Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend
Carbon is a common element throughout the Galaxy.
It comprises all organic materials, a great number of chemical compounds, and is the component part of a vast majority of the living things in the great Imperium of Mankind.
Even the Adeptus Mechanicus, they who shun the biological, find it most useful, as pencils, lubricants, warheads and component bits of all sorts of machinery that they made and used. It was so ubiquitous that some adepts forgot that the element existed, or forget that the Machine Spirit has blessed humanity with a material so useful.
990.M41, Mars, Segmentum Solar, Olympus Mons, Shrine of the Omnissiah
Five cloaked figures stood on a raised platform in front of the candidate. They were shrouded in robes, all emblazoned with a stylized cogwheel, the cloth itself clean other than for the permanent sheen of oil soaked into the fabric.
The platform itself seemed to float in the air in the chamber they had decided to hold the impromptu examination. The panel of five seemed to tower over the candidate. Many a Mechanicus Magos dissertation had fallen in this chamber, ripped to shreds by the examiners as insufficiently exemplary of the Omnissiah's grace. They had stood there, nearly mute, as the judges on high seemed to float in the air impossibly, without aid of jets or fans, and crushed their hopes and dreams for becoming one of the Omnissiah's select- a Magos, one who had contributed materially to the Quest for Knowledge.
Of course, Magos Ally Terenas Danar felt quite relaxed now, standing in front of the tribunal, not only because she had stood through this grueling routine nearly 56 years earlier, but because she already had been bestowed the title of Magos, and there was not much they could do to strip it. Plus, she'd known for a long while that the platform was simply a gravitonic repulsor set into a superconducting medium to control the level of gravity bleed into local four dimensional space; the same stuff that provided artificial gravity to his Divine Majesty's ships. All Adepts and higher ranked Mechanicus members knew that.
Her latest dissertation, however, had raised eyebrows.
"We welcome one of our own," the head of the panel squawked in Machine, a series of clicks and densely coded machine language that only very few non-Mechanicus understood, let alone spoke. A series of clicks and other computational noises sounded from him. "The five of us have bonded into the same distributed datastream server and are speaking through me," he said. "You may rest assured that we are all listening to you."
An old trick, that. Not only did it save time having to confer, even in Machine, and shared thoughts and resources across all five of the panel, it scared the living daylights out of even Adepts of the Mechanicus. It was fighting through that fear, conquering it, that set a clever adept on the path to Magos.
Ally bowed slightly and acknowledged the panel one by one, greeting them formally in Machine.
"We shall get to business," the head judge said. "We are pleased to note that we do not intend to conduct disciplinary hearings in this chamber, and your previous findings on data stream transactional and communication protocols across disparate Machine Spirits remain untainted and useful in the Quest for Knowledge."
"We also acknowledge that you have been seconded to the Ordo Hereticus of his Divine Majesty's Inquisition on the staff of the human Baseline Alera Jumil as of 955.M41 after your successful investigations into serious data fraud and heresy on Forge World Lucanis II and are not required to extend the Quest for Knowledge to less able adepts as part of your duties."
The judge paused for a moment as the cogitators that made up their minor hive mind worked. "Although you have been teaching appropriate hours of correspondence courses to tech adepts on Forge World Tanis."
She again waited respectfully for the five judges to process this data.
"We are simply curious," the judge said, and it was at that moment that a hololith set into the platform flashed into life and displayed the text of her latest research, "as to your career branching into biological and sociological research. Is there some application to your previous work on Machine Spirits?"
Ally smiled, a thoroughly un-Machine like expression, but one which fit her face perfectly, even though most of it was no longer flesh. "No, Magi," she said in a burst of somewhat amused Machine. "It was sociological research based on personal experience and empirical data collection." She squawked a command to the hololith, and it began to scroll to appropriate points of text as she continued to explain her work. "I wanted to posit a theory based on what glimpses of data the Omnissiah deigned to show me, and see if my colleagues had any corroborating data or alternate theses which may apply to the gathered data."
The head judge nodded when its component Magi understood what she was saying. "So you are saying that… it is entirely possible that Baseline humans are the driving force for the Omnissiah's Quest for Knowledge?"
Ally gestured oddly, a Mechanicus equivalent of a non-committal shrug. "I am simply saying that the glory of the Omnissiah may be found if we take the entirety of humanity, and the individual Quests for Knowledge of each individual human into account."
As the panel twittered at the implications of her thesis, Ally almost smiled gently at their confusion. They could have asked a question that would explain her thesis far more succinctly, but they had overlooked, in their typical Mechanicus disdain for the ornamental.
They could have asked how she got the diamond Aquila necklace she had clasped to her neck.
987.M41, Dauntless Class Light Cruiser Swift Justice, Cadia en route Tantis III, Segmentum Obscuras
Two men stood next to an Imperial Shuttlecraft, a fifty metre long ship docked inside a cavernous hangar within a spacecraft a few kilometers long. Emblazoned in bright colours on the side of the shuttlecraft was the picture of a Dauntless Class Light Cruiser, its elegant lines broken only by the proclamation that the Shuttle is the Swift Justice- 1 Shuttlecraft. One of the men was not in a good mood. Servitors avoided the two in their rounds, except for the unlucky two flanking one of them.
"Look, you can't strip her hull radiation plating!" thundered a young pilot to the mechanic shrinking physically from the verbal assault. "It's an insult to the Machine Spirit of the old Girl, it's an insult to me, and it's an insult to the maintenance department of the Swift Justice!"
"We don't have any left, Lieutenant!" the mechanic stammered. "The new Magos in charge of 1-Flight Hangar," and he emphasized the word Magos, "demands the hull plating, and she needs it now! We've radioed the Quartermaster's department for hull plating but they won't be here for a day or two, and the SJ-1 is not scheduled to do anything for 2 weeks! You're on furlough on upper decks for that time anyway!"
