The hall echoed to the sounds of industry. Restless turbines roared, sirens rang out intermittently, and the ring of hammer on metal – a steady, mechanically perfect beat – was, quite literally, deafening. Stummers built into her augmetics kept her ears from being damaged, but she could feel the rolling, endless noise as physical pressure. Rolling her shoulders, she continued her walk down the Via Diluvian; the great arched corridor into which the Titan hangars opened.
Ignatzya looked about her as she walked, trying to keep her pace measured and dignified. Quite aside from the noise, the hall was overwhelming. Colossal pistons paced inexorably up and down; brightly-turned-out serfitores and overseers scuttled about, delivering, repairing or retrieving armaplas elements and piping; and great banners, many tens of yards long, moved reverently in the heat that arose from the minor forges. As the great piston nearest her reached its nadir, a slam of air pressure made her torso shake, even as the group was swallowed up in the mist it released.
The cloud flashed with the oranges and reds and neon greens of the industrious hall, and Ignatzya breathed in the acrid-sweet flavour of burnt zinc and oil.
It carried her back to the Arvus that had carried her – years before – from the orbital to the Field of Portonus, where she would be harnessed and trained. As the door had opened, her blood had been up. She remembered being half-turned, in a crouch that was part wariness, part readiness to fight. As the air had equalised between the shuttle and the new planet, she had been enveloped in a similar swathe of mist, similarly lit from without by mysterious coloured flashes.
As that cloud had cleared she had taken her first breath of the air of Slav Nasr. Titan-forge. Not the world of her birth; but then, the qualifications to become a Godrider necessitated a net thrown wide – system-wide.
As they marched out of the dissipating mist, she saw a rank of perhaps two dozen Princeps and Moderati a hundred yards or so in front of her group. The senior crew's backs were to the advancing helots, and they were swathed in their own cloud – this bleeding from the great censers swaying from the augment-Magi. The figures were ranged in front of a God-machine's head, which was underlit by stablights, suspended on colossal chains above the altar.
Ignatzya's chest tightened and her pulse began to race as Princeps Berossus turned to watch her and the others close. She clenched her teeth to dismiss any nervousness, her hands closing into fists.
She would be part of the crew of a Titan. Godrider. World killer.