A Second Dream
An Unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Story
Chapter 1: Storm’s Shadow
The humans were squashed into the Ghost Arks, their gelatinous and skin-clad bodies pressed tight against each other. Compressed lungs reduced their screams to weak wheezes. Misshapen limbs jutted from a clump of humans in the middle of the Arks, their bodies crushed thin from both sides.
The Ghost Ark’s operators looked over their cargo attentively, constantly adjusting the quantum fields to ensure their humans did not spill from the craft. The Arks themselves were composed of shimmering black metal, with long and crescent-shaped pillars extended from a thin hull to almost enclose the craft like an upturned ribcage. At several meters in length, the Arks were nominally able to carry ten Necron Warriors; the humans however had been stuffed into an excess of fifty per craft.
The Arks filled the space above the palace courtyard, perhaps a hundred of the craft slowly circled in a tall cylinder.
Directed by an unseen controller, one by one they began to peel off and fly away to different areas of the tomb complex, filling the sky with their black silhouettes and the quiet thrum of their engines.
Quibilah appeared onto the courtyard, materialising from his ship in the high atmosphere. His feet crunched against the dry sand as he made his way to the palace’s steps. His retinue of five Lychguard followed behind him, their footfalls matching his as they marched exactly two paces behind.
It was morning on Baresh I. The light of the world’s white star permeated the inky clouds and threw dull silver across the ground. The courtyard was wide, but not especially deep, with Quibilah able to cross it quickly. The black metal of the courtyard itself was submerged in a thick layer of crimson sand. In the few places where it poked through to the surface, it glimmered in the pale light as if freshly waxed.
The palace itself rose from the sand and stretched up into the sky. It was black, and sparingly decorated with accents of glimmering gold. Tall obelisks formed spires and turrets, with Canoptek scarab and Spyder constructs gliding in and out of dark passages and entryways. An emerald aura emanated from the structure, as with all living metal. It shimmered slightly, distorting the palace’s outline like heat-haze, but more physically, as if the aura were sweated from the walls themselves.
Quibilah reached the palace’s black steps.
Lord Akiki was waiting for him. The Lord was Quibilah’s equal in height, but was lither, with sharper features. He held his Staff of Light in one hand, his taloned fingers coiling around its golden shaft. The green crystal at its head threw dim light over him. He wore a golden chest piece that covered his shoulders and rose into an armoured collar. A short, but ornate crown of turquoise material floated an inch above his head. A turquoise half-cloak of interlocking gems fell loosely from underneath one shoulder and flapped softly against his silver legs.
Quibilah bowed politely to his colleague, then continued up the stairs at the same pace.
Akiki fell into step regardless. “Lord Quibilah,” Akiki began, his voice ethereal but sharp. “How was your harvest?”
“Ah good, I am delighted that your vital work is meeting so much success.”
Quibilah regarded Akiki, searching his silver face.
His Lychguard were now following a further few steps behind, respecting the two Lords privacy.
“Indeed… I only serve our mistresses will,” Quibilah replied.
“Oh!” Akiki laughed, resting a hand on his hip and leaning his head back.
Quibilah turned away, still uncomfortable with the Akiki’s lack of breath, and almost unmoving metal lips.
Quibilah stopped and turned again, following Akiki’s outstretched arm. They were almost at the step’s summit, affording them an unobstructed view of the landscape around them. Beyond the swirl of Ghost Arks, several other structures lay half-submerged in the sands. Leaning obelisks, sunken pylons, broken portals, and a multitude of other colossal structures lay either buried or crumbled in the red sand.
“Our world is in a state of disrepair,” Akiki said, “and this is but the surface, a multitude of our tomb-complexes lay in no better condition; my own retinue remain in stasis.” He threw an open palm towards the swirling Ghost Arks. “And yet our mistress diverts all our resources into a project, the details of which she deems not necessary for the ears of her own royal court.” His hand now turned to Quibilah, “Sends you off-world, on our only functioning tomb-ship, for what? To collect some animals?
Quibilah considered the words, “… The Great Sleep,” he began, “is known to produce certain eccentricities in our kind.”
“Eccentricities? How long have we been roused now, weeks? This is neglect!”
Now Quibilah squared himself opposite to Akiki, his fingers tightening around his own Staff of Light. He let out a tense breath, it left his mouth as a low groan, with his chest remaining static.
“Let us tread very carefully, you and I.” He said, his voice rawer than he had intended. “This line of conversation is highly inappropriate.”
“And yet, I notice you have not refuted me… I understand that this could be hard to hear given your history with-”
“Enough! I have no time for this idle speculation. I have been away for days, why have you not brought these concerns to the mistress directly?”
“I have, but-”
“Good, then there is nothing to discuss.” Quibilah turned sharply and marched up the stairs again, his Lychguard following.
Akiki kept up alongside him.
“What do you want now Lord Akiki? Were you waiting on the steps just to accost me with your concerns?”
“I was answering the Mistress’ summons, your arrival happened to coincide.”
“Yes. It was.” They processed up the remainder of the stairs and entered the palace in silence.
The throne room was a contrast to the palace’s exterior. The walls and floors were covered in a creamy and cool white material, with dull emerald glyphs impressed within. A black and gold throne occupied the far wall beneath a colossal picture frame. The throne was thick, its every surface engraved with swirling patterns and ancient Necrontyr text.
The walls themselves were covered in large paintings, each was set on a large black canvas and hung with bronze frames. The paintings were old, preserved behind dimly flickering energy fields. Each painting was abstract, featuring thick and confident lines of white ink, depicting glyphs running in swirling patterns and colliding with each other in dancing spirals.
Quibilah and Akiki entered, confidently placing themselves in the room’s centre.
Twenty Lychguard, all bearing Mistress Nephthys’ personal glyph occupied the room too. They were pressed against the walls, their white armour almost blending them into the surface. They stared at Quibilah and Akiki impassively. Their heavy frames remaining motionless.
Quibilah’s own Lychguard waited for their master outside.
