Status

User has no status, yet

Bio

User has no bio, yet

Most Recent Posts

If y’all are still takin’ I’d be mighty happen to join!
“Damage to the second heart, not destroyed though near such a degree,” came the voice of an astartes, looking through a hole ripped into the chest of one of his battle-brothers. Ventarius was tending to a wound that had been sealed in the heat of an intense battle, not one that he been in, not that he goes into such forays with the cursed armor. The apothecary let loose a sigh before looking at his overseer, commenting in a soft tone, “I doubt I will be able to salvage the heart, it may be best to replace it.”

There was silence as Ventarius looked over the body more, seeing that whatever fight that the astartes in front of him had been in left the heart in a bad condition. It was barely able to hold a steady beat and what movement it did provide was exceptionally weak, though still functioning. If Ventarius allowed this heart to stay, there was a chance that it may heal properly, but the odds were greater that it would never recover fully and be more of detriment to the health of his battle-brother. It was not an easy choice, as rejection of the gene-implant could still very well kill the astartes, but it was better than forcing him to live on a single heart that would not be able to keep up with the demands of a space marine.

“As you wish, Ventarius. Have you thought more upon what the Company Master had said to you?” The Lead Apothecary asked, watching Ventarius work.

“That of the Deathwatch?” Ventaruis inquired as he began to open the chest of the Astartes, in front of him to get easier access to the secondary heart.

“Correct.”

“You know my answer,” came the quick reply.

“You cannot refuse this, Ventarius. To deny Deathwatch is to go without additional experience that you will need,” the Chief Apothecary stated.

Ventarius allowed silence to pass for a moment before he looked to the wounded secondary heart, watching it beat weakly. He could see that heart’s movement getting slower and slower, nearly unnoticeable to the untrained eye, but he knew it was there. The view brought death into his mind, a death that he was forced into once he had been forced into the scarred armor that killed all of its previous bearers. The Astartes stopped for a moment, he was not afraid of death, but he knew he would not be able to serve if he did, and Ventarius intended to serve the Emperor for as long as possible.

“I will die, they shall send me into battle,” Ventarius finally said in a grim manner.

“Indeed, however, you have a chance to serve the Chapter well. Make sure that no Fallen have infiltrated its ranks and, should you survive that vigil, you will be free of the armor,” the Chief Apothecarian said, matching the grim tone of the younger apothecary.

“Very well, then. I shall give my oath to Emissary once this procedure is done,” Ventarius stated, almost instantly following the words of the other. The heart had all but stopped now, its beat was irregular happening every few seconds as it weakly tried to do its share of work in the body of the Astartes. Ventarius allowed his mind to go to the vigil, to his future death in a Chapter that was unlike his own, no longer hunting the fallen in a manner that he was used to. Cipher would be nowhere near the fields that he would operate upon, only Xenos and their weaponry that would kill him in a matter of seconds should he let his guard down.

However, it was his duty.

It was upon this realization that Ventarius noticed that the heart had stopped, becoming nothing more than a useless piece of muscle in a body that needed two to operate.




It had not been long since Ventarius had given his oath to serve Deathwatch, but already was he thinking of the gene-seeds that he would need to memorize in order to best serve those that he would fight besides. He knew that these gene-seeds were a closely guarded secret, knowing that it was a matter of corruption and becoming one of the Fallen that worried many of the other Astartes Chapters. Yet, he knew that he would be able to know his charges quickly enough, figuring that the manner of was similar if not an identical process between the chapters. Ventarius looked upon a screen to see the fortress that he would likely be housed in.

Ventarius knew that he would not belong, but he had to serve the Emperor as was commanded upon him by his superiors in his parent chapter. That had been the only reason he ”wanted” to join Deathwatch, as well as the added benefit of, perhaps, getting rid of the cursed armor and returning to one that he would not feel the dread of death weighing upon him. It was a constant feeling that had nearly killed him in his last engagement, fighting those who would seek to undo the work of the mighty Emperor of Mankind. The Tau had almost gotten him, one of their abominable rounds grazed his armor as he was making his way to a fallen brother. He knew that it was the armor’s doing that he succeeded in getting to his brother and retrieving his glands, after determining that he could not be saved.

Crack. Crack.

More rounds had bounced off his armor, a miracle that he should live to see another day in the galaxy that was always at war.

The door behind him slid open and the voice of an emissary brought him out of his memory, “We have arrived, dear apothecary. We can never have enough to fill our ranks and I am sure your expertise will be put to the test soon enough. I welcome thee to the Watch-Fortress.”

Ventarius turned from the screen and began marching, asking, “I trust that I will be briefed upon the gene-seed of my charges soon enough?”

“Of course, apothecary. As a Deathwatch Apothecary, it will be your-”

“Duty to memorize my charges’ gene-seed and tend to them in an appropriate manner, I know, Emissary,” Ventarius stated, stopping in front of the emissary for a moment before looking past him in silence.

“It is good you understand, now come, I shall escort you to your chambers,” the emissary said, turning on his heel and leading the apothecary to the fortress proper. The sounds of the metallic boots hitting the ground filled Ventarius’ ears, but it was not the sound of walking that had the attention of the apothecary. It was the sounds of his two hearts, their beating and rhythm filled his mind to an incessant point of making sure he knew of his own mortality with each movement.

And he swore with each step into the fortress he could feel his hearts slowing, unnoticeable to the untrained eye.





Year: 001.M31

Before the Triumph of Ullanor

After the Adjourned Meeting of the Primarchs and Representatives


Prometheus marched down the corridor leading from the meeting thinking of any reasonable route to victory that would not earn him censure from the Emperor, there was nothing overt that would not send Micholi to their father. This trouble in the Mechanicum had some promise however.

He seated his helm and activated the vox to Strategos Gaalus “Gather all hands, make ready for the medal ceremony with the Sentinels.” He said in a clipped tone.

“Medal Ceremony?” asked the commander, “Was that not being planned for after the Triumph celebration?”

“I want it done now, collect anyone you must. I want the ship prepared in an hour.”

Gaalus hesitated a fraction of a second “Of course my lord” he said before the link went dead as the commander rushed to fulfil the order of his Primarch. Moments later the Primarch, already walking to the location he suspected Usriel to be, keyed his vox once again.

“Brother Usriel, There was a small matter that slipped my mind in the meeting I must discuss with you. It should not take up much of your time.”

There was a moment of silence before the boxed keyed back to Prometheus, the stern sound of Usriel’s voice, “Is it not a matter that can be discussed over vox?”

“It could be, I suppose, but we are so near and the vox so.. Impersonal” He said conversationally. Certainly this was not a concern Usriel would care about but it was always more difficult to ignore someone in person.

“That is not of my concern, Prometheus,” came the sound of Usriel’s voice, coldly speaking before allowing a long drawn out sigh to be heard through the vox as well. There was a moment of silence, “Very well, I will give you a moment of my time. Where is your location?”

As Usriel finished his statement Prometheus rounded the corner, and rather than making a quip that would surely do nothing but annoy his brother he simply launched into what was needed. “The medal ceremony between our Legions. It occurred to me that it should be done with haste so our sons can show their marks of honor during the Triumph parade. Preparations have already been made upon my ship, with some advance orders it shouldn’t take long to put those deserving in transit.” He finished in a friendly tone, as if this conversation was much more casual than the intent behind it.

“The ceremony?” Usriel asked in a shocked manner, genuinely confused by Prometheus’ statement of the medal ceremony. “Why was I not informed of a change in schedule sooner,” the nineteenth Primarch inquired, cocking his head to the side out of confusion of the situation as a whole.

“Were you not?” mimicking his brother’s confusion “I will need to have words with the General.” he said absentmindedly “I apologize Usriel, you know how mortals are sometimes. Regardless our attendance would be needed to conduct the ceremony appropriately” Prometheus finished using his brother's biases to his advantage.

“I believe you had heard that I promised to look into the matter of those who’d disrupt the Triumph personally, Prometheus,” Usriel said, sighing as his mental timesheet began to be disrupted. He seemed to be annoyed at the sudden change of schedule, wanting nothing more than to believe this to be nothing more than a cruel joke. “Had I known about this, I’d not have volunteered my services,” Usriel continued, irritated but clearly not angry.

“Yes, as I said, the matter slipped my mind. I trusted that word would have reached you. Regardless, there is a shuttle coming to collect me soon. Would you care to join me to orbit?” Without waiting for an answer he continued clapping a hand on his brother’s shoulder leading the way to the landing zone. “Though, I must say I am surprised you are taking such a personal hand in the matter. Would this not be something for the Fabricator or Arch-Magos to handle? Seems such a trivial matter for one such as us to handle.” He said genuinely curious “Then again, your history dealing with treachery would make the matter personal.” Mused the Primarch.

“I do not tolerate anything that would be against the Emperor,” Usriel answered simply, not meeting Prometheus’ gaze.

Behind the same corner that Usriel had rounded mere moments ago, the helmed figure of the Doomsayer’s Equerry stood silently, her mind racing at what she had overheard. Surely Prometheus, a Primarch, wouldn’t think to delay one of his brothers from investigating an affront against the Emperor? Nonetheless, she could not deny what her senses told her. Sealing her helmet, Yeketerina Ascania quickly uttered a series of orders to the Destroyers and Revenants cleansing the warboss’ foul fortress for the Triumph’s crowning moment. Surely the master of the Vth simply wished to share mutual glory, so glory in kind may yet dissuade him. She hoped.

The staring contest between the two demigods was broken as the shorter form of the Astartes intruded, the woman bowing her head low as came across the Primarchs. “My lord Usriel. My lord Prometheus. Pray forgive me, but there is news you may find interesting,” she said, turning her head up as she finished, the grim vision of Daena’s face frozen in the serenity of death staring back at him from her mask. “My mother had bid us to prepare a fitting trophy for your victory, and at last I believe we have succeeded.”

Prometheus eyed the Doomsayer for a beat before answering “A trophy? Well, we must see this trophy worthy of such a grand Imperial victory. I assume that is the purpose behind interrupting us.” he said in a stern though not hostile tone. Fortune favored Prometheus, it may take little time to see and appreciate whatever this trophy was but even an extra hour keeping Usriel occupied was an hour his intelligence was not brought to bear on the investigation. “Come and witness this grand trophy brother, I insist. We should share in its grandeur, this victory is yours as much as it is mine.” The primarch said as he turned to his brother.

“I beg to differ, Prometheus. Our victory was Ullanor Secundus, yours is this planet. I did nothing other than my duty to lure the Ork forces away, as was the Emperor’s orders,” Usriel said with a grain of humility, knowing that the warboss’ death was not anything that he had been involved in. Shifting his gaze to look to Ascania, the Primarch of the Sentinels spoke, “I will take this time to ready my resources for the investigation,” only pausing to look to Prometheus, “Let me know when the medal ceremony is to begin and I shall join you.”

With those words Usriel began to step away, though before he got far Prometheus caught his shoulder “Is that not a matter that can be done over vox?” The primarch said as he echoed Usriels words back to him. “Our actions over Secundus was equally important as the assault on the fortress or any other battle in the system. Without them the fortress would have been nigh impossible to take. You share in this victory as much as I.” He said, though he knew full well Usriel was right. “Would you shame me by forcing me to beg for your company?”

Usriel remained silent for a moment before, looking at Prometheus and speaking in a clearly irritated tone, “Very well, but do not disturb me from making my preparations as we walk.”

For the second time that day, Ascania was grateful for the all encompassing mask that hid her emotions from view. The fact that she had failed to free Usriel from these distractions was one thing, but the fact that Prometheus seemed so adamant upon delaying him only raised her suspicions. As far as the two Primarchs could tell however, there was only a slight nod of acknowledgement from the death mask. “Of course, my lords. I had wished to show you this in secret to enhance the reveal at the Triumph, but if you insist on lord Usriel accompanying us it is not my place to refuse him.”

Conceding that she had failed in her original goal, Ascania endeavored to at least make this as swift as possible. Keying in her vox intentionally so that the two Primarchs could hear, the Equerry quickly gave orders to the Revenants guarding the site. “Prepare for inspection, and dispatch a Land Speeder. ...two, in fact. Lord Usriel shall be joining us.”

The speeders were swift and the tour swifter, the grand display that Ascania had promised being almost hurried. While the Equerry’s failure and a desire to not further waste time certainly played a role, the guardians of the trophy were a brusque lot even by the standards of the Doomsayers. They quickly led the Primarchs into the high hall of Urlakk Urg’s shattered tower - and the broken and battered corpse of the Warboss himself, his immense bones scorched by the cleansing flames of Destroyers, and then just as quickly suggesting that they leave. The cruel glow of volkite weapons in their hands made obvious the work that the unplanned visit had interrupted, the grim women clearly wishing to finish what they viewed as a far more important task. It was all in all a brief diversion, the Primarchs deposited at the spaceport over an hour after Prometheus had first suggested the medal ceremony. It was time that both brothers could perhaps consider a victory, an hour’s delay - and an hour for Usriel to coordinate his forces.

Bidding farewell to the Primarchs, it was Usriel that Ascania’s mask focused on. “My apologies for delaying you, my lords. I understand that you have important business to attend to, I pray that nothing so petty will delay you further in your grand works.”

“A small delay, but the medal ceremony…” Usriel trailed off, looking to Prometheus, “Are you certain it is necessary that this ceremony be held now? I gave them my word that I would look into the matter, personally. I cannot break such a promise, lest I am nothing more than the petty mortals of any other Auxilia or station.”

Prometheus nodded, “I understand, I wouldn’t think of causing you to break such a promise but your own people are certainly skilled enough to perform the tedious start of such a matter. There would be hundreds or thousands to sift through before arriving at those who require your abilities. This is an opportunity to not only honor your sons but allow your soldiers to get the easy part of the investigation done. Once the ceremony is done you will have ample time to investigate.”

“That is not my point, Prometheus,” Usriel said stepping away from his peer, putting his hands behind his back as continued, “I said I would take on the investigation. That means it is my wholly responsibility, I will not delegate any part of that I can personally attend to. Furthermore, much as it would bring me joy to see some of my sons receive such honors, they only care for their duty to the Emperor and to me. The Sentinels do not care for honors as that is how I molded them to be, for I care little for such honors. It is but a formality that I even attend such an event rather than do my duty.”

“Do not care for honors?” Prometheus asked surprised “beneath the armor, cybernetics and implants your Sentinels are still human, greater to be certain, but still human. They may not be glory hounds and will do their duty regardless of any recognition. That said, you know as well as I that they still desire that recognition, perhaps even more so because it is such a rare thing. They wouldn’t speak of it to you or their commanders. Those who receive praise from their own Primarch and another would be examples of excellence that would strive to meet or exceed those expectations. Even cause others to strive to be greater and follow their example. Your presence is not a formality, it is a symbol to inspire your own sons and mine to be greater Astartes than they had been before the Ullanor Crusade.”

Usriel remained silent for a good while, the words of his brother clearly lingering before he echoed, “Still human.” A wave of anger came crashing around him, as evident by the many of the nearby machines acting as if they had just gone haywire. The Land Speeder that they had used shut off in its entirety as the Nineteenth Primarch’s emotions overcame him. He took a step towards Prometheus, hands clenched as he spat, “Do not compare my sons to those filth. They are not human, they are Astartes! I am not human, I am Astartes!” A high pitched whine came through the air as the lights of the area they were in brightened to a blinding degree, some of them outright breaking as the enraged Primarch continued, “Why do you continue to keep me here, Prometheus? What reasons was this ceremony pushed to now without my explicit consent or warning? Why?!”

