Prologue of the whole story: s/12967125/1/Small-Fish-in-a-Big-Pond-Prologue

Previous episode: s/12967139/1/Small-Fish-in-a-Big-Pond-Volume-1-Episode-1-Alackaday

Auriglobus didn't look like a forge outpost anymore after a hundred centuries of desolation. The Mechanicus had only started to explore and develop it when the Heresy broke out and cut the whole newly discovered sector from the Imperial space. The few factories were but decaying metal carcasses overgrown by moss and shrubs.

Magos Tetraodon had led his Explorator Fleet to this abandoned system ignoring the scepsis of most seasoned colleagues. Few of them believed the data archive could have survived the millennia in the proximity of the Eye of Terror and warned him about abominable intelligence and warp-corrupted STC. Some supposed the world had been taken over by notorious Hereteks or merciless Necron armies.

As the rumours of another Black Crusade spread over the Segmentum, many of his fellow tech-priests had turned their attention from lost technologies to the mysterious blackstone. Tetraodon was curious about the ancient secrets but he was naturally more inclined towards practical matters. He hoped the storage could provide the defenders with better armaments or transports.

He landed near the ruined remains of the main citadel with four younger Adepts, a group of Skitarii Rangers and a force of exploration servitors. The resources he had managed to get for the expedition were scant, and he had to finish the job quickly before the enemy could notice the activity.

The outer wall had collapsed centuries ago but the inner wall around the data storage was almost intact. Halls vast as a basilica nave contained countless dataslates and flash drives, and Tetraodon hoped at least some could be activated and read.

While the Adepts were sorting and deciphering the most important information, Tetraodon ventured to the old mines with the Ranger Alpha. The world had been defined as safe, its forests and plains populated by creatures no bigger than small animals and birds. Orbital scanning hadn't found any traces of sentient life presence besides the ancient ruins.

Chi-Zeta was the least annoying companion Tetraodon could ever imagine. He had nothing organic but his original brain, and Tetraodon approved of the fact he wasn't brainless in any sense. Calm and detached when out of battle, he had an interest in technoarcheology and could assist the tech-priest and even engage in intellectual conversation.

'Real peace of mind.' Tetraodon stopped on top of a grassy knoll and focused his augmetic eye on the angled sides of a large quarry. 'We'll dig up a few stones here and there without fuss and nerve-racking. Sunlight, fresh wind, a paradise of a job, Omnissiah be praised.'

'The spreadsheet is ready, Magos,' Chi-Zeta's mechanic voice was impassionate and firm.

'Good that I've taken but you along. No mindscrewing, no show-off. Just imagine, they planned to enlist this nuisance Mitrus to my expedition. Not only I didn't need a Biologis but my neuronal microchips would have been overloaded if I had to listen to the same stupid nonsense about mouse guts for entire hours. He's presenting himself as a young prodigy and workaholic just because he's spending days drying mouse crap.'

Chi-Zeta nodded. 'Mitrus lacks discipline to control his emotions. His supervisor does most of the thinking job for him.'

'A third wheel in every expedition unlike you. Let's try the very bottom of the quarry. It's been eroded since. I'm just gonna check a hypothesis.'

They'd tried about twenty cracks in the rock till Tetraodon extracted a tiny black spall.

'Just look at the subtle iridescence. Might be not a pylon shard, but a natural outcrop. I'd never venture to search for blackstone alone but missing a good opportunity wouldn't be practical. Many ways to use it, they say.'

'That's up to the Magos Dominus.'

'Most think that pylons block warp influence, but the world has been cut off by a powerful warp storm.'

Chi-Zeta leaned over to pick up another small piece. 'I've heard blackstone can amplify the influence as well.'

'That's the reason why I've always thought you're smart. If only you were a bit more inventive.'

'Incoming call, Magos,' Chi-Zeta interrupted him.

'Colonel Buch on the line,' a gruff voice sounded from the vox dynamics. 'The system is under Chaos assault. The 17th Uebotian Regiment under my command has been intercepted by the enemy in the warp, and we're in need of emergency landing. I propose you to join efforts till Imperial reinforcements arrive.'

'It's always like that.' Tetraodon sighed and switched to the expedition vox channel. 'Give out necessary instructions, Chi-Zeta, while I'm extracting a few more exemplars.'