A dull buzzing sound filled the air, the clattering of an alarm echoing off hard walls.
It was a smallish room, the walls mostly bare, the tiles a dull grey. A bar of light streamed in through the closed blinds of the domains single window.
Inside the apartment, There was a little kitchen with an attached bathroom, as well as a corner self stocked with some books and dataslates. In the single bed there was the room's sole occupant. His eyes opened slowly, blinking away sleep, one hand reaching out to silence the alarm as he slowly roused himself for the day.
Jager got out of bed, stretching as he stepped onto the cool tile of his hab unit. Taking a deep breath, and stretching to remove the little fatigue still felt. Next he began walking over to start the recaff machine, feet clicking softly on the floor, humming a small tune underneath his breath. The man munched on some cold food, meat and bread before going over to the shower.
He stood under the scalding hot water to fully wake himself up. When he got out he tied his longish black hair in a ponytail to keep it out of his eyes, looking at himself in the mirror. He was a somewhat handsome young man, early 20s or so, with dark black hair and sharp blue eyes set in a pale face that looked like it hadn't gotten quite enough sun. Jager came back feeling marginally refreshed, and a quick check with his nose confirmed it, he smelt better as well. Moving back over the now finished re-caf, he poured himself a generous mug of the brown liquid, drinking it before quickly moving over to his closet.
Some seconds later, he was dressed fully in fairly nondescript clothes, greys and blacks mostly. They were made of sturdy fabric that wouldn't tear easily, working clothes. He tied on his boots with practiced ease, a good snug fit, which he'd need with the amount of walking he did on average. Jaeger finished by pulling on his trench coat, a big grox leather garment he was quite fond of, as well as a pair of solid work gloves.
He checked himself over in the mirror, drinking another steaming mug of recaff, and making sure that he was all covered up. Satisfied, he washed the mug in the sink, put it away, and went out to face the day, walking through the halls of his hab block, immersing himself in the sounds and smells of a little community rousing to face the new day.
He passed a few familiar faces, giving a little wave as he walked down the stairs to the ground floor, he lived on the third story, so it didn't take him long to get down. Jaeger stepped out into the sunlight, taking a deep breath of fresh air, or at least as fresh as it got inside a city like this.
Modarc II was by no means a large Imperial world, really there wasn't anything that stood out about it at all. It was in almost all appreciable ways a normal world in the Imperium, home to some nine billion or so people, loyal and strong, but utterly unremarkable when compared to other worlds.
It was however, home. And it had been for all of his life, so he felt no issues with it at all. Modarc was the world he had been born on, the one he had survived on until now, and though it was far from perfect, he felt no animosity towards the community that he had grown up around.
The sidewalks were filled with people walking to their places of work, as well as the nighttime shifts coming back from the manufactorums, where they worked long hours pumping out armaments by the shipload. He was glad he had a different job, factory work was decent enough but he needed to move around more than that.
Thankfully he'd managed to find a job for which he had a specific set of useful skills that made him very attractive in that line of work. It was a decent living, and he did it well, but most importantly it afforded him a modicum of privacy as he worked.
It was something he knew was rare, and he was quite glad to have it when he did. Jaeger reached his destination only a little while later, showing his identification papers, the guards at the gate noting that everything was in place, from the Aquila at the top of the page to the cogwheel icon of the Mechanicus at the bottom.
With everything seemingly in order, he went on in, wondering what he would have to do today.
Jaeger walked through the small shrine to the machine god, maintaining a respectfully slow pace as he strode up to the techpriest sitting behind a desk. A large cogitator almost obscuring the red robed man sitting there.
The engine powering the device hummed softly, the steady stream of exhaust coming from somewhere behind the screen wafting up like incense, the pungent smell mixing with the grease and smell of hot metal which pervaded all shrines to the Omnisiah. "Good morning Adrax." Jager said as he walked up.
The techpriest looked over with his biological eye, his red mechanical one staring at the glowing screen as he continued typing away. "Ah, good morning Jager, I trust your night was restful?" He asked in an overly polite tone. Jager smiled a bit, the techpriest didn't have much in the way of social skills, but he tried overly hard to appear polite and personable, even if he didn't quite know what he was saying sometimes.
"Quite so, yes. And was your night… productive? Have you even moved from behind that desk?" He asked with a slight note of humor in his voice.
