‘Another one Aput?’ Khanephet asked the small gold-plated scarab hovering before him. By way of an answer, the little canoptek beamed him the expected message notifying him of yet another malfunctioning plasma battery.
Khanephet put his current project in stasis and rose from his workbench, summoning his staff to his hand with a flick of the wrist.
‘Lead the way little one,’ he said to Aput with a note of weariness. A moment later and they both disappeared in a flash of green light.
Plasmamancer Khanephet had been the first Necron awakened by the tomb world’s master program at the end of The Great Sleep. That had been six hundred and twenty-one years ago.
The reason for his awakening had been revealed seconds after he completed a self-diagnostic – to see just how badly The Great Sleep had damaged his systems and memories – and stepped out of his stasis tomb. Aput, carapace shining in the green light of the tomb, was waiting for him, its ocular flashing with a message. With his permission, the scarab had delivered its message directly to his visual field. It appeared to him as a string of glowing glyphs, heavy with signifiers of urgency and importance.
‘Plasma battery 18-X-4RTY experiencing critical errors,’ the message read. ‘Task beyond the capability of canoptek repair, Plasmamancer assistance required.’
The diagnostic summary appended to the message showed him the extent of the problem. It was severe, and so Khanephet wasted no time leaving to fix it. He teleported to the battery location in a flash of green light and found Aput waiting for him when he arrived. It hovered there, ready to watch him at work.
Fixing the batteries had been a simple matter to one of Khanephet’s skills, but that did not make it a small issue. The battery’s operating program had been riddled with a cascade of interlinked errors that took several minutes to understand. When the whole process was done, Khanephet saw the scarab blinked away in a flash of green light. He had no idea where it had gone, and he didn’t particularly care. With a shrug of his metal shoulders and a thought, he left the batteries and teleported to his laboratories in the lowest levels of the tomb world.
Before The Great Sleep, this had been his sanctuary, a vast room of workbenches for projects, great and small. They sat there still, stored under stasis fields or kept outside of time in pocket dimensions. Khanephet chose a bench at random and resumed the project he’d left there.
After three weeks of uninterrupted work, the golden scarab again materialised before him, floating above his workbench. He let it wait there while he set his tools down, then looked up and allowed it to deliver its message.
‘Plasma battery 47-Y-T12C experiencing critical errors,’ the message read. ‘Task beyond the capability of canoptek repair, Plasmamancer assistance required.’
That had been the second malfunctioning battery. At the time, Khanephet had lept to fix it with eagerness and returned to his lab in under ten minutes. The scarab was nowhere to be found. With a shrug, he resumed his project.
The scarab appeared again five days later and then two weeks after that. Each irregular arrival brought news of another battery that needed his attention. Since his awakening, he had fixed 4,617 of them.
Khanephet and Aput materialised on the maintenance walkway that ran between the cells of the plasma battery. This was a particularly large one where endless rows of plasma storage cells disappeared into darkness in all directions. Khanephet took careful note of the irregular pulsing glow of the batteries and the fierce arcs of lighting that leapt through the air around them.
‘Dead gods, these are in a truly dire state,’ he said to the empty air before setting to work.
Staff in hand, he accessed a nearby control pylon and surveyed the battery’s control system and operational records. An enormous sea of data stretched out before his mind’s eye. Years, centuries, millennia worth of data roiled and swelled like an angry sea, ready to overwhelm him if he was not careful. Khanephet focused his thoughts and began to extract the little strings of red glyphs that floated among the data ocean. He used this digital flotsam to define the exact nature of the problem and devise a solution. Like many of the others, this battery was in severe error cascade but still well within his capability to fix it.
With his free hand and light, quick thoughts, he began to weave a mending program into being. The process took many minutes, during which the lighting arcs from the batteries increased in both frequency and fury. When the program was ready, he made sure to check and double-check his work, lest it introduce even more errors into the system. Soon it was ready to be released.
‘Calm thyself,’ he said softly and released the mending program with a wave of his hand.
Like dye poured into a pool, the program spread out from its insertion point. It diffused through the control system, fixing errors, correcting damage, and restoring proper function to the battery. In less than a minute the lighting arcs had ceased, and the cells hummed with a steady glow as if nothing had ever been amiss.
Khanephet turned to Aput, ‘Could the master program maybe rouse other plasmamancers?’ he asked it. ‘I cannot keep this tomb world functioning alone forever.’
In response, the scarab beamed a message to him. Khanephet didn’t bother to read it. He knew what it said.
With a long sigh, he pulled the location data from the message and initiated a teleportation sequence to yet another battery.
‘Lead the way little one,’ he said to Aput before they both vanished in a flash of green light.
About the Author
Kyle has been a fan of the Warhammer 40k setting for about 25 years and recently got back into writing fiction for this and other worlds. He currently lives in Colorado with his wife, four cats, four chickens, and numerous plants. His favourite army is the Asuryani of Saim Hann.