The pilot simmered. "The Mechanicus stripping a machine?" he cried. "Impossible! Sacrilegious! I'm going to take this to the cogboy myself!"
The mechanic took the lifeline to deflect responsibility. "Yes, you do that, sir. I'll postpone work til you work the matter out with her." The two servitors following him twittered their concurrence.
Suddenly realizing that he had defeated himself with his ranting, the pilot glowered as he turned to stalk off. "You had better Emperor damned well do that."
Flight captain Garen Danar worked himself into a pleasantly apoplectic rage as he paced toward the Flight Hangar's maintenance workshop. Imagine the new Magos stripping his old Girl! Enginseer Idenus had never tried to do that in 20 years as Master of the Flight Hangar. Her Machine Spirit would never forgive him if he didn't try to get them to leave her alone. And he was having such a pleasant holiday on upper decks too, before they'd radioed to inform him of the stripping. He reached the door, slammed his hand into the door activator, and prepared a furious diatribe to be delivered to the nearest person festooned with the monstrous mechanical gadgets that were the mark of the Mechanicus.
He was rather struck dumb when the pretty looking girl in mechanicus robes in the room looked up from her data pad and smiled at him.
"Can I help you, Flight Officer?" she said, and her voice was sweet and gentle and nothing like the tinny vox coder's squawk that Enginseer Idenus had.
"I…" gasped Garen, his hand still stuck in midair. "I… Could I see Magos Terenas?" he finished, rather weakly.
"You're talking to her, Flyboy," she smirked, and one of her eyes twinkled with delight.
The stunned pilot looked her over. She looked positively… normal. She had long brown hair, tied up in a severe pony tail. Her brow had metal Mechanicus implants, but they only framed her face in a most becoming manner, which still wrinkled in mirth in a human way he had never seen on a Magos, only bare initiates. Her robes didn't hide a single curve on her body, and her hands…
It was only then that Garen Danar noticed them. Her right eye was ever so slightly off colour, and seemed to focus entirely too intently. A slight, almost imperceptible line ran across the top of her scalp and down the sides of her face, where the plastiflesh parted. Her hands, which looked as if they were gloved, were entirely made of metal.
One of them held a tiny little gem in it.
"I came here," Garen said, slightly hesitantly, "to ask that you not remove the hull plating from shuttle SJ-1."
Her eyebrow arched up, just so. "Oh?" She said, somewhat surprised. "Do you have a reason, or are you just afraid your old girl is going to lose her modesty?" She smiled and spoke up again as he started to speak. "I checked up the manifests, and noticed that you're not going to be using her for a while. I need the carbon plating for a diamond control moderator crystal in one of the fusion reactors powering the hangar's main doors." She tilted her head to the side, slightly. "Is that reason enough, which I don't need to give you, Flight Officer?"
Garen resisted the urge to correct her with his correct rank, for he was sure that she was using it to irritate him. "Magos," he said, his annoyance beginning to show again, "that radiation shielding is vital to anyone who flies the SJ-1. If another pilot takes her out for a spin because he can't get his own shuttle, if some idiot mechanic doesn't replace the shielding… any number of things make it unacceptable."
"I understand your concern, Mr Danar," the Magos said. Her body started to tick as some cogitator installed within began to work. "There are many myriad uses of carbon, such as that within the old girl's radiation shielding. But some uses of carbon are more important than others; some ways carbon is made are more important than others. For example, The chances of one of your disasters occurring, compared to the chances of a catastrophic failure of the main hangar door reactors and the damage that will cause are far smaller." She paused for a while, waiting for her words to sink into the pilot. "I am sure you know what will happen if the doors suddenly decompress the hangar because the shield generators fail, or the fusion reactor experiences a meltdown. I, as Magos of this hangar deck, need to ensure the functioning of this deck to its fullest capacity and the safety of the thousand or so people who work her under me. If we were not so desperately short on carbon, I would not have dreamt of removing it from SJ-1. But needs must."
She lifted up the diamond in her hand, shaped perfectly as a regulator for the reactors. "Your carbon radiation shielding does its work. As does this diamond. But the Diamond is better; it does more, it is more important. Let me use your carbon shielding and turn it into something better than it is."
Garen shook his head in defeat, the logic inexorable. Just as he expected from a Mechanicus Magos. "Very well. Take the SJ-1 off the active duty list, however."
"I will," the woman said, smiling slightly. "I understand. It is difficult for graphite sometimes to see how diamonds need to do their work."
Something cold snapped inside Garen.
"What do you mean by that?" he asked, very softly. His voice was low, almost hoarse.
A worried frown crossed Ally's face. "Don't get me wrong, Mr Danar." She flipped open a panel next to her and placed the diamond inside its innards. The panel began to whine softly as some turbine within it began to move. "I understand your point of view. But amongst the common men it is sometimes difficult to see the viewpoint of the bigger picture."
The Flight captain's voice was now very quiet. "I see. And what is it difficult for the common man to see?"
The Magos tilted her head to the side slightly. "To use a quaint biological term that my parents said to me a while before they binary bonded into one brain, you cannot see the forest for the trees. You lived on a planet with plant life using chlorophyll reactions from sunlight, yes?" She did not wait for his answer.
"There are certainly things which are important to a tree, and that tree which is important to many other things. But the forest, that the tree is in, is a far greater being, far greater than the tree could ever be. It too, has things it must do, and they are, by mere virtue of being bigger, are more important."
Garen was going to say something obscene in response, but the wail of the emergency warp egress klaxons drowned him out.