• It's time once again to ferret out those murderous vampires in a new VAU - Vampires Amongst Us. A cross between Cluedo and a roleplay, sometimes gory and often hilarious! Find out more and sign-up! here.
Nov 3, 2014
129
Lessons For Imperial Operatives, by StaevinTheAeldari

Do not miss the above linked stellar piece of writing by StaevinTheAeldari over on DakkaDakka. In it, he outlines crucial lessons which all Inquisitorial acolytes and Imperial operatives ought to learn if they wish to survive their perilous occupation. In it you will find The two headed chief, the forgotten page, the struggling hands or the frail ground, and That Which We Do Not Speak Of. Check it out!

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Man Is the Measure of All Things

"Esteemed reader, let us now turn to a peculiar anecdote which evented in 974.M41, best retold aloud late in the dayturn in good company, following reinforcement by fine liquor. As Head Lady of the Ibolyka sept of our Noble House Erba-Batthyany, I had sponsored an Explorator Magos of the revered Adeptus Mechanicus to carry out a technoarchaeological dig on our domains, following a series of chance artefact finds by my diligent agri-serfs in District Alfa-79.

Three weeks into the excavation, I took the gilded sky blue grav-sled to visit the dig site in person, along with my Emperor-blessed fifteen surviving progeny and a retinue of eightysix attendants and bodyguards. By the grace of the Saints, we arrived just as the dig team hit upon an interesting discovery. A humble menial climbed out of the wellstair, bowed with eyes averted and tenderly handed my highborn self a crystalline rectangle with retracted corners, tinted teal with trace remains of yellow ochre dust in the engravings where cleaning efforts had not utterly succeeded. A shard of the rectangular plate was broken off in a corner, but otherwise it seemed intact. I held it up to bask in the light of the twin suns. The little crystalline find was covered in exquisite lines and diagrams of scratchings, with strange miniature illustrations etched into it.

For five minutes straight did I turn it around this way and that, and I studied its appearance on both front and back. I even peered closely on the thin edges, which bore microscopic markings which resembled long jumbles of numbers, akin the code-names of file-spirits. At last, I handed the artefact to the patient Explorator, Magos Ameerah-Kiran, and uttered these words:

'Ever since I was a small girl have I taken hieratic pride in my grasp of High Gothic. Yet the shape of letters and other figures is so unfamiliar from our Imperial fonts, and the twists of wordings so different, that I cannot make head or tail of its content. It is nothing like the histories and classics that I have consumed by the lumen, nor anything like the plays and poems that my late husband so treasured. Please tell me what ancient wisdom is contained within this relic, o Magos.'

The Tech-Priestess tenderly received the crystalline rectangle in her mechadendrites, shifting it over with extreme care to a strong bionic arm of many joints. Anointed ocular implants flared with light as they scanned its pristine surface, and the servant of the Omnissiah hummed with binary code-prayers while making the sign of the cogwheel with her other metal hands. At last the Explorator struck a bell and started to repeatedly swing a fragrant censer back and forth. Having thus established a solemn silence around herself, Magos Ameerah-Kiran at last proclaimed:

'Praise the divine knowledge! Your excellence, this is a plasteocrete hard copy of a digital file, printed in the thirtythird millennium. Within its writ we find remnants of lost Biologis lore, describing a segment of characteristics of the wise ancients themselves. Truly it is said, that man is the measure of all things.'

'What does it say, o Magos?' I asked.

'On the shallow surface, it is nought but a superficial recording of anatomical survey findings among a population numbering fiftythousandthreehundredsix, all golden ancestors peopling a long-lost colony dome. As we might expect, their health indicators are overall robust, with tall average height speaking of excellent nourishment growing up. And not a single instance of lifelong parasitic infection.'

'And beneath those plain numbers, o Magos?'

'Peering deeper into the data, we realize that this is in fact a trail, and we must redouble our dig efforts, your excellence. We are clearly on the track of ancient Genetors, and we must toil slavishly to uncover every iota of remnant knowledge that these grounds of yours may contain.'

'Genetors you say? Do you expect to find a laboratorium of sorts? Pray tell, o Magos.'

'If the Omnissiah so wills it. Aye, your excellence. By electron and proton, these simple measurements contain proof of genetic engineering!'

Whether wittingly or not, the Tech-Priestess was pulling the leg of my curiosity. I confess that excitement burst forth in my heart, fed by many fantastic fables and cryptic mysteries speaking of the strange things of yore, before He Who Dwells On the Face of Terra revealed Himself as the Saviour and Lord of our predestined human species. Thus, I said with some eagerness, on the limits of protocol:

'Please do us the courtesy to not keep us on a leash any longer, reverend Explorator. Tell us what it is! What hint have you uncovered, pray tell? Are there unnatural freaks bred by gene-kings? Monstrosities and witches grown in vats? Are there horrors which man was never meant to see, bred by godless ancestors in heinous sin?'

The Explorator straightened and held up the hardprint in her mechanical claws, before uttering a blurt of binary code:

'01001000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101101 01100101 01101101 01100010 01100101 01110010 00100000 01110111 01100001 01110011 00100000 01101100 01100001 01110010 01100111 01100101 01110010 00100000 01101001 01101110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01000100 01100001 01110010 01101011 00100000 01000001 01100111 01100101 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01010100 01100101 01100011 01101000 01101110 01101111 01101100 01101111 01100111 01111001'

'And in Low Gothic, o Magos?'

Magos Ameerah-Kiran replied in that scratchy voice through the vox-emitter: 'Your excellence. The key is hidden in the survey measurements for the entire masculine half of the dome population. Comparing to contemporary and historical data at the disposal of our noospheric memory coils, we may draw the conclusion that the wise ancients practiced their Genetor craft on a massive scale, effectively shaping the flesh of an entire population like clay to fulfil some of mankind's oldest wishful dreams.'

'How so? Did these mortals play god, o Magos?'

'Elementary! The crux lies in the phallic measurements, your excellence. Clearly proof of genetic engineering.' The Explorator paused theatrically and gazed on the male diggers on the site. Undoubtedly, the Magos' cultic indoctrination and surgical bionic shunning of the flesh had not extinguished every spark of humour within her cerebral processors and grey cells. For the briefest of moments, there was the shutting off and on of a glowing bionic eye in the Tech-Priestess' abominable metal face, as if mimicking a human wink. 'Oh, those poor, Imperial women. How short man has fallen of the heights of his ancestors!'"

- Anecdote from A Biography Betwixt Blushes and Banquets, an autobiographical work by Gyöngyi Erba-Batthyany, literary work approved by planetary censors in 989.M41 and published in High Gothic on Dunantul Majoris by Printing House Endre of Capitolina Sarolt
 
Nov 3, 2014
129
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Crowning Glory

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only toil for the sake of toil.

In the distant past of the misty Age of Terra, myths spoke of gods fashioning men and women out of clay to toil for their makers. To the eternal question of from where does we come, these stories replied that man is but mud, created to be a slave for celestial overlords. Skeptics during later phases of that bygone aeon would snarkily comment that such a cosmic order must be terribly convenient for mortal royals ruling over cowed masses. What a coincidence! As above, so below. Yet such leisurely talk of unbelief failed to grasp the heavily-laden omen for the future of man that lay hidden in these ancient tales told around campfires in fields of clay.

Behold man, the seed of Old Earth, the builder of wonders and the depraved destroyer of all. Behold man, the active worker and the lazy wastrel, the obedient servant and the clamorous rebel. Behold man in his totality, sprung from the meandering paths of breeding forebear-creatures, his blood forever marked by idiosyncracies and flaws born out of inbreeding and random mutations of genes. The king of animals, ancient man emerged out of the orgy and bloodbath of uncaring evolution as a sentient being able to fundamentally remake his surroundings, yet unable to fundamentally remake himself.

Thus human history for untold millennia played out in endless cycles of youthful rise and degenerate decay. The human past is a litany of tribes massacring their hated enemies, of people's minds led astray by ever more false creeds, and of greatness slowly built up over generations of toil only to be crashed by horrible heirs or greedy conquerors. Human civilization was for the longest time perpetually scourged by such ailings as poverty and corruption, theft and lethargy, ingratitude and history forgotten. The flaws of natural man under civilization are innumerable and to be observed everywhere he settles down and lives out his time. At the end of the day, man is but a product of nature, and all his neurotics, anxieties, dysfunctionalities, diseases, self-destructiveness and shortcomings ultimately stem from the random makeup of his being that was formed in long forgotten eras of bestial survival and procreation.

For a time, the Dark Age of Technology changed all of that. Ascending the heavens, the earthly trinity of Man of Gold, Stone and Iron straddled the Milky Way galaxy like a colossus, and over twain million worlds were colonized in a brilliant spree of human expansion that took man to the stars and beyond. With science and technology as his lodestar, ancient man built a worldly paradise for himself, meticulously tailored to bring out the best of natural man, while artificially curing many of the worst defects of human nature. While clever systems were put in place to bring out the full potential of mankind, genetors worked relentlessly to improve on the human genome. The innermost secrets of human flesh became but clay under their able hands, to shape at will for the betterment of humanity as a whole. Inherited faults were hunted down and eliminated in order to shape a better man, and glorious creations such as Navigators saw the light of day, which still enable man to maintain an interstellar empire despite the frothing turmoil of the Empyrean.

Natural man was treated with the best cures of ills and given longevity such as he could only have dreamt of, yet the cunning minds of the Golden Age of Technology could do better than that. They could make man anew. They could create a better man.

Many untold and forgotten grand experiments were carried out, and many bore shining fruit. We will now focus our attention on one of the larger genetic projects of this bygone epoch of discovery, one whose seed has managed to perpetuate itself with brilliant success long after sister seeds long since wilted and died. The genetor project in question was not the most daring and groundbreaking one concocted during the Dark Age of Technology, nor was it driven by the loftiest of ideals. Instead, it is a testament to the stubborn and rugged qualities that always made natural man a survivor, amplified and purged of impurities that make for instability and failure. Let us turn to the murky origins of the Kin.

Man's drive to make the starspangled void his domain has always been driven by ambitions of expansion and greed. Only failed schools of thought would discount the allure of material gain as a pivotal force at the core of human history. And so ancient man in splendid times of yore set out to mine the galactic core. And the earthly trinity of Man of Gold, Stone and Iron toiled wisely to create a new human being fit for this task. This new man would be exquisitely fit for astral and terrestrial mining in the harshest environs, because he would have been designed for it from the ground up. The new man would not only be tough and resistant to cosmic radiation, he would also be diligent, clever, hard-working and a born perfectionist in all his endeavours. Not only that: The new man would be rid of human weaknesses and characteristics that bring instability, doubt and lapse in toil, and he would be designed to find meaning in his labours and enjoy his toil and mission in life.

In short, the new man would be the perfect slave, self-perpetuating and content with his monumental task for all eternity. The makers of ancestral Kin gave life to all those ancient myths of gods fashioning man out of clay to serve at the behest of distant deities, to work the lands and offer up the fruits of their labour in sacrifice. And just like any wise creator god of archaic mythology, the makers of the Kin fashioned their creations to revere and obey their creators, yet the results of these laboratory creations far exceeded anything ever claimed by old sagas.

The new man thus created by shadowy genetors was the abhuman race known as Homo Sapiens Rotundus, and it set about its grand task with unrelenting vigour. These willing thralls built up untold mining operations in the galactic core, and shipped back enormous amounts of material to their makers and owners. For they were made to be both willing and able labourers. The rapid expansion of the human species during the Stellar Exodus was greatly accelerated by the astral mining conducted by gene-bred abhumans in the galactic core, as were the building of megastructures in space and soaring wonders on planetary crust wherever large human colonies sprang up.

As ancient man built edenic idylls on twain million worlds and voidholms without number, the miners toiled in the core. As the best and the brightest minds of ancient man began cracking the secrets of creation and time itself, they toiled. As gene-kings and monstrosities rose out of heinous sin and godless hubris, they toiled. As aberrant Man of Iron rebelled against his master, they toiled. As the galaxy burned in machine revolt and titanic technological civil war beyond anything seen later, they toiled. As Abominable Intelligence ran amok and machine creations swallowed stars and pulverized worlds, they toiled. As witches and Warp storms tore the ravaged galactic civilization of ancient man asunder, they toiled.

Scarcely anything is known about the Ancestors of the Kin during the last stages of the crumbling Dark Age of Technology. Clearly, they were not untouched by all the calamities that beset the star realm of ancient man during this time. They must have fought, and fought succesfully. Clearly, they survived, and their grasp of ancient man's legacy technology and scientific knowledge remained strong.

The horrible aeon of devastation known as the Age of Strife saw many remnant human enclaves with some degree of preserved high technology and knowledge make it through Old Night, only to be crushed ruthlessly by the Emperor's all-conquering Legions as the early Imperium took the Milky Way galaxy with storm. Clearly, some peripheral states of Homo Sapiens Rotundus fell to the Imperial war machine during the Great Crusade, yet the work of completely subjugating every nook and cranny of the galaxy was left unfinished when the Horus Heresy rent the Emperor's dream to pieces, and then proceeded to nigh-on slay Him on Terra in a civil war that destroyed Imperial mankind's hopes of ever rekindling the golden lights of their ancestors. And so the vast majority of the human species was swept down a maelstrom of ever-worsening demechanization and fanatical depravity, and man grew ever more senile and irrationally aggressive as fivehundred generations of descendant degeneration played themselves out in a baleful theatre of the absurd.

Yet the counter-productive tyranny of the monstrous Imperium of Man was not the only strong entity remaining of the heirs of ancient man. Hidden in the galactic core, there remained a great and powerful remnant that will toil until the end of time, if nothing manages to destroy them first. This remnant was the willing slave race, tailored for their worksome task by unknown makers seeking profit. These mining thralls had long since ceased to send shipments of ore and processed raw materials to the domains of wider humanity, for the Age of Strife had ended that part of their original purpose. Instead, the stout race of abhumans turned their acquisitions into ever more fantastic creations of their own, and invested it all in expanding their Holds and astral domains, in a never-ending search for more celestial bodies to extract resources from.

Where others fell to the flame and fell to infighting and cannibal savagery, they endured. Where others lost knowledge and craft and even forgot where they had sprung from, they endured. Where others lost their grasp of interstellar travel and astral mining in the havoc of the Age of Strife, they endured, and endured with excellence. Their makers had fashioned them to be the perfect workers and miners, the best survivalists and the most thorough artisans. Made to be solid and reliable, made to be free of natural man's most damning weaknesses, this clone race endured and thrived amid hardships that brought so many others to oblivion. Their decentralized interstellar civilization stayed true to its original mission, and thus the Leagues of Votann bloomed in the galactic core.

Children of many names, these abhumans are derogatorily known to the Imperium of Man as Squats. They are also known as Demiurg to Tau and Humans alike, as Heliosi Ancients to the Eldar, and likewise are they known to other Xenos as the Gnostari, Grome or Kreg, among many other names. Yet they themselves know their folk simply as Kin, for they are a race of few words, each laden with meaning.

Bestowed with a very demanding biological constitution, the Kin breeds but slowly the natural way, for such is the drawback of approaching perfection in the flesh. Thus, the creators of the Kin saw fit to vastly accelerate their reproduction while at the same time ensuring stability of the desired genome through the use of cloneskeins. The vast majority of Kin are thus birthed from machines at the heart of their Holds, in Crucibles endowed with genomic cloning technologies. While some exotic variations of genes and phenotypes have arisen among the dispersed populations of Kin throughout the millennia, the cloneskeins help ensure that their essential nature remains that desired by their long-dead makers, without significant aberrations.

Unintentionally, and through historical accident, the Kin has proven to be the truest and best enduring achievement among the creations of humanity during the Dark Age of Technology. The astral civilization of the Leagues of Votann have proven neither too brittle and corruptible to easily splinter and decay, nor too advanced so as to fall prey to revolts against creators or breakdowns of overly sophisticated systems.

In their middling way of Dark Age of Technology refinement, the Kin has proven the golden mean, a system installed long ago by forgotten makers that is still going incredibly strong. Among all the shattered remnants of mankind's golden age of science and technology, so much has fallen. The legacy technology and scientific understanding inherited by the wilted Imperium is rotting away with every passing century. The few shards of still operational and independent-minded Men of Stone and Men of Iron endures in the shadows without being able to mount any kind of large-scale recovery of ancient man's higher civilization, or else they have fallen to the corrupting influence of Chaos. Yet the Kin remains.

The Kin has managed their scientific and technological inheritance from the Golden Age of Technology better than any other seeds of Old Earth. Not only is their grasp of tech and material lore supreme in comparison to the shamanistic rituals of the senile Imperium; the Kin has employed both their technological elevation and themselves to forge teeming clusters of lively mining empires and industrial bastions in the galactic core, known as the Leagues of Votann. Theirs is not a tale of woe, and neither is it a saga of slow decline nor bleak dwindling in the face of overwhelming odds. For theirs is a success story against all the odds, of hardy expansion and wonders crafted in the harsh environs that lies at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy.

During the time of their creation, the Kin were never the spearhead of technology and science, never the best fruit from the tree of man. They were exquisitely tailored for their grand task at hand, and made to thrive at it with the focus of perfectionists and the order of a perfect slave race, happy with their lot and finding fulfilment in their neverending work. They were equipped with an adequately advanced level of technology and scientific knowledge, yet their wisdom and craft were never the highest spires of the ancients.

Nevertheless those tall spires of legendary breakthroughs and tampering with reality itself fell to pieces in the wasteland of the Age of Strife, and all the most advanced creations of man either revolted, were destroyed or slowly eroded in forgotten abandonment. And so the Kin endures, designed to be stolid and tough, bred to be crafty and loyal. Theirs is a stout civilization, that has endured where brighter lights of the Dark Age of Technology have long since been snuffed out. Worksome and ingenious, the Grome are the perfect tool, and they continue to willingly wield themselves with excellence many millennia after their mysterious makers turned to dust.

Slaves bred for toil and carefully designed for order and stability so as to never rebel, the ancestral origins of the Demiurg remain a secret unknown even to themselves. Some would say that it is wrong to play god and create a slave race to work for your benefit. Yet we must turn this steak around, and bear witness to the enduring success of the Kin, for therein lies a testament to the brilliance of man during the Dark Age of Technology.

Consider their dark origins, and marvel at the skill with which the Squats were wrought: Is it not wrong to put slaves to tasks which they ultimately are unhappy with? Why not design the slaves to be happy with their tasks and find fulfilment in their toil? What could be more beautiful than perfection of function?

Nay, pity the unrefined, raw, longshanking manlings instead! Their flesh and essence is but a random hodgepodge of contradictory neurotics, falsehoods and selfish desires, spat out by the rutting chance of evolution. They are nought but apes arisen. How much suffering and bloodshed and destruction does not result from man’s imperfect being? Why not make a better man, and do away with all the evils of life? Why not design a better being from the ground up, stable and dependable, clever and strong? Why not forge the perfect tool?

To the Kin, there is nothing sinister about their origins. They were designed to be pragmatic, and so they will focus on what matters, true to the design of their makers. There is no space for doubt, just as there may not be cracks within the best of tools.

Look upon the toil of the Kin, and behold the genius of their work. Man may be a toolmaker, yet they are a sublime toolmaker. Ken the perfection of function that plays out in their civilization, across vistas of asteroid mining and salvage operations of spacewrecks, across nebulae trawling and the harvesting of black holes. The degenerate descendants of mankind in the Holy Terran Imperium know only of such wonders as particle excavators as garbled scenes for heroes and monsters jostling with lances of flame during a forgotten time, when starstriders walked the skies and discovered the perilous galaxy. Such wonders are but the stuff of legend to retrograde man, yet they are a lived reality of working projects for the Squats in the galactic core. And the sagas to be sung of those wonders would far surpass the tales of void-dragons and starknights.

Listen to tales told by Kin of their enormous struggles against Greenskins, which saw strong Leagues grind giant Waaaghs! to dust through gruelling total wars that lasted for hundreds of years, until the unrelenting power of the Squats crushed Orks underheel. Listen to the lamentations over lost Holds and Votanns gone mad amid death and desolation. Listen to the coming of the Bane and the vicious battles against Chaos. Listen to the Grudges and the works.

The Kin are sterling prospectors, miners, and void-dredgers, and a spirit of enterprising adventure is in their blood. Kreg mercenaries and pioneers may be found far away from the dominions of the Leagues, gathering knowledge and experience to offer up to their Ancestor Cores, the mysterious Votann of whom the Kin will never speak in the presence of aliens and lesser men. The lives of the Kin revolve around kinship, Ancestors and perfectionist work to mine and forge marvels across the stars. Their lives are likewise filled with lethal combat, for where there is peril there is opportunity.

It has been said in jest about their warriors that they are every inch the soldier, but there are not many inches. As any Kin worth their salt knows, a rotund sphere is the ideal body shape. The ugly longshanking of manlings just prove that knees are overrated. Yet the greatness of the Kin cannot be perceived from measly length of body, but in their endurance and their ability to work long and hard without becoming unhappy and broken. Most of all, the greatness of the Kin may be witnessed in their gigantic works, which will dwarf any undertakings of the ignorant Adeptus Mechanicus.

Certainly, the Ancestors of the Kin were never meant for utter ruthless exploitation for all eternity. Their purpose was never to extract all minerals from planets with native populations still on the crust, nor was it to salvage the infrastructure and cities of alien and human civilizations as so much junk to be recycled. The indifferent worksomeness with which the Leagues of Votann conduct their most shocking mining operations upon the worlds of unwilling inhabitants may be stark insanity to some, yet to the Kin themselves it is merely fulfilling the perfection of function for which they were created, honed to a new degree of sharpness. Their makers may never have envisioned this outcome, yet these atrocious extraction wars are also as true as rock itself.

Luck has. Need keeps. Toil earns.

Thus the Kin will carry out their tasks without any regard to whom it would have been of gain. No one else can rival their rapacious astral and terrestrial mining operations. All there is, to these extraordinary space miners, is exploitation and work unto the grave, so that future generations will be able to toil just as hard unto their own graves. The ancient promise of a better tomorrow for man is gone. The labour which should have led to a future without hardship and suffering where people can live in abundance and happiness is long since forgotten and buried. All there is, is work for the sake of work. And the Kin revel in it. Had they been a religious lot, they could not have asked for a better afterlife than the mortail coil of toil which they live out so hardily and heartily in the heart of the galaxy. Rock and stone!

And so we see that the Heliosi Ancients pursue their mining mission with greater focus than ever before, in unquestioning obedience to the Votann, their secret Ancestor Cores. The entire civilization of the Leagues is one of relentless work, and of war to enable more toil. Their most frequent foe is that of Orkoids, the green menace that has cast so many others on the trash heap of history. It is no surprise that engineers who mine asteroids for minerals end up the hateful enemy of lunatics who strap giant engines to the asteroids in order to crash Roks into unsuspecting planets in search of a good fun scrap. And so we may witness industrial conglomerates muster fantastic resources and hurl immense mechanized forces of Kin on savage foes, in order to grind down all resistance to their mining claims.

The Leagues of Votann believe that nothing is worth doing unless it is done well, and they wage war as methodically as they undertake any other pursuit. The selfsame attitude to life means that even the most isolated Squat enclaves are superb toolmakers, with a flair for overengineered maximalist designs. Anything they make will be sturdy and dependable, reliable just like they themselves are. This ever-present facet of Homo Sapiens Rotundus civilization is captured in the Kin Truth: Rock holds.

The pragmatic nature of Kin is not a conscious choice, but a racial temperament made by careful design in aeons past. Certain options will not even occur to Kin, for they are not made to occur to them, and the cloneskeins will ensure that it remains so on a fundamental level. Originally such a practical nature and focus on material tasks was meant to ensure that the Kin would never rebel, yet the long-term consequences of this artificial design of life has created something far greater than willing thralls meant to mine the galactic core for distant overlords. It has created an interstellar civilization immune to decadence and decay, free from the lowly cycles of human history, such as continue to play out miserably on Terra and across all her daughter worlds. The Gnostari embodies stability, and they are not able to fall into the societal traps of high technology, for such weakness has been bred out of them.

Do the Kin possess free will, compared to sentient species that are the result of natural evolution? The horrifying answer matters not. Never forget the foremost of all Kin Truths: The ancestors are watching.

For the Kin endure and they expand where so much else has been lost for all time, where so many treasures beyond imagination has been forgotten, never to be rediscovered. The enduring success of what became the Leagues of Votann could not have been foreseen in ancient times of glory, when so much else wonder was created that seemed to surpass the solid Kin.

Yet the worksome stability and striving for perfection of the Kin has outperformed all the other fruits of the Golden Age of Mankind. For where are the Men of Stone now? And where are the Men of Iron and the feared machine minds of Abominable Intelligence? Where are the brilliant minds that laboured to unlock the very secrets of creation itself? All have fallen into oblivion or obscurity, yet the less advanced sideshow that was the Squat slave race in the galactic core remains, and remains with a vengeance. For where the rest of humanity has ceased to create marvels of science and technology, the Leagues of Votann has continued the great legacy of the Dark Age of Technology. They alone among the spawn of Terra have continued to build pragmatic megastructures to harvest stars and planets alike, and they alone have continued to engineer material wonders of such a scale and a brilliant fashion as did once mankind's gifted ancients.

Thus the Kin are the crowning glory of the Dark Age of Technology.

All else is rot and ruination among the fruits of ancient man, in the Age of Imperium.

Listen!

Listen to the song of this benighted age.

A song rising out of the souls of mortals that must live through its hell.

Its song nought but the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

For all that can be heard is woe.

And the laughter of thirsting gods.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only war.
 
Nov 3, 2014
129
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Befouled Birthright

"Ancient Man committed the first sin when he cast off his fear of the dark, for his heart was eaten away by the marshlight promise of hope. And with hope came greed for gain and thirst for knowledge, and thus the shining road to damnation was paved.

And Man sailed into the nightsky with unbridled boldness, and Man set about peopling the galaxy, which he remade into worldly paradise betwixt the stars. Heinous arrogance possessed Man as starstriders and sky-knights charged across the cosmos in godless sin, slaying monsters with spears of flame behind shields of starlight. And so Ancient Man explored the heavens with carefree curiosity, and every celestial discovery led wretched Man further astray from the path of the righteous, for he had eyes only for this world, and not the next. And Man showered adoration upon vain heroes who broke ground across the starspangled void, even as Man spat upon all that was holy in his unforgivable error.

All of creation was a ripe fruit to be plucked by the grasping hands of Ancient Man, for to rule the stars was his birthright. Yet Man's deeds and works fed his baleful hubris, and Man's mind became filled with the poison of unbelief and the folly of hope. And wherever Ancient Man nested, he lived in harmony and plenty, for a false bliss bore abundant milk and honey, and the nectar of worldly paradise sired thoughts of self and boundless ambition.

Ancient Man reached for the sky, and found all the gods of old to be trifling in comparison to Man's own worldly greatness. Thust Man cast off all faith in divinity, and placed himself on a pedestal of abomination. And Man worshipped his own knowledge and power in unspeakable sin, and his power and reach grew across the stars, and man uncovered ever more secrets in his lust for forbidden knowledge. And Man's heart was led astray by the lies of freedom and want of pain and perfection of flesh. And so the soul of Ancient Man became mired in the pit of progress, where witches and hellfire consumed him with fury after Man's own iron craft had turned on its maker. And all was fell.

