- "Make ready to receive His blessing."
- —Lorelius, Enginseer
About the Project
Jason Netz is the title of an Adventure Series, written by the amateur writer Nathaniel Death. New chapters will be posted as often as possible, at least once per month.
Critics are welcome! If any informations or contents are inconsistent or do not apply to the rules of the Warhammer 40,000 Fanon, please inform the author! Characters and places are freely made up by the author, resemblance to others are non-intentional.
PV-M37 was a minor forge world, specialized in the production of slower than light spacecraft. Most popular among these were the STL-TO-MV, lovingly given the nick Tom 5. Their modular designs allowed them a wide field of application, reaching from cargo transporter to capable planetary defence fighters. Even though their size was puny in comparison to other spacecraft of the Imperium, they still held an average crew of up to several hundreds. Among other forces of the Imperium, especially the Inquisition was pleased with the ability of these vessels to adept to almost any task given, while at the same time keeping a low profile. Like on any other forge world, their products were highly prized, exceptionally venerated and extremely defended by military forces of the Cult Mechanicus, and, if necessary, supported by the Imperial Navy.
Thus the daily life on PV-M37 was full of caring for the ghost of every machine, their moods had to be mended, their spirits kept high. It was a very necessary task, but Tech-Priests were a busy lot and could not for themselves look after every minor detail of care-taking. For these tasks they recruited lucky individuals from the rotting populace of the forge world. They were simple humans, nothing but flesh and bone, far from the high ideals of the Omnissiah. But the God of the Machine has made mankind for the purpose to advance, to carve the perfect state of the machine and the highest amount of efficiency. It is from this point of view that those they chose to serve the Omnissiah are lucky, for they will be turned into servitors and thus elevated into an existence of efficiency. These individuals will be stripped off their pointless personality, useless parts of their brains removed to form space for the blessing of machinery, and what remains of the grey mass will be altered with the aid of aggressive neural-toxins. Those who posses a remark of skill are offered a chance as Reclaimators. These men are technicians who will do very basic works, performing minor procedures of repairs and maintenance. A necessary lot, but one without significance in the grand design of the Machine-God. Another chance for an individual to advance from the worthless life of the flesh is that of a Menial. They do similar work of minor importance, like servitors performing tasks given by a Tech-Priest, works of repair and maintenance. Forced into the service of the Adeptus Mechanicus they yet retain their personality. If one Menial proves worthy, he may even be recruited into the rank of the Tech-Adept and receive the blessing of the Omnissiah.
One of them is Jason Netz.
Between the orbital hangar and the moon based Administratum an ancient Tom 5 followed its elliptic course. It's main task had always been the communication between the stations, Transmechanics on board working to transmit messages back and forth. It also served for the deliveries of cargo and passengers, though the later occurred rarely. Among the many Techs lived a few dozens of crewmen. They scrubbed the deck, they carried goods and shovelled filth. And within the timespan of their short and worthless lives they told of the wisps and strange events that occurred to the unwary. Like the tale of the lost souls in the hallways close to the core of the ship, the maintenance network. It was a maintenance network of older design, cables and wires stretching along the tunnels like veins and sinew of a giant. Because the gravity generator was so close by, the ship would play tricks on the mind of any men caught unawares. And in the air were floating light globes, unattached to the ceiling or any source of energy. They wandered the halls, ever spending their soft glow. These were the lost souls, the stories said, of poor men that had been lured into the depth of the ships guts, never finding a way out, ever seeking, tormented by the ships soundless laughter.
Netz engulfed one of the light bulbs in a thick cloud of smoke, its light almost extinguished. He snorted when he thought of the old humbug, before looking on the pointer of his navigator device. Half of his face was covered in a thick beard, but his left was little more than scarred skin where the glowing metal of a miner servitors engine had hit him. His healthy skin was greyish green, like that of any citizen, and his good eye had a trace of hazel. Over his stinking rags of clothings he wore a leather jacket, and from his shoulder hung a bag with the devices and disks he had been given by his master, to allow him the performance of all required tasks. Though he wasn't exactly allowed to wield a gun, he still had a stub-revolver with him. It was a compact version, the size of his palm and with a barrel for three shots. It was a very bad idea to carry a gun in a pocket. He knew from the surface that it was useless when out of reach. But a holster would have been too noticeable and his superiors would have stripped him off it.
Before he was made a Menial, he had been scum from the under-hives. Scraps and some basic understanding in technology had nothing to do with mystic or gods there. Either you've got the stuff from the garbage piles back into functionality or you could fight with the other gangs over some leftovers from the mid-hives. There wasn't much to live of. The competing gangs and cave-ins from occasional hive quakes were bad enough, but then there were dusk stalkers, packs of stray servitors and abandoned machines going haywire. He had been born into a gang of data scavengers. Since they lacked the muscles to compete with the other gangs, they picked out the things those didn't want, which usually were disks and memorial cubes. They repaired what old machines and devices they could find, and with their help managed to extract data from all sorts of origin. It wasn't much to gain from, but enough to make a living. Usually you'd find something valuable only once or twice in a cycle.
