I play Warhammer 40,000 (or ’40K’). I play Warhammer as often as I can, which is not nearly enough. If I had my way, I’d play a game a week and enter a tournament a month. As it stands, I play about a game a month and enter tournaments once or twice a year. I am always trying to get new people to play the game, because those friends of mine who do play are either few in number or difficult to pry into actually playing (or both). Typically, when I broach the subject of playing 40K with somebody who sounds potentially interested, I usually get the response “It’s so expensive, though!”
And that, my friends, is just soooo much bullshit. So, in the interest of procrastinating the mountain of work I’ve got sitting here to be graded, I’m going to rant a bit.
All right, Warhammer 40K is not super cheap. The sticker shock of buying an army outright seems overwhelming. The rulebook will cost you $75, the army specific rulebook (which you’ll need) will set you back another 50. Most full-size armies, if bought at the sticker price, will cost you several hundred dollars. Throw in another hundred-ish bucks for paint and brushes, and you can reasonably expect to drop ~$500 to start up (though there are a *lot* of ways to get discount stuff and come under this figure). When people go to the website and start adding things together, they start to freak out.
What they’re forgetting, though, is that nobody expects you to go out and buy everything all at once in the same sense that nobody expects you to go out and buy every single piece of a model train set all at the same time or expect you to buy and entire set of golf clubs and attire the first time you play. This, I feel, is part of the misunderstanding: people think Warhammer is a game. It isn’t. It’s a hobby.
Playing the actual game of Warhammer 40K is only about a third (or less) of what you spend your time doing. For the rest of the time you are buying models, building/painting/customizing those models, putting together army lists, modeling terrain, chatting tactics online, and so on. For every game I play of Warhammer 40K, I’ve probably put about 10 hours of prep time behind it over the course of however many weeks or months. I enjoy this process - it is part of the hobby. It’s fun and very satisfying to finish painting a really cool model to add to my collection.
People who think it’s a game are usually folks that approach the world from the perspective of the video gamer. You buy it, you sit down, you play it, and, 20-ish hours later, it’s over. Never mind that video gamers are paying the exact same amount of money (if not more) for their consoles + games as I do for my 40K armies. Nevermind that, unlike video games, an army that I build or a model that I paint I can use and will remain relevant forever. I am still fielding models I purchased almost ten years ago. Did that little plastic tank cost me $50? Yeah, it did. But when I laid out the money for that tank, you were laying out $50 for Halo 2. Tell me, are you still playing Halo 2? Hmmm?
Didn’t think so.
Furthermore, when you compare Warhammer 40K with other actual hobbies, it compares quite favorably. It’s cheaper than golf by a country mile, it’s less time consuming and less expensive than fishing. It costs a damn sight less than boating hobbies of any kind. Model Trains? Warhammer is both less expensive (overall) and takes up less space. Gardening? People spend more money on gardening than on any other hobby (in aggregate, granted). Sure, when you’re a teenager with a crap minimum wage job you only work part time, a Warhammer army is realistically out of your reach. If you’re a full grown person, though, with a salary and a car who pays your own rent and taxes and still has the money left over to occasionally take your significant other out to an expensive dinner, don’t sing me the ‘but it’s so expensive’ sob story. Bull shit, cheapskate–if you want to, you can afford it without even making a noticeable dent in your bank account. Hell, I afforded it while working as a dog walker and then as an adjunct professor, and let me tell you: those jobs do NOT pay that well.
If you want to whine to me about how much 40K costs, what you should say to me is “I don’t like the idea of this hobby enough to invest the resources necessary”. I don’t have a problem with that. That is totally fine by me. There are a lot of hobbies I don’t like enough to invest in (like fishing, for instance). I do not prance around, though, using the ‘exorbitant’ cost of fishing rods as an excuse not to get involved. I just say ‘no thank you’ and move on. What drives me bonkers is the perception (A) that if I play this game I somehow have buckets of disposable income and (B) that I’m supposed to believe that you really want to play but are just too broke to start. Sure, some people are legitimately strapped for cash for a variety of reasons, but the majority of the people who say this to me are not among them. They’ve been making more money than this poor-ass writer for a long, long time. They just, for some reason quite beyond me, can’t simply admit to me that they don’t think the cost is justified considering the enjoyment derived. That doesn’t mean you can’t afford it; that just means you don’t want to. Stop pretending and just tell it to me straight.
I’ve got a game of Warhammer 40,000 against a friend of mine coming up this weekend, which has led me to give the idea of the ‘super-soldier’ some thought, as the Warhammer 40K universe is one awash in so many super-soldiers that the one army that doesn’t use genetically engineered/cybernetically enhanced/psychically modified supermen to fight their battles is a notable exception in the whole length and breadth of the galaxy. (For those of you who care, that one faction is the Imperial Guard, and they make up for it by taking gigantic tanks everywhere)
Anyway, all of us should be familiar with the bog-standard super-soldier storyline. It goes like this:
- Government/Madman/Religion/Secret Society creates super soldiers to destroy enemies.
