The Bureau of Administrative & Bureaucratic Administration

5/5 (1)

The sound of scratching on paper, the dull hiss of burning candle wick, and the stale breath of hundreds of adepts working away in the darkness filled the air within the tertiary infocrypt of the ninth vault level of the Terran data tomb.

Administratio uel mortem aeternum.

Down the twenty-third aisle, seated in row eighty-eight, the foraging of one scribe adept, Julian Moolman, paused for a moment. Something had caused him to falter. The young man’s heart quickened.

The report he was presently processing posed a problem, an inquisitor’s request for troops and reinforcements to a world under siege. It was the kind of request the scribe adepts received thousands of times a day.

He would normally pass this to Adept Crystellum, fourteenth aisle, row twenty-seven, to revise, amend, finalise and file. But this planet mentioned on page two hundred and two, beset by xenos forces, was Moolman’s home world, from where he was plucked, a frontier world named Herisor. And it was the only memory that brought him any comfort working for the Administratum.

Moolman rose to his feet, teetering like an animal on a high branch. He would take the request to his superior, a prefect named Gabriele Leavigne. She could accelerate and escalate the request, save his home.

Hope swelled in his chest like a new-born star.

He swayed through the row of seated adepts. None paid him any heed. Down a darkened corridor, eighteen steps, and then another, fifteen steps, he passed Imperial guards and other scroll-toting adepts.

At a wide desk, before a decorated iron door frame, sat a broad woman in a too-tight uniform. The badge on her lapel winked in the candlelight about her.

Moolman approached.

‘Prefect Leavigne. If I may escalate my data report, please?’

She raised her gaze from the pages running rampant on her desk, ‘You have the requisite paperwork?’

Moolman hesitated.

‘For the curator to expedite any file,’ she explained, ‘the required documentation should be forthcoming.’

‘I understand,’ Julian muttered, ‘but this is a… fragile case, and…’

‘My boy, there are hundreds of fragile cases. And there is outweighing protocol. I cannot have you simply walk through this open door as if it were an open door. Come back when you hav-‘

‘If I could just speak with the curator…’

The prefect stood up, and Moolman realised that she was easily a head taller than him, ‘If you could just ‘speak’ with the curator?’

In response Moolman simply strode through the nearby doorway with a conviction his frail body was unaccustomed to.

Stumbling into the cluttered office of the curator of the historical revision unit, Julian Moolman proffered his concerns. His eyes darting from the logic engine in the corner to the central, gargantuan desk.

Leavigne followed, proffering mumbled objection to the air in general.

The historical curator, Pontius Dlaminski, was identifiable for the moment purely by the white tufts of hair visible above the pillars of papers.

The sound of a scraped chair and boots hitting the floor indicated that the man had gotten up.

A short, dark-skinned man rounded the corner of his desk to face Moolman. The young scribe briefly wondered how the tiny man could read the tome on the lectern nearby, or whether the cogitator workstation near the doorway was still operational.

‘Does your report,’ said the curator in a voice uncharacteristically baritone for his stature, ‘calculate the numbers needed to support this battle you speak of at Herisor?’

‘It does, sir,’ Moolman replied. ‘We can utilise an Imperial tithe recently processed for that sector.’

‘Honourable curator, that is imperfect information,’ Leavigne interjected, ‘due to the missing documentation three-bee of escalation protocol seven.’

‘Scribe,’ curator Dlaminski plopped his tiny hands behind his back, ‘does your report contain form three-bee of escalation protocol seven?’

‘Sir,’ Moolman pleaded, ‘we cannot let this world be destroyed. It is a rich world, promethium… and…’

‘Destroyed?’ Leavigne said, ‘Countless worlds are destroyed under the gaze of innumerable stars. The emperor decides-‘

‘What threatens your home-world then?’ said Dlaminksi.

Moolman’s heart careened into his ribcage.

‘Well,’ cut Leavigne, ‘I bet you don’t know what it is.’ 

‘Yes I do.’ Moolman stammered.

‘What?’, Dlaminski continued.

Administratio uel mortem aeternum.

‘Hive fleet Dagon’, said Moolman.

‘He knew…’

Dlaminski turned to her, ‘You didn’t expect that, did you?’.

‘I very well didn’t.’

‘My boy,’ Dlaminski trotted over to Moolman, ‘I’ll do you a favour. Not my usual enterprise, I can assure you.’

‘You should be very assured,’ Leavigne added.

‘I feel assured’, repeated Moolman.

‘Bring me the missing forms and we’ll process your query,’ the old man smiled. ‘How about that?’

Moolman’s relief trickled down to his fingers. He nodded fiercely.

‘Prefect Leavigne,’ Dlaminski raised a hand, ‘If you could bring me the report as soon as it is compiled. I can have a word with the ordinates in the Departmento Munitorum’.

In response, the prefect ushered Moolman out through the iron door frame. The adept dashed down the corridor, twelve long steps, and down the other, fourteen strides. Shuffling down the twenty-third aisle, in row eighty-eight, he searched through his designated drawers for the right forms.

With a fury of focus he had not felt in years, Moolman ticked every box and scribbled down every required detail.

As he stood to assemble his notes, a passing scribe lowered a register atop the forms that had become his homeworld’s salvation.

The register was a new record of Astra Militarum battle tallies. Julian Moolman thumbed it open and flicked to the summary table.

He traced along the list, down to H.

It might have well been written in blood, the name Herisor with a line drawn through it.

He blinked. Processing the information.

The candlelight was cold around him now, like stars flickering from a galaxy away. The sound of scratching on paper was painful to his ears. And the shadows of the data tomb deepened.

Administratio uel mortem aeternum.

Julian took his seat. The administration needed administering.

About the Author

Tristan is a game designer from South Africa, living in the UK. Previously an actor, writer and academic, he enjoys a regular bout of tabletop roleplaying as well as fielding his Necron army whenever possible.