A section of the back wall slid open and a tall Necron strode forth. She was easily ahead taller than Quibilah, and her ivory armour made her broader and heavier.
A mane of canoptek worms extended from the top of her head and fell about her shoulders. The robotic constructs actively moved out of her face as she walked into the chamber.
Her white chest and shoulders were impressed with the same style of colliding glyphs as the throne room’s artwork. In the centre of her chest plate, the glyph of the Thutmosek Dynasty sat proudly on a raised bed of bronze. Her arms and legs remained the metallic silver of uncoloured Necrodermis. Her limbs were of exquisite artisanship, stronger and thicker than both Quibilah’s and Akiki’s. A white tabard of interlocking armour panels sat rigidly between her silver legs.
Crimson blood, and chunks of pink viscera coated her hands and forearms. She flexed her fingers, drawing a layer of eldritch energy over them and cleansing the blood in a puff of red steam and green flames.
Quibilah and Akiki knelt. “My Overlord,” they intoned.
As Nephthys reached them, she held out her hand and her Warscythe materialised into it. The staff was taller than even her, with a silver blade that shimmered green at its head. She held it lightly against her shoulder, belying its monstrous weight.
“My Lords,” she said, her voice echoing against the room’s walls. “I have pressing news for you both.”
“Mistress.” Quibilah said.
Nephthys cocked her head at him, the emerald fire in her eyes flashing with brief intensity. “Yes, Quibilah?”
“I have urgent news to share with the court.”
“Ah yes, your report. Can your urgent news wait approximately three minutes?”
“… Yes, Mistress.”
“Then it shall. Rise, my lords.”
Quibilah and Akiki obeyed, rising to their feet.
“We have received a message,” she said, “from another of our kin.”
“Another roused Tomb world, Mistress?” Akik said.
“No, not quite.” Responding to her invisible inputs, throne room projected an image between Nephthys and her lords.
The chest and head of a Necron appeared. He had the large proportions of a noble, with a golden torso and white head. The top of a Gravity Displacement Pack could be seen behind him. It appeared as a second silvery spine that loomed up and over his head, supported by curved struts that connected to his shoulders. In place of a dynastic glyph, this noble’s chest sported the simple lines sphere and crescent design of the Necron Ankh, backed by with a deep blue setting, denoting his station.
“The Triarch.” Akiki breathed, unable to keep the excitement from his voice.
“Indeed. It seems that our awakening has not gone unnoticed.”
“They’re coming here?”
“Yes. This Praetorian has just made contact, we are to expect him tomorrow.”
“Is that all he said, Mistress?”
“Indeed. He was eager to see our world in person, before talking more of the galaxy’s affairs.”
“I see,” Akiki said, “this is excellent news nevertheless, the Praetorians can only act for the benefit of the Dynasties.”
“My thoughts exactly.” She turned to look down at Quibilah. “Now, Lord Quibilah, what news do you bring that could prove to be more pressing than the return of our Silent King?”
“A human war cruiser is making its way here now my Overlord, they seek to obliterate us with their ordnance.”
There was a second of silence as the two other Necrons searched Quibilah’s unmoving face.
“When will it arrive?”
“Nine hours Mistress.”
Akiki now turned on him, his shoulders pushing back and his head lowering to leer at Quibilah. “Why wait until now to inform us?” He hissed. “You could have sent your warning in transit, given us time to prepare!”
“I wanted to ensure that there were no disruptions,” Quibilah turned and looked the thinner Lord up and down. “A Cryptek… Or Lord, with ears too big for their station can cause all forms of problems”
“No more than a Lord who allows our infant enemies to follow them home from-”
A piercing clack of metal striking metal reverberated around the chamber; it was immediately followed with a crack and buzz as green lightning spat from Nephthys’ Warscythe. She spun it, resting it again on her shoulder. The now cracked white floor was already beginning to liquify and knit itself back together.
“Enough.” She said. “I will not have my royal court bicker like teenagers.” She pointed to Akiki. “Lord Akiki, begin preparing our defences, don’t stand on ceremony, go now.”
Akiki bowed, then silently disappeared, his form vanishing in a cloud of emerald vapour.
“A word, Lord,” she said, turning and slowly walking towards the throne.
The twenty Lychguard strode from the chamber, moving with speed and silence. When the last of them had exited the room, Nephthys was halfway to the throne.
She stopped, standing in the middle of the room, and facing away from Quibilah. She opened her hand, teleporting her Warscythe away whilst she slowly lowered herself to the floor, her armoured legs crossing together and her spine remaining perfectly upright. “When was the last time you sat down Lord Quibilah?”
Quibilah looked down at his own legs, he flexed the silver limbs slightly. “Not since rousing my Overlord… So, weeks ago.”
“Hmm.” Nephthys looked up at the painting above the throne.
“… Mistress?” Quibilah said cautiously.
“Come here Quibilah,” she said softly.
With only the slightest delay, he obeyed, walking to stand just behind her.
“Do you remember the War in Heaven? Before the Biotransferance?”
Quibilah turned to look down at Nephthys, she still looked up at the painting. “Yes,” he said. “But it feels distant and disconnected… As if our time from the Biotransference to the Great Sleep was a dream… A dream we have now awoken from and found to be the reality.”
“Hmm.” She nodded slightly towards the paining. “I remember painting that. I was so proud of it I had the whole collection bound in Necrodermis.
“And your pride is well-earned Mistress, your work is featured in palaces and armouries across our dynasty.”
Nephthys slowly turned her head to look up into Quibilah’s eyes. “Be at ease Quibilah. No one can hear us here.”
“… Forgive me Mistress, should we not be mobilising our defences?”
“You and Akiki are capable of defending this tomb, I must return to my project.”
“It is almost complete, once revealed you will understand its necessity.”
“I was not suggesting doubt Mistress.”
“I know. I am also not blind to how my actions may be perceived.” She turned back to look up at the painting. “Quibilah, before you go, will you indulge me again?”
Quibilah gently rested his fingers against the back of her head. Her canoptek worms snapped up and reared back against his fingers, barring spinning teeth at them; just as quickly as they had sprung to action, they identified the silver digits as his, and relaxed, laying flat against her head and parting to allow his fingers through.
