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Mercykiller
11-23-2009, 06:01 PM
This is the follow-up story to The Butcher of Sul (https://privateerpressforums.com/showthread.php?t=111)
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Incident at the Temple of the Inevitable Binomial Union




Sergeant Thomas looked down in amazement at his chest. A smoking hole the size of his fist had appeared, as if by magic. His numb hand lost the grip on his unfired rifle and it toppled to the ground harmlessly. There was no pain, only a seeping dullness that spread throughout his entire body.

?I?m ? sorry ?? Thomas managed to mutter to Braddock before he collapsed. The kneeling giant gave no sign that he?d heard him. Above Thomas the panoply of the starry night sky spread, and as he felt the life leaving his body he was grateful that such beauty would be his last sight. The stars burnt brighter to him, in strange celestial configurations that gracefully melded together before dancing apart again.

?My, that was an exciting show, wasn?t it, Bastian?? a feminine voice piped up cheerfully from out of view. Thomas recognized the speaker, and suddenly he wished that his soul would hurry along in its departure to Urcaen.

?Indeed,? responded the man that stepped over Thomas?s body towards Braddock. There was a flash of a long coat, the sight and smell of a smoking pistol with finely inlaid filigree, and then the night sky again. ?Chirurgeon Ovash was correct; despite the damage to his form, the secondary data point can be salvaged. It was Her will that we arrived before the minor denominator could unbalance the equation.?

A silken dress rustled against the sergeant and a dark form blotted out the beautiful stars.

?This one?s trying to look up my skirts, the naughty boy,? giggled the beautiful Iosan. Her cold metal eyes stared down at him with the horrible intensity he?d run from in the command tent. The woman?s lush lips turned upwards in a lascivious smile that only served to chill his blood, and bent down as if to kiss the dying man. Instead she produced a small vial from the inside of her sleeve and uncorked it above his mouth. The liquid flowed like burning quicksilver down into Thomas?s wound, and the fire spread throughout his body.

?Now, now, we can?t have such a valiant display go unrewarded, can we?? chided the woman. ?We must keep you as fresh as possible, or Ovash will have our hides instead of yours.?

Thomas silently screamed in his head, willing his soul to pass from his body. But his death had been arrested, leaving him paralyzed. The stars above taunted the sergeant as the woman moved on; he?d been so close to leaving the pain behind. Although he could no longer see her Thomas could hear the Iosan creeping from body to body, clucking in disappointment or squealing in glee when she found a poor soul that hadn?t expired yet, taunting the dying as she denied their passing.

?You really must stop playing with the components, Katanya. Just distribute the inhibitor and call the servitors. The Menites will soon gather enough courage to investigate this massacre.?

?Spoilsport,? pouted the Iosan?s voice. ?Fine. This was the last one anyway. The others have already gone beyond the inhibitor serum?s ability to stall their deaths. Our friend was too efficient in his tantrum.?

?The data point balanced the equation in his favor. Such is the way of Her plans,? Bastian responded without emotion, returning to Thomas?s body and signaling an unseen ally. The sergeant found that he could still feel pain as a swarm of flying orbs with metallic claws descended on him, hoisting him roughly into the air. Their grip was excruciating, and it was with relief that Sergeant Thomas discovered that he still possessed the ability to pass out. As the blessed darkness smothered him the last thing he saw was a larger swarm of the clawed orbs descending onto Bill Braddock.

The next few weeks were a nightmarish waking dream for the sergeant, half-glances at the strange world he?d been spirited away to. He vaguely remembered a hidden entrance on a ridge overlooking Sul where the pair abandoned he and the other half-dead corpses to metal monstrosities, the sweltering air closing in on him, a hallway of impossibly strong glass revealing iron and brass pistons, gears, and valves of intricate design working on all sides. There was a strange throbbing that permeated the transparent floors and walls in time to the machinery, as if a great mechanikal heart were at work deep within. Glimpses of men in iron hoods with surgical tools who moved among the steel monsters haunted him, cut into him, set him on fire from the inside out, bringing unwelcome knowledge and agony; the omnipresent servitor orbs hovering nearby, tending his mutilated body without care or mercy. Feverish visions of metallic insects as large as a warjack terrified him as they callously gathered him close to their cold chitinous chests. The pain of their proboscis piercing his organs was unbearable as he stared up into a glittering void, an alien sky with stars that laughed cruelly at his plight.

Time had no meaning to Sergeant Thomas; his life became measured only in intervals of waking pain and the darkness that brought relief. Each time he awoke less and less of his mind remained under his control, memories fleeing and being replaced by strings of numbers and strange formulae that he could not comprehend but was compelled to obey. After an eternity of confusion his surroundings began to stabilize, and his periods of lucidity occurred more often. The sergeant still lacked the ability to properly think, to reflect on either himself or his surroundings. Yet he was able to identify a voice, a man, Chirurgeon Ovash, someone that had spoken to him before and would do so again, an anomaly in the maelstrom of insanity.

