Arik Taranis, also known as Babu Dhakal, was one of the first Thunder Warriors -- the first group of genetically-engineered soldiers created by the Emperor of Mankind to help conquer the techno-barbarian warlords of Old Earth, and to reunite the homeworld of humanity beneath his rule after the long night of the Age of Strife. Once Unity had been achieved and the world united following the end of the Unification Wars, the Emperor intended to launch his galaxy-spanning Great Crusade and establish his Imperium of Man by reuniting all the lost colony worlds of humanity under his rule with the aid of a second generation of genetically-engineered warriors who became the first Space Marines.
Imperial history records that Arik Taranis died valiantly alongside all of the remaining Thunder Warriors at the Battle of Mount Ararat, the final battle of the Unification Wars, where Taranis boldly raised the Emperor's banner at the very moment that the Unity of Terra was finally achieved before his own death. But the truth was far different. Arik Taranis survived that battle, only to face a terrible betrayal wrought by the Emperor himself and to carry this dark secret for centuries until he played an extraordinary role for a second time in the history of the Imperium during the Horus Heresy.
His mortal name is not recorded within the Imperial historical archives, but when he was reborn into the new form of one of the first proto-Astartes, he was named Arik Taranis. The Emperor had wrought these gene-enhanced warriors to be faster, stronger and more powerful than any of the feral techno-barbarian gene-sept warriors that claimed fealty over humanity's homeworld at the end of the Age of Strife. Taranis and his Battle-Brothers were created as tools of deadly efficiency, intended to spread terror amongst the Emperor's enemies and serve as the perfect killing machines. Their goal was to drag Terra back from the anarchy into which it had fallen for over five millennia, and into a new age of enlightenment and peace -- though they themselves would never know anything but war.
It was against this backdrop of oppression, violence and casual brutality that Arik Taranis and his fellow Thunder Warriors carved a reputation as the undisputed soldiers of their age. Arik Taranis would forge a legend that would still resonate with the modern Space Marines created as the replacements for the Thunder Warriors before the start of the Great Crusade. Even millennia later, Imperial records were strewn with the historic battles Arik Taranis had helped to win, the terrible foes he had slain and the great honours he had earned fighting in the Emperor's legions during the Unification Wars. He would become history wrought in living form: the Victor of Gaduaré, the Last Rider, the Butcher of Scandia, the Throne-slayer -- these and a hundred other battle-honours earned by this incomparable warrior are scattered throughout the historical texts written about the foundation of the Imperium. All these tales culminated in the end of Taranis' life atop a once-flooded mountain during the final great clash of the Unification Wars, the Battle of Mount Ararat fought in the Kingdom of Urartu.
Taranis was posthumously awarded the title of "Lightning Bearer" in the aftermath of Mount Ararat. The Imperial chronicles record that Taranis and his Battle-Brothers amongst the remaining Thunder Warriors were all slain to a man in this final battle of the great conflict, sacrificing themselves to win the last and most important victory for the Emperor and establish his government over Terra which would become the Imperium of Man. The Imperial chronicles record that Taranis died, succumbing to numerous mortal wounds once he fulfilled the honour of raising the Emperor's Lightning Banner at the final declaration of Unity for humanity's birthworld.
The truth, however, was very different and far darker, for Arik Taranis had actually survived the Battle of Mount Ararat, and also knew that at the very moment the Emperor had founded his Imperium, he had also arranged for the betrayal of the men who had fought so ferociously for him, eliminating every last one of the surviving Thunder Warriors because they were no longer necessary and would serve as an impediment to the next stage in the Emperor's plans to forge a new Golden Age for Mankind. Amazingly, Taranis bore no ill-will towards his creator for this monstrous and secret betrayal, for he understood better than anyone that the Thunder Warriors had always been merely a means to an end. He and all his kind had been cast aside by the Emperor in favour of the more advanced Space Marines gene-template. Arik Taranis was one of only a small number of Thunder Warriors who managed to escape the final cull of his kind after Mount Ararat.
