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 beyond 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.
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.
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 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.
- Follies of Damnation, pamphlet penned in M.38 by Cardinal Ignatius Paulinus Hieronymus of Salem Proctor
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.