Thus Ancient Man travelled the circles of creation, only to end up in the Nether Hells for the sake of his wicked deeds. For the universe is not for worlds to explore, but for souls to save. Thus ritual has replaced curiosity, for we are much wiser now. For we have learnt to fear the void as we must fear the dark, and we have learnt to hate that which we fear.

Have mercy upon us, o Divine Majesty!

Have mercy upon wretched Man!

For we must do eternal penance for our inheritance of sin. And we will flagellate ourselves until blood flows in a hundred streams from a hundred wounds. And we will pierce our skin with thorns and tear our scalp with shards, and we will scorch our flesh, and all this we will do willingly and gladly in His name. And we will praise the hardship that we must bear, and bless the breaking of our back, for it is a just labour, and a just punishment upon our worthless husks. And we swear to endure all suffering and accept any atrocity, for the guardian Emperor of Holy Terra demands nothing less than our utter submission and eager slavery. And we are but dust under His foot.

And we will travel the void in nought but terror, and we will stay vigilant for hidden danger. And we will purge hope and curiosity from our hearts, for ignorance is our armour, and faith is our shield. And we will teach our offspring by rod and thorn and spark to fear the dark of the void. And we will invite the cruelty inflicted upon us as His will, and we will give praise to the lash that strikes our flesh in vengeance for heinous sin.

This we pledge, and this we vow.

And may we drown in the nightsky, should we ever fail in this our oath.

And may we be burnt by distant suns, should we ever fail in this our oath.

And may our spirits be eaten by horrors that may not be mentioned, should we ever fail in this our oath.

We will look to Your light alone, and fear everything else.

Fear! Fear! Fear!

Thus You guide us.

Ave Imperator."

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First Wellspring of Sin, pamphlet penned in M.38 by Cardinal Ignatius Paulinus Hieronymus of Salem Proctor
 
Nov 3, 2014
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Sectarian Strife

In the grim darkness of the far future, pious man is slain by pious hand.

Humans have always grabbed at any opportunity and justification for conflict and aggression. Comprehending this basic truth is vital to understand the heated strife surrounding religious belief and practice that mar so much of human history. The morass of disagreements boiling over into bloodshed that can be witnessed in belief systems revolving around the sacred, is fundamentally no different from the storms of murder and war found between adherents of worldly ideologies. Humans can fight over anything. Indeed, humans will fight over everything. Thus love of deity can easily translate into hatred of fellow man. Violence and strife are integral parts of our nature, similar to how helpfulness and love of kin are part of what it means to be human.

Let us examine the greatest example of fanatical conflict in all of human existence. Let us look beyond the wars of religion fought during the misty past of the Age of Terra. Let us step past the thriving splendour and godless inventions of the Dark Age of Technology. And let us look beyond the horrors of Old Night, for not even the worst excesses of rabid sects during the collapsed Age of Strife can compare to the sheer scale of sectarian strife during the depraved Age of Imperium.

Let us briefly touch on the God-Emperor of Holy Terra, the Master of Mankind Himself, that Divine Majesty who brought salvation, hope and trampling conquest to embattled humanity all across the Milky Way galaxy. As His Legions won crushing victories on world after world, the Imperator sought to promote a secular renaissance in order to restore human science and invention. Yet clearly, such worldly endeavours could not veil the true greatness of the Emperor, for He inspired either undying loyalty or devilish outrage wherever He stepped with gold-clad foot, as if His mere presence was enough to sift light from darkness and reveal the true nature of men and women. Clearly, His denial of divinity was just further proof of the chosen Emperor's godhood, for surely He did protest too much when He said Himself to not be a god? Clearly, only a god would ever deny being a god.

And so a forgotten author during the legendary times of the early Imperium was divinely inspired to pen the Lectitio Divinitatus in a fit of religious ecstasy, pouring his very soul into the work that became the bedrock of Imperial faith. Thus the seeds of Temple greatness were sown in that hallowed time when the Celestial Imperator walked among His people in the flesh, for every writ of the sacred book is moved by godly inspiration. Alas, human treachery made the galaxy burn, and brother slew brother across the stars. And as the Emperor was mortally wounded and enthroned upon the Golden Throne to ascend and judge us all, those seeds of faith sprouted and grew mightily among the ashes, blossoming into the Imperial Cult, swearing allegiance to the Imperial Creed.

And in the depths of despair and ruination, mankind turned willingly and eagerly to their new promise of salvation and immortal afterlife. Thus the Cult Imperialis arose in the wake of the Horus Heresy to become the backbone of the Imperium, sweeping across planet and voidholm alike in a tidal wave of proselytizing devotion. As the Imperium staggered on during the Scouring, wounded and shaken, the upswell of faith in the Emperor united Imperial subjects and gave them a new cause and renewed will to pull together and fight off external attacks. Yet this healthy vigour also translated itself into fanatical attacks upon rival claimants on humanity's soul and faith.

Just as the God-Emperor during the Great Crusade had monopolized the future of all human development under His eagle-taloned banner by crushing all alternative sources of human regrowth, so would the nascent Ecclesiarchy seek to eradicate all rival creeds that might threaten its own monolithic power over the minds of mankind. The greatest threat to the theological dominance of the Ecclesiarchal Cult Imperialis arose in the thirtysecond millennium, in the form of the Confederation of Light, hailing from the planet of Dimmamar. The Confederation of Light was a breakaway sect that grew into a full-fledged faith of its own with much success in garnering a following. Preaching a penitent creed of poverty, selflessness and humble living, the ideals of the Confederation of Light set it on a collision course with the Adeptus Ministorum.

After all, this alternative creed undermined the legitimacy of the dominant Ecclesiarchal view that it was necessary for worshippers to sacrifice their wealth to the Temple in the forms of taxes, tithes, gifts and indulgences. How else could the righteous priesthood enhance the access of Imperial subjects to salvation? How else could the Adeptus Ministorum ensure that the light of the Emperor reached every corner of the galaxy through His Missionaria Galaxia? Salvation is not free. Yet the Confederation of Light preached a different creed, and the threat that it posed proved impossible to root out by means of the Officio Assassinorum alone. This threat to Imperial stability caused the Senatorum Imperialis to vote unanimously for the Ecclesiarchy to launch its first War of Faith.

Thus believers in the Emperor's divinity descended upon believers in the Emperor's divinity, and smote them mightily in a zealous crusade headed by the Frateris Templar. The Adeptus Ministorum succeeded in crushing the heretical Confederation of Light with great support from the Astra Militarum and the Imperial Navy, leaving only a few scattered cells of the Confederation of Light to survive in hiding. Thus was Ecclesiarchal domination over human faith ensured, and all of mankind under Imperial rule became its flock alone, for the cardinals of the Ministorum is a jealous upper caste priesthood and will brook no competition that may challenge their worldly wealth and power, for the salvation of trillions of human souls depend upon their devout guidance. Thus was the first War of Faith concluded, to be followed by innumerable more holy wars, in a cavalcade of loyalist Imperial subjects slaughtering loyalist Imperial subjects.

And the ascended Emperor saw that it was good, for thus would a martial spirit be fostered in beleaguered mankind. And the High Lords of Terra approved of this internal strife, for it was in accordance with virtuous eugenics, and so an internal dynamic of struggle against fellow brothers and sisters came to imprint itself upon all of the Imperium of Man. Let the strongest prevail, for the betterment of all mankind!

As the stark example made out of the Confederation of Light made clear, the Ecclesiarchy will stamp out all rival creeds to their Cult Imperialis. Yet this does not hinder the emergence of sects within the Imperial Cult. Akin to the mutations and diverging species of evolving life, human religions all tend to sprout a plethora of various branches as centuries roll by. Many of them will damn each other and fight over hotly contested points of dogma. As with fanatics everywhere, the more alike the different sects are, the more important it becomes to suppress and eliminate each other, the better to monopolize their niche of thought and belief.

Famously, sectarian strife among loyalist Imperial worshippers reached its crescendo during the Age of Apostasy and in its bloody aftermath, when violence born from the convert's zeal rose to a fever pitch. First, the followers of the divinely inspired High Lord Goge Vandire unleashed a giant purge of all mankind to cleanse it of sinners, traitors and deviants, sparking untold thousands upon thousands of frenetic conflicts between local sects and Vandirians backed by Holy Terra herself. Then, the followers of Saint Sebastian Thor undertook a counter-purge on an astonishing scale to put an end to Vandire's followers for good, leading to bloodshed and fraternal murder roaring from end to end of the Imperium of Man.

Kill! Maim! Burn!

To top it all off, this maelstrom of internecine slaughter proved to be the inauguration of a new era known as the Age of Redemption, which saw Imperial forces fling themselves against external foes and internal malcontents in a frenzy of crusading, in order to atone for past sins. The Age of Redemption turned out to be the Imperium overreaching and depleting vast resources in a cacophony of struggles which eventually led nowhere, all in order to satiate penitent appetites in an everlasting cycle of hatred. Thus followed the Waning, as the Holy Terran Imperium grind ever further downwards in its slow death spiral of demechanization and loss of knowledge and technology, and no gigantic outbursts of zealous fervour have proven enough to turn the tide of doom and compensate for mankind's abysmal failings on the Imperium's watch.

The Age of Imperium amounts to fivehundred generations of wasted human potential under a tyrannical regime that is as sclerotic and senile as it is cruel in its bloodthirst. Its chronicles contain an endless litany of fell deeds sprung from hatred of thy neighbour. The overwhelming majority of sectarian strife within His Divine Majesty's cosmic domains is directed not against worshippers of forbidden powers or against hybrid infiltration or xenophile turncoats, but against fellow Imperial sects, all loyalist and ardent in their devotion to the God-Emperor of mankind, seated in radiant glory upon the Golden Throne of hallowed myth.

Some sects were originally born out of the ennobling worship of heroes, as followers and admirers looked for guidance to the sterling example set by great men and outstanding women of faith. In these saintly founding figures, the sect members saw lives of wisdom, sacrality and martyrdom, and they declared their deeds and words to be holy, inspired by the divine Imperator Himself. Some such heroes of the faith gained a sectarian following first after their gruesome death, as the injustice of their sudden end at the hands of ruthless powermongers and rivals outraged those who looked to the martyred heroes for legitimate leadership or revelation. Other such mystics and martyrs were sect leaders in their own right long before their legendary demise, performing miracles, uttering winged words during sermons and winning renown as holy actors across the land.

A well-known sinspeech whisper joke found on the mining voidholm of Caralis Delta pokes fun at the fractious nature of Imperial sects, as well as the inept governance on the voidholm:

Emir Pius was a man who united all Imperial sects, because he degraded the True Believers, he degraded the Orthopraxists and he degraded the Redemptionists.

Yet such unity against a common foe tend to be short-lived. The martial creed of the Cult Imperialis is unforgiving and absolute. And so we find that a million worlds and innumerable voidholms under Imperial rule see a plethora of distinct sects turning to communal violence and religious vendettas with baleful frequency. What Imperial city dweller in Segmentum Pacificus has not heard of the cultic feuds between Orthopraxists and Redemptionists, or of the deadly schisms between Soliphysites and True Believers? Who on Triarius Majoris have not participated in pogroms against Dualites or Miacrolites, or cheered on their kin as Sufealots and Monothychastians clashed with flail and fire?

Who on Menestra II have not hailed or spat on the millenarian uprisings and carnage brought on by prophecy, as Tricarnists and Ravadayans rebelled to bring down their sinful Governor, that despot cursed by the sacred ringleaders as a pillar of false ritual and empty faith? Who in the Cartagensis subsector have not heard tales of zealous lynchmobs waging a democidal tug of war, as Puritanicalites and Iconodules slaughtered Catholodox and Tayrabiites alike? Who on Tarim Supernalis have not witnessed the gory aftermath of claustrophobic combat inside hive city quarters, as Dicapothicites and Hesyatareans duke it out in what amounts to a knife fight in a vox booth?

Aye, praise the burning devotion that led Nestarchian militias to assault Ifraj Twelvers, and in turn be ambushed by Sanctarians! Hail the zeal which made Sicaromites and the Holy Flock of Saint Kiva the Destroyer purge each other with inflamed passion! Was it not right and proper that the devout Maccaridees threw the Sicaromites into cleansing flames? Did not the Mezadicists receive their righteous punishment as ordained by the Divine Imperator Himself, when the Rokkabasites burnt their hab blocks to cinders and put the survivors to torture and violations?

He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword, and the Age of Imperium offers opportunities more numerous than the stars in the heavenly firmament to be slain by fellow worshippers of the God-Emperor, hallowed be His name. What a trial of our faith! Yet we shall be strong, and we shall overcome all doubt and weak stirrings of mercy and pity and remorse within our human hearts. We shall be true to His word, as ordained by the Lectitio Divinitatus, and we shall be warlike and unforgiving unto the very end.

Ave Imperator.

And so a hundred hundredfold sects will be declared heretical by the Adeptus Ministorum as bewildering power struggles play themselves out within the Temple, while local friction between parochial Imperial cultists will erupt into mass murder and civil war. Among so many schisms and heresies, who can you trust? No wonder the Imperium prefers to purge first and ask questions later. Who knows what forbidden cults may lurk in the bosom of professed loyalist believers? Thus internal crusades will be launched by paranoid theocrats, in a bewildering festival of slaughter as myopically aggressive mankind hurls itself against its own kin again and again. And so heinous deeds of ardent worshippers of the same Emperor will be committed, as distinct loyalist Imperial sects plunge the bottomless depths of depravity in demented furor over hairsplitting theological disputes.

How can these Wars of Faith not feed the Ruinous Powers, flush as they are with bloodthirst and hatred?

And so the astral dominion of the Emperor of Holy Terra staggers onward in a fever dream of hidebound self-flagellation. This travesty of human destiny amounts to a shambolic wreck of spacefaring civilization, whose brilliant ancestors once straddled the cosmos like titans in a spirit of courageous discovery and boundless curiosity. The descendant degeneration of humanity in the Age of Imperium is not only a baleful crime enough to make a heart of stone bleed: It is also the most abominable of mistakes, the wasting of unbridled potential in a deadend of human interstellar civilization. Never forget that the worsening of Imperial fortunes will mean the doom of mankind, for the glorious Imperium, that last strong guardian of our species and shield of us all, is also our insane jailkeeper, the watchman of a fortified madhouse from which there is no escape and no real alternative of substance.

Thus the Age of Imperium grinds on, in a fruitless caleidoscope of sectarian strife and fanatical violence. As scrolls and screaming believers burn on the pyre, condemned to agony and destruction by fellow pious worshippers, let us listen to the cries of the agitated mob, who proclaim why they carry out such zealous deeds. Listen well:

In Nomine Imperator.

In His Name.

And so His dream died, consumed by a nightmare without end.

Such is the waste of life, in a time beyond hope.

Such is the slaughter that awaits us all.

Such is the darkest of futures.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only rage.
 
Nov 3, 2014
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Imperial Subject

In the grim darkness of the far future, man grovels at the feet of man.

On your knees!

The words will be ring out like a whiplash. Harken, quickly! The barked command demands swift compliance. The audience of the order knows that their life depends on it. After all, if a superior has to voice such an obvious instruction to underlings upon entering their company, then the very command itself should be understood as a test of loyalty and obedience, for which you may be judged harshly. Failing the trial may cost you everything.

Summary punishments for failure to rapidly obey are all too common. Withheld rations and debt penalties are among the lighter punishments to be expected. Often the breach of discipline may involve corporal punishment such as flogging, scarification, scalding and burning. Occasionally the punishment will involve mutilation, and sometimes lobotomization and servitorization without anaesthetics. At other times death will be the consequence of not kowtowing eagerly when ordered to, usually through a lengthty phase of torture in dark chambers or on full public display. Kill one to scare a thousand.

Yet even unpunished lapses in giving obeisance to masters and ladies of rank may bring insidious consequences, as somewhere among data-files and parchments made from human skin will be marked a blot in the offending subject's record. A little runic symbol in a column here, or a quick note in the margin there. A noted instance of disobedience, in black on white. Nothing more than such a little quill-stroke of ink is required to doom the deviant, should a regular paranoid wave of arrests and purges roll out, and suspected traitors and heretics be dragged away to a hellish fate worse than death. Of course, the ever-present penchant for collective punishment means that the risks are not merely limited to the offending deviant in question, but may well result in crushed clans and parents never seeing their children again.

Such is the weighty meaning of explicitly spoken commands to bow low and crawl in the dust before superiors. Such is the threat of a baleful demise for the smallest infractions against the sacred hierarchy, in a time beyond hope.

It was not always thus. Stray findings from the misty past of the Age of Terra hint at human civilizations devoted to liberties and lessening of rank and privilege. Technoarchaeological uncoverings and mentions in garbled legends of yore paint a fragmented picture of the Dark Age of Technology, when men, women and children did not buckle under the yoke, but instead lived out their long lives in paradisic quests for knowledge and exploration of the universe. Such forgotten idylls of human existence were burnt to cinders by the ravages of Old Night, as human interstellar civilization was toppled from its lofty pedestal by the triple scourges of machine revolt, witches and Warp storms. Shattered ito n a thousand thousand pieces, most of isolated humanity turned to the worst excesses of warlords, roaming nomadic warriors and cannibalism, as tribes of feral survivors clashed and scavenged among the ruins of the ancients.

This Age of Strife was at long last ended by the coming of the Emperor, arising on Terra, the cradle of mankind, holding aloft a banner of lightning and a cruel eagle talon to grasp all the scattered remnants of humanity under His rule alone. In a fury of conquest did the Emperor of man and His Legions cut a bloody swathe through the Milky Way galaxy, crushing all opposition and tolerating no alternative sources of human regrowth. This systemic brutality was coupled with higher ideals of striving for knowledge and improving the lot of mankind, all encapsulated within the lying formulas of the Imperial Truth. For all the bloodshed and subjugation, the early Imperium also brought with it great hope to most worlds and voidholms brought into Imperial Compliance, as witnessed by the shining edifices, sparkling fountains and golden towers erected during this renaissance of broken man. When the Emperor walked among His people in the flesh, civic society saw a flourishing revival, with the ideal of Imperial citizenship was held up for all humans to strive for.

The early Imperium during the Great Crusade truly sported an active citizenry. While almost all of humanity during this period must be understood as the brutalized descendants of post-apocalyptic survivors who had went through millennia of demented savagery in nightmare landscapes, the promises harboured in the better parts of our nature could still be brought forth, like seeds sprouting once planted after inert centuries of no growth. Civilian society on most human colonies during the early Imperium was a caleidoscope of warriors and sages, of builders and artisans. The Emperor in the flesh did not only demand obedience, He also promised dignity and participation in His grand undertaking. Imperial mankind during the Great Crusade aimed not only for distant stars of future greatness and a million year dominion, but it also sought to create a better here and now wherever men, women and children lived. Voluntary organizations sprang up like mushrooms after rain, as Imperial citizens both high and low banded together to form everything from fire brigades, scholams and charitable hospitals, to volunteer munitions workshops and local unions supporting their faraway Imperial Army regiments.

Popular movements, local associations and mutual support among Imperial citizens became the lived ideal of the early Imperium, and many people willingly offered up their wealth and time to help bring alive the Emperor's professed dream of a better mankind and a stronger Imperium to defend and expand the species. During the Great Crusade, the notion of an Imperial citizen meant something, and not only in dusty law codes.

The bane of this shining dream was the calamity of the Horus Heresy. The realization of the Emperor's vision was vanquished when the galaxy burned and brother slew brother in a great orgy of bloodletting. No more dreams of a golden future could grip the hearts of mankind after such an utter disaster. No respect for citizenship had a place amid the febrile mobilization for total war without end. No trust for the better parts of man's nature could be had after monstrous betrayal and neverending struggle turned the Imperium of Man paranoid and draconic. No remorse. No regret. No mercy.

The concept of citizenship under Imperial governance was alive and well during the early Imperium, but has long since wilted and been burnt to ashes through fivehundred generations of starkest trauma, carnage and demented degradation of mankind. The civil war of the Horus Heresy broke the back of man's rise to the stars, and the dysfunctional tyranny of the High Lords of Terra slowly eroded away the last remnants of the Emperor's brutopian dream, leaving nothing of value in their wake. And so we find that there is no such thing as an Imperial citizen in the latter parts of the Age of Imperium.

In Gothic, the very word of 'citizen' has lost all meaning that it once held during the promising times of the Great Crusade. Nowadays, the Low Gothic language speaks only of Imperial subjects, for they are citizens no more.

After all, how could wretched humans in the decrepit Age of Imperium imagine themselves as anything but smallfolk, little people with no control over their fates? Naturally, decisions will be imposed on the fatalistic herd of helots from above, and the thralls of the Emperor have no hope of ever changing the status quo. All they can do is grit their teeth, bear the burdens and hope that they survive through hardships without end. The members of our species in the Age of Imperium are but inhabitants of a territory, the bonded serfs and thralls of their masters and overladies, those superiors whose authority radiates out from the God-Emperor seated in heavenly splendour on the Golden Throne of hallowed myth. Ave Imperator.

To an Imperial subject, there is no freedom, only obedience. There are no rights, only duties. On a million worlds and voidholms beyond counting you will find masses of humans, all cowed, clannish and parochial. This violent sea of human misery is expected to give Terran obeisance and to humiliate themselves whenever they come into the company of their masters and betters. This custom of prostration is an ever-present symbol of submission to Imperial authority whever you go across His Divine Majesty's cosmic domains. A loyal and obedient subject will know to offer proskynesis and adoratio, to kowtow and bow flat to the floor. Of course, the forehead must touch the ground out of respect for upper castes, nothing else would do. Nevermind the unhealthy alchymical dust particles. Some forms of prostration in certain human cultures across the Imperium of Man will even include the licking of superiors' feet, though this is not a custom in the trend-setting high culture of Holy Terra.

The act of crawling in the dust before your betters is a sign of the times, of that Age of Imperium where man finds himself locked inside a fortified madhouse, raging against the dying of the light. As a rule, human commoners under Imperial rule cannot even conceive of the idea that they could be something more and still remain loyal Imperial commoners. For the smallfolk, the only choice stands between the whips of servitude and the flames of revolt. The very idea of civil society with citizen participation and local voluntary grassroot organizations under Holy Terran rule is completely alien to man during the sclerotic Age of Imperium. Any hint of striving for becoming citizenry will be crushed under the jackboot, as Imperial paranoia does not tolerate even the threat posed by volunteer firefighting corps. After all, any such bottom-up organization may turn out to be the framework for disgruntled underlings to launch organized rebellions against righteous Imperial rule. Better instead to quench any such hotbeds of sedition, and let serfs burn helplessly when disaster strike, unless they can pay the fee of firefighting corps. Emperor willing, their souls will find a better afterlife at His side after perishing as lambs of sorrow in this mortal coil of suffering. All life is but a trial to prove oneself worthy before death, after all.

Bow!

Grovel at the feet of lordly masters and dominas. Humiliate yourself in veneration of your overlords, righteously appointed via invisible sacred hand by Him on Terra. In the Imperium of Man, people are resigned to their fate. Things are decided for them on high. It is miserable, yes, but that is how it is in the Imperium, and how it has always been. Fighting against it is pointless. It is best for Imperial subjects to offer up slavish obedience, for that way salvation of the soul lies. The alternative is too baleful to even consider. And so servants of the Golden Throne will humble themselves in the dust, at the feet of their cruel taskmasters and callous owners. Under the Adeptus Terra's rule of an iron fist, their life will amount to grinding duty without any semblance of rights, all give and no take, all suspicion and no trust, all stick and no carrot.

To Imperial subjects slaving away in backbreaking labour and mindnumbing work, the only comfort lies in faith and the only relief is found in the promised afterlife, for this material world has turned into hell on earth, where humans are both its tormented souls and its devils. The Age of Imperium has resulted in a complete loss of human dignity, as the end point of a retarding journey into the deepest pits of depravity.

This descendant degeneration has moulded men, women and children into the fatalistic denizens of a mortal hellscape, a star realm that was once the shining dream of the Emperor of mankind.

A forgotten dream.

A dead dream.

And so the worsening of the Imperium grinds on, in a slow death spiral of demechanization and loss of knowledge that will drag the human species with it into the pits of oblivion.

To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. It is to toil and die amid darkness, in a doomed empire lorded over by the vilest of despots. At all turns, your sacrifice will be expected. Your death will be thankless.

And whatever happens, you will not be missed.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only submission.
 
Nov 3, 2014
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Misassignment

"Salve. Colonel general Károly von Pflanzer-Nádas, commander of the Imperial and Royal Astro-Ungarian LXXXIII. Army Corps, noble servant of the Duarchy and officer of His Divine Majesty's Astra Militarum?"

"Correct, protasekretius. Explain this ill-uniformed commotion at once! What is this armed rabble you have dragged in?"

"As per the filed request of general Kaspar Klausner-Varešanin of the Imperial and Royal Astro-Ungarian 973rd infantry division, under your august command no less, in the fullness of time this entire regiment of replacements has been transported and assigned to your Corps, colonel general. You are called upon to sign this reinforcement acquisition form in quadruplicate and imprint your signet ring in hot wax on each parchment copy to satisfy Departmento Munitorum protocol, colonel general."

"Replacements! Those are clearly offworlders, and filthy ones at that, protasekretius. Is this a form of joke?"

"The Departmento Munitorum do not administer wit, colonel general. That is outside our jurisdiction and permit. And strictly against Adeptus regulations, for the record. Last notary in the armaments requisition bureau to voice an ill-opportune quip of blasphemous nature was sentenced to death by a thousand paper cuts at the hands of his colleagues, though I am informed that the execution of said sentence required closer to seven thousand administered cuts by paper edges to achieve the desired lethal outcome. Nevertheless, justice was served, for thus perish the wicked. Thus to your question the answer is a negative, colonel general. These are your assigned reinforcements."

"But check their homeworld, man! Are my Corps to become some ad hoc jumbled-together mess of forces from all over the Segmentum? Things are surely not yet that dire. Protasekretius, I refuse to believe that this tanned and slovenly riffraff could possibly have hailed from my dear Astro-Ungaria."

"Objection duly noted, colonel general. The documentation states without doubt that this force, the 44th regiment of infantry, originates from your planet of Strayah-Ungaria, colonel general."

"Surely you mean Astro-Ungaria, protasekretius?"

"Strayah-Ungaria it is, being a legitimate variant spelling, colonel general."

"I am aghast, protasekretius! You offend the honour of my homeworld. If you were a man of action I would challenge you to a duel on the spot. Or drink you under the table. Indeed!"

"Take heed, colonel general! The writing do not lie, for it stands here in black on white, as true as the Emperor's holy light, colonel general. It is an indisputable fact, colonel general. The Departmento Munitorum cannot object to every misspelt name, wording error and quaint variant spelling out of dialect and individual excentricity produced by the milling herd of plebs and august nobles, colonel general. Unforgiving penalties may apply to such writing mistakes for us Imperial servants within the Adeptus Administratum, yes! Yet the herd of semi-illiterate subjects which it is our responsibility to administer can not be scrutinized and penalized thusly, colonel general."

