Apologies for the delay in getting this update put together but I've been a tad busy over the last day or two so without further ado, here's the second part of my State of the Imperium ponderings, this time concentrating on the military.
Gone are the days of warrior monks, chemically neutered and trained to be righteous killing machines. The modern Space Marine is a professional warrior, not a homicidal berserker.
The Space Marine Chapters, once the domain of genetically engineered super humans have been abolished and the Legion has been re-established. Instead of being trained from their youth, the new Space Marine Legionnaire recruits the best and the brightest from amongst the military and the most promising physically and mentally tough volunteers from countless worlds.
Given the absolute best training the Imperial military can provide and weapons and equipment that the regular Guard can only dream of, the new Space Marine Legions are special ops troopers, more often used as infiltration, reconnaissance and other specialised tasks than the mindless assault troops they once were. It is a common phrase amongst the drill sergeants of the Marines that you should make the other guy die for his world. Marines are there to make sure he does.
With the expense of training and equipping such excellent warriors, the Imperium cannot afford to create large standing armies of them, instead making them a rapid deployment force, capable of moving great distances quickly, more often than not stationing them aboard the great Dimen Dreadnaughts that make up the Imperial Fleet.
Guard duty and main line engagements are left to the untold millions of the Imperial Guard. If its vital a hill be taken, an enemy general neutralised or a piece of valuable tech captured, its time for the marines.
Due to their scarcity, the Imperial Techs of the Mechanicus have been experimenting with genetic tinkering to produce a super soldier by both technological or biological means and several of the newer Legions are formed of cyborgs, post human mutants or even clones.
Needless to say that some have operated more effectively than others but this is a glimpse of the future and the Legions are evolving with the times to constantly improve themselves to produce ever more effective troops.
The Imperial Guard
By far the most common sight in Imperial armies are the countless members of the Imperial Guard. These hardy individuals hale from all corners of the Imperium and sport a bewildering assortment of weapons, equipment and armour but all fight for the Empress and to keep order in a wild and dangerous galaxy.
Unlike the Marines who are all volunteers, the Guard is largely composed of conscripts, with several notable exceptions such as the Catachans. Similarly each Guard Regiments training relies on its home world and while some are trained to elite status, others are barely more than militia but when the call is made, the Guard will do its duty and most of the regiments are fiercely proud of their home worlds and regimental history.
Unlike in times past when the most a Guardsman could rely on was his trusty lasgun, flak jacket and native cunning, the Imperium has begun a vast modernisation programme at great expense to bring the standard of Guards weapons, equipment and training up to modern standards. The increased survivability of a Guardsman, it has been reasoned results in a better army, more experienced and capable of reacting to rapidly changing situations.
The days of sending massed formations of infantry into a firestorm and hoping to choke the guns with their bodies have more or less passed but there are still some throwbacks, usually from more backward worlds or amongst the more brutal officers of the Penal Legion.
While the Space Marines take objectives, the Guard holds them and the modern guard has access to all manner of armoured vehicles, ranging from rapid deployment skimmers to lumbering battletanks and even combat walkers.
The increased access to technology amongst the Guard has also improved everything from communications to logistics resulting in a far more lean and effective fighting force than in years past and is reflected in the appearance of fully AI units on the battlefield for several thousand years. The alliance of the Imperium with the Tau has accelerated this as Mechanicus and Tau Earth Caste have begun a wholescale exchange of technology for the greater good.
In the past, the Imperium relied on vast lumbering gothic ships with a crew of tens of thousands with only the sketchiest idea on what made them run. Nowadays, the development of the Tannhauser Gate network and Grav-shunting has consigned these relics to the scrapyard and a new, sleeker and more advanced series of warships have begun appearing.
Ranging from nimble corvettes to huge battlewagons, this new fleet is capable of more effectively patrolling the shipping lanes as well as transporting armies to and from warzones. The pride of the fleet are the new Diman Dreadnaughts, massive capitol ships armed with the most powerful weapons in the Imperiums arsenal and with their own complement of Space Marines, these technological masterpieces have taken years to develop and construct and represent the pinnacle of Imperial armed might.
Using the new technologies, space travel is considerably quicker and less risky and there has been a fresh push from the inner systems and sectors out into previously lost and forgotten regions of space allowing the Imperium to once again begin expanding following ten millennia of stagnation. Rumour has it that the new Diman Dreadnaughts have successfully ported out of our own galaxy into another but the Imperial Navy has been surprisingly tight lipped about the whole thing.
One element from the past that hasn't changed, is the strict limitation on starships for the army. The Imperium still has a nagging fear that the Army may one day rise up in a new heresy that could undo all the progress that has been so hard fought for. Consequently, the Imperial Guard still relies on the Navy to transport it from system to system.
