Tap tap tap went the mind shackle as Gal-8Θ worked. It sat just at the edge of her consciousness, observing her thoughts with the dispassionate air of an adept watching a servitor drive rivets. If it sensed anything amiss, any proscribed idea or prohibited emotion, it would report them off to Phyreht and correct the mistake. Painfully.
Not that it would find one. Gal-8Θ had tricked the simpleminded construct into monitoring a bland simulacrum of her surface thoughts running on her cranial augmentics more than a week ago. A sacrifice of cognitive power for sure, but one she was willing to make. The rest of her xenos jailor’s constructs might notice if she attempted an escape, but she had freedom within her quarters and mind.
That relative peace came to an end when the herald construct phased through the wall. It hovered intangible and out of sync with reality like a wraith for a moment before it solidified, reared up on its tail like some great serpent, and let out a series of piercing hoots and shrieks. The construct froze, its glittering eye clusters fixated on the tech-priest. Phyreht was coming. Gal-8Θ stopped her work and hurried to prepare for her master’s arrival.
The Necron swept into the laboratory on the tooth-aching hum of antigravity ill-tuned for human comfort, stalking past crystal vats of meat and stolen data vaults until it loomed over the tech-priest, its single unblinking eye boring into her. Gal-8Θ was tall- Aprec Secundus’s low gravity produced lanky stock- but Phyreht the Voidsmith still dwarfed her by three heads, the nightmare in metal made only taller by the esoteric energies that bore it aloft. She stood, repressing her meatbrain’s desperate urge to curl into a corner and ignoring the mind shackle’s desperate tapping as it realised it had been tricked.
‘[You are hiding things from me again. Explain yourself.]’ The Necron spoke in the rhythmic datachants that passed for its language, translated a moment later into poorly encrypted binharic by its construct. Gal-8Θ did not know if it knew that she had begun to learn its language months ago, or if it even cared.
‘[I am growing bored of acting as your farmer.]’ Gal-8Θ canted back. She nodded to the vast array of cloning vats behind them. Her stump ached from where Phyreht had cut away her hand for tampering with the first mind shackle. A necessary sacrifice to understand how the things worked. ‘[Your constructs could easily run this laboratory. It does not challenge me.]’
‘[It is the task I took you for.]’ The cryptek replied. It summoned its staff and leaned down to look into the tech-priest’s face. ‘[It is the task you will complete, or you will be terminated.]’
‘[The task you enslaved me for was finding a way to treat your illness. I am not treating it by making food for you to attempt to eat.]’ She appended additional disapproval runes to the word. ‘[I am simply enabling its symptoms.]’
Phyreht’s eye shifted from a cool green to a tepid, cloudy yellow. The impossibly long fingers of its hand reached for her, and the bladed head of its staff sang with otherworldly power. ‘[If you will not serve-]’
‘[I will serve!]’ Gal-8Θ said. She stepped out of the way to reveal the single cloning vat she’d dragged to her personal work area. In it hung an organ, dull and silver and studded with crudely grafted augmentics. She switched from binharic to a halting rendition of the xeno’s own language. ‘I can serve you better!’
The Necron froze and stared, transfixed, at the meat. Its eye pulsed white, yellow white. ‘[What is it? New food?]’
‘[It is a stomach- an organ that will allow you to draw some energy from matter, similar to organic digestion.]’ Gal-8Θ explained. She dismissed a memory-djinn attempting to call up associated experiences. She had no wish to relive the time the xenos had invited her to ‘dinner’. The charnel stench of burning meat, the juices dripping from Phyreht’s thorax, the manic glint in its ocular. ‘[If installed, you could eat and gain sustenance. You would be more whole.]’
‘[You could do this?]’
‘[With knowledge. This is a prototype, the first partial success I’ve made in bonding necrodermis to organics. I would make something superior, seamlessly compatible with you. In time I could grow something even greater than that].’
‘[Define greater.]’ Phyreht’s eye snapped back to green. It dismissed its staff. ‘[Show me your plans].’
When Phyreht departed the tech-priest’s laboratory, it took the mind-shackle with it. Within an hour, the herald construct returned bearing a case of hard light scrolls. Gal-8Θ rattled out a sigh of relief. Whatever hunger ailed the Necron carried enough of a stigma that it was beginning to grow desperate, beginning to truly listen to ideas that had previously fallen on deaf ears.
She felt her ribs through her thin robe, well defined from weeks of rationing food and hiding biomass for the cloning vat, and winced when her good hand touched the sore wounds where she had ripped out her own augmetics for parts. Sacrifices she had made to build her gambit. So many sacrifices. Aprec Secundus would forevermore be a distant forge that hated her. Ther-0981 and their squad dead and leaking oil and blood onto the snow as she stepped through bodies to retrieve the datacash for herself. All dear, all painful, all necessary. The quest for knowledge demanded it. She unrolled the scrolls, called her translation-djinn, and began to read.
About the Author
Markus Grey is a small time hobbyist from Upstate New York. A fan of all things strange and cybernetic he is most interested in the Adeptus Mechanicus and the stories told about them. He writes as a way of destressing and telling stories for the models he builds.