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.

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

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: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

 

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: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

Sleeping God

Six months to Halloween. Let’s get creepy:

Our trumpets blow unceasingly to keep the Eternal at bay.

It has been a million millennia. More. The records are wasted now, burned long ago to fuel the forges for our Instruments. Always our Instruments.

Yet I will take this luxury here, secretly, to write with valuable resources my thoughts. Even mindfulness is a crime for the energetic glucose it consumes. I would choose to burn it for my own peace rather than in the embers of our legacy.

The constellations have been going dark. We’ve mined the worlds, conscripted their populations, drained our suns. A darkness unlike anything before creeps in at the edges of the universe. It is not just a physical shroud over creation, but also a shadow to the pits of our minds. So long as the sound from the Instruments trumpet through the void, all is as it must be.

At least the light is strong in our young, artificially birthed sun, but that is it. When machines harvest the last energy of this last star, all existence will be cast into the black. We continue to play. Nothing else is left to us, the few huddled now in the final system whose bellows bring forth song from the Instruments.

Philosophers of myth wrote on the outcome of these end times, the apocalypse revealed sometime when the universe was naive, ignorant to the nothingness that awaits all at the end of the Divine Dream. If only we’d never known why the Instruments were needed, or at least had lacked the cleverness to construct such things, our foreparents might have died long ago, sparing us now our toil.

No-one can really know what will become of us. As the last horns blow no more, the god that forsook us will toss all that has been to oblivion.

Many have taken the Way Out. Their bodies lie forgotten in dead spirals that once were galaxies. We’ve brought uncounted burial sites close to cater to this existential ritual, though their corpses aren’t enough for the forges, for the Instruments to sound. Only so much ash anymore.

The dead may have been right, to choose their own end, rather than be cast to the fires in their trillions to play the Instruments. Always we must service the Instruments. Even death will be denied us, the living. Either we are alive and labor, or we become part of the fire and the Instruments. Thus is all our need for fuel.

Now, we persist. Our awareness damns us. Still, the Choir races here in this place of ending don’t stop. An old, obsolete word from ages past, “hope”, wouldn’t fit a description of our efforts. For as long as we can, we will play. There is nowhere to go. There is nothing to do otherwise. Only few like I who have read the stories as their pages were shoveled into the fires understand there has ever been anything else.

Solutions have been calculated, dreamed, prophesied, and all ultimately failed. “Hope” has eluded the most titanic means available of the brightest minds over eons of unknowable work. There is no person nor thing deigned to survive the flames. Not the remnants of our best, not even their histories. Not the least this author.

We keep the god-thing asleep in its Divine Dream. The Instruments either play and we continue, or they are silent, and we cease. Until quiet finally wakes the Eternal, we will all be used to keep up the charade of this dreamscape. Forever and ever it shall be.

My writing time ends. How many seconds has it cost the universe in fuel? Time lost for us to wonder moments more at it all? These questions must go unanswered. This note and I travel to the forges.

Here’s the prompt that sparked this little piece:

“The universe is just God dreaming. When he wakes the universe vanishes. Every species in the universe has united to forestall the inevitable.”

u/Punsterglover

Example of Editing a Warhammer Fan Fic

I’ve a strong attraction to the nature of Game Workshop’s Warhammer 40K universe. They publish hundreds of stories and have the opportunity to make near infinitely more in the universe they’ve created. Heck, even the genre-term “grimdark” spawns from their work.

As I learn to write, here’s an example of editing a bit of fan fiction I wrote for WH 40K two years ago, Unblinking Skitarii. The first 1000 words or so should do it.

Here’s the draft finished July 4th, 2017:

Thumpthumpthumpthump
Thumpthumpthumpthump

Boots pounded deck plate as the Skitarii ran through the halls. The din from outside increased the closer they got to a rip in the alien ship’s hull. Sliding under the tear’s rip, they blurted to each other a timestamp to go on the offensive.

As the milliseconds met the mark, she stepped up to the ledge. As the carbine she’d commandeered rose with her sight, it was unleashing killing rounds before a proper target lock was acquired.

