Titan Girl

Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim, dark future there is only war.

Titan Girl

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Wed Nov 09, 2011 8:22 am

Suzan walked the Uncommitted line of hulking tanks, concerned to see frost riming their shadowed hulls.

The season was turning. Soon the Rust People’s raids would begin – the annual attempts to unseat the Families from the warmth of Big Man’s heart. In past times this was of only minor concern; the Rust People were savage, yes, but they were few and uncoordinated. Recent years, however, had seen an unsettling change come over them – methods of attack were craftier and their numbers grown. Even more worrying was the Rust People’s rapidly altering appearance – mutations far beyond the sickening consequences of their rife interbreeding.

Suzan stopped, leaning against the man-high cog of one of the Uncommitted’s tracks. She looked out, over the bush-clumps, hummocks and depressions that obscured the Ancestors’ crumbling stockpiles, lesser vehicles, and prefabbed outbuildings, towards the low range of hills bordering the southern edge of Battlefield.

The Rust People would come from there, from their home in My Corrosion’s shadow, beyond Battlefield’s northern hills. She frowned. She had often suggested to the Families’ chief that guards and runners be posted here autumn to spring, and been ridiculed for her pains. To Prince Epps and most of the Families’ men, females were for two things only–and when they were too young or became too old for one, they provided the other. What could a girl know about raids?

Suzan sighed, spat, and continued her walk along the Uncommitted. There was one male who would listen to her. The trouble was he was millennia dead.

She moved through alternating shadow and sunlight, beneath the seized barrels of the super-heavy tanks, breathing deeply the heady aroma of late-autumn bean flower and leaked engine oil and grease. Blades and Swords the Ancestors had called these monsters of adamantium, and not a week passed when Suzan did not dream of them in action, turrets swivelling, guns blazing and roaring, treads rumbling implacably forwards, shaking the ground. It seemed impossible such things could ever have been bettered in combat. Nevertheless, out upon Battlefield, even such monsters as these had been reduced to shattered shells. More than that, as huge patches of black glass dotted the kilometres of blasted landscape – footprints proving the existence of weapons orders of magnitude more powerful.

‘There’s always a bigger gun,’ as Osee often said.

But not only bigger guns trounced the tanks. Nature had the Uncommitted in thrall. Vines and other spreading plants netted them, birds nested in their gaping barrels, wild felines and vulpines made lairs in their cramped interiors. Leaked fuel and lubricant from corroded joints and hoses gave an impression of retaliation, poisoning much of the soil in the vicinity. But the tanks remained husks. Only in Suzan’s dreams were they terribly, gloriously alive.

She suddenly realised her morning break from tending the Families’ communal crops had long since elapsed. Chargehand Sabatt would doubtless be stroking his devilishly-supple leather belt in anticipation of the lashes her tardiness deserved.

Unless… She smiled. She had a legitimate excuse not to return–Prince Epps would need warning of the frost. More importantly –and potentially of more use– she wanted to consult with Osee (though she would never give that as a reason to abandon her chores).

Of course, being able to once again stand on Big Man’s bridge had no bearing whatsoever.

Almost without realising she was doing it, Suzan began to count backwards under her breath, mentally ticking off the tanks as she passed them. When she reached ‘… five,’ she tilted her neck right back and looked up, mouthing Osee’s High Gothic prayer, ‘Quae mole sua terrorem incutit spectantibus’.

Big Man’s head was now in view, still posed in the exact position it had majestically held since Abandonment thousands of years earlier.

As she always did, she thrilled at this initial sight of the god machine. So handsome that head was. Or, rather, what she extrapolated from the stern, full-lipped mouth and angular chin was handsome; the rest was invisible beneath a helmet worked to resemble a monstrous, jawless simian with meters-long fangs bared in a snarl and flaring nostrils bristling with mortars. Today sunlight glanced lancingly from the helmet’s never-tarnishing gold. This always seemed fitting to Suzan–as if Big Man’s features were too holy to be borne. Only by squinting could she discern the circling black dots–like soot from a bonfire–of the corvine murder that had made its rookery up there for generations.

Even though the rest of his awesome build was the lustreless grey of weathered adamantium, Suzan nevertheless felt the familiar swell of pious rapture as her walk revealed more of Big Man. The Titan’s simple immensity demanded such a response, irrespective of his obvious –though latent– power. Each besadeur supported huge embrasures housing the mightiest weaponry of the Imperium, ordnance only elsewhere found protecting the largest installations or upon the hulls of battleships – melta, plasma, and volcano cannon, various gatling projectile guns, and, most potent and terrifying of all, void cannon. His left arm was pivoted a third along its length, held at the horizontal, and was all rail gun–wide, empty maw now producing only eerie wails in prevailing winds rather than super-accelerated chunks of matter. His epic cuirass was emblazoned with the imperial aquila, wingtips enclosing melta cannon nipples.

How proud Big Man was! How mighty! What greater creation had the Imperium of Man to offer than this truly divine construct? And he wasn’t even standing.

However, once Suzan rounded Uncommitted Number One, it was revealed how even gods could be humbled.

Big Man was a flower. Or, rather, he was a flower’s stigma to the four gargantuan drop-pod petals arrayed about him – he had only been partway through the deployment process when the order for Abandonment was given. His left knee was against the floor, his right level with his sternum. He leant forwards onto the support of his right hand, which, like left knee and feet, was now almost invisible beneath bushes and undergrowth.

And he appeared to have been eviscerated.

