Corpse Eater (Warhound fic)

Hello! This is fanfiction of @Kallie's Warhound, Grasping the Weapon, and Hunting Hound. Which you should go read, immediately. (Hunting Hound is only available on Kallie's Patreon at this time.) I thought I would be done after Hunter's Shadow, but it continued to eat at my brain so I wrote another one.
Content Warnings: Amputation, medical trauma/violence, loss of agency, dehumanization

Smoke and dust blot out the sun over the latest imperial conquest. The battlefront had devolved into several skirmishes pushing several kilometers into skeleton city. The city had a name, but the Corpse Eater always called it that.

Processor-06 learned early on that the Corpse Eater wasn't fond of names. Skeleton city. Spare parts. The Scavenger. The lance. Processor-06. She had the epithet of Corpse Eater embroidered into her jacket and lab coat as a testament to it.

The Scavenger's hulking arm opened up and picked up an imperial mech by the torso. The simple text readout identified it as a "Generation 5". A loud grinding ker-chunk rumbled through the processor as a large rod was loaded into the back of the lance. In two seconds the lance chewed through the rod and regurgitated slag. Now Generation 5 was just scrap metal like the rest of its platoon. The abomination dropped the scrap and began its march to the next skirmish along the battlefront.

Only two names mattered to the processor: The Corpse Eater Morian Kyrnn, and Ancyor.

If it could, it would put them both down. If it had to choose only one, it would be Ancyor.

It was going to be Ancyor.

Once the Corpse Eater procured a replacement, it was going to be Ancyor.

"The morgue is empty. I've got no bodies for you, corpse eater."

Adrijan turned her nose up as Morian Kyrnn swayed into the room. Still shaped like an pear. She was shaped like the Hunter. Or, as Morian reconsidered looking at her, the Hunter modeled the suit off a pear. Dangling from a mech like a fruit on the branch. The idea made her smile.

"I didn't call you out for spare parts. Seems the Hunter signed up with the rebellion," Morian glanced around the room only to find Adri's guards were nowhere to be seen. "Shame. She was a good merc. I wanted to work with her again."

The officer clicked her tongue, "You just want the systems image for the gen-6."

So Adri did have the Hunter. Not that Morian was about to go telling anyone.

"Get me the systems image and a new processor -- a good one. If you can do that, I'll throw the Scavenger at Ancyor." She threw an arm around her favorite Imperial footstool. "The Scavenger's processor is on its way out, so I need a replacement. Fifty-fifty it puts the hound down for good."

Adri went quiet and crossed her arms. She was probably running some risk assessment. Eventually she caved. The temptation to one-up the Handlers was strong. "What do you need to better those odds?"

"Occupy the wall."

"They're inseparable."

"Separate them," Morian stretched and felt a few too many of her bones pop. "Find me a processor. I already have the gen-6 systems image."

"They were rolled out less than a month ago!" She dug an elbow into Morian's side, "besides you just said you needed it."

Morian put her weight on Adri as she moved and stretched her leg. She wasn't about to say how or when she got it. There were more officers in the imperial military that made faster deals than Adri.

"Fine," Adrijan pushed Morian away. "I'll find you a fucking pilot. But it won't be one of ours. There aren't enough casualties anymore for them to go missing unnoticed."

Every battlefield looked the same through the Scavenger's eyes. Ashen. Barren. Lifeless. This was a novel battlefield. There was something off about it. Constructed in a way that was beyond the Corpse Eater. The forces of both sides flowed strangely around the Scavenger such that it was never engaged as it marched.

If Processor-06 still had a mouth it would have salivated like a rabid dog. Dr. Kyrnn made it a promise. After Ancyor took everything from it and left it dying in the ruins of that city, 06 would have its day. The Corpse Eater made good on that promise.

Ancyor broke from the flow and came charging towards it. Did Ancyor remember it? A nameless generation-3 pilot. The battle at the river. How it tore a hole in the cockpit and left it to drown. How it screamed for its family and friends as contaminated water encroached. Begged for forgiveness until its lungs were filled with poison.

Three of the Scavenger's hookarms threw rebel and imperial mechs it had picked up on its march. Processor-06 had been shown its battle logs in preparation and it moved exactly like it expected. It was almost too easy. It only took three moves. The throw. The first sidestep. And then the hound was held aloft in the Scavenger's claw. Ancyor ripped at the claw with its chain swords and howled and thrashed.