Aim was not a problem for the enemy outside. By sheer luminosity, the volley of return fire nearly blinded the Ranger’s ‘spex. She ducked as florescent green rounds tore chunks out of the opposite wall, sizzling through the air where she’d just been. Where the other Skitarii was still shooting.

Her companion’s helmet exploded to the sound of a tinny smashing of a wet egg. Slack, their rifle clamored to the floor, the body falling heavily.

They had this position zeroed in. She had to keep moving. She checked the communication queue – nothing incoming, and all of her outgoing requests were still pending. Still on her own – no change over the last hour.

Missiles still striking above her, the Ranger picked through the robes of the freshly steaming corpse. Ammo clips: just what was hoped for. Pocketing these, she took off in a crouch.

Thumpthumpthumpthump

Rounding the corner, her processes spiked for a fraction of a second. There, at the end of the corridor, a long, stark skeleton turned slowly to look with dead eye holes at the survivor.

[… 262wc]

I was including sound effects! And what’s a “‘spex”? Clearly, this very early draft was only going line-by-line from a sparse outline. Maybe putting the work through the Hemingway App, Word Count Tools, Word Counter, my own observations, and a writing group unfamiliar with Warhammer can help:

Boots pounded deck plate as a pair of Skitarii ran through the halls. The din from outside increased the closer they got to a rip in the alien ship’s hull. Sliding under the tear’s lip, these cyborgs blurted binary cant to each other: they would take the offensive.

As the milliseconds met their mark, IB-13 stepped up to the ledge. The carbine she’d commandeered rose with her sight. In a moment, it unleashed killing rounds before a target had locked. There would be casualties regardless.

As it was for her, the aim for the enemy was not a concern. 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. Fluorescent green rounds tore chunks out of the opposite wall, sizzling through the air where she’d been. Her comrade IT-X0 was still shooting, taking an extra sixteenth of a second more than their firing solution had provided for.

Her companion’s helmet exploded with a sound of a wet egg. Slack, rifle fallen to the floor, the body fell with a heavy whoosh of cloak and armor.

While missiles struck above her, the Ranger picked through the robes of the fresh corpse. Her calculations for survival increased when ammo clips appeared. Pocketing these, she took off in a crouch.

She wove her way around thieving blue-skinned bodies. Data was the most holy text of the Adeptus Mechanicus technopriests of Mars, cybery the most sacred of tomes for the cyborg Skitarii warriors. These aliens had taken both and paid for it with thousands of lives. They, these “T’au”, had received divine judgement, but now IB-13 had to find a vantage in the crashed tomb. Possibly even a way out.

These silver monstrosities had this position surrounded. IB-13 had reconnoitered the enemy advance with surviving members of the squad. Like ants, they 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, had dissolved into oil-slick smears.

IB-13 took a chance to check her internal network systems. The communication queue held no new messages. All of her outgoing requests were yet pending. No data, no direction, no oversight. On her own for over the last hour. Not even IT-X0 to share processing capacity. Not since the automatons appeared.

She needed to keep moving. Anything with the means of slaughtering her kin would have devices to track a lone warrior in the bowels of a dead ship. Unless the interference was indiscriminate…

The first indication of trouble had been when their dropship lost all communication 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.

Despite a lack of transmission mediums, the cyborgs’ tactical progress couldn’t be hampered over such a meager concern. Regardless of the massive damage to the vessel’s infrastructure, the T’au’s layout remained navigable. It proved too easy when the first booby traps –

Static hissed over IB-13’s network band. It immediately settled into an encrypted invitation for silicon communion. Her rush to respond fouled the first attempt at cracking the lock – something this imprecise would have had the commanding Centurion temporarily deactivate her. A partial lobotomy wouldn’t be out of the question. No matter – her Centurion had evaporated under the snaking tendril of some eldritch energy weapon.

The second attempt bridged the connection. IB-13 felt a flood of information pour through her circuit-fused organics. Cool authority she’d taken for granted from decades of indoctrination calmed nerves in welcome sensation. Out of it all came the glorious figure of an ordained technopriest of Mars, emissary of the Omnissiah’s unknowable will. 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 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 technopriest 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. 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 cogs and armor, all shadowed by her tattered crimson cape.

Near-death comatosis was far outweighed by the elation of the return of the network and the priest.

