All Artifice

4.5/5 (1)

The great work was done – glory to the Omnissiah and Far-Mars! 

Facilitator-Magos Kanam-2-1 expleted a burst of jubilant code that drew wary gazes from the nearest technicians. Productivity had never been so high, complaints few, and organic-induced risk factors had collapsed through the proverbial floor! Even accounting for pre-production and re-initiation downtimes, his tenure had seen an efficiency increase of 61%. Kanam knew the will of the Machine God in his predecessor’s untimely demise, the mathematical beauty of predestination in how much had survived the accident – his ocular implant was a near-perfect fit!

The metallic thud of his footfalls sent the technicians scattering from his path, only to reconvene at his heel like mewling scavengers. Attention. Instruction. Nutrition. Kanam paused. He could swear their last meal session was… he scanned his memory-files. Hmm. Well, desperation would drive them a little harder. No harm in it, and it would further reduce daily costs – truly his superiors could give him but the mildest censure once his report reached them, once they saw his great work. All accomplished in a week with the loss of a single technician! His skillset was irreplaceable on this sodden fringe, but holy works required sacrifice. Edifice was raised on bones. Though his flesh had been rendered down to proteins, his designation would rest forever within Kanam’s repurposing report on the leftover combat-stims.  


 Kanam whirled, eye twitching, mechadendrites unfurling like adamantium wings feathered in drills, thick claws, and data-spikes. The technicians reacted 1.6% slower than projected – another valuable data point – as they shrank before him. 

‘Who speaks?! Who dares?!’ He bellowed both in Gothic and in Binharic, furious gaze sweeping the half-dozen men cowering before him. Data flooded his systems – heart rates, pupil dilation, sweat secretion – enough to make him flinch, to cringe at just how human and unfitting this all was. How disordered. Omnissiah fend. He accessed his audio logs as he should have first, scrolled the datafeed to find the perpetrator and… hmm. This was…. hmmm. Kanam’s eye twitched. He had never been able to process shame, and his predecessor had wielded it as a weapon. The deep-creeping doubt returned… 

Faith was the edifice; faith was the bastion. Wordlessly, he adjusted his worker’s schedules. They’d forget all about it after filling their bellies, Kanam was sure. He knew how absentminded he could be after a bionutritional canister, especially so with the richer sustenance of his new rank. Technicians peeled themselves from the floor and walls at the sound of the shrill mealtime alarm. ‘Go.’

Another message alert pinged and he dismissed it without opening it. Kanam could not abide the Governor-General, nor his abuse of the ‘urgent’ tag, and had toyed with the idea of auto-routing all communications from his officer to a slag-folder before the idea of improper filing had too-greatly discomforted him. He shivered. Faith was the fire. Unopened and unregarded, the messages deposited appropriately in External-Tertiary-2 where they could do no harm, alongside the correspondence from the Provost-Marshall.

Kanam found himself alongside the production line. He took walks here often seeking comfort, buttressed by holy industry. His outstretched fingers brushed against the nearest servitor. She had had a name once, a room in a nearby hab-block, a list of interests and habits outside her workstation. Wasteful. Kanam had made her Line-Beta-M3, manually correcting a congenital muscular defect with repurposed servos and steel wire that would ensure years of additional service. Perfect. 

He brushed against the edges of her ocular implant and his eyes narrowed. Red and raw around the edge, unsightly swelling and a soft, pungent odour. Far from perfect. He could never get the oculars quite right. The urge to scratch at his own was almost overwhelming. It had been foolish to think his great work was done, he chided himself, edifice built must be maintained. He added a work ticket to the technician’s log and made a note to review his production calculations once they had an estimate on how long the repair action would take. Negligible, surely, but the thought did little to soften his disquiet. It was almost as if the others were watching him from the corners of their eyes, aware of his failure. Rimwards on the next ship, fool!

But it was more. Kanam ignored another message ping as he crossed the floor towards the shielded overseer vestibule. Some of them were staring. Glaring. That… shouldn’t be. Overseer Oton grunted as he was pushed aside and Kanam opened the section records. All from the last work-batch. Forty faulty units? That couldn’t be. Had Line-Beta-M3 flinched when he touched her?

The calculations had been hasty, he could admit that. They’d had to learn on the job. But they had learned, had reduced mortality by 89% from the first batch. He turned, focused on the nearest servitor. Tarin. Wide-eyed, a single tear rolled down its cheek. Oh… oh no. This couldn’t go in his report. His eye was burning.

Suddenly the emergency alarm blared. Kanam spun back only to collide with Oton, who had retaken his workstation. ‘Artificer-‘

‘MAGOS!’ Kanam screeched.

The man shrunk. ‘M-magos, A-Arbites!’

Things slowed down, dampened. Oton clattered to the floor as Kanam supplanted him, data-spike entering the port and turning his world to holy code. They were at the gates. A dozen, black-armoured and armed with heavy shotguns, bolters, and a grenade launcher. Local provosts were unloading from vehicles behind them. Perhaps the messages had been urgent. No matter. Kanam allowed himself a smile as he activated the servitors embedded in the compound wall. His facility did not only make production models. 

Predestination. Faith. Autofire, precisely targeted. Perhaps some of them would even be recoverable. He added it to the work log. Kanam knew that adjustments would have to be made, but as he detached his data-spike, his faith in his actions returned. 

‘Artificer Kanam-2-1!’

The moment spoiled. He turned to see Overseer Oton had gathered the technicians, arms full of power tools from Rear-Storage-1. Had they misunderstood the order? 




About the Author

UK-based writer L. James Elliott is a longtime Warhammer 40k fan and general fantasy/sci-fi nerd, who has recently become an amateur 40k author. His work blends irreverent humour into the darkness of the far-future and attempts to bring a fresh voice to the scene.