- Super Soldiers Destroy Enemies and HOW!
- Government/Madman/Religion/Secret Society no longer needs super soldiers/doesn’t want super soldiers anymore.
- Super Soldiers feel marginalized.
- Super Soldiers proceed to smash government/madman/religion/secret society or their designated representatives.
This is, essentially, the plot of everything from Soldier to the Horus Heresy to Universal Soldier and so on. To be perfectly honest, it’s a fun story, if a bit predictable. The extent to which the story is silly or powerful or interesting varies widely dependent upon execution. That isn’t really what I want to talk about here, though. No, what I’m mostly interested in is the following question: Why do we like this story so much?
I mean, in the first place, when objectively considered, the whole idea is terrifying. Creating people who have no other purpose but slaughter and destruction is bad enough, but then to have them run amok is even worse. The genetically engineered super-soldier isn’t (or shouldn’t) be ‘cool’, since what he/she does is objectively terrible. We, of course, come from a society (among many societies worldwide, mind you) that glorify war, so the whole ‘terrible-ness’ of their behavior is easily lost on us.
Furthermore, when you consider their daily lives and what it consists of, the appeal of the super-soldier should drop even further. I mean, all these guys do and all they can do is practice killing things. I know many of us think that killing things, at least in the abstract, is fun, but I strongly suspect that it is anything but. Even career soldiers in our professional military don’t spend their whole lives fighting in wars against overwhelming odds. Heck, many of them don’t even kill people at all. Those that do have to work very, very hard and those that go into battle wind up dealing with really terrible amounts of stress, anxiety, and, well, violence. Violence is rather inherently unpleasant and, indeed, much of the joy of victory in violent encounters is the knowledge that the violent encounter is over. I would question the sanity of any person who prefers being shot at to not being shot at, full stop. If we consider that a super-soldier has nothing to look forward to at all beyond a violent death, it at once becomes obvious (a) why they tend to revolt against their masters and (b) why being a super-soldier is an inherently raw deal.
This brings me back to the original question, then: if the actions of a super-soldier are naturally reprehensible and the life of a super-soldier isn’t appealing, then why are super-soldiers such popular implants in science fiction writing? Heck, many of these stories make a point of showing us just how terrible it is being a super soldier, and still we think “man, Kurt Russel was soooo cool in Soldier!’ Isn’t that just a little, you know, perverse?
There are, of course, a whole host of answers to this question, some of which are likely contradictory. We, being contradictory creatures anyway, shouldn’t be troubled by this, however. I would like to present, however, a brief list of reasons why I think we love super-soldiers so much.
- We Love Violence, But We Don’t Like Getting Hurt: The super-soldier allows us to enjoy the adrenaline rush of warfare without the pesky realities of human frailties getting in the way. We don’t need to worry about Van Damme in Universal Soldier because he’s not a real guy, anyway. He can take it. The super-soldier is the superhero of warfare: gets the job done and can skip over the pesky consequences involved in murdering dozens of people and being shot a bunch by bad guys. It justifies the things we like about action heroes already, except with ‘Science!’. It is safe to identify with him, since he can survive where we could not.
- Our Grotesque Love-Affair with War: Some super-soldier stories have been referred to as ‘war-porn’, and the metaphor is an apt one. Wars, as far as we violence-loving action fans are concerned, have the disadvantage of being either fairly short conflicts waged by ordinary people in modest theaters or long, drawn-out conflicts involving complex political and social upheaval. In both cases, the act of blowing things up is constricted by the pace of history or the ugliness of human behavior. The super-soldier lets us condense what we want to read about in warfare (explosions and glorious battle!) while leaving out the stuff we don’t want to read about (why are we fighting anyway? Is this war just?). Bah! Phooey! Just bring on the robot-ninjas, give the space marine a machine gun, and let ‘er rip!
- They Can Destroy The Problems We Can’t Engage: Many of us live with unrestrained frustration at the political world. We don’t trust the government. We fear terrorists. We worry over nuclear war. We want somebody to do something about organized crime. Regardless of the respective realism of these concerns, the super-soldier, much like the superhero, gives us an outlet to vent them. In this sense, he isn’t altogether unlike any action hero, except he is something constructed which inherently makes him achievable. None of us are likely to become Superman and there is little chance of there being more than one John Rambo in the world, but super-soldiers can be mass produced. They are the very literal answer to the question ‘what can be done to stop ‘x”. The answer is ‘fifty Adeptus Astartes in Power Armor will Shoot Them All!’ Viola! All our murderous social fantasies embodied!
So, there you go, my .02 on the issue, if, indeed, it is an issue at all.
Now, if you’ll pardon me, I need to organize a company of Imperial Fists Space Marines to smite their brothers, the Ultramarines, in glorious battle.
