Fast Fiction

Blood-Greased Cogs

Blood-Greased Cogs

An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Elrond Garcia
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Khebal Tothius was 400 years old. 400 years, 32 days, 27 hours, three minutes and four seconds to be exact. Other blessed adepts of the Omnissiah might have dismissed this data as irrelevant, and long since excised it from their memories. To Tothius, such precision was everything. He may never have risen to as high a position as some of his peers, but he prided himself on the output of his manufactorums. 530 Soldus pattern lasguns and 5300 compatible charge-packs each day from the Serrus weapons facility. 9000 R7-Omega type ball bearings from the Magarus sector holdings, 700 adamantium decking panels from H5SL…

Tothius ran down the list within his internal cogitators, checking off each production plant. None of this was held in the highest regard by the Mechanicus – not for him were the blessed mysteries of grav-induction relays, plasma coil components or thermal energy sinks – but still, precision was all. Any fluctuation, any fluctuation whatsoever, and the responsible component was identified and replaced. It was as the Omnissiah intended things to be.

Which, if said or thought in the normal sense instead of being relayed at lightning speed through Tothius’ enhanced cybernetic neural core, would be a very long way of wondering why he had been summoned.

He was grinding down the hallway on a set of construction treads currently operating within the 98.5% efficiency parameter he tolerated. This, as the rest of his frame, was a display in symmetrical exactitude. Every one of Khebal’s early substandard implants had been replaced by augmetics he manufactured himself, each operating with the precision he demanded. Even others were… less devoted.

It was true that no small part of Tothius’ ire was due to Exus-73b-Epsilon having risen higher in rank than himself in a fraction of the time. The larger part, the more frustrating part, was that everything about his superior seemed designed to irritate him.

0.67 seconds after the tech-priest considered this, the door in front of him rose upwards to admit entrance to the Magos-Fabricatum’s quarters. Khebal’s forwards momentum ground to a halt as he attempted to reign in his frustration.

<It is unseemly for a child of the Omnissiah to display such petulance.>

The origin of the binaric missive stood a foot taller than himself, draped in cloth that hung off their frame at odd angles. Tothius knew that Exus-73b-Epsilon detected the increase in his pulse and cortical activity, reading the stray signals in the noosphere. He also knew that beneath that robe were stray patches of skin, both body and face a disordered amalgam of steel and flesh. Imprecision, or at least the appearance of it, seemed to be the Magos Fabricatum’s defining trait. The eyes of a lowly unaugmented thrall might see nothing unusual, but Khebal’s lens-arrays could detect how every item was just out of place. Each screen in the room was a slightly different size, a slightly different distance from one another. The same with the incense sticks, the power conduits…

<I was summoned. Clarify.> Tothius blurted his response. Around them a web of noospheric data fluttered with different inputs, many encrypted beyond Tothius’ ability to access. 

<You are being removed from your position. Magos X’thusme will assume your duties.>

<Unacceptable. Magos X’thusme possesses an average efficiency rating 7.3% below my own. Clarify.>

Tothius’ response had been immediate. He kept tabs on all his rivals and was confident that none were sufficient to replace him. Exus-73b-Epsilon paused for an uncannily long moment before responding.

<I am transmitting an enclosed data-stream. No other shall see this.>

Tothius received the transmission, coded to his own noospheric aura. They were pict-captures. Some details were hyperfocused and vibrant, others blurred and greyed out. Organic in origin then, but why would someone go to the effort of extracting and retaining… these? The images were dim, typically taken in the same cramped hab, and of the same pale, malnourished couple. Forge-thralls certainly, but why…

A glimpse of something different. A crowd of forge-thralls this time, all in the same manufactorum overalls. Scattering as they passed through a set of gates, the couple among them.

Wait…

He recognised it. The Serrus weapons facility. In an instant he was sweeping the noosphere for the associated personnel records.

The pict-captures continued in a constant stream. With every iteration the couple shown seemed wearier, more gaunt, the light in their eyes dimmer.

Finally, Khebal flagged up the files. Forge-thralls Ellan and Hertos Mere. Terminated 72 solar cycles ago after efficiency levels fell below tolerable standards. Secondary interrogation: Who was the origin of the pict-captures? 

Khebal ran through his database again. The data-feed from Exus-73b-Epsilon had frozen on a final pict-capture. The same hab-quarters, but empty and abandoned.

Seyka Mere, progeny of Ellan and Hertos Mere. Relocated to the Teke Assessment Facility after the termination of parental units, and then… nothing.

Tothius’ inquiries ran into a gap in the noosphere, an absence, a void. His virtual presence fumbled about, knowing full well that his superior could monitor every effort. Nothing. No record of transfer or termination. As far as the noosphere was concerned, Seyka Mere had ceased to exist. 

Exus-73b-Epsilon remained still and silent, observing Tothius patiently, as if waiting for a revelation to occur. Slowly, it did. Again Tothius swept through the noosphere. This time, he queried all information pertaining to Exus-73b-Epsilon. Much of it was encoded, beyond the authority as limited in the understanding of the Holy Mysteries as he. That didn’t matter though. What mattered was that the records dated back 72 solar cycles. Minoris grade tech-novitiate Exus-73b-Epsilon had at that date, seemingly arisen from nowhere at all.

These facts permeated Khebal Tothius’ thoughts. He again felt his heart rate increment, his cortical activity spike.

This time, Exus-73b-Epsilon spoke the words aloud, in a voice still of the flesh. This time, Tothius could hear the bitter irony concealed beneath them, and the current of long withheld satisfaction.

‘It is unseemly for a child of the Omnissiah to display such petulance.’

About the Author

Elrond Garcia is a University Student with a fascination for the background of 40k, including many of its smaller spaces. He was first drawn into Warhammer lore by my father’s old The Enemy Within rpg campaign books, and later into the fascinating explorations of the mysterious corners of 40k through the FFG Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader lines.