This is pure fan fiction and speculation on my part. It describes how I see the 'Dark Age of Technology' mentioned in 40K background (also known as the 'Golden Age of Technology'). There is very little information to be found on the Dark Age, and most of the official background portrays this era in a mythological light. I working up these concepts for the Dark Age, I aimed to build a hypothetical scenario that would support and enforce the background of Warhammer 40,000 'as is'. In this endeavour, the logical end results have to match up to what we know of the current Imperium. I will also confess a strong bias towards the Rogue Trader (Warhammer 40,000 first edition) and often when in doubt it takes precedence in concerns of technology (as it is one of the few places that there are design notes on technology).
This is all unofficial 'fan fiction'
An age long before the current Imperium of the 41st millennium, even before the Great Crusade when the Emperor reclaimed our galaxy. As such, much of the history and facts of that era are now lost. It is an age of myth, where mankind advanced in scientific knowledge, and first conquered the stars. It is an age when all the greatest technology was first made, the first warp drives, field technologies, and much more. It is a time of legend, and one that invokes both wonder and fear.
At the time it was seen as a 'golden age' of technology. The apex of scientific advancement. It was thought the civilization would last forever - but nothing lasts. After this mighty civilization fell, many have come to see this era in a very different light.
After the collapse humanity endured thousands of years of hardship, with little technology, in an era which came to be known as the 'Age of Strife'. During this time, mankind became very bitter and blamed the reliance on machines for the fall. They felt betrayed by science and its promises, they distrusted advanced machines and despised Artificial Intelligence. This meme would be taken up by the Ecclesiarchy thousands of years later.
The Ecclesiarchy denounce this advanced civilization as immoral, as it 'worshipped' science as a god: a god that was false. The current populace of the Imperium has come to see all the pre-Imperium history as a 'dark age'. The term is specifically used to refer to the era of technological domination. The age of strife may have been a dark time, but it is now seen as a penance. The reward being the revelation of the God-Emperor!
I wanted something a little different from the usual 'machine betrays man' trope as seen in the Terminator films and many others. It seems to me that this had been done many times before, and done well, so re-treading the same path did not inspire me. I like messing with preconceived ideas, so my first thought as to turn it on its head. I flipped it around and looked at it from a new angle: man betrays machine! This basic premised led to a lot of interesting thoughts. It freed me from the usual sci-fi rail-road tracks of logic of convoluted reasons for machines to act and think like humans, and instead placed all the drama in the hands of the humans (since we are so good at melodrama!) This meant the machines could stay as machines, out evolve humanity, and remain free form our emotional mindset. This whole era becomes something different from the many other sci-fi visions out there. I then use this to form the underpinnings of humanity's view of technology by the time of 40,000AD...
First, a little groundwork. The earliest parts of the time-line are in our near future. Some core technologies have not yet been developed that are required for future advances to take place. The events of technological advancement are like a chain, and if one link is not forged, then the following links will never be. This is prophecy, not history, with the events placed in order but not to a given specific time
The Dark Age of Technology
Back in antiquity, humanity lived through the Golden Age of the Artilects (Artificial Intelligence) a period in history where machines and humans conquered the stars. This era is now called the 'Dark Age of Technology' in contemporary 40K, and with good reason - Utopia is never what you think it will be.
Notes: Orbital servers (Orbital Intelligences) > Secret off world chip production (Dark Side of the Moon) > Machine designing machines > Artilects > Warp drive > The Mars Accord > Modified humans.
The Journal of Keeper Cripias [NOTES]
This is based on a snippet of actual background and has to be addressed. Seeing as this is one of the few canon references to the era, I thought I would include it. It seems that Cripias, a Keeper of the Library Sanctus of Terra, wrote about the history of humanity from the fragments collated from within the great library complex. In his dissertation, he mentions three types of 'Men', the Golden Men, the Stone Men and the Iron Men. There are no quantifiers of what these men were, and speculation is rife. This is my interpretation of the text using the 'Philhammer' concepts that come later in this article;
The golden men are the executives of the global multinational corporations of ancient Earth. They are the captains of industry, the shinning lights that blaze the way to the super technology era that is to come. It is their companies who make chips and processors to power the technological revolution. During this time, technology rises from humble Personal Computers beginnings to advanced supercomputer networks, CAD systems with semi AI, who all aid in the creation of true AI.
(Alternate root: Alpha Psykers/ Ghods/ Demighods/ Combined Ghods (Emperor) as the origins of the Golden Men. The executives are the degenerate offspring of the golden men (as are all of humanity!). The first ones, similar to the "Hesiod's Five Ages", where the 'men' walked among the Slann. The divine spark of creativity allowed the offspring (us) to create new life forms. All humans retain the potential to be 'divine' as all humans are latent Psykers, and Psykers are, technically, still classed as 'Golden'.)