The rod moved into place at the back of the lance.


The generator groaned and rumbled as the rod was eaten by the lance.

Darkness. Everything had stopped except the distant sounds of the chain-swords slowly chewing through the claw. The fluid exchanges and oxygen supply had failed too. There was no backup power. Processor-06 sat in darkness and felt the horrible grinding through its exo-body as the hound clawed its way through Scavenger.

This was the work of the Corpse Eater. That woman bore no ill-intent. Did not see this as a deception. Did not understand the betrayal. The generator must have been swapped at the last second. The new one failed to power the thermal lance. The Corpse Eater simply saw this as a way to recoup costs.

The Corpse Eater was not evil, but committed atrocities with glee. Like a child who never learned the difference between fiction and reality.

It should have been the Corpse Eater. Not Ancyor. The world would have been a better place if the Corpse Eater had never been born.

The placard on the front of the operating room read "Slaughterhouse". There were blood smears painted below the window and the placard. Morian originally offered to smear her own blood across the entrance, but was denied. It was dumb, but it brought her a little bit of joy. She was eternally grateful for the leniency she received from her company, Carrion.

Inside was the corpse, already dubbed Processor-37 in her notes. Its records were redacted in advance to remove any mention of its name. She didn't operate on people. Especially not live ones.

A woman, nominally. Gender was a people thing. Female. Older than Morian. Rebel pilot. Extensive combat experience -- that part was written in the margins by one of the redactors. Its combat record was completely redacted with few exceptions about its weapons of choice or combat role. Chain-axe. Shotguns. Vanguard. The medical record was also heavily redacted, but it seemed hearty enough. Muscular.

Morian's hands trembled while drawing the sedative. Enough she had to put it down when she was done. It was the right call, as some pencilman she didn't recognize knocked on the door and entered. She always wanted her first time with a new processor to be private. It was special to her.

The pencilman handed her a file and apologized before excusing himself with haste. Forced the file on her, really. What was she supposed to do with it? She already had 37's file. The front of the file had a photo clipped to it. A chain-sword buried in a mech.


06 was dead.

The file slipped from her hand and more photos spilled out. The combat record from Processor-06's final engagement with target Ancyor. Casualties: 0. The real number was redacted. Carrion removed processor deaths from any reports she was given. Carrion fielded autonomous mechanized units. They suffered no casualties. Processor-06 couldn't be dead because it wasn't alive.

Morian attempted to collect the file. She just shoved the papers and photos under the things in the room. She couldn't look at them right now. She curled up against the operating table and lit herself a smoke.

It was after the fourth smoke that she felt a hand patting her gently on the head. It was calming. Or it was until she realized she was in a horror movie being pet by a zombie. She froze like a statue. What did she do about this? She hadn't administered the sedative.

"Oh, sorry," a groggy, husky voice from the table, slurred as the hand was retracted. "You seemed like you were having a hard time. Where am I?"

"The Slaughterhouse," Morian responded without thinking.

The corpse chuckled darkly. Morian followed suit, albeit forced. "Wait. This room fucks."

The operating room was painted to match the theme. Blood splatter. Viscera. The works. Metal hooks hung from the ceiling in places -- blunted, because Carrion hated fun. Morian would have preferred the real thing of course.

"What's your name?"

"Corpse Eater."

There was a silence. "The real Corpse Eater? So the stories are true. Shit. What's going to happen to me?"

Morian lit another cigarette and took the longest drag her lungs could handle without throwing up. "First I am going to take off your arm at the socket, and your legs above the knee. I fit those with caps for fluid exchange and nerve pass-through. Carve out one of your eyes so we can access the optical nerve directly. A bunch of organ retrofitting. Install some control units and a killswitch. Then you get installed or put into storage."

"Gods below," it moaned, "That's the hottest thing a woman's ever said to me. Do I get a designation?"


"I love you."

Morian forced herself to stand, cigarette hanging limply between her teeth. The corpse was staring up at her with glee. It brushed her ass with its bandaged arm as she administered the sedative. It slurred something as it returned to silence and stillness. As a corpse should be. Dead things needed to stay dead.

The Butcher was an abomination in the cheesiest way. Bottom heavy with what on most mechs would be a two-handed heat-axe, and several additional arms with hooks and chains. It was cute and terrifyingly fast for its size and shape.