Quibilah gently flexed his fingers, emitting a dull scraping sound as metal rubbed against metal. He felt it, the royalty grade Necrodermis within his fingers simulating the sensation just as if it had been Necrontyr flesh and nerves. It was still distinctly different from before, with his carnal senses and ambitions absent, the motion became just that, a motion.
Nephthys remained still, but allowed her gaze to fall from the painting to her throne beneath it.
Quibilah now looked up at the paining, allowing himself to become lost in the beautiful spiral of script and patterns.
Chapter 2: Uncharted Waters
Marcus turned to look down at Captain Neida.
Her skin was a cool and light umber colour. Her head was shaven to allow the fitting of neural bionics and implants. They took the form of a thick bronze plate affixed to the back of her skull, with metallic tubes stemming from that, and inserting themselves into the top of her head. She had thin lips and an angular face, with high cheekbones and narrow brown eyes.
She reclined back in her command dais with one leg folded over her knee, and a fist resting gently against her chin. She was lithe, so much so that her uniform seemed to consume her, however she wore it with the suave confidence of most high-ranking officers. She wore heavy black boots, their tread utilitarian but the leather polished and glossy. The white material of her trousers and sleeves was unblemished and flowed perfectly into golden vambraces. She wore a blue officer’s tunic; it was sleeveless and extended from her knees all the way up to a high collar at her jaw. The tunic was trimmed with Gold stitching and fastened with bronze buttons and a black belt. On the black leather hung a customised Chainsword. It was perfectly sized for her height and boasted teeth that glistened with fresh oil.
On her chest hung a silver Aquila and a line of medals and ribbons. Such experience was why Marcus had commandeered her vessel for this mission.
Pain stabbed at his head. It was sharp and pulsating, running along a band across the on the top of his skull and drumming pressure behind his eyes.
Neida looked up at him. “You’re staring Inquisitor,” she said, her diction precise and punchy. “What is it?”
“You’re in my seat Neida.”
The volume in the room dropped as heads unsubtly turning to regard them.
Captain Neida’s eyes scanned Marcus’s, as her face slowly fell into a frown. Her teeth drew together, and her lips curled as she spoke. “Captain. My rank is Captain, use it, never Neida.” She sat up straight now, pressing her fists into her command throne’s armrests. “Now, remember where you are Inquisitor.” She raised a gloved fist, and slowly uncoiled a finger to point at him. “What in the warp do you mean, I’m in your seat,” she snarled.
“I mean, Captain, that you’re being relieved of duty. Now, step aside.” Marcus was increasingly aware of the eyes on him now, the myriad of serfs and officers staring aghast. He risked a subtly glace behind, reassuring himself of the presence of his ten-man retinue of Tempestus Scions. They stood a few paces behind him, their weapons held loosely at rest against their shoulders, and expressions hidden behind their carapace armour’s enclosed helmets.
“How dare you!” Neida slammed her fist down against the armrest, shattering a display with flurry of sparks and glass. “First you deviate from the original plan, and now you dare to command me from my own bridge? On my own ship? What is your malfunction Inquisitor? You have no right!”
Marcus shrugged. “Perhaps I’ve no right, but I do have the authority.” He turned to look at a man standing next to the dais. “Isn’t that right Commissar Anton?”
Anton was enormous, with his black and crimson greatcoat framing a fortress of muscle, whilst the epaulets on his shoulders sat at eye-level of every other man on the bridge.
Anton looked down at Marcus. The Commissar’s face was all strong lines and thick flesh. Deep creases ran from his crooked nose, down his cheeks and across his chin. The skin on his right side was grey and sunken, with the injured flesh wrinkling under his right eye. His cap was pulled down low, casting a shadow over his brown eyes. They coolly regarded Marcus.
Anton turned to Neida with his cold expression unchanged. “I am sorry, Captain.” His voice was gnarled and blunt, but sincere.
Neida glared at Anton, her lips parting. Then she relented, closing her eyes, and breathing deeply. “I see,” she said. She threw up her arms, “as you wish Inquisitor.” She rose from the command throne and slowly backed away from the dais.
Marcus strode to the throne and allowed himself to fall back onto it heavily. He reclined, spreading his legs wide and chewing his thumb with his back teeth in thought. After a moment, he turned to Neida and clicked his fingers at her.
Five of the Scions were on her immediately. Stripping her of her Chainsword and dragging her form the bridge with her arms pressed against her back.
She roared curses at Marcus, who all the while hummed quietly to himself whilst gazing out the forward viewport.
Marcus turned to the voice, finding that it came from a Lieutenant seated in a sub-command throne below him, his blue eyes were sandwiched between a Squadron cap, and a Vox-unit over his mouth.
“Well?” Marcus said. “Out with-it Wing Commander.”
“Sir, our Marauders are ready to launch, permission to begin mission?”
The pain returned to Marcus’s head. He battled to keep it from his expression as it stole the focus from his eyes. “Denied,” he said. “Our mission parameters have changed. Stand down the squadron.”
The Wing Commander frowned at Marcus but did not protest. “Yes sir,” he said, then turned back to his consoles.
“Our mission will be executed via a new method.” Unfamiliar with the various roles and protocols within the bridge, Marcus didn’t speak to anyone in particular, instead he simply threw his voice across the bridge. “This cruiser will move to a new position and eradicate the foul xenos with our on-board weaponry!” He tapped on the command throne’s console, dancing his fingers around the shards of shattered glass. “Uploading coordinates now.”
There was a spike of activity as the bridge crew silently began to execute his orders.
Marcus turned to glare at this new voice. It came from the Helmsman, his face consumed with black cybernetics and amber artificial eyes. The little visible skin around the trim of his face was red and blistered.
“Yes?” Marcus said.
The Helmsman paused a moment, then stood. “Sir, these coordinates will place us directly above our target, and well into our weapon effective range. May I humbly request that we heighten our altitude?”
“No. You may not.”
