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Показать все книги автора/авторов: McNeill Graham

«The Kaban Project», Graham McNeill

Two microns to the left. Now four down. There... Adept Third Class Pallas Ravachol adjusted the fine callipers that slid from his fingertips, watching with smug satisfaction as the hardwired doctrina wafer slid smoothly through the cerebral cortex of the servitor's brain for at least what the lobotomisation process had left of its brain and into the medulla oblongata.

'No one knows servitors like me,' he said as fibrous tendrils wormed their way from the wafer and into the grey matter of the brain. With the new doctrina wafer meshing nicely, he rotated the servitor's gleaming alloy cranial cap back and lifted a portable cutter to snap the bolts into place that protected the servitor's brain from harm. He placed the damaged wafer into the pouch that hung from his tool belt, careful to ensure he didn't mix it up it with the functioning ones. He shuddered as he imagined the consequences of placing a damaged wafer in the brain of a battle robot or implanting a combat sequence into the mind of a loader servitor.

'There you go,' he said as he pushed the last bolt into place and the servitor stood from the surgical recliner, its grey flesh pallid and unhealthy. Half human, half machine, the servitor's arms had been replaced with pneumatic lifters and what little of its head remained had been augmented by the addition of visual mass readers. 'Now be off with you. Go back and rejoin Adept Zeth's loading crews. The Sixty Third expedition needs her weapons and shells if the Warmaster is to pacify Isstvan.'

Of course, the servitor didn't answer, simply turning on the spot and marching from the chamber, in which half a dozen more damaged servitors awaited Ravachol's ministrations or the removal of any mechanical parts worthy of reclamation from the flesh that housed them.

Such work was beneath an adept of Ravachol's skill, but he knew he had only himself to blame for his current situation, and in any case, such work was what had brought him to the attention of his new master, High Adept Lukas Chrom of the Martian forges.

Having seen that the servitors coming back from Ravachol's workshops were working faster, more efficiently and with greater precision, Chrom had inquired after him. Within the week, he had found himself packing his meagre possessions and taking his leave from his former master, Adept Urtzi Malevolus, and making his way towards the Mondus Gamma facility of Mars for immediate reassignment.

Most of the Martian adepts cared little for cranial engineering where servitors were concerned, but Ravachol enjoyed such work. After all, only by knowing the mechanics of a human brain inside out could a man hope to understand the mechanics of a robot brain.

Such ruminations inevitably led his guilty thoughts to the Kaban Project itself...

He pushed such thoughts aside and tried to concentrate on the work before him, a Praetorian battle servitor whose weapon had malfunctioned and exploded on a test range. The weapon was beyond repair, but the augmetics grafted to its chest and the targeting mechanisms that formed the bulk of its skull were by no means lost.

As he stared at the scorched metal of the servitor's skull, he scratched idly at his own skin with the gently waving mechadendrites of his hand. Unusually for an adept of Mars, Ravachol was largely composed of flesh and blood, with the exception of his left hand, which had been replaced with a bionic one on his sixteenth year.

His thoughts kept returning to the Kaban machine, and he guiltily turned from the damaged Praetorian to make his way from the workshop and into the steel corridors of the forge temple. He knew he'd have to work another double shift to get the servitors online again, but decided it would be worth it to spend some more time in the presence of the Kaban machine.

Ravachol knew that he had a natural affinity with robots and their programming, but whoever had authored the code on the doctrina wafers that comprised the Kaban machine's systems was an order of magnitude beyond him. He doubted it was Adept Chrom, who, though brilliant in other regards, appeared to have little or no interest in the field of integrated battle wetware.

The corridors of the forge temple were dimly lit, the lumen globes floating above him kept at a level that blurred the passage of time so that no matter where you were or what time of day your body told you it was, you could have no external reference. But as an adept rose through the ranks of the Mechanicum, such concerns as day and night became largely irrelevant.

Hissing spigots and thick bundles of pipes and cables threaded the corridors, each one filled with bustle as servitors and messenger robots on wheels, tracks and spindly legs moved to and fro. He nodded to robed adepts who passed him, ignoring their looks of pity or revulsion at the flesh of his face and hand. Some of these adepts had lived for centuries, their lives extended by cybernetics grafted to their bodies in service of the Blessed Omnissiah - the Machine God of the Martian Priesthood. As he passed each adept, he noted how they had been blessed and vowed that one day he too would be similarly favoured by the Machine God, despite the Emperor's avowed distaste for such things.

He passed the Temple of the Frictionless Piston, where Adept Herysto developed technologies plundered from the Yndonesic Bloc a hundred years ago, when Mars had been at war with Terra.

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