AN ECHO OF WHAT WAS LOST
Explorator Flagship: ‘Quest for Knowledge’
Sector: Segmentum Pacificus
System: Terra Prime
Record: Meeting – Subject: [Redacted], Present: Arch Magus (Belisarius Cawl), Logis (Paladius), Explorator (Gruss)
[Cawl] – “I trust you both understand why I have called you here and what is at stake?”
The Arch Magus pressed on before either of his guests could respond.
“You well know the ancient law, taken at great pains from the Black Library. The Necrontyr were ever a fated race, but at the height of their power, unrivalled across the galaxy, they mastered many high arts, not least among them, the ability to manipulate ‘Noctilith’, or in the common speech, Blackstone.”
While this was more of a statement than a question, ever keen to curry favour, Logis Paladius was quick to respond.
[Paladius] – “Indeed I do Arch Magus, a most fascinating substance, our Explorator fleets continue to scour the galaxy, segmentum by segmentum, planet by planet to locate all known Blackstone sources and Xenos structures.”
[Cawl] – “Yes, yes Paladius, I am well aware of your ongoing endeavours, and while commendable and critical to our cause, do you truly understand it’s potential?”
Explorator Gruss, who had maintained his silence up till now, sat forward in his chair.
[Gruss] – “You know well that we do Belisarius, but I will play your game for now.
Although rare, we have found Blackstone columns in high concentrations on certain worlds, particularly those planets associated with the Necrontyr. It seems to possess the ability, under certain conditions, to nullify the psychic energies emanating from the immaterium, in effect creating an impenetrable barrier to the forces of chaos.”
[Paladius] – “I would agree, my Adepts have concluded that this was the purpose of the network of Blackstone columns the Necrontyr constructed across their former realm. There is no doubt now that they created this immense system after the War in Heaven to protect their Tomb Worlds from harm and decay over the millennia; a truly staggering achievement.”
Gruss stood and paced across the room, shaking his head.
[Gruss] – “Needless to say after Cadia, we also happen to know that in the wrong hands, it can be a fell weapon, equally capable of containing those energies and unleashing them with devastating force.”
[Cawl] – “Indeed Paladius, you are correct, and despite Explorator Gruss’s misgivings, its potential remains well… almost incalculable. Should we be able to rebuild and reactivate the network, we could close the great rift; without wishing to overstate things, we could restore balance to the entire galaxy, save mankind and indeed all sentient life as we know it. The Emperor would be….. grateful”.
Gruss frowned, this line of discussion was not new; he was tired, it had been a long journey and he was keen to understand where the Arch Magus was going with it, Cawl was not one prone to idle chatter…
Somewhat more testily than he had planned:
[Gruss] – “Fascinating as this discussion is, are we all not forgetting something here? Last I knew, neither we, nor in point of fact (as far as our intelligence tells us), the Necrons that have thus far awakened possess the knowledge necessary to rebuild and activate such a network! While I don’t deny its potential, we are no further forward in realising that than we were. I applaud Paladius’s dedication, he has identified more ancient column sites than we could have believed possible, but to what end, it’s a futile task…!”
The Arch Magus leant forward, smiling.
[Cawl] – “Thank you Gruss, you can always be relied upon to cut straight to the heart of an issue. You are of course correct, or rather almost correct. It is true that we still lack the knowledge required to make use of these artefacts, but ‘futile’ Paladius’s efforts have not been.”
[Paladius] – “Thank you Arch Magus, I am relieved to see that at least someone appreciates the gargantuan effort my Adepts have gone to mapping the Xenos network. In point of fact we now think we have mapped what was once its full extent, and it is, or was, vast indeed; more remains intact than you might think.”
Gruss was losing patience with this game now.
[Gruss] – “I don’t wish to be rude Arch Magus….”
[Cawl] – “But you are going to be anyway my dear Delphan.” said Cowl, now outwardly amused by Gruss’s apparent exasperation.