?There you go, my friend,? whispered Ovash through the metal mask that covered his face. He brought back a bloody hooked tool from Thomas?s forehead. ?That should feel all better, yes? I do hope so. No, no, don?t try and answer, your attention is enough for me, and your lips were removed some time ago so it?s quite useless to try. We wouldn?t want you to feel the fool, would we??

Thomas could only wheeze in response, before a coughing fit sprayed bloody spittle over the obsidian faceplate of the speaker. The man, bent with old age under his voluminous crimson robes, merely wiped down the lenses of his mask with his wrinkled and arthritic hand, seemingly nonplussed by the event. The sergeant remembered the chirurgeon vaguely, time and time again in the fever nightmares, the demon that danced with blade and welding torch over his flesh.

?I?ve your new face ready for you; would you like to see it, my friend? I based the internal design on my own of course, but I?ve modified it for your new life somewhat. I hope you don?t mind, but I?ve taken the liberty of armoring it substantially; it just wouldn?t do to have so much of my work be destroyed so easily,? cooed Ovash as he lifted up a curved iron mask.

He displayed it to Thomas as a new father proud of his son, showing first the intricate tiny gears connected to a multitude of equally miniscule pistons and imprinted gold tracks, multiple needles connected to a series of lenses underneath, and ringed hoses, before turning it over to reveal a relatively smooth outer surface dotted with holes that served a variety of functions, allowing both the lenses and respirator system to function. The mask whispered softly to Thomas, promising an eternity of enslavement.

?Enlightenment without the need of effort, aren?t you the lucky fellow?? beamed Ovash as he brought the mask up to Thomas?s face and pressed it hard into the surgical moorings. He could not scream, could not beg, could not move, as the faceplate clicked into place, the needles from the lenses piercing his now-useless eyes to reach their targeted nerves as the respirator pried open his jaws and latched onto the upper and lower mandibles painfully with hooked clamps. The world spun, and then crystallized with excruciating precision. Thomas realized he could now see the extent of the cavernous room clearly for the first time, that the murky gloom lit only by forges and screams disappeared to be replaced with a monochrome clarity.

Around the room the strange insectile bodies of the temple?s Warders were being reshaped by artificers into something far cruder, armor and rivets marring the alien beauty of their shining carapaces, limbs confined and merged into more pedestrian configurations. Thomas could feel them now, sense their indignation at having their immortality scarred, but it was twinned with an overarching obedience and piety that they clung to as they suffered the injustice. Buried in their own alcoves deeper in the temple the sergeant felt some of his men, metal painfully replacing and augmenting flesh, as their own masks were bolted on. Their thoughts were a deep thrum within his mind, and as he explored the link tentatively he found that every mind, both sentient and not, were connected throughout the temple.

Mercykiller
11-23-2009, 06:02 PM
?Excellent!? intruded Ovash?s thought and voice together. ?I felt you enter the link, my friend. The operation was a success! Praise Cyriss for the portents and equations She has blessed us with that allowed such an advance. I must admit, I was always hesitant to lend my full support to this endeavor, and placing the temple so close to the faithful of the god of ignorance seemed to be pure folly. But Her sublime plans are not to fathom by those so low as we, and She foresaw the conflict that we have profited from.?

Hatred erupted from Thomas?s mind, giving no warning or reason, and for a moment he strained against the heavy leather shackles that strapped him to the chirurgeon?s table. Fresh blood welled up from his surgical scars, dripping a ruby river down the exsanguination channels of the table to a hole in the transparent floor, lubricating the thrashing gears below.

Ovash reeled back from the sergeant?s violent thoughts as if he?d been struck, landing heavily on the floor. Without the chirurgeon?s body blocking his view Thomas could see Braddock strapped down to some kind of open coffin across from him, a multitude of wires and tubes leading into the man?s body and head. The giant warcaster had barely fit within the copper sarcophagus, and although he looked dead Thomas could feel a current of fury emanating from the unconscious man like the sulphuric venting of a volcano before eruption. Lightning danced across the slumbering giant, caressing his body, denying him the peace of death and stimulating his raw emotions. Braddock?s primal fury fed the hatred within Thomas?s mind, nurtured it, enflamed it.

A nearby servitor floated down and extended its claw, gently grasping Ovash and helping him to stand upright again. The faceplate covered the old man?s reaction, but Thomas could hear the rage and childlike hurt in the chirurgeon?s voice.

