We Struggle Not Against Circuitry and Steel

“So, you’re just going to leave it?” asked the archimandrite. “You’re just going to let them keep worshiping a machine?”

The episcope shrugged. “I know it’s against the Ecclesia’s usual mission, but at the moment, our government is currently in a precarious position right now. We need to give the populus time to get used to how we do thing, lest they turn themselves over to…other powers.”

The archimandrite only hummed in response, letting the fans in his head cool his thoughts.

The episcope, growing weary of the silence, spoke, “I thought you would have been happy with the Oracle. You certainly don’t seem to complain about the precision of your limbs-“

The archimandrite reared up on his great metal tail, his six mechanical arms spread wide as he loomed over the episcope. “Do not dare to compare the two! We make our bodies into machines, so that machines will forever be controlled by our minds. This Oracle, in the reverse, is a machines that enslaves the minds of others.”

The archimandrite came back down, letting the episcope tremble as the cyborg slid off. “Although I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. The Ecclesia is always trying to replace human judgement with rule and regulation.”



When I woke up, I was floating in the air. I didn’t recognize the room I was in, even when I figured out which way the ceiling was. I seemed to have levitated out of the bed I was over, as if the gravity had shut off while I was asleep. The room was undecorated, and gave of the feeling of somewhere someone would only spend the night in, and even then, reluctantly.

There was a screen on the side of the room, so I went over and booted it up. I navigated my way through the OS, trying to find something that could tell me where I was and what I was doing there. I ran into a few dead ends, either not what I was looking for or something that was asking for a password I didn’t have. Finally, I found something that told me where I was, even if was only in relation to thing a few thousand kilometers from me.

I was in an escape pod that belonged to a vessel called the Ymir. The ship, however, was still intact, and I was, in fact, in orbit around it. The Ymir, in turn, was in orbit around a solid chunk of matter, almost spherical under its own gravity, and well over 5,000 kilometers across.

Wait, no, scratch that. The ship was bigger than the planet, so it was more like the rock was in orbit around the ship.

Shocked, I counted up the facts I knew about my predicament:

  1. I woke up somewhere, with absolutely no recollection of going to sleep there.
  2. That somewhere was an escape pod, floating in space.
  3. Despite this, the pod’s ship was in tact, and the pod was still following it.
  4. That ship, the Ymir, was impossibly large, large enough to pull a planet around.

From these four facts, I came to one, inescapable conclusion: I really needed to cut back on the partying.

If you like this story, please support the House Apart on Patreon.

The Bureaucrat

“…So, I have my driver’s license, my passport, my health insurance card, and my bank statement.”

He had come prepared. She always hated it when they came prepared.

“It’s good that you brought all that, but you still have to sign up online. We can let you use one of our computers, but the most I can do is walk you through the process.”

I started to register for unemployment the day I wrote this. If you want to send the House Apart a few dollars over Patreon, it would really help us out.

40k With the Serial Numbers Filed Off // The Knights of the Lost

I have confirmed the existence of a third branch of the Knights of the Lost. Unfortunately, that branch is trying to kill me.

I’ve been reading the 9th Age forums recently, or rather, I’ve been watching people complain about that game not being exactly like its inspiration. Such a reminder of the differences between result and inspiration brought me back to a particular obsession of mine: what the T9A team (or a similar project) would do to the 40k universe. In particular, I wonder what they would do to the Space Wolves, the Dark Angels, and the Blood Angels, three Space Marine chapters that have traditionally gotten their own books.

The Knights of the Lost originally came from the Chaos-wracked planet called Logress, which was, tragically, destroyed around the time of the Second Empire. Before the Light reached that benighted world, the predecessors of this chapter of Bellatores, the Knights of the Round Table, would ride out from their citadels, slaying the monstrosities that infested the wild. In this way, the what little civilization that existed on Logress could survive.

