Author's Note: For those interested, there are three advance chapters on P-atreon (remove the spaces and dash): p-atreon/ SkySage24.

For the first time in nearly twenty years, the Martian Assembly had gathered in one place.

Ordinarily, it would have been in the great hall of Olympus Mons, as was right and proper. It had been tradition for the Assembly to convene there, in the capital of the Mechanicum, in the heart of their greatest fortress.

Unfortunately, this time, tradition had to be set aside. Olympus Mons was a ruin, marked with craters upon its surface, and still smoking from the heat of the foul inferno that had surrounded it less than a week ago. The infrastructure of the hive-city built into the mountain had been melted and burned, and the charred corpses of millions of Tech-Priests, acolytes and servitors were still inside.

Not to mention the bizarre forest that now encircled the top of the mountain like an emerald crown, even the part that extended beyond the Martian atmosphere.

Instead, the Assembly had convened in the Temple of All Knowledge, within the central hall that had been hastily repurposed to accommodate so many Tech-Priests. But the Mechanicum's industry and artifice was without rival, and so in a few short days, the hall was ready.

It was vast and circular, easily five hundred feet wide and at least half as tall. At the centre of the chamber's floor was a single, wide platform atop a pillar rising high up to the precise centre of the hall, where all could see it.

Lining the great crimson walls were over a thousand different podiums, each of them capable of limited flight and movement, and it was on these podiums that the red robed Masters of the Mechanicum and their retinues clustered.

The Assembly was the ruling priesthood of Mars, consisting of the Master of every Forge-Temple, from the greatest to the lowest. Each of them was a seeker of knowledge, who had proven their merit and earned the right to rule a Temple through their incredible discoveries, through which they had furthered the Quest for Knowledge.

Or that was how it was supposed to be, at least.

In the privacy of her mind, Koriel Zeth considered that utter nonsense.

Oh, it was not that any of the Temple Masters were fools, as such. One did not rise through the ranks of the Mechanicum without some degree of genius and dedication to the Quest for Knowledge.

But more than that, most of them were politicians first, and seekers of knowledge second. From her podium, Koriel watched as, even now, they jostled and competed for power and privilege, each more interested in proving themselves better than anything else.

Mars had been attacked, been brought to its knees by foul heretical warpcraft, turning their machines and armies against themselves. The Ring of Iron had burned and cracked, and Olympus Mons itself was a wreck.

And still, the deadly politicking did not stop. Even as they waited, the trading of favours, the brinkmanship, the snide jabs between old rivals…it was still ongoing.

Koriel cared for none of that, having activated her privacy field to ensure that no one approached her. She understood the necessity of Martian politics, the jockeying for favour, the need to maintain good relations with the other Temples and court favour with those more powerful than you. It was all required to ensure that you had the resources necessary to further the Quest for Knowledge and continue your studies.

But she could not make herself put on a mask and exchange honeyed words and false smiles with those she despised.

Not today.

The Assembly convened rarely, only when a new Fabricator-General was crowned, and when he required their presence. Kelbor-Hal's ascension had been scarcely two decades prior, and at the time, Koriel had only been apprentice and lieutenant to the Master of Magma City, not the Master herself. When the Assembly had last convened, her mentor had left her behind to oversee the City's construction, which had still been ongoing at the time, in their absence.

But it was far from traditional, nothing like how her teacher had described it before they died. The Assembly had not gathered in Olympus Mons, and they had not been summoned by the Fabricator-General.

Three days ago, a golden star had appeared in the orbit of Mars, and spoken, their words rolling like thunder across the entire planet.

"Forge-Masters of the Mechanicum. Your world lies on the brink of ruin, and further disaster was only averted because of me and my companion. We have much to discuss to prevent further calamity. Gather at the Temple of All Knowledge so that we may do so."

Somehow, the words had penetrated the heart of each Forge Master, including Koriel herself. They had burned with certainty and truth as they commanded them to gather.

And it had been a command. Ordinarily, the Masters of the Mechanicum would have bristled at such a thing and refused to obey orders from an unknown entity on principle…but the voice had tremendous power behind it.

Everyone had understood that if they disobeyed, the consequences would not be to their liking.

