Chapter 1: The Venya Imperium
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The sound of distant animal roars echoed through the alien jungle as Athena forced her aching eyes open. Even before she could see anything, one basic question filled her thoughts. 

“Where the hell am I?” 

Her head was burning as if someone lit it up with a flamethrower. For a moment, the young woman found herself in the middle of a sea of memories. One second, she was a college student on Earth, worrying about her future career aspects after graduation and trying to distract herself via a game of Starcraft. The next second, she was a proud soldier...a soldier of what? The…the empire. No…the Imperium! What Imperium? The Imperium of Man? Did I somehow end up in Warhammer 40k? A terrifying thought flashed across Athena’s head, and as confused as she was, Athena forced a small smile onto her lips. That would be ridiculous! She was a real person! How would she end up in a fictional world? 

The small smile lasted a brief second before disappearing as more and more memories overwhelmed her. Groaning in pain and frustration, Athena tried to touch her head with her hand, only to feel her skin pressing against cold steel. That was when her sight finally cleared up enough for her to see what was around her. More specifically, what she was in. 

For one thing, she was wearing a helmet. A layer of transparent glass separated her face from the outside world. As she looked down, she realized there was a layer of armor over her body. Even her hands were completely encased in armored gloves. The exterior platings of the armor were painted in black and red, not the green camouflage she expected to see on a supposed soldier. 

What was this? Once again, she found the answer in her own memories. Guardian-class power armor. Standard issue power armor for all infantry soldiers of the Venya Imperium. For Imperial soldiers fighting on inhospitable worlds like Morgo IV, their power armors were the only thing keeping them alive. Even just one breach in the armor’s integrity and function, either due to error or damage, could lead to a slow and painful death for the soldier inside the armor. 

Once again, Athena groaned in pain and confusion. How did she know all this? Morgo IV? Venya Imperium? Power Armors? She raised her hand again and smacked it against her helmet in another attempt to distract her own psychological confusion with a physical sensation. It was an unwise choice given the information about the environment she just learned, but Athena somehow remembered knowing the integrity of the power armor could easily handle a rough touch. After all, it could withstand small-caliber firearms and remain functional. 

As she moved, Athena subconsciously noticed that it wasn’t her physical strength that was lifting the steel armor that was god-knew how heavy. There were sensors built into the armor that detected her intentions and allowed the armor to mimic the action. 

“God damn it…”

For a few minutes, Athena really wanted to throw up. She could still feel bits and pieces of memories popping up in her head, mixing with the memories she knew to be her own. One second, she remembered marveling over the hologram projection of a young woman in military attire. Some type of princess. The next second her brain immediately reached the conclusion that those memories didn't belong to her, and her thoughts jumped to the faces of people she actually knew on Earth. Friends. Teachers. Classmates. 

Nope. Nope. Keep your mouth shut! This armor is fully sealed! Athena silently dug her nails into her palms and screamed at herself as a dozen images flashed through her head in quick succession. There was one image of her dead father, a former Imperial Army officer who went to war one day and never came back. There was another image of a smiling woman. Her mother. The image was from a year before her death during a horrific traffic accident. 

As the storm of information gradually died down, Athena finally had a basic understanding of the new world she found herself in. 

This was the Year 3783. 1761 years since her own time. And she was no longer Athena Hall, a university student on Earth. She was Private Athena Dane of the 329th Imperial Infantry Division. She was just one of the countless Imperial troopers that made up the Imperial Army of the Venya Imperium.

Athena had always considered herself an optimistic person. Sometimes one had to be optimistic to last long in the world. Well, as far as Imperiums went, it could be worse. At least she wasn’t a guardswoman in the Imperium of Man about to go against the Tyranids or Necrons! But despite her best attempts to smile, Athena knew she was really out of luck today.

The Venya Imperium wasn’t one of the countries on Earth that hasn’t fought in a war in decades. No…the Imperium was almost always at war. Even worse, the sector that she was in, Sector 9A2, was on the border of the Imperium and was close to a number of other nations, most of which were hostile. With this lack of control came frequent armed conflicts of scales and horrors beyond her imagination. 

The 329th had seen war. A lot, and far more intense ones than those in the 21st century on Earth. As a matter of fact, Athena could still clearly remember the bloody battle that Athena Dane fought a few standard months ago. In that battle, the 329th lost a third of their numbers before victory was secured, and out of all the Imperial Army units deployed to the war zone, the 329th didn't remotely have it the worst. Rumors had it that more than a handful of divisions were completely wiped out. 

The old Athena, Athena Dane, was a zealot for the Imperial cause. She was a madwoman who saw the heavy casualty rate of the Imperial Army and decided that was what she wanted to do with her life. Even six years into service, Athena Dane still carried out her duty with the same loyalty and discipline as she had when she first joined the Army. She didn't want rank or wealth or families. All she hoped for was a glorious death in the name of the Imperium. 

Well, perhaps it was a good thing this body was under new management. 

Athena Hall had no intention of continuing to serve as another grunt of the Venya Imperium. She didn't know which god she pissed off that got her transported into this galaxy, but out of all the things she wanted to do in this new world, serving an Imperial dictatorship was rather low on her checklist. She had so many new food and drinks to try out! Maybe thousands of years of media to enjoy. Entire planets to visit and 1,700 years of history to learn about. She did receive the basic history lesson from her fresh memories, but there were so much more details to explore. Serving as an infantry trooper and then maybe getting blown up by a random missile or artillery shell or landmine? It would be a really stupid way for her to spend her second life. 