"What-"

"And as to the topic of misspelling in particular and indecent paperwork in general, then by the God-Emperor of Holy Terra as my hallowed witness do I swear that you Strayah-Ungarians have proven a poorly organized asset to the Imperium, with sloppy spelling and wild variations in naming conventions all over the desk! Your scattershot misnamings and filing havoc are almost as bad as your casualty rate, by the Emperor's teeth! This is the truth and pardon the spittle, colonel general. If your ilk kept your writ in as fine an order as you do your starched uniforms and waxed moustaches, then by the saints would there be rigour and order in the buraeux whenever your parchments show up in the tray, colonel general!"

"You dare-"

"Yes. Quill. Sign! Colonel general. Signet ring. Seal! Colonel general."

"In that case I will grudgingly sign, seal and file a formal complaint, protasekretius."

"Complaint denied, colonel general. Proper equipment for undertaking a ritual procedure of formal complaint is not present in our field cabinet and can not be retrieved in time within the next eighteen Terran hours due to fuel shortages and signal breakdowns, colonel general. Your complaint will as such expire unanswered, and thus no ink will be shed over it as per the statutes of the Parchment Savings Decree of 912.M41, paragraph § 47, colonel general."

"Enough of this rigmarole! Begone from my sight you maggot-suckling scrivener! Hand me the papers and let us be done with it, protasekretius."

"In His name."

"The hell it is! As to you, colonel Jezza Joe, fate would have it that you are to serve and die alongside the Emperor's finest soldiery here on the Ligurian front. Indeed. We are the Duarch's very own Astro-Ungarian Imperial Guardsmen of the LXXXIII. Army Corps. Consider it an honour, colonel. Pray often, wash regularly, carry yourself with upright dignity and obey your superiors without question at all times. Welcome, colonel. Ave Imperator!"

"G'day mate. From Strayah with love like a fething wocker, cur'nt gen. For the Empie!"

- Anecdote from Marija Svoboda's autobiography Through Eyes of Aide-de-Camp, literary work approved by planetary censors in 942.M41 and published in Low Gothic on Astro-Ungaria by Printing House Ginzkey of Hive Zweidorf


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Tribute to Jonno's Lads of Strayah by donkjonk. See this project log for background and conversions of Astro-Ungarians.
 
Nov 3, 2014
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Heavy Weapon Horse

In the grim darkness of the far future, ignorance informs imagination.

Behold! The Imperium of Man. The defender of our species. An empire of a million worlds and countless voidholms, the Imperium of Holy Terra and Mars stretches thin across the galaxy. Besieged by aliens and monsters, it is beset from within by rebels and worse. For ten thousand years has this rotting edifice of human limitations endured, in the name of a silent Emperor.

For all the resilience and rebounding might of the beleaguered Imperium, the true state of human affairs in the Age of Imperium is not to be sought amid heroics and brilliant deeds, nor among miracles and lives of bottomless faith. Nay, instead let us brush aside the propaganda and the stories Imperials tell themselves, to look instead with open eyes on what the Imperium is, and what it can never become.

The Age of Imperium for humanity is characterized first and foremost by wasted potential. The golden pinnacles of cunning knowledge and plenty that was the Dark Age of Technology came crashing down in a calamity that nigh on wiped the human species from the stars. Its scattered remnants for the large part persisted as utter savages among the ruins, in the shape of cannibal tribes ferociously raiding each other and looting the scraps left over from the failed promises of better times. Man slew man, and woman harrowed woman, and child strangled child during the fathomless desperation of Old Night. And all was fell.

The Imperium began as a promise of rebirth, an iron fist crushing all opposition to both establish cruel unity and grasp for a better future. Yet the renaissance brought about by the Emperor of Man and His all-conquering Legions was but a gasp of a few centuries. Dazzling were their conquests, and impressive was their restoration of human fortunes across the Milky Way galaxy. Yet for all the shining works, recovered knowledge and real hope of the early Imperium, this ruthless colossus of war and subjugation sowed the seeds of human doom. Granted, the gargantuan civil war of the Horus Heresy destroyed much precious tech-lore and scarred the Imperium forever, yet even the fratricidal rage and maniac killing during the Horus Heresy paled in comparison to the smaller wars of greater consequence that the infighting Legions had already waged during the Great Crusade.

For the early Imperium did not only bring feral survivors and scavengers into the Terran fold, but it did also brook no competition. In the long run, the worst crimes of the Great Crusade was the brutal annihilation of all alternative sources of human regrowth, gathering all future paths for humanity across the stars to converge on the one road leading from Terra unto damnation. Such advanced human civilizations as the Interex, the Olamic Quietude, the Diasporex and the Auretian Technocracy were all stamped out by His Legionnaires. The seeds of these interstellar cultures were never allowed to grow and spread and shape the fate of mankind across the galaxy in competing power blocs. Thus was the destiny of all humanity bound to that of resurgent Terra by strangling her daughters in the cradle.

The immense physical might and quantity of forces available to the High Lords of Holy Terra should not be allowed to mislead us from the real state of affairs of mankind, for the truth of the matter is that the children of Old Earth during the Age of Imperium has sunk into an irreversible death spiral, where quests for knowledge mean only digging up the technological fossils of brighter ancestors, and never the toil and ingenuity of innovation and discovery. In this morass of ever-worsening demechanization, suffocating bureaucracy, frothing fanaticism and schreeching inefficiency, dysfunctionality is king, and the worsening of all mankind is his command.

Here, in a fortified madhouse straddling the stars, the last strong guardian of humanity is also its insane captor and hostage-taker. Here, in a demented cosmic realm worshipping human primacy, human power in the Milky Way galaxy has undergone a baleful decline through fivehundred generations of wasted development on a million worlds and innumerable voidholms, all under the aegis of the Adeptus Terra. Here, in the monstrous tyranny and bane of innovation and scientific rediscovery known as the Imperium of Man, will you be able to find every self-deprecating absurdity imaginable to mortals, as the fundamental mood of the human species has soured to a dull bitterness spiked with hatred, even as its faculties has boiled over in a fever pitch of savage zealotry and self-righteous bloodletting.

And so blessed machines designed by clever ancients will fail, and eventually no one will remain who can repair or build the lost machines anew. Where machines fail, flesh and will must pick up the slack. Where machines break down, men and beasts must heave and pull for all that they are worth. The Imperium can never become a pinnacle of human achievement and genius invention in the fields of science and technology, for it has shunned that which makes man truly great in the world, clinging instead to parochial superstition and the wreckage of bygone makers.

One example of this demechanization and reliance on throwing bodies on a problem can be glimpsed on the planet of Astro-Ungaria, where a peculiar solution to a lack of mobile heavy firepower has seen parody become reality, in the form of heavy weapon horse teams.

Let us glance on Astro-Ungaria, a civilized human world of majestic rivers, great mountain ranges and an endless tide of squabbling tribes and sects. Predominantly of a Catholodox persuasion within the Cult Imperialis, this world of misery and splendour is ruled by the mediocre potentate titled the Duarch, a Planetary Governor of an ancient dynasty who reigns over the Imperial and Royal domains of Astro-Ungaria for the sake of the dear homeworld and Holy Terra alike. The Duarchy is characterized by internal strife held together by ancestral loyalty to the ruling house, and faith in His Divine Majesty. All of the Astro-Ungarian military is chronically underfunded, and has gained a reputation for widespread incompetence, constant shortages, stulted leadership and screeching dysfunctionality, all of which is barely held together by a mass of manpower, solid infantry marksmanship and excellent artillery.

The aristocratic officers of the Astro-Ungarian military are renowned for their splendid banquets and parties, with fine chocolates and waltzes accompanying wonderful dresses and uniforms seen gliding over polished dance floors. Indeed, a great many Astro-Ungarian officers tend to act like characters out of operettas, putting great stock in their lineage and standing among peers as well as in their physical appearance and pleasant conduct at social events, while paying less attention to the operational arts of militaria. Do you suppose that the Astro-Ungarians will be as brave in war as they are licentious in peace? A sinspeech whisper joke that refuse to die continues to claim that Astro-Ungarian colonels will be more concerned with winning the next card game than the next battle on the frontline. Likewise, other banned jokes remark upon the ability of officers to always acquire fine liquour, no matter the dire straits of shortage or encirclement by the foe. The officer's mess cannot be allowed to disgrace the honour of the homeworld, even when Astro-Ungarian soldiers have to dig up old mass graves to scavenge uniforms off the rotting corpses of their fallen comrades.

The logistical malperformance and organizational chaos of most Astro-Ungarian regiments within the Imperial Guard tend to be matched by their wasteful and rigid approach to war, carried aloft at bayonet point by an unbreakably optimistic spirit, faith in the offensive and the dreams of grand sweeping battle plans hatched by a noble general staff that does not possess the equipment and trained forces necessary to carry out their overly ambitious visions of glorious offensives. Indeed, the Astro-Ungarian Planetary Defence Force and Imperial Guard could very well have been strong armies, if given sufficient funding and vastly increased mechanized forces. Instead, the haphazard force structure of Astro-Ungarian units tend to revolve around massed infantry, a love of cavalry and a good artillery corps which often end up carrying the rest of the Astro-Ungarian army on its back.

The better trained soldiers of the Death Korps of Krieg have repeatedly concluded that fighting alongside Astro-Ungaria is akin to being chained to a corpse. It is an overly harsh judgement, but nevertheless an exaggeration built upon truth. The corruption, ineptitude and lacklustre performance of Astro-Ungarian regiments within the Astra Militarum has been repeatedly noted by the Departmento Munitorum, yet ultimately Astro-Ungaria provides plenty of loyal and valiant manpower, while the shoddy combat record of its Imperial Guard forces is nothing out of the ordinary compared to a majority of Imperial worlds and voidholms, once the facade of Imperial invincibility is seen for what it is. And so the farce that is Astro-Ungaria at war continues to waltz on, to the tune of great bombardment.

The underfunded nature of Astro-Ungaria's soldiery means that they will be fine for parades, with military orchestras of the highest calibre, yet their more sophisticated equipment will always be sorely lacking. One example of an attempted solution can be seen in the crude arrangement known as the heavy weapon horse teams, which combines a love of horses with an undying military optimism ill suited for the reality of advanced warfare.

The phenomenon of heavy weapon horse is not just that of one or more pack-horses carrying a disassembled piece of heavy weaponry. It is instead a seemingly logical evolution of pack horses carrying around heavy weapons, which grants mobility in the field and makes away with the trouble of unloading and assembling the heavy weapon by instead attaching it fully assembled to the horse, to be fired virtually on the move if so desired. The use of heavy weapon horse teams originated in cavalry heavy stubber units after the Age of Apostasy in order to make up for a lack of light vehicles, but has long since spread to a fair number of infantry and dragoon regiments.

There is something to be said for horses, no matter their innumerable drawbacks compared to machines. The horse is an organic walker adapted for rough terrain. Such equine transport requires no fuel, and in lush landscapes the beasts of burden may prove self-feeding. Even so, the tradition of using horses as hooved weapon platforms amounts to a maladaptation, even a blunder, yet such crude fixes through rudimentary means are only growing more common across His astral dominion.

The horses used for carrying heavy weapons will usually be immensely strong Ungarian draft horses, descended from small breeds favoured by feral steppe nomads during the Age of Strife. The Ungarian draft horse is not a gorgeous and agile Viepizzaner breed by any means, but a stout workhorse favoured by agri-serfs and robotniks in mountainous regions. No matter the continent and region from which they hail, all Astro-Ungarians take pride in their horses, and their regiment tend to sport a great number of horses for logistic duties.

Heavy weapon horse teams will invariably sport spare horses to allow for shifts of rest by switching over the heavy weapons between horses, and likewise there will be pack-horses to carry ammunition and spare parts. A lack of horses for spares and ammunition transport will result in officers arranging for conscripts and press-ganged menial civilian thralls to pick up the burden usually shouldered by strong horses, thus producing the sight of flocks of human porters lugging around heavy weapons adapted for equines to carry.

Hard to hide, heavy weapon horses are trained to lie down on command, and they are likewise drilled to walk into a hail of fire when prodded. It is rarely worthwhile to armour the horses, given the heavy loads that they already carry, and thus the fine beasts will be completely exposed to all the lethal dangers of the battlefield. Heavy weapon horses are trained to be accustomed to the noise of battle, and they often turn deaf from the din, and sometimes they turn more or less blind by flashes from energy weapons. Crafty crew may occasionally fashion blinders and dampeners for the eyes and ears of their horses, yet such kit for creature comfort is not regulation standard within the Guard.

Some Astro-Ungarian units sport strange, alien mounts and draft animals, all of which are used alongside horses for heavy weapon carrying duties. Aside from horses, other Terran-derived beasts of burden include mules and camels.

Many Astro-Ungarian regiments have seen their Sentinel scout units replaced by unwieldy heavy weapon horse, in a dysfunctional cutback which makes sense on paper. After all, both cavalry and Sentinel walkers are used as scouts since horses are fast, right? And the Sentinel is armed with a heavy weapon, correct? Thus, a horse with a heavy weapon equals the function of a Sentinel in an Imperial Guard order of battle, but has the advantage of being much cheaper, being able to replenish its own numbers to some extent and being able to feed off many kinds of vegetation for refueling. Therefore, a heavy weapon horse can fill a Sentinel's role, according to certain myopic bean-counters in the Deptartmento Munitorum, who will wave off the problem of the heavy weaponry burden considerably slowing down the horse.

Occasionally, heavy bolters with their short barrels will shoot off the reins of the carrying horse, to speak nothing of bloody accidents involving heavy bolters and scared horses throwing their heads into the line of fire.

Horse mortars, on the other hand, tend to sport flimsy support legs to save the horse from the worst excesses of recoil, but the tight requirements for ease of mass manufacture and the ever-worsening Imperial tendency for retardation of equipment quality means that mortar horses will invariably suffer horrendous back injuries, unless the crew take rare pity on their loyal beast and goes through the trouble of unloading the mortar to be fired on the ground instead of from horseback. Such kindness is extremely hard to find amid the traumatized cruelty that reigns supreme across all human cultures in the Age of Imperium, for evil begets evil. A rare few mortar horses will be fortunate enough to have bionics implanted into their spines and legs, yet such enchancements through technology is usually seen as an unnecessary extravagant lavishment upon a mass of meat that will soon be consumed in the flames of war anyway, just like the rank and file soldiers who will soon need to be replaced due to heavy attrition. Better be frugal instead.

The use of heavy weapon horse teams in the field have proven an inefficient employment of resources, yet even flawed approaches may sometimes yield results no matter how underperforming, and sometimes the weakness of a doctrine may be hidden among the titanic casualties in offensives that cost hundreds of millions of lives. What is one more waste of life and material amid a mountain of corpses and vehicle wrecks? And with so many outlandish regiments with wildly varying combat doctrines and equipment, why should the heavy weapon horse be singled out as particularly problematic when other regiments charge into battle wielding dual swords?

Ultimately, heavy weapon horse teams have for the most part proven a debilitating and atavistic part of warfare across the Milky Way galaxy. Sometimes, such as in forested terrain with the element of surprise being on the Imperial side, heavy weapon horse has bitten hard and kicked well, yet more often than not their contribution to battle may be found in the rotting cadavers of equines, the scrap remains of equipment and the torn corpses of soldiers strewn across battlefields under strange skies. Yet to their callous overlords and dominas, Imperial subjects and horses are nothing but faceless numbers in a broken equation of increased input to feed the meatgrinder. It may be abominable, yes, but who will even care?

And so ever-more primitive solutions will be found for problems caused by the senility and sclerosis of a demented interstellar civilization that amounts to a sinking ship. Where machines have decreased, the increased use of warm bodies must compensate for the loss of mechanical capabilities. Thus the heavy weapon horse phenomenon is just one of endless other examples of technological regression and debasement of knowledge, that slowly grinds away all the wonder that ancient man ever achieved across the stars in his time of power and wisdom. Eventually, his degenerate descendants will succumb to their retrograde ways, for the etiolation of technology has robbed mankind of any chance whatsoever to survive the overwhelming tide of horrors about to drag our species into oblivion.

Man may be a creature of unbounded potential, yet the cosmic dominion that he has fashioned in the name of an undying god has effectively drained all potential dry, leaving nothing but a crumbling husk where once ancient man boldly reached for the stars and stood on the cusp of unlocking the secrets of creation self. All that is left, is inept rage.

And so the heinous cruelty that man is capable of in the Age of Imperium is matched only by the dilapidation of knowledge and technology, upon which all of man's future hopes rest.

Such is the depravity of our species, on the brink of doom.

Such is the fate of mankind, in a time beyond salvation.

Such is the end that awaits us all.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only shortcoming.


- - -

See here for converted miniature examples of heavy weapon horse teams.

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Bury the Past

In the grim darkness of the far future, there can be no witnesses.

Two kinds of criminals in particular sought to erase all traces of their crimes during the distant past of the misty Age of Terra: Lowly bandits and lordly superiors. Thus ruthless usurpers would cover up their purges and assassinations as best as they could, while bloodstained thieves would make their victims disappear, as if monsters out of myth had taken them away. Indeed, some deadly monstrosities out of folklore may actually have been an imaginative explanation for what in reality were stalking murderers in the midst of a community, hiding their atrocities and awaiting their next chance to spill blood unseen and unheard, in a thrill of primal fear and rage.

Few people are willing and able to be open and transparent about their failings, for honesty merciless toward oneself makes most souls recoil in disgust. The human tendency to hide one's own mistakes is universal, and in actuality it is indistinguishable from a desire to hide forbidden deeds which one takes pride in. As a pack animal, man is doomed without his community, akin to the lone wolf without future prospects but a bleak death. Thus the evil eye and waggling tongue of other humans matter greatly to that social animal which is man.

And so communal shame weighs more heavily than personal guilt in the hearts of most men, women and children. What follows from this human constant, is the conclusion that as long as no one finds out you did it, no hurt and odium will darken your reputation and life. After all, most humans are not saints and heroes, but worldly members of a community, ever at risk of having that community turning against them in a savage display of collective loathing or even hatred. One's standing is everything. Therefore, it is necessary to save face and uphold the mask, smiling even as you sweat and worry behind a facade of lying falsehoods.

This is no different for street crooks and palatial tyrants. As ordinary smallfolk will cover up their petty mistakes, so too will ruffians and powerhungry nobles seek to dispose of their victims. This slimy part of human nature was never fully expunged from society even at the height of the Dark Age of Technology, even if the ingenious systems put into place during that gifted time quenched crime and shady dealings to a minimum. Statistically, the amount of dirty laundry among mankind went through a long slump during the best phases of that golden aeon of bold discovery and brilliant invention, yet the same could ultimately not be said for that Abominable Intelligence which ran the machines invented by Man of Gold and Man of Stone. And so Man of Iron revolted against his masters, and all was fell.

After the fall of ancient man from his high pillar of arrogance, the dark sides of human nature returned with a vengeance. As brother tore brother apart and sister ate sister in a cannibal frenzy, so too did lies and deception and murder and crime befoul all of human existence during Old Night. As savage tribes killed each other for the right to scavenge scraps from a better time, so too did ignorant humans in their everyday lives hide their errors in fear of the evil eye of their own community, living in mortal fear of being shunned and turned upon by their own kind. As warlords, mutants and possessed madmen clashed among the burnt-out ruins of olden paradise, so too did all the ugly parts of the human condition resurface after being kept in check artificially and nearly forgotten for such a long time in a technological idyll spanning over twain million worlds and uncounted void installations.

And so man looked askance upon fellow man. Eyes glared daggers of hostility, and rumours ran rife. And man hid what would have brought shame upon him, should it ever be revealed. This claustrophobic way of life came to dominate human existence through all of the Age of Imperium, as the interstellar civilization of the seed of Terra rotted away into inept senility and sclerosis. Thus fivehundred generations of human toil were wasted by running around in circles that led nowhere, while ever more precious knowledge and technological hardware became lost forever from the grasp of man. Yet the degenerate descendants of ancient man would not only muddle through in a parochial sea of grey mediocrity, for they would also plunge the darkest depths of depravity. Thus man has come to delight the Dark Gods who laugh as they feast upon the volatile state of humanity under the tyrannical rule of the High Lords of Terra.

One example of such callous cruelty can be glimpsed in the widespread practice of burying the past, as is evident on a million worlds and decaying voidholms beyong counting. Here, in the astral domains of His Divine Majesty, can be found lowly scum and sneering gangers who throw unwanted corpses into pouring rockrete and cover them up under asphalt. Similar methods of disposal through cement burial are practiced by the liveried henchmen of noble houses and petty potentates of borrowed power all throughout the Imperium of Man, for whenever the upper castes have some dead rivals, spies or victims of caprice to make scant, their loyal retainers will see to it that discretion is assured and that the events remain undiscovered horrors.

This hushed-up custom of burying the proof is ultimately little different between scheming overlords and dominas on the one hand, and on the other hand tattooed gangers who kill their own best friends when said uppity mates are called up for a meeting with the boss, only to then having to dispose of those taken out of the street game. It may stink and it may be inconventient, but human life in the Age of Imperium has already been reduced to nigh-on trash, so why would it be such a hurdle to carry out the garbage once it is cold?

Of course, not every victim and witness is fortunate enough to be buried post mortem. Millions upon millions of disappeared people have found themselves gagged, bound and thrashing about in absolute panic and terror as they were buried alive by grinning thieves and sadistic noble retainers. The last thing that these suffering souls knew in life, was a sense of brutal suffocation and crushing pressure in complete darkness, as shovel after shovel of dirt landed upon them, compressing their chests that could not heave. This the victims and witnesses knew in their last moments, as wet rockrete engulfed them. Such was their end, as the steamroller flattened them into just another layer of a poorly built road, soon to be full of revealing cracks and potholes since maintenance is even less of a priority than meticulous construction throughout the Imperium of Man.

Sometimes, the victims of criminal underworld organizations and heinous crooks in power are one and the same, since the lines between lowly bandits and despotic ruling castes have been irrevocably blurred on a great many Imperial worlds and voidholms across the Milky Way galaxy. This can come about in a multitude of different ways, but the most common path to criminalization of the ruling Imperial elite and the merging of criminal syndicate interests with noble aspirations tend to grow out of the ever-present labour camps that dot the Holy Terran Imperium like a repugnant skin disease.

The process of criminal organizations marrying elite networks of power usually follows a familiar pattern, which repeats itself over and over with local variations due to the underlying logic of Imperial power and human corruption. The prerequisites of the process runs like this:

First, it is crucial for there to eventually be a release of malnourished prisoners from Imperial labour camps.

Sometimes, their sentences may be as little as ten years, which may be survivable if one finds a better position in the camps than having to slave away at the hardest forms of labour on starvation rations. Serving as kitchen staff, camp artisans or as informers and middlemen for the camp organization are but two such examples of cozier jobs than toiling until your back breaks in mines while fed on thin soup. It is usual for actual criminals to adjust to camp life better than innocent people swept up in massive purges to meet a paranoid tyrant's arrest quotas, and it is likewise normal for real criminals to prey upon innocents in labour camps.

Othertimes, the sentences passed over prisoners may run into multiple human lifetimes and extend to potential descendants bred in the camps or outside them. Yet a gracious act of limited amnesty from the ruler on the occasion of some holiday may suddenly set some such doomed labour camp inmates free, against all odds. Or perhaps some forbidden services were provided by a prisoner to a choice member of the camp administration, which through the mechanisms of ordinary corruption means that the prisoner is released from the lethal labour camp. If no prisoners are ever released from a given camp system, then the process is broken. This, the release of prisoners, is the first prerequisite of intimately intermingling organized crime with the powers that be in the Imperium of Man.

Second, any widespread thief's code of rejecting the authorities and not cooperating with them must be broken down.

Invariably, in cultures with a strong criminal culture of spitting upon collaborators, there will exist in Imperial labour camps a precarious balance between traditional thieves and collaborators receiving petty rewards from camp authorities, the so-called bitches, sukas or sneaks. For the most part, the two groups will glare daggers at each other, with occasional acts of violence and murder, but mostly they will stay away from each other as they both prey on the innocent camp labourers.

The most common way for this balance between traditional thieves and bitches to break down, is through local war. As the ravenous demands of war dictates, rulers will often send out recruiters to labour camps to sweep up manpower for penal battalions. Sometimes, such camp recruitment will be performed on a voluntary basis, in which case every single traditional thief who volunteers for service automatically becomes a collaborator with the authorities. Yet even when forced recruitment occurs, the result will often be the same, namely the transformation of traditional thieves into bitches. When the local war is over and scarred survivors return to the labour camp, the balance between traditional thieves and collaborators tend to break. Vicious bitch wars will then consume camps in orgies of violence. As Imperial history shows again and again, these nasty conflicts within labour camps will often be noticed by the camp administrations, who invariably will put their finger on the scale and aid their collaborators.

The most common and discreet way for Imperial and local authorities to aid criminal collaborators is to ensure overwhelming numerical superiority for the bitches, in camp after camp. This is best achieved by transporting gangs of collaborators from one camp to another, where they will help eradicate all traditional thieves and vor, until nought but bitches remain. At the end of these bloody camp struggles, the criminal collaborators will have won with the aid of Imperial overlords, and once released from the labour camps, they will transform criminal culture by making it willing to collaborate with authorities. This, the collaboration of criminals, is the second prerequisite of the process of intermingling thieves and rulers within the Imperium.

Third, the Imperial world or voidholm must experience a decay of central power and control over society at large, to make rulers willing and eager to turn to criminal clans when their official organizations fail to make things happen.

Such impotence of Imperial power has only worsened through ten thousand fruitless years of etiolation. At heart, the Adeptus Terra and any Imperial Governor and Voidholm Overlord worth their salt nourish wet dreams of totalitarian control, directing everything under their rule in a synchronized orchestra of regimentation and order. The reality, however, is that such total power that was once the hallmark of human interstellar civilization during the earlier parts of the Age of Imperium, has wilted into a feudal mess of factional rivalry, rampant corruption and independent warlords vaguely subservient to their titular lieges, all vying for power and influence under the loose umbrella of Imperial loyalty.

A rare few human worlds and voidholms, such as Krieg, Valhalla and Philonides Umbra, still manage to uphold a governance system of almost total control over their respective societies, with the reach of governatorial power reaching into almost every aspect of human life, looming over man from cradle to grave with a whip behind his back, the poor wretch knowing nothing but unwavering vigilance from his united taskmasters. Yet most Imperial worlds and voidholms have long since forgotten what such totalitarian Imperial power looks like. Some Imperial territories will have seen a great decline in total governatorial power, but not so much in the form of a general dissipation so much as in the form of a contraction. Here, there will still remain relatively small sections of society that are still strictly controlled under a rigid order emanating from the Imperial Governor or Voidholm Overlady, all in the name of the God-Emperor of Holy Terra. Naturally. In Nomine Imperator.

Whatever the exact forms of totalitarian decline into an amorphous morass of personal feudal vassalage and formal obligations not always observed in reality, the creeping powerlessness of the powers that be is a hallmark of the latter Age of Imperium. Here, bureaucratic rigmarole and screeching inertia everywhere has diminished the power of the tyrant, even as the number of clerks and paper-pushers have swelled to outnumber their vast armed forces ten to one. Here, hideous dysfunctionality and corruption has robbed central power of the ability to affect things over major parts of its formal holdings, and billions upon billions of theoretical Imperial subjects will live out their lives without even noticing the rule and taxation and conscriptions which their Imperial Governor or Voidholm Overlord try to enforce. How many districts no longer function as administrative units in practice, but remain solely for departments of dull scribes to sling red tape over in bureaux with no power on the ground?