The Helmsman inhaled sharply, but pressed on, his voice shaking slightly. “Sir, it is my function to safely pilot this vessel, to this end I must know… Why must we be so close?”
Marcus leaned forward and glared at the Helmsman. “Because I want to hit them with my sword!”
The Helmsman looked back at Marcus, his hands rubbing together nervously.
“I am Ordo Xenos boy. Do not question the tactics of the Inquisition. It was my insight and expertise that allowed us to locate and identify these xenos, without me, they would still be pillaging your backwater world without opposition! No, this is how you kill Necrons, with concentrated plasma bombardment.”
“But why so close? We could have positioned in high-”
Marcus crashed his fist into the command throne’s panel. His hand now went straight through the already cracked screen and crushed the cogitators beneath, encasing his fist in a plume of black smoke. “Helmsman,” Marcus said softly. The pain in his head was back, pumping blood hard behind his ears. “You may be proficient at your function. But you are not the only one on this vessel qualified to pilot it.”
The Helmsman slowly sat down, turned back to his console, and began operating it. “Yes sir,” he said quietly.
Marcus again gazed out of the forward viewport
The crimson sphere of Baresh I filled the screen as the cruiser edged closer towards it. Swirls of grey clouds billowed across its surface, giving it the texture of red marble.
The entire cruiser pitched forward sharply. Equipment and shot forward, and Marcus heard the Scions behind him crouch as they braced themselves against the inertia. Proximity claxons blared through the bridge, as the crew barked into Vox-units and tapped away at their consoles.
“Report!” Marcus shouted over the din.
“Sir!” The Helmsman grunted back; his body arched as he wrestled with the controls. “A gravity-well just appeared out of nowhere.”
“Well, get us out of it!”
“I am, I just need to-”
A projected image filled the space in the bridge, cutting the Helmsman off with its arrival. It was a face, portrayed as a green holographic image. It was enormous, taking up the centre of the bridge as it glared at Marcus. It was a Necron, its face a stylized skull with glowing emerald light in place of eyes. An alien symbol sat proudly on its forehead. A short headdress resembling a sharp crescent of metal sat on its head, like the upturned blade of an axe.
“Humans,” it spat in perfect Low-Gothic. The alien’s voice had the clipped conciseness of an Imperial Officer. However, the voice was also heavy and strained. As if it were labouring in its speech. It continued. “I am Lord Quibilah of the Thutmosek dynasty. Hear this not as a threat, but as a solemn promise. You will die here, all of you, we will kill you all and dash your flesh-clad cadavers into the void.”
“Sir,” the Vox operator said, “I can’t stop the broadcast.”
“Of course, you cannot!” Quibilah replied.
The Vox-operator lurched back, almost jumping from his command station.
“There is no system on that primitive ferry beyond our reach. You are in our domain and have played your roles exactly as I have orchestrated. Observe!” Quibilah pointed a skeletal finger at Marcus.
Immediately the pain returned. Marcus screamed as blood ran from his mouth, and yellow fluid from his nose. As he leaned back to scream again, his head exploded like a crushed egg. A swarm of now full-roused Mindshackle Scarabs poured from his now hollow cranium, pulling the grey matter they had been nesting in with them in a spray of brains and bone.
Chapter 3: Floodgate
The Necrons stood upright and stoic despite the pouring rain. Hundreds of individuals stood in perfectly rectangular formations, filling the Palace courtyard with their forms.
It was evening now, with the crimson ground giving the clouds a bloody hue in the low light. The Necrons themselves became silvery silhouettes in the gloom, their dark forms illuminated by the emerald glow emanating from their eyes and ribs. The layer of clouds above had darkened and spat a torrent of amber rain on the Necrons below. The acidic liquid bubbled and fizzed on contact with their bodies, filling the air with grey vapour as their Necrodermis bubbled away and self-repaired with equal speed.
The Warriors were the lithest of them; Necrontyr civilians forced into Biotransferance and afforded only the most rudimentary of new forms. Each carried a black rifle in both hands, the weapon contained a lance of crackling emerald energy that floated between the muzzle and the breech.
Behind them were the Immortals, once professional soldiers, their service and skills were preserved in more sophisticated and armoured bodies. Veritable giants, they towered over their Warrior peers. Each Immortal hefted a larger variant of the Warrior’s rifle; their weapons were larger than even themselves and featured two long emerald barrels. They hefted the massive support weapons at their hips, their postures displaying no discomfort.
The final ranks were occupied by the Lychguard. The elite shock troops and bodyguards of the Necrontyr royalty, their role afforded them the same tier of artisan forms as their master’s, making them the few Necrons outside of nobility permitted to retain the majority of their sentience. They stood in two groups, defining the retinues of Nephthys and Quibilah respectively. Each bore the personal heraldry of their liege, and the weapons of their armoury. The twenty Lychguard of Nephthys’ retinue were adorned in her style of glyphs and text, and each wielded one of her tall Warscythes, with their blade reaching to almost twice the height of her Lychguard.
Quibilah’s retinue of five each wielded tall shields and short swords. The shields resembled a long spine with an onyx shell extending from it; they were kite-shaped and extended from their ankles to their throats. Their swords were more akin to cleavers, with a single heavy cutting edge. They too were made of the same onyx material, but their black blades appeared featureless, as if they drew light into them.
Quibilah was stood at the foot of the palace’s steps. Akiki was by his side, his hands clasped behind his back, whilst Nephthys stood across the courtyard at the vanguard of her legions and surrounded by her Lychguard.
Quibilah’s presence returned to his body.
Akiki looked to him and unfolded his arms. “Is it in range?” He asked.
“Yes. It’s time.” Quibilah turned to look at across the courtyard at Nephthys, “Mistress, it’s time,” he repeated. His voice instantly transmitting across the space.
She turned her head to look back at him, nodded slowly, then struck the shaft of her Warscythe into the ground.
Nephthys, her Lychguard, and a third of the Necron soldiery vanished in a rapidly dissipating cloud of green vapour.