Big Man’s fusion reactor was always warm, and passing generations and many harsh winters had overcome reverence and respect and led to the construction of a rickety scaffold supporting dozens of shanties and sheds directly beneath the heat-source (known as Big Man’s Heart even though it bloomed from his belly). It was called Town. And Suzan hated it.

It did look as if a Titan-scale sword had ripped Big Man’s guts out to leave them trailing under him as timber and scrap–rendering him defeated even before combat. The dilapidated structure showed no respect for his intricate immensity, his history, his sheer might and majesty. The Families aught to worship the Titan as divine–not debase him as a giant radiator!

Suzan despised the Families. They did not regard Big Man and the other relics as monuments to be venerated, pondered upon, or be inspired by – they did not regard them at all. They let legends fade to obscurity and knew nothing of the universe or the glorious Imperium of Man. They cared only for vegetables, dirt, and procreation. Each generation was a step closer to utter barbarism.

Of course, existence was hard. There was no room for any consideration but survival. What’s more, the Families hadn’t the benefit of a millennia-old ghost of a Titan’s princeps to educate them. But that was beside the point, wasn’t it? The Families had no desire for betterment, only continued existence. And Suzan discovered early in life that alluding to a spirit-voice that spoke to her on Big Man’s bridge did little for her esteem.

As a consequence of her disgust and the alienation she felt, Suzan, at thirteen, had left her parent’s hovel –as ignorant as the rest, they had never understood their daughter, and were doubtless relieved to see her go– and made her home in a half-buried bunker behind Big Man, where Town was invisible. Better to brave the cold alone than be party to the Families’ impudence.

So she considered it fortunate, as she gazed loathingly at Town, that, to reach Big Man’s bridge (traditional residence of the Families’ chief since Abandonment), she did not have to climb through the layers of screaming whelps, arguing and copulating couples, or roiling, stinking steam from the myriad of cooking pots–access to the Titan’s interior was via a wrist hatch.

Unfortunately, however, Big Man’s splayed fingers delineated the community’s four annually-rotated cess pits.


-oOo-



Suzan gazed through the wide, mullioned lens of Big Man’s left eye. The view from this height on a clear day was astounding – a vista of low hills encircling the vast vehicular graveyard that was Battlefield.

An angry, but muffled cawing sounded from outside, and a ragged black shape briefly fluttered into view – the corvines were squabbling again. She smiled contentedly. How often had she stood here? Along with Osee’s voice, and Big Man himself, this view was one of her earliest memories and had become a familiar constant in her life.

Loud snores erupted from a pile of musty furs behind her. She laced up the final few holes of her bodice. Asleep at last. ++Oh captain, my captain?++

Osee’s presence flowered within her mind. ++It is despicable that you must endure his lusts.++

She sighed – such an old argument. ++How else would I be allowed up here? I am no longer the amusing child to be petted and indulged… And I am no cook.++

++Nevertheless. It is barbaric that any should prostitute themselves so. That one so young… Well, in a civilised society –++

++It would doubtless be occurring clandestinely,++ she interrupted. ++Osee, I don’t want to fight. We have more important things to discuss.++

++The Rust People.++

++You were listening?++

++Until he began to fondle you, yes.++

Her meeting with Prince Epps had not gone well, much as she expected. She had entered the bridge to find the Families’ chief at dice with his cronies, and had made the mistake of trying to discuss the frost-portended attacks in front of them. The result, of course, was ridicule and belittlement – Epps could not be seen to seriously consider a female’s words. Her presence was twisted into a thin cover for her obvious desire for her chief, and the cronies ordered from the bridge to allow Prince Epps to perform his duties.

Yet at least his exertions had left him exhausted and soon asleep, allowing Suzan free reign of the bridge and unrestrained conversation with Osee.

++Is it getting much colder?++

++Not yet, but it soon will. And such early frosts will ruin the crops – that’ll leave us little to eat and the Rust People little to raid…++

++…Which will increase conflict,++ Osee finished. ++Epps must be persuaded to act.++

++I did try, but –++

The ghost interrupted, his voice taking on a note of urgency Suzan hadn’t heard since she tried to activate one of Big Man’s guardian servitors. ++What’s that? Do you feel it?++

Suzan frowned. ++What do you mean? There’s noth–++

Clearly agitated, Osee again interrupted. ++It’s familiar, somehow. I haven’t felt that since… since… Emperor’s throne! Check the stations! Check the stations!++

But there was no need. An insistent beeping began, rapidly increasing in volume and rapidity to a piercing wail that drowned out alarmed shouts from the pile of furs. Suzan whirled around. At every station on the small bridge, readouts and tell-tales blazed with colour and light. Holographic displays coruscated through random volumes of maps and tracking programs with unreadable rapidity. Weapons array and auspex servitors, immobile for centuries, twitched spasmodically, raising clouds of dust and scattering flakes of desiccated flesh. The princep’s throne began to spin, accelerating into a blur of limb-breaking motion.

‘What’ve yer done, girl?!’ bellowed the astonished chief. In spite of her consternation, the sight of the hairy, dirty leader standing naked amongst his furs, gazing in terror at the unprecedented exhibition of light and motion around him, was comical. Suzan almost laughed.

++What is happening, Osee? Is Big Man dying?++

Osee was almost manic. ++Dying? No, my girl, no. These aren’t death throws. This is a celebration!++

‘Celebration? Of what?’ In her shock, she spoke aloud.

