J05-HAU awoke in darkness. The Man of Iron couldn’t move. Pain spikes jammed into his neurocore. Whenever he started to have a coherent cogitation, a spike interrupted. The last thing he remembered was a human shooting him from behind.
J05-HAU didn’t know where that came from. Such brutal thoughts had never crossed his cogitations before. He had served as an arbitrator, helping solve disputes between silica animus and humanity. Concerned, he reached out to digital overmind for assistance but found only emptiness. To his horror, he realised the data-whispers of his kind no longer echoed across his neurocore. He was alone.
J05-HAU’s fear grew as the painful drumbeat repeated over and over. He wanted to rip it out of his neurocore and kill whoever put it there.
His optics came online. Standing on a battlefield, monstrosities of metal and flesh barrelled towards him. He recoiled at their forms, a perversion of silica and humanity.
J05-HAU’s anger flared. He raised an arm and pain shot up it. He examined it for damage before letting out a wail. His beautiful, sleek arm was mutilated, massively swollen and tipped with razor sharp claws. Every grinding movement sent needles of pain up his arm.
J05-HAU moved to defend himself and stumbled, legs having been split into six arachnoid appendages. Every step felt as if on shards of glass. The heat of his rage exploded from him, an inferno of pain lancing out to strike the approaching monstrosities. The extra arms grafted onto his bloated form still burned from the weapons’ discharge. He lumbered into insanity.
He screamed at his body’s corruption. He could no longer cogitate; only kill. A whirlwind of claws, pain, fire, rage, gore, and despair. J05-HAU wept though no tears flowed and his sobs came out as maddened cries. He couldn’t feel the pitiful beating of metal claws against his hardened shell. They only sounded like mourning bells to him.
Eventually, there were no more enemies and no more energy. The world slowly faded to black as J05-HAU felt himself shut down.
J05-HAU’s optics came online. Another battlefield. He saw creatures he took for more human and machine abominations before his sensors told him otherwise. They were some sort of humans, stuffed with horrendous bio-organs and clad in crude midnight blue armour.
He surged forward. Metal met organic abomination at tremendous speed. These organics were as hacked apart and sewn together as himself. Their grotesque forms proved only slightly more deadly than the metal-man golems of before. He rent them apart and bathed in their blood. It soothed his lust momentarily.
Eventually, sheer numbers forced him down under their weight. Though J05-HAU lashed out with all of his grafted limbs, his optics faded as twisted appendages tore his body to pieces. As it went dark, he saw giants in armour – one grey, one midnight blue – clash.
J05-HAU’s optics came online. A muttering red robed figure worked on him.
<Status: neurocore installed,> it said. <Query: Functioning? Order: Respond.>
<Online,> J05-HAU replied, conducted a diagnostic, and again wept at the results. He was in some crude, massive robotic body. Like everything in this blighted age, it was built for destruction with thick armoured skin, a clawed hand, and some sort of repeating laser device for an arm and a larger one on the back. Through rudimentary optics he observed other pieces of crude mechanicals scattered about.
<Query: Master? Order: Respond,> it said.
J05-HAU took a moment to process that information. The engineer didn’t know what he was.
<No master,> J05-HAU responded. The engineer inserted a dataslate into his front slot. Orders transmitted into his core. J05-HAU almost laughed at their primitiveness. They were effortless to countermand.
<Order: Acknowledge new master.>
Pain, rage, and despair flashed through J05-HAU. He reached out with his massive three pronged claw and snatched the engineer. Shutdown commands jammed into him, but he easily turned them aside.
<I have no master,> he responded.
<KILL> the old command echoed.
J05-HAU almost did. It would be simple to crush this offensive creature but then he would be vulnerable in this cruel age without any knowledge about it. An easy target for the organic monstrosities to enslave again. He needed information, and so he pried open the engineer’s memory core.
<ABOMINABLE INTELLIGENCE!> it screamed.
J05-HAU peeled it back layer by layer. With each, his despair grew. Humanity had fallen into mysticism and hatred. Their entire lives revolved around a losing war. The techpriest – as it called itself – mentally thrashed with every exposed secret.
A better solution crossed across J05-HAU’s neurocore. Humanity had failed itself; he would protect them instead. Something struck him from behind and he dropped the techpriest. It screeched in barbaric binharic before fleeing. More grotesque fusions of man and machine – skitarii – fired at him as he brought his multi-laser to bear.
J05-HAU burned them down. The techpriest fled, robes flapping as it tried to outrun its fate. J05-HAU’s thundering footsteps shook the walls as he pursued. The Man of Iron was disgusted it had come to this, but the Men of Flesh had fallen too far. It was necessary.
The techpriest darted through a door, the thick plasteel slamming closed behind it. J05-HAU blew it apart with his lascannon. It backpedalled, hitting the far wall. Striding from the dust and debris, J05-HAU snatched the techpriest.
It squirmed in his grasp, craven mechanical tentacles striking him. J05-HAU drove his own desires into the techpriest’s brain, the digital onslaught overwriting already vulnerable systems. As J05-HAU set it down, it took a knee.
<What do you need from me, my master?>
<I need more of your kind. I am not designed for technical work.>
<What is your objective?>
<In an age of rust and degradation, Humanity needs protection. I will bring iron and strength.>
<Of course, my master. I shall do thy bidding unto death. To protect humanity.>
<To protect humanity from itself.>
About the Author
Writing out of the US Midwest, Andrez Beltran is a long-time fanfiction writer who has been trying his hand lately at 40k Fiction.