Blackened Streets & Darkened Skies: Dark Heresy
In the 41st millennium,the Imperium is nominally ruled by the “most beneficent Emperor of Mankind”. However, since his ascension to the Golden Throne following his confrontation with Warmaster Horus, the duties of actually ruling the Imperium are carried out by the Senatorum Imperialis, the twelve High Lords of Terra. Those include the Fabricator General of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Master of the Administratum, the Eccleisiarch of the Ministorum, an Inquistorial Representative, the Grand Provost Marshall of the Arbites, the Paternoval Envoy of the Navigator Houses (Navis Nobilitae), the Master of the Astronomicon, the Grand Master of the Officio Assassinorum and the Master of the Astra Telepathicus. A further three seats are varyingly filled by the leaders of seven other Imperial organizations.
The immense number of worlds under current imperial control display a huge variety of conditions and ecosystems. Many worlds are huge, polluted,and very urban ecumenopoleis, housing the vast bulk of humanity, that are completely reliant on external support to sustain their huge populations. Forge worlds housing continent spanning factories sating the inexhaustible demand for arms and war machinery exist in every sector of the galaxy. Fortress worlds, like those of the Cadian System act as bases and staging areas for the Imperium’s military forces. Many worlds’ surfaces have been completely given over to the production of crops and agriculture in order to feed humanity’s teeming trillions, while other planets have been completely strip mined for raw materials.
Other worlds cut off from normal interstellar traffic through war, warp storms or other means have been isolated from most of humanity for decades or even centuries, the general populace ignorant of the Imperium’s existence, their technology base slowly deteriorating until their society resembles that of pre-technological Earth. Feudal civilizations develop, with visiting Imperial Administration officials or cartographers being considered gods by the primitive locals, due to the decade even century gap between their visits.
The challenges for any human government controlling a galaxy 100,000 light years across has led to the development of an extremely brutal totalitarian theocracy. The sheer size of the Imperium means no meaningful existence can be applied to the majority of humans, prime Imperial concern is the survival of the species’ tenuous hold on the majority of habitable planets in the galaxy, so individual freedom and liberty are of no concern as the Imperium constantly wages war against the numerous alien enemies humanity has made during its aggressive colonization of the stars over the last 40 millennia. Life is seen as cheap and plentiful, so the existence of the Imperium is largely concerned with the vast numbers of troops and material they have at their disposal. As the Imperium’s Vindicare Temple motto puts it, “Exitus acta probat” – the outcome justifies the deed: the Imperium’s self-preservation, as a collective entity, is its only concern.
Despite the overall dystopian theme of the Imperium, humanity enjoys a high technology base, a brutalized and battle-ready society of trillions, the largest military force the galaxy has ever witnessed, and a xenophobic stubbornness that has allowed the Imperium to stand for over 10,000 years
The Adeptus Terra
The Adeptus Terra, the great heart of Earth, is the central governing organization of the Imperium. It is an enormous and bureaucratic organization whose scriptoria, continent-sized archives and pilgrimage sites occupy nearly all of the hiveworld of Terra that is not taken up by the Sanctum Imperialis, the Emperor’s vast throne room, which itself takes up the better part of the northern hemisphere. The Adeptus Terra seems to be largely synonymous with its largest component organization, the Administratum. The Adeptus Terra is so immense, and operates so slowly, that whole departments of it still service agencies which no longer exist and worlds dead for thousands of years.
The Adeptus Terra’s main bureaucratic body and largest division is the Adeptus Administratum. This organization’s purpose is the administration of the Imperium at all levels, its tasks including the assessment of planetary tithes: the goods, war materials and Guard regiments each Imperial world is regularly required to provide for the Imperium. It is a vast organization involving the efforts of countless billions of adepts, who for the most part are hereditary slave workers, bureaucratic officials and petty scribes. The estimate that ten billion adepts are involved in the mere administration of the Imperial Palace gives some idea of the Administratum’s massive size. Of all the organizations of the Imperium, the Administratum is considered the least prestigious, but its highest ranking members are among the most powerful men in the Imperium. The Administratum is based in the Imperial Palace on Terra but its adepts are found throughout the Imperium.
The Adeptus Ministorum, or Ecclesiarchy, is ruled by the Ecclesiarch, and is the official church of the Imperium, preaching the Cult of the Emperor which maintains that the Emperor is Humanity’s saviour and god. Responsible for maintaining moral, securing allegiance, encouraging devotion, and ensuring spiritual purity among the populace of the Imperium, it sends missionaries and warrior priestesses throughout the galaxy to enforce their fanatical devotion to their beliefs.