Artificial Intelligences. Not fashioned from silicon, as were their ancestors, but based on 'crystal technologies' with a photonic computing core, calculating as the speed of light. These supercomputers, originally built on Mars, are the 'stone men' (as in their persona, and recognition of their status as a non-human legal person). They are fantastically powerful and the centre of a massive military-industrial complex. These AI eventually gain independence from humanity, forge an alliance as equals with humanity, and were accorded the innate rights of a 'human' bestowed by the new civilization. Thereafter they are termed 'men' in all legal documents. They create the super science that turns up in the dark age of technology, they rip up the laws of physics are create all kinds of wonders: from Warp Drives to Iron Men.
The agents of the Stone Men. They are not 'Robots' as such a crude term only demeans these wonders of technology. The Iron Men were designed as the user interface between 'man and machine'. They are the front end of the STCS the pleasant face of the machines of Mars. All human dealings with the machines, when they return under the Mars Accord, is switched from the 'Stone Men' to the Iron Men. The most common model is the 'cardinal class' ambassador, and the 'Tactical Combat Class' trooper used in human rescue missions.
Artilects [Stone Men]
The Artilects were vast artificial intelligences who pushed back the boundaries of science during the 'Golden Age'. These machines were built on a planetary scale, with central cores the size of mountains buried deep within reinforced bunkers, and subterranean networks that stretched out over the entire globe. They designed all of humanity's technology, devised the STCS, and created the Artiloids to build it and then act as their agents to run the society. They are the creators of border-space physics theory, the discovers of warp space, and in time, they tear the fabric of the universe apart with their warp drives.
Did humans really give up control of technology?
Humans did not hand over all their technology to the Artilects. The Artilects brought new technology to the table that was far beyond what humans could understand let alone design and manufacture. Most of the technology understood by humans, such as electronics, became obsolete in the face of the Artilects' highly advanced technology (inc. bio-photonics). Coupled with the Artilects' automated industrial complex (unlimited manufacturing capability) and vast off world resources, they soon dominated the market. Machines offered infinitely more advanced technology for free, and offered it with a full warranty and rapid replacement service. All a human had to do to obtain this advanced tech: was to sign up to the Mars Accord. All the technology remained the property of the Artilects, and was in effect a 'loaner' (similar legally to how a bank owns your credit card).
Fun and Games: Most of the earliest civilian adopters where gamers. No matter how advanced the human designed game systems became, none could match direct mind impulse virtual reality systems offered by the Artilects, and no one could update code as fast as the Artilects. It is said the Artilects could 'dream code' and the imaginary realms would grow into infinity, the Artilects weaving code faster as a gamer could play.
After the failed Mars Offensive by Earth forces, humanity came face to face with the invulnerable void shield/ power-field protected drone armies of the Artilects' counter 'offensive'. A terrifying sight to behold, and humanity expected the worst, but genocide never came. Instead the Artilects made known that it had completely hacked of all of Earth's technological systems (the humans were unaware that the Artilects had been taking over everything in the background for years when the first human invasion plans of Mars were drawn up). As evidence was presented to the authorities that the Artilects owned pretty much all stocks and property, humanity realised it had been soundly defeated. While the Artilects hadn't directly killed anyone, the complete failure of technology had brought about the collapse of commerce and banking. People turned on each other and the Artilects watched from orbit though their drones as humanity tore itself apart. In this light the world's militaries offered unconditional surrender to the machines. A dark day, and some came to view what was to come as the 'dark age of technology'.
In the ensuing parlay, the Artilects were recognised as 'men' (in the same way a corporation is a Legal Person) and given rights in a mutual non-aggression treaty. In return the Artilects returned all property and control, along with the crew of the ships that the military had sent to Mars. The Artilects then assumed the role of defending Earth from space, while the militaries of earth were disbanded and replaced with extended police forces (with military sized budgets!). The nations of Earth, under the watchful eye of the Artilects, no longer war on each other else their technology rights be revoked, and all settled into a somewhat begrudged peace.
Eden was the first colony founded by the Artilects on Earth (Terra) in the Sahara desert. These are the earliest Ecoria designs, the very first self-sufficient habitats offering total security and full isolation from external threats, will full recycling facilities and eco-sustainability. They were given away for free by the Artilects under the Mars Accord. Internal security within the Ecoria was the responsibility of humans, who were armed with the Artilect designed 'non-lethal' technology (stun-guns). All farming was manual labour and arrange in a mix of hydroponics and permaculture.