Taranis managed to hide himself amongst the teeming masses of Mankind on Terra for over a century after the end of the Unification Wars, shunning his former name and assuming a new identity. He became the despicable criminal warlord Babu Dhakal, clan master of the Dhakal gang, the master of most of the Petitioner’s City criminal enterprises, including prostitution, gambling, and the illegal sale of food, drugs and weapons. Nothing moved within the city without the Babu’s approval. During the century spent on the run from Imperial authorities, Taranis discovered the inherent flaw that lay within every Thunder Warriors' genetic makeup, for their lifespans had been engineered to be extremely limited, unlike the true Astartes who came after them and would live for hundreds of Terran years. Unbeknownst to anyone outside of the Petitioner's City, Taranis maintained a well-equipped genetic laboratory at the heart of the city. The fact that such an advanced laboratory existed on Terra was not surprising, but that it was to be found in the heart of that city of lost souls was nothing short of miraculous -- akin to finding a fully functioning starship buried within the ruins of Old Earth’s ancient prehistory. Fortunately for Taranis, he had learned what he could from his creator in the years of the Unification Wars, and had come to master much of the Emperor's knowledge of the ancient science of genetics. Unfortunately, Taranis did not possess enough knowledge to halt his own cellular deterioration, only enough to desperately cling to life long enough for his fortunes to finally change during the opening days of the Horus Heresy.
The Outcast Dead
Eventually fate would bring Taranis into the path of the Traitors known as the Outcast Dead. This small group of Astartes warriors were made up of the remnants of the Crusader Host -- a small honour guard of Space Marines comprised of representatives from each of the 18 Space Marine Legions that served on a rotational basis within the Imperial City outside the Imperial Palace on Terra. These Astartes were considered Traitors because of the actions of their Legions, half-a-galaxy away, during the opening days of the Horus Heresy when they joined in the Warmaster Horus' rebellion against the Emperor. They were hunted and eventually captured by Imperial forces and thrown into the Legio Custodes' prison of Khangba Marwu. Located beneath the mountainous peak of Rakaposhi, Khangba Marwu was where individuals deemed hostile to the Emperor were isolated from the world above. Dug into the rock of the mountain, its limestone walls were clad in Adamantium plate, a material that was resistant to virtually all forms of weaponry and deaf to the pleas of innocence that echoed from its cells. But the seven warriors were no ordinary prisoners, for they were a distinctive brotherhood comprised of Astartes from the various Traitor Legions, including one Astartes from the Thousand Sons, three World Eaters, one Emperor's Children, a Death Guard and a Luna Wolf.
Taranis encountered the Outcast Dead at the Temple of Woe, located within the slums of the Petitioner's City. There, the Outcast Dead were cornered by an Imperial hunter team that had been tracking them since their escape from their prison. During the ensuing battle the majority of the Astartes of the Outcast Dead were killed during the confrontation with the Imperial forces. But Taranis and his lieutenant within the Dhakal gang Ghota, another Thunder Warrior who had survived the Emperor's cull, took advantage of this distraction and managed to escape during the ensuing chaos. Somehow, Taranis managed to obtain the Progenoid Glands of one of the fallen Astartes. These organs contained the vital key needed to provide the means for Taranis to unlock the genetic secrets that would allow the surviving Thunder Warriors to extend their lives. Deep in the heart of the Petitioner's City Taranis experimented with his ill-gotten samples within his secret laboratory. Using gene-samplers he managed to extract the necessary information encoded within the Gland's stored zygotes of Astartes organs and the impossibly complex amino acid chains were decoded. Taranis unraveled the complexities of this biological miracle, and managed to replicate the process of its creation and clone a new set of Progenoid Glands from the original sample. It is assumed that Taranis had the new organs implanted within his and his lieutenant's body. Their whereabouts after the Horus Heresy remain unknown.
- The Outcast Dead (Novel) by Graham McNeill