I’m in the middle of reading Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun (which, by-the-by, is amazing), and something about the mood of the whole thing has struck a chord in me. The age of Wolfe’s Urth (which we come to understand is some distant evolution of our own Earth) is a palpable thing. The dust and detritus of the half-remembered past seem to fill every decrepit alley of Nessus. The wonders of the past and the horrors of the present in that book are presented simultaneously, without nostalgia or sentimentality, really. Severian’s world, as strange is it is, merely exists; it is not open to critique.
On the surface, Urth seems to be situated in the distant past. We have guilds, headsmen, citadels, and old moldy libraries. The world is ruled by an Autarch, who is readily identified as a kind of absolute monarch, and our ‘fantasy world’ gears are cleanly engaged. But then things start to change a bit; Severian comes across things that seem anachronistic. There are technologies present that we do not, as yet, possess. There are oblique references to the Apollo Moon Landings (‘before the moon was green’) and other things, as well. You quickly realize that this is not the alien past, but the alien future. So alien, in fact, that you do not recognize the least part of it. Yes, they seem primitive, but the parts of their culture and technology that are far superior to ours are so ingrained as part of their world that they scarcely notice them as unusual. They lack the curiosity about such things that we would naturally expect.
Wolfe is not the only writer to do this. Frank Herbert creates such a world in his Dune novels; Warhammer 40,000 is a naked and brutish attempt at the same thing. On the surface, what such stories enable us to do is experience both the kitsch of the medieval world as well as the wild imagination of science fiction without exposing either to undue cognitive dissonance on the part of the audience. We get drawn into the world and accept it before we start wondering how it came about. By that time, of course, we are already hooked; we no longer need the explanation and, even if we get it, we are likely to be forgiving. The passage of millennia enables almost anything to be plausible.
Deeper than that, though, and the thing that really gets me engaged, is the way in which such stories are able to engage deeply-held cultural and social biases of what constitutes ‘advanced’ and ‘primitive’. We commonly look at technology as a linear progression rather than a fluid adaptation to social and environmental needs. We forget that the internet was not predestined to occur and, likewise, forget that if it were to cease to exist, we would continue along without it anyway. The day after Rome fell, the Romans were still Romans or, conversely, they had ceased being ‘Romans’ a long time ago anyway and it hardly mattered. They had a mess to clean up, that’s all. The passage of time shall erase all that we’re familiar with, but it may return from obscurity that which we have forgotten, too, should it be needed. Like all successful species, we are very adaptable critters.
And so, when looking at scifi/fantasy (or ‘science fantasy’, as Wolfe’s work has been called) stories of this kind, we find ourselves faced with the realization that our current reliance on (x), whatever that is, is not the thing that defines us, or at least not essentially. Those peripheral concerns change the circumstances somewhat, but not the essential spirit of what it means to be human. We will forever build things; we will forever forge new ideas and new inventions; we will always seek to make our mark on the universe. Whether we do it with a branding iron or a laser is a side-concern. The choice is not one of ‘how advanced we have become’, but rather ‘what method we culturally accept’.
I will close with a brief anecdote: A friend of mine who is very Italian attended an exhibit in the Boston Museum of Science showcasing artifacts from Pompeii. What struck him most was the display of women’s jewelry and cosmetics as well as men’s rings. He said he could have seen any of those things being worn by Italian relatives and friends on that very day. Indeed, his comment initiated a scene in my mind’s eye: A Roman man with a fat gold ring on his pinky sits in his coach, gazing worriedly at the spewing Vesuvius. “Angela!” He calls, “Let’s go! You can put your makeup on later!” Angela yells from the villa, “Michael, I’m not going anywhere without my face on, I don’t care if the mountain does explode!”
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
Gaming properties are frequently getting revised and reinvented. For those of us old enough to remember the 1st Edition of Dungeons and Dragons and its cludgy rules or the original Metal Gear and just how freakishly difficult that game was, we’ve seen versions of our favorite games, both tabletop, pen and paper, and electronic, come and go. There have been ups and downs, granted, and some old editions so weighted down with nostalgia we have difficulty escaping them (2nd Edition AD&D, anyone?), but no matter what we think of it, whatever version of a game we’re playing now will, eventually, be replaced.
Recently, one of my favorite games – Warhammer 40,000 – entered its 6th Edition. Games Workshop, the publisher, has taken to revising its core rule system every five years, give or take. I started in 2nd Edition, which was an incredibly detailed game, but so monstrously complex and poorly balanced that I really don’t miss it, despite the nostalgia of playing chaotic battles on my basement floor or in my friend Bruce’s garage. This edition change, likewise, I find to be a fun and interesting shift in the rules. It rebalances things a bit, changes the overall dynamic of the game, and makes a stale game suddenly new and full of excitement. In most cases new editions do this rather well, assuming the development team has been able to identify that central thing that makes the game what it is.
What I find regrettable (though sadly inevitable) is the sheer number of nerds on the internet that throw absolutely gigantic hissy-fits over the idea of their old game being ‘replaced’ with the new one. This doesn’t really happen (to my knowledge) with video games much, but with RPGs and strategy games it happens all the time. Case in point, take this post or others of its like regarding the 5th-6th ed changeover. Wander around Warseer if you want to see some massive bitching.