"I have been collating data for the past thirty seven hours." The priest replied as he continued typing away, the staccato sound of his fingers on the keys like a miniature machinegun. "Ork piracy has disrupted some local shipping routes, and material needs to be rerouted in order to reach its destination on time. I have the enviable task of sorting the goods onto various ships and ensuring that it is all properly sorted. Most engaging, yes."
Jager honestly couldn't tell if the man was being serious. There was a very large chance that he actually relished his task and considered it a high honor to shuffle the paperwork of the manufacturing sector, sorting crates of ten thousand lasguns and columns of freshly minted tanks into starship cargo holds as neatly as he sorted papers into his filing boxes.
"Well I'm glad you're happy. So, what do you have for me today?" Jager asked with a more serious tone, knowing it was time to get to work.
"Ah, yes of course, the business of the hour." Adrax said, using a mechadendrite to pull up a dataslate and hand it to him. "I am monitoring a loss in pressure in the water mains supplying hab block seven, I believe a pipe in the area must have ruptured. We also seem to have lost power in manufactorums nine again. Backup genatoria engaged and no production was lost, but the enginseers there are annoyed that they must divert resources to running the backup systems. If you could find the damage I would be most grateful."
Jaeger nodded. "On it, I'll try and find where it went wrong." He said, taking the slate and looking it over. This was his job, for the most part, hunting through the undercity where people rarely went to try and find things that had broken down. The techpriests would fix it, but if he found it then it saved them time, and it was time saved that they were willing to pay for. So in the end he was a happy man.
Jaeger quickly headed off, grabbing a laspistol and gun belt from his locker and slipping it on, before checking each charge pack individually to make sure they were fully powered. After inspecting the power sources, he found them all satisfactory, and thus began his journey towards the undercity. There was an access point in the shrine itself, so it didn't take long for him to start with his descent.
Jaeger traveled down a tight winding staircase into the bowels of the polity. Most imperial cities had an undercity like this. Centuries of building atop old layers left entire streets and levels buried, usually intact. Old transport tube stations that got walled off, abandoned underground plazas, basements that were sealed, maintenance tunnels and sewers. It all came together to create a sprawling underground world of dim passages and abandoned spaces.
Nobody honest lived down here, if you called this place your home it was almost always because you had something to hide. Most people topside could be forgiven for not really knowing about this place, but Jager knew these tunnels like the back of his hand.
Of course, just because it was primarily populated with gangers, mutants and scavenging animals didn't mean that there wasn't anything important down here. Water mains, gas pipes, electrical conduits, generators, communication nodes, breaker boxes, and all manner of devices and systems were located in the undercity, whirring away behind the scenes. Usually the newly constructed things got built atop them and wired into the old system, why build something new when you could co-opt the old?
The problem was that when a system went down in the undercity, or simply broke, it tended to take something topside with it. The techpriests couldn't be bothered to establish a more permanent presence down here, and didn't want to waste their time rooting around in the dark trying to find every single thing that went wrong down there. So they often employed a decently large number of people, like Jaeger, to hunt through the undercity and find what had fouled up so they could come down swiftly and fix it.
Of all the people doing this job, it was no secret that Jager was the best, he knew the tunnels and hidden ways better than anyone, and perhaps most importantly he wasn't unnerved by the undercity like so many others were.
There were all kinds of dangers down here, the tunnels were something you told scary stories about at night. People kept asking Jager what his secret was, how he was so brave down in the dark places where others feared to tread. He brushed them off, but really it was quite simple. He just knew he was the scariest thing down here.
Jaeger had a fairly strong familiarity with the water and power system in this area of the under city. Based on where the problems were being felt topside, he could hazard a fairly accurate guess at where the malfunction was. So really he just had to walk along the water and power lines until he found where it had broken or been cut, easy.
His boots made quiet clicking noises as he walked along the rockcrete floor, moving with a careful tread. Sounds could sometimes carry for a long way down here, and he didn't want to attract unwanted attention. There probably wasn't anything in this area, but then again there always was the possibly that there could be something, and long experience had taught him that it was better to be cautious down in the dark.
Slate in one hand, and pistol in the other he walked along, checking his position on the little screen, it's brightness turned all the way down to its lowest setting. The long walk through the dark was fairly uneventful, it gave him time to think, reflect, it was one Of the things that he liked about this job.
His thoughts strayed to what he would do when he got off shift, the pub sounded like a good idea, go out to a nice quiet little place and get a brew. If he was lucky that one girl would be working, it was always nice seeing her… Jaeger quickly crushed that line of thought quickly before it could go anywhere else.