Prometheus threw his helm to the ground sending a spider web of cracks from the impact point, He knew the human comment would get under Usriel’s skin but he had underestimated the fury it would bring. “Why? Because I want the plot to succeed, or else be undiscovered long enough to keep our brother’s xenos pets from the Triumph.” There was little point in lying now, Usriel was a Primarch after all. He would have understood Prometheus’ goals soon enough. “They are a blight and the Edict protecting them a travesty.” Though there was venom in Prometheus’ words he stood unconcerned at the chaos Usriel’s fury was causing around them.

“What does it matter?! Xenos or human, they are both beneath us!” Usriel exclaimed, the anger pooling off of him before continuing, “I care not for either of them! They will betray us all in the end! Both human and xenos are a stain upon what this Imperium could become! But I don’t allow that thought to cloud my judgement, I do not allow it to consume me and deceive my fellow Primarchs!”

Usriel let out a roar before turning and swinging a fist into the wall, the metal bending and now revealed wires letting sparks loose, allowing his frustration to vent. The Primarch calmed, the nearby Machine Spirits returning to their normal resting state before Usriel brought his fist out of the wall. He turned his head to Prometheus, and said in a cold tone that held back the anger, “You would be wise to not deceive me again, Prometheus..”

The Nineteenth turned away from the other before looking down to Ascania, “My apologies for allowing you to see me in such a light, niece. I do believe that you did well with Prometheus’ trophy.”

“It matters Usriel” Prometheus said in a somber tone. “Before I was found by our father. The Xenos was a blight that nearly brought the Empire of Amn to its knees. Few are aware but there is still a species in my former home even now killing those of my homeworld. We hunt them endlessly but they are devious and can steal the appearance of those they had eaten for a time. The Simulacra we call them, used their alien abilities to befriend my former empire and betray us during a long war with the Orks. The war they started has yet to end… I would not see the Imperium as a whole drawn into a similarly eternal conflict. The edict is a shield protecting our enemy, our sons bleed and die for the dream that is the Imperium of Man while its core rots from the xenos blight within.” Prometheus finished as his gaze bored into the back of Usriel’s helm.

The words fell upon deaf ears as Usriel responded, harshly and coldly, “And what of those humans who betrayed my sons at Atis? Do you know how many of my sons died? How much blood I had to see pouring from those survivors that we could not save? You will defend the xenos as I must defend those who would betray the both of us.” Usriel let out a sigh, allowing himself to become lost in his own memories before he said, “You do not know the hatred and anger I feel, how much I wish to make humanity feel what I felt on that day. Yet, I continue with my duty as it is the will of our Emperor.”

Prometheus nodded in understanding “The difference is, until we can grow the Astartes further or otherwise convert humanity to your ideal… we still need them, the xenos we do not.”

“And it is by the Emperor’s will that the Edict of Tolerance was-” Usriel began.

“It was Micholi’s will, Our father was pandering to a child who could not do what is necessary.” Spat Prometheus in reply.

Usriel was silent, not because he did not have anything to say, but because there was no point in arguing with Prometheus. The Primarch of the Sentinels did not need to speak anymore than he had to say to his brother. Though he stood still and silent, there were many things that Usriel wished to say, holding his tongue before casting a gaze to Ascania. After a long moment of silence, he finally spoke, “This conversation is over, Prometheus.”

Prometheus simply sighed disappointment clearly written on his features. He wanted Usriel to understand, but he was so blinded by some fool traitor to see clearly. The Vth Primarch walked away towards a Knights of Awe transport that had been intended to ferry both to the ceremony, his helm left forgotten in the star port.

Silence stretched out between Primarch and Equerry for a few long moments before Ascania finally spoke, the woman having waited until Prometheus was well and away. “It seems you have enemies in your hunt, my lord. The Doomsayers are yours, should you have need of us,” she said in a far more controlled voice than she had expected herself to manage, considering the circumstances. Her mother had told her that only speech and slaughter remained on Ullanor when she left, Ascania dared not imagine how Daena would react to this transpiring instead of the expected.

“I thank you, niece. Again, I am sorry that you had to see me in such a light,” Usriel stated, allowing himself to momentarily relax, before stepping away from the hall. “Come, we have much work to do,” the Primarch said.

Ascania gave a nod of assent - but behind her death mask a dazzling array of cogitators were at work. Blink clicking through a series of menus and notices, the appropriate orders were given with any passerby none the wiser. As the Equerry left with the Primarch, a figure in an all too common robes followed her instructions without question or complaint, spiriting away the helm of the lord of the Vth.

She froze midstep as she followed Usriel, inspiration striking her. “Pray, begin your work without me my lord. I will bring loyal and true servants of your father to help you root out this cancer.” And so they parted, the Primarch traveling deep beneath the surface as the Equerry raced towards the stars.


Hours Later

Within the Triumph Causeway Service Tunnels...



The labyrinthian network of chambers and passageways beneath the great granite causeway for the Triumph was a necessary evil analogue to an underhive: A sprawling, tangled cesspit of rust, iron, steam, and oil. The maze of wires, cabling, ducts and sealed bulwarks was crowded over with lay-Tech-Priests and several armies worth of servitors, and an abundance of servo-skulls and mechadendrite hives that would have made even the spire of a High Altar of Technology on some forge worlds seem understaffed.

Archmagos Rarnet led the Usriel and his honor guard through the bustling corridors, relaying to Usriel through his vox-hailer on the details he was already privy to.

'The Mechanicum's many servitors and machine spirits charged with the running and maintenance of various consecrated systems and machines, are all universally bestowed with doctrinally-compliant fervor that induces them to obey the faithful and to lash out against those who are not.' Rarnet's vox-frequency droned within their helmets.

'The trouble began when many of our lower-order priests reported that many of the machine spirits tasked with the execution of the Triumph would respond aggressively to the presence of xenosforms in the parade. Pict-casts and imagery would be shut down, censored, scrambled, or directly blocked. Combat servitors and automated security measures would activate and engage. Alerts would be set off, certain segments of the Triumph's service tunnels would enter lockdown. Nearly every Machine Spirit present in the workings here had to be resanctified by our Rune Priests and Techsorcists, as well as every new Machine Spirit that will be brought in. The task is difficult and at times impossible. Certain Machine Spirits are designed with the exigencies in their condition-contingent core processes. Removing the xenos-dependent failsafes causes a number of Machine Spirits and their devices to cease functioning altogether. Hence the disarray.' Rarnet gestured with a stray mechadendrite to the tangled jungle of cables and haphazardly scattered devices that littered the passageways. 'Many of these systems are jury-rigged, improvised, or wholly analogue. The Prefecture Magisterium has already condemned sixteen lay-priests and an Artisan for improper or perverse rites of sanctification and craftwork.'

Usriel looked past all the many working cogs, taking in the information given to him before looking to the Archmagos and speaking into his vox with an impassive tone, "If the Machine Spirits are able to be resanctified, reinstalled, then the issue lies with the tech-priests and the like working upon them. Any Machine Spirit will bend given enough effort." The Primarch allowed his mind to wonder, taking in the possibilities for the moment before asking, "Those condemned lay-priests, are the presumed to be a part of this conspiracy?"

'No. Though guilty of techno-heresy, they were the ones working hardest to ensure all the Triumph systems worked flawlessly and without causing any issues.' Rarnet voxed back. 'The problem is that since the original Machine Spirits and devices have been reconsecrated and resanctified or else replaced, the conspirators have changed tactics. To facilitate your investigation I will be introducing you to Magos Ulbridge, a senior Tech-Priest within my personal staff who has been charged with managing all of the personnel assignments here in the Service Sectors, as well as reviewing all networked system cogitator and archive data to ensure it is pure and free of corruption. I am as certain as I can be that both he and his staff are free of guilt, and that they are in the best position possible to assist your investigation.'

As Rarnet continued to lead Usriel and his Honor Guard through the halls, Tech-Priests managing the turbulent strata of mechanisms pulled away from their labors to prostrate themselves, to make gesticulations of prayer, and to recite a variety of canticles. Servitors and Servo-Skulls cleared away from the group, often lining up against nearby walls akin to procession guards as the Astartes passed. It was evident the Mechanicum's Priests venerated Usriel, which would likely open several doors for him - though, on the other side of the coin, the conspirators doubtlessly knew of his arrival mere instants after he had set foot in the tunnels.

Usriel looked upon them the numerous Tech-Priests that bowed before him, looking between each as his honor guard continued to march around him. It was not often that he would see this many prostrating to him, though knowing there were some that likely cared not and merely did so out of the sake of formality. The Primarch brought his head forwards once more, casting the veneration of him from his mind as he refocused upon his task. Remembering that there were those who would work against the Emperor were in these tunnels brought unnease to him, though it brought him back to knowing his duty to keep to his creator.

"Do you know Fabricator-Technis Arx of Vion 5?" Usriel asked into his vox as he followed Rarnet through the tunnels.

'Only by reputation. Distantly.' Rarnet replied.

"And what would that reputation be?" the venerated one inquired.

[i]'The Fabricator Intendant of Vion 5 was the...successor to the original who governed the planet during the Founding.'[i] Rarnet voxed, their synthetic voice as dispassionate as always - but with a pause betraying the Tech-Priest needing to either look up that particular information or even ask their nearby fellows. There was certainly enough vox-chatter coming to and from the Archmagos adjacent to their current conversation for it to be plausible. 'The planet of the Ninteenth Primarch's adolescent life. I do not recall seeing his listing in the registry of the last few remote summits for the Holy Synod of Mars, but I am confident he must be a member.'

"A shame," Usriel commented, before continuing, "Not many know of Arx in the capacity that I do. I would have thought many more would have heard of him." The Primarch let out a sigh of light disappointment as he fell silent once more, looking between his sons and calculating the possibilities that lay ahead of them after they spoke to Ulbridge. Granted, many of his thoughts were dependent upon the information that would be given to him, only then would he be able to formulate a plan of attack. Usriel's mind focused less upon the xenos, he did not care if they were truly a part of the of the Triumph or not, they would be excluded if he failed to find anything and more on what to do with those that would seek to go against a celebration for the Omnissiah, the Emperor. He knew that only those that did not follow his absolute power, would inevitably betray them in the end.

Eventually Rarnet halted before a large, reinforced bulkhead door emblazoned with the symbol of the Aquila, with a pict-reader and an activation rune mounted beneath. Activating the rune, Rarnet led the Primarch and his honor guards into what was evidently an airlock ('Extra security,' the Archmagos supplied) and an identical bulkhead door. Once the chamber had cycle and the massive aperture parted, Usriel found himself in a massive chamber, not altogether unfamiliar in design and layout to the bridge for a void-ship. Control-thrones, podiums, pict-casters and arrays of controls seated in trenches along the floor were staffed by nearly a dozen Tech-Priests, and the center of the room was dominated by a large, spherical cogitator unit suspended by cable-lines from the ceiling. A hunch-backed Tech-Priest distinguished by their single bionic eye, easily the size of two closed fists and encompassing most of his metallic face-plate, stared directly at the floor - their form motionless. mechadendrites linking them to the cogitator core indicated they were likely more literally rather than figuratively out of their mind at the moment.

'Magos Ulbridge.' Rarnet indicated on a broad-spectrum vox-transmission, audible to everyone with a receive in the vicinity. 'Come unto yourself and pay homage to the Nineteenth Son of the Omnissiah, the Primarch of the Steel Sentinels.'

The Tech-Priest immediately jerked to life, their massive bionic eye flaring with incandescent brilliance and peering up to gaze at Usriel's towering figure. Ulbridge's mechadendrites disengaged from the cogitator core, snaking back in towards his body as he fell to his knees with a loud clang and began making gesticulations of prayer with both hands while audibly invoking the Canticle of Solar Reverence in Cant-Mechanicum on the spot. As one, the odd-dozen Tech-Priests who had been ensconced in their work in the surrounding trenches rose, raising their hands and joining them in a resonant prayer to accompany the Magos.

Usriel allowed them to pray, silently watching over them as they did so. After a moment of listening, he spoke in a voice befitting his status, a loud and confident voice filled the room, "You may rise, Priests of the Machine Cult."

With an almost unanimous closing gesticulation, the priests in the trenches below turned and lowered themselves back into their work once more. Ulbridge rose to his feet.

'Magos Ulbridge, the Primarch, in hearing of the matter we discussed earlier concerning the Triumph's sanctity, has personally elected to investigate the matter.' Rarnet voxed privately between the three of them. 'You are to cooperate with him, and any individual he so indicates, for as long as the investigation lasts. I charge you with the task of ensuring that the Triumph proceeds smoothly and without any form of disruption as may stem from the investigation and its findings. This matter is sealed and all pertinent information classed as a Throne Secret until the end of the investigation. Nobody save the Primarch, members of his Legion, the Custodes, the Order Elucidatum, and the Omnissiah himself are to become aware of anything that transpires within the investigation outside what they witness with their own eyes. Is that understood?'

'Affirmative, Archmagos. I seek clarification regarding the member of the Administratum attached to my staff.' Ulbridge replied after a brief moment. He gestured with a metallic talon towards the corner of the room. As indicated, a dumpy member of the administratum was present - their robes covered in oily grime and dust from exposure to the depths of the service tunnels. The shabby and somewhat obese man was so dimunitive and unassuming relative to everything else in the chamber that even Usriel himself had completely overlooked the man when he first entered the room. He was morosely bent over, scraping the remnants of a ruined soppy sandwich that he had dropped on the floor - possibly when Usriel had arrived. He was muttering indiscernible curses under his breath, and his substantial jowls were a deep and enflamed red, either from disposition or embarrassment.

'Prefectus Hodge. He appeared sixteen hours ago. His credentials are verified but he been unduly obstructive to our efforts and requesting triplicate prints of certain archived records.' Ulbridge continued. 'His ability to comb through our archives and parse data is adequate however. It could create complications if I am required to obscure details pertaining to the investigation from him.'

Rarnet turned up, looking to Usriel in inquisitive silence.

"He will be of no issue. If he inquires of the records of this investigation, he shall have no authority over them and if he pushes the issue then I shall deal with him myself," Usriel stated coldly, looking at Hodge before continuing, "If you would find it wise, I shall make sure he does not inquire into this at this very moment, Magos."

'Your word alone shall be sufficient, immaculate Primarch.' Ulbridge nodded and made another offhand gesture. 'Is there anything else before we begin, Archmagos?'

'No. I shall be departing now to attend to matters aboard the Light of the Omnissiah. May the Motive Force channel vision unto your mind, and justice unto your hand. May the Omnissiah's grace forever inhabit you, Primarch.' Rarnet made a low bow before Usriel one last time, and then proceeded back towards the airlock.

'Holy Primarch. Here is the exact problem.' Ulbridge began, turning back towards the cogitator core. They raised a mechadendrite and pulled down a stand-mounted pict-screen for them both to view. It showed the momentary interment of a Machine Spirit meant to relay auspex data between a number of different systems, with its core systems having been partitioned into two halves, both displayed on the screen.

'This half of the Spirit's core functions represent reconsecrated lines. If we used just these functions, there would be no issue - the Spirit would not react to the presence of Xenos in the Triumph. However, an unknown Heretek has added additional algorithms and routines to the Spirit's system on top of the reconsecration.' He gestured to the second half. The lines of code there stood in startling contrast to the Mechanicum programming in the first image - where the reconsecrated portion appeared to be comprised of neat, carefully ordered and efficiently parsed code, the second portion was a snarled and tangled mess of inchoate script.

