Dreaming in Ceramite
10/06/2012 in Warhammer 40K
Countless gas lanterns high in the rockrete and plasteel rafters flickered lazily and heavy incense burners thumped into life as they gave out thick plumes of rich smoke into the hall of bay 13. The great bell thundered in its wooden housing deep within the ships cavity to mark the passing of six standard solar months. The metallic clang rolled around the massive chamber causing imperceptible stirring amongst the ancient occupants.
In the silence that marked the bell’s passing, static crackled and expanding metal ticked. Great constructs of machine fused with ancient men on the fringe of a great abyss bobbed gently as they fell once more into sleep. Save for one.
Battle Brother Drusillus strode through the bay, his black carapace gleaming as it caught the occasional light of the lanterns he passed. His bare feet patted on the cold floor as he passed acres of ordnance lying dormant: belts of bolter rounds stacked high were carefully inscribed with the blessings of ignition, flight and penetration, power vials trembled with dormant plasma, promethium canisters lay in tanks of viscous retardant and finally, behind a stasis shield reaching high into the dark, stood a venerable delivery system from millennia ago. Inside it, suspended, a strain of world eater virus slept.
The chapter would face down any foe, match it, and annihilate it. Such was His edict. Such was His ordnance. Drusillus shuddered then kept his eyes down, not daring to look at the sleeping giants he was now approaching. It was a show of respect and reverence for those housed within.
Drusillus singled out one of the giants, approached and lifted the leather seal on the terminal. Muttering the incantations of connection he entered in the sequence taught to him by the Techmarine earlier that morning. Nothing happened. Then, softly a glimmer of green light rose from behind the Dreadnought followed by a hum of raw electrics which grew to a deafening roar as the titan became fully living.
Servos whizzed, electros whinnied and sparks flew as Venerable Cradoc stretched. Drusillus had to remind himself that there was no need to step back. Optics brought Drusillus in and out of focus as Cradoc looked down at him. Then waited.
After a moment a great power fist, of the old pattern, extended a huge index finger towards the Dreadnought’s face indicating a white helm that once belonged to Cradoc. It served now as an optic and audio housing unit. What was left of the cranium was of course locked, along with the spinal column, in a coffin of fluid and oldtech deep inside the construct.
Cradoc’s finger went to Drusillus, paused and then returned to the helm. Drusillus was puzzled at first, then gasped as he looked down and clumsily span a dial on the terminal. Cradoc would now be able to speak. What came next was a deep bass rumble which reverberated inside Drusillus’s armoured ribcage.
“You are not a Techmarine,” Cradoc’s hand swung down by his side, the index returning to the fist as he continued, “little brother.” Drusillus waited, his head down, expecting a rebuke. None came. “This is a waking dream, is it not?”
Drusillus had been told there was always some disorientation after a sleep as long as Cradoc’s so was in some measure prepared.“No, great brother.”
“It is harder to tell. Such dreams I have during my lengthy slumbers.”
“It is common, among the ancient ones, to have such visions.” Cradoc’s optic helm remained perfectly still whilst his huge bulk trembled with might. The gaze bored into him as though searching the young marine. “I am told,”swallowed Drusillus.
“I am fully awake little one, what would you have me do?” Cradoc’s assault cannon whirred blowing dust around his housing, “you are to load my guns and charge my cells? Where is the Chaplain with the seal of clarity,” the helm seemed to shudder involuntarily, “the serfs to oil my joints and replenish my stims? Where is my mission slate? How else am I to know what we face?”
Drusillus allowed the booming questions to run around the chamber several times before he answered.
“Peace brother ancient. Your zeal inspires me” the helm dipped in acknowledgement, “for many foes await you yet.” Drusillus held out a reassuring hand, “but for now, a hiatus.”
The helm twitched to the side, it could only indicate confusion.
Drusillus walked out from behind the terminal and walked a few steps closer to Cradoc.
“The barge is deep in the black sea. We translate into true void, navigator willing, in eight solar days.”
“A long time to wait.” Cradoc’s upper body leant slightly forward bringing him closer to the craning marine.