?Why, my friend, why would you feel such antagonism towards me? Do you not realize the gift I have given you and your men, the very gift this temple has finally been able to produce after years of work, the union of the twin aspects of flesh and metal, governed by the link between us all? You are but the first of a new generation of subjects in the dawning empire of our Lady of the Celestial Configuration. Mortality shall have no hold on you, and with the mysteries of flesh and steel intertwined we can bring this wonderful revelation to so many others. Do you not comprehend her ineffable plan now? The god of ignorance, he of the Old Faith, he and his worshippers are the obstacles to bringing enlightenment to all of Immoren. The war against the Menites cannot be stopped, must not be stopped. The Maiden of Gears has decreed through the infiltrator that it is Her will that hostilities continue, not just against the Menites, but also the Khadoran faithful and the worshippers of the Dragonfather; any that stand in the way of knowledge must be destroyed utterly. Cygnar falters, Leto and his subjects lose the heart for the war, but we cannot let them rest. Our Stryker knows this, pushes for this, and by his actions and subterfuge we will reinvigorate both the Cygnarans and their enemies, never allowing for peace. She has chosen your kingdom to be blessed by Her church, and together we will obliterate all who stand in the way of the Great Work!?

Ovash raised his hands to the strange starry sky above, his voice defiant and proud, waves of crazed belief pouring off of him and into Thomas?s mind by way of the sublime link that connected all at the temple. But underneath the zealotry, hidden from Ovash inside his own mind, a thread of hatred was growing, an unreasoning anger, fueling his passion and twisting it.

Behind the ranting priest Thomas felt something new, and as the lenses in his faceplate shifted he was able to see through Ovash?s body to the giant warcaster beyond. Hatred unlike anything Thomas had ever felt pulsed from Braddock. It rose in a crescendo, and in his religious ecstasy Ovash missed the warcaster?s eyes suddenly snapping open, a dread azure light filling them.

The light pierced Thomas, soaked into him, carrying Braddock?s hatred and patriotism, his dedication to a version of Stryker that upheld the war and the slaughter Braddock craved. The sergeant?s respirator roared as newfound muscles strained against his bindings, the woven flesh and metal enhancements pushing past sane limits. The heavy leather straps cut into unfeeling skin as Thomas pushed harder and harder, ripping the mooring bolts out from the table.

?No, no, what are you doing?? Ovash shouted in fear and anger, finally noticing Thomas?s efforts.

The contagious hatred clouded Ovash?s judgment, blocked rationality, and the chirurgeon threw himself at Thomas, flailing ineffectually at him with wrinkled fists, clawing at the sergeant?s toughened skin, bashing his own faceplate against Thomas?s as he desperately tried to kill him in an unreasoning frenzy. The shouts of anger turned to screams that echoed across the room as the placid servitors descended in a swarm, their clawed appendages tearing into Ovash as they lifted him off the sergeant. The chirurgeon howled in his death throes as the servitor swarm took him higher and higher into the room, shredding his flesh with their claws, ripping his faceplate off and revealing a horrid mass of skin and bone underneath, before finally tearing him into multiple pieces that rained down around Thomas like a bloody hailstorm.

The artificers working across the room shouted in warning as the Warders turned on them. But their fear was soon replaced with rage as Braddock?s hatred spread throughout the temple?s experimental mental link like a plague, infecting all that it touched. The worshippers turned on one another throughout the complex, angrily murdering each other in gruesome fashions, abandoning all reason and sanity. Even the normally docile servitors joined in the carnage, destroying flesh and metal before the swarms turned inwards and obliterated themselves.

Braddock ripped free of his bindings just as Thomas did, and for a moment murder passed between their glances. But the old loyalties to each other bubbled within their minds, spreading through the link to the Warders in the room that tore out the cabling that ran into them. The ten ton machines closed their own armor plates up as they accepted their new roles as instruments of Braddock?s fury with a grim satisfaction. Throughout the temple complex man and machine alike turned their fury outwards, leaving the dead and dying to rush into the madness Braddock offered, welcoming the dissolution of their minds into his purposes, his loyalties, and his hatreds. Experiments half-completed ranging from Thomas?s mutilated men to unspeakable affronts against nature rose up at Braddock?s call, breaking free of cages and bindings, taking up the weapons crafted for them or improvising others, drawn by their newfound loyalty to their master and his bid for a terrible freedom.

Hidden walls and doors of the temple burst open as the lunatic army tore through, destroying the complex mechanika that had birthed them, a tide of madness that spilled out into the trackless desert wastes north of Sul. They moved as an ocean of violence, the swells of hatred from Braddock?s mind urging them onwards, further northwards, where the Old Faith was strongest, where new victims waited a violent end for the crime of worshipping the god of ignorance. All of the old gods would be subjugated, their adherents converted or sacrificed, and a new age of enlightenment would spread across the land in the wake of the destruction.

The true war had begun.