“So, it is true, then. A new rebellion commences”, said Mericus, as he walked alongside Pole, a servant of the Archmechanic. “I thought this was but a rumor.”
“We had hoped so too, Master Mericus”, the servant responded in a soft voice. He was a human, bearing the symbol of Spiritus, the torch, on his forehead. He wore simple clothes, a brown robe that covered his body, and a pair of slippers made of rubber, a sign of his status as a low-class citizen.. The lack of a surname meant one of two things in the Solar Empire: either that you were a servant of the Gods, or a servant of the rich. The Solar Empire has little room for progress, at least when human rights were concerned. It was a grim time for them, and Mericus knew it. But, the Gods had dictated that a person, who does not accept their gifts, will have to submit to the will of those who do.
“I believe in our Army. I believe in our Order. We will not let them crush the world, the place for which our forefathers fought. Ad Infinitu, Pole.”
“Ad Infinitu, Master Mericus”, the servant replied and bowed. Mericus turned his back on him and moved to the left, passing through the warp panel. He ended up in an oval room, white and clear as day. The Assembly, or the place where the Governors of the planets under the Empire’s flag gathered, was a vast network of rooms, tunnels and eldritch machinery, all working constantly, all producing more pollution than two planets combined. It was a constructed planet, a wonder made possible thanks to mankind’s tireless labor. As Mericus went on, he was met by a variety of races from across the Solar Empire. It was a marvel, indeed. United under a single banner, the races of the Solar System could move forward together. And now, a rebellion was about to ensue. It was his duty to make it stop, to snuff it out before it erupted and engulfed the planets in its fire.
He had walked several hundreds of meters, as warping between sectors was not permitted, until at last he reached an archway. Flashes of green and red light emanated from the golden door in front of him. He raised his mechanical arm in salute, and waited. The scanner verified his identity, and the door disappeared. He walked in, both excited and afraid. This is the heart of the Solar Empire, he thought. This is where everything takes shape.
He walked a couple of meters inside a dark path. Sounds of machinery at work were reaching him from deep inside the core of the Assembly. Like a bellowing beast, he mused to himself. At last, the white light reached his eyes. Before him, the Gate Guardians stood, ever vigilant. Donning a white suit of armor, the Guardians were at least three meters tall, towering over him. They were holding plasma guns the size of a human arm with surprising ease. These weapons were capable of melting even the hardest of metals. If a human (or a robot, or even United One for that matter), was blasted by it, they would evaporate instantly. No remains. It was a terrifying weapon, worthy of the Empire’s greatest warriors.
“State your name and purpose, Mechanic”, they said in unison, raising their guns.
“I am Mechanic Mericus of the Automata. I was sent here by the Archmechanic himself.”
The Guardian at his left raised his metal arm and scanned Mericus’ face. After the process was completed, the Mechanic was allowed inside the Assembly’s Final Chamber.
The Final Chamber was a vast room, located on the Assembly’s ‘north pole’. Essentially, the Final Chamber was a colossal amphitheater, doused in bright light. Thousands of platforms were suspended above a large, circular surface. From there, the main speaker could address the members of the Emperor’s Governors, his chosen lawgivers, each commanding a planet of their own. The greatest of all the platforms was located far above the rest, painted in royal crimson and blindingly sparkling gold: the Emperor’s Throne on the Assembly. Mericus took a few steps forward. He could see the Governors gathered there, all glaring at him, their piercing gaze adding to his anxiety.
“Mechanic, you would delay our meeting even further? Proceed, now!”, a voice commanded above him. He hurried to the circular surface, where a large podium had just surfaced from the floor. It was equipped with many microphones and cameras, as well as a communication system, in case of emergencies. Mericus touched the white button in front of him, and his microphone was activated. Every important person in the Empire could hear his voice now.
