Who knows where those Necrons had come from? They had arrived from the cold of space, the empty void, a huge cloud of metal travellers immune to the effects of that unforgiving enviroment. Perhaps they had been traversed the heavens for countless millenia, or a stealthy Necron vessel released them in some secluded corner of the Nexus Prime system.
Whatever their origin, they had descended through the atmosphere, the salmon pink sky of this wintery world, appearing for all the world as if a meteorite storm was in progress. Once there, they had sought every nook and cranny that gained access to the Hospice Victua.
As we made our way toward a waiting vessel, the acolytes expanded on the subject of the Necrons, largely at my insistence though I soon began to tire of their breathless debate. From the conflicting sources a picture emerged of these metallic foes. Robots, artifical creatures, motivated by dark souls. They did not reproduce, nor even replicate, for each required the cold mind of dead spirit within it. They needed no air, light, heat, nor sustenance. They could exist forever, or until the material of their being decayed in the entropy of some unimaginably distant future.
I should consider myself lucky, so the acolytes told me. These were minor creatures of the Necron race. Drones. Expendable soldiers sent into battle for their assigned task. The truth was that the Adeptus Mechanicus admired them. Truly they were alien, a despised form of existence, one of darkness and implacable hate and malice, but they had embraced the machine and achieved a purity of purpose that appealed to the logical mind. It was if many cultists felt a sympathy for their condition, tempered only by the relentless war they waged upon those who disturbed their rsting places.
"I read an account in the Annals Xeno-Divinis." One acolyte related with some enthusiasm, "It was recorded that seven hundred years ago a Necron ship was found in the Souless Veil. A cold ship, airless, devoid of comfort or consideration, yet a ship capable of crossing the void alone. The Necrons do not sail the Immaterium as we do, but travel from one point to another by compelling the inertia of their ship to evaporate."
"I don't understand." I replied irritably as our party made its way into the access halls of a minor spaceport. Through the windows an array of garish landers, replete with gothic splendour, awaited their next jourbney.
"What my brother means," Continued an older acolyte, the one I had threatened with a bolt pistol earlier, "Is that whilst we are constrained by physical reality to use the Immaterium as a means to cross vast distances, they remove the constraints and are not impeded by such considerations."
I confess, I was not fully interested. Nonetheless I questioned further. "So without the horrors of the Warp, they have less to contend with?"
The acolyte stopped in his tracks, suddenly engaged in an intellectual quandary, dragging our party to a halt as he mused on that possibility.
"I don't know." He replied earnestly, "I have not enough data to reach a conclusion. Certainly the hazards of the Astral Sea are of no concern to them, but what do we know of the Deep Void? Forever dark and never completely empty. Krakens, anomalies, rogue bodies, energy fields and ionic storms, perhaps forgotten things lurking in the endless night? Astonishing that in forty one millenia so little has been learned of that space that lies between worlds. But then, unlike the Necrons, we cannot cross those distances in a lifetime."
"Perhaps that is why they are undead, Brother." Suggested another acolyte, "For what else could survive beyond the lifespan of mortal men than the endless death that follows? It is said that Necrons sleep until disturbed, hidden in crypts and charnel houses until needed. I've heard it said their ships are no different."
"Conjecture." Replied the elder acolyte. "What evidence is there? A few tales from starport taverns? How many have actually stood upon the decks of a Necron ship?
Rufo lost patience and urged our progress, something I agreed with wholeheartedly. I found the subject of Necrons somewhat macabre.
At last we came upon the long ramp led to the boarding gate, one of many arrayed under a vast dome lit by long stained glass windows in that expansive curved roof.. As if the way had been prepared before us, the heavy doors twisted open like revolving teeth, and the cold air of the Nexus Prime sky challenged our comfort, an icy wind that chilled us no mater what protection we had.
Our lander waited at the far end of the ramp, outside this great dome of egress. Imperial vessels did not make many concessions to beauty, or for that matter efficent design, for majesty and power was everything to the human mind, and the art of spaceship design was no less influenced by our inner instincts. This one was exceptional, more like an oversized flyer than a vessel of the void, though in truth it still bore the unmistakeable signs of human principles in the sturdy struts that pinned the wing surfaces in place like horizontal buttresses.
We were greeted by enginseers and mech-loks of the Questor Arcanum. There was no lingering ettiquette about this meeting. These were creatures of efficient order, not prone to the intricate rituals of politics and good manners, and in any case, their haste to be underway was evident.
Rufo was uneasy. He had already warned that the Adeptus Mechanicus were alert to the threat of aerial intruders, and what defenses existed at the Hospice were manned and ready. I too shared that unease. There was something too convenient about this exit from our predicament. Yet that was not all. In the dark entryway of the airlock I saw one man standing in black robes, a polished chrome oval bolted over his forehead, a long white beard and a gaze of uter depth that made one feel you were peering over the edge of a precipice.
I pushed aside those around me and stepped before this man. For a moment I studied his silent and confident demeanour. I sensed a power in him that left me wary. "Who are you?" I demanded quietly.
"Turias Negadon. Indentured navigator to the Glorious Aggressor. It is I who shall guide your passage through the Immaterium. You will find my services most skilled., most erudite in the ways of random flow, most able and dedicated to the art of arrival. I am in every way the navigator you require. And, if you are doubtful of my claims, then be aware that it was I who followed your ship through the void. The Sarkian Angel was an elusive quarry. What a fine hunt we had! But the Kydensu were always chaotic and unreliable, thus my skills at navigation prevailed. I am honoured to find myself in the presence of the captain who eluded us for so long. May we avoid misfortune under your command"
Fine words, yet I felt unimpressed, suspicious of his sincerety. He continued "We don't have much comfort aboard the lander. The Glorious Aggressor is another matter, although we had a considerable struggle to stop the Cult artisans from stripping it out. Comfort is not efficient, so they tell me. But there are a few cabins on the upper decks if you wish to rest and relax while we ascend into orbit."
"Thanks, but that won't be necessary." I replied, anxious not to get too close to the navigator. It was as if his physical proximity was disturbing.
The elder enginseer interrupted the awkward silence and said "We must launch at the earliest opportunity. Our suppression of aerial defense will not exceed the hour."
I nodded agreement, and the crowd began to disperse toward their stations. Before the older acolyte could leave I caught his arm, and he looked at me with a complex mix of emotion. He had yet to divorce those inner instincts. For him, logic and reason were goals to be atained, and his mortal reactions were no different from anyone elses.
"Those two skitarii who fought off the Necron? Can we retrieve them?" I asked.
"I shall enquire on your behalf.... Lord Captain." He said, then immediately scurried away to his business.
Turias watched him depart then spoke to me again. "Curious folk, are they not? Finding absolution in ltheir logic and nihilism. What would compel a man to submerge himself in the machine the way they seek to do? My calling was thrust upon me of course. An accident of birth, as it were. Perhaps you find it curious that a mutant such as I can be so respected and admired?"
"Not all navigators are admired, Turias." I responded. " By the way... If you're a navigator, what house are you from?"
"The revered and magesterial House of Immerkad, Lord Captain. Ever your most loyal and ardent ally."
Posted In : Narrative