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. Technologies resided within that could allow crops to grow a hundred times their yield, build vaccines to cure ageless plagues, or unleash terrible weapons of havoc not witnessed for ten thousand years. And it was the Adeptus Mechanicus’s to peerlessly own.

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. She and a hundred other augmented shocktroopers had infiltrated the vessel while another thousand scoured the wastelands outside. All the effort only to have the artifact destroyed by the powers of their current foes of unholy, silver contraption.

[… 956wc]

A bit better here. Can you spot other differences?

Warhammer books share a few things in common: They have lots of fights, the characters never dwell on the fights they’ve had or those that have died, and the prose is as purple as possible (while keeping the language fairly simple).

Let’s see how purple we can get this sample. Buckle-up, this is a long one:

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 alien owners billowing in their wake. The din from outside 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 needed to agree in the affirmative or negative of the decision before them.

Their delay only came because IB-13, a Ranger meant for more long-range engagements, while IT-XH remained optimized for the more moderate reprisals of the Skitarii Vanguard. It didn’t help that the Vanguard’s natural radiation filled IB-13’s receivers with excess static. After a debate transmitted in seconds that might fill a novel, the numbers aligned: The offensive would be brought to their 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 last companion. The carbine she’d commandeered from a battle-inoperable Skitarii rose with her augmented sight. In a moment she unleashed killing rounds before a target had been locked. To bend the rules of her ingrained engagement protocols in 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, their foe would suffer.

As for her aim was of little concern, so too was it for the enemy. 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 crept towards her. Fluorescent green rounds tore chunks out of the opposite wall, sizzling through the air where she’d been.

Her comrade IT-XH was still shooting, taking an extra sixteenth of a second more than their firing solution had provided for.

IT-XH’s helmet exploded with a sound of a wet egg. The explosion flung cranial fluid and shards of steel scattering around the hall. Something wet and gooey splattered on IB-13’s cloak. To her the projectile posed no threat of damage to her systems.

Slack, IT-XH’s rifle fell to the floor with a clatter covered by the sound of eldritch energies scything overhead. The body fell 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 telltale of their enemy’s presence.

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 as it was with all branches of the Adeptus Mechanicus, that a report be made of their findings inside the crashed vessel. The battle data alone dictated that she must survive at all costs. She discovered ammo magazines in a titanium corded pocket. Her calculations for expected lifespan ticked-up another notch. Adding these to a digital inventory, she took off in a crouch.

Another hall held more than the last one. The Ranger wove 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.

Data was the most holy property of the Adeptus Mechanicus technopriests of Mars, cybery 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. The T’au had received divine judgement, but now IB-13 had to find a vantage. Possibly even a way out.

It seemed a maze. The T’au warship was a behemoth run through by the guns of the Adeptus Mechanicus in their weeks-long pursuit. Corridors collapsed into others, doors remain locked while other holes cleared entire decks. The wreckage acted as a tomb now for human cyborgs and T’au crew alike. And it was only the fault of the blue-skins daring to pull off a swindle of such proportions.

Now the silver monstrosities outside had this position surrounded and infiltrated. IB-13 had reconnoitered the enemy advance with surviving members of the Skitarii retrieval squads. Like ants, the foe had spilled into the halls, through the deck plating, and translocated in glittery sheen amid the Skitarii’s formations. The Skitarii, living weapons of the Martian Empire, fighting with whirling blades of supersonic titanium and coursing lightning guns, had dissolved into oil-slick smears.

IB-13 took a chance to check 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. Not since the automatons appeared.

A hatch led down 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 the ambushers 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.

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.

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

Foul booby traps secreted from the Skitarii’s scanners triggered at the first contact with the database. Explosions ripped through both skinny Infiltrators and armored Vanguards. The Ranger groups fared little better. IB-13 held the rearguard, thus survived to witness the carnage that came immediately after the destruction of the data. 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 this imprecise would have had the commanding Centurion temporarily deactivate her. A partial lobotomy wouldn’t be out of the question, though at least that 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 technopriest 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. 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 technopriest 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 detris. 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 cogs and armor, all shadowed by her tattered crimson cape.