What Processor-37 was doing could no longer be called piloting. She was the Butcher. The thing that took her the longest to learn was the thin abstraction between "dodging" and "evading." There were times when her instincts carried her and times when software guided her instincts. In a few months, 37 knew that she wouldn't see it anymore. The Butcher felt more real than her body ever had.

It was an afterlife better than she deserved. And she had Dr. Kyrnn -- according to her office door -- to thank. 37 had only heard people refer to her as Morian or the Corpse Eater, the later was something she introduced herself as. 37 could barely remember the fragments of the fight she'd been captured in. It wasn't that important. She should have died then, but got a second chance here.

Morian personally saw off her deployments, and waited on the catwalk for her whenever she returned. It felt good to return home to her. She was beautiful, of course. Hair messily tied up. Dark circles beneath her crooked glasses like she'd never gotten a wink of sleep in her life. The wrinkles in her lab coat. The chain-smoking wasn't attractive but you had to love someone's flaws too.

Nobody had ever waited for 37 like that at the rebel bases. She was no Thrace or Aritimis after all. Her mech was more important to the rebellion, since it cost so much to maintain and it was always a fight against time to have it ready to deploy again. Morian always crawled into the mech the moment the cockpit opened to check her vitals and make sure she was okay. Making sure she was safe.

"I love you."

Morian always froze for a second when it slipped out. She looked lonely. Everyone else seemed to avoid her. 37 had never lusted after someone a decade younger than her before, but what else could it be.

"Stop," Morian trembled, "please stop saying that. Stop lying like that. Don't get my hopes up."

There it was. That sadness. 37's chest ached when she heard it. Who hurt you? She desperately wanted to ask. "I won't disappoint you," 37 leaned forwards, "I'm not lying. I really do love you. I want to see you happy."

A rise of panic in 37's chest as Morian shifted. She didn't want her to go. Thankfully, she didn't. Morian leaned further into the cockpit and gently brushed 37's cheek. It was more contact than she'd ever been allowed with Morian. A finger invaded her mouth, prying it wide open. The other hand pushed a lit cigarette all the way to the back of her mouth. It burned. The taste was awful. She choked as ash filled the back of her mouth.

"Swallow," Morian's ravaged voice demanded. She sounded like she was on the edge of tears herself. 37 forced herself to, grasped at her mouth trying to keep it down. "After this mission, you'll be ready for real deployment."

Morian paused and wiped her eyes under her glasses. "I want to believe you. But nobody loves me. Please, don't hurt me."

She slipped from the cockpit and disappeared out of sight. Until Processor-37 was at the deployment site, she wouldn't have access to her systems. She just had to prove herself, right? Why did she want to so badly?

Deployments were an eerily lonely affair. There was no way to access the local radio. The only sounds she heard were the sounds of the Butcher moving and anything the sensor suite picked up. Mostly other machines and artillery fire. There were no viewports either. Just the sensor suit that fed information to her directly. Her only orders, her only directions, were printed text over her vision. There wasn't a lot to think about in that sense. Not so much to process. Things felt less hectic and overwhelming than when she was a pilot. There was a strange comfort in only having to consider the things directly in front of you.

She never had to worry about friendly fire since she was deployed with two other units at most, the Devil and the Hospital this time. The Devil had horns and a flamethrower, which was simple and cute. Hospital was a more terrifying affair, with stake launchers and a tungsten pile-bunker. Stakes were heavy metal rods that were fired with a combination of regular ordinance and magnetic rails. A short effective range, but effective even against heavily armored units.

The Corpse Eater's naming sense was comical. She seemed to pick things at random that seemed scary to her. Hospital in particular was amusing, considering she was a doctor. It was endearing to see that she was a dork.

The Butcher's role was clear in this deployment. Hospital and Devil needed to be close to targets to eliminate them. The Butcher was there to cover them and remove enemies from cover. At the top of her vision two lines of text printed.

Objective: Neutralize all targets
Quota: 0/10

Quota? It was the first time she'd been given a quota. Not that she had struggled to rack up as many kills as the others she was fielded with. Imperial soldiers were easy targets. And she hated them. She'd gotten more kills in three deployments as she did in months as a pilot. The difference was unreal to her, especially considering that Carrion's mechs seemed even more cobbled together than the rebellion's ever did.