When the cog-suckers had come to harvest a new bunch of lucky souls to turn them into servitors, a routine test had marked him worthy to be recruited into the compulsory service. Thus his career had begun. He was taken away from the under-hive and spent most of his time working directly under some enginseer near the furnaces or band-conveyors. In time he was allowed to work on his own, though only in very isolated spaces, until he was deployed on this Tom 5. It was one of the many boons of his position that he could use his own device to peak into data-flows of the logistics, allowing himself some extra money on the black market for luxuries. Right now, it wasn't the illegal sync-cigar in his possession that would make his mentor risking an overheat, but the blasphemous act of desecrating these hallowed halls with its smoke and ash. Netz doubted one of these high and sparkly would ever come down here.
They sent him to do their work. At least once a day he had to dig into the ships innermost caverns, to perform direct check-ups on it's electrical components. The only damage he could do to these components was to roast himself in a bypass. He lacked the gear and knowledge to actually get into the system at any of these interfaces. Thus he was used to check on components of the security systems.
Following his navigator, Netz eventually reached the narrow shaft wherein he was to perform the rite of maintenance. To his irritation he had to crawl to reach the circuit board. All around him thick bundles of high-voltage cables ran the walls. The light sources were few and of a dirty yellow. The smoke of his cigar gathered quickly and he would likely be blinded if he was less than a man accustomed to the hazards of a forge worlds under-hive. Biting the tobacco to one side of his mouth, he began a low mumble, intoning arcane psalms to the machine while removing the casing. When listening to a Tech-Priest, these psalms could hardly be understood, so monotone and without a single pause were they spoken. But neither was he a Tech-Priest, nor were they real psalms. Still, as a mortal, Netz could hardly avoid the hint of a tune and many moments of silence whenever he got to focus on his work or on remembering the next words.
His were like a rhythmic manual to the order of things to be done in his performance at hand. They told him to remove the casing, check all the cables for proper isolation before loosing the next set of screws and repeating the careful observation. Though the cramp shaft made working difficult, he finally hooked the board off the slot. Taking out his Com-2-slate and connecting it with the board, he started the program of efficiency validation and malfunction scrutiny. The process wouldn't take too long. Netz used the side of his hand to swipe some ash off the display.
Back in the under-hive, amongst their scavenges, his old man salvaged some ancient verse of data. It took months, but he had realised one could infuse it into algorithms to set up a security blockaded in-link, which required a line of hallowed runes to unlock and allow the procedures to start. It was of no value to a Tech-Priest, even if they knew of it, their advanced equipment supplying them with all sorts of non-direct interfaces. They rarely used the runes of passage. Netz, however, had this piece of data-verse always with him and made a sport of putting it into whatever subroutines he could get his hands on. It didn't seem to ever disturb running systems, and would provide him with a back-door which allowed him direct access via hard links like those his Com-2-slate established. It was exactly how he could read out flowing data from the logistics.
When the data-verse was done copying and the malfunction scrutiny finished, his display informed him that a memorial cube had to transcend into the hall of reconditioning, and a new cube should assume it's task. Netz recited the required psalms, putting the former and new cube into his slate and performed the rite of duplication.
With everything done he returned the board to its proper place, screwing the pieces back together under the constant murmur of quasi hallowed verses. He made a half-hearted attempt to clean the place off his ashes and crawled back out. Finally able to stand again, he stretched his body and spit out the stump of his cigar. Netz rummaged through his pockets until he found his flask, taking a deep gulp of water. It had a rant, metallic tang. He made his way out of the mazelike network, following the pointer on his navigator device.
The light bulbs pulsed softly when he passed by. He couldn't help himself but feel his navigator led him a different route this time. But given the nature of these corridors, he continued without another thought about it. Before long he reached a huge iron door with the cyber-skull of the mechanicum imprinted on it. He held his Com-2-slate out to the terminal, and the door hissed open. He went through, blinking, for the corridor beyond was much brighter lid than the maintenance network. A sensation in his guts informed him he had reached the optimal range of the gravitation generator. Still unsure where he was he kept following the pointer on his navigators display.