Prince Epps peered at her. ‘Who’re you talkin’ to, girl? You mad? What’s goin’ on? What’s all these lights for?’

Osee was speaking, but the chief’s questions distracted her. ‘Epps, shut up, dammit!’

The chief’s hairy face went slack before hardening in outrage. ‘Oo do yer think yer talkin’ to like that? I’m Prince Epps! All these years I’ve let yer wander ‘bout up ‘ere, ‘n’ yer repay me wi’ mouth! Yer need a slappin’, girl.’

He strode forwards. At that moment, one of the jerking servitors’ limbs broke free and flew through the air, striking the chief squarely on the hip. He yelped in pain and fear, screamed, ‘Witch! You’s a witch!’ and scrambled through the access hatch.

Osee still shouted in Suzan’s mind. ++–pathic transmissions! Augmentor’s picking them up. ‘Can’t hear what they’re saying, of course… As if it matters! They’re there! I can feel them, Suzan!++

Suzan tried to get through the unceasing flow of words, ++Osee? Osee! Calm down! What’s happening? What can you feel? Osee!++ The ghost often got like this when he was excited – probably something to do with enduring the countless silent years before Suzan and her receptive mind.

‘Oh captain, my captain!’ She finally yelled.

The raving stopped, then, ++Yes? What?++

Holy Emperor. ++Osee, what is going on?++

++Weren’t you listening? Big Man’s getting astropathic chatter.++

++So? We always get chatter.++

++Sub-light, idiot – eons old. These are recent, astropathic! Via the immaterium! We’re not cut off any more. The warp storm is over!++


-oOo-



Suzan always dreamt of past glories.

She listened to her men behind her in the bunker, chatting in muted tones and passing round a sneaky flask of amasec.

‘What’s this planet called, anyway?’

‘Dunno.’

‘What we ‘ere for?’

‘You getting’ philosophical on me, Jok? “What we fightin’ for? What’s it all about?”’

‘Na. I meant what’s this particular mission?’

‘Emperor knows. But it’s prob’ly somethin’ ta do wi’ an artefact. It’s always is.’

‘Yeah. An old artefact.’

‘An’ buried. They’re always buried.’

Soft laughter. Suzan was glad her men were in good spirits – what she saw through her magnoculars would make a morose squad suicidal.

The orbital cover the super-heavies had so recently benefited from was gone. Though the Navy battleship Hades’ Gate had destroyed the two Chaos cruisers systematically picking off the huge tanks from space, she herself was now under heavy assault from three Repulsive Class grand cruisers. But the attackers’ primary mission was quickly revealed not to be harrying the battleship. Each had launched two mega-carriers. Five made planet-fall, the sixth falling victim to the only battery Hades’ Gate could spare.

The carriers had returned during the night; and now, as sunlight burned through the morning mists, their cargo was revealed through Suzan’s shaking magnoculars.

Four Lucius Pattern– and a single Mars Alpha Pattern Warhound Titans.

‘Holy Emperor save thy children,’ she prayed.

Hulking and hunched, Suzan couldn’t believe these canine-headed, thirty-five meter high monstrosities were actually classed as scouts. The Lucius’ were standard examples of type, each toting fearsome Vulcan mega bolters and inferno guns; their carapace, groin- and shin-guards festering with Chaos runes and symbols. Techs swarmed them in readiness for their surely unstoppable march upon the Imperial forces.

The Mars Alpha Pattern was different – it was decrepit. Adamantium, the strongest metal known to man, wasn’t supposed to rust, but some unguessable process had induced an all-pervasive oxidisation on this monster. There wasn’t even enough unrotted surface area for arcane eye- and spirit-offending symbols. The Warhound appeared brittle, parchment-thin. Only its heavy plasma gun and turbo-laser looked solid, though even these bore patches of mustard and ginger.

A ubiquitously rusted iron chain and plate gave the Titan’s name as My Corrosion.

How was structural integrity maintained? A few mortar rounds would obliterate it! But there was something more, wasn’t there? A palpable force detectable even at this remove held the Titan together – a sinister binding that would withstand plasma blastgun volleys without void shielding. Further, no techs ministered My Corrosion. Instead a dozen Chaos priests were ranged before it, waving guisarmes that left peculiar heat-distortions in their wake. On the ground in front of each of them was the bound, convulsing body of a man.

My Corrosion required sacrifice to awaken. In spite of appearances, Suzan knew she was looking at the true strength of the enemy’s force.

Thud! The bunker shook. Weapons leant against the walls clattered to the floor. The magnaculars jarred painfully against Suzan’s forehead. Thud-thud-thud! Her men quietly cursed. Something about spilt amasec.

Suzan smiled, wondering if there was one such as her on the other side of the plain, gazing through shaking magnoculars at the just-revealed true strength of her force.


-oOo-



Suzan awoke, frowning at the sharp stink from Prince Epps’ furs and pondering her dream. It was one she had experienced many times before, but now it held a new resonance. It would not have been long after those events, distant centuries ago, that the unpredicted arrival of a warp storm initiated the panicked Abandonment.

The storm now over.

It was the fifth morning since the revelation. Though the bridge had returned to its usual calm, a feeling of imminence nevertheless remained. Suzan’s world was no longer quarantined. Change was coming.

Though there had been more immediate concerns.