'As you can see, this coding is inefficiently structured - intentionally, to obscure the identity of the perpetrator and the purpose of the new code. Analysis of this portion has revealed that, during a predetermined time of the Triumph, it would have directed the Machine Spirit to slave itself to a second device that would then vox new remote instructions. That device has since also been identified. The issue is that this code does not otherwise interfere with or contravene the functionality of the reconsecrated segment. This Spirit, and the device that would have transmitted to it, as well as several dozen other devices we have discovered, each use utterly unique code structures that cannot be reliably identified by Crawler Spirits. The only way to tell they are there is to manually search through every line of code across every Machine Spirit and device being used in the Triumph.' Ulbridge turned away from the screen to look up at Usriel, his single bionic eye pulsing in an almost frantic pattern.

'The aggregate total lines to be reviewed numbers in the tens of trillions. My entire staff is already overclocking to monitor the network and find instances of sabotage, but we are working around the symptoms rather than the cause. Even if we purged the entire network and started over, the Hereteks could just apply similar modifications wherever they please.'

"I see..." Usriel voxed, crossing his arms and thinking to himself for a moment to find a possibility to find any way to find where the source had been implemented. "Do we know how the algorithm had gotten into the system? Any specific ports that needed to be accessed in order to do so?"

'Most of these algorithms and programs are still time-stamped. The vast majority of them were implemented during the process of reconsecration. Due to how involved modification of core systems is to enable Xenos to march in the Triumph, any device may have been worked on by any number of Tech-Priests, using any number of standard methods. If we try to identify suspects by grouping every Tech-Priest who worked on a particular device, more than 90% of the Mechanicum personnel here would be complicit. Those devices and systems not modified during the original period of reconsecration show evidence of having their memory tampered with to remove time stamps and archived log data.' Ulbridge gestured emphatically to the trenches where his own staff were still pouring over their lecterns. 'The perpetrators are likely implementing these changes during routine examination and maintenance, while they have physical access to the device in question.'

"As I suspected. Any primary suspects? Anyone whose faith to the Machine God has been recently put to question?" Usriel inquired.

'The Tech-Priests with the most questionable adherence to Mechanicum Doctrine are those working most fervently towards the creation of Xenos-tolerant systems.' Ulbridge replied. Although the vox transmission carried only a synthetized voice, the specified pacing of the syllables had seemed to tighten somewhat. 'It is, perversely, those who believe themselves the most devout that I think are the most likely suspects. Those who view the work we are doing here as contrary to Mechanicum Dogma.'

Which, if Rarnet was to be believed from his statement earlier, would include the Prefecture Magisterium - who had condemned those Tech-Priests that proved the most innovative in adapting the Triumph's systems to the presence of Xenos.

Usriel thought to himself for another brief moment, only speaking into his vox once he formulated something, "Then the issue lies with the leadership. Those who do not comply, and seek to allow the Triumph to happen without flaw, would be condemned." Looking back to the algorithm, the Primarch let out a sigh as the situation unfurled slowly enough.

'I count myself as one who desires the Triumph to transpire without issue, Primarch.' Ulbridge indicated, raising a mechanical talon in a plaintive gesture. 'The only Tech-Priests to be condemned thus far are those who have openly resorted to unclean methods and craftswork. Of which this subversive code would also qualify. The line in the sand seems to be that reconsecration is permissible but that improvised analogue bypasses are punishable. I was not charged with enforcing Adherence to the Faith, just with personnel and technical oversight.'

"Adherence to the Faith," Usriel echoed, before looking down at Ulbridge for a long silent moment. Thoughts ran through the Primarch's mind like a supercomputer calculating an unknown number of probabilities. "Magos Ulbridge, summon those in leadership roles you believe to be the most devout, and give me their names. I wish to have words with them, if what you believe is correct then we may have our first leads."

After his words with the Magos, the Primarch switched to a seperate vox channel and ordering, "Machine Ghost, you are clear to begin investigation. I require you to check some devices for anti-xenos algorithms, names for those who work those devices shall be coming momentarily." Ulbridge had already turned away from the Primarch and back towards the Cogitator Core, linking back to it with a mechadendrite. The data showing the reconsecrated Machine Spirit vanished from the pict-screen and was replaced by a personnel directory. Names began to highlight as the Magos began simultaneously voxing each individual in turn. Usriel, in turn, rattling off the names to the Night Watch team
.
"Respectful: Understood sire. Query: Are updates to make technology xenos-indifferent uniform or tailored to each different machine?" a robotic voice answered back on the vox channel.

"Operate under the assumption that they require different coding. Likely similar in some regards but not incredibly," answered Usriel.

"Excuse me." A completely Human, unsynthesized, verbally uttered voice shattered the previously entirely silent series of vox-perpetuated conversations. Now standing off to the side of Usriel and his Honor Guard, Prefectus Hodge - the Administratum official Ulbridge had pointed out initially - had almost invisibly crept up on them all. He was holding a data-slate in one hand, facing the Primarch and with his free hand gesturing towards it in an accusatory fashion. A glance at it showed that it was a mirror-depiction of the same personnel directory Ulbridge had just pulled up.

"Did you lot just call a general meeting of the senior staff? This is most irregular. I hope you have already drawn up the necessary documentation in triplicate." He seemed to be peering almost imperious down his nose at Usriel, despite the Primarch looming more than two meters above the portly clerk. Ulbridge was very conscientiously ignoring Hodge's approach, back still turned to the rest of them - likely determined to let Usriel deal with the matter.

One of those honor guard that had been with Usriel, then stepped forwards, moving between Hodge and the Primarch. The looming form of a marine bea"You will speak when spoken to, human."

At which, the clearly-suicidal Administratum Drone audibly harrumphed. "Do you have any idea how many manhours this little impromptu stunt of yours has set the Triumph back, young man?" He peered staunchly over the Astartes' soldier, directing the comment directly at the Primarch, seemingly unfazed by the threat of imminent death at the Honor Guards' hands. "This whole affair is already behind schedule and you certainly are not helping matters. Do you know who pays for this delay if somebody has to tell the Emperor of Mankind that he has to wait? This may just be a game to you Astartes, but may I remind you several million laborers and-"

"Maren, silence him," Usriel ordered, not bothering to look at Hodge as the end of a plasma rifle impacted the side of the man's head, knocking him to the ground. The Astartes that had spoken to him, placed a foot on the form of the man and stared down upon him. Maren stared for a silent moment.

"You will not address the son of the Emperor in such a manner, human. You insulted the Emperor himself with your words, you insulted the Omnissiah's own son in front of the Cult Mechanicus," Maren stated coldly, before looking up to a Tech-Priest and asking, "What punishment does that earn, priest?"

"The Administratum would have him replaced and assail us with relentless inquiries to file more of their odious records. He is not of the faith. Let him scurry away to lick at his pride, having our assigned Administratum representative out of our cowls for the time being would be favorable." Ulbridge answered aloud, his vox-coder whirring and ticking as he spoke.

Wordlessly, Maren stepped off of Hodge, reaching down and grabbing the man by the scruff of his fat neck. The Astartes wrenched the man to his feet, speaking in a tone similar to how Hodge had spoke to Usriel, "Scramble back to wherever you came before my Primarch decides to address you himself." Hodge's face was too bruised and swollen from being bashed by Maren's rifle for him to form a coherent reply, instead uttering a pained wail of assent.

Maren turned back and walked to his place in the formation of his brothers after dropping Hodge to his feet to limp away, bent over and clutching at his face in pain, his data-slate left abandoned on the floor. "I apologize for his interruption, my Primarch," the Standard Bearer said, his voice bearing some remorse for allowing Hodge to speak to Usriel in such a manner.

"Worry not, my son. The human did not know his place," Usriel answered before looking back to Ulbridge, "We may continue, Magos."

"Statement: Stupid Fat Man Prefectus Hodge has been added to list of suspects to be observed. Will inform if anything of interest arises." The robotic voice added.

Usriel let out a chuckle at the remark from the Tech-Marine. "Understood.”

There was a brief moment where the vox line with Machine Ghost went silent as it was muted from their end. After a brief discussion, the robotic voice returned as he asked "Suspicious Curiosity: Did Prefectus Hodge leave anything behind? Explanation: Easiest method of bypassing mechanical security is the human element. Getting a device past the security programs and spirits offers a strong back door."

Usriel looked to where Hodge had been, voxing back, “A data-slate. I will hand it to you when I am moving to another location.”

“Statement: Understood Sire.” was all that was said before the speaker went quiet again. There was nothing more that needed to be said, unless the Primarch brought something up.

'The personnel you requested have arrived outside of the chamber via teleportarium beacons and are standing by, Primarch. Where do you desire to have them questioned?' Ulbridge voxed to Usriel.

"Where is your nearest shrine?" Usriel asked, looking to Ulbridge.


Moments Later…


The Shrine Usriel had ordered emptied and set aside from the purposes of the investigation was a modest one, as far as Mechanicum Shrines went. Presumably being situated in the midst of the sprawling subterranean service tunnels had something to do with that. The twisted halls and corridors, which had been cramped and tight for the express purpose of conserving space, had obviously paid dearly in order to provide the Shrine and those other areas like it with extra room. Though the chamber was wide with ample floor-space, its ceiling came to an unceremonious halt scarcely a quarter of a meter above Usriel’s head. The entirety of the far wall was dedicated to a statuesque idol depicting the Emperor in his aspect as the living avatar of the Machine God, and directly behind it was a frame of the Cog Mechanicum, bordered by a plate relief embossed with imagery of Mars and the Emperor upon Olympus Mons. Before the statue was a raised dais with a lectern, and before it a spacious plaza. The chamber was lined with ornate gold and Martian-red colored columns, each one with an inset terminal and pict-caster displaying holo-imagery of common Mechanicum creeds - the Universal Truths, the Mysteries of the Quest for Knowledge, and innumerable different canticles. The terminals themselves were doubtlessly linked to repositories of available Mechanicum articles, treatises, and monograms. Interspersing the floor were multiple podiums with hollow-spaced interiors, rimmed by curled iron bars. What purpose they served was unclear, although it was likely the Shrine was unfinished due to the ongoing work involving the Triumph.

The Tech-Priests Ulbridge had summoned stood in a rough line before the lectern. Auspex data helpfully fed directly to Usriel’s helmet identified each of them for him in turn.

The first of the Tech-Priests standing to the far left, Artisan Malchediel, was the only one of the assembled Tech-Priests who had entirely eschewed any kind of ceremonial robe. Their six double-jointed legs supported a hollow-framed chest, with what looked like an integral lathe running directly through its center. They had no arms, but instead bore an oversized collar with eight mechadendrites stemming from it. Each was tipped by some outlandish implement - an arc welder, a plasma caster, and a transonic saw amongst others. Their head was little more than a metal-plated skull, its jaw completely missing and buried within their oversized collar right at their upper lip.

Logis Karoa, poised second from the left, stood out amongst the other figures due to their peculiar coloration. Rather than the traditional Martian-Red, their robes were instead a deep, stygian black that seemed to devour the light from the nearest emitters. The metal of their bionic augmentations, rather than the standard chrome or Mechanicum-Ebon, was instead a deep celestial blue, and their brow was crowned by a circlet of burnished gold emblazoned with the symbol of the Logis Order. They moved without a gait, seeming to drift effortlessly over the floor.

Towering above their compatriots and standing in the midst of the pack, Malagra Szorbulo was a monstrous war-machine, matching the tallest member of Usriel's Honor Guard in height. Their reverse-jointed cybernetic legs, the integrated transonic razors on their lower set of arms and the insidiously long chordclaws of their upper arms gave way their status as a member of a Sicarian Clade. Combined with the ragged and battle-worn red cloak and cowl they wore over their battle armor and their monstrous size, they could only have been a Praetorian Ruststalker.

The Rune Priest Julaen situated to the right of Szorbulo was, in a word, buggy. Their mechanical frame was spindly and light, with each of the fingers on their cybernetic hands branching into three distinct, wavering mechadendrites apiece. Their head, which bore an ornamental barbed crest, was constantly shifting and focusing distantly at curious angles of the room with rapidly dilating trinocular bionic eyes. They were constantly shifting their feet, nearly hopping from one to the other every moment, and their hands were restless and wavered at their sides.

The final Tech-Priest to the far right, Techsorcist Heamiona, out of all the assembled Tech-Priests, bore the most remaining flesh. Their body was almost a perfectly bisected specimen - one half wholly cybernetic, and the other unmolested flesh. Their right arm was a crowded, oversized gauntlet tipped with interface prongs and covered with at least a dozen different control interfaces, gauges, keypads, and modular inputs. Loosely clutched and hanging demurely from their left hand was an elegant scepter of gold, ending in a Cog Mechanicum head capped with cardinal-aligned spikes.

Standing behind Usriel were an altogether different trio, each woman garbed in the armor of the Doomsayers. The first was Ascania herself, the Equerry having at long last returned from her promised errand with the loyal and true servants of the Emperor beside her. Standing to her left was a woman who wore Daena’s face in truth where Ascania had to make due with a mask, the Astartes in question having developed the pure white hair and eyes of those in whom their gene-mother’s lineage ran strongest. Her occupation, and the reason for her presence, was no secret, the shoulder of her armor stamped with the sigil of the Librarians. It was the third who was the most puzzling, the woman in full armor clearly showing her as a Doomsayer, but with her shoulder marked with the crowned double eagle of the Adeptus Terra.

“My lord Usriel, apologies for the delay,” Ascania said, bowing her head to the Primarch. “I have returned as I promised. Sister Theodora, Sister Brynhildr,” she said, gesturing first to the Librarian, and then to the other one.

“I thank you, for your involvement, nieces,” Usriel said, bowing his head to the three before turning his attention to the five, odd characters that were arrayed in the chamber. He silently looked over them, moving to be centered within the room allowed the red glare from his helmeted face to run over them. His honor guard moved to the entrances of the room, not blocking the doorways, but standing to the sides of them. The Primarch turned away to look at the Emperor’s form as the living Machine God, seemingly inspecting it in the silent moment.

“I have been told that you five are amongst the most faithful at this location,” Usriel stated, not looking away from the idol. He allowed those words to hang for a moment, before turning his head as an effort to give the Priests a side-look, coldly asking, “Am I correct?”

“Faith allineation allocation partitioned to highest strata condition filter whitelisting seniormost staff, project leads, leaders.” The Black-robed Logis answered. Her vox-coder synthesized voice was the low sound of grains of snow buffeting metal in a storm. Soft, grainy, and with a chilling and resonant hiss to it that seemed to saturate the air.

“Then why have I received reports of machine spirits having an anti-xenos algorithm being inserted within them?” Usriel asked in a rather sarcastic tone, looking away and back to the idol of the Emperor.

“Report predicate conditions exist.” The jittering Rune Priest’s voice was calm and even - but loud. Without any evident tension or strain upon their intonation, their words filled the whole of the shrine with a violent intensity. Usriel’s sarcasm was evidently lost on this crowd. Beyond Julaen’s restless fidgeting, the only significant motion evinced from any of the Tech-Priests thus far had been for Szorbulo to fold his upper arms across his chest.

“That is not the case for all of them,” Usriel stated, turning to face the jittering one, an evident face of suspicion behind his helmet. The metallic sounds of his power armor against the floor filled the room as he stepped towards Szorbulo, giving him but a momentary look before stepping to the next and so on. The Primarch continued asking, “Now, is the Edict of Tolerance not the will of the Omnissiah?”

“The Edict of Tolerance is holy writ and embodies the word and will of the Omnissiah. The Omnissiah Knows All, Comprehends All.” Szorbulo’s voxcoder buzzed. Their synthesized voice was a deep, undulating barrage that rung about in the ears.

