Exploring the Ship: Camael

For a beat the crewmen only stare in stunned silence. Then, with an exultant roar, they surge forward, their frenzy unsettlingly akin to a tyranid swarm's scuttling advance. They mob Camael, each one trying to give him a hearty clap on the back, those that can't reach laughing and raising their empty glasses in salute.

"All right, enough! Give the man some room!" Boatswain Brizz's voice is almost a match for Camael's, his bellow honed from years of shouting orders down ship gangways and noisy mechanical bays. The crowd retreats a pace.

"Sergeant Camael, for your drinking prowess, you shall be forever remembered among the crew of the Horizon's Pride. You are. . ."

A cathedral bell a toll fills the room. As it fades away, voice crackles through a wall mounted vox speaker. "Attention, attention. All hands report to stations in preparation for Warp entry. Warp entry in t-minus four minutes. All hands report."

The crewmen groan like so many schoolkids called in before their game is done.

"Quit bellyachin. You know what to do. Get to your stations."

Muttering, the crewmen shuffle out of the lounge, each one congratulating Camael as they pass.

Brizz lingers a moment. "A silly tradition no doubt, Sergeant, but I can't thank you enough. The men's morale has been flagging lately. One of their mates, well. . .it's a bad business. Killed an Enginseer. He's in the brig until we put into a Forge World and hand him over to the Mechanicus. And the problems with all the servitors only makes it worse." He shakes his head, then breaks into a smile. "This is just what they needed to pick up their spirits. Thank you, Sergeant."

The space marine wipes his mouth carefully, sobered by Brizz' recitation of recent events. "That is a troubling happenstance, Boatswain. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to lift their spirits." He looks around for someplace to put the Impotablis and doesn't find one that seems suitable. He resigns himself to holding the goblet for the time being. "I confess that I have noticed several malfunctioning servitors already, in my short time aboard. Are the surviving enginseers not sufficient to the task of maintaining them?"

Noticing Camael's apprehension, Brizz helps the Space Marine the vanquished vessel to the bar, though Camael hardly needs the assistance.

"I tried to speak to one of them, but you know how the tech-priests can be, I'm sure. Barely escaped with my mind intact. But from what I gather, they should be up to it, but they aren't. The servitors are breaking down faster than they should." Brizz looks around, pitches his voice low. "Bennex, the kid they've got in the brig for doing in the enginseer, he says there's something wrong with the servitors. He says when he tried to tell the enginseer, Kreth, about it, Kreth tried to kill him."

Brizz sighs. "I don't pretend to understand the Mechanicus, Sergeant, but. . .there's something about the whole thing. If only. . ."

"T-minus two minutes to Warp entry."

"Blast it, now I've gone and undermined my authority by dallying," he says, grinning. "Forgive me, Sergeant, I'll have to be going. Thank you, again. And drop by any time. The men would be pleased to see you, I know."

With that, Brizz salutes and then hustles out of the room and then down the corridor, leaving Camael alone in the empty lounge.

Camael watches the man leave, his expression troubled. The boatswain is right about one thing: Camael has had a great deal of experience with Mechanicus adepts. They are, without fail, perfectionists. For a ship's complement of enginseers to be so remiss in their duties would be a singular occurrence - and worthy of investigation.

As he considers whether to deal with the problem himself or consult the rest of the Kill Team, the Blood Drinker retrieves his chainsword and seats it in its magnetic housing on his hip. No, it would not do to trouble the others over an unsubstantiated concern.

Resolved, Camael steps out of the lounge and stops the nearest crewmember, asking politely but with authority for directions to the servitor maintenance area.

"Sub-deck 3, my Lord. I'll show you to the lift." A towheaded young crewman leads Camael around a few twists of the corridors. He smacks the call button, and waits until the bronze encrusted doors slide open with a cheery ding. "Sub-deck 3, and the first door on your right, my Lord," he says, then with a tug of his cap he heel-toes down the hall back to his duties.

The lift isn't slow by any means, but the length of its smooth descent gives some idea to the sheer size of the Horizon's Pride. Just as the lift reaches sub-deck 3, the monotone voice counts down over the intercom. ". . .four, three, two, one. . .entering Warp." The prickling skin sensation of entering the Immaterium arises briefly before subsiding, and a moment later the doors slide open.

The servitor bay is wide, Camael's footfalls echoing across the columns and from the vaulted ceilings. The cogwheel of the Adeptus Mechanicus fills the far wall, the dozens of candles and incense burners casting a flickering light over the half-man, half-machine skull. In recesses in the walls, servitors slumber, each one tangled in a snarl of cables and wiring. Some are empty, the wires dangling like withered vines.

A single Tech-Priest is at work at one of the nearby niches, mechadendrites dancing nimbly in unison with clacking metallic digits.

"Just leave those solders by the door, Farok." The voice is tinny and mechanical, impossible to determine the gender of the speaker.

Camael steps out of the lift and moves several yards into the bay. He answers the tech-priest in a polite tone, such as he might use for a member of the Ecclesiarchy. To his mind, as with many space marines, the Cult Mechanicus was an equal partner in all the works of the Imperium.

"I beg your pardon, adept, if I am not he whom you were expecting. I am Sergeant Camael, of the Deathwatch. Might I have a moment of your time?"

One of the adept's mechadendrites reverses, a glittering green com eye on its tip regarding Camael like the stalk eye of some arthropod. In a faint rustling of robes and hiss-whine of servos, the it turns to face Camael. Not a scrap of flesh remains visible on the tech-priest, its face and hands all given over to the Machine God's designs. While it faces Camael, its mechadendrites return to work on the dormant servitor.

"Ah, I'd heard there were Space Marines aboard, but this is a surprise. I am Deputy Enginseer Gaius." The name at least marks him as male by birth, though by the look such distinctions have ceased to have any meaning for Gaius.

"I am quite busy with these servitors, my Lord, but if you require assistance on a technotheological matter I will be happy to summon an apprentice. . ."

Camael frowns slightly. "I will not waste your time, Enginseer. Members of the crew have expressed concern about the condition of the ship's servitors, and I have myself seen several of them limping about the ship in pitiable condition. I thought it best to seek your counsel on the matter before passing it on to Captain Lan. It is not my wish to cause difficulty for the Cult Mechanicus."

A burst of static crackles from Gaius' mouth speaker, a poor substitute for laughter. "Pitiable indeed. Pass it on to his Captainship if you wish, My Lord. All he says is 'make them work!'." A clawed, metallic hand sweeps out to encompass the whole servitor bay. "Easier said than done. We cannot isolate whatever ails the systems. The rituals that should repair them only seem to appease the servitors' machine spirits for a time before the spirit balks again."

Gaius steps away from the servitor and moves towards another station. "Praise be to the Omnissiah that whatever plagues the servitors' spirits hasn't effected every unit. If it had, as difficult as it is keeping these in their barely functional state, many units would be likely be irreparable, their programming beyond redemption." His mechadendrites quiver at the blasphemous thought.

"Forgive my presumption, but you do not happen to have a Techmarine with you, do you? A fresh pair of eyes on this problem would be a blessing."

"No, Enginseer. Regretfully, we did not bring a Techmarine with us on our mission." Camael's frown deepens as he considers the situation. "Boatswain Brizz instructed me that Enginseer Kreth was killed by a crewman who had suspicions about the servitors. Can you tell me anything further about the matter?"


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