Able Andreovich is was a man always at odds with the teachings of the Mechanicus, he longed to discover how everything worked, and to rebuild it to be better. To lay bare the secrets of the past, and use them to make the secrets of the future. He fought to be selected for the Explorator fleets, and despite his witty and often charming nature, his colleagues were glad to see the back of him and his quietly radical gaze. He hoped that in the distant borders of space his obsession with innovation and efficiency might find some positive outlet. He was like a son at odds with his father; still very much loving and in awe of the Mechanicus, but desperate to find his own creative expression. It was on the Immodest Destiny
that his love for firearms and machines overall found him the position of Arms Master, in charge of keeping the Skitarii, Murditors and all shipboard firearms in working order. Inevitably, after too many slow months, he started to go slightly crazy, a mess of nervous anxiety. Tinkering when he could in his little spare time, he made tiny machines out of spare and broken parts, about the size of a hand, or human head at biggest. At first it was a distraction, but it eventually occupied his every waking thought; flying and skittering machines reminiscent of his memories from his childhood. He wove admittedly blasphemous intelligences into his miniature creatures, and trained them to speak a secret dialect of Binary. Eventually, graphing blueprints for larger versions and more insane creations occupied his mind constantly… and it started to effect his work. After a blistering reprimand from his superior, he left his obsessions behind and focused as much as he could on his work. But sure enough, he couldn’t quit, not cold turkey. He started to tinker a little bit. Not a lot, making the hellguns a little bit lighter, drilling and coring holes in the metal. Tightening some focusing arrays, loosening others, installing stuttering burst mechanisms and experimental overcharge regulators. He felt at times as if he was going insane, indulging in this nearly-open madness, and always there was the desperate fear that he would be caught, that someone would know. But no one did. At least, not until the Immodest Destiny
was attacked by a the Nurgle Plague-Barge, the Bile Ascendant
. His obsession with efficiency, with innovation, had led the Skitarii, and more importantly, the Murditors, to combat under-preparedness. The Skitarii guns betrayed their endless training, functioning at odds with the lessons hammered into them by their drills. The Murditors’ programming led them to always fire their new guns slightly off-target. Certainly, some of the weapons functioned better than ever, felling the endless Chaos thralls, but not enough to turn the tide of battle. Able watched, cursing and weeping, as his radical fantasies led directly to the fall of thousands of servitors and hundreds of his brother Techpriests. The ancient Mechanicus vessel was converted, in time, to a Chaos forge ship, churning out perverted Murditors and corrupted ammunition. The bloated, smirking Captain of the Bile Ascendant
introduced himself to the leftover crew as Captain Cholerus (with a gurgling chuckle), and offered work to anyone who wanted to serve. Something dark whispered in the back of his brain, and Able listened. And Able volunteered, to his everlasting shame.
Cholerus had himself a heavily wicked sense of humour. After he learned of Able’s modifications and their after-effects, he set Able’s first task to converting the Techpriests (those who wouldn’t turn to Chaos) into servitors, added to the personal guard of Cholerus, or put as the vanguard in his boarding parties, wired to belch acrid fumes and howl obscenities about the Omnissiah. Able had turned enough self loathing inward to hide his heart away and let his obsession overtake him. His always-waning faith in the Omnissiah had nearly vanished. He toiled sleeplessly, turning everything put before him into an instrument of slaughter and a vector of disease. Some four and a half months later the reborn Immodest Destiny
was hulked by an Imperial Navy Battleship, the Aenead
, but not before Able’s macabre conversions were thrown into the jaws of close combat aboard Assault Shuttles. Able himself, stacking failure on failure, didn’t die in battle as he ought to have done, didn’t sabotage the Immodest Destiny
from the inside, but fled with his cowardice. He wasn’t running from death, he was running from the nightmare into which he had volunteered himself. He wanted to get away, perhaps to find redemption, though he felt that he did not deserve it. He was in a single escape pod, all his old designs and scuttling, whirring insectoid creations sealed in a void proof trunk. His work, in his mind, was the only thing worth saving. An Imperial fighter returning to the ship happened to glimpse his escape pod whirling through space and let out the final burst of its massed Lascannons before itself returning to the Aenead
, low on fuel and without ammunition. The majority of the lasbeams, as chance would have it, reflected off atmospheric shielding, but two punched through the pod in an instant of blinding noise and light. One of them lanced through his lower face from above, down into his chest, instantly cauterising flesh and shearing bone and metal. Where death should have finally taken what little was left of his life, somehow, fate had other plans.
