Short Story – Unblinking Skitarii 1

This is the unofficial story of Skitarii IB-13, a cyborg warrior of the grim dark 41st millennium. She flees through a crashed alien battleship from a failed mission, hoping to regain contact with her tech-priests in orbit. However, IB-13 fights to survive against a new foe that seeks nothing but her destruction.

Detached from their fleet above, they’d slaughter the aggressors. No default state existed apart from that, this Will of their Machine God, the Omnissiah.

Boots pounded the deck plates as a pair of Skitarii super-soldiers ran through the halls. With the aid of their cybernetic limbs, they rushed through empty corridors of alien design, the charred dust of the former owners billowing in their wake. The external din increased the closer they got to a rip that stretched for over eighty meters in the ship’s hull. Sliding under the tear’s lip, IB-13 and IT-XH blurted a set of binary queries and replies to each other. With a thousand transactions a second, they debated the benefits and detriments of the decision before them: fight or flee.

Their delay only came because of the differences in their make. IB-13 was a Ranger meant for more long-range engagements while IT-XH came optimized for the more moderate reprisals of the Skitarii Vanguard. It didn’t help that the Vanguard’s natural output of radiation and the radium weapon she hefted filled IB-13’s receivers with excess static. After a debate transmitted in seconds that might fill a novel, their numbers aligned: They’d bring the offensive to their new, terrible enemy outside.

IT-XH synced a timer between them. As the milliseconds met their mark, IB-13 stepped up to the ledge in mirror to her companion, last of what had been a century. The radium carbine she’d commandeered from a battle-inoperable Skitarii rose with her augmented sight.

In a moment, she unleashed killing rounds while her targeting systems struggled for a lock. Rules of engagement dictated that she ought to have waited the extra cycle time to fire precisely. To bend her ingrained protocols in the context of a normal fight would have required the override of a Skitarii Centurion, leader of an entire cohort of cyborgs. As there was only IB-13 and IT-XH, their own kill-analyses would have to suffice. Regardless, with a ninety-eight-point-seven-nine percent accuracy calculation using only sight, their foe would suffer.

Her aim held minor concern for her. Those outside felt the same. Arcs of energy blistered and boiled the ship’s torn hull around IB-13. By sheer volume, the barrage of return fire nearly blinded the Ranger’s visual receptors. She ducked faster than her original organics could have ever hoped to as the shots corrected their aim towards her. Fluorescent green rounds tore chunks out of the opposite wall, sizzling through the thin air where she’d been.

Her comrade IT-XH continued to shoot, , taking an extra sixteenth of a second more than their firing solution had provided for. Such was the aggression inherent in Vanguard models. Tragic that so useful a drive served so poorly against the overwhelming odds.

IB-13 caught all of the impact through the hyper fidelity of her unblinking eyes. IT-XH’s helmet, for only a moment, split and peeled away from their face. Metal and plastics and flesh and silicon and bone flayed away. The matter disappeared into the crackling white light. At last, the horrific decimation exploded with the sound of a wet egg. The explosion flung cranial fluid and shards of steel about the hall. Something moist and gooey splattered on IB-13’s cloak.

Slack, IT-XH’s rifle fell to the floor with a clatter covered by the wale of eldritch energies scything overhead. The body collapsed with a heavy whoosh of cloak and armor. If IB-13 had the ability to smell in the traditional human way, a sense lost sometime during her innumerable operations to become a Skitarii, the stench of burnt rubbers and tang of carbonized metal would have been logged as a horror peerless in the cyborg’s experience.

While missiles struck above and around her, the Ranger picked through the smoldering robes of the fresh corpse. That she and IT-XH had logged thousands of hours in operation together, that now the Vanguard was so much a pile of meat and wires gave her no pause. Their mission was still not complete. It was the Will of the Omnissiah, the dual-faceted god of the Skitarii, the warriors but a humble branch of the Adeptus Mechanicus. A report needed to be made of their findings inside the crashed vessel so the magi of Mars could add to the records this new threat. The value of battle data alone dictated that she must survive at all costs.