Near-death comatosis was far outweighed by the elation of the return of the network and the priest. 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’s 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. And it was the Adeptus Mechanicus’s duty and privilege to peerlessly own.

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 this theft 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…

[… 1865wc]

Wow. Double word count just by describing more things. However, this isn’t just filler for filler’s sake. I go into more detail about how the main character IB-13 feels (or doesn’t) and why. What fighting is already there I add more too. As it comes to the Black Library (publishers of Warhammer novels and operated by Games Workshop), adjectives, metaphors, and even similes aren’t to be feared.

An outline to first draft leaves much to be desired, though it’s some flesh on the outline’s bones. The next work is to fill in the body of the piece with characters and settings and maybe something of a plot. Clean it up through your own edits, online tools, and peer groups. Lastly, if writing for Games Workshop and the Black Library, purple that’d get Barney blushing must be added.

What’s missing? Without special expectation for Warhammer or fan fiction, how do you edit? Anywho, let me know if you’d like to see more on this Unblinking Skitarii story.

Quarterly Goals – June 2019

I’m cutting down this quarter to a number of goals I’ve found works great: four. Thank you for your patience with me getting this list out – the last two weeks have required a drastic reevaluation. Let’s get started.

My Goals Due June 2019

19JQ
Phone Lock Screen Reminder
  1. JimmyChattin.com
    1. The primary goal was going to be to finish Shallow Seas, but I think a website to show off Shallow Seas is of a lot more interest. By June, I need the domain name “JimmyChattin”, an “About” page, contact and hiring information, and a backlog of posts for the site. We’re going to keep this simple, maybe adding tags for posts as necessary.

    2. Surprise! WordPress makes setting up a website amazingly easy. With a coupon code, I now have JimmyChattin.com for the next two years! Huzzah! Now there’ll need to be a few more posts than just this one…

  2. Finish Draft 1 Shallow Seas
    1. My first among equals. The goal last time was to draft Shallow Seas; that didn’t happen, but I’m close. This time, we’re going to cover the final thirty-to-forty-thousand words.

  3. Lists
    1. “Blessed are the list makers.” I hope to systematize my life. First, we’re going to need to make and stick with a “No, But” list – whenever something would distract from goals or pure pleasure, pause. Give the list a review. Then either give it a “hell yes” or an unashamed “no”. Maybe include writing my own obituary too. There’s no time to dally.

  4. Edits
    1. Update the stories They’re Aboard and Unblinking Skitarii (working titles), two fan fictions written around 2018 for the Warhammer 40K universe. There are a few edits I’ve left behind for myself, so finally ‘completing’ these stories would be grand.

These goals, though fewer, are bigger than previous endeavors. Regardless, I’ll push hard. However, all are subject to replacement in the next three months. I’m keeping eyes peeled for Games Workshops‘ Black Library open submissions for 2019. If / When that hits, a few alternates will have to be taken up instead of the above:

  • Send one fully realized submission to Black Library. That’s brainstorm, logline, outline, pick, draft, revise (continuously), and finally submit a Warhammer story. Ideas so far:
    • Follow a soldier’s horrific journey through a spaceship boarded by aliens he once called home.
    • A simple heist of the jewels in an alien crypt at the heart of a continent goes wrong.
    • The lost crew of a ship crash on an ancient space station hidden in a sun’s corona.
    • When excavating advanced technology awakens an ancient menace, cyborg IB-13 must make her escape to warn the fleet of its impending doom.
    • Life is made easy for a child after they discover a new toy until the mechanical trinket decides to act on its own dark wishes.
  • Play Warhammer games (for research, of course). Total War Warhammer and Vermintide 2 and a boatload of audiobooks (hello, Humble Bundle!) should do the trick.

This’ll be a tough three months. With GDC happening in March, leading a new fitness group, and training / coaching for Las Vegas’s Corporate Challenge competitions, distractions will be rife. Rising in my role at my job is also a concern as I seek both more responsibility and less time in office. Wish me luck and give me understanding as things get shifted around to realize these goals and position myself for a life of leisure in the future.

If you’re interested, these were useful links for determining goals for JQ:

Previous posts on goals and games can be found at Make-Better-Games.blogspot.com.

Original Photo; Source Unknown

 

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