[Got the idea from Know No Fear.]
The Gatekeepers of Progress
Saginaw stared at his armor. The last battle had not been kind to it. A plasma explosive had splayed his breastplate, leaving several wires to hang loose. An opportunistic enemy had cleaved the power pack later in the battle. Deprived of power, it was only because of the prodigious strength given to him by his gene-seed that Saginaw had defeated his would-be slayer.
He measured his options. The damage was extensive enough that he could not effect the repairs on his own. Protocol stated that he was to submit the armor to the Mechanicum delegation of the expeditionary fleet for such extensive repairs. Yet, the last time he had trusted those cog-heads with his armor, the repairs took the rest of the campaign to complete, negating Saginaw's ability to fight on behalf of the Legion. He had checked every day and had been told the same excuse: "Repair status: Incomplete. Return at later date for update."
When they had finished with repairs, they had made no effort to notify Saginaw. They waited for his next visit and then made him wait an additional hour before finally returning it. He ground his teeth just remembering the treatment.
However, ignoring the Mechanicum would only deteriorate relations with the Bears. With a sigh of resignation, Saginaw grabbed the damaged armor.
No sooner had he stepped out of the room did the air thrum with the sound of forgecraft. Normally, the sound offered mirth and promise to the young Iron Bear. However, with his armor towed behind him, the usual melody soured in his ears. He momentarily debated taking a different, more circular route to the Mechanicum. He dismissed it as the mark of a coward before he strode forward.
As close as the two were, it was no surprise when Daer'dd adopted the lodges crafted by his brother Alexandros. Yet, Daer'dd and the Iron Bears found it much more easier to relax and enjoy fellowship while working with their hands. Whereas the Halcyon Warden lodges were noted for their spirited discussions and conversations, the Iron Bears could be found at their favorite places: the workshops.
Saginaw marched through the hallway into the welcoming caresses of growing heat. The row of quarters gave way to a large room. It was here that most of Saginaw's squad tinkered and experimented at the scattered stations. The work space was one of dozens throughout the ship. To have one central lodge as the Fifth did simply was not practical. The Great Bear wanted all of his sons to be free to explore and enjoy a forge.
The tradeoff was that most Iron Bears had become active participants in the Imperial economy.
To fund so many workshops, Daer'dd had used his status as Lord of Tricendia to arrange regular shipments of ores, metals, and equipment for his Legion. The Iron Bears would then use these raw materials and fashion them as their muses led them. Rarely were such efforts wasted. What the Bears did not keep for themselves, either to serve in war or as sentimental totems, they sent back to Tricendia. There, the items found their ways into private holdings for personal use or onto the open market. Art-seekers and the purveyors of the unusual sought the more unique creations of the Bears. The more prosaic products were quickly bought for their utility. In either case, Tricendia prospered and purchased more materials for the Sixth Legion's use.
Saginaw himself had done his part and at least five of his items had been sold to the Bears' benefit, including an experimental sensor keyed to several prey creatures for hunting and the second-finest throwing axe he had ever forged. The best one he had saved for his own use.
Saginaw glowered at his damaged armor, wishing he could repair it. The approaching heat all but embraced him as he emerged into the communal forge. Half a dozen Iron Bears alternated between crafting their latest work and chatting with each other. Nimkii glanced from his current project and grinned. "And where are you off to?"
Saginaw's forced a grin. "Repairs. Taking it where it's supposed to."
Nimkii raised an eyebrow.
Saginaw's grin grew more forced.
Nimkii shrugged before he returned to his craft. "When you give up, you know where to go."
"May fortune bless your work," Saginaw said as he moved on. A few other brothers greeted him, but Saginaw only offered a polite reply as he hurried on. The heat died down as he exited the communal forge, steering towards the lift. As was true of all Imperial warships, the persons of honor could always be found toward the stern. It was where a ship's heart and head could be found in the forms of the reactor and bridge. Conversely, to be placed away from it was a subtle sign of inferiority.
The Mechanicum's sanctum could be found near the edge of the bow.
The forge-fane was guarded. Two skitarii warriors stood before the main entrance. Saginaw could not recall a similar guard for the forge-fanes on the ships of other legions. His gait slowed. As always, a feeling of revulsion rolled through him. It was one thing to wield the Imperium's technology to improve battle prowess as the Iron Bears had done. But to use the same technology to divorce oneself from humanity? The Iron Bears abhored it. Every upgrade and piece of metal coating the skitarii was not a symbol of technological evolution, but a regression of the human spirit.