The Titan Legions and Knight Houses
The explosion of new technology left the Titan Legions and the Knight Houses largely obsolete but several high ranking and visionary members of their number saw an opportunity to bring what were once the undisputed kings of the battlefield out of the dark ages and give them a new lease of life.
What followed was a century long process which saw the Titan and Knights re-designed from the ground up. With new advanced technology, a renaissance in walker design allowed the lumbering monstrosities which had dominated the last ten millennia to to become faster, more agile and better armed and able to match some of the more technologically advanced races. These new machines come in a bewildering array of styles, sizes and weapon loadouts but are typically smaller and more able to move rapidly and effectively in tandem with other branches of the Imperial military or independently as part of raiding parties.
Corporate and Noble Armies
The many Noble and Corporate armed forces that defend the various business interests and family holdings are too numerous to mention and generally consist of two parts, the first is more or less ceremonial, troops armed and equipped well but more suited to guard duty than exchanging fire with a determined foe. The second part of the Noble and Corporate forces are their much feared special forces. Often recruited from ex Marines and elite Imperial Guard regiments, these grizzled veterans are more than capable of running all manner of underhand black ops against other Noble houses or organisations.
Unlike the Imperial Guard, the armed forces of the Nobility do have access to some fleet assets but have to operate under strict limitations placed upon them by Imperial edict. Subsequently, most Noble or Corporate ships are limited to armed merchantmen or escorts no bigger than a destroyer. This, the Empress reasons is enough to protect their assets without being a threat and if more forceful action is required, then that's what the Imperial navy is for.
Freelancers and Mercenaries
The new Imperium is a place of opportunity and the armed forces are no exception. Freelance and Mercenary outfits are numerous and range from small elite teams of operators to full armoured regiments, Titan lances or even a few scruffy hicks with guns.
The Imperium requires all Mercenary and Freelance forces to register and contracts are rigorously employed as standard. Any mercenary outfit that reneges on its contract is blackballed and may even face a visit from the Guard to disband it. Contracts vary from job to job and can be anything from garrison duty to full scale wars and a mercenary force can find itself fighting for an assortment of corporate interests, planetary governors putting down rebellions or even the Imperium itself if it finds itself in need of special talents.
It is a foolhardy company that raises its hand against the Imperium itself though and thus far no reputable mercenary outfit has signed on with the Rebellion. As things stand mercenaries tend to operate on the fringes of Imperial space in the newly explored regions and outlands where Imperial forces are spread thin and unable to enforce the rule of law as forcefully as the Imperium would like.
Xenos Askari Regiments
A relatively recent addition to the Imperial armed forces, the Askari regiments were originally formed when the Ork Bloodaxe tribe was incorporated into the Imperium. The Greenskins had long had some engagement with Imperial society but when their Clanboss Rufnek Dredax sued for Imperial Citizenship, the Emperor at the time found himself with several million new subjects who were all prone to warlike behavior. Following consultation with the military and noble council, he came up with a novel solution. The Imperium would make use of the Orkish battlelust and recruited the whole tribe into the army.
Forming the first Askari Regiment, the Orks found themselves in the thick of the action (possibly a subtle way of bumping them all off) but much to the surprise of their advisors, the Orks revelled in the rough and tumble of it all and have since found themselves sent from warzone to warzone in one glorious Imperial WAAAGH that saw Rufnek elevated to the nobility and many more Orks rushing to his banner.
Following centuries saw the Askari regiments expanded and for the most part both races have found the alliance advantageous. The Imperium got itself a load of boisterous but surprisingly effective assault troops and the Orks got to indulge in their more primitive nature facing properly impressive foes.
The Orkish Askari's have more recently been joined by the Tau who joined the Imperium en mass and now contribute several hundred cadres of experienced troops both to the Imperial Guard and as Askaris (or Janissaries as they prefer to be known)
Following some rather unfortunate early joint operations between human and Xenos forces, each has come to respect, and even admire each other and more recent operations featuring a diverse array of cultures and species have begun showing very promising signs of success.
As the Imperium continues to expand, there are dozens of other races who have offered their services to the Empress for profit and for simple survival and following tours as Askari, some are even joining the ranks of the Imperial Guard and Nobility as the Imperium moves from a wholly Human civilisation to a Pan-galactic one.
The changes are often painful and sometimes bloody but the influx of fresh blood and ideas has re-invigorated the Imperium like never before and it is without a doubt that this galactic empire is much stronger now than ever before, despite its often diverse citizenship.
That was a bit of an epic write up! Hopefully that gives a bit of an overview of the military situation in my Imperium and in the next part I will cover some more of the organisations as well as the changes that have been wrought on everyday life for the Imperial citizens!
All the best!