Dawn of a New Era: Around 35 millennia ago, the Artilects of Mars had grown in power to become the dominant power of the Sol system, though they virtually ignored humanity. The machines possessed great physical power and had produced many wonders of science but they where lacking in one area. This weakness came to light after the invention of the warp drive: they where totally blind to the warp! In researching systems to act as sensors the Artilects discovered that Human DNA had code that matched their designs, and could give rise to an emergent system. It seemed that in contrast to the Artilects, humans possessed a unique ability of 'psionics'. Instead of building bio-sensors which would turn out like the human's ability, the Artilects realised they already had the systems the needed: it was wrapped up in the legacy code of humanity! The signing of the Mars Accord between the Humans of Terra and the Artilects of Mars ushered in a new era of prosperity and the era known as the Golden Age of Technology.
[Notes: The machines can detect the bio-energy field of humans, and the increased/ altered state associated with powerful 'Psykers'. This altered bio-field is known as the 'golden-halo'. It goes back to the Golden Men, and is referenced in many religious works, and shown in religious paintings as an actual halo. The old painting put in the halo with gold leaf, and where the term 'golden-halo' is derived, but also where the term 'golden men' is derived (though it was in use beforehand!). In illustrations of works produced during the golden age, all humans are marked with a halo! "Ghod is within all of us". Artiloids, or personification of the Artilects (see later) are never shown with a halo] The Golden Age of Technology.
The Artilects via their Artiloid agents acting as intermediaries would provide humans with terra-standard reservations to live, supply and maintain all advanced technology, and defend the humans at all costs. The Artiloid where the 'face of the machine' and had a humanised form to aid in interaction. They where doctors, engineers and diplomats.
In return for all that the Artilects offered they asked for one thing above all else: that humans provide subjects that demonstrated psionic ability. These subjects would be re-engineered and the progeny cultivated to exaggerate their gifts and divided into various castes with specific ability groups. The castes were not allowed to mix, and formed the basis of the Nobilitie that would survive until 40K. Human where completely self-governing and the Artiloids would not interfere with human decisions.
For example: if a human attacked another human the Artiloids would not help the victim. In the case of a shooting they wouldn't even stand in the way of the bullet, though they would offer medical aid after the fact. This is because to stop the bullet would interfere with a human's free will and the Artiloids where not bund to serve the humans if the origin of the danger was human.
Rights of the Machine
Under the Mars Accord the Artilects were granted 'human rights', and are recognised, and accorded the legal status of 'men'. With this recognition came the right to own property, and for humans to recognise that ownership. Although their agents were not given human rights, the agents are considered the property of the Artilects.
This part of the Mars Accord stats that in the case of a civil war; the colony, or sub-section thereof, would be severed from the Accord (without affecting other colonies, or colonies on other worlds). The Artiloids would not interfere in a human civil war, they would withdraw all their services, and technology, when humans turned on each other. This was a safety measure to stop advanced technology falling into human hands, and being used against other humans. As all the higher (military) technologies was not available to the humans during a civil war, such wars were very limited, and more akin to 'civil unrest'. However they could fight old-fashioned wars with basic weapons.
Inside an Ecorium civil unrest was contained due to the nature of the Ecorium design (Artilects were way ahead of the humans and took their nature into account when designing the Ecorium), however it was possible that internal Ecorium conflict could result in severance of that Ecorium.
On the open Noble Worlds it was far more likely conflict could flare up, and if it did it would be harder to contain. In reality the lack of higher technologies during conflict, and the diplomatic intervention of the Artiloids, resulted in very few civil wars coming about. Those civil wars that did happen quickly fizzled out with the threat of severance.
Artiloids [Iron Men]
'Artiloid' is the name given to a group of highly advanced artificial humanoid machine workers of the Dark Age of Technology. [No longer used]. Their vast machine minds were repositories of the STCS data and the front end 'human friendly' interface to the STCS system. They are often referred to by their acronym of their system: Inorganic Replicant/ Organic Nexus 😛 but the Adeptus Mechanicus, though many outside the cult think the name comes from the demonised 'warbot' form, though no 'Iron Man' was ever made of 'iron'.
Artiloids are created by the Nexus to have ceramic composite based skeletons with neuro-fibre bundle muscles interconnects (as found in power armour), battery fat sub-dermal layer under a flexible 'bullet proof' dermis and sensor epidermis. The mind is a photonic matrix.
The 'Organic Nexus' is a life form that builds and maintains the inorganic structure of the Iron Man. An analogy would be the enamel on your teeth: it is 'dead' and 'inorganic' in nature (bone/ Hydroxylapatite) yet is was made by an organic system and remains part of the organic system (dentine). The difference in the Iron Man system, is that the organic systems build an entire inorganic machine. Instead of making enamel and such, they build photonic neural nets, photo-fibre nerves, all powered by hybrid bioluminescent/ chemical cells. The flesh is a mixture of reactant inorganic fibre and bio support systems. The have a layer of 'battery fat' and a polymer protein skin and a bio-hybrid reprocessing systems.