Suzan had been without food, her dilemma being that if she left Big Man she didn’t doubt Prince Epps would capture her. Primitive superstitions kept him from immediately reclaiming the bridge, but if she strayed outside the Titan’s perceived protection he would consider her defenceless. Still, Big Man’s bridge was the position of power in Town, and she occupied it. No matter what story Prince Epps might concoct, it nevertheless remained a fact that a teenage girl was where he was supposed to be. How would the Families react to that?

Whatever the truth, the second evening saw Suzan’s food concerns banished, and even hinted at favourable answers to other worries. A metallic clang had reverberated up Big Man’s arm and shoulder crawlspaces. Suzan had cautiously descended to the wrist hatch to discover a basket of pies, bread, and vegetables. Through the still-open hatch, she saw her benefactor scurrying away along the edge of the reeking cess pits. She frowned to recognise the slightly stooped back of her mother.

Prince Epps’ credibility had evidently waned after his expulsion – there was no way he would have allowed such charity.

But… her mother? Coincidence, of course. Just like the smile that had spread over her face as she carried the basket back to the bridge.

Suzan stretched before breakfasting upon a cold pie. Suddenly such times of wonder and expectation – what would today bring? First things first: check communications. Ships might already be on their way!

But Osee’s first words banished all such exciting thoughts: ++What are the Rust People doing?++

Cold premonition tickled Suzan’s nape. The Rust People. They had lived at My Corrosion’s feet for generations, a sleeping Chaos Titan. Would they not be aware, almost as a matter of instinct, of the warp storm’s passing? And, assuming so much, what would their reaction be?

Before Big Man’s huge eye lenses were six magnoculars on adjustable arms. Suzan had used all of them over the years, leaving each focused on various objects of interest. The middle two spied directly upon the Rust People’s camp on Battlefield’s far side. The left-hand device was set at a wide-angle view, and it was these she selected. Through them she saw was her dream made actual, and her lips soundlessly repeated the prayer, ‘Holy Emperor save thy children.’

Osee, observing through her eyes, said, ++They worship it.++

Rings of misshapen figures surrounded the ever-rotting behemoth of the Warhound, genuflecting in a frenzied abandonment. Such behaviour was unprecedented. The Rust People had always lived about the Titan, and were physically influenced by its malign, if slumbering, presence – but she had never known them deify it.

++Look to the ground, Suzan. The rust circle has grown.++

Further testimony to My Corrosion’s latent Chaotic powers, the ground about its feet was powdered with a orange-brown patina of dust, as if the soil itself were contaminated by the Titan’s presence. Now it had spread, and was even apparent upon the lower extremities of the four Lucius Pattern Warhounds ranged some distance to the rear.

‘What does it mean?’

Osee’s voice was filled with despair. ++It is a declaration. We are witnessing a waxing of power, Suzan. The Rust People are no longer savages – My Corrosion’s shadow has stained them deeper than their flesh. They are now fanatics. Oh, I should have suspected this! Planned for it! They teach such things to infants! Chaos taints, Suzan! Chaos corrupts! Chaos will out!++


-oOo-



Dunes of swarf and scoria. Iron-filing clouds adrift in a hot, furnace-red sky. Endless kilometres of twisted wreckage creaking in the grating winds. The subtle aroma of scorched, decaying metal. Sometimes boiling drops of mercury rained down. Sometimes mists and fogs of powdered rust rose up. Very rarely, volcanic crucibles over the horizon roared, spewing vast amounts of tin and lead that solidified as it sped through the air, falling as tinkling, glittering showers of pewter.

Such was the Scrap Desolation, retreat of My Corrosion. The whole world was a devotion to metal in its myriad of forms, but the wide, equatorial band of Scrap Desolation was My Corrosion’s favoured country, where decay was most prevalent.

Here was home. Here was metal rot.

But today there was a tang to the wind, an unsettling yet familiar taste… coppery… redolent of another type of world… a world of organics and slippery, fleshy death. The world of the materium and of Man.

The taste was of blood.

My Corrosion groaned in anticipation, the low vibration of the sound exploding a nearby pyramid of oxidised brass into beige dust. The iron in human blood had the sweetest taste of all metals, and it was once again called to its other body to sup.

The Titan would bathe in it. Blood would run into air-intakes; bubble over heat-exchangers; anoint weapons.

My Corrosion pawed the ground in eagerness, rupturing a metal drum and spraying silver bearings through the arid atmosphere.

There. An agitation in the air before it. Distant chanting became discernable, grew louder and closer. A green shimmer formed and steadily brightened, obfuscating a huge, pitted ingot of dross and leaking the sharp taint of organics – palpably alien to this world of bronze and adamantium.

But not to My Corrosion.

It revelled in the remembered pull on its rotten metal soul and did not resist. It craved the transition between the worlds. It hungered.

But something was wrong. The pull suddenly slackened. The taste of organics was gone. The emerald glow dimmed. My Corrosion did not understand. Why call for it they weren’t going to provide the means of crossing? The Titan lurched towards the light, probing it with the tip of its plasma gun. But the light was only that, and not passage to ecstasy.

My Corrosion howled its frustration, and a fatigued cube of iron burst into shrapnel. To promise so much and then rip away the means of its attainment! Did its summoners tease? Toy? If so the Titan would bathe in their blood, too!

First, however, it had to get to them.

The light had dimmed, but not disappeared. The door to the other world remained ajar. Perhaps it was possible to have those on the other side nudge it wider?

My Corrosion squatted low, and concentrated all its rusted energies on the emerald light.

It sensed minds through the rift, though not the priests and adepts it knew. These were simpler, much less powerful. Would they be enough? My Corrosion would make them enough. It would boost them! Nurture them!

