Here's my first entry- and perhaps not the one expected!
Mare Australis, Mars
The watery disk of far-off Sol was beginning to set and the night-time chill was beginning to draw in by the time Jinpa and her parents drew close to home. It had been a good day. They had been able to trap eleven of the feral servo skills that plagued the western slopes; three over quota. That meant extra creds at the end of the work cycle, so long as they kept to targets for the next few days.
Business had been good these past few months. The arrival of the incarnate Omnissiah and the Treaty of Olympus Mons that had resulted had opened up Terran markets to Martian goods; genuine Martian servo skulls, even reconditioned ones, were in great demand as curiosities. Less happily, the theological disputes triggered by the Omnissiah’s advent had also pushed up prices; the Cult authorities were so desperate for surveillance capability that up north, whole forges had been stripped of Thralls for their precious crania. That was not the way of the South though; down here, nothing was ever wasted, especially if it culled the flocks that ranged the wastes. Jinpa smiled at the thought; the higher prices meant that she would finally be able to get the faulty wrist seal repaired on her old pressure suit.
The frostbite had begun to trouble her hand of late. That was bad, as it might eventually start to affect her aim. When Jinpa was young, her father had been in charge of the EMP gun and carried the basket, while her mother had used the mag stick. Jimpa’s job had been to use her nimble fingers to disable the skull once her parents had brought it down. These days, she had to do almost everything, apart from the basket- her father was stubborn like that.
They walked companionably in silence, her mother scanning the horizon for ferals, her father occasionally having to stop to catch his breath. They finally crested the ridge, but as she moved to begin the descent to the sandy plain below she felt her father’s bionic gently grip her shoulder. “Stay, Jinpa,” he said, wheezily, his breath steaming in the freezing air as he sucked greedily at the reserve oxygen pipe at his collar, “Let the three of us enjoy the view for a moment.”
She paused and looked out, leaning on her mag stick and giving the old man the opportunity to get his breath back, trying not to think what the wheezing portended. Their home, the settlement of Gansha, now only a few kilometres distant, looked lovely in the gathering dusk. By day its whitewashed epoxy walls contrasted with the red basalt of the volcanic plug it was built upon; now the reflected sun’s rays made it glow orange against the darkness of the surrounding rock. At the sands at the settlement’s base a whole new town had grown up, a chaotic tangle of tents, temporary shelters and multi-legged vehicles. And towering over it all, the tip of the stupa on its carapace stretching higher than the tallest spire of Gansha, was the God Machine. At rest it seemed like a statue, the building-sized energy weapon at its side held vertical like a Skitarius’ jezzail at ease; but Jinpa had seen it move, and the sight of something so vast striding across the Martian sands had utterly terrified her.
“Magnificent isn’t it?” Her father was rapt, and she smiled despite herself at his giddy enthusiasm. “I always wanted to be a Princeps when I was a child, you know. To walk the sands like that, with such power at your command! I hoped to undergo the entrance trials, but my da would never let me. ‘Another year’, he said. ‘Another year!’ Still, if I had left, I would have never met your ma.” He turned slightly and gently caressed her skull as it hovered beside him; it emitted a cooing blurt of static. “And I am happy to have given up the chance of a Legio career for the life that we had together.”
Something about the way he said the words made Jinpa turn away from the view to look at her father. His face was one of complete serenity.
“I am glad for the opportunity to see the God Machine again”, he said, eventually. “This will be the last time in this form, I think.”
Jinpa snorted in annoyance. “Oh, da,” she said, frustrated, “there’s no need to get so maudlin. Of course you’ll see it again. It’ll be back in a year, and the Titan-fair with it. And we’ll go and buy three cups of Saroshi amasec from that little stall, like we always do, and you’ll drink ma’s share for her."
The old man shook his head, smiling slightly. “Nah. The red-lung is back, Jinpa. I’ve felt it for a few weeks now. I don’t have a year, I am afraid. Half of one. 11, 12 months perhaps? But maybe not even that. I have breathed the red sands for long enough that they have become part of my body; and soon they in turn will swallow me, and I will become part of holy Mars. Or at least most of me.”
He smiled, gesturing with his bionic to the pressure glove covering his birth-hand and then returning it to stroke Jinpa’s mother. “You will soon be able to source a new gauntlet for your pressure suit without spending credits. And I will still be there to watch over you, along with your ma.”
Jinpa fought back the tears- even here, even now, water had to be conserved. Nothing could be wasted. “You will see the God Machine again” she said, feeling absurdly childish.
Her father went to put his arms around her. “Even if I persevere, it will not,” he said kindly. “Things are changing, child; you must have seen it too. The enhanced quotas, the new forges they are constructing at Frigores and Helium… The Omnissiah is going to reunite us with the lost children of Mars and Terra, and to do that he will need the Collegia Titanica. Just you wait! Before long the God Machines will be up there-“ he pointed to the darkening sky, where the first few stars had become visible- “and humanity will reclaim its lost birthright.”
He laughed, a noise which quickly turned into a wheezing cough. “I wish I could experience it,” he said, gasping, “but I have already seen such things. To have walked the sands of Mars at the same time as the incarnate Omnissiah! History is almost complete, Jinpa. That will be your inheritance.”
Jinpa looked away from the God Machine and her father, gazing back at the wastelands of Mars as the last vestiges of the sun disappeared beneath the horizon. “I don’t want the stars, da. I want you.”
He tenderly took her hand in his. “Then why not walk your old man home, child?” he inclined his head towards the servo-skull. “Come on, darling.”
The three of them set off down the slope.
For the Base;
- A lot of air-drying clay;
- A few bits of cork as rocks;
- A random skull, a cog from the House Cawdor hand weapon, some foil strips and a plasticard tube as a makeshift Opus Machina with prayer streamers;
- A few other bits and bobs as scrap
- The servo skull from the Enginseer kit with a bit of greenstuff tube to support it, as "mother"
- House Cawdor torso with greenstuff tubing and the air intake from a Neophyte hybrid
- Head from a Pathfinder model
- Legs from a Genestealer Neophyte
- Arms from a WHFB Empire archer
- Backpack from the Catachan Command set with a FW Skitari peltast gun tipped by a Kharadron muzzle on one side, and a gas canister from somewhere or other with a Kharadron twirly bit on the other
- Mag stick from the end of a Maxmini sonic guitar on an electropriest stave bit and a House Cawdor stick
- assorted other bits around the waist
- House Cawdor torso as before
- Lower torso from a WHFB Empire archer and lower legs from the plastic Commisar
- one arm from a Scyllax guardian automata, one arm from a WHFB Empire Archer
- Head from a WHFB Empire Spearman
- The basket on the back is a WHFB Empire drum with the top cut off and filled with skulls and servo-skull bits