“If I may my lord?” Theodora asked, tilting her head towards Usriel. Stepping forward, the Angel’s daughter was only missing her wings to appear as a duplicate of the Primarch, an effect that had great effect on mortals - and that she knew would do absolutely nothing to the followers of the Machine God. She walked with slow, deliberate steps, stopping in front of Malchediel with Daena’s joyless smile. “Artisan. What have you crafted, for our lord’s triumph?” she asked, her gaze turning away from what was left of his face to admire the tools upon his mechadendrites.

Her question produced an immediate effect. The bizarre, fourteen-limbed Priest also seemed to shudder and flich, taking a stuttering set of steps back with their six bionic legs.

“Entrapment!” His voxcoder uttered, a flat and dull thronging sound akin to metal running through a volkite-field. “y=a/0! No valid return input, parameters void!”

The Librarian gives a soft sigh, and then turns her head to Brynhildr. After a moment’s pause, a soft voice repeats the question. “Artisan unit designation Malchediel: query. List all works prepared for or adjoining celebratory festival designation Ullanor Triumph or Triumph of Ullanor or Fall of Urlakk Urg. Authorization granted by Primarch XIX.”

Malchediel’s entire form shuddered again and their voice increased in volume as they replied. “Coercive parameters REFUSED; continued ongoing functionality compromised upon integral return! I cannot be decommissioned now, slaved subgradient laborers require directed insight!”

Theodora and Brynhidlr shared a look with one another before they continued, the Librarian continuing to appear to do nothing more than examine Malchediel’s dendrites. “Decision tree trace requested. Identify proximate cause of presumed decommission.”

“Impossible. Integral return of presented inquiry equates to subrouted integral return of the original inquiry. Source of-”

“If I may.” Heamiona said - their voice wholly natural, untainted by any kind of voxcoded sound. Only the left half of their face - their unblemished and unaugmented lips, set beside their unmoving half - had a somewhat stilted and stiff accentuation to it. Which, as she only had half of a working mouth between her halves, made sense.

“You hardly need my permission,” Theodora said softly, the flat smile on her face growing ever so slightly into a genuine one.

“You are putting poor Malchediel here in a box. He cannot answer you either way without being killed.” Although her exact intonation was hard to grasp, she almost sounded amused - and the half of her lips that could move, were curled ever so faintly upwards. “And he also cannot tell you why without being killed. NOT to suggest,” She turned abruptly to the towering figure of Szorbulo, “...that Artisan Malchediel is guilty of any form of Techno-Heresy, implied or otherwise, Malagra.”

“No direct or indirect admission of guilt registered. [i]Yet.[i]” Szorbulo’s reverberating voice replied.

“End of query. Return to standby,” Brynhildr said after exchanging a look with Theodora, the Librarian leaving Malchediel behind. The Artisan’s entire spindly frame almost seemed to slump with unspoken relief. “Techsorcists are known for la-”

“Thank you, Sister. I have already gathered,” Theodora said, cutting the other Doomsayer off as she came to a stop in front of Heamiona. “I suppose we could just put an end to this now, but I imagined you would have more fun watching us scurry. Truly, are we that boring? Nevertheless, I am certain you have already deduced precisely the reason why we are here, and who is at fault. So then. Who is so incessant in making a farce of a farce?”

“Why, the Primarch of the Second Legion.” Heamiona said, raising her one good eyebrow. “Not because they want Xenos marching in the Triumph, but because of their utterly abysmal utilization of basic pattern recognition. The perpetuation of this farce, of course, is wholly yours.” The Techsorcist then made a peculiar gesticulation with the bulky, misshapen digits of their right hand.

“Enlighten me then, as one would a juventia. What patterns have my misbegotten cousins missed?”

“Primarily, the one where they take their own, sacred authority for granted. Perhaps I should demonstrate?” Heamiona waved Theodora aside. She then took two serene steps forward, and then bowed long and low before Usriel, kneeling upon her knees before him, holding her scepter aloft in her left hand while gesticulating in prayer with the other.

“Holy son of the Omnissiah, I pray you will forgive my impudence. May I have your leave to speak freely and earnestly with you?” Her eyes were downcast in reverence, not daring to meet the Primarch’s gaze.

“I give you permission,” Usriel said impassively, watching Heamiona as he had watched the interaction of the artisan. The Primarch then stated, “I hope this has to do with my investigation.”

“It does, sacred child of the omniscient.” Heamiona intoned as she rose. She then turned away from him and back to Szorbulo. “Malagra, who were the first amongst the Tech-Priests that the Prefecture Magisterium has condemned upon this planet, and what was their crime?”

“Traitors who dared to conspire to incite war against the Imperium of Man and the Mechanicum.” Szorbulo’s hard, ringing voice blared tonelessly.

“How is it they meant to ‘incite war?’” Heamiona inquired.

“By initiating injurious and lethal attacks upon an auxilla of one of the Omnissiah’s Space Marine Legions.” Szorbulo replied in turn, unmoving and unresponsive to any kind of affectation regarding the line of question.

“Which legion was this, and who were the members of this auxilla?” Heamiona asked with an air of finality.

“The second legion. The members of Night Watch IA Auxilla comprises amongst their number particular species of xenos inducted into the Imperium of Man by way of the Edict of Tolerance.”

“Of course - for it is the decree of the Omnissiah that to attack any member of one of his Space Marine Legions is to declare war upon the whole of Imperium, the Mechanicum, and all twenty Legions.” Heamiona elaborated. “Though it begs the question, Malagra - if the Prefecture Magisterium saw that conspiring to attack these xenos was a step too far, why do you now refuse to act in light of these new conspiracies to instead humiliate them?”

“Presented evidence shows the conspirators do not intend to intentionally injure or slay members of a Legion. It is a humiliation. Perpetrated by Human actors against xenos victims, edicted or no, members of a Legion or no, it does not constitute a crime. There exists no legal mechanism to recover for such a slight, beyond a demand for satisfaction, the direct intervention of a Primarch of his Omnissiah’s Astartes, or perhaps to file a civil injunction with the Arbites. Regardless, it is not a matter the Prefecture Magisterium sees need to deter. The alien mechanism is a perversion of the true path. Their knowledge is anathema to the will and works of the Machine God. Thus says the Omnissiah.” He then moved for the first time, bringing his two upper arms apart and clasping his hands together in the signage of the Cog Mechanicum.

“And there it is, Venerated One.” Heamiona indicated dryly as she turned away from Szorbulo to gaze back up at Usriel. “You do not prosecute a true crime. It is you, as a Primarch, independently declaring you intend to leverage your sacred and unquestionable authority to a new purpose. It scarcely matters how or what the reason. As you wish it, so it shall be, for you are one of the Sons of Divinity itself. As you wish it, it shall be done, and none shall stand between you and what you desire.” She paused emphatically.

“...And that is all. Save for your grace alone, this ‘investigation’ is baseless of any genuine claim. For though the universe itself shall bend to accommodate your holy exigencies, Exalted Primarch,” Heamiona bowed low once again, returning to a kneeling posture. “...the truth that we know is that even you do not speak for the Omnissiah.”

Usriel looked down upon the Priest, a few silent and tense moments passing as he stood there without motion or speech. It was only when his voice filled the chamber, it’s volume threatening to damage the ears of all those in the room, that the silence ended. “The humiliation of the xenos at this most holy event of the Omnissiah is a slight against him, the Mechanicum, and the Imperium,” his voice boomed, looking between each of them as he continued, “The Omnissiah has taken in these xenos, the technology they use is no perversion of the faith for they use the holy instruments created and used by every regiment in the Imperium! The Omnissiah has made it clear that those under the Edict of Tolerance are members of the Imperium! The Imperium that you now wish to act against!”

As Usriel’s roaring voice shook the Shrine, Heamiona’s organic leg trembled, causing her knelt form to lose its balance and topple. Behind her, the black-robed Logis seemed to waver from side to side in the air as his voice buffeted her. Malchediel and Julaen both lowered themselves, crouching low to the floor and backing away in almost terrified reverence. Only Szorbulo stood tall, uncaring and unmoving even as the fulcrete above his head rained down dust.

His form loomed over Heamiona, his voice ceased its assault upon them, if only momentarily, as Usriel’s cold voice came back, “You defend the conspiracy, stating these accusations as baseless when the conspiracy, that I now believe you to support, is against the will of the Omnissiah. I shall ask you once before I have the Librarian search your mind, are you involved in this conspiracy?”

Heamiona, now prone and cowering on the floor, her half of flesh wavering and shuddering in what could only have been shock, wailed out in protestation. Though her words were incoherent, the gist of her meaning was clear.

Usriel looked back to the librarian, “Does she speak the truth?”

Daena’s simulacrum chose her words carefully, the Librarian throwing aside any pretense of politeness as she let the power of the Immaterium flow through her. “A moment, my lord. The minds of those past the Crux are intriguing.” Heamiona had fully curled in on herself upon the floor now, her golden scepter having been abandoned on the shrine floor to the side of Theodora’s feet.

The Astartes’ pearl white eyes flash with a surge of power for one brief moment, and then fade. “She is innocent my lord, she has not engaged in any plot, nor is she aware of those who are. However. She agrees with Malagra’s assessment as to the severity of the actions you wish to cease.” Snapping out of her trance, Theodora let out a disappointed sigh. “A pity that even she does not understand the source of your ire. I believe she may be returned to her duties, unless you desire to instruct her.”

“Out of my sight,” Usriel ordered before tacking on another instruction, “If you come across any of those anti-xenos algorithms, I expect them to be rectified.” Heamiona quickly rose and retreated from the room at pace, abandoning her scepter in the process.

The Primarch stepped to Szorbulo, gazing down upon the ruststalker and allowed a momentary state of silence once more before the Priest knelt at the feet of Usriel. “Tell me, do you know of any conspirators? Are any in this room right now, anyone who would act against what I stated to be the Will of the Omnissiah?” He questioned, his gaze unmoving.

“Any such individual I named I would be required to decommission. Not for any such role in a conspiracy, but for their implicit involvement in the heretical alteration of sanctified technology to create a tolerance for xenos. The Techsorcist was correct, exalted Primarch.” The Tech-Priest gazed up and gazed Usriel straight in the eye.

“You do not speak for the Omnissiah.”

As soon as Szorbulo uttered those words, there was a sharp crack and the air filled with the stench of ozone. The Sicarian’s entire body began to violently spark and spasm, the snap-crackle of fusing circuitry and burning circuitry filling the room. The Malagra’s entire body crumpled and slumped soundlessly to the floor, their limbs writhing uncontrollably as dozens of various different lights placed across their bionic body began to flare on and off spasmodically.

“That does not answer what I asked,” Usriel said, relenting in his assault upon the Malagra for a moment, allowing his systems to return to normal before he repeated himself, “Are you making machine spirits hostile to xenos?”

Szorbulo finally recovered, propping themselves back up with one of their Transonic razors and gazing back up to Usriel.

“No, exalted Primarch. To each caste of Tech-Priest their own duties prevail. Mine is not the consecration of Mechanicum technology.” The Malagra’s voxcoder was now stuttering and warbling as it struggled to continue relaying the Tech-Priest’s voice after having been subjected to Usriel’s turbulent psychic power.

“Do you know of anybody affiliated with the conspiracy implied or directly,” Usriel questioned in a more hurried and annoyed tone.

Implicitly if there is any Tech-Priest on this wretched planet who is involved, my order would be required to detain and interrogate them prior to forever censuring their heretical ways.” Szorbulo’s strained voxcoder choked out, the Malagra slowly managing to lever himself back up to a kneeling posture before Usriel. “Holy Primarch, I implore you. The reconsecration of the technology to be used for the Triumph, the only way it is even conceivable is due to the direct request by the Second Son of the Omnissiah. Great pains have been taken to circumvent Mechanicum doctrine and to facilitate his request. Despite this, the act still constitutes Techno-Heresy. Do not ask me whom amongst the devout must die for their compliance.”

“Niece, I believe this one knows. Relinquish the information from his mind,” Usriel said, merely staring down upon Szorbulo, unmoving with hands clasped behind his back.

On a private vox channel to Usriel, a brief message was relayed by a completely robot voice. The same one from earlier in fact. “Apologetic: Forgive my update sire. Informative interest: We have made a discovery from the data slate of Prefectus Hodge. There were two machine spirits located within that were designed to monitor it and send remote vox signals out regularly. The spirits are too primative and dumb to uncover what they were sending or where… but while one of them is clearly of Mechanicum design and make, the other is not. This second machine spirit is of unknown origin and a completely different design, even if it does the same task.”

“Understood,” Usriel voxed back, allowing an annoyed sigh to be heard through it before he continued, “Keep me updated.”

“Statement: Understood Sire. Will report when new information is available.”

As Usriel conversed on his vox, Theodora and Brynhildr shared a silent look between them, the Librarian merely arching a brow. Seemingly understanding her meaning, her Sister began to speak. “A logic paradox. To disobey a Primarch is a crime worthy of death. To defy their God’s holy writ is also a crime worthy of death. Szorbulo’s logic processors have identified that obedience to Micholi is an affront to the Omnissiah, while obedience to the Omnissiah is defiance against a Primarch, and appears to have ceased cogitation on the matter in order to avoid bloodshed. A practical approach, in its own dogmatic way.”

“My Sister is merely a laywoman, so you must forgive her for any error in her analysis, but this seems accurate enough, yes?” Theodora said, stepping in front of Szorbulo to stand besides Usriel. “Accessing this data by any means would effectively require action from you, correct?”

“...Correct.” Szorbulo’s voxcoder whined. The massive Sicarian, who rivaled the tallest member of Usriel’s honor guard, now seemed small and diminutive, crippled and lain low, kneeling upon the ground before Usriel and Theodora as he was. His bionic eyes flickered, and for a scant moment, Theodora imagined she almost saw the lingering silhouette of a Human face, between the traces and lines of the metal plates, tubes, and bionic modules comprising Szorbulo’s face.

The moment passed.

“You endeavor to serve both the Omnissiah, and the Primarchs, correct?” Theodora asked, verbally prodding the fallen Sicarian as close she dared without activating his kill protocols.

“With all my fervor, with my life. To obey the Omnissiah is to follow the will of the Machine God. The Primarchs, as his children, possess a shard of his infinite and divine essence. I endeavor to serve the Primarchs, except where their will would clash with that of the Omnissiah, he who stands above all others.” Szorbulo replied. The fingers of his chordclaws twitched faintly as he spoke.

“What is the appropriate protocol for correcting a Primarch should their will clash with that of the Omnissiah?”

“To deny them is the only option. The circumstances would determine the appropriate course of action. There is no formalized protocol of action should such a denial also be impossible.”

“Therefore, logic dictates that the Second Primarch’s will be denied?”

“...Yes. But it was not. These Hereteks all consort and scheme to appease him! They debase the hallowed sanctity of the machine! I have been moved to stay my hand! The work, for all of this infernal Triumph, its records are sealed, expunged, redacted at every turn! The Fabricator General has interceded to request mercy for the failings of the Hereteks who so work here!” Szorbulo’s voxcoder had begun to stabilize in its rythm once more. His bionic joints began to tense, and his frame began to rise. The Honour Guard at the doors raised their rifles, plasma pointed at the Sicarian.

Daena’s face took on a genuinely piteous look as her gene-daughter looked upon the enraged Sicarian, the Librarian gingerly extending a hand towards him. “Patience, Malaga, patience. Such a heavy weight you have borne, I can think of no greater defender of the faith,” Theodora said in a soothing voice, as if ignorant of - or ignoring - the implements of death and destruction that had replaced a once human form. “It is righteous, then, to undo the works of the heretek?”