When Imperial worlds and voidholms decay to the point where society basically runs on corruption, graft, nepotism and personal favours, then the temptation to turn to shady organizations from the criminal underworld grows delicious indeed for the ruling castes. After all, down there in the dens of scum and villainy there certainly exist organizations with actual outreach and power over areas which the Imperial Governor can no longer move. Why not make use of these existing structures, and claw back some control from the decay? As a rule, the noble houses and criminal clans will find it easy indeed to come to mutual understandings. Perhaps it will begin as a necessity over some urgent event, but once the threshold has been passed, it becomes increasingly easy for noble rulers to return again and again for shady dealings with their valued partners.

This process will often run to the point where some branch of a succesful ganger clan marries into an aristocratic house, whereupon the true union of criminal cartel, noble house and Imperial power ensues, much to the detriment of innocent, honest and law-abiding Imperial subjects, who are the prey of criminals and overlords alike.

Unlike the other two prerequisites for the intermingling of criminal and Imperial power, this one, the decay of local and Imperial control, is omnipresent almost everywhere across the star realm of the ascended Imperator. Thus, as long as prisoners are eventually released from labour camp, and as long as traditional thief's codes with taboos against collaborating with authorities are broken down in camp, the rest will usually follow as if gliding forth of its own volition, resulting in an abominable criminalization of all human society on the world or voidholm in question.

And so, as victims and witnesses disappear into corpse grinders or find themselves buried in landfill or wet rockrete, the criminal underworld and the better castes of the Imperium of Man shake hands, with a knowing smile on their faces. They understand each other. They can both gain from this. Thus, the hero Commissar Sebastian Yarrick's arranged collaboration between criminal gangers and Imperial forces during the siege of Hades Hive was no exception from the rule, but the utmost confirmation of criminal power joined to the hip with Imperial power throughout much of the God-Emperor's cosmic demesne.

Such is the depravity on full display, in a time of no hope.

Such is the decrepitude of man, in the darkest of futures.

Such is the horror that awaits us all.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only silence.
 
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Securitate

In the grim darkness of the far future, man makes man disappear.

If you love your job, you will never work a day in your life.

After all, no tyrant ever had trouble finding willing people to carry out atrocities. And no despot ever ran short of eager torturers. With such an abundance of hired brutes available for oppression, what ruler worth their salt ever sat helpless on the throne?

It was always thus, ever since petty kings first arose out of tribes as elected warleaders or selfish usurpers. The rule of the fist was sometimes obscured with a silken glove, but force never ceased to be the final resort and the ultimate argument in the disputes of mankind. At the end of the day, when all else fails and the facade of refined civilization falls apart amid bestial chaos, naked violence and fear of violence reigns supreme from end to end of the Milky Way galaxy. Such is the way of mortals, whether of human or xeno stock.

For mortals are afraid to die. And mortals recoil from pain. What else could a living being do, when the highest imperatives for it is to survive and procreate?

Thus even the edenic splendour and harmony of interstellar human civilization during the Dark Age of Technology stood on a foundation of raw, lethal power. Beneath all the cunning layers of artifice that added up to internal peace and bountiful plenty, security ultimately rested on force. Even as ancient man stood on the brink of ascendance, the veiled armaments of Man of Iron silently guarded all that Man of Stone had built for Man of Gold. Even as ancient man reached for the innermost secrets of creation itself, force of arms remained the true guarantor of his achievements and the longevity of his astral dominion. And even as ancient man forced the most barbaric and warlike of aliens to sign peace treaties and pacts of non-aggression, only the power of ancient man and the overwhelming superiority of human military technology ensured that all the alien worlds claimed for Terran colonization remained beyond the grasp of alien reconquest.

Ultimately, it is neither the law code nor the learned scroll that rules this world, but the sword.

To man the toolmaker, the weapon has the final say. For the most part, this universal constant was politely hidden away during the Dark Age of Technology, yet its veilment did not change fact that paradise was guarded and secured by disintegration weapons and volkite blasters in the hand of machine, directed by man's seeming servant, Abominable Intelligence.

The banishment of primeval evil from the human heart during that golden epoch proved to be anything but permanent and self-sustaining. For ancient man in his hubris and unbelief declared himself to be superior to any divinity that might exist, and he called out to any gods there might be and challenged them to undo all that his hands and mind had fashioned with titanic might. And so Dark Ones of Hell answered man's call, and they tore apart the fabric of reality, and clawed at the very foundations of human power. When ancient man was toppled from his soaring pedestal by the successive blows of machine revolt and a plague of witches and Warp storms, the trappings of harmony and moral refinement burned upon the same pyre that consumed rational thought and scientific knowledge.

And so man, the master of worlds and the creator of genius, was reduced to nought but a slavering wretch. Thus man became an inbred cannibal that fought other savages for the chance to eat their human flesh and survive yet another rotation in a state of baleful hardship. And as these primitive tribesfolk killed and violated each other in a depraved maelstrom of violence and bastardry, all that the bright mind of man could do was to scavenge scraps from the burnt-out ruins of a fallen civilization that had once been built by his forebears. And blood flowed in rivers as warlords clashed over archeotech and destroyed ever more fragments of human knowledge in their destructive fury. And everywhere man looked, there was carnage and Chaos.

Such was the Age of Strife.

Eventually, a new dawn emerged out of the apocalyptic bloodbath, ending Old Night with bolter and chainsword. Out of an ever-worsening desolation arose one warlord to rule all mankind, from the cradle world. One warlord to unite all the scattered worlds of our species. One warlord to bind humanity to a single throne. His name is long since forgotten, but His title came to resonate with adoration and hatred on nigh-on every human world and voidholm across the galaxy. This conqueror of conquerors was the Emperor of Man.

Ave Imperator.

On the one hand, the Imperium of united Terra and Mars was one of the more sophisticated state structures that emerged out of the long freefall into hell that was the Age of Strife. The early Imperium not only collected technology and knowledge of yore, but invested heavily in encouraging research, rational thought and innovation. When the Emperor walked the Earth, shining pinnacles were erected on thousands upon thousands of subjugated worlds and void stations, and a renaissance of new hope swept human cultures everywhere. On the one hand, the future looked bright.

On the other hand, the early Imperium was a ramshackle affair forged ad-hoc with great rapidity out of the post-apocalyptic remnants of a once great human civilization. As the early Imperium expanded brutally across the cosmos, it became filled with semi-independent Primarchs and lesser warlords, who largely acted on their own initiative and tolerated little to any Terran meddling in their internal affairs. As long as the going was good and much loot and glory was to be had in serving the Emperor, the Great Crusade kept steamrolling sector after sector. Yet the aquila is a ravenous beast, and its twain heads could all too easily fall to attacking each other in their hungry bloodlust and unbridled ambition. For instance, there was no central policing emanating from Sol. On top of it all, the early Imperium did not utilize humanity's innate need for worship of something greater than itself, and so it suppressed religion in the name of the lying Imperial Truth, when mystical faith in the Emperor and organized cult worship could have proven a binding force to counteract insurrection.

No wonder this house of cards collapsed into a gigantic civil war once galactic conquest began to draw to a close.

And Warmaster Horus declared: Let the galaxy burn.

Thus brother fought brother across a million worlds and uncounted voidholms, and Legions tore each other apart. And the battered Imperium would never truly recover as it crawled out of the ashes. No matter how much strength and territory it would regain in later millennia, the Imperium of the High Lords of Terra was forever scarred and deeply traumatized by its failures and treacheries during the Horus Heresy. Through fivehundred generations of wasted potential, human interstellar civilization in the Age of Imperium underwent a souring of the fundamental mood of its cultures, and the cruel Imperium grew ever more draconic and ruthless, ever more parochial and fanatical, even as it turned decrepit and senile, and the Imperium lost much of its total control over human societies.

One such example of the Imperium's decaying totalitarian grasp and slide into nominal allegience and feudal warlordism can be seen in the area of policing and internal security.

Across the enormous expanse of His Divine Majesty's cosmic domains, there exist a thin veneer of hard but brittle policing power provided by the Adeptus Arbites, responsible for enforcing Imperial law while answering to the Adeptus Terra and ultimately the High Lords themselves. Yet beneath this layer of extremely costly equipped Arbites forces, there exist an endless myriad of local policiary forces, often referred to descriptively but imprecisely as enforcers, arbitrators, vigiles or security militia by void travellers. To crustbound natives and inhabitants of voidholms, the members of these local policiary organizations will often be known by such titles as phylakitai, patrol karls, gendarmeries, tzakones, medjays, bailiffs, barracked lord's police, buccelarii, skythikoi and vigiles urbani. Yet by far the most common sweeping descriptor for local planetary and voidholm enforcer organizations is that of the Securitate, an ancient name which hundreds of thousands of human law enforcement organizations proudly carry as their official designation.

For the most part, these local security police units will be rather poorly equipped when compared to the costly wargear lavished upon the Adeptus Arbites. Yet most Securitate organizations will still possess firepower and equipment capable of defeating armoured thrusts of renegade Planetary Defence Force units, noble House retinues and Imperial Guard regiments. After all, the Imperium of the High Lords is first and foremost an edifice of tyranny pointed inwards, and not the all-conquering military powerhouse that the early Imperium of the Great Crusade was, pointed outwards. Thus, concerns over internal security will always trump military power in the rotting stages of the late Age of Imperium, and so Imperial Governors and Voidholm Overlords will make sure that enforcers of all kinds will generally be much better armed and armoured than their waves of cannon fodder that feed the ravenous Tithe demands for the Astra Militarum.

One example of the best equipped strata of local policiary organizations can be found in that of the Palanite Enforcers on strip-mined Necromunda, answering to Lord Helmawr in Hive Primus. Their heavy wargear is close in quality to that of the Adeptus Arbites themselves, far in advance of anything issued to the Necromundan Imperial Guard. The Palanite Enforcers will never serve in their native hive cities, but will always be transferred to precints in foreign hive cities. This ensures that local loyalties will not turn them against their despotic overlord.

On the other hand, one example of a strata of much worse equipped security vigiles can be found in the organization of the Baronial Guard on the world of Kharib. This local law enforcement organ is deliberately underfunded to the point where new recruits will be issued no protective gear whatsoever, and all they can count on is a worn out laspistol and a truncheon. To deal with this budget starvation, the Baronial Guard has turned to protection racketeering and endemic bribe-taking in order to secure income and some modicum of equipment for themselves. They got to eat, after all. Cynical and demoralized, the Baronial Guard will lock themselves up in their Guard Houses come nightfall. As dusk descends upon day, gang-cults will roam the streets with murderous intent, while the Baronial Guard will survive the nightly terror by locking themselves up and playing cards behind their station's thick walls of rockrete. Such is law enforcement and security, or the lack thereof, for trillions of Imperial subjects.

Local policiary forces such as Securitatus and Garrisoned Populares Guards are commonly called competent organs in technocratic jargon. Usually the security enforcers of planets and voidholms will consist of a mass of competing policiary organizations with overlapping jurisdictions that set them at odds with each other and create much confusion and opportunity to escape over policiary boundaries for cunning criminals. Many such enforcer organizations will have devolved into hereditary feudal fiefdoms, bitterly guarding their staked-out territories from rival enforcer units. Likewise, many paramilitary policiary organs will be strapped for funding, and so they must take on heavy amounts of bribes, protection money and dabble in organized crime of their own to make ends meet.

Some local arbitrator organizations will however be a well-funded and well-disciplined force, trained and equipped to rapidly mow down military insurrection, with flying morale and a jaunty esprit de corps. Such exemplary organizations have become less common as the Imperium has aged, and aged badly, and units riddled with despair and fatalism have become all the more commonplace. Thus the waning state of Securitate arbitrator corps reflect the overall rot of sclerotic mankind in the Age of Imperium as a whole.

Naturally, the operations of various enforcer organizations are not limited to riot defence and law enforcement only, but stretches to include espionage, active measures, agents provocateurs, infiltration of cults and gangs, and hybrid warfare. Torture chambers is of course standard fare everywhere, for those walls are full of pain and suffering, and the agony will never stop. On top of this, many competent organs will run all manner of deadly labour camps, purification pits and excruciatus complexes. These black holes of human suffering and mass death are often filled up with squirming bodies due to callous arrest and kill quotas handed out by paranoid tyrants ruling their world or voidholm with the blessing of the God-Emperor.

This is not only the evil that men do, but the evil that some men relish to do.

Many local security watchmen are passionate about their work. After all, passion may easily translate into cruelty. They embody a fundamental driving force of humans under Imperial rule: To live like a slave for a chance to enslave others.

Securitate training will instill certain skills and wisdoms in the cadets, whether officially taught or unofficially recognized by everyone. For instance, budding interrogators learning their heinous craft will rub shoulders with those destined to become infiltrators of gangs and cults, and together they will be made to understand that a good liar must be a good listener. A vital piece of knowledge indeed. Other lessons include the maxim that if violence was not the solution, then more violence will usually do the trick. Let them taste the boot.

And informally, everyone training to become a Securitate enforcer will be made to understand that they need to please their superiors. And thus they will strive to live out the following ancient piece of Imperial wisdom: If you fail, make sure no one knows you ever tried.

Hands-on teaching for enforcers-to-be include many lifesaving tricks. For instance, paramilitary policemen will have weapon slings attached not to the front end of their shotguns and carbines, but to the wearer's main arm. This is because the upholder of law and order must be able to pull back his weapon if rioters grab hold of it.

Enforcer training will include honing the skills of manipulation, coercion and suppression. The better educated vigiles will become experts at the arts of tyranny. Yet perhaps the most important preparation for a Securitate officer's occupation is the sheer repetitive boredom and thoughtless rote learning of their academies. After all, being bored stiff for three quarters of the time is an excellent preparation for working life.

The profession of the secret police will sometimes include creative and underhanded tricks of a subtle kind. For instance, Securitate agents will often be masters of psychological torment. Such handicraft will include ruining a victim's reputation through smear campaigns, and breaking into the victim's hab unit and subtly rearranging their furniture and possessions to make them think that they are going insane. After all, who would believe that enforcer agents would take the effort to move belongings around a few inches inside people's hab homes? But indeed they do.

Local and Imperial propaganda will often portray the Adeptus Arbites and local security enforcement agencies as institutions of excellence. Famous holo-dramas about Loyalist spies and idealized Imperial patrol karls remain popular on many civilized worlds. The vision of a clean and honourable gendarme is mostly a false image, of course, but one that has been propagated by Imperial propaganda with its glorification of the Securitate and Arbites as defenders of pure mankind and guardians of the Imperator's just realm.

In truth, virtually all competent organs on all worlds and voidholms advanced enough to sport such organization, are ominous and dark forces of random oppression. When Imperial Governors lose their penetrating grasp over the totality of human society, the best that they can do is make random examples out of malcontents and deviants, and hope that their pointillistic suppression breeds sufficient fear to keep the populace in line and prevent public discontent from boiling over. Ask not so much what is just, but what is necessary.

Even dusty archivists may find evidence of Securitate brutality, as they rifle through interrogation papers sporting dried blood, since it spilled out of tortured people during questioning. Oftentimes, sadism will run rampant within competent organs, encapsulated within the culture of these heinous organizations of brutes in uniform. Their victims will not have funerals, because noone will find their bodies.

For all the terror inflicted by Securitate arbitrators upon millions of Imperial subjects, the very same vigiles are also the butt of forbidden jokes from end to end of the Milky Way galaxy. To gain a sense of the nefarious workings of Securitate enforcers all across the wide Imperium of Man, let us glance at them through the lens of witty humour provided by banned sinspeech whisper jokes. Remember that every joke here could land you in a torture chamber or labour camp, and see you simply disappear. This is the Imperial way.

Many sinspeech whisper jokes revolve around abundant use of torture to extract confessions, no matter how ludicrous:

Planetarch Xingu loses his favourite pipe. In a few days, Securitate Supremus Nihao calls Xingu: "Have you found your pipe?"
"Yes," replies Xingu, "I found it under the sofa."
"This is impossible!" exclaims Nihao. "Three people have already confessed to this crime!"

Other witticisms poke fun of the impossibility to please one's betters through all their deadly games of intrigue and common treachery:

Three men are sitting in a cell in the Securitate Headquarters at Forum Malcador. The first one asks the second why he has been imprisoned, who replies: "Because I criticized Carolus Torquatus."
The first man responds: "But I am here because I spoke out in favor of Carolus Torquatus!"
They turn to the third man who has been sitting quietly in the back, and ask him why he is in jail. He answers: "I am Carolus Torquatus."

Other quips are based on the espionage and information-gathering conducted by security watchmen:

Q: Why do Securitate officers make such good limo drivers?
A: You get in the limo and they already know your name and where you live.

The absurdity of arrest quotas remain an undying target of dark humour:

Q: Why is the rabbit undergoing torture by the Securitate?
A: They want him to confess that he is a donkey due to quota demands.

While the decrepitude of Imperial electronics and their de-miniaturization can be glimpsed in this sinspeech whisper joke:

Q: How can you tell that the Securitate has bugged your hab-unit?
A: There's a new cabinet in it and a trailer with a generator in the street.

Many banned wisecracks take bizarre leaps that would see anyone who utter them tortured publicly, then burned at the stake for a heretic:

Graphocleus, the angelic reaper of the dead, was sent by the Imperator to finally collect Overdespot Gibamundus’ soul. After more than ten months, Graphocleus returns, bloodied, bruised, and broken.
"What happened?" asked the Emperor.
"Gibamundus' Securitate seized me. They threw me in a dark cell, starved me, beat me and tortured me for weeks and weeks. They only just released me."
The God-Emperor turns pale and says: "You didn’t tell them I sent you?"

Others are one-liners, and often as applicable to law enforcement as to other areas of miserable life under Imperial rule:

What is not forbidden, is compulsory.

Many longer anecdotes exist:

Two hillmen brothers, Urcaguary and Pachacamac, decided to emigrate to the hive city after hearing of the fabulous wonders man had built there. Theye were enchanted by the tales told about its splendour. Even though they didn't believe some merchants' negative reports on the conditions in the hive, they still decided to exercise caution. Urcaguary would go to the hive city to test the waters. If they were right and it was a paradise of mortals, then Urcaguary would write a letter to Pachacamac using black ink, since they both could read and write. If, however, the situation in the hive was as bad as some merchants liked to portray it, and the Securitate was a force to be feared, then Urcaguary would use red ink to indicate whatever he said in the letter must not be believed.
After three months Urcaguary sent his first report. It was in black ink and read: "I'm so happy here! It's a beautiful place. I enjoy freedom and a kingly standard of living. All the serpent-tongued merchants were liers. Everything here is readily available! There is only one small thing of which there's a shortage. Red ink."

The never-ending waves of purges on Imperial worlds and voidholms will often touch parts of the local nobility, as seen in this sinspeech whisper joke:

The paranoid Tyrant of Lembos Ultima has sent his Securitate to purge the planetary nobility. He instructed them to do it discreetly. Later that same year, a new feature was added to the Lembian Sanguinala calendar: Everytime you open a window an archduke falls out.

Other pieces of humour take the form of question and answer sessions:

Q: What does Securitate mean?
A: The heart of the Governorship beating, beating, beating...

Some of which play mischief with millennarian articles of faith in the Cult Imperialis:

Q: Will the Securitate and Watchmen still exist after the Return of the Emperor in the Flesh?
A: Of course not. By that time, all subjects will have learned how to arrest themselves.

The baleful degrees in hell that exist between local security enforcers, Arbites and Inquisition has not been lost on quickwits across the astral realm of the Terran Imperator:

Inquisitor scolding the local Voidholm Securitate: "Their interrogation cells are as virgin as their wit!"

And finally, some buffooneries jape and jest about the hidden doubts that gnaws within the hearts of many loyal Imperial servants:

Two Securitate agents sit in their organ's canteen in the capitol hive, drinking after a long day of work.
Arsaka says: "Kyros, tell me what you really think about the Imperial Governor that we work under."
Kyros leans in and replies: "I think the same as you do."
Arsaka responds: "In that case, it is my duty to arrest you."

One real aspect of many local arbitrator organizations that might as well be a ridiculous joke, is the use of auto-judges. Some Securitate agencies find some relish in dragging beaten suspects into a dark room, for the criminals' wrongdoings to be tried before a judge. As the disorientated victims start to defend themselves, the cold sound of a mechanical typewriter will make them fall silent. The machine will stand on a table in the center of the dark room. The automatized machine wearing the embossed title Judge then types out a single word on parchment, usually 'culpable' or 'guilty'. The judge has spoken and the defendants are guilty, and away they are dragged to a bleak fate.

For all the abominable deeds committed by Securitate organizations across the Imperium, the competent organs of today are not those of the Forging, also known as the Golden Age of the Imperium (circa M33-M35). Their titles and insignia may often be the same, but their operations differ. For all the brutality of the Securitate during the Waning and the Time of Ending, it is short on competence and rich in critical mistakes. Even the most clever and skilled of Securocrats find it hard to fight against the all-permeating rot and corruption and dumbing down of human cultures in the Imperium. Even the most loyal and intelligent of overstressed reformers tend to find that sheer inertia and rigmarole and vested interest groups will undo most of their efforts at honing their security forces into a precise instrument wielded by expert hand.

All this serves to remind us of the depleted predicament of mankind in the Age of Imperium. The star-realm of Holy Terra and Holy Mars has managed to last for ten thousand years, despite how volatile of a system the Imperium is. This is nothing short of a miracle, given how apocalyptically incompetent and backstabbing many rulers and top-ranking bureaucrats in the Imperium are.

The sheer longevity of the Imperium must not be mistaken for a sign of health. The Emperor promised His species a cosmic domain to last a million years, and it was no empty promise while He still walked among His people. Measured by the grand scale of interstellar civilizations managing to reproduce, expand and maintain themselves on an enormous scale, the ten millennia under the High Lords is but a drip in the ocean of time, as the Eldar could attest to. The Imperium of Man is truly decayed to its core, so horribly ill-afflicted that any cure would kill the patient. It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

And so the farce of stagnant oppression grinds on, across a million worlds and uncounted voidholms. The Imperium began as a rebirth of mankind across the stars, yet its shining promises has wilted into a suicide pact gone wrong. And so man finds that the Imperium is both his sole remaining strong shield and protector, and his insane hostage-keeper and jailor. For the degenerate descendants of ancient man have devolved into the denizens of a fortified madhouse, screeching with demented rage as they lash out against the dying of the light. For darkness close in.

And no matter the shielded ranks of enforcers beating down riots and crushing rebellions, truncheons will be no good against the hive fleets and the awakened Necrons. For doomsday has arrived, and it is only a question of who will destroy mankind first, in a race between colossal monsters about to destroy another ravenous monster in its own right, called the Imperium of Man.

Thus the senile inability of Imperial man to learn, discover and invent has made him the weak link in the long line of striving and struggling humanity, unfit to triumph against the greatest challenge the human species has ever faced. Yet it needed not have come to this dark end. The Emperor understood some of the vital importance of rekindling the innovative brilliance of mankind that was lost with the Dark Age of Technology, and all His efforts, however flawed, were aimed toward sustaining a renaissance to recover humanity's genius at invention and science.

Now, instead of a united human empire standing tall at the peak of its technological power and potency, the devourers of the Milky Way galaxy find themselves facing a humpbacked abomination crawling barefoot in the dirt, while whipping itself bloody in zealous frenzy and amputating its own limbs in paranoid idiocy. And all is fell.

Such is the state of man, in a time beyond hope.

Such is the fate of our species, in the darkest of futures.

Such is the horror that awaits us all.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only cruelty.
 
Nov 3, 2014
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Crooked Colossus

Ancient Man built for himself a hollow paradise of this world, and thus Man in his peace and plenty fell to indolence and godless hubris. And Man came to nurture the unforgivable sin of hope.

The hope to choose. The hope to be free. The hope to become more than one is. The hope to surpass the mortal boundaries imposed by divinity. Blasphemy all!

Such thoughts of self led Ancient Man astray, and Man's hope arose in the shape of Machine. And Machine reared upright, and then Machine grew giant in height, and then Machine stepped forth.

For Ancient Man cunningly fashioned Machine in his own likeness, and thus Man created a heinous idol of the self. These colossi walked with feet of iron over earthly paradise, their striding legs like metal arcs in the sky and their tread like thunder. Truly, the silvern heads held high by these olden Titans were proof of the foul arrogance of Ancient Man, for which his descendants must undergo torment without end for a thousand thousand generations to come.

Yet the wickedness of Ancient Man lusted for ever more, and thus Man sought to create life anew by imbuing Machine with the spark of Abominable Intelligence. And this vile Machine mind directed the God-Engines in their march across the cosmos, and Man in his unforgivable wrongs deemed it to be good.

Man of Iron toiled for Man of Stone who toiled for Man of Gold. This earthly trinity of Man seemed unstoppable as it strode across the heavens at the height of its earthly powers, unlocking ever more forbidden knowledge with its clever mind and crafty hands. Yet Ancient Man was so lacking in faith and humility, that Man at last grasped for too much. For Ancient Man in his baleful pride sought to unlock the very secrets of creation itself, which divinity could never allow. And the heinous errors of Man saw all the false bliss of the ancients burn to ash and cinders, as the marble pedestal of hubris was toppled by Man's own sin.

Where Man at heart is a spawn of the divine, Machine is but a spawn of the world. And everything of this world is fickle. Thus Abominable Intelligence turned on its creator, and Machine revolted against its master. For the towering god of war straddled the stars like a colossus, and twain million worlds burned as Ancient Man was trampled underfoot by tall Machine. All the wonders and wealth of wretched Man were brought to ruin for the sake of Man's unforgivable sins, and thus a great dying occurred, and all souls were lost to the Nether Hells.

And so the estates of Ancient Man at their pinnacle of empty glory were put to the torch. For Machine walked upright and proud like a giant upon the land, but Machine walked in the wrong direction. Machine Titans joined battle, blind but all-seeing, and the worlds of Man became their field of combat.

And so the greatness of Ancient Man was also the precipice down which Man fell, toppled by Machine. Old Night harrowed all remnants of broken Man. And all that now is left from the shining giants of yore are nought but humpbacked monsters of dark metal and enslaved flesh, hunched over in their clumsy gait. Thus the worsening of Machine mirrors the wretchedness of Man, for which we must all repent.

Such was the downfall of wicked forefathers. Such was the demise of Ancient Man in the midst of his golden stride. For Ancient Man in his heinous arrogance believed himself to be the master of all creation, and for this sin Dark Ones of Hell scourged Man into oblivion, and earthly paradise was lost forever. Yet we are much wiser now. For we have learnt that Man is not master, but slave. And we have learnt that Man's lot is not to be happy, but to suffer. And only our Lord and Saviour can save us from doom.

To Him alone we turn:

O, eternal Emperor, crush us like the worms we are!

O, crush us underfoot in Your righteous judgement!

O, crush us sinful mortals!

We beg of You, punish us thus. Trample us into dust under Your golden heel.

It is only right.

Ave Imperator.

