Short Story – Unblinking Skitarii 3

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.

Threat analysis shrieked at her. That the room’s position was compromised, had been for an unknown amount of time…

The robot scuttled free on unseen levitation of the other machines. It flew towards the door. Her heightened impulses flexed her radium weapon, aimed, and fired in a fraction of a second. The hem of her disturbed mantle didn’t begin to fall before the scarabaeus shell exploded. Falling detritus flew out of IB-13’s way as she dashed into the hall.

Through empty, ravaged decks she ran. The details were lost to her consciousness – visual systems filtered the input for priority targets exclusively. Everything else did not need to die, thus was discarded. The ship itself continued to rumble at an ever increasing frequency. Certainly unnatural and no longer the testament to singular explosions, IB-13 kept track of the tremors that hinted at tectonic movements under her. Armies outside? Some great machine?

Though unable to sense them at distance, enemies would be on their way inside the ship. How many? That was speculation. It would be a bullet and bomb at a time. That mattered. It was the only thing that did now.

Rounding a corner, IB-13’s processes spiked. At the end of the corridor, a stark skeleton of metal creaked around. Silver glints outlined long limbs and features that could be called a face on its humanoid frame. It looked at her with dead eye holes. No, there was something deep in the sockets that had an evil glow in the faint ambient light. In a cold grip it held a softly-pulsing rod of a meter-and-a-half – the same make of energy projector as had reaped the booby trap survivors of the STC team.

She charged ahead and would not stop. Her carbine blazing, irradiated bullets raked the grayish body. Despite a hail of what ought to have been death, the enemy tried to raise the cannon in its hands. Closing at speed, still firing, the Skitarii leaped. She kicked the plated sole of her boot into the thing’s chest, sending them both crashing to the floor.

The effort landed the duo hard into the next intersection. The cyborg would have been satisfied with the loud crunch of the machine’s collapsing chest cavity, the sightless robot scrutiny, the struggle of its limbs ceasing. A new problem prevented that.

Into the junction stepped another skeletal automaton from the obscured hall. This one swung its rifle, bayoneted with a cruel axe blade. Lightning-quick motion brought the carbine up to block. The sharp impact seized the cylinder joints of the Skitarii’s arms and legs, but held. However, the nuclear radium weapon smashed to pieces in IB-13’s hands, dousing both combatants in skin-peeling waves of contamination. Internal alerts chimed at lethal doses of radiation and the termination of several organic components. IB-13 ignored them while her senses swirled. Logging an apology to the machine spirit of the weapon, she hurled the parts into the face of her attacker.

The monster swung again. She rolled out of the way, letting the blade sail into the wall. It caught there, pausing the vile machine for merely a second, but that was enough. For a warrior attuned to microsecond action, it meant victory.

In mechanical precision, she pulled, thumbed alive, and swung her maul, blue energy arching free. She hit the assailant once in the back, again on the arm. The attack did nothing to loosen the abnormal hold the thing had on its weapon. IB-13, discretion systems burned away in rad fire, squealed binary hate at the affront of the alien’s very existence. She unleashed a final crack of the arc maul to the skull-like cranium staring her down.

Mercury sparks played over the terrain and the crumpling, silver body. In an unnatural angle, the robot bent to rise, a clawed hand snapping out to snatch at the Skitarii’s boot. Pinpricks of evil jade stared at the cyborg despite or because of the punishment wrought.

IB-13 flipped her maul around in her hands, bringing it straight down into the undying thing’s face. She leaned into the blow with a twist and an electronic pop from the maul. The xeno stopped trying to get back up.

Even as the creature sputtered, another green lightning round exploded next to the Skitarii’s head. Bits of shrapnel sliced into her clothing. The hole cut through the deck cleanly, disappearing into the blackness somewhere farther into the ship. Snapping about, she saw sage-colored running lights throughout the shadows down the corridor.

Pressing the capacity of her servos, IB-13 rushed back behind cover as a series of killing bolts rained around her. There were a minimum of seventeen-point-three combatants. Too many. The dirty effects of her deconstructed radium carbine polluted her ability focus externally, so she ran calculations internally. An optimal trajectory for one her two grenades would allow her time to disengage. With a flick, a piece of her ordnance bounced around and far down the bend. The cyborg fell back the way she had come. A resounding boom reverberated through the deck. The shrieking of alien gunfire ceased.

Having bounded dozens of meters away, IB-13 slowed, her head now clear of interference from background radiation. She needed a weapon. Her heightened senses broadened further to take in the environment for any opportunities. Auditory detectors picked up the clank of alien metal feet on alien metal floors. Sonar triangulated that a group was in front of her. Subauditory noise meant her grenade hadn’t ended the firefight behind her. Something crawled below and above her. And all the hostile parties were closing.

She stepped back, scanned the corridor. Only two ends, patternless amid a chaos of broken workmanship, the handiwork of space battles and crashes. The spark of the Omnissiah seemed to have left IB-13’s world. She queued a prayer of strength and steadfastness to the Omnissiah’s Motive Force. Her eyes caught a shape in the dark before the prayer could be dispatched. By chance or divine intervention, she’d spotted a shadow darker than the wreck around it, a divot that broke the inconsistent lines of the wall.

The Skitarii bounded to the hole. Closer inspection revealed it as a recessed service hatch, vacuum sealed between sections of the ship. To IB-13 it represented her a way to regroup, rearm, and re-engage the enemy. Regardless, the T’au had decided not to include a mechanical apparatus such as a handle to the door. Instead, they installed a tiny display that gaped disappointingly, the mirrored face trashed to slivers. If there were no ready means to escape, IB-13 would leverage other tools. Using her arc maul, blow after blow only dented the frame. Then they were on her.

Thunder not from her club cracked violently in the confined space of the corridor. A segment of wall combusted next to her in a puff of eldritch power. She ignored the green flash to maximize the energy output of the maul. In a final, pulverizing blow that rocked the cyborg back on her heels, the seal cracked open with a gust of wind.

IB-13 jumped through and slammed the portal door behind her. A chunk of the door disappeared with another thunderclap.

A metal beam hung above her, itself melted at both ends from spaceship-scale artillery damage. Maul hooked to her belt, she pulled at the support with both hands. The brace shivered but remained stout. Sacrificing further ambulatory functions, IB-13 overloaded her arms and heaved. Muscles burst, murky fluid spilling through her cloak, though her metal bones held. Without warning, debris gave way to blockade the doorway.

She fled, urged on by both an artificial and fledgling organic instinct to survive. Over pipes, under charred bulkheads, across walls melted to black rivers frozen over the hull, the cyborg did not stop. IB-13 vaulted up a ledge, a feat of dexterity her pursuers certainly couldn’t match. From this perch, she had bought herself something desperate: Time.

In the respite, she took in the world around her. The Skitarii found herself still on but outside the vessel proper. An entire portion of the spaceship had torn away apparently upon impact. Her lenses saw glimmering stars through melted, carbonized tips of sundered hull that arched over her. What was left was an expansive view out over the planet’s dismal surface.

She edged to the jagged precipice with respect to the dubious structural integrity, maul raised and ready to bat apart any enemy lying in wait. An full organic being might have hoped for rescue, ships descending to later return to titanic warships in high orbit, for a battle of an unstoppable army crushing the cursed foe under the treads of Martian automatons and the boot heels of cyborg Vanguards and Infiltrator assassins and Rangers like her. IB-13 was more insightful. She had run the calculations. It was no surprise what was just beyond the deck’s lip. Through filmed, dispassionate eyes, her gaze lingered on the field of death before her.

To be concluded in part 4.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

 

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