Jaeger slowed his pace, sniffing the air, detecting a barely perceptible change in the scent around him, rock dust and neglect, with the tinge of animal life and lichen. Now he smelled something else, the faintest hint of ozone. He smiled, probably the power fault. The man followed his nose down some maintenance tunnels, until he found what he was looking for, a power box blown wide open, little arcs of electricity still dancing between the cut lines.
He frowned, it looked like someone had been trying to tap into it without knowing what they were doing and got burned for their trouble. Adrax would be infuriated to know someone had tried to violate the machine for their own purposes. However it looked easy enough to fix. It was worth noting that this probably meant there were gangers or mutants or something down here, trying to get power for themselves.
Jaeger sniffed the air again, but smelled nothing that would indicate anyone but him had been here for a few hours. He marked the position on the slate and walked off, hunting for the broken water main.
Jaeger walked through the dark tunnels for a long time, it seemed only like minutes, but when he checked his wrist chrono, it became clear that hours had passed. Time seemed to melt away down here sometimes, taking him back to older days.
Part of the reason he was so good at his job, something he would never admit to anyone, was that he had grown up down in these tunnels. Dressed in tatters and rags, hunting rats and stealing from gangers to survive, he had grown up amidst the cold tunnels and dusty corridors of a city long left to decay beneath the ground.
He would never want to return to those days, he was happier now in every way… but sometimes when he was down here for hours, and the mood was right, he felt a part of him slipping back into the old mindset.
Whispers in the back of his head telling him to go to his old hunting grounds, grab a few rats before heading back to his den to sleep.
Jaeger sometimes indulged in such thoughts, going back to the little hovel he'd made for himself, a disused subbasement, a den made in the corner with sticks and rags and shredded cushions. The man shook his head, he'd come a long way, it had taken a lot to overcome the fear he'd felt in those days.
He'd been terrified of seeing any human being, let along venturing out onto the surface. But better that he left this dark, dreary world behind him, it was better. Even if his instincts told him he was only fooling himself.
His pace slowed, then stopped, Jager frowned. He sniffed the air, and scowled. He knew that scent, gangers. The lovely bouquet of rotgut alcohol, unbathed flesh and other things he didn't like thinking about.
He knelt down, keen eyes examining the floor before him, looking at patterns where someone had disturbed the rocky dust of ages, careless feet knocking aside stones and treading paths in the crushed rockcrete dust.
They had been by this way, not long ago in the grand scheme of things. However this was not one of their usual hangouts. Jaeger readied his laspistol, lifting it with a single hand, and heading deeper into the tunnel. He stowed the dataslate, with his remaining free appendage, moving in absolute darkness now as he crept along, wary for any sight, sound or smell.
Jaeger sensed nothing for a while, just the leftovers of their passing. The stench of alcohol on the air, the ground out butts of lho sticks where their users had thrown them or stamped them out against the floor.
He stalked them like a hunter would any animal, careful and patient for the telltale hints that his quarry was near. The hunter smelled it long before he heard it, the faint scent of fresh water on the wind, the increase in humidity.
Jaeger started to hear the rush and splash of the water as he got closer and closer, knowing he'd found the source of his problem. Stepping forward, he began checking himself over to make sure nothing on him was making light or would reflect, before crouching, and stealing closer.
Ears sharp for any sign of a sentry, he went up to where a few dim lights had been set up around a busted water pipe. The broken metal tube was spilling water in a deluge down onto the ground, washing over the old rockcrete to cascade down some stairs into an open gallery of some kind. Nobody seemed to be here at the moment, at least not up on this level.
Technically, he could just mark the site and leave, but he didn't. Adrax was no fighter, and he didn't want the priest coming down here blindly, and stumbling into a dangerous situation. So, he decided to investigate the gangers presence, and see what was going on down here.
He crept up to the ledge overlooking the gallery below, frowning at what he saw. There was a camp down there alright, a good number, six to a dozen or so it seemed by the size of it. There were a bunch of containers set around, they had been collecting the water from the burst pipe.
For a moment he felt a twinge of sympathy for them, he would have done the same when he was living down here. But he crushed it before it could affect him. These gangs had been his biggest threat when he was growing up, and he would be damned if he would let them potentially harm one of his friends.