“State your purpose little one. Though the codex is more yours than mine now nowhere does it state that I should be roused without martial reason – unless!” Drusillus’s ears were ringing as he watched Cradoc swell to his full height. “A great council has been formed, you wish to have me there as ancient witness.”
“Then I am to be rehoused?”
Cradoc’s cannon suddenly swung down pointing directly down to the scratched floor and his fist unclenched.
“Decommissioned, then? My self is too decayed. I had wished to be destroyed in battle but -”
“Not at all” shouted Drusillus as warmly as he could, then he sought to reassure Cradoc. “Your bio redoubts confirms you as astartes yet. May it long continue.”
“Then,” Cradoc came close again, warm gases blasting in Drusillus’s face, “it can only be one thing. You do wrong to wait so long to tell me.” The fist came perilously close to Drusillus, He didn’t flinch. “He has arisen from the throne and walks amongst us-!”
“Brother ancient,” Drusillus sighed and put a hand on the dormant power fist as Cradoc lowered it, holding his gaze. “Your heart knows it not to be true.” Drusillus leapt back as Cradoc drew in his fist. “Forgive me, your soul knows it isn’t true,” Cradoc nodded slowly.
“Alas, I fear you are correct, little one. Foolish of me. My logic engine is there to assist my brain and nervous system with data process in battle, not with human reason.”
Drusillus understood. The act wasn’t typical or necessary but nothing stipulated it to be against protocol. He returned to the console and pressed another collection of keys. Cradoc waited in silence.
Finally Drusillus said, “Your mind is your own now. Are you well?”
“Ah, yes.” Cradoc’s frame seemed to relax as the bundles of fibre eased under the ceramite plate and a huge sigh of steam crept out of his joints. Drusillus stood, watching the effect on Cradoc, awestruck that a such a thing, an astartes, could live so long. Secretly he wished for a quick, real death in His service. He dismissed these thoughts.
“Do you require anything?”
The helm moved thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Cradoc ponderously. Suddenly he took a thunderous step forward, his assault cannon’s motor roaring impotently and power fist crackling with lethal energies, “Greenskins!” Cradoc let out a booming echo which, crouching behind a bulkhead, Drusillus could only take to be laughter.
Cradoc noticed the marine had gone to ground.
“Apologies, little one.” Cradoc stepped back into his housing as the assault cannon’s motor died slowly away and the power fist snapped into silence. “The logic engine was a weight on my mind, suppressing my true self – forgive my levity! Now,” Cradoc turned as Drusillus drew closer once more, “what surprise awaits me?“
Drusillus smiled at the question, amused and awed by the display of power.
“Visitors.” Pride swelled in his chest. “A brother captain and librarian wish to commune with you.”
“I am transparent,” Cradoc indicated a bank of amber slate behind Drusillus, “and my data sheets are pure. Why wake me for that?”
“They honour us; the brethren are not of this chapter.” He took a breath. It wouldn’t do to let it overwhelm him, after all, he, Drusillus, a mere line brother had been given the honour of delivering this news to Cradoc. He must be calm. “They are our founding fathers. The thirteenth legion!”
“That I should live to see that day! So many sons of Guilliman reunited.” Drusillus looked back at Cradoc, his message delivered, unaware of the tears running down his scarred cheeks. “So,” Cradoc mused, “the lost are found.” His fist ground shut. “And of our deeds?”
“The Ultramarine Captain assures me that he and his predecessors have followed our progress, read our honours over the millennia and not found us wanting. In fact,” his eyes betrayed his eagerness, “they wish us to crusade alongside them.”
The helm nodded slowly. Hundreds of years separated them, one mortal, the other, neither, yet they looked at each other in fellowship. Brothers.
Into the quiet came the melody of power armoured boots approaching.
“They honour us, Cradoc,” whispered Drusillus, smiling, “upon our translation we receive two hundred years of Ultramar’s artificer toil and-” he came closer, “geneseed.” Drusillus stepped backwards adjusting his robes as he prepared to meet his brother captain. “He is here though, to honour you.”