Time passed; how much My Corrosion had no way of telling. Time was a malleable thing on this Chaos world of metals, rarely coinciding with its linear materium counterpart. However, at some point it was gratified to feel the plucking breezes of compulsion return. Perhaps it was an infinity later when it once again experienced the enrapturing tang of organics.

Only one matter remained before the Titan could strut the worlds of Man once more – the necessary strengthening of the dimensional bridge for My Corrosion’s passage.

Best achieved by sacrifice…


-oOo-



Three sounds gradually brought Susan out of a deep, black sleep.

First it was the muffled, disgruntled caws of the corvine murder. What in the Emperor’s name has disturbed them at this hour? Then distant screams.

Screams?

And then a furtive rasping that had her sitting bolt upright in her sleeping furs.

The only illumination came from command station displays and tell-tales, their coloured lights casting a riot of soft shadows about the bridge. Fear gripped Suzan, quickening her breathing. Something was terribly wrong. There was a metallic smell in the air.

The noise came again. Something serrated sliding lightly over a metal surface. Distinct. Closer than before.

Behind her.

She twisted around, sucking in air to scream – but was denied by the sharply-studded hand suddenly crushing her throat. The flesh of her neck was pierced in a hundred places – but the wounds were inconsequential in comparison to what filled her vision.

A perfect, head-sized ovoid was centimetres from her face. And it seethed. Its surface was skinned with tiny, saurian eyes mounted atop pyramids of muscle, twitching nystagmatically. There were no other features aside from a powdery coating glittering faintly in the gloom.

The ovoid tilted quizzically to one side as the creature’s other hand –covered in pointed metal studs– rose unhurriedly into Suzan’s view. The creature slowly swivelled its wrist, exhibiting the appendage. The studs on the palm were chromed, shining with use (though, she was certain, not blunted by it), but those on the back were covered with yellow dust…

As a precaution, Suzan kept a sharpened metal bar beneath her furs. Gulping shallow breaths, eyes never straying from the mutant’s hand (now swaying as though it were a charmed serpent), she shifted her weight and inched her hand to where the weapon lay.

The ovoid twitched. The grip about her throat tightened and snatched her away from the bar.

Suzan’s movement had been slight – how could the creature could have guessed her intentions from it? Unless…

The ovoid was moving from side to side, as if in disappointment at her actions. Then it began to nod, as if, as -

As if confirming her dawning realisation that it could read her thoughts.

++Osee! Osee! Oh Captain, My Captain!++

The studded hand moved towards her face, thumb and first two fingers curled into a claw, digits assigned to mouth or eye. The tiny pyramids on the ovoid were collectively focused on Suzan.

The hand about her throat tightened. She couldn’t breath. Her mouth gaped, jaw working for the breath her lungs were denied.

Osee flowered into her mind.

++At this hour? What -++ A pause. ++Suzan, you must close your mind to me!++

The mutant’s head began to turn from side to side, as if seeking the source of a sound. Could it hear Osee?

++How do I do that?++

++Will it, girl! It’s your mind! Will it!++

But Suzan could no longer concentrate – a deep blackness welled across her brain, seeped into her vision. A wild thought shot through her head, Doubtless death closes a mind as well as any–

Streaks of red laced the blackness like veins. Widened into scarlet gorges containing… Infinities.

The hand was snatched from her throat. She filled her straining lungs, exhaled, gulped another breath. The black –and terrible red– receded. Was gone.

A metallic screeching drew awareness back to her situation. She looked up.

The mutant was on its back, convulsing. Clenched fists, elbows, heels, and occiput, beat against the floor with sickening force – actually striking sparks from its epidermal studs. These were the only sounds it made.

Osee was gone from her mind, but she thought she knew where he was. She scrambled for the metal bar. Hefting its reassuring solidity, she stood above the epileptic mutant, the bar’s point aimed at its head. Before she rammed the bar down and the unsettling visage was splattered with dull red blood that ran like mercury, she noticed the myriad of eyes were tightly closed and revolving in tiny, perfectly synchronised circles.


-oOo-



++Suzan! Come out of it, Emperor damn you! Who’s screaming?++

Endless red worlds faded from Suzan’s mind. She found herself staring at the mutant’s corpse, her hand rubbing the raw flesh of her neck. She took a ragged breath and strode to the Titan’s mullioned eye-lenses.

The orange glow of Town’s torches lapped the darkened area before Big Man, revealing dozens of misshapen figures – a dismaying proportion of which contended with struggling townspeople.

++What are they doing? What do they want with so many?++

++Don’t you see? My Corrosion is completing the ceremony. They can’t be allowed to take any more people!

Realisation dawned. ++They’re going to wake the Chaos Titan.++

But Osee now followed a different line of thought. ++The voice. Use the voice! Open the crew compartments and storage bins and call them in – it’s the only place they’ll be safe.++

‘What “voice?”’ she said aloud.

++Big Man’s! Go to a secondary station – I’ll instruct.++

Working around a gently-swaying, utterly-desiccated servitor, Suzan followed the ghost’s directions, tapping keys and adjusting dials. ++Not that high! This is eldar Banshee-based technology. Do you want to melt brains?++

For an instant, a limitless vista of red masses eclipsed Suzan’s vision. ‘What did you do to the mutant, Osee?’

The dead princeps did not immediately reply. ++Ghosts have access to certain plains, Suzan. The receptive can be shown them. Now… Call them in.++

‘But the Rust People will hear.’