A grey and brown shape moved behind cover. The Butcher threw one hook into the base of the pillar with astounding accuracy. It began to crumble. The target, labeled enemy by the readout, moved enough that a second maghook was able to drag it into the open.

She zoomed in on it.


She knew that mech. She'd deployed beside it dozens of times. The pilot's name was hazy for some reason. That wasn't right. Processor-37 wracked her brain. Enemy was an error. That wasn't right. It couldn't be an enemy. The Butcher's hand reached out towards it instinctively. That was her friend.

Hospital moved so quickly it barely registered. She heard the explosion as its arm made contact with the chest from behind. The awful wrenching of metal that only lasted an instant. As more of her friends moved to fire on Hospital, it picked up the carcass and used it as a shield as it moved back behind a building.

Quota: 1/10

37 was frozen in place. Why were they deploying against rebellion forces?

"Stop. Stop!"

The other two casually dispatched more of her friends. The objective readout flashed for her attention. It hadn't changed. This was unnecessary. The rebellion was already losing slowly. Why would the imperial military hire mercenaries for combat? This didn't make sense.

Pain erupted along her entire spine. Pain so bad that she almost passed out. It was like being struck by lightning, except she was still alive.

The objective flashed again.

"I won't," she gasped.

The sounds of conflict drew closer as a rebel mech moved towards her with speed. She couldn't bring up the heat axe to defend herself. She wouldn't. She wouldn't kill her friends. This time when Hospital crushed the cockpit the Butcher could see the hole where a pilot should have been. Where a pilot was. Where her friend was. There was nothing left of them.

Another shock of pain, and then darkness. She was conscious, but the Butcher had powered down. There was no light in the cockpit. There was no radio. Even the fluid exchanges had stopped. She wouldn't die from that. But it was clear that 37 had failed.

She could hear the sounds of combat outside, and eventually they ceased.

The next days were agonizing. Another brief deployment followed by the same shocks, followed by solitude in a small lightless box she assumed was storage. The pain was bad, but Processor-37 could endure pain. She was trained to resist interrogation. All rebel pilots were. Pain couldn't overcome her. She was only briefly conscious while she was being moved from storage to the Butcher and back. There had been no sign of or word from Morian.

She couldn't tell how much time had passed. The drugs and darkness obscured the very concept from her. She didn't even know if she'd been fed. By her best guess it was a week before she was moved somewhere that wasn't the Butcher.

The placard on the door read Dr. Kyrnn. She'd been wheeled past it many times. It was a dimly lit office, with walls of bookshelves and and a projector. Processor-37 was placed sitting up in a hospital bed before being hooked back up to the fluid exchanges.

Morian Kyrnn spun listlessly in an office chair in the middle of the room. She hadn't reacted when the processor was rolled in. She was holding something in her arms, quietly humming to herself.

37 didn't know what to say to her once they were alone. Was she supposed to say anything? Morian seemed equal parts distraught and frustrated.

"I can't fight the rebellion." 37 kept her voice even. Morian reacted poorly to loud noises, so shouting seemed like it would only agitate the poor thing. "They're my family. My friends."

"You can."

"I won't."

"You will," Morian stopped and made eye contact briefly before looking somewhere else. "You will fight whatever you're told to. It's my job to make you."

Her job? "You can't make me," 37 asserted, "I would--"

"Rather die, right?" Morian let out a groan, "Processor-21 said the same thing. That's the one installed in the Hospital. It tried to bite off its tongue, so I had to cut it out. Then it tried to hang itself with its cables, so I had to remove its other arm. But you fought beside it. You saw it fighting its hardest. You will fight."

There was a lump in her throat. Morian's voice was droning. Exhausted. Like she'd had this conversation dozens of times before. To her this wasn't an argument. 37 took a breath to stand her ground again and felt the same electric shock run up her spine as before.

"Carrion has a rule, you know? I'm supposed to cut out the vocal cords of all processors before they come out of sedation for the first time. Do you know why?"

What kind of rule was that? How was she supposed to know? 37 grit her teeth, waiting for another shock. It didn't happen.

Morian's lips turned up in a crooked, defeated smile. "It's because I'm weak. Feelings are for the living, but I always let myself get manipulated by the dead. I knew you were lying too. Because nobody loves me. But I wanted so hard to believe you."

