Short Story – Unblinking Skitarii 2

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.

Start at the beginning.

Foul booby traps secreted from the Skitarii’s scanners triggered at the first contact with the database. Explosions ripped through both gaunt Infiltrators and armored Vanguards. The Ranger groups fared little better. Worse, the device holding eons of data ruptured in a torrent of shrapnel and flame. IB-13 held the rearguard, thus survived to witness the carnage that came immediately after.

At least the information was no longer in filthy xenos hands. Better forgotten than perverted outside the Omnissiah’s intentions.

IB-13 nearly tripped as static hissed over the Skitarii network band. It immediately settled into an encrypted invitation for silicon communion. Transferring all secondary processing to the receiver, her rush to respond fouled the first attempt at cracking the lock – something that imprecise would have had the commanding Centurion temporarily deactivate her. A partial lobotomy wouldn’t be out of the question, though at least the surgery would bestow additional circuitry to the Ranger. No matter – her Centurion had evaporated under the snaking tendril of some unclassified alien energy weapon.

Her second attempt bridged the connection. IB-13 felt a flood of information pour through her wire-fused organics. Authority she’d taken for granted from decades of indoctrination calmed nerves in welcome, cooling sensation. Out of it all came the glorious figure of an ordained Magos tech-priest of Mars, emissary of the Omnissiah’s unknowable Will. They were garbed in flowing robes of red and white, outlined in ever-churning data exloads. Mechadendrites coiled and unfurled as if to conduct the the orchestra of information. On their head was a cap, tall and high which obscured from view sensors and devices the Ranger could only speculate at. In the pitch dark of the hood whirled the spectacles that poured what they saw into the algorithms crafted by the Omnissiah itself. Though only a mental simulation of a being some unknown distance away, IB-13 had never been more ready and earnest for this connection of the factual, of the Omnissiah’s word-made-digital in the galaxy.

IB-13, report.

The Skitarii began to dump banks of memory into the thought stream. With only a fractional amount beginning to exload, it was still too much for the tentative link. When the digital form of the tech-priest cut out for a moment, the cyborg almost felt the first emotion in half a century: Despair.

The Skitarii darted into a crushed hollow that was once a laboratory. Inside lay cracked workbenches, punctured pressure tanks, and other detritus. No threats. It didn’t matter. Only the connection mattered.

Holding position, she focuses all resources to getting the signal back. Hydraulic limbs froze, the respirator switched to blood-oxygen reserves, and pumps cranked to a halt. To any on the outside she would have appeared as a statue of gears and armor, all shadowed by her tattered crimson cape.

Near-death comatose was far outweighed by the elation of the return of the network and the Magos. This time, the mental image downgraded from its previous glory to a pixelated silhouette of muted hues and indistinct shapes. It shimmered as it sent meaning to her.

IB-13, have you secured the Standard Template Construct?

The STC had been their target. It and other hyper-computers of its type held the secrets of Humankind’s past. Their manufacture came in a time of darkness when Humanity sent its envoys into the void of the galaxy without knowledge of the Omnissiah. A dark age. The Omnissiah nevertheless bestowed sacred knowledge even to those that were ignorant of what they held. Technologies resided within STC databases that could allow crops to grow a hundred times their yield, build vaccines to cure ageless plagues, erect cities kilometers high on worlds made ripe by STC terraforming. Or, the knowledge could unleash terrible weapons of havoc not witnessed for ten thousand years. It was the Adeptus Mechanicus’s duty and privilege to own it all outright.

IB-13 didn’t need to know how to operate an STC. Doing so would be a terrible heresy. Only the priesthood, and even then a small selection of the ordained, could enact the proper rights of access. IB-13 only needed to claim items like the STCs for the glory of Mars.

That was why theft by the T’au was of such a terrible nature. A fleet of warships had stalked the STC and its cowardly burglars across systems. Worlds burned where the T’au’s allies had lain. Finally, the escaping vessel was brought down in this unperturbed planet’s gravity well. IB-13 and a hundred other augmented shocktroopers had infiltrated the craft imprisoning the STC while another thousand scoured the wastelands outside. All the effort only to have the artifact destroyed…

She couldn’t care about how her failures in the mission might be be perceived – there was only truth to offer in the bliss of networking. IB-13 relayed without hesitation the data-beats of the STC’s destruction. Landing on a dusty plain, breaching the ruined hull, stalking through crushed halls, location of and entrance into the STC chamber, the fatal boobytraps. Nothing more, nothing less.