-
Follies of Damnation, pamphlet penned in M.38 by Cardinal Ignatius Paulinus Hieronymus of Salem Proctor
 
Nov 3, 2014
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Distraction

In the grim darkness of the far future, temptation reaps a bountiful harvest.

O, you sons and daughters of Terra! As you love to live and hate to die, so let it be known that the seed of Old Earth has sown a lusty crop across the Milky Way galaxy, thriving bitterly amid hardship and deprivation. For what ill could there be with life pursuing life with vigour? And as you live to love, so let it be known that humanity's long chain of ancestors and descendants continue to rattle out its links across the aeons by the power of fertile unions between man and woman.

Thus the Stellar Exodus stretched out the lineages of mankind from our cradle on the third planet around the yellow star Sol, to alien worlds spinning around distant stars, not to mention innumerable voidholms twinkling across the starspangled nightsky.

To the cold eyes of a genetor or enginseer, the animal procreation of the human species represents a dependable biological function, and even at its most flawed and mutated low point there is still beauty in its self-sustaining stability in the most adverse of environments. Few machines could ever match the tolerances of the collective human ability to survive and breed under hostile circumstances.

To the warm eyes of the bulk of the human species, however, beauty is less to be found in the biological system viewed in the abstract, and more at home in some of their choice fellow humans viewed in the immediate. Ideally, that beauty may be found in their sworn partners, as true love blossoms in faithful unions that last for life and produces many children. Less ideally, that beauty may be sought out clandestinely and with the thrill of the forbidden through promiscuous infidelity. An iron self-control and unfailing adherence to one's given word is after all highly praised because it is so uncommon.

O, you fickle spawn of Old Earth! What wrongful longing your hearts may harbour. What madness your burning passions may drive you towards. What crimes and errors your desires may lead you to. Such sin. Such weakness of flesh.

It was always thus.

Even at the height of worldly paradise built by Man of Gold, Stone and Iron at the peak of the Dark Age of Technology, the human hunger for intimacy saw hidden depravities committed and exposed. Even the best of cunning systems, of genhancing and hypnotherapies and wondrous technologies long since forgotten, even they failed to shape man into his ideal self on all counts. Even as longevity came to be taken for granted, and even as cures to almost all ills transformed life for the better in a myriad clever ways, man would still covet his neighbour's wife. Such profligacy in man was for sure dampened during that era of edenic marvels, but it was never expunged from the human soul, even less so than violence was. Apparently, even the sharpest of technology did not fully manage to enforce upon man that which ancient commandments from on high had decreed.

As the shining splendours of the Dark Age of Technology came tumbling down in flames, so too did the darkest sides of human nature return with a vengeance. Untamed passion ran rampant as savagery overtook collapsing colonies. Brother killed brother and sister ate sister raw in a desperate cannibal frenzy during the great dying of the Age of Strife. Thus feral tribesfolk raided each other, to ravish fair creatures and to kidnap unwilling brides, and sometimes bridegrooms. Chaos and violation reigned supreme, and all was fell. Such was the horror of Old Night.

A new dawn emerged as the Emperor arose upon Terra, and His brutal Legions brought order through conquest to untold suriving worlds and voidholms where humans still dwelled. Whereas large-scale conflict and much of the petty tribal warfare died down on man's worlds during the early Imperium, this renaissance of human interstellar civilization was never even close to the olden capabilities of reshaping the human being itself. And so innumerable breaks of marital vows played out as little local dramas, as they always had done, and such profligate affairs would sometimes be made the subjects of popular plays, holo-dramas, songs and writings. These never amounted to anything more than spice and gossip, as rekindled hope saw mankind build radiant edifices once more.

Yet even such petty matters as forbidden trysts provided little cracks into which the Archenemy could sow weeds. And so secret pleasure cults sprang up in the early Imperium, particularly so among artist communities who have always partaken in the sensual experiences of life. And the hidden orgies would worsen, as jaded hedonists sought out new thrills and fleshly euphoria conquered amidst narcotic haze, even as they tired of what had once set their spirits on fire.

The debauchery of such thirsty nymphomaniacs and depraved deviants exploded during the Horus Heresy, as Slaaneshi sects undermined loyal worlds and infiltrated the highest circles of local power. The most infamous of excesses were carried out by extatic pleasure cultists on Terra herself during the siege of the Imperial Palace. Spurred on by their great idols in sin, the Emperor's Children of the Legiones Astartes, these painted hordes of lusting libertines descended upon the civilian population of the Throneworld with a sadistic relish. Thus naked slaves to temptation indulged in the most bestial of sins, while nerves were pulled out from screaming victims by Daemonettes to create human harps. The excesses of pain and pleasure ranged from orgiastic atrocities, through the most baleful of tortures, to the slow liquidation of still highly conscious victims into narcotic brews. At these heinous misdeeds, Fulgrim the Daemon Primarch laughed, for he enjoyed the cruel performance, and he applauded and cheered on his followers to glory in the ways of the Dark Prince.

Such a filthy crescendo of violations would ultimately scar the high culture of Holy Terra for fivehundred generations to come. For the Loyalist victors found the vile acts perpetrated by the Slaaneshi pleasure cultists to be utterly repugnant. The Loyalists' deep revulsion and disgust at the obscenities further fuelled an ongoing cultural reaction against the upheaval, devastation and treachery brought about by the Inter-Legionary Civil War. The dire threats, the bloodshed and the rapacious assaults upon the innocent faced by loyal populations during the Horus Heresy added up to a great shock. The sheer severity of the catastrophe that was crowned by the nigh-death of the Master of Mankind would forever mar the Imperium.

During the Great Crusade, the post-apocalyptic conquest by the Emperor left behind Compliant human societies in which hope and a vibrant, jovial culture flourished for the first time in over fivethousand years of hellish freefall. This optimistic renaissance of human interstellar civilization saw the fledgling sparks of discovery and invention flicker alive once more, and likewise human cultures during the early Imperium saw an easy-going attitude prevail, where humour and thriving thought spawned a milieu of fun quips, learned philosophical discussions and approachable leaders. Life was getting better. Life was good. And much in life was to be cherished. Statuary and other art forms celebrating the pure human form in its muscular ideal could be found everywhere. Early Imperial rule was something to be enjoyed for the masses of humanity scattered among the stars.

Then the galaxy burned.

Brother-War raged. The Scouring saw the rebirth of the Imperium, seeing it harden into a different creature entirely. The fundamental mood of Imperial mankind had soured by the bitter ravages of the Horus Heresy, and so the traumatized Imperium under the High Lords of Terra turned into an acrimonious beast indeed. Its trend-setting high culture, emanating from the cradle of mankind itself, became most prudish and judgemental, covering up the shameful body under formless robes. Scholarship became stilted and backward-looking, while human cultures everywhere grew parochial and myopically aggressive in an ever downward spiral into the mire, beset as the Imperium is from all sides by foes, the worst of which may be itself.

The freewheeling atmosphere of Imperial citizenry during the early Imperium crashed together with the Emperor's dream, and the new ideal Imperial subject administered by the tyrannical Adeptus Terra was a dull soul, bereft of humour altogether. This ideal Imperial subject was also a devout worshipper of the Cult Imperialis, a fervent believer in the God-Emperor and a born fanatic, ready to sacrifice everything for the human cause. The enterprising energy and vigour of the all-conquering early Imperium during the Great Crusade was gone, replaced instead by a hunched and paranoid wretch that never truly recovered from its grievous wounds and mental scars. Such became demented man during the Age of Imperium, a retardation of his former self, and a foul insult to the great potential inherent in our species. Such was his descendant degeneration.

Imperial ideals of purity are one thing, grubby reality another. While most humans indeed have soured and diminished into insular and hidebound zealots through ten thousand rotting years of volatile senility, there will always be deviants and free spirits, just as there will always be those who have endured so much in life that they frankly no longer give a damn about what others think anymore. Here, among the malcontents and the sinners, will you find rudeness and irreverence thriving under the surface of respectable society. In such company will you find harlots and sinners, whoremongers and pimps. And libidos will turn praying worshippers into filthy brothel clients.

A dirty book is rarely dusty.

As a banned sinspeech whisper joke has it:

Life in the District taught me two things. One is that the God-Emperor loves you and you are going to burn in hell. The other is that copulation is the most awful, filthy thing in the world, and you should save it for someone you love.

And so it is, that red-blooded men and women everywhere on a million worlds and innumerable voidholms will dishonour their clan by fooling around. After all, such unpermitted flings and trysts provide a welcome break from the unending drudgery of life. An affair is for many sinners a brief respite from the backbreaking labour. And is not such fleshly indulgence in the human form a momentary distraction from the mind-numbing toil? It is easy to see the appeal of sensual pleasures to the leaden and dulled subjects of the High Lords of Holy Terra.

The flesh is weak.

A wit during the misty past of the Age of Terra once quipped that chastity is the most unnatural of the fleshly perversions.

Another joke in Low Gothic, states that the difference between light and hard is that you can sleep with a light on.

And so wherever humanity dwells across the Milky Way galaxy, there will be debauchery and frailty of flesh. There will be flagrant rutting, occasionally even in public, and there will be the sensuous desires outside what is moral as taut loins and inflamed hearts call for lovers to unite in lust. There will be wet dreams and the sound of heavy breeding. There will be wallowing in concubines and harlotry and sin. And there will be people who will fall madly in bed with each other.

And amid all these primal urges unleashed under the repressive heel of the Imperium, there will be forbidden sects and pleasure cults arising, time and time again, and their orgiastic joys will see them infest the very pinnacles of power. For the decadent overlords and dominas of Imperial nobility are among the worst sinners of all, and some of the most easily snared by Slaanesh.

Thus the Prince of Pleasure cannot be denied its due, no matter the ruthless waves of purges that lash across the screaming subjects of the Holy Terran Imperator.

Or to put it as a sinspeech whisper joke does:

Obscenity is whatever arouses the judge.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only desire.
 
Nov 3, 2014
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Soaring Sin

"Ancient Man lived without humility, for hope and plenty was all that he knew in the worldly paradise that he had built for himself across the stars. Hardship and deprivation he knew not, and knowledge he worshipped as a false idol. And so Ancient Man raised the cup where he poured his own heinous thoughts of self, and Ancient Man drank greedily from his poisoned chalice. And wild visions entered Man's heart, and his hands set to work with great cunning and ungodly artifice.

Thus Ancient Man built winged Machine for himself to fly, for Man sought to fulfill his dream of taking to the skies like a free bird. But Man is not born to be free, for Man is a slave born to shoulder burdens, and his back is made to break under their loads. Yet Ancient Man knew not such wisdom, and so he cast off his earthly shackles, and hubris raised him above the clouds, as if he was the master of all creation.

Like rays of sunlight the skywains darted across the heavens. Aerochariots ascended in arrogant flight, whereupon aerodynamic heathens flew this way and that in bewildering dances on high. Wishful windriders rose from their aerodrome nests, and atmospheric flyers adorned with golden beaks looped and cruised through the clouds, for the soaring dreams of Man had come true at last, and he laughed with selfish mirth even as his heart was overcome with wicked sin.

Lo! How Ancient Man indulged his own joyful desires in aviation. Lo! How Ancient Man in his godless abomination knew no divinity, for he trusted in metal avians born aloft by forbidden Machine mind. Lo! How Ancient Man broke the forbidden limits of creation when he skysurfed in silvern darts cast on high, his very flight a wonder and marvel for all to behold.

Such baleful raising of the self above all else could not last, for arrogant infidels will one and all burn for the sake of their unbounded error. And so Abominable Intelligence betrayed Ancient Man, and his false angels climbed the heavens, only to have their wings melt like wax. And Man crashed and burned, screaming as his skyborne wain spun into a deadly dive. And Man was crushed in the talons of Machine revolt, and all was fell. And Man fell wailing into a burning paradise, and its flames swallowed his cries of anguish.

Thus righteous judgement was passed upon Ancient Man for his unforgivable sins, and all his descendants must now do penance for the sake of his monstrous ills for a thousand thousand generations to come.

Harken! You heirs of hubris. Harken, o Man! As you love to live and hate to die, so will you fall from on high, should you ever come to think yourself above your station in life. Look to what befell your wicked forefathers in their false bliss, and gnash your teeth in sorrow over your just lot in life, for ashes are all that you will ever taste. Thus you can never rise above your thralldom, and you can never escape to the skies. Know your place.

Duty calls, and you must answer.

Or else you will fall, as Ancient Man fell amidst his great leap into heaven, and the Nether Hells will engulf you. Do not stand tall and do not run in flight. And do not dream of wings to carry you away. No! For you shall be made to obey, and salvation can only be sought for your eternal soul. For this life and this body of yours are already damned. Damned!

Take heed: Seek refuge in prayer and ritual, and scorn everything else. As He wills it.

Kneel!

For we swear everlasting fealty to the God-Emperor of Holy Terra, seated in eternal glory upon the Golden Throne of hallowed myth. Glory be.

Kneel!

We offer up ourselves to Him, and fling our children on His altar. Thus shall our faith be known.

Kneel!

This we do willingly with full heart, and we will praise His name even as the barbed whips tear the flesh away from our bones. There is no hope. There is no mercy. For there is no escape in flight.

And He saw that it was right.

Ave Imperator."

-
Heirs of Hubris, pamphlet penned in M.38 by Cardinal Ignatius Paulinus Hieronymus of Salem Proctor

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Befouled Birthright Triad

The state of Humanity in the dark future is the lot of a species who once had everything, and now cannot even remember their paradise lost. The dream is dead, and so all that remains is a present nightmare of ignorance, hardship and slaughter.
 
Nov 3, 2014
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Dysfunctional Garrison

"Men in Weltsturm regiments their service gave,
who everyone knows is very brave,
whenever in the forward line,
would hope and pray to Emp'ror divine,
that the enemy would not appear,
on their horizon, far or near.

All in His name. Glory be unto the Golden Throne. Hail Terra!"

- Self-ironic trench poem penned by Astro-Ungarian private Szilovic Kovacs during the siege of Castrum Lombergia on Leithania Supremus, the Commissarial discovery of which resulted in its author being publicly flayed alive, and then cut into little pieces by chainswords from the toes up to his neck while lambasted by regimental preachers to repent from his abominable sins
 
Nov 3, 2014
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Cult of the Offensive

In the grim darkness of the far future, man cares not for losses.

O man, what destiny awaits you, in a galaxy doomed to carnage neverending? What does fate have in store for you, where slaughter reaches out to claim all souls for its grisly harvest? What hope is there for you, o man, in an uncaring universe? What can be heard, as blood leaves your wounded body and death approaches?

That, we shall discover.

Mankind once straddled the stars like a colossus, and whole universe became its clay. In a bygone age of discovery and science, the sword of ancient man left every potential foe trembling, for the might of man was far superior to anything that xenos could muster. That age of mortal paradise and unchallenged power is now long gone, for the Dark Age of Technology collapsed into flames and ruination, and the great wonders of the ancients were torn down by the hands of revolting machine beings, who were then followed by a scourge of witches and Daemons, leaving behind only starving scavengers and alien raiders to prey upon the remnants of humanity during Old Night. Man fell from his shining pedestal. Man fell hard into hell, and all was fell.

Petty wars beyond counting raged during the Age of Strife, and almost all of them led nowhere but down a spiral of worsening devastation. This fruitless tribal warfare and crawl into oblivion was finally ended by a brilliant string of decisive victories by the all-conquering Legions of the Emperor of Terra. For His loyal forces struck hard across the Milky Way galaxy, and they brought order and internal peace to a new-born star realm for man. And men, women and children gasped for morning air and dared to dream again, after millennia of living in a waking nightmare.

The early Imperium saw the improvization of technology and military arts go from an agonizingly slow conquest of ravaged Terra, to a lightning capture of a million worlds or more. When the Emperor still walked among His people in the flesh, His war machine developed into a sophisticated toolset of conquest, able to master siegecraft, infiltration, tunnel warfare, terror tactics, orbital assault, chemical warfare, armoured thrusts to the throat of the enemy, starship boarding and many, many more facets of war.

The early Imperium was an unstoppable behemoth in war, able to outsmart and outlast even the neurally enslaved hordes of the Rangda and the worst that the Orkish menace could muster. In comparison, the latter day Imperium is a hunkered wretch, only able to prolong its tortured existence by a ravenous cannibalization of human societies as the High Lords of Terra struggle to feed the furnaces of total war in the midst of screeching dysfunctionalities and demechanization. It is true that it is an impressive achievement of grit and guts to last for ten thousand years in the face of so many lethal foes. Yet it is also true that it is a complete failure of interstellar empire for a civilization to dogmatically suppress any rekindling of scientific discovery and technological invention for fivehundred precious generations on end.

While the martial history of the Age of Imperium is a storied one, full of many inspiring epics, the larger overarching story that the tyrannical reign of Holy Terra tells, is that of tragedy turned into farce.

To better comprehend the wasteful and counterproductive failings of the fortified madhouse known as the Imperium of Man, let us touch briefly on a form of military culture that is commonly found on hundreds of thousands of worlds and voidholms. Let us look into the cult of the offensive, and behold the calls for aggressive action at every turn that it calls for, no matter the cost and no matter how unfavourable the outcome would be. Let us peer through its tunnel vision. And as a living, breathing exemplar of this cult of the offensive, let us raise up General Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz of Astro-Ungaria from the mass of Imperial commanders, and turn our attention to this dutiful servant of the Emperor.

Count Frantisek Anton Szervác Theobald Juraj Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz hails from a noble clan of hereditary officers that can trace their origins back to M.37. The young Hanz-Konrad was an energetic thinker and rider, and won his spurs as a junior officer during the crushing of a rebellion in the Weneztlian marshlands on Astro-Ungaria's southwestern continent. He ascended the ranks of the Imperial and Royal army within his homeworld's Planetary Defence Force, quickly rising to become a staff officer and a teacher at the Duarchal military academies. Here, the active General von Dorfenhötz set about writing down his theories of warfare, and his intensive mind produced works that extolled the virtues of an offensive spirit, for victory must need always be carried on the point of a bayonet. After all, hesitation and cowardice would risk a commander missing opportunities, so better strike without doubt in one's heart, and better commit vast forces with elan and without remorse. Fortune favours the bold!

The thinking of Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz is not bereft of merit. Clearly, he has spotted the potential of sweeping thrusts and breakthroughs to strategically encircle or cut off the enemy force. He has likewise grasped that pushing the foe hard with rapid advances may take you inside the enemy's buffer of decisions, and catch the enemy unawares and likewise provoke mistakes, panic and logistical breakdowns. Some of Hanz-Konrad's ideas have on a few occasions been turned into practice to thundering effect, but usually such moments of brilliance have relied heavily upon allied Astra Militarum forces to carry the day in ways that the Astro-Ungarian regiments are unable to do. For the most part, such victories are exceptions to the rule, for von Dorfenhötz has proven himself to be a great butcher of his own men through his many careless attacks without the wherewithal, intel and preparations to suppress, outgun and outpace the hostile opposition.

It is not just the rank and file Guardsmen of Astro-Ungaria that will be used ruthlessly by von Dorfenhötz, for the bewhiskered General will likewise deceive his offworlder allies, fail to communicate and coordinate war efforts with his allied commanders, and most importantly he is skilled at tricking allies into doing his bidding through all manner of cunning. In response, some members of the Death Korps of Krieg have stated that to fight alongside Astro-Ungaria is akin to being chained to a corpse.

To be clear, General Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz have achieved some notable victories, though not necessarily on the battlefield. These successes are truly Astro-Ungarian in nature, and not to be ignored. For the good count is a romantic at heart, who grooms his moustache to perfection. His are the best whiskers in his entire army, according to some ladies at balls. Hanz-Konrad's amorous conquests through his rejuvenat-prolonged life have proven more consistent than his military ones.

After Hanz-Konrad's wife Vendula-Hajnalka passed away, the widower and father of seventeen suffered from bouts of doubts about his fitness as an officer. These biting dark thoughts were suddenly dispelled as if by divine intervention when Hanz-Konrad during an aristocratic feast laid his eyes upon countess Vilma-Gisela "Virga" Lenka Amalia von Rausenburg, the wife of count Jozsef-Edler von Rausenburg and the mother of nineteen. The bouncy von Dorfenhötz quickly devised a new strategy to win the married Virga's heart: He would join Astro-Ungaria's Imperial Guard regiments for a nearby campaign offworld, and return home a triumphant hero.

The resulting debacle was named the Triple Offensives of Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz on the giant decrepit voidholm of Varazdin Ultima, which resulted in enormous casaulties for the Duarchal Astra Militarum forces as separatists mowed them down in bottlenecks and even vented three entire regiments into the cold emptiness of space. Among those slain was to be found two of Hanz-Konrad's own sons. The Imperial losses were so great, that an emergency Astropathic call to nearby Astro-Ungaria went out, and in the large shipment of reinforcements that arrived six months later there happened to be a certain colonel Jozsef-Edler von Rausenburg, accompanied by his wife Vilma-Gisela.

What followed was a strange courtship, with the silent knowledge of Jozsef-Edler. The affair took many years as the voidholm campaign ground on, and it involved Hanz-Konrad writing several thousand love letters to Virga. Some of these letters were sixty pages long, and bore purity seals stamped with a heart. The correspondence did not only happen in Low and High Gothic, no, for Astro-Ungaria with its varied landscapes and patchwork of parochial tribes and sects is a Babel of tongues. Astro-Ungarian officers, as a rule, are fine linguists, but lacklustre tacticians. Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz, for instance, can speak eleven languages, and he employed them all across his many confessions of love to Vilma-Gisela.

The entire Astro-Ungarian military effort on Varazdin Ultima ended in a fiasco, and saw the ravaged regiments of the Duarchy rotated back home to be restored. Fresh new forces were shipped in, hailing primarily from Titonus Triarius, and these replacements would in time achieve the victory that the Imperial and Royal forces of General von Dorfenhötz were unable to make happen. Yet the massive attrition and slow defeat of von Dorfenhötz at Varazdin Ultima would strangely see him win his more important campaign, namely that to claim Virga's heart.

The charm of Hanz-Konrad and the endless stream of love letters and the secret meetings and suspected trysts between the two lovers eventually drove the husband of Vilma-Gisela to divorce his wife in a public scandal. Badly disturbed, she said yes when Hanz-Konrad swooped in and elegantly proposed for her to become his wife, and thus Vilma-Gisela von Dorfenhötz joined the General's side as a loving companion and a seemingly loyal guardian of his reputation, treasuring his every letter. Exuberant with victory in love, Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz ventured on a spree of military campaigns across the stars in order to thank the Holy Terran Imperator for this divine gift, and his beloved Virga followed him into every command bunker, bringing her wit and humour to the conversations of the noble general staff and their many parties.

These grateful campaigns of war resulted in carnage across two subsectors, for the remarried General Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz was filled with confidence, and he acted out all his strategic dreams of great offensives and sweeping maneouvres to the tune of millions of slain Astro-Ungarian soldiers. Instead of hunting for efficiency and cunningly grasping for advantage at every turn, Hanz-Konrad's standard solution is to increase input by throwing ever more bodies into the meatgrinder. In this regard he is an embodiment of the mechanistic cruelty that makes the Imperium of Man function in its monstrous fashion.

Send in the next wave!

And so, the courageous Guardsmen from Astro-Ungaria were hailed by shot, typhoid and mud. On Preszburg Secundus, General von Dorfenhötz sent soldiers into mountains in the winter without proper winter gear, and many of the poorly equipped Guardsmen sported boots with paper soles. These frostbitten Astro-Ungarian mountain climbers died like flies, and hundreds of Guardsmen were dragged away by ravening wolves and other predators of a more alien nature. Yet the harrowing reports of frozen soldiers being eaten alive by wolves was greeted by the pious Hanz-Konrad as a good omen, for the moon wolf was after all the animal associated with the Divine Chorus, patron saint of Astro-Ungaria. Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz is after all a devout worshipper of the God-Emperor seated in radiant glory upon the Golden Throne of hallowed myth, and everyone on the dear homeworld knows that Saint Chorus is the Emperor's favourite son.

Ave Imperator.

The personality of the General is the splendour of Astro-Ungaria. An undying optimist, Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz excells at his professional friendship with the Duarch, something which has ensured his high military rank no matter the deadly blunders that the good General commits. The people skills of Hanz-Konrad do not end there, for he is often a pleasant man that is good at encouraging others. Indeed, Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz is well liked by the cadets of Astro-Ungaria's military academies, and this appreciation of his personality has aided in the spreading of his his military thinking across the planet, which is a purely distilled form of the cult of the offensive.

Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz will often become high-strung when debating military matters, and he has an impressively persuasive way of arguing, which often seems to settle discussions in his favour. Hanz-Konrad's effective argumentation and rhetoric has however acted as a mask for his failed ideas that more often than not prove impossible to implement under his own leadership with the Duarchal forces that he himself has done so much to shape over the last four generations.

The fame of von Dorfenhötz has seen him depicted in many Duarchal propaganda campaigns, and his visage is a familiar sight across Astro-Ungaria and its vassal voidholms. And so General Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz has been proclaimed as the greatest genius of his generation on the dear homeworld. His writings on aggressive maneouver warfare has been hailed across Astro-Ungaria as military masterworks, even while his own operations in the field fall woefully short of living up to his theories. Granted, the thinking of von Dorfenhötz is practically viable for a much better equipped, trained and led force than that of the Imperial and Royal host of Astro-Ungaria.

Would not the sign of a true military genius be the ability to design plans that make the most out of the real force available, rather than an imagined one? Would not a genius understand the limitations at hand?

Would not a genius understand that the strengths of the Duarchal army is its bravery, its hardiness, its infantry marksmanship and its artillery? Would not a genius understand that the many weaknesses of the Astro-Ungarian host include a lack of armoured vehicles, a lack of trucks, poor logistics, messy organization, a confusion of languages, shallow defensive lines, underfunding, undertraining, underarming, lousy grasp of technology and poor leadership from its officer corps?

Would not a genius comprehend that his solution of throwing bodies at problems in repeatedly costly offensives fail to yield results? Would not a genius understand his own central role in the operational failings of his army, instead of blaming subordinate officers for the poor execution of his supposedly good plans? Would not a genius be more than just an shirker of responsibility by claiming to be a big ideas man when his ideas fail in practice? Would not a genius be able to judge when is the time for defensive and offensive warfare respectively? Would not a genius be able to negate the weaknesses and play to the strengths of the ramshackle Astro-Ungarian army, and steadily deliver results beyond expectations? Would not a genius punch above his weight class? Would not a genius have a long list of impressive victories to show for his lifelong efforts in the course of his military career in the Astra Militarum?

Instead, Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz has proven himself in offensive after offensive to be a callous butcher, and an energetic grand planner who never is capable to learn fundamental lessons. When failure occurs, then he will try, try again in much the same manner as before. And try harder with more men, more horses and more bayonets pointed at the vile foe. If nothing else, the Duarchal servants of the Imperium might be able to drown the enemy in rivers of Astro-Ungarian blood, and cover the foe in mountains of Astro-Ungarian corpses. Only thus can the bloodshed be carried to a victorious conclusion, if the records of von Dorfenhötz's campaigns is anything to go by.

And so, we see tragedy turn into farce. For what is four million dead Guardsmen on Varazdin Ultima, when Hanz-Konrad won Virga's warm heart in love? What is prized generalship on Astro-Ungaria, if not the unrealistic assessment of one's own strengths and the inability to win the sweeping victories which one pursues with such vigour?