If the scavenging cyborg had access to the network, she could account for the entire inventory of IT-XH’s kit. Without it, she rummaged through the common storage locations on a Vanguard’s body for whatever could be found. The rifle was for her excessive compared to the radium carbine already carried, though she had capacity for an additional grenade which she kept besides her own. IB-13 found no melee substitute for her arc maul, IT-XH having must lost their hand-to-hand weapon in the brutal room-to-room fighting earlier.

Inside a titanium-corded pocket she discovered radium ammo magazines whose radiation tingled through her gauntlets. IB-13’s calculations for expected lifespan ticked-up another notch. Adding these to a digital inventory, something else gave off a slight magnetic signature. IB-13 pulled out a rust-colored talisman, a symbol of faith in the Machine: a skull haloed by a cog wheel. Functionally useless, it was objectively more important than a dozen of her other pieces of armor or garb. She took off in a crouch, securing the pendant as she weaved from cover to cover.

The next hall held more than the last one. The Ranger slipped her way around blue-skinned bodies splayed haphazardly around doors and consoles. Some clawed at locked doors. Others held their throats. It didn’t take IB-13’s post-human abilities of deduction to conclude that these “T’au” had suffocated. They likely died long before the vessel’s crash, though she couldn’t be precise. The Adeptus Mechanicus fleet had been in pursuit for an unacceptably long time, harrying the T’au’s flight with cannons and bombs.

Data was the most holy property of the Adeptus Mechanicus technopriests of Mars, circuitry the most sacred of study for the cyborg Skitarii warriors. These aliens, these thieves, had taken both and paid for it with thousands of their lives. They were easy to kill. They stayed dead. The new enemy that had surprised the Skitarii were far less obliging.

Regardless, the T’au had received divine judgement. Now IB-13 had to find a vantage to exact a toll on those creatures that stalked after her.

The T’au warship seemed a maze. The behemoth, one of the T’au’s largest, was run through by the guns of the Adeptus Mechanicus in their weeks-long chase. Corridors collapsed into others, doors remain locked while other holes cleared through entire decks. The wreckage acted as a tomb now for human cyborgs and T’au crew alike. That the blue-skins dared pull off a swindle of such proportions…

Now the silver monstrosities outside had the position surrounded and infiltrated. IB-13 had reconnoitered the enemy advance with surviving members of the Skitarii retrieval squads. Like ants, the automatons had spilled into the halls, through the deck plating, and translocated in glittery sheens amid the Skitarii’s formations. The Skitarii, living weapons of the Martian Empire, were caught by surprise. She’d been caught by surprise. Though they’d fought with whirling blades of supersonic titanium and arcing lightning guns, over eighty-percent had dissolved into oil-slick smears within moments of the ambush.

IB-13 chanced to inspect her internal network systems. The communication queue held no new messages. All of her outgoing requests were yet pending responses. No data, no direction, no oversight. On her own for over the last hour. Not even IT-XH functioned to share processing capacity.

A hatch led up and the Ranger took it. She needed to keep moving. Anything with the means of slaughtering her kin like so many herdstock would have devices to track a lone warrior in the bowels of a dead ship. Maybe the interference preventing her signals didn’t discriminate and the ambushers were blind too. IB-13 had to optimize for that possibility. It was the only one that predicted her being alive after more than a few minutes.

When no threat appeared, IB-13 allowed her post processing systems power to review the terribleness of the mission. The first indication of trouble had been when their dropship lost all transmissions with the flotilla in orbit. The airwave interference of the vox spread, knocking out dropship-to-dropship traffic. As the strike team made their way inside the downed alien craft, communications with their lander was lost to them as well. Infrared laser messaging, subvocal vibrations, and gestures were all they had left while they sought out the T’au’s holds of plunder.

Despite a lack of transmission mediums, the cyborgs’ tactical progress couldn’t be hampered over such a meager concern. Despite the massive damage to the vessel’s infrastructure, the Skitarii scouted through the mess. By a semi-navigable route, the ancient database of Adeptus Mechanicus was uncovered. It proved too easy.

Continued in part 2.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited:

Published by

Jimmy Chattin

Processor of data, applier of patterns, maker of games and stories.

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