"Trust not in iron,
Its skin gnawed by air,
Impurities and rust,
To bend and break,
Its spine so strong,
Yet fate but dust."
- - -
"The baying of the mob,
Akin to blind devourer,
Well enough to rob,
By sheer spoken power."
- - -
Purge the Taint
In the grim darkness of the far future, loyalty is rewarded by death.
An ancient jokester during the misty Age of Terra once quipped that our recorded past is full of weird, wonderful and worrible things. Indeed, the trials and tribulations of human history form one unending litany of cruelty. Sometimes such callous acts toward fellow creatures are carried out with sadistic glee, sometimes with the drunk joy of possessing power whereas your victim does not, and sometimes reluctant evil is carried out with a grim resolve to do what must be done.
While humans are good at seeming to be things they are not, they are likewise prone to pick up flawed perceptions of a seeming situation, and act accordingly. Sometimes, he who has been burned once will avoid fire like the plague, and he will overcompensate beyond all reasonable bonds in order to avoid being burned again. Such a phenomenon can be observed ad nauseam in that splendid last defender of humanity, that lone shield against the dark, that holy prison of our species that is the Imperium of Man.
Here, in that rotting starfaring realm spanning the Milky Way galaxy, the servants of the God-Emperor of Holy Terra will scour life from entire planets in order to stop the spread of unholy influence. Here, in that fortified madhouse of cosmic proportions, billions will be tortured, slain and burnt without second thought in order to root out the taint. Here, in that decrepit haunt of fanatics running amok betwixt the stars, bloodthirst and righteous zeal combine to form a hateful whole, as counterproductive as it is excessive.
Such a feverish fixation with cleansing the teeming mass of mankind from suspect corruption stems from a long history of disasters and hellish woe brought about by internal strife, untamed wyrdlings and Daemonic incursions. If there is one thing that the final downfall of the soaring Dark Age of Technology and subsequent hardships has taught the millions of jaded human cultures across the galaxy, then it is the need to hate the deviant, purge the malcontent and burn the witch.
Rare fragments from the eldest days of the Imperium hints at a time when the all-conquering Emperor was well aware of this fundamental shift in mindset of post-apocalyptic mankind, and wished to combat the oppressively torpid mood of such a traumatized and fearful species. Indeed, the Emperor sought to kickstart a flourishing renaissance of human intellect, enterprise and curious innovation, and the regressive scars left on the minds of parochial survivor colonies from five thousand years of cannibal freefall proved a formidable obstacle to overcome. Perhaps the Master of Mankind would have succeeded in record time to reform the thinking and acting of His chosen species, had He remained among the living for longer. Yet internecine conflict and naked treachery cut short the grand works of the holy Imperator, and thus He ascended into heavenly godhood to judge sinful mankind for our abominable sins.
Ever since, the dream of recapturing some of the golden paradise that was lost in the Age of Strife has long since died. Not only achievable human dreams have met their demise, but uncounted numbers of living, breathing human beings themselves have been slain in an orgy of vengeful self-flagellation. Fivehundred generations has passed since the God-Emperor walked among His scattered flock. In that time, the fevered crisis of total war and the sclerotic way of doing things within the Imperium has seen His star realm enter a slow death spiral of primitivization, retardation of thinking, demechanization and unrelenting carnage. In a demented state of cultural mass psychosis, Imperial thinkers, planners and dogmatists have ever more resorted to the need for necessary evils, thereby creating a negative feedback loop of deepening depravity, shrieking insanity and mental disconnect from rational, constructive measures. If it seems to be a problem, burn it! If it talks, torture it! If it moves, kill it! No man, no problem.
O, pious faithful. O, strong loyalists. O, martyrs in becoming. Embrace struggle and suffering!
The Imperium is formidable at multi-tasking hatreds, as ten millennia of howling madness, xenocides and internal purges of massive proportions have borne witness to. It is well capable to simultaneously loathe the mutant while it abhors the witch, tramples the malcontent, burns the heretic and spits in the face of the xeno. Feel no pity for the hypothetically innocent who must be cleansed, so that greater mankind may live! They may have the blood of ancient Terra in their veins, but the oceans of humanity are nigh inexhaustible, covering one million worlds and innumerable voidholms like a galactic plague of locusts and cockroaches. For truly man has been reduced to vermin under the stern stewardship of the High Lords of Terra, a parasitic sentient species scavenging off the fading glories of its brilliant ancestors, even as it forgets more and more of their forebears' ingenious works and discoveries for each century that pass it by.