”...YES…” The word emerged from Szorbulo like a missile erupting from a silo. He began to rise, his Transonic Razors and Chordclaws beginning to emit an eerie, keening vibratory hum.

“To each caste of Tech-Priest their own duties prevail. Yours is not the consecration of Mechanicum technology,” Theodora quoted, face still and calm. “Another, more fitting caste, has seen to such. Have they called upon you, Malagra, or do you doubt their piety?”

“Doubt...DOUBT?!? There is not an infinitesimal scrap of my body that does not doubt them! They perpetrate elaborate falsehoods to evade punishment for their failings and prayed we would be merciful in our comprehension of their dilemma! But there can be no mercy! Only the Will of the Omnissiah! The Hereteks shall be smote to dust!” Szorbulo turned in place and pointed his razors and chordclaws towards the other assembled Tech-Priests.

”...STARTING WITH THESE! HERETEKS! HERETEKS!”

“Your zeal does you credit, Sicarian, but it has clouded your processors. You will at best strike one down, are any of these wretches the true source of your ire?” Theodora spoke in a voice of command, willing Szorbulo to halt. Her psychic imperative proved effective - mostly. Szorbulo remained firmly in place, though his transonic razors were still slowly pulling in the direction of the other Tech-Priests - who, as one, had all abruptly abandoned the line they had formed before the statue of the Omnissiah and had begun to flee for the entrance to the Shrine. Though, the Honour Guards moved to block their path, continuing to aim down the Sicarian.

“The true source of my ire…” Szorbulo’s voxcoder seethed, their previously flat intonation having taken on a smouldering quality to it.

And then, the worst possibility came to pass.

Szorbulo turned his head, now rearing at his full height, to glare balefully down at Theodora.

”YOU did this! YOU forced this null condition state!”

There was a blur of motion and the humming of battle steel, far, far faster than Theodora’s eyes could follow - and then, the massive Tech-Priest toppled down on top of her, his entire body spasmodically writhing as Usriel promptly blasted him with another pulse of psychic power.

“Oh, poor Malagra,” Theodora said in a soft voice, raising one hand up to cup what passed for his cheek as she stared at the immense Sicarian that had fallen on top of her. “Despise me if you will for what I have done, and I will grant you your satisfaction,” she whispered, her other hand grasping the armature from which sprouted one of his transonic razors, slowly bringing it towards her own neck. “But first, my fee. Extol the virtues of the righteous. Name those who have done as the Omnissiah decreed. Surely, my murderer, you know those who have acted before you?”

Szorbulo, who had lost all control of his voxcoder, said nothing - but at Theodora’s prompting, traitorous thoughts flooded through his mind.

Individuals. Their visages, their names, and what they had done. Tech-Priests - dozens of them - streaming through his mind in a Triumph of their own.

“They are glorious, my Malagra,” she whispered to him, a smile on her face as she drew the still razor down the height of her throat with micrometer precision, far enough to draw blood. “As are you.” And then she pulled the lethal implement away, the self inflicted wound already clotting from transhuman art. “And you deserve more than this. Detain him, I will see if he is fit to be my murderer when this business is concluded.”

Usriel nodded to Maren, who moved forwards, weapon pointed upon Malagra the entire time before he dragged the still spasming form off Theodora. The Standard Bearer proceeded to tear the head from the Sicarian, only then did the body go limp. “Doomsayer, keep it alive,” he ordered, to Byrnhildr as he held the head high.

Brynhildr immediately knelt before Usriel. “My Sister has issued a challenge to him. It would be my honor to ensure he is able to meet it.” She took Szorbulo into her arms almost reverently, quickly seeing to the necessary power and resource feeds - things that even the most dogmatic of Mechanicum could not grow angry by a laytech providing.

“We must speak, Lord Usriel, but I dare not risk neither technology nor tongue. Will you permit me entry?” Theodora asked, standing no worse for wear besides a dent in her armor and a scar on her neck.

“You may,” Usriel said, gifting permission upon the Librarian visibly lowering his head to meet Theodora’s gaze.

The same flood of images that the Librarian had stolen from Szorbulo’s mind were granted to the Primarch in turn, painting a conspiracy of the meek. Almost all those that the Sicarian had deemed righteous were among the lowest echelons of the Mechanicum, their names and faces unknown to one so lofty as a lord of a legion. With one, notable, exception. A junior transmechanic, though possessing an unfamiliar name, held a very familiar face, the priest currently serving under Magos Ulbridge in the control room for the Triumph. The connection breaks as soon as the visions are sent, Theodora’s face having settled into her gene-mother’s soft smile.

“I must say my lord, this experience has given me a newfound appreciation for your own beliefs. In the end, it was his humanity that proved his downfall.”

“And that is where his weakness lies,” Usriel commented, looking at the other three tech-priests stepping into the center of the room. He motioned to the body of the Sicarian, speaking loudly and clearly, “As you can see, I will find out about what I need to know. I offer you, the remaining few, to speak your truths one at a time. Answer this question, who amongst you is affiliated with the conspiracy against this Triumph and do you know of any who are? Once this has been answered, and your truth verified, you may be free to continue your business. Starting with you.” Usriel gestured towards the many-legged one.

As one, all of the remaining Tech-Priests turned their gazes.

Not to look at Usriel, but instead to gaze at Szorbulo’s dismembered head, being tended to by Brynhildr. In that moment, glancing into their minds, Theodora saw that these three, if they knew anything at all, would never speak.

Malagra Szorbulo had been but one man. Their fear was rooted in something vaster and more monolithic. In time - perhaps even in only a few hours - he would be replaced and, perhaps, his successor would be even worse than Szorbulo had been. Somebody who would doubtlessly then act on anything the three had said or done in the interim period. In that glimmering dilemma, lay the exact same paradox that had befallen Szorbulo himself - and thus, it came to no surprise when, even in the face of Usriel, Primarch of the nineteenth legion, venerated and holy figure beheld in awe by them all, the Tech-Priests remained silent.

The soft smile on Theodora’s face split into an inhuman grin, the Deathseer cackling with laughter as realization flooded through her mind. For the first time since introducing her Sisters, Ascania spoke, stepping forward to whisper an unheard command into the Librarian’s ear before turning to Usriel. “My apologies, my lord. My mother’s closest daughters can forget their places,” she weakly explained as the cacophonous laughter slowly but surely died away.

“Is it not obvious?” Theodora said, looking at the assembled Astartes in the room as if they were the crazy ones for not laughing with her. “We’ve already lost. There is but one thing they would fear more than your wrath unleashed, my lord, and make no mistake - ‘tis fear that keeps them quiet. Our enemy may use the meek and mild as its pawns, but such would not inspire this delicious terror in minds so far past the Crux. Oh no, my lord, there is but one thing that strides these stars to make them recoil.” The Librarian stood before the three assembled tech-priests, bowing low at the waist with her head held up to look them in the eyes.

“The Prefecture Magisterium.”

“The fear of the Prefecture? The thought never occurred to me,” Usriel’s voice stated, trailing off as he looked to the Tech-Priests. A silent few moments passed before he gave the priests a singular question, “Is this room secure?”

“Secure in what sense, immaculate Primarch?” Julaen replied, dozens of their mechadendrites seeming to wring themselves into a clump emphatically.

“Are there devices listening to what occurs in this room?” Usriel clarified, his paranoid mind looking around the room in a generalized fashion.

“Locality surveillance prevalence high, standardized, expected, routine.” Malchediel answered. “Affirmative. Full auspex capabilities.”

There was a momentary pause before Usriel looked back at the Priests and said, “The devices have been shorted for the time being. The Prefecture Magisterium will not have any record of this conversation as of now, so long as you all cooperate, you have my oath that these words shall not lead to your interrogation. He let it hang for a brief moment, “Speak! I command you as a Holy Son of the Omnissiah to reveal your truths!”

“We know nothing about this conspiracy, or conspiracies! We have been too busy trying to save our own chassis!” Julaen immediately cried out. “I am in six minds about this whole rotten mess, and you can see why now!” He gestured vaguely at Szorbulo’s head.

“Rune Priest Julaen’s output is verified.” Malchediel added. “Requisite work coordinates: overlapping orbital bombardment coalignment zones.”

“Mechanicum task management enforcement units’ aggression exceeds nominal efficiency parameters at this time.” Koroa finished.

“They are truthful, my lord. We ought not interfere with them further, lest we draw upon them the very attentions they have been dutiful in escaping. It seems that lord Micholi’s request has put things into motion that even he did not foresee,” Theodora said, sparing a glance at Szorbulo’s head. “We have our quarry.”

Usriel nodded to Theodora, looking back to the Tech-Priests before ordering, “Begone, your faith and cooperation shall be noted.” The Tech-Priests hurried out from the Shrine, all too eager to be gone from the place. Usriel’s mind shifted over to the librarian, making note of the amount of effort that she had been putting in to make this investigation happen as well as it did. He stepped to Theodora and asked in a more concerned tone, “Has your use of your abilities tired you at all, niece?”

She slumped in her armor as soon as the Tech-Priests were gone, a wan smile upon her face as she gave the Primarch a small shrug. “No more than a fair price, considering what was gained. The minds of the Mechanicum are tiresome to read, it is true, but I shall recover in due time. My mother would wish for us to continue, would she not my lady?” she asked, turning her face to Ascania.

“She would, but perhaps without such blatant dances with death next time,” the Equerry replied, but even through the mask it was clear that she viewed the Librarian with no small measure of pride. “Or are you that eager to earn yourself bloodright?” she continued, her voice rising in a clear tease.

“Ahhhh, so cruel the mistresses of our legion with their barbed tongues,” Theodora said, hanging her head low before picking herself back up again. “Just because I think he may be worthy of murdering me does not mean I am chasing it, Sister. But enough, we have business to attend to yet.”

“As long as you believe, you are fine,” Usriel stated, looking over to Maren and commanding the Astartes, “We shall continue with the investigation.”

“Magos Ulbridge,” Usriel voxed to the Tech-Priest, a stern and commanding voice moving through the vox, “There is a junior transmechanic under your direct employ, enlighten me to his name.”

’There are three junior transmechanics counted amongst my personnel staff, holy Primarch.’ Ulbridge voxed back after a moment. ’Shall I relay all three of them?’

Turning back to face the members of the Doomsayers, Usriel could already tell the upcoming confrontations and interrogations were going to take a while.


Several Hours Later...


While Usriel and the Doomsayers set about confronting and interrogating the conspirators who Theodora had identified, Machine Ghost set to work examining Prefectus’ Hodge’s data-slate. The device’s data-stores overflowed with dry and meaningless information, mountains of administratum forms and filing registries that Hodge appeared to have moved onto the slate for quick reference. Which only made the presence of two disparate machine spirits lurking within its frame all the more suspicious.

The first of the spirits appeared to simply be of Mechanicum design, sending regular vox transmissions on data input in the slate. The second, however, was proving to be something of a mystery.

“Outloud Spoken Query: How would this data slate be able to record biometric data?” The tech marine leader of the Machine Ghost team pondered aloud as he examined the mystery before him. His actual name was Grindan, but in truth considering the work he did it wasn’t strange for no one to refer to him by name for long stretches of time. Right now through, his attention was solely on his target as he carefully tried to peel away the secrets and mystery of this unknown actor of a Spirit one by one.

His team had gotten used to the fact that their leader had a habit of pronouncing what the intent of his sentence was before speaking. Still, one of them, a normal seeming looking marine who just so happened to have a bit more cyberware then the average marine would be expected to have, decided to offer a hypothesis as he glanced up from the information he was gathering on the more standard Machanicum spirit they had discovered alongside their mystery one. “Maybe some kind of heat detecting measure that’s tailored towards the hands of its owner?”

Grindan paused as he considered the possibility for a moment, privately acknowledging that the idea had some merit but would need to be investigated after they had secured the Spirit and prevented its imminent self termination. “Mental Checklist: Inspect the physical data slate itself for heat detecting components. Refocus: Jaune, how is that bypass program coming along?”

A different marine sighed as he triple checked his work. “I will say again that without knowing how this spirit is collecting its data, I can’t be sure how well this will work but… since we don’t have time to abduct Prefectus Hodge and get a more accurate copy of his bio-data, this will have to do.” It was clear that Jaune didn’t like giving such an answer; ‘Good enough’ was never a confidence inspiring answer when it came to dealing with spirits and programs such as this, but sometimes it was the best that could be done.

With a nod, Tech Marine Grindan nodded his head as he answered “Acknowledgement: Acknowledged. Upload it and hope for the best while expecting the worst.”

Time passed. The newly planted machine spirit plied its work. As Jaune had predicted, it proved unable to fully placate the mysterious spirit - though thankfully, having foreseen this possibility, Jaune had instilled their own spirit with disruptive and recovery capabilities that enabled it to halt the mystery spirit from deleting itself, albeit only after it was halfway done doing so. Now firmly in control of the unknown spirit, it was transferred off of Hodge’s data-slate to a more secure device where it could be safely examined in-depth.

All things considered, this was a positive outcome. It wasn’t a perfect outcome to be sure, but under the circumstances a positive outcome was perfectly acceptable. As the now controlled spirit was moved off of Hodge’s data-slate for further inspection by Grindan and the more normal mechanicum spirit was likewise removed to a different, separate device from the first to be examined closer to make sure there wasn’t more to it then there appeared, Hodge’s data-slate could now be taken apart in order to try and uncover the mystery of how it had been collecting bio data for the stange spirit in the first place… and once the how was discovered, it would hopefully offer information as to the why.

Pulling apart a data slate physically was an easy enough thing to do; Doing so in a way where all the parts were properly organized and you could put it back together again afterwards required a bit of know how and time, but still more than doable. Unfortunately, the secret of how the machine spirit had collected bio-data in the first place was not answered in the hardware side of things; No abnormal or additional parts, no hidden or strange programs beyond what they had already uncovered… It was simply just a standard data slate that they would likely put back together and have quietly returned to its owner at some point, minus the strange spirits within of course.

The inspection of the spirit itself didn’t reveal that answer either, leading to the real possibility that it had been part of the spirit that had managed to delete itself and was thus now lost. However… The closer inspection did reveal… not a definite answer to its origins, but a frightful amount of similarity to a series of programs that they hadn’t even brought what limited records they had of it up when they were checking the records earlier.

“Shit you’re right… and if you look at this part over here you can see almost an exact match.” Jaune muttered as he gestured towards the piece of coding in question he had spotted. Somehow all members of the team that had been present in their temporary HQ rather than being actively out in the field had ended up joining this little examination after the discovery had been made.

“Confusion: This… This doesn’t make sense.” Grindan started… before quickly adding “Correction: Not the coding or programming itself. Compared to those limited examples of the security programs of the Imperial Palace of Terra it might be rudimentary and even crude but…” there was a moment of irritation as the tech priest struggled to find the correct words before settling on “Statement: It is still built on a solid foundation, even if the execution is lesser than the artwork that inspired it.”

“We… we need to report this to Primarch Usriel as soon as possible, right?” Jaune asked quickly… almost somewhat nervously.

“Agreement: Indeed. I’ll vox him now. Instruction: Continue examining this and see what else you might be able to gleam.”

“- We will report any further discoveries as they appear Sire.”

“Understood, Machine Ghost. Continue to examine that code and push forwards, I believe this conspiracy is nearing its end. Thank you for your efforts,” Usriel boxed back in a pleased voice.