Even now, Koriel wondered who the burning star had been. Reports had spoken of a golden angel clad in flame battling archeaotech creations near the Noctis Labyrinth, appearing across Mars and even in the Ring of Iron to avert disaster and fight the machines twisted by sorcery, saving cities and protecting archives and ancient artefacts from destruction.

And then it had come to Magma City. As her domain, her proudest and greatest creation had teetered on the brink, the system that kept it aloft threatening to collapse, the Angel had come in a blaze of light and fire.

The support structures of Magma City had been miraculously repaired, cracked metal and frayed wires restored to peak condition as if they had never been damaged at all, all traces of the ruinous scrapcode wiped away as if they had never been there.

Some whispered that the Angel was the Omnissiah himself who had come to save them, and Koriel could not help but wonder if they were right.

She had always been something of a skeptic, wondering if the Machine God was truly real or not, or if it was just an excuse crafted by the ancient Mechanicum. Koriel had always kept such thoughts to herself, of course, knowing they were heresy that would see her executed if she ever voiced them.

Yet now, it seemed her doubts might have been in vain.

There were also stories of the figures who had battled upon Olympus Mons, the creature of shadow and hellfire, and the woman in green and white, both of them crackling with power.

Who had they been? What had been their role in this disaster?

Whatever the case, the power those figures and the golden angel wielded…godlike was the only description.

And who and what had purged what had been deemed scrapcode from the Mechanicum's systems? None of the Aegis defence protocols had much success, but then the scrapcode was just…gone. Acolytes and Tech-Priests spoke of a soothing melody and the harsh drumbeat of a marching tune that had banished the scrapcode. And Koriel knew they spoke the truth for she had heard both herself.

The drumbeat had reminded her of the voice of the golden star, of the fiery presence of the angel, but the song…oh, it was the most beautiful thing she had ever heard. Soft and soothing and sorrowful, yet resolute.

And beyond all that, it had been a perfect symphony of order and logic, calming the machine spirits and algorithms, restoring life to dead machinery, hinting at a well of knowledge that Koriel had only considered in her wildest dreams.

When it had ended, she had found tears streaming down her face. While normally she might have been mocked for her reluctance to replace all her flesh with metal outright, Koriel knew everyone who had been there, who had heard the song, had felt the same even if they could not weep as she could.

Koriel did not know who the star was, what had caused such calamity across Mars, or where the songs had come from…but she wanted to find out.

Her thoughts were interrupted as her platform's cogitators broadcasted a signal to her brain, saying there was someone requesting entry.

Annoyed, Koriel was just about to reject the request, but then she saw who it was.

Surprised, she lowered the privacy field.

Fabricator Locum Zagreus Kane stepped from his pod onto hers, his own flying away as she reactivated the privacy field.

"Fabricator-Locum Kane," Koriel greeted uncertainly. They had been friends once, as young acolytes studying in Olympus Mons, but that had been a long time ago. Not that they had any great falling out, they had just…grown apart. Koriel had gone with her master to help build Magma City, while Zagreus had stayed and risen through the ranks to become Fabricator-Locum.

They had tried to stay in touch, but they had simply been too busy with their own lives.

"Temple-Master Zeth," Zagreus nodded. He looked tired, his red robes rumpled and covered in grease, and his augments clearly in need of maintenance and rest. "May I sit?"

"Of course." She said, gesturing to the seat behind her.

Zagreus sat, apparently trying to gather his thoughts before he spoke again.

For her part, Koriel watched him warily. It was not that she was not glad to see him again…but there were whispers and rumours across Mars that the scrapcode had come from Olympus Mons itself. That the poison which had nearly destroyed the Mechanicum had come from the very heart of Mars, conjured forth by the highest ranks of the Priesthood.

It was not yet verified, but Koriel could not help but wonder.

Did her old friend have a part in it? Had he known? If nothing else, Zagreus and the rest of the Mechanicum's leadership including Kelbor-Hal himself had failed to see this catastrophe coming, to do anything to mitigate it. And for that, they would have to answer.

But for now, as she saw the exhausted state of her old friend, Koriel felt a pang of sympathy.

"It has been a long time, Koriel," Zagreus said finally, before hesitating. "If I may call you that."