While on the one hand I understand the displeasure with change – everybody hates change – sometimes I have to wonder at the bitterness here. For one thing, these edition changes usually leave the essential parts of the game in-tact. In 6th Ed Warhammer 40K, you can still amass giant armies of superhuman space marines to crush aliens. In 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, you can still gather together with your friends to slog through dungeons and slay dragons for treasure. Where is the problem? Furthermore, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from going back and playing an older edition of the rules if you find the change less fun for some reason.
I think, on some level, the problem with these edition changes is that folks get caught up in the minutiae of a game – certain mechanics they are familiar with and certain rules exploits they rely on exploiting to succeed. The idea that now, suddenly, their comfortable little world is overturned and the have to re-learn what they’ve learned (like some reviled n00b!) is shocking and terrifying. In this sense, one can see an edition change for an RPG or strategy game as a tiny reflection of the real world, which also has a tendency, from time to time, to knock us out of our comfortable perch and force us, through hard work and creativity, to find a new one. I daresay, then, that edition changes and the upheaval they bring to the gaming community are good for the emotional development of your average introverted geek. They learn to adapt; they grow up a bit.
If only all of us had hobbies that do the same.
Science Fiction, by and large, deals in monolithic political organizations. The Federation of Planets, the Galactic Federation, the Terran Empire, the Global Hegemony, and so on and so forth. Here’s my question, though: where the hell do these writers get off thinking this is going to happen? The may become a bit of a rant, so here we go:
The answer is zero. Zero times, as in never. Not once, even for a minute.
I mean, I understand the authorial motivation for creating a single world government–the world government in those scenarios is simply an analog for the author’s own national government and culture that, for the sake of convenience, has eradicated or supplanted all other indigenous world governments. It makes things easier, certainly–everybody speaks the same language, politics becomes notably easier to understand, and you can spend most of your authorial energies on writing about the stuff everybody actually cares about (that being ray guns, spaceships, and bloodthirsty aliens).
The thing is, though, that it is enormously unlikely to happen as imagined by so many authors. At the very least, humanity would have to change significantly in order for it to occur. In the fullness of time, perhaps, this will happen, but right now it is practically impossible. Can you imagine the UN actually passing laws? Laws that the rest of the world actively obeys? I can’t. Why listen to the UN? What do I care if some guy in Central Africa thinks Europe has too much money? Who is he and his people to badger me about my use of incandescent light bulbs? Screw him. I say, with full realization that this is a heartless and selfish position, that I couldn’t care less about the opinions or problems of a group of foreigners I barely know anything about.
Scoff at me as you like, enlightened ones, but consider this: I am by no means alone. There is some science behind this, too. It’s called Dunbar’s Number, and it basically dictates the human brain is incapable of maintaining social relationships (i.e. ‘caring’) with more than a finite number of people. Now, this can be made abstract to some extent (I can care about my country or my state or my city, for instance), but the relationship is necessarily different. In any case, this simple concept demonstrates a severe limitation to the establishment of a World State.
This idea is only exacerbated by the fact that there are such profound cultural differences across the world. These differences cause major diplomatic disconnects, misunderstandings, and are great barriers to these peoples making common cause with one another. Do you think the women of the West are likely to embrace Saudi Arabia? Are the Turks ever likely to see eye-to-eye with Greece to the point where they’d merge states? Do you think the Taiwanese are going to be re-absorbed into China without a fight? Not likely. I’d be less surprised if all of Mexico applied for US statehood.
Our future, assuming we have one (and I keep hoping), is going to have disparate political factions and nation-states for
a very long time. Should a galaxy-wide empire be established, it isn’t going to be some kind of Galactic Republic. We are more likely to see the pan-galactic feudal states of Dune or Warhammer 40,000. These governments are not made up of a people unified, but rather by a collection of disparate people subjected to the will of a greater external force that, by hook or by crook, binds the galaxy together to one will.
Sound dark? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. I’m afraid I don’t see the alternative, however, unless people cease being people and become something else. Granted, this might just happen, but I’m skeptical. Interestingly enough, if it is to happen, it may come from the places we least expect it. Take the Internet, for instance–if there is any place where human divisions are made less prominent, it is there. Then again, there are also those corners of the internet that make you despair for the future of our race more than anything else (I’m looking at you, comments section on YouTube and Yahoo Answers).
As I’ve said before, predicting the future is ultimately a fool’s game. All I can do is look backwards and see what’s happened before. The evidence, I feel, is pretty clear: No Federation of Planets for us. We are more likely to wind up with the Baroque Machinery of the Golden Throne.
Author’s Note: This is some introductory and conclusionary fluff to a battle report I wrote for one of my many Warhammer 40K boards. I think it’s a fun little vigniette in its own right, so I’ve put it here. If you are interested in the battle report itself (or curious about how 40K works), I’ve placed a link. Again, no infringement of Games Workshop’s copyright is intended.