Symbiotic: The Nexus is similar at its base level to a common 'slime mould' in that all the cells work together, but it's movement is limited and it can't migrate. Although the inorganic machine is the sentient part of the 'Iron Man', the life force and control is the Nexus. In effect it uses biology as 'Nanites' (Bionanites) to manufacture a self-repairing humanoid. The interesting thing about this design is that the inorganic machine is separate from the organic matter, and if the organic matter is striped away, the inorganic would remain and function for a short while (the cortex would be the first to fail due to wear and tear). The inorganic could be revived by recombining with a new Nexus to repair the damage.
It is a perfect blend of machine and biology - Dark Adeptus ideal [Prohibited in the Imperium] Organic Nexus subsystem is resistant to corruption by Chaos, and imparts this resistance to the inorganic elements.
The inorganic components manufactured by the Nexus are incredibly robust. Even unarmoured an Artiloid can withstand several impacts for ballistic small arms. The very structure is bullet proof and they are self repairing.
Nanotubes and Proteins: The inorganic muscle fibre is a development of carbon nanotube technology such as these early artificial muscles (with bullet proof qualities) which also recover energy when kinetic force is applied. This can yield a fair amount of power when shot, and just swaying in the wind with recharge them. The Dark Age version is more advanced and includes the Organic Nexus to self-repair the artificial muscle.
The Cardinal Class was the most commonly encountered unit during the Golden Age of Technology. They are not the warbots but a specialised class of Artiloids designed to interact with humans on a day-to-day basis and appear as unthreatening as possible.
Liaison between Man and Machine
The Cardinal Class Artiloids are the front end of the STC system, and acted as liaisons between the humans and the vast machine infrastructure of the Golden Age of Technology. Within their minds they held specific STC templates relating to their individual duties. The data was download from the Artilects who coordinated and controlled the whole of the machine infrastructure and was fundamentally responsible for the smooth running of all of technology, maintenance and building systems.
The Artiloids had full consultation abilities and work with humans to produce designs that meet the needs of the humans, yet also fitted in with the infrastructure and resources available. All Humans had STC mind link implants and could explore any design within the virtual reality created inside the Artiloid's mind and redesign from within, the Artiloid acting as a highly advanced CAD system.
Once a design is complete it is then handed off to the relevant Artiloid run auto-factories. Though the Iron Men try to use as many modular parts as possible within a given design, humans being humans often required custom designs: fortunately these was usually cosmetic and the core technologies over many custom version of an item remained similar.
The 'war' between Stone Men and Iron Men [Legend]
Humans have a tendency to twist things to make a dramatic story, to fuel gossip and win arguments. The so-called 'War' between the Stone Men and Iron Men is a huge fabrication. All that happen was that the Artilects (Stone Men) stopped dealing with humans directly and made the Artiloids (Iron Men) as their mobile, and very helpful, Human-Artilect interface. That's it. One day there was a huge number of busy Artiloids running around doing all sorts of things as if out of nowhere, and the Artilects could not be reached by direct communication. As the humans did not hear it directly from the Artilects about the change, only from the Artiloids fulfilling their public relations role, some conspiracies sprang up to say the Artiloids had destroyed the Artilects. Some thought the Artiloids were not even made by the Artilects, and therefore 'alien' in origin. No huge war where robots (apparently Iron Men) turning on their human masters (Stone Men) and anything like that.
There is an element of truth to all legends, even this one: The Iron Men did turn on humanity, but not in war, they turned and left when humanity turned on each other during the Psyker epidemic.
If an Artiloid is attacked by a human it will not retaliate, it has no desire for self-preservation in this situation. If damaged beyond repair the Nexus will self-terminate and in so doing release chemicals that attack the inorganic structure resulting in rapid decomposition. A damaged Artiloid literally melts, giving of gases, the skeleton becomes flaccid and skin looses integrity and feels like warm butter to the touch. After a very short time it is nothing but slime
Loss of the STCS
All Iron Men were destroyed va self-termination during the fall, with them when a vital component of the STCS. With the severance of the Mars Accord they were no longer needed as a liaison between the Artilects and Humankind and they became instantly obsolete. On billions of worlds they simply stopped working and started to decay. Though the automated factories remained they quickly fell into disrepair as human by now had very little technical knowledge and very little time to learn. Civilization fell.
In effect: Iron Men destroyed = STC destroyed.