The Knights of the Lost still honor those ancient warriors, and their elite super-heavy infantry still bears their name. If you find yourself on the same battlefield as these modern Knights of the Round, you can be assured that no behemoth, made of either flesh or steel, will break through that wall of heroes. Just be aware that they are wont to keep to themselves outside of combat.

Introduction to the Galaxy, 9994 Edition

I am not, of course, suggesting that the T9A team actually do anything like this. They’ve already got their own project to work on, and they already seem stretched pretty thin. I am simply wondering what would happen if somebody made a universe based off of 40k, using a similar set of constraints used for creating The 9th Age. I’m not sure it would be possible.

When the pincers arrived, I thought we were all dead. I could barely get a request for help through the comm, busy as I was staring at those blood-soaked chitin blades. I heard something about someone ‘being right there’ over the comm, and then there was a crack like thunder. I looked up, and saw about a dozen men, in white armor so heavy I didn’t think anyone could move in it, facing off against those giant beetles. The streets ran with blood tonight, but it wasn’t the red blood of humans.

Journal of Galen Koizumi, 08.03.9985

The very fact that there are sub-factions with their own books in 40k points to why. T9A is intentionally designed to be played in tournaments, rather than the half-narrative, half-simulation with vague gestures toward tournament play the 40k has been for most of its life. T9A’s design paradigm is a lot less amendable towards letting books share most of their units. Strengthening or weakening a unit in one book can have knock-on effects in the books that share that unit, making the game harder to balance overall.

The refuges stood in the rain, waiting for the day’s rations. The Knights of the Lost stood guard, watching for the enemies beyond the camp, and making sure that there were no problems inside of it. So long as they behaved themselves, they payed little attention to the displaced civilians in their mist.

Sarah was grateful for that. Being ignored was much better than getting the attention of armed men, even if they were supposed to be here to protect her people. As it was, she didn’t dare let Andre, her young son, out of her site for minute, not when she had lost so many other children. So it was that she was taking her rations back to their tent, keeping a hold of Andre’s hand, dragging him along and trying to keep away from the guards. When they paused to let grav-lift pass in front of them, Andre asked, “Hey mister, why are you wearing a robe over your armor?”

As one, the Knights of the Lost turned and glared.

Pushing against this, however, is the second constraint, that every model used in the WHFB needs to continue to have a use in T9A. Strictly speaking, this constraint exists because T9A was created as a replacement for a game that had ended, and the creators wanted the players to be able to use the models they had bought, assembled, and painted over the years, which wouldn’t actually apply in the case of doing the same to 40k. However, this constraint, along with the third constraint of the fluff having to be different enough from the inspiration to avoid legal troubles, results in the kind of fiction that I’m actually interested in.

Interrogator Bedwyr stared at me through his skull-faced helmet. He asked me about my past, about my work, trying to dig up whatever contradictions my mind could spit out. I lied, of course, or at least I deceived. I wasn’t going to admit that I was there to investigate the rumors of strange technology that followed the Knights around. I made myself believe what I was saying, too, as much as I could without forgetting my mission, at least. That was the only reason I was able to redirect the violation from the psychic from behind the glass, channeling him into the lies I told about myself rather than letting him get to the truth.

It seemed that their suspicions were not put to rest by the attempted break-in on my mind. They brought me to a small chamber, containing nothing but a bed and a toilet, and barely large enough to fit both. Everything was going exactly as I planned.

Another thing to consider is the sheer size of the Space Marine model lines. This is the natural result of them getting a disproportionate number of releases for over thirty years, and at this point, army composition is a bit unwieldy. GW has tried to differentiate the lines at points, but that, in the end, didn’t seem to take. Part of this was for fluff reasons. Why was it that the Blood Angels and their successors alone, out of all the chapters in the galaxy, knew how to put their librarians in dreadnoughts?

I have a spatial compressor in my stomach lining, you know. It was most useful in escaping; I just shrunk myself down and went into the vents. I made short little trips, at first. There wasn’t much energy in the device, and I wouldn’t be able to maintain that size for long. That lasted until I caught a flash of green cloak in the vents. I was worried that I had been found, and that the Knights of the Lost had the same technology, and at any rate, I wanted to know where they were going. I gave chase.

