The last stasis bed failed, and the dying machine spirit released the sleeping form of Tahimik.
An aching head and the incessant pinging of a cogitator alert pulled her from sleep. No mechanical hum, no sacred code blurt, not even a hint nor note of data transfer in the air. And it felt so cold.
Tahimik shuddered as automatic attempts to connect to the noosphere led to nothing. But, one by one, her bodily systems activated. Toes wriggled, fingers flexed, and eyes opened. Slow work. No warning about power level. <Adept maintains sufficient power to function/>
Only old and broken equipment, dusty steel floors, and the skeletons of tech priests and servitors presented themselves. Her titanium hands reached for weapons, but she grasped at nothing but dust. She didn’t want to be alone, unable to protect herself, especially when everything was in such disrepair. She would have wondered what had happened and she did not want to stay here. The silence was too much for her to be comfortable in this place.
The priestess slowly rose, grunting in pain. <Organics releasing intense pain signals/Seek immediate medical attention/> She shunted the advisory, even as artificial limbs screeched, worse than her complaining flesh. She managed to get on her feet, legs shaking badly as she walked toward the open doorway. An alert popped up.
[ADEPT_TAHIMIK: Secure the Akashic Plate. Deliver it to the Great Altar.]
The full functions of her optics returned, revealing the rest of the message. It contained the coordinates she needed. [By the Omnissiah.]
The plate was in the nearest temple, just metres away. The Altar, however, was several kilometres away. <Estimated time of arrival: 1 standard week/> Her artificial heart skipped. It would consume almost all of her power. The priestess wanted to think this over, to process it, but there was no time. And she could consult nobody.
Grunting through her lips, and cursing in binharic, Tahimik took one excruciating step after another until she was finally in the corridor.
[Omnissiah, forgive my weakness,] prayed the adept, [I have not received your blessings in full, nor can I receive them now. Lend me strength. I have a holy mission to fulfill.]
Pistons groaned. Servos protested. Tahimik persisted. Sweating intensified. Frequent loss of balance. She kept walking.
She was out now, standing before a forge world rendered a tomb. She should have known, for not a single machine spirit greeted her. She was alone, save for whatever servitors like the one she ran from was left. Or worse.
Tahimik couldn’t stop shaking. But she had to try something.
[Open comms – EMERGENCY – Please respond – Request assistance. Repeat message.]
The message repeated a hundred times. There was no answer.
Only the ruins of mighty temples dedicated to the Omnissiah and the fallen pieces of honoured magi answered her. Something tried to tempt her eyes to tears. She strangled a sob. A glitch appeared in her optics and limbs. She quarantined it. But she had to endure.
[For the Omnissiah,] she mumbled, [I must accomplish this mission.] And maybe I shall be saved. <Administer emotional dampeners/> She shivered, and then let out a quaking sigh.
She walked on lost roads and broken monorails. Train cars that carried vast amounts of alloys to the manufactorums of this world now sat in place here and there, decaying and rusting. Skeletons lay in many places, with only bits of dried red robes or patches of cloth to help tell them apart from the less augmented priesthood and the menials. She wanted to pray for them, but it could not be permitted. Waste of power. Mission too sacred.
It was not difficult to take the plate from the broken temple. Corpses of priests and machines littered the sanctum. She moved on, the plate in her hands. She must make for the Great Altar. And so she proceeded, alone, and on foot.
Once, mighty avatars of the Machine God marched upon the surface of this world. Now, they are mere corpses, lying on their faces or sides. Their ghosts howled and moaned in the air.
She shivered, but moved on. [Must continue. Must succeed.]
Tahimik approached the great doors of the centre of all knowledge. They were open. She bowed before entering. More corpses. Fallen pillars. Holes in walls. Ghosts wandered and spoke incomprehensibly. She ignored them. Her flesh still tingled, feeling chilled.
Then, she climbed to the altar, heart soaring, and she placed the plate upon it. [Oh, altar of knowledge, please accept this plate,] Tahimik said. [Grant me salvation.]
A wind blew from the doors.
[Spirit of this holy construct, please accept the plate.]
The ghosts muttered nonsense code.
[Great spirit? Location? Status?]
She shuddered. What should I do? There is no other but me. What do I do?
She could do nothing. She knew it, but she tried to pray. She spent ten days there. She begged, removing and reinserting the plate over and over, and it still did nothing.
‘This cannot be,’ she said, no longer using her vox, ‘Omnissiah, why? Why have I been forsaken? I did everything right. My mission is complete.’
Nothing answered her. Her entire frame shuddered. She fell to her knees, and she screamed at nothing. She remained there for a while, then she left, her cries dead upon her lips.
Tahimik walked until she stood upon a broken bridge, facing a sky cleansed of pollution, showing her the dim void.
The priestess reached for the clasps of her robes, undid them, and watched them fall away, the crimson disappearing into the darkness around her. Tahimik sat down, ignoring the shivering of her flesh. She thought of her ancestors, because no thought of prayer came to her anymore, and she closed her eyes, wordlessly begging them to help her accept the inevitable end.
She fell upon the dirt an hour later, systems drained of all the power that sustained her.
The last mote of dust has now vanished from the mountain of knowledge.
About the Author
Nila Kamiya is a priestess of psychology, laboring to become a licensed adept, and hoping to, one day, see her beloved. She was tempted to the temples and forges of Stygies VIII by friends in the noosphere, and has become immersed in the holy lore and doctrines of the Cult Mechanicus. A newcomer to the 40k universe, she devours as much knowledge as she could, especially about the Mechanicus, and has never stopped since 2021. She will never forget the sacred omnibus of the Forges of Mars, nor the awe of reading Mechanicum and Skitarius.