Quibilah looked up into the clouds, and towards the low roar that was beginning to emanate from them. Akiki was still looking at him.
“The Destroyer virus.” Akiki said boldly.
Quibilah coked his head to regard Akiki for a moment, then turned back to the clouds. “Lord Akiki, please stay focussed.”
Akiki continued. “That’s what I think it is, her symptoms all point to it. They’re mild, and skewed by her innate eccentricities, but it is there nonetheless.”
“Brace yourself.” Quibilah said.
A chorus of piercing whistles, whips, and cracks filled the air as a hail of Ordnance fell upon the Necron position.
Quantum shielding activated immediately, encompassing the palace and the Necron formations in a semi-translucent dome of energy. Volleys of enormous shells impacted against the shielding, they exploded into fireballs, plumes of black smoke, and shards of molten metal that rolled down the dome. Others made it through, finding miniscule gaps into the overlapping and strained shielding. They tumbled to the ground, impacting against the palace and blowing chunks out of the ancient structure. Others fell amongst the Necron formations, sending groups of Warriors and Immortals flying into the air in pieces.
Quibilah and Akiki stood still amidst the bombardment. As too did the legions before them, each warrior either standing still in his place in the formations, or dragging themselves back into place, trailing limbs that slowly knitted themselves back together.
“I can disable her reanimation protocols. She wouldn’t even know.”
Now Quibilah tuned square to Akiki. Both hands wrapped around his Staff of Light.
His Lychguard, across the courtyard, all turned their heads to look at their master.
“I would back you, Lord Quibilah.”
Quibilah straightened, loosening his grip.
“You would make a wise and capable Overlord. The rest of the Thutmosek courts, wherever they are, would approve. Definitely of you more than I at least.”
Quibilah searched Akiki’s features then turned away from him and looked back to the clouds. “It’s time, he said.” He tapped the ground with the shaft of his staff, and the Necrons disappeared.
Chapter 4: Thunderhead
They arrived immediately, standing in a long corridor of thick grey metal on all sides. It was narrow, with the Necrons only able to stand three abreast. Ranks of Warriors and Immortals stood in front of Quibilah and Akiki, with a Canoptek Spyder behind them.
“What!” Someone shouted, followed by the stomping of rubber boots against the floor as a group of humans came to a sharp halt at the head of the formation. A squad of five Tempestus Scions, escorting Captain Neida had practically marched straight into the newly arrived Necrons. The Scions reacted immediately, placing themselves in front of Neida and raising their Hotshot Lasguns before the warriors could respond. A volley of superheated laser slammed into the front ranks of Necrons. The rounds punched molten holes into torsos and sent silver limbs flying against the bulkheads.
Then the Necrons returned fire. The Warriors hefted their rifles with thin limbs and shot them from the hip. Arks of crackling emerald lightning struck the Scions, each shot precisely aimed and landing on their helmets. The heads and upper torsos of the Scions dissolved on impact, the molecules holding them together unravelling as the Necron weapons pulled them apart. Armour and flesh were reduced to dark green ash that sloshed around in their now open innards.
Neida charged past the heap of dead Scions, stooped to retrieve her confiscated Chainsword, and then leaped into the throng of Necrons. Her Chainsword roared and wailed as she swung its spinning teeth both into and through the bodies of the Warriors. The Warriors ignored her, regarding her impassively as she cut into them.
Quibilah advanced on her. The Immortals and Warriors parted before him, allowing him to wade through them.
Neida swung her Chainsword through the torso of another passive Warrior before turning on the Lord. She was sweating and breathing hard now; her face was covered with oil ejected from her Chainsword, and her uniform with the red-green remnants of the Scion’s bodies.
She went for Quibilah, coming in low but swinging the Chainsword down from overhead, aiming to cleave him in half from the neck to pelvis.
Quibilah caught it, shooting his hand out and seizing the blade with his palm wedging in between the teeth. The sword shook violently and pumped black smoke as the motor desperately fought against his grip and tried to keep spinning. He pulled back hard, ripping the sword from her grip with a few wet cracks as her fingers broke.
Quibilah let go of his Staff of Light, the weapon keeping itself upright on the deck. He seized Neida by the throat and easily hoisted her into the air.
Neida began thrusting her booted heel into Quibilah’s face and bringing her one good fist down on his elbow. Quibilah ignored the strikes, continuing to hold her aloft. Quibilah could feel the cartilage in her throat trying to move against his palm; her face was a furious knot of concentration with her bluing lips parting in a silent snarl, his grip muting it.
Quibilah tilted her head to one side, inspecting the cybernetics attached to the back of her skull.
“Interesting,” he mused. He closed his hand around her neck. A flurry of wet pops and snaps emanated from her neck, followed by a loud and blunt crunching as Quibilah splintered her vertebrae.
Neida’s decapitated body collapsed onto the floor in a heap, thick streams of blood pumping from her neck, staining her uniform in crimson.
Quibilah tossed Neida’s head to the Canoptek Spyder behind him.
The construct was large and insectoid in shape. It had multiple legs, a pair of claws tucked under its body and a hooded carapace that filled the corridor. One of its three eyes tracked the head and the Spyder caught it perfectly in one of its claws. No sooner had it caught it, the claw had reshaped itself into probes, scalpels, pincers, and other instruments that set about rending flesh from bone, and cybernetics from grey matter.
The Spyder made no sound but spoke directly to Quibilah. “Dissemination complete. Valuable information obtained. Prioritised. Archived. Uploading now.”
Information flowed into Quibilah and was immediately digested. Layouts, security turret controls, airlocks, marine rotations, medical records, security door controls, everything.
Quibilah snatched up his Staff of Light, and alongside Akiki, marched forward. The soldiers surrounding them marching in silent formation, pumping lances of eldritch energy into any human they came across.
The march to the Bridge was short and largely uninterrupted. Armsmen and Rating crewmen with shotguns had challenged them at every turn and new corridor. And every time, Quibilah had simply pointed, turning the ship’s own turrets on them, venting the corridors of atmosphere, flooding them with coolant, or sealing off bulkheads. All the while his Necrons waded through the death unaffected, with the few helmeted Armsmen still able to resist being torn apart with their black weapons.