Although it might be possible that using the Blood Angels as an example might be unfair, because the basic concept of ‘noble heroes with a dark curse’ can be pretty effectively represented by one or perhaps two units (one for the curse, one for the nobility), but might actually make things worse. The fluff tells us that the Blood Angels try to be as much like a normal marine chapter as possible to keep people from asking to much about their curse; why would they have enough special equipment for their own book?

I managed to get out of the tunnels just as the energy of the compressor ran out. I found myself in a dark chamber, with machinery and the faint smell of solder filling the room. I crept forward, doing everything I could to stay out the sight of anyone that might have been looking. Eventually, I came across some of those small, cloaked creatures that are sometimes seen after the Knights have a battle.

They were working a piece of armor. I smelt the soldering, and I saw a glow in front of them. I stood up, trying to get a better look at what they were doing to it. It seemed that they were attaching something that resemble an Elethar soulgem to the metal. That’s when the man in black armor came after me.

The Dark Angels might be even worse. Like the Blood Angels, they, too, have a dark secret that they try to hide by being like a normal chapter. The actual secret, that half of their original legion turned traitor 10,000 years ago and have a tendency to still show up by means of time travel, has very little chance of affecting gameplay directly, and if it did, the Dark Angels player probably worked something out with their opponent. While I can see the merit in the actual secret being less important than what keeping the secret has done to the chapter, I’m still annoyed that so much of the Dark Angels equipment is just supertech that they happen have lying around.

I activated my temporalizer, and as time slowed, I managed to grab his weapon, point it into his neck, and pull the trigger. While the body of a Bellator might be able to sustain that kind of wound, I didn’t stay around long enough to find out. I made my way out of the compound.

I didn’t think I would be able to hide from them forever, and I wasn’t. All I could do was hide behind the lip of a crater, and listen to the sounds of pursuit. I heard some kind of engine approaching me. I activated my temporalizer again, and through myself into the open. The black-armored biker reacted fast enough to notice me, but not fast enough to stop me sticking a sharp piece of shale in his neck. I threw the corpse from the motorcycle, and rode off on it.

But I digress. The real reason I made this post was to sketch out an idea I had to file the serial numbers off the Dark Angels. The basic idea would to be integrate the various gimmicks they have into a single, connected whole. I didn’t cover everything in I wanted to in the essay, like how works that aren’t intentionally consistent with each other naturally diverge, simply as a result of being worked on by different teams. I’m also a bit curious what would happen if I fed the basic concepts of the 40k universe into a text predictor, simply because I’ve been following the development of Novel AI. Anyway, this is an interesting subject to think about.

I can’t imagine that the Knights of the Lost haven’t noticed their missing brother, and I rather suspect that they have a way of tracking their bikes. By the time anyone reads this, I’ll be dead. But if I do this right, no one will be able to tell that I sent it.

Marius Kenzarian, sent 02.19.9985

A Report on the Deaths of the Household of 552 George Street

Subject 1
Age: 15 Sex: Female

Subject has a series of cysts on the cornea of the eye and the lining of the stomach.  Cause of was blood loss from the carotid arteries, apparently inflicted by the subjects own hand.

Subject 2
Age: 39 Sex: Female

Subject’s eyes have larger cysts than subject 1, and have begun to open on the outside.  Subject’s stomach was found to be filled with human eyeballs; genetic testing shows that these were the subject’s own.  Cause of death was suffocation, means still unknown.

Subject 3
Age: 42 Sex: Male

Subject appears to have developed smaller eyeballs growing from the cornea.  Subject’s stomach, lower esophagus, and small intestine were found to contain eyeballs.  Fingers and forearms seemed to have been elongated.  Cause of death was organ failure, brought about by organ tissue in the lower abdomen being replaced by eyeballs.

The author had developed a cyst on the cornea of his left eye.