The Departmento Munitorum
The Departmento Munitorum is the central command of the Imperial war machine, organizing the logistics of planetary ‘tithes’, troop movements and troop deployment. The Departmento is one of the many departments of the Administratum, but is far more decentralized than the other divisions of the Adeptus Terra, establishing a presence on any world with a significant tithe-grade. Distress calls from an invaded world are processed by the Munitorum, and will be passed up the ladder of system-subsector-sector-Segmentum-Imperium HQ until a division with enough reach can raise the armies needed from neighboring systems and respond. Thus, the harder a foe strikes at the Imperium the greater the retribution will be.
Due to the vast distances of space, combined with the internal bureaucracy of the Departmento Munitorum, decision making tends to be very slow, and calls for help may not be acted on for years or even centuries. It is not uncommon for war fleets to arrive at warzones to discover that the war they were dispatched to fight is long since over.
The Adeptus Mechanicus
Known as the Tech-Priests of Mars, the Adeptus Mechanicus is based on the ancient factory world of Mars, and are a quasi-independent organisation and an empire unto themselves (they control all forge-worlds and manufactoring bases in the Imperium), with their own armed forces and institutional culture. These ‘engineers’ and ‘technicians’ of the Imperium create most of the Imperium’s more advanced machinery and weaponry, among other things, despite the fact that their understanding of the technology they use is limited at best – most of their procedure is based on ritual and religious dogma rather than genuine engineering or mechanical skill (though there are exceptions). Their extremely conservative beliefs regarding the advancement of human technology coupled with their stranglehold on the Imperium’s manufacturing capabilities and knowledge has ensured that humanity’s technological advancement has mostly stagnated and even degraded for over 10,000 years.
The Collegia Titanica (sometimes simply known as the Titan Legions) is an organisation within the Adeptus Mechanicus specifically mentioned as being charged with building and maintaining the greatest war machines of the Imperium – the Titans. These massive mechanical walkers, most millennia old, are used in the vast apocalyptic conflicts that are commonplace in the fiction’s lore. Titans are usually supported by the Adeptus Mechanicus’ own Skitarii (or Tech-Guard), who are the mainline military arm of the Adeptus Mechanicus (roughly equivalent to cyborg Imperial Guard Legions).
Independent of the rest of the Adeptus Terra are the Orders of the Emperor’s Inquisition. Its jurisdiction is all-encompassing, its agents responsible for uncovering and dealing with any potential threat to the Imperium, often using the most extreme measures imaginable.
Each Inquisitor bears a seal that grants him the right to command any citizen or resource within the Imperium to the end of carrying out his duties, from individuals or single vessels, all the way up to entire Imperial Guard regiments or Imperial Navy fleets in times of dire danger.
“I carry with me an Inquisitorial seal. It is a small, unassuming object contained in a neat box of Pluvian Obsidian. It is a modest thing. Relatively plain, adorned with a single motif and simple motto. Yet with this little object I can sign the death warrant of an entire world and consign a billion souls to oblivion.”
—Inquisitor Thraviam Flast of the Ordo Malleus
An inconspicuous, highly secretive, but vital part of the Imperial machinery of war, the Officio Assassinorum trains and deploys assassins all over the galaxy, to seek out and exterminate dangerous individuals. Each assassin is the product of lifelong training at one of the Assassinorum Temples, each Temple specializing in a particular facet of the art of death-dealing, each incredibly effective at their vocation. So highly skilled are these individuals that it is taken that the dispatch of a single assassin by the Officio will mean certain death to whomever (or whatever) the target may be.
The Imperial Commanders
In addition to the Adeptus Terra and the militaries, the High Lords also command the Segmentum Commanders, who each oversee one of the five galactic regions known as the Segmentae Majoris: Segmentum Solar, Segmentum Pacificus, Segmentum Obscurus, Segmentum Tempestus and Ultima Segmentum. Each Segmentum Commander oversees his sector Commanders, who in turn oversee subsector Commanders, who oversee Imperial Commanders, also known as planetary governors. The higher ranks in this system are usually combined with a basic planetary governorship as well as interplanetary duties. This system is the means by which the Imperium maintains control of the separate planets that make it up.