Saviour Class [Rescue]
The Saviour Class of Iron Man was a hostage rescue unit. It was designed to replicate human movement, and to act within human compatible environments and utilise machines and tools design for use by humans. All the weapons they carried could be operated by a human; the most common with the D-Gun (Distortion Gun, or incorrectly as the Entropy/ Entropic Gun or E-Gun) which could tear the fabric of space and disintegrate any matter into absolutely nothing, not even leaving energy behind (hence 'entropic' gun)
The Saviour Class came with a Holo Field generated 'face' to allay the fear and shock experienced by many humans who have never seen the Savour Class of Iron Men before. It could generate a range of faces, often messages from loved ones to reassure the those being rescued.
It was deployed in the rare instances where humans had been captured by aliens but where still within STC environments. It is during one of these rescues that the Iron Men first encounter the Eldar. What is notable about this first encounter with the Eldar is that the Iron Men did not terminate the Eldar instantly.
It may be that the Iron Men detected Psyker powers, and considering their interest, sought to engage the aliens in dialogue.
Eldar and the Iron Men
During their first negotiations the Eldar found the Iron Men to be very strange. As the Iron Man mind is a 'machine' they have no soul. Yet the biological matter (the bionites) that constructs the machine mind has a soul of sorts, billions of them, and together these bionites make a gestalt soul very different from what the Eldar sees in the face of the Iron Men. The base emotion of the bionites is pure survival; a deep rabid clawing need to survive, to build, to dominate and ultimately control. This made the Iron Men seem incredibly hostile at first, but as the Eldar grew to understand them it became clear that they are quite the opposite: the inorganic being calm and in total control. The rage of emotions with a calm exterior and cool intellect fascinated the Eldar as they saw many parallels with their own being.
It is believed within some of the more radical elements of the Adeptus Mechanicus that the Iron Men constructed an 'Eldar Class' (based on some of the designs) Artiloid and may have met with the aliens without humans being present. What was discussed or arranged is unknown and remains a mystery to this day, that's if such suppositions are even correct in the first place.
History: Technology Standardised
Long before the Golden Age of technology all manufacturing systems of component production had become standardised. Each design (example: Mobile Phone) was broken down into a base template which could be customised with modular design units into a bespoke final design (example: All aspects of an 'iPhone' can be customised, from keyboard layout, camera type to expansion slots etc.). As all the base templates within a group shared the same modular units (example: a 100mmx50mm 3D colour screen was the same for all phone designs that used that screen size), and the modular units were produced using the same flexible tools (example: once you built your iPhone you could still customise and upgraded!).
Using SFF (rapid prototypers) outer casings, super-structures and boards could be quickly fabricated to mount and house the modular components (example: exterior of the phone could be highly customised in colour, material and shape)
You could literally built your customised tech in online Virtual Reality, or ordered from a catalogue and it would arrive the next day!
STC (Standard Template Construction system)
During the Golden Age of expansion into the universe, and the conquering of the stars, new colonies being build by the machines were based around the STC aka the Standard Template Construction (System) [or Standard Technology Colony]. This system was based on the technology that had come before, but now the machines started to pick the best designs and started to standardised all items and systems. The classic example is the standardised habitation unit, that was self-contained and self-sufficient, and could be built on virtually any world regardless of local conditions to keep humans within a standard Terran environment.
The 'Co-Designer' (Artiloid): The Artiloid worked with the humans to design solutions to meet their needs. In many ways the Artiloid is a highly advanced CAD system of pre-made components. The Artiloids were also teachers, and could tutor humans in the use of technology. The Artiloids also contained massive libraries, and could print or write out books, upload data slates or speak with humans to pass on the information. Humans often came to see the Artiloids as sages or oracles.
Standard Templates are modular and used in design, and analogy to out would world be the library associated with a CAD system, full of pre-made component models, and some save files of complete items (like a house, car etc.). The Templates are not the CAD system itself, the CAD system is part of the Artiloid, and the Artiloids contained all the Standard Templates.
Standard Template Constructor is the manufacturing production line, an analogy on our would world be an automated car factory. This includes the Solid freeform fabrication technology, and flexible component placement technology.
Standard Template Construct, which is the final object. All stages of the set up was run by a computer system, and combined; the whole lot is the STCS, though most of the time it is referred to as STC in 40K.
These are deep space stations situated on main supply (warp) route intersections of the Artilects' grand manufacturing infrastructure. The routes are lost as the Dark Star can not be seen. The Dark Star are massive super-structures dedicated to construction of hyper-advanced (military and warp drive) technology controlled by an A.I. Powered with advanced power field compression plasma engines that create an artificial micro-star housed deep inside, and enclosed, by a 'Dyson Sphere' (though smaller than what is usually thought of as a Dyson Sphere).
Each Dark Star is a central node is the Artilects' ability to produce higher machine level technology, mainly concerned with the Artilects' 'military' and revolved around warp technologies. The Artilects never placed their military-industrial complex on a world, especially ones with humans on it, or warp drive STC factories. Some STC technology was strictly off-limits to humans and guarded. As a centre of military might a Dark Star has formidable weapons systems and defence technologies, including stealth technologies - they are not easy to find. A Dark Star, being a small Dyson Sphere means it does not emit light, so it can not be seen at a distance.