The Aftermath

Samuel wiped the remains of the shaving cream off his face.  “Yes, yes, I can hear you!”

He opened the door, and there stood a man in a black suit, with a black hat, and a shiny bronze badge on his chest.

“Oh, hello, Marshall.  Is… is this going to take long?”

The man in black raised his eyebrow.  “First, I’m just a deputy.  Second, I didn’t think you had anywhere to go…?”

Samuel turned back into his room, gesturing for the deputy to follow.  “Your right, I’m unemployed.  Mar’s going to get the job, and Wall is…” Samuel made some vague gestures, expecting his visitor to understand.  He started packing.  “Anyway, I’m not the kind of man that can just sit around doing nothing.  I’ve only got one life, and if I’m not careful, it’s going to wander away from me.”

The deputy leaned against the wall.  “So, what, spending several hours a day reading wasn’t a waste of time?”

“Learning is never a waste of time.  Understanding and experiencing the world is the best way to spend our time in it.”  Samuel stopped, and looked at the man.  “What is this about?”

He shrugged.  “To put it bluntly, the Marshals could use someone who understands destructive magical forces and the people that wield them.  What happened here yesterday, you see, isn’t unusual.  Not these days, at least.”

“You’re…you’re offering me a job?”

“Well, yes.  I’m not the one to talk to, really, they only sent me because the didn’t have anything else for me to do.  But if you’re interested…”

Samuel was taken aback.  “Well, it’s not like I have anything better to do today.  Shall we, shall we get going?”

“As soon as you’re presentable.”

Quickly, Samuel got dressed, and they headed out the door, out into the new day.  Sunlight fell on them, and the world seemed like it was righting itself, just a little.

The Confrontation

Samuel knocked on Wallace’s door.  “Wallace, open up.  We need to talk.”

When there was no answer, Samuel turned the knob and opened the door.  The blond man was standing at the window, looking out at what could have been his home.  Slowly, he turned around.  “Sounds like you’ve figured it out.”

“Turn yourself in, Wall,” said Samuel.  He took a step into the room.  “We already know it was you, and the healer’s tests are going to confirm it.”

Wallace chuckled, and rubbed his eyes.  “That’s not what you came here to say, Sam.  Just spit out what’s on your heart.”

Samuel knew that his old friend was right.  “Why?  Why did you do it?”

“It’s been three years, Sam,” said Wallace.  “Three years, and I still haven’t been able to find work.  I’ve been living on my parent’s farm, doing fuck all…”  The veteran stopped, making a sound between a laugh and sob.

“I suppose I understand, at least a little.  The only job I could find was-eugh-cleaning thread protectors.  That was a worthless job.”  Samuel shook his head clear.  “But, killing a friend…?”

“You know Mar’s a better fit for the job than either of us, Sam.  The only way he wouldn’t get the job is if he couldn’t show up for work.”

There was nothing left to say.  Both men stood there, just looking at each other.  Then, at an unspoken single, a slight twitch in the hand, the water exploded from the walls.  It knocked Samuel off his feet, Wallace commanding it to force him down and crush him.  But even crushed and wet, the man in the blue coat still kept hold of his mind.

Kryos!”  Samuel clapped his hands together, and heat rushed away from him.  The water froze into ice, slowing and slipping away from Wallace’s control.  “Kinesis!”  He thrust his hands forward, fragmenting the ice and sending it flying towards his old friend.

Most of the frozen water hit the wall or sailed through the window, but two chunks hit their target, one on the forehead, the other in the solar plexus.  Wallace collapsed in pain.  Cold and damp, Samuel got to his feet and walked across the room.

“Alright, Wall.  Are you going to come with me quietly, or am I really going to have to hurt you?”

Wallace rolled forward, into Samuel’s arms.


The Curse

“The what?” asked Dr. Novak.

“The curse of poi–gkkrrll!”  The healer rushed to Maurice’s side, doing what she could to ease the pain.