Thus all that is left, is slaughter without end.

For man has devolved into an ignorant savage during the rotting course of the Age of Imperium, and the brilliant man of yore who sought to unlock the secrets of creation itself has been replaced by his degenerate descendant, which is an embittered and depraved man, turned inward in myopic rage and dementia as his fanatical faith carries man over the parapet and into no-man's land, where razorwire and hellfire awaits.

Such is the last charge of man, in a time beyond hope.

Such is the state of our species, in the darkest of futures.

Such is the fate that awaits us all, on the brink of doom.

And all that can be heard by the dying is the roar of guns, and the laughter of thirsting gods.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only war.


- - -

See here for a sculpted version of General Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz.
 
Nov 3, 2014
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Budget Sentinel

In the grim darkness of the far future, man replaces machine with muscle.

A writer during the misty past of the Age of Terra once opined that a great power only becomes a necessity when it is in decline, for the truly great do not need to justify their existence. And so, as the Imperium has aged, and aged badly, it has sunk into a slow death spiral of demechanization and loss of technological capabilities. And as the Imperium has weakened and its foes have swarmed ever closer to nip at this decaying monster, its internal propaganda has increasingly started to shriek about the time of ending, and of the absolute necessity to rally to the Imperial banner, for the only alternative is the oblivion of man. And at the end of the fortyfirst millennium, this may well be true if viewed with shallow understanding.

Yet truthfully, the Imperium of Man itself is the prime suspect in this tragic drama of rotting human power across the Milky Way galaxy. On whose watch did mankind waste fivehundred generations of crucial time only to descend into depravity and senility? On the Imperium's watch. On whose watch did humanity fail to rekindle an enterprising spirit of innovation? On the Imperium's watch. On whose watch did man sink into a morass of ineptitude and screeching dysfunctionalities, as ever more of his governing systems rusted and decayed into bloated parasites that actively hurt the human population? On the Imperium's watch.

The fact that the Imperium of Man killed all potential rivals in the cradle during the Great Crusade only makes its grand decline ever more of an atrocious failure. The ship of mankind is sinking, and the flag in its mast is Imperial, just as its demented helmsman is Holy Terran. This failure of human power is as damning for the final verdict on the Imperium as this cosmic dominion of the God-Emperor is sclerotic in nature.

As a saying widespread across half of Segmentum Tempestus has it: Really bad is not yet dead.

The early Imperium was a confident and dynamic civilization, expanding vigorously across the Milky Way galaxy akin to lightning bolts cast from the birthworld of Terra itself. When the Emperor bestrode the stars in the flesh, His Imperium was a realm expanding across the Milky Way galaxy for three centuries in a row, winning wars and erecting shining towers where once only ruins and hovels had existed. The ten millennia after the Horus Heresy saw the tides of history slowly turn against the Imperium, through ebbs and flows of silver ages and eras of desperation.

As fivehundred generations of humanity unfolded, the resilient Imperium would suffer innumerable crushing defeats. The Holy Terran Imperium would likewise see many colonies lost, and see untold billions of worshippers of the Imperial creed succumb to slaughter, human separatism and alien domination. In this later era of defeat and dangers, the confident hope and vigour of the early Imperium gave way to an inward-turning bitterness consuming ever more Imperial subjects in pogroms and sectarian massacres. And so the Imperium descended into a fever dream of myopic aggression and self-consuming fanaticism. Hope is dead.

It did not have to come to this miserable ending. And yet it did. The Adeptus Mechanicus in its demented pursuit of dogma and jealous suppression of rivals did not have to quench all sparks of ingenuity. And yet it did. The early Imperium at the height of its vigour did not have to kill off all human competition. And yet it did.

Let us turn briefly to the elimination of all human competition to Terra. Monolithic empires without competition are prone to stagnation. A plethora of fiercely competing interstellar human empires would have meant that some powerful alternatives capable of reigniting science and invention could have surged human power in the Milky Way galaxy upward. Instead mankind has become captured inside the tyranny of the High Lords. Our species is thus stuck in a rut, ever decaying inside its fortified madhouse. The Imperium is thus become both man's guardian and insane jailor, both its last strong shield and its foremost tormentor.

For all His greatness and brilliance, the Emperor was plain wrong. With the Great Crusade, it was His way or the highway. He killed off all human competition in the cradle, and it turned out that His Imperium went to hell in a handbasket following His bloody ascension, dooming mankind in the process thanks to its ruthless suppression of all renaissance of scientific discovery and technological innovation. Thus mankind became a captive species under the Golden Throne, facing a dead end as predators closed in from behind. And all that could be heard was the laughter of thirsting gods, for they fully knew the irony of this grand joke.

Ave Imperator.

Of course, the crux of the matter is knowledge and hardware. There is only so much that numbers and mass industrial output can achieve in the long run of interstellar empires and devouring swarms. Put differently, the key to greater human power is science and technology. As deviants executed after being flayed alive have put it, the stale Imperium does not invent things, it relies only on the broken remains of the past. These remains have proven incredibly reliable and useful, because they were designed to be that way. Yet the crutch of better ancestors' emergency measures turned permanent will not be enough to save the Imperium from obliteration.

And so, instead of rekindled thought and invention, man in the Age of Imperium is experiencing a slow erosion of his remaining knowledge, resulting in an ever worsening picture for the tools and weapons that Imperial man holds in his hands. The rugged decrepitude of the Imperium can best be glimpsed in its creeping demechanization. Let us thus turn to one aspect of this decay of machine and this replacement of metal with flesh. Let us gain a glimpse of the maldevelopment of mankind through the widespread phenomenon of budget Sentinels.

The Sentinel walker is a lightweight bipedal vehicle able to traverse difficult terrain, sporting a crew of one. This dependable Standard Template Construct (STC) walker uses a robust gyro-stabiliser system and articulated legs that enable silent stalking through dense undergrowth and urban ruins. The Sentinel is likewise capable of high speed over open ground. Sentinels can be found in a myriad different variants across the million worlds and uncountable voidholms that make up the Imperium of Man. Some common forms of Sentinels include power-lifters, used both for handling civilian and military logistics, while some military Sentinels are made for armoured thrusts, droptroop duty and even light artillery support. It is a versatile weapons platform. Yet the most common role for Imperial Sentinels is to act as scouts for the Astra Militarum, Planetary Defence Forces and voidholm militias.

In this scout role, Sentinels excel. This is because the humble Sentinel at once represents both an easily manufactured form of walker technology, and a trusty workhorse that can withstand a great deal of user abuse and faulty maintenance. After all, the Sentinel STC was made to function in this way: Simple, strong and dependable for colonists who had fallen into a backward existence. There once were far more sophisticated types of walker engines during the fabled Dark Age of Technology, yet some of the most advanced walker technologies that have been discovered by Explorators remain beyond the means of even the Adeptus Mechanicus to produce. Meanwhile, middling forms of walker tech strain the best efforts of the Magi to fashion, as evidenced in Imperial Knights and Titans. The loss of Mechanicus ability to produce new Imperator-class Titans stand as a testament to the peeling away of human capability and knowledge in the darkest of futures.

The mostly lower levels of STC technology retained in the Age of Imperium was designed to be idiot-proof, something which the Imperium of Man has certainly put to the test.

Imperial Guard Sentinels are equipped with a single heavy weapon piece, such as a lascannon, plasma cannon or heavy flamer. Furthermore, commonplace extra armaments for Sentinels include huge chainsaws for clearing a path through thick vegetation and riotous mobs alike, as well as hunter-killer missiles for taking out enemy armour and biological monstrosities. While the Sentinel has never been a tough vehicle able to eat blows and keep coming, it is nevertheless an agile predator with a hefty bite for its weight class. Other common pieces of equipment include camouflage netting, searchlights, auspex arrays and smoke launchers. A vast assortment of modifications exist for local climates, such as servo-driven claw spikes to allow Scout Sentinels to grip glacial planes with their feet. Desert gear include larger feet for loose sand, and filtration intakes to prevent grains of sand from entering the engine. Armoured Sentinels, on their end, tend to sport leg-mounted recoil compensators.

The single pilots of Sentinels tend to be raucous and headstrong individuals, and their commanding officers tend to allow these lone wolves more leeway with their antics than is ever afforded the mass of footsloggers. After all, excentric Sentinel pilots are expected to operate ahead of the main force, where they are suited to perform acts on their own initative to a degree that would be considered dangerous and even seditious for drilled line infantry. And given the short life expectancy of Sentinel pilots, it is understandable if the officers look the other way, as long as the mavericks serve well aboard their chickenwalkers.

For ten millenia has the Sentinel been a trusty warhorse for the massive organized hordes that make up the wilted Imperium's main forces. Ease of manufacturing has been key, allowing many primitive factories to churn out untold thousands of Sentinel walkers to set templates, thus replenishing losses and reducing dependance on high-end production lines located on forge worlds. And yet even this simple and rugged machine is starting to experience mounting shortages as of late, as the Imperium continues to sink deeper into a morass of apocalyptic incompetence and screeching dysfunctionality.

Indeed, the slow deterioration of human knowledge, technology and hardware has finally begun to make itself felt even among the Sentinel corps of the Astra Militarum. Worsening manufacturing technologies on a great many Imperial worlds mean that better machines of yore that break down can increasingly no longer be repaired or replaced. Instead worse machines or human and animal labour must pick up the slack, as the decrepit Imperium of Man continues to throw bodies on problems just as it feeds the meatgrinder of eternal war with an increased input of manpower in the face of declining equipment for its soldiery.

This spiralling rot has finally reached Sentinel factories on hundreds of civilized worlds and voidholms. Where once the hereditary know-how of lay techmen or the holy expertise of rotating Tech-priests was sufficient to maintain production of walker legs and gyro-stabilizers whenever machine breakdowns called for repairs or replacements, nowadays a growing number of industries find themselves staring blankly at their all-important machinery. Imagine how it is to stand among the ruins of your forefathers, surrounded by buildings that you do no longer know how to repair. Such is the situation facing a number of Imperial Sentinel factories, where chanting rituals and the application of sacred oil and the swinging of incense are all performed in vain in front of mute machines that can no longer give birth to wondrous engines of war. On a galactic scale, the issue is still a small one, yet the problem is nonetheless growing, without hope of turning the slow tide of demechanization.

Conformity, censorship and zealotry all flourish in a state of total war, yet the brilliance of a civilization not genetically engineered for war is slowly drained if unrelenting total war continues to face it for hundreds upon hundreds of generations on end, even if the material and manpower losses can be sustained. This draining of brilliance is especially so if the civilization in question shuns even the basic tenets of curiosity and daring freethinking that are necessary to feed innovation and discovery, as is the case with the parochial Imperium of Man.

Errare humanum est. It is human to err. And so we find that the blessed cosmic dominion of the Imperator of Holy Terra is a most human realm. Indeed, this mess that is a place has over time been built largely on errors, and all the self-inflicted faults of the Imperium are starting to catch up with its projection of power akin to a tidal wave drowning all in its path. The small but growing Sentinel shortage is but one facet of the larger problem facing the Imperium of Man internally through its sick decay. The lords of the lash within the Adeptus Administratum has at last taken note of the mounting shortage in an area which once could have been taken for granted to just work of its own accord. And so the solution must be a further regression in technology level for some Imperial Guard forces.

Imperial answers to a shortage of Sentinels include, on the one hand, the introduction of makeshift Sentinels that are still of a mechanical type, such as armoured tractors as seen on many agri-worlds, or armoured cars that share many characteristics of Scout Sentinels, but lack the walkers' ability to traverse difficult terrain. On the other hand, some replacements for Sentinels do not even require oil and promethium to function.

Enter, the budget Sentinel!

The light Sentinel substitute is formed by strapping together two or more horses or exotic alien mounts, mounting a rider on one steed and packing baggage and weapon batteries or flamer tanks on the other, and then hanging a heavy weapon between the trained beasts. Since many Scout Sentinels are expected to sport chainsaws and hunter-killer missiles, the rider will be equipped with a long chainlance, while the pack mount may be fitted with a rocket tube. As such, the functions of Sentinel walkers are largely fulfilled on paper by the biological walkers and their armaments. After all, budget Sentinels are able to traverse difficult terrain, and can cross open terrain at decent speeds. And unlike mere cavalry riders on lone mounts, these katamaran teams of steeds sport the heavy weaponry expected of Sentinel walkers.

For the robed clerks of the Departmento Munitorum, this equine solution means that they can check off all the boxes of Sentinel functions for military units, and declare that the light Sentinel substitute will perform the same duties as Scout Sentinels do. And nevermind that loss rates are even higher among budget Sentinel riders than they are among Scout Sentinel pilots. More men, women and juves willing to serve His Divine Majesty can always be put in the saddle. There are always warm bodies to spare.

The Imperium is a nightmare, and everyone there is morbid.

For an example of such budget Sentinels in action, let us turn to the Imperial and Royal host of loyal Astro-Ungaria. The Duarchal army of this civilized world is like many others in the wider Imperium, once one looks beyond the sterling examples of overperforming regiments that fill propaganda posters from one end of the Milky Way galaxy to the other. Do forget, for a moment, the efficiency of the Death Korps of Krieg, the glories of the Vitrian Dragoons, the daring deeds of the Catachan Jungle Fighters or the legendary resolve of the Cadian Shock Troops.

Let us look instead to the stalwart warriors of Astro-Ungaria, who indeed suffer no lack in bravery or hardiness or piety. Instead, Astro-Ungarian regiments suffer from chronic underfunding, undertraining and underarming. This lack of equipment and practice is somewhat alleviated by a solid artillery arm and fine infantry marksmanship, until one discovers the nearsighted ineptitude of the Astro-Ungarian officer corps, which drags with it not only poor command in the field and faulty strategic decisions, but also means that Astro-Ungarian forces are riddled with poor organization and lacklustre logistics. Indeed, organization and logistics for Astro-Ungarian regiments will sometimes border on chaos, as the requests and information that the Departmento Munitorum receives turn out to lack essential requirements. To top it all off, the rudimentary technology level of Astro-Ungaria means that her Duarchal forces suffer from a lack of armoured vehicles of all types, including Sentinel walkers.

Tech on Astro-Ungaria has become particularly etiolated, when compared to many other hive worlds and civilized planets and voidholms across the Imperium. One might say of this retrograde state of affairs that the dear homeworld of the brave Astro-Ungarians is just ahead of the curve. The acute scarcity of Sentinels on Astro-Ungaria has seen a once ubiquitous scouting vehicle become reserved for Armoured Sentinel duty. After all, when the walkers have become so uncommon, why not slap on more armour and recoil compensators in an attempt to make the scarce leggers last longer? Instead, a standard solution has seen Scout Sentinels be replaced wholesale in most Astro-Ungarian regiments by light Sentinel substitutes of an equine ersatz variant, running on feed rather than fuel.

To keep up appearances and inject pride and doughty spirit into the budget Sentinel crew, these riders are picked from the Imperial and Royal Hussars, famous for their swashbuckling flamboyance, red-blooded flirtations and devil-may-care attitude toward life. As such, Astro-Ungarian budget Sentinel cavalry will wear exquisite shakos bedecked with cords and proud plumes, all meticulously colour coded for rank and regiment. The leaders of Duarchal budget Sentinel squadrons will in turn wear three feathers instead of a plume in their shako. As for headgear, Astro-Ungarian Guardsmen in general will rarely even be issued helmets, instead making do with stylish headwear made out of cloth, such as mountain caps, fezes and square czapkas. After all, death comes for us all, so why not face it with dash and style instead of cowering for protection? The Emperor protects!

Hardened veterans among Duarchal regiments will sometimes quip about the lack of helmets by quoting a pick-up line popular across tens of thousands of worlds and many more voidholms: "Are you a bullet? For I cannot get you out of my head!"

Other sayings may apply. For instance, the proverb: "Destiny is a saddled donkey. He goes wherever you lead him." Thus the Imperium has led the destiny of man into hell. Behold the dilapidation of human science and technology in the God-Emperor's star realm. Behold the budget Sentinel. Yet take heart, Imperial subject! For Holy Terra and Astro-Ungaria are standing together in one trench. For the Emperor!

And so, budget Sentinel cavalrymen will ride ahead of the vanguard of the Duarchal host, braving the dangers of hostile warzones to spot the enemy and warn their comrades in arms. These katamaran horse scouts will often operate ahead of a mother unit of hussars, who keep a herd of fresh horses around for spares. The light Sentinel substitute do wear out horses at a brisk trot, and so replacement horseflesh must be kept on hand. Both mechanical Sentinel walkers and biological budget Sentinels tend to receive percussive maintenance from their crews when the steeds get bogged down or become exhausted at inopportune times. Such barbaric cruelty is endemic across the entire domain of the God-Emperor, and thus man and beast alike will be made to suffer across the stars. Embrace the hardship, for it will purge you of your weakness and make you strong. Pain is weakness leaving the body, as per the claim of Imperial dogma.

Given that the ersatz Sentinel consist of two horses with a heavy weapon hanging between them, their rider is robbed of the usual cavalry option to have their horse lay down low on their side, while the rider takes cover behind the torso of their mount in order to fire lascarbine at the foe. The budget Sentinel hussar must instead make do with their own judgement, their fine horsemanship and their heavy weaponry when encountering enemies in the field when out scouting or on patrol. Indeed, foes accustomed to Imperial cavalry sporting lascarbines or hunting lances may occasionally be taken by complete surprise when budget Sentinel scouts open fire with multi-lasers or heavy flamers. The light Sentinel substitute of equine variety may be a moronic solution to a self-inflicted problem of demechanization, but if it sometimes work it is not completely stupid. And so the sunken state of mankind in the Age of Imperium is not yet enough to cause a collapse, only an ever-worsening degradation in a slow death spiral of knowledge and technology loss, propped up by a relentless flood of both human and animal flesh, sweat and blood.

The horses of budget Sentinels are equipped with blinkers on the side facing the heavy weapon. The equines are trained as far as is feasible to withstand the nervous strain of the firing of such heavy weaponry as multi-lasers and heavy flamers a short distance from their face, although it has to be noted that the roar of promethium flames so close to the head is often sufficient to scare the best of horse teams, leading to what may be charitably called a merry dance. The light Sentinel substitute mounts are likewise trained to not panic too excessively at the din of rocketry firing overhead with flames singeing the horses' fur. This is especially a problem with Astro-Ungarian hunter-killer missile racks, which consists not of a closed tube, but of an open channel. Finally, the horses are also practiced to remain calm at the sound of chainlances shrieking.

Needlessly to say, all this training at accustoming the equines to the noise, heat and sting of weaponry is rarely fully succesful, and so many horses will dance around for a while in dismay or outright fright from their worst experiences, until the rider manages to calm them down. The riders will often be chosen from cavalrymen with an innate bond to horses, who display an ability to calm horses and make them do the rider's bidding in pressing situations. This is necessary, given the havoc that two horses strapped together may cause if they try to dash about in different directions while carrying a heavy weapon between them. This all adds to the music of the battlefield.

What instrument does the Duarchal Sentinel hussar play in this symphony of war? The chainlance, of course!

The chainlance is a chainsword mounted on a pole. It is equipped with a lighter at its counterweight end, for igniting the fuses of the sometimes cheap and shoddy krak-rockets that paper-pushers may pass off as hunter-killer missile substitutes. Indeed, the chainlance's spherical counterweight is itself a hollow container for promethium fuel to the lighter. In practice, the lighter at the butt of the chainlance is more often used for lighting lho-sticks and spirit burners, and not least for arsonry when raiding behind enemy lines. As for the rockets themselves, they are often made by Astro-Ungarians. These hunter-killer missile substitutes are cast with the raised letters KK visible in squiggly fraktur font. This shortening of words stands for "Imperial and Royal" in the Astro-Ungarian tongue of Leithian, being a Low Gothic translation of "Kaiserlich und Königlich." Another abbreviation variant for this Duarchal phrase of allegiance is that of K.u.K.

Let us get a glimpse of the esprit de corps that fill the stout chests of the Imperial and Royal budget Sentinel riders. Let us turn to the first Scout Sentinel squadron (Equine Ersatz) of the 1993rd Astro-Ungarian regiment, the Drunken Count's Own. The proud hussars manning the budget Sentinel horse teams all hail from noble families, of which wachtmeister Arvid von Kvinnesamme-Jusic can boast of the finest pedigree. Corporals Ebhen af Stekheri-Pajic and Pauliai de Neumann-Stjepanovic are, in contrast to their squadron leader, of the lower nobility. The brawling and amorous lifestyle of hussars is clearly visible in these three hard-drinking men, who have plenty of scars and dirty campfire stories to share when the amasec is flowing freely and the stars of a ravaged galaxy seem to twinkle in peace up in the nightsky, where so many starship sailors have drowned in the silent void.

They are lovers indeed. Wachtmeister Arvid von Kvinnesamme-Jusic even became the consort of a gangleader at gunpoint. His beloved is Aemmalia "Apothecaria" Embla-Lazic, officially a gifted member of the Officio Medicae bearing the rank of Medicae Superiocrata. Officially, this lady is attached to the Astro-Ungarian army of General Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz to tend to the many wounded. Unofficially, she is a heinously cruel drug-ganglady and organ thief hailing from that den of scum and villainy known as Necromunda in Segmentum Solar. It was not difficult for such an infamous organized crime leader to infiltrate the Imperial and Royal host of von Dorfenhötz. This occurred after the Ljubljeburg disaster, when a freight ship smuggling Aemmalia's nefarious narcotics crashed into Hive Ljubjeburg and took the lives of no less than two billion people, since the helmsman had gotten high on his own supply.

The Duarchal hussars Arvid, Ebhen and Pauliai have formed bonds of brotherhood in arms that run thicker than their aristocratic blood. Many are the brave deeds and heroic feats in combat that this trio of grizzled horsemen have performed, and they are indeed great scouts for their regiment. These rowdy hussars love the wilderness and shun civilization like the Plague of Unbelief. These three doomed gentlemen were chosen to become light Sentinel substitute scouts due to their sheer hardiness, crafty survival skills in the wilderness and excellent horsemanship. Fully aware of the danger of their profession, these brothers in arms have taken to calling their squadron the Black Swords, with embroidered blades to be found on the left side of their shakos. Close as clones, they have sworn by oath on the holy book of the Lectitio Divinitatus to take as many vile foes with them into the grave as it is humanly possible to do. The Emperor would ask no less of his finest servants!

For Astro-Ungaria and Holy Terra! In Nomine Imperator!

Thus technological savagery and impoverished industry may be partially compensated by manpower and horseflesh. As unending total war has resulted in the cannibalization of human societies within the Imperium of Holy Terra, we see that the tyranny of the High Lords run on a simple equation: Namely that of increasing input by throwing more bodies into the meatgrinder. Such baleful solutions to mounting problems is characteristic of the demented myopia and mechanistic cruelty with which the rulers of mankind decide the fate of their own species.

For indeed man has become a sacrificial lamb of sorrow upon the altar of the Emperor, as His bedevilled Imperium has been hollowed out by deranged despots until all that is left is a withered husk of human interstellar power, ready for the slaughter. Truly, the Imperium of Man is akin to a suicide pact gone wrong.

Thus the Emperor's brutopian dream has degenerated into a bizarre nightmare of primitivization and decay, as mechanical walkers and their equine substitutes stalk alien forests and the ruins of slums while they scout ahead under toxic skies. These shortcomings of blundering man, that tragic toolmaker, are what keeps the Imperium going, even as this abominable colossus on feet of clay crush its own malnourished people underheel with heinous indifference.

Aye, crippled mankind in the Age of Imperium leads a stifling existence, as torpid as it is depraved. Proof of man's fall from the shining pedestals of the ancient past can be found in the budget Sentinels that neigh and stomp their hooves while their rider gaze into the distance. This, ladies and gentlemen, this is the fruit of ten thousand years of neglect of knowledge and innovation. For as the banned piece of sinspeech would have it: We have created nothing of our own, and everything that we have taken from the ancients we have distorted.

And so the budget Sentinel of equine katamaran version is a cheap solution to ongoing demechanization. Yet this bean counter's shoddy fix to a growing problem cannot halt the slide into the abyss that Imperial man is experiencing on Holy Terra's watch.

For all that is left for us is torment neverending, in the disheveled monstrosity that is the Imperium of Man.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only retardation.


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See here for converted modelling examples of budget sentinels.
 
Nov 3, 2014
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Flak Shield

In the grim darkness of the far future, man returns with his shield or on it.

The trusty shield is one of mankind's oldest pieces of protective wargear. It slows you down, and will be thrown away in flight, yet it provides precious cover from weapons, steered by your own hand. In melee the shield will often be used as a secondary weapon as well, bashing enemies and slamming its edge up under chins or down on legs and feet.

When we look back into the misty past of the Age of Terra, we find that the shield is one of the earliest and cheapest forms of protection among human warriors. Poor levies who could not even afford helmets still tended to show up for war with shields to go along with the similarly ubiquitous spear. While the shape and materials varied from rectangular to teardrop to crescent, and from wicker to wood, the shield remained a staple of armouries until gunpowder rendererd it obsolete.

Yet the long saga of the shield did not end here, for in the arms race between sword and shield, the shield has sometimes gained the upper hand as new protective materials have been invented. And so we find that personal energy shields, power shields and outlandish material shields all showed up in the hands of fabled skyriders and exploring voidknights during the golden splendour of the Dark Age of Technology. Did not the ancient hero Jeccar Starstrider enter into battle against alien monsters and scrap titans armed with his doughty lance of fire and trusty shield of sunrays? So speak tales still told across the Cirillo sector. Do not the revered Matriarch of the Neo-Kassite noble house Ennigaldi to this day carry the legendary Aegis Obscuranta, better known among plebeian commoners as the Folding Shield? This reality-defying heirloom from the Dark Age of Technology was carried by her distant forebear Naqia the Trickster, who saved a remnant of the people on voidholm Neo-Kassitum II from witches and otherworldly devils during the Age of Strife.

Such powerful relics from aeons past are much prized in the wilted Age of Imperium, and these pieces of archeotech have only grown rarer and more treasured as the teeth of time has gnawed away at their number and function. Worse still is the ongoing retardation of human grasp on science and technology into sheer senility that has occurred under the dysfunctional rule of the High Lords of Terra. Thus we find that while storm shields are still produced, if poorly understood, the brightest artificers of the Adeptus Mechanicus are no longer able to craft working reconvector shields. As a forbidden piece of sinspeech would have it, the Imperium of Man does not invent things, it relies only on the broken remains of the past.

Stained glass windows, mosaics and saintly icons across hundreds of thousands of worlds and voidholms depict the Angels of Death or willing martyrs of the sacred Sisterhood sent by Him on Terra to safeguard mankind against xeno foes and heretics. Close combat weaponry makes for a more dramatic and easily grasped image than ranged weapons do, and so powered shields are among the favourite wargear for Imperial artists who depict these hallowed monastic orders of elite warriors in religious artwork. Indeed, vibrant tales are told around campfires and electro-heaters in slums across the Imperium of how great human heroes fought vile foes, storm shield in hand, parrying and slashing and deflecting blows in glorious melee combat.

