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 the 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, hailing 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.
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 warlording 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, gendarmes, 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 stratum 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, extract protection money and dabble in organized crime of their own to make ends meet.
Some local arbitrator organizations will however be well-funded and well-disciplined forces, 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 organizations, 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. They 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.