“Let me handle this one, Mar,” said Samuel.  “The curse of poison is a form of war magic that causes the target to weaken and die over the course of several days.  I’ve read that it does this by interfering with the body’s processes, starting with the extremities and slowly spreading towards the torso.  Once the organs – the lungs, the stomach, et cetera – are reached, death usually follows within the day.”

The doctor turned to the visitor and said, “So, this is the result of someone trying to kill him?  Why didn’t either of you notice what it was sooner?”

“Neither of us ever did it ourselves, it’s too slow.  The only reason I even know what it looks like is because I liked to read books in the academy’s library.”

“Okay, so, how do I fix it?”

Samuel suddenly realized that he had just told a doctor that her patient was going to die today.  “It’s, uh, it’s a curse, ma’am.  You just have to break it.”

Dr. Novak nodded, and laid her hands on Maurice’s chest, spreading her Gift to soothe the pain and the coughing.  Once he had calmed down, she stepped back.  She raised her right hand in front of her, thumb and pointer extended straight up, pinky and ring finger curled, with the middle finger somewhere in between.  She pressed her left hand to her abdomen, and said “Lýo!”

Maurice’s took a full, deep breath, and sat up.  “Hey, I feel better already.  Like I could do three laps around town on my hands.”

His doctor shoved him back down into bed.  “You stay right there.  Your going to go through an entire battery of tests.  And not just to make sure you’re okay, either.”  She turned around, reaching for his notes.  “We need to find out who tried to kill you.”

Samuel’s horrified gaze met Maurice’s.

“What?” asked Dr. Novak.  “Do you know something?”

“There are three people in town that could have done this, ma’am,” said Samuel.  “And two of them are in this room.”

The Interview

“…and although I would do it again, if I was called to – and only if – I hope and pray that such an event will never come to pass.”

The engineer and the manager shared a glance.  “Thank you, Mr. Verkotchy, that will be all for today.  Please stay in town for the next few days so that we can contact you if we need to.”

Samuel got out of his chair, adjusted his coat, and put on his glasses.  He stepped out the door into the tramyard, the squeal of metal grinding and the regular thumping of the flame engines filling his ears.  A worker passed by him with a nod, which he returned, and the veteran began to make his way back to his hotel room.

He wasn’t too worried about the interviewer’s reaction to his service in the war.  The needed someone to control the elements, reshaping the land for the new tramway and, failing that, reshaping the tracks themselves, and they weren’t going to find someone willing to use the Gift that way that didn’t have a similar history.  Everyone else was using their Gift to heal people, like they were supposed to.

Even when officially sanctioned, at least, as much as a government could sanction something, people were still uncomfortable around the people that were willing to ruin their abilities by tainting them with death.  Samuel had wanted to be a healer himself, once, before the war, before the Wechin attacked the Rechtland.  But that was a long time ago, and if people were uncomfortable with his history, he didn’t blame them.

He didn’t like think about how he had burned men to death, either.

Worthy Life

He sat at the cliff, watching the ocean.  The waves went in and out, uncaring.

Someone walked up beside him.  “Are…are you feeling alright?” asked Darric.  The man didn’t respond.  The answer was too obvious to be said.

“We could use someone over there, you know,” the rat-faced creature continued.  “Someone to keep your people from sending their undesirables over here.  From keeping them from being dumped on us.”

“I- I can’t go back.”  He dried his tears on his knees.

Darric sighed.  “So where will you go?  Are you going to stare at the ocean until you starve?”

“I-” he said.  “I need to understand.   I need to be able to describe why what she was doing was wrong.”

“Well, it beats sulking for the rest of your life,” said Darric.  A moment passed, filled with nothing but the sound of the tide.  “Hey, you know what?  My sister’s making a meal for everyone we got out of there.  If you come along, you can talk to the other prisoners.  I mean, that would be a place to start, wouldn’t it?”

He let out a happy sob.  Slowly, he rose to his feet, and followed his friend to Darric’s home, to a new path in his life.