A few turns later realisation hit him, seeing the first signs of folk who lived in makeshift shelters. He had left the technical maintenance south of the ships core, entering the lower layers of society on board. In moments he reached the rusty gallery, an abandoned warehouse, its giant letters 'C5' on the walls faintly recognizable. Now it was filled with the simplest crew members, scrubber, beggars and roamers. But even a blind servitor would have been able to tell by the reek in the air what kind of place this was. It was pretty much like the under-hive he had grown up in, but yet a tat worse, since the salvage they could muster on a ship was way poorer. He also knew the rules of these hoods, kin to a small village. And even without that familiarity, the glares of hostility and scepticism spoke for them selves. With an effort to hide his devices, he decided to get through as quickly as possible. If he went back into the maze, it would take too long. Though he wasn't entirely obedient and careful with the expectations of his superiors, he didn't wish to let them wait for another few hours.
Moving on with his head held low, watching his surroundings as closely as possible, he managed to get through the slum. He passed what seemed to be workshops and stores and from nearby chatter he picked up they preferred to exchange goods instead of paying anything with throne gelt. Nothing uncommon with no place to actually sell this junk. Netz saw cooking stoves and heat generators where people gathered for warmth and company. Some slept on the floor between the racks. Eventually he saw a particular point of these gatherings, marking the end of this area. A bunch of tall figures with broad shoulder gathered around something or someone he couldn't see. Even though the stink of filth seemed absurdly present, there was also a whiff of roasted meat.
Netz had no time to wonder, for something grabbed him around the ankle and he almost fell flat on his face. Though he managed to recover his balance, his bag clanked noisily when it hit him. He looked down into a geezers skull face, obviously blinded by cataracts. “Please, help me!” If there were any teeth left in that mouth, they were as black as the gum, and a wave of foul breath washed over him. The beggars words were slurred and spittle ran down his chin. “Have mercy on a poor old soul.” Despite his words, he dug his yellowed nails into Netz leg and hauled himself up, reaching for the shoulder bag. Netz jumped away, forcing himself off the old thief. It was then he realized the beggar was missing both his legs, his hips even, and he dragged a line of waste behind him like slime marks of a rotten snail. Netz felt sick with disgust and moved on, leaving the beggar to his unintelligible blabbering. Though turning towards the exit gave him another start.
A tall woman with curly brown hair and a dirty face eyed him disdainful. Judging from her mesh vest and heavy club, Netz realised the likeliness of an arbiter, a law-enforcer. Something told him she didn't own this gear. While he was just beginning to process his situation, the three thugs from before surrounded him, each demonstrating their muscled arms and heavy clubs. Though they were not near the quality of hers, Netz had no doubt about their lethality. Each of them smacked the stump end into their palms, surrounding him with a cascade of thuds. The women casually took another bite off the slap of meat she had brought along, juice running down her lower jaw.
“Say, you ain't from around here, what?” She spoke while she ate, showering him with spit and flakes of meat. “Rather.” Netz muttered, fingering his jacket nervously. “I've got lost and meant nothing more than to pass through. My apologies.” He made a quick side step, attempting to dive past her, but she just pressed the slap of meat against his chest and shoved him back. “This is my town.”, she proclaimed, “Passing through costs.” Netz blinked, but given the threat he shrugged innocently. “I don't have much on me, but I respect your laws. How much is it?”
“Not gelt. Drop your bag.” All four were fixed on it. Clearly they had heard the clank and realised his position. Everyone present knew of their high value on the black market. He gasped in anger. “What? That's impossible!” She shrugged and the thugs closed in, swinging their clubs in practised loops. She saw the anger draining from his face and smiled. “You were saying?”
Netz gulped, instinctively backing away. “Alright, alright. No need to get violent.” He reached for his bag and eyed them attentively. Their eyes followed the bag like it was a treat held in front of a pack of dogs. When the strap was off his shoulder, the thug to his left already reached for it. Netz jumped backwards and threw it over their heads. As anticipated all their heads followed it for a split second, giving him the time to reach for his gun. Neither was he skilled nor well trained, so while he was still fumbling with the lock system the thug on his right swung the club towards his hands. The lock clicked and the club connected. A bang echoed through the gallery, both women and thug next to her threw themselves to the ground, hit or missed impossible to tell. Netz cried out in pain, yet dodging another club homing on his skull. He dashed forward, trying to reach for his gun but failed, so he just jumped over the two scum-bags on the ground. The man was twitching and the woman clapped her body in search for wounds. He ran and managed to grab his bag, hugging it to his chest. He heard a shot and the impact in his shoulder threw him to the ground. Carried by momentum he skidded over the floor, rolling off his back and finding his feet again. He fled around the next corner, another bullet hissing passed him which then ricocheted somewhere further down the hallway. He heard shouts, but didn't bother and just kept running.