“It sounds like things are going well brother.” Micholi’s voice stated aloud, betraying the fact that he was physically in the shrine that Usriel, his honor guard and the small collection of Doomsayers were currently using as a temporary HQ of sorts. Stepping out of the shadow that seemed to have helped him blend into the background, his attention was on Usriel as he stated “I wanted to check in with you and see how things were progressing before I answered my team and addressed the idea they suggested to me.”

“Things have been going well once we cracked the Sicarian, no small thanks to our librarian,” Usriel said, nodding towards Theodora, turning to face his peer. A tone of what could be taken as the joy of Usriel sounded, “I do believe this ordeal will be dealt with soon enough.”

“Now, what idea did your team have?” Usriel inquired.

Micholi paused for a moment as he asked “Is it safe to talk here?” He suspected the answer was yes, but felt the need to ask anyway just to be sure.

“It is,” Usriel affirmed with a light nod of his head.

“Very well. They’ve come to the conclusion that the Prefecture Magisterium knows more about the current situation then they are letting on… and they requested my assistance personally in helping to breach the security around their headquarters on the planet to try and uncover what they are hiding. However, since your investigation is bearing fruit I believe such an extreme measure will not be required of us.” Micholi wasn’t upset by the suggestion of his team, but risking a fight with the Prefecture Magisterium was clearly something he was slightly relieved that he wasn’t going to have to commit to.

“The Prefecture Magisterium? Micholi, the Tech-Priests themselves fear them, it is not a wise idea to intrude on them,” Usriel said, nearly in a whisper.

Micholi actually offered his brother a smile as he answered “Thus why I wanted to check in with you first. While I find myself agreeing with my sons that they likely do know more than they have revealed, I am glad that the action of finding out what exactly it is they know and are possibly hiding will not be required… at least not today.”

“It would be best we did not push our luck, odds are they will be watching all of us when this matter is completed,” Usriel commented, his tone still conveying a light bit of worry.

Offering a small nod in return, Micholi decided to change the subject slightly to something a little more joyful as he turned his attention towards the Doomsayer librarian that had been gestured to before. “What is your name? I would like to offer you the full praise that you deserve for a job done both well and quickly.”

“Theodora, my lord Micholi,” the Librarian said with a low bow, the other Doomsayers in attendance clearly pleased with the credit that she had brought to their name. “I shall carry your praise high in my thoughts, but our work is not yet concluded. These secrets have ill omens about them.”

Micholi smiled softly as he stepped forward and placed a hand on Theodora’s shoulder for just a moment before removing it and stepping away. “Indeed you are correct.” Before turning to his brother and asking “Just to make sure I haven’t missed anything, what do we know so far?”

Daena’s Equerry answers in his stead, Ascania’s voice somehow still quiet through the death mask’s voxcoder. “Less than one would like. There is a cabal of junior tech-priests rooting about the modifications for the Triumph, their work left unmolested by the Prefecture Magisterium. Those who would endeavor to correct such vandalism are paralyzed in fear by the same, terrified that if they act they shall be declared heretek. At best, we have a conspiracy of silence. But considering what your own Astartes have found my lord, this seems to go far deeper. I would recommend that the suspects Sister Theodora identified be put to the question.”

“I agree, I intended to question them, but there are many others to go through,” Usriel stated, looking to where his honor guards had been stationed, “I sent my sons to interrogate those who confessed. No doubt they will sort out the lessers in due time.”

For a moment Micholi looked… somewhat pensive. “I admit, when I made the decision I did I knew that there was going to be trouble. Both from the Mechanicum and from my siblings. I did not imagine that it would have reached this extent through.” He was quiet for a moment… before shaking his head to snap out of it. “At any rate, I will go make sure my squad doesn’t do anything… well, foolish. Their desire for a challenge is admirable, but needs to be reigned in at times. However, if you would need of my personal skills brother, I am at your beck and call.”

“I thank you, Micholi. This will soon be over by my estimates and the Triumph will no longer dishonor the Emperor’s grace,” Usriel stated, a bit of pride shining through his voice as he turned away from his brother. His mind was at ease with the progress of the investigation, knowing that there would no longer be anything for him to truly worry about and knowing that the Emperor may be happy that the Triumph will be done without any form of dishonor upon his imperium. The nineteenth Primarch looked to the Doomsayers he had with him, knowing that they were most useful and knowing he would have to commend them and mention their efforts to Daena when he got the chance. “I wish you the best, Micholi. Thank you for allowing me to call upon your team,” Usriel said.

“Of course brother. After all, it would be quite rude and inconsiderate of me to have played a part in creating this situation and then refusing to help resolve it. While we might disagree on certain things, we both serve the Imperium after all.” Micholi answered back earnestly. “I would have offered to lead the investigation myself, but I can acknowledge that you have a better understanding of those being investigated.”

“Again, thank you Micholi,” Usriel said aptly before speaking into his vox to the Magos, “Ulbridge, is the Junior Transmechanic ready?”

‘He has been made ready for you, Holy Primarch. He did not resist seizure and has been cooperative. He has been detained in the Shrine where you confronted the other Tech-Priests. As requested, I have interceded and delayed the repair of the auspex systems in that chamber. You and your Astartes will have complete privacy.’ The Magos voxed back in reply.

“Thank you, Magos,” Usriel said into his vox before looking to the Doomsayers while making his way back to the Shrine, “Come, nieces. Let us end this so that we may bask in the Emperor’s glorious Triumph.”




Back at the Shrine, the Tech-Priest - Transmechanic Korvykha - awaited Usriel and the Doomsayers was a far cry from the five figures who had previously occupied the room. As a minor Tech-Priest, he was still more man than machine. Even his face was largely unaugmented, beyond a single bionic eye and a rebreather mechanism mounted over his mouth. His robes were a simple sheer Martian red in coloration, with none of the tell-tale decorative gold or pale markings of elevated status.

Korvykha was pinioned on place, forced into a kneeling posture by three mishapen servitors using their servo-clamps to physically hold him in place, immobilized with his hands behind his back, his head raised at a forty-five degree angle. As Usriel and the Doomsayers entered the shrine, he almost reflexively attempted to squirm in place, in futility. His one organic eye was widely dilated - Theodora could already tell even from the far end of the room that his mind was consumed with a mixture of reverence as much as it was by fear. The one thing that did not cloud his mind at all, however, was guilt.

“He thinks himself righteous, my lord. It seems that he is indeed the creator of the works we have sought out,” Theodora said, her face frozen in a smile an inch short of kindness. “Such fear, strange. Do you not take pride in your devotion to your God?”

“I fear only the dissolution of the Omnissiah’s children. Though it be blasphemous to contemplate, the evidence of it befalls me now.” Korvykha shot back. His voice was raised and nearly frantic - evidently he was still so much more Human than machine that, unlike the other Tech-Priests confronted thus far, he could not reliably modulate or control his true feelings. Peering into his mind, Theodora could sense his bluster was a rationalization. His fear welled within him unprompted, and he mastered it through the contemplation of his faith.

For the moment.

“Are you implying me to be a heretek?” Usriel asked coldly, looking down upon Korvykha before he stepped forwards. The Primarch only felt anger towards this man who evidently did not know his place beneath the Nineteenth Son. The red gaze from his visor bore into the transmechanic with what could be described as one of judgement.

“It is not my place to judge you, Holy Son of the Omnissiah.” Korvykha answered. Usriel could see sweat starting to bead on the priest’s exposed forehead. “Even were your guilt unquestioned, you would be beheld in splendor and with love by all children of the Mechanicum. For even in rebellion you are glorious, and the Omnissiah is most beneficent. How could anybody bear to look down upon a divine being such as yourself? Only the one who stands above all has the merit, and the right to stand in judgement over you.” His words were neat and carefully sounded, but they did nothing to hide the strained nervousness of his tone.

“Imply me to be a rebel again and I shall tear your spine in twain, mortal,” Usriel said, anger not breaching his cold voice while his hand hovered just above the plasma pistol on his side. The Primarch allowed himself to calm for a moment before speaking in his same tone, “We are not here to talk about me, Transmechanic. Do you understand why you are detained?”

“Because you wish it to be so, Exalted One.” Korvykha replied almost breathlessly.

“Evidently, you do not realize,” Usriel commented, before pacing back and forth in front of him. “Equerry, read him what he is under suspicion of,” the Primarch ordered, gaze unmoving from Korvykha.

“By order and request of the Lord of the Second, xenos auxilia of his Legion were scheduled to march in the Triumph of Ullanor. To provide for this, various cogitators, machine-spirits, servitors, and so on and so forth were reconsecrated and reprogrammed so that they would not assault the sworn servants of a Primarch. This was done well and faithfully, and it seems that no auxilia is at risk of loss of life should they partake in this grand endeavor. However, it has come to light that many of the same devices and spirits were further altered, to demean, besmirch, sully, and censor xenos auxilia sanctioned under the auspices of the Edict of Tolerance by the authority of the Primarchs - granted unto them by the Emperor, your Omnissiah. You stand accused of being involved in such. How do you plead?” The Equerry spoke from memory, listing out the background and charge with all formality and process due to a court following the Lex Imperialis.

“It is no less than what they deserve. They are perverse and unclean. So says the Omnissiah. My actions shall be vindicated by my Order. Though condemned by the capricious will of an emission of the Omnissiah, my name and the names of those like me shall be sung in exultation through the great link of the Transmat, and forever enshrined in glory in the High Altar of Technology!” Korvykha babbled frenetically, his one organic eye going wide and unfocused.

“Who else was a part of this plot? Who is in charge of this action against the Omnissiah’s holy event,” Usriel questioned aggressively, stepping at the lowly priest with a metallic pound echoing along the Shrine as his foot came in contact with the floor.

“There is only one individual who dares to take action against the sanctity of this most sacred Triumph, venerated child of the Omnissiah. That is -”

“Answer my question! You are found guilty of conspiring against the Omnissiah, the Emperor! Anymore uncooperative speech will only further your punishment, am I clear,” Usriel’s voice boomed, the voxcoder from his helmet straining to convey his voice properly. The Primarch angrily wrenched the helmet off his head to show a face seething with anger, a head unmolested but the touch of technology, shaved clean. Eyes that looked that of the very plasma he used tore into the Tech-Priest, eyes that none other than his closest confidants had seen. “Give me a name, clear and simple!” Usriel spat.

“Oh Glorious Primarch…” Tears began to evidently well in Korvykha’s one eye. “How you honor me. To be graced with the privilege of beholding your divine visage so closely. Even in contemptuous rage, you show the wisdom of the Omnissiah to be truth. The perfection and beauty of the Human form is embodied -”

“Who ordered you to this conspiracy!” Usriel roared, the lighting of the room fluctuating out of the Primarch’s anger.

Korvykha stared blankly at Usriel, his one eye unfocused and dull. The Primarch then noticed that blood was running down one of the priest’s ears. Either through sheer volume or the psychic manifestation of his very rage - if not both - he had inadvertently sundered the Priest’s eardrums.

“If I may, my lord?” Theodora said, advancing towards Korvykha and dipping a power armored gauntlet to dab at the blood flowing from his ears. “I believe an alternative approach is required now.”

“Very well,” Usriel said, reserving his anger and turning away from Korvykha before returning the helmet to his head.

The Librarian gingerly lowered herself to sit upon the floor, her immense frame at eye level with the bound Transmechanic. Words were of no use here, it would take a deeper communication to prise what they needed. The sound of pneumatic clamps being undone breaks the silence as her gauntlets fall off of her hands, revealing pale-white skin. Her face became entirely still as she pressed her thumbs against the tech-priest’s temples, eyes closed as she took the direct approach.

Rejoice, Korvykha. Few can say they have bled for a Primarch.

“- We will report any further discoveries as they appear Sire.”

“Understood, Machine Ghost. Continue to examine that code and push forwards, I believe this conspiracy is nearing its end. Thank you for your efforts,” Usriel boxed back in a pleased voice.

“It sounds like things are going well brother.” Micholi’s voice stated aloud, betraying the fact that he was physically in the shrine that Usriel, his honor guard and the small collection of Doomsayers were currently using as a temporary HQ of sorts. Stepping out of the shadow that seemed to have helped him blend into the background, his attention was on Usriel as he stated “I wanted to check in with you and see how things were progressing before I answered my team and addressed the idea they suggested to me.”

“Things have been going well once we cracked the Sicarian, no small thanks to our librarian,” Usriel said, nodding towards Theodora, turning to face his peer. A tone of what could be taken as the joy of Usriel sounded, “I do believe this ordeal will be dealt with soon enough.”

“Now, what idea did your team have?” Usriel inquired.

Micholi paused for a moment as he asked “Is it safe to talk here?” He suspected the answer was yes, but felt the need to ask anyway just to be sure.

“It is,” Usriel affirmed with a light nod of his head.

“Very well. They’ve come to the conclusion that the Prefecture Magisterium knows more about the current situation then they are letting on… and they requested my assistance personally in helping to breach the security around their headquarters on the planet to try and uncover what they are hiding. However, since your investigation is bearing fruit I believe such an extreme measure will not be required of us.” Micholi wasn’t upset by the suggestion of his team, but risking a fight with the Prefecture Magisterium was clearly something he was slightly relieved that he wasn’t going to have to commit to.

“The Prefecture Magisterium? Micholi, the Tech-Priests themselves fear them, it is not a wise idea to intrude on them,” Usriel said, nearly in a whisper.

Micholi actually offered his brother a smile as he answered “Thus why I wanted to check in with you first. While I find myself agreeing with my sons that they likely do know more than they have revealed, I am glad that the action of finding out what exactly it is they know and are possibly hiding will not be required… at least not today.”

“It would be best we did not push our luck, odds are they will be watching all of us when this matter is completed,” Usriel commented, his tone still conveying a light bit of worry.

Offering a small nod in return, Micholi decided to change the subject slightly to something a little more joyful as he turned his attention towards the Doomsayer librarian that had been gestured to before. “What is your name? I would like to offer you the full praise that you deserve for a job done both well and quickly.”

“Theodora, my lord Micholi,” the Librarian said with a low bow, the other Doomsayers in attendance clearly pleased with the credit that she had brought to their name. “I shall carry your praise high in my thoughts, but our work is not yet concluded. These secrets have ill omens about them.”

Micholi smiled softly as he stepped forward and placed a hand on Theodora’s shoulder for just a moment before removing it and stepping away. “Indeed you are correct.” Before turning to his brother and asking “Just to make sure I haven’t missed anything, what do we know so far?”

Daena’s Equerry answers in his stead, Ascania’s voice somehow still quiet through the death mask’s voxcoder. “Less than one would like. There is a cabal of junior tech-priests rooting about the modifications for the Triumph, their work left unmolested by the Prefecture Magisterium. Those who would endeavor to correct such vandalism are paralyzed in fear by the same, terrified that if they act they shall be declared heretek. At best, we have a conspiracy of silence. But considering what your own Astartes have found my lord, this seems to go far deeper. I would recommend that the suspects Sister Theodora identified be put to the question.”

“I agree, I intended to question them, but there are many others to go through,” Usriel stated, looking to where his honor guards had been stationed, “I sent my sons to interrogate those who confessed. No doubt they will sort out the lessers in due time.”

For a moment Micholi looked… somewhat pensive. “I admit, when I made the decision I did I knew that there was going to be trouble. Both from the Mechanicum and from my siblings. I did not imagine that it would have reached this extent through.” He was quiet for a moment… before shaking his head to snap out of it. “At any rate, I will go make sure my squad doesn’t do anything… well, foolish. Their desire for a challenge is admirable, but needs to be reigned in at times. However, if you would need of my personal skills brother, I am at your beck and call.”