Whether the Omnissiah, or one of the darker Gods in the infinity of space, something had a plan for Able Andreovich. The glancing las-beam burst the latch on his sealed trunk, and it jammed partly open. His largest and most intelligent creation managed to saw through what was left of the latch, and gears whirring madly, it levered the lid of the trunk open. It saw its creator floating in the pod, rapidly freezing as the cold of space sucked the power from his remaining preservative systems. It woke the other machines as fast as their tiny systems would come online, and they together sealed the gaping holes in the pod, at least temporarily, scavenging panels from whatever was left. Somehow they managed to have the pod sealed enough for atmosphere to be restored, and the flying machines could now join their crawling companions. They started to piece their creator back together, stories trying to rebuild their author. They managed, somehow, to stabilise his mechanical systems, enough to know Andreovich was going to live for at least another few hours. Pushing their tiny systems to their limits, they created enough heat to prevent his flesh freezing and becoming necrotic. Cannibalising whatever they could, they pieced his chest and jaw back together, but there simply wasn’t enough material. They dismantled his now-defunct mechadendrites, and cords of gleaming metal took the place of his ribs, the pods’ own atmo-filtration system replacing his defunct lungs. But still, too much was damaged. They tore the power-field generator from his Omnissah-pattern power axe, and with no ceremony replaced the nearly-exhausted and rapidly draining Potentia Coil. They started tearing themselves apart, meshing whatever they could into working systems, till his chest and face were a network of mismatched gears and pipes, actuators and wheels and gauges and tubes and wires. They restored enough functionality to have just one of his limbs functional, the utility mechadendrite. The last minion left was the first one to waken, a complex and intelligent spindly spider-limbed thing. It commandeered the limply-snaking mechadendrite and used it to dissemble and assemble anything left at hand. It took two of the last remaining interior panels and welded an approximation of a chest-plate, covering the barely functional bio-mechanical cardio-respiratory emulators the little wonders had built into his chest.
Somehow the systems worked, and, gasping and screaming, Able lurched into life. He took stock of his surroundings; the now barely-holding-together pod was a flickering maze of broken and near-broken systems. His jaw was a metal box, his skin bolted around the outside, with wires falling out of the grill that covered the parody of a mouth, to coil into a loom that ran into his shoulder, and under his new chest. His rebreather had been replaced with one of the filters from the pod, a perfect “O” of shock. His limbs were lethargic from the poor circulation his new systems afforded him, and his brain seemed to be running at half-speed. The only blessing seemed to be that his utility mechadendrite had escaped unscathed. Dimly his backbrain gave thanks to no-one in particular, knowing it would be the single thing that would allow him to rebuild himself again
, into a properly working simulacra of what he once was. Only one of his minions of artifice had survived his resurrection, and it whirred happily up at him, oblivious to the death of its brothers and sisters. He wept then, a pitiful keening sound, as tears of regret, and self-pity, and self-loathing, froze on his cheeks. First his obsessions cost him his life, then his wretched life cost him his obsessions. He had nothing left but the legacy of failure that had brought him to this point.
The pod made planetfall on an abandoned mining station on a vast, cold, red planet. Able reflected later that it must have been drawn to the impossibly weak signal of the abandoned station, or already had a map of the system, to know where the land that he would have the best chance of survival. Six months later, his remaining minion had been joined by a small host of new ones, and his body had been rebuilt and rebuilt, and now resembled a dully gleaming automata where flesh was no longer evident. He still wore what was left of his Mechanicus robes, hiding most of his metal flesh where he could, and limped around on what was left of his axe. He had salvaged as much flesh as possible, even discovering that his heart was alive and intact. The replacement system he had received had kept his body oxygenated, and the flesh had never become necrotic, although it was severely atrophied. But it lived, and so did he, and one day perhaps he might restore it. He recycled anything he could from his minions, and remade his systems into properly working cybernetics. It wasn’t easy, or quick, but he managed to reshape himself into a functional being again, and the time (relatively) alone had given his mind time to heal, in its own dysfunctional way. Scarring is always preferable to an open wound, he would reflect in the years to come. He was still a hugely damaged person, mentally, but he was capable (he hoped) of re-entering human contact… in time.
As luck would have it, Able even managed to replace some of his peripheral systems. Using the super-powerful magnets of the focusing arrays of from one of the intact mining lasers, he built a ferric-lure system in his chest cavity, and spent some of his plentiful free time learning how to channel the fields it created through his Electoo palm-conductors. Free from the hide-bound idiocies of the Omnissiah, he was free to construct a device he had only heard whispers of, the sweet promise of which enticed him more than any woman’s touch. He gathered the pieces he assumed he would need, most important of which was the old interface device from his Omnissiah axe. With the necessary pieces in place, he began to design and construct the maniacally heretical “Scrap Code Generator”. He refined his designs until the piece was small enough to recess into his cyber mantle, under his new metal skin. He wired his new toy through to his electro-graft, and he had a device for programming anything he wanted, whenever he wanted, to behave however he wanted. Able was the most excited he could ever recall feeling. Whenever he found anything he could write on (seeing as nearly all the paper he found was impossible to work with) he would sketch his ideas down before he lost them, and his time alone had left him with many, many new ideas. He didn’t want to acknowledge the excitement that grew as inspiration took him, it drew up too much of what he had once referred to as “survivor’s guilt”. Regardless, technically he was on form, he had preliminary designs for an upgraded Electro-graft that would function as an Interface-port, a design for mounting las-cutters on rugged mechadendrites, plans for combining certain basic equipment, armour and inexpensive upgrades together to make (what seemed to him) cheap, mass-manufactured armour. He kept designing as new ideas came to him, as he remembered things always forbidden, too long ignored. Ways to combine simple, everyday items that to him seemed so obvious, so ubiquitously needed, that he owed it to that nature of invention, to find somewhere to make these things.