"It was lust." Processor-37 flinched when Morian made eye contact. No punishment. "I thought it was love. I didn't know anything about you when I said it." Not to mention all the drugs. She had no idea what was going on.

"Do you want to know more about me?" That tremble crept in. That pining hope.

37 nodded and cursed herself. What was she even trying to accomplish? It didn't seem like Morian had a choice in her work. The so-called Corpse Eater was just so pitiable when you saw past the second-hand pilot ghost stories.

"I thought Dr. Kyrnn loved me. But she was lying too. She told me that we couldn't be together as long as she was my teacher. That's why I dropped out of med school!" Morian's voice shifted from that half-sob to a growl in an instant, "And what does she do after we get married? Moves us out to a fucking warzone. And for what? Charity? Humanitarianism? How is throwing away our lives in the imperial core looking after me? Condemning me to a life in poverty in this place?!"

Morian gasped for air and hacked into her sleeve. Her lungs weren't in good shape, which wasn't a surprise. Once her fit had passed, she seemed to steady herself some. "I took her company -- our company -- and made something of it. Took those corpses she cried over, worked herself to death over, and made something of them. Even after she passed I couldn't just walk away from what we built here."

She slumped back into her chair and cradled the object she'd been holding. 37 still couldn't make it out, but it was obviously something Morian was focused on. "Even after all this time, I can't let go. I just love her so much. She took advantage of me and left me here, and I still love her."

She thrust the object, a glass canister capped with metal on both ends, above her and stared up into it. "Don't you see, Dr. Kyrnn? I still love you."

Proecssor-37 got the first clear view of canister's contents. A heart. Perfectly preserved, suspended in a chemical solution. A plate at the bottom of the canister caught the light for a brief moment.


Her own heart dropped. Oh. She wasn't pitiable. She was pitiful. Morian Kyrnn lived as the tragic victim of her own life. There was no place for empathy or love in her life because it would undo the illusion that she'd been denied those things. It would create a space for guilt. A possibility for reflection.


The Corpse Eater laughed until she had another coughing fit, doubling over in her chair.

"Save the compliments, please." She kicked her legs and smiled, like a giddy child who'd just been praised for their science fair project. "We haven't even gotten to the best part! I bet you've been dying to know how I made Processor-21 fight so hard."

"You sound like you want to tell me no matter what I say," 37 growled.

Morian stood up and placed the heart of Processor-01, her wife, on the desk. She adjusted her lab coat and turned on the projector like she was about to give a lecture.

On the screen, a processor appeared. Which was to say, a woman who had both her arms and legs removed, hooked up to fluid exchanges and locked in a box, appeared. When had she fallen into the dehumanizing language the Corpse Eater used? A banner across the bottom read Processor-21.

"Processor-21 really is the model case for this," Morian pulled out a laser pointer. "I could get into all the nitty-gritty like I did for the rest of the staff. But at a really basic level after taking actions to ensure the safety of the processor," she motioned at the limbs and mouth with the pointer, "I tweaked the chemical balance to make it really hopelessly horny and used drugs to keep it alert for days on end. Then we gave it mechanical assistance once it started begging.""

Morian flipped through a few very graphic slides. 37 couldn't tell what was more sickening. The fact this presentation was ever prepared or that she took such glee in presenting it. It was such a sudden shift, another sudden shift, from her earlier mood.

"The cocktail was balanced so it could never actually orgasm. But it tried it best and got very, very frustrated. But once I told it that I can remove that inhibitor after missions, Processor-21 has become one of the most efficient piece of equipment in Carrion's autonomous infantry program. In fact, sometimes I would say Processor-21 is perhaps over-eager and overshoots its quota for more rewards once it returns to storage."

"To put it in broader terms than that: We use a lot of drugs to control your emotional and mental state, create and abuse whatever dependencies are most suited for you, and then use those as rewards."

"It's all about incentives," she finished. "I'll have you know that an Imperial Handler once referred to my methods as barbaric and inhumane. Apparently they have a much more elegant system, and I'd love to learn about it. But it's a simple process here."

The Corpse Eater turned back to face 37, grinning from ear to ear. "You will fight. You will fight because I will find something for you to fight for. Whether that's drugs, sex, or other stimuli. You aren't allowed to die until Carrion has made a profit off you."