Quibilah pointed at the door to the bridge. The half-meter of armoured metal exploded, dissolved from its hinges and shunted forwards by a volley from the Immortal’s cannons.
The Warriors streamed into the room, they stayed tight together and began to occupy the space just beyond the entryway.
A rain of Lasgun rounds and Hotshot Lasgun rounds slammed into the Warrior ranks. Lines of the Necrons were cut in half, had flaming holes punched through them or were simply melted by the concentrated laser fire.
The bodies of the destroyed Warriors vanished in a cloud of emerald mist, spirited away back to the tomb-complex for repairs. However, most of the fallen Warriors simply retrieved their dismembered limbs, waited for their Necrodermis to heal the molten holes blasted into them, stood, and returned fire into the humans.
The second half of the Scion squad were almost entirely disintegrated. They were covering behind the command dais. Each of them crumpled one by one, their abdomens or heads were simply reduced to a smoking slurry. Not a single Warrior accidently hit the dais during the exchange.
A half dozen more officers and technicians died immediately, cut down by the Warrior’s weapons.
The rest of the bridge crew now cowered behind sub-command daises or whatever other furniture they could find, returning fire into the Warriors with shotguns and Lasrounds.
The Warriors and Immortals returned fire, eviscerating most, but taking too long.
Quibilah and Akiki moved through the ranks and into the Bridge. Their soldiers again parting like water in their wake.
The emerald weapons fire from the Necrons stopped, as their Lords leapt into the bridge.
Akiki vaulted over daises and desks, rending men apart with his taloned hands, or melting them with arks of lighting that erupted from his staff.
Quibilah whirled his staff around, cleaving off heads with the monomolecular blades of his own staff, or phase shifting his hand to literally reach through the armour of the bridge officers and carve up their insides.
A bullet struck Quibilah’s arm. It was less a bullet and more a rocket propelled grenade. It bit into the metal of his arm and exploded, splintering Necrodermis and ripping the limb from his shoulder.
Quibilah was rocked backwards a step, his arm and Staff of Light sent flying across the room. He turned to look at his attacker, his remaining hand balled into a tight fist.
Anton was charging him. Barely two steps away, the massive Commissar had thrown aside a smoking Bolt pistol and braced a power sword against his shoulder, ready to drive it into Quibilah’s chest. He twisted his maimed face and barred his teeth at the Necron Lord. Despite his massive frame, Anton crossed the distance between them in an instant, thrusting his sword forward as he lunged.
An object struck the Commissar from the right side, the speed of it lifting him up and flinging him in the opposite direction.
The Commissar was impaled against the wall, the blades of Akiki’s staff piercing his torso up to the weapons crystal. The staff shuddered once, then flew back into Akiki’s outstretched hand, allowing Anton’s body to crash to the floor below.
Quibilah straightened, then nodded slightly at Akiki.
Akiki returned the gesture.
The bridge was quieter now, the roar of the battle beyond muted by the viewscreen. The ranks of Warriors stood static in the bridge entryway. Whilst the Immortals stood in the corridor beyond, occasionally discharging emerald thunder from their cannons at the humans attempting to retake the bridge.
The Canoptek Spyder had already moved on the Helmsman’s dais, updating its progress to Quibilah.
“Interface damaged. Human self-sabotage. Attempt to deny access. Futile. Repairing and accessing. Momentarily.”
“Your puppet, I presume?” Akiki said.
Quibilah turned to Akiki. The Lord was looming over the corpse of Marcus, still slumped against the command dais. The man’s head ended just above the lower jaw. The flesh around his spine and the opening to his windpipe were pockmarked with miniscule indentations arrayed in tight honeycombs. In some, the withered and burnt out husks of the tiny Mindshackle scarabs remained.
“Yes, this is the one.”
Akiki hoisted the corpse up by the shoulder, his emerald eyes taking in the myriad of golden crests and inquisitorial seals that bounced against Marcus’ shimmering jacket.
“For all their pomp and ceremony, they are such fragile things aren’t they” Akiki said.
Quibilah reattached his arm. “Indeed,” he said absently.
The Spyder turned it head towards Quibilah. “Flight control achieved. Mission executable. Available on your command.”
Quibilah straightened, he opened communications with the second formation, the Necron technology casting his mind through a kilometre of armour and decks until it reached his Lychguard in the Engine decks.
He could see them. His five bodyguards stabbed and swung their Hyperphase swords into a mass of human flesh. A tide of indentured workers were being pressed against the Lychguard. They were literally whipped into the melee by a grim faced Bosun and his squad of Armsmen, who fired volleys of Lasrounds into the Lychguard. The Necron bodyguards braced against the tide with their shields, the dispersion shielding encasing them occasionally flinging one of the naked slaves back into its colleagues.
And yet the humans pressed on, slowly pushing the Lychguard backwards. Behind them, a squad of Immortals discharged blasts of emerald lightning from their cannons in the opposite direction. However, their numbers were beginning to thin, reduced by the constant volleys of Lasgun rounds and the steady stream of Armsmen who turned onto the corridor. Slowly they too began to step backwards until they were almost fighting back to back with the Lychguard.
Tefenet looked up for a moment, noticing Quibilah’s contact, before returning to the fight. The senior Lychguard had lost an arm and half of his face in the melee but continued to dismember the slave throng with quick and precise cuts from his Hyperphase sword.
“My Lord, I hear you.”
“The engines are secure and yours to control my Lord. But we are losing ground,”
“Excellent, continue to hold position, we shall execute imminently.”
Quibilah moved away from the engine deck and towards Nephthys’ position in the crew decks. She wasn’t there. He raced across the ship, through bulkheads and the myriad of systems and rooms… This would take too long. He moved back to the engine deck.
“Tefenet, I cannot find the Overlord, do you know where she is?”
Tefenet swung his sword upwards, bisecting a slave from pelvis to skull. “No, my Lord, we have had no contact.”