"Only if I can still call you Zagreus," Koriel offered with a smile.

Zagreus smiled back tiredly, though the expression did little to make him seem any more energized. "Thank you. It has been…a difficult week."

"You're telling me," Koriel said wryly. The Magma City had suffered considerable damage and needed serious repairs and overhaul. Thank the Omnissiah, the systems keeping it suspended above the lava had endured, if not perfectly.

Otherwise, it would have been the end of Koriel's life's work, the work of her master…and her own life as well.

Only that beautiful, impossible melody and the warsong had saved them.

Zagreus chuckled weakly before his smile faded away. "Koriel, I've come to warn you. Mars is about to change forever."

"More than it already has?" Koriel asked, bemused. Of course, Mars was going to change. This was the worst upheaval the Mechanicum had suffered in over a thousand years. The repercussions would echo across the Red Planet for decades, perhaps centuries, to come.

"Yes," Zagreus insisted. "There is more yet to come. And this may sound trite, but I came to tell you: be ready. What you are about to witness will affect our lives and the fate of the Mechanicum itself for centuries to come. But if we try to resist these changes, we will die."

"What exactly is going on, Zagreus?" Koriel frowned. She had suspected Zagreus had an idea of what was truly going to happen, given it was he who had overseen the refurbishment of the Temple of All Knowledge. But he was being frustratingly vague. "If you are warning me, this does not tell me much of anything."

But Zagreus only shook his head. "You would not believe me if I told you. You should see it for yourself. I only came because I know there are those here today who will try to oppose what's coming and will die for it. I would rather not see you join their ranks."

Koriel opened her mouth to argue, but before she could say anything, the entire chamber lit.

The golden star had appeared again, a blazing inferno standing atop the pillar at the heart of the chamber. Koriel could feel its presence, heavy like molten gold, pressing down on her, on all of them, demanding their attention.

It was him. The so-called angel, whom half of Mars was ready to proclaim as the Machine God itself.

Slowly, the inferno faded and dimmed, though the presence did not. And instead of a flame, there was a golden man, still glowing brightly, but no longer blinding. On his right was a tall, red-haired woman in strange-looking blue robes, and on his left was…Kelbor Hal?

The Fabricator-General of Mars was a far cry from the proud man that Koriel remembered seeing on previous visits to Olympus Mons. His robes were ragged and torn, covered with dust, his hood thrown back to reveal his face as he knelt next to the golden figure, glowering up at him resentfully.

"Children of Mars," the golden man began, his voice deep and resonant, exactly like the thunder that had spoken to them all three days ago. "Welcome. I am the Emperor of Mankind."

"I came to this world at the invitation of your Fabricator-General, to negotiate the Mechanicum's entrance to my empire. I had hoped for a partnership of equals, but Kelbor-Hal intended to see me in chains or dead, and for my empire to be his. In preparation for this, he dabbled in dangerous warpcraft and made deals with entities of the Warp, in heresy against the Machine God. This backfired on him and led to the events you now call the Death of Innocence, which has seen your planet ravaged and broken. I, and my companion, Lady Isha," -here, the Emperor paused a moment to gesture to the woman- "stopped the calamity and banished the daemon that Kelbor-Hal had foolishly summoned, saving your world. You saw and heard us, I am sure."

So they had been the source of the song! Koriel thought as her mind whirred with the implications.

But she had little time to dwell on that as the angel continued to speak.

"You may wonder why I came to you in your time of need. And that is because I am your Machine God Incarnate, here to save you and lead you to a greater destiny."

"I am the Omnissiah."

Author's Note: Koriel Zeth, the Magma City and Zagreus Kane are from the novel Mechanicum by Graham McNeill, though I took some liberties. There's no indication the two were friends in canon, their relationship with each other being strictly professional though they respected each other and had some dealings.

And of course, in canon, they're two centuries older, so obviously they're a little different here even part from the changes I made to their backstory.

Concerning the Martian Assembly, as far as I'm aware, we don't have a full rundown on exactly how the Martian government works beyond the fact that the Fabricator-General reigns as the overlord of all the individual Temple Masters in a quasi-feudal system, so I made up the assembly as an excuse to have them all convene in one place.