Intro 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70
Ansheth worked frantically at salvaging what remained of the Battle Thrall damaged several months ago by the invading Marines. How had those Marines known to be here? Was it not too early to send word to them, to draw them into whatever trap that mad Chaos Lord had devised? Ansheth shook his head nervously. He was alone in the open, at the last point of contact between his forces and the enemy’s. Would they return? To lose his life here, in the cold winter landscape of this cursed planet, would be a painful irony. He and his brethren were so close to achieving the immortality they had sought for so long. Even with the forty-foot form of a New Man watching over him, the parts of his brain that still had the capacity for irrational anxiety were raging wildly.
The set of metallic cylinders and wires that had long ago replaced his arms whined and hummed as his ion-torch attachment sliced through the thick adamantium armor plating within the Thrall’s hull. Ansheth intoned one of the many mind-calming chants of his Order, and continued to work towards peeling away the walls of the thick ceramite box that held the Thrall’s mechanical brain.
“TechPriest,” boomed a voice behind him. Ansheth whirled around, blinding himself momentary as he held up the hissing torch as a defense against whatever had cornered him. Why hadn’t the New Man attacked the threat? What was it?
Ansheth’s bionic eye adjusted its aperture with a whirr, bringing into focus the outline of Warsmith Teufel.
“So you have come,” Ansheth sighed in relief. “I had thought that your master might have decided against our deal.”
“My Lord has done no such thing, TechPriest.” The low baritone of the Iron Warrior’s voice echoed around them. His horned helmet turned upwards, towards the towering shadow of the New Man which stood sentry over both of them. Its long legs suspended a small body above, with a tiny “head” made of sensor arrays aligned in its torso, an arm of ranged weaponry adorning one side, a close combat claw sprouting from the other. It was a miracle of engineering, though their true value lay deep within their plasteel frame. An artificial intelligence as advanced as any the galaxy had seen in thousands of years lay within.
“They should have been ours…” Teufel said, a note of longing in his voice. “All these years, you and your fellow Mechanicus have toiled under the Sicarii, and for what gain? Why, when you could have taken our offer of sanctuary? You and yours are not interested in their gods or their mad crusades. You deal in the works of cold steel and hard machinery, as do we.”
“Yes,” Ansheth answered quietly. “We do. The Imharen’s decision has never sat well with many of us. Perhaps all of us. That is why I make you this offer, Tufel.”
“Your…’Imharen.’ He will be neutralized?”
“You have my word on that. He sees you as an enemy. A rival. I see a set of kindred, who share our disdain for the flesh.”
“Kindred who will raise you to the leadership of your sect.”
“Yes, well…” Ansheth grinned, revealing the metal grate over his surgically implanted vox-larynx. “Our intelligence is built to survive, and to survive is to dominate.”
“Then all is set.” Teufel shook the snow from his armor, and turned back to the deep cavernous stairway he had come from. “Remember, TechPriest. The sword. It belongs to Lord Gorath.”
Ansheth had already returned to his work at the Battle Thrall’s hull. “It will be yours, Teufel. I know where he will be, he and the sword. When it is at its most powerful, it will fall to you.” Ansheth paused, and looked up at the departing Chaos Marine. “If you can take it.”
Teufel stopped momentarily, and returned Ansheth’s gaze. “On that, Techpriest, you have my word.”