FICTION: Expeditionary Force

This is the second in an intermittent series of fiction that I have written.

A few years back, prior to any Mechanicus models or codices were released, a friend of mine Lantz created a homebrew Mechanicus codex and a set of converted models. It was quite striking, and the points and abilities were well thought out. Very shortly afterwards,

there was an announcement regarding the official release of the Mechanicus and Skitarii codices. Lantz very graciously sunsetted his rules. I had written two pieces of fluff for that book. He wanted to portray brief conflicts between the Mechanicus and various factions. I was lucky enough to get Chaos and Tyranids.

What follows is my one page story about an young enginseer on an expedition.

The landing craft bucked and dipped as it hit the outermost reaches of the planet’s atmosphere. This was the only part of these recovery efforts that Enginseer Zyra found uncomfortable. She was not so augmented that she did not feel it “beneath” her to have to endure reentry riding in the cargo bay with the salvage vehicles and bivouac pods. The tech adepts were somewhere much deeper in the massive converted freight loader, each one sequestered in small monastic quarters and silently communing with the Omnissaiah amidst the strong vapors of incense, ozone and fuel oil. She, however, was relegated to the bay, nursing and watching over the massive augers and monstrous shovels that would labor to recover both the artifacts and the enormous investment of this venture.

Of course, there were other monsters on board. Zyra had seen Astartes before, but only from afar – once, as a child, she attended a victory parade after the Blood Ravens had ousted the scouting leg of an Eldar raiding party on one of her homeworld’s hundreds of nameless moons. Not long after, she had entered the Mechanicum as a novitiate and learned about their genetic implants and unassailable character, but at the time, looking up at row after row of impossibly tall, scarlet armor, they were terrifying.

They were no less impressive now. There were only six of them suiting up in their segregated quarters adjacent to the loading bay, but they seem to fill up every inch of the space, crowding out even sound and light. She was curious as to why each of the six had the same black and silver armor but each of their right shoulders bore a different insignia. She recognized the inverse Omega of the Ultramarines and the black on yellow hand of the Imperial Fists, but she had never seen or even heard of the icons on the other four. But she very clearly recognized the symbol on the other epaulet, and it brought a chill to her unaugmented spine. She knew the cold lines that made up the Inquisitorial signet, and it was significant enough to her to discourage further internal inquiry. Whatever the orders that these “Inquisition Marines” were following, Zyra knew that they involved no compassion or mercy.

Within seconds of the bone-jarring landing, the massive loading doors opened with a hiss onto a dusty grey moonscape. The distant horizon was crowned by massive storm clouds and dozens of tornadoes. As the machines lumbered out of the lander, the Astartes pushed past Zyra and disappeared, running at a startling pace, into the dust. She climbed the ladder to the cockpit on top of the largest auger as it rumbled by. The automated discovery beacon that brought them here was close, but the slow pace of the machines would find them at their destination in 4 hours. The vibrations from the engines quickly sent Zyra into a trance-like reverie.

The proximity alarm brought her back to alertness as the auger ground to a halt. There was a large crater in their path that was not on their survey data. She was about to cross reference this anomaly and alert the tech adepts when she saw the glint of onyx peppering the uniform grey of the landscape. She grabbed an auspex and climbed down off of the vehicle. The dust in the air prevented the auspex from analyzing the deposits. She slid down, with some effort, the side of the steep wall of the crater, noting the warmth of the surface. As she approached the first black shape, her breath caught as she realized what it was. Her auspex, immediately forgotten, began immediately reporting the composition of materials: plasteel, ceramite, metal, hydraulic fluid, and biological – bone, muscle, skin, blood. She stared at the severed arm, still gripping a chainsword, and in her panic, she noted that the shoulder insignia, a yellow teardrop on a red field, was one she didn’t recognize. Her augmetic eye quickly assessed that all six marines were here, albeit in many pieces. She was standing, she realized, in a blast crater. What could have-

The auger exploded in a shower of light and the reek of promethium, flaming debris raining down around Zyra. But she couldn’t flinch or turn to see the slagged auger; she had spotted the attacker. The unmistakable square nose of a warhound titan peered over the far edge of the crater, crouched like a feral beast. It’s plasma cannon was still glowing and the Vulcan megabolter’s chambers were skittishly spinning and clicking, its machine spirit itching to fight. But something was not right about this titan’s profile. The hard angles and straight lines of its profile were softened by some sort of biological attachments, and there were not indicators of Legio affiliation.

The scrapcode that filled her head drove Zyra to her knees and illuminated her confusion. She realized why the forward expedition team stopped transmitting after activating the beacon. She understood why the tech adepts were so excited. They thought that there was an STC pattern within the ancient “wreckage”. The second burst of scrapcode knocked her prone, blood from her nose and ears staining the gray dust.

As the silhouettes of two other defiled warhounds came into view, she could hear the whine of the plasma cannon, now pointed at her, initiating its warm up sequence. Zyra sent a noospheric communication back to the landing craft a millisecond before being obliterated in the terrible white light of plasma.



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