Kryptmann Gore, Archheretic and architect of the Glorious Revolution, shivered in the cold morning dew. He had spent the last four days sleeping in the back of a ramshackle Chimera with the remnants of the Lustborn command staff–some of his first converts to the cause. They were all couching amid the ruins of a small trading post nestled in the rugged highlands of Hasturia’s northern continent, their eyes bloodshot and their moods iritiable. The drugs–both combat related and recreational–had run out yesterday, and already the withdrawal symptoms were taking their toll. Kryptmann knew one squad had died already from the effects, and another two had deserted over the night. “The fools,” he muttered, hugging his sodden coat closer to his body–Lysander and his Astartes would run them down and kill them before they cleared the first ridge.
“What are we waiting for, Kryptmann?” General Hortense asked in a ragged voice, his cheek twitching.
“The shuttle won’t land until we secure the landing area.” Kryptmann snapped. “You’re the damned general–you should know that!”
Hortense rose, his face pale with what Kryptmann assumed was anger, but realized was nausea. While the former High Commander of the Lustborn Legions vomited in the grass, Kryptmann looked at the small, pale man in the flight jacket who had appeared in camp the night before. “You’re certain your master’s ship is undetected?”
The pirate smiled, showing a decidedly imperfect set of teeth. “Low orbit, limited energy signature–the blockade won’t pick us up for hours.”
“But we’ll still have orbital support?” General Hortense groaned over his wretching, “We need orbital support!”
The rest of the command group nodded, shivering and weak with need. All their red-rimmed eyes fixed on the pirate and Kryptmann. The pirate smiled again, “You’ll get enough. We have a Valkyrie with Imperial transpoder codes that’s inbound, and I’ve got a link to an artillery satellite–you’ll have support.”
The vox-man, Barent, jumped as his device came to life. Pressing the earphones to his head, he turned pale. “Sir,” he reported to Hortense, “It’s them…they’ve found us.”
The little group sprang into action, the terror they felt at the nearness of their foe enough to overcome their paralyzing drug-withdrawal. Kryptmann, the only man present not shaking with nausea and chills, licked his lips and stepped inside the chimera. “Not a chance, Lysander–you’ll never catch me alive.”
Read the Report of the battle here.
Kryptmann’s lungs burned almost as much as the tears streaking down his cheeks, but still he ran. The rest of the command group was with him, he thought–he could hear their panicked breaths and hurried footfalls around him and behind him, but they were laden with heavier equipment and armor than he, and they were falling behind.
In front of Kryptmann stretched a broad, beautiful valley of tall grass and scattered trees, all spread beneath a perfect sky of aquamarine. He felt, somehow, that the universe was mocking him.
There was a hiss and an ear-splitting pop as the first bolt hit home, killing the vox man–Kryptmann could tell from the timbre of his scream. Another shot didn’t follow for a few seconds, but when it did it killed the general with equal efficiency. “Bastards,” Kryptmann thought, “They’re taking their time with us. Emperor forbid they waste ammunition.”
Pop! Another man down. Kryptmann tried to count in his head–how many more before they got to him? His stomach churning with terror, he willed his legs somehow to pump faster. His ragged breaths were now tinged with gasps of pain.
Pop! Another garbled cry, another dead follower…
Kryptmann risked a quick, panicked look behind him. He only glimpsed five golden-armored giants, moving in perfect unison across a sea of green grass. A split second later, the arch-heretic’s hip exploded with a pop and a shower of bone-chips and blood. Kryptmann screamed and pitched forwards into the grass and rolled down the slope, limbs flopping like dead snakes.
He came to rest in a shallow gulley, facing up at the clear, perfect sky. The pain was so intense it was all he could do to breathe and moan in agony. His eyes were swallowed by the broad, blue expanse above him, and it was all he could see or think about for a long, long time. Gradually, he realized he wasn’t dead. There was the briefest moment of hope, but then he remembered something. Something very important.
The Astartes didn’t miss a kill shot unless they meant to.
Kryptmann waited, gasping in pain, until he felt his doom approach. Lysander’s heavy steps made the ground shake a full minute before he appeared over him, the Captain’s huge, scarred face looking down upon him like a god sitting in judgment. Kryptmann managed a smile and grunted, “Come to gloat?”
Lysander’s voice was as cold as winter itself. “I promised you when this began that I would kill you with my own hands, wretch.”
“You…you don’t intimidate me, you oaf. You…you mindless stooge…” Kryptman growled.
Lysander planted a huge, armored boot on Kryptman’s chest. “I always keep my promises.”
“You’re nothing but a servant. I…I was a god amongst men!” Kryptman managed, spitting blood through his teeth.
Lysander shook his head very slowly. “No, you were but a man. A man among rats.”
A moment later, the Captain’s golden gauntlet descended, and Kryptman lost sight of the sky.