The question remained how to deal with them… As he was thinking, Jaeger's ear twitched, the man looked to the right. Footsteps, slow, uneven. Breathing, rancid, stale. The hunter slipped from his hiding spot, sliding into cover so he wouldn't be seen, using scent and sound to track the ganger, hearing the scraping of his boot, smelling the grog on his breath.
He walked backwards with a careful step, using the rushing of the water to cover the sound of his movement, though he barely made more than a whisper. Then, shrouded in shadow and breathing slow and steady, he got a good look at his prey.
It was about what he'd come to expect, really. Dirty cast off manufactorum uniform, autopistol jammed awkwardly into his belt alongside a knife and a pack of lho sticks. He walked up to the rushing water, dipping a cup into it and drinking. Out of the shadows, the shape of Jaeger stalked out of his hiding place, hands at the ready. He came up behind the man, almost completely silently, before grabbing him and before he could make a sound louder than 'wha' he slammed the man's face into the hard rockcrete, stunning him.
Jaeger held the man still, checking his breathing. Unconscious but not dead, that would work well enough for what he had in mind. He reached up, practiced hands roaming over the man's body, finding everything of value.
Weapon, ammunition, smokes, a little cash, nothing major but every bit helped. He grabbed the metal cup the man had been drinking with in one hand, dragging the unconscious ganger with the other. Jaeger creeped back to the staircase, looking down to see the others sitting around a flickering heating coil. The hunter smiled, a cold feral smile, and reached out, letting the metal cup bounce and clatter down the stairs to roll to a stop near their feet.
The gangers took a moment to notice the bouncing, clattering object being rolled towards them, some chuckled at it, while other looked about in confusion. Then one of them looked back up where the cup had come from, his eyes going wide when he saw Jaeger standing up.
He lifted the ganger up by the collar in his right hand, holding him off the floor as he looked down at the assembled men, his coat billowing around him slightly. Jaeger opened his mouth and bellowed, a bestial hunting cry that echoed off the walls and down the corridors.
While they may not have been smart men, they knew what to do when confronted with such a creature.
They got up and ran, flat out, his howling cry following them every step of the way.
Jaeger stood there for a moment, making sure they were well and truly gone. Then once the sounds of their flight faded, he allowed himself a smile. Carrying the unconscious ganger down the stairs, he then roughly deposited him on the floor, uncaring of the pained grunt the ganger released.
The investigator quickly started to rummage around through the camp, finding, and taking anything of value. He was delighted to discover one of them had left his gun behind, a somewhat battered but solid looking stubber rifle. Jaeger swung the older weapon over a shoulder, likewise grabbing a few magazines for the automatic rifle, and hooking them this belt.
Jaeger also grabbed the loose cash laying where it had fallen, as well as a few bits and bobs he thought he could sell off. He even sniffed a few of the bottles laying around, gagging slightly at the stench. As he worked, he heard the sounds of the one laying on the floor starting to come to.
The man was waking up, groaning as he reached up to hold his head, which had developed a nice goose egg. "Wha…" He groaned as Jaeger walked over.
"Hello there." He said in a neutral voice, standing over the man on the floor. The ganger's eyes went wide as he saw him standing there, long coat hanging like a funeral shroud. "You… you…" He stammered. "Me." Jaeger agreed. "I thought you would all learn by now, this is my territory, and none of you are welcome in it. Go somewhere else, up to the streets or into the deeper dark, I don't care. I'll be merciful this time, but if I find you down here again…"
He unslung the rifle, holding it in one hand as he examined the weapon. "You'll wish I used this on you. Now, get out of my sight." The man paled, scrambling to his feet as he started to run. "And don't think you can evade me!" He shouted after the fleeing man. "I've got your scent now!" He roared, voice echoing off of the walls.
His job done, Jaeger turned and left, walking back up the long dark corridors to where he had come in. The hunter felt rather pleased with himself, that was a great bonus.
Jaeger checked over the pad as he went, making sure everything was clearly marked out, the locations logged fully and ready for Adrax to repair it, or send someone else to do it. It took a few hours to walk back out at a leisurely pace, but eventually he came back up to the shrine, having left his purloined weapon in a little hiding place near the stairs.
"Evening, Adrax." He said as he walked back out, having returned his handgun to its locker. The techpriest hadn't moved from behind his desk, keyboard still clattering away. "Is it already? The time does fly doesn't it?" Adrax said, half turning to look at him. "Any trouble down there?"
