal Marines.
Let us know whose side you think the Alpha Legion is really on, down in the comments!