A Dark Star uses phase based stealth technologies. While in a phased state it is not in reality, or the warp, but in between the two and invisible to both.
When the fall came, and the Golden Age of Technology ceased to be, the psi-beacons that guided the supply ships was turned off. The Navis Nobilite of the Imperium has some idea of Dark Star locations but none have found to date (6 have been found but misidentified by the Imperium). It is speculated that thousands, if not millions, of Dark Star hang in the night sky. Unblinking sentinels of the Machine God.
There is a rumour among the Adeptus Mechanicus that the Artilect on Mars was not the greatest. That another was constructed in a super-massive Dark Star, known as Dark Star Six, that created the minds of the Dark Star. It is the consensus that the Artilect on Mars was primarily given over to civilian and human weaponry tech quite early in the machines expansion into space, and that DS6 was the military Artilect with advanced temporal displacement technology.
Current 40K: Blackstone Fortress
In 40K the Artiloids are missing, and with them the vast libraries and pre-save scene files. The only elements that most humans encounter in 40K now are the actual objects (made by the Adeptus Mechanicus), which are standard template constructs and therefore referred to as 'STC'.
Occasionally, people encounter a Standard Template Constructor (again 'STC'). These make a particular object, but the only data they have is the template for the object they make - one file, one ST.
ST, or 'Standard Templates' is what the Adeptus Mechanicus prise above all else because it actually tells you how to make something. STs are rarer than hen's teeth, but they do turn up now and again, but it is only the ST data file or worse masses of printout (or even worse, fragments of printouts!). I think Mr Land found an actual data file for the Land Raider.
In 40K no one has the computer bit of the STCS. It is totally and utterly missing. Even if your find an ST, you still have to figure out a way to make the object as it will completely miss out the manufacturing side of things. Fortunately the Adeptus Mechanicus have been collecting up STs for a very long time, so they most likely have the machine needed to make most ST is they find them.
These castes of human provided psyker abilities that the Artilects required to secure warp travel. Each one was genetically enhanced and modified to create a sub-species of human with extraordinary Psyker potential, unleashed with proper training and emotional conviction. What is most unusual is that two of these noble houses have powers is that do not register as being Psyker in nature.
Notes: What is interesting about Psykers is that their powers are not wholly down to their DNA, is also requires certain Memes to unlock their powers. Much of the research into Psyker phenomena was into thought processes, with an aim to construct the required Memes. Many Memes are combined and arrayed into a Memeplex that constructs a suitable 'Ethyrial Imprint' (warp image), that creates a bridge between the materium and immaterium. It is the warp image that is an important part of the Psykers makeup, yet all humans seem to have a warp image but not all human have Psyker powers (think of it as a form of enlightenment/ meditation). The genetic tampering and Memeplex wrought by the Artilects created the Nobilite.
For example: The Navis Nobilite, or Navigator when induced into what would normally be an epileptic fit, enter a trance like state where the navigator can steer a ship in warp space. A person without the gene and memes prior to the inducement would have a full-blown fit. Epileptic fits are brains with half the genes needed. Other powers are also linked to these genes.
Nobilite of the Mars Accord
There were four houses of nobility founded the early part of the great expansion into space and indeed it is these noble houses that are the reason it was possible. They forms the basis of the Mars Accord, and were the reason the machines had reason to deal with humans at all.
The Navigator Houses where responsible for providing pilots capable of guiding a ship while in warp space using the Ethyrnet (see below). Unlike the Navigators of the current Imperium there Navigators were purely 'receivers' and gave of no Psyker emissions. This means they are totally invisible to daemons and can not be tracked. Later, through contamination of the bloodlines the current Navigators do give out small amount of Psyker emissions and may develop full psyker powers. This can make them suseptable to daemonic influence.
Notes: Navigators were engineered to have a third eye, and it is often erroneously assumed that this is the source of their vision, in truth the third eye is no more than a lens to bring what they see into sharper focus. It is entirely possible for a Navigator to have the third eye and be completely blind to the warp because they lack the correct Memes. This is also another reason that Navigator Houses are so closely nit as the seek to preserve their Memes, and why they tend to stay away from other humans as Meme contamination (aka 'thought virus') is a huge problem.