“Revered members of the Government, I salute you. My name is Mericus, Mechanic of the Automata, chosen by the Archmechanic himself. I was tasked to come here, in the Final Chamber, to issue a warning: Master Ambrakus has been monitoring the movements of a certain group for several months. He is absolutely convinced that the members of this group adhere to the Old Ways. Master Ambrakus is sure that a rebellion is soon to erupt in the Empire. He wanted me to deliver this message, and asked me to implore you to bring this matter to the Emperor’s attention!”
Stunned silence followed his words. He waited. He knew the news were hard to believe. The followers of the Old Ways had been exterminated, centuries ago. If his words were true, it would mean that the Empire was under the threat of a new war. Everything would change, for the worse.
“Why should I believe a deranged old fool? Ambrakus has proven, time and again, that his mind is slowly slipping. He should stay on the Metal Throne, where he can at least maintain what’s left of his sanity!”
The man who spoke was a United One, dressed in red armor. He wore an old Battle Helm, adorned with several medals on each side. A large, grey cape was draped around his broad shoulders, bearing a very well-known symbol: he was the Governor of Mars, a figure so powerful within the Empire, that no one ever dared oppose, or even argue with him. But Mericus was determined to be taken seriously.
“With all due respect, Governor Caius, this is a pressing matter that should not be taken lightly. I was under the impression that the Government ruled with piety and respected the Machine Orthodoxy. Master Ambrakus has led the Orthodoxy with iron will and inexhaustible faith in our progress. Would you challenge the authority of the Gods? Would you not take the words of their herald into consideration?”
“I am well-known for my piety, young Mechanic, as you are probably aware”, responded Caius in a menacing tone. “You should not let your position within the Orthodoxy get into your head. It is unwise to underestimate a Governor. You live within the Solar Empire, where the Emperor’s will is everything. We are the enforcers of that will. Do not take us lightly.”
Mericus knelt and lowered his head. He knew he had overstepped. Facing the polished floor, he opened his mouth and spoke:
“It is not my place to judge you, nor was my purpose to offend you, my Lord. What I mean to say is that you should heed this warning. Investigate. If the rumors are true, we are all in grave peril!”
“Ambrakus and the Orthodoxy have been pestering us for about a decade. If the matter is so important, why has he never stepped in these halls? They show no respect to the leaders of this Galaxy! This… conspiracy of yours is, indeed, an unsettling thought. However…” Caius continued, leaning towards the Mechanic, “we have no proof of it. What is more, the Archmechanic does not think us as important enough to present himself before us! Tell him he should come here by himself, bearing proof of his words. You are not worthy enough to be here, youngling.”
Mericus shrugged. He did not expect a warm welcome, but this… this was disrespect. And he could not bear it.
“This chamber represents the power of the Emperor. This is the center of mankind’s power, the absolute proof of our progress, gifted to us by the three Gods. The Assembly, the Empire, everything was made possible thanks to the Orthodoxy! The ones who should feel insulted are us, my Lord. You are well aware of the Archmechanic’s health issues. He cannot leave the Metal Throne, unless matters are of the utmost importance!”
“Then tell me, you insolent one: does the Archmechanic deem this matter not important?” Caius roared, his levels of anger reaching their limit.
“The Archmechanic is doomed to die, you fool!” screamed Mericus, finally losing his composure. He gasped. What have you done, you idiot?, he thought, frozen in fear as the Governor’s platform lowered towards him. Caius walked towards Mericus, his fists clenched, his mouth trembling. He was roughly twice the height of the young Mechanic. His eyes were a cold blue, and they pierced through Mericus like frozen rays.
“You have the nerve to call me a fool… no person has ever dared stand here and insult me, young one. They all know me and what I am capable of. And yet, here you stand… defying me. There is courage in you, youngling. That, I respect. Yet you must remember: I am not as forgiving as you might think now. I will let this one go. Your mission, however, is not over. You must bring the Archmechanic before us, so he can present his evidence. Go, now, before I change my mind.”
Mericus raised his head and looked directly into the Governor’s eyes. He could see his anger… but, was that all? He could sense something else, something like… fear?