++Suzan, they are barbarians. How many of them do you think still possess language? Call the Families. Quickly.++


-oOo-



Despair etched their faces. They were beaten – cornered within Big Man. They had no food or water, many were severely wounded, many others had discovered patches of yellow dust on their skin that would not rub off – what that portended no one knew. And these were only the townspeople crowding Big Man’s bridge. Dozens of others filled access tubes and weapons chambers, thigh barracks, even the fusion-reactor chamber.

And, as Prince Epps had been killed in the rearguard to the Families’ flight, all looked to Suzan for leadership.

The mutant’s corpse still lay on the floor, metal bar embedded in its head. The Families avoided it, and so created the bridge’s only space. Painfully aware of the boost the tableaux of vanquished corpse and victor gave to an authority she wasn’t sure she wanted, Suzan was forced to occupy the area as the only place she could stand without being jostled. For no other reason than to give an impression of purpose, Suzan made her way to the observation lenses and looked out over the dawn landscape.

Grey clouds engulfed the blue sky, giving the familiar landscape a gloomy appearance. What must have amounted to the whole contingent of Rust People surrounded Big Man and Town in a rough, widely-spaced ring of misshapen flesh; watching for… No. How could they be watching for would-be escapees when they weren’t even facing the Titan? Were instead looking towards Battlefield; as if… As if…

++As if they await something++ said Osee.

Muttering, ‘No,’ repeatedly under her breath, Suzan bent to a pair of magnoculars and looked into the Rust People’s distant camp. Other than the expected emptiness, nothing at first seemed amiss – until she realised the camp’s level of desertion.

My Corrosion was gone. The Rust People had woken it.

At that moment she felt thump…thump…thump reverberate through the floor. Her steady stream of muttered denial evolved a, ‘God Emperor,’ as she adjusted the magnoculars.

The Mars Alpha Pattern Warhound strutted amongst the patches of glass and overgrown ruins of conflict. It seemed to move slowly, as if gravity had little mastery over it (when, surely, such a massive entity should hardly have been able to move); each step producing eruptions of rust from its structure like fungi spores. In repetition of her dream, Suzan caught herself wondering how the Titan wasn’t shaken apart. Then she saw the grisly pendulums of Townspeople dangling like forgotten puppets from its rotted cowlings, nameplate, and gun-arms; bouncing upwards and slapping sickeningly down with each step. Saw the browning blood anointing the corroded armour. Once more she realised she wasn’t looking at a ‘simple’ vehicle of war. My Corrosion was something oh-so much more than the sum of its parts – a living thing, bubbling with Chaotic might and lusts.

And it wanted them.

The thudding intensified. The people behind began to murmur in renewed alarm.

++All is not lost, you know.++

Suzan stood erect, watching the distant Titan unaided. In fear and irritation at Osee’s obliqueness, she responded aloud. ‘“All is not…” Oh Captain, My Captain, please tell me how we overcome that?’

++How else would you combat a Titan, Suzan?++

Cold fire scorched her spine. She began to shake. Was Osee actually suggesting… Could he be…

‘Are you joking? There is no princeps, no moderati. The servitors are all but dust! You can’t control it – you’re always telling me about the safeguards against Titan possession.’

She was dimly aware of shuffling feet and murmuring behind.

++Indeed – there are no stronger safeguards than Big Man’s. He was a special commission, Suzan, an experiment, constructed by a much more youthful and knowledgeable Adeptus Mechanicus. He is a god amongst God Machines. Notwithstanding his unique physical design, he is capable of inducting his own princeps from any possessing a modicum of mental ability. More than this, for the induction is so deep, so pervasive, moderati and servitors become redundant. Princeps and Titan are not so much wedded, as welded.++

Suzan’s mind emptied. Her shaking subsided. Suddenly she was quite calm. She heard a voice, possibly her own, say, ‘What must I do?’

Osee sighed. ++Yes. It really can only be you, my love. Disregarding even your psychic aptitude, none other has your education.++ He sighed again. ++There is a chamber beneath the bridge, the Chaperone of Scalpels. Simply lie in it and… Well – the procedure is fully automated. But be aware. It is also painful. Painful and intrusive.++ Osee seemed to be reciting a litany he knew all too well. ++Painful, intrusive, and quite irreversible.++


-oOo-



The lid slipped upwards from her feet, cutting off the amazed stares of the Families. Suzan wanted to say, ‘You’ve forgotten your Emperor, you barely posses sense enough to wipe your arses, and yet here I am. Somebody tell me why.’ Best, perhaps, she remained silent.

The lid slid passed her head and, with a soft thud, was shut.

Her eyes were wide and staring, she knew, for she felt them blink, but she could see nothing – total blackness engulfed her; and, except for her rapid panting, total silence.

++Oh Captain, My Captain?++

No response, but then she wasn’t really expecting any – Osee had told her they would be unable to converse. ++Your next exchange will be with Big Man himself, Suzan. Assuming successful induction, of course.++

She sneezed. The receptacle had still contained the crumbling remnants of its last occupant. She had scooped most of the corpse out, but dust clearly still circulated.

++Is this you?++ she had asked.