If man lives like vermin, then why not eradicate him like vermin when the prudent need arise? Verily, the monstrous claws of unspeakable Chaos cannot be allowed to hook the dutiful worshippers of His Divine Majesty. Nay! That nightmarish threat is an insidious one, and may hide inside the hearts of each and every one of us. We cannot trust in faith and purity alone to stem the tide. We cannot tolerate the risk of contamination.
And so, each day and each lightson, on a thousand worlds and voidholms, masses of loyal warriors and obedient slaves of the Terran Imperator will be rounded up and exterminated, by the orders of uncaring overlords. What does it matter that this regiment fought like demigods against the lethal foe? What weight does the heroism of the frontline fighters carry, when the survival of mankind as a whole is at stake? Is it not far better to kill those, who were used to destroy Chaos, rather than to risk the spread of malignant corruption? Is it not better to burn the unseen seeds of future heresy, even before the bearers of said seeds know they have been planted inside their heads?
Thus, it befalls the most faithful servants of the God-Emperor to undertake the solemn duty to give these veterans a martyr's death. And so gunnery crews of orbiting Imperial Navy ships, aircraft pilots, ground-bound Astartes superhumans, Titan Legios, Arbites enforcers, elite amazons of the Adepta Sororitas, Inquisitorial Stormtroopers, Securitate Military Police and a host of other Imperial units will fall upon the victorious heroes of harrowing battles, and give them the Emperor's peace that they did not even know they were in need of. Mercy killings, they may be written off as. A distasteful necessity. Standard war protocol. A wise precaution.
Often, the overbearing weight of firepower and costly equipment at the hands of the undertakers of the ordained purge will stand in sharp contrast to the cheaply armed and exhausted victors of the recent battle against Chaos. Witness the absurdity inherent in the situation, when Imperial Space Marines first brings a cannon to a gunfight, and then proceeds to gun down their non-genhanced comrades in arms, who carries but flimsy flak armour and simple las weaponry of puny mass make.
Of course, however grisly and unjust the end visited upon victorious heroes may be, the official story will never say a word of what truly transpired on that day, as the dust settled after an outright devilish fight against forces no man nor woman was meant to face. Of course, truth is the first casualty of war. And so we see that the glorious saviours of a hive city or voidholm section will be shamelessly touted in Imperial propaganda as having fought to the last warrior in defence of thier loved ones and sacred Imperator. Tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter, even when the hunter himself was hunted down after making his kill.
It is a virtuous act of governance to censor the murder of war heroes. After all, reality will always disappoint, so where is the value of knowing the truth?
By Throne and faith we swear eternal loyalty to He who dwells upon the face of Terra. We renounce our own will, and abandon all thought of self. We surrender all concern for our fellow human beings, for we will obey without question the divinely appointed masters and betters of the Holy Terran Imperium. When they give the order, we will carry it out no matter what we may think of it in our heart of hearts.
And so the history of the Imperium of Man is the malevolent story of how ruthless leaders squandered the blood and treasures of the human species. To their indifferent overlords and dominas, the lives and deaths of Imperial subjects are nothing but vast numbers in a broken equation of increased input to feed the meatgrinder and sustain a stumbling colossus on feet of clay. This freakshow of interstellar empire has lasted this long mainly through sheer size and might, for quantity has a quality all of its own. Size matters, yet it makes no one invulnerable.
The Imperium of Man is deeply corrupt, overburdened and harrowed by a zealous insanity of its own making. The fanatic faith in the Imperator may often give strength and unity to persevere and win through, even while buoying up the fortunes of a rotting theocratic dictatorship, yet worship of Him on Terra is no substitute for a stellar dominion based on mastery of science and technology, as the Emperor Himself well knew. Thus the salvation afforded mankind by its overbearing Imperium is a false one, an empty shell of stagnation, retardation, myopia and corpse-like rigidity devoid of a vivid ability to adapt, evolve and survive. And the truest manifestation of this fruitless dead-end of human development may be glimpsed in futile scenes of utter horror, as the bravest of heroes are shot down from behind by their own brothers in arms, and cut down in cold blood by their own martial sisters.
And so we see that mankind has been consigned to an eternity of carnage and suffering.
Such is the end that awaits the best of us, in an aeon of madness.
Such is the lot of mankind, in a time beyond hope.
Such is the fate of our species, in the darkest of futures.
It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only betrayal.