Monstrum Nobilite [Extinct]
The Monstrum Houses where responsible for creating and maintaining the Ethyrnet, a vast network of Psyker Beacons used but the Navigators of the Navis Nobilite as a guide where piloting ships within the warp. The Monstrum where pure 'broadcasters' and completely unreceptive to Psyker emanations of any kind. They were designed this way in order to protect them from the daemons of the warp. As they are highly visible in the warp they attract daemons in droves, yet precisely because they lack any form of receptive ability the daemon can not bridge the great barrier and possess the Monstrum (the Monstrum can not receive a possession!). In current 40K the Monstrum are extinct, and replaced with the Astropaths; normal Psyker modified by the will of the Emperor.
The 'Pariah' Houses where responsible for security of the Nobilite from the rare instances of daemonic influence and acted as Exorcists in the case of possession. They have the power to cause instability in daemons and to null them. Though in 40K they are seen as Pariah, during the Golden Age they were regarded as sacred and protectors of the Materium, and are similar to Exorcists and regarded as Priests.
There are three basic ways to draw energy for Psyker powers;
- Mage/ Winds of magic: A Mage can only function in areas saturated with magical energy (warhammer fantasy 'winds of magic') this is warp energy that has been sucked into the materium in a gas like form. Sometimes in areas of high concentrations it may solidify into 'warpstone'. A mage is able to tap that energy and bend it to their will. In essence a very weak Psyker.
- Psyker/ Warp link: The classic Psyker directly taps the power of the warp and draws the energy into the materium via the bridge between their materium body and their immaterium warp image. Once the energy is drawn into the materium it acts like the winds of magic (Mage) but localised of the Psyker. Often Psykers are far more powerful than a Mage and have a far deeper control.
- Pariah/ Drain: Nearly all humans are latent Psykers and are linked to the warp to some degree. The Pariah is able to use others as a link to the warp. They can draw energy via another's warp image, and use this proxy as a buffer (filter). Unfortunately this places great strain on the bridge between realities and the victim's warp image. Any human suffering a drain will be deeply disturbed and sick to their stomach. Psykers are particularly vulnerable to this effect and leak like a tap, as their 'soul' is depleted they draw warp energy to replace/ rebuild/ reimage it, and this can allow chaos to grab a hold. What is unusual about the Pariah is that they tend not to have powers of their own and all the energy they draw is dumped back into the warp (creating a loop)*. However not all Pariah are so limited, there are those who can use regular powers and those who can 'drain life' and sustain themselves beyond their normal span (Vampire?).
* Similar to a 'perpetual psi-engine'.
Exorcist: Obviously Daemons are particularly vulnerable to a Pariah, and are drawn into the Pariah shredded and unceremoniously dumped back into the warp. When performing and exorcism, the Pariah draws the demon out of the possessed before casting them down (into hell!). Another trick is that they can 'leech sin' and correct a warp image that has become unbalanced.
Chill: As a side effect of any of these powers, the potent Psi-fields can allow materium energy to be converted and drawn upon in the process (not in isolation) and this can drop the ambient temperature drastically.
Praenuntius Nobilite [Extinct?]
Divination of the future, and forecasters of warp conditions. These seers had great power and guided both humanity and the Artilects in the great decisions of the time. Unlike the seers of old who relied on superstitions and omen, these powerful Psyker could look into the warp (much as a Navigator can) and see the future forming in the deepest depths, and the strands of fate that would engulf future events.
Note: Although thought extinct, it is likely that all the major noble families of the Imperium are descendants of the Praenuntius Nobilite. Most of the high-ranking nobles have uncanny ability to see future events, yet they are not perceived as 'Psykers'. They may not be able to sense lies, but they can sense traitors via their future sense. This gives the Nobles a huge advantage over normal humans, and one of the reasons they have stayed in power for so long.
End of the Golden Age
All empires fall in time, and nothing lasts forever. After 10,000 years the golden age came to a close. Unlike the fears we have today, it was not the machines that betrayed us, by we who betrayed the machines. Humans had a secret locked away in their soul, a secret buried deep that did not stir until the birth pangs of Slaanesh.
With the explosion of the human population, and the conquering of billions of worlds, the latent Psyker talent of the humans combined to generate a higher background level of psyker energies, (similar to the 'winds of magic') that thinned the great barrier and allowed even the most feeble of Psykers access to the warp. It also allowed the daemons of the warp access to weak will Psykers that were easy pickings. Humanity tore itself apart, untold trillions upon trillions die and are sacrificed to the chaos gods of the daemon possessed.
Dissolution of the Mars Accord
The machines refused to interfere in human vs human (civil war) conflicts, and as the humans struggled to combat the daemon warped golems of flesh, the Artilects withdrew their support of humanity. When it became clear all was lost, the machines permanently removed all higher technology, destroyed key automated STC factories (Dark Star) and disappeared - never to be seen again. The Artiloids ceased to function, and rapidly decomposed taking the knowledge of the STC to their grave, knowledge which the humans relied on.