Author’s Note: What follows is some of the campaign storyline for a Warhammer 40K RPG I ran last year–the whole thing worked out wonderfully, actually–and I just thought I’d include this here for fun. If running your own 40K RPG, feel free to use it yourself, if you like. No infringement of Games Workshop’s copyright is intended.
++Attention Lord Inquisitor, OrdoDacia++
+Even a Man Who is Nothing May Still Offer His Life+
My Lord Orsino,
In accordance with your wishes I have herein compiled a complete overview of the Lustborn Heresy, so that future Ordo operatives may know the signs and respond accordingly. Following the completion of this report, I will have myself mind-scrubbed to remove the taint of such knowledge from my soul. Should you wish to access it, only you will possess the knowledge of its whereabouts.
With Loyalty Always,
Hathbront Markuse, Savant
It is likely that the precise origins of this wretched cult will forever remain unknown, but this much can be authenticated. In the early part of 797.M41, a vessel of xeno origin—possibly Eldar—was found derelict close to Listening Post 44872-AF on the Octavian Frontier. An interceptor squadron, led by the Lunar-class cruiser INS Vigilance and supported by INS Merciless, boarded the vessel, expecting some kind of xeno trickery. The small crew of the xeno ship was reported as dead upon arrival, though later certain interviews with the Vigilance’s boarding team contested that fact (they insisted they were forced to engage hostiles—see report 777320). In any event the ship was declared secure and it was Captain Gethamy’s decision to scuttle it in deep space.
It may seem odd that this action indicated the start of one of the most dangerous heresies in recent history, given the relative simplicity of it, but one important detail must be indicated. The medical officer aboard the Vigilance was none other than Kryptman Gore himself (see POI file 1848301-K8). It is suggested by a number of our augurs and analysts that Gore managed to acquire some kind of alien biologics that enabled him to later create the Luster-V strain. This again merely reinforces the importance of careful =I= involvement and investigation into all xeno contacts, no matter how routine.
The archheretic Krytman Gore was born on Helica II into a wealthy mercantile household in 758.M41. He excelled at academics and was admitted to the venerable SaturnineUniversityin 780.M41, where he studied chemistry and medicine. Graduating top of his class, he took a post in the Imperial Navy as a medical orderly, midshipman rank. His service record is exemplary, with his superiors lavishing praise upon the young officer. This, in and of itself, seems suspicious, but it must remain suspicions—the war did a good job of making sure none of our operatives were able to interview those who knew him. The Vigilance was lost with all hands in its initial action against the traitor fleet in 814.M41 near Cordobo.
Gore left the Emperor’s service in 800.M41 and seems to have moved to Hasturia to take up private medical practice. We strongly suspect this move was not happenstance. Given what followed, it seems obvious that Gore already had a plan in mind and Hasturia met with his specifications.
Whether Kryptman Gore was inspired or assisted by xenotech or whether he was, instead, a chemical and biological genius, the end result is the same. Gore wasn’t practicing medicine on Hasturia to serve the populace, but rather using his medical practice as a guise for his medical experiments. We have recovered intermittent reports from the local Magistratum in Hanburg (Gore’s city of residence) that record accusations of malpractice and malfeasance levied against Gore by patients. It is unknown what became of these accusations—clearly very little. It is possible he was fined and lost substantial portions of his income and personal wealth. This, of course, did not deter him.
What Gore was working towards was a version of mind control in chemical or biological form. It is probable that he had a number of failed attempts at this, hence the complaints and subsequent fines. Still, he was learning. This experimentation, in all probability, took until 805.M41 before a finished product was ready. This biochemical substance is now known as Luster-V.
The full Mechanicus report on the chemical structure of Luster-V can be found in archival report #CC8309961. In brief, it is a retroviral agent that radically alters hormone production in the body. Once exposed to a significant quantity of the substance, the victim is soon overcome with a feeling of quasi-orgasmic ecstasy as the body produces endorphins at a incredibly accelerated rate. The body then imprints this production of endorphins on a particular activity—that being whatever activity the victim is engaged in at the time of the drug’s activation. The victim is then chemically dependent upon the performance of that activity in order to produce endorphins of any kind. In essence, they are addicted to whatever it is they have been imprinted to do. One can immediately see the terrible and sobering effects such a drug would have in the hands of a power-mad heretic. To make matters even worse, Luster-V is permanent and self-replicating within a person’s system and can be passed down (in an inert form) to any offspring, allowing Gore and, later, the Chem Lords, to execute near-perfect control over a population thus afflicted.
Though tales of horror and mayhem are of little worth to formal reports, I feel it is necessary to point out the horrific results of a population infected with Luster-V. During the scourging of New Coplia, front line units reported hordes of emaciated, half-naked civilians imprinted as manual laborers running into crossfires to dig trenches in areas already overrun by Imperial forces. Elsewhere, we discovered women who had been imprinted during the act of childbirth serving as little more than horrifying breeding slaves, doomed to continually seek impregnation or suffer oft-fatal withdrawal symptoms. I need not mention, of course, the so-called Lustborn Elite—child soldiers imprinted on violence and warfare used as shock troops, commandoes, and even human shields against our forces.