There was no way she would serve in the Army for another four years and hope she survived long enough to retire at the ten-year mark. Nope…she was deserting as soon as she could. This was one of the few things she knew for sure. 

Although…judging by the look of things and the memories she received, deserting could wait. Ironically, her top concern right now should be finding her Imperial Army unit for the simple reason that, as of now, she was completely lost. 

A few weeks ago, her entire company, the 432nd Company of the 329th Infantry Division, was transferred to a barren, inhospitable planet named Morgo IV. Their mission was to attend to the needs of a scientist from the Imperial Research Academy. An infamous research organization that only answered to the leader of the Imperium, the Leviathan, the Academy was rumored to have produced many biological and chemical weapons the Imperium frequently used on battlefields across the galaxy. 

Why would a scientist from such an esteemed organization only be given a single company of troops as escorts? Athena Dane didn't know and didn't ask. Obeying without question was a key quality for Imperial soldiers. 

After building a research post from the ground up with the help of construction drones, the 432nd Company mostly became a garrison force. There were always the routine guard posts and patrols, but otherwise, things were mostly quiet. There were no other forces here. Morgo IV was located in the heart of an Imperial sector. There were no external threats. 

The only time when issues arose was when squads in the company were selected by Captain Hanson to go on retrieval missions. Basically, the scientist needed some specimens of the local wildlife to experiment on, and it was the squad’s job to go out there and bring the sample back regardless of the risk or casualties.

Over the past few weeks, the casualties among the retrieval squads had been increasing, but neither the scientist, his bodyguards from the Imperial Security Corps, nor Captain Hanson seemed to care about casualties. The zealot that she was, the old Athena saw this as another chance to prove her valor to the Imperium and went without hesitation.

In the latest mission that Athena and her squad were sent on, the squad of 12 drove for hours on their Blackbuck-class multi-terrain scout vehicle before the trees became too dense for the vehicles to go through. They dismounted from the three Blackbucks and ventured into the forest on foot. On the way there, the squad ran into a type of local predator designated Morgo - 23. They were wolf-like creatures that hunted in packs, and they came at the infantry squad with little hesitation. 

During the firefight, as the squad was slowly falling back, Athena tripped over something and fell into a hole in the ground. By the time she got out on her own, the rest of the squad was nowhere to be seen. Despite her best attempts, she quickly realized she was lost.

The first thing Athena did was try to contact her squad with the radio built into her armor. The 432nd Company didn't have the resources to launch a communication satellite into the planet’s orbit, nor did they build key infrastructures like cell towers. She was too far from the research outpost to call for help. When the short-range radio yielded no results, Athena knew she had to save herself. 

Maybe she could remain in her position and wait for the others to come and search for her? The thought barely crossed old Athena’s mind before she extinguished it. There was little comradery between the Imperial ranks. Every soldier was taught to do whatever it took to survive on the battlefield and achieve victory. Use their comrade’s bodies as meat shields. Strip the clothes off the dead to fight off the cold. Abandon the injured and the immobile if the need arose. 

If she was the officer making the calls, she would stick to the objective as it was always more important than a single trooper’s life. She expected Corporal Huo leading the squad to make the same decision. 

In the end, the old Athena did her best to find her way back to the location where the squad parked their three Blackbuck MSVs and pray the others had yet to leave. Unless she wished to walk 600 kilometers on foot, the three MSVs were her only way to avoid being stuck in the wild and eventually becoming the feces of one of the many deadly predators out there.

This was when Athena Hall found herself in this new body, replacing the consciousness of the old Athena in the process and inheriting this difficult problem from her predecessor.

Letting out a frustrated sigh, Athena knelt down and picked up her weapon from the ground. The rifle was large enough for her armored hand to comfortably hold onto. 

Defender-class automatic rifle. A weapon designed for infantry soldiers of the Imperial Army to use when in power armor. Uses magazines that store 30 rounds. Fires armor-piercing rounds capable of penetrating Guardian-class power armors in 2 - 5 shots. Heavier and more deadly than the Defender-S variant designed for non-armored soldiers to use. 

Athena had never used a firearm before in her life, but she inherited more than just memories about the Imperium from the old Athena. She also inherited all the combat experience and skills that the old Athena developed in her six years of military service. As she held onto the rifle, Athena almost felt like the weapon was a part of her. She knew everything about it. Where the safety was. How many rounds it held and approximately how many were left. What it would do to an unarmored human body when the trigger was pulled.

Like with all the other memories, Athena welcomed this knowledge. She was on a deadly planet in the middle of a forest infested with extremely hostile wildlife. She needed all the aid she could get. 

Scanning the surroundings once again and taking a few glances at the HUD built into the helmet, Athena continued heading in the direction of the three vehicles. There was little technology that could help her tell the direction, but the old Athena had a good sense of direction and the new Athena inherited it. 

Two minutes went by before suddenly, out of nowhere, a pair of wolf-like creatures leaped out of a line of bushes toward Athena. Athena’s brain froze for a second at the sight of the creatures, but her body reacted almost instinctively. Aim. Fire. Before Athena knew it, following a series of pops from her silencer-equipped rifle, the two instances of Morgo - 23 collapsed on the ground, dead.

Well, that was close. Athena let out a breath of relief. She should be glad this body belonged to a true war veteran way too comfortable with killing. As she took a step closer to the bodies to examine them, a cold, mechanical voice suddenly appeared inside her head.

“Biological essence detected in close proximity to the host…”

“Analyzing essence…”

“Analysis complete. Essence overlaps with Zerg genetic sequences…”

“Zerg structure Spawning Pool has been unlocked…”