++No. Other welded both preceded and succeeded me.++

++But why? Once you were… welded, what need for another to govern Big Man?++

++Suzan, I have told you how attached princeps becomes to their Titans. How, in many cases, their spirit remains with their ward even after death. For the welded such a fate is inevitable. I am not the only ghost in here, Suzan – just the only vocal one.++

++Is that my fate? To join you… wherever you are?++

Osee had paused, then, ++My love, it may be thousands of years hence.++

The receptacle began to cool, its metal tugging her flesh with every movement. She started to shiver. Whispers of frigid air tickled the fine hairs up and down her body, hinting at opening compartments. She started as tiny motors whirred into noisy life and the receptacle shrank to clamp her firmly in place. A voice, deep and imperious, suddenly boomed, ‘Subject! Give yourself freely to the Emperor’s will and He will assist in mastering the God Machine’s fiery spirit. Submit to the ministrations! Sing His praises as the devices cut!’

The voice commenced singing itself. But Suzan wasn’t listening. Needles simultaneously pierced each of her fingertips, deeply. She began to gibber. More pierced her toes and the balls of her feet. Something squirmed strongly beneath buttocks and nape. She began to moan.

A buzzing began somewhere above her skull.

Suzan began to scream.


-oOo-



My Corrosion was in ecstasy. The coppery twang of human blood was a wonderful haze about it, emanating from the dozens of sacrifices draped over its massive form. Only the stink given off by those few bodies cooking on its engine cowlings and heat sinks –bad judgement on the part of an acolyte– tainted the blissful aroma.

And more to come! Acolytes guarded the foot of the Imperial construct against the escape of humans holed up within it. My Corrosion would wait with them – it would be only days before the humans became desperate enough to attempt flight.

My Corrosion arrived before the Imperial Titan, basking in the adoration of the genuflecting Rust People as it examined its peer. In spite of the near-foetal pose and the jumble of wood and steal beneath it, the Warhound felt awe at the sight. Even with the aid of the four Lucius Patterns rotting kilometres behind, it would have been a hard-won clash against such a magnificent enemy.

But what was this? Heat bloom! The God Machine’s fusion reactor was ramping up!

My Corrosion took a surprised step back. The Rust People, sensing their lord’s consternation, howled in dismay.

Howls that grew louder when the Imperial Titan’s nipples began lactating fire.


-oOo-



Such anger. Such ferocity. Such strength.

How could she hope to master the Titan? It overwhelmed, drowned, smothered.

And used her. She was a bridge to the Titan’s autonomy – a fleshy key required to circumvent the independent action safeguards. Through her, it would have free will.

She fought against its battering resolve, at last achieved a minor victory.

She could see outside.

But Big Man’s visual sensors were not confined to its head. Suzan almost lost herself beneath the wealth of information suddenly spewed into a brain only used to two eyes. But she refused to succumb, sensed algorithms grudgingly come to her aid, and, gradually, made sense of what she saw.

My Corrosion stood to one side, its canine head at a quizzical angle – obviously aware of Big Man’s internal activity. Suzan’s enhanced vision picked out the sacrifices dangling grotesquely from the Warhound’s armour. Amongst them, naked, scarred with arcane symbols, hands vilely tied to one-another’s genitalia, were her mother and father.

Rage to rival a Titan’s. She recalled her mother’s retreating back as she had left Suzan food at the wrist hatch. What had prompted that small act of kindness? Perhaps their estrangement had only ever really existed in Suzan’s rebellious, proud mind. How, now, would she ever know?

Her fury grew, boosted by Big Man’s inherent anger; merging with it until there was no difference between them… And, suddenly, Suzan was able to control the Titan, accepting integration with the construct’s machine spirit. Other systems were suddenly opened to her, touch, smell, complex receivers and interpretation devices.

Weapons.

Her body was no longer the broken thing beneath the bridge’s floor. It was Big Man’s. She was no longer Suzan. She was Big Man.

Except, as the Titan’s vast memory stacks revealed, ‘Big Man’ was not her name. The name she had been given at her first awakening in the foundries of infinitely-distant Mars was, Golgotha.

A name to be bellowed in anger, pride, and defiance.

And bellowing was best done standing.

With a crunching roar, wood and metal splintered, shattered pipes sprayed, fires flared. Almost instantly, Town reverted to the scrap it was built from as Golgotha, surely a mountain made mobile, stood.

Irritably, she brushed the remnants of Town from her cuirass and fauld as if brushing away mealtime crumbs. Her joints threatened to seize, but huge pumps quickly circulated easing lubricant. She turned to face My Corrosion.

The Warhound charged.

Before she could react, the squat Titan rammed her. Adamantium screamed. Agony erupted… But she remained standing. So many thousands of years crouched like a fearful child – she would not cower again! Trumpeting her rage, Golgotha hammered her fist into the Warhound’s back.

She expected the rotten carapace to split asunder like too-old fruit, but it held – birdlike legs simply bending to absorb the blow. My Corrosion retreated, leaving Golgotha time for only one more considered punch before the Warhound was out of reach.

As the Chaos Titan backed away, a nimbus of blue light flickered and died in the air above it. Golgotha grinned inwardly – her last punch had flattened the other’s void shield generator.

She began to limp after, rapidly sorting through her mighty armaments. Dismay! She had no ammunition! The order for Abandonment had been given before she had been battle-readied. Her own void shield generators were uncommissioned. Her breast reservoirs were fuelled, but the chemical was so old it would barely ignite, and merely continued to dribble from her melta-gun nipples.

My Corrosion, however, had no such troubles. Its turbo laser wined as destructive energies were generated within it. Its plasma gun radiated hot gamma fog.