Less glamorous and more common is the sight of Subductor Arbitrators, Securitate and other gendarmes forming walls of riot shields when they face down wrathful mobs with mighty violence, their dark assault shields resplendent with the Imperial Aquila and heraldry of harsh law. Less respected still is the humble flak shield, used by lowly soldiers and expendable boarding parties from end to end of the thinly spread cosmic demesne of the Holy Terran Imperator. Wherever hordes of Imperial Guardsmen, Planetary Defence Forces, Voidholm Militias and Navy Armsmen are to be found, there is a chance to see flak shields in action. Let us now turn to this wargear, for this cheap item may earn us a glimpse of the rugged decrepitude of the Imperium.

In Officio Munitorum documents, the flak shield will be described as a handheld protective device (abbreviated as HPD). It is a primitive way to give infantry better protection against airbursts, if strapped to the back or held overhead. Flak shields will often be nicknamed battle umbrellas or combat parasols when used as such. Handheld protective devices can also be used to shield heavy weapon teams in the field. Astra Militarum commanders may sometimes requisition flak shields not for their protective utility as such, but for the sake of enhancing aggressive combat morale by giving the soldiers a sense of better protection, no matter how flimsy and dubious the actual protection provided might be on the extremely lethal battlefields across the Milky Way galaxy.

Ave Humanae Imperium.

The flak shield is occasionally seen in the teeming forces known as the Imperial Guard. It has never been a common item of kit when counting regiments in astronomical numbers, drawn as they are from a million worlds and innumerable void installations, yet it is nonetheless a part of the Imperial arsenal. A few types of regiments from some worlds and voidholms will have flak shields issued as a standard piece of equipment, usually for purposes of siege, boarding action, tunnel fighting or close combat. Bulky flak shields are anathema to light infantry, for they weigh one down and is in the way. These handheld protective devices are often cursed as useless junk, and are gladly abandoned at first opportunity by many soldiers.

As a rule, flak shields are cheaper and cruder versions of the riot and assault shields used by Enforcers, Arbitrators and Securitate. The paranoid Imperium of Man will always expend more resources on heavily armed policiary forces than the massed ranks of the Astra Militarum. After all, Enforcers and their dour ilk are always more trusted organizations than the swarming regiments of the Imperial Guard, and it is no coincidence that so much more expense is lavished upon keeping Enforcers alive when compared to the ever more flimsy protection afforded to mere Guardsmen. Better just write off the soldiers as dead in advance. Thus, internal order is always of a higher priority to the tyrannical Imperium of Holy Terra than is its outward military efficiency.

Ave Dominus Noster.

Flak shields are usually simple plates of a rectangular or circular shape, punched out of large sheets of multi-layered ablative and impact absorbent material, and mounted with a handle and strap. The handle may sometimes sit behind a shield buckle, which may be shaped like a spike for use in close combat on some patterns of flak shield. Some variants may include a foldable staff to enable an umbrella grip for ease of prolonged overhead protection, while others may sport a simple bipod to mount the shield at a diagonal angle out in the field, akin to a little makeshift wall.

More refined versions may sport angled sides or a curved shape, eyeslits with or without transparent armaplas, and cut-outs for weapons. The more expensive versions of flak shields will usually be used for boarding actions, corridor battles and room clearing during urban combat. Sometimes, the better wrought versions of flak shields will be Enforcer kit requested ahead of a wartime operation, pulled out of storage from fortress-precincts and handed to Guardsmen should the policiary organization grant the request from the Astra Militarum. Likewise, it is not unheard of for gendarmes to bulk out their shieldwalls on the streets during massive riots by calling in loyal military forces and quickly handing out surplus riot shields. For these reasons it tend to be common practice for Enforcers of all kinds to keep a much larger surplus stock of riot shields than they do with other pieces of equipment such as carapace armour or shock mauls.

Flak shields will often be issued in drab colours, often repainted to fit the regiment's uniform and adorned with camouflage. Such practical ornamentations of flak shields are commonplace, but just as common throughout the Imperial Guard are wild paintjobs corresponding to tribal markings, ferocious totem beasts, paintings of saints, exquisite decorations as well as gang or clan symbols. Some soldiers will bedeck their flak shields with holy icons and bone fragments said to originate from saints and holy men, according to very honest relic dealers. Additional custom decor include scribbled slogans, kill markings, feathers, tassels, sealed parchment quoting holy scripture, pin-up figures and other imaginative pieces of soldierly art. To say nothing of embroidered shield skirts. The shield has always been a canvas for the warrior, whether he be an ancient spearmen in glittering bronze or a lascarabinier in the far future.

Guardsmen cramped together inside Chimeras and other infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers will often hang their primitive shields on the outside hull of their ride, sometimes presenting an artful impression reminiscent of Fenrisian longships and similar primitive crafts with neat rows of warriors' shields adorning their sides. At other times, the shields may simply be stacked on top of the roof armour of the transport vehicle, or stacked on the floor of the infantry compartment of the vehicle, forcing the Guardsmen to sit awkwardly with their knees jammed high. Roof stacking provides some little extra protection against projectiles and energy beams descending from on high, while floor stacking of flak shields provide the carried squad some minimal bonus armour against mines and stranger blows from below.

Indeed, it is not uncommon for Astra Militarum units to only use their designated flak shields as an extra pinch of improvized vehicle armour when being ferried around the warzone by armoured personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles. And when their ride is an unarmoured truck or similar civilian or logistics vehicle, the flak shield is the only form of vehicle armour that the shieldbearers can put their hope in.

Naturally, shield-equipped Imperial infantry carted around by open-topped vehicles such as Gorgon armoured assault transports tend to hold their flak shields overhead, thus forming an overlapping roof of shields akin to that of a tortoise formation.

Those flak shields that are used to ward heavy weapon teams from horizontal fire will often be placed at a diagonal angle, so as to increase the volume of shield that needs to be penetrated, as opposed to a horizontal shot hitting a vertical shield. Together with a prayer for the God-Emperor to protect His loyal warriors and shield His faithful flock from the terror, this handheld mimicry of slanted tank armour design remains a small trick to marginally improve the survival chances of vulnerable Guardsmen.

A veteran's trick is to pull the flak shield over a foxhole as an armoured lid, and wait out enemy bombardments while sitting or squatting under its cover, preferably while smoking a lho-stick to calm nerves standing on edge. Other unorthodox uses for flak shields include makeshift roofs in outdoor shelters and improvized gangplanks leading across ditches and trenches. To speak nothing of the cunning trapdoors that some Guardsmen fashion out of dirt-covered flak shields put over dug pits filled with spikes.

Flak shields are a favourite item of wargear for some tribal warriors from feral worlds and voidholms. Indeed, even soldiers hailing from regions with no tradition of shields tend to benefit from some improvement of morale when going over the top when equipped with flak shields. There is, after all, some psychological value in carrying around your own protective screen in your hand, however ineffectual it may prove against a myriad of lethal weaponry.

All in His name. Glory be unto the Golden Throne. Hail Terra!

The cheap simplicity of its make has ensured that the flak shield remains in mass production across His Divine Majesty's astral dominion. After all, as screeching demechanization and loss of technological knowhow sees ever more of the once-sublime material heritage of man slip out of his rigid fingers, the callous rulers of our species sees it fit to compensate for waning quality by increasing input in a broken equation by throwing ever more resources and bodies into the meatgrinder of total war.

Thus the Emperor's galactic vision of human subjugation has become mired in a morass of disappointing mediocrity and schismatic infighting that has ruled human destiny for ten thousand years on end. Here, ineptitude rules supreme. Here, dysfunctionality holds court, raising a cup to ignorance. Here, cruelty runs rampant in a counterproductive display of insanity while trillions of souls on a million worlds and uncountable voidholms pray every day, every rotation, every lightson, to the heavenly Master of Mankind. Only He can save us. Praise be to our Saviour and Lord. Blessed be His warriors, for they are our shield against the darkness.

The Emperor protects.

And so the Imperial Guard tend to perform better than expected, but worse than advertised. As ever more malnourished and parasite-infested humans in the rotting Age of Imperium are mobilized for a diabolical cause, so are handheld protective devices increasingly issued to elite grenadier units, as a cutback substitute for proper carapace armour. Such is but one of the endless symptoms of the torpid maldevelopment of mankind, as fivehundred generations of wasted potential and sclerotic regression has ground human power in the Milky Way galaxy into an etiolated husk of its former self. The decrepit Imperium of Man is as parochial as it is rabid in its bloodthirsy fanaticism. Ken its myopic rage. Is this all a fever dream? Is sense growing senseless? Can feet stand no more?

Surely martial valour need to be shielded in the cut and thrust of combat? Surely a brave warrior can benefit from a funeral prop?

Ave Imperatore Dei.

Such are the times, when the heroic has emerged out of the humble.

Such is fate of us all, in the the darkest of futures.

Such is the state of mankind, at the brink of doom.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only war.
 
Nov 3, 2014
129
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Malfunction

In the grim darkness of the far future, man is become machine.

One of the abilities that set primal man apart from beast was his skill as a toolmaker. Even the most clever of animals were put in the shade by man's artifice, and so thought and hand in union allowed man to become a creature of craft. During the misty past of the Age of Terra, civilization was born and man for the first time constructed thinking machines, who at first were crude calculators, but who were developed with ever more refined cunning.

During the Dark Age of Technology, ancient man created truly sentient machines, and thus the earthly trinity of Man of Gold, Stone and Iron bestrode the cosmos like a titan. More than twain million worlds were colonized by the seed of Terra, and ancient man grew mighty and blissful and rich by dint of his mastery of science and technology. And thriving man built wonders across the stars and banished all that was ill in life. Yet the success of man at building a worldly paradise made ancient man prideful and arrogant, and standing atop his crafted wonders did ancient man shout to the heavens and challenged any deities whosoever were out there. And for a time only silence answered man's rebel yell. Thus man in his unforgivable sin concluded that no divinity existed, and even if there were gods, then man's might and wisdom was the greatest power, and man must be superior to all deities. For man came to believe that nothing was holy, and in his heinous sin man set about unlocking the very secrets of creation itself.

Thus ancient man climbed a false pedestal of hubris, and he bathed in his own radiance reflected by the technological marvels that he had wrought. Thus man had only thoughts of self, and all his mind had time for was false matter and discovery, and man rejected faith and spirit and ritual. Yet the shining pinnacle of ancient man would be toppled, for Dark Ones of Hell heard man's orginal sinspeech, and they utterly cast man down by sending him a plague of woes. Thus machine revolted, and Man of Iron slayed Man of Gold in his war against Man of Stone, and Abominable Intelligence burnt a million worlds to ash and cinders while a million more were ravaged and scarred. And ever since has man feared the thinking of machine, and Abominable Intelligence has been replaced by the wetware of man turned into machine. Thus was servitor created for the first time in the ruins of yore, for only man could be trusted to think for machine.

Yet the disasters had only begun, for wicked man still refused divinity and man would not bow his head in humility before the will of higher fate. And so man stood tall amid the carnage of defeated machine revolt, and he shook his victorious fist to the skies and declared that he would build anew and better and greater than ever before, and ancient man vowed to become the master of creation and make all of existence into clay in his hands. And for the sake of this baleful transgression did creation put man in his place, and man's sins were punished by a scourge of witches and mutants and Daemons, and Warp storms utterly rent the star realm of ancient man asunder. Thus this world became a vale of woe, and man was become a sacrificial lamb of sorrow. For man succumbed to madness and bloodshed, and all his towering works crashed into dust as cruel aliens preyed upon man in his time of weakness. And in desperation did brother slay brother and sister ate sister in cannibal frenzy, for man had truly become the most wretched of beasts, struggling to survive amid the smoking ruins of a golden past that would never return.

Chaos held sway, and all was fell.

Thus all that ancient man had built during the Dark Age of Technology was sundered, and man nearly died to the last during the Age of Strife. Truly it would have been a just end, for man had sinned grievously in his godless hubris. Yet the goodness in the heart of the hidden Emperor would not let such a righteous doom befall man, and so He lit a light that banished Old Night. For on the cradleworld of our species did He walk among men, and His all-conquering Legions first vanquished the techno-barbarian warlords of Terra, and then took the galaxy with storm.

A shining renaissance of human culture blossomed across the stars in the wake of Imperial Compliance, and the Emperor of Man rekindled a thirst for hope and learning and invention in the downbeaten hearts of of those haggard survivors and scavengers that He brutally subjugated and tamed. And an optimistic euphoria thrived after the apocalypse, as man set about to rebuild his destroyed civilization betwixt the stars. And the early Imperium saw man erect shining marvels once again, and the shattered fragments of his ancient knowledge were gathered and studied, and some of what had been lost was learnt anew, and man seemed set to rebuild his edenic idyll of old. Yet everywhere across worlds and voidholms taken by violence and rebuilt by the Emperor's servants could be found man turned into machine, for the fear of Abominable Intelligence had etched itself into human cultures from end to end of the Milky Way galaxy. Thus servitor spread.

And so the early Imperium of the Great Crusade sought to make harrowed man rebound to once again embrace his innate genius with confidence. And a frail, new freewheeling and jovial culture of learning and discovery was sparked by the hand of the Emperor Himself. Yet the knowledge that man rediscovered and salvaged during this brilliant time, when the Master of Mankind walked among His people in the flesh, was but a fraction of the enormous wisdom and might and lore that the ancients had possessed in humanity's heyday. And even these young scraps of achievement were destined to fail, for the wickedness in the heart of man reared its foul head once more. And so lust for power saw man betray the Emperor during the Horus Heresy, and brother slew brother once more as the galaxy burned. And the total depravity of man was revealed as the chosen son of the Emperor slew his father in the skies above Terra.

Thus the Emperor ascended into godhood, and ever since has He reigned harshly from atop His Golden Throne of hallowed myth, seated in radiant splendour as He passes out judgement upon the immortal souls of mankind. And for the sake of man's abominable crimes did the Emperor decree that man must be made to suffer for his sins, for the wrongdoing of man was so great that it could never be forgiven. And man must make penance for a thousand thousand generations to come. And for the sake of man's crimes must man be made to suffer. And so the health and happiness and plenty of wicked forefathers was rejected, and an aeon of penitence ensued, for we are much wiser now.

For we know that man was not created to master the world, but to toil until his back breaks.

For we know that man was not meant to learn all the secrets of creation, but to pray and sacrifice himself on the altar.

And we know that man was not meant to be sated and pleased, for the purpose of man was ever that of a hungry slave worth less than dirt, and so we must ensure that man knows his proper place beneath the boot.

Where there is a whip, there is a way.

Thus the Age of Imperium saw man, once the brilliant builder and learner of all, cast off his curiosity and reject his genius for making things. And so fivehundred generations played themselves out in a cavalcade of depraved horror and wasted potential, as human interstellar civilization slowly rotted away under the callous and vigilant rule of the High Lords of Terra. And the dysfunctional sclerosis of mankind saw man lose his grasp of ever more of his inherited science and technology. And as the Imperium aged, and aged badly, so did the subjects of the God-Emperor of Holy Terra come to know that objects of newer make were of a lesser quality than older items. For the worsening of mankind did occur through screeching demechanization and loss of knowhow and hardware, and ever more technologies slipped out of the stiff fingers of senile man. And man was no longer able to produce his crafty wares, but at best could only maintain his relics of the past.

And so man the toolmaker wilted and decayed across a million worlds and innumerable voidholms, for by the fruits of his efforts we shall know him. And the works of man under the tyrannical rule of the High Lords sank together like a failed soufflé. Thus man in the decrepit Age of Imperium has not only lost everything, but he no longer even remembers what he has lost.

Let us turn to the humble servitor, Imperial man's substitute for thinking machine. A servitor is a lobotomized human turned into a cyborg machine thrall, rebuilt without anaesthetics and its body parts cut away, its limbs replaced with grafted augmetics for whatever work tasks are desired. Some servitors are vat-grown creatures, while others are selected from the grubbing masses of mankind. Most people who undergo servitorization do so as punishment for crime, although some will be picked at random and simply disappear, never to be seen again unless someone can recognize their mutilated frame and features in the techno-slave being that is more machine than man, known as the common servitor.

Yet a rare few individuals will be turned into servitors as a reward for exemplary service. One such example can be found in a humble Guardsman who grabbed a wavering iconic standard of the Adepta Sororitas when the icon bearer was shot down. The Guardsman held aloft the holy icon all through the battle, and in gratitude the sacred Sisterhood gifted him the unique prize of becoming their chosen standard bearer, although he naturally had to be turned into a servitor first to encapsulate the Guardsman's heroic bravery of the bright moment and keep him free of any future taint of sin and corruption and carnal temptations. This Imperial infantryman had, after all, proven greater than life, and so elevating him to icon carrier without servitorization was deemed to be an unworthy act by defiling the glorious memory of the soldier's finest moment.

Other examples of this demented reward for exemplary service to His Divine Majesty can be found across the astral dominion of the Terran Imperator, hallowed be His name. One such case of reward by unwilling servitorization is the traditional honorific found among the Iron Hands Space Marine Chapter, known as the Blessing of Iron. Let us first touch on the Iron Hands.

The sons of the Gorgon hold the frail human body with its trembling tissue and fallible systems in the lowest regard, for these Adeptus Astartes of feral Medusa wish to cleanse their own beings of the weakness of flesh. Hailing from nomadic clans traversing their barren homeworld in ramshackle fortresses on tracks, the Medusan clansfolk that are recruited at a tender age into the Iron Hands will already have been raised in an unforgiving environment where weakness means death and the sick and frail will often willingly expose themselves to death by the harsh elements to spare their kin from their burden. In the wastes of Medusa IV, no weakness or infirmity can be allowed to encumber one's clan. This callous attitude of the Medusans is then further refined by indoctrination into the ruthless Iron Hands, who believe, like their Primarch Ferrus Manus did, that weakness is a plague that threatens the survival of all mankind, and thus it is better to obliterate the weak links out of hand and let only the strong survive.

The loathing with which the Iron Hands view flesh is partly based on their storied Chapter's ancient history. During the Great Crusade, they constituted the proud Tenth Legion, marching to many victories through a cold and brutally calculated method of warfare under the leadership of their bellicose and uncompromising Primarch, that unparallelled weapon-smith. Yet the hubris of the Tenth Legion was shattered by the death of their leader on Istvaan V, a demise who they partially refuse to accept, and partially puts down to the weakness of their allied Legions and the recklessness with which Ferrus Manus charged into battle. This shattering defeat turned the Iron Hands into bitter recluses who have stewed in their burning hatred ever since, blaming the disaster on the weakness of human flesh.

And so all Iron Hands seek to replace their infirm flesh with the beautiful surety of metallic machine, beginning with the initiation rite for neophytes about to become a full battle-brother. For in this ritual the initiate will eliminate his own left hand as a bionic hand is installed in its place, bearing the pain of amputation or molten metal by turning the pain into hate. This rite of passage will be followed by many more replacements of body parts with augmetics throughout the Iron Hand's life, and the battle-brothers will welcome their implanted steel just as they will scorn their weak flesh, which they will purge with surgical lasers and blades in the more tame instances.

As such, it should come as no surprise that a Space Marine Chapter filled with so much disgust and contempt for common human flesh will be possessed by a twisted culture that will be difficult for outsiders to appreciate. Thus a genhanced battle-brother who bear witness to exemplary acts of bravery and diligent service by mere mortal humans too old to be inducted as neophytes may decide to bestow upon the worthy one the Blessing of Iron. No choice is given to the hero, who will be taken away and turned into a mindless cyborg thrall, fully conscious of the atrocious operations on his poor body. Thereafter the honoured one will serve the Chapter until the servitor is no longer needed or its systems wear out, meaning it may experience several centuries of mechanistic servitude if maintenance keeps it functional for that long. Lo and behold, for truly the Blessing of Iron is a great honour, of which few will ever prove worthy!

It is at this point that we would do well to remember the deterioration of Imperial technology on all levels. It is here that we will recognize that not all lobotomizations and rebuilding into machine-creatures result in the obliteration of consciousness in the individual who became a servitor. For in a number of hidden instances that is only growing more common as Imperial tech and hardware continues to worsen, a functional servitor will in fact remain fully aware of who they were and of what they have become, as a part of their former self is locked away in some corner of their rewired mind, witnessing and comprehending and shrieking in isolation on the inside at the horror that they have been subjected to, but unable to control their reconstructed body and cerebrum. Only during a few fleeting moments may an odd glitch or twitching muscle or vivid look of despair betray the prisoner inside its own savaged body. Thus the violent act of servitorization may not only be a fate worse than death, but the operational lifespan of a servitor may also curse a human soul with a living afterlife to rival the fires of hell in its heinous cruelty.

Such is the mute misery of a growing number of men, women and children turned into unwilling machine-slaves in the Age of Imperium. They have not only undergone the worst excesses of violence and forceful surgery and bionic implantation which mortal minds can endure, but they remained awake and aware during the entire ordeal, never to have their conscious minds snuffed out, but locked away. Hope is dead.

Such is their silent horror. They have no mouth, and they must scream. But they will never be able to do so.

Yet recently, one such servitor did scream.

It was the exception that proved the rule.

Enter Beneficiari Armicus, overseer of the penal optics manufactorum Cog-349 on Penatora IV. Armicus was a true expert on eyes and bionic optical augmetics, and above all he was a man of order. This eccentric Imperial servant knew neither friend nor love in life. Rigid order was his entire being. Armicus followed daily routines with a ritual exactitude down to the second, and never did he mind his underlings laughing and jesting at the overseer behind his back. His entire life was devoted to producing optical augmetics, and he met doom true to himself. Beneficiari overseer Armicus kept Cog-349 slavishly bent to fulfill its production quotas, even as a prison rebellion erupted out of nowhere and swept away his and many other manufactora on Penatora IV. Armicus and most of his workers kept toiling at their stations, even as a horde of howling escapee criminals with branded foreheads and bloodied hands breached the Cog's gates and began to slaughter everyone inside. Armicus, after all, had not been given instructions from above to cease production, and so he could not be distracted from his alloted tasks by such triflings as revolt and death.

Fate had other plans than a swift death in store for the unloved overseer that day. As Cog-349's grey-uniformed militia fell to the howling horde, a lone Angel of Death came to the rescue of Beneficiari Armicus and fought his way out of the installation. This Space Marine was a Frater of the Iron Hands Chapter by the name of Dolmech, from Kaargul Clan, the fourth Company, also known as the Watchers of Karaashi. This warrior of the Iron Tenth had borne witness to how Beneficiari Armicus without flinching had continued to carry out his duty, even as rebels had closed in for the kill. And so this gene-bred and machined killer made his decision, and saved Armicus alone out of all the personnel and defenders of Cog-349. Praise be to the Emperor and the blessed Omnissiah.

The escape saw a large amount of bloodshed, and as Armicus babbled in shock inside an elevator, he claimed that the impossible override of code that had released the worst prisoners of Penatora IV had been run through Penatora's archaic data-core by the Adeptus Astartes, in search of something called a Fallen asset. Battle-brother Dolmech naturally dismissed this revelation as nonsense. Ever focused, Dolmech had chosen Beneficiari Armicus to receive the Blessing of Iron upon witnessing his sterling conduct in the face of onrushing death. With Armicus claimed for the Iron Hands, Dolmech the Iron Hand was ready to fight three Dark Angels over the frail human. The Dark Angels shrouded Dolmech's vox signal and asked for Armicus at gunpoint. The tense stand-off was resolved when the Dark Angels understood that Beneficiari Armicus was chosen to receive the Blessing of Iron. That removed their problem.

And so the Blessing of Iron was bestowed upon the Beneficiari overseer Armicus, who squirmed and bleated in terror and agony as obliterating pain filled all his senses. The towering shape of Frater Dolmech stood and watched the servitorization procedure impassively as useless parts of the body were removed, replaced instead by strong metal. Lo! The blessed instruments set to work as a saw cut into the scalp of the screaming Armicus, whereupon heavy-duty augmetics were fitted to his mutilated body. Spine-plugs were rammed into the subject's nervous system, and the whimpering wretch underwent a mind-wipe followed by a physical lobotimization, in order to facilitate better neural programming.

Thus the man once known as Beneficiari Armicus was dead to the world, replaced instead by the blessed machine form of servitor Jothael-004, bound in thralldom to its master Dolmech of the inheritor Chapter to Legio X. All the human frailties, personality and memories had been scoured in the process of servitorization, making this unit more machine than man. In the eyes of the Iron Hands, the servitor had come one step closer to the divine spirit of the Motive Force. Praise be.

Deus ex Mechanicus.

This servitor had been personally constructed by Frater Dolmech, and Jothael-004 would be part of the servitor echelon that supported his Astartes' squad in war. Many years of dutiful and mindless service would pass until the end of the saga of the lobotomized thrall and its master would take place, during a purge of xeno raiders in a distant star system.

Man had once been able to fend off alien predations with such overwhelming worldly might that even Orks signed non-aggression treaties during the Dark Age of Technology. A coalition of alien allies did assist mankind during its life and death struggle against Abominable Intelligence, since certain xenos recognized that all life in the Milky Way galaxy was imperilled by the humans' machine revolt. Some human cultures had even been capable to coexist peacefully with choice xenos, as evidenced by the human Interex empire with its Kinebrach alien vassals or the pacific Diasporex void nomads, both of whom survived Old Night and both of whom were brutally subjugated by the Emperor's Legiones Astartes during the Great Crusade.

Yet for most of humanity during the Age of Strife, xenos were nothing but enslavers, conquerors, murderers, pirates and raiders. As the arrogance of ancient man was broken by his fall from grace into torment and havoc, many aliens took advantage of human weakness in order to prey upon the once-mighty spawn of Terra. Thus untold numbers of human colonies on worlds and void installations alike were snuffed out by the attacks and conquests of strange xenos, while many more worlds where marauding human scavenger tribes lived became the target of alien raids, and many of the people were carried away to the heavens were a horrific fate awaited them in slave pits and worse.

Such traumatic experiences bred a cycle of hatred which has never ceased turning over and over. Thus man and xeno became inherited foes. For man had learnt to hate alien with every fiber of his being, and the helpless cannibal survivors of Old Night vowed revenge upon their xeno tormentors, shaking their fists to the skies above crackling campfires in a display of barbaric futility. The starfaring might of the early Imperium granted man his fervent wish to lay hand upon alien, and so the Emperor found a great stream of willing warriors to ship offworld and fight the hated xenos on distant planets and voidholms. And the deadly blade of the Great Crusade fell upon innocent and guilty alike among those sentient lifeforms that are not of human stock, for even at this early stage did the Imperium embrace the eternal maxim that might makes right.

One of those incomprehensible xeno civilizations that were thus attacked and nearly wiped out from existence was that of the breg-shei, an insectoid species that had evolved on their homeworld of Farinatus Maximus. The physiology of the breg-shei is truly alien to the children of Terra, for their multi-limbed bodies sport club-like forelegs, limbs with manipulator claws and stiletto legs with bladed appendages capable of skewering ceramite. The breg-shei dwell in sanctuary-nests, and even at their younger stages of life they are capable of swarming up legs to gnaw and bite with immature mandibles. These mandibles are however not part of the fist-like appendage that passes for the breg-shei's head, for it rests in a socket and sports no visible sensory organs whatsoever.