“Quibilah,” Akiki said.
Quibilah looked up. Akiki was standing at the front of the bridge looking out through the viewport. He pointed towards something from the window.
Slowly, Quibilah moved through the smoking bridge to join him and look out the viewscreen.
Overlord Nephthys was charging across the ship’s outer hull. Armsmen had sallied out to meet her, respirators hastily strapped to their faces to endure the high atmosphere, the slaves were equipped with no such provisions. The Overlord swept and cleaved through her enemies with the organic fluidity of a dancer. She practically bounded from man to man, either bisecting them with her Warscythe or dissolving them with arcs of lightning from her fingers.
Her retinue had been decimated. Her formation of Warriors and Immortals were nowhere to be seen, and the last of her Lychguard finally fell, his legs blown off from a volley of Lasgun fire before he finally disappeared under the weight of a mob of slaves.
Quibilah tried to look into her face, catching a glimpse of her eyes as she twisted and spun through the melee. He searched the reinforced Necrodermis around her brow and cheeks and looked into the emerald balefire that filled her eyes. There was nothing there, they were as impassive and unfamiliar as a lamp. She simply moved from one target to the next, like a machine.
Akiki clasped a hand on Quibilah’s shoulder. He was looking straight at him and spoke with soft severity.
“I’m sure you’ll make the right decision,” he said.
Akiki pulled his hand away.
Quibilah turned to look out through the viewscreen again, filtering out the roar of sirens and combat, and instead focussing on the layer of grey clouds below the hull. “Execute,” he said.
The Canoptek Spyder clicked and chimed as it manipulated the Helmsman’s controls again. “Executing.”
The entire cruiser shunted forward, as if rear-ended by some other colossal war machine. Corpses and furniture shot forward, impacting against the reinforced viewscreen. Then the cruiser engines throttled up properly, overriding its safety measures and accelerating with frightening speed through the layer of clouds and nosediving towards the surface of Baresh I.
As the inky blackness of the clouds swept into the bridge, Quibilah thumped his staff against the decking. And at once, every Necron onboard disappeared.
Chapter 5: The Eye
Quibilah materialised on the summit of the palace’s steps. The Necron soldiery materialised on the courtyard below him. They arrived in neat square formations, and immediately began to march North-West.
Nephthys materialised next to him. She had her Warscythe raised overhead, ready to swing forth in any direction. Her impassive eyes blazed, then softened some. She looked around subtly as if caught daydreaming, then straightened. She looked down to Quibilah.
“Why have you taken me here?”
“… I thought you would appreciate the view,” he said before inclining a hand towards the clouds.
Just as he inclined, the grey clouds bulged as the Imperial Cruiser pushed through them. It raced towards the planet’s surface with its engines spewing yellow fire, whilst white vapour trailed from its prow. It seemed to hang the middle-distance, as if floating weightlessly in the air, until it struck the ground.
A cloud of crimson exploded into the air around the crash site, as chunks of sand, rock, and earth were lifted in a ring around the Cruiser. Nephthys was watching intently as it reared up, having bounced from the ground. It squealed through twisting and shearing metal. Fireballs burst from its sides and flames engulfed entire decks. So intense were the blazes that the dark clouds above began to reflect the orange glow. The structure finally collapsed back down onto the surface in another cloud of crimson sand.
The legions of Necron soldiery marched towards the crash site, their weapons raised.
“Your plan,” Nephthys began, “has worked flawlessly Lord Quibilah. Congratulations are in order.”
Quibilah bowed his head slightly. “Thank you, my Overlord,” he looked up at her, “if you are feeling so inclined,” he said deliberately and carefully, “then would you be willing to indulge a request?”
Nephthys’s eyes flickered, after a moment she leaned her head back a fraction, the limited mobility of her metal lips betraying the faintest hint of a coy smile.
“What is your request?”
“I wish to see your project.”
The fire behind her eyes twinkled as they searched him. “Yes,” she said finally, “you may.” She turned and strode into the palace proper, “follow.”
The hidden door on the throne room’s back wall was not actually a door, but a portal. As Quibilah and Nephthys strode through, it dematerialised them and transported them through the palace complex. Quibilah was unfamiliar with the path, they were traversing through an entirely detached section of the palace’s portal network; it was jarring and disorientating, evidently by design. Quibilah couldn’t articulate where precisely they were going other than very deep below the Palace. Finally, they arrived, materialising just below the roof of an enormous chamber.
The chamber was vast, the slight shifting of the earth above echoed in the chamber, manifesting as a deep rumbling. It was complete darkness, with the only light coming from the emerald glow of his and Nephthys’s own bodies.
Gravity Displacement fields held him and Nephthys aloft, and began slowly and gently lower them down towards the chamber’s floor. The ceiling began to become illuminated, the grey material itself beginning to slowly transition into a harsh and perfectly white light.
A massive object in the centre of the room began to take shape under the illumination. Crimson blood pooled on the chamber’s floor, it did not flow haphazardly but had instead pooled into perfect squares, each several inches thick and covering the floor like tiles. They were not separated by adhesive, but by a depression that revealed the grey Necrodermis beneath. The blood rippled gently with the chambers soft rumbling.
Humans filled the tiled floor. Their bodies were contorted in strong and right-angled poses as if they were static marionettes. They were deformed, the once structured forms of their bodies had become puffy and distended, with a lumpy and knobbly texture pressing behind their skin. The skin itself was tanned, with great pains being taken to smooth and moisturise the flesh. The effect left each of the humans pore-free and glistening in the white light. A faint emerald glow emanated from their grey lips, and empty eye-sockets.
Each man, woman and child were hunched over, their backs broken and bent double with their arms straining upwards to support the weight of a massive object. Despite the illusion, the object’s sheer size almost definitely necessitated the use of gravity manipulation, rather than the strength of the marionettes, to keep it upright.
It filled the middle of the chamber. It was composed of treated bone, with a surface so clean and glossy that it appeared to be ceramic. The chambers brilliant white light penetrated it like a lamp, with white light leaking from the porous material in intense pinpricks.