"No, none at all, I found the faults and marked them, shouldn't be a problem for you." He said, handing the slate to a waiting mechadendrite, the priest reading it over as he continued typing unabated. "I would be careful though, I saw some evidence that gangers might be operating in the area. They're gone now but I saw an abandoned camp, so I'd watch yourself near the water pipe."
"Ah, thank you for your concern, I will beseech the Omnissiah for his protection." Adrax said with a smile.
"And by that you mean you'll go armed, right?" Jaeger asked, just to confirm.
"Oh of course, I have utmost faith in the great machine, though I find his just wrath is best channeled through a good gun more than anything else."
Jaeger chuckled, again unsure how serious the man was being, whether his words were jest or genuine religious belief.
"Well, just take care of yourself down there, okay?" He said, leaning over to look at the screen, and making sure his work had been logged for payment later. It had indeed, so Jaeger stepped back, and waved his goodbye, heading back out of the shrine.
It was early evening now, the streets still largely empty but starting to fill as people were coming off shift. He had gotten out earlier than a good many people, which was another perk of his job, flexible hours. His hands in his pockets, he walked along, passing his favorite pub.
Jaeger looked in, smiling to himself as he saw a lovely young lady working behind the bar, taking a few steps in her direction. Would it really be so bad? He could at least ask her, wouldn't hurt to ask… No, no, stop. He shook his head, stepping away and turning his back. He didn't feel like going to the bar tonight, yeah, he'd just go home, take a shower and relax, that would be better.
The young man sighed, cursing himself as he walked away, feeling bad for doing it but knowing himself well enough to know he couldn't turn around now or feel terribly silly. He grunted, wishing the situation was more simple, not the complex web his life seemed to be at times. He bought some food from a vendor's stall as he walked, grateful that it gave him something else to focus on, before he got home, locking himself in the hab unit with a sigh of relief.
Jaeger walked over to the window, making sure it was closed and latched, and the blinds shut. He made sure the door was locked as well, his ritual when he came home.
Satisfied that his room was secure, only then did he take off his coat and hang it on the hook along the wall. He groaned, arching his back a little and stretching all four arms. The second set of arms began just below his first, but instead of hands they terminated in three clawed fingers, sharper than knives and strong enough to rend most sturdy materials. Instead of flesh the limb was covered in bone white chitin armor that looked quite sturdy. His gloves came off next, showing that even his human looking arms were covered in chitin as well, and sported small claws on the ends as well.
Boots came off next, Jaeger breathing a sigh of relief as he let his three taloned toes flex, never having been intended to be crammed into a boot all day, and often sore because of it. He started the teapot going on the heating pad, and then went to the bathroom, turning the shower on as he disrobed.
As per his normal custom he set the water on as hot as it would go, steam rising in the shower stall as the scalding spray washed over him. It was enough to make any human yelp but he was made of sterner stuff. Jaeger efficiently cleaned himself off, using all four of his arms. Not that he sweat very much on anything other than his face, but being inside a hot trench coat all day took its his face and head may have seemed perfectly human, bar for his teeth looking slightly sharper than normal, the rest of his body easily belied his true nature. His stance and frame were human, but his body was covered in tough bone white chitin armor that started at his collarbone and covered the rest of his body in interlocking natural plating. Most inhuman were his extra arms, and the three long toes on his feet. Up his spine was a series of little chitin ridges, his every angle hard and deadly, organic armor and weapons. A little while later he was all cleaned up, walking back out of the shower, his chitin gleaming again.
He grabbed his tea and settled down on a beanbag chair, starting up a slightly grainy pict screen on the wall. The hybrid smiled as he saw he'd gotten home just in time to watch the latest episode of Attack Run, an action drama about a squadron of fighter pilots.
He supposed this was a good microcosm of his life, a terrifying fusion of human and xeno, built to sow death and chaos, curled up happily on a cushion watching a show. A surreal blend of the normal and the insane that came together with him in the middle of it all.
In most ways his routine was no different than most of the people in the city, get up, go to work, eat, drink, sleep. Really the only unusual part added on was to carefully conceal his true nature, lest he be burnt at the stake. Ah, but such was the life of a lone broken genestealer hybrid.
I hope you enjoyed reading the first chapter, there's certainly more to come, and a grander tale waiting to be told.
Leave a review or comment if you care to, getting feedback from my readers is an amazing thing for an author and helps me keep the motivation to write even in the face of other things occupying my time.