“I thank you, Micholi. This will soon be over by my estimates and the Triumph will no longer dishonor the Emperor’s grace,” Usriel stated, a bit of pride shining through his voice as he turned away from his brother. His mind was at ease with the progress of the investigation, knowing that there would no longer be anything for him to truly worry about and knowing that the Emperor may be happy that the Triumph will be done without any form of dishonor upon his imperium. The nineteenth Primarch looked to the Doomsayers he had with him, knowing that they were most useful and knowing he would have to commend them and mention their efforts to Daena when he got the chance. “I wish you the best, Micholi. Thank you for allowing me to call upon your team,” Usriel said.

“Of course brother. After all, it would be quite rude and inconsiderate of me to have played a part in creating this situation and then refusing to help resolve it. While we might disagree on certain things, we both serve the Imperium after all.” Micholi answered back earnestly. “I would have offered to lead the investigation myself, but I can acknowledge that you have a better understanding of those being investigated.”

“Again, thank you Micholi,” Usriel said aptly before speaking into his vox to the Magos, “Ulbridge, is the Junior Transmechanic ready?”

‘He has been made ready for you, Holy Primarch. He did not resist seizure and has been cooperative. He has been detained in the Shrine where you confronted the other Tech-Priests. As requested, I have interceded and delayed the repair of the auspex systems in that chamber. You and your Astartes will have complete privacy.’ The Magos voxed back in reply.

“Thank you, Magos,” Usriel said into his vox before looking to the Doomsayers while making his way back to the Shrine, “Come, nieces. Let us end this so that we may bask in the Emperor’s glorious Triumph.”




Back at the Shrine, the Tech-Priest - Transmechanic Korvykha - awaited Usriel and the Doomsayers was a far cry from the five figures who had previously occupied the room. As a minor Tech-Priest, he was still more man than machine. Even his face was largely unaugmented, beyond a single bionic eye and a rebreather mechanism mounted over his mouth. His robes were a simple sheer Martian red in coloration, with none of the tell-tale decorative gold or pale markings of elevated status.

Korvykha was pinioned on place, forced into a kneeling posture by three mishapen servitors using their servo-clamps to physically hold him in place, immobilized with his hands behind his back, his head raised at a forty-five degree angle. As Usriel and the Doomsayers entered the shrine, he almost reflexively attempted to squirm in place, in futility. His one organic eye was widely dilated - Theodora could already tell even from the far end of the room that his mind was consumed with a mixture of reverence as much as it was by fear. The one thing that did not cloud his mind at all, however, was guilt.

“He thinks himself righteous, my lord. It seems that he is indeed the creator of the works we have sought out,” Theodora said, her face frozen in a smile an inch short of kindness. “Such fear, strange. Do you not take pride in your devotion to your God?”

“I fear only the dissolution of the Omnissiah’s children. Though it be blasphemous to contemplate, the evidence of it befalls me now.” Korvykha shot back. His voice was raised and nearly frantic - evidently he was still so much more Human than machine that, unlike the other Tech-Priests confronted thus far, he could not reliably modulate or control his true feelings. Peering into his mind, Theodora could sense his bluster was a rationalization. His fear welled within him unprompted, and he mastered it through the contemplation of his faith.

For the moment.

“Are you implying me to be a heretek?” Usriel asked coldly, looking down upon Korvykha before he stepped forwards. The Primarch only felt anger towards this man who evidently did not know his place beneath the Nineteenth Son. The red gaze from his visor bore into the transmechanic with what could be described as one of judgement.

“It is not my place to judge you, Holy Son of the Omnissiah.” Korvykha answered. Usriel could see sweat starting to bead on the priest’s exposed forehead. “Even were your guilt unquestioned, you would be beheld in splendor and with love by all children of the Mechanicum. For even in rebellion you are glorious, and the Omnissiah is most beneficent. How could anybody bear to look down upon a divine being such as yourself? Only the one who stands above all has the merit, and the right to stand in judgement over you.” His words were neat and carefully sounded, but they did nothing to hide the strained nervousness of his tone.

“Imply me to be a rebel again and I shall tear your spine in twain, mortal,” Usriel said, anger not breaching his cold voice while his hand hovered just above the plasma pistol on his side. The Primarch allowed himself to calm for a moment before speaking in his same tone, “We are not here to talk about me, Transmechanic. Do you understand why you are detained?”

“Because you wish it to be so, Exalted One.” Korvykha replied almost breathlessly.

“Evidently, you do not realize,” Usriel commented, before pacing back and forth in front of him. “Equerry, read him what he is under suspicion of,” the Primarch ordered, gaze unmoving from Korvykha.

“By order and request of the Lord of the Second, xenos auxilia of his Legion were scheduled to march in the Triumph of Ullanor. To provide for this, various cogitators, machine-spirits, servitors, and so on and so forth were reconsecrated and reprogrammed so that they would not assault the sworn servants of a Primarch. This was done well and faithfully, and it seems that no auxilia is at risk of loss of life should they partake in this grand endeavor. However, it has come to light that many of the same devices and spirits were further altered, to demean, besmirch, sully, and censor xenos auxilia sanctioned under the auspices of the Edict of Tolerance by the authority of the Primarchs - granted unto them by the Emperor, your Omnissiah. You stand accused of being involved in such. How do you plead?” The Equerry spoke from memory, listing out the background and charge with all formality and process due to a court following the Lex Imperialis.

“It is no less than what they deserve. They are perverse and unclean. So says the Omnissiah. My actions shall be vindicated by my Order. Though condemned by the capricious will of an emission of the Omnissiah, my name and the names of those like me shall be sung in exultation through the great link of the Transmat, and forever enshrined in glory in the High Altar of Technology!” Korvykha babbled frenetically, his one organic eye going wide and unfocused.

“Who else was a part of this plot? Who is in charge of this action against the Omnissiah’s holy event,” Usriel questioned aggressively, stepping at the lowly priest with a metallic pound echoing along the Shrine as his foot came in contact with the floor.

“There is only one individual who dares to take action against the sanctity of this most sacred Triumph, venerated child of the Omnissiah. That is -”

“Answer my question! You are found guilty of conspiring against the Omnissiah, the Emperor! Anymore uncooperative speech will only further your punishment, am I clear,” Usriel’s voice boomed, the voxcoder from his helmet straining to convey his voice properly. The Primarch angrily wrenched the helmet off his head to show a face seething with anger, a head unmolested but the touch of technology, shaved clean. Eyes that looked that of the very plasma he used tore into the Tech-Priest, eyes that none other than his closest confidants had seen. “Give me a name, clear and simple!” Usriel spat.

“Oh Glorious Primarch…” Tears began to evidently well in Korvykha’s one eye. “How you honor me. To be graced with the privilege of beholding your divine visage so closely. Even in contemptuous rage, you show the wisdom of the Omnissiah to be truth. The perfection and beauty of the Human form is embodied -”

“Who ordered you to this conspiracy!” Usriel roared, the lighting of the room fluctuating out of the Primarch’s anger.

Korvykha stared blankly at Usriel, his one eye unfocused and dull. The Primarch then noticed that blood was running down one of the priest’s ears. Either through sheer volume or the psychic manifestation of his very rage - if not both - he had inadvertently sundered the Priest’s eardrums.

“If I may, my lord?” Theodora said, advancing towards Korvykha and dipping a power armored gauntlet to dab at the blood flowing from his ears. “I believe an alternative approach is required now.”

“Very well,” Usriel said, reserving his anger and turning away from Korvykha before returning the helmet to his head.

The Librarian gingerly lowered herself to sit upon the floor, her immense frame at eye level with the bound Transmechanic. Words were of no use here, it would take a deeper communication to prise what they needed. The sound of pneumatic clamps being undone breaks the silence as her gauntlets fall off of her hands, revealing pale-white skin. Her face became entirely still as she pressed her thumbs against the tech-priest’s temples, eyes closed as she took the direct approach.

Rejoice, Korvykha. Few can say they have bled for a Primarch.

To have evoked his anger is my only true crime. Korvykha’s inner voice, cooler and perfectly tranquil in stark contrast to his actual sound, answered her. I can scarcely deny it when the evidence permeates my ears.

You are young, I am certain that such crimes can be forgiven in time, she replied, her mental voice soothing and calm. But the honor of receiving an augmetic due to his deeds shall follow you forever.

You need not lie to me, Lady Astartes. I know I am to die. Korvykha answered. Though it is not for malice that I obstruct you. Ask your questions. I will answer what I can, truthfully. To profane the sanctum of my mind you have conjured with deceit would be an affront to the Machine God.

Death is the punishment for traitors.

Death need not be a punishment if it is the will of the Primarchs. It simply is as it shall be. My death shall be as natural as the fall of a rotten tree, or the crumbling of a glacier under a star. I am no traitor, in my own knowing. But I shall die regardless. That shall be the will of the Primarch, and their will shall be inviolate. The tranquility of Korvykha’s inner voice was disturbed, here - rippling with a wavering uncertainty. There was fear here, an apprehension of the death he otherwise seemed to so calmly accept.

We shall see. Who instructed you in what is righteous? she asked, turning away from his acceptance of his death. She kept close to her heart the suspicion that the Transmechanic may well welcome death if what she suspected of Usriel were true.

Nobody...or, rather, my anticipations did betray me. Korvykha answered. When the planning for the Triumph took place, and it became known that the Second Primarch would insist on parading his disgusting chattel during it, there was great confusion amongst us. The Tech-Priests who have been favored with the task of creating the wonders of the technology that would enable the Triumph. At first, we simply proceeded as normal. Let the xenos perish in the march for all the galaxy to see. Then, word came that this was not acceptable. It was quite curious though - there was no official proclamation or decree. Merely the word of certain influential figures, in private, that the Triumph technology would have to be altered to accommodate the xenos. More confusion followed. Nobody was certain how to act. Eventually, word spread that the Fabricator General himself had issued directives for the Triumph to go forward with reconsecrated systems - but still, no decrees, no formal mandates, even as rumors abounded of the Fabricator General himself issuing pardons for improper and perverse corruption of sacred technology for the purposes of facilitating the Triumph. Rumors that I now believe to be false. The Prefecture Magisterium certainly have not been respecting them. I came to believe, after a time, that the rumors were a smokescreen. Bandied about as cover for plausible deniability, while one of our many sacred orders would secretly arrange for a disruption of the Triumph. My actions - I suppose, I was seeking patronage. Acting to earn the notice and favor of those who were watching.

If what you say is true, then I would say your odds of surviving this day have increased dramatically. You have indeed committed no crime. Theodora spoke aloud moments later, her voice monotone and distant. “We have all been played for fools. There was no order. No directive. Only rumor and fear. He acted on supposition and assumption. Promises of clemency nothing more than lies. Do you not see, my lord? The true purpose of this chaos was not the petty vandalism we have aimed to prevent. It is a purge.”

“A purge?” Usriel echoed inquisitively, “You mean to say the Mechanicum is purging itself of who? Those who support the xenos?”

“I am making suppositions from suppositions, but it fits, does it not? If the Mechanicum desired for the Triumph to proceed smoothly, there would have been formal directives. Alterations in doctrine. Proscribed parameters for action. This did not occur. Assurance spread that the Fabricator-General would pardon those convicted of techno-heresy if it was done for the Triumph, but tell me, my lord. Do you know a single incident where such mercy came to pass? This Triumph, the inclusion of lord Micholi’s auxilia, provided an opportunity. Think. All those removed by the Prefecture Magisterium were accused of being too accommodating. The greatest champions of the great effort were silenced. Self-selection. There was no need to conduct an investigation. One need only see who was not hesitant. Consider the senior priests we interrogated earlier. They did not know what or what not to do. They were obsessed with nothing more than survival. I believe now that the vandalism targeted towards the xenos was unintended, or a merely secondary benefit of this situation. It seems that the true goal was to identify and remove certain priests. But I do not believe that there are supporters of xenos among the Mechanicum. At least, not in sufficient numbers for such a scheme to bear fruit. But there are surely great numbers who support the Primarchs.”

Realization dawned upon Usriel, taking a step back from Theodora as if what she had just said physically hurt him. Confusion wracked his mind, as he turned away and seemingly stumbled towards the closest wall and put an elbow up against it. The Mechanicum was purging itself of who wholly obeyed the Primarchs, those who obeyed divinity. It was a fact he could not comprehend as he had been raised with the Mechanicum worshipping him, obeying his every word.

“Magos Ulbridge, get me Archmagos Rarnet, immediately,” Usriel said lightly into vox before turning to Theodora, “I pray that you are wrong, niece.”

’Certainly, Holy Primarch. Did you want the Archmagos over vox, or in person?’ Ulbridge voxed in reply after a few moments of delay.

“In person, Magos,” Usriel answered.

’As you will, exalted child. He has been informed and is on his way. He shall transit onto the planet via teleportarium and will arrive shortly.’ Ulbridge’s vox-line then clicked off.

Several minutes later, Archmagos Rarnet drifted into the room, suspended aloft in the air by his abeyant device.

“Exalted one. Magos Ulbridge informed me that for the sake of discretion, I should forgo the free use of vox communication in this room.” Rarnet’s voxcoder purred as he spoke, with the occasional pause and airy intake of atmosphere awkwardly breaking up his speech. “How may I serve you, holy child?”

“I require information, Archmagos. Have there been any actual pardons of those who have committed Techno-Heresy in the name of the Triumph?” Usriel asked, turning to face the Archmagos, his voice clearly worried.

“Yes, holy Primarch.” Rarnet answered, his voxcoder airily huffing before he continued. “All writs of clemency issued by or sent through the Prefecture Magisterium are required to also be submitted before the most senior Tech-Priest in the governing locality, which has been my own personnage for the last five standard months. To my knowing, precisely eight individuals accused of Techno-Heresy have been pardoned in that time.”

“Detail the accusations that they were cleared of, Archmagos,” Ascania said, looking uncertainly between the Mechanicum priest and her own Librarian.

“Certainly. The first writ was issued the day I arrived, pardoning Logis Karoa of any current and all future acts of techno-heresy pertaining to xenotech or xeno-derived knowledge, for the duration of the Triumph or so long as she remained planetbound.” He paused for a moment as his voxcoder took in another airy pull. “This is not unusual to be done for Logi, particularly during events or in localities with high incidences of labor-derived accusations of techno-heresy. Due to the nature of the work Logi perform.”

Rarnet then briefly gazed between Usriel and the Doomsayers, awaiting any kind of reaction. When they had none, he carried on.

“The next six, as archived in my periphery cogitator core, were all lay-priests who were accused, seized, interrogated, and found innocent of intentional techno-heresy by the Prefecture Magisterium. They were released with warnings and sanctioned for their failings, and were transported offworld for punitive and remedial labor elsewhere. The final writ of clemency is issued for Magos Ulbridge, and was issued seven weeks ago, also for any current or future acts of techno-heresy as may arise during the Triumph or until he is off-planet, as with Logis Karoa. As he is my immediate delegate for the bulk of the work concerning the Triumph and its organization, this writ was found most welcome by me.”

“Those who were transported off world, do you know where they are at this present time?” Usriel asked.

“Not as such. Experience suggests they were sent to forge worlds in the Obscurus Segmentum to perform underforge maintenance.” Rarnet answered.

“Archmagos, how many individuals have been found guilty of techno-heresy within the past five months?” Ascania asked, dread forming in the pit of her stomach.

