It's been a while since I read or wrote any Warhammer fiction.
I know what you're thinking, but don't click away just yet. I much prefer to read the stuff which is still accessible to newer readers, since it tends to be much more relatable. Not the stereotypical image of warhammer, filled with fluff and detailed lore, but the character based stories. As such I strive to write like that, also.
Have a read, leave a comment. See if you like it.
I cannot say that I am anything at all like my brothers and sisters on Mars. Perhaps they are too conservative. Perhaps I am not conservative enough. I've always found that, for the most part, and ironically, considering the purpose of the mechanicum as an organisation, the major difference between us is their utter lack of curiosity. They are complacent and superior, logical to the point of illogical, and content to allow the rest of the galaxy to argue and fight amongst themselves so long as their research is not interrupted. Not one of my colleagues has ever confessed to wondering why the rest of humanity is not as obsessed with technology as we are, or mused on the reasons behind the actions of any one human beyond declaring the act either 'reasonable' or 'unnecessary'.
It is my interest in the intricate workings of human hierarchical systems, conditioning and choices that sets me apart from my associates on Mars, and led me to explore my own personal field of research: Anthropology. The study of humans and human cultures. Naturally, I began by observing the only people I had access to: other techpriests; my brothers and sisters in the mechanicum. My conclusion?
They are all insane. Necessarily insane, and essential to the smooth running of the Imperium, but nonetheless, absolutely unhinged. There is nothing to examine when every subject is practically identical. Obsessed with efficiency, there is very little variation between the lives of techpriests in one place; if there is a best way to do something, all will do it that way, it is only logical, after all. If there is an optimal layout for a workshop, all workshops will be indistinguishable from each other.
An inefficient part in a machine should be removed, replaced or recalibrated. This should not apply to a human society, but impossibly, it works for the techpriests.
This is no place for a regular human (and I consider myself within the bounds of regular) to thrive; for the meticulous, perfectly logical lifestyle can appear to be the inverse if you are unused to the unique brand of highly intricate organisation. The complexity of the system is too much for an augmented brain to handle; the human mind cannot comprehend what is happening, and so perceives events as chaotic. The complete inability to make sense of a situation is disheartening on a short-term basis, stifling to live with for a long period of time, and entirely unbearable when no end is in sight, so a few techpriests separate themselves from large mechanicum hubs, such as forge worlds and shipyards, where bureaucracy reigns supreme, and look for work among normal humans, usually as chief technicians attached to imperial guard regiments or onboard rich merchant vessels.
Techpriests of Mars are often regarded as eccentric and unorthodox; as I have said, their minds work differently, and they do not perceive the world as you or I might, their priorities are not the same as ours, they see connections others would not, and so come to conclusions faster. All this makes for confusing conversation, because both parties are thinking at different speeds. That said, it is, of course, in some cases, entirely possible that one or two wires got crossed, and the individual is not running at full capacity, as it were.
Anyway, I digress; this was not supposed to be a rant justifying my exasperation with my colleagues, it was supposed to be an introduction to the text you are about to read. (; The Life and Times ofan Irregular Cog in a Clockwork Galaxy–
it is a working title, and perhaps too much of a mouthful, but it's growing on me). Allow me to get back on track, by telling you a little about myself (the Irregular Cog
), and how I got dragged into a world of danger and subterfuge that I was unable to turn my back on, despite being offered the chance to do so on more than one occasion.
It started, as all stories concerning techpriests do, on Mars – the Imperium's primary technological hub, where all techpriests must begin their journey, and most learn their craft. There are certain paths a techpriest can take upon induction into the order; that of an Enginseer, the most common choice – most inductees wish to spend their entire lives tinkering –; that of a Transmechanic, for those few individuals interested in the limited field of communication technology; and finally, perhaps the least well regarded of the three, the Lexmechanic, who as such spend much of their time acting as Enginseers, fixing transports instead of recording events.
Here I must tangent, for I am a Lexmechanic, and although my kind are some of the most bureaucratic dullards in the Cult Mechanicus, I feel must defend the few bright lights in the sea of characterless zombies.
The path of the Lexmechanic attracts two types of person; insipid, soul-sucking bores driven to catalogue each and every trivial happening in any single campaign, somehow blinkered to anything eventful or consequential, and determined to make a report as tedious as possible; and the other type, the type that, like me, distance themselves from most of their kin, bright-eyed and hoping to witness and record all those events that the first, more abundant type manages to ignore with singular tenacity.
That second type is in a minority, and one would be incredibly lucky to find a kindred spirit in a generation or influx of techpriests; unfortunately, such was the case for me, and my early life (for techpriests are indoctrinated from a young age) was incredibly uneventful and significantly lacking so far as kindred spirits were concerned. Although socialising and certainly fraternisation were both considered massively inefficient wastes of time, I found I could satisfy both urges once I reached a certain age, and was allowed to venture off-world to visit and help more advanced techpriests working in the field, or on planets populated by regular humans. Of course, sweaty crewmen and the type of person you find in and around space-ports aren't really my type, but a girl's gotta make do, to make use of a colloquialism.
I have to say, my forays out into the rest of the galaxy really expanded my horizons, and as I rose through the ranks and I learned new skills, I was frequently encouraged to augment my body in various ways to help hone my craft. I was adverse to the idea to begin with, but I cannot really deny that bionic implants are beneficial in a myriad of ways.