The first volley knocked Golgotha staggering backwards, the turbo laser peppering her from poleyn to gorget with lancing pain, the plasma gun engulfing her with searing ionised gas. Warning icons pulsed immanent and widespread systems failure.

Ignoring them, roaring her anger, she lurched towards her enemy… to be met by another volley from the now steadily advancing Warhound. She span, and, against all her efforts and earlier resolution, toppled to the shaking ground, pinioning her right arm.

Billowing dust obscured her vision, then, striding through it, My Corrosion.

Weapon-arms panned towards Golgotha’s simian-masked head. Point blank.

She heard cawing. Black flakes fluttered and twirled before her eyes like muscae volitantes. For a moment she was a little girl watching corvines swoop and bicker through Big Man’s mullioned eyes. The birds still lived! Suddenly it was imperative their home of countless avian generations should not be damaged further.

Golgotha’s railgun swung.

Screaming rage and fear, the Warhound toppled, its legs swept from beneath it. The ground shook, Golgotha was briefly bounced bodily into the air. For a moment the Titans were gargantuan lovers, regarding one another side by side.

Then the struggle to rise commenced. My Corrosion’s legs clawed the ground frantically, cutting deep furrows that were small valleys. But Golgotha’s anthropoid design gave her the advantage. She rolled upon her back, slammed railgun and fist into the ground, and rose ponderously upright. Pain a constant assault across scorched torso and beaten thighs, she stooped, grabbed one of My Corrosion’s pumping limbs, and lifted.

Legs about to buckle at any moment, arm about to tear apart, she began to swing the Warhound back and forth.

My Corrosion’s guns blazed crazily as it desperately attempted to track its captor through the penduline motion, eliciting grim laughter from Golgotha. Laughter that quickly rose into a shriek as rust suddenly bloomed on her hand and rapidly, impossibly, washed over her wrist and forearm.

She let fly.

The Warhound arced through the air, legs still pin-wheeling, weapons spewing light and plasma in their own graceful curves.

The impact was that of a meteorite strike. Earth, rock, and tonnes of ochre dust erupted. My Corrosion, Chaotic integrity destroyed by the terrible crash, at last succumbed to its inherent rot – and disintegrated.

For a moment, Golgotha regarded the settling clouds of dust and earth, only now noticing the scattered, broken bodies of Rust People killed during the conflict. Then her left leg, stressed beyond endurance, buckled. She fell to her knees.

She had won.

Muffled cheers rang within her head, and she guiltily recalled the Families inside her. How they must have been battered! Still, some at least were well enough to applaud.

Golgotha bent her head back and howled.

And, across the warp’s bubbling gulfs, vast battleships heard.

And changed course.
Last edited by Chun the Unavoidable on Mon Jan 21, 2013 9:02 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Titan Girl

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Wed Nov 09, 2011 8:26 am

For comments on the old Bolthole, go here.
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Re: Titan Girl

Postby Insomniac » Sat Nov 12, 2011 1:29 am

One of my favourite tales. I've already gushed praise on every forum this is posted on, but it's nice to see it make it over to the new BH.
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Re: Titan Girl

Postby chrispcarter » Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:13 pm

Very nice! The story does a brilliant job of highlighting of the power and pseudo-mysticism of the God-Machines, and the simmering conflict between the ingorant survivors of the two sides, still living out the larger war in microcosm centuries later, is a great piece of narrative.

One question though - is "Osee" actually the MIU-ghost's name? I had myself half-convinced it was a simplification of something starting "O.C."...
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Re: Titan Girl

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Tue Nov 15, 2011 7:47 am

Insomniac: thanks, as ever (and is that Samuel R Delaney on your avatar?).

chrispcarter: thanks for your time, sir (not to mention your enjoyment). Yep, 'Osee' is short for 'O.C.', which is in turn short for, 'Oh Captain' (my captain) - Suzan's summoning phrase. What his real name once was is never disclosed (in part because it has no bearing on this story... and also because I have no idea what it was ;) ).
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Re: Titan Girl

Postby chrispcarter » Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:10 am

Facepalm! Can't believe I couldn't put two and two together there haha. I blame it on exhaustion (which is the nickname I'm going to start using for my son).
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Re: Titan Girl

Postby SpaceMonkey » Tue Nov 15, 2011 11:10 am

That was a great read, I loved how the two sides had degenerated into opposing tribes following the Warp storm.

The story had something of the Fallout games about it, settlements built from the debris of a once technical advanced civilisation. A very striking image.

Loved how everything came back online as the warpstorm dissapated... excellent.

Thank you for sharing such an invoking story
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Re: Titan Girl

Postby Insomniac » Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:29 pm

Chun the Unavoidable wrote:Insomniac: thanks, as ever (and is that Samuel R Delaney on your avatar?).


I'm not quite sure. I found that picture on the cesspool that is tumblr and just love the dude's reaction.
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Re: Titan Girl

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:48 pm

SpaceMonkey: thanks for your time and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Insomniac: no, it's not - I just compared the two on Google. I've no idea who your guy is :D .
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Re: Titan Girl

Postby The Viceroy » Wed Nov 16, 2011 3:01 am

That guy is Cornel West. He's a professor at Princeton.

I really liked this story, along with Colossus. Thanks for reposting this one.
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Re: Titan Girl

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Wed Nov 16, 2011 8:11 am

You're welcome. And thanks times two.
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Re: Titan Girl

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Mon Jan 21, 2013 9:00 pm

Annual -more or less- bump.
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