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Dan Abnett, in his introduction to the Imperial Guard Omnibus (Vol 1), fittingly sums it up best with this quote:
In the grim darkness of the far future there is more than war. There are real people there too.
- The general concept of Flight of the Eisenstien, in which Captain Garro remains loyal to the Emperor even as the rest of the Death Guard falls to Chaos and risks almost certain death to Bring News Back and give the loyalists time to rally in the face of Horus' betrayal.
- In James Swallow's Red Fury: the moment in the fight when Dante saves Seth from falling into the pit, shouting "Brother!" to get his attention -- not the "cousin" they had been using -- inspiring a (brief!) discussion of whether they should call each other brother, after all the hostilities of the novel. And afterward, when Seth, who had most opposed Dante's request, is the one who declares that they will do it, and declares that these events had been meant to tell that they were not cousins but brothers.
- The end of Ben Counter's Horus Heresy novel Galaxy In Flames. They survived the virus-bombing, they had inflicted serious damage in ground fighting, and now they are being bombed to death. Tarvitz had desperately gotten to the betrayed Emperor's Children so that he could die with his brothers, in defiance of the breaking of brotherhood that Horus had imposed on them, but at the end, he looks about the survivors -- Emperor's Children, Luna Wolves, World-Eaters -- and realizes that he knows all their names, and that men who had been only faces to him had become his brothers. One asked them if they had harmed Horus, and Tarvitz assured him they had.
- Saul Tarvitz and Nathaniel Garro, Blood Brothers.
- Captain Uriel Ventris from the Ultramarines managing to save himself and the rest of a warband of space marines expelled from their respective chapters from commiting suicide due the desperative influence of Chaos by reminding them that even in their disgraced state they were still Space Marines, the greatest heroes of the galaxy, warriors of the Emperor, and then accounting all the victories of the Imperium, showing them that they were still men of honour and proud.
- In Dead Sky, Black Sun, when Uriel notices the Unfleshed's crude statue of the Emperor, proof that they never lost their faith in Him.
- In Malleus, a space marine during the attack at the Triumph attempts to save a small child. He cradles it until he gets it out of the line of fire. Sadly, its subverted in that the child was a Alpha Plus psyker, and then it forces Eisenhorn to kill the marine. Its the idea that a marine would risk his own life to save one person out of millions is so unlike the tone of the story, which is thoroughly grimdark.
- The Space Marine Battles Novel Rynn's World has an especially heartwrenching scene that doubles as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. Captain Cortez saves a mother and her children (one of whom is just a baby) from being murdered by Orks. Chapter Master Pedro Kantor is less than pleased with this development, as there are (to his knowledge) only a dozen or so Crimson Fists left after the destruction of their monestery, and they cannot afford to bring refugees along. But Kantor says that the family can tag along as long as they can keep pace with the Space Marines, which anyone will tell you is no small feat. After a while, the mother becomes tired and unable to keep up. Kantor moves to the back of the column, to (as the reader is led to believe) "grant her the final mercy." As he kneels next to the mother with his wrist-mounted storm bolter pointed disturbingly close to her head, we believe he's going to kill her. Then, after the mother pants that she tried, but her children were just so heavy, Kantor (who, I feel the need to stress, did not want her there in the first place) replies with the following:
Kantor: You did well to bring them this far....It is time that someone carried you now.
- And he picks her up in his arms and carries her the rest of the journey to rejoin their remaining battle brothers. If that doesn't encapsulate what it truly means to be a Space Marine in Warhammer 40k, I don't know what does.
- In the Salamanders Novel, the titular chapter find a lost world and under the surface resides a colony of humans under the surface. Despite the difficulties faced by the company, they take the time and munitions to defend this colony, and discover a Salamander who has remained there since the heresy. Their reactions to finding this ancient, and knowing they can't save them harkens back to the original ideas of Space Marines, not as Knight Templars they are now, but as defenders of humanity.
- Kayvaan Shrike, a Raven Guard captain is a great example. Having survived 2 years behind Ork lines and winning the battle back gained control of his own company. And then, a WAAAAGGH!! is waged by the Ork Skullrak, and Shrike goes to the system being attacked. But does he attack the Ork mob head-on? Does he help enforce the world under siege? No, he goes to the worlds left behind by the imperial guard and saves the remaining humans there. He's considered a savior and hero, a legend among the citizens. And let me remind you, he's a Space Marine, a heartless killing machine.
- This deserves clarification, the Nightbringer, the GRIM FUCKING REAPER couldn't put the fear into the Orks. Kayvaan could, and thats why the Imperium sees him as a saviour.