As of this writing, there is nothing short of extensive gene-therapy that can reverse the effects of someone affected with Luster-V. Those actually ‘Lustborn’ (those who inherited the chemical from a parent) are beyond help. It is the stated recommendation of this report that they be put to death whenever found. It is both an act of mercy and the erasure of a profanity against the Emperor’s Light.
+The Corruption of Hasturia+
Of course, the full horror of Luster-V would not manifest itself for many years and, to the great regret and shame of the Ordo, its presence was not detected until it was far too late. This is, presumably, because Kryptman Gore was not so foolish as to begin imprinting people in obviously deranged ways. He must have worked with great subtlety, securing the dependence of various government ministers and underworld kingpins upon something only he could provide (such as placebo-effect sugar pills, for instance) by infecting them with Luster-V. It is hypothesized that these individuals, unaware of precisely why they needed Kryptman so much, soon began to depend upon him.
Hasturia was, of course, an ideal place to build a base of power. As a venerable agri-world that had been slowly growing its industry and urban centers throughout the 8th century M41, it was poised to become the next superpower in the Dacia Subsector as Aquilonia and Helica gradually faded with the tapping out of their resources. The prevalent cultural mood of Hasturia was energetic, optimistic, and forward-thinking. Government ministers were usually open to new ideas and radical new methods of governance and research and, therefore, had =I= agents and informants looking in a hundreds of directions at once. There was little chance we could have picked Kryptman Gore’s very quiet scheme for planetary domination out from among the many other, louder, and more flagrantly heretical activities of some of his fellow citizens (refer to reports 778012 through 779592 and their corresponding POI files).
Thus, Hasturia at this juncture was a balance of both agriculture and industry, with a population not so large as to be unwieldy for control but large enough to represent a good starting point for a larger, more widespread insurrection. We theorize that Gore knew this all too well, and chose Hasturia intentionally for his purposes. Regardless, however, of whether such theories are true or not, the fact remains that, at some point before 812.M41, Kryptman or his representatives had secured control of the top levels of the entire planetary government and had a firm grasp on the underworld and criminal element, as well.
Subtle and important shifts in Hasturian society, which had been happening throughout the early 9th century M41, picked up speed with Gore and the now Lust-addicted planetary leaders calling the shots. Recreational drug use skyrocketed, while crime simultaneously dropped to almost nothing. This indicates that there was a tight union between the underworld and the planetary governor, Ernest Falking, which was, no doubt, orchestrated by Gore. As society became progressively more debauched, we presume Luster-V continued to be distributed, and more people were made slaves to its will.
At some point during this process, Gore lost sole control of his creation, though we cannot say whether this loss was involuntary or rather another stage of his plan. Various government ministers saw what was happening and, presumably pondering the implications, evidently decided they wanted more than they had, and that Gore’s chemical mastery coupled with their ambition could provide it.
+The Cordobo Ambush+
Gore and the new leaders of the insurrection—later dubbed the Chem Lords—knew, and rightly so, that any action against the Imperium was doomed to failure without naval support. The timeline of when and how, exactly, the Traitor fleet was formed is not wholly known. Clearly some agreement with the Great Enemy was made—indeed, it is very likely a taint of the Ruinous Powers was evident from the very start of this process. In any event, a renegade fleet of considerable size was amassed in secret somewhere beyond the confines of the Hasturia system. The fact that there is no intelligence to indicate the details of this gathering of Enemy naval power can be partially attributed to the increased frequency of Eldar raids upon shipping in the subsector (see below), though it still exists as a stain upon the diligence of both the Imperial Navy and the Ordo.
The existence of the ‘Glorious Fleet’ and, indeed, the very first shots of what the Hasturians would soon be calling ‘The Glorious Insurrection’, manifested in a devastating raid upon the naval base at Cordobo in 812.M41. A battle group of two battleships, 15 cruisers, and no fewer than 80 smaller ships struck with remarkable coordination. Though a gallant defense was mustered and, thanks to the heroic actions of then-CommodoreMyraAtkin, the Cordobo base was not totally destroyed, loyalist naval power was struck a devastating blow. Nine ships of the line were irrevocably lost while another seven sustained crippling damage. There was also extensive damage done to the repair docks and command center. Though Cordobo would survive the war, it would be almost a decade before it was back to full operating capacity.
+The Lustborn Insurrection+
Much has been made of the military campaigns of the past 29 years, and it is not the purpose of this report to reiterate military history. Suffice to say that the Lustborn Cult wasted no time in consolidating its power and mustering together an army while its new fleet struck with devastating swiftness. As the subsector marshaled itself for a counterattack, many minor systems around Hasturia found themselves at the mercy of the traitor fleet.Cordobacontinued to sustain raids and the Stygian system was blockaded. War was joined, first naval and then ground forces got involved.
