The Numbers

3/5 (1)

—Extract from a diary found in Hive records stack Garitus Potentus III. Found by Adeptus Arbites investigation squad Thalidum Quintus. Diary from missing Administratum clerk Castrius Palermu. Diary reads—

I am good at my job. Numbers are my want and call in life. Single, never married, never interested in the vagrancies of the flesh — or, at least, never had the desire to be as such. Guess that is why I have had issues making friends, both as a child and as an adult.

Friends betray you. Ridicule you. They have agency with other ideals that can lead to a path of pain and sorrow. Given how painful this Imperium can be outside of the Administratum’s walls, I have had no desire to live a life among the stars.

I guess that explains my current posting — Administratum clerk Tertius numericus: a third counter of data.

Data always finds its way to the stacks, for that is where I currently reside, as I write my story on this paper scroll. There must be a log of the events that occurred here. 

Data, whatever it may be, once received and verified — the first two steps of numerical validation — is sent to the stacks for storage. A role most hate due to the dead-end nature. A career path with no future prospects. I am all alone with the files, tablets, and scrolls. All numerical masterpieces in clerical warfare. I love my job.

There are a few rules: everything must be catalogued. Errors, no matter how small, must be reported and do not linger too greatly on a single report. Cardinal rules: to be a small cog in the grand machine — my kind of bliss. 

That is, until three days ago. Looking through my two millionth, four hundredth and sixth report, I found an error.

It could have been a numerical slight or a data corruption fragment, but the curious thing was… I had seen it before.

Not just seen something similar, but almost exact to the decimal. A world lost to the xenos. The number killed an exact replica from another place across the galaxy. Same world type, same death count. Unknown reasons for loss. 

Maybe I am going senile in my long service, but I cannot shake the feeling this has happened before. If not to me, then to my predecessor.

Through the sound of landing dataslates and scrollwork from the ducts surrounding my crib, I feel I can hear vices. I struggle to sleep, knowing about this sanity-testing predicament.

I found my predecessor’s logs, all eighty-seven volumes, and began the search. It did not take long, but I have already failed one cardinal rule. The work builds up.

I find my fears to be manifest. Seven instances of the exact same reaping. What caused this? His words tell of his plight, and the response to his reporting: ‘Do not ask again if you know what is good for you,’ he wrote in hasty scrawl, the response to his missive read. 

Should I make the same mistake? Who can I confide in? The God-Emperor? My superior? The voice I hear in the dark? 

It has begun speaking to me. No, I will not. I must complete the work. It needs completing. 

It is not folly; it is essential for the Imperium. No, I refuse to listen to your lies. There is no way this has been ordained. He on Terra could not…

What? No, they are lies, I tell you. Why would you say such things? He loves all of us, and the roles we play are just as important. 

Why should I help you? You, with your disembodied voice and honeyed words. I have a job to do.

—Insane letterings found scrawled along base of report. Alien in nature, unidentifiable. Data is of similar language found on REDACTED among ruins of REDACTED worlds. Second entry reads

I understand now. The numbers read true. These losses are all part of a greater design. My predecessor was not mad. It was that they were simply beyond human imagination. They speak of a cataclysm millennium in the making, beyond our lifetimes, or that of the Imperium. Humans, xenos, all are energy to be used in the Great Experiment. They wish to become like us again. 

Betrayed long before we even existed as a species, they wish to become whole once more. With my eidetic memory, they know I carry the clues to their prize. I am not wanted here. We are not tools of use. We are fodder; I see that now. I do not need my sight to see that. They have proven that fact — regardless of how it agonised to be devoid of that sense. Somehow, I can still write my thoughts, before it is my time to leave.

You see, they accept they need help. He — if he had a gender — needs my help. They found worlds akin to their home from long ago. The life force, unsustainable for what they needed it for.

They need more. More fuel for their experiments. I am key to finding them. To help find their lost brothers and sisters buried deep below. 

I guess I did need a purpose. I may not have friends of my own race, but he assures me that with his atavindicator and my memory, we can find others to help their cause. 

I am ready now. To my superiors, I say this: the reports were true. This has happened before and will continue to do so. When you see the numbers read true, know it is our work. We will strive to rebuild what was lost, and although I am sure I will die trying, I will give them my best. They appreciate my work, and I know you would, too. 

The portal out of this place is open now. I will never see you again. Farewell, and remember, numbers never lie, and data is immortal, like my benefactor. Our work will live on in the data.

About the Author

Matthew is a long-term fan of all things grimdark. He is a keen modeller, writer, narrative creator and have a vivid imagination. he currently resides in Woodville, Derbyshire with his wife, daughter and two dogs. 

He enjoys exploring the nuances of humanity, and lack thereof in the 41st millennium, and how the human condition is tried, and fails, within extreme situations. Tales of daring do, hoping against hope and meeting the countless denizens of the enemy within and without keep me entertained, as he hopes his writing keeps others entertained.