The crippled marine once known as Ashal of the Dawn Blades Second Company floated within his amniotic tank, suspended in the fluid by a superdense solution and dozens of cables and life support apparati plugged into his body.
His lone eye snapped open.
He was awake. That was unexpected.
The pain welcomed him back to the land of the unliving. Great, excruciating pain, the last gift of an Eldar pirate’s poisoned blades before Ashal’s armored fist had popped his head like an overripe grape.
His sensory net connected first, flooding his mind with too many inputs to process at first. That was normal. Slowly, his brain began to sort them, untangling auditory input from visual feeds, and the usual lack of tactile data.
“—ther Ashal, can you hear me?” A deep, modulated voice asked.
His mind reached for the vox-horn that served as his voice. “How long?” he asked in Frensan.
“What?” The voice asked.
“I said. How. Long?”
A red helmet slowly came into view, affixed to the broad red and white shoulders and neck that marked a Techmarine of the Dawn Blades, and it was shaking in disappointment. “Somebody check his data-banks, I don’t recognize the language he’s speaking. Or if he is at all.” But the style of helmet was unfamiliar.
A great scoff ejected from the war machine’s vox-horn, and the wounded marine switched to High Gothic. “What are they teaching the whelps now? Back in my day, you learnt to speak Frensan before you were ever given the Larraman! I said, Techpriest, ‘how long’?”
“Time is tricky, Ancient One. The warp has torn the galaxy asunder, and Imperial Chronometry is more confused than an Ork mob without a leader.”
Ashal harrumphed. “How disappointing. I will repeat myself one. More. Time. How. Long?”
“By our best estimates, more than two hundred years. For you. For others it has only been a few decades.” For others, centuries.” The Techmarine was coming into focus, now, as his mind regained clarity. His plate was…subtly off. And he loomed larger over the serfs scurrying about underfoot than the last Techmarine who had had the temerity to awaken him had.
“Who is the reigning Master of the Forge?” Speaking of underfoot, he heard chanting and the familiar sound of hydraulics and actuators settling into place in the great sockets that connected his legs to his feet.
“Ceticus Stormmoon, Ancient One.”
Ashal laughed. “Ha! Stormmoon. Is he still as broad as a macrocannon shell?”
“Larger, now,” the Techmarine replied. “And he has armor.”
“Grox-dung.” He flexed a toe.
“It’s true!” The other said with a rumbling laugh. “Bring forth the Book of Armaments!”
A pair of serfs came forth, laboring under the weight of a heavy tome, bound in leather, leafed in gold, and embossed in bone.
The Techmarine picked up the book with a mechadendrite, and held it before him. “A reading from the Book of Armaments, Chapter seven, verses six through eleven, and nineteen through twenty four.” He began to launch into the recitation of the sacred text, but Ashal interrupted him.
“What is your name, priest?”
“Atraxus, Ancient One.”
Ashal rumbled in thought. “That is not a Dawn Blade name. Where are you from?”
His eyeslit glowed red in anger. “Explain yourself.”
“A great many things have changed while you slept, Ancient One.”
“That is not an explanation. And I do not suffer fools gladly.”
“It is all I am authorized to tell you.”
“Connect my weapons, techpriest. Then we shall see who is authorized to tell me what has occurred.”
He at least had the courtesy to look apologetic. “Of course, Ancient One. Verse six. ‘And ye shall connect first the close combat weapon, that holy enforcer of the Omnissiah’s Divine Will, which shall reach forth and smite His Enemies. Apply the sacred unguents, to each joint and piston, so that His Wrath may be stayed not by mechanical failure….” He droned on, and Ashal felt all of his combat suite sensors activate, as the heavy power fist connected to his shoulder.
He flexed the thing, and motors whirred and whined as its claws slammed shut and a crackling energy field erupted about it.
A nerve that long ago had connected to his trigger finger fired, and the storm bolter that was underslung beneath it chattered in dry fire, sending serfs diving for cover against a hail of bullets that wasn’t there.
He grunted in satisfaction and tuned out the rest of the chanting.
A few minutes later, the ungainly multimelta was attached to his right shoulder. Ammunition had not been fitted to its hopper, but its pilot light hissed and the mechanisms clunked as he tested it.
“Now, Atraxus,” he rumbled, “take me to the highest ranking officer aboard this ship. I would have words with them.”
“Ancient One,” he began, “we must perform—“
“No. I will suffer no more tests or diagnostics. My onboard diagnostic suite is more than sufficient.”
The walking, unliving sarcophagus ground forth from its long slumber. One shuddering, hissing foot moved, slamming down on the deckplate, than another. And another.
The Dreadnought blared a war-call from its vox-horn. “I have awoken. And I am not pleased with what I have awoken to.”
Edited by Daimyo-Phaeron Lenoch, 24 October 2021 - 04:56 AM.