Short Story – Unblinking Skitarii 4

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.

To the horizon, row after row of silver warriors of nearly uniform shape and size marched in monotonous, geometric formations. Skeletons rode sleds that defied physics while operating huge, curved gun platforms. Hulking, constructed beasts of many-jointed limbs were carried aloft on clouds of the drone-beetles or half-crawled, half-flew over the advancing armies. Ark ships and scything chariot craft glided effortlessly, every spoke and point palpitating with the destructive power universal in their alien weapons. Pyramids absent hours before dotted the landscape as if a pox on the world. A canyon spread over the crust in too straight of a line to be natural, its depths disappearing into an abyss. From the structures, the hole, and from the very air itself opened swirling gates that teleported in more and more alien machines. A virtual sea of emerald death flooded into existence as she watched.

Not one of the multitude paid notice to the figure atop a downed T’au spacecraft. They may have had no need to. IB-13 wore the threadbare remains of her Ranger cape. It then barely hid the seepage of irradiated organic parts and ruptured mechanics. Armor, once lustrous, hung loosely with dents and wear. Reflective goggles, grimed with oil and blood, looked up to see what these armies made war toward, away from the forgotten, ruined vessel.

The warships of the Adeptus Mechanicus hung in the sky by their gravity projectors. Their forms were partly obscured by filthy clouds of ash that geysered from their flanks, from smoldering, blasted heaps far below. Orange and green missiles exchanged up and down between the servants of the Omnissiah and the battlefield underneath. Vehicles from both sides of the war buzzed and burst under blanketed hellstorms of firepower.

IB-13 couldn’t know why the priest magi and their forces had come this close to the planet’s surface. A strategy of global bombardment ought to have been warranted. Then the plasma fires, mega lascannons, and atomic rockets could be brought to full effect. Turning the surface to glass with the protection of hundreds of kilometers would make short work of the world. Shorter work yet by using any one of the dozens of planet-destroying Cyclonic Torpedoes housed within the holds of their warships. So why the application of such irreplaceable resources?

IB-13 caught herself speculating again. Worse, she might have been questioning the divinations of her leaders. If a tech-priest was not available for correction of thought, it fell to her to carry it out.

With a command, a part of her brain plasticized. The treatment would forego that absent-minded luxury in the future.

Factually, she could see the Omnissiah’s forces were making an escape as a capital ship gained altitude. Image enhancement brought the markings of the ship into recognition. It was the Arch Magos’s flagship from where they must have contacted her. Their seat of power was fortress of the Titan god machines of war, barracks to legions of Skitarii, cradle of knowledge that could be found nowhere else in the galaxy, even holy Mars. Now the cyborg understood why so many precious space machines lingered low in the clouds. And she wouldn’t look away from their destruction.

A lance of lime hue struck up from the wasteland. The shot pierced the retreating cruiser like a bullet through an alkaline bubble. In the yellow fireball of its obliteration, the reactors ignited. Fleetingly as bright as any sun, the shipwreck disintegrated in a holocaust of carnage.

Parts of the superstructure the breadth of cities survived to hurtle themselves screaming onto the backs of the inadequate defenders. Having taken brutal amounts of punishment already, the battered shields of the craft underneath the explosion visibly popped under the impacts. Most of the remaining ships became engulfed in the hell that had been the flagship. These unfortunates of holy Mars plummeted from the sky in slow motion, blackened and fiery.

Those captains still alive attempted to save what crew they could. They carried word of the atrocities committed there, crimes and horrors needing revenge. Up and up their vessels surged. Bright beams sprang up like plant stocks to join them.

One after another, the symbols of the Machine God’s might were cut to ribbons. Consumed in detonations that would scar the planet for millennia, they died. Electrical storms spiraled around the cacophony of priceless destruction raining down.

Broken bodies smashed into the planet, wiping out innumerable xeno aberrations. Ships fell with such frequency they bucked the continental plate. The survivors seemed not to care.

The charnel climaxed in a tide of smoke and dust that spread over all. A billowing haze of ash wafted over everything, leaving only the pyres of dead ships as spouting torches in the distance. The wave of soot broke over the T’au ship, the cremations of IB-13’s comrades soiling the cyborg spectator’s armor.