If only the Imperium did not require Mars, Saginaw thought sourly to himself.
He stopped before them.
The skitarius on the left stated in emotionless cant, "Identify."
"Legionary Saginaw, VIth Legion, Steel-horse company, 3rd squad."
"Purpose of visit."
Saginaw pointed. "Armor repair."
Ten full seconds passed in silence before the skitarius stated, "Access granted."
Saginaw did not immediately move. For all of the Mechanicum claims of transcending humanity, he and the rest of the Iron Bears were all-too aware the Mechanicum was not above petty insults.
That included forced waiting.
Ten seconds may not be of much time. To the ignorant, they might even believe it had taken that long for the skitarius to process the request or for the tech-priest to grant permission.
The Iron Bears knew better. The infosphere allowed communication to occur in the fraction of a second. Here, in the forge-fane, there was no chance it was operating at less than 100% efficiency. Anything less would be viewed as a threat to the tech-priest's control. Which could only mean the ten seconds was an insult directed right at Saginaw. He did not know if the Martian representatives counted on him understanding the insult, or if they believed him too ignorant to understand what had occurred.
He wasn't sure if he cared. "How long will the repairs take?"
"Unknown. Lacking data."
Saginaw frowned. "Scan it. I know you have the capability."
The skitarius dipped its head the barest minimum for its sensors to wash over the damaged armor. It raised its head. "Unknown timetable estimate."
"Miichii-pewaabic!" Saginaw snarled. "This was a fruitless endeavor. I leave you and your tyrant to your 'precious' fane. Maybe if he prays hard enough, the Omnissiah might grant him a measure of wisdom!" His rage spent, Saginaw turned away from the silent guardians. He stomped back to the lift and quickly directed him where to go.
He should have just listened to Nimkii in the first place.
Unlike the Mechanicum forge-fane, Saginaw's next destination was much closer to the heart of the ship. For the sake of appearances, the location was toward the ship's keel, only a single deck above the menials' quarters. Even with that compromise, it was clear who actually enjoyed the Iron Bears' favor as Saginaw approached the entrance.
No forge-fane awaited Saginaw. The Borgalder preferred a more secular aesthetic. Glowing red lines cut sharp angles in and around the entrance. Saginaw had once heard the Borgalder's original Homeworld was volcanic. The red lines glowing in contrast to the darker metal around it was meant to evoke magma trails against igneous rock. These lines, however, were not products of random chance snaking this way or that. Rather, the lines bent into either large geometric shapes or smaller runes of ancient value to the Borgalder.
Two members of the Borgalder stood at the entrance. Yet, the effect was completely opposite of the forge-fane. The skitarii stood with uncompromising precision with a hint of hostility, standing a foot above a normal human with their augmetics. The Borgalder guards were relaxed and offered a friendly nod to the approaching Iron Bear. "Distant cousin, I bid you welcome," the Borgadler on the right said as Saginaw approached. He careened his head up to look at the giant of a legionary, living up to their nickname as 'Squats'. "What business brings you here?"
Saginaw gestured to the armor. "I need repairs done, distant cousin."
The Borgalder glanced over the damaged adamantium and nodded. He reached within the outer layer of his ceremonial carapace armor before pulling out a dataslate. "This can be done for the usual price." He offered the dataslate.
In theory, it was always cheaper for the legion to go to the Mechanicum for repairs. Due to the Martian-Terran alliance, the sister empires, in theory, had outstanding agreements to cover such transactions. Yet, given the Mechanicum's hostility toward the Iron Bears, it became easier every year for the Sixth Legion to turn toward the Borgalder for aid. With every transaction, the Borgalder Leagues became tied closer to the economy of Three Fires. As part of this, Iron Bear legionaries would pay for Borgalder expertise through a temporary percentage of their earnings.
Saginaw glanced over the contract held within the dataslate to ensure there were no deviations from the usual. Once satisfied, he kissed the bottom of the dataslate, giving his own genetic marker to approve of the transaction. After retrieving the dataslate, the Borgalder guard declared, "I am Foban Steelwatcher," before he added his own kiss next to Saginaw's, gingerly keeping his long beard out of the way.
Steelwatcher stepped back as he gestured to the entrance, which opened before them. "You may enter."
Saginaw offered a deep nod in return before he walked through the gate.
Edited by simison, 18 June 2019 - 12:06 PM.