Ramtut looked down at his hands, the grey skin scarred, withered, and cracked, joints stiff and painful; hands ravaged by time, hands pitted by radiation, but his hands nonetheless, hands that could touch, feel, hurt; hands that told a story, his story…. Soon all that would be gone, his corporeal form lost to all but memory, burned away for ever in the cyclopean bio-furnace, replaced by cold, hard, immutable metal and circuitry.
He looked up, staring through his cold, blue eyes; unlike his body, they had yet to fail him, he could see what lay before him well enough and seeing his fate, for the first time he wondered at the wisdom of the course they had set out on. He shook his head, what was he thinking, even his eyes would soon be replaced, his vision augmented, enhanced beyond all biological capacity.
He looked around him now. Zarathusa, his old friend and ally, who had fought shoulder to shoulder with him across countless worlds, had already entered the chamber, as had all his people before him, he was the next, and the last; last of the Thokt Dynasty. Soon he would be summoned forward.
Doubt assailed him at the last, hollow fear sweeping him up, taking him back to a memory of his youth on his home world Meghoshta.
He was standing poised on the cliff edge, naked all but his loin cloth, shivering from cold, or was it fear, staring down at the cold, deep pool below him. He looked across at his friends, Zara foremost amongst them as ever, shouting encouragement – he took a deep breath, stepping forward into the void, falling, falling, air rushing past him, a roaring in his ears, still falling, breath catching in his throat as his body tensed for the impact. He hit the water hard, feet first, punching through the surface, plunging down into the ice cold beneath, down, down, into the dark, down until all sights, sounds and sensations were utterly gone. For a moment, he hung there, in space, his body shutting down, only his mind remained, his thoughts sharp and clear, and then he kicked, hard, was rising, up, up, towards the light…
He snapped back into the present, the heat of the furnace hitting him like a wave, the fumes enveloping him, the noise of the machines deafening him. Zara was gone, they were all gone now, no one to shout encouragement, no one to stem his fears, he stood there, alone. Would that be what it was like? he wondered, was it that easy, just let go, take the leap, plunge into the unknown and resurface made anew?
Ramtut shook his head, what foolish sentiment, after all they had been through, and what matter, there was no going back, nothing and no one to go back for… with a last breath through his own lungs, he stepped forward into the chamber….
Ramtut stood on the battlefield, surrounded by the bodies of his vanquished foes. He looked down at his hands. They were strong hands now, hands impervious to harm, free of any blemish or scar, free of pain. Hands capable of more than he could have ever dreamed, hands that could snatch an insect from the air, lift unimaginable weight, or crush armour, flesh and bone, hands capable of killing, hands steeped in blood…
A memory, starkly clear, perhaps a gift of his new mind, a memory of a time long past, a memory reaching back millennia beyond count…
He staggered out of the bio-transference chamber, falling to his knees, unused as he was to controlling his new body, bombarded with sensations from his newly heightened senses of sight, smell and hearing, but through the fog of confusion he knew something was wrong, terribly wrong. Looking up, the skies were ablaze with light, explosions ripped through the complex around him and debris rained down, metallic bodies littered the floor before him. The C’Tan, who had previously swooped in their ethereal forms above the transference chambers, were gone, either to combat the unknown attackers, or otherwise fled, he knew not which nor did he care.
Gathering himself, and focusing on the more immediate issue, he stood, shakily at first, but soon, mastering control of his metallic form, he strode forward, marvelling at how energised and powerful he felt, and yet dismayed at the loss of his corporeal form and revolted by the thought of what he had become; but such thoughts would have to wait.
Around him lay his people, the Thokt, once amongst the greatest and most influential of Necrontyr Dynasties. No longer, already diminished much by war and strife before the great transference, many more had now been lost in this attack; their new forms lying still, torn asunder, parts scattered across the complex before him, grief and shock assailing him, he looked up once more.
The attack was clearly being driven off now, explosions still lit the sky, but they were distant and more infrequent. Doubtless it had been orcastrated by one of the vassal races of the Old Ones, a desperate, last ditch attempt to curb the might of the Necron empire and their C’Tan masters before they asserted their full power through transference, but despite the damage done here, Ramtut knew they were too late, far too late….
As the memory faded, and the ravaged landscape before him came back into focus, Ramtut laughed inwardly, how naïve and foolish he had been then; of course his brethren had not been lost in the attack, far from it, in their new forms, damaged as they had been, they had simply phased out, their shattered bodies, minds still intact returning to the stasis-crypt in the planet below, where they would inexorably rise anew, to continue the fight; no longer a weak and short lived race, constrained by their bodies physical limitations, they were unstoppable now, they were immortal!