The structure was incomplete, with its top half ending prematurely, but Quibilah could still work out exactly what it was. An enormous Necron Ankh. Its long shaft held aloft by the humans like a legion of ants erecting a tower. Its incomplete head resembled a hollow crescent that listed slightly and swayed back and forth under the strain of the humans below.
Nephthys and Quibilah landed softly on the crimson floor. The blood parted around the soles of their feet as they made contact, and a team of canoptek scarabs that had been tending to the marionettes scattered and dissipated into the air on their approach.
Quibilah and Nephthys regarded the art piece in silence. Nephthys rested a hand on her hip and allowed her Warscythe to lean gently against her shoulder. Quibilah leant heavily against his Staff of light, holding it in both hands as he looked up at the Ankh.
“You have created… A diorama.”
Nephthys seemed to inflate, her eyes glowing with glee. “Yes, and also so much more.” She seemed to shudder for a moment, her posture collapsing to neutral. “This is a pattern, as we reclaim our empire, this pattern will rise from the corpses of this infestation.” Her voice had become flat, not any less clear or articulate, just uncharismatic. “And as we destroy and annihilate, this pattern shall be all that remains.”
Quibilah looked back at her, careful to keep his expression fixed.
She shuddered again, then the glee returned to her face. She turned and regarded her creation with her arms by her side. “Isn’t it beautiful?” she said.
“Yes,” Quibilah responded quietly, “it is.” The head of his Staff of Light thrust into her upper back. The strike was precise and deliberate, missing the plates of armour that sat on her shoulders, with the horizontal spearhead slipping between her external vertebrae and into her body.
Nephthys countered in an instant, her body whipping round to deliver a kick to Quibilah’s chest. The blow cracked his torso and punched a foot-shaped impression into his sternum, before sending him to the floor.
Nephthys was stood over him just as quickly, her Warscythe held aloft and ready to be hurled into him like a javelin. Her eyes crackled with emerald power, and her shoulders twitched erratically as severed nerves tried and failed to reattach themselves to her spine; his Staff of light still impaled her, it’s head visible bursting from her chest.
Quibilah reached out, triggering the weapon just as Nephthys hurled her Warscythe. Green lightning ripped through Nephthys’ body, engulfing her in a storm of emerald smoke.
Her throw went wide, barely, the Warscythe shot from her hand it buried itself up to its hilt in the grey stone to the side of Quibilah’s head.
Nephthys’ body shuddered, its reinforced bonds resisting the destructive energy, but still slowly succumbing, nonetheless. Layers of Necrodermis boiled from her or fell from her limbs like the skin of a rapidly malting serpent. Her knees thinned, then buckled under her armoured weight, forcing her to the floor. She looked to her dissolving hands, and then to Quibilah. “You cut me off!” She roared, her voice distorted and flickering.
Quibilah stood. “No more resurrections.”
She leered at him, her dimming eyes boring into his own like needles. “I would have expected this from Akiki, but you! I thought you were better!”
Quibilah searched her melting face, “I had thought the same about you.”
Nephthys said nothing more as her body succumbed to the destructive energy, breaking down and dissolving into blackened dust and dull green smoke that swirled around Quibilah, as he stood in the chamber alone.
Chapter 6: The Dawn
The inky clouds had largely parted, revealing the dark blue sky and white sunshine beyond. The crimson sand was still soaked through, and a thin layer of mist rolled across the landscape for miles. A dim rainbow extended up in the horizon opposite the palace and disappeared into the sky.
Quibilah sat on his throne and looked across at his domain. The palace had suffered grievous damage, with the throne room’s roof now sheared off. The damage was a secondary concern for now, in the meantime it served to at least offer a spectacular view.
Across the crimson landscape, onyx structures began to slowly heave themselves up from the sands and crackle with emerald power. Ghost arks ferried supplies and soldiers across the sky.
Quibilah could feel the rumbling beneath his feet, the shifting of the earth and the dull shuddering of new systems coming online. It was the shallow breaths of Baresh I coming back to life.
Akiki strolled into the throne room, strutting up the steps and through the threshold with a smug swagger. Behind him, the Triarch Praetorian followed impassively.
Quibilah’s newly roused retinue of twenty Lychguard lining the throne room’s walls all kneeled one by one as he passed them, until he was stood in the centre of the room opposite Quibilah.
Akiki walked to Quibilah’s side, then spun on his heels to face the Praetorian.
Quibilah stood slowly, still becoming accustomed to his new armoury. He was larger now, his limbs were thicker and reinforced with a stronger Necrodermis weave. In his left hand he clutched a glowing emerald orb, whilst in his right he held his new Warscythe. The weapons’ surface was stripped of the extravagant glyphs, and its shaft was shortened so that the blade now rested comfortably against his shoulder, rather than far above his head.
Quibilah looked down at the comparatively diminutive and spartanly ornamented Praetorian. Then he bowed low. “Greetings Triarch Praetorian.”
The Praetorian bowed politely, but quickly.
Quibilah sat back down and reclined against his throne.
The Praetorian unsubtly looked around the chamber. “I see that much has changed since I made contact, Overlord Quibilah.”
“Indeed, this the result of an internal affair, and the matter is dealt with.”
“I see, this is good.”
“Indeed, good, this ‘affair,’ threatened the purity of your Tomb word, had you not handled the matter yourself, we would have.”
Quibilah bristled, “… Praetorian, please, you have news on the state of the galaxy?”
“Indeed, I come with extensive news and demands in equal measure.”
“Yes, demands, Overlord Quibilah. The Silent King has returned… Before we converse further, I must be clear of your intentions.”
“Ask your question Praetorian.”
“Overlord Quibilah, now that you have been roused from the Great Sleep, what will you do?”
Quibilah leaned forward, the hilt of his Warscythe pressing into the floor. “I will fully rouse this world, find the rest of my dynasty, and reclaim our rightful place in the galaxy.”
The Praetorian stared at him for a moment, then gave a slight nod. “Good. Now, we have much to discuss.”