The vast room was near pitch black, apart from the thin beams of sunlight slicing through the gloom.
In the centre was a large dull-yellow device, with several pipes and conduits snaking from distant walls into the machine itself.
Within the machine sat ... what was left of a man. A desiccated corpse, skin long since withered and contracted, eyeballs dried up, teeth rotted away and musculature long vanished with long bony limbs resulting. Ornate armour was still hanging off the dead man.
The corpse was still breathing. A distant motorised oscillation revealed the chest's shallow rise and fall was artificially induced. Electric buzzes accompanied spasmodic twitching, an attempt to keep atrophied stumps active.
Alera, recently promoted Companion of the Adeptus Custodes, stood within Sanctum Imperialis, watching over her Emperor.
It was her first day of guarding the Emperor of Mankind. Her armour and weapons were polished and brand new. Her mind was focussed. Her heart was pure.
She was not bored.
The psykers were ... processed in another, distant section of the palace, their energies carefully monitored and filtered hundreds of kilometres away. The Golden Throne was armoured beyond belief, and it took the keys and authorisation codes of four high ranking tech-priests under close guard merely to open an inspection panel.
How long until her shift ended?
Something ... she heard something, growing louder over the omnipresent hum of the Golden Throne and surrounding mechanisms.
Over there, just ahead, a flashing light in time with the mechanical groaning ...
... it stopped.
Now there was a shape in the darkness that she was fairly certain was not there before. A creaking, a wooden creaking accompanied a momentary chink of light; a door opening?
She was about to reach for her communicator when she heard the man walk up towards the Throne.
Not terribly tall. Hair that stood up by unnatural means. Anachronistic clothing that didn't even match. No sign of weapons, not even enhancement.
Alera strode up to the intruder, who was examining the Throne's mechanisms with interest, her hand ready to send her sword directly into his gut. "Identif..."
Not even looking at her, he flashed up a thin wallet.
Inside, was a letter of authorisation allowing Doctor John Smith a detailed examination of the Throne itself, signed by both the head of the Adeptus Astartes and the Adeptus Custodes.
Alera slightly loosened her grip on her gladius. "Protocol says you should be monitored, Doctor Smith."
He looked up. Thick glasses (by the Emperor, one of those who avoided surgical corrections?) and a wide, energetic, near insane grin. "Oh but you're watching me, aren't you?"
"I meant a formal escort made up of the Adeptus Custodes."
"Nah. They've got better things to do than keep an eye on me. Besides ..." he held up a thin metal rod with a blue light on top. "... won't be a minute ..."
Smith levelled the device at the Throne and pressed a switch. The buzzing caused a the Throne itself to shudder, and split open, smoothly sliding apart like a bulkhead door.
The God Emperor was now exposed, and Smith was examining him with clinical care.
"I advise you to ..."
Smith, face expressionless, pressed the device against what looked like an important section of equipment and triggered the blue light.
A section of the Throne threw off a truly impressive series of sparks, and the regular sounds the Throne made stopped.
The hissing respiration made by the Emperors life support systems stopped.
Alera's heart stopped.
Her ice cold panic was replaced with growing fury, as she drew her sword, advancing on Smith ...
... Smith noticed this, and backed away, around the Throne, hands raised. "Yes, okay, I might have caused a teeny bit of regicide, but there's a few things ..." he backed around the circumference of the Throne ever faster as Alera began moving more quickly. "... firstly, he was mostly dead to begin with, and second and this is the important part... just three words ..."
Smith was right next to the remains of the Emperor. He leaned down, and shouted in it's face -
"Wakey wakey Jack!"
The corpse convulsed.
Alera's sword clattered to the ground as the mummified flesh swelled and grew, dead skin was sloughed aside by bright pink dermis, hair flowed to life, limbs filled with vitality and power...
The loyal guard dropped to her knees in front of the rousing Emperor of Mankind. "My Emperor ..."
The Emperor was pulling Himself out of the Throne. "Hey, Doctor ... how long was I ...?"
"Ten thousand years, more or less."
With a final wrench, the Emperor stood up. "Way too long to have a pipe shoved up your ass."
Smith ... the Doctor...? ... nodded, with a sympathetic wince. "What happened?"
The Emperor rubbed His forehead. "I ... I just found out the Adeptus Mechanicus were behind the whole revolt ... experimenting on Space Marines and creating their own private army ... they ambushed me, Horus threw himself in front of the assassins ... but that rat bastard Rogal Dorn shot me in the back ..."
Alera looked up. What were they... ?
The Doctor nodded. "There's been a bit of historical revision at work. From what I could tell, they just learned you had plans to move Mankind out of the Dark Age, create the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire. However, they liked directly controlling every piece of technology from the plow to the gravity bomb. They engineered the Horus Heresy ..."
"... oh yes, they pinned the whole thing on him. Re-wrote the history books so he was a disloyal renegade and they were the loyal servants of the God Emperor of Mankind."
"God Emperor? I was trying to eliminate religion!"
"I know, I know. I guess they thought it was funny to make you a religious icon. Just look at that girl there."
The Emperor turned, and noticed the prostate woman in the ornate gold armour. "Oh ... honey. Hi ..."
Alena crashed her head to the floor in His Presence.
Strong hands grasped her wrists.
"Look ... what's your name?"
"Alena, Companion of the Adeptus Custodes ..."
"Yeah, Alena, do you wanna stand up?"
She looked into the eyes of her God and Emperor. He had really lovely blue eyes.
The Doctor was examining the Throne. "They plugged you in here ... bled off your temporal energies to fuel a crude spatial beacon while harvesting thousands of telepaths to repress your regenerative abilities; keeping you near dead but still alive."
The Emperor's face was struck by ... horror...?
"Oh God ..."
"My Emperor ..."
They both looked at her.
"... the psykers gave their lives to keep you alive ..."
The Doctor walked up to the guard, fixing Alera with an intense, angry expression. "The Ecclesiarchy, the Mechanicus, the Astartes, the Imperium, the High Lords ... all this, an entire galaxy kept on a constant war footing, it's all designed to do one thing; Keep. Them. In Power."
"But ... we were ..."
The Emperor drew her up. Allowing her to stand on his level. "Trust him. Or if you can't, trust me."
The Emperor gathered the tattered remains of His ceremonial armour around his body, looking at the Doctor. "What now?"
"They'll notice I've disabled the security ... better leave and think of a strategy."
"For what, my Emperor?"
The Emperor gave her a most unregal grin. "Stop the Imperium, create peace after millennia of war, and save the galaxy?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Sounds like a plan."
The Emperor and the Doctor started walking towards the shape in the shadows. Stopping to pick up the rest of her weapons, Alera fell into step behind The Emperor.
The Emperor gave her a confused look. "And what are you doing?"
"It is my sacred duty to guard your life, my Emperor."
He gave a smile, and touched her chin. "Call me ..."
The Emperor rolled his eyes. "It's been ten thousand years!"
The Emperor leaned towards his bodyguard. "That man has no sense of priorities ..."