Thought For the Day [W40K Short]

Thought for the Day

++ Final systems check complete.
Full functionality confirmed.
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Life support systems at optimal functionality. Subject in acceptable state for withdrawal from hibernation.
All systems synchronised. Start up routine Theta 15 intiated.
All is in working order.
Preliminary start-up systems activated, Orientation Programme running.
Thought for the Day: Death is the servant of the righteous.++

Welcome on-line, Brother Octavius.

The voice was without expression; disinterested, monotone and austere and it took a while to permeate through his fuzzy consciousness. Confused, last-gasp memories swam briefly to the surface and tried to break through, but Octavius submerged them again. He was not yet ready to process the vast amount of information coming at him.

Welcome on-line, Brother Octavius.

++ Initialising aural enhancements. ++

Things got a little louder.

Welcome on-line, Brother Octavius.

The voice repeated its greeting and Octavius turned his attention towards it. With a flip of his head, he brought up reams of data. It was a gesture he had always made with his helmet to bring the systems up and was very much an affectation. An affectation that worked, however. He scanned the lines of information in quiet contemplation, only partially recognising that there was a lot more information here than he was used to.

Welcome on-line, Brother Octavius. Respond, please. Orientation Programme Delta-Epsilon-Gamma 987 on line. Respond, please, Brother Octavius.

‘Thank you,’ he replied, automatically, thinking rather than speaking the words. He read down the information before him in quiet contemplation.

‘Orientation programme?’ he queried.

In-built by the designers to aid you with familiarisation of your new environment, Brother Octavius. When orientation is complete, programme will be erased.

His new environment?

A memory fought against his bastion-like self control and bobbed to the surface, floating there like a corpse, face-down in the lake of his recall. He mentally reached out to it to turn it up the right way.

Physical system test commence. Stand up, Brother Octavius.

Absently, without even thinking about it, Octavius obeyed the dispassionate little voice in his consciousness and got up. Almost immediately the last synaptic connection still stubbornly refusing to engage was made as he realised that he was no longer a powerful, eight-foot tall Space Marine.

He was something better. Something bigger. Something even more graced by the Emperor’s favour.

Physical systems check out with no errors. Slight adjustment to servo in right arm required.

++ Servo adjustment initialising. Adjust dampers.++

How do you feel?

‘I am a Dreadnought.’ Wonder mixed with pride and awe coloured Octavius’s mechanically-enhanced voice. ‘How are Dreadnoughts supposed to feel?’

I do not know, Brother Octavius. How do you feel? Turn your head to the left, please. Thank you. Now to the right.

++ Processing visual input. All optical systems are functioning correctly.++

How do you feel, Brother Octavius?

‘I am a Dreadnought.’ Octavius spoke the words aloud this time and the echo of his voice filled the hangar where he was presently situated. He reached out one mechanical arm and crossed it upon his breast in a passable parody of his Chapter’s war salute. ‘I am the Emperor’s blade. I serve Him even beyond death. Above all others, I am honoured.’

Response is acceptable. What do you remember, Brother Octavius?

What did he remember? The Dreadnought now known as Brother Octavius turned his head slightly. The hiss of hydraulics accompanied the movement. The vast shape before him that served now as his arm loomed in front of him, huge and deformed and humming with so much contained power that he could feel it coursing through his –

Veins?

Did he have any now?

What was he, exactly?

For the remainder of his service to the Emperor and to his Chapter, Octavius would be suspended in a bio-tank that kept what remained of his organic, physical self. The tank was connected by cables and wires and other mysteries of the Mechanicum to the neural sensors that powered the Dreadnought.

In a distant part of his mind, he knew that the sheer joy of the knowledge that above all others he had been chosen for this honour would have made him weep. However, he could do such things no longer.

What do you remember, Brother Octavius?

‘Nothing of consequence.’ He had been a Captain, that much he knew – and his name had not been Octavius. He did not remember which company he had commanded. He remembered none of the men under his command. ‘I remember my death.’

Incorrect analysis, Brother Octavius. You are not dead.

No, he wasn’t dead. But on a deep level, he well knew that the man he had once been, the warrior who had once fought with his battle brothers was gone. Did that make him sad?

No. He no longer felt emotion. He finally understood the programme’s initial question. He knew how he felt.

He felt ready.

He turned his attentions to the next question.

‘I remember the injuries that rendered my body beyond the help of the Apothecaries. I remember the battle against the orks.’ He processed and crunched. ‘Query: does the battle continue?’

Answer: affirmative, Brother Octavius. The battle has raged for a solar month since your incapacitation. Are you ready to re-join your men?

‘Yes,’ he said immediately. ‘I am ready, Delta-Epsilon-Gamma 987. All systems are at full functionality. I am ready for deployment.’

Excellent. Deployment will commence in T minus four hours. All systems check.

++ Orientation complete. Programme Delta-Epsilon-Gamma 987 shutting down. ++

Octavius hesitated. He felt that he should say something else, that the situation warranted some kind of human response. But then he remembered that humanity was a long way behind him now.

‘Thought for the day,’ he said. ‘Not even the dead know the end of war.’

The sense of company within his programming had gone, but he was sure he felt the faintest tinge of approval.

‘Deployment in T minus three hours, fifty seven minutes,’ he rumbled.

He was ready.

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