“According to my cogitator’s secondary core,” Rarnet began, “...there was an abrupt surge in condemnations around the time the first series of reconsecrations being performed. Grim times. Records indicate more than a hundred Tech-Priests of varying status were excommunicated, censured, obliterated, and decommissioned. This fell off to a comparatively lenient trickle afterwards. Around a dozen each subsequent month, and only sixteen since Magos Ulbridge was assigned. Although I am not officially aware of the reason as to why, I strongly suspect the Prefecture Magisterium has caved to the reality of the situation and is endeavoring to ignore most of the techno-heresy transpiring under their noses for the purposes of the Triumph. They are now mostly making token accusations and arrests to maintain their cultivated mystique, of course, and there will likely be several show-trials once the Triumph has concluded.”

“Arch-Magos… what is your view upon the Edict of Tolerance?” Usriel questioned.

“The most hallowed and revered Edict of Tolerance is the manifest word and will of the Omnissiah, his very wisdom embodied in the written word of the chosen peoples of the Machine God.” Rarnet answered without hesitation. He paused momentarily. “...As are all decrees, mandates, and written documents he is accredited with. I have not endeavored to formally rank these documents in relative importance, you understand. I leave such theological exercises to those more contentious Archmagi of the Holy Synod of Mars to risk.”

Theodora ignored the Primarch and the Equerry and the Archmagos, her attention focused solely on the junior tech-priest before her. Answer me well, Korvykha, and death will not find you today. At least, not by the Primarch’s hand. Do you believe that the Emperor is your God, your Omnissiah?

[i]...That you are even able to approach the very notion that I might not, is an affront greater than any other I believe you can offer - and a far graver condemnation than the trespass offered by the Primarch.[i] Korvykha’s single eye narrowed scornfully as he glared out of its corner in Theodora’s direction, unable to twist his head fully to manage it.

Correct answer. The Primarchs, as Scions of the Omnissiah, have a fraction of his divine will - but only a fraction. Do I have that right? she continued, paying no heed to the hatred she had engendered in the man.

I am no gloried theologian, but that is my understanding. Korvykha answered, their anger fading away momentarily. The Omnissiah embodies the Machine God itself in the frailty of flesh. The Omnissiah’s children are a reflection of this. Within them lurks the true and ineffable perfection of divinity - but it is shrouded by the imperfections and flaws of our terrible and perilous physical universe. These are not failings, but lessons. Lessons contrived by the Machine God, to further Humanity’s comprehension and encompassment of all veracious and infinite knowledge.

Which lesson do you believe this current trial was designed to teach?

An intriguing question. One I am not certain I am fit to answer. Though in my estimation - it would have to be the Final Warning of the Universal Truths. Korvykha answered.

I am unfamiliar with such. Is it permissible to transmit that knowledge to a laywoman?

To break with ritual is to break with faith. His thoughts were laden with a heaviness that buffeted through Theodora, almost as if he had physically struck her.

A heavy lesson, and a harsh teacher. You have been most helpful, Korvykha. I will beg mercy for your faith, Theodora said, before cutting their psychic connection. “A wise decision, Archmagos,” she said, turning to face Rarnet as she stood from the ground. “It is much better to leave theology to the theologians than to think one knows the mind of any God. I am done with him, my lord,” she said, turning to Usriel with a gesture towards the transmechanic. “He is guilty only of an excess of zeal, untempered by prudence. A folly of youth and pride. I would request that he be permitted the time to reflect on this, to perhaps one day acquire the wisdom that the venerable Archmagos possess.”

Usriel paused, looking to Theodora before letting loose a sigh of confusion, anger, and disappointment, “Niece, what do you believe the chances of us stopping this conspiracy?”

“I have every confidence that we will be able to root out those who would vandalize the Triumph. They are young, and their work is sloppy. As for the rest? It is far too early to say.”

“Archmagos, I want those who you had mentioned been sent to Obscurus brought before me,” Usriel ordered before looking back to Korvykha, “If you cannot, for any reasons under refusal, tell them it is my direct order. Barring any other, let me know.”

“While that is quite the endorsement for their future within the Cult Mechanicum, holy Primarch, even using the fastest Courier Ships it would be months, perhaps longer, before they could arrive here. Even a simple chain of astropathic messages would take longer to traverse to their worlds and back than we have before the Triumph is due. I can instruct that they be escorted to any other point of choice for you to later grace them with a visitation if that is your wish. I pray you can forgive the limitations of my worldly authority in this matter.” Rarnet bowed low, making an offhand gesticulation of prayer as he did so.

“They are not for the purposes of the Triumph, if need be, have them escorted to Vion 5,” Usriel said, his voice unwavering, “There are further machinations that may be happening, Archmagos, and I would require those who had been been sent away to confirm the suspicions that young Theodora had. Make it so, Archmagos.”

“As you will it, so it shall be, Holy Child of the Omnissiah.” Rarnet’s bionic eyes then swiveled minutely in their housing to look to Theodora. “What suspicions are those you speak of, Exalted One?”

“None of your concern, Archmagos,” Usriel stated, continuing, “I am sure it is nothing more than the Doomsayer’s fixation upon death, right, Theodora?”

“My lord uncle is far too indulgent of his niece’s whims,” Ascania said, shaking her head. “Pray, forgive her foolishness Archmagos, her blood has been up since she avoided her own foreseen death.”

“If my lord uncle were truly indulgent, he would’ve let it occur,” Theodora replied, the transhuman sounding almost disappointed.

“Truly a marvel to behold sometimes,” Usriel stated, his voice unmoving from the seriousness of his tone as he moved to be at the side of Rarnet. The Primarch looked back over at the Doomsayers , “That said, I do thank you for allowing me to let them indulge in their… fixations, but I am sure you do not care to hear anymore upon it.”

“I...see…” Rarnet’s voxcoder purred. “If that is all, I should depart back to orbit and begin forming the appropriate directives.”

“Yes, as you were, Archmagos,” Usriel said with a nod. With a final bow, Rarnet then turned and departed the room.

Theodora stared at Brynhildr for several long seconds until the other Doomsayer gave her a nod. “Unless he left an auspex behind, he can no longer hear us, Sister.”

“Uncle, never put me in a situation like that again,” Theodora said after a long sigh. “To pretend that I would be so… so… perverse in order to allay his suspicions. At very least I doubt he can guess what we truly suspect but still…”

“Then you surely have not seen how a few of my sons view the plasma rifles they use,” Usriel offhandedly commented, before turning back to them, “Anyone is a conspirator at this point in time. The only Mechanicum personnel that should be trusted at this point in time are to be those from Vion 5. Am I understood, nieces?”

“Of course, my lord,” Ascania said, the Equerry shifting in place. “It feels like there is a piece missing still, some crucial part… Even if Theodora’s suspicions prove true, I cannot wrap my head around the why of it.”

“The why can wait. For the moment, we had best apprehend the remaining junior priests before they can wreck further havoc upon the Triumph,” Theodora said, before cocking her head. “Or perhaps lord Micholi can determine that while we finish the immediate work.”

“Yes, for the time being, let us end this vandalism. I will tell Micholi about what has transpired after our work is complete,” Usriel noted before looking back at the still deaf Tech-Priest. “Take him to the nearest infirmary so that he may get his ears fixed,” the Primarch ordered the servitors. They immediately moved to comply, hoisting the immobilized Tech-Priest into the air and slowly ambling out of the room with a series of oddly asymmetrical, loping steps.

“Now, the Night Watch team has found a Machine Spirit in Prefectus Hodge’s data slate that held security programs comparable to those found in the Imperial Palace. Before we continue, with the next two, I am now contemplating sending them to do other work given we now know more on the situation,” Usriel explained, “Should they now be sent to investigate the Prefecture Magisterium now that we have more questions than we do answers?”

The Equerry’s head snapped up, both other Doomsayers immediately paying more far more attention to the Primarch’s words than they had previously. “Which Department of the Administratum does this Prefectus Hodge belong to?” Ascania asked, her voice strained.

“Unknown to me. I did not ask before I had one of my son’s break his jaw,” Usriel answered in a calm, emotionless tone.

“We must find out. Quickly. There is only one subdivision of the Administratum I can think of that would have good reason to use such machine spirits,” the Doomsayer replied, far less calm than the Primarch opposite her.

“Magos Ulbridge, enlighten me to Prefectus Hodge’s department within the Administratum,” Usriel voxed to the command center.

’I believe he is a member of the Estate Imperium, holy Primarch.’ Ulbridge voxed back after a brief delay. ’I am not certain of this as I have willfully been attempting to filter him from my cognition since his arrival. I will inquire with the Lexmechanics to make sure.’ Another brief pause followed. ’...Yes, my thinking seems to have been correct in this matter, Exalted One.’

“Estate Imperium,” Usriel reported to the Equerry, “Does this worry you?”

All three women let out a sigh of relief, and strangely their relief is directed at Usriel. “Then he is an unwitting agent, and by all accounts an effective one. Well. I hope so, at least. The alternatives are distressing,” Ascania replied, turning to Brynhildr. “Rendezvous with the Night Watch, confirm or deny my suspicions. You know what I seek,” she ordered, the Doomsayer giving a curt nod before departing. “The data sprites and machine spirits guarding the Imperial Palace are of a highly sensitive nature,” she explained, the death mask showing no hint of what emotion she felt. “If I am correct, then it was dutifully reporting all information Hodge retrieved to the Sigilite himself. Realize, lord Usriel, that possibility is the most optimistic I can think of.”

“And the least optimistic?” The Primarch inquired.

“The least optimistic would of course be that the Palace has been compromised.” She decided to not mention any of the possibilities in between those two extremes, several of which may place the Steel Sentinels in a less than flattering light.

“Then let us hope that all I had done was break the jaw of someone who Malcador was spying upon. However, my concern is more place upon the idea that the Cult Mechanicum would be purging its members for obeying the will of the Primarchs and where the rumors of pardons had started,” Usriel commented before speaking into his vox again, “Magos, please send in Lexmechanic now.”

’By your order, venerated child of the Omnissiah. Servitors are en-route.’

Several minutes passed. Eventually, the doors to the Shrine pulled open, and three more misshapen and lumpy servitors dragged an immobilized Tech-Priest into the room. This one was evidently more heavily augmented than Korvykha had been, as the entire upper half of her cranium had been replaced with a metallic skullcap, complete with bionic eyes and what looked like power capacitors that jutted out from the sides of her head. She was also notably missing both of her hands, with bare, modular mechanical stumps where they should have been. Doubtlessly her hands had been removed due to the presence of mechadendrites that would have been difficult to immobilize.

The servitors lumbered before Usriel, and lowered the Lexmechanic down into the same posture Korvykha had been forced into, with her arms forced behind her back and her head raised upwards at a forty-five degree angle as she knelt on her knees. As she was presented to him, Usriel’s helmet scrolled her identity as Lexmechanic Kalgehan.

“Lexmechanic Kalgehan, do you understand your purpose in the preparation of the Omnissiah’s Triumph?” Usriel inquired, his arms behind his back as he continued to gaze upon her.

“Yes, glorious Primarch.” Kalgehan answered, although she seemed to be grinding her teeth together as she answered. “The purpose of the Triumph is to celebrate and honor the compliance of the Ullanor system, as well as the Legions and members of the Astra Militarum and Navis Imperialis who fought the vile xenos that inhabited it, and the most resplendent victory of the Primarch of the 5th Legion in battle against the xenos warlord who ruled the system prior to Imperial occupation.”Navis Imperialis

“And the Xenos Regiments within the Astra Militarum that fought here, even in the waning battles, are to be honored as well, correct?” Usriel continued to question.

“I have heard nothing about xenos fighting in Ullanor at all, glorious Primarch. As far as I hear the Edicted ones did not even get here until just a while ago. But be that as it may, it is not my place to question the will of the Primarchs. If the children of the Omnissiah say some xenos from halfway across the galaxy who never even fought in Ullanor get to march, they get to march as far as I am concerned. You could say that rabid dogs would get to march and we would make sure it was possible.”

“And yet there are those working against the very proclamation that the xenos shall march as stated by Primarch Micholi,” Usriel stated, folding his arms as he continued, “Thus far I have heard that many are doing this out of fear, Lexmechanic. Can you attest to such facts?”

“It is a precarious state we have been left in, holy one. We know the work we have to do. So does the Prefecture Magisterium. The amount of work we dedicate solely to dancing around everything to keep everyone happy would make an Administratum drone blanch. It is almost as much a curse as anything else. Records are being deliberately destroyed or falsified, system network security is shot straight to the warp, and everyone is always keeping eye out for Skitarii or those inclined to report to them.” Kalgehan babbled on almost conversationally as she spoke to Usriel, but her body language was telling - although the servitors were keeping her pinioned firmly in place, she could not help but try to avert her gaze away from Usriel, and to shift and realign her legs and waist.

“Even though the Fabricator General has promised to pardon those who commit Tech-Heresy to make the Triumph come to fruition?” Usriel mused as he knelt down on knee to bring himself closer to Kalgehan’s height. The Primarch’s form loomed over her, “You have heard of this, correct?”

“Most of the Priests working here have heard that I imagine, sacred child.” Kalgehan returned noncommittally.

“Where did this rumor originate, Lexmechanic?” Usriel asked, “Surely, this promise from his most reverent of priests had come from somewhere.”

“I have not been paying it much mind, venerated one.” Kalgehan answered. “This is just inference, mind you, but it would seem to me that it would be insanity to try and do any of this work without some kind of decree of clemency to effectuate such pardons.” Kalgehan then finally turned her bionic gaze to meet Usriel’s for the first time. “...Which is to say, I think whether any such decree has actually been made has little to do with how few of them have been made. I am merely a Lexmechanic though, and such business is far beyond me.”

“What would be the purpose of disobeying the Will of the Primarchs in acting against the Triumph then? Other than humiliating the xenos,” Usriel continued, his reddened gaze meeting her own biotic one.

“I am not certain I follow your inquiry, sacred son.” Kalgehan replied cautiously. “I beg your patience for my ignorance, I am merely a Lexmechanic.”

“I am asking, why would one attempt to undermine the Will of Omnissiah and his Primarchs in this Triumph outside of merely humiliating the Xenos which could be done at any other time,” Usriel clarified.

Kalgehan attempted to shrug, the reflexive gesture halted by the servitors keeping her pinned. “As I said, holy Primarch. I am just a Lexmechanic. I have little insight into such high-flown and vaunted notions.”

“Then why were you amongst those brought up by Sicarian Szorbulo, if you are nothing more than a Lexmechanic,” Usriel asked with a cruel inflection coming to his voice.

“...Who?” Kalgehan asked, her metallic cheeks and brow betraying nothing. “My apologies, holy Primarch, but my network access has been revoked. I cannot even confer with the personnel registry.”

“Do not test me, Lexmechanic,” Usriel grunted angrily, a massive hand suddenly to grasp her head. He forced her gaze to focus solely upon his own as he spoke, “You would do well to remember the ones that held positions higher than your own, given we have already interrogated him. Your name was brought up, we know you are involved.”

“Holy Primarch, with protest, I have sixteen immediate superiors, and more than two-hundred different various Skitarii and Security Servitors pass through my sector every single day.” Kalgehan’s lower face was calm enough, but clutching her whole head as he was, Usriel could feel the flow of blood through her skin. Her heart was racing in terror from the proximity and contact. “I genuinely have no idea who you are referring to.”

Yuh, yeet


<Snipped quote by Lauder>

This joke: dumb
Me: loving it anywayd


Google doc: Opened
Writing: Started
<Snipped quote by Lauder>

Jimmies: Rustled


Rustled: Jimmies
© 2007-2017
BBCode Cheatsheet