For a moment she simply looked at it. What else could one do when such perfection was right there before you? Now with time to study it she noted more details that only became evident in the harsh glare of the men’s lights.
It was different than she would have thought. Somehow, when reading the ancient legends, she’d imagined that the Men of Iron would look like men but for their metal skin. Now she was standing before one and it was thinner than she’d have thought, showing no pseudo musculature or human features. It stood fairly tall, the size of a big man, but was more like an enhanced skeleton of dull metal with stark lines and only a few markings than a human. The forearms were the strangest part; they bulged smoothly on the top and a circular lip was recessed into the end of each. She imagined them as weapon ports, ready to smite the enemies of her god and a smile came to her face. Through her efforts the Mechanicus would uncover the secrets of the Men of Iron and raise legions of them to take the word of the Machine to the entire galaxy.
“Why is it dead?” The pilot said.
She sighed heavily. Could these fools not see that she was not in the mood for interruptions?
“It is not dead,” She said wearily. “It is inactive due to the blasphemies of those around us.”
“So, what are we doing here?”
“We are taking this back to the workshops where it will be manufactured to fight for the Omnissiah.”
“And uh,” The pilot stuttered. “Will it…that is, will we…um…what if we’re blasphemers?”
“If you do not treat it with reverence then I imagine it will destroy you.” She enjoyed the fear in their eyes. “But, since I came with the proper oils and unguents then I imagine you will survive…if you obey me exactly.”
“Right,” The men looked at each other. “What’s first?”
“Now you are eager?” She asked.
“Well, to be honest I don’t know anything about no Men of Iron and war ain’t my business either. But I reckon the sooner we get this thing loaded aboard the crawler, the sooner we can get out of here and the sooner we’ll be safe back home. Would that be…uh, logical?”
“For once, pilot.” She nodded appreciatively. “You are logical. After we perform the proper blessings we will bring it with us and return. Once we get back I will ensure you are handsomely rewarded for your efforts. You have performed well and all the Mechanicus will be grateful.”
“Oh,” Grins began to appear on the men’s faces. “Well, y’know we do our part for the Omnissiah and all that.”
They were fools, she thought, her face still impassive. This was bordering on Tech-Heresy of the highest order and there was no way two humans barely beyond menial status would ever be kept alive. If the Council ever got wind of their involvement, they would have their memories extracted, then blanked and then their bodies vaporised. She would be doing the men a favour by killing them, as she planned to do when they got back. At least for her there would be nothing but tidying up in mind and she would not make them suffer a memory extraction. A bullet to the skull or a blade in the neck would be more than enough.
“Very well. Sigma-Phi-Eleven?”
“Awaiting orders.” The mechanical voice issued from once-human lips.
“Deposit the box and stand by.”
“Confirmed.” The box was placed gently on the floor and the drone machine shuffled backwards slightly.
“Now,” She said to the men. “Follow my instructions exactly.”
At her urging they set up incense braziers that sputtered in the thin atmosphere, waved portable burners around leaving trails of smoky scent and then began to flick blessed oils over the Man of Iron. She intoned holy prayers in the pure language of the machine and the men, clumsily she noted, raised their voices in prayer also.
It did nothing. For five minutes they continued the efforts then her frustration took over.
“You are not properly blessing the creation,” She snapped. “The oil must be spread with a sequence of six angled motions of the wrist, representing the pure hexagon of the Omnissiah. Then you must wave a circle with the incense to represent the total sum of knowledge the Mechanicus seek.”
“I’m doing my best.” The hapless copilot said.
“Stand aside, I will show you,” She stomped forwards. “Hold this,” She passed on the metal fragment, they wouldn’t know its worth. “Give me those.” She took the oil and burner.
The copilot stepped back happily, silvery fragment idly clasped in one hand. Let her do the work around this creepy thing.
She flowed into the blessings with an expertise born of decades of practise and each spray of oil that landed perfectly left a warm satisfaction inside. The circling burner was also perfect and the smoky trail became the true representation of the faith. After a minute her frustration began to increase again. She stepped closer to the creation that it might better hear her pure machine blessings.
Her robes shifted slightly, she didn’t notice, and then it happened.
A green speck grew within each emerald eye until they shone like fire, the Man of Iron turned its head slowly, as though stiff, and looked upon her.
She cried out a machine code squeal of triumph, it was alive.