But Ramtut had learnt all too rapidly that the price the Necrontyr had paid for that immortality was high, far too high. For the C’Tan had deceived the Necrontyr. Remaining true to their word, the Necrons, as they had become, were indeed now impervious to nearly all harm, and even when utterly destroyed, still their consciousness remained, reborn in another body; but the bio-transference process came at a grave cost, purging them of so much of what had made them unique individuals in life, stripping them of their very souls. Only a few of the most strong-willed Necrontyr retained their intellect, personality and self-awareness at all, and even they were but shadows of their former selves. The Necrontyr were gone, but Ramtut soon came to realise that he had perhaps paid an even greater price…
Alone, or so he first thought, amongst his kind, he had retained his soul. Why he did not know, he could only surmise that it resulted from the interruption of the bio-transference process at a critical moment during the attack and the departure of the C’Tan to drive off the enemy. Whatever the cause, Ramtut was utterly alone, one soul-keeper grieving the loss of his entire race, and faced with an eternity of solitude.
With no hope for salvation, he threw himself into the war, to quench his pain and loss, he became the very symbol of all that it was to be Necron, striking fear into all before him. But through a chance meeting with Lord Rakszan, last of the fated Khansu Dynasty, Ramtut realised there were others like him, others who by some quirk of fate had retained their soul. They were few, very few from the billions that entered the forges but enough perhaps, enough for the hope of a new beginning. Together Ramtut and Rakszan vowed to dedicate themselves to seeking them out in secret.
They searched across the stars, where they found them, they recruited others to their cause and the search went on, undetected by their soulless brethren, the Clan leaders or their King. It took many thousands of our human years and they went into the great sleep with the other clans no nearer to salvation, waiting for the day when they could rise and change history.
Their plan was audacious beyond mortal reckoning, millennia in the making, an ambition so vast not even the Silent King in his wildest imaginings would have guessed Ramtut’s and Rakszan’s intentions…
They used conflict, actively sought it, when soulless Thokt Necrons fell in battle, and phased out, teleported to the stasis-crypts to be reborn, they used the opportunity to transfer the soul-keepers, the true Necrontyr as they were so called from across the clans into the new bodies; cleansing the soul dead Necron from existance and swelling the Thokt ranks with their allies. Thus, over Millennia, the Thokt Dynasty became something else, something more. Eventually, the entire Dynasty, diminished as it was, comprised true Necrontyr, no soul dead remained.
But Ramtut and Rakszan needed to cover their activities, so they created the myth of the Destroyer Cult, what better screen than a cult of insane, hate-fuelled harvesters of the living, obsessed with the eradication of all sentient beings, that threw themselves into battle with no regard for their own lives. None, even the Silent King himself, guessed the truth.
And yet, the final piece in the puzzle remained lost to Ramtut and his allies, and indeed the entire Necron race, lost but not forgotten. The Nexus, ancient hub of the vast Necron blackstone network, held the key to all, a shield against the forces of chaos, a weapon to turn against their own kind, and an archive of knowledge that would unlock the secrets of bio-trasference. One day, with a galaxy wiped clean of Necrons, shielded from the forces of Chaos, they would be free to rebuild, inhabit new bodies, start again…
As events unfolded in the 41st Millennium, in a remote system, on a long-abandoned plant, that day was now near, very near…
Sector: Segmentum Pacificus
System: Hyrakii Deeps
Planet: ‘Meghoshta’ [Crownworld]
Record: Meeting – Subject: [Unknown], Present: Lord (Rakszan) Khansu Dynasty, Lord (Ramtut Ra) Thokt Dynasty
Rakszan, Lord of the Khansu Dynasty, and last of his line, entered the Throne Room.
[Rakszan] – “So, my old friend, it is good to see you, but why call me here, here of all places; Szarekh trusts me little enough, for such a risk to our endeavours the news you bear must be great indeed?”
Ramtut stepped down from his throne, striding across the floor to greet his friend, grasping his forearm, in the custom of the ancient Necrontyr.
[Ramtut Ra] – “We have found it, Rakszan, we have found it at last!”
Lord Rakszan paused, tilting his head, inscrutable green eyes glowing in the gloom of the silent throne room, while Ramtut strode away, pacing the cavernous space impatiently.
[Rakszan] – “The Nexus, is it possible… you have identified its location?”
Ramtut nodded, ceasing his pacing, turning and opening his hand, enabling a holographic image of a solar system to float above his palm.