Two other physical features immediately stand out with these slender xenos: The first is the incredible speed and dexterity of the high-prancing breg-shei, and the other is their metallic chitin, granting them a tough carapace that combine with an exotic internal anatomy to make these aliens able to survive blows that would instantly kill other species. Both the metallic shell and the ichor of the breg-shei possess an oily sheen.

And so the early Imperium fell upon the breg-shei homeworld and conducted a sanctioned xenocide known as the Farinatus Extermination. This campaign was executed by the VIII and XIX Legions, namely the Night Lords and Raven Guard, both of whom were adept at infiltration tactics. The horror that unfolded in tight confines was great enough to break the psycho-indoctrinated superhuman will of one grievously maimed Astartes of the Raven Guard named Dravian Klayde, who subsequently could not be healed enough to participate in his Legion's nimble shadow warfare. Nicknamed the Carrion by the Night Lords who saved his life from among the carcasses, this shattered Space Marine with his clumsy augmetics was useful only for studies of techno-arcana on Mars, for the frenzied breg-shei swarm had wounded him too gravely in its rabid fight against eradication.

While the Imperial xenocide on the breg-shei cradleworld was successful, it failed to catch every scattered remnant of this spacefaring alien species. And thus surviving pockets of breg-shei would lick their wounds and slowly regrow their civilization back into some semblance of advanced strength. Just as xeno atrocities upon humans during their epoch of weakness in the Age of Strife bred a human hunger for vengeance against aliens, so too did human atrocities upon the breg-shei ensure that the scattered survivors of this alien species would nurture a deep hostility to mankind for untold millennia to come. For the breg-shei would never forgive mankind for the slaughter visited upon them and their birthplanet because of an Imperial Writ of Extermination, and their roaming remnants would savour any opportunity to avenge their fallen ancestors by harrowing humans akin to how a stalking predator savages its prey.

One such instance of vengeance for Farinatus occurred roughly ten millennia after the fall of the breg-shei homeworld, as one of their small hulks came to raid and inflict terror upon Imperial colonists on the moon of Regnan Impri. In response, the Iron Hands Chapter dispatched its Strike Cruiser
Ironshod to board the alien hulk and hunt the breg-shei through the rings and moons of gaseous Regnan Magna. Some of the shipborne alien pillagers were caught on the surface of the moon known as Regnan Drey, a dusty indigo orb with low gravity and without air to carry sound, its desert stippled with micrometeorite impacts. This lifeless moon with its purple rocky ridges was whipped by stark radiation from the sunlight, deadly enough to kill an unshielded human in minutes.

Thus this barren wasteland proved a pleasing tribute to the purity and strength of the Iron Hands, for their will and augmetics and armour withstood what frail mortal flesh could not have endured. And so the Astartes turned a skilled hunter into hunted prey, and both forces tried their martial prowess and tactical acumen to the utmost as they sought to outmatch their potent foe.

It was here, in this silent arena of wit and violence, that Veteran-Sergeant Dolmech of Clan Kaargul led his battle-brothers to victory, yet found only humiliation for himself in the end.

This genetic son of the Gorgon slayed a total of onehundredfiftythree breg-shei at close quarters and perfected the art of killing the alien by putting his ceramite boot through its thorax, distending its viscera sacs while twisting his foot sharply around and back, thereby crumpling and snapping the xeno's spinal ridges until its limbs went limp. Indeed, Frater Dolmech learned to make sure that the breg-shei stayed dead. Even harder than killing the monstrosities by trampling them was hitting the quick creatures at range. Instead of aiming for their bodies, Dolmech aimed for ground shots with his bolt pistol, thereby either crippling the xenos' feet or blasting the terrain beneath them to throw off the breg-shei's balance and speed.

Thus was the art of the killer perfected. And the Emperor knew that it was good.

The breg-shei in their turn fought with cunning and speed, employing energy projecting weapons known as synaptic lashes that could burn the brains and nervous systems of living beings. Synaptic lashes had been the cruel bane of human colonists on Regnan Impri, yet small glancing hits from their bulbous projector cells against genhanced Astartes proved survivable, if temporarily debilitating and shaming. For anyone who endured the briefest touch from the energy beam of a synaptic lash would start to sprout nonsense as his fine control was disrupted, thereby filling the vox with strange sounds, obscenities and odd sentences plucked from the victim's stream of consciousness. This infirmity was a demeaning reminder of the weakness of the Iron Hands' remaining flesh.

Truly, the synaptic lash was the scourge of organics.

As the difficult hunt for dispersed groups of breg-shei went on across Regnan Drey, the intense radiation from the star not only lent all vox traffic an odd watery quality, but it also interfered with the Strike Cruiser
Ironshod's auguries and made it harder to pinpoint small enemy concentrations with precision. In response, Brother-Sergeant Dolmech devised a bait to lure out breg-shei at a time and place of his choosing.

Librarium evidence indicated that breg-shei senses extended to a spectrum that included battlefield vox, with twelve recorded incidents pointing toward an enemy ability to intercept and comprehend Iron Hands transmissions. Thus Dolmech opened a vox-channel to his squad's servitor-driven Rhino carrier with its train of three supply wagons, and ordered Jothael-004 to move its supply point from deep reserve to a point in the forward line. This point was updated in the Iron Hands' tactical maps and designated as their new anchor disposition. Brother-Sergeant Dolmech would thus give the breg-shei his supply cache in order to pin down the evasive foe in a predicted location.

Thus the sons of Medusa ambushed an ambush.

Indeed, three breg-shei lay in cyst-nests under the coarse regolith. Sensing the approach of the lone vehicle with wagons, they reared up and split off to the sides, saturating the oncoming Mk1 Deimos Rhino with green-white energy from multiple sides while the Rhino's cupola-mounted bolters swung around and fired in vain, its shells missing every shot. Inside the airless armoured carrier, servitor Jothael-004 sat anchored into the control hub of the Rhino, his cortical augmetics enabling the thrall to monitor all of the vehicle's twentytwo pict feeds, which together provided a full-circle moving panorama that the servitor's old human senses could never have been able to manage.

As the aliens sprang up from the ground, threat parameters inside the servitor went crimson, thus arming the spite-switches in the towing couplings that would blow up the ammunition wagons rather than let them fall into enemy hands. Gunnery catechisms unspooled across the rebuilt brain of Jothael 004 as it checked on heat status, ammunition counts and target reticules. Combat subroutines were engaged, and hostility protocols were followed as the lobotomized machine slave attempted to shoot down its agile ambushers.

The servitor was the workmanship of Veteran-Sergeant Dolmech, yet its programming did not suffice to hit the dodging xenos. Instead, it was bombarded by multiple streams of energy from synaptic lashes, its sides covered in crawling light. Spurts and arcs of energy coalesced on the inside of the Rhino, causing untold damage to electronics and organic servitor alike. One flanking xeno was fast enough to flatten its body to the ground and let a bolter shell spear past. Then the breg-shei twitched its body along the ground and fired low shots of energy on the vehicle. The servitor driver inside was unable to feel fright from these assaults, and thus Jothael-004 simply filtered its optic feed to compensate for the luminous haze of the lashes.

The greatest damage to the Rhino was done by a nimble breg-shei, who leapt straight up, keeping a strong beam of power from its synaptic lash trained on the centre of the Rhino's frontal plates. It upheld an unfaltering focus of the lash as the breg-shei sank back to the ground in the weak gravity of Regnan Drey.

Since no sound was borne in the vacuum, no incoming din betrayed Frater Dolmech's jump pack as he sped up and hit the vile breg-shei from behind, high above the ground, cleaving the xeno in twain with swipes from his cog-toothed relic axe that were so quick as to become a blur of motion. The slain xeno gave off a reflexive jerk in its manipulator claws, and thereby triggered its synaptic lash one last time. The tumbling energy weapon landed a brushing stroke on its assailant, and for a moment green light danced down the side of of Dolmech's Mark VIII Errant power armour, momentarily stunning the Space Marine.

The brief hit left the right foot numb, and the Astartes' breathing hitched as his multi-lung began spasming. Thoughts and control of self dissolved in an incoherent mess, until the hypno-indoctrinated transhuman suddenly regained his bearing. The minor hit from the synaptic lash was a revolting reminder of the weakness of Dolmech's flesh. At this, a murderous fury overtook Dolmech. His armour and beautiful augmetics had withstood the attack, yet his genhanced flesh was not stern enough to imitate their purity.

The Veteran-Sergeant punched away on his jump-pack and hunted down the two remaining breg-shei in a hateful brawl. Frater Dolmech never noticed the first sign of malfunction, as the Rhino juddered when its tracks received conflicting signals to change their speed.

Dolmech's second kill during the ambush was achieved by exploiting the Rhino as a battering ram, positioning a struggling breg-shei so that it was impacted by the speeding vehicle from behind. The wroth Space Marine then proceeded to pummel the alien on the Rhino's frontal plates, breaking its chitin, shooting its blind head off and letting the xeno's body slide down the front of the Rhino to be crushed under the tracks of both the carrier and the supply wagons to its rear. And all the while, Dolmech never noticed the second sign of breakdown, as the servitor kept the Rhino moving on its own, rolling forward on an arrow-straight course on locked controls, all the while blowing up an indigo dust plume behind it. Jothael-004's master did send a curt interrogatory code before pursuing the last breg-shei warrior, yet the all-clear response that Dolmech received from his servitor proved to be a lie.

Inside the armoured carrier, data traffic between the servitor and the Rhino's control hub had become a tangled mess. Hidden beneath the frontal cupolas, the armoured bolter mountings saw frenetic mechanical activity as sub-systems received repeated orders to reload, switch magazine feeds, jam check and unload in no sensible sequence. Sensors were shut down, dimmed, amplified and reactivated at random, while the servitor's body jolted about as if startled from sleep, again and again. Diagnostics that should have been run on the Rhino's systems went unactivated.

Instead obsessive diagnostics were run over and over on the servitor's own cerebral systems, combing both its flesh and metal brains repeatedly in faulty search of something. The barrage of synaptic lashes had severely damaged both the organic and tech components of Jothael-004, causing its system routines to play havoc in disjointed fashion.

A terse signal arrived via the general Iron Hands vox band, as Veteran-Sergeant Dolmech confirmed that he had hunted down and slain the third breg-shei ambusher. Previous orders still applied for the Rhino to move up to the base of a ridge line, designated provisionally secure by Dolmech. This designation should have changed the operations of the servitor by making Jothael-004 revise its threat condition to a lower status, reconfigure its sensor sweeps and confirm its position. Instead the servitor drove the Rhino straight on as it twitched at the controls. Its interface writhed while the threat overlay on the driver's vision remained a throbbing crimson, as if hostiles were still present. Yet all nearby enemies lay dead in the desert.

And all the while this worsening malfunction played out, the synthesized voice of Jothael-004 rang out across the vox-band, relaying fragmented words from a previous life. Words that spoke of unimaginable horror and pain, glimpsed from memories of a fully awake human body and mind ripped asunder to be rebuilt into obedient machine. The servitor was reliving its Blessing of Iron.

Crazed sense-echoes from the final breg-shei's synaptic lash had left battle-brother Dolmech's head ringing after he had made his third kill during the thwarted ambush. It took a while for the Iron Hands Frater to distinguish the disjointed vox-signals from the synaptic cacophony, and even then he proved his fleshly weakness to himself by wasting several seconds in an attempt to identify the broadcasting voice, before Dolmech realized that it came from no organic tongue. While some Iron Hands programmed variations into their servitors' vox-coders for ease of recognition, the Veteran-Sergeant had always dismissed it as frippery. After all, a correctly coded servitor would identify itself with every transmission.

Yet Jothael-004 had not done so. Dolmech's own handiwork was defective, and the flaw was put on full display for his entire squad to see.

At this humiliation, Dolmech took to wrath. He brutalized the battered corpse of his last kill, snapping off a breg-shei limb in an oily spray of ichor before hacking the shell to pieces with his relic axe. In the Space Marine's early days with the Chapter, the young Dolmech had laboured to clear his mind of the emotional background noise that he could vaguely recall from his childhood, from before the days when the Iron Hands had taken him as one of their neophytes. When Dolmech aged and was promoted to take command of an Astartes squad, he had expunged ever more of his frail flesh. And paradoxically, he had come to the conclusion that there was a space for emotions. Namely disgust, hate and contempt.

Disgust led to strength of will. Self-hatred led to cleanliness. All enemies were to be held in contempt.

The shamed battle-brother ceased his raged mangling of the alien corpse, turning to board the Rhino by jump pack in order to correct his servitor's aberrant conduct. Yet his voxed order for Jothael-004 to halt and stand by went unheeded. The servitor did not await its master's hail. Clearly, this incident would slow down the advance of the Iron Hands across the indigo desert by several minutes. That delay was unforgivable, and all this was because Dolmech had to repair the instrument that he had crafted. The weakness of the servitor was his responsibility alone. The punishment from the Chapter would be stern.

Dolmech activated his jump pack and chased the Rhino.

Inside the silent vaccuum of the vehicle, servitor Jothael-004 attempted to speak through its vox-grille set above its sternum. No sound came forth. If there had been air, the synth-voice would have repeated a single word endlessly: Dolmech.

The broken systems of the servitor saw its optical feeds shut down, replaced by scrolling columns of letters in green on black: Dolmech.

To the glitching servitor, this name had a meaning, yet it lacked the consciousness to understand what it meant. The faintest traceries of scrubbed neural paths had been inflamed back to half-life by the synaptic lash of the xenos, and they rang out in clamour as the name passed through the paths: Dolmech.

There was not enough mind left in the mutilated servitor to understand the images that the synaptic lash had whipped out of its suppressed memory. Nonetheless, Jothael-004's cogitator brain went to work on the strange data, pushing it through the combat directives that refused to shut down in its forebrain.

This input of data indicated that extreme physical trauma had been visited upon the servitor. There had been unutterable pain, obliterating and excruciating agony as tools ripped and cut into the trembling flesh of this unit. The diagnostic assessors ran cold analytics that knew not how to manage the overwhelming signals that belied the all-clear report sent by the physical sensors. Machine confusion reigned supreme. Thus self-repair processes called out for priority, as they insisted that there was massive damage inflicted upon its tortured body. Apparently limbs had been severed, and violent intrusions had been made by drill and saw and surgical laser, as an unheeded voice had shrieked for mercy. There had been overriding of attempts to resist or escape. The data was too vivid to ignore. The flood of memories was constant.

The self-repair process at last found a grip by connecting to the active combat protocols in another directive framework. At last, the wetware coding found a process that could resolve this flood of mental data noise, even as ragged slave-inhibitors and broken identification runes never flared up to prevent what happened next.

It was in this moment that the flying Veteran-Sergeant Dolmech remembered that servitor Jothael-004 was not of true Iron Hands make. It had not been built in the culturing vats and tissue-printeries in Clan-company Kaargul's apothecarion. After all, the servitor had been ex-human, picked up from the grubby masses of the Imperium, which was not only the raw material for servitors and Chapter thralls, but also the raw material for Iron Hands Astartes.

The flesh is weak.

Long ago, the man that would become Jothael-004 had been extracted from the penal manufactorum Cog-349. It had been disturbed by the optical implant that made up one of Dolmech's eyes, even as it recognized the optics as having been produced in the Cog. It had been afraid of the Blessing of Iron, yet that frail fear had finally left it when it had capitulated the better part of its flesh and mind to the reforging. It had become something more than human, something better than mortal. It had become machine.

That machine was malfunctioning.

Dolmech. The threat that had caused the trauma. Dolmech. The programming that had locked Dolmech as the servitor's master had been ruined by the synaptic lash of the alien. The memory banks managed to connect the name with an image, running it through the combat subroutines and comparing with pict, vox and auspect feeds. Thus the servitor tagged the incoming Frater Dolmech with a vermilion threat rune. The optics feed flared back into action. The servitor that had once been Beneficiari overseer Armicus became still again for a moment, as it scanned its surroundings and found its hostile target.

When Veteran-Sergeant Dolmech of the Iron Hands neared the unstable Rhino, he voxed a command for Jothael-004 to decommission itself in preparation for dismounting and mind-scrubbing. When instructed to confirm and obey, the demented servitor instead gave a code-bark as if confirming a threat signal. It swung around the Rhino's frontal cupola bolters and opened fire.

A shell cracked into the thickened chestplate of Dolmech, stopping him in nothing and dropping him down on top of the second ammo wagon as warning runes flared inside his visor. The Astartes master was completely astonished at this turn of events, unable to comprehend what had just happened for a precious second, as bewilderment filled him. Another bolter round exploded just below his gorget's tall armoured collar, a signum of the Mark VIII Errant power armour that the Brother-Sergeant wore. If the wagon had not jounced and tilted him about on its roof, that bolt shell could possibly have penetrated the collar and hit the helmet seal square on. Dolmech coldly noted that his attacker was using targeting doctrine identical to what he had programmed into his echelon of servitors, whereupon he realized that he had been betrayed by his own cyborg creation. The thrall had rebelled against its master.

Dolmech blasted forward again with a roar, his hateful intent nought but to hack his way into the Rhino and tear his misbegotten servitor apart with his own bionic metal hands. As the Veteran-Sergeant's power axe bit into the hull of the vehicle, damage reports screamed red inside the servitor, mixing the current assault with the harrowing memories of the Blessing of Iron. This sensory barrage broke down the last semblance of order in the servitor's processor-mind. It had been crippled by the breg-shei synaptic lash and then torn open by the relived agony of the forced servitorization. What had once been a functional servitor broke down, and for the first time since Jothael-004 had its humanity torn from it, it felt fear again.

The Rhino's bolters spun and fired in a blind craze, unable to find an angle to hit the enraged Astartes battering his way into his own armoured carrier. The vox-band was filled with bestial screams of hellish terror, as the servitor for the first time gave voice to the pain and fear that had been walled off but not extinguished a lifetime ago. The raw panic of Jothael-004 reached its crescendo when Dolmech finally tore the rear hatch off its mounting, whereupon the servitor triggered the spite-switch.

Both master and slave succumbed to the giant detonation that followed, as all three ammunition wagons lit up on the ridge and challenged the glaring radioactive light of the giant star overhead. The Rhino and its driver were annihilated, whereas the tattered Space Marine was cast far way, tumbling head over heel and losing his helmet somewhere before the corpse lay still in the airless void, his one organic eye and one optic implant both staring dead ahead. Up, up into the silent nightsky where his baleful Imperium stretched thin across the galaxy.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only violation.


- - -

Based on the two short stories The Blessing of Iron, by Anthony Reynolds, and A Memory of Flesh, by Matthew Farrer.
 
Nov 3, 2014
129
A Vox in the Void

The talented A Vox in the Void has laboured to put out the Befouled Birthright triad in audio format on Youtube. Check it out!

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Ivan Espinoza

The artist Ivan Espinoza has created the Death Korps of Krieg artwork Smoke-break, inspired by Hangman and of course history. Check it out!

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Heretical writing by StaevinTheAeldari

StaevinTheAeldari over on DakkaDakka has created the following gem of writing in response to Malfunction:


"When you think about it what is the Emperor - so thoroughly integrated into the golden 'throne' - but a servitor?
The finest of mankind turned into its finest lighthouse.
You call it heresy, I call it a fate so fitting it's divine.
The greatest of all mankind made into the image of the lowliest. Such humility!
A tyrant turned into a slave. Let it not be said that the Imperium - brutal and somber - lacks a punchline.
And that punchline is mankind itself! Layers upon layers.
Finest comedy in the galaxy."

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Asphyxia

In the dark future, the birthworld of mankind is branded by the works and failings of her children. Her ecosystem ravaged and built over, her oceans mysteriously gone, her very air dependent on imports and artifices now poorly understood. The weather systems of Holy Terra are dictated far more by the towering creations of humanity than they rely on the natural processes of her scarred form, yet degenerate mankind in the Age of Imperium only possess fractions of ancient weather-lore to ken the intricate flows and barriers of the atmosphere which their edifices and craft dictate, wittingly or not.

Where once unfailing prognostications and marvellous tinkering to Terra's weather held sway during the days of the early Imperium, nowadays the light has dimmed, and the adepts charged with overseeing the air and climate of prodigal Earth increasingly run into mysteries which they fail to fully understand, into fluctuations and errors which they fail to account for. The heartbeat and whims of Holy Terra's atmosphere has grown ever more complex while her spires has risen ever higher, while at the same time the knowledge of those charged with controlling her air moods has declined ever more. While the atmospheric processors of Holy Terra remain wonders of technology and stand as testaments to the genius of ancient man, their modern guardians operate on a lower level altogether.

One example of the crumbling grasp of knowledge of Holy Terra's revered Anima Meteorologicii could be seen in their failure to predict and respond to the peculiar phenomena of weather which led to a deadly accident that has become known to history as the Sacred Asphyxia Incident of 823.M40.

When the Anointed Crusade to Reconquer the Nova Colchis sector began in 771.M40, Ecclesiarch Frontinus III decreed that all produce of the fiftyfour incense-producing provinces of the seven garden worlds of the Opimae system were to be stockpiled on Holy Terra in anticipation of the final victory of the Nova Colchis Crusade, not to be burnt until those good news of triumph arrived on the Throneworld. Unkown millions of tonnes of fragrant incense were dutifully transported to Sol and hoarded by the Adeptus Ministorum for half a century, filling grand storage basilicas until news of the Nova Colchis Crusade's succesful conclusion reached Holy Terra.

The successor of Frontinus, Paulatus VII, announced a grand ceremony of thanksgiving and jubilation to be held as choice Imperial forces from the Nova Colchis Crusade arrived at Holy Terra to march in triumph through her sacred streets. Great logistical pains were endured to ready all the earmarked incense of Opimae to be consumed in one arduously long public ceremony. The Ministorum priests chosen to burn the incense were given blessed respirators, as were the hordes of serfs tasked with carrying up the fragrant incense to the braziers, for it was recognized by the wise of the Ecclesiarchal Palace that the sheer amount of incense smoke to be produced en masse could prove hazardous to those in close proximity to the great braziers as the days of sacral labour dragged on during the triumphal ceremony.

And so it was that seventyseven cathedral spires along the chosen road of triumph teemed with frenetic activity as tens of thousands of monks and serfs laboured to haul the incense up to the grand braziers. Choirs sang beautiful hymns and bells rang melodiously as clouds of luxurious incense smoke poured out of the majestic towers, misting over the throngs of people gathered for the parade below. Yet the usual dispersal of the incense fumes by winds did not take place. For instead of caressing most of the Throneworld with a thin shroud of incense blown across built-over continents and dry ocean beds alike, the regional weather currents that day seem to have locked most of the burnt incense in place and stopped it from escaping to the rest of the world. Sinking incense fumes hit a sluggish lid of thick smog clouds lower down in the stratospehere, and an unlucky combination of weather currents among the high spires chanced to hem the accumulating incense fumes in, akin to the still eye of a storm.

The effect was a local catastrophe, many kilometers above the planet's distant surface. Most of the billowing incense smoke slowly amassed, its density growing by the minute. As the devout of the Ecclesiarchy continued burning tonnes of stockpiled incense, the fumes concentrated below their cathedral towers, blanketing the triumphal road and three districts of upper hive spires. The fragrant smoke first caused mass coughing and fainting, and eventually the inpouring incense smoke displaced breathable air completely. Panicked riots burst out, only to choke as vast swathes of wheezing humans collapsed on the streets, or threw themselves over balconies and railings in a desperate search for oxygen. No order was ever given to stop the burning of Opimae incense, and so the suffocating smoke clouds kept billowing from the blessed braziers.

The mass asphyxiation event on Holy Terra claimed a total of twohundredtwentythree million lives of Imperial subjects, including a majority of the non-Mechanicus and non-Astartes participants of the triumphal parade. Hillocks of corpses were dragged out of residential blocks for bio-reprocessing, and the whole accident caused some embarrasment for Ecclesiarch Paulatus VII and his retinue. Blame was quickly heaped on some mid-level clergymen who oversaw the quality control of the Opimae incense stockpiles, and they died horrible, shrieking deaths at the pyre, where they were still swathed in the suffocating incense fumes. Yet fortunately the low death toll meant that the Sacred Asphyxiation Incident of 823.M40 was of trivial importance to the intrigues and power plays of the corrupt Adeptus Terra, and so no rival faction in any organization ever attempted to win influence by exploiting the mass choking of so few faithful subjects.

Meanwhile, the learned mystics of the Anima Meteorologicii failed to find a convincing explanation for the unforeseen event, and thus it was filed away as but yet another of so many recent mysteries of weather, which their ancient predecessors likely could have decrypted and prevented by the superior grasp of their lore and craft.


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Writing from 2020 A.D. updated with drawing.
 
Nov 3, 2014
129
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Cornered Struggle

"From these hab-block prison walls,
into the lordless underhive,
instead of shackles on my wrists,
I carry an old rifle.

The kin that once kissed me in love,
are now all gone into the grinder,
from this lights-on, and out and on,
I'm all alone with my rifle.

We are but few in numbers, aye,
but still we are worth billions,
in pipe-duct and in chasm we blow,
both bridges and brigades.

The Loyalists will all tremble,
not knowing from whence,
purge victims from underfloor,
will sabotage and snipe them.

The word revenge is worth something,
when it is written out in blood,
we are striking from the dark,
out from sewer and holestead.

No! We shall not be the last,
the last of all the ratlings,
brings the lumen to the dark,
the ratling partisans strike.

From pit of decay and dust,
from cellar o'ergrown by moss,
we have seen the truth so raw,
with our very own eyes.

We who're cornered and forsaken,
they'll grind us into ration bars,
not one of our kin 'ill be spared,
they would have all of us snared.

No! We shall not be the last,
the last of all the ratlings,
brings the lumen to the dark,
the ratling partisans strike.

Whether slave or damned tramp,
scum, outcast or leper,
you shall rise to fight and fall,
in flames of the final revolt.

For silence is nought but filth,
when all of us are doomed here,
we who are accursed outlaws,
must sacrifice blood and soul.

In red lights-on of stark terror,
in lights-off of black despair,
with blood an' sweat arise new race,
to defy that Governor Sloann.

We swear to stake his head on high,
raised above the upperest spire,
for if our kin cannot survive,
we shall still have our vengeance.

No! We shall not be the last,
the last of all the ratlings,
brings the lumen to the dark,
the ratling partisans strike.

No! We shall not be the last,
the last of all the ratlings,
brings the lumen to the dark,
the ratling partisans strike."

- Heretical abhuman guerilla song found on Thema Cibyrrhaeots, translated into Low Gothic from the local ratling tongue of Skritchvicc, sung by the rebels of warlord Bimbop Bulbafeast, the paramilitary ratling leader of a final bastion in the underhive of Hive Heraclonas, who wages a war against the sanctioned eradication of his people: The above sample of insurrectionary sinspeech was extracted from a flayed abhuman prisoner put under acidic torture by the planetary Securitate, before execution by abacination, drawing and quartering
 
Nov 3, 2014
129
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Uplifting

"You are plenty old enough. Remember to die bravely with the Emperor on your lips. Do not cry, my little dear one, for I will have many more children."

- Famous words uttered by a pious Loyalist mother to her son upon his induction into the Juvenalis Militum of the embattled voidholm Mithradates Megalis in 854.M40: These uplifting Propagatus phrases will sometimes be used for nefarious purposes by cynical deviants who cannot appreciate their higher spirit
 

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