[Gruss] – Sighing – “There is clearly a point you are attempting to get to, so please get to it, I have a ship to reprovision and a crew to look after.”
[Cawl] – “Very well, I will start with a question though. Paladius, ‘what is a network’?”
[Paladius] – “Erm, well Arch Magus, a network is, is a series of interconnected objects, that work together as a system.”
[Cawl] – “Indeed, and how does a system function?”
[Paladius] – “A, a system well, it erm, functions through a control mechanism.”
[Cawl] – “Yes Paladius, and where there is control, it must emanate from somewhere, yes?”
Gruss turned, suddenly grasping Cawl’s line of reasoning, clearly before Paladius.
[Gruss] – “Wait, you think there was a hub that controlled the entire network? That makes sense, yes, but we’re still little further along, we don’t know where it is, or do we…?”
Cawl was now beaming smugly
[Cawl] – “Yes, and no Delphan, or rather, ‘no and yes’ to be precise. No, we have not yet located the hub, although we are certain that it exists, a network of such size could not function otherwise; but yes, we do know how to find it!”
[Paladius] – “But how, we have scoured every planet that we have located Blackstone, none showed any sign of such a place?”
[Cawl] – “Ah, but you have located it, or rather your mapping has, helped by a degree of logic. Think Paladius, where would you place a control mechanism in your network?”
Gruss was already there, thoughts moving so rapidly at the implications he could barely speak.
[Gruss] – “At its centre, of course, you would place it at the centre of the network… and, and if we were to map enough data points, we could extrapolate and calculate where that was!”
Belisarius Cawl sat back, fingers pressed together, pausing to gauge the effect this revelation had on his audience.
[Cawl] – “Well done Gruss, you do understand…..”
A SHADOW OF THINGS TO COME
Explorator Delphan Gruss actuated his auxiliary lights and gazed upwards, the powerful beams dancing off mighty columns, black as obsidian, before being swallowed by the cold, dry darkness far above. Those who had built these vast halls and towering engines of unfathomable complexity were long gone, rank after rank of their machines standing sentinel in alcoves beyond count; other than the scuff of his boot in the dust of millennia, all was deathly silent.
“Send a message at once to the Arch Magus. It must be delivered at all costs. Tell him just this:
We have found it….
As the servitor departed, Delphan stared pensively into the darkness; no, not quite darkness he reflected, there was light here, barely perceptible even with his augmented vision, but it was there, a brooding, pulsing luminescence, a pallid green glow emanating from the columns. There may not have been life here, but there was energy, power still, great power that could change everything, Delphan mused.
He was troubled though, Veridian VII was far into the Obscurus Segmentum, navigating the immaterium from here, even in short jumps with his most gifted psyker at the helm, was a perilous and lengthy undertaking, it would be long before that message arrived, if indeed it did at all, and even longer before help would come…
Sighing, Delphan shook off his doubts and fears and strode purposefully forward to where his small group of Adepts stood, some huddled in conference, others simply standing staring in awe at their surroundings. “By the Emperor, come on you lot, snap to it, we have much to do!”
The underground complex, for that is what it had proved to be, was vast, alien and old, very old indeed. Explorator Delphan Gruss and his small team had spent the last 48 hours mapping its complex tunnels, chambers and vaults, many lined with curious machines and workings of unknown purpose, carefully documenting all that they found. There remained much to explore, but he had now confirmed his initial suspicions regarding its purpose and function beyond any doubt, the potential of which was still hard to fully grasp. He would not share that knowledge with his team yet, in time, but for now they knew it was Necrontyr in origin, it was by no means the first such structure they had encountered, and that was enough, any more would only serve to worry them.
Their sensors had shown no rad levels that would indicate a living Necron presence, and despite its eerily alien nature, and a curious sense of foreboding, a persistent pressure at the back of his mind that he couldn’t place, Delphan and his small team had thus far encountered nothing untoward…
They now stood gazing through a doorway, at what they estimated to be the epicentre of the complex, a room, although its scale belied the description, circular in shape, with numerous entrances evenly spaced around its circumference. Arrayed around its centre were what appeared to be consoles, although what they controlled none save Delphan could guess. So lost in his thoughts was he, that the Explorator failed to notice his young Adept step forward curiously.
