+ inload: Two of Hands +
"No, no, no." muttered the underscribe, shuffling through the papers on his desk. "No, no, no. This won't do at all." It was undeniable. It had gone. He sat down amidst the screed of records and forms, a cold knot in his stomach. What was he to do? He licked his lips nervously, and used a pocket square to dab at his eyes, which – damnably, shamefully – had started weeping. He looked up, his head empty of prayers. In any case, only the crumbling plaster ceiling looked down on him here. It was dark. The room, seldom silent, was whistling as the coldly insistent wind inveigled its way through cracks and gaps in the old timbers.
A heavy bang from the front entrance, two storeys down. Ferlinghetti froze. He strained to hear. Nothing but the wind and his own pulse. His breathing was light, rapid. As he stood, he thought he caught a noise muffled by the rustling of his tunic. He froze again. Nothing. His fingers – long ago replaced by steel augmetics – twitched and cycled with a sound like a dozen centipedes marching in lock-step.
Wait. The floorboard just outside. The knife – he had to get the knife. His hands scrabbled at his bedside table, his wet eyes open and locked on the door. The drawer was stuck – the drawer was stuck.
The catch on the door lifted with the sound of stout iron and the door opened inwards. The underscribe screwed his eyes shut, and shrank into a semi-crouch.
"Ferlinghetti? Him-on-the-Throne! It is you!" said a voice. The Underscribe, relief coursing through him, opened his eyes. There were two men at the door. The first, wearing a uniform of the nightwatch, was tall, thick-set and vital. He had an open face twisted into a scowl, and a heavy cudgel in his hand. The other, slightly behind the first, was well-known to the Underscribe. He began to stammer a greeting, but was cut off. "Unfortu-?"
"Childeric, Ferlinghetti." The smaller man interrupted pointedly. He was an inch or two below average height, and his complexion was drawn and pale. Nevertheless, there was an intensity to his red-limned eyes that commanded respect. He continued, his voice becoming soft and low. "I believe you have something of mine, underscribe."
Ferlinghetti looked directly at the smaller of the two men.
"Ah. About that..."
+ The Underscribe Ferlinghetti +
+ 'Underscribe', and its many Low Gothic variants, is such a common task across the Imperium that its meaning has been diluted on many worlds to being little more than a term of – fairly respectful – address. +
+ The tasks of an underscribe mostly include transcription, duplication, record-keeping and copy-checking. It is not a task that requires creativity, nor rewards imagination. Fortunately the grinding wheels of the Imperium ensure a steady stock of grey, anonymous zerraufters more than able to attend to the duties of an underscribe with little more encouragement than the opportunity to work indoors and the vague promise of a supply of recaf at some indeterminate future date. +
+ Many underscribes freely choose neural-modification or augment-consciousness in order to suppress their cerebral activity; becoming little more than servitors with a measure of free will – though they will protest that they fully retain their soul and humanity if this is brought up. Of course, the process leaves them unable to protest too vociferously, for obvious reasons. +
+ Conversely, where technology and funds allow, many underscribes undergo enhancement the areas of their brain that assist with concentration. Even worlds that possess no written script or technology – as is common across many feral worlds and a number of civilised worlds in the Imperium – will have aural-rhapsodists, bards and versifers who provide a similar service; embedding the tales of the scribe and their patron deep into didactic memories. Such is the way of the Imperium, where the same task can be approached in a billion ways, with little of no standardisation – to the eternal dismay of the Adeptus Terra as a whole. +
+ More common than brain modification is physical augmentation. Finger-braces and wrist supports are all but universal in order to allow the underscribe to perform his or her duties on an official ten-hour shift. In practise, many underscribes work long into the night to 'catch up' on work, cutting their sleep short in order to attend to the following shift. As a result, repetitive strain injuries are frequent, painful and occasionally fatal. Underscribes belonging to a wealthy patron may receive more extensive modification to allow them to function more comfortably, by replacing sections of their arms; up to and including complete bionics across the torso. Other common modifications are replacement or shortening of the digestive tract (combined with an altered diet for great efficiency), reproductive sterilisation, or the attachment of waist-height braces to provide points to which to attach spare scroll tubes and portable desks. +
+ More important than a general dogsbody or bureau-gopher, an underscribe will nevertheless be likely to have to deal with some menial extra-curricular duties such as stock replenishment, queue-holding or waste removal in the absence of an official. +
+ Most Imperial dignitaries whose role involves any form of writing will include a scribe – a much more respected position that implies an ability to comment, research and analyse – and that scribe will have a number of underscribes to assist him. Much of the operation of the Adeptus Terra and Munitorum is undertaken by underscribes, and the susurrus of their quills and typesetting is the sound of bureaucracy itself, a hymnal to organisation and re-organisation sung to the glory of the High Lords of Terra. +
+ Not by nature a courageous man, Ferlinghetti is nevertheless a capable scribe – literate, well-read and devoted to both his master and his duties. Roughly fifty years of age and heavily augmented – a mark of his favour with the Mechanicus – he bears a mechanical dataslate and a number of spare tubes to assist in his duties. A master cryptographer and codebreaker, this underscribe is perhaps more than he appears. +
The figure is based on the sadly out-of-print Inquisitorial lexmechanic(?), with the addition of a greenstuff hood and shoulder cape. I also added an ear-piece and mouth cover to further distance him from the base sculpt. The painting was relatively straightforward, though he went through a few different changes of costume before I plumped for the orange and saffron combo shown.