It didn't take Netz long to calm down afterwards, as far as all the pain and blood throbbing in his head allowed to. They wouldn't followed him beyond their sub-deck. He felt his blood-soaked back and fingered the wound, grunting. With his own gun, he thought, a bullet he had paid for. Not willing to damage his clothings more than necessary, he got out of his right sleeve and bandaged his shoulder with it. For a moment he thought about seeing the apothecary first and decided otherwise. What few staff he encountered didn't mind him much, though they eyed his shoulder. In his cabin he grabbed a bottle of booze, emptied it half and trickled a few drops over the sleeve covering his wound. A sorry attempt to disinfect it. But driven by actual concerns for his duties, he opened the bag and inspected any sustained damage. The memorial cube seemed alright, as was the device from his master, but the Com-2-slate's display was cracked in one corner and a signal diode was broken. With his tools Netz couldn't do much more than making the crack look less critical and replace the diode. He grunted often, less for the shoulder but for his hand. Only during his work he realized the joint of his thumb was swollen.
Grabbing some money he made for the medical deck. A glance to his chronometer told him his superior would be fuming, in a Tech-Priest way, once he arrived. The apothecary meant to interrogate Netz on the cause of his injuries, but lost his concerns with the tip in hand. Removing a bullet was a routine procedure, even on a Tom 5 for message transfer, and his joint was injected with a biting cold liquid. He wasn't able to move it for an hour or two, but the damage was supposed to be mended until then. Netz felt horrible by now, pain, medicals, adrenaline, exhaustion and alcohol, adding up to a spiteful cocktail in his bloodstream. He told himself he had endured worse in the under-hive.
When he entered the central control facility, he was still able to notice the changes. Where the place was usually buzzing with red robes, menials and servitors, only few figures hurried along now. What screens he could see told him most procedures were set to auto, implying who ever usually surveyed them were busy being somewhere else.
But already he stood at the steel door to the head quarters of engine surveillance, where he knew his master Lorelius had expected him some forty minutes ago. All those who had experienced the blessing of the Omnissiah, meaning their bodies enhanced with all sorts of cyber-tech, would simply stand in front of the door and it magically opened if their binary presence had the authorisation to allow it. He, however, had to use the terminal next to the door. He held his Com-2-slate close to it and additionally suffered a moment of eye to eye contact with a red eyed servo skull, suspended from the ceiling. After that, nothing happened. Apparently, of all the automated protocols, this one had been set to manual. Which meant anyone behind that door was deciding whether to let him in or not. Netz waited a minute, then turned away to try again later. The door hissed open.
“Your return was expected 52 minutes and 43 seconds ago, Menial Netz.”
Lorelius' mechanical voice had a tenseness of irritation, just as expected. Netz turned on his heels and entered with a one-sided shrug, his shoulder still numb from the surgery. “My apologies, I w-” He froze mid-sentence. Next to Lorelius stood a woman, wearing a long black coat and a fitting high hat, broadly brimmed. A book was chained to her waist, and an elongated gun holstered opposite to the book. The lower half of her face was hidden behind a buttoned collar, but her narrow eyes pinned him where he stood. And on her chest rested a painstakingly decorated 'I' on a necklace.
Lorelius had not intended to let him finish his sentence. “Your excuses are of no consequences, menial. You will now be introduced to Lady Querine d'Bell from the Inquisition.”
Lady d'Bell nodded and approached Netz, who suddenly suffocated on the pressing air of blood, sweat, meat-juice, tobacco and alcohol around him. When she stood toe to toe with him, her eyes seemed to pierce his own, reaching deep into his mind. A wan glow illuminated them from within. Netz thought the impression to be his imagination, but found himself paralysed as he tried to blink it away. His mind felt like a serpent wound its way through his thoughts, emotions and memories. It drove deeper with every heartbeat and pictures of his past flashed before his eyes. For a moment he just stood there, gaping. But when the serpent made way to doors he himself did not allow to open, sudden anger surfaced and pushed the intruder away. He sensed all his resistance wash over it like a spring breeze over the surface of an iron pillar, but that didn't stop him.
His consciousness snapped back, the serpent was gone and the Lady filled his vision. Her eyes betrayed a hint of praise before she turned to Lorelius with a nod. Netz found himself wheezing for air, his body suddenly heavy as if covered in lead. The enginseer threw a puzzled look between him and Lady d'Bell, but returned her nod. The lady made her leave without another word. Lorelius began a series of high pitched tonal sounds, binary chatter. Servitors, seemingly having stood in waiting, came forth and surrounded Netz. Lorelius put a hand on his shoulder in a fashion of fatherly acknowledgement.
“Jason Netz,” he intoned ceremonially, “you have been proven worthy in the eyes of the Omnissiah. Make ready to receive His blessing.”
Shocked, puzzled and on the brink of collapsing, he found himself forcefully convoyed to the Halls of Ascension.