“No, do not enter the chamber…!” Delphan shouted, hands raised in warning, but he was far too late. Tech Adept Tilvius stepped across the threshold into the vast space beyond. Tilvius froze, turning slowly, apprehension written across his face, his breath misting in the cold, dry air as he looked wide eyed at his master. Seconds went by, ears straining for the slightest sound, nothing stirred…
Delphan’s shoulders relaxed, he let out a long breath he hadn’t realised he was holding and reached for his augury scanner. Nothing, no change – he swiped through its fields, motion, heat, radiation, light, gases, all checked out. He looked up, Tilvius hadn’t moved, no one had. “Okay, let’s all….”
…a deep humming, more felt than heard, began, slowly at first, dust rising across the smooth floors, as the very chamber resonated with sound, rising in cadence it became a deafening roar. The very air vibrated, time seemed to stutter, and the darkness was suddenly banished, as blinding, lurid green light filled the chamber, washing over every surface, lines of power coursing through deep channels within the floors and walls, illuminating arcane script that writhed around the pillars, consoles blinking into life.
Delphan fell to his knees, all around him adepts and servitors were writhing in pain, clutching their heads, vainly trying to shut out the raging noise and searing light, their augmented sensors, overwhelmed by its sheer power, betraying them. Consciousness slipping away, Delphan tried to focus, remember his training, anything to stave off the blackness.
And then, as fast it is came, it was gone.
Silence returned, but for the groaning of his team around him, all was quiet. Gruss pushed himself upright, tentatively opening his eyes, he scanned the room. The darkness had been replaced by a dull green twilight, revealing the true scale of the place, dust motes filled the air, settling on every surface, screens formerly lifeless and dull flickered as script raced across them.
His team were all there, including Tilvius, dazed but all thankfully recovering. As he placed his palm on the stone floor, he rapidly withdrew it in shock, beneath the silence there was a new sensation, the floor, previously ice cold, was now warm to the touch, and he could feel a vibration, from deep beneath his feet. Something had awakened.
Shaking his head and standing, Delphan walked across the chamber. Tilvius saw him coming, his apprehension plain to see. “What happened, I only stepped into the chamber beyond?” Delphan sighed, “If I am right, this is no simple chamber, as I guessed moments before you entered, this is, or was, the main control room for this, this… ‘facility’.”
“But, we’ve been exploring for days, what triggered that huge energy surge now?” Delphan pondered.… “I do not know my friend, I do not know, we understand so little still. If I was to guess, given the evidence of decay we have witnessed elsewhere, and the condition of this chamber, which looks untouched by the sands of time, that you passed through a kind of stasis field. In so doing you must have activated some sentinel system that has waited for millennia for its masters to return. What it will do now, for good or ill, we will see”.
Suddenly, his blood ran cold, the true implications of what his Adept had just said seeping into his still confused mind. Turning urgently to Tilvius, who though younger, was himself still recovering, Delphan said “Power surge, power surge, how wide spread was it, quickly now, check your sensors!”. Tilvius turned to his servitor, communicating silently through his neural link with the half-man, half-machine. “It was massive Explorator, the surge was massive, encompassing the entire complex, it, it was off the scale, our sensors were overloaded.”
“Emperor protect us” Delphan exclaimed, “No one could have missed that power surge, it would have been detectable right across the Sector, right across the Segmentum, perhaps even beyond. We have lit a beacon none can ignore, and the Omnissiah knows who, or what will respond. We must prepare…”
Written by Matt Brazier. Prepare for the new Warhammer 40k Crusade Campaign coming soon to Dice & Bolter. More stories to follow, the full collection can be found under the #tag 40k Crusade Campaign.