After just over a year exploring as much as he could of the ancient, rusting facility, he had found (he thought) everything worth finding. The broken hydroponics facilities, the endless caverns, the warehouses carved into the red rock of the planet, even a small armoury in what seemed to be the Foreman’s office. One of the cabinets in the armoury had been left ajar, and the armour within was possibly the dustiest thing he had ever seen. He dissembled all four suits of flak armour, and rebuilt them into a fine approximation of Light Carapace armour, with ample room left in his mind and, physically, under the plates, for future upgrades and expansions. He spent days poring over the solitary Lasgun he found there, making it into a gleaming bronze and black iron work-of-art, filigreed with gold leaf he smelted from a few of the abandoned circuit boards. Able fine-honed the internal mechanism with the leftover lenses and workings of the mining laser, and had something that never (in several thousand test-firings under every condition he could simulate) wanted to jam or break-down. When he at last felt readied (or lonely) enough, he repaired the communications array, and left a simple message that he updated every week, tagged with the current date: “Marooned. Have technical expertise. Will work for berth.”. It was another 8 months before he made contact with a pirate ship that happened to stop off in-system to look for a place to restock on water, and he offered them a trade: work and water (gathered by the vaporators for years) for a berth off-planet. They agreed. When they saw the tall man with his ex-Mechanicus appearance, his unique cybernetics and his gleaming bronze armour, tarnished Omnissiah axe and clutch of chittering machines, they assumed he was a Chaos Engineer who had been marooned here eons ago. The Chief Engineer was more bully than professional, just a barely augmented cultist. He would never match the prowess of a Traitor of Mars. The thickly-muscled man thought he could intimidate Able, keep him under his thumb. And it worked too, until Able saw the quality of work that was done on the ship’s slowly waning systems. His frustration at being hamstrung by working under an idiot quickly turned to anger that far outpaced his fear.
As much as Able could, he did the work in his new position that would be seen by the Captain. He knew he needed the man on side. While discussing his repairs and maintenance he mentioned in passing that he could do wonders for the rest of the ship if he had carte-blanche to do as he would. A foolish man does not stay Captain for long, and he read the subtext of Able’s implied usurpation with the barest of nods. Able, having sought the Captain’s consent, approached the engineer from behind as he struggled to get a simple glow-globe working. His new systems claimed their first victim, his mechadendrite punching a stray nail through the base of the man’s skull. Following his instant brain-death, Able spent the following dozen hours making the man the ship’s newest servitor. He laughed hollowly, quietly to himself, as he made him essentially a walking tool-box and supply station. He had become the creature he always feared he was, driven solely by his needs for creation, for what some would call poetic justice. Able preferred to call the concept “Technical Destiny”. After some 30 months aboard ship, they made berth at a pirate station in the Jericho Reach, Hollow
. He bought his way off ship with most of his share of the loot they had gathered, and used what was left to buy a spacious warehouse in the lower decks, where he set up a shop repairing and rebuilding any machines people brought to him, building a modest reputation as an expert gunsmith.
In the ensuing months, he branched out, practicing his knowledge of power fields by building a new power field generator into what little was left of his old Omnissiah-pattern power axe, somehow still relatively intact (after a fashion). It was far from perfect.. but it would serve until he made something better. Some part of him couldn’t bear to be rid of his axe. He made certain not to examine that part of himself too closely. Able sunk every profit he made into either the shop or his newest and (arguably) most ambitious project, a from-scratch servo-arm. The piece when it was finished was almost a work of art, and it more than replaced his lost mechadendrites. His cyber-mantle was the intended anchorage for the super-heavy arm, but his initial calculations proved what he had suspected; his existing framework would be insufficient for the combined weight of his existing cybernetics and his projected improvements. Inspiration struck Able while he was sketching some more ambitious mechanimals; he could acquire the necessary tools and materials for skeletal petrifaction, and perform the injections himself. The endoskeletal bracing would more than suffice for what he needed, and some three extraordinarily painful weeks later, his work was done. His bones were heavier, harder, each step a new experience in heft. Shortly afterward his new servo-arm was being used to hold Lascannon, Heavy Stubbers, Multi-Meltas, while he practiced his trade on anything he could get his hands on. Quite ingenious, he smirked to himself. His work was coming along better than he had hoped. And of course, it had to end.
Able thought he had at last, in this moral and spiritual limbo, found a temporary release from the failures of his past. He was content, after a fashion, until he received a letter from one Renkard Copax. He read it over a hundred times. His minions stared silently, uncomprehending, from the re-bar rafters. Eventually, an unreadable expression on his face, he left the shop to his two apprentices, selling what effectively amounted to controlling shares in the business. He bought his way to the Temple of Lies. He didn’t really have a choice.