The Skitarii knew she remained as the last of her kind on the forsaken world. No more exchanges of cannon fire. Her comms were static. Her unit’s status indicators were black, silent. The network tethering all Skitarii with each other was lifeless. Had she still been able to scan the sky, there were no final vessels there.

Despite their victory and all the loss, the aliens came on ceaselessly.

More canyons cracked open without rumble or tremor. The blacker than black of their gulfs IB-13’s sensors could not penetrate. Eldritch glows hinted at immensities entombed within the fissures.

Out of these chasms poured forth Cyclopean blocks bristling with armaments. They lifted into the heavens, their onyx disappearing into the backdrop of space save for pulsing teal pinpricks. In their departure, legions of vile silver xenos replaced them. From hidden places in the gloom, green light outlined the dauntless hordes caught in the atmospheric dust.

All that the Adeptus Mechanicus had done, all IB-13 had striven for, was for nothing. Witnessing this new data, probability counters drove her chances of survival in the next hour to fourteen-millionths of a percent.

In very un-Skitarii-like behavior, a complete departure from discipline, IB-13 sighed. Her usefulness was not yet exhausted. She’d take as many of the foul mechanical taint with her. The forgotten crypt of the T’au would be her stronghold. She could strike out and maim and kill from the husk. At least until the villains smote her out at a very terrible cost.

Sensors picked up power readings rising in her vicinity. Anything specific washed out in the electrical hyperactivity of the dust storm. IB-13 was given over to the Motive Force. For her, there would be no rest. Let them come.

She spun on her heel. Her momentum suddenly disappeared, she pinned in place.

It was inconceivable. Nothing could subvert the awareness of Martian technology. The cataclysm IB-13 has just recorded was no excuse. Yet, there before her, a set of claws dug into her abdomen.

The owner of these blades cocked its long head. The look almost conveyed it was only killing the Skitarii to see what it was like, not out of maliciousness for her kind. Simple curiosity. It begged a sentience no abominable intelligence could possibly muster. The thing was a mindless murderer. It could not comprehend the cost of the mortality it was harvesting. Had harvested.

Through her goggles, IB-13 took in most every detail of her assailant. The ragged, red Skitarii robe on the thing’s back stood out in particular. A darker patch of crimson and oil-brown had stained the frame of the monster.

They stared at each other.

In a flash, IB-13 lodged the maul under the chin of the monster, jammed deep into the shiny parts. Electricity sizzled up the shaft and into the skeleton while the blue lightning burned IB-13 at close range. Armored glass coverings over the cyborg’s eyes shattered. Warnings flared in her mind as her remaining organs shriveled and mechanical life supports shut off.

As the charred remains fell backwards, the claws jerked and jittered on their way out of her torso. Streams of lubricants and steel coils followed the exit. Holding her ravaged guts, the Skitarii took one step.

She collapsed, IB-13’s leg hydraulics failing. Careful so as to not disembowel herself, she sat on her smoking cloak. Her open eyes stung with the feel of gritty air, a naked exposure they’d not known for a lifetime. She even had the sensation again of tears rolling out, these the salves that had bathed the lenses of her goggles.

The arc maul was depleted of energy and partially molten, welded to a gauntlet. She lay the emaciated arm aside. Diagnostic reports failed to update, either their wires cut or the glucose in her brain being used up. Only the survival counter continued to blink at zero-percent. Lung and circulatory motors were on the backup power of her own body heat, the internal batteries leaking their caustic supply out of her wounds. At the very least, auditory mics remained intact.

IB-13 picked-up the racket of the hatch leading into the ship opening. She heard the tap of slow feet. Sharp talons scrapped the ruined superstructure. And beyond it all, the war machines on the fields below and above marched on.

The final grenade was primed in her other fist. She would not trigger it yet. The explosive’s release was held down by the symbol of the skull and cog cupped in her mitt. She waited atop the results of the conquests of her Machine God, lit by the burning defeats of her kind. She needed not to wait long.

Boney silhouettes cast their stark shadows over the prone warrior.

Looking up at her company through unblinking eyes, IB-13, Skitarii, crusader of holy Mars, grinned underneath the mask. The effort made her regurgitate sick oils in a frothing cough. The enemy advanced. A byte prayer to the bomb’s machine spirit later, the cog fell off the trigger.

Thank you for reading though Unblinking Skitarii! Questions, comments, or wanting to read more? It’ll only be a second to head over to my Contact page.

Read the whole story here.

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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