Unlike the rest of my kin, I wanted to hold on to my humanity from the beginning, and resolved to keep the vast majority of my augments below the surface of my skin; I'd chosen a career path that would require me to walk among society mostly unnoticed – something I couldn't very easily do with mechadendrites (bionic, snake-like appendages for delicate work) sprouting from underneath my cowl, or unsightly mechanical limbs glinting in the sun.
Allow me to stray off path again (you may find, as you continue to read, that I do this quite often, and I can only apologise) and regale you with another of my observations about techpriests and their ways.
Members of the Cult Mechanicus are invariably intelligent. You have to be exceptional to be a techpriest – that's how you get picked. No one knows this better than the techpriests themselves, and as such, the vast majority of them have massively over-inflated egos. Egos so large that many consider themselves above the ordinary man in some fundamental way – post-human, almost. This means that most go out of their way to develop and attach unique augmentations that physically set them apart from the rest of the human race.
The use of bionic implants is widespread throughout the Imperium, as you know, and though the mechanicum use them more extensively than most – excessively, some might say – it's not as if the rest of humanity helps by demonising us with stories about what lies beneath the surface of Mars, cultivating the air of mystery so many of my kind just love to affect. So while my kindred indulge their tastes for the dramatic by forging expressionless steel visages and loud, pneumatic limbs to hide between the folds of their deep, scarlet robes, I left my external body mostly as it was, and instead chose augments as subtle as possible. I could rattle off a long list of all the bionics I've accumulated over the years, but we've already strayed too far from the beaten track, and they will become apparent as I recount the events of my youth.
The Beginning: a Sensible Place to Start:
Beginning the story very soon after a sexual encounter might seem odd, and it certainly doesn't cast me in a particularly favourable light, but I have to be honest; this is where it starts.
I was lying on my back, my left arm trapped under the weight of the sleeping guardsman next to me, weighing up his performance against that of the man I'd spent the night with a week earlier. He wasn't doing too well, but he was a couple of years younger than me, and I wasn't far into my twenty sixth year anyway.
I snapped out of my reverie; the irritating buzz of my micro vox-receiver was blaring out a hailing tone from the low, three-legged stool the guardsman had set up as a bed stand. Guardsmen are not usually men of means, and this one was no exception; we'd spent the night on a bare mattress laid out on the floor of his tent. Don't get me wrong, it was a nice tent; one that you could stand up in, with thick canvas walls and a footlocker for personal items, but it was still a tent, and I was forced to wonder what line of reasoning had led me to lower my usual standards.
The drink had been flowing the night before, but I was entirely unable to feel the effects of alcohol, due to a number of small, blood-filtering implant-organs throughout my circulatory system. I put the matter from my mind and picked up the receiver; it had no readout, was about half the size of my palm, and was essentially comprised of a tan-coloured, shock-proof casing, a speaker-grill and a small, winking light so you could find it in the dark.
It stopped it's grating racket at the press of a button. You were supposed to interpret the message solely on the basis of the tone the receiver emitted; as far as I could tell, this was a code three; more urgent than a code two, but no where near as disastrous as a code four.
“What the hell was that noise?” The guardsman – who's name, I'm a little ashamed to say, I did not know – asked, irritably, roused from his slumber at a much earlier hour than I'm sure he'd have liked.
“I've been hailed,” I replied, sitting up and waving the little box.
“No one important,” I lied, “but I do have to leave.”
“Really?” He asked, running his finger down my spine in a way he surely thought was sensual, but was in fact quite uncomfortable, “you sure you don't wanna stick around a little while?”
I kicked the thin sheet off and stood up, rubbing the back of my head; the MIU socket (Mind Impulse Unit – an implant that allows me to connect to certain vehicles and consoles via an uplink cable and operate them without the use of conventional controls) in the base of my skull was still new and the skin around it was a little raw.
“I can't,” I replied, with as genuine a smile I could manage, “as much as I'd love to, I've got a lot of work to do.”
I turned around and ran a hand through my buzz-cut hair, “have you seen my stuff?” I asked, for I was still completely naked.
The guardsman didn't immediately reply, so I twisted back around to find him gawping at me.
“That tattoo...” He said, referring to the cog-wheel symbol of the mechanicum inked on the back of my head, “does that mean you're -”
“A tech-priest?” I cut him off, “Yes. Or a tech-adept, anyway.”
The Guardsman covered up his astonishment pretty well, but I'd seen that look enough times to recognise it when I saw it; I was a notch on more than a few bedposts by that point in my life. I could only really put my promiscuity down to long, arduous stretches of celibacy due to circumstance; between planetary visits I was stuck in some workshop or other deconstructing Chimera assault vehicles or recalibrating malfunctioning ammo hoppers – this was my only release.
“Are you guys even allowed to...” he began, pausing to search for a non-offensive word, (it took him a while, but to be fair, he was a soldier, so I doubt he knew many), “... Uh... Copulate?”
“It's not encouraged,” I said, honestly, “but not explicitly banned either.”
He relaxed at that, and flopped back onto the mattress, his fingers linked behind his head.
“A techpriest, eh?” He said, almost disbelieving, “wait 'till I tell the boys.”
I frowned at that, “I'd rather you didn't,” I said, knowing, even as I spoke, that he wasn't about to keep a story like this one to himself.
“Yeah, ok,” he replied, in a false tone that confirmed the fact.
We didn't have much more to say to each other after that, so I dressed in silence, and ducked out of the tent flap without another word.
Possibly more to come.
This is as much as I've written as of right now. I've got a couple of ideas, but not much time to write them.