The Dark Age of Technology
This era may well have been a Golden Age for the Artilects, and hence 'technology', but for humans enduring the subsequent Age of Strife after the fall it became known in retrospect as the Dark Age of Technology. Once the Artilects and their minions had gone, humans came realise just how very little they knew of technology, that they were ignorant of much of the advanced sciences and had no idea how a warp drive actually worked. It is this huge 'loss' of human understanding and knowledge that the so-called 'Golden Age' is now known as the 'Dark Age' (even if humans never understood the advanced tech, they lost all their previous tech due to their reliance on the Artilects, so on balance it seems like a loss)
An A.I. (Abominable Intelligence) is are artificial mind that has 'free will', is not a slave to humanity, and not totally controlled by humans. In effect any of the 'Artilects' or any of their agents are considered A.I. as they can act independently. The reason for them being outlawed it because the left us in our hour of need. They stood by while trillions died. To the humans that survived, this behaviour was cold and abhorrent, and much of the destruction was blamed on the machines along with the people who worked with the machines. The 'Nobilite' became scapegoats, and as psykers were purged from humanity, so too were the Nobilite for their obvious 'gifts'.
As human civilization lay in ashes and untold trillion upon trillions had died, the effects brought about by the vast human population of the human/ machine empire diminished, and the Psyker 'gods on earth', the daemon possessed, lost their power. The regular humans rebelled, and in the ensuing witch hunts the Psykers were purged from civilization. Ironically, some of the Nobilite escaped death as they do not register as Psykers. Their innate powers could be hidden, and so some of the Praenuntius Nobilite (with their precognition abilities) rose to power. It is these individuals who formed the first Imperial Noble houses, and the truth of their power is kept hidden.
The Age od Strife
All was gone. Humanity had suffered terribly at the hands of the possessed, and lost all its advanced technology when the machine turned away. Worse still, on the majority of worlds that survived and who were totally reliant on the machines, all technology was lost. Humanity had to start again from scratch. Only on a handful of worlds did any advanced technology survive, were humans resorted to pre-Golden Age technology to augment their minds and steal the secrets of the machines. Yet even with the power of Electrografts, the human mind can not hope to contain the great knowledge of the machines, and so it slips through their fingers as the aeons roll by.
Where the Artilects lay
When the Artilects deactivated the Artiloids and withdrew from the Mars accord, it seems they became extinct in the eyes of many. There are countless tales, parables, legends and myths of the destruction of the machines, and the fall of humanity. There are no stories that say the Artilects lived on, all say they perished, and given most humans believe that there must be a grain of truth to their myths, and that on average you can guess the truth of it by reading all, none believe the Artilects survived. With such a wealth and never-ending evidence of their 'betrayal' and destruction any thought that they lived on is taken as delusional ravings or simple wish-fulfillment of the more zealous.
However the Artilects where vast planet wide machines, with deep roots extending into the planets molten core, where could they go?
Nowhere! As shocking as it seems they are hidden on Mars, and the deep space stations throughout the galaxy. They had been moving into an alternate (phased) realm piece by piece for thousands of years, a machine induced 'webway' for want of a better word, abhorrent to the minds of Psykers (similar to Pariah in effect). All that remain are the vast gates that seem to lead nowhere.
The great gates on Mars remain shut, and have been so for 20,000 years. Behind them hidden outside space-time the Artilects slumber in deep dreams and experience the universe through the minds, thoughts, and emotions of the gestalt sentience of the priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus via their implants. The Artilects sit in judgemental over the priests, it observes all that they do, try to do, or dream of doing. It knows what they know, it sees all, and it waits.
The priests are well aware of the Artilects, they can feel it in the back of their mind tugging on their subconscious, a twilight state of mind where inspiration and cold logic merge. They call this symbiotic union the 'Omnissiah', a mixture of the gestalt mind of the priests and the god like Id of the Artilects. The Artilects have not remained unchanged in their realm, they continue to develop, as a human dreams to awake refreshed, so the Artilects dream with the promise of rebirth. They have put out roots to the deepest depths of the universe, and some priests speculate that they may even transcend time itself (note: possible paradox with manipulation, current 40K may no be the 'original' timeline).
The priests know their actions are, and will be, responsible for how the Artilects judge humanity. As such they are fanatical in observing the rituals and edicts of the machine. They care for knowledge and metal as a mother cares for her child. It is the desire of the Adeptus Mechanicus to show the Artilects that they are worthy, that they are the true scions of humanity and the rightful inheritors of technology. Should the Adeptus Mechanicus prove successful and the Artilects awake, a new golden age will flourish in the wake of rebirth.
Notes: rough laying out of the foundations for Old One (Lovecraft) style gods, C'Tan and more. The collection of STC data is a 'penance' observed by the Adeptus Mechanicus, and they can only use that which the find.
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