Her virtual audience acknowledged receipt but gave no indication of praise or wrath at IB-13’s efforts. Multiple machine processing cycles passed. Finally, a torrent of sentiment distilled itself into one word.

Disappointing,” said the priest. Thus judgement was passed. That was the sum total of the Skitarii Ranger’s worth. IB-13’s mind twitched. A pang of what might have been mental anguish stilled in the microsecond before her lapse of discipline revealed itself. The Omnissiah’s messenger continued.

Regardless, the ends defer intention. Better the knowledge of our forefathers be forgotten than perverted by xenos… Tinkering.” Had it not been for the opiate haze of communion, IB-13 may have registered a shudder in the envoy. “Why are there no other Skitarii linking with me now? Not all of our warriors were destroyed by the explosion that consumed the STC. By this deduction, you will finish your report.

Before she could begin a second spurt of data, storms of static dropped the communication. IB-13 reinitiated passive sensory input of her surroundings with the impression her physical body was under attack.

About her were the dead robot eyes, the red color of alien glass. Objectively, the place was a sort of mechanics laboratory. To IB-13’s small selection of sensibilities, it was macab. The very walls housed abominable intelligences, horrors forbidden for millennia older than the records which held the warnings of AI. That they also were utilized by the heathen T’au spoke of the irredeemable nature of the blue race. If only there were time, IB-13 might have smashed every circuit and board in the place.

Her senses picked up the sound of a massive, booming roar. The violence had to be huge and close, something titanic, for the vibrations to reach her in the ship through a nearly nonexistent atmosphere. Moments later, a thunderous rumble shook her foundations, vestibular motors keeping the cyborg upright. Most of dust lifted and fell off the unblinking lenses staring back at her. Besides the battle roiling outside, nothing else was amiss.

A full second passed before the Magos reasserted control. Warmth passed over the cyborg’s connection, mind, and attention. Her rude hovel disappeared into oblivion. She was elated but the enthusiasm quickly became blunted. Things weren’t as they had been for the priest and their environment. Instead of screeds of data filling her view, machine slaves and augment-mantled operators dashed to and fro in roiling smoke. Warning lights blazed. And then there was the figure who’d summoned her. Its stead, no longer ordained in electronic grace, was replaced by the hunched amalgamation of worming tubes, choking wires, snapping pistons, and bulbous nodules that served as the thing’s eyes. A robe of crimson as dark as IB-13’s own oil and blood encrusted cloak swaddled the entire collection. This was the servant of the Omnissiah in their truer, more beautiful form.

IB-13 had lost the ability to cry for joy decades prior.

The priest seemed distracted, its attention drawn elsewhere, a thousand thousand places. A packet of data leaked into the stream from the priest’s end. Distress. “We are withdrawing, IB-13. The war on the planet for now goes ill.” Klaxon warnings of a ship under attack crept through the inload. “Final orders: Terminate all –” Static. “The Omnissiah knows of your –

More code feedback interrupted the connection. IB-13 heard banging and sirens. She tensed, prepared in all capacities to receive the divine commands that were coming. Had to be coming.

An audio snippet slipped through: “Lord Omnissiah, those things! How dare they!? What are –” The connection crashed with a screech of overloaded feedback.

She pinged a thousand times to reestablish contact. Nothing.

Independent probabilities arrived at the same conclusion. IB-13 was alone. So alone.

The situation triggered latent plans in the cyborg’s mind. When in the absence of temporary mission, there was the Universal Law: The Soulless sentience is the enemy of all life. What stalked outside, that had killed her kin, certainly counted as such.

IB-13 jump-started all of her combat programs for a price suffered by her non-vital organs and tangential brain functions. Physical nonviolence systems dropped power requests, the excess expense shunted to readiness and targeting operations. She was dying, the flesh withering. In steel and silicon the Skitarii would live a while longer to carry on the Omnissiah’s intention.

Her ocular lenses came into focus on a corner of the hideaway. There was something wrong among the red lenses of the T’au drones. It wasn’t a drone mono-eye. Instead, a cluster of green lenses stared back. They sat bundled atop an insect-like carapace no bigger than the Skitarii’s own torso. The eyes glowed eerily in the dim. Somehow, the ebony beetle-thing knew she was aware. It twitched.

Continued in part 3.

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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