The Lustborn Cult used and, to the extent that it still exists, uses chemical agents and psychotropic drugs extensively in its forces. They are crazed and fanatical, often frothing at the mouth in frenzy and, one presumes, enjoyment. Though their tactical discipline was universally poor, their enthusiasm for their work was undeniable and the Chem Lords knew what they were doing. A stalemate, both naval in the space surrounding Hasturia and on the ground in Stygia, was soon underway. The war would grind on this way for fifteen years.
For reasons known only to their perfidious minds, the treacherous Eldar used the war as an opportunity to sow chaos across the Dacia Subsector. They made a habit of raiding convoys and attacking outposts, both Imperial and Heretical, for no apparent purpose other than to cause destruction and death. Most analysts agree that, were it not for Eldar ‘involvement’, the Lustborn Insurrection would likely have been contained in half the time necessary and many millions of lives would have been saved.
Many theories have been posed regarding the Eldar purpose for these attacks, but this analyst believes such speculation to be idle. It is enough that the Eldar hate us and, at heart, are cowardly and mercurial. It was for their sport and enjoyment that they became so engaged in the war and nothing more. Their motivations are alien, and we ought not waste time ascribing their actions logical purpose.
It is, then, with great luck that Admiral Atkin was able to finally draw the balance of the Eldar forces into a battle around the Bonner system that resulted in a stunning victory for humanity. This point—822.M41—is widely considered to be a turning point in the war. This is also the year that the Imperial Fists and White Scars Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes became involved in the conflict, finally breaking the stalemate on Stygia and spearheading the Imperial attack against Hasturia itself.
+Victory On Hasturia+
As of this writing, all conventional Hasturian and, by extention, Lustborn military power has been utterly defeated. Their fleet has been scuttled or captured, their armies have been crushed, and their capacity to make war has been razed, purged, and sundered. The Imperial Fists, with their typical enthusiasm, continue to operate on the planet’s surface, purging every last stronghold of the heretical cult with fire and blood.
Kryptman Gore is dead at the hands of none other but Captain Darnath Lysander of the Imperial Fists, his body pulped into little more than a bloody paste. All attempts at a post-mortem interview have failed, and with him dies much information about the Lustborn cult that would have been useful to us. A complaint has been lodged with the Fists’ Chapter Master, and it will no doubt be ignored.
As the above may indicate, our victory may have been too complete. All of the Chem Lords are dead, either killed in action with our forces or by their own hands. Most of the secondary tier of the Lustborn government is also dead or missing, though some of them do reside in our custody and are undergoing interrogation. In the chaos surrounding the siege of Hasturia, it is possible if not likely for elements of the enemy to have slipped through our blockade only to infiltrate other systems in the sector. Indeed, given Kryptman Gore’s apparent foresight and attention to detail, it is possible sleeper cells already exist on other worlds and have existed for some time. There is intelligence gathered on Aquilonia IV and elsewhere to support this possibility, and operatives are currently investigating. We may have stamped out the fire, but the embers are still hot.
Furthermore, the cost of the war has been high. Nearly three decades of all-out war has left a great mark upon the subsector. Stygia and Hasturia are absolute ruins—billions dead, nearly all urban centers ruined, infrastructure all but destroyed—while numerous lesser worlds underneath Lustborn authority have been significantly damaged. Refugees have been pouring into Helica II and Aquilonia IV for years now, stressing their already fragile planetary economies to the breaking point. Even comparatively remote worlds, such as Bonner and Vaskeri Prime have felt the pinch, with their planetary production quotas rising by up to 33% to meet increased demand for comestibles. The damage to our own military units is, of course, extensive as well. The navy is at a little over a third of its strength in 821.M41, and a huge proportion of most planet’s PDF are deployed on Stygia, Hasturia, or its environs, leaving much of the subsector relatively susceptible to attack. We have been fortunate that the Octavius frontier has been quiet for the past few decades. This cannot remain the case for much longer—greenskins are not known for their attention spans, and their notice will stray back our way eventually. When it does, I pray to the Emperor that our armies have regained their strength, or we are all lost.
The Ordo Dacia is engaged in a subsector-wide sweep of all populated systems to root out any and all remnant of the Lustborn Cult wherever it is found. Inquisitors and their Interrogators are encouraged to track the trade of illicit drugs, pay attention to chemists and medical personnel in particular, and to keep an eye out for any locals behaving as though in the thralls of Luster-V. Due to the cell-structure of these groups, only the leaders are of any worth in interrogation. All adherents to any cult, no matter how fledgling, are to be put to death and their leaders captured for further questioning.
Vigilance is key. The cult is nearly destroyed, that much is certain, but now is not the time to rest on our laurels. As the rest of the sector attends their victory parades and declares their holidays, our operatives must have our eyes open and our wills girded for their task that still lies before us. We failed in stopping this cult before it became a danger; we must not fail in stamping it out now that it is on the run.