The Maiden Voyage

Confidential Archive A

If You Can't Do Something Smart...

>FILE 3E90B.vii BLOCK 294 DEVICE “Calpurnia”

>>>LINGUA OCCULTUS MECHANICUM
>>>KEYBIT 7168 . . . . . VERIFY
>>>SOMATIC KEY . . . . . . VERIFY

>PLAYBACK

Why I should feel compelled to create any record of these thoughts, and the events which precede them, I consider one of the lingering and contemptible mysteries of the flesh. As an archive can serve only to invalidate my works; as a confession, it can only send me to the purging furnaces.

That Inquisitor and his lackey Palladius revealed their scheme for exploiting the artifact once away on their damned ship, Hammer Of Redemption. No logic or sane half-measures to their methods; merely take hold, brother Enock, and let the xenos witchery into your mind, and tell us what you see. As my future was bound to this expedition in more ways than one, I had no logical alternative. The ineffable workings of this artifact took effect; and with what seemed only a few minutes’ meditation I found my mind orienting with uncanny specificity toward a particular planet.

The details of the ensuing travel need not be recounted; no doubt several different authoritative reports are even now being buried in the shrouded archives of the Inquisition. Nor must I describe our planetfall or the difficulties in our travel, as I guided them toward the source of whatever signal I was experiencing through the artifact. Of those experienced with this item’s history, it should be no surprise at all that it led to another slumbering tomb-world, another series of xenos tunnels and galleries.

Not wishing to unleash yet another xenos armada upon the sector, we explored with caution, seeking such artifacts as might be useful for destructive tests. The signal led us to the same great vault as we had seen before, its familiar hexagonal cells set into the floor. We found the same icon-marked cell; and as I trod upon it the section illuminated, and opened up to reveal the familiar form inside. Yet instead of attacking, it initiated communication with a piercing signal that saturated my receptors. It spoke only a few words, and those were simple demands for activation. Some spark of curiosity led me to question the entity in return, inquiring of its goals. It responded merely with “war” and “harvest”; and finding me uncooperative it redoubled the fury of its signal, rousing itself to strike at us. A dozen weapons blasted the thing to pieces where it stood.

From there the signal led no further; yet the interface had left me with some sense of the tomb-world’s depths, of the great vaults laying further below. I mentioned the possibility of descending deeper, and the Inquisitor concurred. After some further exploration—finding much of strange and alien shape, yet no specific use to us—we found ourselves upon an elevator platform which began to descend, uncontrolled, with ever-increasing speed, until it was hurtling coreward at near-terminal velocity.

I could feel the approach of our destination, long before it came into sight. At what we knew must be the planet’s center we found a great spherical hollow, with a metallic orb of perhaps a kilometer’s diameter lying at its center. The core itself responded to our presence, resonating with the artifact I bore, seeming to echo with our footsteps. Seemingly marooned in this place, no strategy occurred to us that would allow our escape or otherwise assist the war against these xenos. At length I began to assemble an improvised electromagnetic emitter from the focusing arrays and power supplies of our weaponry, in hopes of using the field effects so recently discovered to somehow disrupt or destroy this core. Results were inconclusive: the core retracted, and its surface became fluid, our Astartes escort sinking into the metallic matter beneath us.

The Inquisitor had been carrying the staff-weapon dropped by the destroyed necron; and about this time he asked Confessor Mordechiai to take it from him. I suspect he felt the sort of radiating signals which the artifact emitted, and grew uneasy at their possible influence. My monitoring of the officers’ vox communications indicated increasing stress; and in what they took for secure channels they debated shooting those among us they distrusted. Arguments ensued, and in a momentary and ill-conceived scuffle between Capt. Strasser and his Confessor, the two of them toppled over into the surface of the core, taking the xenos staff-weapon with them.

I know not whether it was the influence of the artifact that directed me; in that instant the thought struck me that allowing the necron leader’s weapon to make contact with the core could somehow cause the activation of the great vaults. As the staff fell, I reached out my hand, and with a pulse of ferric summons, caused it to spring into my grip. At that instant, my perception of time slowed, the world seeming frozen around me.

With both artifact and staff at hand, the xenos signal to which I had subjected myself, which had been nonverbal and nearly imperceptible thus far, grew into some sort of duplessence, as though I had data-linked with some fearsomely powerful Machine Spirit. In that moment I knew the full nature of this world, and all things in it; and understood what it was offering me even as the xenos metals began encasing my form. A new body, the full power of this tomb-world’s armies at my command, and a single all-consuming purpose. I could not say I was not greatly tempted.

I rejected this offer. Not from faith, for concern for the brotherhood of Man, or even the principles of the Omnissiah. But the jealous anger that burns in my heart became the glimmer of a beacon. Power I seek, destruction of my enemies is among my goals; but I would do these things in my own name, from within this squabbling and vile fellowship of Man. They shall know, one day, that Enock Septimatus is the author of their sorrows; not some nameless xenos overlord. I rejected godhood for the slender hope of becoming Explorator-Magos.

And even as this offertory was taken from me, I retained some connection with the tomb-world we stood within. Control enough to summon a lift back to the surface, and to extract large samples of the alloy as easily as a child might take a handful of sand. I knew all that was within that place, and I know what the xenos intend to do, and when. Their fleet is bound for Holy Mars and Terra even now. But to share this knowledge may damn me in the eyes of those it would save, just as the necroderm which still clings to all the mechanical systems of my body.

If you should say, ‘How shall we persecute him?’—
Since the root of the matter is found in me,
Be afraid of the sword for yourselves;
For wrath brings the punishment of the sword,
That you may know there is a judgment.

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