[Ramtut Ra] – “Indeed, we have found it at last! One of the few advantages of our immortality; to us my friend, nothing is lost for ever, but I confess I had begun to lose hope, and feared that the turmoils of the galaxy would overcome us all before we could reach our goal.”
Ramtut paused, staring into the hologram, a miniature solar system swirling before him, before casting it across the throne room, where it hovered in front of his friend.
[Ramtut Ra] – “It lies in an abandoned world, in a little travelled system of the Segmentum Obscurus. Truth be told, I cannot take the credit for its
finding, it was the humans, those they call the Mechanicus, that located it.
Long have they vied with us, scouring the galaxy in their hunger to secure Noctilith, and yet they lack the knowledge to master it, yet.
[Rakszan] – “As did we my friend, as did we, though our enemies know it not….. The location of the Nexus was ever closely guarded during the War, and those who guarded it did not awaken from the Great Sleep”.
[Ramtut Ra} – “Yes, and no doubt the humans stumbled across it even now by mere happenstance. We have time, they cannot yet fully comprehend what they possess. The Nexus was so well guarded for a reason; it not only provides the means through which to control the Noctilith network and defy the forces of Chaos, it also housed the repository of our race’s knowledge, within its archives lies the knowledge we seek, the knowledge of bio-transference.
[Rakszan] – “If true, this is incredible news, news beyond all our hopes and dreams, but you are skipping to the end of the tale, tell me, how and when did you come to know of the human’s discovery?”
Ramtut laughed, shaking his head.
[Ramtut Ra] – “The how is easy enough, the human fools were ever too incautious, somehow they must have inadvertently activated the long dormant Nexus systems by entering the central node, the power surge across the Sector as the systems came back on line was huge, and unmistakable.”
[Rakszan] – “If that is the how, then the ‘when’ is ever more critical a question. A few foolish humans are easily dealt with, but such a surge will not have gone unnoticed by other races, they may not know its significance, but they are sure to investigate and ‘complicate’ matters considerably for us. What is our next move?”
Ramtut flicked his hand, and the hologram vanished, replaced by an image of a Necron Shroud Class Light Cruiser, docked and being provisioned.
[Ramtut Ra] – “I have already made it. I informed Szarekh of this discovery straight away.”
[Rakszan] – “What, you informed Szarekh?! Have you taken leave of your senses?”
Ramtut had anticipated his friend’s reaction; to inform their greatest enemy of such a discovery was admittedly, at least on the surface, madness; he smiled.
[Ramtut} – “Yes, of course. You of all people, who has hidden in the shadows for so long, should know how to play this game, we keep our friends close, but our enemies closer. Indeed, not only did I tell our so called Silent King of our discovery, I volunteered to dispatch a Thokt Raider party immediately to secure the location for the good of the Necron race. He agreed of course, why would he not, the Thokt and the Destroyer Cult have ever been his most loyal and fervent followers…” Ramtut bowed theatrically with this last statement.
Rakszan laughed aloud now,
[Rakszan] – “This is surely the greatest jest the galaxy has ever known, he was a trusting fool then, blinded by his hatred of the Old Ones, and our race paid dearly for that deceit at the hands of the C’Tan, and a fool it would seem he remains to this day. He suspects nothing still?
[Ramtut Ra] – “If he did suspect, I doubt very much I would be holding this conversation with you now my friend, naive he maybe, but he is without mercy when crossed…”
Rakszan nodded in heartfelt agreement, all to aware of the price those who challenge the Silent King could pay.
[Rakszan] – “At the last, his foolish trust will be his undoing, and with his demise, so will the Necrontyr finally rise again from the ashes of his defeat!”
[Ramtut Ra] – “Yes, our long labours, plots and schemes are at last coming to fruition, but we are not there yet, we must steel ourselves for the final push, if we are to win the day there is great need for haste, I will personally lead the Raider party, the Sekhem’s Shroud will depart for Veridian VII this very day!”
[Rakszan] – “What would you have me do?”
[Ramtut Ra] – “Ready our people, all of them, soon we will act, revealing plans millennia in the making, and when we do, none will anticipate our coming, nor stand in our way!”
So it came to pass in the 41st Millennium, that with infinite complacency borne from millennia of dominance, Szarekh, the Silent King, took his war across the galaxy, serene in his assurance of dominion over all beings, but quietly, in the shadows, ancient intellects equally vast, cool and unsympathetic, regarded his empire with envious eyes, and slowly and surely they drew their plans against him….
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.